Archives For Holiness Matters

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Are you a Christian? How do you know? Are you sure? What criteria do you use to tell if someone is a Christian or not? What are the “essential doctrines” or “fundamentals” that one must agree with and believe to be considered a true convert? And one more thing: Does the devil possess any of these “Christian traits”?

I went through my Bible for some examples of the things that the devil believes and does. I wonder if these traits are enough to render him a Christian:

  1. Satan reads and has memorized his Bible. He drops verses like a pro when tempting Jesus.  (Matthew 4)
  2. Satan believes that there is one God. (James 2:19)
  3. Satan can perform signs and wonders (2 Thess 2:9)
  4. The demons (Satan’s minions) know and acknowledge that Jesus is the “Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24)
  5. The same demons also acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. (Luke 4:41)
  6. It appears Satan has access to the presence of God and converses with God (Job 1:6)
  7. He knows that he can do nothing without God’s permission (Job 1:6-12)

Are these “facts” enough to render Satan a Christian? And if not, what are those things that would disqualifies him from being one?

My answer is that there is at least one thing that the devil neither seems to know, BELIEVE nor ACCEPT. There is also one thing that the devil never DOES, and the reason why he doesn’t DO the latter is because he doesn’t BELIEVE the former.

First, what the devil doesn’t BELIEVE:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]

Secondly, what the devil doesn’t DO:

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” [1 John 3:14]

In other words;

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  [John 13:35]

The devil does not love God and he does not love his neighbor. His loveless actions are the evidence that he does not believe the Gospel. However, the devil does claim to love people and care for people and look out for the best interest of the people. The difference is that his love, care and concern is not expressed in ways that explicitly honor and give glory to God.

Now that we know a few things that set the devil (with all his knowledge, beliefs and works) apart from the true children of God, the more important question is this: What sets the devil apart from you? Do you believe the Gospel? And has this belief caused any change in your love for God and neighbor? Doe your love for others show others that you are acting out of gratitude for what God has does for you?

I implore you to examine your heart and prayerfully consider this.

Controversy seems to follow Gloria Muliro wherever she turns, like an unshakable stalker.

Gloria-Muliro-px

The latest has to do with her song, Follow You. The singer has been accused of stealing/plagiarizing/sampling (whichever term seems most appropriate), not only the words, but also the tune to the chorus/verse from Chris Tomlin’s song, I Will Follow You.

Now, people will throw out accusations all the time at celebrities. What matters is whether those accusations are true, reasonable, justifiable or simply unfounded. What makes Gloria Muliro’s case even more noteworthy is the fact that she responded, by denying all charges of stealing/sampling/plagiarizing the song [both consciously or sub-consciously].

She further added that the contentious lyrics were inspired by the Bible and any similarity with Chris Tomlin’s song is purely coincidental.

It is this denial that makes her case worth examining, especially if you’ve listened to the two songs. Here are the links to the two songs: Gloria Muliro and Chris Tomlin. Give them a listen before you proceed. The first 30 seconds should do it.

Now, a few details concerning the controversy:

FIRST, the words in the contentious verse in both songs are [almost] exactly the same. The only difference is that Chris Tomlin uses the word “when” instead of “where” in the second to last part of the verse [underlined]:

Muliro: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, where you move I’ll move I’ll move, I will follow you”

Tomlin: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move I’ll move, I will follow you”

SECONDLY, Gloria Muliro was recently interviewed by Buzz concerning the controversial song. This was her explanation for the apparent similarity between the songs:

Buzz: Okay, make us understand why you are accused of stealing the song ‘Follow You’ by American singer Chris Tomlin word by word.

Muliro: Let me make it very clear. My music is inspired by the Bible. The words in ‘Follow Me’ are in the book of Ruth 1:16. Check and you will see. If today I preach the sermon from John 3:16, that will not prevent somebody else to preach the same verse in Russia. We are all guided and inspired by the same Bible.

THIRDLY, if you’ve listened to the choruses in both songs, the tune is more or less the same. But I will leave that one up for the reader’s/listener’s determination. It could be that all songs sound the same to me. I’m a lyrics guy, after all  🙂

Anyway, my focus in bringing this controversy to light is not to determine whether Gloria Muliro did sample Chris Tomlin’s song (though I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing). My major concern is in the way she responded to the accusations, considering her claim to be a Christian, and therefore expected to live (or at least speak) according to certain standards.

