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We have all passed through that stage. We didn’t understand why our parents wouldn’t let us sleep over at a friend’s house, or why we had to brush our teeth, or eat our vegetables and make our beds. All our confused and pained “whys” were quickly silenced by mum’s firm “Because I said so”. Of course, now that we are older and we understand about neighborhood feuds, cavities, good diet and grooming, we can appreciate these formerly oppressive commands. Hindsight is always 20-20.

In retrospect, we can see that our parents had nothing but our good in mind. Even though we were too young to understand the “whys”, our parents were old enough, and that was enough for the time being. No, we did not enjoy the pain and darkness surrounding those commands. Deep down in our hearts, we were convinced that our parents were just plain mean, sometimes.

While a similar case can be made for why God gives us certain commands and instructions, the parallels do not always fit. Analogies are helpful, but analogies can only go so far. Even so, there is something to be said about some seemingly “pointless”, “oppressive” and “irrelevant” commands in the Bible.

OFFICIAL CAPACITY

I would like to zoom in on what I can only describe (for lack of a better description) as official commands in the Bible. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the adjective official as “of or relating to an office, position, or trust.” To say that someone is official is to say that he or she is to be recognized and treated in reference to the authority or office they claim to represent.

Whether that person has the intrinsic talents and abilities to carry out that official role is irrelevant to the fact that they already have that role. This is why Christians are commanded to submit to all earthly authorities (Romans 13), even those that are oppressive and definitely fail to qualify for that office. We are not commanded to submit only to good leaders or qualified leaders, only to people in leadership, their CVs and character notwithstanding.

At the risk of belabouring this point, consider two friends working in the same office. One friend is the supervisor or manager of the other. If one day the subordinate friend came to work late, the supervisor friend may have to deal with her in her “official capacity” and dish out the required discipline. This is fairly easy to understand in our various “official” interactions with friends and family in life. However, we are not so quick to recognize similar rules when it comes to the Bible and the different “Biblical offices.”

Consider this controversial passage:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [1 Tim 2:12-14]

THE PASTOR’S OFFICE

I say that this verse is controversial beforehand because it speaks to an issue that is quite divisive and hotly contested in the church today — the issue of women as pastors and elders in the church.

Some of the arguments raised against having women as pastors include the claim that Paul was speaking to a specific cultural problem and context, and that the command is not universally applicable to today’s society. This is probably right, but there are passages in other parts of the Bible that make it difficult to use this line of argument as the conclusive proof that the issue of women in church leadership was only a cultural one. Even so,

I will not be dealing with that argument today. What I am concerned about is a different line of thought. A line of thought that may actually render the whole “this was a cultural issue” debate irrelevant to the bigger picture. As already revealed in the beginning of this post, I am here dealing with the argument of “equal worth” and “equal capacity/giftedness” in men and women. This is what is commonly referred to as egalitarianism.

Basically, the argument states that “since women are equally capable and equally gifted to teach and lead, then there is no reason why they should not be pastors.” Here is my contention. Are women able to teach? Yes. Are women able to lead? Yes, of course! Are women, more often than not, better teachers than men? Definitely! Are women arguably more intuitive and better able to multitask than men? Yes. So, should they be pastors and teach the church congregation on an official capacity based on their abilities? No. Why? Because God says so, or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, because the LAW says so:

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” [1 Corinthians 14:34]

As a child, I was perfectly able to go over to my friend’s and spend the night. I was perfectly able to skip eating my veggies and brushing my teeth. But my parents knew better. They had reasons that my childish reasoning capacity could comprehend, let alone accept. So I obeyed them. Yet, this is also where my analogy fails.

As an adult, I am now able to perceive the direct evil consequences that could have resulted from disobeying my parents’ instructions. A visit to the dentist is one very effective way of driving home the message. However, it is still more difficult to think of any good reason why a woman being a pastor would lead negative consequences. This is probably because many of us are wired to be consequentialists: We only categorise some actions as bad when we can clearly see the negative consequences of doing them.

This is why the reasons Paul often gives for why women should not teach seem strange, offensive even, to many of us. However, if our understanding of sin and morality is guided by the Bible, then we should be able to acknowledge that sin is not bad primarily because it hurts people, sin is bad because it is against God’s order and commands. In other words, sin hurts people because it is bad (and even when we cannot see how it hurts people, it is still bad because God said so). This is why some actions like my parents not letting me sleep at a friend’s house on a school night is good, even though it hurts me at the time.

Pain is a poor determinant of right and wrong.

