Alongside a regular practice, building a regular practice of prayer and bible study has been one of the things I have struggled most with over the years and which has come up again in this latest iteration of beginning again.
As for actual steps this time, I have bought a copy of 90 Days in Judges, Galatians and Ephesians by Tim Keller and Richard Coekin, a notebook and a pack of hibiscus tea, the intent being to make that part of a new morning routine in which I brew a cup of tea and settle in to read the assigned reading of the day and write notes in my mew black book. Two days in already, I hope I can make it to the 90 and then beyond.
Amidst the rolling, changing landscape that is my recollection of growing up, two things remain as immutable constants; the university communities I spent most of my growing years till turning seventeen and churches— searching, attending, serving in, and leaving them.
In my first memories of church, my father and I are in Benin City, at the Air Force officers christian fellowship. The University Chapel in the next town, Ekpoma, becomes church for the five or so years following our relocation; the desire being to bring both sides of the family together for good. The trigger for a change of state is, in my memory, an acrimonious debate about what direction to take the chapel in, one which leads to us joining up with a fledgling pentecostal startup in a city further north, eventually leading to us being foundation members of a branch of that church, when it rolls into our corner of the world.
Along with this journey through various churches, my folk remain active in a number of less formal organisations — mainly the local scripture union and the campus student christian fellowship — which tie up our Sunday evenings.
In retrospect, it seems that the overarching driver for each church move, bar the one forced on us by the family situation, was a sense of seeking more — more connection, greater community and a more pentecostal reality, the Chapel and the church we helped found (CwHF) being the opposite ends of the spectrum. Where the Chapel was prim, proper and very much in the mould of a traditional Anglican Church, CwHF lived at the bleeding edge of Nigerian pentecostalism, complete with hand clapping, loud, lengthy preaching, tears during worship and speaking in tongues.
Far from having repudiated that charismatic, pentecostal upbringing, I find that the expression of church I am most drawn to these days is focused more on being useful in the real world. Social justice, a safe space to wrestle with doubts without being judged and freedom to engage in the more introspective form of worship I increasingly crave have become the determining factors in what places I choose to worship in.
I suppose in a sense I am a prodigal of sorts, God does love all His children though, that much I still hold to.
In keeping with one of my resolves this year to make a regular practice of prayer and bible reading a habit this year, I read the second chapter of Mark yesterday. In Mark’s account, Jesus forgives (and then heals) a paralysed man, calls and hangs out with Levi, a noted sinner and allows his disciples skip fasting, as well as pluck grain for nibbling on on the Sabbath. This leaves the establishment figures in a fit, their concern being that outward expressions of the law are being flouted by Jesus and his disciples.
Jesus takes a different view, insisting that the principles of the law (as evidenced by David’s eating of the priestly bread) are more important than its letter. That left me thinking about all the ways in which my extreme focus on doing, and being seen to be doing the right things can sometimes
So for this prompt, I’m taking a lesson away — focus on the insides, build true authenticity which only comes from being true on the inside. The externals will fall into place…
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
Have you ever wondered what God is doing while you are looking in the wrong place for something you lost and needed very badly? He knows exactly where it is, and he is letting you look in the wrong place….
And your agonizing, unplanned detour is not a waste — not if you look to the Lord for his unexpected work, and do what you must do in his name (Colossians 3:17). The Lord works for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).
Comforting, particularly given how the last few days have felt like I am back here again.