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Sunday, 27 August 2017

A TALE OF TWO NIGHTS

17:02

Have you ever had a night that you never wanted to end? This past week, I had several of such experiences I did not want to come to an end. Thursday night was certainly one! It started with going to the Emerge Conference at House on The Rock, then being honored to sit at the dining table for a private dinner with TD Jakes, Pastor Paul Adefarasin, Donnie McClurkin, Bishop Tudor Bismark and others. 

We finished the dinner around midnight, then  I was off to a beautiful night of worship and fellowship with my friend TY Bello.  She invited me to her studio for an all night worship experience. I thought that getting there so late was going to ruin it, but it was quite the opposite. It felt like heaven! Music Producer, Wilson Joel played the grand piano while TY and I sung out hearts out to God in prayer and worship. Before we even knew it, 5 hours had passed and approximately 60 new songs had been sung to the Lord! She's a smart lady in that she knows to record great moves of God! She had her film and audio recording crew present for our worship time, knowing that God could do absolutely anything once we abandon our hearts to Him. Truly, I will never forget Thursday!



Our short, family trip to Lagos was filled with divine appointments. 

On Friday afternoon, operating on just a few short hours of sleep, I was given the opportunity to impact the lives of a group of enterprising students at the GYMT Fashion Academy. I must tell you it was an absolutely amazing time watching the craft and creativity of these students unfold before my eyes.
I spoke to the students about "How to Have A Successful Family Life And Still Be a Cutting Edge Entrepreneur." 

Afterwards, I visited a business of one of my Church Unusual members who had relocated to Lagos, Samson Aligba. 

Then, I spent some quality time with my children before joining my host, Princess K. Oghene for a late dinner at her home in the evening. 

While enjoying the sights and sounds of Lagos on our way back to the hotel where I lodged, we stopped over at a lounge in Victoria Island.
The DJ must have been very good because I soon found that I was the only person seated in the room. I don’t go to clubs because my presence there could be misunderstood and also because the loud music will give my husband a headache within minutes. Consequently, I have not had a night out in 25 years so I did not know the lyrics to any of the songs that were played, I mean not even one! Furthermore I could see that my dance moves are outdated as the last time I went out was in high school. My host realized my discomfort and we left the lounge shortly after. It was an amusing experience and my host vowed that we would never go back there because according to her, "I don’t belong there.” But maybe I actually do.

My time out with my friend Princess in Lagos reminded me that as Christians, we cannot ignore the fact that the world around us is drowning in darkness. While driving back to my hotel I could not help but wonder how I can shine the light of Salvation to people who seek an escape from the struggles of life by playing in darkness.

Jesus in all His time on earth was a friend to sinners. A prostitute famously washed His feet with her hair (Luke 7:37-38). By choosing to spend time with sinners, Jesus made a number of high profile ‘holy’ enemies who called him everything from a cohort of sinners to a demon possessed healer.
This must have been quite tough to hear and it is quite possible that His family was hurt by what they heard; yet Jesus never stopped once because of what people said. Instead He took every interaction, every meeting to tell His audience about the love of the Father.

Salvation compels us to take every opportunity to tell people about God. We should not hesitate; we must go boldly wherever there is an opportunity to share the Good News and win souls to our Father, whether it is at school, while waiting in line at the supermarket or while making an unscheduled stop at a club.


I had two very different nights (back to back) that went into the wee hours of the morning. Both taught me different lessons and made me grateful for the opportunities afforded to me in this life. I'm grateful that I have friends that I can worship with, pray with, learn with and play with.  I hope for more unforgettable weekends like the one I've just had, hopefully next time with a little bit more sleep. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Stop Rushing Things

08:21


We all live in a society where we want things done and we want them done NOW. Patience is a virtue that has virtually left us. For example, we tend to fast-forward relationships to go from attraction to intimacy (and sometimes marriage) without taking the necessary time to develop our love and know one another. When we rush our relationships, we end up with break up after break up.

At times we fail to understand that the things which are the most beautiful will take a long time to craft.  Jewelry is an example that comes to mind. It takes between 6 and 24 months for a single Chinese freshwater pearl to reach a size of 9milimetres (mm).


