Sunday, 29 December 2019

Answering Questions: Biblical imperatives. Part 3

Sphere: Related Content
 Is the church ready to answer the questions directed to her?

In our first post, we emphasized that questions are normal and it is very important that our members are encouraged to ask us their questions now so that they will know what our answers are. We concluded that whether we open up and answer the questions directed at us now or ignore, shut down either the question or the questioner or both, the questions will still be asked. The only bad news is that people may get answers we will not like. In the second post, we argued that we should not only allow questions, we should encourage questions in the church as this will deepen the faith and convictions of many. We equally looked at the possible reasons why we find it difficult to encourage asking of questions. In this last and final part of the post, we will be looking at the biblical imperatives and why it is important for the church to provide answers to questions, and provide defense and explanations especially to our truth claims.

In 1 Pet.3:15, we are enjoined to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” NIV. This instruction presupposes that people are going to ask us questions. Note that it says we should give an answer to “everyone”, with no exception whether to our members as stakeholders seeking for clarifications or to outsiders and inquirers seeking for answers or querying our actions. People have the right to know what we are doing as a church. Remember that those who are asking these questions are potential members of the church, as argued by St Augustine, and for every question that we answer well by the help of the Holy Spirit, an obstacle has been cleared on their way to meeting with Jesus at the cross.

In Acts 2, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, many onlookers were confused, amazed and perplexed at the same time asking “what does this mean?” v12. In that confusion, Peter stood up to address the people saying, “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.” Acts 2:14 NIV. He explained what was happening and quoted the Scriptures to validate his claims. They asked further questions which Peter answered and “with many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Acts 2:40-41. NIV. Three thousand people were added to the church after his explanation.

We have two obligations as a church serving her Lord before a watching world: to be prepared to give answers to the questions we are asked and to be prepared to offer explanations when what we are doing attracts inquiry from those watching us. This was the disposition of the early church, not because it was a persecuted church, but because it is supposed to be the timeless biblical disposition of the church for all ages. It is assumed that the church will always have its accusers and attackers, hence the instruction to be prepared to make a defense, give an answer, clear self, plea or give an account of and make its truth claims clearer.

Throughout the book of Acts, the apostles engaged their members and the then world answering questions and explaining the truth claims they were propagating. Take out time to search for the words, answered, replied, persuade, persuaded, explain and explained and related words in the Gospels and the book of Acts and you will be amazed at the number of times they are used. It only shows what the Lord Jesus and the apostles committed themselves to. The Lord Jesus was so committed to answering questions that He even answered questions people had in their hearts. (Luke 7:40). Why is it so? In the world of ideas and conflicting worldviews, dumb followership cannot produce strong personal convictions or persuasions. The Lord wants us to serve Him in reasonable ways. He does not exclude any of our faculties when He calls us to faith. We cannot serve Him alone with our human reasoning but on the other hand, faith is not unreasonable. They engaged their cultures, answered questions and addressed topics both intellectually and theologically, from the mind and heart perspectives. We are not expected to do anything less.

Now let us look at the ways we can provide answers:
  • Through the words that we speak. Speaking to explain is very important as the ear is one of the major gateways to the human mind; “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Rom 10:17 NIV. Jesus answered His questioners. The apostles explained what they were teaching. We must be prepared to give answers. (1 Pet.3:15). Take careful note of what should be our disposition as we present answers.
·         Do not fear. V14. We should present answers as men who are convinced of what they are saying, even in the presence of danger.
·         Be prepared. V15. We should be prepared. Theological education at all levels is very important. Every Christian is supposed to be a theologian of a sort. We have to be grounded on Christian doctrines, aware of the challenges within our cultures and what the issues are and devise ways to present our message. Preparing ourselves to be able to engage the world around us with the Gospel is worthwhile.
·         Do it with gentleness and respect. V15. Our pride and arrogance hurt and drive people away even from the answers we want to provide. When there is insult, lack of courtesy and respect, we end up being the hinderances to the truth we are presenting. The essence of apologetics is not to show off our intellectual prowess and eloquence but to be used by God to humbly clear the obstacles people have that hinder them from placing their faith in Christ. No question of faith is useless as long as it was asked by a person. Every person has intrinsic worth.
·         Keep a clear conscience. V16. No hypocrisy, no hidden agenda, no guilt in our own hearts. And
·         Be willing to suffer if need be. V17
  • Through writing and engaging issues as they are raised in Newspapers, Social Media, Blogs and Websites. Biblical scholars, Pastors and theologians should go for training on how to blog and how to properly use the Social Media with the sole aim of engaging with the people. That is where our children are and that is where they ask most of their questions. If you use it as a place to be declaring “prophecies”, they will only be saying “Amen” but if we use it as a platform for engagement, they will talk. You will discover that most of our children are almost atheistic and only by our being available to provoking questions and providing answers can we remain relevant to and in touch with them.
  • Through the kind of life we live in the midst of those asking the questions. We can provide intellectual and existential answers but they will be useless if people cannot see the difference it makes in our private lives. Ravi observes, “The message is seen before it is heard.” “I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the Gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out. That failure not only robs us of our peace but mars the intended light that a consistently lived life brings to the one observing our message.” Bishop Ephraim Ikeakor writes, "the greatest setback Christianity has is the abundance of eloquent and powerful preachers whose lifestyle contradicts their sermons". If we claim that the Gospel transforms, then those asking questions want to see the visible transformations in the lives of those offering it, from the leaders to the followers.
  • Prayer is very important as we know that the basic problem of man is not intellectual but moral. We are inclined to rejecting the truth and walking in our own ways. The prince of this world has blinded the eyes of people in order to stop them from understanding the truth and be set free. The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of individuals to see things with spiritual perspectives. He causes them to see the answers we are presenting.
Having mentioned these above, it is important to note that behind every question is a questioner who has a need. Our answers must be targeted at meeting the need of the questioner who seeks for an answer. Many a times, real needs and hurts are hidden behind questions, especially provocative ones. If you are carried away by the provocation, you may answer the question without answering the questioner.

