For something so short, the commentary on Ruth Matete’s dress is rather long. This post, then, can only come as a thread in an otherwise elaborate fabric of feedback. For those who don’t know Matete, or “didn’t see” her dress (no pun intended), she was the winner of last year’s season (5) of Tusker Project Fame. And last Sunday, she graced (or is it disgraced?) the stage in the finals of the just ended season 6.
Blaise Pascal reasoned that we should believe God exists because it is in our self-interest to do so.
If we don’t believe God exists, the worst case scenario is going to hell. But if we believe God exists, the best case scenario is going to heaven.
The problem with Pascal’s wager is that it is a weak wager, a false and misleading wager. Believing that God exists is not any better than believing He doesn’t.
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19)
Many people consider themselves Christians because they have grown up in church and believe that the God of the Bible “exists”. But sadly, that is not what it means (or what it takes) to be a Christian.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb 11:6)
But what is this thing called FAITH? And even more importantly, what is faith IN God? Is it merely “believing that God exists”? Is it “acknowledging that there is a God and He rewards those who seek Him”? Is it “believing that God is all powerful and the creator of the universe?” Or is it more?
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)
Does this mean that faith is the abstract sense of assurance for things hoped for. If I really TRUST and sincerely BELIEVE God for the car I am HOPING for, is this faith? Is this all there is to faith? The Bible seems to show that faith is more complex than that. It is not just a Word of Faith.
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)
So, it is not just about hearing abstract passages, promises and commands in the Bible and believing them. It is about hearing these passages, promises and commands in the Bible through the WORD OF CHRIST?
So what is this WORD OF CHRIST? What is this special message that reserves the right to be called the Word of Christ? Is it just any words spoken by Christ? Is it one of the parables? We can’t afford to get the wrong Word of Christ. So what is it? It is the one message about Christ that the Bible ascribes the power to save and transform people.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Rom 10:9-10)
Pascal was wrong, God is not looking for gamblers. He is looking for sinners. People who are conscious of their sin and broken by their offense against God. God is looking for people who will believe that He has provided a way to reconcile wayward men and Himself.
It is the Word of Christ, the Gospel, that we believe and are saved. You can take that to the bank.
For the fame of His name,
When I walked into the church on Sunday, I immediately knew it will be a long morning. I had arrived on time, and that was the problem. You see, I just didn’t feel like singing today. In fact, I haven’t felt like singing for a while now. These days I am actually happy when I get to church late, just when the “Praise and Worship” session is ending and the preacher is about to go up.
Sometimes I sub-consciously deliberately go in late for this reason. I like to think of myself as a sermon guy. Perhaps that’s why I prefer pod-casts to pulpits.
It’s not like I haven’t asked myself what the problem is. At first I told myself I am a bad singer and I wouldn’t want the person standing next to me to hear me, but that was a lie. It’s true that I am a bad singer, but I don’t think my neighbor would hear, let alone care. The music is loud enough at my church.
So I tried to rationalize that it’s the standing up for one hour that I can’t stand. Can’t we just sit there and watch the “Worship Team” do their thing? They have been practicing all week, why should I spoil their perfect harmonies? But I knew that this was just another excuse.
I know the real reason, but it is embarrassing. More embarrassing than fearing my neighbor and being too lazy to stand up. The real reason is, I just don’t feel like singing sometimes. I don’t want to. Yes, I may know the words to the song, but I really don’t feel them. I know the words are true. I know that God is great, awesome, that God is marvelous, that He is glorious… but I just don’t feel like saying it over and over. Because it feels so fake, so forced, like being forced to eat your vegetables… or laugh at a bad joke out of courtesy.
Most of the time, I only do it because it is part of the program. If it were up to me, at such times, I would skip the singing.
And I have skipped it when it were up to me. In Bible studies that I lead, I cross my fingers that no one will suggest a song before we begin. It’s a similar feeling with the prayer. I like to keep it short. Let’s just get to the Word. It is the preaching that I love. I can listen to the sermon for hours, and even preach one for longer.
I can’t help but wonder, am I the only one who feels this way sometimes? I know there are many amongst you who feel the exact opposite. You love the singing, but the sermon puts you to sleep. You can jump for hours, but you can’t sit for even 20 minutes. It is a strange thing, this difference. I wonder if it says something about the state of my spirituality… and yours.