So, when Paul, in 1 Timothy, says a woman should not assume authority over a man because “Adam was formed first, then Eve“, we are tempted to find another special reason for this command. It just doesn’t sit well with us. It just doesn’t seem like a strong enough justification for forbidding women to lead a congregation since “we can see all of the benefits and none of the losses” if they did.

EGALITARIANISM AND THE TRINITY

In conclusion, let us briefly look at the offices that men are commanded to hold and how qualified they are to do it. Consider this verse:

“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [1 Corinthians 11:3]

Keeping in mind the case laid out above, is there anything in the man that makes him intrinsically more capable and more fit to be the head of the house or the head of the woman? No. Then why don’t we oppose this passage using the same argument of consequentialism? Perhaps this argument  sounds less offensive because it appeals to the headship of God over Christ, and the headship of Christ over man.

Please, do not misunderstand me. I have sat under many a female “pastor” and gained truths about God that many male pastors could probably not have taught me better. I have listened to many sermons by women “pastors” that were solid and biblical and I gleaned treasures worth an eternal spot in my heart. Many of these women pastors are good friends of mine. Women indeed do make excellent teachers.

Yet, consider this: Can Christ do what God (the Father) can do? Yes. Does Christ know what God knows? Yes. Does Christ have all the attributes that God, the Father, has? Yes. So, should Christ play the role or serve in the office of the Father? No. Why? Because God says so. Because God has ordered (arranged) and ordered (commanded) it so!

May we learn to rest in God’s sovereign wisdom, even when we don’t get it.

What will you do when the politicians come knocking this Sunday?

Dear Pastor,

He will be visiting your church this Sunday, but he won’t be a stranger. You have seen him on television and read about him in the newspaper countless times. You have never met him, but you probably know him better than some of your congregation. He is your local political leader.

Perhaps he is the area member of parliament. Or maybe you are lucky enough to get a visit from the area senator or governor. The President? Whoever he is, Sunday service will be different today. Attendance will be in record numbers and your parking lot will host some of the most expensive vehicles to ever tread on that gravel.

There is going to be great pressure to modify your order of Sunday service because this politician is around. Perhaps the singing will be shorter, the sermon will be hurried. In the heat of the moment, it will make sense to include a slot in the service for the politician to greet and address the congregants.

It seems harmless enough. It is perfectly understandable to make an exception. Special circumstances sometimes call for special actions. But dear pastor, could I urge and remind you not to forget what the Bible says about some of those moments? The following considerations may help guide you.

1. Watch where the politicians sits

The Bible, that book that defines who you are and why your church exists in the first place, says something about where the rich and the influential members of society choose to sit in the congregation. I hope you will not forget to take the words of Jesus to Pharisees into account when that politician visits:

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
LUKE 11:43‭-‬44 ESV

As far as Israel was concerned, the Pharisees were like a rough combination of the legislature and judiciary today. They are the ones who were supposed to understand, interpret and implement the laws set out by God. They even enacted some of the ways the laws of God applied to specific situations. Jesus noticed how self-important they were; how they carried themselves in the marketplace and the places of worship.

How will the politician visiting your church behave? Will they seat in the best seats? Are you, in fact, the one arranging for this? Why are you doing something that the Jesus you claim to be the Bride of clearly frowns upon? Or is it actually not about Jesus?

2. Watch how the politician will give

I am sure the highlight of Sunday service will most likely be the offering. Come on, with such record attendance, and with people overflowing that some are even standing outside the building just to catch a glimpse of their leader, the offering baskets will be bulging today. It is inevitable.

Buy I am not concerned about that. My concern is something else Jesus said about the same Pharisees that are the parallel to today’s politicians:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
MATTHEW 6:2‭-‬4 ESV

Is this what the politicians visiting your church will do when it is time to give? Or maybe I am being too critical. The truth is these politicians are human, like you and I. They are also sinners. It would be unfair of me to expect them to stick to a higher biblical standard than other people. What if they want to announce their giving to your church? Who am I to judge?

But my concern is with you, dear pastor. You know better. Will you give these politicians a platform to do what Jesus clearly frowns upon? Will you change up your service to allow the politicians announce his donation for your upcoming church project? Will you give your your pulpit for the man or woman to say a word about what he has done for the community? Would you rather please man than God?

3. The sheep are watching the shepherd

In the end, this is more than just a matter of personal preference and opinion, dear pastor. You have a responsibility towards us, your sheep. And you will one day have to give an answer to God. As the Bible clearly puts it:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
HEBREWS 13:17 ESV

Clearly, God wants us, the sheep, to obey you and submit to you. When you allow God’s word to be disregarded and God’s name to be blasphemed by endorsing some of these actions in the church, we find it difficult to obey God. It is hard for the sheep to take their creator seriously when the shepherd doesn’t seem to be doing it.

