Author: Emmanuel Braimah

WHERE ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE ARE

WHERE ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE ARE……

THOSE WHO REJECT GOD

“I strongly believe that there are people, not in the church who will make it to heaven.” I am sure you would have heard this phrase before from Christians. It comes in various forms and ways, the intent being that some people are so “good” that they just have to make it to heaven no matter what. This time I was sitting in a Christian meeting when a brother said this.

The immediate issue with the statement is, “What does it mean to be good?” what is the level of ‘goodness’ that is considered the criteria for going to heaven? I wonder what the measuring yard was for determining that certain people were good. Do they have to be better than Hitler, Idi Amin or match up to mother Theresa or Arch bishop Desmond Tutu or whoever it is that you have painted to be “good?” Everyone in a show of humility will be quick to admit I am not perfect, and yet we would consider ourselves much better than the next person.

In truth I am yet to meet a person who thinks that they are “bad.” They might admit that they have faults or even that they have done things they are not proud of, but in them somewhere they are convinced that they are very “good” people. And all the bad things they will admit to doing were not entirely their fault. In today’s postmodernist, world where everything is relative to the individual, in the eyes of everyone they are “good.” And if you can’t see their goodness, you are either narrow minded or to stuck up.

Have you ever heard of the description of churchy folks as goody goody people?  The television series that surround us, like to portray religious people as comically naive and hypocrites and bigots. The church is where really good people go to. All the “sinners” well are not invited. In fairness churches have contributed their quota to this perception. You hear guys say that after I have gotten myself together I will then go into a church a search for a “good girl” to marry. Often you will hear the same guys complain about how the people in the church are no better than those outside. They came to the place where the good people are and instead they found well ……..the people were far from being good.

I think this issue of good people comes from “Christian jargons” that we meet the moment we walk into a church. Not only does our vocabulary change, but by and large no explanation is given to what they mean. We meet all types of words that become everyday use and we just equate it to what we already know. One such word, is the ever famous or rather infamous word SIN.

GOD REVEALED AND REJECTED

The immediate translation of sin has always been bad deeds. In fact in a number of local dialects that I can understand, it is often translated “bad things”. The word sinner is then translated the one that commits evil or bad things. The opposite of sin is good. And so if I am good then I have no sin at all in me. If a do a list of good things, then I am a good person.

In Romans 1:18, we see that God’s wrath is upon humanity’s wickedness. I know that the word wicked immediately paints a picture of certain kinds of people in your mind (probably you are thinking mass murderers and armed robbers). But you see, what their wickedness is, is suppressing the truth. The truth is God has revealed himself. He has revealed himself in all of creation. Looking at pictures taken by the Hubble telescope one cannot just help, but marvel at the universe at large. Richard Dawkins a popular atheist, best known for his book the God delusion, in a debate with John Lennox, admits that looking at the universe at large one cannot help but marvel. Its ImageImagegrandness is totally encompassing. Even though he quickly adds, just because it is so majestic doesn’t immediately lead you to postulate an intelligent designer. But that is the point according to Romans as we look at creation we see the clockwork of the sun and the moon. We see how our biosphere is so well interconnected. We marvel at it, and that alone points to the existence of a God. The whole of cosmos blows our mind. We see the revelation of God but we ignore it. This so that no one has an excuse as to why we do not see God revealed.

Romans 1:18-23 talks about man’s rejection of God. Man has rejected God. Despite more than abundance evidence to show that he exists. That is what we are all guilty of, replacing God with his own creation.

The second part from verse 24 to 32 can be divided into three sections. Each section begins with the conjunctions:

Therefore;

Because;

Furthermore;

These are connecting words; they each connect the paragraphs they begin with Romans 1:18-23:

In the first paragraph, because of the rejection of God “therefore” they are lead into idolatry. The worship of idols;

In the second paragraph, “Because” we reject God, we are lead into sexual immorality;

In the third paragraph, “Furthermore” we refused to retain the knowledge of God, and are lead into all manner of unrighteousness. The depravity of our minds and so the rejection and suppression, and in some cases, the repression of the word of God

The cause of all what we usually refer to as sin, that is: wickedness, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, evil, deceit malice, gossips, slanderers, God haters, Insolent, arrogant, boastful, are in fact pointers to a much greater sin. The list given in any of the paragraphs are not exhaustible. They just point us in the way of our wayward ways; that is our wickedness in ignoring and suppressing the knowledge of God.

