Archives For Truth Matters

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

My Father

23/10/2016 — Leave a comment

Have you ever thought about the meaning of the word Father?

You’ve probably never needed to, because it seems so obvious… so self-evident. I used to think so too, until recently.

I was going through a “dark-night-of-the-soul” period where I found it difficult to pray. For some reason, it just stopped making sense speaking to a God that was invisible and immaterial. Whenever I closed my eye to pray, I was overwhelmed by the whole absurdity of the act. It just felt like talking into the air, into nothingness.

That’s when someone suggested a rather cliche solution: that I read the Bible and look at the way the people in there addressed God. Most specifically, how Jesus prayed and taught his disciples to address God.

Jesus called God His Father.

“Our father who is in heaven,” he taught us to pray. It sounded straightforward enough, except my main challenge was in conceptualizing God as a Father.

Many Christian counselors suggest that people who have difficulties thinking of God as a Father usually had a bad experience with their earthly fathers. They don’t know what is so good about having a father, and so they struggle to embrace a God who approaches them as one.

But the situation seemed different for me. This wasn’t about my earthly father. Growing up, my relationship with dad was more or less “normal.” My problem was a more philosophical one: How can I address God as “father” with a straight face when I know that God is Spirit and not human. Isn’t the word “Father” just an anthropomorphism of a being that is beyond our comprehension?

Well, I was in for a great (and pleasant) surprise.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word father as: “a male parent” or “a man who is thought of as being like a father.” Another alternative definition is: “one related to another in a way suggesting that of father to child.”

Beyond these surface definitions, Mr Charles and George Merriam and Mr Noah Webster don’t tell us much about what is actually involved in “being a father”, or what qualifies a man to be one.

Stay with me now. When you consider every aspect of what it means to be a father, you will quickly realize tat no single human being perfectly fits the description.

Does biology make one a father?

It is obvious that many who have contributed the Y chromosome to the existence of a child cannot quite be called the fathers of the child. This is especially if they have not contributed in any way to the raising of the child. These men fail to fit the “father” description because something, a relationship, is missing.

Does nurture make one a father?

In fact, there are many children being raised by men who are not related to them biologically, men who are married to their mothers, men that they call fathers. Even so, many who have been raised by men who were not their biological parents often say of these men, “he is like a father to me” as if he is not quite a father. Something is missing in the picture.

Does the law make one a father?

Or is it the law? Does legal adoption qualify one to be defined as a true father? And if so, why do we still feel the need to qualify the father title with an adjective such as “my adoptive father”. Somehow, we instinctively know that they are not quite the true definition of father.

Is it all three?

But even in the now increasingly rare case where one is raised up by the father who shares the same genes, these fathers still fall short. You may be biologically related to your father, he may be the one that raised you and his name may even be in your legal birth certificate, but he still falls short.

Earthly fathers don’t always love their children and when they do it is never a perfect love. Earthly fathers don’t always provide and when they do it may not be the best kind of provision. Even when they try their best, their humanity is a guarantee that they will never be the 100% father.

The fact that they are fallen human beings means that they will inevitably not measure up at being fathers.

The True Father

So who is the true father? Who fits the bill? Who meets all the criteria? Who is the one we can look at for any idea of what it means to be a perfect father? In other words, where do we get the idea that there is something like a 100 per cent father and yet no single human being has ever fit the mold? How do we know that the kind of fathers we have here on earth are less than ideal?

I found the answer when I went back to the Bible with my struggle. In the Words of scripture, I encountered a Father who fit the description, who met the criteria, and never disappointed. In the God of the Bible, I found not just the true definition of a perfect Father, I found the embodiment of that Father.

In my confusion, I thought it more realistic to address a human father than to address an invisible spiritual father. Yet the reality is that the human father was a false reality. No human being deserves to be called father. Not the man who contributed to your genes, and not even the man who raised you up. Only God fits the bill.

In fact, our earthly fathers are poor imitations of the true Father. Even the best of human fathers are mere glimpses of the perfection that is in our glorious heavenly Father. In other words, there is no truer and realer illustration of a human being talking to his father than that of a man praying to his God.

