The New Year communion service was the climax of the five (5) day retreat. The program as scheduled began by 10am. After the opening prayer, there was a wonderful session of praise and worship. There was also time for testimonies as brethren testified of God’s goodness towards them. One of such testimonies was given by Pst (Mrs.) Comfort Udoh who was healed after partaking in holy communion constantly for a period of time. She had pains in her bones and had been told by the doctor that it would be part of her everyday life. She was literally at the mercy of her young child and husband. However, in spite of the doctor’s report, God in His infinite mercies decided to heal her God is indeed a great healer. We also had another testimony by Pastor Lizzy who, incidentally was celebrating her 18th spiritual birthday. Her life in itself is a miracle because she was conceived by her mother, contrary to the doctor’s report. She testified of how she had a “circumcision of the heart” on the 31st of December 1998 at about 2am. God took away her stony heart and gave her a heart of flesh.
The sermon was taken by our father the international director, Pst Isaac V. Olori. He took us to Isaiah 60:1-3, which as he stated, is God’s word to the ministry of Greater Evangelism World Crusade for the year 2018. Speaking, he said if God has given us the injunction to arise and shine, it is because we have the ability to do so. He is not tyrant and as such, will not require of us that which we are unable to do. It is therefore pertinent that we come to terms with the truth that we have the ability to arise and shine forth. Speaking also, he drew our attention to the theme of the ministry for this year, which is “Giving ourselves unto the ministry of the word and of prayer”. He said that it is impossible for one to give him/herself to the ministry of the word and prayer and not shine. Shining is therefore a by-product of giving ourselves to the ministry of the word and prayer. The Bible tells us that the reason we’re to shine is because our light has come and when light comes, darkness disappears. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus was speaking to his followers (Christians by extension). He addresses us as the light of the world. As Nigerians, we know how important light is to us. We’re faced with the problem of incessant power outage and so the restoration of power comes with joy. Jesus was in essence telling us that we are like “NEPA” of our world; the PHCN; PHED, wherever we find ourselves, we are in charge of ensuring that darkness is kept at bay. As a Christian, if there is darkness where you are, you are responsible for it. It’s high time we quit complaining about the darkness and started shinning instead. We’re given the injunction to allow our lights shine so much that men have no option but to glorify God. We owe it to God to bring Him glory. As a matter of fact, by God’s design, we should bring him glory. We need to take stock of our lives and ask ourselves, “Was God glorified through me in the previous year?”, “What feat did God accomplish through me for the kingdom in the previous year?” In this New Year, we must resolve to bring God glory. Anything given us by God that doesn’t serve the kingdom and bring God glory is being misused and abused. Decide that you will not be an abuser of God’s blessings!
Furthermore, he stated that the revelation of the Word of God is one way through which we can receive illumination and therefore shine. II Corinthians 3:18 talks about how we, by beholding the glory of God, are also made reflectors of same glory. However, it is important we note that, we must come with our faces “open” and unmasked. Some people go before God’s presence, but they go masked and as such, they become impervious to the Word. But when we allow God’s Word to penetrate our lives, we will be transformed and we’ll become reflectors of His glory; we begin to look like Jesus. Also, in Acts 7:25, we are told of Stephen who with his eyes steadfastly looking into heaven, beheld God’s glory. In the same vein, as we choose to focus on God, we’ll behold his glory. We must be careful to note that the glory isn’t ours, as a matter of fact, the glory belongs to God, and we are reflectors of his glory.
Finally, he said that although darkness is everywhere, for us as children of God, our case is different. An exception is made for us. While darkness engulfs the world, a promise of light is given us. Just like the children of Israel were in light in the land of Goshen, including the smallest and lowest slave, while even Pharaoh remained in darkness, God gives a promise of light to every one of us. He also stated that the command to arise means that we have been sleeping, sitting or been in a state of inactivity. For those of us in this category, the Lord calls us to arise. For those of us have been up and about already, the Lord calls us to come higher. Set your heart upon serving God in this year, He will take care of you.
