Applying Lessons Learnt

After the test, I walked out of the hall, worried and lost. I was disappointed at my performance and couldn’t believe I was only able to attempt just one out of four questions. It was a disaster and below my expectation. I was devastated. As I took calculated steps towards my hostel, I knew I had to do something to avert the slide. We were heading for an unknown period of school strike no thanks to demands from the National Universities Commission (NUC).

We were taking stocks some weeks ago. I was taking stock of my academic life that fateful day. Have you been able to document your life in different fields? I bet you have taken your time to play back 2016. You smiled at some and frowned at others. You wished for a replay of some events and hoped that some others will never occur again.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. -St. Francis of Assisi

There were some highlights you would love to hold on to for the new season. There were some methods that produced so much fruits. There was a reading pattern that helped you pass your exams. There was a bible app that helped you draw closer. There was a routine that made you healthier and happier. There was something that stood exceptionally glorious. There were friends that brought out the best in you. Hold on to them or still look for further improvement.

There were few that held you down and restricted your flight in some fields. There were colleagues that made you feel less of yourself and had a way of talking you away from your divine goal. There were patterns that hindered your activities. There were some activities that drew you away from God. There were some apps that took much of your time. Prune them. End them. Turn around.

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. – Matthew 5:29

Back to my opening experience story, I spent the 2 months NUC strike on that course – Engineering Thermodynamics. For the first time, I bought two past question booklets with answers. One was for Engineering Thermodynamics and the other for Computer Studies. I just didn’t understand the latter. I buried myself in these past question booklets, answering them over and over again. I was still dazed by my performance in that test.

It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act. -The Dalai Lama

These are lessons learnt but they are not just for documentation purposes. They are for your improvement. Wouldn’t you like to be better in the New Year, the new season? There is always room for improvement. You shall have no better yesteryears.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. – Philippians 3:12-15

Cheers. @AmosCP

Originally posted on Exceller Blog

An Empty Office…

Last week was not a pleasant one. Sitting in the office today, it looks empty. The naive notion is that the festive season is on and a good number have travelled to see family and relatives. But it is not so. There was a sweep.

The economic recession in the land has taken its toil again and lightning has stricken twice at the same spot. Few months ago, it was same but worse. Four were sacrificed for the seemingly greater good but it was not to be. Last week another two joined the fray from my closet. It was shocking and was never expected. It was like Jesus dying twice for our sins.

It is a very hard decision to let go off your workforce but then the decision has to be made. It is only modest to make the right decision with the right reasons. There is no one to speak to across the wooden divide again. That cubicle is empty and filled with wrath. The wrath of voiceless injustice. Across the Niger, he is gone. Hanged for a scenario that is of little importance. The deed is done, the reaction is irreversible. Call a dog a bad name and it is easy to hang him.

When someone is hellbent about bringing you down, it is usually hard to convince him the other way. You can only do your part and hope that the forces that be favours you. It is a world of favour. I pray that God’s favour leads you on.

There is more than the eye sees. There is a 4th state of matter and another dimension of life. Fight your battles in those realms and see the results in the visible realms.

Ok enough… just Ride along with The King.

Compliments of the Season.

Time To Take Stock

write-down

Growing up in the suburbs of Lagos, my mum had a shop – not as big as a supermarket but big enough to cater for the house and provide for normal expenses associated with kids. There was a culture I grew up to learn from my mum and that culture is STOCK TAKING.

I resolve for 1920 to sit down all by myself and take a personal stock-taking once a month. To be no more charitable in viewing my own faults than I am at viewing the faults of others. To face the facts candidly and courageously. To address myself carefully, prayerfully, to remedying effects. – B. C. Forbes

After the noisy crossover nights, infested with loud firecrackers and “Happy New Year” shouts, my mum took to the solace of the quietening environment to look back at her shop and make preparations for the New Year. She would take me and any other member of the house and we would assist her in taking stock in her shop. She needed “actuals” and not mere assumptions, generalizations nor sight deceptions.

Galatians 6:3-5 – For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. For each will have to bear his own load.

It was a very serious exercise for her because it gave her the opportunity to know how much goods she had and which of these goods will expire in the next 365 days and the actions thereof to eliminate them. We had our pens and papers and we divided the shop into various sections. Expired goods were disposed. Those that had 30-60 days validity period were marked out for immediate consumption while records were kept and made reference to.

As Christians, it is expected that we take time out to examine our lives and deeds with the objective of running The Race lighter, earnestly contending for The Faith, achieving the divine goal and making improvements where needed. This is usually achieved if we look at our lives into three phases: Past, Present and Future.

II Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Without the past there will be no lesson learnt. Within the walls of the higher institution, the availability of my result after every session was a catalyst to taking stock of my academic life. Every present result emanated from actions in the past. These past actions have to be closely dissected to draw out lessons learnt in order to make appropriate improvements for the present and the future. If we must change, we must first recognize what is wrong. It requires deep and fearless personal searches without meandering away from the “dark spots”. This inventory has to be done accurately else the result will be skewed wrongly.

Lamentations 3:40 – Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!

We are in the month of December and it sends different signals to different people. To many, it is the end of the year and a period to round off plans for the year. To others, it is just another month with nothing special other than what we decide to make of it. Make December a month for you to take stock of your life so that the New Year will kick-start on a positive note.

Press the pause button and take stock of your life. Are you on the downslide or on the rise? Take an inventory of your relationship with God, relationship with man, academic pursuit, personal goals, collective goals, family etc. No one knows you better than yourself. Put it down in black and white. It is one of those vital steps to excelling in the nearest future.

What next after taking stock? We would talk about that in the next post. For now, just take stock. Pray for the courage to take an honest assessment of your life.

@AmosCP

This was originally posted on Exceller Blog as Experience 6: Time To Take Stock. Do well to follow the Exceller Blog.

The Fear of Being Known

Read: James 5: 16-20

One of the most most difficult inner conflicts we have is our desire to be known versus our fear of being known. As beings created in the image of God we are made to be known – known by God and also by others. Yet due to our fallen nature, all of us have sins and weaknesses that we don’t want others to know about. We use the phrase “dark side” to refer to aspects of our lives  that we keep hidden. And we use slogans like “put your best foot forward” to encourage others to show their best side.

I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will
confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
Selah. – Psalm 32:5 KJV

The voice of sin may be loud but the voice of forgiveness is louder – D. L. Moody

One reason we are unwilling to risk being known is that we feat rejection and ridicule. But when we discover knows us, loves us and is willing to forgive even the worst things we have done, our fear of being known by God begins to fade away. And when we find a community of believers who understands the dynamic relationship between forgiveness and confession, we feel safe confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16).

Lord, help me to expose my sin,

Those secret wrongs that lurk within;

I would confess them all to Thee;

Transparent I would always be. – D. Dehaan

The life of faith is not about showing only our good side. It’s about exposing our dark side to the light of Christ through confession to God and also to others. In this way we can receive healing and live in freedom of forgiveness.

@AmosCP

Culled from Our Daily Bread – 2016 Annual edition for September 19 “On Being Known” by Julie Ackerman Link.

 

 

Trash Right, Live Right

It was an evening after close of business. Home was calling and the roads were busy. He finished his wrap of sausage roll and out of the window of the car, the wrapper flew. 


Saturdays have a way of making us do some kind of sanitation – wholesome or partial. Homes are cleaned up, surroundings are tidied up and the resulting trash is packaged or heaped outside the gates for the authorities to pick up. 

In Lagos, the Lagos Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) is in charge of managing the trash from such sanitation exercise with trucks coming around almost every weekend to pick up trash and refuse but I am more interested today in the trash they gather on the roads and highways.

When you enter a City, the roads are the first things you notice – good & clean or bad & dirty or a mixture of both. The 1st day I stepped on the city of Owerri, I was marvelled. Clean roads from Orlu road through Wetheral and along Douglas. I trekked in admiration and wondered. I heard it was once the cleanest city but within the next 5 years after my 1st visit, the city had great moments of being gardened in huge dumps of refuse.

Douglas road was oozing to the heavens despite having one of the largest market in the City. Recently I heard the state government had to leave the mountain heap of refuse that took as much as a lane on each side of the road as a payback to the people. Seriously? Let’s not talk about Aba. We can say positive things about Enugu, Ilorin, Abeokuta and a few other cities.

That aside, nothing bothers me most than seeing a road commuter throw thrash through the car window on the road. On my way back from work few months ago, a plastic bottle flew out of a public bus into the road with so much velocity that it could crack the windscreen of another vehicle. We had to swerve to avoid the bottle. The bottle with other of its cousins will play along the road until someone picks them up. Who? The street sweeper from the waste management agency.

What kind of education do you have that gives you a pat on the back for throwing thrash on the road and expecting an “uneducated” person to pick it up and make the city clean for you to brag that “I live in a clean city”?

A testimony was shared in a big branch of a very big church in Lekki. The lady stopped on the bridge to throw thrash into the waters below. She noticed a man on the other side of the bridge crossing over to most probably rob them. They had to zoom off without polluting the waters. Everyone praised God but the water had the ultimate victory – saved by an unknown.