When the tithe debate raged on the internet some time ago, many people were arguing on both sides. Many pastors and church leaders came out to defend the payment of tithes while others rained curses on those who were challenging the practice. My pain in the whole thing is that while we were trying to win the argument, we lost sight of the questioners behind the questions. We were answering the questions but were not answering the questioners. While we were addressing the questions, we were not addressing the needs of the questioners. In fact in most cases, we addressed the questions sitting on our high horses at the expense of the questioners behind the questions and did not care. For example, I watched one of the General Overseers say that “anyone who is not paying his tithe is not going to heaven, full stop”. Another said that God banned the wife of his fellow pastor from entering heaven because she was not paying tithe. My pain is that when I read the comments of greater majority of those who were complaining, you see that they were complaining about the wealth and opulence of many pastors in the midst of a poor and hungry majority. One of them is listed as one of the richest clerics in the world with a net worth of $130m (£91m), yet living among one of the poorest people on earth and doing nothing to touch their lives in practical ways. Who is paying attention to the needs of the questioners? I kept asking myself, is the church ready to answer the questions directed to her?

In a repressive culture, leaders make efforts to silence those that ask questions, leaving their questions unanswered. The church is not supposed to travel down this ignominious road. We have an obligation to provide answers to the questions our members and inquirers are asking. This is because we propagate the truth and truth by its nature comes out clearer as the propagator is given more opportunity to answer more questions. One of the reasons why religions like Islam does not give their members the freedom to ask questions and carryout personal investigation, especially about Christianity is because the more questions they ask and are clarified, the more they will develop the conviction that the claims of Christianity are true.

Our members are asking questions. The world is asking us questions. Are we ready to give answers? Are we really ready to do apologetics?

Can we see the revolution that is raging? In a few years to come, things cannot be the same any more. Those that the systems and institutions favour currently are busy defending them and making efforts to continue the closed structure, without paying attention to the questions young people are asking. If our attitude does not change, a time will come when the systems and institutions will experience a crumbling and I pray that it will turn out well. It may surprise you to know that most of our young people have lost all sense of sacredness completely. Many are looking elsewhere for answers.  Pastors and members are kidnapped and even killed without any fear even inside the church. CCTV is used to monitor the ushers that count church money because some people are not afraid to enrich themselves with the offering proceeds. Most leaders use the security agencies to protect themselves from the people they are supposed to be ministering to. Many things are happening around us and people are asking questions. Are we hearing the questions? Are we praying and providing answers?


Share/Bookmark

Monday, 16 December 2019

Constitution should be amended to accommodate peculiarities of Shari’a – CJN

Sphere: Related Content This title was from the Daily Trust

Source: Daily Trust

This CJN is showing a high level of insensitivity for making these recommendations. He is advocating the amendment of the Constitution so as to accommodate the concerns of Muslims and the Sharia Law. His reason?

"We have the number to amend the Constitution to suit our own position as Muslims"

He now recommends:
1. Academicians should champion the cause of redesigning the methods of teaching the Sharia Law.
2. Universities should give Sharia Law its own faculty.
3. Increase in the number of judges who are learned in Islamic Law.
4 Teach Sharia Law in Arabic language in Nigerian Universities and not in English.
5. Academicians to look into these matters.

Let's watch out on subtle appointments to accomplish these goals. Both himself and the President are not even making efforts to change the narrative of their accusers. People raised these issues as concerns during elections for the President and during his appointment for the CJN. All they do is to live up to the expectations of their accusers. This speaks volumes.

Please continue to pray that the purpose of God for this great nation may be realized. Pray that God will open the eyes of our Lawmakers, especially those who are Christians, so that they will oppose this no matter the allurement and coercion. Pray for the awakening of the Church in Nigeria.
God bless.
Share/Bookmark

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Please pray for Christians in the Northern Nigeria

Sphere: Related Content
11 Christians kidnapped by Boko Haram. 

