As I was approaching my room, I had already started making plans for the 3 hours of free time I had on this beautiful Friday after my hectic week. The plan was simple: (1) get something to eat and (2) to sleep for as long as possible before my work shift later in the evening. I hurriedly boiled some rice, and made my favorite fried plantain and some stew and boiled eggs. I wouldn’t call myself an expert at cooking, but this particular meal was welcoming. I hurriedly reached for a bottle of Cola in my fridge to accompany my food. Everything was set, and it was written all over the atmosphere, as I sat on my bed to eat that I was set to have a nice time with my “special” brunch.
Then I decided to watch a short movie as I ate. To me, this was the perfect way to relax-to have a nice meal while watching a movie. My friend had just told me about this website where I could watch the latest movies and I decided to try it out. On getting to this website, I searched to find a movie I liked and then I saw a recent movie entitled “Beauty and the Beast”. It was a movie acted from the fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. And it was indeed a good one.
The story-line of the movie was quite interesting, with a lot of singing and funny imaginations. One of such imaginations was a talking clock, a living lamp-stand, Mrs Pot, a human tea cup, a talking wardrobe and some other fantasies. All talking and behaving like human beings. Of all the things in the movie, their characters was the most interesting to me. I watched in amazement. I had finished eating and was tired and ready to sleep, but I just couldn’t get my eyes off the special characters. I wanted to see how the story unfolded to the end! As soon as the movie ended, I fell asleep almost immediately. Now, here is the most interesting part of the story that afternoon. As I slept, I had a peculiar dream. I had this Mrs Pot, Mr lamp-stand, boy tea-cup, visit me and I was talking with them. I couldn’t really remember what our discussion was when I woke up, but I knew they came to me in my dream and that we had a “nice” chat.
The video I was watching some minutes ago, has now become a reality in my dream. Though this was funny and harmless, it opened my eyes and show me how the mind is in capturing sounds and images. This reminded of a particular lesson in the bible, which it is to “Guard your heart with all diligence”.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23 KJV)
The 2 entrances to a man’s heart are his/her eyes and ears. Therefore, why should I guard my mind?
I guard my mind because it is very powerful in capturing visions and words. I am who I am today, because of the words I have heard and the things I have seen since I was born, and the same is also true for everyone including you, my dear reader.
Sex-addicts, drug-addicts, thieves, terrorists, Pastors are all products of words they heard and things they saw. Even being a Christian, you must hear and believe the gospel. Therefore, everyone is basically a product of what they have heard and believed.
Let me explain. I remember being taught in university that the mind is like a reflecting mirror. It only reviews and contains what is being exposed to it and that at birth it is like a “clean slate”. The later part of Proverbs 4:23 in the KJV says that out of the mind are the issues of life which means that a man is a product of how he thinks. So that’s why someone born in Nigeria won’t act like another born in Germany, because the cultures in this two countries are clearly different, and these two people have been exposed two different cultures entirely making them think different.
Many people have been captives of some strange and wrong beliefs all their lives because of such exposure. While I don’t say we shouldn’t be open minded to hear people and watch videos, it is advisable to be careful. It is good we are open minded to listen to people, learn and try new things, but we must be careful to examine everything we see or hear newly to be sure they agree with God’s word, the bible.
“Do not be carried away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established and strengthened by grace and not by foods [rules of diet and ritualistic meals], which bring no benefit or spiritual growth to those who observe them. (Hebrews 13:9 AMP)”
The Bible gives this admonition: “It is good that our heart be established in grace”. Listen to and watch things that establishes us the more in grace. Listen and watch things that reminds us that Jesus loves us, that he died for us and rose up for our justification and everything that makes the spiritual more real to us. So how do we know what is ‘’good for our heart’’? It’s very simple – it is everything that makes us understand the bible more and strengthens our faith in our lord, Jesus. As we do this, just as in my story, what we see and read becomes a reality and our hearts are established in GRACE. As we listen to God’s word we become like God.
As I round-off this article, it is important we also note that as Christians, the Bible encourages us to “renew our minds”.
“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]” (Romans 12:2 AMP)
As we renew our minds, let us expose it to the right things (songs, videos, words etc.). So that we are changed towards the image of Christ. And as our minds are changed, we are changed from our old way of life to live as Christ did on earth. Let us be selective to the songs, the videos, the gatherings we expose ourselves to. Some things are worth skipping, not because they are sins, but because they are not fruitful to the renewal process of the mind. So, I won’t do some things not because if I do them they are sins but doing them will not help the process of the renewal of my mind. My Pastor once said, God won’t change us without our consent. To Allow God change us, our consent must be given in what being careful in what we feed our minds through our eyes and our ears.