Cleanliness is next to godliness it is said but it is not restricted to how clean your clothes are or how tidy your living room,  kitchen or other room are. How do you affect your environment? Do you also fling plastic bottles, snack wrappers, papers off the vehicle? You would prefer to have your car tidy to causing nuisance on the same road you ply? Tomorrow, you would be the first to say the roads are untidy? 

They may be doing the dirty job of keeping the roads clean but I must commend the street sweepers and members of the waste management agency that ensure the roads are swept regularly. This post is for them. They endanger their lives, working on the roads and highways, picking up the products of your iresponsibility. Please respect them. Drive carefully when you see them in action. 

More importantly, live responsibly. Keep your trash in your car till you see a trashbin. God abhors dirtiness and irresponsibility. Check yourself and live right.

Trash right.

@AmosCP

Tales From FEGO: HSC Block

 

Inside A Room in Main Block – There were no fans in those days (courtesy: Damola)

One quick jump and I was away, out of the hostel through my window. I was on my heels away from the officials that have come to gidi us on that Saturday morning. For heavens sake, it was not an inspection Saturday but I had to make use of my window – the one good and bad aspect of my stay in the oldest hostel in FEGO. The HSC Block.

Sandwiched between New Block and PTA Block, the HSC Block used to be assigned to the JSS2 students until Government Block was built. In front of HSC Block stood the school mosque and the dispensary just around. At the back was a large grass land which formed a major part of Saturday morning clearance. Sometimes ridden with snakes, bush rats and all sort of grass loving animals, it was our duty to clear those grasses so that we could see any activity on the Ikoyi road the staff quarters beyond.

With a big quadrangle, HSC had a good space for Saturday indoor football. Although baptized with wicked stones, the boys shunned those hindrances in making sure they enjoyed themselves – with approvals from the hostel officials for sure. In this quadrangle was the open bath. No one used the walled baths because they were conducive. The open bath had 4 tap outlets through which water flows in the afternoons.

HSC was divided into two parallel building blocks. Chad and Cross houses were on one block as usual. Niger and Osun houses made do with the other block. Each block had 4 rooms with 2 for each house. For each two rooms assigned to each house there are two micro-mini rooms acting as dividers. I want to believe these rooms were not meant for living but we had captains and prefect who used them as heavens. Although small, it was a hub for Ironing, kpoksing and many more.

I moved into Room A of the rooms for Cross House. I got a corner by the wall and lived out my days in HSC block there. I spent two years in HSC block no thanks to the commissioning of the Government at the beginning of my second year. So I spent JSS2 and JSS3 in HSC. I dreaded wearing shorts in Main Block and was happy to spend one more year in the ancient HSC Block.

This brings me back to the opening part of this post. I returned from the long vacation, ready for another adventure. Lo and behold, I could not find my window net nor the louvers. I was exposed to the outside world but it was a quick entrance and exit from the hostel – just don’t be caught. It was a regular escape route for me in those dark mornings when the officials come around to gidi of punish.  I was near invisible.

Yemi joined me in the corner as an SS1 boy and I learnt some tricks from him. His friends frequented the corner and one of such friends had artificial rains falling on me from the top bunk one night. Sadly, when he was woken up, he stepped down, jumped out and cased closed.

There are so many other tales from HSC block – the bunk shakers, the ghost riders, the smelling gutters, jacked lockers, chained mattresses, space travels and many more.

Tiri gbosa for HSC Block. Ehen!! You know HSC means Higher School Certificate?

Enjoy your day and share your HSC experience with us.

@AmosCP

How Do I Pray Without Ceasing?

There is a daily podcast/interview on desiringGod.org that is worth listening to/reading. It is called Ask Pastor John. I enjoy the questions and the answers from Pastor John is always rich in the word of God.

Zach, a listener to the podcast recently asked:

Hello Pastor John! Thanks for being such a great resource and answering hard questions in this podcast. My question for you is this: In your own words and application, what does it mean to ‘pray without ceasing’?”

Pastor John Piper had these to say:

Let’s get the text in front of us with a little bit of context, because that really has significant things to say about the little phrase. Here is 1 Thessalonians 5:15–18: “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always” — note that word — “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” So, I start here with verse 15 just so that we can see that Paul’s burden is not just a kind of private piety when he comes to speak of prayer. This is a radical call to counterintuitive, countercultural love. Don’t repay people evil for evil. Do good to everyone always.

“Paul’s burden is not just for private piety when he teaches about prayer.”

