FOLLOW ME

 

Photo courtesy: nonprofitrisk.org

Photo courtesy: nonprofitrisk.org

FOLLOW ME. Two words that sound so simple yet are so radical. Actually, they sound foolish. If someone came to me and asked me to leave my job and family and “follow me”, I would first like to know what he is offering and whether it, not he, is worth following.

The sages of history gave us philosophies and principles and life tips. They acknowledged that they were mere men and the best they could do its point us to the truth that even they could not attain. None of them ever said “follow me.” Maybe “obey me”, and sometimes “trust me”, but never “follow me”. The great teachers knew that even they could not perfectly live up to the utopian truths they preached.

They tried, but their flawed humanity got in the way. They failed so miserably that the wisest of them opted to be only pointers to the way, not pioneers. They knew they would fail us miserably if they asked us to watch them as models and judge their words by their actions. Furthermore, only a fool would think his or her role model is perfect. We follow people for a particular aspect of their life, not every aspect.

I follow Max Lucado for his writing prowess, not necessarily for his theology (which I also have no major qualms about). I follow John Piper for his theology, not his sense of humor.

Photo courtesy: lockingshields.org

Photo courtesy: lockingshields.org

Even on Twitter, we have very narrow and specific reasons for following someone. I follow Maria Popova for updates on the latest posts on her awesome website Brain Pickings. I could care less what she had for dinner or where she will be going for holiday. I follow some people for their humor, some for their opinion on politics, and others for their satire. I never follow anyone for everything about them.

In leadership classes, one of the great  lessons is that a good leader is one who follows, one who admits his inadequacies and is not afraid to help. A good leader “leads from behind.”

But then Jesus comes and says “follow me.” The audacity! But the call gets even more radical when we see what Jesus is asking us to follow him into: pain, suffering, alienation, tears… and some mysterious victory that seems to always “feel” out of reach.

Jesus stands apart from the rest of the world changers and thought leaders. Jesus does not point us to higher truth or philosophy and say “follow that”. He does not tell us to rely on the principles he preaches. On the contrary, he tells us that all the tips, the proverbs and all the philosophies he teaches are nothing without him. To benefit from his wisdom, we must first follow his person.

He calls us to follow Him, not just his teachings and his philosophies and his great words of wisdom.

He calls us to follow Him, not just his kind acts and his great missionary works and his altruistic actions.

He calls us to follow Him, not just on Twitter but in our homes and our workplaces and in our sufferings.

He calls us to follow Him, not just on Sundays or on Easter or in the half an hour morning devotion slots.

FOLLOW ME. Sounds radical? It is. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is both too good and too true, no wonder very few people do.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Why I Don’t Believe in Miracles

The year was 2006, I was in my first year of college and just a few months into salvation. My friend, Mark Masai, was visiting me at the “Prefabs” hostels. On this particular day, he needed a data cable to transfer some photos from his phone into my computer.  I had lent mine to another friend. I picked up my phone,  dialed that friend’s number and put the phone to my ear. After several rings, the phone went to voice-mail.

“F*%#!” I blurted out.

I redialed the number,  “please leave your message after the beep.”

“S#%@ man,” I said as I scratched my head, “what are we going to do now?”

But Mark didn’t offer any suggestion, and he didn’t seem to share in my frustration.

He simply gave me a long, hard, look and shook his head.

“What?” I asked him, confused.

“OKOKA KIJANA!!” (Get saved, young man!) He told me with a strange firmness in his voice and a steely look in his eyes.

Believe it or not, that was the last day I ever cursed or even felt the urge to let out another expletive.

To understand the significance of this moment, you have to know me in the months and years preceding this moment. Until that particular day, I never had a problem with cursing — I would do it any time, anywhere.

My sentences were punctuated with curse words and my lips would spit out four letter unprintables with the ease of a drunken sailor. Yes, I had accepted Christ just a few months earlier, but some habits were simply too ingrained to drop, and cursing was one of them. I cursed unconsciously. It was like sneezing, never premeditated.

I recall this day I was in church, standing at the third pew from the pulpit during “praise and worship” when this beautiful lady stepped onto the stage to lead the session.

“S#%@!” I said reflexively, albeit inaudibly.

Then when I realized I had just cursed in church I went “F*%#!”

It was that bad.

But on this day, I don’t know what went through Mark’s mind, and why he said those words. But something happened that day. In the blink of an eye, I lost a habit that had become part of my being. It was a miracle.

