November 2019 Writing Competition: Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?

Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?

The Head and The Heart

Stronger together but discrete from the start,
Without intention are forever apart,
The circuitous story of The Head and The Heart.

Borne of free will and the power to choose,
Without any guidance The Heart’s schemes are pursued,
It still has longings, as does the mind too,
Asymptotically journeying with no convergence defined.

Aimlessly moving on their separate streams,
Without the right words they symbolically plead,
What will they follow? There’s no one to lead.
To the wisdom of the world The Head gravitates so,
For The Heart is attracted to chance feelings for growth.

The Head and The Heart independently fed,
Neither realizes they are lost and collectively dead.

Incalculable, unpredictable who He will work through,
Grace soaks through density, behind the thickest of gate,
To lay inquiry by diversity; love laps concertedly in the deepest of trait,
For after all, The Head needs to feel and The Heart needs to think,
Complementary vocation is the ultimate brink.

Each brought to the edge facing fear so it is neutrally seen,
That He paid everything on Calvary.
No trauma divides within anymore,
All knowledge congruent with the Truth,
Inside paradoxical sacrifice is our Lord’s humble proof.

After we are done inquiring and once we’ve done our part,
The Spirit of God finishes out what work we do start,
And combined build a bridge from The Head to The Heart.

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In 584 words
I confess, when not reigned in, it’s my human nature to be as the one spoken of in Proverbs 18. 2 & 13; the fool who tends to be the ‘over-talker’, rushing in with advice and opinions; attempting to answer the question, even before it’s a completed sentence. As I’m daily reminded of my need to submit this character defect to God’s authority, this subject question, ‘why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?’ has intrigued me and a topic I’ve been pondering for several weeks. This writing contest has challenged me to go beyond the intrigue and search out the answer.

A recent true story:
A friend begins to tell a story to myself and another listener, it’s a story obviously tied to an emotional experience. I observed the other listener and noted that even while the storyteller was speaking, the listener was formulating his own similar story. Any interest in the storyteller and her story, was now replaced with anticipation for his turn to talk and became obvious he wasn’t going to engage the storyteller with questions or validation. His words become visibly readied, as a racehorse prepared to shoot out of the gate the moment the signal was given. Go! He burst out and usurped the storyteller’s position. I observed my friend’s countenance. There was an obvious disappointment that her story, the experience behind her story, and the emotional attachment to it, were of no consequence.

Later in the same day, as I was contemplating the subject question, I revisited this above scenario changing up the roles.

A friend asks a question of myself and another listener, not just any question, but one that’s obviously tied to an emotional experience. I observe the other listener and note that even while the questioner is speaking, the listener has already formulated an answer . And so, it goes . . .

Any interest in the questioner and the question , is short lived as the listener is too eager to be heard.
-The listener doesn’t engage the questioner with questions or validation
-There’s obvious disappointment that her question, the experience behind her
-The question, and the emotional attachment to it, were of no consequence.

Throughout Psalms you’ll notice a heart’s longing to be heard; over and again David cries out for God to hear him.
I’m no different than David, I long to be heard, not just my words but my heart; I long to be understood and known. I’ve also been in the questioner and the question often comes from a place deep within, from experiences and preconceived notions that aren’t always easily communicated. And I know this, when the answerer isn’t interested in that deep place, it reinforces this belief - ‘What matters to me, is not understood by or important to the listener’. If I believe this – whether true or not - my tendency will be to respond to the ‘answerer’ in kind; I won’t be interested any answer offered.
In Philippians 2.4 Paul instructs me to “look not only to my own interests” (me answering the ‘question’), “but to also look to the interest of others” (me answering the ‘questioner’). It’s this looking to the interests of others, consideration and understanding for the reason behind the question, searching the heart’s longing, that answers the questioner.
And to our topic question - why is this important? Without this answering the ‘questioner’, a wall of defense remains that the answer to the question is unable to penetrate.

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May I begin by saying, the place we come from is as essential as the Truth we desire to share.

