Sunday, 5 May 2019

A New Sheet - Poem by an Elementary School Teacher, Kathleen Wheeler

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"He came to my desk with a quivering lip,
The lesson was done.
'Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I've spoiled this one.'
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted,
And gave him a new one all unspotted,
And to his tired heart I cried.
'Do better now, my child.'

I went to the throne with a troubled heart,
The day was done.
'Have you a new day for me, dear Master?
I've spoiled this one.'
He took my day, all soiled and blotted,
And gave me a new one all unspotted.
And to my tired heart He cried,
'Do better now, my child.'"

I've heard this poem quoted several times by Ravi Zacharias. 

I imagine that the child in ithis poem is myself. My life has been blessed through it What an amazing God we serve who forgives my sins and is ready to give me another chance when I blow it. My promise Lord is that I will do better as your child. I know you will help me.

Titled Attitude Check here: http://maria-e-rice.blogspot.com/2011/06/do-better-now-my-child.html?m=1

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Saturday, 4 May 2019

Truth Matters – What if you are singled out from the crowd?

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Let us take a journey together to Ephesus in Acts 19. There is a riot going on and people are shouting on the top of their voices and the whole city is in commotion. Demetrius is the leader of the demonstration. It has spread to the Theatre and the city officials have been alerted. Alexander is pushed to the front to address the crowd but they will not allow him since he is a Jew. Suddenly in unison the crowd is shouting “great is the Artemis of the Ephesians” and this they have shouted for two hours.

The reason for this trip is that we want to know the truth about this whole turmoil. We learnt that there was a separate meeting of the artisans called by Demetrius before our arrival at the Theatre. However, many people in this Theatre were not in the meeting but they have all joined the march and everybody is shouting “great is the Artemis of the Ephesians”. Different persons are singled out for interview on what is actually going on but they all give different views. Their stories are not correlating, hence as the city official comes out to address the crowd, he sees the gathering as awkward and emphasizes that there is no basis for the riot and asks everybody to go home. The crowd dismisses and yet, most of the individuals singled out cannot yet give cogent reasons why they participated and took the risk to support the demonstration.

There are two moral lessons I want us to learn from this trip to Ephesus:
  1.  It is important that we know the truth concerning any person or crowd we are following or  group we want to belong to. It is true that in the argument going on, we may align to one man or another, we have to ask ourselves, “What is the truth about this issue?” “What are the pieces that make the whole in this matter?” “Do I have the big picture?” “Why do I support this man or that man?” Why do I defend what I defend?” In our quest to know the truth, we must answer these two questions of what and why. The what answers the question of definition and context in order to be able to pass the test of correspondence and coherence. What is explained has to be logically consistent and empirically adequate. The why answers the question of meaning and application. Is it experientially relevant? These questions we must answer alone. Many persons in the crowd in Ephesus did not ask these questions, hence clueless of what and why they were in the Theatre.
  2. It is important that we take full responsibility for our choices and decisions and be able to defend them anytime and anywhere we are called upon to explain why we take the stand we take. We may be in a crowd like the one in the Theatre in Ephesus and we are shouting with the crowd, we may be in a meeting and taking a stand in alignment with an opinion, but when we are singled out for questioning without the crowd, will we be able to answer the two questions of what and why? What is the truth about the issue at stake and why am I taking the stand I take? Make sure it is clear in your mind otherwise do not join the "crowd" at all. We are fully responsible for our action and inaction.
I have seen men align themselves with doctrines and ideas they have not thought through and are not convinced about. Some take a different stand when they are singled out by the corner. It happens in the political arena, in our churches and ministries, in council and board meetings etc. People push agendas and issues and coerce others to support them only because they want to satisfy their personal interests or their paymasters, oftentimes even against their own conscience. Like Demetrius in the Theatre in Ephesus, such people are conscious of what they are doing and are intentional. To be able to deceive others, they live in hypocrisy and cannot allow those listening to them to know their true intentions.

Others are ignorant men and women who may have good intentions, foolishly following the men behind the issues. “If Demetrius is supporting this, then I must be there” “If this ‘highly-placed’ person is on this side of the issue, he must be right and I want to be on his side”. They often shut all the doors to reason and just rush into the “Theatre”, as it were, strongly expressing their support with shouts.

We must endeavor to exercise ourselves to always have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men (Acts 24:16), no matter what we may suffer because of it. I am persuaded, and this guides my life, that one day, from the crowd of this world, each of us will be singled out by God for accountability for our choices, action and inaction. The crowd and the so-called paymasters will not be there but we will stand before Him who is Truth embodied and personified, and the secrets of our hearts will no longer be secret for His light will expose them all. Then, it will dawn on us that truth matters after all.
God bless.


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Tuesday, 2 April 2019

My response to “I lost faith in my faith” by Jared Bilski.

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I sincerely empathize with Jared, the author of the Washington Post article, who says “I’m not passing my parents’ religion on to my kids, but I am teaching their values.” He is expressing some of the disappointments he has experienced with the church and his father especially, who he said lived a lie. He lists some of the reasons why he lost faith in his faith to include too many unanswered questions, too many problematic absolutes, too much fearmongering, too much hypocrisy and the priest sex-abuse scandal, “a scandal the scope of which we’re still learning about” he adds.

My aim is not to castigate the author or join issues with him. However, knowing fully well that there are many people who may be on the fence who have not “lost faith in their faith” yet but may already be in troubled waters because of their peculiar experiences, I intend to respond to the issues Jared raised.

