Day 17: Following God into the Future #28DayChallenge

The future: that imaginary place where all our problems are solved and our dreams are fulfilled. The younger we are, the more excited we are about the future. It holds so much promise and possibility that we can barely wait to get there. We make plans and write lists and take steps to get to the future we imagine. And as the future unravels, beginning with the next moment after our dreams and plans, it brings questions, choices, and uncertainties – things we did not plan for or expect. None of us knows what lies ahead of us.

Yet the Almighty God knows what is in our future. He knows all the possibilities that lie ahead of us and the outcomes that correspond to every set of choices or decisions we make. He sees the myriad of possible outcomes for every phase of our lives, including those outcomes we could never imagine or would rather not imagine. With that infinite wisdom, He asks us to follow and obey Him. God clearly indicates in the Bible that he wants to lead us (Psa. 32:8). He wants to achieve the best outcome possible with our lives but we will have to trust and follow Him.

Following God into the future means entrusting our plans to God (Prov. 3:5-6) and depending on Him for guidance. It means committing every thought, plan, or course of action to God in prayer, and being willing to change if we perceive that God wants us to do something differently. Following God calls for faith and humility. We have to be convinced God has a plan for our lives and that our efforts are not enough to live a life of purpose. He alone can guide us to live our best lives here on earth.

Approaching life with this mentality, however, can be challenging. It does not shield us from trials, difficulties, or pain. In fact, following God is often marked with difficult emotional experiences such as fear, anger, sadness, frustration, or anxiety. Many who followed God have experienced rejection, persecution, and loneliness. Some had the option to avoid some of these experiences by taking alternative routes or going their own way. Others had no choice and would have had similar experiences had they gone their own way.

However, the beauty of following God is that He walks with us through those experiences. He transforms our minds using His Word and teaches us how to remain joyful amid sorrow, peaceful during a storm, and loving even when subjected to hatred or wicked treatment. Another benefit of following God is that we avoid costly mistakes and unnecessary battles that could drain us of energy as we run to fulfill our purpose. Most importantly, we live to fulfill the design of God for our lives when we choose to follow God.

The future is always bright and beautiful, no matter what phase of life you are in. Of course, it is never lacking in challenges. This is why God wants you to be deliberate in walking with Him, so that He can lead you to lead an eternally impactful life that maximizes your potentials and fulfills His purpose for your life. My prayer is that you will choose to follow Him every day. Amen.

Day 16: Wars, Media & Media Wars #28DayChallenge

I have been thinking a lot about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, why it’s getting so much attention, what kind of attention it’s getting, and who’s saying what about it. It is safe to say the media played a major role in the build-up to this conflict, and continues to do so with all kinds of information flying around.

To start with, why do nations go to war? This particular war seems to have been pre-emptive, driven by a (perceived) need for Russia to protect its territorial integrity and prevent the establishment of hostile military bases near its borders. It seems more symbolic and less driven by actual breakdown in diplomatic relations or default in signed agreements. Yet no matter how it is cast, this conflict has led to loss of thousands of lives and displacement of many, with people’s lives disrupted and many livelihoods destroyed.

The media coverage for this conflict has been sensational to say the least, partly because it involves a major world power (Russia) and partly because it has major economic implications for the developed world. In fact, I am firmly convinced that economics is the key driver for the attention this war gets. Wars or sustained conflicts in poorer climes with minimal impact on key product supply chains around the world only get sporadic coverage and minimal intervention from major world powers.

There is obviously a humanitarian crisis triggered by this war – one which will outlast the war itself – but the treatment of the human suffering seems, in my opinion, to merely be a tool for media houses to drum up their positions or views of the war. And this leads me to the media war itself. On Western, Russian and all kinds of neutral media, opinions, information, and propaganda are being disseminated daily to canvass support for or against the war or either party in the war.