I am no longer struggling to pray. In fact, it is becoming more absurd to take my troubles to human beings instead of to God. I have learnt that prayer is the realest and truest form of communication I could ever take part in. Because in prayer, I am speaking to the only one who not only hears my words, but perfectly understands my words and perfectly responds to those words.

Through prayer, I can, for the first time in my life, talk to my real Father.

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

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…

I was 17, she was 16, and her smile drove me crazy. Every moment spent with her was magical, even the mundane was memorable. She meant the world to me. We delighted in the most insignificant things; a replied letter; a wink across the classroom; even an insult was considered a tease – romantic.

angelShe was an angel, and I would find myself floating on cloud nine just thinking about her. I knew she was the girl of my dreams because she was the girl I always dreamt about.

She was the girl he dreamed about too. He was 21 and in college. He had money and I didn’t even own a wallet. But it wasn’t his money, but his charm, that made her stop replying my letters. It was his stubble-stained chin that made her start shunning my once cherished embrace.

I cried unashamedly when she told me we could no longer be. That she no longer felt the same. That the dream was over and it was time to wake up.

“I just can’t go on being with you. I am sorry,” she told me with the casualness of someone who has just stepped on a friend’s toe. It wasn’t me, it was her.

She left me a casualty. I could no longer see her, and that blow sent me to love’s ICU. She had trampled on my heart left it cynical. What happened to the promises we made? The names we carved on the bark of that tree by the river? What happened to forever?

That fateful night, I fell asleep on a tear-soaked pillow, to the background tune of Toni Braxton’s “How Could an Angel Break My Heart?”

Ten years down the calendar, I have had my share of broken hearts; some of them my own; most of them casualties of my callous and careless heart. I have learnt that there is no such thing as an angel. That, as C.S. Lewis once put it, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” I have learned that a broken heart is not a risk to take but a guarantee.

I have learnt that forever is a choice made, not after finding the perfect lover, but through loving the imperfect one. Love is a choice with consequences, painful ones. I have learnt that trust is a gamble, and that while we always expect the best of others, we should not be too blind that we don’t prepare for the worst. This is not cynicism, it is realism. A realism tempered by a truth that transcends all age and culture: that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All have sinned and fallen short of our fanciful expectations.

How could an angel break my heart? Because I believed there was such a thing as an angel. How do I know this? Because I have been an angel, countless times, all along knowing that the person looking back at me in the mirror is no angel. I don’t believe in angels, maybe fallen angels. Angels like me; born blind, faltering and damaged. Angels like me; trust-breaking, broken-winged and diseased.

But broken wings lead to broken hearts.

I don’t believe in angels. But I believe in the one who makes angels. I believe in the one who takes my broken wings and patches me up again to fly another day. I believe in the one who has promised me that one day I will fly without faltering. One day I will be like Him, because I shall see Him as he is — my perfect reflection.

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. [1 Chronicles 4:10]

If God did it for Jabez, God will do it for you.

All you have to do is make sure you say the prayer exactly the way Jabez said it; Word for Word. Miss or mispronounce a word and God will not answer your prayer. Never mind that Jabez said his prayer in Hebrew. Just make sure you remain faithful to your KJV, NIV, ESV… translation. Because, you know, the people who translated the Bible were anointed men, men who had the gift of tongues and “wrote in tongues” like English.

Better yet, grab a copy of Bruce Wilkinson’s 2000 book: The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life. Read and meditate and apply the book and your life will never be the same.

Don’t believe me? Ask the author himself. This is what he says in the preface:

“I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief—only one sentence with four parts—and tucked away in the Bible, but I believe it contains they key to a life of extraordinary favor with God. This petition has radically changed what I expect from God and what I experience every day by His power. In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.” (bold emphases mine)

JI03Still don’t buy it? Then you should check out how many people have bought and continue buying the book. I could be lying, but numbers don’t. The Prayer of Jabez has topped the New York Times Bestsellers’ list and sold more than nine million copies. Surely, 9 million people cannot all be wrong! New York Times knows better than to allow a lying book at the top of their list. Come on, it is New York Times!

