The Reason for the Resolution

Today is the last day of the year, and as usual, it is a day when many of us re-evaluate our priorities in the past years and make resolutions to be better people and pursue better goals in the coming year. There’s something about entering a new year that gives one the impression of a fresh start – a clean slate. This feeling is further reinforced by the fact that everyone around us is talking about reasons to be grateful for the past years. It is a time when most people also re-cap on the failures of the past year, resolving to learn from them, do better and be wiser in the following year.

Yet, even with all the hullabaloo about the new year, experience, if nothing else, has taught us that nothing special or mystical happens at midnight December 31st. Continue reading The Reason for the Resolution

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In the Word & of the Word

I just dug up this (poem??) from my archives from 3 years ago. I hope it inspires you to make God’s Word your greatest treasure in 2013 and beyond.

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Spoken to cause creation,

Whispered to comfort Elijah,

Shouted to calm the seas,

Muttered to still the waves,

Mentioned to bring healing,

Quoted to silence Satan,

Proclaimed to raise the dead!

Preached to bring hope.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”

(John 1:1-4)

Infinity in 26 letters,

Eternity in decaying pages,

God’s vocabulary in man’s handwriting,

Life’s deepest secrets in lifeless pages,

The brightest light in blackest ink,

Profound truth in simple strokes….

Greatest treasure on cheapest shelves.

Deepest love on thinnest paper,

A masterpiece in ordinary font,

Immortal secrets in mortal hands,

Heaven’s blueprints under earthly eyes

God’s Word. God’s Son. God’s Love. God.

Resolve daily, to know Him above all else.

Cornell (31.12.2009)

Are You Man Enough?

supermanHKThe real problem with men is not that they are feminine, but that they are not biblically masculine.

My point?¬†We have been en-cultured to believe that men and women are like day and night. However, the truth is that the negative of a man is not a woman, the negative of a man is “not a man”.

God created men and women to complement each other, not to symbolize the negative sides of each other. It is not an angels and demons comparison but a yin and yang one. Unfortunately, the cultural notion that many Christian men are sissies or wusses is just one way this false dichotomy between men and women plays out in society.

There is a serious problem in how we perceive and judge what we normally describe as being ¬†“manly” or a “sissy” (by the way, the root of the word sissy is sis, or sister, which effectively equates being a sister with something derogatory) . The following are a few¬†examples of men that would qualify for sissies:

  • If the man is quick to shed tears, or get emotional, he is a sissy.
  • If a man uses expressions such as “I love you” with other men, he is a sissy.
  • If a man enjoys “chic-flicks”, soaps and sappy love songs, he is a sissy.
  • If a man prefers giving bear hugs to side hugs with his male friends, he is a sissy.

Why is any trait even remotely associated with being¬†“effeminate” in the culture also considered negative in a man? And what shall we say¬†when the same line and school of thought seems to be the prevailing worldview within the church?

Consider the flip-side of the examples listed above. See how the absence of these traditionally feminine traits in a man is seen as something to be celebrated. In fact, the very absence of feminine traits is often being promoted as a positive defining factor of manliness:

  • If the man seldom shows emotion and has never been seen crying in public, he is a manly man.
  • If a man seldom, if ever, uses the expression “I love you” with his male friends, he is a manly man.
  • If a man enjoys violent movies, sports and does not find soaps or “chic-flicks” entertaining, he is a manly man.
  • If a man only bear hugs ladies and only “side hugs” the men, he is a manly man.

Clearly, this¬†dichotomy ¬†disregards what the Bible considers true manhood and true womanhood. Even sadder,¬†many men who preach and strive to live out biblical manhood still use such indicators to guilt-trip and shame other men. They implicitly (and sometime explicitly) tie “being a man” to one’s ability to shun culturally effeminate tendencies.

Rarely will you find a Christian man chastising another man for not providing for his family, for not loving his wife sacrificially or for not leading his family bible studies. But it is common to find Christian men, especially on social media, taking cheap shots at other men for displaying these “cultural” indicators of masculinity or femininity.

The problem with men

So, I return to my original assertion: the opposite of a manly man is not a woman. The problem with men is not that they are behaving like women, but that they are not behaving like biblical men. Before we criticize fellow men for not being “man enough”, before we ask fellow men to give up their “man cards”, before we admonish fellow brothers to “man up”, let us ask ourselves a few telling questions.