It’s my belief that everyone has a deep desire to know they matter, they have been heard, and are being uniquely addressed. Everyone has genuine concerns, needs and intrinsic worth. Luke 12:6-7, Col 3:12-14, Phil 2:2-8 By asking questions, people are sharing what’s on their hearts, putting themselves in a place of vulnerability. We as Christians should respond in love as Jesus instructed, Matt 5:4, Matt 7:12, and as stated by Paul in Romans 12:14-21. If we claim to be Christ followers and love Him, we’ll obey Him, and by helping others we serve Him. John 14:15, Matt 25:35-40.

Behind every question is a person just like you and me. Our delivery as well as our conduct in how we handle God’s word can either drive a person further away or bring them closer to the Truth. 2 Tim 2:15 We should be deliberate and sensitive to possible past hurts and damaged emotions, being aware that their stories are unique. Abdu Murray said on multiple occasions that even though he knew the evidence, it was a matter of the heart keeping him from accepting Christ for 7 years.

Eph 6:12 We are called to pray, dealing with spiritual matters with Gods help, God’s way, also having the assurance His Word will not return empty. Titus 3:1-7, 2 Cor 5:17
The Lord gives us bits of His greater plan in bites we can handle; May we be cognizant of that as we offer our responses, inviting and trusting the Holy Spirit’s leading. Being in full reliance on Him for a fruitful, God honouring outcome, reaching those in this misguided world. 2 Tim 2:15, Romans 8:6 We are facilitators to be used by God FOR God, taking ourselves out of the equation, realizing it’s ultimately between the other person and God. It’s the Holy Spirit who changes hearts and minds. Romans 2:29, Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 24:7

In the Core Module, Ravi pointed to 1 Peter 3: 15-16. He explained if we are to reach people in love, respect and kindness, our approach had to be genuine; learning about that person, rather than being focused on formulating a response. Answering the questioner not just the question. May the Holy Spirit keep us continually in a state of self reflection to ensure pure intentions.
James 4:6

As an ambassador for Christ, it should encompass all of who I am. 2 Cor 5:11-21 In numerous messages given by Ravi, he reiterates this by saying we represent WHO Christ is, not just what He’s about. As peacemakers, we explain the Truth we stand for, with respect and gentleness undergirding it with love. Matt 5:5-9 Our questioner deserves a genuine response, without arguing, without shaming. After all, we are all made in His image, and God loves us all. Gen 1:27, John 3:16.

Isn’t it comforting and reassuring to know our loving God patiently takes care of us on this grand journey? Isaiah 43:2, Isaiah 46:4, 2 Cor 1:3, Phil 4:19
May trusting Him, serving Him and helping others be seen as a privilege with great responsibility having enormous rewards. Rmns 15:13 Matt 28:16-20

Soli Deo Gloria!

Patricia Bech

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Many of us in the Western world believe we are relatively rational beings: fact-based in our world views and arguments, reasoned in our decision-making. From the ancient Greeks to the Age of Enlightenment, our culture has long revered logic and reason as the paramount motives behind our choices and behaviours. Or so we’ve believed.

The research says differently. Marketers have long observed consumers making subjective rather than objective choices, with one Harvard professor, Gerald Zaltman, claiming that 95% of purchasing decisions are driven by unconscious and emotional urges (1). And recently, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio discovered that people with brain damage in the emotional centre of the brain were actually unable to make decisions at all (2). It would seem that feelings play a significant role in how we make our decisions, from choosing a supermarket detergent to buying a home, from voting for a political candidate to adopting a life philosophy.

In this light, the job of the advertiser and the duty of the apologist is to appeal to both conscious reason and unconscious emotion, to both the facts and the person. This two-fold approach is suggested in the apostle Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to give a logical defence to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully” (AMP).

Respect and courtesy (also translated as “gentleness”) may seem the lesser of the weapons of emotional persuasion, especially in conventional context of “good” debate: We love the witty retorts of great orators like Sir Winston Churchill, we enjoy the clever comebacks on our TV dramas, we relish moments of silencing an opponent with a perfect turn of phrase. But this glory is limited and even deceptive. Because, while we may win an argument, we may lose the person.