Dear pastor, please consider God this Sunday and the coming Sundays as you navigate the rising political temperatures in the country. The pressure to fear man rather than God will be high. Your reputation before the world will be at stake. Would you rather please men than God? I hope you will do the latter.

If you care about us, the followers of the Jesus you preach, you would consider these things. It will be difficult. Money is powerful, and the love of it can be tragic. You cannot resist public opinion on your own. I understand that, and for this reason, I will be praying for you.

I hope you do the right thing. I hope you will fear God enough to keep His commandments.

Nowadays, it seems more important to please the world than to please the church (please note I said please the “church” not please “God”) — even though the Bible says we should prioritize those in the household of faith.

We don’t care if our conservative brothers are stumbling all over our creative freedom. The important thing is that unbelievers are not stumbling over our message.

We no longer go to preach where the idols of the world are, it is much more fruitful to bring the idols into the church to lure the world in. We trick them to win them. We tease their weaknesses and manipulate their addictions because the end justifies the means. We bait them with images of wines and spirits and then when they show up we spring up the Holy Spirit on them.

It is not like we are worshiping these idols ourselves, we are not, we are simply going where the sinners are — establishing a point of contact. Like Jesus, we are simply lunching with Simon and dining with Zaccheus.

So what if our brothers in faith disagree with our strategies? So what if our brothers don’t get it? They are the ones who need to grow up, to get with the program. We will not be patient with the weak in the church (read, the “narrow-minded” in the church). Why encourage their hypocrisy? Why succumb to their holier-than-thouness?

Even Jesus faced resistance and condemnation from the Sadducee and Pharisee of his day, that is why we are confident in what we do. It doesn’t matter that the Sadducee and Pharisee were UNBELIEVERS, yes even the high priest. Somehow, it seems more appropriate to dismiss conservative Christians as unbelievers simply because they think our methods unwise.

The end is near and we need to harvest as many of the lost as fast as possible.

And as the masses stream in through the front door after their idols, those inside are being carried out in their #judgmental stretchers through the back door — their faith in a #hypocritical condition.

And it’s really alright because, well, we can see the fruit. We are winning the world.

#Selah

mavuno poster

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10)

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:9-12)

A big shout out to J.C.

 ‘If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.’ – C. S. Lewis

That is the mystery clouding this man’s vision as he disappears into the shadows tonight. He needs answers; answers to questions his scholarly mind cannot provide; solutions to mysteries his experienced years cannot unravel. So he sits and waits until the quiet evening cacophony has been completely replaced by the rhythmic chirping of crickets. He tarries until his wife and the kids have slipped into the sub-conscious country of slumber land.

He doesn’t make a sound. Like a cat pad-footing through a messy kitchen, he steals into the night. Stealthily, he weaves his way through the city. Avoiding street-lights and highways, he chooses the dark alleys and back-roads. The cover of the darkness gives him the courage to go out. This perplexed patriarch seeks the truth in the dark.

After fifteen minutes of avoiding late-night drunks and street-side bums, Nicodemus senses that his destination is close by. The soft chatter of voices and the misty rays of candle-light from a house two blocks away give him hope.

“Soon I will be able to sleep in peace. Soon, I will have the missing piece — the answer to my puzzle.”

He is now at the door. He stops and takes a deep breath. That’s when second-thoughts that have been chasing behind him quickly catch up with him. This was a bad idea. Maybe I should just go back. What if one of the elders catches me here? How am I going to explain myself?

After weighing the options and the repercussions; after pre-enacting in his head the public humiliation that might result from this encounter, he decides this was a bad idea. So he turns to leave, but he is too late. The door swings open and a disciple almost runs into him on his way out.

“Oh, pardon me sir,” Peter’s apology is quick, “almost didn’t see you there.”

Nicodemus stands frozen. He opens his mouth but no words come out.

Come on, man! This is bad. Say something! Talk your way out of this fix. Pretend you are in the wrong place, apologize and leave.

“Would you like to come in?” Peter opens the door a little wider and motions him in.

Nicodemus’ scared gaze wanders onto the group of men huddled around the table. A single candle illuminates their attentive faces. The conversation stops. The people turn and look towards the door. Then the man seated at the farthest end of the table, directly facing the door, motions him to get in.

Too late now. They’ve seen me. Might as well face them.

“Oh, thank you,” he says politely to Peter, lifts up his robes and steps into the room.