I have often said that our environment are filled with a lot of junks and nudity already that deliberating watching a video or song in support of it is not doing myself any good at all. I encourage you, as you progress in this journey of renewing of your mind, to guard your heart with all diligence, because whatever we allow into our minds sooner or later becomes our reality.
I Call You Blessed
Written by Samson Afolabi
These days, many people talk about “losing their salvation”. Preachers, in the name of trying to keep their members, emphasize so much on the need to keep themselves away from the defilement of this world. As good as this sounds, it often has caused more people to live in fear rather than in boldness and certainty that God can keep them faultless and blameless to the end of their lives.
The one way I believe God has been instructing me on “keeping one’s salvation” is by shifting my attention away from myself and instead towards God. Yes, I know the world is defiled with sin, and ungodliness. I know that sin contaminates, but I believe that the way to victory over the world, is to keep our gaze on Jesus (the Author and finisher of our faith) rather than ourselves. We must start to know that “God wants to keep our faith more than we want to keep ourselves”. David said,
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalms 23:1)
As believers, the Lord is our shepherd. He is our keeper. He is the keeper of our faith. The boast of every shepherd is that he keeps his fold and that none of them is missing. David made this boast before Saul when he was presenting his CV to him, proving he was strong enough to confront Goliath.
“Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight him. For you are [only] a young man and he has been a warrior since his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33)
But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, (1 Samuel 17:34)
I went out after it and attacked it and rescued the lamb from its mouth; and when it rose up against me, I seized it by its whiskers and struck and killed it. (1 Samuel 17:35)
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted and defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36)
Jesus, the great shepherd also made this boast at the end of His life on earth,
(John 17:11) And now I am coming to you; I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. Holy Father! Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one just as you and I are one.
(John 17:12) While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me. I protected them, and not one of them was lost, except the man who was bound to be lost—so that the scripture might come true.
The shepherd is never scared to lead the sheep out even though the wolves are nearby. He knows that it is his duty to keep the sheep and he will go above and beyond to do that. It is not the sheep’s duty to worry about the security of the field. God knows we are in the world. In-fact Jesus prayed that God keep us in the world, because He knows he can protect us. We don’t have to rely on our ability, rather we rely on His ability to keep our faith and our feet from falling. We must stop looking down on ourselves and start looking up to Him, who is able to keep us from falling. Whenever we talk about our salvation, let us know that it is about the faithful God and never about our own unfaithfulness. It is all of God and none of us. The Sheep doesn’t keep himself, the Shepherd does.
(Jude 1:24) To him who is able to keep you from falling and to bring you faultless and joyful before his glorious presence
Yes, he is able and I chose him to be my strength to stand for my faith in this perverse and ungodly world. He alone can be my strength. I have no strength of my own. This is not to mean I would deliberately sin and keep saying there is “Grace” but I won’t rely on my own strength. I would trust the shepherd to keep me from falling.
David speaking in Psalms 121 said, The Lord is my Keeper… (Vs 5), he went further saying The Lord shall preserve me from all evil; he shall preserve my soul (vs 7) and He will not suffer my foot to slip (vs 3).
In-fact, 1 John 2:13 – 14 says we have already overcame the wicked one.
…I have written to you, young men, because you are strong and vigorous, and the word of God remains [always] in you, and you have been victorious over the evil one [by accepting Jesus as Saviour]. (vs. 14 AMP)
….I am writing to you, young men [those believers who are growing in spiritual maturity], because you have been victorious and have overcome the evil one…. (Vs 13 AMP)
…He Protects the souls of His godly ones (believers), he rescues them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalms 97:10)
We overcame the evil one already, not that we will overcome later, we overcame him already (NOW). We overcame him not because of what we did or didn’t do but because we have accepted Jesus as our saviour.
God is not scared that I will lose my salvation. Therefore, why should I be scared? I will walk in the world, knowing that God is keeping me from falling. I will walk at school, at the office and everywhere I go with the confidence that God is my keeper. I won’t act like religious fanatics who put themselves under rules and regulations, avoiding to talk and interact with people because of the fear that they might lose their salvation. I won’t be afraid of the world contaminating me with sin, rather I will influence the world with Righteousness just like Jesus did.
I call you blessed!
Written by Samson Afolabi
I had just finished from work on this beautiful Saturday 29th April when I decided to go have a haircut you know to confirm that I am wonderfully and beautifully made by God. After quite a wait at the barbers shop, it was finally my turn. I gave the barber instructions on how I wanted my cut and he followed it perfectly. Just as we were finishing up, my phone rang.