When it comes to persuading someone about the Good News, the stakes are entirely different. We are not debating for public approval or to win an argument for political gain – but to win our opponent.

In the paradoxical way of the Gospel, gentleness proves exceedingly powerful. It’s an attitude that ushers in humility, that even prioritises listening over than speaking, that, ultimately, encourages trust and connection. And in resisting personal glory, gentleness suggests a greater glory of another. In giving an answer, we hopefully point towards the Answer Himself.

References:

  1. https://www.inc.com/logan-chierotti/harvard-professor-says-95-of-purchasing-decisions-are-subconscious.html
  2. https://www.thecut.com/2016/06/how-only-using-logic-destroyed-a-man.html
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Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?

I wasn’t always a Christian; in fact I was repulsed at the idea for a long time. Last year I ended up going on a “Spiritual journey” to “find myself” and by God’s grace – leading me out of Eastern practices to eventually read the Bible for myself, cover to cover – I found Him instead.

But now I’m a 20 year old Christian woman living in the heat of a secular-liberal generation. Fabulous! I’ve had to take a step back to remember how I perceived things as a non-Christian, and delve into the Bible for wisdom on spreading the Gospel smartly today. From my understandings now I’ll briefly attempt to explain why I think it’s important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner.

Before finding God, I always suspected a hidden motive in Christians when they tried philosophizing with me. It felt that they cared more about “saving me” than about me. My defensive walls were instantly up. In a post-modern world, where truth is seen as relative, people are suspicious of someone coming to them with “One true Way”. Therefore, answering people’s questions alone in textbook-fashion just fuels their suspicion. But when we direct our attention to answering the questioner we get to know them and as they sense that we care about them , their walls come down and they let us into their hearts (and consequently the roots of their questions and hidden assumptions). With this foundation we are able to effectively answer their questions in a way that can bring them closer to God instead of repelling them. But, there’s no point playing in the branches when we haven’t even gotten to the roots .

Answering the questioner, not just the question, is also in line with God’s heart. Is not our God the One who takes the time to really listen (Jn. 5:15) and knows more than we do about ourselves (PS. 139) meeting our needs from that place of understanding? If we are called to reflect the living God (2 Cor. 3:18, Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24) we should be seeking relationship with the questioner; listening to them, getting to know where they are coming from and answering them from there. We see how God does this practically by reading about Jesus. He never answered a question in a long-winded way but rather focused on answering the heart of the questioner. In fact, he often ended up questioning the questioner! Mark 10:2-12, Mat. 21:23-27 and Luke 20:20-27 are just a few (very entertaining) examples of Jesus bypassing questions alone and answering the heart of the questioner. Jesus knew what He was doing – we should be following His example.

Ultimately I believe that we should to do our best to have our tools ready and sharpened: our biblical knowledge, Apologetics, maybe a bit of Psychology… But no recited answer, no matter how intelligent, can serve as “the winning formula” for converting souls, only God can do that. So when we get asked a question we have to surrender everything to God and say “Holy Spirit help me to apply (or not apply) these tools according to the deep, individual needs of the questioner behind this question”. Who knows (apart from God of course), maybe the person behind the question is just a hug or prayer away from relationship with Jesus and an argument away from building a higher wall.

To conclude, this quote by Ravi Zacharias helped me realize the ultimate importance of answering not just the question but the questioner: "It’s about winning the person, not the argument.”

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In the story of the Rich Young Ruler, after Jesus’ pronouncement “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” His hearers asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:25, 26 ESV) In reply Jesus gave a seeming non-answer: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Jesus’ response wasn’t an answer to the verbal question, but to the statement behind it, which would have been something like this: “If someone who knows and keeps the law (spiritual capital) and has wealth (physical capital) can’t be saved, then salvation is impossible!” With the line of thinking that His hearers might have held to, those who don’t have wealth are less-than-blessed, and those who are ignorant of the Law and don’t/can’t keep it can’t be saved, so certainly this blessed and righteous man could be saved if anyone could.

