Christian Living

[Spoken word] All My Devotion Was Emotion – Blair Wingo

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The Untouchables

Touch not the Lord’s anointed.

This is a very popular battle cry whenever the teachings and actions of a particularly popular Christian leader is questioned or criticized. If I am not mistaken this is what is meant when people use this statement:

  • A man of God is called by God and not by man
  • He is therefore not answerable to anyone but the one who called him
  • Since we do not know whether what he is teaching and/or doing is by divine instruction and therefore according to God’s will to question his actions or teaching can unknowingly be questioning God Himself and therefore incur the wrath the Lord.

I wonder if this view of Christian leaders as being untouchable stems from the way we as an African society view spiritual leaders. Traditionally religious leaders are untouchable. Their word is law and to speak against them or question their methods or instructions is to go against the gods. Terrible things could happen to someone who challenged their authority. I suspect an aspect of this has influenced the way our society also views Christian leaders especially the ones who display the ability to perform the miraculous.

There is need to examine the origins of the phrase Touch not the Lord’s anointed in the Bible.  Conrad Mbewe does a brilliant job of explaining the meaning of the phrase in this article http://www.conradmbewe.com/2012/12/touch-not-lords-anointed.html. The key point is that, the phrase  “…is about harm, especially physical harm, and not legitimate criticism“.  Using this as a defense against criticism just doesn’t work.  The Bible calls on us to actively check that what we hear is in accordance with the gospel. Conrad Mbewe makes this point brilliantly:

“Public teachers must be above reproach. That is one of their qualifications. If they meddle in heretical teaching or immoral living, they disqualify themselves. Thus, those of us who are aware of their devious dealings or dangerous teachings must sound the public alarm. We must warn the unwary lest they fall prey to them. Public sins must be rebuked publicly.

Paul named heretical teachers and wanted the church to keep a safe distance away from them. He wrote to Timothy saying, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Was he “touching” the Lord’s anointed? No, but he was certainly publicly naming those who were teaching heresy…..

Paul rebuked Peter publicly when he acted in a disorderly manner and his behaviour was going to undermine the gospel. This was not even heresy—yet it had dangerous long-term effects….Evidently, Paul did not think that rebuking Peter publicly was touching the Lord’s anointed!”

We as Christians must really begin to know the gospel that we believe.  I suspect we are in a generation that assumes what the gospel is.  We were brought up in Christian homes and have lived with Christian jargon our entire lives.  We know how to talk the talk and walk the walk.  We can answer Sunday School questions without thought.  But do we really know the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel of which Paul says:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. ” – Gal 1:6-8

Do we know the gospel enough to be able to discern when an “angel from heaven” preaches a different gospel? Here is why I think we may have difficulty to discerning between the authentic gospel and a fake gospel.

  1. A lot of us are second-hand readers of the Bible.  Our knowledge of the scriptures is sometimes based on what someone has told us.  There is no direct engagement with the scriptures.  In this case you can’t really check whether what is being said is in error because you don’t even know what the original source says.
  2. We have learnt a lot of unhelpful ways of reading the Bible.  I keep hearing the popular refrain “read your Bible…read your Bible” but I think there is an assumption that we all know how to read the Bible.  That would have been a fair assumption if not for the fact that the ways we hear the Bible being taught also teaches us how we read the Bible.  If we only see people pick one verse and come up with stunning conclusions seemingly out of the air,we will assume that is how verses should be read.  It has become incredibly normal to see Biblical verses used to justify all kinds of things and incredibly rare to see an actual exposition of a Biblical text.  The current approach to Bible reading is liking going to a marketplace.  You walk around examining the goods and picking what you like and leaving the rest.  At the end of the day the gospel becomes whatever creature you want it to be.  If we read the Bible in this way we are only reinforcing positions and ideas we already have instead of being challenged by scripture and being transformed by the word. A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text. 
  3. False teaching often tells us what we want hear to instead of instructing us in sound doctrine. In instructing a young preacher, Paul has this to say: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths 2 Tim 4:3.

When we are tempted to say Touch not the Lord’s anointed, let’s first try and out what exactly is being criticized.  Is just it just an unwarranted attack at a faithful servant of the Lord? or are legitimate questions being asked about the content of what is being preached as gospel?  Also before we launch into any “attack” on any Christian leader, are we doing so in a helpful, respectful constructive way that seeks to build up the church?

Something To Shout About

Here is an except from an article by Steven Harris (http://thefrontporch.org/2014/03/you-missed-your-place-to-shout-right-there/) which highlights one of the things I love about the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego story in Daniel.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:16-18).