The New Year service also saw the launch and dedication of the ministry’s 2018 calendar, and for the first time, a daily planner also. There is also, a table top size of the calendar, this is also a first. All of this is courtesy of the Greater Evangelism Women Fellowship International (GEWFI).
The communion service, which has become our New Year tradition began soon after. A teaching was given by the International Director to prepare our minds. He spoke briefly from Exodus 12. Speaking, he showed us that, the communion is the Old Testament equivalent of the Passover feast. The Passover was to act as a covering; protection from the plagues to the Israelites, we also have this covering in the communion table. The communion table is also a table of fellowship (I Corinthian 10:18-20). When we eat the communion, we fellowship with God. This, was indeed a beautiful way to begin the New Year; fellowshipping with God.
The 4th day of the retreat was characterized by great testimonies, prayers and teaching. Mrs Suanu Deemor testified how God delivered her from death, after eating a chemical poisoned watermelon. She also shared a testimony of how God intervened in the education of her child studying medicine overseas on scholarship but was abandoned by the Rivers State Government. She recounted how ceaseless prayers and donations were made by her family and the church and God intervened as his department cleared all his outstanding bills, thus leading to his graduation. Finally, she testified how God delivered her from those who kidnapped her and held her hostage for a period of twelve (12) days. This happened on her way back from church after a week of emphasis. She narrated how she was beaten mercilessly and was ill-treated by her abductors. She also testified how God was with her throughout her stay in the forest, speaking to her through divers means and reassuring her of His presence with her, until He made a way of escape and brought her back home to her family. One of the great things God did for her during these twelve (12) days was seal up her stomach, so she would not pass stool. As she was held at gun point whenever she felt the need to use the convenience.
The second testimony was that of Sis Rosetta Samuel of Unyeada church, whose goods were returned at the proclamation of God’s servant, the International Director, that there shall be no loss. The Saturday preceding the healing service, she bought some bags of fish at Kaa waterside and boarded a car to Bori. At the car park in Bori, she loaded her luggages into one of the cars and told the driver she wanted to buy something. When she returned, she realised the driver had gone. She became confused but immediately heard a voice that told her it was a tactic of the enemy to stop her from worshipping well during the healing service. She immediately took the phone to contact of one of the drivers to do a follow-up call on the where about of the driver. Getting home, all who heard it, told her it was lost and could not be recovered since it was a festive season. When she came for the healing service, God used his servant to proclaim that there shall be no loss and she held on to that word. The next day, during the Christmas service, she called the other driver, but he said he had not seen the driver neither received a word from him, but to God be the glory, that same day, she received a call that her luggage had been returned.
The last testimony was that of Barrister Rufus Godwins. He testified how God’s mercy saw him through his journey, despite several mishaps ranging from missed flights, missing luggage, bank card issues and several others. He narrated how he found himself in a difficult situation with no one to help him, but God’s mercy prevailed in his situation and help came. He also appreciated God that his luggage that got missing during the journey was recovered without being tampered.
Pst. (Dr) Mrs. N.E Numbere was the vessel God used to bring forth His word. The title of her sermon was “Giving Ourselves to Prayer and to the Ministry of the Word” while Acts chapter 6:4 was the main text. As a foundation to the sermon, she stated that the twelve apostles were leaders of the church and they experienced some form of internal crisis, as described in verse 1-3 of Acts 6. Nevertheless, they refused to be distracted by this crisis but chose to handle it in a mature manner. She further stated that there is no place where human beings are gathered that there would not be problems, hence church pastors must learn to resolve conflict while every leader must be prepared to handle conflict resolution. Building on the sermon, she stated that the work of the church was to mature the converts by helping them to grow, as this is a sign of good church leadership. Another sign of good leadership, in her words, is the knowledge of conflict resolution to bring about peace and not crisis. Hence, length of time in church should not be a criterion for appointing a leader, but having the Holy Spirit, as the church of Jesus Christ is number one and supersedes any person. So, we all must be careful how we handle the affairs of the church. Still on church leadership, she stated that a leader must learn to assign responsibilities to people, as well as separate material things from spiritual. Major areas covered from the text and considered during this sermon are:
- It was the entire members of the church who were to give themselves to prayer and the study of the word, and not just the Apostles.
