Archives For Doctrine Matters

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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 matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.

Photo credit: genius.com

Photo credit: genius.com

But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.

Does this, then, mean that our feelings don’t matter? No. It only means that our feelings are Continue Reading…

Why do so many people (myself included) like to bash prosperity preachers? As a friend recently asked me after I posted a critique on a sermon by Creflo Dollar: “Cornell, what do you have against the man?” Before I respond to that question, three corrections:

  1. We (whoever we are) actually don’t “like” to bash prosperity preachers. (at least some of us don’t find any pleasure in it)
  2. We don’t bash prosperity “preachers”. (some of us prefer focusing on what the preachers “teach”, though many readers tend to be too emotive to distinguish between a teaching and a teacher)
  3. We actually like “prosperity” preaching. (what some of us are against is “false” prosperity preaching)

The reason I name some of these preachers is quite simple, really. It is the same reason we name people who said certain things in the newspaper. It is called attribution. If the President of Kenya said something profound (or profoundly wrong) in public, it is only reasonable that I post whatever was said along with the name of whoever said it. It is just good journalistic practice.

But somehow, when it comes to Christian preachers shouting words in public stadia, we are somehow only supposed to discuss what they said without naming them (or else send them private e-mails). I don’t think I am the only one seeing this inconsistency.

Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au

Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au

Now, I have said all that (above) in order to say this: I find it equally inconsistent to insist on applauding “positive thinking” without examining and questioning those positive thoughts. Most of the “false” prosperity teachings out there are usually forms of positive thinking. They are aimed at helping people feel better about themselves and their Christianity. There is nothing wrong with that. I am all for helping people feel better about themselves and their faith. It is the “how” of attaining this goal that I have qualms about.

This is my point: “Positive thinking” means nothing if you have the wrong standard for determining what is positive and what is negative.

For instance, if self-interest is the ultimate objective, it may be seen as positive to accumulate insane wealth without helping the poor. Do you find any problem with that?

Similarly, if social well-being is the objective, it may be seen as positive to do what helps the masses but deprives the individuals of their rights. Do you have a problem with this approach too? Why?

But if God and His glory is the standard, it is positive to do what glorifies Him, and in doing that, realizing that both the individual and the society will benefit.

Therefore, “positive thinking” means nothing without a proper context. What many of us try to emphasize when we critique false prosperity teachers teachings is how (the context in which) they deliver their message. For instance, a teacher may say that God wants to make you wealthy. That is correct. But then the teacher adds that “God wants to make you wealthy today” and we have a problem.

The problem is not that God CAN’T make you wealthy today. Of course He can. The problem is not even that God WILL NOT make you wealthy today. Who knows? Maybe He will. The problem is that God has not given us any reason in His word to be certainly sure that HE WILL MAKE YOU RICH TODAY OR TOMORROW OR IN THIS LIFE.

It is just not there. And it is false to add a false WHEN to a true CAN.

Another aspect of “positive preaching” that has arisen recently is how Victoria Osteen recently responded to “why we worship God”. By now you know what she said, so I don’t need to repeat it here (or you may Google it if you missed it). But I will only say this to that:

Make God your beginning and your end, and “the rest” will follow. But be careful not to do it SO THAT the rest will follow or BECAUSE you want the rest to follow, do it because you love God and want to do what pleases Him… whether or not “the rest” follows.

It is like loving your spouse, you don’t love them “for yourself”, in fact, if they knew you love them because of what you stand to gain, they will not see that as love. You love your spouse because you genuinely seek their joy whether or not you will be happy yourself. Of course, your own happiness MAY follow as a result, but that is not WHY you love them. You love them for them, even if they DON’T NEED your love.