Source: Premium Times

All the 11 persons kidnapped by this group this time are Christians. I pray that this will not be a strategic religious cleansing. They even claim that Leah Sharibu is still alive. The group once posted a video where someone claimed that she was murdered. Though I posted it here, my family is still constrained to keep praying for her and her family. Let us pray that the real intentions of the enemy in all these things will be frustrated. Pray that the faith of the victims will remain strong in the Lord as they pass through this terrible ordeal. Pray for their families for strength and grace.
Now pray for the Nigerian Government to do the needful to ensure these people are released and reunited to their families. May that the Lord will touch the hearts of these perpetrators and grant them encounters that will bring about changes in their lives. Pray that God may cause an awakening in the Nigerian Church, God bless.

Read the whole story here.


Share/Bookmark

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The challenge of justice

Sphere: Related Content
"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:21-24 NIV.

We all desire justice and want to see it done. Anytime we witness evil around where we are, what everybody will be looking to see is justice. We look to see justice done at the gates (Amos 5:15) by man towards his fellow man or by God towards the man He created. This happens because we are moral agents. God is the Source of Moral Law and man being in His image is not only expected to do justice, he himself wants to also see that justice is done. Ultimate questions of justice are directed at God because we live with the inexplicable consciousness that the Judge of all the earth must do what is right. (Gen.18:25). The scepter of His kingdom is a scepter of justice. (Ps.45:6).

As God’s people, those around us expect us to do what is right and just. God Himself commands us to do justice. Justice has to do with fairness, impartiality, and not being even-handed toward others in our dealings with them. Aristotle said that “justice in this sense then is not part of virtue but virtue entire nor is the contrary injustice a part of vice but vice entire.”2 In support of Aristotle’s argument is Dr. Ravi Zacharias who in the context of love said that “justice is an intrinsic part of virtue. You can judge without loving, but you cannot love without also being just”3. This is true since God is love and he that does not love his neighbor is a murderer (1 Jn.3:15), a noise maker (1 Cor.13:1) and knows not God (1 Jn.4:8). Love then is ultimate virtue. We cannot claim that we love when we do not dispense justice. In other words, we cannot claim that we are Christians when we do not do justice.

No wonder when the nation of Israel neglected this important virtue, God lost interest in all other activities, ceremonies and rituals of their worship life. From the passage in Amos above, it seems God is saying, “your assemblies, your feasts, your tithes and offerings, your songs and music are nothing to me when you do not do what is right and just towards others. Inasmuch as the activities are important, but their value is rated based on how you are letting justice roll on like a mighty flood and righteousness like a never-failing stream!”.

Societies are not transformed just because people talk much about justice. Societies change because people see and feel justice. The impact of the church then is not going to be much in our society just because we make the most noise and speak about justice. Our influence and impact will be strong when our members and the outside world see and feel that we do what is right. Ethical living is not an option for the church and church members, it is a requirement for us all. It is good to declare prosperity upon the people but it is not going to transform the society. Our societies will be transformed when we do what is right and treat both ourselves and others around us fairy and reasonably as the gospel which we preach demands. I have argued severally in the church circles against the structure whereby the system favors and makes a few persons at the apex free and very rich in the midst of and at the expense of a struggling membership. God, in rebuking the leaders of Israel of injustice, accused them of feeding on the choice and fat sheep while the weak, the sick and the poor were neglected. (Ezek.34). In Dr. Martin Luther’s days, the indulgence-preachers were so mean that Dr. Luther argued in his 50th thesis “Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.”1 Permit me to say that it’s like we are back to this scenario once again where Cathedrals and Church Investments are “built with the skin, flesh and bones of the sheep”, as it were, and the welfare of the members are not prioritized.

As goes the church, so goes the society. The political leaders cannot do otherwise from what they see the prophets and pastors do. At anytime there is a stark difference between what the political leaders do and what the prophets and pastors do, the later always rebuke the former in God’s name. But when they are doing the same thing, the later will not have a moral justification to rebuke the former. The result is that the society will be so filled with injustice both in the church and the outside that God’s judgment becomes inevitable.

Note also that within our context, justice is not just how the law is applied but also how we conform to truth and God’s righteousness in all our dealings. As individuals, justice should be seen in the way we relate with our spouses, neighbors, work colleagues, and all our relationships in general, as a matter of fact. In our business dealings and how we handle people of high and low estate, we must do to others what we will like them do to us assuming we are the ones in their estate. Welfare and social actions are supposed to be part and parcel of the Church concerns. When we are privileged to be in the position to defend the defenseless, speak for the voiceless, protect the weak and dispense equity and judgment to the vulnerable, what do we do? Without doing justice, our profession is vain and our preaching will be noise.

We preach the cross because that is the place where love and justice intersected. It is the centerpiece of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has demonstrated that He is not only a God of justice in His Essence but also that He does justice in practical ways. Sin was judged at the cross; the requirements of justice were met at the cross; and love was shown at the cross whereby we are set free. The one that accepts this sacrifice on the cross receives a transformed heart. It is with this transformed heart that we can do justice and bring about transformation in our society. As God’s saved people, we have to be committed to doing justice and righteousness and not just speaking about it. Justice is not done because it is held as a belief or doctrine or spoken of by men, it is considered done because the people who look for it see and feel that it is done.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Mic 6:8 ESV.