The silence is deafening. Everyone recognized him the moment he stepped through the door. And everyone held their breath. They had seen him before. He was always hanging out with other Pharisees. When Jesus had claimed to destroy and rebuild the temple in three days, Nicodemus was among the members of the council who confronted him. Though he didn’t say a word then, they knew he shared in their verdict. The disciples knew him, and they knew he was up to no good.

Nicodemus, trying hard to ignore the stares, finds a place to sit at the table. But the moment he settles down, the two seats on either side of him are quickly vacated. It’s clear that no one wants to sit next to him.

He is not welcome here.

To be continued…

Joseph (the old testament one) spent most of his youth in slavery and prison. What do you think is the one item that featured in all of his prayers while in prison? Did he pray for freedom? Did he pray for an easier time? Did he pray for justice? If we only consider a single item that may have featured in each of Joseph’s prayers, we suddenly realize that we don’t have many options. He probably didn’t always pray for freedom from captivity. Now and then, maybe, but not every time. He probably didn’t always pray for justice. What is the one prayer he might have made every time he prayed?

This morning, our senior pastor, Charles Ng’ang’a, preached a message from Deuteronomy chapter 8. The sermon title was “PILLARS OF PROSPERITY” and in order to guard against the dangers of presuming that this might turn out to be another ‘prosperity gospel’ message, he quickly added a disclaiming sub-title: “THE PITFALLS OF PRIDE”. Touche Pastor C. 🙂

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-2)

rememberPastor C reminded us that the act of remembering is pro-active. That we often forget to remember: “Remembering means not forgetting. Forgetting is not just a lapse of memory, it is a failure to give the lessons of our past a significant place in our present. A failure to guide our choices in the present by the truths learnt in the past.”

The Israelites were urged to remember their wilderness journey because that journey was meant to teach them great lessons, not about the promised land, but lessons about the promise-maker. Using an anecdote from Neil Armstrong’s trip to the moon, Continue Reading…

“I fell out with my wife on 31st December 2012, after a crazy night out with friends,” the man choked out the words into the microphone, as an ominous hush fell over the crowded sanctuary. “We stayed together for a few months, but it was more a room-mate situation than a marriage.” He continued.

He related how him and his wife eventually separated and she moved out of the house.

power-testimony

Today was testimony Sunday at my church, Mamlaka Hill Chapel, and members of the congregation were standing up to share the different ways God had revealed and glorified Himself through their lives and experiences. The service leader for the day, Pastor Isaac Murage, began by laying down the ground-rules concerning the testimonies. This was a prudent measure to protect the privacy of some members and to discourage any tendency to claim any glory in our testimonies rather than ascribing it to God.

I found the inclusion of ground-rules a necessary measure — one that was a teaching moment in itself. For example, we often fail to testify about God, not because we do not have a testimony, but because we think of them as our own achievements. We claim the glory to ourselves.

The man who stood to tell the story of his failed marriage did not paint himself as the victim in his story. But neither did he paint himself as the hero. Continue Reading…

For something so short, the commentary on Ruth Matete’s dress is rather long. This post, then, can only come as a thread in an otherwise elaborate fabric of feedback. For those who don’t know Matete, or “didn’t see” her dress (no pun intended), she was the winner of last year’s season (5) of Tusker Project Fame. And last Sunday, she graced (or is it disgraced?) the stage in the finals of the just ended season 6.

mateteMatete (as a friend put it on Facebook) was too long for her dress. Now, this is not a problem, or even surprising. Contestants and performers wear short skirts and dresses all the time at Tusker Project Fame. However, Ruth Matete is a professing Christian, and she even leads worship sessions at her home church. The uproar over her dress was that it did not befit (again, no puns) a Christian. The general feel of the critical feedback (from both the church and the world) was that Matete’s dress presented Christians in bad light. Continue Reading…

When I walked into the church on Sunday, I immediately knew it will be a long morning. I had arrived on time, and that was the problem. You see, I just didn’t feel like singing today. In fact, I haven’t felt like singing for a while now. These days I am actually happy when I get to church late, just when the “Praise and Worship” session is ending and the preacher is about to go up.

Sometimes I sub-consciously deliberately go in late for this reason. I like to think of myself as a sermon guy. Perhaps that’s why I prefer pod-casts to pulpits.

It’s not like I haven’t asked myself what the problem is. At first I told myself I am a bad singer and I wouldn’t want the person standing next to me to hear me, but that was a lie. It’s true that I am a bad singer, but I don’t think my neighbor would hear, let alone care. The music is loud enough at my church.