So why give any less love to God? Why love God any differently?

~~~~

Cornell

 

The year was 2006, I was in my first year of college and just a few months into salvation. My friend, Mark Masai, was visiting me at the “Prefabs” hostels. On this particular day, he needed a data cable to transfer some photos from his phone into my computer.  I had lent mine to another friend. I picked up my phone,  dialed that friend’s number and put the phone to my ear. After several rings, the phone went to voice-mail.

“F*%#!” I blurted out.

I redialed the number,  “please leave your message after the beep.”

“S#%@ man,” I said as I scratched my head, “what are we going to do now?”

But Mark didn’t offer any suggestion, and he didn’t seem to share in my frustration.

He simply gave me a long, hard, look and shook his head.

“What?” I asked him, confused.

“OKOKA KIJANA!!” (Get saved, young man!) He told me with a strange firmness in his voice and a steely look in his eyes.

Believe it or not, that was the last day I ever cursed or even felt the urge to let out another expletive.

To understand the significance of this moment, you have to know me in the months and years preceding this moment. Until that particular day, I never had a problem with cursing — I would do it any time, anywhere.

My sentences were punctuated with curse words and my lips would spit out four letter unprintables with the ease of a drunken sailor. Yes, I had accepted Christ just a few months earlier, but some habits were simply too ingrained to drop, and cursing was one of them. I cursed unconsciously. It was like sneezing, never premeditated.

I recall this day I was in church, standing at the third pew from the pulpit during “praise and worship” when this beautiful lady stepped onto the stage to lead the session.

“S#%@!” I said reflexively, albeit inaudibly.

Then when I realized I had just cursed in church I went “F*%#!”

It was that bad.

But on this day, I don’t know what went through Mark’s mind, and why he said those words. But something happened that day. In the blink of an eye, I lost a habit that had become part of my being. It was a miracle.

Yet, even as I say that word, miracle, I am a bit reluctant. The thoughts going through my head are “I am supposed to be a cessasionist”, “I should not believe in miracles”, “there must be some other explanation to what happened”. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself otherwise. But it was futile. No psychological or sociological theory could explain away what happened. Not under those circumstances. People don’t just drop habits like cursing in a heartbeat.

But God does, and I believe what happened that day was His doing.

The truth is that I still don’t believe IN miracles, because I believe in God.

And He delivered me from a bad habit without having to go through the long path of “process”. God simply chose to do it with the snap of His finger.

Yes, I don’t believe IN miracles, but I do believe miracles.

And I thank God for making me privy to such a powerful one.

Cornell

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The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.” – G.K. Chesterton

How do you decide what books to read and which ones to avoid? With so many stories written and so little time to read, how do you know which book is worth your time? For some of us, we have a few trusted “followees” on Twitter whose book recommendations act as our guides. At other times, some books receive great acclaim and mention in the public sphere and this draws our interest. We read them to be in on the fuss or the buzz. And sometimes, we simply skim through reviews, checking out what the reviewers say about the book, who the reviewers are and how many stars the book gets on Goodreads.

ANewKindofChristianIt is this last form of ranking books – the “starring” – that had me stumped after I finished reading Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian. The book is well written, in fact, it is superbly written. McLaren has a way with words and a way with the hearts of the people that read them. He knows how to tug at our human insecurities and manipulate our emotions. He is a master at appealing to our human need for belonging, justice, fairness, equality and freedom. He may not categorize himself as a liberal (since he avoids all categories), but his messages always have that air of being “liberating”.

After I finished the book and marked it “read” on Goodreads, I was prompted, as usual, to review it and rate it. But I suddenly found myself in a dilemma. It is not a new dilemma, but this book made it even more prominent this time around.

So, how many stars would I give this book?