Traditional media having been engulfed by technology and social media, there are now a myriad of voices disseminating information and opinions about the war, including postulations about why the war started and how it will end. These voices include all kinds of moderate and extreme views that, in their own way, shape the outcome of the war, through various means. Actions result from convictions and emotions, and both are impacted by what we hear and believe. In the end, closure to this conflict may well depend on whose media strategy is more successful.

For me, it is just sad to see nations still embroiled in these kind of conflicts, especially thinking about the people whose lives are irreversibly transformed by those conflicts. But even sadder is the fact that the human suffering triggered means little to the mongers of war, including those whose interest in this war is less about human care and more about self-preservation. The relatively ignored conflicts still raging in Myanmar, Yemen, and Afghanistan among others bear testament to this unfortunate reality.

Day 15: Consistency – the key to Excellence #28DayChallenge

Today’s title speak for itself. In my 30+ years of existence, including several years of academic and professional excellence, I have come to learn that perhaps the single most important element in developing an attitude of excellence is consistency in doing the right things – showing up and committing to actions that produce results.

Excellence means going over and above what is expected. Excellence is doing the work you are expected and then adding a touch that reminds whoever sees the work of who did it. Excellence is a waiter serving with a smile. Excellence is a leader leaving an impeccable example; it is settling for nothing less than the best. Excellence begins with mastery, and then proactive efforts to improve on what we have mastered. But mastery only comes from consistency.

While what constitutes excellence differs from one field to another, the actions that produce it are the same. First, excellence requires knowing what is expected of you and taking the time to (learn to) do it properly. The next step is as an improvement-seeking behaviour. When you find that one person looking for simpler, faster and more efficient ways of achieving the same objectives, then you are dealing with an excellent attitude. Excellence is never stopping until you have exceeded your previous best.

Whether learning to meet expectations or looking to exceed them, a common behaviour required is consistency – in setting learning routines, practicing what you have learnt, continuously making corrections or implementing improvement opportunities. When you repeatedly do things until they become a part of you, getting it right and discovering ways to do it better becomes easier because of practice.

Excellence is only predicated on knowing the right things to do. If you do the wrong tasks well, it is of no use to anyone. So, get knowledge and get training. Being deliberate is also key to excellence. Continuous commitment to action in any field or personal endeavor (including character building) produces mastery. Lastly, there can be no excellence without continuous improvement.

Excellent people know how to look for improvements, seek feedback, refine them, and implement the resulting actions in order to keep getting better at what they do. And they know that they can only remain excellent if they are consistent at what they do. So, what are currently working at consistently?

Thanks for stopping by today, and I hope you’ll come by again real soon. Cheers!

Day 14: Stand Tall #28DayChallenge

Seven years stood tall
Though short to be reckoned with
In the final scheme of things
Yet the impact of those years
Reverberated into eternity

Gentle voices called out
Echoing loudly in the darkness
Their message was clear:
“Bring home your honor
Even if you lose everything else”

So you stood like a warrior
Fought with courage for truth
Undaunted in the face of fear
Never one to change allegiance
As you fought through each battle

Now you are boldly standing tall
Like the years through which you came
Unashamed of who you are
Or what time has brought you through
And its impact on posterity

#StandTall

Day 13: Friday, Good? #28DayChallenge

Good Friday. Was it really good? Definitely not for Jesus or his followers, whose long-awaited Messiah was crucified by the authorities. A little search on the internet suggested that the origin of the word “Good” is an old English word which means “Holy”. If this is correct, then it would be more appropriate to think of the day as “holy” or “hallowed” rather than “good”, which has a completely different meaning in modern English. I also learnt that some other languages utilize a more suitable expression for that day, such as the German expression “Karfreitag“, meaning “Sorrowful Friday“.