By the way, have you read any book by J.R.R. Tolkien? He is an amazing writer! I love the way he weaves a beautiful fabric with his words. The way the words of his stories just freely roll down the tongue when read out loud. Bilbo Baggins, even the names of his characters are lyrical.It is like he wrote for both the eyes and the ears. Tolkien is a wonderfully gifted writer, I could sing his praises and praise his works all day long and then some. Every time I read his work I am inspired to tell the world about him, and write similar stories of my own. I can’t help but wonder if this is the wonder that escapes me when I face the thought of singing about my God.
For the fame of His name,
Stories are powerful.
Unfortunately, that is not a logical conclusion. That’s just how stories are. Like music, we don’t have to understand the physiology of stories on our brains to declare their power. Stories don’t try to convince you, argue with you, reason with you. Good stories don’t tell you, they simply show you. They invade your reservations, assault your convictions and barge into your conscience like a bandit. Stories are just that, powerful.
The most compelling way to teach something is to tell a story about it. Want to teach about patience? Just tell a story about a patient person. Want to explain love? Illustrate it in story. That’s why the fables we heard as children still linger in our memories.
Bedtime stories were not just entertainment, they were life-lessons.
Yet, this overwhelming power is also what makes stories so dangerous. A false story is powerfully destructive. Stories of proud men winning, and selfish women ruling are powerful tools. You see, since the power of stories is irrational, you cannot argue against a story.
You may present a thousand arguments against miracles, but one story about one miracle topples them all.
Stories are sacred.
The Bible is a story, a book of stories, but it is more than a story. Within the story are timeless teachings and commands and aims and purposes. But the reality of those commands is not found in the stories of the Bible. Abraham is not a consistent picture of faith. David is not a consistent illustration of a man after God’s heart. Neither is Peter an inspiring illustration of what it means to be a true disciple. Continue reading
Lecrae Moore is the first rapper to win a Grammy for the Best Gospel Album of the Year, but not every Christian is celebrating. Perhaps the confusion in the audience at the Grammy Award ceremony as his win was announced was an allusion to a deeper tension among Christians at the time. Lecrae was outside the venue when his name was called out, and he therefore didn’t make it to give his acceptance speech. Not only did most people in the audience wonder who Lecrae is, but many never even got to find out!
Anyway, the award was for the album “Gravity”, and that’s not even where the controversy is. I am talking about Church Clothes 1. The rapper got his fans and critics into a frenzy when he collaborated with a “secular” DJ Don Cannon. The predictable accusations of “compromising” his witness and playing to the “worldly” gallery gushed without restraint. The song “Church Clothes” was however the bane of Lecrae’s fans. In the song, Lecrae went hard against the rampant hypocrisy in the church. This is not news. But the problem is that Lecrae’s approach was so harsh, to the point of seeming as if he wasn’t part of the church he was bashing: Continue reading
Here are a few links worth spending your free time on. I pray that they will bless you, and that God will speak to you through them… even when the authors fail to. Enjoy!
- TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Simon Wenham confronts the popular Freudian idea that religion only survives because people want it to exist. I particularly loved this quote by Czeslaw Milosz: “A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death- the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.”
- FREE TO SAY WE’VE SINNED. This was liberating: “When you hide your sin, pretending to be a perfect Christian, you’re actually telling the world that God is a liar. Did Jesus, or did Jesus not, need to suffer and die for your present sins? When you feign perfection, you’re saying you didn’t need Him to do this for you.”
- A BETTER COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. David Mathis makes a much needed call to the older men and women in the church today: “We need your wisdom. We need your experience. You have made the long journey, watched fads come and go, rejoiced with those who have rejoiced, wept with those who have wept, endured the dark night of the soul. As the young men see visions, we need you to dream dreams.”
- LAZY HOLINESS. “I grew up understanding that once I become a Christian, I had to take over and make sure I stayed a Christian. I needed to make sure my walk with Jesus was a healthy, whole and pure walk. Daily devotions and bible reading were important, because if I didn’t do those things I felt I was in danger of losing my salvation. It wasn’t until the age of 17 when God got ahold of me and opened my eyes did new convictions shape who I am today.”
For the fame of His name,
In the words of the late C.S. Lewis:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter;
it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back,
a load so heavy that only humility can carry it,
and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.
It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them,
that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.
We must play.
But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
Adapted from The Weight of Glory