Posted in Faith, Features

Searching for Jesus, finding Krishna

It is Wednesday evening, at around 6:30 pm, and I am sitting on a small mat, my legs crossed into a tight knot. The large doors, the high ceiling and the artwork on the walls evoke a sacred, reverent feeling in me. I am caressing a set of beads between my fingers as I chant and sing just low enough not to disturb the woman seated next to me. She is also singing.

My story today begins where it will end: Inside the Hare Krishna Temple at Ngara, Nairobi.

My name is Jayne Adhiambo Opondo. I am 22, and I am a follower of Krishna. I know “Opondo” and “Krishna” in the same sentence sounds strange, because there is this strong stereotype that some religions belong to certain people.

In the same way people assume every Arab or Somali is a Muslim, the name Adhiambo Opondo is likely to have Christian, rather than Krishna, associations. So how did I end up here? Perhaps the best picture to illustrate the beginning of my journey is that of a box.

Read the full story here.

Posted in Faith, Religion

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Benny Hinn Rejects the Prosperity Gospel

“I am sorry to say that prosperity has gone a little crazy. And I am correcting my own theology, and you need to all know it. Because when I read the Bible now, I don’t see the Bible in the same eyes I saw the Bible 20 years ago.

Steve Strang from Charisma, whom we go back years, actually he was in my wedding, people don’t even know that Charisma magazine began with my father-in-law. Charisma magazine started with Roy Harthern, and I married his daughter.

So Steve Strang was in my wedding. We go way back. And he’s already asked me “Are you ready to make it public?” and I said “Well, not totally, because I don’t want to hurt my friends, whom I love, who believe things I don’t believe anymore.”

And I will tell you now something that is gonna shock you.

I think it is an offense to the Lord to say ‘give a thousand dollars’. I think it is an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the gospel. I am done with it. I will never again ask you to give a thousand or whatever amount because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it.

Did you hear me? I think that hurts the gospel. So I am making this statement for the first time in my life, and frankly I don’t care what people think about me anymore.

So I had a guy.. well I’ll tell you who, it was Dan Willis and I love Dan with all my heart. I said to him ‘don’t you dare preach that message again.. I don’t wanna hear it, I don’t even want to be a part of it’.

So when they invite me to telethons I think they will not like me anymore. Because when you look at the word of God, I don’t wanna get into it now. Am I shocking you? Good, let’s have a high five on this one.

If I hear one more time ‘break the back of death with a thousand dollars’ I’m gonna rebuke them. I think that’s buying the gospel, that’s buying the blessing. That’s grieving the Holy Spirit. That’s about all I will say.

If you are not giving because you love the Lord Jesus, don’t bother giving. I think giving has become such a gimmick it’s making me to my stomach.

And I’ve been sick for awhile too, I just couldn’t say it. But now the lid is off. I’ve had it. You know why? I don’t wanna get to heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we said it like it is: The gospel is not for sale, and the blessings of God are not for sale, and miracles are not for sale, and prosperity is not for sale.

I still believe in prosperity but let’s look at what the Bible says. I’m not supposed to say it now but it looks like I’m saying it anyways. You have to read… And I just sent a letter to my people with what I really believe, so I’m kinda jumping ahead of myself, because I am really ticked, in a Holy Ghost way.

Anybody ever been upset in a Holy Ghost way? Maybe ticked is the wrong word, I don’t know why I even said it, there’s some guy years ago said ticked and I just stuck with it. But it’s like holy anger, it’s like, ‘ why do they have to do that?’

If it’s not about adoring, loving Jesus, have nothing to do with it. If it is about self and mullah.. You know what mullah is? Money. If it’s about how to get rich, it is not the gospel. It’s about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why do we give? Because we adore Him, we love Him.  Why do we give? Because His gospel changed my life, and I want to see all the lives changed just like how my life was changed. Now, enough about that.

The message of prosperity is in the Bible, we cannot deny that if we give we’ll receive. We cannot deny God will bless us, that’s in the Bible. You can’t erase it, no way.

God wants to bless His people way more than you want to receive His blessing. But when you put a price on it, never. Because it gets corrupted. That’s all there is to it.”

Excerpted from Benny Hinn Ministries Facebook Live Video: Benny Hinn LIVE Monday Night Service – September 2, 2019 (Timestamp 1:21:00)

Posted in Book Reviews, culture, Faith

Book Review: Unashamed by Lecrae

I enjoyed reading (or rather, listening to Lecrae read) this book. It is a deeply personal account of the rapper’s journey to faith and his journey through faith. It is an autobiography of sorts, mostly focusing on how Lecrae came to faith and why he does “ministry” the way he does.