“…But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amen

Reference
  1. Evangelical Lutheran Church, (2019). The 95 Theses, Assessed 25/11/19 ONLINE: http://www.zionlutheran-ssm.org/95.pdf
  2. Zacharias, R. (2019). The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
  3. Ditto.




Share/Bookmark

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke has gone to be with the Lord

Sphere: Related Content Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke goes home. Below is the announcement from his family. I remember some of the crusades he had in Onitsha and lately in Port Harcourt in Nigeria. God used one of his books in those days to fire us up in our zeal to evangelize our area for Christ: Evangelism by Fire. Servant of God, your legacy lives on. Good night.

Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and closeup

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with sorrow that the Bonnke Family would like to announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, and grandfather, Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on December 7, 2019. For the past 60 years he has preached the glorious Gospel of Jesus throughout the entire world. We want to thank you on behalf of him and our family, for your kind love and unwavering support, which enabled him to preach the matchless message of salvation to countless people.
He preached Jesus…
“Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”
Revelation 15:3-4
In Christ,
Anni Bonnke and Family
We kindly ask, in lieu of flowers, to please make a donation to Christ for all Nations – Africa Crusade.

Share/Bookmark

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

(Free Download) A Presentation on Tests for Truth

Sphere: Related Content This is a Presentation on The Tests for Truth.
I have been extraordinarily burdened recently because of the level of deceptions around us today and it seems as if many really do need help to be able to take the right decisions. Many are being exploited while others unfortunately have believed lies. Knowing that what we believe has implications both for now and for eternity, it behooves of us to test what we hear in order to ensure we believe the right things and practice correctly. This is my contribution to helping us believe correctly.
Feel free to comment in the box down or chat me up in case you have questions or need clarifications.

Download the file here. pdf
Click to download the presentation. pptx
Share/Bookmark

Monday, 25 November 2019

Why is it difficult to encourage questions today in the church? Part 2

Sphere: Related Content
In my first post, I discussed the importance of questions in the church. This Part 2 post will focus on why some of us find it difficult to encourage questions. In the last post, I will be discussing why it is important for the church to provide answers to questions, and provide defense and explanations especially to our truth claims.

In this world full of conflicting and divergent ideas, it is counterproductive to shut down questions asked by people seeking for information and answers, no matter how offensive, useless or negative they may seem. If we do not allow, especially our members, to be free to ask us questions, they will still ask the questions anyway but unfortunately, they will ask someone else who may give them answers we may not like.

The 90th thesis written by Dr Martin Luther in his 95 Theses which he posted on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in October 31, 1517 states “These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.”3 Dr. Luther advised that the best approach towards the questions asked by the laity would not be suppression or playing the Ostrich, instead questions raised needed to be answered and arguments raised needed to be refuted. He warned that if attention was not paid to answering the questions asked by the people, it would come to a time the church and its leadership would be brought to ridicule. His warning was not heeded to and the church had a split.

The question is, when we refuse to answer the questions raised by enquirers and our members, what are we afraid of? In some cases, we configure the system and the institution in such a way that makes it nearly impossible or very difficult for questions to be asked in the first place. Fora are not created with the sole purpose of answering questions. Even when questions are asked, we structure the process in a way that will ensure that those who ask questions are either ignored or labelled or tagged or at best be given little or no answer, which shows the questioner that there was no willingness to answer his questions in the first place. We exercise a certain level of unbridled freedom because we believe that nobody will do anything. We can get away with anything, so we think.

We even administer punitive measures to those that ask questions. A few years ago, a story was told of a senior pastor who asked a question in a meeting that comprised of both his colleagues and their superior. Because of the question he asked, which bordered on some financial decisions taken concerning their superior, he was suspended from the church for some time and punished. If this can happen to a pastor, what do you think will happen to someone who is just a church member? This example only represents the difficulty people encounter when they have questions to ask in their churches. I do not understand why a Christian leader will present a Financial Report and Accounts, for example, and yet frown when listeners ask questions concerning what he has presented. How will he or she manage to preach about integrity the next day? These punitive measures only succeed in shutting down those who have questions. Ironically, these are the same things we are expecting from our political leaders.

Why is it difficult to encourage questions in the church today?

