To do

I have spent the last week or so, as I’m sure have many, musing on the life and death of Benazir Bhutto. And on the part ‘fate’ has played in both. The notion of fate has long fascinated the human mind. Debates on whether chance or destiny rule a man’s life abound, and most probably always will. To the average man, the concept that one’s life is pre-determined is an inconceivable one. More so in this day and age when everyone works their fingers to the bone to become somebody, make something of their lives, achieve some sort of celebrity even. To Joe Bloggs, his success – or lack of it – is hugely dependent on how hard he works, and how good he is at planning his future.

This is something almost everyone is good at. Right from kindergarten, we start making plans. As structure becomes recognisable in our daily lives, we go to sleep thinking, tomorrow I am going to finish that puzzle/ride my bicycle/read my new book. A few years later we begin dreaming about what we will become in life, and as the years progress though the ambitions change greatly, the game-plan is still the same: we will be highly successful at anything and everything we do, and all through our own efforts.

I was five the first time I ran away from home. I’d been reprimanded for some minor offence, and decided I’d had enough. I pulled out my Paddington Bear suitcase from under the bed, waited until my Nanny was cooking tea, and made my escape. In my mind, it was very simple. I’d had a rotten day and needed to distance myself from those who had caused me so much pain. I put it like this now of course, but back then I was just mad as hell that I’d been told off and banished to my room. I sat on my bed and simmered and simmered and boiled over into my little portmanteau and up the road to the bus stop. That’s when I began to realise there were holes in my game plan. I had no money and had no idea where I was going for that matter. True, I knew almost all of the bus drivers on our route – in the 60s, everyone did – and I guessed that as such, they would let me ride for free. But what of when I got to the train station (go figure – no destination in mind, but knew for certain that the fastest way to anywhere was by train) what then?

As the year begins, and an estimated eight million and counting make new year resolutions, I have to confess that forty years on, I too am still occasionally making what some might deem pie-in-the-sky plans. I say this because half of the things I resolve not to do will recur because I will most likely struggle with them on my own, realise they’re impossible, and give up.  I am still to reach that point where I commit my whole day to God. When all that I do is a reflection of his will for me.

A betting man would have put money on the fact that this time next week, Ms Bhutto would be premier-elect. Whilst I was packing my favourite books and toys, I would never have guessed that three hours later, having been persuaded by the kindly neighbour at the bus stop that I really should eat a nice hot meal before I left – sent to fetch me, I should add, by my Nanny who had followed my journey from the kitchen window – that I would spend the night safely tucked into my own bed, blissfully happy to be in familiar surroundings and around loved ones.

The future is not known to us, only revealed in parts. One thing is certain though; when I was five, God was everywhere, and praise Jesus, still is. Still making plans to counter my foolish ones, still over-looking my faults, still loving me. And because this is so, as long as we are willing to say “Do with me as you will, Lord”, all will be well. In this new year, let us begin afresh and aright and really make it all about Him.

‘Yemi  Akinbulumo, December 2007

cartier-skeleton-grand-complication-pocket-watch

London Underground have finally decided to explain why ‘time stands still when you’re waiting for the tube to arrive’. The mystery behind the time that shows up on the platform indicator, and the time the train actually arrives – ‘real time’ and ‘tube time’ – has at last been revealed to we plebeians. It seems that the time on the indicator is based on how far the train is from the station, not on how long it is really going to take to get there. So when you’re standing there thinking “This is a long five minutes…” – you’re right, it’s probably nearer ten.

As Christians, we should be able to relate to this, because we are taught that it’s like the difference between chronos and kyros; our time and God’s time. Both are very aptly described by the prophet and evangelist, Dutch Sheets. He sees ‘chronos’ as, “day to day; hour to hour; moment to moment. Plowing. Planting. Cultivating. Blood. Sweat. Tears”; and ‘kyros’, as “an appointed and opportune time.”

At times, waiting for a change in our situations seems hopeless. The interval between a prophetic word and its manifestation can develop into whole chapters in our lives. The world marches on around us, and we appear to be stuck in a time warp in which things remain stagnant, or worse still become aggravated. It is extremely hard to imagine anything good coming out of a bad situation when you are in the thick of the latter, but history – secular and Biblical – proves us wrong.