Some other pearls like the South Sea pearls take between 2 and 3 years to reach a size of 15mm. After the harvest, some 10,000 pearls may be sorted before a 16 inch long single strand of beautifully matched pearls is assembled. A pearl necklace of this length retails for  $300 in jewelry stores. Pearl farmers and jewelers understand that time is an important factor in determining the value of a precious stone. 

As believers, we should be aware that our souls are much more valuable than the most expensive piece of jewelry in the world. Giving your soul (mind, desires and emotions) to another person should be a carefully planned event. You need to be intentionally armed with enough information that limits your risk of becoming broken-hearted.

This can also be true of our Christian walk. We can be so anxious to experience the latest and greatest thing that God is doing that we neglect the essential, foundation building exercises which serve as a filter.

We rarely will take the necessary time to read and study the Bible in its totality but we will read a one-minute devotional book or listen to a quick sermon to get our "God-Fix."  When we rush our spiritual growth, we end up with strange doctrines and dangerous beliefs.

We need to exercise patience in order to get the full value and understanding of what it is we are trying to accomplish.




There is a reason why a cake takes an hour or more to bake in the oven. There are necessary processes taking place which will make it beautiful, fluffy, tasty and healthy to eat. If you take it out in just 10 min, you won't be able to enjoy it.

When we rush things, most especially decisions, we end up with half-baked results.

Psalm 27:14 says,
"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!"

My prayer for you is that you'll have the strength to patiently wait for what is yours.


The next time you are tempted to leap before you look, remember the value of patience. Something worth having is worth waiting for. We value something more when we have taken the necessary time to appreciate what it is intrinsically made of, not just what it is on the surface.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE IN ENTERTAINMENT?

06:42



A young professionally-trained dancer, who serves in my church, came to me with a concern. He was asked to dance in the music video of a poular secular Nigerian artist and was wondering if it would affect his Christian testimony or the reputation of our church.

I was thrilled that he gave me the opportunity to discuss this very important topic which majorly affects the future and direction of his craft.  I believe that he is not alone in this quest for understanding the relationship between being an entertainer and also being a Christian.

Entertainment is “a form of activity that holds the attention or interest of an audience or an activity that gives pleasure and delight.”1

Mainstream entertainment is filled with performers such as Denzel Washington and Basket Mouth (pictured below) who have maintained their Christian faith and climbed to the very top of their fields.



Like all vocations, every expression in entertainment has its own standards to uphold in order to remain relevant and to catch the attention of the end user.  A professional performer demands an extreme amount of discipline in the performance of their art.

For a Christian performer there is a need for core values which help determine what will or will not be done.  The best guide for our conscience and standards is found in having a genuine relationship with Christ Jesus. When a performer is requested to function in theatre, music, modelling or dance, it is necessary to consider what the “role” is trying to convey. Some roles can demand that a performer engage in activity that cannot be defended by a believer in the Gospel. Performers are required –for the duration of their act- to portray a character whose actions are many times the complete opposite of the entertainer playing the role.  In my opinion, a Christian entertainer should not be a part of delivering a message to the world that opposes the Christian faith.


There is an unfortunate bias in some circles against Christians pursuing a career in entertainment. This is enforced by the stories and pictures that show some entertainers living carefree lives and the popular belief that anything in entertainment is of the devil and therefore sinful. I recently had a conversation with a North American Bishop who adamantly insisted with me that a person who is a secular entertainer cannot be a Christian. I cringed all through the conversation and asked many questions and discussed many scriptures which hopefully made him re-think his position.


In arguing against a Christian taking up a career in entertainment, people might be quick to quote   (James 4:4) You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

In defense of the entertainers who are Christains, we cannot ignore Matthew 25:14-30, that teaches a parable about talents. God in His infinite wisdom gave each and every human a gift, an unique ability that when harnessed can provide good income and at the same time bring glory and praise to God’s name.

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to share in an insightful conversation with legendary gospel musician Kirk Franklin just after the collaborative "Fearless" concert with Tim Godfrey at House On The Rock Church, Lagos State.  He offered an insight into his entire musical journey starting with the 1998 hit tune “Revolution.” 


Franklin described his music as an effort to recapture the pop music scene for God.  I was so deeply inspired and impressed by his commitment to Christ which has spanned decades and has impacted millions.