It was a call from a “Big-Brother”, someone who had been a special blessing to me in my sojourn in this foreign land. He was inviting me over for dinner and wanted to introduce me to new friends. It was an opportunity I had been waiting for, so I immediately decided to join though it was with a short notice. Plus, the possibility of eating a local dish made me more ready to attend!
We met at his house and it was great time. While the meal was being prepared, we had chatted over appetizers. My “Big-Brother” the host happened to love sports, and fortunately that night was the big boxing night for the world heavyweight champion between “Anthony Joshua” and “Wladimir Klitschko”. We were all in support of Anthony Joshua because we were all Nigerians in the room except for one Kenyan friend who had accompanied me to the meeting. I probably wouldn’t have watched the match that night if I wasn’t for him because to be honest, I’m not really a fan of boxing.
After many blows, Anthony Joshua won. So much glory and honour for him that night. I wished I was him just after he won, but not before he won. I couldn’t manage to receive those punches he received.
Here comes my analogy; in life there are 3 categories of people, those who are less than conquerors, those who are conquerors and those who are more than conquerors.
That night Wladimir Klitschko was not (less) than a conqueror, Anthony Joshua was the conqueror. He persevered through the pain receiving punches here and there on his body, and even had a black eye in the end, but still snatched the prize.
The last category of people are the most blessed. Imagine if Anthony Joshua was to go home that night. Imagine that after the match, he handed over his belt and millions of dollars in prize money to his Mum as a gift. In this case, his mum would have been MORE THAN CONQUEROR.
Why? Because she sat at home all throughout the fight, didn’t receive any punches, didn’t join him in his 12 weeks of intense training, didn’t get a black eye and yet got all the reward her son Anthony Joshua got.
This is the case of the Saviour of the world, who was beaten, bruised, disgraced, wounded, nailed to the cross, and hung on the pole, for our sins. He was killed but then he resurrected. Yes he came out victorious! He was a conqueror. After his resurrection he gave all the glory belonging to his victory at the cross to us. He credited the victory into our account. And all we need do to be more than conqueror is to believe “that He died for our sins”. If we believe we are then the MORE THAN CONQUEROR. We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS right now. We are not just going to be more than conquerors in the future; we already are right now.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37 KJV)
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us so much that He died for us” (Romans 8:37 AMP)
Those who fight and win are conquerors. Those who allow God fight for them are MORE THAN CONQUEROR. We are more than conqueror over sicknesses, diseases, famine, poverty, shame and over every challenge we go through.
Paul speaking in Romans 8:33 – 37, listed the different difficulties he was going through at the moment, yet all those didn’t stop him from believing; he was MORE THAN CONQUEROR. Not because of anything He had done or didn’t do but because Paul had received the victory from the conqueror (Jesus Christ) by believing. He had received the love God showed him by giving Jesus to die on the cross.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
At the Cross, Jesus said “It is finished”. And yes IT IS FINISHED. He finished whatever challenge we are going through. He is not just working on our challenges, He finished them already. It is done. He finished Poverty, Spiritual ignorance, lack, sickness at the cross and gave us the victory and the right to tread upon serpents and snakes. Amen!
This means that we are to believe and keep confessing what we believe. A closed mouth is a closed destiny. We must keep speaking what we believe. If you feel pain in your body, confess you are healed because Jesus made you MORE THAN CONQUEROR over sicknesses, if you are in lack financially, confess you are rich until you start to see it because Jesus made you MORE THAN CONQUEROR over poverty. Whatever the case keep confessing and keep your confessions right. Believing and Confessing leads to seeing.
“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak” (2 Cor. 4:13)
I Call You Blessed!
Written by Samson Afolabi and Edited by Christine Talens
John chapter six describes how Jesus miraculously fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and 2 fish. He was moved to do this after noticing that they were tired and exhausted. (What a loving teacher he was.) So he asked his disciples to get food for these people. Naturally, this is how they replied:
“There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?” (John 6:9)
With the bread and fish that they had, they believed they couldn’t do it. To Jesus’s disciples, it was humanly impossible to feed five thousand people with this. Had you and I been in their places, we probably would have also thought the same way.
God wanted to reach the whole world with the message of Salvation – that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for the sins of mankind – but all he had was eleven disciples (minus Judas Iscariot) and some other followers totalling to 120 people (Acts 1:15). Compared to the number of people on earth at the time, 120 people was a really small number. Just like the five loaves of bread and two fish was not enough to feed five thousand men, 120 people was nothing. It was ‘’not enough’’ to get the message to the people of the world. It was humanly impossible.
