Do You Love Your Job?

Do you love your job? Are you doing what you love? Are you pursuing your passion? If you have answered “yes” to all the three questions, then good for you. You are one of the lucky ones.

The harsh reality of life is that we don’t always get what we want, and we don’t always want what we get. Stories of people stuck in dead-end and un-fulfilling jobs are numerous. They are almost the rule, rather than the exception. But what if “loving your job” was never the point? I mean, yes, it is good to love what you do. It is preferable and pleasurable and there is nothing wrong with that. But is that the point of work? Continue reading

When Obedience is Disobedience: A Gospel Primer

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19 ESV)

The difference between demons and the children of God is not in their “beliefs”, but in their “lives”.

God demands PERFECT obedience. So does this mean that we are to always do right and never fail or fall at any point? That sounds quite… UNREALISTIC. No human being can do that, at least not from my own experience. Continue reading

I Don’t Sin, I Make Mistakes

I have always wanted to write a book about being wrong. Not about the “idea” of being wrong, but a biographical account of the many times I have “done” wrong.

Because there are so many times I have found myself doing things that are morally deplorable. Things I am embarrassed to admit, and I guess that embarrassment, that shame, is the reason I am yet to write that book. “When You’ve Been Wrong” is the title I am fiddling with. Continue reading

When ‘good’ professors fail ‘good’ students and how it relates to Christianity.

[By Julie Wang’ombe]

Imagine its exam day at a university. Anyone who’s ever been a student, as I currently am, knows that in any class, there’s a ‘colorful’ range of students. The serious; the cavalier; the ‘brilliant without much effort” the “must work twice as hard to do half as well as the average person” the “school is really not my thing” people etc.

I want to focus on one of these students. The procrastinator. She isn’t stupid, except in so far as procrastinating is stupid. She has known for 10 weeks that the exam is coming and only picked up her notes two days ago (:-/). But when she looked through her notes and the syllabus, she realized that there was far too much content for her to go through in two days. So, what does she do? In an attempt to do her best in the time she has while retaining her sanity, she decides to try and make some informed guesses about what would come in the exam. She decides to take a gamble. Perhaps there were ten topics to be studied, and she chose four thinking “after all only one topic will come in the exam.”

Unfortunately, what she studied for doesn’t come in the test. Instead she finds herself sitting in class, on exam day, staring at a question for which she has absolutely no answer. Panic hits as she begins to envision the big fat ‘F’ that will be her due at the end of the semester. Panic gives way to the self-assurance that worry won’t change things: “You’re here now so think: what’s the best you can do?”. Smart. The student decides to make the best of the situation: she decides to write what she knows, what she studied, not what is needed in the exam paper. She takes a gamble. Maybe the professor, seeing that she at least understands something in the course, will be kinder to her even though she will not answer the questions asked but the questions she had hoped would be asked. She writes her paper, hands it in and hopes for the best.

Have you ever seen this happen?

What do you think a professor should do when faced with such a case? Reading the students exam paper, the professor may adjudge that this student is capable, literate, smarter than average and has a way of reasoning distinctly higher than the rest of the class. But, holding that paper to the exam’s marking scheme, the professor cannot reconcile the answer the student has given with the answer that is required. While the professor may want to be lenient and show mercy it would be, ethically speaking, unfair. What’s the point of a marking scheme if your going to throw it out for one student? Besides, it would be unfair to treat this student different from all other students some of whom have prepared really long, and worked really hard for a good grade. Even giving the student a chance to resit the paper would be, in a way, unfair to the rest of the class.

It would seem that a ‘good’ professor, a just professor, has no option but to fail this student albeit begrudgingly. In this situation, however, the F will (or may not) not be an indicator of the student’s ability (or lack thereof) but will rather be a reflection of the student’s unpreparedness. (both of which, by the way, are  important (perhaps equally important. After all, a future employer of this student would be as wary of a the fact that he/she is a known and persistent procrastinator (read unreliable) as they are of a person who simply won’t be able to do the job. So either way the F helps weed out ‘undesirables’)

But what does this have to do with Christianity?