This view echoes a similar sentiment shared by Wilson Joel (a.k.a. Music Magnate)2.
In conducting research for this article I conversed with him about the idea of Christians doing music and he shared some valuable insights. He said: 

*All music comes from God and can have different results on the musician as well as his audience. In his own words “The music we do does not have to be so uptight just for church consumption." He asked,  "Who gives Christians music through the week? Music to make us dance, think, love better and appreciate love?”
     
*The Bible records that David played the harp skilfully (1 Samuel 16:18)

     *Lucifer was so filled with pride at his musical ability that he sought to equate himself to the Most High God, resulting in him being ousted from heaven. This is a danger that all Christian musicians must avoid. Pride is a major pitfall that has destroyed man. (Prov.16:18)



Music isn't the only expression of art that people have moral questions about.  It spans all kinds of expressions of talent.  My home in Edo State, Nigeria is world famous for its artistry specifically in bronze work.  Ever year we play host to visitors from around the world seeking to photograph or purchase the many outstanding artworks available here.


The Bible records in Exodus 36:1 that God Himself gifted Bezalel and Oholiab so that they could work any material needed to build the Tabernacle as well as anything used in the worship of God by the emerging Israelite nation. Certainly, the artisans in Edo State did not get their talent from demonic sources.

Another point Wilson made that resonated with me is how God is all about love and His expression of this love in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Wilson believes that Christians are the perfect people to describe love to anyone who doesn’t understand it. This expression can come in form of music, paintings, sculpted art or performing art. Art cuts across all the boundaries of man, from language to race and religion. He challenged me by saying that our love for God should be so real that it should be conveyed liberally in our artistic expressions.

A performance does not have to be overtly Christian in order to relate a message that enforces wholesome values. I am a firm believer in using talents and abilities to the glory of God as well as the improvement of one’s financial status and comfort in life. It would be cruel for religion to deny a dancer, actor, singer, music or movie producer the opportunity to go out and fully explore their talent. If anything we should tell them as Paul tells his mentee in I Timothy 4:12 “Let no one look down on you because of your youth but be an example and set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”


If entertainment is not a career a Christian should take on, then we would be ignoring a great opportunity to share the Gospel with a world that sorely needs it. The light of the Gospel is much stronger than the power of sin. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Consider the sport of football (or soccer if you’re American); on August 3, 2017 history was remade when 25 year old Brazilian footballer Neymar moved from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a record 222 million Euros. The news of this extraordinary move has flown all over the world via the internet with almost everyone talking about it. Neymar is a footballer who has not been ashamed to declare his faith in God on the football stage, rocking a “Jesus” headband after attaining Champions League glory with Spanish club Barcelona in 2015, after claiming Gold at the Olympics in 2016. The world’s most expensive footballer is a Christian!


The question of whether or not a Christian can be involved in entertainment can be answered if we look at entertainment in the same light as every other sector of human endeavour, including medicine, politics, sports and education. These sectors have Christians thriving in them with equal part criticism and equal part commendation. From names such as the aforementioned Neymar and Kaka to the Acting President of Nigeria, Yemi Osibanjo and America’s Dr. Ben Carson it is clear that believers cannot ignore their God-given abilities but instead must go into the world and stand out for Christ. (Matthew 5:16).  

This morning, my good friend,  Tim Godfreycame by our home in Benin City with his Extreme Crew and added his own very poingant points to this contraversial conversation.  With his permission, we recorded him while he was talking and trust me... this blog post would not be complete without you hearing what he had to say!

video



I hope you clicked on that link and listened well.  If you ask me if a Christian can be in entertainment, my answer would be a resounding “YES!” I believe that the world needs the sacred to infiltrate every aspect of the secular and that it is time for, as Kirk Franklin calls it, “A Revolution."














1.  "Entertainment" as defined by wikipedia.com

2.WILSON JOEL (also known as Musc Magnate) is the CEO of Doxology Music, songwriter, sound engineer, music director and world renowned music producer. 

3. TIM GODFREY Most recently known for his "Fearless" collaborative concert with Kirk Franklin, he is a dynamic music director, voice instructor, conference speaker, writer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, producer, presenter, music and Art training consultant, and musical concert clinician. He is scheduled for a US tour in 2018. 


Saturday, 29 July 2017

10 Things That Inspire Me About Mama Idahosa

09:43


Mama Margaret Benson-Idahosa is a massive game changer! 