First, let us deal with his reasons for losing faith in his faith and see how inadequate they are.
“Too many unanswered questions” – life and earthly existence pose many difficult questions and you cannot disappear from the earth because of them. Does losing faith in your faith answer the unanswered questions? By the way, having many unanswered questions does not mean that there are no meaningful answers out there.

“Problematic absolutes” –this is an ambiguous phrase as it is subjective. We need some specificity in order to deal with this very well. However, even the materialistic worldview forms its own absolutes and exclusivity. When you give a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer to anything, you tend to exclude something. What if I consider your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ problematic? The author tends to desire his children to have some moral values, but the question is how can you have moral value without a moral law? And how can you have moral law without a Moral Law Giver? Without moral absolutes of some sort, how can you or your children differentiate between right and wrong?

“Too much fearmongering” – faith by its nature tends to confront fear and it’s difficult to understand how ‘fearmongering’ will make you lose faith in your faith if what you actually had was faith. Anyway, that is Jared’s experience.

“Way too much hypocrisy” – the author said that “for a religion that placed such a premium on loving thy neighbor, it sure had a lot of restrictions on whom you were allowed to love.” I agree that we often have this challenge even in the church, which is really quite unfortunate. We have to repent in every area we are found wanting because discrimination is not part of Christianity. Having said that, the mistake we often make, and is evident in this case, is not being able to separate the teachings of Christ from the failings of humans that profess Christianity. For example, when a Christian or a religious leader for that matter, place restrictions on whom you are to love, it does not mean that Christianity, or the teachings of Christ has placed such restrictions. In the Christian worldview, we believe in the total depravity of the human heart until it is surrendered to Christ. We equally believe in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification in the heart of the believer as he progresses until its consummation. Anytime a man steps outside Christ, there is no measure of wickedness he cannot perpetrate despite his profession. But in Christ also, there is the wonderful experience of forgiveness and restoration when we come to God like the ‘prodigal son’. If the author’s accusation against Christianity comes from his father’s experience who died a gay, even though he lived in denial throughout his life, then that is understandable even though unfortunate because Christianity teaches love for a sinner but disapproval for his sins. If we preach that people should repent, then there must be something to repent from.

These are not enough to lose faith in your faith if what you had originally was faith at all. The Christian worldview is the only worldview that answers the four basic questions of life, where do I come from? What is the meaning of life? How do I choose between right and wrong? And where do I go when I die? I refer the author to RZIM where there are a lot of resources that will help him answer some of his unanswered and difficult questions.

As I conclude this response, I submit that Jared sounds like someone who does not adequately understand Christianity even though he was raised in the Catholic church. Like so many, he seems to believe that being baptized with water makes you a Christian. But that is not what the Bible teaches. God sent Jesus Christ, not so that we can keep some sets of laws or rituals, but for us to be able to enter into a living relationship with Him whereby we can personally call Him ‘father’.

When Jared said “we want our kids to have a solid understanding of all religions. Just as importantly, we want them to have respect for what others believe. After all, the Golden Rule is something that should be instilled in all children, regardless of their religion or lack thereof”. Where does this value come from? It is like wanting to eat your cake and still have it at the same time. The moral values he intends for his children, and all children as a matter of fact, comes out of the moral framework of the Christian worldview which he claims to have lost faith in.

I consider his closing line as what most journalists do just for popularity sake when he said “in the end, actions will always speak louder than words, even the words of the Bible”. Yes, actions speak louder than words but it becomes a contradiction of all he has argued for value, when he says that the actions that are propelled by biblical values are separate and stronger than the biblical values themselves. Reaction cannot be separated from the action that caused it.

What I see conspicuously missing from Jared’s discourse is that he is not able to take responsibility for the condition of his own heart. He seems to blame his father for hypocrisy, blame the priests and some Christians for their hypocrisy, but has not seen the hypocrisy of his own heart. Like the prodigal son, (Luke 15), we ought to come to Jesus with all humility and seek for the transformation of our own hearts. This is because, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt.5:2. Only with such poverty of spirit can our restless hearts will find rest in Him.


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Friday, 22 March 2019

Setting Life Priorities

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Introduction
Priority means that something is or regarded/treated to be more important than others. In the midst of a lot, or options, some facts, conditions, choices etc are treated as superior, given more privilege or precedence than others. Priority by its nature is relatively given preference and is singled out in the midst of alternatives and options. Life priority therefore means that the most imperative things are treated or should be regarded as more important than others in life. The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing and to keep the main thing the main thing.

Value
Priority is dependent on value. Value has to do with the worth, usefulness, merit, profit or significance of something. When something or choice takes priority, it means that it is valued more than others. This value can be economic, moral, aesthetics, socio-cultural or belief. Value can be intrinsic or extrinsic. This takes us to the next issue.

Sources of value
What determines the value we place on things, people, a choice of action or behavior? There are several sources of value for many people which include: culture and society, the television, social media, friends and family, literature and religion. The interesting thing is that your source defines your values and your values define your priorities.

Defining life priorities
In defining life priorities, we note that God is the Reason for man’s existence. “He is your life…” Deut.30:19-20; the words that God speaks are not idle words, “…they are your life.” Deut.32:46-47. What God wants to do in your life and with your life is more important than what you want to do with your life.

