A Public Apology to My Followers

I did something wrong a few minutes ago, no, two things. Well, I actually don’t think what I did was wrong, but most of my readers do, and that is why I felt I should do (say) something about it.

First things first, what did I do? 1. I clicked RT on a tweet by Joel Osteen and I clicked “share” on a status update linking to a blog-post by Rob Bell. The truth is, I really liked the tweet and the post. I thought they were inspiring, creative, and most importantly, I thought they spoke the truth. I thought what I was doing was perfectly innocent and even commendable — I was passing on the truth to the masses.

rob bell

Well, not everyone agrees. Though nobody said anything, I could virtually see the shock in the hundreds of eyes that saw the Joel Osteen Retweet on my Twitter Feed. I could hear the astonished gasps from the dozens of “reformed” friends who were unlucky enough to see the shared Rob Bell post on my Facebook Timeline.

The problem was not the tweet, or the post, the problem was the people who authored them. Continue reading

Lingala Ya Yesu: A Song About Music

After topping the 2013 charts with his collabo with Mwenyehaki, Wanajua, Pitson started out 2014 by releasing another catchy tune in Lingala ya Yesu (The Lingala of Jesus). I may be three months late in reviewing the song, but the mark of a great song is its timelessness. The lyrics to Lingala ya Yesu are self-explanatory.

Here is a loose English translation of the lyrics:

VERSE 1

It’s been a while, and I haven’t sung Lingala to you Father,
I have been busy with Reggae and Ragga,
And The Blues sent me to sleep,
But I’m now awake, Father, and I’m singing Lingala
They told me in a good Lingala song it’s good to tie my belt high above my belly,
And for me to speak Lingala like “petit Lingala le eza moke”
They told me a good Lingala song must have a speaking part
(Spoken) “I am speaking, but I really have nothing to say”
I say that the Lingala of Jesus’ is not complicated
When you’re given the guitar chords x2
You just lift your hands and praise Jesus)

REFRAIN:
The Lingala of my Jesus saves
The Lingala of my Jesus blesses
The Lingala of my Jesus is not complicated
You simply praise x3 Jesus High

VERSE 2

Dear artiste, you don’t need to have piercings all over to be heard
No need for luxury cars for your videos to be hits
You don’t need to speak Lingala to get to Congo
And the dancers, their clothes too tight

REFRAIN

Yes, the song is self-explanatory. But what I find even more fascinating is that this is a song about music. More specifically — Christian music. We have all encountered the debates on what constitutes Christian or Gospel music. Some believe that there are genres in which Christian music should not reside — such as hip-hop. Others are persuaded that it is only the lyrics that matter, and any secular song can be borrowed and adapted and redeemed to make it more relevant. And others insist that a good Christian song must be a song that is designed to be sung in a congregation context, and not just performed on a stage in front of a passive audience.

The issues are diverse, but Pitson steals just 5 minutes and 14 seconds of this long-winded debate to drive home a simple point, what matters is that your music praises Jesus and blesses His people. In other words, a song is considered Christian not just because it is about Christ, but it is also for the glorification of Christ and the edification of the people. After all the debates about form and genre and style and context, is the gospel being preached? Is Jesus being praised?

The rest is details.

Thank you Pitson, for sneaking this one right in front of our eyes without coming off as polemic like some of us often do.

Reaching the Lost at Any Cost

Nowadays, it seems more important to please the world than to please the church (please note I said please the “church” not please “God”) — even though the Bible says we should prioritize those in the household of faith.

We don’t care if our conservative brothers are stumbling all over our creative freedom. The important thing is that unbelievers are not stumbling over our message.

We no longer go to preach where the idols of the world are, it is much more fruitful to bring the idols into the church to lure the world in. We trick them to win them. We tease their weaknesses and manipulate their addictions because the end justifies the means. We bait them with images of wines and spirits and then when they show up we spring up the Holy Spirit on them.

It is not like we are worshiping these idols ourselves, we are not, we are simply going where the sinners are — establishing a point of contact. Like Jesus, we are simply lunching with Simon and dining with Zaccheus.

So what if our brothers in faith disagree with our strategies? So what if our brothers don’t get it? They are the ones who need to grow up, to get with the program. We will not be patient with the weak in the church (read, the “narrow-minded” in the church). Why encourage their hypocrisy? Why succumb to their holier-than-thouness?