It’s been said that “Those who define, win.” In a conversation, when one is speaking from one dictionary, and the other speaks from another, there won’t be a resolution. Language is a convention and constantly changing. Any time spent delving into precision in language will find the experience of searching for true precision like that of trying to grapple a greased pig. E.g., “synonym” means “same name,” but there are no truly equivalent words – liberty isn’t exactly the same as freedom, emotions aren’t feelings, and so on. Therefore, conversations between two people, even from the same cultural background, can be highly subjective and imprecise.

We need to look behind and beyond the words. We might desire or expect linguistic precision, but there’s more to conversation than just grammar and syntax. Context, relationship (knowing their background, education, personality, et al.) and intonation play their parts in what’s in a conversation and behind a question.

None of us has the advantage that Jesus had in knowing the hearts of people. This leads to the importance of asking further questions before answering the question. Offering questions, in a truly loving tone, such as “What does that word mean to you? What brought about the question?” brings us closer to knowing the true concerns of the questioner. This then puts us into a better position of answering the real questions and concerns, and brings Christ closer in proximity to being revealed as the real Answer.

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this is lovely, thank you. it’ll remain buttoned and stitched into my memory so when i remember how God sees me, thats how ill also remember to see questioners who ask me about my God who sees them too.

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Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?

“Is he quite safe?” asked Susan Pevensie of Aslan in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe . Although her question might sound similar to others a child might ask about the lion – “Is he hungry, happy, old?”, it is not. What Susan wants to know is “Can I trust him?”, “Will he be good to me?” “Will he be my friend?”. Her question is subjective and relational. As we speak to others about Christ it is imperative that our answers lead them to Him – the Way, the Truth and the Life – and that we do not merely stay on the level of objectivity. For every question asked we need to be aware of the bigger questions behind them that inevitably ask about existence and purpose, and point our questioners to the One without whom there are no answers to anything.

Some questions overflow from a place of anger or pain. “How can a God of love allow suffering and condemn people to hell?” Theological answers to these may or may not convince the listener; combined with compassion they will go further. At the death of her brother, when Mary’s implicit, screamed question “Why didn’t you come?” went out to Jesus in the form of “ Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”, Jesus replied. And wept. He did not proffer pre-packaged theses; He was not interested in winning debates. In all His encounters our Lord interacted personally. Should we do less?

Many questions reveal a state of pride or ignorance or may even indicate a frightening element of indoctrination. “Since science has disproved the existence of God, why still believe in him?” Often the questioners are young university students with little experience of life outside the walls of their learning hubs, so with a bit of practice it is relatively easy to expose the gaping flaws in their logic, draw them into arguments they are ill-equipped to win and make them look ridiculous. Is this what Jesus would have done? Would He not have had pity on them, the blind being led by the blind? Surely we must go beyond intellectual triumphalism and offer them a meaningful context in which to search, explore, be guided and loved.

Other questions touch profoundly on people’s identity and our answers can create confusion and fear if we are not careful: “You mean your God is the only one?” In many countries culture and religion are inseparable. To become a Christian is to lose family, friends and livelihood. Is it enough to point out that the world’s different religions are mutually exclusive and cannot all be true? Is it enough to destroy their world and move on? In these cases, as the questions deepen, conviction intensifies and the prospect of abandoning all draws nearer, Christian evangelists need sensitivity and wisdom to know how to provide emotional support as well as spiritual guidance. Aren’t we also to be the new brothers, sisters and mothers promised in Mark 10 ?