How do we set life priorities?
  1. Define the source of your value. Understand the commandments of God. The Bible is your authority for faith and practice. Tradition and reason are not on the same pedestal with the Bible as a source of value. Their arguments fall flat and must be jettisoned at any point where they contradict the Bible.
  2. Differentiate between worldly values and biblical values. (1 Jn.2:15-16). Worldly values are driven by pleasure and fame, self and possession, pride, prestige and power. Biblical values are driven by the word of God.
  3. Understand your life purpose which is to worship and honour God. Understand the purpose for every step in your life journey. They are all interrelated to your overall life purpose. For example, your education, your relationships, your calling etc.
  4. Make choices and take actions that are in consonance with your defined purpose.
  5. Watch what you do with and where you commit your resources because they show your priorities – time, money and commitment. Adjust where necessary. Always ask yourself, what takes most of my time? Who takes most of my time? What do I do with my money? Where is my commitment? What type of responsibilities are on my shoulders? Normally, you commit your resources to your priorities. Do this daily, weekly, monthly etc.
  6. Focus and eschew distractions. Persevere. Learn and know how to say “NO”.
  7. Make a list of what is important – most important things, more important things, and less important things. Ask yourself, how long will this important thing last in my life? What will last for eternity is the most important. What will yield permanent result is more important than what will yield transient, temporal, short-lived result. What will remain with me for 3-5 years is less important than what will remain with me for 50-60years. Worldly values for example are temporal and short-lived – pleasure (1 Jn.2:17), possession (1Tim.6:7), power and prestige and pride (Mark 10:31).


Why is it important to set life priorities?
  1. There are competitions going on for your attention and loyalty. So many distractions.
  2. Our choices have consequences. Some temporal while others are eternal.
  3. High productivity is accomplished only when priorities are set.
  4. My priorities will shape my lifestyle whether I like it or not.
  5. Over time and at the end, somethings will lose the value they have now while the value of others will appreciate. Somethings that do not matter today may matter tomorrow, hence it is important that my life is focused on the things whose value will last.
  6. Life is so short. One life journey – do duplicate.

Examples of men who prioritized
  • Moses Heb.11:24-25
  • Joseph Gen.39:7-9
  • Daniel Dan.1:8
  • Paul Phil.3:7-10
  • Jesus John 4:34; 9:4-5.


Conclusion
You need to pay attention to your personal relationship with God, your health, your family, your education and profession, your service and vocation etc. Your life priority is about you and where your life is headed both for here and for eternity.
Prayer: “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things, preserve my life according to your word.  Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.” Psalm 119:36-38 NIV.


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Friday, 1 March 2019

Leah Sharibu - Please pray for her

Sphere: Related Content It was exactly one year 16th February 2019 when Leah was kidnapped with other girls from Dapchi. Others were later released while she was kept in captivity because she refused to denounce Christianity.

Leah Sharibu

In the midst of all the political activities going on today, those in leadership may actually forget that she is still with the Boko Haram. But for the parents and loved ones, the pain is real. For the body of Christ, her persecution sets us on alert. Her mother recently congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari for his victory at the polls but requested him to release her daughter.

Please continue to pray for her. Pray that the President of the country and those in leadership positions in the country may keep their words. May God move them and create a window for her release. May God touch her abductors to release her unconditionally without harm. Pray for grace for the parents. Pray that her faith may not fail.
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Thursday, 24 January 2019

First Fruit Offering: What is the Christian Perspective?

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Recently, a lady who works in their church office, told me how her senior pastor is insisting on seizing their January salary in a bid to force them to give their “firstfruits offering”. He said that he wants to help them to obey God. Even though the lady has told him that she does not want to participate in the practice because she does not believe that her January salary is her firstfruits, he insists that everyone of them must be involved.

I have made out time to see the senior pastor on behalf of the lady. I hinged my argument on three reasons: the first is that God created man and gave him freewill. He does not violate our freedom to choose whether to obey Him or not. Let us assume that your firstfruits offering is your January salary, God will not twist our hands to obey Him. He persuades, makes promises, warns, and paints the pictures of the consequences of disobedience and the rewards of obedience. It is our responsibility to make a choice to either obey Him or not. Moses told the people of Israel, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deut. 30:19-20 NIV. He is not a tyrant. He loves us and calls us to a loving relationship that is real and practical. His Judgment is only fair when man has exercised his freewill. It is unbiblical to violate the freewill of an adult because you want him to obey God. Secondly, if you love a people and want them to obey God in such a way that they receive God’s blessings, you must make effort, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to bring them to the point where they apply their faith to the Word of God you teach them. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God…” Heb.11:6.  Paul also places the responsibility on the person with knowledge to ensure that he does not destroy others who are weak with his knowledge. Again, let us assume that your January salary is your firstfruits and God has revealed it to you as what Christians should practice, you have the responsibility to bring the ignorant person to the point where he gives it in faith. “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Rom 14:23. NIV. If this lady does not want to participate in this practice, do not take it by force. Lastly, I told him that "The worker deserves his wages." 1 Tim 5:18. NIV. If the lady has worked for the month of January, she deserves her wages. She ought to be paid, then she will decide on how to worship God with her salary. You cannot violate a part of the Scriptures because you want to practice another part of the Scriptures.

After a long time of argument, he said that he is taking his stand as a father who wants his children to do the right thing. To this I told him that his analysis of a father and his children is faulty in this matter. At last he promised to think about the points I raised and later will decide whether to give the lady her salary or not. I challenged him that he was sounding like an autocratic leader who wants to impose his views on those he is leading and that is ungodly and unchristian.

I have given the matter a serious thought since after my meeting with him. What is firstfruits by the way? Is it a must practice for a Christian? How should a New Covenant person interpret the Old Testament practice of firstfruits?