In the excerpt above, she told Buzz that the words in the song are in Ruth 1:16. This could be true. Ruth 1:16 says, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” However, the verse does not have the “where you move, I’ll move” part. I could be splitting hairs here, but it seems Gloria Muliro’s song has more in common with Chris Tomlin’s song than with the Bible (her alleged sole inspiration).

I have tried to give her the benefit of doubt. I have even considered what a friend suggested on Facebook, that this could be a case of Cryptomnesia (This is when “a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke…” ) I was willing to grant that, but upon closer examination of the song, I realized that the similarities are too detailed to be merely incidental.

Some similarities in the internal message in both songs is striking. Yes, a person may sub-consciously sample a chorus and plagiarize a few lyrics, but is it possible for one to subconsciously translate those lyrics into Swahili? That seems a little bit hard to pull off.

In the first verse, Chris Tomlin says, “All your ways are good, All your ways are sure….” and in her first verse, Gloria Muliro says, “….Njia zako hakika (all your ways are good), Mambo yako sambamba (all your ways are sure)…” Maybe I am just cherry-picking lines to prove a point. So, let’s go all the way to the last verse and see what we can find there. In Chris Tomlin’s song, there are phrases such as, “…In you there’s joy, unending joy…” and in Gloria Muliro’s song, “…kuna upendo tele kwako (in you there’s unending joy), furaha kwako (in you there’s joy).” Is this still a coincidence inspired by the story of Ruth and Naomi? Maybe it is. Who knows? God works in mysterious ways.

But an even more important question is this, do you think those are sufficient reasons to make people think that Gloria stole/sampled Chris Tomlin’s song? I think they are. Gloria Muliro doesn’t seem to think so. When asked whether the accusations against her were unfounded, this was her disturbing response:

Buzz: So why would people think that you stole the song, in your opinion?

Muliro: People are just jealous of my success.

Dear Christian artistes, we are called to be above reproach. This does not necessarily mean that we will never fail or try to cover up our failures. It means that we should always be ready (and willing) to bring those failures to the cross. It doesn’t help anyone to keep holding onto our “righteousness” when it is clear before God and before men that there is reason and cause for repentance.

Christianity is not about never falling, it is about always rising up after the fall. Our faith is best displayed in our admission of our falleness (and in our proclamation of Christ’s sufficiency to forgive and raise us up again). No, the world will not be won by our outward cloaks of perfection and self-righteousness, it will be won by the display of our utter dependency, for therein lies the reality of the Gospel in our lives. We are all desperate beggars before God’s throne of grace.

It is my prayer that Gloria Muliro will come to the realization that Christian artistes are not saints misunderstood, but sinners forgiven.

Soli Deo Gloria

It happens all the time. You hear a given phrase over and over and you get used to it and you never notice anything odd or weird about it. And then one day it hits you. You may have even used the phrase in conversation, until this day when someone says it and you were a bit absent minded and then it really hits you. Suddenly it sounds so different. That’s what happened to me last evening.

I was attending SPA FEST, an annual dancing competition, to cheer a team called DICE. It is the team my friend Winnie (she has written a guest post here before) dances in. In one of the interludes, a guy came onto the stage to perform a rap song. I didn’t catch his name, and it was obvious not many people knew who he was. You could tell from the murmurs in the crowd as he climbed up onto the platform.

“I am an upcoming artiste,” he added after the name I didn’t catch.

That’s when it hit me. I have heard that phrase used hundreds of times and I bet I have even used it a couple of times when referring to people. But what does that phrase, “upcoming artiste” really mean?

L Jay Maasai was the new artiste of the year in the 2014 Groove Awards (Photo courtesy: tetemesha.com)

L Jay Maasai was the new artiste of the year in the 2014 Groove Awards (Photo courtesy: tetemesha.com)

The surface meaning seems obvious. An upcoming artiste is someone who has recently started singing or performing in public. An upcoming artiste often doesn’t have an album – yet – and he has recently started recording some songs – or not yet. An upcoming artiste is not famous. His name has not caught on and people still struggle to remember him whenever he comes onto the stage.