And if you still don’t believe me, just visit the book website and marvel at the amazing testimonies of people whose lives have been transformed after they prayed this prayer every day for two weeks, exactly as the book prescribed.

But seriously, guys, why is the prayer of Jabez so popular? Because it is a prayer about blessings, enrichment, protection and gladness. It is a prayer for prosperity. And who doesn’t want to prosper? Even God wants us to prosper and promises us as much — of course, we must first meet certain conditions, such as invoking the prayer of Jabez correctly, the way Jabez did it. There is nothing wrong with prosperity or asking God for it. There is nothing sinful with wanting and being drawn to wealth and health.

And here is biblical proof: God answered the prayer of Jabez.

And He will answer your prayer of Jabez. The guarantee is in the Bible. Be careful not to pray for other things such as to be holy, or to be more forgiving, or to be more generous and loving. Don’t pray for the will to persevere hard times. Nobody wants to suffer. Jabez didn’t. And Jabez did not pray about such things. If anything, those are wimpy prayers. Stick to the script(ure): stick to the answered prayers.

Do this, and you will break through all the barriers standing between you and your blessings. Pray the prayer of Jabez, not the prayer of (insert_your_name_here). Your name is not in the Bible, and you are not even sure God will answer your customized prayers. Stick to the prayers with guaranteed answers, like the prayer of great Men of God such as Jabez.

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)

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…

Infinity… in 26 letters,

Eternity… in decaying pages,

God’s vocabulary… in man’s handwriting,

The deepest secret… in public pages,

The brightest light… in black ink,

Profoundest truth… in simple strokes,

Greatest treasure… in cheapest paper,

Deepest love… in shallowest phrases,

A masterpiece… in ordinary font,

Immortal words… in mortal handwriting,

Heaven’s blueprint… in earthly pen strokes,

HIDDEN IN MY HEART… TO REVEAL HIS HEART.

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.

.

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

Luke 6: 40-42

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother: ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brothers eye”

As followers of Jesus, we are being conformed to his image and we have a responsibility not only to become increasingly like Him, but also to assist our brothers in their quest to be like Him too. So we hold each other accountable, rebuke one another, encourage one another, correct one another, help one another; bear one another’s burden’s etc. Some of these activities (read rebuke/correction) are not fun especially if we are on the receiving end of the rebuke.  In times past I mostly interpreted the above verse as prohibiting me entirely from correcting my brother when they are wrong. It’s one of those verses you read, feel guilt and figure you should shut-up permanently. After all, at any one moment, I am largely unaware of the plethora of ways in which I may be, and probably am, sinning. Ergo, I have no moment when I have a right to confront my brother for their sin. Right?

Wrong. 

Thinking about the above verse, it appears to play out something like this:

1. Question: Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Answer: That’s a good question! Why is that happening?  If you think about it, a log is infinitely larger than a speck. Extending the analogy to its logical conclusion, it becomes clear that this log must be obvious to you, not least of all because your eye is probably itchy; red; tearing and uncomfortable as a result of its presence. So WHY do you ‘not notice’? Well, I suspect the problem is not that we do not notice this nasty irritating thing in our eye (duh!); its not that we are ignorant of this log, the problem is that we are ignoring it. This passage is not about how hidden sin disqualifies you from dealing with your brothers sin (otherwise you’d have to wait until heaven to confront your brother….which is really quite pointless!) Rather, Jesus seems to be talking about the fact that there are revealed sins we DO know about (perhaps sins we’ve been talk to about) which we are consciously, voluntarily not dealing with and because we are not dealing with them all attempts to rebuke our brothers will inevitably make us:

2. Hypocrites! Yup. If the above person is us then we are pretending! We are claiming to see on one hand and to be blind on the other. We are saying ‘hey my sights so good I can help you take out this speck and at the same time ‘oh no I don’t see  this protruding thing in my own eye’.  We are lying.  Lying to others and perhaps, at some point, will end up lying to/deceiving ourselves if we avoid dealing with the sin long enough.

So, again,  question: if you ‘can’t see’ your own glaring obvious sin how well-equipped are you to deal with someone else’s sin?