So I tried to rationalize that it’s the standing up for one hour that I can’t stand. Can’t we just sit there and watch the “Worship Team” do their thing? They have been practicing all week, why should I spoil their perfect harmonies? But I knew that this was just another excuse.

I know the real reason, but it is embarrassing. More embarrassing than fearing my neighbor and being too lazy to stand up. The real reason is, I just don’t feel like singing sometimes. I don’t want to. Yes, I may know the words to the song, but I really don’t feel them. I know the words are true. I know that God is great, awesome, that God is marvelous, that He is glorious… but I just don’t feel like saying it over and over. Because it feels so fake, so forced, like being forced to eat your vegetables… or laugh at a bad joke out of courtesy.

Most of the time, I only do it because it is part of the program. If it were up to me, at such times, I would skip the singing.

And I have skipped it when it were up to me. In Bible studies that I lead, I cross my fingers that no one will suggest a song before we begin. It’s a similar feeling with the prayer. I like to keep it short. Let’s just get to the Word. It is the preaching that I love. I can listen to the sermon for hours, and even preach one for longer.

I can’t help but wonder, am I the only one who feels this way sometimes? I know there are many amongst you who feel the exact opposite. You love the singing, but the sermon puts you to sleep. You can jump for hours, but you can’t sit for even 20 minutes. It is a strange thing, this difference. I wonder if it says something about the state of my spirituality… and yours.

By the way, have you read any book by J.R.R. Tolkien? He is an amazing writer! I love the way he weaves a beautiful fabric with his words. The way the words of his stories just freely roll down the tongue when read out loud. Bilbo Baggins, even the names of his characters are lyrical.It is like he wrote for both the eyes and the ears. Tolkien is a wonderfully gifted writer, I could sing his praises and praise his works all day long and then some. Every time I read his work I am inspired to tell the world about him, and write similar stories of my own. I can’t help but wonder if this is the wonder that escapes me when I face the thought of singing about my God.

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

Stories are powerful.

storiesUnfortunately, that is not a logical conclusion. That’s just how stories are. Like music, we don’t have to understand the physiology of stories on our brains to declare their power. Stories don’t try to convince you, argue with you, reason with you. Good stories don’t tell you, they simply show you. They invade your reservations, assault your convictions and barge into your conscience like a bandit. Stories are just that, powerful.

The most compelling way to teach something is to tell a story about it. Want to teach about patience? Just tell a story about a patient person. Want to explain love? Illustrate it in story. That’s why the fables we heard as children still linger in our memories.

Bedtime stories were not just entertainment, they were life-lessons.

Yet, this overwhelming power is also what makes stories so dangerous. A false story is powerfully destructive. Stories of proud men winning, and selfish women ruling are powerful tools. You see, since the power of stories is irrational, you cannot argue against a story.

You may present a thousand arguments against miracles, but one story about one miracle topples them all.

Stories are sacred.

The Bible is a story, a book of stories, but it is more than a story. Within the story are timeless teachings and commands and aims and purposes. But the reality of those commands is not found in the stories of the Bible. Abraham is not a consistent picture of faith. David is not a consistent illustration of a man after God’s heart. Neither is Peter an inspiring illustration of what it means to be a true disciple. Continue Reading…

Here are a few links worth spending your free time on. I pray that they will bless you, and that God will speak to you through them… even when the authors fail to. Enjoy!

  1. TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Simon Wenham confronts the popular Freudian idea that religion only survives because people want it to exist. I particularly loved this quote by Czeslaw Milosz: “A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death- the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.”
  2. FREE TO SAY WE’VE SINNED. This was liberating: “When you hide your sin, pretending to be a perfect Christian, you’re actually telling the world that God is a liar. Did Jesus, or did Jesus not, need to suffer and die for your present sins? When you feign perfection, you’re saying you didn’t need Him to do this for you.”
  3. A BETTER COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. David Mathis makes a much needed call to the older men and women in the church today: “We need your wisdom. We need your experience. You have made the long journey, watched fads come and go, rejoiced with those who have rejoiced, wept with those who have wept, endured the dark night of the soul. As the young men see visions, we need you to dream dreams.”
  4. LAZY HOLINESS. “I grew up understanding that once I become a Christian, I had to take over and make sure I stayed a Christian. I needed to make sure my walk with Jesus was a healthy, whole and pure walk. Daily devotions and bible reading were important, because if I didn’t do those things I felt I was in danger of losing my salvation. It wasn’t until the age of 17 when God got ahold of me and opened my eyes did new convictions shape who I am today.”