As Christian apologists, then, we must study and prepare to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have . Ultimately, we must pray that we will be given grace to lead our questioners to a place in which, to that most important question ever - “Who do you say that I am?”, posed by the supreme Questioner, they will answer with Peter’s very same words: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” .

i The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe chapter 8 C.S. Lewis

ii John 11:32

iii Mark 10:29-30

iv 1 Peter 3: 15

v Matthew 15:15-16

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Elisabeth, I really enjoyed reading this. Well said. You point out we should think about how what we say and the lingering affects on people’s lives. Are we just winning arguments, trying to make ourselves feel better or do we intend to be there for the long haul if necessary? These are questions that your remarks have brought to the forefront of my thinking and are very sobering! Thank you!

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Wow Derrick, Love this! :blush:

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Well said.

It’s not enough to just be right if we want God to use us to reach people with the Gospel. Our rightness only serves ourselves if we alienate people by our attitude and choice of words. Failure to show interest in people as individuals comes across as an attempt to propagate one of a myriad of doctrines and treating people as another notch on our belt.

We live in a world where many are talking, but few listening, all while broken hearts cry out, “Does anyone hear me?”

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

My goal is to glorify God, encourage believers, and reach the lost; to connect culture’s questions with Christianity’s answers.

Do you just want to be right, or do you want to be effective? —Pastor Artie Arogone

I believe to be effective we must strive to humbly present the uncompromised truth with grace and love, and it starts with listening and a heart to know and serve those we minister to. How else can we reach people if we don’t take the time to find out where they are?

Without compassion for the person, it starts to look like intellectual coercion. Answering the questioner moves the implication away from “Only a fool would deny this,” to something that addresses the heart of the hearer, their spiritual need. —Pastor Chip Ganiear

God wants more than our intellectual nod to the veracity of scripture. He wants our heart, our whole selves.

Scripture admonishes us to study and be ready to give an answer for our faith. But we must also tune our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s leading, to hear people’s heart-cry, as their needs often encompass more or differ from the words they speak. Humans incline toward hiding their sin and struggles; Jesus compassionately calls us as we are so He can form us into who He created us to be. Jesus often answered questions with questions, or went directly to the root of the issue when people tried to deflect attention from themselves and their real need. Examples are, the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, and the Pharisee’s question about paying taxes. Questioning the questioner can guide people to see their need and truth for themselves, how it connects to their situation.

I’ve been privileged to interview several pastors and pastor’s wives. “Can you please clarify that?” may be the inscription on my tombstone. I’ve received some of the most open-hearted responses as I waited silently after people were seemingly finished sharing. Whether witnessing or interviewing, I’ve found people more open to my questions and answers when I’m respectful, compassionate, and sensitive to their needs, than when I just spout my beliefs.

Holy humbled Himself and walked among humanity. Jesus met people where they were, He often asked their needs so they would know them, He listened, built relationships, and so ministered to them.

Jesus didn’t come to prove He was right, although He is. —He came to seek, serve, and save the lost, to win us to Himself because He loves us and desires a relationship with us.

As disciples of Jesus, we ought to mirror His spirit as we share the hope of the Gospel with the lonely, lost world. But remember:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:44‬ ‭(NKJV)‬‬

“So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭3:7‬ (‭NKJV)‬‬

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Thank you Patricia! I really appreciate that. I reflected a lot on my own faith journey when I wrote it. I’m embedded within those words.

I’m also just very impressed with the total breadth and depth of all of the posts here. There is a lot of empathy and effort to understand the questioner as well as show solid scriptural backing to answer their questions with an outstanding tactfulness.

Welcome to RZIM Connect, Ross! Fancy seeing you here! I’m sure your contributions will bless and challenge many here. I wonder if there is anyone else here from the #HealthyFaith Chat crew? God bless you.