3. Answer: you’re not well equipped! At all. If anything your dangerous to your brother. You need to hold up a mirror to your own eye; take out your own log and THEN (and only then) take out the speck in your brothers ( and yes…really… take it out!) Once you acknowledge and deal with your log, life becomes so much clearer and you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brothers eye.

So, what I think is that Jesus is saying is that sin that’s being ignored in my life: prayerlessness, abandoning the habit of meeting together with saints, being unfaithful in doing my duties – name it – will significantly undermine my capacity to be useful to my brother. Until I take out my log I’m not in a good position to help others not least because my motivations and attitudes in doing so could (most likely will) be all wrong and I could end up being mean or self-righteous or hurtful or all manner of other unhelpful things and seeking to do things in selfishness rather than God’s love.

While my logs remain unchecked I am a dangerous person to my brothers. A hazard to everyone’s eyes, if you will! I will probably leave people terribly scarred by my saving exploits.  But if I take out my own log, my own health benefits, my own peace is restored and my usefulness to my brother: my ability to help him/her enhance his/her own sight by gently+firmly pointing out to him/her things he/she genuinely may not even have noticed, is greatly increased.

May God help us.

– J

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus knew His Bible.

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

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

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

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

safety-helmet-clipboard-notebook-pen-wooden-table-top-view-construction-concepts-57119973

He rummages in the deep pockets of his lab coat for something to write on. His fingers feel out the shape of a notebook and he pulls it out – it’s a prescription pad.

It will have to do.

He pulls out a chair and, with his elbow, pushes aside the mountains of medical books to create some space. Taking off his lab coat and hanging it on the back of the chair, he sits down and begins to write.

“In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us … it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,”  (Luke 1:1 & 3).

Luke begins what will end up being a 24 chapter letter to his friend.

Dr. Luke is not a trained scribe, but he loves to write. He is certified to fiddle with a stethoscope and write prescriptions, but here he is, employing  his doctor-sharp memory in the task of penning out a biography of Jesus.

The physician has done his research: he has double-checked the facts and cross-checked his sources. Now he writes.

The doctor is doing what scribes do (or ought to do) best, relaying the truth to the masses in writing. Of course, when Luke penned his letter, he had only one person in mind – his friend Theophilus. But thanks to God’s providential orchestration, the whole world is now privy to this treasure chest of God’s Good News to the world.

I can’t help but relate to this First Century doctor. I am a trained Engineer, with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering plus several months of working experience in the bag. Yet here I am, training and working in a leading media house in East Africa and bearing the title of Journalist:  interviewing people, double-checking facts, cross-checking my sources and writing stories.

To the casual eye, it may seem like I wasted my five years of Engineering training. Plus it’s not like the money in Journalism is anything to write home about. So, why am I doing this? What would compel me to leave the multi-million shilling construction projects and settle for spending hours at boring press briefings and scribbling on tattered notebooks?

Two word: Passion and Mission

A passion for the Word and a mission to the world.

I believe I am called to write, commissioned to tell stories and compelled to relay the truth. If I was Harry Potter, the pen would be my magic wand; I just slide the tip across my notebook and I make news; I just tap on a keyboard and watch lives get transformed.

I love to write, and I am persuaded that I best express my love for the society around me through writing. So, I write. Like Dr. Luke, I have laid aside the pomp and flair of a well moneyed career and opted to plant my rear at the corner of an office and “bang copy”. I love what I do. I love to tell stories and most importantly, I desire to tell the truth. What better place to do it than as a journalist?

Daily Nation’s slogan is “The Truth.”

Echoing the words of Luke,

“In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us (The Truth) … it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent readers.”

My definition and understanding of “The Truth” may not be exactly like that of my bosses and most of my colleagues. But like Luke, I too have an opportunity to tell the truth that will outlive all others – through my life and, as opportunities arise, my writing.

It may seem implausible at first, but the Bible is actually the product of journalism – the product of men observing events, double-checking facts and cross-checking sources; under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You can call it divine journalism.

And that’s The Truth.