First, there are different feasts God commanded the people of Israel to keep:  Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Read Lev. 23). Firstfruits particularly was a constant reminder that God delivered them from slavery in Egypt and gave them a land that flows with milk and honey, which was never their own from the beginning. Hence, in the land of Canaan, they ought to honor God and make Him their numero uno. It was to be a sheaf of grain, which is like a bunch of grain out of the first set of their harvest or crops. Nothing connects it with January salary.

Secondly, I believe that the significance of all these Old Testament feasts have been accomplished in Christ who has become our Passover Lamb, Atonement Sacrifice, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor.15:20), the One who is coming again to take us as His firstfruits, and also the One that will oversee the final harvest, which is final judgment. Our resurrection is sure because of His resurrection. Halleluyah!

Thirdly, it is based on this Old Testament practice that Prov 3:9-10 emphasized “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” NIV. It does not have anything to do with your January salary.

Finally, in all the seven times firstfruits is mentioned in the New Testament, it is used symbolically to buttress a point. For example, in 1 Cor.16:15, the household of Stephanas is called the firstfruits of Achaia. This means that they were the first converts in Achaia before many others became believers. Firstfruits is never emphasized as a giving method or practice in the New Testament.

The New Testament believer is to give willingly, cheerfully and liberally, (2 Cor.9) “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor.9:7). We are to honor God with the best of the things He has blessed us with and make Him our number one. That is the principle we can draw from the Old Testament firstfruits practice. If God tells you to give up your January salary or you feel persuaded to give up the salary of the first month of your job, please do not impose your personal experience on the Scriptures or on other of God’s children. Your individual experience is not worth to be used to establish doctrine. Let us not place strange burdens upon God’s children which He has not placed on them.


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Saturday, 8 December 2018

The obstructions of great wealth

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"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 19:23-24 NIV

Money is a good resource that God entrusts to us to enable us accomplish His purposes on earth. He gives us money to help us transact kingdom businesses to His glory. But money is not the only resource that amounts to wealth. Looking at the context of the passage in Mat.19, wealth encompasses properties, possessions and every other thing that we may own which makes us or others around us to consider us as rich.

A successful young man came to Jesus inquiring on what he would do to get eternal life. The discussion went on and on until he was told to go and sell his earthly possessions so as to have treasure in heaven. He became sad and abandoned his desire for eternal life and walked away because of his much wealth. The Lord did not bother to pursue after him because of his much wealth, but “As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God's kingdom? Matt 19:23-24 (THE MESSAGE).

Yes, we do not have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to sincerely seek and solely trust in the Lord until we watch our own hearts each time we seem to possess something better than the next person. If the Lord Jesus said it is tough, it means it is really tough. In my book, Following Hard after God, I said that “money, positions of power, lifting and blessings of God increase our capacity to create options in life. Unfortunately, the very same things God has given to us to use to glorify Him turns around to hinder us from seeking Him. Once there is a challenge, we turn and look around for substitutes; we just pick one and move on as if we do not need God.” The capacity to create solutions and options offered by wealth gives us some level of freedom and liberty, which is the reason why no rich person wants to be poor and every poor man wants to be rich. These solutions can translate into comfort and security of all sorts both real and imaginary. The danger is that wealth that is not surrendered to God can deceive our hearts into thinking that “it” is what works and not God. It is possible to explore the alternatives wealth creates without any recourse to God. This is the idolatry which God hates.

This is why we are warned not to be accumulators and hoarders. (Luke 12:16-21). We are commanded to be givers, using our riches to do good works. (1 Tim.6:17-19). Giving is the only antidote that will make our wealth not to obstruct us from entering the Kingdom of God. Giving accomplishes two things, it meets a need and saves our hearts from hanging on what we have.

Do not allow your heart to be deceived. Be wise. If the Lord says it is difficult, make no mistake, it means it is difficult. May our good God bless you with wealth. May you not allow it to be an obstacle to your entering the Kingdom of God.
God bless.




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Saturday, 1 December 2018

Pregnancy through IVF for the Single/Unmarried Ladies: Why it crosses all Moral and Ethical Boundaries.

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Recently, a pastor wrote on his wall, “I am very very proud of our dear sister …. She has shown African women that religion and society should never dictate how and when you should become a mother.” He continued by asking, “Will religion understand for a moment that everyone deserves someone to call them MAMA?... Why are we not making babies at the same rate that we are having sex ? Isn't it because we are afraid of the religious and societal stigma that comes from having a child outside marriage?” His write up was a response to the safe delivery of a baby by a single/unmarried celebrity lady who got pregnant through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). He made it clear that he was not endorsing sexual immorality but concluded that the lady “is an intelligent Christian lady who did not allow religion … to dictate her life and destiny”.

My intention is not to get enmeshed in the name calling and emotional comments that characterized most of the comments that followed his post. And that is why I have chosen not to mention his name here. This post is meant to engender discussions on the matter, in our own context as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to help those who may be in crisis of faith to make godly decisions that will please God.

Is it true that the sole reason why single ladies are not making babies is just because of the fear of religious and societal stigmas that come from having a child outside marriage? For a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, are there biblical and moral reasons?