- From the text also, two ministries were mentioned; Ministry of material things and ministry of spiritual things. The both ministries are important, as a neglect of any of them can cause a commotion in the church. Romans 12:4-8; Philippians 3:18-19; 1 Corinthians 12:28.
- “The word”, in the text, refers to the work of God, as God operates through His word. It is important to note that “The word of God” occurs three times in the Old Testament, another word used to refer to “the word” is “Logos” translated as “word referring to utterance". Some benefits of the word include the following:
- The Word of God is a light that illuminates us in darkness.
- The Word gives life.
- It brings healing.
- It brings about spiritual growth i.e. it sanctifies.
- The ministry of the Word involves preaching, converting members and bringing them to spiritual maturity.
- When you are in the presence of God, the Holy Spirit will bring out gifts in you that you never knew existed. Also, when the Spirit of God flows in you, you are there to minister at any time. Discussing prayer, she stated that, it is a vital part of our Christian life. She described it as the engine room for the work of God. Before Christ did anything, He prayed - Matthew 6:1. If the church of God isn’t praying, the work of God cannot go on. Using Christ as an example, she stated that before He went to the cross, He conquered Satan on his knees. Major points on prayer include;
- Giving and praying should be part of our life.
- It is the word of God that will teach us what to pray
- You cannot achieve anything without prayer.
- It is the word of God that gives us the prayer language.
Finally she adjured us to understand that when we pray and receive anything from God, we must acknowledge that it is a gift and not a reward. She also advised that, just like Stephen did not wait to be pushed or to be given a position to serve God, we must go out to serve God and desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The second day of the end of year retreat began with a powerful bible study session with the topic "The Secret of Divine Supply". The major text was taken from Ecclesiastes 11:1 - "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shall find it after many days". In the course of our study we found out that the secret of divine supply is in giving and this giving is in diverse forms (knowledge, skill, money, food, services, possessions, time etc.) and for this God replenishes the giver.
The Bible also covered what the Bible says about giving and it includes the following:
1. We should be liberal (Proverbs 11:25)
2. Through giving the door of receiving is opened to us (Luke 6:38)
3. We should primarily set our minds to knowing God and living for Him (Matthew 6:33)
4. We should be diligent to understand the appropriate time and opportunities to give for Gods service and utilize it (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
5. We should look up to God for reward (2 Corinthians 9:8)
6. We must pay our tithe fully and not partly (Malachi 3:10-11)
7. We must give willingly with a perfect heart (1 Chronicles 29:9)
The Bible study also covered that our motive for giving must not be to receive from God as though He is owing us (Psalms 50:10-12).
Furthermore, the following attitudes that can be an obstacle to receiving divine supply were highlighted.
1. Refuse to pay tithe and offering (Malachi 3:8-9).
2. Giving for human praise and recognition (Matthew 6:1).
3. Giving Sparingly (2 Corinthians 9:6).
4. Giving while still living in sin (Proverbs 15:8).
5. Having unresolved offences/unforgiving heart (Matthew 5:23-24).
It also covered how God supplied the need of the widow of Zarephath who was impoverished by famine, He had to send his prophet to demand from her the little she had. Her obedience in releasing what looked like her life opened up her Heavens for a divine supply, which sustained her and her son throughout the period of austerity. An attitude of giving, even from our state of lack and insufficiency, is God's way to connect with His blessing.
As a way of brief summary the International director Pastor Isaac V. OLori pointed out that we limit ourselves when we withhold what we have and that we can live beyond the economy which is divine. He also added that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Afterwards, Pastor A. G. Iyagba the Zonal Minister of Mile 1 Zone anchored the book review: "Vain Shows Vs Practical Christianity" written by our founding father of blessed memory Apostle G.D. Numbere.
The book is made up of five chapters and fifty six pages apart from the forward. It is a must read for every believer as it has been blessing lives and correcting errors in the church.
Chapter 1 covers vain shows in alms giving.
Chapter 2 covers vain shows in prayers.
Chapter 3 covers vain shows in fasting.