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

Pick up your Bible and trace the historical story-line of the Israelites, from Abraham down to the New Testament Jesus and His followers. If you read the story like any other story, you will notice a significant trend. Take Moses and the burning bush, for example. Apparently, this event was unusual to Moses. It was not natural. Bushes just don’t spontaneously ignite; and when they burn, they get consumed; they just don’t burn on and on and on.

science godOr take the case of the Israelites at the shores of the Red Sea. Moses, at the command of God, raises his staff and voila! The body of water divides into two great walls with a dry path between them. Waters don’t just part with nothing but air to hold them in place. That was not natural.

These events and many others, as described in the Old Testament, were considered strange, miraculous and “unscientific” by those who witnessed them. They were considered unnatural, even supernatural, if you’d like to call them that.

What these events, and the reactions evoked, tell us is that there was a norm the people were used to, what they could see with their eyes and perceive with their senses. These Old Testament “primitives” knew a miracle when they saw one. Why? Because their senses and minds were scientific. They could discern a specific pattern or law in nature, and they knew when this law was defied.

These people were not blindly superstitious as they have often been presented. Continue Reading…

love hope warYou could call most of what I do here “preaching to the choir.” Most of my writing primarily targets Christians rather than non-Christians. Of course, there are times when the occasional non-Christian bothers to spend a few minutes on my lengthy posts and begins to seek Christ. I am grateful for such moments. I pray that I will be able to generate more content that, beside feeding the Body of Christ, also draws the curiosity of unbelievers towards this Gospel that I am always so passionate about. Even so, it is not uncommon to find some people criticizing blogs such as this one for “alienating the world”.

Alien Citizens is not a popular blog, and there are many reasons for that. Apart from the obvious fact that I am not the best writer out there, there are other reasons including the fact that I am not very relevant, entertaining or attention grabbing in my titles and subject matter. It can get quite discouraging at times. We start off saying that we are only exercising the gift that God gave us for the good of the Body. But after a few posts, we find ourselves caring about the traffic and the site stats. Idolatry is a crafty chameleon.

I know that if I wanted to redirect massive traffic to the blog, I just have to focus on controversial topics, politics, latest gossip, and of course… naming names. That’s always a great temptation. I do address some of these popular topics now and then, but I always have to hold myself back not to be swept by the tide of relevancy at the expense of truth and faithfulness to mission. God has specially equipped me to minister to His Body, the church, and I strive to do my best with the help and leading of the Holy Spirit.

I guess this is why I found myself relating deeply to Da Truth’s song “Jesus Is For Everybody” (J.I.F.E). Question: What usually comes to your mind when you hear an expression such as “Jesus is for everybody?” It usually has something to do with why we should strive to reach out to the last and the least, the poor and the lamest of the society; as opposed to the rich and comfortable members of our church. But Da Truth’s focus is different this time, and quite unexpected:

They say I love the church, I don’t care about the streets. That’s so far from the truth, why they lying on me? I’m where am supposed to be, trying to play my role. Staying faithful to the gospel seen a lot of growth…

It used to be a gift, now it’s criticized, if my heart is for the church, why is this a crime? Whatever happened to the days when ministers cried when speaking life to the Body, am a bit surprised…

No doubt is in my mind, it’s making perfect sense. Am I doing something wrong talking to the saints? Am just giving it my all when am in my own skin, while am building up the Body, walking in His grace. And while am talking to the church I hope they overhear, we want the whole world to know we’re over here… am talking from the lawyers and the doctors to the corners with the choppers to the hommies in the barber’s chair.

I guess I relate to Da Truth’s frustration. His song may be a bit defensive, but it communicates a great truth. Jesus is for everybody, and some of us have been specially gifted to relay and relate His truth to His Body, the Church. Sometimes I may prefer to do this because it’s comfortable. At such times I need to repent and be a little more intentional about my evangelism. However, that should not derail or disqualify me from preaching to the choir. The truth of the matter is that the church of Christ, especially the 21st century church, needs the Gospel now more than ever before.

“I open up my eyes to the church and I see, some automatic weapons and they’re aiming at me. They say I’m preaching to the choir, people dying in the streets. You’d be preaching to ‘em too if you seen ‘em lately.”

Yes. Jesus is for everybody, including the church.