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

It might sound like a feeble attempt at crafting a captivating title, but it is not. The question of whether or not Jesus was a failed teacher is a valid question, one based on clear facts. The reason the question appears a bit off is because we are trying to answer it in hindsight. In hindsight, Jesus is the greatest teacher to ever walk on earth. No “founder” of any religion comes close to the following that Jesus garnered. But what if we were transported to the times of Jesus and attempted to answer the same question honestly?

We would all conclude, honestly, that Jesus was a failed teacher. And miserably so.

jesus teachingIndeed, he used all the tactics, tips and tricks available in his teachings. In his three year ministry, he applied both the extremes of harshness and kindness in his teachings; he spoke of hell-fire and hugged children; he cleared out the temple in a rage and fed the hungry; He spoke curses at hypocrites and prayed for his enemies.

He did all these and more, but what was the outcome?

By the time he was crucified, three years into his ministry, only a handful of people rallied behind him.

Despite feeding more than 5,000, less than a hundred people still followed him by the time he died.

Even his closest students abandoned him and went against his teachings. After three years of following and learning from him. Peter still denied him, James and John wanted privileged positions, and Judas sold him out to his enemies.

So, was Jesus, in his lifetime, a failed teacher? Continue Reading…

The temptation of Jesus. It is a familiar story and many of us have memorized the scenes. In the first scene, we find Jesus in the wilderness, thirsty and hungry from a forty-day fast. The tempter’s words could never be more opportune:

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

And Jesus’ response could never be more … is it kosher to say … cliche?

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

The second temptation is equally punctual. Jesus was the son of God. He called the creator of the universe Dad. God could easily command heaven and earth to bend and break to the convenience of His son. The tempter knows this. And since it was apparent Jesus was evading his temptations by quoting scripture, the tempter also has a couple of verses of his own. He tells Jesus:

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:6)

Jesus, of course, still manages to outsmart the tempter by quoting a countering passage:

“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7)

reading bbThe point here is clear. Knowing God’s Word will help you in your time of need. Jesus did not have to invoke or invent any tricks to get himself out of temptations. He did not even utilize the authority he had as God. He could have easily commanded the tempter to depart, but He didn’t. Instead, He chose to rest in the written Word, and that was enough.

Jesus knew His Bible.

How about you? I know that the question may sound a bit unfair – comparing you to Jesus, whose other title happens to be THE WORD – but you get the point. It is important to spend time reading and ingesting the Word of God. When the Bible tells us that God will always provide a way of escape from our temptations (1 Cor 10:13), His Word is usually the primary way of escape.

Our knowledge of the Word of God depends on how much time we spend with the Word of God. However, this must not be confused with how much of the Bible we have photographically memorized.

If you have ever taken part in any Bible trivia competition or game, you can already guess the frustration I am alluding to. How am I supposed to remember the names of the two guys that Paul handed over to Satan to be taught a lesson? Who in the world is Mephibosheth and what does the name of John and James’ mum have to do with anything? It can be quite frustrating … and greatly discouraging.

Let’s just admit it, majority of Bible trivia live up to their name: they are trivial. Continue Reading…

Home …

14/08/2013 — Leave a comment

It hit me when I was already at my doorstep. I had left my house keys at the office.

This has never happened before, perhaps it was because I was having a bad day. I couldn’t imagine going all the way back to the city center. It was 6 pm — the traffic will be unbearable. But what choice did I have?

I remembered it when I was at the main gate, on my way out. I had a spare key in the house! I hoped against hope that I could get to it — if only I could remember where I had last seen it. Desperate times call for desperate measures. After wracking my brain trying to retrace my steps in the last couple of days, I recalled that I had put the key in one of my jeans trouser pockets.

Perhaps you’re wondering how a key inside the pocket of a dirty trouser in a basin somewhere inside a locked house was going to help me. Reaching it would be out of the question. But you see, it wasn’t.

This was my house. My space. My home.

The thing about my place is that it is not very organized (ducks). That was my first clue. I ran back up the stairs hoping against hope that I had done what came naturally — left my dirty trousers on the seat in the living room. After much improvisation, I was able to open the window and push aside the curtain. I have never been more happy to see dirty jeans on the couch.

I reached in using a wire, pulled the trousers towards me and retrieved my spare key. I didn’t have to make another trip all the way back to the office.

Some things only happen at home. I like to think that I am only disorganized at home, though perhaps my colleagues may argue the point. But I am not that tidy. Clean, yes. Tidy, debatable.