Much was made last week of the fact that the ‘strongman’ of Cuban politics, Fidel Castro, was stepping down as his country’s leader. Few people will recall or even know that he was once exiled in Mexico, and on returning to Cuba in 1956, hid out in the mountains with the 12 followers who had survived the trip with him. Two years later however, the bakers dozen had grown into a guerrilla force of several thousand which swept down the hills and toppled Batista, the incumbent dictator. Meanwhile, we read in the 21st to 30th chapters of the first book of Samuel that when David left Ramah, he was alone and fleeing the wrath of Saul. However, by the time Saul died, he had six hundred warriors in tow, formidable enough to match his enemy’s sizable army.

Richard Daniel remembers his life changing for the worst at just 3 years of age when His father left home because his mother was seeing another man, whom she planned to marry. At 17, the death of the grandmother who had promised to help him find Daniel senior made him lose all hope, and he fell into a destructive cycle which culminated in drug addiction, a spate of bad relationships, and homelessness. It was however at this point that things began to look up for him. He ended up in a hostel where a worker told him about how the Salvation Army found missing relatives. Four weeks later, he was reconciled with his father. It had taken over 30 years, and a chance conversation, but in his own words “that was my lowest point, but it turned out to be a great thing”.

He can only say this in hindsight of course, because at the time, his situation would have overwhelmed him. A suicide survivor who had jumped off of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco later said that the moment he let go of the bridge, he realised that all his problems were solvable. He was fortunate that he survived the fall in order to realise this; for others, it was and unfortunately always will be, too late.

In his darkest hour, Job could not have known that his fortunes would be restored. Having lost everything, he prepared to spend the rest of his life in sack cloth and ashes, and in worship of his Maker, regardless. We need to take a lesson from this. Job was not expecting anything, therefore even whilst questioning his misfortune, he resigned himself to waiting on the Lord. His legendary statement “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21 (NKJV) digs deep into the psyche of the Christian who sees God’s promises for what they are – gifts, rather than absolute rights.

We anticipate numerous and great things, and therefore have no excuse not to exercise patience and good natured-ness whilst doing so. In the same way that a successful business person thinks ‘outside of the box’, we need to look further than our present predicaments to that which we know God has purposed for us, however intangible it may seem.

Interestingly enough, Dutch Sheets further posits that in addition to ‘chronos’ and ‘kyros’, there is ‘plero’o’, “what we all desire – fullness in joy and provision; fullness in unity with one another and with God; experiencing fullness in purpose; fully loving God and fully receiving his love for us.” This is the state we will all attain, please God.

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 24 February 2008

Chinese calligraphy - wisdom

China is top of all the Human Rights watch lists at the moment, because of their treatment of the people of Tibet. Their stubbornness in the face of so much opposition would be risible if one did not consider the fact that they have been around a long, long time and survived much more difficult tests. The history of China extends back about 5,000 years, with archaeological records dating back to the 16th century BC, making it one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations. Even Christianity in China has developed since at least the 7th century AD, and recent discoveries seem to put the first diffusion of Christianity in China during the 1st century AD. Many years of war and peace, strife and reconciliation, have led to a wonderful collection of proverbs, a number of which reminded me of our theme for this month. I share them with you below.

If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions.

If you want to know your future, look into your present actions. It’s called coming full circle, and as the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 1 vs.9, History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. (NLT) Some soul-searching and investigating will reveal patterns that cannot be ignored, but that can be changed.

Be not afraid of going slowly; be afraid only of standing still.                                                                                      

A man grows most tired while standing still.                                                                                                                

 You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair. Keep praying. Keep interceding. Keep evangelising. Keep teaching. Keep counselling. Keep doing whatever it is you do best for God because the moment you stop, the enemy steps into that pause – however slight – and you become weary and disillusioned. Bad times will come to those with bright futures. Ask Joseph and Daniel. In fact, ask Job too. Even though he was well-to-do before catastrophe befell him, he was even better off when God recompensed him. However, there was a lot of faith involved in all these stories, which is what ultimately kept them looking to God rather than losing hope.

Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle. There is reason why day follows night. Don’t spend all your time praying to get rid of your enemies. Spend time with the Light of the World, Who can single-handedly do so on your behalf.

Fierce fire reveals true gold. Any prospector will tell you that finding any reasonable quantity of gold takes time and perseverance. It occurs naturally at times only in slivers, and quite often embedded in dross. Only a period in the furnace can show the metal in all its glory. Your battles will not be mild ones, and at times the heat will singe you, but it is the only way to get to your treasure. Pure gold does not fear the furnace. The metal almost instinctively ‘takes’ to the fire, as if it knows that it is only here that it can be moulded into a shape pleasing to the Owner. I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Revelation 3:18 NASB

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.                                                                 

Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time.                                                            

God cannot help those who do not seize opportunities. A prophet can only pass on to you what the Holy Spirit tells him too. He may pray with you about the matter, but it is left up to you make it a reality. Look around you. See, hear, do. The hand of God really is everywhere you look.

 He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician.                                                                  

Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one. Any word or prophecy you receive comes with an unuttered, unwritten proviso – you need to work it through until you achieve the desired result. If you do not fast and pray, that word falls useless to the ground. The great thing about fasting is that there are no hard and fast rules, unless we are expressly instructed otherwise. The liquid-only fast is a gift from God; seize it!

It is good to strike the serpent’s head with your enemy’s hand. Reverse that curse, so that the evil that has been sent to destroy you, will instead be visited upon those who wished it on you.

If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you are planning for 20 years, grow trees. If you are planning for centuries, grow men. In Ophthalmology, the Greek word myopia, also called near- or short-sightedness, is a refractive defect of the eye in which patients see nearby objects clearly but distant objects appear blurred. It is very important to be able to see the ‘big picture’, so to speak. If you concentrate your prayers on your present problems, they will cease, but then, what next? If you concentrate your prayers on your family and friends, what happens when a situation arises involving a neighbour or colleague? If you concentrate your prayers on those you know, what happens to the souls you were meant to save?

If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words. We need to be attentive. A man will usually reveal himself, good or bad, leaving no-one but ourselves to blame when we are ranked by the company we keep.

In the struggle between the stone and the water, in time, the water wins. This is doubly interesting because of the current fierce debate about bottled water. Mineral water actually seeps out of rock, and it is this strange process, the purity of the source, and its unique taste that makes it so appealing. After all, it’s hard to believe that such an element could produce water. Moses went one step further, God enabling him to better that trickle… “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. Exodus 17:6 NASB

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. Those perfect stones we see nestling in gold or silver settings once looked like little pebbles; rough, and not very attractive. But by the time a diamond cutter has finished with them, they are objects of great beauty; shining in the light, each facet more brilliant than the last.

Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, all must be tasted. If you have never had anything sweet, how do you know what is bitter? And vice versa? Only after experiencing each will you know which is the one to savour most.

Have a mouth as sharp as a dagger but a heart as soft as tofu.                                                                                      

A cat that catches mice does not meow.  It is not unusual to confront our enemies in both realms, physical and spiritual. The physical entails an understanding of the complexities of demonic possession, and therefore correctly, a tendency towards leniency. Many spiritual battles, however, are to the death. To make sure that it is your enemy that is the one perishing, be consistent. Be bold, be fierce. Make no mistake, this is not a game for him, so when he hears your voice, let it be a growl.

Think of your own faults the first part of the night when you are awake, and of the faults of others the latter part of the night when you are asleep.                                                                                                                                  

Clear conscience never fears midnight knocking… We need to get right with God, worshiping Him as we should – in righteousness and truth, so that in the day of evil, there is nothing to fear. It is only the doors we leave open that the devil is able to take advantage of…

No wind, no waves. This spoke to me, but I’m not sure exactly why. Was it some veiled reference to Jesus in the boat? Or is it because I know that it is only a large wave that washes ashore whatever the sea has swallowed? Or is it simply that the wind and waves are a perfect example of Gods complete mastery over the elements and therefore over everything that concerns us? You choose! One day he and his disciples got in a boat. “Let’s cross the lake,” he said. And off they went. It was smooth sailing, and he fell asleep. A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in, and they were about to capsize. They woke Jesus: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Getting to his feet, he told the wind, “Silence!” and the waves, “Quiet down!” They did it. The lake became smooth as glass. Luke 8:22 The Message

The longer the night lasts, the more our dreams will be. You may recall that Pastor Dan Asante mentioned this in his sermon Weeping May Endure for the Night, during which he said the advantage of the Night Life was that dreams and revelations come thick and fast, as opposed to when you enter your Day Life and they are not as necessary. Only the man who crosses the river at night knows the value of the light of day. The peace that the Day Life brings can only be appreciated after the struggles of the Night.