If I was only looking at the way the story is written, the way the narrative unfolds and the way ideas are weaved, I would give the story 5 stars, hands down. Brian McLaren is an excellent communicator. His sincerity and intellectual honestly flows easily throughout the book. You don’t struggle to believe him. He is convincing because he is not trying to be convincing. He is sincere.

What about his message? His claims? His theology? Continue Reading…

I Love You?

13/01/2014 — Leave a comment

By Huston Malande

Every normal human being loves someone: family, friends, fiancés, felines, name ’em. However, the inevitable problem of being fallen sinners is that we don’t always act lovingly.

Question: is it hypocritical, then, to tell someone you love them after you have done or said something hurtful or unloving to them? I have faced this unenviable struggle countless times. After prayerfully pondering it for a while — and searching the Scriptures — I have finally settled the matter in my mind.

In my thinking and study, I’ve found Paul’s life and his relationship with Christ to be most helpful. Consider with me…

In Rom 5:5, Paul says:

“… God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit …”.

Pretty straightforward. We know that Paul loves God.

In Rom 7:22 he says:

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, …”

Pause for a minute here and notice this proof of eternal blessedness (Psm 1) and God’s love (since Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”) and regeneration (for he later says in Rom 8:7 that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law”). However, he is also painfully aware of the incessant struggle against sin. He therefore goes on to confess:

“… but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am!”

So Paul has the love of God, but Paul also sins against God and grieves the Holy Spirit.

And herein lies the all important question: Can Paul, after crying “Wretched man that I am!”, immediately whisper to God the Holy Spirit, “Be merciful to me, O God! I love you, though my flesh and my heart fail. Cleanse me!”?

I believe he can, and am strongly persuaded that he should, even amidst many tears at the thought of his sinful nature and unloving behaviour towards God.

Yes, the Apostle John says in 1 Jon 2:14 that:

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

But surely that doesn’t mean that the love of God completely leaked out of Paul in those moments when covetousness was awakened in him upon hearing ‘Thou shalt not covet’!

We must be careful, therefore, not to make acts of love the definition of love.

There are many fitting definitions of love, but I like best what I heard from Voddie Baucham (one of my favourite Calvinist preachers):

Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that leads to action on behalf of its object.

It is first and foremost an act of the will. A determination to pursue what would be in another’s best interests. Growing in love means that at first we will be disappointingly inconsistent in acting according to this determination, and even in feeling appropriately towards the person we love, but that’s precisely why the Holy Spirit is granted to us (and why we ought to ask much more fervently for him), to sanctify us as we “spur each other on to love and good works”.

So I hereby have resolved to not let my failures get in the way of communicating, with heartfelt emotion, that I love my loved ones (my close friends, my girlfriend, my brother, my parents, etc.).

I’ll strive to communicate aright even when I feel like (and have been) a failure.

See, if I only tell my loved ones I love them when I feel that I’ve been acting lovingly towards them, I am susceptible to a pernicious self-righteousness and pride (disguised as false humility). Why? Because even when I feel like I’ve been such an amazing guy, truth is that I still haven’t come close to loving with all my heart, all the time — as God expects me to. In fact, unknown to me, are perhaps countless self-serving motives behind my good deeds.

So if love indeed is unconditional, and my heartfelt desire is for the betterment and happiness of my loved ones, I won’t hesitate to say “I love you”, for this heart-set remains true whether or not I’ve acted lovingly towards them in the recent past. May I not forget to let God’s steadfast love — outworking itself in me — be the basis of my expression of failing, feeble, but nonetheless determined love.

I am convinced that if I am careful not to be trite, this will not only give life to whatever relationship’s in view, but that I will all the more enjoy the grace extended to me by those I love yet have failed.

What a joy it is to know that the sovereign God has loved me, and that he has poured out his love in my heart, that it may overflow onto others until he returns to perfect me, or calls me home to perfection.

“… for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his [electing] purpose.” (Rom 8:28, brackets and emphases mine)