She has made being a 74 year old look like a walk in the park! She has raised the bar for women all over the globe, teaching us by example how we can be strong yet graceful, professional yet approachable, spiritual yet down to earth and how a woman can break through one glass ceiling after another without any sign of trauma! 
She is renowned as the first Female Archbishop in the world, the first Female Chancellor of a Private University in Nigeria, On the home front, she is  the Mother of four biological children, four adopted children, grandmother of 8 amazing grandchildren (4 boys and 4 girls) and Spiritual mother to millions more. 

She is a highly respected woman who represents one of the shining lights of the fabric of our great county,Nigeria as she is the only wife of the late, Archbishop Benson Idahosa.

Her stature and grandiose appearance can be very threatening to someone who doesn't know the warmth of her heart. She stands tall, smiles big, carries herself like royalty and commands attention from everyone, whenever she enters a room.

As a member of her family, I have the rare privilege of knowing both her personal and her professional side, and I am inspired. 

Today is her 74th Birthday, I would like to share with you ten out of the one million qualities I admire about the great Rt. Rev. Dr. Mrs. Margaret Benson-Idahosa. (Permit me to refer to her as Mama from here on out.) 

  1. She says it like it is. When Mama doesn't approve of something or someone, she doesn't waste time analyzing why she disapproves or getting people's opinion on her opinion. She states her case and if you want to convince her otherwise, get ready for an uphill battle. 
  2.  She values family. She has 4 biological and 4 adopted children as well as 8 grandchildren. She has a personal relationship with each of her family members and even maintains a private phone number that is just for them, so that they can always reach her. She oftentimes visits our homes and spends nights and weeks with her children who don't live with her in Benin City, Nigeria.

  3. She is an avid learner. She can never be found without a book. She loves to read and improve herself. Recently, Mama and I had the opportunity to spend about 10 hours in a car together over the course of a few days. We bought an audio book and she devoured the contents like it was food. She sat in the passenger seat as I drove. As we listened to the author, Mama took copious notes. When we were between chapters, she would pause and want to discuss the concepts we were learning from the book. 
  4. She is committed to the cause of bringing hope to those who are hopeless. Her generous heart towards orphans, victims of sex trafficking and people suffering from some form of bad break in life is remarkable. She is always looking for ways to improve people's living standards and to give people the kind of love that was given to her.
  5. She is a giver! Whenever there is an offering in church, she makes sure she is the first to give. She gives generously to family, friends and even to strangers. Many years ago, I introduced her to a young man who would do manicures and pedicures for me. I asked him to make Mama his client by doing a great job on her nails. That day, he took his time and gave her the best mani-pedi that she has had in a very long time. In turn, instead of rewarding him with a generous tip, like most people would do, she turned to him and asked him what he wanted to become in life. When he told her his dream, she told him that he needs more education to accomplish it. Lo and behold, she gave him a 5 year scholarship to Benson Idahosa University! During the 5 years, he would come to the house regularly to do her nails. Every time he came, she would pay him generously and try to get more clients for him. This is just one of many remarkable stories of mama's generous nature. 
  6. She is a woman of prayer. Whenever you have a challenge, simply mention it to her and the next thing you will hear is a very loud, "Father in the name of Jesus..." She takes everything to the Lord in prayer and when she prays, she expects results. Once she has prayed for you, she doesn't come back to you and ask you how your condition is with sympathy and pity in her eyes. No way! Mama comes back to check on you and tells you that you are better because she has prayed. She always expects answers to her prayers. After watching her get remarkable results from her prayer life for the last 15 years, I must say, I also expect miracles whenever Mama prays!
  7. She loves worship and intimate times of fellowship with God. I have seen big tears roll down her face as she has experienced God's presence during a time of worship and fellowship. She keeps worship music around her all the time and is always found to have a song in her heart. She may not be the world's best singer, but, that never stops her from taking the microphone and belting out her favorite chorus of a song that the choir is ministering on a Sunday morning. Her worship game is on point. I'm certain that this is where her peace and strength comes from. 