Implications

There are a number of implications

1. First thing of note, is the fact that we are handed over to our sinful desires and cravings after we have rejected God. We are firstly guilty of denying the existence of God, even though he has revealed himself abundantly in his created universe. The true original sin is the rejection of God. Because we have rejected God we have been given over to these selfish desires and immorality. What we would usually call sin are in fact the symptoms of sin. This can be compared to a Doctor who instead of giving treatment to tackle the malaria parasite instead prefers to prescribe pain killers to tackle the headache and a sponge bath to tackle the high temperature. The actual parasite still continues to live and will ultimately kill the patient. We are called to repent from our unbelief and wickedness in trying to suppress the truth. To my good friend who was so convinced of the salvation of people because they are “good,” i wonder if he has considered whether they have repented from rejecting God. People see being sinful as a bunch of behaviors and things they have to get rid of. The Bible sees sin as the daily rejection and dethronement of God and the daily enthronement of us. The language also has undertones of judgment in it. We are judged for our sin by handing us over to our sins. In an era where we cry and complain that morality has fallen, could this be the father speaking to us through judgment and asking us to return to him?

2. It then follows that sin in all the form and ways it manifests itself, from the smallest white lie to the most reprehensible act are all committed against God first. Whether there is someone at the receiving end of our action or it is in “victimless crime.” There exist nothing like a victimless crime or wrong doing. Most Christians will know the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Potiphar’s wife proposes love to Joseph. What is interesting is Joseph’s response.

Genesis 39:8

“With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?

Notice he spells out all the reasons why his master has been good to him. but in the end he cannot commit the sin, not against his kind master, but against God. Joseph is aware that sin is primarily committed against God. The narrative could have easily read differently. He has been a wicked master both to you as a wife and to me as a slave so he deserves this. But even if he had been a wicked master the sin will still be committed against God. People do not determine how we act. We act in accordance to the grace of our Lord.

In following with that, if sin is committed against God then morality cannot be defined aside from God. This probably will strike a nerve with other religions, especially atheist. What do we say about people who knew instinctively that stealing, and killing was bad? They did not need a Bible or the law. A little further in chapter of Romans Paul writes:

Romans 2:14

 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

You see the very nature of human beings to decipher that there is indeed a right and a wrong, further points to the existence of the one true God. It is because of that that we can recognize that there is a right and wrong. And across the world, we largely agree on most of them. We recognize God when within ourselves we recognize our innate ability to tell when something is right is wrong.

3. I believe if you do not truly understand sin, then you probably do not understand grace. All the so called Christian jargons are so interlinked that, the misunderstanding of one just waters the other the down.  If sin is just a matter of bad deeds, and a good person can make it, then we don’t need grace. We need to understand that there is one big issue we need to resolve, recognizing, knowing and submitting to the one true God everyday of our life. For if we do not know him then we are lost. But the strength to know him is not from us, it is from God. We need God to reveal himself and stop every single one of us who are born rejecting him. We are so embroiled in our own sin that we cannot see. In Ephesians 2:1 the description is pretty gloom.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We are described as dead in our own transgressions. Ephesians 2:4 is more exciting.

4 But[b]God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved

We were saved when we were yet still sinners. We are passive in the saving. The God we rejected, the God who would have right had to reject us because we rejected him first. Instead, he comes down to love us first so that we can love him. Such show of grace is truly humbling, isn’t it?Image

3. This is very humbling as well for Christians because we walk in total humility in the gift that God has given us. You will not find “good” people in church, instead you will find sinners who have been redeemed. Church isn’t a place for the goody people, it is the place where those as sinful as I can run to. It is a place where those of us that are saved by grace, because we are saved by grace are empowered to continually be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Christians due to their new life fight sin every day because of their love for Christ. Humbly we do not search for the “good people” who deserve our honorable company, instead all we see are people who like how we used to be, have rejected God, and like us need him. Is that not humbling?

4. If that notion is adopted then we can recognize that, we are cannot be so bad that we are not accepted, neither can we be so good that we do not need good. Every single one of us are guilty of the same thing. Romans 3:23

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

5. If you are reading this then and you expect to be one of the good people the best condition you can ever be in to join up is to come as you are. To be made alive in Christ. Any Christian reading this that is breaking down under the burden of guilt should know that you are just as burdened as the rest of us. Learn to trust that the Holy Spirit can unburden you from rejecting God. Where the good people are, is in heaven. After we all have been made clean in the blood of Christ. This demands a whole new way of looking at life, not through our own life but rather through the blood of Christ and through his resurrection.

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Escape from Alcatraz: Why We Love to Cheer for the Bad Guys

Reposted from Reel thinking

Escape from Alcatraz: Why We Love toEscape From Alcatraz Poster Cheer for the Bad Guys.