In the end, though, the day turned out to be good from the Christian viewpoint, but only in hindsight. Knowing that Jesus’ death atoned for our sins and that he eventually resurrected a few days after complements the sobriety of the Holy Friday with the joy of Easter Sunday. The beatings he took secure our healing and his shame open heaven’s door of mercy to us. However, it was not all joy on that first Easter Sunday, seeing as the disciples were confused and distressed at the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the grave. Only Jesus’ eventual appearance allayed their concerns and revived their hope.

Yet the news was not even sufficient to bring hope to the doubting Thomas, who happened to be unavailable at Jesus’ first appearance to his other disciples. He had to see for himself to truly believe. And so, Jesus declares that those who believe his resurrection without seeing Him are blessed. He knew only a few persons would see him before He ascended to heaven, and so the testimony of His witnesses and the faith of future hearers would be equally important.

The onus then lies on us who have believed to share this wonderful news with everyone who would listen- the blessings that the horrors of pain and death Jesus endured confer on us, and the living hope that his resurrection and ascension to heaven provide for us. Because Jesus lives, we too can live – not just in our natural state, but in a renewed, transformed state of heart. Spreading this good news would be appropriate seeing as we have embraced the use of “Good Friday” and even get an official holiday to mark the day.

If you are reading this and have not embraced the good news about Jesus, what are you waiting for? He died for you and me, so we would no longer live in our sins, but receive forgiveness from our sins and have access to God our Maker. Turn from your sins and call on Him right away! And if you do, you can be sure that you will be saved; He never turns anyone away. This is where I take a pause today – we continue this blogging journey tomorrow. Stay blessed!

Day 12: Judas, Betrayer #28DayChallenge

Thanks for joining me today again. As we come upon Easter, it feels fitting for me to reflect on some of the themes around the death and crucifixion of Jesus. I would like to zoom in on a character that has received extended treatment and analysis over the centuries: Judas. Judas’ role in the arrest of Jesus was prophesied in the book of Psalms, yet it could have been fulfilled by any one of the disciples. Unfortunately, it was Judas Iscariot who made himself available, descending into eternal damnation for thirty pieces of silver.

Have you ever been betrayed? Usually it would be by someone who knows you closely. The person likely gave up important information that could be used against you, or switched loyalties in a very unexpected manner, leaving you vulnerable and exposed. The damage might have been little or huge, but betrayal always feels terrible. So, if you have ever been betrayed, do you know why they did it? Many people betray their allies for revenge over an unforgiven offence. Others just do it for selfish gain such as power, money, or fame. In Judas’ case, we know he did it for the money.

There might also be people who betrayed others because they were blackmailed, bullied, or manipulated. Some secret or failure of theirs could have been weaponized against them so they could give up their loyalty to someone else. While this does not make them innocent (they could choose to face the consequences of their actions), this category of betrayers are most miserable because they get no satisfaction or gain from the betrayal. Eventually, all betrayal leads to regret, or no? Or do all betrayers get betrayed by someone else? In Judas’ case, the weight of his guilt led him to take his own life. I bet he never imagined Jesus would be killed, let alone crucified like a thief.

The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus is often told alongside that of Judas’ betrayal, and some parallels drawn to encourage believers to embrace repentance. But I wonder how close they are. While Peter acted in an instant to selfishly protect himself from whatever they would do to Jesus, Judas was set on a slippery path of no return once he aligned with his Master’s enemies to give him up. I’m not sure the outcome he expected, but things went out of hand as they always do. His greed stole a great spiritual inheritance from him.

Is there a way to predict or prevent coming betrayal? Or knowing who might betray you? I don’t know. All I can offer is Jesus’ counsel that you should “watch and pray”. In his case, he knew what was coming for him, and he was ready for it. Greed, lust and many unchecked excesses are behavioral indicators of many potential betrayers. Yet moderate men too have had their loyalties tested, and some caved when the right price was named. In the words of a former Nigerian Governor and current Minister: “May our loyalty never be tested”.

I’ll see you again tomorrow, have a blessed Good Friday, and enjoy the extended holiday weekend!

