Christianity and theology

Of Anointed Water, Stickers, Handkerchiefs etc

There is one dangerous thing I have lately observed in the African Church, more especially, in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles and would like to raise an alarm. Some ‘men of God’ are giving or selling out anointed water, stickers, handkerchiefs and what have you so that people can use them to receive various miracles from God. The miracles include jobs, special favors, success, healing, deliverance from demons  etc.

The most dangerous thing I have noticed concerning this development is that these anointed objects are slowly and steadily taking the place of Christ in the lives of people hence ending up being idols. John Calvin once remarked that ‘the human heart is a factory of idols’ and indeed due to our fallen nature, we easily make idols of many shapes and sizes and worship them thereafter.

The anointed items are fast becoming idols for many. What is happening with this anointed stuff is that people are told to use them whenever they want to experience a miracle or blessing from God. Recently, I met a relation who is a Christian and he greatly boasted about a certain anointed sticker bearing a face of ‘man of God’ and said:

“You know, this sticker is very powerful. I always travel with it in my car and if the devil had plans for me to get involved in a road accident, it doesn’t work. I am also told that next time, I am invited for job interviews, I should just put it in my shirt’s pocket and before entering the interview, I should pull it out, gaze at it for a while and then say a prayer and I will be successful.”

It is evident that my relation’s life is revolving around this anointed sticker. To him this sticker is his life. Now, where is the place of Christ in his life?  Are not our lives supposed to revolve around Christ? I hope you get my point.  I will not mince words here: placing our faith in this anointed stuff is superstition and nothing else.  It is not different from relying on charms or ‘small pillows’ (zithumwa) from witchdoctors.

My fellow Africans will understand this better. For most Africans who are not Christians, they rely on witchdoctors.  For instance, when one wants to get a job, they might go to a witchdoctor who would give them some charms which they are to put in their trouser’s pocket when going for job-interviews. The charms, they are told, will guarantee success in the interviews.

I believe this is similar to how some Christians are treating these anointed objects.   Only that this time around we have sugar-coated them with the name of Christ. Please, fellow Christian, think twice about your involvement with these anointed objects.

But some will quote for me Acts 19:11, 12 which reads: “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” They will then ask, isn’t this passage supporting the use of these anointed items?

No, it isn’t. A couple of things need to be pointed out here. First, Paul never asked for any amount of money  for the handkerchiefs and aprons. But the ‘’men of God’ today are asking for a certain amount of money for one to have these anointed stuffs.

Secondly, Paul never sat down and packed these aprons and handkerchiefs and sent them out to be used for miracles rather it was the people who came to Paul who took these  items and used them on the sick.  As a matter of fact, these aprons and handkerchiefs were used ones. New Testament historians tell us that the handkerchiefs were wore around Paul’s head to absorb the sweat as he worked as a tent-maker while the aprons were used to cover Paul’s clothes to protect them from dirt and dust(The Acts of Apostles: The Daily Study Bible ©1966, The Saint Andrew Press).

Thirdly, let me borrow the words of R.C. Sproul and point out that “This was not Paul’s doing; because of their pagan religious background, the Ephesians were used to employing superstitious means (v.19). God accommodated His gracious work to their ignorance” (Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries © 2005).

Fourthly, it is very important to note that what is recorded for us in Acts 19:11, 12 was never a trend. You don’t read this anywhere else apart from this passage which means that this was not a regular occurrence and I, strongly, believe that this was done in Ephesus only.

However, some ‘men of God’ today have made the giving or selling out of anointed items a trend, thereby leading our fallen nature to turn these objects into idols.  It’s very heartbreaking to see that some Christians can’t live without this anointed stuff. Oh Lord, may you deliver us from these idols.

 

 

 

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Christianity and Society

Christian Leadership is Not for New Converts

A couple of years ago, I was privileged to be part of a Christian group that conducted Bible studies every week and also encouraged one another through God’s word. One summer, the group organized a retreat at the lake and we were joined by two other friends who had just been converted to Christianity.

For some reasons, unknown to me, the leadership of our group entrusted these newly converted brothers with some leadership roles at the retreat. This was a great mistake as we will later realize. During the retreat, various teachings were programmed. But trouble came up when it was a turn for a teaching that had to deal courtship and marriage.

Ten minutes into this teaching, the two brothers felt it was not ‘spiritual enough’ so one of them  stood up while the teacher was speaking and told him in the face: “Sorry sir, but as one of the conveners at this retreat, I see that this is not what God wants. We can’t come all the way here to hear about courtship and marriage. God is telling me that we should spend more time in prayer not unnecessary teaching like this one.”

Boy! I couldn’t believe my ears. The brother was very zealous for the Lord but had little knowledge. The speaker was evidently embarrassed.  But thank God that despite being offended by these remarks, the speaker handled it very well  and we continued with our program.

Later as I reflected on this scenario, 1 Timothy 3 came to my mind. In this chapter, Paul discusses qualifications for Christian leaders and one qualification he lays out is that a Christian leader “must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

I, strongly, believe that the leadership of our group was wrong in entrusting leadership roles to these newly converted brothers. They were supposed to grow first in the faith as well as learn from other mature Christian leaders before they could provide leadership. I don’t think that someone who’s grown and continues to grow in their faith would regard a Biblical teaching on courtship and marriage as unnecessary and unspiritual.