  • Are we criticizing them based on the world’s (cultural) definition and standard of manhood, or are we criticizing them based on the biblical standard?
  • Are we asking them to give up their man-cards for preferring expressive and more emotional art¬†(lovey-dovey” worship songs) to hard-core rap?
  • Are we admonishing them for publicly expressing their care and affection to other men instead of hiding it and “acting tough”?

These are revealing questions. But they¬†are only addressing the surface of an underlying deeper problem. I¬†hope this post will sensitize us to re-consider our standards in evaluating identities that we brand “biblical”; are our standards defined by the world or the Word?

The prevailing force of contemporary culture and tradition is compelling and difficult to resist, let alone overcome. However, awareness of the problem is a pivotal step  towards redeeming our definitions of biblical manhood and womanhood in light of the culture.

Finally:

  • “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” [1 Cor 16:13-14]

  • “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” [1 Peter 3:7]

  • “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” [2 Timothy 2:15]

  • “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” [Ephesians 5:25-27]

So, fellow men, are you man enough?

Should Christian Artistes “Take Back” Secular Music?

secular-music-christian-musicA friend of mine once remarked that “if you mute the sound to most of today’s Gospel music videos, I bet you will not be able to tell whether it is a Christian or a Secular Video playing.” He was right, many Christian songs are increasingly conforming to the MTV standards of music videos. The days of congregational singing on videos are slowly becoming history. While one may argue that it is a general change in culture, I cannot help but notice that, even in the days of Ron Kenoly and Don Moen, secular videos were just as perverted. It is the Christian videos that seem to have conformed to the secular videos with the passage of time. While this may be¬† cause for alarm and concern for many, it is not what I am writing about today. Today I will be thinking through another equally common practice in the Christian music. “Take backs”. This is when Christian artistes take secular songs and remix them (redeem them) by changing the lyrical content to something more biblical and Christ-centered. The debates surrounding the issue range from those who are convinced that music is “spiritual” and secular music has “demonic” influence to those who think that the only spiritual thing in music are the lyrics. Continue reading Should Christian Artistes “Take Back” Secular Music?

Christian Lessons from Secular “Love” Songs

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I was channel surfingon my radio the other night ¬†when I came across an old familiar love song on a local FM station. It was the song “Thank You in Advance” by Boys II Men. Before I knew it, I was glued to the station, as each song took me back to my high school years when I would memorize the lyrics to such songs word-for-word.

I still enjoy the occasional good love song, and I would not pass a good “secular” album on Deezer Music. Which leads me to a fw thoughts about love, our Lord and music:

Does True Love Need a Truth Context?

What if someone told you it didn’t matter whom you loved, as long as you loved them truly and kept all the rules of love such as “kindness, patience, not keeping a record of wrongs…”?

Sounds innocent enough. But what if this person was talking about the love of a husband to his wife? What if he was saying that it didn’t matter which woman the married man was in love with just as long as he loved that woman truly and treated her like he treated his wife? Would you find a problem with that? Why?

Common wisdom tells us that a man is only supposed to treat his lawful wife like a wife, and not any other woman. To treat another woman like you would specially treat your wife would be considered adultery. Furthermore, marriage is a covenant and there are certain things that will be violated in that covenant if the man treated another woman like he specially treated his wife.

Right Message; Wrong Person, Wrong Time, Wrong Place

This illustration, albeit quite weak, is a¬†very accurate representation of how many of us want to relate with God. A similar case could be made in the context of same-sex marriage: Are “feelings” the only thing that matters for two people to qualify for marriage or are there other biblical (and natural) factors?

This is a good internal debate to have as you approach the subject of Christians enjoying and applauding secular love songs.¬†Many secular “love songs” perfectly illustrate this false reality of true love without a truth context.

If you listen to some of the most moving love songs of our time, you will find very close similarities to the Psalms of David in their sentiments, but not in their contexts. I am referring to the non-PG love songs; the other r-rated love songs have more in common with the Songs of Solomon.

When I listen to the lyrics to songs such as “I knew I loved you before I met you” by N’Sync, I am reminded of some biblical expressions such as Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Yes, I know that’s a stretch, but you get the point. When I listen to songs such as Jackson 5’s “I’ll be there”, I am reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples, “Behold, I am with you always.”¬†Another stretch? I don’t think so.

My point is this, in many love songs, you will hear poetic messages about being ready to “die for the ones we love”¬† and other radical expressions of love and passion. They sound very much like the expressions in the Bible. The only difference is that a man who promises to walk across the ocean for his bride can’t possibly do it.

