Archives For Holiness

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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.

“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…

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

the-moment-of-truthThe Moment of Truth is a 2008/09 American TV game show whereby participants get to answer 21 questions and stand to win a grand prize of $500,000. Prior to going on the show, each participant is administered a polygraph exam. This is done by answering 50 random questions, most of which are intensely personal. 21 of these questions are then picked to be asked again in front of a live audience, including the contestant’s close family and friends, and he or she is supposed to answer each of the 21 questions truthfully… or walk away with nothing. What struck me about this show is how much people are willing to risk and sacrifice for the sake of half a million dollars (that’s over 40 million Kenyan shillings!).

It’s amazing just what people are willing to sacrifice for 40 million shillings. When the moment of truth comes, the contestant is willing to forsake all, his friendships, his marriage and his family… for a good amount of money. A wife is willing to destroy a 20 year marriage for 40 million shillings. A son is willing to alienate his parents for 40 million shillings… Husbands will readily admit that they have been cheating on their wives; wives will confess to be in love with the husband’s brother or best friend and a daughter, like Melanie Williams who won the grand prize, will confess that she believed her dad was a pedophile.

I was watching this show the other day when it hit me; these people are willing to literally confess their most heinous sins and uncover their vilest secrets in front of a national audience for the sake of their god. Money is a powerful idol that is often underestimated. Paul was right, “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils…” Human beings are willing to bare their souls, revealing their utter wretchedness and lay all their sins at the foot of the money-god.

But am I willing to do the same for my God? Am I willing to lay down my vilest sins, confessing them before God and man for the sake of the ultimate prize of eternal glory? My God, who is LORD of all, Creator of all universe and the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills… Is He appealing enough to risk my dignity and reputation for? Am I willing to hate my mother and father for the sake of this God of mine the way others are willing to do it for the sake of money? When the moment of truth comes, am I willing to lay down my pride, lay bare my soul and count it all as loss for the sake of knowing Him, and owning Him?

I am not so much shocked that people in this show are willing to stake it all for the sake of 40 million shillings; I am more appalled that if the same demand was to be made of me regarding my love for my God, I will hesitate, and most likely settle for nothing.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” [Romans 7:24-25a]

balanceThis life is like a pendulum (or you can look at it as a balancing scale, if you like). We are always swinging from one extreme of a pendulum to another. As many theologians will perceptively point out, we are always either in the danger of trusting in our own ability to keep the law (pelagianism) or becoming complacent in the name of surrendering to grace (antinomianism). Some people will react to complacency by urging us to be radical for Christ. Others will react to radical Christianity by urging us to be ordinary. But what if life is not really like a pendulum? What if the location of true holiness is not midway between two sinful extremes? What if we are describing logically what can only be perceived and understood spiritually? I believe that while this call to Christian balance is full of good intentions, it is often rooted in an unbiblical understanding of sin and righteousness.

BLAME IT ON ARISTOTLE

In Nicomachean Ethics, this is how Aristotle describes virtue:

“Virtue is a purposive disposition, lying in a mean that is relative to us and determined by a rational principle, by that which a prudent man would use to determine it.”

In other words, “Because practical circumstances vary a great deal, there are no absolute rules of conduct to follow. Instead, we can only observe that right conduct consists of some sort of mean between the extremes of deficiency and excess. For instance, courage consists in finding a mean between the extremes of cowardice and rashness, though the appropriate amount of courage varies from one situation to another.Continue Reading…

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

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

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

WHEN OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS WRONG

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

CornellI am not a very good guy. Actually, I can’t even say that I am good at all. No, don’t judge me by what my friends say about me. I live with me, I am in my presence 24-7. I know my heart, and I know the evil that resides there here. It is hard for me to imagine a moment when there wasn’t some evil scheme brewing in my mind or heart. Selfishness, pride, impatience, envy, faithlessness are just a few of the familiar residents in my heart. I can’t think of a time when I was selfless without also recalling how proud I was of my selflessness. I can’t think of a day when I was so patient without acknowledging that there was something to gain from the wait.