Chapter4 covers vain shows in nakedness (indecent dressing).
Chapter 5 covers vain shows in bill boards (self-advertising).
It is a must read, for proper assimilation. Get your copy today!
The third day of the end of year retreat was packed with teachings, prayers, praise and worship.
Evangelist Victor Ejimadu the Chief Missions Coordinator of Greater Evangelism World Crusade taught on the topic: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit. As part of his introduction into the message, he explained that the gift of the Holy Spirit are God’s supernatural ability given to the church in fragments (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10) and it is the divine expression of God’s grace in and through believers. It is a supernatural ability which the Holy Spirit distributes to individuals according to His will. The gift of the Holy Spirit are: Word of wisdom, Word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
He continued by highlighting on things to know about the Gift of the Holy Spirit and they are as follows:
- The Gift of the Holy Spirit are exclusively meant to glorify God (John 16:14).
- God does not want us to be ignorant of them (1 Corinthians 12:1).
- It is given for the overall benefit of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7).
- The Spirit works through the gifts and gives it to whomsoever He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).
- The gifts are meant to complement one another and not to compete (2 Corinthians 10:12, 1 Corinthians 12:15 – 27).
- Establishes the believers (Romans 11:1).
- The gifts are given to the believer according to God’s grace (Romans 12:6).
He taught the church that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be classified into three:
- Revelational gifts
- Vocal gifts
- Power gifts
He went further to give detailed explanation on the gifts as classified above.
The revelational gifts includes word of wisdom, word of knowledge and discerning of spirits.
The word of wisdom is the supernatural application of knowledge and understanding to resolve certain difficulties. Examples include; the stoning of the adulterous woman (John 8:7); Jesus versus the Pharisees (Matthew 22:20-22); Solomon’s landmark judgement (1 Kings 3:16-28).
The word of knowledge is receiving facts supernaturally by the working of the Spirit. It can also be described as the unveiling of things that could not have possibly been known. Biblical examples include: Elisha and Gehazi (2 Kings 5); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3); Elisha and the King of Syria (2 Kings 6: 8-12); Jesus and the fake converts (John 2: 23 – 25).
The discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability to perceive the source of the manifestation of a spirit, whether it is from God, devil, man or the world. Biblical references include: Peter vs Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:23); Paul vs the diviner (Acts 16:18); Jesus vs James and John (Luke 9:54-55). This gift is pertinent in today due to the rise of deducing and deceptive spirits.
The second category of the gift is the vocal gifts which includes: The gift of speaking divers kinds of tongues, the gift of prophecy and the gift of interpretation of tongues.
Speaking of divers kinds of tongues - It is the divine ability to speak languages that are not learnt (1 Corinthians 14:5, 18, 39). Tongues can be classified into the following:
- Tongues of men – 1 Corinthians 13:6, Acts 2.
- Tongues of Angels – 1 Corinthians 13:1.
The third classification of gift are the Power Gifts which includes the gift of faith, working of miracles and healings.
The Gift of faith is the supernatural ability to believe God to intervene in challenging circumstances. This is different from “saving faith” given to every believer and faith as the fruit of the Spirit. For example: Elijah and the drought (1 Kings 18-18).
The gift of working of miracles is the manifestation that is against natural law. Whereas healing is a work of restoration, miracles are creative against natural law and order. For example: Creation of womb, breast, Jesus multiplying bread, water turned into wine, raising the dead, walking on water (Acts 4:6; 19:11).
He taught the Church that no one will want to give a gift they count as precious to someone who will not handle or use it properly. Therefore some of the traits that could deprive us from receiving the gift are:
- Spiritual Immaturity (Hebrew 5:14).
- Unprepared hearts (Matthew 7:6).
- Wrong motives (James 4:3).
- Being a novice (1 Timothy 3:6).
- Doubtful/double mindedness (James 1:6).
- Unfaithful with little things (Luke 16:10 – 12).
With the right attitude, spiritual hunger and prayers, we can position ourselves for the impartation of the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37 – 39, Luke 11:9 – 13, Psalm 42:1, 2, 7).