However, our God is a God of the humanly impossible. He is a God of miracles! After the first followers received the holy-spirit, very soon the message spread to Jerusalem, and later on Judea, Samaria, Asia, and today to a large part of the earth. In-fact it was said of this people that:
…”These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too (Acts 17:6)”
Sometimes we look at the seemingly impossible task of the great commission …”Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15)” and we look at how huge this task is and ask “what difference can I make if I preach the gospel?” or “how many people can I really reach?” And we feel discouraged and hopeless, and then we go with the crowd, forgetting that God can multiply our little efforts. There are as well many examples, of how we may think that our efforts and what we can do are little compared to what has to be done.
We ask, “What difference does this make if I choose to be godly, or choose to stand for righteousness? Seeing that the whole world is ungodly anyway”.
Luke 13 also illustrates the kingdom of God in this way:
“It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky found shelter and nested in its branches.” (Luke 13:19)
Did you know that mustard “seeds are usually about 1 to 2 millimetres (0.039 to 0.079 in) in diameter? (Don’t worry, I didn’t either, Wikipedia told me.)Can you imagine how small that is? The bible says even this small seed later became a very big tree providing shelter for birds.
God is still in the business of multiplying our little efforts today, He is happy to do it. Your little efforts can make a huge difference. Your little prayers of intercession and evangelism to just one person can make a big difference. There is so much stored up in a believer that can never make his contributions worthless. There is so much in me and you, God’s power is at work in us. We too can turn the world upside-down for Jesus through our efforts. However ‘’small’’ they may be, they are powerful.
So what does this mean for you and me today? This means that we are called to arise like Deborah, and put in our best into whatever God has committed into our hands.
“The inhabitants of the Villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7)
Deborah decided to arise, to stand-up and be God’s voice and through her God won the battle for Israel. She didn’t see her contribution as small. What did the disciples do?
“Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3)
They spoke boldly. Yes you also speak boldly. Your contribution is not too little. Whatever you are doing, leading a small group, reaching out the gospel to a friend, leading the Praise and worship in Church, know that your contribution is huge in the body of Christ and it is highly needed. Your contributions are not small or little, God doesn’t see it as such and he even delights in multiplying them.
I Call You Blessed
Written by Samson Afolabi
Before writing about this topic, I needed to ask myself one question – ‘’Am I really qualified to talk about marriage when I myself am not married?’ But then I remembered Paul, and I was encouraged. Paul himself was also not married, yet some of the most profound lessons on marriage and relationships that we know today were taught by him.
As a young boy, I had many curious questions on marriage: Why would I want to get married? What does God say about marriage? Why wedding receptions are even something that we do? My list of interesting questions goes on. After much investigation and meditation, I’ve decided to share with you my thoughts on the topic. Please note that my goal is not to explain marriage fully, but rather I aim to simply share my insights with you. I pray that as you read may you be blessed.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT MARRIAGE
Throughout the scriptures, we see one common thread: “God is always reaching out to man”. It is not always that man really seeks God, but that God has always been the one extending an open invitation to man.
“In the Beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God (John 1:1)”
“And the Word was Made flesh, and dwelt among us… (John 1:14)”
The word that was with God and that was God at the beginning became flesh and lived among us. God came to man. God couldn’t have been closer. People saw him, touched him and ate with him. They lived everyday life with him. God couldn’t have been closer. God, quite literally, lived with man. 1 John 1:1 also agrees with this. Even when Adam sinned at the garden, it was still God who first spoke to Adam. Adam hid himself, but God came to Him. What a show of love, right after he sinned.(Read Genesis 3: 1 -13 (emphasis on vs. 9)). In another example, it was God who first spoke to Cain after he killed his brother. Throughout the Bible, there are so many stories that remind us that God always tries to reveal himself to us, more than we try to seek him.
“That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sin against them (But Cancelling them)… (2 Cor. 5:19)”
Notice the above verse, it was God who was reconciling the world. He came first, Not Man!
In a bid to come to man, God often illustrates his kingdom to us using simple representations that are relatable to man. Let me exemplify:
Water. The Mystery of Eternal life can be illustrated in water. When someone is thirsty and he drinks water, he can then be satisfied and no longer be thirsty. In the same way, when we drink of ‘eternal life’ the deepest trenches of our soul can be satisfied and no longer empty. This secret was coded in water so that we can understand and be continuously reminded about it.