The book finally (hopefully) puts to rest why the rapper insists on being referred to as “a rapper who happens to be a Christian” instead of “Christian rapper.” You see, Lecrae’s relationship with rap and hip hop predates his conversion. What happened at his conversion, he explains, was a change of worldview, not a change of trade (or talent).

The best way he knew to express himself was through rap, and just because he became a Christian doesn’t mean he raps because he is a Christian. He raps despite being a Christian. It is a subtle difference, and many might miss it.

I admit that I am one of those people who miss that difference, because I don’t classify music (with lyrics) alongside other neutral vocations such as driving a bus. I believe that with music, unlike driving a bus, your faith is not just expressed in the kind of person you are while you do your work, it is also expressed in what you talk about (or sing/rap about). That’s why there is such a thing as “Christian rap” and no such thing as “Christian driving.”

Being a personal account, Lecrae does not shy from revealing gory details about his past failures. What stood out is the fact that his sinful life does not just precede his conversion, but includes his life after conversion. I was comforted by this, especially considering the many times I have found myself “sinning more” after my conversion than before. I relate to this one, Lecrae.

Even so, I couldn’t help but feel like Lecrae was defending himself in this book. He was succumbing to the pressure to “explain himself” and why he is the way he is. I am no judge of whether this was warranted, but I am grateful he did it.

I also couldn’t help but feel that, for someone whose mantra in life is about not living for people’s acceptance, by writing this book he seemed to still want us to “get” him, and, in a way, accept him.

The only significant doctrinal qualm I had with the book is in Chapter 10: Kicking Down Hell’s Door. Lecrae uses Matthew 16:18 to segue into why he feels called to reach the culture. He infers from Jesus’ words… “upon this rock I will build my church” that this is speaking about Jesus building the church “upon the rock of the culture”. Well, that’s quite a stretch and I didn’t buy it.

I believe the “rock” that Jesus is referring to is either the confession of Peter (you are the Christ, son of the living God) or Peter himself (what he symbolizes as an Apostle who confesses the Lordship of Jesus over and against the claims that Jesus was merely a prophet).

All things considered, this was a good read. I recommend it.

Posted in Mental Health

How depression is demolishing my idols

I have never felt so dependent.

Every simple task is a monumental feat. Getting out of bed feels like scaling the Everest, only harder. Don’t even mention picking up a phone call. My head feels like it is locked in an unrelenting vice grip.

You see, I am being held hostage by two very experienced kidnappers: Depression and Anxiety.

Cunning abductors

My abductors can be quite unpredictable. They strike when I least expect it. Like that random bout of sadness when the rest of life is going well. Or that unexplained anxiety attack when the name on the caller ID just wants to know how I am doing.

Sometimes my abductors are lenient. They let me enjoy the occasional early morning, or an empty in-tray at the office. Sometimes they even let me reply to friends’ messages and agree to meet up with them.

Small wins

Other times I am lucky enough to escape from their grip and do normal-people stuff. For instance I went to church last Sunday; I wrote an essay on Wednesday night; I sat through a long meeting on Thursday. I even met two friends over lunch during the week; and I am writing this post right now.

All these highs and lows are familiar to anyone who has ever tasted depression. But my abductors have also been teaching me things.

Hard lessons

In the months and years I have slogged through this tar-like existence, my captors have inadvertently taught me key lessons about myself.

For instance, Depression and Anxiety have taught me that there things I used to idolize and look upon to give my life meaning. They have revealed to me just how much of an idolater I am.

You can see it in the things I am no longer able to do, and what that inability is doing to my sense of worth and identity.

I am a writer, and I am lucky (or unlucky depending on how you view it) to have my hobby double up as my job. I often joke with friends that I take breaks from writing to write. However, one of the first fingers that my abductors chopped off to torture me was my desire and ability to write.

These days it is normal to walk around uninspired for weeks. I have a feeling my captors are housing me in a dingy apartment on Writer’s Block. So, not only am I not able to write for a living, I am not even able to write for fun!

Depression and Anxiety have taught me that I may have had an unhealthy reliance on my ability to do certain things. Yes, I am a gifted, trained and experienced writer. Yes, I enjoy writing and do it for a living. But do I find my identity in my ability to write? Do I find my validation in the fact that others applaud my skill?

Crushing defeat

In the past, I would have easily answered a confident “no” to both questions. But now, I am not so sure. Each time I am unable to write or find inspiration, I find myself feeling utterly defeated. I want to hide from the world. I am suddenly ashamed that I have nothing valuable to offer the world.