OF BAD THINGS AND GOOD PEOPLE

I must be living in another planet, because I seldom experience life the way other people do. At least, not the way they talk about it. And  it’s not just my friends, it’s everyone around me. Continue Reading…

Hi friends. I hope you had a blessed Easter. If you don’t know what’s so good about Easter Friday, check this out. And if you’re not so sure how the resurrection fits into your own salvation, this might help. Meanwhile, kick-start your week and month with these heart-searching reads:

  1. In WHAT SHAMES US, Tim Challies reflects on out uncanny obsession with killing sin without being equally bothered to put on holiness. “Here is something interesting I’ve noticed: While it is common for someone to ask how to put off a particular sin, it is rare for someone to ask for guidance in putting on a particular godly trait.”
  2. A WRITER’S CONFESSION. This writer’s confession is mine, and that of many other writers who idolize their craft; “One of the reasons I took a break from blogging for a while is because I was too consumed by checking statistics, subscriptions and comments. It started to become too much about me.”
  3. THE SENTENCE AGAINST GOD. “Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?” snapped one woman, ripping a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror… beatings… torture… death!”
  4. YOUNG LADIES’ REQUEST. This is beautiful, from Njeri’s heart: “HE prepared you all this time for me to be with, yes you are the one that makes my Heart beat a thousand and One, You are my chosen one my number two, Cause we should have the same number one.”
  5. Finally, DO NOT DISBELIEVE – BUT BELIEVE. Jon Bloom reminds us that “doubting” Thomas’ experience is our experience, and we too can believe in the resurrection of Jesus because Thomas did. Jesus can rescue us from our skepticism: “The resurrection is a fantastic claim. Jesus’ own disciples didn’t believe it at first. And Thomas struggled more than anyone with his skeptic side. And in his experience1 in particular there is hope for all of us stumbling doubters. Jesus knows how and when to reach us.”

There you go. That ought to keep your mind and heart pruned for a few days. Oh, yes, I almost forgot that today is “April Fool’s Day” In spite of what you may believe about this day, David Mathis reminds us (in Pity the Fool) that every day is Fool’s day for you if Jesus is not your wisdom. So beware.

Jesus: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5

Christ commands His saints to be salty. He has equipped us with Himself, the ability to change the state of anyone we encounter and the taste anywhere we go. What do you need to add a salty flavor to a meal? You take a packet of maize flour and sprinkle a little over your plate, right? Wrong. What you do is that you take a box of baking powder and sprinkle a pinch on your food, right? Wrong again.

Salt-Light-You see, you may look like salt, weigh like salt, smell like salt, but if you don’t taste like salt, then nobody will care to use you. God won’t. It’s the taste that makes the difference. Jesus commands us to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13-16). And then he adds that when the salt loses its saltiness, it is thrown away. That means that if you have Christ in your heart and you are not dead, then you are still salty. The food doesn’t add flavor to the salt; we are called to do the reverse. To be the salt of the earth means to be the flavor of the world. Flavor may not always mean favorite, but it always means favored. Continue Reading…

So, last week I decided to take a short hiatus from Social Media and blogging in order to refresh and catch up. I was supposed to take a month or so off. If you’re among the people who noticed that I had even left, you must be wondering what I am doing back here – only a week later. Well, a lot has happened in the brief time that I was away, and I have learnt some unanticipated lessons in the short time that I was away. I thought I should share them with you here. By the end of the post, you’ll understand why I’ve decided to interrupt my blogging hiatus, though I am not going to be logging into my personal Facebook profile anymore. Here are some of the painful PERSONAL lessons learnt about MY Social Media Facebooking habits:

1. IT IS A HEART THING

No-Facebook-logoI have tried the social media Facebook fast thing before, and I’ve failed terribly. I didn’t even finish 2 days before I was dying to log in “just to see what’s going on”. In the first instance, I decided to go the whole amputation way. I disabled my Facebook account. That meant that I was inaccessible to my Facebook friends. There were many reasons why I couldn’t stay out for long. For instance, I realized that there were friends that I needed to communicate with, and readers who needed to access my notes. Only later on did it occur to me that disabling my Facebook account was a selfish way to carry out a Facebook fast. Not only is it attention-seeking, it harmed unsuspecting friends. My fast shouldn’t be my friends’ fast. It’s my heart, not theirs, that needed the medicine. That’s why this time around I decided to leave my account online but not log in. It’s a heart thing, not a technical thing. I am the one who needs to overcome this addiction, and I didn’t need to take unwilling victims in my quest. Continue Reading…

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

thorns_thumb[1]I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon or reading a commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 in which the speaker or writer did not pause to speculate on what Paul’s thorn could have been. Somehow, the nature of this thorn seems important to us than it was to Paul, who chose not to reveal it. It is easy to get lost in a wild goose chase after theories and exegetical gymnastics that will help us uncover this thorn. But today, as I read through yet another reflection on that thorny passage, a thought crossed my mind: Our obsession with Paul’s thorn is a telling indicator of what we fear most about our own sanctification.

Consider these three famous speculations about the nature of Paul’s thorn: Continue Reading…

“Salvation belongs to the LORD.” Psalm 3:8a

Some words are easier said than believed, and the words above are no exception. Do we really believe that salvation belongs to the LORD, and entirely so? I am not sure I always do. What happened last week is just one of many awakening reminders. I was at the park, hanging out with a couple of friends when this young man, probably in his early twenties, approached us. He looked fairly decent. Although his clothes were dirty, he was not haggard. I was aware of all the stories of con-men faking distress and seeking handouts from unsuspecting people. As a matter of fact, one had just passed by and I did not talk to him. I am not sure why this particular man was different. Probably because he spoke in impeccable English, with surprisingly too many vocabularies.

“Sir, if you don’t mind, I would just like to snatch a few minutes of your time and have a short discourse with you…”

He went on about how his mother had come to Nairobi, seeking medical treatment. He had come to visit her at the hospital a few months back… *incoherent details*… Now he was stranded in Nairobi and needed money to get back home, to Kisumu. It is the classic con-men story that I had heard and ignored a dozen times before. Continue Reading…

Do beliefs inform cultural expressions or do cultural expressions inform beliefs? I know that in philosophy and science, the philosophers and scientists respectively observe [externally] the life and the cultural expressions of people in order to formulate what laws, principles and beliefs inform and drive those actions. No one assumes that some of those actions, especially those used in communication between members of a community, are meaningless or causeless.

A JAPANESE GREETING

For example, if you observe a Japanese greeting, you will notice that people greet each other with a slight bow. If you are an external observer, this cultural expression will of course make you curious, and if you approach a Japanese person and ask them about it, they will explain to you that it is a sign of respect and how far one bows down  actually indicates how much respect the one bowing has for the other person. Continue Reading…

I was going through my archives of past writings and look what I just dug up! I had just joined Facebook and I was a new believer when I wrote this (2007 – one year into the faith). It still inspires me. I hope it inspires you too.

15 Essential Facebook Attitudes

  1. You and Satan are no longer friends (Born Again).
  2. You added Jesus as a friend and He is at the top of your friend-list. (Jesus is your closest Friend). Continue Reading…

Beautiful Mud

27/09/2012 — 1 Comment

I was a loser, drifting through this cursed planet, aimlessly weaving through broken promises.

I was a proud star, scaling the heights of shattered commandments, tip-toeing across sharp pieces of broken trust.

I was a loose cannon, a loud cymbal, a lost cause.

Love was not a word in my life-tionary, even though it dominated my diction-ary.

As brown as dirt, as wavering as dust, as shifty as sand, as hardened as the land.

My life was tainted.

My hope had fainted. Continue Reading…