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Continuing the discussion from November 2019 Writing Competition: Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?:

It has been said that people are like onions and the more you peel back the layers the more you come to discover. In the same way, behind every question there is usually an experience. We must carefully peel back the outward layer to get to the heart of the matter. Because man is not purely an intellectual being, intellectual questions can be that outward layer that actually reveals something much deeper once peeled away. But therein lies the challenge as answering questions and not the questioner behind the inquiry is difficult. This is crucial when ministering because regardless of what a person believes their questions run as deep as the hurts and experiences attached to them. How well we learn to answer the questioner behind the question will on some level determine how well we can minister to others. Vince Vitale elucidates this point when he mentions the conversation with his aunt regarding his cousin’s mental illness. She was telling him about how difficult it was for her to watch her son struggle. He responded to this in abstract philosophical answers about why God would allow evil. His aunt’s response though is noteworthy, “But, Vince that doesn’t speak to me as a mother”. We have to find a way to connect the heart and the mind when we deal with people or we will lose them.

Two conversations come to mind that drove this reality home for me. The first was when I taught an adult Sunday school class on why we should believe the Bible is true. There was an individual in the class who would often but respectfully push back on why we should accept certain things about the scriptures on the authority of others. During one particular exchange, he began to tear up because he realized he was finally able to ask questions without judgement. This was important to him because he had come from a background where that was forcefully prohibited. He later expressed appreciation that I let him ask questions even the others saw it as a distraction.

The second conversation was with my sister 10 years ago. We were discussing my new found zeal of studying the Bible at dinner. Years earlier, she had been hurt deeply by judgmental people who talked a lot about the Bible. As we talked, she began questioning me getting defensive and concerned. She was assuming that I would judge her like she has been judged. The more we conversed it became apparent to me that her experience was driving the questions; not her intellect. I responded emphatically and to the point of tears that I would not be like the people she felt so judged by. I pointed to the beautiful words of Paul in Colossians 3:12 as to how I am called to treat her, even when we disagree.

What those two conversations taught me coinside with examples in the Scriptures in at least two places. Job’s friends although they later miss the mark when ministering to Job, their immediate response to his suffering at the end of chapter two was to “sympathize with him and comfort him”. Paul in the NT affirms their actions when he exhorts the Roman church to do the same and “mourn with those who mourn”. Doing this offers a way for us to reach questioners by helping them see that we see their pain. It is often said that people will not care what we know until they know that we care. People that know we care will allow us to speak into their life and respond to their questions.

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Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?

There are a number of reasons to answer the question, but more importantly, the questioner, but I think the best one might be that Jesus Christ Himself did it that way, and He’s probably our best example of how to draw people in to the Kingdom of anyone who ever lived. He dealt both with large crowds, and with individuals, and was skilled at doing both. An example of His ministry to large groups would be the time when He fed the five thousand (see Luke 9:11-17).

When He was ministering to this very large crowd of people, He taught them about the Kingdom of God, and He healed those who needed it. Then instead of sending them away to find food on their own, He supplied their need for sustenance by feeding them with the food that was available: five loaves and two fish, which He got from a little boy’s lunch (see John 6:8-9).

Jesus was just as compassionate and skilled at dealing with individual people, though many of them didn’t like what He said to them due to their hardened hearts because they’d refused to believe in His divinity. Regardless of their hardness of heart, He still listened to what they had to say, and then went to whatever their real motivations were ~ whether it was to trick Him, or to gain a greater understanding of who He really was.

An example of this can be found in the story of Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee, came to Jesus in the middle of the night with questions. We know he wasn’t trying to trick Jesus because he came in the middle of the night. Otherwise he would’ve approached Him during the day and in front of other people. He asked Jesus questions about the Kingdom of God (see John 3:2).

Jesus went right to the heart of the matter, and started talking about being born-again, something Nicodemus didn’t understand at all (see John 3:3-4).

Jesus was talking about being born of the Spirit, but Nicodemus was still thinking on a physical plane, so he couldn’t comprehend what Jesus was saying (see John 3:9-12).

Ultimately, however, Nicodemus did come to believe in Jesus, because he assisted Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus’ body after He was removed from the cross, something he wouldn’t have done if he hadn’t believed (see John 19:38-39).

In my own life, I’ve experienced God’s love and understanding in many very real ways.