An upcoming artiste is not an established artiste. In other words, he is not that popular – yet. Most of them can barely move the crowd (although the guy I saw yesterday really worked us up). All that sounds obvious, until it hits you afresh like it did me last evening. Why the “up” in upcoming? In fact, why the “coming”? Does the phrase reveal a worldview that we often overlook, as Christians, but should actually be wary of?

I believe it does, in a way.

An “up-coming” artiste implies that the artiste is “rising” to a certain level and that he or she will one day “arrive”. This bothers me. Because whenever we say an artiste is “rising” whose ranking are we using? The truth is that we have bought into the vocabulary and therefore the worldview of the world. We are categorizing and ranking Christian artistes using worldly standards and we don’t even realize it.

In the world, it is the numbers that speak. In the world, we know an artiste has “arrived” by counting the number of songs and albums and sales he has made. In the world, we know an artiste has arrived by looking at how many followers he has on Twitter and the place he holds in the TV music show charts. In other words, in the world, the stats are counted, not weighed. 

Which leads to the inevitable question, whose standards are we living and “performing” by? The irony is that most of the “upcoming” artistes often begin with a message that is faithful and biblical in the early years of their musical “career”. But as they rise up the ranks and arrive, the message gets more shallow and their gospel becomes watered down and less explicit. By the time they are topping the charts, many are great performers with messages that can barely be distinguished from the other chart-topping “secular” artistes.

Just track the musical journey of many current “arrived” artistes. Check their stats and you will see the consistent rise. Now go back and check the content of their songs and you will see the consistent decline. It will make you wonder if what we need is up-coming artistes or “down-going” artistes.

I am not saying that this is the case with all artistes who gain popularity in their musical careers. There will always be the remnants and the faithful such as Eunice Njeri. The fine wines that only get better with age like Christina Shusho are worth their place in the charts. But these are exceptional because they are the exceptions. The rule is more worrying.

“[Christ] must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

For the fame of His name,

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

In a way, we are all Public Relations officers.

We spend most of our time managing and manipulating appearances. We care too much what people think about us. And of course it is not wrong to care what people think of us. Jesus calls us to be a light to the world. The salt of the earth. It matters what people think of us and see in us.

But sadly, for many of us, what people think of us is not what God thinks of us. The image we present to people is not an image formed and informed by our Faith. We care too much about looking good than actually being good. We worry too much about looking righteous instead of confessing the righteousness of Christ.

We are actors on a stage. Characters on a page. But God is seldom the author of the story. We are acting off a different script, our own script. Our friends barely know the real us, because we have bought them tickets and they are sitting in the theater, watching the edited movie of us. Our colleagues at work only get to see the rehearsed version of us.

But the backstage is empty. We don’t allow people there. The changing room is out of bounds. We don’t want them to see the skeletons in our closets and realize we are human like them. We are sinners like them. We are foolish. Like them.

We don’t want them to see that we too get lost, that we get confused about life and we often don’t have clue about what we are doing or what we want in life. We don’t want our friends to see that we follow our feelings more than our minds. We don’t want them to know that we often make decisions putting our own selfish interests first. No. We feign selflessness. We fake compassion. We manufacture charity.

But this does not have to be. It is hard to change. But God does not call us to change. He calls us to Himself. he calls us to believe and trust, AND THEN He will change us. He bids us to come, and then He makes us want to come and then He gives us the strength to come. It is all of grace because it is all of God.

May God redeem our story. May He re-write the script and yank us off that director’s chair. May we release our grip on the manuscript of our lives and let God’s Word be the script we rehearse and act out. May God’s story become our story and may Jesus be the star of the show.

And when the CREDITS go up at the end of our lives, may the name of Christ be the only name on that list.

Because He alone deserves the glory.

 

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

Sex sells. There is no doubt about that. Let a semi-nude (semi-naked?) woman pose next to a car and men will suddenly be interested. Ensure your TV show has some steamy scenes and a romantic (lusty) storyline or two involving the protagonist, and your audience will be hooked. Use a sexually tantalizing image to advertise an upcoming sermon on teen sexuality and the teenagers will show up in droves. Think HBO, MTV,Telemundo… you get the picture.