A narrative analysis of this text as a whole would undoubtedly place the miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace as the “climax” of the story – and rightfully so. However, there is something in the “rising action” that is almost a penultimate climax in and of itself. And this is found in the passage I referenced.

It is clear that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego possess something that many in our congregations do not – a right theology of Suffering. Let’s look at the following phrases: 1) “God…is able to deliver” 2) “…and he will deliver” 3) “But if not.” Contrary to the Word of Faith theologies of our day, the true depth of faith is revealed not in the first or second phrases, but in the third phrase.weak faith predicates its belief in the first phrase on the manifestation of the second. In other words, “I’ll believe He is able only if he delivers.” However, this is not the God presented in the Bible. Too often preachers speed by the third phrase, eager to get to the place where they can promise their congregants, “when you come out of your fire, you won’t even smell like smoke!” Sadly, this is not the point of the story, nor is it always true.

Now, I’m not saying that it is wrong to hope that God will deliver from earthly trials. The second phrase demonstrates that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had faith that God would do the same. But it is wrong to believe that God will always deliver from earthly suffering. They understood and believed in the sovereignty of God, and that He might just choose to demonstrate His glory in them by having them persevere in faith unto a fiery death. In doing so, He would have done them no wrong. Whether they lived or died, ultimately they were delivered – if not from this temporal fire, certainly from the eternal fire. That’s something to shout about!

Foolish: The Hard Verdict Against Young Men

Great post from my friend Mpumelelo on the foolishness of youth…

Captive105

There is an excellent illustration in the English language that I find very effective in illustrating the power of ignorance, and that illustration is this: a fish does not know that it is wet. The reason I think this illustration is almost flawless is because it presents two perspectives; one, the perspective of the fish in water, and the perspective of the reasoning person who is outside of water. Think with me for a second; if a fish could talk, and you were to inquire of it, it would probably tell you that it knows it’s in water, it knows that it gets its food and living from here, and it probably knows that if it were to exit water it would die, but it wouldn’t use the word wet as you would use it; it would use the word wet to explain the sphere of its existence, the very…

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What is God’s will for my life?

Guidance is a hot topic in Christian circles.  People ask about guidance in a variety of ways.  “What is the will of God for my life?”  is a common way in which this question is asked.  I think Paul answers this question in 1 Thessalonians 4, but not in the way that we would expect.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Paul seems to have said it quite plainly.  It is the will of God that we pursue holiness because He has not called us to impurity but to holiness. I would like to suggest that thinking about God’s will in this way shapes the way we make decisions and how we live.  What God wants for us is our sanctification: that we grow to be more and more like Christ as His Spirit convicts us every day about the areas in our life that displeases Him.  Which means that God is not only interested in what exactly we do with our lives (because it must not be something that brings dishonour to Him), but also how live our lives.  This affects things like how we interact with family, friends, work colleagues etc and also how we go about making the little decisions that make up our day.  Our lives must be characterized by the pursuit of a life that pleases God and when we fall His grace is sufficient to pick us back up.  We cannot be living outside of God’s will if that is our focus. And always in hindsight we always marvel at how God has used seemingly insignificant decisions we have made to further His purposes in our life.

A very wise pastor gave me these guidelines in making decisions which I think shows how we practically seek God’s will when making decisions.

  1. Is the choice I’m about to make sinful or not? – That is the obvious first step.  If the choice means doing something that the Bible explicitly condemns then it is a definite no go area.  It is an obvious step but worth mentioning since there have been quite a few examples of people justifying sinful actions by claiming they were directed by the Spirit.  The Spirit will never contradict what He has said in Scripture.
  2. Is the choice I’m about to make wise or unwise? – There are some things that are not sinful but definitely unwise.  Generally speaking the counsel of mature Christian brothers and sisters can point us towards wise path.  That is part of the reason why we belong to family of Christ so that we can learn from the experiences of those more mature in the Christian walk than we are.  I personally think it is good to have a mature Christian brother or sister that we can seek advice from when making decisions.  Someone that we trust can be truthful with us and help us think biblically about the decisions that we make.  Also this is a far more difficult step since it is very easy to see things that are explicitly condemned Biblically but much harder to figure out whether something is wise or unwise.
  3. Flip a coin! – What I mean is that if the decision to make does not lead towards a sinful path or is not unwise then we have the freedom to make that decision.

The idea is that after taking in mind these three steps we are left with choices that are in line with God’s will i.e. living a life of purity.  I take it that we are praying through all the steps.  I don’t think prayer is an additional step that is added at the end but part and parcel of who we as Christians are; so we are constantly praying through everything that we do.  If we live life in this manner we will be used by God to accomplish His purposes no matter what decisions we make.

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.

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.