  1. Our unconscious claim to ‘infallibility’ as leaders. Christian leaders are still saved and redeemed sinners just like every other children of God. We are called as ministers by God, with different gifts, deployed to diverse market places to represent Him. Every one of God’s children is responsible wherever God has posted you; whether in the Medical field, Political arena, Law and Justice, Companies and Establishments, the Church, etc. You are called upon to be faithful wherever you are as a steward of God’s treasures and grace. The Church is supposed to be like the place where these ministers of God are coordinated and equipped to ensure that each person fulfills his/her calling (Eph.4:12). Christian leaders play a great role in equipping the saints for these good works. Unfortunately, instead of equipping God’s people, many of us make ourselves lords over them. Lords do not owe anybody and cannot be questioned. Over time, we seem to even forget where God picked us up from as lost sinners. We carry on as if we cannot make mistakes and our ‘yes men’ defend us and fan our ego. If we are accused by members of infidelity or misappropriation for example, instead of answering the questions raised, we defend and shut the questioners down. So, we hear leaders who say something like, “who are you to ask me this question?’ or “how dare you ask the man of God such questions? Are you suspecting him?” In different forms, we assume infallibility as if there is something else we are, separate from God’s people.
  2. Our insecurity as leaders. Many of us are very insecure in our positions of authority. We want to protect ourselves and the institution where we work even at the expense of truth. This defensive mode makes us to take aggressive postures. When inquirers or members ask questions seeking for answers, especially the ones we do not want them to have, we resist and fight. We find it difficult to own up to our mistakes so we fight and cover and protect ‘our own’ even when other brethren are shouting foul. We struggle to delegate to those we fear may ‘know more’ than us. So we ignore other of God’s ministers who are in different other market places but who may help out with the answers, just to ensure we maintain and protect our own and be the only ‘celebrity’ at the apex. Open Forum therefore gives us sleepless nights and where we can, we ensure it does not happen. In so doing, questions are not asked.
  3. Our incompetence and ignorance. Information is moving so fast and the questions of people are becoming more complicated. The basics of the questions may remain the same but people’s experiences and the way it impacts on them are more sophisticated than before. Technology is increasing. If one is not developing himself/herself and matching up with these changes, over time, you may not be able to face the questions people are asking. Even in communicating the Gospel, we have to develop skills that match with the changes around us. When we refuse to improve ourselves, we can become myopic in our thinking. When we perceive we are not competent, our insecurity increases and we are unwilling to allow questions.
  4. Our fear and cowardice. Another reason why we are often afraid of taking questions is because we want to be in the good books of the world. If in the cause of the questions, we are ‘pinned down’, we are afraid of saying the truth. We are afraid of engaging our cultures because we will be asked difficult questions concerning traditions, LGBTQ etc. We are afraid of being quoted. A prominent man of God was put on the spot on a News Network when he was asked "Is Jesus the only Way to God?" (John 14:6). He mumbled without any definite answer even when the questioner repeated herself. He did not want to get any 'backlash'. That is cowardice for a Christian. So, it is not just that seasoned theologians are scarce, we desire to enjoy the accolades of the world. We are afraid and abandon the truth alone in the ‘dark’ to suffer.
  5. Our resistance to progression in technology. I was in a meeting where a bishop glorified reading the bible in printed format and said that if he discovers that someone is not carrying his printed bible, they will not be friends anymore. You see, we will not be able to answer the questions of our youths if instead of looking for ways to maximize the use of technology for the benefit of the church, we are condemning it. The enlightened youth knows for example that he can read the bible in several formats and still be enriched. We are likely to shut such youth down when he asks his sincere questions. In epistemology, every means of acquiring knowledge has its advantages and disadvantages. Instead of enforcing the means that is best for us as individuals, we should encourage people simply to seek and assimilate knowledge in a way best for them.
  6. Our distraction by the strange gospel of health and wealth and our rebellion insisting to continue its propagation. The claims of health and wealth theology are illusive and unsustainable biblically and existentially. They cannot answer life’s deepest questions. The extrapolations of health and wealth gospel fail all the three tests of truth, namely logical consistency, empirical adequacy and experiential relevance.2 It creates celebrity and cult figures out of us as Christian leaders. First called the theology of glory as against the theology of the cross by Martin Luther, you are made to believe that answers to life’s problems are in the hands of one man who “negotiates between us (him) and God for whatever thing we may need”1. He represents us before God and collects our offerings and righteous works and takes them to God. By our works and giving, we are justified and prospered. Our insistence on preaching and teaching what cannot withstand scrutiny forces us to maneuver and avoid questions, especially the difficult questions of life. This makes asking questions very difficult.
  7. Our hypocrisies. We all call on the government to be transparent in its dealings, but many of us are not transparent in our churches. In many cases, our lives are not matching what we preach and we are unwilling to repent. Because we are hypocritical in our dealings, we resort to intimidation and all sorts of cover up. Have you heard a Christian leader say something like, “If you do so so and so again, I will curse you”? When there are discrepancies between our private life, the way we handle finances, relationships etc, and what we preach or what the Bile says, naturally, we will not want to encourage questions because we will be afraid of being put on the spot. Our unwillingness to be transparent is a challenge and makes us to block all avenues of people asking questions. What we forget is that the Gospel of Jesus by its nature cannot be separated from the life of its propagator. The efficacy and authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus will always refer the listener to the life of the professor for them to stick, and once there are inconsistencies, everything crumbles. We seem to think that we can preach the power of the Gospel while we live differently to the demands it places on our lives. It CANNOT work. When we have this unfortunate scenario, we will most likely discourage questions and use other things to assuage people’s quest for truth.
Granted that some questions can be very difficult, often interrogative, and provoking, however, we cannot run away from answering the questioner with humility, grace and respect, keeping good conscience. (1 Pet.3:15-16). As Ravi Zacharias will always say, “behind every question is a questioner” and we have to ensure that both the question and the questioner are answered. The former is a valid expression while the later is a person loved by God. Our young people have many questions to ask. Inquirers and our members have tons of questions bothering them. Are we ready to create the atmosphere for them to ask their questions, so that they know the answers we gave to them while we are still around? Let's not think that things will continue as usual this way. NO. If we refuse to open up and encourage questions, with what is going on with the Social media, I see an implosion in the near future within the church. It will either happen as a revolt or a revival. I wish it will be the later.