But that’s the beauty of home. You don’t have to impress anyone or live up to other people’s standards at home. At home, you can be yourself. You can walk around in your baggy, holy (not the Biblical holy) pajamas without a care in the world. Your family has seen worse and they can identify you by the smell of your sweat. It is only taboo to air your dirty linen in public; nobody said anything about airing it in your house.

I am still a bachelor, and I live alone. At my house, I am the cook, the cleaner, the electrician, the decorator, the political analyst, the bread winner and the bread eater. I am all things to all chores.

Home is also where I am an expert at everything, or rather, I don’t have to be an expert at anything.

Outside the home, there is pressure to excel in at least one thing. Sometimes it’s because our survival depends on it. Only good engineers get hired, and color-blind people don’t get to be professional camera-men.

But at home, I am content to simply be me. There’s no pressure to impress. My family knows me, and loves me anyway.

Of course there are those occasions where parents are perfectionists and children feel the need, or rather the pressure, to live up to their expectations. Yes, the home can be dysfunctional. In fact, it often is. Even so, no matter how common this exception is, it is still not the rule. East or west, home is best.

Charity begins at home because that’s where selfishness ends. At home, you don’t mind having less so that your brother may have some. When you’re at home, you don’t feel the pressure to measure up or keep up with the Joneses – you’re already a Jones.

The home gives us a glimpse of how life in the church ought to look like. It is an imperfect peek into the kind of realness, fragility and openness that the Body of Christ ought to depict within itself. No need to be an expert here, no pressure to impress, no compulsion to compete. You can sing to the LORD with your shower voice and won’t feel embarrassed. You are simply being you.

I am not saying that the church is the place we let our sins slide because the Body “will understand”. I am saying that the church, like home, is the place we let our sins out in the open because we know they are covered by the blood of Christ and the Body “will prop us”.

But even as I write that previous sentence, I feel the need to edit it and punctuate it with several “oughts”. The church ought to be like home.

Charity begins at home because charity begins in the family — which was God’s original design. Could charity also begin in the church? Is your church your home? Is the church your family?

Are you a member of your church because yo signed up and a committee approved or are you a member because you owned up your sin and God approved you through Christ?

If home is where the heart is, where is your heart?

Or could it be because the church is where your hurt is?

Cornell.

For Cain, it was envy: he just couldn’t stand seeing his brother blessed.

For Solomon, it was the women: he just could not get enough of them.

For Peter, it was his mouth: he just couldn’t keep it shut.

scratch backThe Bible is a cast of characters that struggled with different weaknesses, confronted different challenges and succumbed to different battles. A similar tapestry can be seen in the world we are presently living in. For example: I don’t get how some people can be so inebriated by sports to the point of hurling insults at their friends. A friend of mine doesn’t see how I could be addicted to Facebook. My cousin stumps me with his kleptomania, even in broad daylight! My friend would rather sleep hungry than sober.

The point: We all have different struggles. It sounds moot. But think about it.

Every time we talk about the differences in human beings, Continue Reading…

Not to us, O LORD, but to your name give glory

(Psalm 115:1)

[Co-authored by Huston Malande & Julie Wangombe]

Thank God that in a world reverberating with blasphemous music and an increasing perversion of the arts, there are initiatives such as Eve(ning) of Poetry; which offer artists a platform to minister on societal issues — under the penetrating light of the gospel. I (Huston) am grateful for all those who make unknown sacrifices behind the scenes in order to make this event possible. I’m thankful to have had occasion to perform there and hope to have such an opportunity again.

The month’s event, themed “Uncovering The Sheets”, aimed to encourage, uplift, and help bring healing to those dealing with sexual temptation, addiction, and/or pain of abuse.

The guest speaker was Pastor Terry Gobanga, who shared with her audience the story of her struggle to recover from the trauma of sexual abuse and the grief of losing her husband so soon after their wedding.

terry

Her story is undeniably tragic. Many cannot imagine — let alone endure — some of the horrors she experienced and only the most granitic of hearts could have remained unmoved after listening to her recount her sufferings.

This post does not seek to, in any way, diminish the gravity of what she went through.

However, there are several issues that we (Huston & Julie) had regarding this month’s eve of poetry and Terry Gobanga’s message to the audience; which we feel compelled to address. Continue Reading…

A Wedding Surprise

18/06/2013 — 2 Comments

She steps onto the aisle, and starts walking towards the groom. Her poise confident, her chin lifted up. Every step into her slow motion catwalk, reveals both her thrill and her shyness.

Every eye in the room is fixed on her, dazzled by her beauty.

The groom stands there, waiting impatiently. The smile on his face is enchanting, the light in his eyes, dazzling.

She casts a split-second glance on his fidgeting hands, clasped in front of him.