When we have nothing to worry about we are not doing much, and not doing much may supply us with plenty of future worries.

The more you sweat in Peacetime, the less you bleed during War. As Pastor Dele says, you pray now so that you can rest later. All the great stories we hear of men of God who are fearless before their foes are only fact because of the sleepless nights they had and sacrifices they made to give themselves a sound footing.

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. When Jesus spoke of faith moving mountains, was He speaking of this man? Is it people who have been tested over the years that build up their faith and then move mountains, or is it a done deal the minute you believe? “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. ” Matthew 17:20 NLT

Crows everywhere are equally black. Just because the enemy you faced at home looks different from the ones you face here, make no mistake, they are simply sheep in wolves clothing, and their mission is the same. The same levels of wickedness are possible and the same outcomes are sought.

A book holds a house of gold. The Bible. Enough said.

A proverb is variously described as a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought, a wise saying or precept and, Biblically, a profound saying, maxim, or oracular utterance requiring interpretation. Whatever its origin, it remains a useful and illustrative tool. In this instance, hopefully, a helpful one too.

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 06 April 2008

pledge of allegiance

I was watching a sitcom on television last week during which there was a US citizenship ceremony. Ten years ago, it would have held scant interest for me. Now that the British government has decided to put their immigrants through the same stringent paces however, it has become something I’m more than a little curious about.

In recent times, I have watched people quite close to me express a “binding commitment” to Queen and country, and wondered whether the import of what they are saying has actually registered. The US pledge is particularly worthy of thought, and co-incidentally or not, hits close to home where we are concerned:

…I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen… a

Here we are, a world and three thousand four hundred and seventy miles away, but for totally different reasons and in most probably dissimilar ways, we are repudiating the very same powers. We have been busy praying against and trying to rid ourselves of all contrary kingdoms within us – like the potentate, whose dictionary meaning is a leader who is unconstrained by law.

Satan is not constrained by any laws. We, on the other hand, are constrained by quite a lot. We are adjured to live a certain way, abstain from certain things, commanded to do others… The only one Satan takes orders from is God. Notice how he wreaked havoc in Job’s life, but only after taking permission from God. Are we to question why the Lord gave him the go ahead? Not by any means. We are to examine ourselves thoroughly so that should our own case be put before the Father, we appear blameless.

As we disconnect from the powers of darkness, what will fill whatever void that is left?

Epimenides of Knossos is a name not known to many, and yet the Apostle Paul quotes him in quite a popular Biblical passage: Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, “The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons.” This is true. So reprimand them sternly to make them strong in the faith. They must stop listening to Jewish myths and the commands of people who have turned away from the truth. Titus 1:12-14 NLT

A great deal of what we are reflects in our every day behaviour without our even being aware of it. Paul says in his letter to Titus Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. (1 vs. 15) Which begs the question, how often do we display the fruits of the spirit? Are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control really attributes we can attest to being shining examples of?

I do not by any means wish to infer that doing so is an easy task. Far from it. My natural inclination, for example, when faced with an obvious injustice could not be further from turning the other cheek. Peace, patience, gentleness and self-control fly out of the window and I hover momentarily, entertaining thoughts of justice and revenge. I recall the film The Godfather II, in which the protagonist, Michael Corleone, disposes of three of his enemies on the same day; an associate, a business partner, one of them his own brother. All because of betrayals which could not be forgotten and therefore not forgiven. Whenever I watch it though, I think of how much more efficiently God is going to deal with the faceless opposition levelling groundless accusations against me and blocking my progress in life.