In some cultures, if a widow does not have a male child and is old, and has the where withal, she may decide to ‘marry’ any girl, especially those with premarital pregnancy, so as to have a male child in the family. After the delivery of the first child, the ‘wife’ will either be assigned to any man of the choice of the ‘husband-woman’ or the girl will be allowed to just flirt around and continue to make babies for the family line. The church has never supported this lifestyle for obvious reasons:
  • The biblical view of marriage is between a man and a woman and not between a woman and a woman. It negates everything the bible teaches about marriage. Gen 2:21-25.
  • The sin of fornication and adultery involved in the whole scheme of satisfying the family desire to leave behind a family line is condemned by God and will be punished except there is repentance. Heb.13:4.
  • The girl that is used to produce babies for the family line has become a tool just because of the mistake of getting pregnant when not married. Instead of supporting her to get through her mistake and continue her dream, she is punished by being given out in marriage. The selfishness of the family towards achieving their own happiness does not put into consideration the happiness of the poor girl.
  • Culturally, the children are not viewed as bastards because they assume the family of the “woman-husband”. Even though, in most cases, the children will come from different men. This is not healthy for a stable society.

The difference is not much between the above cultural example and the issue of our discourse, that is, a single/unmarried woman making babies with the sperm of another man with whom she has no marital commitment. The same cultural and secular worldviews guide both of them – the pursuit of personal happiness as the ultimate goal of life on earth. A committed follower of Jesus Christ is not supposed to bow to the pressures of these cultural and secular worldviews which tend to argue that there are no absolutes in life; nothing is good or bad; it depends on how you are seeing it; it is ok as long as you are happy. Ironically, in denying the absolute, they make the same relativism absolute.

Why should we see things differently? Why should this act not receive our approval?

1, A Slippery Slope
The secular worldview has no moral boundaries. In his fine discourse in response to the US Supreme Court judgment on same-sex marriage, How wide the divide: Sexuality at the forefront, culture at the crossroads, Ravi Zacharias said that the secular thinker and the Christian come from two different definitions of what it means to be human. For the Christian, life is in the soul. The body is a temporal home. In fact, “you do not ‘have’ a soul; you are a soul, and ‘have’ a body” quoting George MacDonald. For the secular person, “NOW is all we have and NOW is the moment to enjoy whatever one pleases. A soul-less existence makes the body the sole means of fulfillment”. When there is no transcendent point of reference, you can afford to live for here and now as long as you have that sense of happiness and fulfillment. The body becomes a means we use to achieve that fulfillment.

The spiritual person seeks to know what the intention of God is. Somethings are right while others are wrong. What is God’s intention for my body? Is it just to pursue my personal happiness at all cost or to be kept holy for God? How I use my body to satisfy my happiness matters. The Christian view is that “your body is the temple of God.” 1 Cor.3:16-17. Putting your happiness above a call to holiness is not a good thing. If a single/unmarried lady is approved to get pregnant through IVF just because of sympathy and her need to have a child outside wedlock, what of a single/unmarried man who decides not to get married but chooses to procure an egg from a woman of his choice, get someone to carry the pregnancy for him, just to have a child? Where do we apply the break? A slippery slope and confusion, isn’t it? What is legal may not always be lawful.

2. God’s Family Framework
Sex and child-bearing are never discussed favorably in the Bible outside the context of marriage and a family created by the union of a man and his wife. There are instructions given by God on the roles of each parent in the family, especially in the life of the child. (Ps.112:1-2; Eph.6:1-4).

“Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Prov 1:8-9. NIV.

God’s command to humanity to “be fruitful and replenish the earth” is in the context of a man and a woman brought together in relationship and not in one person’s decision. (Gen.1:27,28; 2:23-24). God has designed the family to be a husband, wife and children. That is His plan.

For the Christian, the same way sexuality is sacred, child-bearing demands exclusivity, whether it is through sex or enabled by science, it should be pursued only in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Financial capability, ability to train a child in school and ability to give care are inadequate considerations. When a single/unmarried woman opts to get pregnant, what she is starting is a family outside of God’s designed framework.

Note that this is different from a married couple making efforts to use scientific means to help them get pregnant. Ethical procedures still have to be followed and the couple has to be careful not to commit murder in the process since we believe that life begins at conception. Any willful destruction or discarding of a fertilized fetus is murder. But I am not going to dig into the arguments since other people have done a great apologetic work in this regard. The point is that a married couple brings the baby into a God-designed family framework while the opposite is the case for the unmarried.

3. The Selfishness and Violation of the Right of the Unborn
Man, by nature is selfish and self-centered hence, it is always what I want that matters. But when Jesus Christ becomes the Lord of my life, the question changes from what I want to what God wants. Our pursuit of happiness then must have boundaries and limits both in the object of our happiness and the way we pursue it. Now, in the case under review, it is selfishness for a single/unmarried person to seek pregnancy just for her happiness without thinking of the impact on the child; she decides to raise a family without thinking of God’s design for the family.

Does the right of the woman to pursue her own happiness in deliberately bringing a child into the world not violate the right of the baby to have a healthy and a balanced home?

4. Lack of Marital Commitment
Life is not just about our personal happiness. Some things may make us happy yet are against God’s purpose. The Bible teaches us to apply restraint and guard our desires when they run foul against the will of God. For the follower of Jesus Christ, marriage is a sacred commitment between a man and a woman. When you go out of the way to procure the sperm of a man with whom you do not have any commitment to raise the family with him, just because you want to have a child and be happy, it runs against the purpose of God for the family.

When an unmarried lady goes to procure the sperm of a man so as to make babies and raise a family of her own without the man, what she is saying is that the man is not necessary to the family she wants to raise, even though his seed is necessary for her to have a baby. Same goes for a man who does not want to get married, but procures the egg of a woman just because he wants to raise a family of his own. Her egg is considered necessary to be used to satisfy his desire for a child while her commitment is not needed for him to raise his family. Life should be more decent than these games.