Many secular love songs are clear examples of how we want God’s rules (read “God’s word”) without a relationship with Him. The only way those words could ever be truth is if God Himself is saying them, not a mere human being. The devil is a liar, a copy-pasting liar, albeit a very convincing one. Satan is a plagiarist. There is no such thing as true love without a truth context.

Does True Morality Require the Gospel?

Another thing that I’ve noticed in love songs; they are very effective in communicating Christ-like values such as “perseverance”, “patience”, “commitment” etc. Take Joe’s “I believe in you” for example; “I believe in you, I swear that forever from today, no one will ever take your place…” or even Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love You.” The title speaks for itself.

What virtues are being communicated in these songs? Commitment. Undying love. Sounds noble, doesn’t it. Commendable even. Who wouldn’t want a promise of commitment? Unfortunately, that’s all those words are, empty promises. The promise is not just empty because the lover won’t keep it, the promise is empty because the lover can’t keep it. Even worse, the promise is blasphemous because the lover should not make it as if the power to keep it lies in himself.

In the Bible, there’s only one person who is able to make (and keep) such promises, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:38-39 reassures us that “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The point here is so obvious that it is easily missed: God makes such a promise, not because it sounds nice and loving, but because it IS loving. He makes such a promise because HE is the only one who can keep such a promise. We do not have in us the legal right to make such a promise, let alone the natural capability to keep it. (James 4:13-15)

Many secular love songs are able to evoke deep emotions in us because they appeal to a certain core of our felt needs. These felt needs don’t require any reality, logical consistency or reason-ability. Felt needs can easily be met by saying the right things at the wrong time. Felt needs can easily be met by saying the right things to the wrong people. Why, felt needs can even easily be met by just having the wrong person saying the right things! But as long as these felt needs are not anchored to reality, to truth, they are all vain.

The Bottom Line

As long as Christians continue to preach the benefits of the Gospel to people who have not embraced the Gospel, we are merely fattening lost souls for hell. As long as we continue to preach moral reformation without anchoring the root of that morality to the cross of Christ, we are merely making people decent sinners. As long as we are encouraging, uplifting and motivating souls that have not heard the gospel, we are merely soothing the consciences of spiritual zombies.

JESUS is our TRUTH and our RIGHTEOUSNESS. (1 Cor 1:30).

What this world needs is the Gospel. What this world needs first is relationship with God, a relationship that begins by hearing the message of the Cross, believing the message and being reconciled with the God of that Gospel. A relationship that continues by being transformed by that God of the Gospel. What this world needs is to live in Christ, move in Christ and have its being in Christ. Any other approach to Christianity, no matter how “Christian”, “loving”, “considerate” and “tolerant” it sounds, is just another path to destruction.

“Help” Me Believe?

This song by Nichole Nordeman (Help Me Believe) has been constantly replaying in my head and impressing upon my heart this evening. The lyrics echo one of my most recurrent prayers. The only word I would change in the lyrics, however, is the word “help”. I want to replace it with “cause”. I am not saying that the use of help is wrong, I am aware that “help my unbelief” is a biblical prayer (Mark 9:24). It’s just that, today, I am simply persuaded that most of the time when I (Cornell) ask God to “help me”, I usually have the unconscious notion that I am only asking God to supplement my strength rather than asking Him to supply all of my strength. I usually ask for God’s help as if I am asking for that final shove, when I have realized that my strength is insufficient. So, my prayer today is “cause me” to believe Lord.

“And I will put my Spirit within you, and CAUSE you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:27

Here’s the YouTube link to the song, and the lyrics are below.

Continue reading “Help” Me Believe?

Jesus: 100% Alien, 100% Citizen

Gods-Eye-NebulaAlien Citizens. That’s the title of this blog-site. That’s what I consider myself and every other Christian in the world. We are aliens in this world, yet ironically, this is the only world we have ever known and lived in. Well, the only one until we beheld a new and perfect world, a world that we look forward to. A world untainted with sin and ruled entirely by Christ. We can now envision a world in which there will be no more tears, no more pain and no more death.

The more we behold this new world, the more our hearts are filled with longing for it. This new world draws our hearts towards it, not the way a new experience draws curious minds, but the way thoughts about home make us nostalgic. We are homesick for a world we have never known, never lived in, a world that exists only in the future. We long to return to a place we never left. Heaven is the name of this world. Continue reading Jesus: 100% Alien, 100% Citizen