I have realised that if I let evil thoughts take hold, the enemy gains ground whilst I am wasting time thinking of all the ways in which I have been hurt, and how the people who had hurt me would feel if the same thing happened to them. If I can find my joy solely in the knowledge of Him, without the influence of day-to-day disappointments, He will surely take care of the “small stuff” I have been sweating.

The Bible says a causeless curse shall not flourish, and by the grace of God, it shall not be so in our lives. Let us not give it cause to.

 Reference: (a) from US citizenship oath

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 25 November 2007

hear-no-evil-see-no-evil-speak-no-evil

During a visit to the United Arab Emirates, I was at first amused and then very impressed to discover that one could leave a bag in the lobby of the hotel, go into the restaurant for an hour, and return to find it in exactly the same place you left it. Untouched. Of course, in these days of terrorist activity, a security team would probably have moved it to a more secure location – but only out of concern for others’ fears, and certainly not for fear that it might be stolen. You see, under Sharia law, a person can – and most probably will – be sentenced to have their hands amputated for theft. It serves as both unsubtle reminder and visible deterrent in these troubled times when greed is a driving force.

We as Christians have timely reminders in the Bible as to how we should behave. Not being able to control our members – eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, – seems to get us into no end of trouble. They are the entrance points through which all the opposing kingdoms gain entrance into our lives. A careless word here, a malicious thought there, and suddenly we are on the slippery slope to destruction. Open doors, allowing the enemy free reign which causes us to constantly take two steps forward, and one step back.

Jesus himself said “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:29 NASB

Failing to deal with the little things leads to their escalating into much larger problems which then become well nigh impossible to get shot of.

The Old Testament gives example of how not ridding oneself of that which is contrary to God’s law can have devastating and far reaching consequences: But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. Numbers 33:55 NASB

We cannot remain clueless or plead ignorance as to why we do not make progress in life. If we can at least rid ourselves of all we know counts as sin, we can then stand in truth before God and plead our case.

Know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you. Joshua 23:13 NASB

The ball is in our court, and our next serve could determine our fate.

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 18 November 2007

warning - keep door closed

As we strive to disconnect ourselves from the darkness that continuously threatens to consume us, we must examine ourselves closely. Are we, by way of consciously or unconsciously harbouring any form of sin, leaving open doors for the enemy to attack us?

Diehard sport fans will know that athletes are required to desist from every day pleasures prior to their events. Strict diets are followed, alcohol consumption is frowned upon, and sexual intercourse is discouraged. The honour they are hoping to achieve is seen as reason enough to deny themselves; the pursuit of which is physically and mentally strenuous, but ultimately rewarding. Consider the fact that this is a merely for what the dictionary describes as ‘an active diversion’.

Our lives are so much more than this; but are we in truth exerting ourselves as enthusiastically as we would if the prize were tangible? Is it perhaps because we cannot touch eternal life that our fervour is dampened when it comes to pursuing the righteousness which will help us on our way.

The terrible thing is that it’s the little things that prolong the battle. The things we don’t even see as sin because we have lived with them so long. The minor indiscretions which on the face of it seem inconsequential vis-à-vis theft and murder say, which do not so much stare you in the face as slap you for good measure! The trouble is, these seemingly pardonable foibles are the ones the devil legally uses to disturb and distract us so that we don’t notice the trouble brewing in the background. As I write, a picture springs to mind of the auditor who is busy querying too many lunches on an expense account whilst another employee is slowly and systematically transferring company funds to an offshore account…

We are told in Proverbs 6:16-19 (The Message)

Here are six things God hates,

and one more that he loathes with a passion:

eyes that are arrogant,

a tongue that lies,

hands that murder the innocent,

a heart that hatches evil plots,

feet that race down a wicked track,

a mouth that lies under oath,

a troublemaker in the family.

Notice that lying and killing are both mentioned in the same sentence. This makes it pretty difficult to think of one sin as worse than the other. An amoral life is pretty much that – there are no buts attached.

We would do well to remember that God’s protective shield around us is only effective if we are leading a clean life. Examine yourself every day and don’t lose out on what you consider to be a technicality.

Let us pull down the kingdoms – within and out – that are preventing us from entering the sort of relationship with God that will form a sure defence against any attacks of the enemy. After all, to come this far for nothing really would be a shame.

The grace of God be with all of us.