5. Life Realities
In life, the estates we find ourselves can be because of our choices, the choices of others or the inexplicable circumstances of life brought about by sin. Some of them we can change by deliberately making different choices and taking thoughtful actions, some we can improve, some we cannot change but just to accept. Christianity does not present anything or any estate in this present life as the permanent and ultimate hope of the believer in Christ. Yes we impact our environment, but nothing earthly can be adequate to satisfy the eternity that God planted deep in the human heart.

The truth is that everybody in this life will not get married. Everybody in this life will not bear children. Everybody in this life will not be rich, or poor etc. This is the reality of life. The difference between someone with a secular mindset and a committed follower of Jesus Christ is that while the former pursues whatever he thinks will give him personal happiness in any way possible without restraints, the latter seeks to know what the will of God is as concerns his estate in life. He pursues his personal happiness within the boundaries of God’s laws.

As a Christian, it is possible to have contentment in our estate and circumstance. 1 Tim.6:6.

6. Other Challenges
Apart from these moral problems, there are other problems.

The crisis of identity: The child will grow up wondering who his/her father and paternal relatives are since there is no official father. The extended family has a way of stabilizing the child emotionally, helping to form the child’s character. A child may understand when the circumstance around his birth was accidental like a pre or extra marital pregnancy because of rape or outside-wedlock sexual relations, but how can he cope with the mother’s deliberate choice to have him/her without a father? It is a conflict imposed on him to battle by his mother even before he is born.

The Holy Spirit put Jesus in the womb of Mary before her marriage to Joseph was consummated (Matt.1:18), but are we going to use that to justify unmarried ladies that want to become mothers to go and get pregnant through IVF since they did not commit fornication? To draw such a parallel is a theological error and shows gross ignorance of the power of God in the incarnation of Christ. Mary was betrothed to Joseph before she was made pregnant. To whom is the single/unmarried lady betrothed? It was not about Mary’s happiness, “nor the will of man,” it was about the purpose of God, even against her personal earthly pleasures.

What should constitute our Response as Followers of Jesus Christ?
  • We must make this matter part of our teaching illustrations. Begin to apply the Scriptures and give careful Christian perspectives to this area. Widen the discussion and begin to address these ethical issues biblically in order to help sincere Christians make godly decisions.
  • Create a lovely family atmosphere in the church that is inclusive no matter a person’s social status. Most cultures alienate the single and despise the childless couple as if they are a problem to the community. The church should live above these cultural dictates of our society and stick to God’s Word; be a good dispenser of God’s grace and mercy. If the church is not made to be the family it is, people will look for ‘family’ elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with being single and unmarried as long as you are not ‘burning’. (1 Cor.7:8-9). A person who is single has more time to spend serving the Lord. (1 Cor.7:34). Let’s celebrate every member of the body of Christ.
  • Change this earthly-perpetuity-based preaching that is peddled at the expense of eternal hope in Christ. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Cor 15:19 NIV. No matter your estate in life, you can serve God well and enjoy a love relationship with Him because He loves you and redeemed you.
  • If you strongly consider to be a single parent, pray and follow the adoption route and help a child find love and meaning in life. Try foster parenting or mentoring. These options are considered part of social work in contributing to making our world a better place in giving meaning to lives that ordinarily will not get it. That is better instead of engaging in this confusion.

As I conclude this discourse, let me address an important issue, and that is concerning the innocent baby that is brought into the world. Our approach should be that of forgiveness, grace and love. Throughout the scriptures, we see God celebrate life. Does the unacceptable behavior of a parent condemn the new born baby? The answer is NO. John Piper gave a good answer to that question when he argued that God can still make a child great even though the child may have originated in a sinful act. There is no difference between a human life born in marriage and a human life born outside wedlock. Sin or some sexual misbehavior can bring about pregnancy, but that does not mean that the pregnancy itself is a sin. The sin needs to be confessed and repented from while the pregnancy is a condition resulting from that sin which we need to handle with grace, love and care because as Christians, we believe that God can wash us beautifully clean and give us the chance to live for Him again. Nevertheless, Piper warned that “The remedy for that sin and the hope for a life of freedom and joy and peace and usefulness for mother and child and family and everybody affected should not be sought in the minimization of sin, but in the maximization of God’s grace.”
God bless.




Chris Ekwedam
Christian Author & Apologist.


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Friday, 5 October 2018

God’s praise and why it matters

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God’s praise and why it matters

"I do not accept praise from men,” John 5:41 NIV

For some time now, this clear statement of Jesus has got me thinking. It has made me to have a deep reflection on what goes on in the secret places of my own heart and what should drive my life. Something inside of us craves for the praise of men. We want to be appreciated. We want approval and admiration from people around us. But from Jesus’ statement, it is obvious that wanting or seeking for the praise of men is a weakness instead of strength. In as much as it is recommended for us to show appreciation, we are not encouraged to seek for appreciation. Jesus said in our passage above that He did not accept praise from men; even when they offered it willingly to Him.