Last night NTV aired a useful investigative piece exposing all the falsehood that masquerades as religion in this country. The piece exposed “prophets”; “apostles” etc who are ripping of congregations, manipulating the Scriptures to suit their own needs and preaching godliness as a means of gain [1 Timothy 6:5] (financial; spiritual or otherwise). The truth is that although these prophets, preachers, ‘men of God’ etc are travestying Christianity, the responsibility for discerning between truth and falsehood rests with congregants (lay Christians) and if you are in Christ you have the duty of searching the scriptures to find out if what a preacher says is true (Acts 17:11).

However, the main point of this article is not to shout about what the ludicrousness of what was revealed and I’m especially not interested in trying to defend God and/or Christianity. The question I would really like to ask is this: is religion really society’s problem? Or even one of its problems?

What the investigative piece portrayed is a (false) hope industry, if you will. One that is preying on the weak, the desperate, the helpless. The piece correctly identified that desperation can drive many of us to a bad place where we are willing to pay any price for what we need: healing / financial provision etc. Where we will believe the irrational and accept the incredulous, in order to find rest; comfort and peace.

I could not help but draw some other parallels to this truth.  I could not help but think of all the other false religions we hold on to in life. As I watched, I thought briefly on we who, desperate for career success, have sacrificed our families in order to ‘make it’ or who have been tempted to sacrifice our personal holiness in order to ‘make it’. I thought about we who, desperate to retain society’s respect have sacrificed our unborn children (or encouraged our children to kill their unborn children) who were conceived in iniquity (pre-marital sex / adultery). I thought about we who, full of political ambitions, have compromised our values to succeed. I thought about we who, desperate to be accepted in all the wrong circles, conform to their standards even if those standards contradict God’s.

You see, the problem with society is not all that we are religious. It is not that we are genuinely seeking God. It is the opposite. It is that we all are naturally and fundamentally irreligious and self-serving. It is that we seek our own pleasure, rather than God’s.

False hope. False promises. False gods. False religion. The truth of God traded for a lie – that is the problem.  That we are not worshiping the Creator of heaven and earth (in the way that he desires and requires), but rather we are worshiping the created: our boyfriends, girlfriends, money; parents; preachers etc (and in all this, who we truly worship is ourselves) – that is the problem. That we treasure money and comfort over Christ’s will – that is the problem.

That we are servants but servants of own evil desires, slaves to sin – that is our problem.

We, are the problem.

Julie

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or does it?

This saying is used a lot, as an encouragement and a call to persevere and prevail through tough periods in life. Scientific studies have even been conducted to confirm the validity and truth of this claim. Researchers, like Mike Steery, a psychologist at a university in Buffalo, observe that a small dose of trauma makes people resilient; that those who go through adversity are able to handle more pain; and that the most impaired people are those who have suffered least in life.

But how true is this statement? Does it apply to every person, in every situation, every time? Does it apply to physical pain or just psychological pain? I had an accident when I was a child, in which my eye was injured. I didn’t die, but the accident left me completely blind in one eye. My sight is impaired. I don’t see as well as other people with two eyes. Apparently, what didn’t kill me blinded me, and made me weaker.

I know a young woman who has been a constant victim of physical abuse by her husband. She is not yet thirty, but has given up on life. The light in her eyes is gone. She is always unmotivated. Her smile is rare. She has little passion in life. Though her husband has not killed her, he has obviously made her weaker emotionally and psychologically.

These two examples clearly show us that what doesn’t kill us doesn’t necessarily make us stronger. That statement, if true, is only valid for a very narrow set of circumstances. It depends on WHAT doesn’t kill you, WHO is not being killed, WHY they chose to be strong rather than weak, and also… our definition of strength and weakness.

Is a brokenhearted girl stronger because she made a decision to never give her heart away again, to never be vulnerable?

Is a divorced woman stronger because she developed a thick skin from the constant beatings by her husband and made a decision to never trust any other man?