Sex sells. In a hypersexualized society, the easiest and fastest way to get people’s attention is to dress up your message (or at least wrap the package) in lingerie.

sauti sol

In a recent heated controversy over a poster used by Mavuno Church to attract teens to church, Pastor Muriithi Wanjau made a lot of sense while defending the move. Our teenagers live in a hypersexualized world. They see sex everywhere, they think about it most of the time, that is where they spend most of their time. And in order to get their attention, we have to go where they are. We have to reach out to them using images that make sense to them. Images that will hook and lure them in. And sex is one of the most powerful images.

A big part of the uproar that is now only a distant memory was that the church was succumbing to immoral means to achieving moral ends. The church was becoming like the world in order to win the world. The church was not only in the world, but it was rapidly becoming of the world. Defenders of the “blurred lines” approach were however equally strongly persuaded that this was not the case. The church was not actually promoting pornography or condoning illicit sex. On the contrary, those who did visit Mavuno church and listen to the advertised message confirmed that the church was still for moral uprightness, for chastity and for a sexuality guided and guarded by the Word of God.

The publicity was just that — publicity.

Both sides agreed to disagree. Continue Reading…

I did something wrong a few minutes ago, no, two things. Well, I actually don’t think what I did was wrong, but most of my readers do, and that is why I felt I should do (say) something about it.

First things first, what did I do? 1. I clicked RT on a tweet by Joel Osteen and I clicked “share” on a status update linking to a blog-post by Rob Bell. The truth is, I really liked the tweet and the post. I thought they were inspiring, creative, and most importantly, I thought they spoke the truth. I thought what I was doing was perfectly innocent and even commendable — I was passing on the truth to the masses.

rob bell

Well, not everyone agrees. Though nobody said anything, I could virtually see the shock in the hundreds of eyes that saw the Joel Osteen Retweet on my Twitter Feed. I could hear the astonished gasps from the dozens of “reformed” friends who were unlucky enough to see the shared Rob Bell post on my Facebook Timeline.

The problem was not the tweet, or the post, the problem was the people who authored them. Continue Reading…

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.

It is an assumption we always make when we read bible passages about loving our enemies, turning the other cheek and blessing those who persecute us. We assume that we are always the victims. When we read such passages, we tend to see ourselves as the innocent target to the slap or the accusation or the insult.

cheekBut the truth is that more often than not, we deserve it. At least I know I do. For instance, not so long ago I lied to a friend, and through that lie, made her an enemy. She “found me out” and I paid the price by not only losing her trust, but also her friendship.

Now, of course I asked for her forgiveness and repented of my sin before God. Ideally, that would be the end of that. But reconciliation is much more complicated, and much less Utopian.

Chesterton once said that “we choose our friends and we make our enemies”. While it is easy to see how this happens, there is something we deliberately make ourselves blind to — the fact that having an enemy does not always mean we are the innocent party. This victim mentality is a product of our sinful, self-preserving tendencies.

We don’t like to look at ourselves as the guilty ones. 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)

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…

The paradox of Christianity is that we stand tallest on our knees, and we see farthest with our eyes closed. We find our independence in depending on another and we realize our uniqueness by imitating another, Jesus Christ.

The paradox of Christianity is that we are more than conquerors and slaves at the same time. We claim victory because we have been defeated. We are conquerors because we have been conquered. We are victors because we have accepted defeat.

316The paradox of Christianity is that we are always for war and against war. We fight and resist the devil, while at the same time fleeing and avoiding the sin. We struggle with all of our strength, while confessing that the strength is not ours.

The paradox of Christianity is that we are called to love the sinner and hate the sin. We are to strongly oppose the lies while tightly embracing the liars. We love our enemies.

The paradox of Christianity is that we are always rich and poor. Our Father owns cattle on a thousand hills but we consider ourselves beggars in His kitchen of grace.

The paradox of Christianity is that we are always happy and Continue Reading…

It was the e-mail from Goodreads.com that completed the picture. The message was a link to a review of my “year in books” in 2013. I was surprised to find that I had read 53 books in just a year!

The site suggested I share the enviable achievement with my friends on Facebook and Twitter, and I gladly (albeit unwittingly) complied. I was already in too deep by the time I realized what was happening to my heart.

You see, I was proud of my achievement, and the congratulatory likes and comments on Facebook made me even prouder. I remember at some point suggesting that I will beat that record in 2014. But “God stopped me” (for lack of a more kosher, calvinistic alternative) and I quickly retracted that desire.

goodreads

I found myself asking what I was doing. Since when did reading books become a contest? Why all this sudden bibliophile navel-gazing? And while a lot of reading is good for you, who said that reading the most books within the shortest time is healthy, let alone something to brag about?

