Friday, August 29, 2014

Thirty Years On…Still Growing in You.

The Universities were on break. I was back home for the summer vacation. It was August 1984. I had spent two years in the university already. Brought up in a religious home with a Preacher for father and a Teacher for mother, I had a very strict upbringing. I was like a bird escaping from the cage when I got into the university—freedom at last was my singsong. I used my freedom to the fullest. I followed my own rules while maintaining an appearance of Christianity by going to church on Sunday mornings, even after an overnight party.

My immediate junior brother who was born again already, persistently invited me for the Vacation Christian Fellowship organized by UNILAG Students at the Shepherd’s Hill Baptist Church, Obanikoro, in Lagos. Ibukun Williams is now Pastor of Jesus House (RCCG), Melbourne, Australia. Repeatedly, I rebuffed him. I didn't need anyone “brainwashing” me or hindering my quest for fun. On this occasion, towards the end of August, I obliged him—for my sanity sake. The minister that evening admonished us to be totally committed to God and to Christ, “You need to be totally committed,” he said over and over again.

 His words rang in my head throughout that evening, and left me restless and without sleep that night. It broke through the hardness of my heart and led me to ask questions on how I was living my life. I fell on my knees by my bedside and committed my life to Jesus Christ. I asked Him to come into my life and make me His own. He answered my prayers, gave me peace in the inner mind and made me truly His. And Jesus became my Lord and my Saviour.

Thirty years down the road, I am still scratching the surface of knowing Him. The more I know Him the more I want to know Him more. I look back to August 1984 and I can sing:

I don't feel no ways tired
I've come too far from where I started from
Nobody told me that the road would be easy
I don't believe He brought me this far to leave me
(Mighty Clouds of Joy – “I don’t feel no way tired”)

Indeed, the road has not been easy, but I must confess God that prepared me ready ahead of time for the path He chose for me. I was about three months old in the Lord when during my Bible Study, He ministered His word into my heart from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4;

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

His Word to me was, “I will comfort you with the same comfort with which you will comfort others.”

I knew there and then, that in whatever I go through in my walk with God, He will comfort me. So that I can with the same comfort minister His comfort to others. I had no clue what the future had in store for me but I had the reassuring confidence that He will be there with me through it all, come what may!

It was with this confidence that I returned to the University, I knew my lifestyle had to change. Old things had passed away, and all things must become new. I needed new friends. I needed “clean” music to listen to. I needed a thriving environment for growth.

So I joined the Ibadan Varsity Christian Union (IVCU) at the University of Ibadan. That was where the foundation for my growth in Christ was built up. That was where I became firmly grounded in the faith. I bless God for the diverse and rich words I received through the likes of Pa Elton, Prof. Adesogan, Dr. Durojaiye, Friday Bekee, Moses Aransiola, Emiko Amotsuka and many others.

Because I love to sing, I became a member of the Jesus Revolution Voices (JRV). I thank God for those who groomed me and encouraged me in this ministry – Abraham Aiyelabowo, Adebowale Salako, Sis Toyin, Victor Okoruwa and many others. We had a great time ministering God’s love through songs at concerts (Living Springs, OAU, Ile-ife) and in campuses. I will never forget the almost 700km drive through the night, singing all the way from Ibadan to Kontagora to minister at the Crusade organised by the Polytechnic.

God blessed me with new friends who encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. With them cheering me on, I grew in the faith. I am still in close contact with many of them today. It is also a joy to find many of my old friends have come to the knowledge of God’s saving grace. Praise be to God.

The road has not been easy, but then, nobody told me it would be. God raised me up to stand on the mountains. He raised me up to walk through the storms. He has been with me through the valley of the shadow of death. He has been there with me in the fiery furnace of trials and affliction. He never for one moment left me alone, abandon or forsake me.

Through it all, I learnt to trust in God, I learnt to trust in Jesus, and I learnt to depend on His Holy word and on His Holy Spirit. He has been faithful to fulfil His promise made to me in October 1984, that He will comfort me in all my trials and afflictions with the same comfort with which I will comfort others. No event in my life has been in vain. God is using every single one of them to touch lives, to inspire hope and to encourage His children.

Thank You, Lord for making me a living testimony of Your faithfulness and loving kindness.

For all that You've done, I will thank You
For all the You're going to do
For all that You've promised
And all that You are
Is all that has carried me through
Jesus I thank You

Thank You for loving and setting me free
Thank You for giving Your life just for me
How I thank You. Jesus, I thank You
Gracefully thank You. Thank You.
(Hillsong – “Thank You”)

I thank God for my Pastors and Fellowship leaders at Shepherd’s Hill Baptist Church, Lagos; IVCU, Ibadan; Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan; Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship; UCH Christian Fellowship; Christian Corpers Fellowship (Bida, 1986); Christ Chapel, UCH Ibadan; Lighthouse Church International, Tamale Ghana; RCCG Victory Center, Geneva; Maadi Community Church, Cairo; and Tower of Refuge Church International Geneva. And the many men and women of God who have enriched my life over the past 30 years.

My dearest husband and Chief Encourager, I am so grateful to God for the privilege of running the race with you by my side.