In the next/last part of this write up, I will look at the biblical imperative as it concerns answering questions and explaining the truth claims we preach.

Reference
  1. Ekwedam, C. (2016). Following hard after God. PNUR Revival Press and Books, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
  2. Zacharias R. (2019). Why Jesus. Lecture at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Academy, RZIM. https://www.rzim.org/page/academy-core-module
  3. Evangelical Lutheran Church, (2019). The 95 Theses, Assessed 25/11/19 ONLINE: http://www.zionlutheran-ssm.org/95.pdf


Share/Bookmark

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The importance of asking questions in the church – seeking for answers. Part 1.

Sphere: Related Content
A question, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is a sentence or phrase used to find out information. When people want to get information on a matter, they ask either broad or specific questions concerning the matter. The questions are normally directed to someone who is believed to have either in part or in whole the answers. Answers to questions can invite more or follow up questions which altogether are supposed to bring clarifications to the issues being considered.

In the church, we must allow those who are eager, to ask questions, plenty of questions. Every question is an opportunity for the church to explain and make our truth claims clearer. Every question asked by inquirers gives us the opportunity to make stronger our invitation to them to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ. Every question asked by members of our churches is an opportunity to make their persuasion firmer. Questioners are not to be seen as enemies or troublemakers, neither their questions be seen as worthless. Every question has worth because it is asked by a person who has worth. The worth of a person is derived from the Imago Dei (Image of God) in him or her.  When people ask questions, it shows they are interested. We have to recognize this interest and see how we can cooperate with God to steer the questioners to the answers that meet their real need.

The disciples asked Jesus plenty of questions and He answered all. In fact, every question was an opportunity to teach a specific truth or to expand or emphasize what has been taught before. We owe much of the teachings we have in the Gospels to the questions the disciples asked. Even when Peter asked Jesus in Matt. 19, what someone called “the dumbest question”, “We left everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?" Matt. 19:27 TLB, surprisingly He replied. The question sounded selfish, but Jesus replied him, not glossing over Peter’s personal interest. He painted the picture of what the rewards look like for them who were the first fruits of His ministry and also what it will look like for anyone who will sacrifice in His name. It was indeed an opportunity.  He answered their questions. Even when Philip made a request in John 14, He mildly reprimanded him and yet answered him. We must encourage both inquirers and our members to ask questions.

The benefits of asking questions
  1. Questions help us to arrive at the truth. The conviction of people become stronger when their questions are answered and they arrive at what they are convinced to be the truth by themselves. The Bible warns against false teachers and false prophets. (Matt.24:4-5). We are enjoined to “test everything” (1 Thess.5:21). Asking questions is one of the ways to arrive at judgment whether something is true or false.
  2. Questions help us to reason. When questions are asked, our reasoning is awakened. People talk about ‘common sense’; oftentimes, questions awaken our common sense. As Ravi Zacharias observes, “God has put enough into the world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason or observation alone.” God does not shutdown the faculty of reason when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, the more He makes Himself known, the more He helps us see the reasonableness in placing our faith in Him. Questions appeal to our reason and makes us think. We serve God with both our faith and reason.
  3. Questions open us up to further enlightenment and help us to improve on what we used to know. They often query what we know before so that we can either develop stronger persuasion, or change our minds over what we used to know. This in turn changes our attitudes and life generally. Many years ago, each time we taught about holiness, we used to focus on lipsticks, eye shadows, shoulder pads, short sleeves, curling of hair, bangles and necklaces, and so on; you know all those things women use to beautify themselves. However, the more I saw failures also among brothers and the struggles in my own heart, the more some pointed questions confronted me. “Does it mean that holiness is a concern for women alone? Why should we always focus on women? Are all the brothers holy and only women have problems? If not, why are brothers not being challenged to holy living during our preaching?” These questions helped me to understand that dressing is only a subset of a bigger whole and holiness is deeper than wearing headscarf twenty four hours of the day. Further studies helped me to have a more balanced view of holiness and encouraged me to pursue personal holiness as a brother.
  4. Questions widen our horizons and reveal areas where our attention has not gone before. When we allow and encourage questions, they challenge our narrow-mindedness and call our attention to areas of improvement that hitherto we would not have known any other way. We rot when we close our doors against questions. This is because, we will continue in our old ways even when they are no more working and the world has moved on. The beautiful Gospel of Jesus is timeless but it is preached within time. Paying attention to the questions each generation is asking helps us to make it relevant. When we do our part, the Holy Spirit takes over from there.
  5. Questions help to bring out the assumptions of both the questioner and the explainer. Because we are not spirits, it is only through asking questions that motives are revealed, real needs are exposed and knowledge is gained of what exactly we should pay attention to.