I come from a background of extreme child abuse, and it almost destroyed my life. My mother tried to kill me while I was an infant, my father threatened to kill me if I told anyone what he was doing to me, and I tried suicide nine times as an adult. Fortunately, God had other plans, and none of the attempts on my life succeeded. Thank God!!

God has never condemned me for any of my suicide attempts. He simply gave me an alter named Wordsworth to keep me alive throughout the period when I was suicidal. She (Wordsworth) wrote a poem about this called, Words, which I’d like to include here:

                Words

So many words in this wide world of mine ~
There must be a billion, three-million, and nine,
Or maybe a trillion ~ I know not of more,
But even a million’s enough for a door.

Words full of laughter, of light, and of hope,
Words that paint pictures for those who must grope
Through darkness and longing 'til dreams become real
And light in their tunnel means safety to feel.

Scrivening onward, word pictures I’ll paint
So others when thirsty won’t give up and faint.
Words will build true homes from castles on air
Where laughter and rainbows take place of despair.

      S. A. Kuriakos
          ©September 28, 1991

My story fits into the narrative of the question for this contest because I’ve suffered greatly throughout my life, and it’s only through God’s lovingkindness and understanding that I’ve been able to survive. I’ve learned so much about God because I was abused, paradoxically enough, and my relationship with Him is much, much deeper and closer than it would have been otherwise, as strange as that sounds. He protected me from the worst of it, and kept me alive throughout. I’m so very grateful to Him for my physical, as well as my spiritual life. Christ means everything to me! I’m now writing a blog about how God is healing me from my past, and I work everyday to make sure that Jesus Christ is at the center of my life, and that God gets all the glory.

I know this has way too many words, but I didn’t enter to necessarily win a prize. I just hope people like my entry! And once again, I hope that God gets all the glory!

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Hi friends,

Thank you for all of your amazing answers. Because we received so many good responses, and because we want to fairly evaluate them, I apologize for the delay in announcing the winners. I will do so tomorrow!

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Hi friends,

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the November 2019 writing competition! :boom: :100: :heart: :partying_face: This competition was the :bomb:! We had a record number of entries!

Personally, I found that reading these answers was an encouraging reminder of my priorities in conversation with other image bearers of God. I want to thank @Olivia_Davis and @Joshua_Hansen for their invaluable help in deciding the winners, though I take final responsibility for the decision.

To each of you who participated, thank you for the gift of your insights. To everyone reading along, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to take the time to read through the wisdom shared by each participant.

RZIM Connect is a discipleship environment. We grow in our walk with the Lord by habitually listening to the questioners who come to this community each day, praying for them, and humbly coming alongside them with gentleness and respect as we reasonably answer their questions.

I hope that as a result of this competition you will feel encouraged to ask your questions here (it is safe to do so!).

As you think about your priorities in the new year, why not include RZIM Connect? For instance:

  • In 2020, I will answer one questioner and their question in RZIM Connect each week. My goal is to love that person well and steadily increase my ability to answer people’s questions about Jesus.

After taking the proper time to carefully evaluate the many excellent contributions, here are our winners:

:drum: :drum: :drum: :drum: :drum: :drum:

First place winner: 100% discount to an RZIM Academy course

Congratulations to @ps32vs8! :1st_place_medal:

Philip, you selected a consistent theme (listening), developed it with careful quotes and insights, and a clear structure. Your answer reflected wisdom, maturity, and good judgment in what it means to answer not only the question but the questioner.

In particular, this was a great quote!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book entitled “The Ministry of Listening” writes that “the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Christians often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, they forget that listening can be of greater service than speaking”.

Fan favorite: 40% discount to an RZIM Academy course

@sgewehr, congratulations! With twenty-eight ‘likes’, you were the fan favorite!

I am particularly grateful for your endorsement of the RZIM Academy and how it has helped you grow in the ability to answer the questioner:

Eight months ago, if you had instructed me to “question the questioner”, I would have looked at you with a blank stare. How and why I should do that was foreign to my understanding of evangelizing. However, after listening to the first lesson of the Core Module in the RZIM Academy, it became totally clear. Now, I realized that each questioner has a motive or a real issue for asking his or her question.