  8. She loves her husband and has been loyal to him in death and has preserved his name and legacy. Many don't see Mama as a woman, they simply see her as an icon. If you look past the titles and the agbada-like gowns, you will see a woman who suddenly lost her husband when she was just in her mid-50's! She was young to become a widow. In the western culture, she would have been expected to eventually explore the option of re-marriage or even if romance. She still has a lot of love and life ahead of her. But, Mama is different than those of us in the west. She saw herself as married for life and even though it is Biblically allowed, in death, she has never considered herself to be a single woman. I have never known her to flirt with any man or show any kind of romantic notions for anyone other than her late husband. This kind of love and loyalty is rare. 
  9. She is conscientious about her diet and is committed to healthy eating and to taking the necessary supplements to support good health. Mama wants to understand everything there is to know about her dietary needs and about eating healthy. She has gone on many different diets since I have known her, not for weight loss, but for the health benefits. I'd say that probably half of her personal library has to do with eating responsibly and living a healthy lifestyle. In her room, you can't find a soda pop or candy anywhere in sight!
  10. She makes physical exercises a priority and has placed high value on her health and prolonging her years. She can be seen every morning either in her home gym or out taking a brisk walk  around her compound in her trainers and jogging trousers. She has studied the benefits of physical activity and can even be found to lift weights every now and then!
I am so grateful to God for giving me such a beautiful Mother-in-love.

Today, I wish Mama a very happy and healthy 74th year, full of grace and love. May God continue to answer her prayers and fill her with His presence as she worships Him unashamedly. Mama, the light from your life has illuminated my path and made my road easier to navigate. Thank you for showing me the way. 



Monday, 24 July 2017

Divine Appointments

12:00

We all experience delays, changes in plans, and surprising turn of events in our lives. How do you treat them? Do you see them as intrusions and frustrations or do you see them as an opportunity for a divine appointment?

It's possible that God is allowing this detour so that you can get on the right course, meet someone new or do something for Him that you wouldn't normally do. I have recently had a lot of personal detours in my life and schedule changes that my natural mind didn't appreciate. I've felt frustrated in the beginning, but have seen the hand of God clearly at work, as time goes on.
Paul in the Bible had some unexpected situations that turned into divine appointments. Look a his trip to Philippi in Acts 16. Paul went to Macedonia because of a vision he had from God (Read verses 9-10). He had no idea that he'd find himself in prison there. God works in mysterious ways. Even that trip to jail was God-ordained. God used Paul to bring salvation to a jailer and his family (Read verses 25-34) and to teach us many lessons about prayer and praise during trying times.

Psalm 37:24 (Amp) says,
"The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way [and blesses his path]."

Your pathway is being divinely directed by God so expect the unexpected.
God can use the inconvenient situations in our lives if we choose to see them as divine appointments.
Last night, my husband and I had somewhere we needed to be by 7:30 and at 6:40, we decided to go to a quick dinner. We didn't have much time, but, we both really wanted to eat at a particular restaurant. When we arrived, there were no seats. The host told us that to be seated at a table, it would be a 30 minute wait, or, we were welcomed to sit at the bar. We chose the bar. Yes, sometimes even Bishops and Pastors sit at bars... hopefully for the right reasons. We walked around the bar looking for where to sit, but, unfortunately there were no empty seats. Then, we saw a free spot. As we approached it, another lady saw it at the same time. We asked her if she was sitting there and she said yes, but that she was eating alone. Since there were no other seats, she asked us to join her and share the table. We were pressed for time and out of options, so hesitantly agreed. As we sat together, we began a bit of small talk and in just a few minutes, we realized that this was a special appointment. It turned out that the lady we were sitting with had a PhD in Education, taught in a University that we have a sister university agreement with, was a Nurse Practitioner and had a trip planned to visit Nigeria! Imagine the coincidence!!! Well, I'd say it was no coincidence at all. I believe it was a divine appointment that was ordained by God.  We had an amazing dinner conversation with our new friend and made a connection that could prove to be a massive blessing to both of us and our respective communities in the future.

We could have missed our appointment if we had left the restaurant in frustration or if we had allowed the uncomfortable offer to share a dining table with a stranger to turn us away. 
How many divine appointments have you missed in life? We may never know the answer to this retrospective question, but, we have the power to change our future.
I challenge you to look at every adjustment or "set-back" as a set up from God.
Expect the unexpected!
This week will be an amazing week for you, if you choose to allow God to direct your steps and stop telling Him how it is supposed to be done.

The next time something annoys you because it isn't happening the way you planned, ask God what appointment or opportunity He has hidden for you inside the inconvenience.

Habakkuk 2:3 (NIV)
"For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."

My prayer for you is that your week will be filled with Divine Appointments.



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