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.

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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.

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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
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Monday, 25 November 2019

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

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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 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


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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

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

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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


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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

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

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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.


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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
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Friday, 6 September 2019

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

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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.


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Friday, 26 July 2019

Leah Sharibu murdered?

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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.

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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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