The truth is that what doesn’t kill us doesn’t always make us stronger, if at all. The odd thing is that this is not news, I haven’t just made you realize this in this post. You’ve always understood, subconsciously, that this statement is highly subjective, and you had no qualms about that fact.

So how come we don’t give the same benefit of doubt to the Bible? Why are atheists so quick to strip the Bible of any inkling of subjectivity and context? The Bible has often been accused of being self-contradictory. For instance, the same Bible that says in Genesis that God caused confusion and divided the people (at the tower of Babel), also says that God is not a God of confusion in 1 Corinthians 14. The same Bible that tells us “do not kill” also shows God commanding the Israelites to go kill every man, woman and child in the Promised Land.

The Bible is a library or stories punctuated with commands, proverbs, sayings, conversations and other elements of story-telling in different contexts. We cannot read it merely as a series of transcendent platitudes and nothing more. Some promises are aimed at specific people groups and for a specific time period, they are not for anyone who gets his hand on the Bible.

We would avoid a lot of meaningless debates if we would only come down to earth and looked at the Bible for what it is, a book written by different authors, in different styles and forms, for different types of audiences and in different contexts. All, of course, inspired by God.

Speaking of “what does not kill us makes us stronger,” I find it ironic that the person who originally said that statement was one of the most notable atheists in history, Friedrich Nietzsche. A year after uttering these words, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown that eventually took him on a downward spiral ending in his death. I guess what didn’t kill him, only served to accelerate his journey to death.

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

ReleaseYourPotencialSocial Media (at least the Kenyan context) has been abuzz for the past week with chatter about visiting world-renowned preacher and motivational speaker, Dr. Myles Munroe. Some conservative Christians have expressed outrage at the “exorbitant” ticket charges to attend the conferences (Kshs. 10,000 and Kshs. 50,000, which would be about USD 120 and USD 600 respectively). Others, I included, are more concerned about Dr. Munroe’s man-centered and unbiblical teachings, especially concerning Christ, the atonement, and prayer.

In one of the most fiery debates I witnessed on Facebook, one person was trying to defend Dr. Munroe by drawing a dichotomy between preaching and motivational speaking. The basic argument was that what Dr. Munroe is doing is not preaching, but motivational speaking, and thus he does not necessarily have to conform to the demands of biblical preaching.

Well, I was perusing my bookmarks archive and came across this post, written by Conrad Mbewe in 2012, in which he effectively illustrates the folly of motivational speaking and why it is a curse to the church of Jesus Christ. I thought it might shed the much needed light in this otherwise fiery debate.

Mbewe:

“… Motivational speaking is an attempt at trying to kill a charging lion with a pea-gun, using freshly cooked peas, spiced with the most aromatic seasonings. The aroma may be tantalizing to the taste buds, but it is totally useless in bringing down that ferocious beast. Men and women outside Christ are DEAD in trespasses and sins. Exciting their senses with nice-sounding platitudes will not give them life. They need the law to kill their fallen egos and the gospel of Jesus Christ to give them life.

I know that motivational speaking is filling up our church buildings until they look like football stadiums. In this world of misery and gloom, we can all do with some encouragement. But is that all that we were called to do as preachers? What good is it if men feel inspired and motivated, and then go back home to live a life of sin and selfishness? Sadly this is the norm in so many evangelical churches. The churches are filled to capacity with people determined to drink sin like water the whole week… “
Please follow the link below to his blog for the rest of the post. I promise it will be worth your while. I implore you to prayerfully consider what he has to say.

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For the fame of His name,

Cornell

Enjoy!

  1. IS IT POSSIBLE TO SELL YOUR SOUL TO THE DEVIL? Dan Delzell: “This type of misinformation only perpetuates the illusion that Satan has a hard time finding “recruits.” The truth is that he had his clutches into you the minute you sinned against your Creator… You don’t have to “sign up” to be under the power of Satan. You just have to be born into this world and start living according to your natural instincts.”