Now you’ll have the opportunity to take another Academy course! :smile:

Contest promoter: 40% discount to an RZIM Academy course

@sherriepilk, congratulations! You seem to have had a plan in place to spread the word about this competition! Thank you for your hard work in telling people about this opportunity!

2nd and 3rd place: 20% discount to an RZIM Academy course

@jtconroy and @Elizabeth_Davey, congratulations! Your answers came in a tie for second place! You will each claim one of the 20% discount awards.

@jtconroy, I thought you offered particularly helpful insights. Your conclusion, built on 1 Corinthians 3:7-8, rightly emphasizes how important it is for us to faithfully plant seeds over time.

These are great quotes from your answer:

In some respects, the questioner is bringing a part of themselves with the question.

I agree that most people are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have acquired over a lifetime. It is important to respect the questioner based on this assumption.

@Elizabeth_Davey, your sustained answer from the book of Job was carefully anchored in the Scriptures. This is a high value for RZIM and it was encouraging to see you provide an answer by sharing the wisdom of the Bible with us. You also illustrated your answer by providing a well-known example from The Odyssey and your personal experience. Well done!

The RZIM Academy team will privately reach out to these winners with information on how to claim their prizes.

You can learn more about the RZIM Academy at our website.

THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING!

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Thank you to everyone who entered, especially the people for whom this was your first post on Connect! Welcome!

Writing is very difficult (at least for me it is!), and I am sure that many hours went into crafting these responses. Know that your contributions have challenged me to love others by listening and carefully responding to the questions of the mind - and the heart. A sincerest thank you to each of you :slight_smile:

@ps32vs8, I second everything Carson said! I’m so glad you included the Bonhoeffer quote. I enjoyed this line of your own as well:

God then begins to work in our hearts as well. As we learn about the questioner God softens our hearts. Our bias towards the other person melts away and we begin to see them as God does.

It gives us a great mindset to approaching conversations like these - they are opportunities for God to work in our own hearts.

@jtconroy, your contribution is very well written - straightforward, easy to follow, and without a word wasted. That’s a very difficult thing to achieve when we’re writing on a topic as expansive and important as this one!

I appreciated your ending:

You never know how big of an impact one conversation can have on someone’s life. You may not see the fruit in the conversation. However, planting a seed in the questioner’s mind may be the beginning of spiritual growth.

It’s encouraging to know that regardless of what the outcome of a conversation seems on in the moment, it may be a seed that will yield fruit in time.

@Elizabeth_Davey, as Carson said - the illustration from The Odyssey is spot-on and memorable. I especially benefited from this line:

The good intentions of the friends meant that in seeking to answer Job’s questions, they failed to listen to the motivations behind the questions, and therefore their answers missed the mark.

This is a challenge to all of us to be careful to evaluate our intentions against what our friends truly need at the moment. It’s a call to seek the Lord and discern his will before we engage in conversations - and that’s a reminder that’s always in order for me!

@Jennifer_Wilkinson, I have thought about your illustration several times since I first read it. It was beautiful and really hit home with me.

Let’s savor these words again:

Until that moment at church, I hadn’t grasped in my heart the incredible fact that God enjoys my voice. He expresses His love to me as He relishes each prayer.

This gave me a new perspective on a way that God shows love to us. Thank you for bringing to our attention that the Lord cares so much about our voice and then challenging us to show the same care to other people.

Thank you again to everyone who participated!

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Thank you very much, @ps32vs8 for your thoughtful contribution. I especially liked this statement:

In the book you mentioned, Bonhoeffer gave many good thoughts on the subject of “listening” and you summarized them aptly. Another good point is that it takes practice to be a good listener in order not to handle the questioner with a quick, simple answer. So we can begin to see our counterpart with God’s eyes.

@sgewehr Congratulations on the fan favorite. In the Core Module this sentence was also one that made me think.

Great that so many people took part and shared their thoughts on this topic.

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