Not being able to write as easily, as often or as well as I used to has revealed that I had pegged so much of my self worth on my ability to do these things. My gift had become my idol and my bargaining chip in a world that values personal talent and competence.

Gradually, I have realized that the fact that I am made in the image of God; that I am loved by this God who created the universe; that it has pleased this God to forgive my sin and welcome me into His family; these truths that I claim to subscribe to don’t seem to hold that much sway in how I value myself in this world.

I am learning that while I paid lip service to the fact that God is my all in all, I was really finding my real worth in what I had to offer this world, in the acceptance that this world showed me because of what I could do.

Now all these false gods are being stripped away, and instead of feeling like someone who has been unburdened, I am suddenly feeling like someone who has been stripped naked. It shows that these human abilities are all I really had as my covering.

I thank God for these lessons, even as I try to figure out how to apply them and refocus my worship. It took the scheming plan of my abductors Depression and Anxiety for God to show me where my true allegiance lies.

These agents of a broken world sought to destroy me by taking away the things I valued most. But God has been gracious enough to use these plans of evil as opportunities to show me what really matters, where my true identity is, whose acceptance really counts. God is showing me that I should never have been valuing these things so supremely to begin with.

May the Lord hold me fast through these trying times. To anyone currently going theough the same or similar idol-smashing process, my prayer is that you will recognize the process for what it really is and you will not despair. Instead of grumbling, be grateful. This is an opportunity to re-focus your worship and reclaim your true identity.

Our God is faithful. Even though He slays you, He is the only one worthy of your worship. Hold fast to Him. His grace is sufficient.

John 6:68 “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Rom 8:18–21 “ I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

2 Cor 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”

Posted in Book Reviews, culture, Faith

Book Review: How the Bible Actually Works

I regularly listen to Pete Enns and Jared Byas’ podcast The Bible for Normal People. The two hosts have carved out a helpful niche focusing on why Christians need to put off their overly mystical lenses when approaching the Bible. They acknowledge the difficulties that many Christians encounter when reading they Bible, and they do their best to respect the reservations many people have with the Scriptures.

enns_howbibleactuallyworks_hc_3d-1.pngOne may say that Pete Enns’ book How the Bible Actually Works: How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great News is more or less a transcript of the entire podcast. In this book, Enns acknowledges that many people, Christians included, often find the Bible difficult to apply in their lives because it is “ancient, ambiguous, and diverse”.

Enns writes: “The spiritual disconnection many feel today stems precisely from expecting (or being told to expect) the Bible to be holy, perfect, and clear, when in fact after reading it they find it to be morally suspect, out of touch, confusing, and just plain weird.”

The author does not seek to defend the Bible against these apparent accusations. In fact, Enns himself finds and describes the Bible in the same manner. He acknowledges that it is an ancient book depicting an ancient and unfamiliar culture.

He also describes the Bible as ambiguous, with many Christians finding themselves unsure about what to do with some of its commands; and he also finds it diverse, meaning that there are apparent and “actual” contradictions between different parts of the Bible. Enns believes that the ambiguity and contradictions are not reasons to invalidate the Bible, they are a cue for us to take a different approach to how we read the book.

Enns believes that the way of Wisdom was always followed by the people who wrote and read the Bible in ancient times. He uses several “contradictions” in the Bible to show how wisdom dictated different commands for different situations, even making room for commands that contradict one another (e.g. Proverbs 26:4 & 5).

According to Enns, all this ambiguity and diversity should discourage us from the reading the Bible as a rule book set in stone; and we should be willing to adapt and sometimes abandon passages that no longer serve the purposes of Wisdom.

“The Bible becomes a confusing mess when we expect it to function as a rule book for faith. But when we allow the Bible to determine our expectations, we see that Wisdom, not answers, is the Bible’s true subject matter,” he writes.

I agree with the author’s exhortation to Christians that they should apply Wisdom when reading the Bible. Indeed, the Bible is not a mere rule-book. Neither is it an instruction manual. The Bible is an ancient book and I personally find some of its commands ambiguous, confusing and even contradictory. The Bible may be a light to our path, but it is useless to us if we read it with our eyes closed. We should indeed apply Wisdom when reading the Scripture.

The main thing I struggled with while reading this book is Enns’ definition of this “Wisdom” that we are to apply when reading the Bible. The closest he comes to explaining this “Wisdom” is when he says we are not only to read the Bible, but also to read the culture, read the present moment and then discern how best to adopt, adapt or abandon a given Biblical passage.