It truly is a timeless film that follows the true story of Frank Morris [Clint Eastwood] and his attempted escape from the famous prison known as ‘The Rock’. It is amazing to see the level of creativity the prisoners displayed in this escape attempt. Wielding metal in a prion cell, making paper mache heads, and life jackets out of raincoats. Most of this would seem too unbelievable were it not a true story. Not to mention the fact that the television show, Mythbusters, recreated the escape and proved that all of this could be possible.

While there are many aspects of the film that are fascinating, one interesting aspect to me is how the movie portrays good and evil. The hero of the film is Frank Morris. This is the same Frank Morris who is a prisoner for breaking the law. And, the same Frank Morris who has already broken out of other prisons. He’s the hero…

Who are the villains of the film? The warden (who is never named, although he is portraying Warden Blackwell, but the film didn’t want to mention his name to avoid legal trouble) and the guards. That is, the villains are the law keepers. The villains are the men who are upholding the law and haven’t done anything deserving of imprisonment.

To me, this is somewhat strange. I found it strange that I was pulling for Morris and his friends to break out of prison! And I was pulling for them, because that is the way the movie is designed. The tense music is played when the guards are getting closer to foiling their scheme. The audience breathes a sigh of relief as the warden leaves Morris’ cell without discovering the hole he’s dug.

Why!? Why was I not hoping they would get busted? Why was I not upset that the guards didn’t catch the crooks? Well, it was partly due to the fact that the warden was a pretty despicable character. Just consider what he did to the character of Doc! Taking away his painting privileges?! How could he do that to the old man from Home Alone!!? And if that weren’t enough, he caused sweet ‘ol Litmus to have a heart attack.

You see, the filmmakers took a true story but told it from the standpoint of the villains being the heroes and visa versa. I wonder why they chose to do this? Why not paint the crooks in a negative light and the law-keepers in a positive light? There could be a few reasons.

First, maybe they thought if they told it from the standpoint of the criminals being the bad guys, the audience would feel disappointed with the ending. I mean, we can’t have the bad guys winning, right? Secondly, maybe they simply wanted to highlight some of the abuses that take place in prisons. Who knows, maybe the warden was an unlikable guy and maybe the guards did have a bad reputation. The prison was closed down a year after this escape, and maybe it was due in part to a flawed system. Lastly, maybe the filmmakers were telling the story from a perspective we could identify with. Let’s be honest, who is guilty and who is innocent? Yes there are those who do harsher crimes and end up in prison, but at the last day we are all guilty. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” [John 8:7].

Maybe we are all pulling for Frank Morris, because we are the villain. We are the ones who are criminals and we are the ones who should remain locked-up forever. However, there was One who did break us out of this eternal imprisonment and he did it, not by breaking the law, but by perfectly keeping it.

Dressing African Traditional Relgion in Biblical Garments?

These are excerpts from an article on Conrad Mbewe’s blog.

Dressing African Traditional Religion in Biblical Garments?

Many explanations have been given for the explosion of the Charismatic movement in Africa. Many have seen this as a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit. Whereas there is probably more than one reason, I want to add my own observation to this for what it is worth. In this blog post, I do not refer to the old conservative form of Pentecostalism once represented by the Assemblies of God churches. I have in mind the current extreme form that is mushrooming literally under every shrub and tree in Africa. How can one explain this phenomenon?……………………………………………..

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy. His grip upon the popular mind is his eerie mysteriousness and his capacity to knock you out of your senses and then pronounce you delivered. Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services…………………………………………………………………………

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy. His grip upon the popular mind is his eerie mysteriousness and his capacity to knock you out of your senses and then pronounce you delivered. Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services…………………………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I do not mean to be unkind, but what the modern Charismatic movement in Africa has done is to simply take this entire erroneous superstructure of African religious worldview and baptise it with wrongly applied Bible verses and Christian language. The only difference is that the layer of dead ancestors and evil spirits is now one hotchpotch of confusion. This is why the nonsense of demons becoming spirit husbands and wives, and wrecking havoc in marriages,……………………………………………………………………………………………

In the African Charismatic circles, the “man of God” has replaced the witchdoctor. He is the one who oozes with mysterious power that enables him to break through those two impregnable layers, which us lesser mortals cannot penetrate. So, when blessings are not flowing our way despite our prayers, we make a beeline to his quarters or his church for help. This explains the throngs in these circles. The crowds are not looking for someone to explain to them the way to find pardon with God. No! They want the “man of God” to pray for them.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Read the the rest of the article herehttp://www.conradmbewe.com/2013/07/why-is-charismatic-movement-thriving-in.html

will be interested in knowing what your views are about this article from Conrad Mbewe.  All debate should be civil.

