Sunday, 29 December 2019

Answering Questions: Biblical imperatives. Part 3

 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?

Monday, 16 December 2019

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

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.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Please pray for Christians in the Northern Nigeria

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.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The challenge of justice

"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

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

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke has gone to be with the Lord

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.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

(Free Download) A Presentation on Tests for Truth

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