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 11 November 2007

fire and iron

A man, who had two sons, died in a fire whilst trying to rescue someone. One son became a fireman, and the other a policeman. Everyone assumed they followed the paths they did because of what happened to their father. This turned out to be true of the first, but not of the second. He could not see the point of confronting the same faceless enemy day after day. When it was suggested to him that as a policeman, he did so every day anyway, he did not agree. He said no crime or criminal, even though always leading to some degree of devastation, was exactly the same. Fire, on the other hand, was relentless in both its consistency and constancy.

This presents a double analogy. No arrow fired against us by the enemy is exactly the same. Some are so insidious that you sometimes have to admire the audacity of the perpetrator. Small or large however, they are all aimed at our eventual destruction. Conversely, our greatest weapon – prayer – has the potency of fire. As we supplicate our heavenly Father, a flame is lit under our adversaries and their tools; each petition an instrument of war guaranteed to cause maximum damage to any plans to annihilate us.

The Bible makes many references to iron as a near indestructible element. Job, in reference to the sea monster Leviathan, notes that Iron is nothing but straw to that creature, and bronze is like rotten wood. (Job 41vs.27) The author of Psalm 107 goes one step further, replacing the physical view with the spiritual – Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. (vs. 10) And way back in Deuteronomy, Moses relates the Israelite’s defeat of their enemies in the wilderness, saying: (King Og of Bashan was the last survivor of the giant Rephaites. His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide. It can still be seen in the Ammonite city of Rabbah.) (Deuteronomy 3 vs.11)  The mere fact that he was of unusual build and height lends credence to the strength of the bed.

Yoruba mythology celebrates the god of iron, Ogun, as invincible by very reason of his power and might. Regardless of this belief in one African tribe, we move further down the continent and we see that in their wisdom, the Nkundo-Mongo people of Zaire believe that “fire can soften iron”.

We, as Christians, know the latter to be true. For however powerful the strong man in our family believes he is, what ever tricks the members of our household wickedness have up their sleeves, which ever unfriendly friends believe they have boxed us into a corner, we have a weapon which will put them to shame. Our persistent prayers are a more than adequate answer to the onslaught we have to bear by very reason of our faith.

When Daniel prophecies that “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever”, we see that in the same way that there are countless false gods and deities, there are numerous demonic kingdoms, all opposed to the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, he goes on to say, That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.” (2 vs.44-45)

Iron can and will be destroyed, whether by fire or by the hands of God.

The destruction of our enemy is as certain as our victory, because of He who lives within us – Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (John 6 vs.56)

Glory be to God on high.

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 04 November 2007

Seven-Deadly-Sins

Absalom, as was usual for a king’s son, led a life of luxury and privilege. It would not be presumptuous to say that he was denied nothing. This proved to be his undoing. One fine day, the seeds of obsession were planted in him, and he decided he wanted what he should not have.

To put it the way a scholar would, he developed “an unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation” with his sister, and proceeded to possess her in much the same way he did everything else he desired. (2 Samuel 13)

And there lies the key – desire. It is no mistake that most times greed and lust are mentioned in association with each other; they both stem from that one verb. Even God notes of the Israelites in Ezekiel 33:31 that “Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money.” The connection is never tenuous – the one an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, the other a craving, appetite, or self-indulgent sexual desire.

As we continue to explore the issues of what keeps us from an untainted relationship with God, the so-called seven deadly sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride – again rear their ugly heads, as most kingdoms only gain a foothold when these lie unchecked. Indeed, it is no surprise that they do. We live in a society where the daily mantra might as well be ‘more, more, more, and now’. Even if, perchance, we were not predisposed to compulsively acquire, the relentless inundation of advertisements on the television, radio, billboards, bus stops, trains, magazines, newspapers etc seep quietly into the brain. It is stealth brainwashing, and because it is insidious, it will get you every time.

It comes as no surprise that an economist and psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, won the Nobel prize for his investigation into why, as affluent societies, we are only getting more miserable. We think that when we get A, B, and C, we will be satisfied, but the D, E, F, and G come along and it’s a whole new ball game. Once upon a time, the discovery of Penicillin and the promotion of peace were award-worthy pursuits. Society, egged on by the prince of this world, has ensured that the focus has changed. Thomas Deloney once said “God sends meat and the devil sends cooks.” How right he was. When we should really be satisfied with the basics, we take things to a whole new level.