Even Jesus faced resistance and condemnation from the Sadducee and Pharisee of his day, that is why we are confident in what we do. It doesn’t matter that the Sadducee and Pharisee were UNBELIEVERS, yes even the high priest. Somehow, it seems more appropriate to dismiss conservative Christians as unbelievers simply because they think our methods unwise.

The end is near and we need to harvest as many of the lost as fast as possible.

And as the masses stream in through the front door after their idols, those inside are being carried out in their #judgmental stretchers through the back door — their faith in a #hypocritical condition.

And it’s really alright because, well, we can see the fruit. We are winning the world.

#Selah

mavuno poster

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10)

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:9-12)

A big shout out to J.C.

Pray for Persecuted Muslims

Muslims are dying in Central African Republic (CAR). Actually, people have been dying in the country for weeks now. Nothing new there, people die all the time.

But reports say that these Muslims are dying in the hands of Christians. Innocent men and women are being massacred, not because of any crime they have committed, but because they have a different religious affiliation. Children are murdered because they were born in the “wrong” religion. In a way, this is both news and not news.

Muslim civilians prepare to board trucks in Bangui to flee violence in the Central African Republic's capital. AFP

Muslim civilians prepare to board trucks in Bangui to flee violence in the Central African Republic’s capital. AFP

Religious extremists commit such heinous crimes all the time. Christians should not be surprised that fellow believers are being killed in the Middle East. The Bible says this will happen. It is to be expected and acknowledged, even if it will not be enjoyed. But should Christians be surprised that Muslims are dying at the hands of Christians?

DISOWNING THE EXTREMISTS

As Christians, reports of fellow Christians killing people who belong to a different religion are disturbing. And we are quick to dismiss them as the work of “religious extremists” who are not true Christians. We are careful to qualify how we refer to such people, as “professing” Christians who are not true Christians at all. We do not want to be associated with such barbarism. Because we know the Jesus we worship is a peaceful King. A king who embraced women and adored children, no matter which god they worshiped or where they did their worshiping. Our Jesus vehemently condemned the killing of the innocent — the last and the least among us. Continue reading

Loving the Enemies We Make

It is an assumption we always make when we read bible passages about loving our enemies, turning the other cheek and blessing those who persecute us. We assume that we are always the victims. When we read such passages, we tend to see ourselves as the innocent target to the slap or the accusation or the insult.

cheekBut the truth is that more often than not, we deserve it. At least I know I do. For instance, not so long ago I lied to a friend, and through that lie, made her an enemy. She “found me out” and I paid the price by not only losing her trust, but also her friendship.

Now, of course I asked for her forgiveness and repented of my sin before God. Ideally, that would be the end of that. But reconciliation is much more complicated, and much less Utopian.

Chesterton once said that “we choose our friends and we make our enemies”. While it is easy to see how this happens, there is something we deliberately make ourselves blind to — the fact that having an enemy does not always mean we are the innocent party. This victim mentality is a product of our sinful, self-preserving tendencies.

We don’t like to look at ourselves as the guilty ones. Continue reading

Behind the Sins (Part 1)

 ‘If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.’ – C. S. Lewis

That is the mystery clouding this man’s vision as he disappears into the shadows tonight. He needs answers; answers to questions his scholarly mind cannot provide; solutions to mysteries his experienced years cannot unravel. So he sits and waits until the quiet evening cacophony has been completely replaced by the rhythmic chirping of crickets. He tarries until his wife and the kids have slipped into the sub-conscious country of slumber land.

He doesn’t make a sound. Like a cat pad-footing through a messy kitchen, he steals into the night. Stealthily, he weaves his way through the city. Avoiding street-lights and highways, he chooses the dark alleys and back-roads. The cover of the darkness gives him the courage to go out. This perplexed patriarch seeks the truth in the dark.

After fifteen minutes of avoiding late-night drunks and street-side bums, Nicodemus senses that his destination is close by. The soft chatter of voices and the misty rays of candle-light from a house two blocks away give him hope.

“Soon I will be able to sleep in peace. Soon, I will have the missing piece — the answer to my puzzle.”