Now let us look at why Jesus did not accept men’s praise and why we should not focus our lives on them.
  •  Men’s praise can be short-sighted and blind because of man’s limitations and weakness. Our secret lives can be hid from their eyes. Our motives can be covered. Man, by nature is limited, therefore, the praise that man gives to us carries that weakness of limitation.
  • Men’s praise can be insincere and hypocritical. When they want to exploit you or to have their way. That a man sings your praise does not mean that he loves you or that he means what he is saying. 
  • Men’s praises can be deceiving because they are not accurate. They can give us a false image of ourselves. This is a very important reason why we should not depend our lives on men praise. What men are telling you may not necessarily be a true reflection of you.
  • Men’s praise can make us lose our heavenly rewards. In Matt.6., Jesus commanded us not to accept men’s praise when we do good deeds, otherwise, we will not get any heavenly reward. It therefore means that we must always stop men when they start this praise songs if we do not want to be empty-handed in heaven. This is one reason why I personally advocate for secret giving.
  •  Men’s praise can make us not to accept God’s estimate of us. Men’s praise can soothe our hearts and we say that all is well when actually all is not well. God’s estimate of you is what matters when you stand before Him and not what any man has got to say. Jesus focused His life on what the Father wanted; and so must we.
  • Men’s praise can set us up against God because it feeds the flesh. Men’s praise can make our heads to swell up. We are to push every praise that men give to us back to God who alone is worthy of all praises. When the flesh is fed, it grows big and makes us not to act in spiritual ways. The flesh will definitely meddle with the praise that is due God, which in itself can be very dangerous, hence do not accept at all. Look at what happened to Herod in Acts 12:18-24.
  • When the mirror through which you see yourself is the opinions of men, the praise of men and their estimation of you, you can be very sure that the mirror is a broken mirror with distorted images of you. You can be several times wrong.

Why do God’s praise matter?
  1. His praise brings fulfillment, wholeness, comfort and real validation. In as much as it is good for husbands and wives to appreciate one another as a way to encourage good needs, you will be a very unfulfilled person in this world if you depend your life on the praise of your partner. The Master’s well done is enough and guarantees sharing in His happiness. In Matt.25: 19-21 and as a matter of fact in many other parables of the kingdom, the commendation of the Master is what matters in determining the final destiny of the servants.
  2. His opinion, estimate is the correct opinion. The truth about you and your circumstances can only be defined by God. Only He can tell who you are and what you are, your worth and your value. It doesn’t matter the opinions of others.
  3. He is both the King and the Judge. His opinion is the only opinion that will survive both for now and for eternity when all other opinions become irrelevant. He is a major witness in His court. His testimony / witness is weightier than any other. The Father’s testimony mattered to Jesus. John 5: 34-44.

If God’s praise matter, then what?
  1.        We will obey Him because He alone matters.
  2.        We will focus on our lives purpose and assignment on Him because He has the final say.
  3.        We will be men driven by conviction because His opinion alone matters.
  4.        We will prepare ourselves for meeting with Him because His judgment matters. 


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Thursday, 13 September 2018

A Letter to Men of God by Ven. Augustine Chukwubikem Ezeigwe

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This was shared by Echi Nwogu but I think that it is a very timely elderly counsel by this seasoned man of God, the Venerable Augustine Chukwubikem Ezeigwe.



Dear Man of God,

If nobody tells you this truth, please you should not fail to always remind yourself: A man of God is not God, he is a man! In essence, at your highest flow in the Spirit, you are yet a man, and you will ever be a man. It is unfortunate that people, out of ignorance, tend to treat men of God as if they are spirits who don’t live in a human body. I tell you, Sir (and so I say to myself also), if people accord you such 'honour' as of divinity, no matter how greatly God is using you among them, please be wise, humble and reasonable enough to reject such. Why? That is no longer honour, but worship and it is dangerous for your life. It is capable of making you a Man Off God.

Yes, the Bible asks people to give honour to whom it is due, and by virtue of your labour, you are one of such (Rom. 13:7). For leading well, you should even be counted worthy of double honour (1 Tim. 5:17). But you must not forget that there is a difference between honour and worship. Many times, what people give to men of God (and what many men of God quietly demand of the people) is worship, not honour. Men like Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:11-18), who knew the implications of being hero-worshipped, quickly tore their clothes and cried against such. As Cornelius, fell down to worship him, Peter said: "...Stand up; I myself also am a man." (Acts 10:25-26). Sir, you, yourself also, are a man!

It is worship for people to assume (and for you, as a man of God, to present yourself so) that you have answers to all troubles in life. When people saddle you with their numerous issues, please learn to point them to God or other people who could be of great help to them. Ironically, many pastors are not wise enough to say No to church members whose lives will continue if they drop dead. Members have toothache, they go to the pastor; they have menstral pains, they go to the pastor; they want to build house, they go to the pastor, as if the man is built to solve every problem. And, sadly, to prove that you are a superstar, with the hidden fear of losing your fame or honour among them, you also fail to embrace the use of professionals (trained in these areas).

I ask you, precious servant of God, what stops you, when you know that your own marriage is in danger, to take a back seat and allow a church member, whose marriage is a model, take the message on a Sunday that marriage is meant to be discussed? When you know that, that sister, though not ordained, is a proven financial manager (by life and ministry), what stops you from excusing the pulpit for her when critical issues on finances are to be discussed? Might I remind you, Sir, that you are actually not built to solve every problem. Matter-of-fact, you are like an entrepreneur coordinating the various factors of production. Please, note that in your congregation, there are many MOGs who are not answering to any title.