Day 11: Faith, Unfeigned #28DayChallenge

Today, I want to share a few thoughts on faith, particularly in connection with the adjective “unfeigned” as used in the King James Version of the Bible. If you use more modern versions such as the NKJV or NIV, the word will likely be rendered “sincere” or “genuine”. In the first chapters of both his letters to Timothy, Paul speaks about “unfeigned faith”. In first Timothy, he speaks of it as a Christian virtue that works together with love. In second Timothy, he recalls Timothy’s unfeigned faith as he (Paul) longs to see him (Timothy). The word is mentioned both in 1 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 1:5.

Continue reading “Day 11: Faith, Unfeigned #28DayChallenge”

Day 10: Celebrity, Unpacked #28DayChallenge

When I was a child, I wanted to be famous and popular. I was never quite sure of what I’d be known for. But I wanted to be well-known and much loved and highly respected by many people. Although that desire is not something I now pay attention to, I do not trust that it no longer exists somewhere deep in my heart. More importantly though, I am now conscious of the costs of achieving such a desire, and the price that follows it, including loss of privacy, heightened expectations, and the pressure to always look the part.

In our world today, there are many more avenues to become a celebrity than there were just a few years ago. The rise of technology and social media has created a whole new range of ways to become famous, even from the comfort of your room. But fame may come at the cost of authenticity. There are some authentic celebrities, with whom what you see is what you get, but there are also many whose public image is fabricated and carefully propped up to attract and sustain public interest, usually for eventual monetary gain.

What never ceases to amaze me, however, are the higher standards we tend to automatically assign to famous or popular people, just because they are well-know or well-loved. Perhaps, we project our personal standards onto them, the same standards we easily excuse ourselves from meeting up with. People may be successful and exceptional at what they do, but this does not make them a standard for anyone else. They are still as human as anyone else, no matter what even they try to make us believe.

The other thing I find very interesting with so-called celebrities (and there are a whole gamut of them these days), is the way ordinary information about them are peddled like items of precious value. “X was at the beach today in such outfit.” Okay…and why is that on the news? It is almost as though there is a media conspiracy to besiege the average person with information enough to drown out important items. It is also no news that some celebrities pay for this kind of publicity or even stage some events to generate news so they can remain continuously in the public eye.

I surely don’t have anything against celebrities or being a celebrity, especially knowing that some people are unwillingly thrust into popularity or fame, just because of their profession, or excellence in their career. I also recognize that for some others, popularity or fame is only a means to power, influence and wealth. But for the rest of us non-celebrities, we do well to think of them as mere humans like us, no matter the height of their power, wealth, or fame. Every now and then, we all need some breathing room.

That would be it for today (Day 10)… I will continue this journey tomorrow by God’s grace!

Day 9: Coffee, Black #28DayChallenge

Ten years ago, I was an alien to the world of coffee. Although I knew people who regularly consumed it, my understanding of its value revolved around its use as a stimulant, particularly for people who wanted to stay awake for some reason. This was its primary use for many of my friends and classmates who took coffee as students: staying up all night to study. Since I neither fancied nor enjoyed studying at night, coffee had no appeal whatsoever to me. By the way, I did read at night sparingly, but it was usually after I had gotten a few hours of sleep and felt refreshed enough to put in a few hours before catching some more sleep.

So when I got my first job post-NYSC*, coffee wasn’t one of the drinks I was eager to get from the vending machine at the office kitchenette. I initially started out with chocolate, and then went on to try different kinds of tea. One day, a colleague mentioned that the cappuccino plus chocolate combo was very nice. So, I tried it out. Of course, it was very nice! I’d never had cappuccino (had to read up on what it was and how it was made), neither was I a fan of coffee-based drinks. Then I went on to try cappuccino by itself on another day, and I loved it too! And so began my sojourn into the world of coffee.