Perhaps then it is time to examine each of our little peccadilloes one-by-one. “Lord I am guilty” may just not be enough. Maybe it is time to say “Lord I am guilty of ___; this is a kingdom I really need Your help to rid myself of”. Because at the end of the day, all these things are fleeting. And of no eternal use – They were always greedy and never satisfied. Nothing remains of all the things they dreamed about. Job 20:20

In this season when everyone else’s thoughts will be on the material, let us tailor our minds to what counts. In doing so, all that is evil will automatically take a back seat.

It is well.

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 16 December 2007

goat

There are numerous words and phrases in the English language which unbeknownst to many have their roots in Christianity. The word ‘goodbye’ is actually a corruption of the phrase “God be with you”, first used by the playwright William Shakespeare in the sixteenth century. Even the legal world owes some long-standing customs to Biblical lore. For instance, the fact that the law relies on the testimony of two men is a throwback to a time when the law followed its definition to the letter – a collection of rules imposed by society, a society based on Biblical principles. The OT for example states that “You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”. Deuteronomy 19:15 NLT.  The NT corroborates this: It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. John 8:17 KJV. Though many of us may not have realised it, we are in fact a society leading a scripture-based life. Ergo, even though we tend to concentrate on the negative facets of society – escalating violence, sex literally in-your-face, cheating, lying, stealing – we are at least assured of having a positive and solid foundation.

But back to our language conundrum. Naija-English (sic) is not excluded. A popular term of abuse in my childhood, perhaps even still so nowadays, was to call someone a goat. I never quite understood why at the time, thinking it was just plain stupid to call someone the name of an animal which bore no resemblance to them. A monkey, perhaps, or even the popular beast-of-no-gender (which left a lot of latitude), but goat? Thirty-something years later, however, in the words of my teenage god-daughter – “I totally get it”.

Mike Ford, in his wonderful essay Goats on the Left a, notes that the Bible uses both goats and sheep as metaphors for Christians, and more specifically uses the goat to symbolize evil. Somehow, this has transcended what was most probably Christian missionary teaching, permeating language and thought, to become one of those things you say without thinking. Mostly it denotes stubbornness: an unwillingness to do what is right, even when you know that what you are doing is wrong. The Apostle Paul struggled with this, as do a great many of us. However, there are those of us who really aren’t struggling at all, and are going all out to embrace it.

Let us examine ourselves today. What are the things that we know are inside of us that do not belong there? The little branches that we ignore now because they seem insignificant compared to all the other issues we are dealing with, but which then grow to become a forest that blocks out everything that is good and honest and true in our lives.

We are constantly fighting opposing kingdoms inside of us. Poverty. Failure. Sickness. The list is extensive, perhaps even inexhaustible, which is why our struggle is continuous. However, why add to the list of things we have been afflicted with problems we have caused ourselves? Do not let us think for one minute that when we have rid ourselves of these various kingdoms, it will be the end of our struggles. As Christians, such ‘disturbances’ are par for the course. However, having established God as paramount, we – and the devil – will know our standing in Christ, and this will diminish the chances of anything evil gaining a stronghold in our lives.

The famous crime writer Agatha Christie once described a man who was (unbeknownst to him) depending on something that would harm him rather than help him to save his life, as a drowning man clutching at razor blades. It is an analogy so very apt when it comes to the question of us refusing to relinquish the things that will ultimately cause our downfall and destroy us. We may think some of them necessary, others inconsequential, and so many will be habits that are so ingrained in us that we may not even realise they’re there. However, for whatever reason, we remain in bondage until we make a conscious effort to free ourselves.

The really good thing about asking God to tell us how we have offended Him is that he will invariably answer, and so even that which we knew not of can instantly become a sin to repent of and ask forgiveness. For this reason, I am extremely grateful that we serve an infinitely merciful God. Glory be!