  2. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FATALISM AND SOVEREIGNTYThis is a gem, from Nicholas McDonald, especially the examples he gives towards the end: Fatalism says, “It doesn’t matter what I do, God will do what He wants in spite of it.” The doctrine of sovereignty says, “God will use everything I do to accomplish his sovereign purposes.” Hear the difference? Let me give you a practical, albeit trite, example from my own life…”
  3. TOWARD A BIBLICAL APPROACH TO DATING. Paul Maxwell: “There are two popular, misleading ways of relating the Bible to dating. The first is to think that because the Bible does not speak about dating, we have liberty to dive headlong into romantic waters, guided only by desire to get married… The second is to think that because the Bible does not speak about dating, it forbids dating entirely, and constrains us to pattern our practices after the cultural options available to the biblical authors.” But there’s a third (biblical) way…
  4. FOUR BEATS OF THE LEADERSHIP RHYTHM. Nicholas McDonald: “I’ve boiled hundreds of leadership books and articles down to what I call the “Leadership Rhythm.” Every leadership tidbit I’ve found falls under one of these sub-headings, and when I find something useful, I tuck it under one of them. Invest in these four rhythms on a daily basis, and you’ll keep yourself doing what leaders are supposed to do while magnetically attracting followers along the way.”
  5. WHY PEOPLE MISTAKE GOOD DEALS FOR RIP-OFFS. Adam Alter: “Last Saturday, an elderly man set up a stall near Central Park and sold eight spray-painted canvases for less than one five-hundredth of their true value. The art works were worth more than two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, but the man walked away with just four hundred and twenty dollars.”

Cornell

Hello fellow Aliens!

I decided to change the name “Blog Break” to “Great Reads” to ease understanding for first-time visitors. It’s not a major change, but it’s a helpful one, I think. The following are some of the great reads that I had to bookmark for re-reading, because they were worth it — at least to me.

  1. OUR DISORDERED DESIRE TO ENTER THE “INNER RING”. Art Lindsey: “One of the most memorable of C. S. Lewis’s essays is entitled “The Inner Ring.” It describes our common desire to be accepted within the “inner ring” of whatever group matters to us at the time… This desire to be on the inside of whatever group you aspire to join can affect your relationships at work, in the community, and in the church.”
  2. STOP QUOTING BIBLE VERSES AT ME. Emily Timbol: “What should be most important to us, is not having a handy verse ready to quote, but the character of Christ within us, shining through. We need to read and know the Bible, in order to honor and obey God. To share the gospel, we have to know the gospel.”
  3. WHAT YOUNG CHRISTIANS CAN LEARN FROM THE ELDERLY. Elizabeth Marten: “Young people, myself included, want to appear independent. We are good at convincing others (and ourselves) that we are making do on our own. But the truth is that we’re often lonely. In our efforts to remain independent, we have forgotten how to be dependent on a community.”
  4. 20 TIPS FOR PERSONAL DEVOTIONS IN THE DIGITAL AGE. David Murray: “… Take guilt to God… Don’t share your daily devotions in social media… Establish regular time and place… Journal… ” and more.
  5. WHY DO WE SAY “GOD TOLD ME”? Nancy Guthrie: “When someone begins a sentence with “God told me . . .” I have to admit a silent alarm goes off somewhere inside me—unless the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many see this as the way the Christian life is supposed to work—that if we are really in fellowship with God we will be able to sense him speaking to us through an inner voice. But I’m not so sure.”

Have a blessed reading time. 🙂

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…

(by Huston Malande)

Is the love of money really the root of all evil? What does money have to do with a myriad sins that don’t seem to be motivated by financial gain? And how can a Buddhist monk live a life of self-sacrificial poverty, albeit sinfully, if the love of money is the root of all evil? Did the snake slip an envelope under the table? There was no money in Eden!

Grammar is of the essence in rightly understanding this statement from 1 Timothy 6:10. The ESV accurately translates it this way: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. The phrase “all kinds of” is an idiom which doesn’t mean “every single kind of”, but rather “many different kinds of”. Its use is similar to the way I may say “All sorts of people attend the Meaty Forum“. I clearly don’t mean that the head count at the event is 6 billion. The short answer to the opening question, therefore, is no.