Sir, what task would you give Bill Gates if he were your church member, born again and spirit-filled? Or, you would go ahead to preach on the topic, the "Nitty-Gritty of Social Media," when you have Bro. Mark Zuckerbeg in your church? It is only God Who is omniscience - the All-Knowing; man of God, you are not and you must not try to pretend that you are or allow people make you one. Recently, I found a wisdom from an elder and I realised later that it is one major reason the men of old lasted in the hands of God, as far as His work is concerned. This wisdom is called SELF-EFFACING! In all you do, as a man of God, let Christ deface you, for Him alone to be seen. Sir, seek to promote Christ and His kingdom alone, not yourself. What l say to you, I say to myself. May God help us

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Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The Christian's response to Marie Stopes Family Planning for the unmarried sexually active women

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Marie Stopes, through their Country Director in Nigeria, Mr Effiong Nyong, advised sexually active single women to embrace the use of Family Planning methods in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy. This is reported in The Nations Online. He made a case for unmarried sexually active single women to avail themselves of the opportunity of the services of their NGO to obtain both short-term and long-term Family Planning methods. As a way of explanation, to be sexually active means engaging in "sexual activities that involve penetration of the penis into the vagina or the anus". So when Mr. Effiong canvases for sexually active single women to obtain Family Planning methods, it means women who are not married but are actively having sex outside wedlock obtaining Family Planning methods that will enable them to continue in their lifestyle without getting pregnant.

This sounds very absurd and shows desperation on the part of this non-governmental organization to push their agenda and ensure that sex is liberalized and all the consequences of sexual acts, in this case by unmarried women, are down-played or removed. The absurdity of this campaign shows in the title of the write up itself, "Family Planning good for unmarried sexually active women". What has an unmarried woman got to do with family planning? Which family is she planning? She is single; she is not married, hence cannot plan for any family in this context. The key word is 'family'. It becomes obvious that the problem is not how to control birth or number of children but how to validate a lifestyle. Pregnancy is one of the things that can result after sex, hence when an unmarried person is engaging in sex, he/she should bear in mind that this act can result in pregnancy.

The Bible teaches us that sexual activity is to be carried out only within the confines of marriage, where there is commitment, trust and care. (1 Cor.6:18-20). Sexual activity outside of marriage is called fornication, adultery and uncleanliness. (Gal.5:19).

Any attempt to encourage sex outside of marriage or to minimize its consequences is actually ungodly and in pursuance of anti-Christ agenda who opposes God's purposes. That is what this piece of advise from Marie Stopes is set to achieve. It tells people that it does not matter what anybody thinks about it, you can continue in your illicit sexual lifestyle, as long as you can avoid unwanted pregnancies by using our Family Planning methods, everything will be fine. But that is very far from the truth. Everything will not just be fine. Never be deceived into thinking that you can violate God's laws and stipulations, live against God's purposes and at last be free from the consequences of your choices. (1 Cor.10:8).

Choosing to be sexually active while not married is choosing to live against God's commandments. It is choosing your pleasure above God's laws. It is being hedonistic which means engaging in the pursuit of pleasure at all cost even above reason. While we do not have anything against married people planning their FAMILY with the services of Marie Stopes, as servants of God, we condemn this promotion targeting unmarried women. God wants His people to be holy and His people must read in-between the lines and abhor anything that will bring defilement to their bodies and eventually  disqualify them before God. Holiness still pays both for now and for eternity while immoral lifestyle has its consequences also both for now and for eternity. God bless.

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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Bishop Avenya spoke truth to Vice President Osinbajo

Sphere: Related Content This video was posted by Akume Raphael. I love the boldness with which Bishop Avenya spoke. I hope that other Church Leaders will follow his example instead of following politicians for filthy lucre.

Nigeria is bleeding and our leaders seem to carry on as if nothing is happening. They make empty promises as we wait for the next attack. Please continue to pray for this country.
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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Bishop Cyril Okorocha steps out of the Cathedral in style

Sphere: Related Content I am thrilled seeing this symbolic action from the former Bishop of Owerri, Bishop Cyril Okorocha. If we are not careful, our hearts may be deceived and we forget that every power is transient.


Video provided by Ven. Echi Nwogu

One of His academic mentors, Prof. Andrew Walls, a renowned World Missiologist, Historian and Social Anthropologist, describes Dr. Cyril as 

“A meticulous Scholar of an extraordinary intellect, integrity and giftedness, very articulate and yet endowed with a down to earth and thoroughly humane pastoral heart which seems to exude with the loving presence of the spirit of the Living God which touches everyone around him with a graciousness which can only be described as coming from his Lord, Jesus Christ whom Cyril always says is everything to him”.

 When I gave my life Christ in the late eighties, it was the Follow-up Series developed by this Bishop, then a Reverend gentleman, that we used for our Young Believers' Class. He was then at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Testimonies abound on how he served his people, making sacrifices and leading by example. There is a story of how he rejected monetary gift from the Governor Rochas Okorocha, who he asked to go and use the money to pay the Pensioners. Even as he is retiring, when some of the Bishops are squeezing their Dioceses dry using all kinds of means with the help of their yes-men, a send-forth colloquium was organized for Bishop Okorocha where some well-wishers gave him some gifts and he is grateful to God. I pray that God will take care of him even in this retirement. Please pray for him.

Reference

Brief profile of Bishop Cyril Chukwunonyerem Okorocha, Anglican Diocese of Owerri, Online: http://owerrianglican.blogspot.com/2016/08/brief-profile-of-bishop-cyril.html (Accessed 13/06/18)

Nigeria is boiling – Anglican Bishop, Vanguard Online:
https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/06/nigeria-boiling-anglican-bishop/ (Accessed 13/06/18)


Life as a Nigerian Bishop, Jesse Zink, Online: https://jessezink.com/2011/06/11/life-as-a-nigerian-bishop/
(Accessed 13/06/18)







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