Next verse: “Rejoice always,” which is not the kind of emotional response one would ordinarily have to being mistreated and treating others better than we are treated. You might be wounded. You might be spurned. You might be in jail if people have treated you badly. So, this is a really amazing way of life in Paul’s mind — a miraculous one. Being treated badly, returning good for evil, and all the while rejoicing always. Always doing good to those who do bad to you, always rejoicing. This is incredible.

And then comes the phrase that Zach was asking about, and it makes sense, now, a little more: “Pray without ceasing.” If that life sounds hard to you, “pray without ceasing.” And then he gives a specific example of the kind of prayer in verse 18: not just, “Help, Lord,” which, of course, we would pray, “Help all the time. I need help to live this way.” But he goes on and says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Let’s keep in mind two things about that context. One is the every’s and the all’s. 1) Do good always to everyone. 2) Rejoice always. 3) Pray always or without ceasing. 4) Give thanks always or in every circumstance. The other contextual observation is that there seems to be a deepening to the question: How? How to life? Answer: Do good always to everyone, even when they don’t do good to you. How? Rejoice always. Find your joy in something other than the way you are treated. How? Pray without ceasing. How? Be in a continual disposition of thankfulness to God.

So, in those contexts, what does “pray without ceasing,” then, mean? That is what Zach asked. And I see at least three things here that it means.

1) First, it means that there is a spirit of dependence that should permeate all we do. This is the very spirit and essence of prayer: dependence. So, even when we are not speaking consciously to God, there is a deep, abiding dependence on him that is woven into the very essence of our faith. In that sense, we are praying. We are experiencing a spirit of dependence continuously, and that kind of disposition is, I think, right at the heart of what God creates when he creates a Christian.

“There should be a spirit of dependence that permeates all we do.”

2) The second meaning that it has, and I think this is probably the one that is foremost in Paul’s conscious intention here: praying without ceasing means praying repeatedly and often. And I base that on the way he used the word audiolaptos, unceasing, in Romans 1:9. Listen to how he uses the same word for “without ceasing.” He says, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing” —audiolaptos, unceasingly — “I mention you.”

Now, we can be sure, can’t we, that Paul did not make mention of the Romans in every minute or second of his prayers or his days or his preaching. He prayed and he spoke about lots of other things besides the Romans. But he mentioned them over and over. He mentioned them often. He mentioned them regularly. So, he says: I mentioned you without ceasing. It doesn’t mean that he was verbally and mentally always, every second mentioning them. It means that over and over, always, repeatedly, without fail, when I get on my knees, you are in my prayer. That is basically what I think he means by “without ceasing” — repeatedly and often.

3) And the third thing I think he means is not giving up on prayer. Without ceasing means: Don’t ever come to a point in your life where you say, “Prayer doesn’t work. I am done. I am giving up on prayer. I am giving up on prayer.” That would be the very opposite of “without ceasing.” It means, don’t ever do that. Don’t ever get to that point.

So, the key to rejoicing always is to pray continually; that is, to lean on God all the time and call to him repeatedly and often. Never give up looking to him for help, come to him repeatedly during the day, and come often. Make the default state of your mind a godward longing and a godward thankfulness.

“The key to rejoicing always is to pray continually.”

4) And one last thing, maybe, it would be helpful to say. I think it is important to notice that, in real life, some discipline in regular times of prayer during the day keep this kind of “without ceasing” prayer alive. I have heard enough people say that they want to pray spontaneously. They want to be always in a spirit of prayer. They don’t need set times of prayer. That is legalistic. I think that is ridiculous. I think it is unbiblical and it think it is unrealistic if they just knew themselves, because it is disciplined, regular times of prayer that fit us for the kind of spirit that enables us to enjoy the hour-by-hour, spontaneous walk with God.

“Discipline in regular times of prayer during the day keep this kind of ‘without ceasing’ prayer alive.”

And good, old Daniel in the Old Testament is a great example of this, because we know that Daniel in critical crisis moments of his life offered up quick prayers to God: “O God, help me. I am being asked something here that I don’t have an answer for.” And where did that come from? Well, Daniel 6:10 says, “When Daniel knew that the document,” — namely, that nobody can pray except to the king, — “had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” That was his pattern. He continued his pattern of disciplined, three-times-a-day prayer: praying and giving thanks “before his God, as he had done previously.”

So, the point is that Daniel lived a life that combined discipline three times a day with spontaneous encounters with God, and I think that is the way it should be with us. If we hope to pray without ceasing day and night in the way Paul calls us to, enjoying that kind of continual communion with God and that repeated coming to him, we are going to need to develop disciplined times of prayer as well.

You can find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes.

Continue to pray without ceasing.

(@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.