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 09 December 2007

 

Change screen bean

Some thirty seven years ago, Britain ‘went’ decimal. It’s hard to believe it, but there are three whole generations who have only known metres and litres, as opposed to yards and ounces; pounds and pence as opposed to guineas and shillings. Although the adults around me were flummoxed, being a child, I was lucky enough for it to be just another arithmetic lesson, It was an era of change. Only two years previously, I had sat in the very same classroom – we didn’t necessarily change classrooms in those days, only teachers! – and watched Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the Moon. Nowadays, with Richard Branson offering seats on a space shuttle, it seems commonplace, but back then we sat and watched the live-link in fascination and the whole day was devoted to discussions on how those few seconds would change our lives and expectations.

Change.

How many of us remember that Nigerians once drove on the same side of the road as Britons? Does anyone recall the jingle composed to introduce the event? Sometimes, when I am crossing the road, (and looking both ways because I always forget what direction the traffic is coming from), I can hear it in my head, “Nigeria’s driving on the right, dah dah, dah dah, dah dah”. There were multiple traffic mishaps and misdemeanours for a while, but soon left-hand driving was a distant memory.

Change.

Thirty years ago today, much to the horror of the international community, China invaded Vietnam. Today, however, despite its continuing atrocious human rights record, China is surreptitiously courted by these same governments in its new, albeit self-engineered role, as an emerging super economy.

Change.

There are women whose lives would have been changed forever this week with a chance marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day. There are those who will try and effect the change themselves on the 29th when the rare occurrence of a leap year will encourage them to ask their boyfriends to marry them. I suspect that if tradition is adhered to, (dictating that if the man turns down the proposal down he must give the lady a kiss and silk), the silkworm would have worked overtime this year…

Change.

Many a time, we are waiting for God to change our bad situations to good, and He is waiting for us to have a change of attitude in order to merit this. We are apt to sit smugly, and even whilst outwardly declaring that we are indeed sinners, believe in our hearts that we are really not that bad. A closer examination of ourselves might yield entirely different data though, if an independent audit were carried out.

Malachi was spot on when he asked But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? I particularly like this particular translation, expressly because it uses the word ‘endure’. Enduring can be defined as ‘prevailing’, which in turn is characterised as being ‘valid, applicable and true’.

It is estimated that the damage caused by the fire that raged through Camden Lock last week will cost millions – in terms of repair, loss of livelihood for affected traders, and revenue for the local council.

The infamous Great Fire of London in 1666 swept through London at an alarming rate and almost gutted the entire city. Although loss of life was said to be minimal, approximately 80% of the city was destroyed and a great many people rendered homeless and financially ruined. Nevertheless, as destructive as it is, there is a purifying element to flames, and what results from it can be quite positive. The Great Plague of 1665 known as the Black Death – which at one point was claiming 6000 lives a week – diminished greatly, due to the mass death of the plague-carrying rats in the Great Fire.

Malachi goes on to say, ‘For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the priests, the sons of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord offerings in righteousness. Then will the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in ancient years.’ Malachi 3:2-4 Amplified

Other fires in Scripture were for different purposes and varied in both execution and outcome. For example, God took the form of fire in the presence of the Israelites, as a guide – ‘The Israelites left Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.’ Exodus 13:20-22 (NLT); and later, as a mask of sorts – ‘Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply.’ Exodus 19:17-19 (NLT)

Elijah was transported to heaven on a chariot of fire – ‘As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.’ 2 Kings 2:11(NLT)

However, others had much the same purpose and outcome as the fires in London – destruction – as Job found to his utter dismay. ‘While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”’ Job 1:16 (NLT)

Isaiah probably best summed it up: ‘”Listen to what I have done, you nations far away! And you that are near, acknowledge my might!” The sinners in Jerusalem shake with fear. Terror seizes the godless. “Who can live with this devouring fire?” they cry. “Who can survive this all-consuming fire?” Those who are honest and fair, who refuse to profit by fraud, who stay far away from bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong’ – Isaiah 33:13-15 (NLT). If we are to survive now and in the future; if we are to bring about the kind of changes in our lives that will be acceptable to God, perhaps a prayer for the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit is in order.

As he put his left foot down first on the Moon all those years ago, the once unknown astronaut Neil Armstrong declared: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Let us take one giant leap for God. Out of sin, and into redemption.

‘Yemi Akinbulumo, 16 February 2008