Dear friends, if you are yet to know God in the way I have described here, in a deep and personal way, please

Don’t let this moment pass you by
Jesus is waiting with His arms open wide
He is waiting to supply all the needs in your life
Take my advice, don’t let this moment pass you by.
-          Kristle Murden

 It has been a joy knowing and serving You, my dear Lord. I am strong when I am on Your shoulders. Do keep me going strong in my race until You come back for me. I long to hear You say to me; “Well done, thou faithful servant…” on that glorious day when You call me home to be with You in Your glory for eternity. Until then, give me the grace to run this race victoriously to the end, and to fulfil Your calling and purpose for my life.

How did you come to know the Lord and how has been your journey? Share your story and encourage others.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Memory Making Moments

There are moments in life that are amazing. Some, simply beyond amazing. Moments that cannot be captured by the shutters of a camera. Moments of intense joy captured by our soul and etched in our memories, creating reflections of God’s amazing blessings, mercies and grace.
Azgek |
We had many of such epic moments during the six-week period of our family vacation, first in our home country, Nigeria and later in UK. That’s why I have been absent from the blogosphere since July 1st.

Despite all my good intentions and with much to share, it was very difficult for me to find the kind of time I needed to write and post our experience on the blog. Therefore, the next couple of blog posts will be devoted to these precious memory making moments we had during our trip.

It had been four years since I last visited Nigeria and seen many of my family members and faithful friends. They have all been praying along with us and supporting us with fervent prayers during the dark season of our lives especially in last seven years. It was, therefore, appropriate that these who travailed so much in prayer on our behalf should also have the joy of sharing in our praise and thanksgiving to God for the awesome work of deliverance and restoration He brought to pass in my life.

The first thing we wanted to do upon our arrival at home in Nigeria was to have a thanksgiving service in our home church, Christ Chapel, UCH, Ibadan. The story of my twenty years of being tried in the crucible of affliction began there at the University College Hospital, where we both lived and worked in the early 1990s. It was there the doctors made the initial diagnosis of the lung disease and potentially debilitating neurological disease. It was also our brethren in the Christ Chapel who supported us and upheld us in prayers at that initial phase of dealing with the problem. It was, therefore, apt for us to return to where we started from—this was truly a homecoming event for us.

And they praised God.
The testimony elicited spontaneous and unadulterated praise to God. We were overwhelmed, amazed and astonished at genuine joy and gladness expressed by our families and friends. Their joy and thanksgiving on our behalf was intoxicating. Their appreciation of God’s faithfulness was authentic. The praise they offered to God is simply beyond description, indeed beyond amazing.

They lifted their hands in adoration; they bowed their heads in worship, and they danced as David danced unto the Lord. This experience was replicated everywhere God gave us the opportunity to share the testimony of His divine intervention in our lives. Many listened with amazement. Many wept, but it was tears of joy. Many were inspired to hold on and not give up on hope. Many simply stared in awe, too overwhelmed to utter a word. Many were encouraged to stay strong through their trials. I heard a number of people commenting that if God can sustain us through the twenty years of our trials and afflictions, He can surely keep them through their valley experience. The message of God’s amazing grace resounded through it all.

 Luke 5:26 says:
The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!” (MSG).

Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!” (NLT).

Matthew 9:8 says;
When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man. (NIV)

Luke 7:16 says;
They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." (NIV).

And they gave glory and praise to God. That was indeed, the case for us. Our families and friends saw me walking free of all the paraphernalia and encumbrances of the many years of affliction, they heard of the manifold grace of God, which kept me, and they perceived God’s acts of wonder in my life. AND THEY PRAISED GOD—offering unadulterated sacrifice of thanks and praise. They were filled with awe; they marvelled saying “We have heard and seen remarkable and amazing things today.

I was awed at the manifold grace of God in turning our trials and afflictions of the past years to life-touching testimony. I was awed at the genuine warmth and love shown towards us.

Amazing Opportunities:
God surprised me with amazing opportunities to share my story and our testimony, and for many more people to join us in giving glory and praise to Him.

One of such was at an event tagged, “Women Worship Without Walls 2014” organized by Just Praise Ministries Worldwide in Ibadan on July 17th, 2014. The program, anchored by Oluwatoyin Adegunle, was a gathering of women from all works of life coming together to offer one day of praise to God. Many renown Praise and Worship leaders from different churches and cities were there to lead the people into the presence of God in praise. The atmosphere was electric—charged with the Holy Spirit as over 2000 people praised and worshiped God in unity.

It was before this crowd that I shared the testimony of God’s grace made abundantly available to keep me and my family through the years of struggle with the chronic lung disease that literally drained life out of me. I shared the story of the grace that sustained me living with hope after the amputation of my feet following the complication of the surgery to replace my lungs.

The praise they offered to God was resounding, the intensity of which, simply can’t be captured by any camera, but are etched in my memory. Every remembrance of these memory making moments brings bouts of praise to my heart and causes me to reflect on God’s awesome mercies and grace to me.

My prayer for you today, my dear friends, is that you will experience the amazing and sustaining grace of God in your circumstances. I pray His grace put on display in your life and your situation will cause men to be astonished and to give praise to God on your behalf.

May the shouts of praise resonate in the heavenly places as people see the awesome works of wonder performed in your life by our gracious Father God.

I will share with you more memory making moments I experienced participating in the Return of the Helpers 2014 Conference in Lagos and the precious memory making moments my husband, sons and I shared together as a family as we dwelt in close proximity during our travels.