People cannot develop strong convictions in what we preach and teach when they have so many unanswered questions they are not given the opportunity to ask. Even God uses questions to speak to us.
Most of us were raised not to ask elders questions, especially difficult questions. It worked for our parents. But not anymore. You cannot raise your children today without paying attention to their questions. If you don’t answer them, their peers and the social media will answer them. There used to be a time when you would bring down your guards without questions immediately someone tells you that he is a believer. But not anymore, you must ask further questions.  There used to be a time when once a pastor says “the bible says…”, everybody leaves to obey what the pastor said. Nobody would ask further questions. But not anymore. Many can read the bible today in different versions. The more people read and study, the more they will seek for clarifications.

We are exposed to many worldviews today, each competing for our attention. The church must open up to the questions people are asking. Our young ones who will replace us must be encouraged to ask their questions now we are alive. Let them know what our answers are to their questions about God and life. The earlier we do this, the better for us. I hope it is not getting late for some of our churches.

Look out for the remaining two parts of this write up. God bless.


Reference
Cambridge University Press. (2019). Cambridge online dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary online. Retrieved at November 13, 2019. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/question.

Zacharias R. 2019. The 3.4.5 Grid. Lecture at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Academy, RZIM. https://www.rzim.org/page/academy-core-module


Share/Bookmark

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

“Who then can be saved?” Luke 18 vs 26

Sphere: Related Content
This question was asked when Jesus said that it would be difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. One of the rulers He talked with has just walked away sad because He asked him to let go of all his riches, sell them and give to the poor. The man considered his possessions more precious than obeying the instructions of Jesus. He missed a life changing opportunity.

My focus today is not to attempt to answer the question the disciples asked but to address the mindset and assumptions that produce such a question.

Firstly, the question assumes that the rich enjoys special favors from God and a man who has wealth is held at high esteem before Him. Even if the poor does not get an answer from God, when the rich asks, God will quickly answer because he is rich in wealth, they thought. Hence what Jesus said stunned them and they asked, if the rich is not saved, who then can be saved?

Secondly, this question assumes that God looks at the rich the same way man looks at him. It assumes that our values are the same with God’s - He places value on the things we place value upon. Here we value people based on our perception of their wealth size. Special attention is paid on people based on what we perceive them to worth in terms of wealth. Jesus’ assertion was against this assumption; therefore, the question, “who then can be saved”

Thirdly, the question assumes that God knows, recognizes and regards people based on their riches. Here we honor people and respect their views based on our perception of their wealth level. Oftentimes, even when their views have logical flaws, they are managed and their flaws ignored because their wealth is important to us. In some cultures, people are given chieftaincy titles only because they are perceived to have more wealth than others. They are made rulers and given positions of authority. Those that heard Jesus were astonished to see Him ask the rich man to sell everything he had, give them to the poor, and then come and follow Him. The man walked away sad and Jesus did not bother to pursue after and call him back, instead He commented as He watched him walk away “how hard is it for the rich to enter the kingdom of God”. His commentary shocked their assumptions and they asked “who then can be saved?”

Finally, the question assumes that salvation is easier for the rich than for the poor. In fact, the rich enjoys God’s salvation while the poor that suffers has problems with God, they thought. Just for illustration, if you are in a meeting and disaster happens, you notice that attempts will be made first to rescue those in authority and people of wealth before others, displaying the supposition that their salvation is more important than the salvation of every other person involved in the tragedy. That is who we are in this world. That is the life we live based on these assumptions. The audience of Jesus was astounded to hear Him alluding to the possibility of the rich not making the Kingdom of God and they asked “who then can be saved?”

God gives us the power to make wealth and our wealth increases our power to create options. As God increases us and expands our capacity to create options, may we not create options or alternatives to Him or become gods ourselves. Instead may we keep our hearts humble and remain poor in spirit and in awe of Him knowing that no matter how powerful, rich and untouchable we may become before men, with God alone belongs all possibilities including doing to and with us that which no man is able to do. The reply of the Lord Jesus is instructive here, “what is impossible with men is possible with God” Luke 18 vs 27.

What are our assumptions when we choose our preferences? Even in the church, what are the assumptions that drive the things we do? It is clear that behind our questions, attitudes and actions are the assumptions we have made. Wrong assumptions will lead to wrong living. May we ensure that our assumptions do not run against the mind of Christ. This is because His ways are not our ways. God bless you.


Share/Bookmark

Monday, 23 September 2019

(Free Download) - Presentation on The Family as a Mission Field - Intentional Engagement

Sphere: Related Content The family is God's idea and we have to intentionally engage our family members and ensure that we present the Gospel to them in such a way that they consider giving their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Birth is not transferable, hence every family member has to be given the opportunity to decide for Jesus Christ. Assumptions are dangerous. That is why oftentimes, our children as God's ministers leave the umbrella of our homes without knowing what it means to decide for Jesus. May God help us as we labour for Him.