That said, we cannot ignore the vast implications of the verse, for no other thing is pointed out by the Bible in the same way as (the love of which) being the singular root of all kinds of evil. Let’s go back to Eden. Why did Eve eat the fruit?
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6, ESV)
Why was she convinced to think this way? The cunning serpent managed to get under her skin with these words:
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5, ESV)

Eve was somehow convinced that God was keeping something good from her and her husband. In a perfect world, Eve was persuaded to want more. That is the heart of the matter: covetousness.

All this time Adam was standing there, aware that the serpent was lying but doing nothing to stop it. I imagine him sulking because the serpent was ignoring him, the head, and addressing his wife instead. Maybe he, for the first time, felt his ears heat up and his face go red as Eve took the fruit without asking him what he thought. Maybe he, already becoming twisted, at that point decided to let Eve go ahead and eat so he could see whether she would die. If she died, too bad for her. He still had 23 ribs left! If she lived, maybe the serpent was right after all and they’d both be wiser. He used her covetously.

She bit the fruit but didn’t die. So he bit it too. And thus sin entered the world. By covetousness.

We too must therefore guard our hearts against our inherited bent towards covetousness. Money is at the epicenter of this sin, for no one really cares about the design or texture or smell of a 1000 shillings note; we yearn for all the things we could possibly get with an unlimited supply of those. Money, like the fruit in the garden, is desirable for gaining earthly clout.

And just as God responded by cursing every sphere of the first couple’s lives with conditions and predispositions that would lead to suffering and perpetuated sin, all aspects of our own lives become vain when we covetously replace the all-satisfying God and his son Jesus with created things.

This is a preamble to an upcoming article on tithes. May our hearts be yielded to and despise not the scrutiny of God’s word, that by the working of his Spirit they may escape their own incomprehensible deceitfulness.

Huston

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…

‎”YOU CAN DO IT” is a new age, positive thinking bunch of baloney. The truth is that “you can do it through Christ who gives you strength”. Your strength is really yours by proxy.

Jesus is the difference. An important and necessary difference.

We can do nothing without Him. In fact, we have never done anything without Him:

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'” [Acts 17:23-28]

What we say reflects what we believe. Someone who focuses on “you can do it” is implying that you have within you the power or ability to accomplish the task. But Jesus tells us;

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.” [John 15:5].

Being in Christ makes a difference to what someone can and cannot do. VERBALLY acknowledging Christ makes a difference by revealing who is getting the glory for what we can do.

Someone may argue that as long as someone is a Christian/born again/saved/in Christ, he does not need to “say” or mention “through Christ”. Someone may argue that simply saying “you can do it” is the same as saying “you can do it through Christ” because you are assuming the person is in Christ (and Christ is in the person). But James disagrees. Acknowledging God’s will, even in our words, is essential:

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you OUGHT to say, “IF IT IS THE LORD’S WILL, we will live and do this or that.” [James 4:13-15]

These words are said in a chapter that follows one on the power and importance of the words we say. Words reflect belief. Our words are a product of our beliefs. What we say must reflect where our belief, conviction and confidence lies. Simply saying “You can do it” implies or communicates faith and confidence in the person. But saying “You can do it through Christ” implies and communicates faith and confidence in Jesus Christ.

You are not more than a conqueror. You are more than conquerors THROUGH Him that loved us.

So, I am sorry but I don’t believe in you, I believe in Jesus Christ.

I don’t think you can do it, I think you can do it THROUGH Christ who gives you strength.

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…

Music, like food, can be enjoyable. But that’s not its primary purpose. The “entertainment” aspect is a secondary and incidental outcome, not to be pursued as an end in itself. This does not mean that the entertaining effect of music is unnecessary, just as the taste of food is not unnecessary. The problem lies in our finite need to understand things in limited and distinct categories.