He is now at the door. He stops and takes a deep breath. That’s when second-thoughts that have been chasing behind him quickly catch up with him. This was a bad idea. Maybe I should just go back. What if one of the elders catches me here? How am I going to explain myself?

After weighing the options and the repercussions; after pre-enacting in his head the public humiliation that might result from this encounter, he decides this was a bad idea. So he turns to leave, but he is too late. The door swings open and a disciple almost runs into him on his way out.

“Oh, pardon me sir,” Peter’s apology is quick, “almost didn’t see you there.”

Nicodemus stands frozen. He opens his mouth but no words come out.

Come on, man! This is bad. Say something! Talk your way out of this fix. Pretend you are in the wrong place, apologize and leave.

“Would you like to come in?” Peter opens the door a little wider and motions him in.

Nicodemus’ scared gaze wanders onto the group of men huddled around the table. A single candle illuminates their attentive faces. The conversation stops. The people turn and look towards the door. Then the man seated at the farthest end of the table, directly facing the door, motions him to get in.

Too late now. They’ve seen me. Might as well face them.

“Oh, thank you,” he says politely to Peter, lifts up his robes and steps into the room.

The silence is deafening. Everyone recognized him the moment he stepped through the door. And everyone held their breath. They had seen him before. He was always hanging out with other Pharisees. When Jesus had claimed to destroy and rebuild the temple in three days, Nicodemus was among the members of the council who confronted him. Though he didn’t say a word then, they knew he shared in their verdict. The disciples knew him, and they knew he was up to no good.

Nicodemus, trying hard to ignore the stares, finds a place to sit at the table. But the moment he settles down, the two seats on either side of him are quickly vacated. It’s clear that no one wants to sit next to him.

He is not welcome here.

To be continued…

Why I No Longer Believe in Angels

I was 17, she was 16, and her smile drove me crazy. Every moment spent with her was magical, even the mundane was memorable. She meant the world to me. We delighted in the most insignificant things; a replied letter; a wink across the classroom; even an insult was considered a tease – romantic.

angelShe was an angel, and I would find myself floating on cloud nine just thinking about her. I knew she was the girl of my dreams because she was the girl I always dreamt about.

She was the girl he dreamed about too. He was 21 and in college. He had money and I didn’t even own a wallet. But it wasn’t his money, but his charm, that made her stop replying my letters. It was his stubble-stained chin that made her start shunning my once cherished embrace.

I cried unashamedly when she told me we could no longer be. That she no longer felt the same. That the dream was over and it was time to wake up.

“I just can’t go on being with you. I am sorry,” she told me with the casualness of someone who has just stepped on a friend’s toe. It wasn’t me, it was her.

She left me a casualty. I could no longer see her, and that blow sent me to love’s ICU. She had trampled on my heart left it cynical. What happened to the promises we made? The names we carved on the bark of that tree by the river? What happened to forever?

That fateful night, I fell asleep on a tear-soaked pillow, to the background tune of Toni Braxton’s “How Could an Angel Break My Heart?”

Ten years down the calendar, I have had my share of broken hearts; some of them my own; most of them casualties of my callous and careless heart. I have learnt that there is no such thing as an angel. That, as C.S. Lewis once put it, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” I have learned that a broken heart is not a risk to take but a guarantee.

I have learnt that forever is a choice made, not after finding the perfect lover, but through loving the imperfect one. Love is a choice with consequences, painful ones. I have learnt that trust is a gamble, and that while we always expect the best of others, we should not be too blind that we don’t prepare for the worst. This is not cynicism, it is realism. A realism tempered by a truth that transcends all age and culture: that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All have sinned and fallen short of our fanciful expectations.

How could an angel break my heart? Because I believed there was such a thing as an angel. How do I know this? Because I have been an angel, countless times, all along knowing that the person looking back at me in the mirror is no angel. I don’t believe in angels, maybe fallen angels. Angels like me; born blind, faltering and damaged. Angels like me; trust-breaking, broken-winged and diseased.

But broken wings lead to broken hearts.

I don’t believe in angels. But I believe in the one who makes angels. I believe in the one who takes my broken wings and patches me up again to fly another day. I believe in the one who has promised me that one day I will fly without faltering. One day I will be like Him, because I shall see Him as he is — my perfect reflection.