Both Rebel and Legalist
What he really needs is genuine freedom and genuine goodness, an unsullied righteousness. What he can’t easily understand is that such goodness and freedom come apart from the law. He’s prepared to pay for it. He’d happily work for it. After all, if he could pay or work for it then he could go on boasting about how good a man he is, even if a rebel. But what confronts him is a freedom so radically free that it not only comes to a man apart from the law but also makes that man free from the law. It even comes with its own language: grace. If this rebel lawyer would truly be free, he must learn an entirely new language. That sounds simple enough until you realize that learning a language requires more than simply acquiring some vocabulary, picking up a few grammatical rules or mimicking a few stock phrases. Nor have we learned a language with fluency when we become pretty good at hearing the language, translating it into our mother tongue, then translating our response back into the new language. No. He’ll have to learn to think in the new language. He’ll have to hear the language of grace as one who all his life has thought and spoken in grace. He’ll have to learn what grace thinks, what grace sees, what grace feels, what grace hopes, and how grace acts–all from inside the world of grace. Only then will he know genuine freedom. For only then will grace teach him to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to say “Yes” to self-control, uprightness, and godliness in an age full of rebel lawyers.
Read more as Thabiti Anyabwile expalains further here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/07/09/both-rebel-and-legalist/

A description of how two polar opposites, the legalist and the rebel feed of each other in a symbiotic relationship. Very revealing insight by Thabiti Anyabwile. Read more here http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/07/09/both-rebel-and-legalist/

Praying for friends

Praying for friends

    For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.Philemon 1:7

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Eccles. 4:9-12

Heavenly Father, I cannot imagine how storms can be navigated, burdens borne, and hardships handled without the company of a few good friends. I praise you today for the gift of friendship—for the joy, encouragement, and refreshment you give me through my friends.

When we walk through difficult and draining seasons, we’re inclined to think, “No one can possibly understand what I’m going through. Nobody can relate to my feelings and confusion. Everyone would handle this mess much better than I am.”

Those are the times when it’s easy to withdraw into isolation, fall into the pit of condemnation, and reach for some ill-chosen medication. That’s when the gift of long-standing, all-weather, burden-bearing friends becomes especially precious.

Father, I praise you for the gift of hearing my friends say these two words: “Me too.” I praise you for friends who know how to “refresh the hearts of the saints”—including this saint. I praise you for friends who remind me of the truth and power of the gospel, of the love of Jesus, and of the bigger story you are always writing.

I praise you for friends who share their lives and not just their gospel. I praise you for friends who offer tears and not just their answers. I praise you for friends who give life-giving wisdom and not just mess-fixing formulas.

Father, my all-weather friends turn my heart heavenward. They simply remind me that the foundation and fountain of all good friendship is found in the gospel. It’s overwhelming, settling, and centering to hear Jesus say to us, “I no longer call you servants… I call you friends” (John 15:15). Indeed, Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).

What wondrous love is this, indeed? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Hallelujah, what a salvation! Hallelujah, what a Savior! So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ most glorious and gracious name.

Taken from The Gospel coalition

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2013/07/07/a-prayer-of-thanks-for-the-gift-of-good-friends/

Why are you not married?

It seems it is couples season. There are a lot of relationship seminars in town. I see the flyers everywhere and on radio programs. I spoke to a friend during the week. And he told me how happy he was that he was going to one of such programs.

‘It is a singles seminar.” he told me bashfully. “You know what that means? A lot of ladies are single and are coming for one purpose.” he winks. “It is the best place for a single guy to go to.”

This would probably add to the pressures of being single in this society. As if the kindly old woman who would nosily ask you, “So when are you getting married?” or the constant badgering of family and friends as to why at least you are not dating, is not enough. They say marriage is tough, but being single is a lonely life filled with harassment and badgering.  This helps to fuel the appetite for these summits and conferences.

I have quite honestly not been to any one of these, therefore I do not know and cannot speak into the content of these summits. I am not criticizing these summits. It is just an indicator as to what the culture thinks of marriage. I am more concerned about the societal status given to marriage and the lower status given to the single among us. It is not just the culture,  as individuals we crave companionship. Everyone at one point or the other, one time or the other, has thought about companionship and craved to have someone in our lives. Relationships we say are the bedrock of society. It is almost as if the craving for companionship is hardwired in us. The reason why isolation could be the cruelest punishment given to anyone is because we are social beings. Evolutionary biologist would say we have evolved into that habit.