I don’t think we ought to classify something that happens to be “entertaining” as “Entertainment” because that would be establishing the identity of something by what it does rather than by what it is.

By definition, I am not a writer, I am a human being who writes. I am not a blogger, I am a son of God who blogs. I am not a sinner, I am a saint who sins.

If you don’t see the ridiculousness of classifying music (Christian or otherwise) as entertainment, consider the idea of classifying a theological book that happens to be humorous as “Christian Humor”. The problem is that the moment we define the book as such, we’re bound to have people reading the book solely for the “humor” in it. To define is to confine. We must therefore be careful with our definitions lest we put our borders too restrictively on ideas that are bigger and more complex than our finite minds can comprehend.

FOR THE GLORY OF GOD

There are many things that we can do for the glory of God. I believe that it is in the process of seeking to glorify and delight in God that we find ourselves delighted and entertained. However, the devil wants to replicate the same “felt” outcomes of delighting in God and achieve them through misguided and misplaced purposes. For instance, while sex is enjoyable, that does not mean that enjoyment is the primary purpose of sex.

When we make the enjoyment the end, then any means of attaining that enjoyment becomes acceptable e.g. pornography and masturbation. In the same way, romantic feelings are an incidental part of the whole package of marriage. However, if we make those feelings the sole basis for a marriage, then there’s nothing to stop us from pursuing them in misplaced objects, e.g homosexuality. There will also be nothing to stop us from getting divorced once those feelings fade. Continue Reading…

You’ve probably heard this expression before. WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? It’s a common expression (well, not so common these days) often used to remind someone to do the right thing. To resist temptation to son and act like Jesus. Canton Jones’ song, “Stay Saved”, comes to mind when I think about WWJD. In the song, he says;

I’m a stay saved
When I’m driving on 285 and somebody cut me off and flipped me the bird
I’m a stay saved
When I’m playin ball and they foulin dawg and I hit the floor get up don’t say a word
I’m a stay saved
When I’m walkin through the mall with my wife and somebody still attemptin to catch her eye
I’m a stay saved
When I go to the refrigerator and somebody done ate my sweet potato pie
I’m a stay saved

In short, whenever he (Canton) finds himself in situations where he is tempted to sin, he reminds himself that he must stay saved. That he is a Christian and vengeance is the Lord’s. This is a good and noble objective. We must always strive to do right and resist temptation. Right living is part of our Christian witness to the world, and how we bring glory to God on earth. Even so, it is not always easy to do the right thing. We are hardwired and inclined to sin. “De” fault is our default. It is harder to sin than not to sin. If you don’t believe me, read Romans 7.

WHEN OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS WRONG

Yet, the right thing is not always the right thing. Obeying God’s commands is not always obeying God’s commands. WWJD is not always WJID (What Jesus Is Doing). Continue Reading…

joseph-princeExactly. I thought I was the only one asking this question. Apparently, I am not. In the few times that I’ve listened to snippets of Joseph Prince’s sermons, I’ve found it difficult to understand how he gets airtime on TBN. Yes, he admits that he is a Word of Faith preacher like the rest of the TBN “cast”, but his sermons are different. You will not hear him out-rightly calling people to claim their inheritance and turn their faith into gold. Pastor Prince’s gospel is slightly different. The difference is so subtle that even I missed it for quite awhile. I admit, I am a grace junkie, and every preacher who teaches on God’s grace is bound to tickle my ears. I guess that’s what blindly drew me to Joseph Prince at first. He is an excellent communicator and a passionate preacher. Grace, or unmerited favor, is at the core of all his messages. Continue Reading…

I loved this;

A man died and went to heaven and he saw two lines.  One line said “Predestined” and the other line said “Free Choice”.  So, being a good 5-point Calvinist, he got in the predestined line.  And he worked his way up to the front and the angel in charge said “Why are you in this line?”  He said, “Well, I chose to be here.”  The angel said, “Well, this is the wrong line.  The free choice line is over there.”  So he moved over to the other line and he worked his way to the front of the line and the angel at the desk said, “What are you doing in this line?”  He said, “Somebody made me come here.”

Funny illustration from Norman Geisler’s sermon “Why I Am Not a Five Point Calvinist“.