I have since gone on to try coffee in all forms and shapes. And although, I would not call myself a devotee, I am definitely sold on the culture of morning coffee. Prior to WFH at the onset of COVID, I even used to grab a cup of coffee after lunch on some days to help with alertness (hahaha!). One thing that stood out and still stands out about coffee is the scent. You could enjoy the taste and the scent separately with different sensory organs. That smell gets even better when you take coffee made directly from roasted coffee beans – a friend gifted me a pack last year and I enjoyed it.

Ironically, I have never been able to get myself used to the idea of black coffee. As nice as it smells, I find the taste too bland and it’s impact too strong. The few times I’ve tried coffee without sugar or cream, I’ve found that it does a number on my mental alertness. I distinctly remember the splitting headache I got after trying black coffee one day, after feeling like I did not get enough sleep and hoping black coffee would help with getting my morning going. Maybe I’ve never quite got the “dosage” right…but I’m not holding out much hope of enjoying it anytime in the future.

So, a cup of coffee works for me on most mornings, with some milk or creamer and a little sugar. Instant coffee (especially those sachet types with creamer and sweetener already included) usually does it for me on most days. I wouldn’t pride on being a coffee connoisseur, but I love and do enjoy taking coffee almost every morning. It does the magic on many days! This is where I take a pause for today, and I’ll continue this writing challenge tomorrow. Till then, keep calm and drink coffee! 🙂

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

*NYSC – National Youth Service Corps – a mandatory one year program to be completed after undergraduate studies in Nigeria. It is a requirement for employment in most organizations

Day 8: Triumphant Entry #28DayChallenge

Today is Day 8 of my 28-day blogging challenge, and it’s Palm Sunday. Happy Palm Sunday! It’s a beautiful day to be alive as we celebrate the Triumphant Entry in 2022. There are few days in history that hold a lasting significance as does this special day, celebrated by Christians all over the world. It represents the arrival of Israel’s long-awaited king, riding victoriously into the ancient city of Jerusalem with celebrations and shouts calling for him to save His people. He was fulfilling prophecy as he rode into Jerusalem, and also asserting his rightful place as the eternal king over Israel, and indeed the whole world.

It was a beautiful moment as people laid down their clothes for his colt to ride over and bowed in obeisance to Him – a fitting climax for the king and Savior who never got a proper welcome into the world by the people he came to save, having been born in the most humble of circumstances. It was definitely the peak of His popularity among the people, because barely four days later, he was being subjected to shouts of “Crucify Him” as the same people turned against their king at the instigation of the religious leaders of the day.

People are fickle, and forgetful. If you make your plans on the basis of people’s promises of loyalty, especially a large mass of people, you are the most foolish of men. Jesus recognized this, and was never moved by the praise or criticism of people. He always stayed focused on doing God’s will, and his actions were only initiated on the strength of divine guidance. So whether he was multiplying bread or chastising traders at the temple, he was never moved by people’s opinion – only by God’s voice and a genuine compassion for people.

So passionate was Jesus for His people, that he wept over the city of Jerusalem shortly after riding victoriously into it (Luke 19:41), because they did not know the things that would bring them peace. He would go on to lay down his life, being led to the cross as a willing lamb for crucifixion, and becoming the “Lamb of God” who “takes away the sins of the world”. The big picture was not lost on him, neither were the immediate consequences of obeying God. The suffering, pain, wounds and horror of separation from God. But He focused on the joy ahead, providing a template for us in our time of sacrifices.

Jesus’ triumphant entry was a big statement to the people of His day and of every day, that He is the true king who would one day reign over the whole earth, having conquered evil in the world. But until that day comes, we are to rejoice in and take advantage of the spiritual victory He procured for us through His death and resurrection. We who believe in Him are seated with Him far above all powers in this world. We are overcomers like our King! The only question is: do you believe in Jesus?

I’ll take a pause here and pick this up tomorrow….as I continue my blogging journey. Have a blessed week!