The Bible says that in the beginning God created the heaven and earth and He saw that all He had created was good, it was very Good, Genesis 1:31.The only thing that was not good was a lonely man. And hence enters the helper. Note man’s reaction it is one of great joy.

“This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”  Genesis 2:23.

In Genesis 2:25, Marriage is declared, there is separation, unification, and consummation. The relationship is perfect with trust. As illustrated by the nudity with no shame. This is a perfect relationship. A relationship established by God and enjoyed by man in the presence of God. This is so because we are created like God (Genesis 1:26); a God that has enjoyed a perfect relationship since from before time; the relationship of the Trinity.

Surely that points out why we are so relationship crazy. Everyone should be in a relationship. But the picture above is a very perfect situation. You have probably been around long enough know things aren’t that perfect. The reason why things are not the same is because Genesis 3 happens. There is a sort of coup d’ etat against God. God’s abundance and good work is treated with disdain and cast away. The relationship between God and man is fractured, along with that is the relationship between man and woman (Genesis 3:6).

The most important question would be the function of relationship or marriage in our society. What does it mean? Is marriage a sort of high stool or crown that becomes the goal of every individual? What happens if you don’t get married? Well the Bible talks about marriage in the shadow of our relationship with God. Marriage points us to a greater more fulfilling relationship. In Ephesians 5:21-33, when Paul speaks about marriage, there is a direct correlation between the relationship between a man and a woman to that between Jesus Christ and the church. The man is to love the church like Christ loved the church even to the point of death. The submission mentioned in verses 24 points to a loving relationship not one to be abused. The man has the responsibility to make sure that they love their wives as their own bodies. Bringing no harm to them. And the holiness of the wife is also the responsibility of the husband; verses 27. Verse 31 quotes the proclamation on marriage from Genesis 2:24. We are in an everlasting relationship that is more important than the physical one we crave. It is growth in that relationship that would determine how our other relationships go. The cravings that we have for a relationship act as a sign board pointing us to a greater relationship. The relationship between God and the church; God and I; God and you. Our desire reminds us that we are social beings and are created for a close and intimate relationship with God. A very personal and relational God. Not a distant God or a God we need rituals and customs to get to. But one that came down in flesh to die so he can be that close to you and me.

What is there to be said about those of use who are single in this marriage happy culture? Does the fact that we are single make us defective in some way?

In 1 Corinthians 7, the Bible talks about relationship status and being Christian. I know a lot of people that are slightly disappointed in that part of scripture. Some friends claim Paul is too laissez faire on the matter and some just presume he is just discouraging on the matter. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul says I wish everyone was like me, but each one has his own gift. I wonder if we see singleness as a gift. Especially if we are considered to be of marrying age or even beyond it. I don’t think our society treats singleness as a gift. It is often treated with disappointment and quite honestly with disrespect.

Do you see singleness as much a gift as marriage? For every one of us, whether we are in a relationship or not, our status is seen in the Bible as a gift. The place in life in which we find ourselves has been assigned to us (1 Corinthians 7:17). The goal has always been and will always be to grow in the relationship of our God and savior. The most important relationship you have is your relationship with God. Hence every other relationship you have or go into serves the purpose of glorifying God or ushering you into a better relationship with God. You see the Bible is not quick to compare one to the other or to say marriage is a bigger blessing because that is not the goal. Even marriage itself is but a sign an illustration of a marriage sealed by blood: one we have with God. If that is your stance then the question will not be so much why you are not married. But rather is your status leading you towards God? How well are you using your status for Christ? Your marriage decisions, like who to meet, where to meet,  how to grab,when to marry and who to marry are all viewed in the umbrella of Gods relationship.

If you are single like me, then know that our desires are right and good. But they are not an end in themselves. They point us to something greater. Something more fulfilling. I will continue to pray for a wife, a family. A family that I can love, because that is good and right and Godly. But I know that it will lead me to a more everlasting relationship. I won’t be in a hurry to change, but rather, no matter my status my first and foremost priority will be to grow in Christ. To get to know his will. I wonder whether in all these single seminars and relationship counseling sessions the center of relationship is Christ. I know most have heavily Christian overtones. But I wonder if we are taught to be content in Godliness 1 Timothy 6:7.

I am indeed single now and do not intend to remain single for the rest of my life. But If I am to be a Godly husband, the best thing I can do right now is to seek the number one relationship. It is to grow in Christ so that no matter my status, God is glorified. I wonder if our society understands this. I think if we did we wouldn’t put singles under so much pressure (aside the internal pressure we feel). I think if we did we would support them and help them grow.

Let all our relationships and the ones we don’t have lead us to Christ.

Living for Christ