The problem I find with this approach is that it is no different from any reasonable approach to any other work of literature.

When I read a book such as The Chronicles of Narnia, common wisdom (and just general reasonability) tells me that lions can’t speak and there are no magical mirrors at the back of wardrobes. Common wisdom tells me that it is bad to judge people by their race or size; it is better to share; and it is sometimes good to give others the benefit of the doubt. These are aspects of wisdom that life and experience teaches all of us — though we are not always attentive students.

So what, then, is the point of the Bible if what is written there is no more trustworthy or authoritative than the limits of my own judgment and Wise reading? And what does the Bible even mean when it distinguishes the “Wisdom of God” from the “wisdom of man” (James 3:13-18)?

When I say that Biblical passages about slavery are no longer applicable today because society has evolved and we now understand that it is wrong to own another human being, isn’t that just the common wisdom of the age? Am I not just aligning with the times? What role has the Bible played in showing me how to think about slavery if the only lesson is that the Biblical writers were slightly more progressive than the surrounding cultures?

After all, there were many other ancient thinkers who didn’t ascribe to the Judeo-Christian teachings and yet proved to be more progressive than their surrounding cultures.

While I appreciate the author’s effort in bringing the Scriptures down to earth and encouraging a more thoughtful and authentic approach to the Bible, I feel he has done little to make a case for why I should give the Bible any more attention than other works of literature. The author has brought the Bible down to earth and left it there.

If “how the Bible actually works”  is how any reasonable person would work in any given situation, then what is the point of ascribing to Scripture? If the Bible is no more than a case study on how to apply the wisdom that we already possess, why should anyone opt to be a Christian instead of simply being a humanist?

By reading this book, I found myself less confident in the faith I have in Christianity, even as my approach to the Bible became more enlightened. I am not sure whether this is ultimately a good or bad thing for someone who confesses to be a Christian and strives to be faithful to the God revealed in the Bible. Wisdom leads me to believe that it is not.

Posted in Book Reviews, Faith

Book Review: Am I Truly Saved? by John Musyimi

I have been a Christian for almost 15 years now, give or take. The thing is, I am not always sure I am a Christian. I am also not sure if the first time I raised my hand and “gave my life to Christ” was really the time I got “born again.” I am not even sure if the second time I did it was the one… or the third time I did it.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have doubts. Something tells me that most of you are doubters too, secretly. Yet that does not worry me as much as the fact that many of us can be so sure that we are saved.

But should we be so sure? Can we?

John Musyimi believes we should, and w can. But he also believes that not everyone who is sure they are saved, is saved. Our certainty must have the right basis, and Musyimi sets out to show us that basis.

In his second book (or his first booklet), John Musyimi, a pastor at Mamlaka Hill Chapel (when he wrote the book), lays out a six-point diagnostic tool that Christians can use to check “whether you are in the faith”. He appeals to his namesake, the Apostle John, for a guideline on how we may gain assurance that we are “really” and truly born-again.

Now, I think what Musyimi is attempting to do in this booklet is quite dangerous. It may easily go either way. Many teachers who have set out to assure Christians of their salvation have ended up increasing the doubts of those Christians, and those who’ve sought to reduce those doubts have ended up shipwrecking the faith of their hearers.

There’s no denying that this is a dicey topic, and one that must be approached with utmost care and wisdom. Fortunately, John Musyimi does just that, to the best of his ability.

The six tests mined from 1 John are real gems:

  1. Obedience – if you are truly saved, you will keep God’s commandments.
  2. Affection– if you are truly saved, you will love the brothers.
  3. Separation – if you are truly saved, you will have decreasing love for the world.
  4. Faith – if you are truly saved, you will believe in Jesus Christ.
  5. Holiness – if you are truly saved, you will experience increasing victory over sin.
  6. Spiritual – if you are truly saved, you will show evidence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t make the cut. Not on all the six tests. I seriously flunked on test number 2 (affection). I struggle with affection for the brethren. Most of the time, I just don’t like to be bothered. I really have to “push myself” to care, and that is just how it is… at least for now.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Furthermore, it’s not that I am doing so well on the other tests anyway. And this is where Musyimi’s booklet proved quite helpful. What if we fail the test? What if we realise that we don’t always obey, we don’t love as we ought, and our battle against sin often seems like a losing one?

Thankfully, Musyimi anticipates those questions, and that is why he is careful to approach the tests with a subtlety that might be missed by most. Throughout the manual, you will find such statements as “inclined to” (help brothers)”, “decreasing love” (for the world), and “increasing victory” (over sin) just to name a few.