I’ve just finished reading the book “The Reason for God by Tim Keller in which he tackles some of the questions that skeptics have about the existence of God, the goodness of God and the legitimacy of Christ’s claims. (It’s a helpful read, by the way you should get a copy!)

One of the ‘issues that people have with God, which the book tries to deal with, arises from the issue of evil and suffering especially. You’ve probably heard the question: “why do bad things happen to good people?”. Stretching this question, one should of course wonder why Hell (which is perhaps the worst place and most painful suffering there is) happens, even to the best and brightest of humanity.

How can God send good people to hell? How will he punish even  those who give their lives for the sake of ideals: freedom, justice, equality, human rights?  Those who are working hard to make the world a better place whether in obscurity or on a recognized platform. Doesn’t he see that their good? Their not perfect, but they’re trying! Can’t he just let them into heaven?

There’s one main problem with these questions. Whose definition of good (bad) are we talking about?

According to Christianity, God has his standards which he is faithful to and will use to judge men.

Most of us, however, decide on our own definition of good and expect God to judge us in accordance with that. The Professor is continually asked to change His scheme to accommodate our blatantly ‘wrong answers’. Imagine the aforementioned student going back to his professor and forthrightly saying, “Listen, I’m sure you pretty much made a mistake in you’re setting of this question. It’s really not what you meant to do but I went ahead and took the liberty to write a response to the question I’m sure you wanted to ask; the question I really felt you should ask and the question I prepared for. I also developed a marking scheme too just to help you in the grading.”

Sounds Ridiculous? It should! But isn’t that just like us? Believing that if we think we are good, then God must (and is obligated to also) think we are good and if God thinks we are good, he would be unjust to throw us into Hell.

Truthfully, God would be unjust to throw innocent people to Hell. But who, pray tell, are these innocents who live in such danger?

God’s standards of good are so high that what He thinks the best human being is, is wicked. Because God‘s standard of God is…. Him. Being good is not about doing good deeds outside of God’s standards, its about being like God: perfectly loving, perfectly humble, perfectly merciful, perfectly holy.

Indeed:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

God loves justice. He loves mercy and kindness. He loves giving to the poor. He loves freeing people. And loves people who recognize their need for God. If you pursue the justice/mercy apart from God, you fail. Miserably and on all three counts in the verse. Because only God can help you to seek true justice and practice proper kindness. That’s God scheme of things. The true scheme of things.

Most of us think we are good in comparison with other people. All of us will know we are bad when we truly see ourselves in light of a Holy, loving, merciful God who judges (fails us) not only on the basis of action, but also on the basis of inaction and ill-intention and any really any single act, thought or desire that is not in conformity with His law. The simple truth is this:

‘There is no-one good, not even one’.

When we truly realize that, it shifts our paradigm and our question invariably changes from why God sends good people to hell, to a cry of desperation: “is there any way  a good and just God might allow bad people into heaven?”  and finding the answer to this question, becomes the matter of life and death it actually is.

Religion is not the opium of the masses; we’re just high on ourselves.

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

Your log, my speck… Wait, that’s not it.

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

I Apologize for Being a Christian

js_gloc_apologetics

To see Saul standing atop that hill stirs in us feelings of compassion, and deep sadness. You just have to understand the man. His soldiers are fearful and wide-eyed. The scene is so captivating that the scribe of 1 Samuel 13 places his quivering quill down and picks up, not a thesaurus, but a geographical map for phrases that best describe the scene. Saul’s soldiers hid in “caves” and “thickets”, among “rocks”, in “pits” and “cisterns” (vs. 6). Any hole in which a human body could fit, there you’ll find a scared Israeli soldier. Some of them didn’t just step back, they went back home! (vs. 7) And those who chose to stay only did so because they could barely steady their wobbly knees. To say that they were trembling with fear would be an understatement. They were “quaking” with fear (vs. 7).

Saul doesn’t get why Samuel is not yet here. He should have been here two days ago. The Philistines are advancing. The gap between the camps is closing. The Israelite soldiers are cowering. The stench of defeat is choking. He glances at his shadow. It’s now a few inches longer than the last time he checked. Continue reading