Read the discussion between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well at John 4: 6 – 14. (Emphasis is on vs. 14)
“But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. But the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water (satisfying his thirst for God) welling up (continually flowing, bubbling within him) to eternal life” (John 4:14)
Musical Notes: “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-ti-Do’-Re’-Mi’-…. God is the “Beginning and the Ending” (Rev. 1:8). For a long time, I knew this, I said it, but I couldn’t just understand it. Until my eyes were open to understand it through the musical notes. Notice the second Do’ (it is the ending of a pitch and at the same time the beginning of another higher pitch). So when it is ending, it is actually beginning, and this time on a higher note. God is also like that.
Often-times we arrive at junctions when we feel our lives are finished. We feel hopeless. We feel like giving up. What we don’t know is that God is ending a phase of our lives in order to begin a new phase on an even higher pitch. He can successfully and beautifully finish that academic phase for you, and start a higher one. He can end that job for you, and start a bigger one. He can end your single-hood and start a bright marriage for you. He is the Beginning and Ending at the same time. He is not just there at the beginning and at the end. It is Him, Himself that is the beginning and the ending. He is the doorway to the end and at the same-time the entrance to the beginning. He is both the exit and the entrance. If you need anything to begin or end in your life, seek him.
Most importantly, He is the exit out of this old and decaying World and the entrance into the New World (which is without sickness and death), and only through him can we get into that World. That’s why we preach Jesus and what He did (His death and Resurrection).
The Human Body: Maybe, up till now we might not have understood the importance of the unity of the church, if the Holy-Spirit had not through Paul compare the church with the Human Body. He says that some part of the church are the eyes, some are the hands, and others are the feet of the body. In this illustration we understand that as the church, we need one another to fulfil God’s divine purpose for us.
Now back to our discussion about Marriage., According to scriptures, the purpose ofmarriage is to represent the union between the Church and Christ. In order to fully understand relationships and marriage, we must understand the love between Christ and His Bride, the church. This simple illustration tells us that.
1. Marriage is between two Christian believers I don’t think an unbeliever can play either the role of Christ or the role of the Church in this model. . He/she doesn’t even know God yet, so how can he/she understand this union? In-fact, it’s not even for a believer with an immature faith. And never think that you can save an unbeliever by getting married to him/her. Marriage is not an evangelism voyage. An unbeliever and a believer don’t agree on the fundamental fabric of their being, therefore they will not walk in sync together.
“Can two walk together except they agree” (Amos 3:3)
Sisters, a moral man is not automatically a man of God. He is either a Christian or not. I always make a joke that if you get married to an unbeliever, be ready to have the Devil as your father-in-Law. He can come into your house at any time and disturb you as he likes.
2. Marriage is a Holy-Spirit directed activity. I think in this area , we haven’t learned. I see too many people hurrying to get married for no good reason. Perhaps maybe because culture presents marriage as a sort of achievement so everyone is hurrying to get their ‘medal’
3. One Church, One Christ means One Man and One woman. Anything apart from this is not Christian Marriage.
Marriage is a Ministry. It is a Calling. It is not a joke. Your Marriage is supposed to deliver a message. Marriage is not just for you to have a sex partner. Being in a relationship or being engaged is not to have someone to cuddle around on the streets. Oftentimes I see young people like myself wanting to get married and they don’t even understand these things, and I ask “why do you want to get married?” Just because your friends are getting into relationships, doesn’t mean you are matured enough to start one.
If many people who get married understand this truth deeply, we won’t have the issues of divorce or irresponsibility or break-ups as rampant as it is today. Both parties will understand that Jesus can never break-up from the Church. Jesus will always show His church care, love and affection. I have often said that Christian brothers are supposed to be the most loving and caring because we have experienced and understand God’s love more than un–believers.
We won’t have issues with love, respect and submission in marriage if we understand well enough the relationship between Christ and the Church. Paul continually uses this fact.
“For the Husband is the head of the Wife even as (just as) Christ is the head of the Church and He is the saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23)
“Husbands, love your wives (seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love) just as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25 AMP)
“For no one ever hated his own body, but (instead) he nourishes and protects and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church” (Eph. 5:29 AMP)
Notice: The comparison in this facet of marriage has always been “even as” or “just like” Christ and the Church. My simple advice for anyone planning to get into a relationship or marriage is that you should take time to study well enough the union between Christ and the Church because marriage is meant to show s this secret to everyone, both to unbelievers and believers.
Don’t Forget, the purpose of marriage is to show the union between the Church and Christ. It is a day-to-day illustration of display of the beautiful union between the Church and Christ played out by the lives of two believers.
Written by Samson Afolabi