Reminds me of a joke by Brian Regan, a stand-up comedian: “I started taking speed – reading classes,” he says. “At the end of the course, I could read 20 pages per minute… but my comprehension plummeted!”

Think about it, sometimes keeping tab on some achievements ends up working against those very achievements. It is one thing to give charitably, it is another thing to keep track of your acts of charity. It is one thing to post an encouraging status update, but another thing altogether to start counting and hoping the update will get more “likes” than your previous one.

The human heart is indeed an idol factory, as John Calvin once aptly put it, and mine is no exception. More than once I have found myself clicking on his greatness Tim Challies’ Goodreads page, and wishing I could read as many books as he has (he is at 1,523 read books at the moment, and that’s just on Goodreads). I often find myself secretly praying I will beat his record — not that anyone’s counting.

I seldom I stop to think what difference it will make in my life, or what it will mean to God’s kingdom, that I read more books than Tim Challies. But isn’t that how sin works? It is not rational. It keeps us pursuing (with all our might) feeble vanities and pleasures, pointless distractions of the heart and mind.

May God deliver us from the idolatry of metrics. May we learn to lose count of our good deeds and noble endeavors, not because they have become too many to count, but because we have realized that good deeds and noble endeavors were made to count, not to be counted.

For the fame of God’s name.

Cornell (@cornellngare)

It is the stuff of water-cooler conversations. Jane just conveniently happened to feel thirsty when Sophie pushed back her office chair. The two women met at the water-dispenser, where the usual chit-chat started. 

water cooler chat“Did you hear about Maryanne’s escapades last night?” Jane casually asks Sophie while awaiting her turn, holding an empty plastic cup. “I heard she left the club at midnight, with Beth’s husband.”

But before the gossip can get juicier, Sophie shows up, and the conversation quickly switches to something about Mr. Njoroge of HR and how obnoxious he is.

It is easy to talk about someone else when they’re not there. More specifically, it is easy to say negative things (true or false) about them when they are out of ear-shot. It is not the same thing with compliments. We actually long to be overheard while saying positive things about a person. But when it comes to God, we actually don’t mind saying negative things about Him even when He is listening.

I have found it helpful to re-imagine my sins as being committed in the physical presence of God. For instance, when I lie, I think about what that means in my relationship with God. I imagine God is standing there with me while I am doing it. He and I know the truth. He clearly told me to tell the truth, and even though I heard Him, I chose to do otherwise.  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…

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

In the words of the late C.S. Lewis:

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter;

it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back,

a load so heavy that only humility can carry it,

and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them,

that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.

We must play.

But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

Adapted from The Weight of Glory

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

This was a prayer of the renowned 18th century evangelist, John Wesley. It is also my prayer and, hopefully, will be yours too:

TAKE FULL POSSESSION OF MY HEART

O merciful God,
whatever You may deny me,
do not deny me this love.

Save me from the idolatry of loving the world,
or any of the things of the world.

Let me never love any creature
but for Your sake and in subordination to Your love.

Take full possession of my heart;
raise there Your throne
and command there as You do in heaven.

Being created by You, let me live to You;
being created for You,
let me ever act for Your glory;
being redeemed by You,
let me render to You what is Yours
and let my spirit ever cleave to You alone.

– John Wesley

“Never forget what people say to you when they’re angry, that is when the truth comes out.”

This is a common maxim, one that we often assume is true. But is it true? Are people most honest or truthful when they are angry?

angerThe logic is that when someone is angry, their emotions run high and they put down all their guards and reservations. That is the time they reveal what they really think about you. The assumption is that the demands of social propriety and decency cause people to be dishonest about what they really think about other people.

For example, if you’re slightly (or even very) overweight and your friend always compliments you for your good health and always says nice and positive things about you, they are not being honest with you. They are lying to you in order to stroke your ego and protect your feelings. This is true. We are not always honest with our friends in peacetime. But this does not necessary mean that it takes conflict and chaos to bring out the truth.

Anger is not always truthful, and here are a few reasons:

  1. Most of the statements made in anger are hurtful and are designed to be so. The angry person does not just use cutting words because those words are true, but because they are cutting. Continue Reading…