No ring on his finger. But that won’t be for long.

She swallows hard and approaches the groom.

This should be the happiest day of her life, but somehow, it isn’t.

There’s a smile on her face, but it seems a bit plastic. A glow on her lips, but its only lipstick.

As the gap between her and the groom closes, reality dawns on her. All the months of preparation: Fitting the dresses, rehearsing the steps and rehashing the past dreams of this glorious day; all of these fade into oblivion.

The closer she gets to the groom, the further she feels from him. Tears fill her eyes, blurring her vision. She can barely see his face through her misty eyes.

But she knows that it doesnt really matter. For his line of sight is elsewhere. His gaze is slightly over her shoulders.

On reaching the altar, she steps to the side and stands beside a man. A different man.

She will not be marrying the groom today.

This is not her wedding. He is not her groom.

Today is not her wedding day.

She is not the bride. She is just a maid.

Always the bridesmaid; but never the bride.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” [Matthew 7:21-23]

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

ChurchMouseMy friend didn’t make it to church yesterday. No, he wasn’t busy doing something else. In fact, he woke up quite early yesterday. So, it’s not like he overslept. My friend WANTED to go to church, so his will cannot be blamed for missing church yesterday. You see, the reason why my friend could not make it to church, the reason why he resorted to just staying at home and watch TV, was because going to church was beyond his control. No, he did not have the flu, his health was perfectly fine.

The problem was in my friend’s wallet, he couldn’t afford to go to church. I am not talking about transport money. He had the 100 shillings that will get him to church and back home. He even had the 50 shillings that he usually gives as his offering. Yet, even with that money, my friend could still not afford to go to church. Continue Reading…

WHAT I DID…

The other day I saw a neighbor’s child running across the street, chasing a ball. He was totally unaware of the vehicle speeding towards him. I had to act fast, there was no time to think. I chased after him and yanked him out of harm’s way just as the pick-up truck zoomed past. No, my decision was not a calculated choice. I didn’t do what I did because it was the “Christian” thing to do. There was no time to recall the relevant verses. I simply reacted, and was moved more by adrenaline than by compassion.

But now when I’ve had time to think about it, perhaps I shouldn’t have done that.

WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE…

Perhaps I should have just let the boy get hit by the car so that he would learn to never play in the street again. Experience is the best teacher, you know. But I couldn’t do that, I had no way of knowing if he would have survived that hit. Or maybe I should have shouted at him, and told him the dangers of playing in the street and how he deserved what’s coming to him – a 1 tonne pick-up truck moving at 100 KPH. Even better, I should have shouted the Gospel at him and hope that he had enough time to believe and be saved if he wasn’t born again already.

Perhaps I should have just closed my eyes and said a quick prayer: “Father please save this boy from the inevitable, yet not my will but Yours be done.” But I am not sure I had enough time for even a coherent sentence of prayer.

As I said, I simply reacted. I didn’t even have time to think about my own safety. After the danger was past, I did most of the things already mentioned above. I strongly chastised the boy and told him to never do anything like that again. He looked pretty shaken already. I am sure he will think twice before attempting anything like that again. But then again, boys will be boys. Continue Reading…

busI think the bus is turning out to be one of my favorite classrooms in life. It happened again today, as I commuted to church this morning. We were running late and there was some traffic build up near Westlands. So, the driver decided to take a detour and pass through some back-roads to avoid the traffic. This is illegal by the way, but none of the passengers seemed to mind. We had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Personally, I was already running late for church. Furthermore, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Bus drivers take illegal turns and routes all the time. It’s normal. Except today. We hadn’t gone for more than 200 meters when the driver took a right turn that would lead to a great lesson on the importance of church and fellowship. Continue Reading…

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” [Psalm 19:1]

God always glorifies Himself. His glory is not limited to our deliberate and conscious acts of glorifying Him. Even when we do not do anything for His glory, God is still glorified. There’s nothing we can do to diminish God’s intrinsic glory. There’s nothing we can do do increase that glory. This is simply because God is self-existent, perfect and complete in Himself. God’s might and power doesn’t increase when we “lift” Him up or praise Him. neither does His power and might decrease when we fail to praise and worship Him. I will even go to the extent of claiming that God is glorified even in our sin. Remember the famous words of Joseph to his wayward brothers?

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” [Genesis 50:20]

Yes, God is glorified and His eternal purposes come to pass even in our disobedience. God’s glory is constant, just like His being, His power and His presence is constant. However, our experience, apprehension and acknowledgement of God’s glory is not constant. And this makes all the difference in the world. Continue Reading…