Yet, even as I say that word, miracle, I am a bit reluctant. The thoughts going through my head are “I am supposed to be a cessasionist”, “I should not believe in miracles”, “there must be some other explanation to what happened”. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself otherwise. But it was futile. No psychological or sociological theory could explain away what happened. Not under those circumstances. People don’t just drop habits like cursing in a heartbeat.

But God does, and I believe what happened that day was His doing.

The truth is that I still don’t believe IN miracles, because I believe in God.

And He delivered me from a bad habit without having to go through the long path of “process”. God simply chose to do it with the snap of His finger.

Yes, I don’t believe IN miracles, but I do believe miracles.

And I thank God for making me privy to such a powerful one.

Cornell

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The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.” – G.K. Chesterton

Lights, Camera, Action!

In a way, we are all Public Relations officers.

We spend most of our time managing and manipulating appearances. We care too much what people think about us. And of course it is not wrong to care what people think of us. Jesus calls us to be a light to the world. The salt of the earth. It matters what people think of us and see in us.

But sadly, for many of us, what people think of us is not what God thinks of us. The image we present to people is not an image formed and informed by our Faith. We care too much about looking good than actually being good. We worry too much about looking righteous instead of confessing the righteousness of Christ.

We are actors on a stage. Characters on a page. But God is seldom the author of the story. We are acting off a different script, our own script. Our friends barely know the real us, because we have bought them tickets and they are sitting in the theater, watching the edited movie of us. Our colleagues at work only get to see the rehearsed version of us.

But the backstage is empty. We don’t allow people there. The changing room is out of bounds. We don’t want them to see the skeletons in our closets and realize we are human like them. We are sinners like them. We are foolish. Like them.

We don’t want them to see that we too get lost, that we get confused about life and we often don’t have clue about what we are doing or what we want in life. We don’t want our friends to see that we follow our feelings more than our minds. We don’t want them to know that we often make decisions putting our own selfish interests first. No. We feign selflessness. We fake compassion. We manufacture charity.

But this does not have to be. It is hard to change. But God does not call us to change. He calls us to Himself. he calls us to believe and trust, AND THEN He will change us. He bids us to come, and then He makes us want to come and then He gives us the strength to come. It is all of grace because it is all of God.

May God redeem our story. May He re-write the script and yank us off that director’s chair. May we release our grip on the manuscript of our lives and let God’s Word be the script we rehearse and act out. May God’s story become our story and may Jesus be the star of the show.

And when the CREDITS go up at the end of our lives, may the name of Christ be the only name on that list.

Because He alone deserves the glory.

 

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

You Don’t Need God to be Good [By a Christian]

Kamau wa Kibe does not believe in God. In fact, He doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a god. He is an atheist and he believes he can do good all by himself. Mary Wangari is a Christian and she believes human beings can only do bad by themselves. She believes that you need God to be good. I was once privy to a brief exchange between these two poles:

Mary: You need God to be good.

Kamau: I do plenty of good in my life without God, no thank you.

Mary: But you have no basis for morality or any reason to be good, or to be kind and loving.

Kamau: As a matter of fact, I do have a basis. I prefer pleasure to pain, and I prefer what helps people to what hurts them, because that’s what I would want other people to do for me.

Mary: You see? You have just borrowed from the golden rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Jesus came up with that.

Kamau: That’s not true, the so-called “golden rule” has existed in many major philosophies centuries before Jesus was even born. Confucius taught the golden rule in 500 BC, Egyptians taught the golden rule from as far back as 600 BC. This stuff is recorded, just Google it. Jesus definitely didn’t come up with the golden rule.

Mary: You’ve obviously read a lot of historical books. But those are fabrications. You don’t know if that’s what they taught.

Kamau: The Bible is a fabrication.

Mary: I still think you can’t have a basis for morality without God. The Bible says no one can be good without God. God is good and without Him, we would all be savages having no reason to be good or peaceful or loving.

Kamau: I guess we just have to agree to disagree on that one.

Goodness-of-God-4

I have attended a fairly good number of Atheist versus Christian debates and the one feeling has been consistent in all those episodes is mild amusement. The conversation above is fictional, but it is generic of the many exchanges that happen between a theist and an atheist. The question of morality is a perennial topic in these exchanges.