This was presented in a Missions Conference. Download and use.
God bless you.

Download The Family as a Mission Field pdf
Download The Family s a Mission Field pptx
Share/Bookmark

Friday, 6 September 2019

Benny Hinn renounces prosperity theology: “I don’t want to get to heaven and be rebuked.”

Sphere: Related Content

Evangelist Benny Hinn during a live broadcast posted to his Facebook page on  Monday admitted that the “prosperity gospel” is an offence to the Holy Spirit and it “hurts the Gospel”. He said, “I’m done with it…and I don’t care what people think about me anymore…the Gospel is not for sale”.

The preacher was at the forefront of the proponents of the theology that says that health, wealth and blessings are the rights of every Christian on this earth and can be claimed and activated through giving. This giving is explained in several dimensions depending on what the preacher wants to emphasize upon. The strange ‘prosperity gospel’ has done a lot of damage to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the faith of many faithful servants of God. John Piper called it hateful and horrible here and The Gospel Coalition condemns it here. Joyce Meyer sometime ago confessed that she got it all ‘out of balance’.

My prayer is that the Nigerian Church will learn from the emptiness this strange gospel brings at the end of life and start preaching the correct Gospel. I once attended a meeting where a Pastor coerced the church leadership to start giving him tithe of tithe (10% of all the church’s tithes) even though his salaries and all his allowances are paid to him. Sitting around while the argument lasted, all I could hear is something like, “Our prosperity is tied to our giving to the man of God. We may suffer and attract God’s punishment if we do not abide by this ‘scriptural’ injunction.” He got what he wanted but that is because of the prevalence of this strange ‘prosperity gospel’. May God save us by bringing us to repentance before it is too late. God bless.


Share/Bookmark

Friday, 26 July 2019

Leah Sharibu murdered?

Sphere: Related Content
Leah Sharibu
Leah Sharibu

Just recently, a disturbing video surfaced that Miss Leah Sharibu has been killed by her captors, Boko Haram, after more than one year in captivity. Even though the authenticity of the video is yet to be confirmed, from trends and the character of this terrorist group, this kind of story often becomes the truth about the situation. This is quite unfortunate for us as a people and as a nation. We seem to have a very insensitive government that is not concerned about whatever happens to its citizens. Leah was supposed to be released with other Dapchi students only that she was a Christian. If this government could not secure the release of Leah Sharibu, for more than a year, in spite of all the global outrage, then one is left with no option than to conclude that it is either it has no diplomatic capacity to attend to the matters of Nigerian citizens or it is just bigoted in its approach since Leah was a Christian. A sensitive government that is concerned about her image and people's perception would have done everything possible to secure the release of the girl so as not to be painted as having sympathy only to Muslims, but for this government, they have other concerns.

Now as a Christian who has biblical and eternal hope in Christ Jesus, we know that if it is true that Leah has been killed, it only closes a chapter in her life and opens a new one for her which is better. We believe that exit from this earth life means being in the presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Up till two nights ago, my family was still praying for Leah's release. We tried to motivate people to pray for Leah both in churches and small groups. Many Christians around the world prayed. However, as people of faith who recognize both the active presence of sin and evil in this world and God's sovereignty, we believe that He has allowed this to happen for a purpose, even though we may not know the purpose for now as humans.

Learning points from this include the fact that persecution of Christians is still real in this world and we have to prepare ourselves, our children and other Christians around us to remain faithful to the Lord no matter what happens. This world is not our home. Many are martyred every now and then even though the main stream media does not report them. Secondly,we must continue to pray for the persecuted Christians around the world for God's sustenance. May those who are being tried be enabled to finish strong. Finally, the faith exhibited by Leah is a challenge to all of us who are still living in this world. Don't give up or give in because of any pressure or troubles of life. Don't compromise your faith because of any earthly gain, comfort or affliction. When we stand before God, there is no reason that will suffice for any compromise when people like Leah will be standing around God's throne. They will forever be reminders that victory over temptations is possible in this life.

Prayers
Please pray for her family for strength and grace to bear this whole situation. May their faith not break. May He that comforts attend to them with 
Pray for Grace and the other captives who are still in the hands of Boko Haram. May God make a way to cause their release.
Pray for the mighty hand of God to bring convictions upon the hearts of the members of this terrorist group and their sympathizers that they may repent and have a change of heart, embrace the salvation that God offers to them.
Pray for the Nigerian government that they will take the right decisions, do the right thing and stop this menace.

Share/Bookmark

Sunday, 5 May 2019

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

Sphere: Related Content
"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

Share/Bookmark

Saturday, 4 May 2019

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

Sphere: Related Content
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.


Share/Bookmark

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

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

Sphere: Related Content
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.


Share/Bookmark

Friday, 22 March 2019

Setting Life Priorities

Sphere: Related Content
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.


Share/Bookmark