This is just one of many examples of challenges the church faces as a result of entrusting leadership to new converts. Please get me right, I don’t mean to say that new converts are of no use in God’s Kingdom. This is not what I am saying and meaning. Rather, basing on Scripture I am arguing that new converts should be taught first and enabled to grow in their faith before they can lead.

It saddens my heart to see a person getting converted today and in no time he is pastoring a church. No, this can’t be! What kind of pastorate is this brother going to provide. Also, get me right. I don’t intended to underestimate the gifts and power that God gives out even to new converts. However, these gifts need to be nurtured over a period so that they can be used in a proper way that glorifies God.

In this part of the world, where many Christian leaders hardly make it into seminary, Bible or theological college due to lack of resources and inadequacy of training institutions, I would not argue that every new convert should be trained in such institutions before he leads a church; nevertheless, I would suggest that if one cannot make it into to a training institution, he should learn under a mature and godly Christian leader or leaders for some time before he can venture into leadership of God’s flock.  Timothy never went to seminary but he learnt from his spiritual Father Paul. Even apostle Paul, himself, before he ventured fully into Christian leadership on his own, he partnered with Barnabas and in the process he learnt some lessons of Christian leadership, I believe.

As somebody said, “Every Timothy needs Paul and every Paul needs Timothy” I would like to encourage our mature Christian leaders to identify young people, probably, those who have just been converted to Christianity and train them in Christian leadership. Young people should also be humble enough to sit down under mature and godly men and learn from them how to lead God’s flock in a way that glorifies God.  In this way, the church will never give leadership responsibility to a recent convert who may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

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Christianity and Society

When Christians disagree…

Some people find it strange when Christians disagree. However, I tend to differ. Honestly, most of the times, I am not taken aback to see or hear Christians disagreeing except in a few cases when one clearly sees that God has been completely thrown out of the whole issue.

Christian squabbles don’t surprise me much because although Christians are saved and forgiven there are not perfect and there shall never be in this world. This is in no way condoning sin. God hates sin and we ought to hate it too. I strongly believe that Christians should always live a godly life. Nevertheless, it is a fact that sometimes we don’t. Let me not digress too much. The main issue here is about disagreements among or between Christians.

The story of Apostle Paul and Barnabas will help deliver my point home. These two Christians were greatly used by God.  They first met in Jerusalem when Paul had just become a Christian. While some were running away whenever they saw Paul because they could not believe that Paul had really changed, Barnabas accepted him and brought Paul before the Apostles and assured them that Paul was indeed a new creature in Christ.

The bond of friendship between the two grew stronger and even God was happy. No wonder the Holy Spirit chose the two to go and preach the gospel together in various countries outside Jerusalem (Acts 13:2). During their first trip on this mission, Barnabas took his cousin, John Mark along. As they continued to preach Christ in various countries, John Mark decided to return home before the trip had finished. Probably, John Mark could not stand the challenges that were being met in preaching Christ like being stoned or ridiculed or imprisoned. This act of young Mark did not go well with Paul.

Later on, when they decided to go back and revisit the churches they had planted in their first missionary trip, Paul advised Barnabas not to take John Mark with them again. But Barnabas insisted. This created a disagreement between the two. The Bible puts it that the two had “a sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:39) hence they parted ways. Not good for Christians, uh?

I am sure the people who witnessed or heard about this commented like: “How can Christians disagree?” It is indeed sad that the two Christians failed to agree. But wait a minute! This is not the end of the story.

In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul writes, “Get John Mark and bring him…because he is very helpful to my ministry.”

Can you please come again, Paul. Have I heard you right? I thought you disagreed and parted ways with Barnabas because you didn’t like John Mark. Why this change of heart?

Of course, we don’t have a record of the reconciliation between Paul and Barnabas anywhere in the Bible, but I have no doubts that the two reconciled and buried their differences. I hope you have now got my point. Christians are not perfect but when they disagree, you can be assured that reconciliation is inevitable.  Ask Barnabas Paul, and John Mark.

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Uncategorized

The Noble Character

This other day, I was attending a certain Christian gathering and one of the speakers at the meeting  made a remark that ended up being  my food for thought.  The speaker said that one of the major challenges facing Christianity today is that Christians don’t want to critically examine various messages that are being preached in the name of Christ.  It is true, is it not?

It seems very few Christian today bother to scrutinize various messages we listen to or read. As long as the speaker or the author is mentioning God or Jesus that’s fine.  However, this tendency renders us susceptible to error that has serious consequences to both our spiritual and physical life.

We ought to be challenged by Bereans of Acts 17:11. Apostle Paul was a great man of God.    Almost half of New Testament books were written by him. Yet when he went to preach in Berea, the Christians there never ceased to critically examine Paul’s message in the light of Scripture. This was not disrespect but maturity and the Bible strongly recommends the Bereans for this.

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Christians today ought to be like Bereans by receiving the messages that are being preached with eagerness but we should not stop there.  We should go further to examine if the messages being preached are true according to the Bible. This is a noble character.

And may add that you even examine the contents of this blog in the light of  Scripture. That too is a noble character.

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