Many people who abandoned God did so because of the problem of evil — they put the morality of God on trial and found God guilty. Christians on the other hand maintain that because of the fall in Eden, it is impossible to promote any goodness without appealing to religion or a theistic worldview. Theists argue that you lose any basis for asking people to be decent or hold to any positive values if you remove God out of the picture. Atheists disagree. Repeat.

But what if both groups are right on this issue of morality? What if it is true that “you don’t need God to be good” and also true that “you need God to be Good”? What if these two claims are not contradictory and only seem so? What if they are complementary — two sides of the same coin? I believe that the Christian is right when he says you need God to be moral and I also believe the atheist is right when she says you don’t need God to be moral. I hope this short illustration will help clarify what I mean. Continue reading

To Friendship

[Guest post by Winnie Kiburu]

Different from family love, which is not chosen but accepted, friendship develops like moss on the slippery edges of a creek. It emerges without warning. There is no date to remember.

It grows until one day acquaintance graduates into friendship. Love is the diploma.

This chosen love is real and powerful, bitter and sweet.

It is warm enough to wrap up in against the chill of an aloof world.

It is bright enough to shine through all the night seasons of your life.

Only occasionally in the course of a lifetime will you meet, the kind of a friend who becomes more than an acquaintance.

wixx and Derrick

Real relationship is hard work. Don’t let anybody fool you; contouring your heart to beat with another requires extensive whittling to trim away self-centeredness and distrust.

It is like riding the bus. If you’re going to have company ride with you, you must be willing to scoot over and rearrange yourself to accommodate another person and the baggage he/she brings. As you make room for a friend, you show how important the other person is.

Every relationship undergoes adjustments. The reason one relationship becomes more valuable than another is in its
ability to survive circumstances and endure realignment. We never know how strong a relationship is until it is
threatened. It takes a powerful bond to withstand the pressure and not be weakened by other forces.

Isn’t that what you really want from a relationship? To know that you won’t be abandoned –no matter what? To be yourself – hiding nothing, not even your worst imperfection – and know your friend won’t run out on you?

Too often we have thrown away good people who did a bad thing. Have you ever done that? Have you decided that a relationship cannot be repaired? A true friend is one who stands by you, honoring and affirming you. A true friend should desire to see you prosper in your studies, in your health, in your finances, and in your relationship
with the Lord.

With these virtues, you can hurdle personal imperfection and indiscretion.

A true friend really is one of the best gifts God will ever give you. Commit to stay; commit to be strong; and commit to celebrate all He has given you in your friend.

~

Wixx Waxx Bexx

The Storm Rages On…

On this day five months ago, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes, and I placed the rock on her finger. A few weeks later, at the beginning of this year, I stood before a group of fellow Christian journalists at our monthly Inter-Media Fellowship meeting and thanked God for her.

“Last year, she said ‘yes’, and this year, I am praying she says ‘I do’,” I said confidently as the room filled with applause.

forgivenWell, it’s four months since I said those words, and I have to face the reality that she won’t be saying ‘I do’ this year. At least not to me. Somewhere between then and now, a series of tragic events led to a heart-crushing break-up about two months ago. She is no longer my fiancee, and I am no longer her fiance. We had dated for five years.

I have lived with this reality for months now, and I have not been able to confront it publicly until now. I have only told a handful of friends about the break-up, and even then, the details were shaky. Many of you will find out through this post if you didn’t suspect it already. I was determined to keep this rock in my chest intact. I will not be vulnerable. I will not break. I will go through the death of this relationship without shedding a single mournful tear. I will be fine.

Well, I am not fine, yet. And no, I am not going to divulge the details of the break-up on a blog-post. I am sorry to disappoint you. This is neither the time nor the place. Some things are better left to the discretion of a few trusted friends and family.

Which is why I still don’t understand how the first people I alienated after the break-up were my closest friends and family. I guess it’s because I am a rock. I like to be in control. Vulnerability doesn’t suit me. You can come to me with your woes and worries but don’t expect the reciprocal. I am a rock, and I was determined to stay that way. After the break-up, I immediately broke contact with my closest friends. People tried to reach me to no avail. I ignored calls, sent one-worded replies to texts and basically made it clear I did not want to talk.

Most people find it difficult to live through the break-up by having to explain what happened and the reasons to friends. But I found it difficult to just admit that there will no longer be a wedding. I could not even tell the men who would be standing beside me on my wedding day! I was too proud. Too self-conscious. Too self-preserving. A rock.