These are POSTURE phrases, not POSITION phrases.

The author, like the Bible, is aware that he is addressing men, not machines. We change, and the best change is a growth kind of change. The proof of our salvation is not in where we are in the journey but in which direction we are facing (heading), and Musyimi is careful to point this out.

One last thing, what if we find out that we are facing the wrong direction? What if our love for the world is increasing while our love for the brethren is decreasing decreasing? Is this a valid reason to throw in the towel and say goodbye to this “salvation thing”?

Absolutely not! It turns out that this realization is one of the best news you could have received all your life! As Musyimi puts it, realizing this deficiency in your life is actually “a sign of God’s mercy upon you!”

Get your hear examined today. Your life may just depend on it.

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Why I (Sort of) Support the SCOTUS Ruling on Gay Marriage

Christians in the US did not lose the culture war when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage – because Christians have never won any culture war. In fact, I dare say Christians are not even expected to, let alone commanded to, win culture wars. Let me explain. Continue reading “Why I (Sort of) Support the SCOTUS Ruling on Gay Marriage”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

When Right Is Wrong and Good is Bad

You’ve probably heard this expression before. WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? It’s a common expression (well, not so common these days) often used to remind someone to do the right thing. To resist temptation to son and act like Jesus. Canton Jones’ song, “Stay Saved”, comes to mind when I think about WWJD. In the song, he says;

I’m a stay saved
When I’m driving on 285 and somebody cut me off and flipped me the bird
I’m a stay saved
When I’m playin ball and they foulin dawg and I hit the floor get up don’t say a word
I’m a stay saved
When I’m walkin through the mall with my wife and somebody still attemptin to catch her eye
I’m a stay saved
When I go to the refrigerator and somebody done ate my sweet potato pie
I’m a stay saved

In short, whenever he (Canton) finds himself in situations where he is tempted to sin, he reminds himself that he must stay saved. That he is a Christian and vengeance is the Lord’s. This is a good and noble objective. We must always strive to do right and resist temptation. Right living is part of our Christian witness to the world, and how we bring glory to God on earth. Even so, it is not always easy to do the right thing. We are hardwired and inclined to sin. “De” fault is our default. It is harder to sin than not to sin. If you don’t believe me, read Romans 7.

WHEN OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS WRONG

Yet, the right thing is not always the right thing. Obeying God’s commands is not always obeying God’s commands. WWJD is not always WJID (What Jesus Is Doing). Continue reading “When Right Is Wrong and Good is Bad”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Yes, We Are Older Than God

G. K. Chesterton, in his classic work, Orthodoxy, says:

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

It helps to remember that “old age” was never part of the perfect plan of creation. Hmmm… No wonder Jesus died at 33. Someday, we are going to be as children again. Psalm 144:12, Matthew 19:14, 18:3.

#Maranatha

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Dear Love, I Need You

love in action

Here I stand Lord, though I am weak and feeble,

I claim to understand Lord, though I know am fallible,

I want to see You clearly, though my flesh is bent on sin, permanently turned away,

My heart’s in ICU daily, though I claim to have a new heart, am always thirsty for Your way,

Too dazed by Your glory, amazed by your Grace, I confess “Have Your way!”

I seek Your face daily, even as my feet keep leading me to the dungeon,

Sip from Your grace hourly, even though am fit for destruction,

Daily leaving my true self on the shelf of my convictions, Continue reading “Dear Love, I Need You”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Let Me Be Your Strength – A Letter From My Father

Dear Child,
I saw you trembling with fear.
From my throne, I felt the hairs on the back of your neck rising.
The cold sweat chilled my spine too, your troubled heart tripped my heart-beat too.
I heard your cries, I noticed every shade of doubt in your eyes… Continue reading “Let Me Be Your Strength – A Letter From My Father”

Posted in Music Reviews

Lyrical Review: Appointment by Jimmy Gait ft Cece

I will say it up-front, Jimmy Gait’s new song, “Appointment” is both simple and beautiful, I guess that makes it simply beautiful? As usual, I will go straight to the lyrics, for that’s my niche in these reviews. I have not been able to locate any online links containing the lyrics. But I wrote them down and translated them into English for the sake of this review. The first verse describes how, in our human society, even if you may be close friends with a VIP, you will still need an appointment to see them in your time of need. This is because their office and the system requires it: Continue reading “Lyrical Review: Appointment by Jimmy Gait ft Cece”