Which doesn’t make any sense. How can I keep something like a broken marriage engagement from my closest friends? How did I expect to see that play out? To be honest, I didn’t think it through, and I didn’t care. To keep myself busy, I buried myself in work. My editor has been singing my praises. I became an outstanding reporter within a few weeks of working in the newsroom. I wrote stories fast, well, and with the enthusiasm of a toddler who was high on sugar. This rock needed a mask, and the mask of work fit me perfectly.

But I could only keep up appearances for so long. I was not going to avoid and evade my friends forever. Soon, I will start bumping into them. Soon I will have no choice but to confront the reality of what happened between me and her. I will have to re-live and truly mourn, the bad break-up. The rock will soon have to crumble. Storms have been known to weather away even the hardest rocks.

As I type this post, I am slowly realizing the man I had become over the weeks of hiding. First, I began to detest fellowship. I stopped going to my usual church because, among many other reasons, I was not ready to confront the inevitable barrage of questions. Then I stopped reading my Bible, the burden on my conscience was too much to bear. I had long stopped praying by then. I did away with listening to sermons and reading books that got too close to my heart

I hated the person that these mirrors of truth reflected back to me.

I hated the selfish heart I saw reflected in my Bible.

I hated the proud heart I saw reflected in many sermons on following Christ.

I hated the songs that always moved me to repentance because I knew Jesus would not have half-hearted repentance from me.

It became impossible to love Jesus and avoid the church, so I avoided Jesus too.

This rock stayed away from The Rock.

And it gets worse. I will not go into the details, but I will tell you one thing, it is impossible to embrace Christ when your hands and feet are running away from Him. There’s no faking it with the Creator of the universe. You cannot outsmart Him. Luckily, you also cannot outrun Him. These words from a spoken-word piece I wrote some years back seem more relevant now more than ever:

 

 Stuck at the intersection of all the men I could be,

I look up to the heavens for guidance.

Yet my eyes look at Him with great avoidance,

“Good-riddance” crosses my mind, I want to dance around this bind, and daily pretend that I am blind,

I am hoping to leave this maze behind, Cos I am amazed that He’s so kind, amazed that am one of a kind, dazed that I am no longer blind, fazed by His love that binds.

I have seen God’s hand, but I am struggling to take it,

I can see God’s love and I am ready to receive it;

But I’ve sinned so much, I am tempted to reject it;

 

If you’re waiting for a deep, transforming conclusion that will wrap up this post, you will have to wait a little longer. There is none today. I end here, acknowledging how tired I suddenly feel. I thought there would be some relief in writing this down. I always feel better when I write things down. I guess today is different. I know what God wants me to do. I know I need to go back to the Gospel and let it wash over me once more. I need healing. I need Jesus. But this only sounds like empty ideas than a reality to me right now.

I can see the rock flaking, but it still feels too difficult to break.

Sigh.

What Does Sex Sell?

Sex sells. There is no doubt about that. Let a semi-nude (semi-naked?) woman pose next to a car and men will suddenly be interested. Ensure your TV show has some steamy scenes and a romantic (lusty) storyline or two involving the protagonist, and your audience will be hooked. Use a sexually tantalizing image to advertise an upcoming sermon on teen sexuality and the teenagers will show up in droves. Think HBO, MTV,Telemundo… you get the picture.

Sex sells. In a hypersexualized society, the easiest and fastest way to get people’s attention is to dress up your message (or at least wrap the package) in lingerie.

sauti sol

In a recent heated controversy over a poster used by Mavuno Church to attract teens to church, Pastor Muriithi Wanjau made a lot of sense while defending the move. Our teenagers live in a hypersexualized world. They see sex everywhere, they think about it most of the time, that is where they spend most of their time. And in order to get their attention, we have to go where they are. We have to reach out to them using images that make sense to them. Images that will hook and lure them in. And sex is one of the most powerful images.

A big part of the uproar that is now only a distant memory was that the church was succumbing to immoral means to achieving moral ends. The church was becoming like the world in order to win the world. The church was not only in the world, but it was rapidly becoming of the world. Defenders of the “blurred lines” approach were however equally strongly persuaded that this was not the case. The church was not actually promoting pornography or condoning illicit sex. On the contrary, those who did visit Mavuno church and listen to the advertised message confirmed that the church was still for moral uprightness, for chastity and for a sexuality guided and guarded by the Word of God.

The publicity was just that — publicity.

Both sides agreed to disagree. Continue reading