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God and Aliens!

Recently finished reading a new book 'Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence' by astrophysicist and theologian David Wilkinson. A good book is always hard book to summarise! But several things really stood out for me.
First, the importance of placing the life, death and resurrection of Christ at the heart of how we see the world. The book really removes the clatter when we come difficult issues such as whether intelligent life exists in the rest of universe (and possibly multiverse). And this book has given me a deeper appreciation of that!
Secondly, the degree to which someone likes this book will depend largely on how they are able to tolerate a different reading of Genesis 1 than the one they may hold. Wilkinson unfortunately too readily assumes that Christians have signed up to Darwin, so he leaves many of the difficult questions around that unexplained.

One Minute Lesson (Lesson 5)

Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. (Proverbs 29:26 ESV) Lesson:

Government may be our "uncle" on earth but we have only one Father. His rule has no time or spatial limit. The scepter of His Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness. So let us depend on Him in all circumstances!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Are You Paralysed?

I recently went through a series of old Denzel Washington movies. I started with the Bone Collector(1999). Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) is the quadriplegic forensics expert, following a tragic accident at work, whose plans to commit assisted suicide are interrupted by a sadistic serial killer on the loose in New York.

With time counting down between each abduction and possible death, Rhyme recruits the unwilling but talented rookie Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) after she saves the first crime scene. Through radio contact, she becomes his eyes and legs on the scene, even as she battles her private challenges.

Above all voices!

Above the voices of the world around me, my hopes and dreams, my cares and loves and fears, the long-awaited call of Christ has found me, the voice of Jesus echoes in my ears: ‘I gave my life to break the cords that bind you, I rose from death to set your spirit free; turn from your sins, and put the past behind you, take up your cross and come and follow me.’ TIMOTHY DUDLEY-SMITH
It is important to note that the first four lines of this famous hymn effectively says that the voice of Jesus echoes not only above "the voices of the world around me" but includes voices inside of me. The voices of hopes, dreams, cares, loves and fears. The Voice of Jesus is irresistible. It penetrates without opposition and calls us to Him. It is an excellent truth that when God decides to speak he is certainly heard! Without doubt!
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

One Minute Lesson (Lesson 4)

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death." (Revelation 2:10, 11 ESV) Lesson:
A true follower of Jesus only dies once. Everyone else dies twice.
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Are we becoming more undisciplined?

Steve Tobak sees the signs in a recent article for Fox Business on the “Lost Art of Discipline”: “...I rarely have a coherent thought before noon and my workdays are peppered with blood-pumping and synapse-sparking activities that bear little resemblance to what I do for a living. But throughout my career I have always sacrificed whatever I had to and pushed my people to do the same to ensure the job got done. And that’s getting harder and harder to do all the time. Granted, there have always been distractions – the archenemies of discipline – but these days, they seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate. And, more importantly, nobody’s immune, not even our business and political leaders…”
“....Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently got himself embroiled in a ludicrous online debate over the gender constitution of his management team and board of directors... not a great idea, especially with an IPO on the way….Senator John McCain couldn’t get through a Senate committee hearing without …

War on Christians, 3rd Edition

David Suissa writing in the Jewish Journal quotes this startling statistic of the level of persecution of Christians around the world.  ....But hidden in all the chaos is a monstrous injustice that has received very little media attention: The rampant persecution of Christians. “Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history,” Bruce Thornton, research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote on the institute’s Web site. “Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100 [million] to 200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes.”..... Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

One Minute Lesson (Lesson 3)

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. (2 Corinthians 1:8 NIV) Lesson:
There's no shame in suffering. We can bring and share it before others, even those who may use it to sneer at us. Why? Because Christian suffering is a privilege to share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ - as we patiently wait for his deliverance through the situation. And most importantly it is the way we get close to God as we grow to depend on him and enjoy his immediate comfort as the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Value in Movies

We can encounter things through movies that we might not otherwise get a chance to explore. This goes beyond mere entertainment. Movies provide a way to experience a myriad of situations with a measure of detachment that is impossible in real life. Rather than being shocked and ill-equipped to deal with these situations when they arise, it can be beneficial to safely explore these issues through cinema before being faced with them in real life. DOUGLAS M. BEAUMONT
From Message Behind the Movie by Douglas M. Beaumont. This is only the third book I have read on making sense of cinema. What I found very helpful in this book was its tips on understanding how the story line develops. Most of the books I have read so far take it for granted that the viewer can easily grasp the storyline of the movie. When in fact we are quite poor at understanding story, which of course makes it difficult to disentangle the main message of the movie and its underlying worldviews.
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2…

One Minute Lesson (Lesson 2)

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God  (Colossians 1:9, 10 NIV)
Lesson:
God is genuinely pleased and excited when you live a life worthy of Him. When your whole life is God first, your desires second. When the first question you ask when you wake up is, 'how can I make God pleased and excited today?' He delights in that. It's quite amazing when you think about it because God is very big!
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Mysteries in Maths!

Snell’s law describes how light rays bend when they pass from air into water, as they do when the sun shines into a swimming pool. Light moves more slowly in water, much like the hiker in the snow, and it bends accordingly to minimise its travel time. Similarly, light bends when it travels from air into glass or plastic, as when it refracts through your eyeglass lenses. The eerie point is that light behaves as if it were considering all possible paths and then taking the best one. Nature — cue the theme from The Twilight Zone — somehow knows calculus.
STEVEN STROGATZ One of many anecdotes I picked up from Steven Strogatz's recent book 'The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Mathematics, from One to Infinity'. It is a "pop-maths" book designed to re-introduce the subject to people who have long forgotten it! Well worth the read!
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

One Minute Lesson (Lessons 1)

In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors.  (2 Chronicles 16:12, 13 NIV)
Lesson : it is not sufficient to go to the doctors, we must also approach the Great Doctor!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Totally Forgiven!

It doesn’t matter how exotically righteous you are. It doesn’t matter how pure you are in your dealings with [sin]. It doesn’t matter how strong you are against temptation. Your standing with God is never based on your righteousness, but on his. His perfect life, his acceptable death, and his death-defeating resurrection guaranteed your standing with God. All of your sins past, present, and future have been covered by his blood. His righteousness has been attributed to your account. So even in your moment of greatest failure, you do not have to hide from God or fear his presence. Your penalty has been paid and eternal acceptance has been granted, so you can run into God’s presence, lost and broken as you often are, without fear of his rejection. Grace guarantees your forgiveness, pays the penalty for your guilt, and lifts the burden of shame off your shoulders. - PAUL DAVID TRIPP (Source : Sex and Money, 2013)
You simply can’t preach forgiveness to yourself enough! We need to keep re…

12 Question on Movies

My favourite theologian John Frame in his book ‘Theology at the Movies’ lists some key questions that goes in his when he watches films. He recommends that we all ask the same questions. The importance of question may vary from film to film. I have moved the numbers around to put them in what I think is a logical progression, which may or may not be logical! 1. Who wrote, produced and directed the film? The writings and previous work of these people says something about their philosophy of life. The previous works of actors are also important. Some actors tend to sign on to projects with which they have some ideological affinity.
2. Is it well-made, aesthetically? Are the production and acting values of high quality? These factors may have little to do with the “message.” But they do tend to determine the extent of the film’s cultural impact, and that is important for our purposes. If a film is well-made, it can have a large impact upon the culture for good or ill.
3. Is it honest,…

The Faith of Rose Mapendo

A Tutsi Congolese, Rose was a victim of intense mistreatment during the genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of the twentieth century. After her husband was tortured and then executed, Rose was taken with nine of her ten children to a death camp where she spent almost a year and a half suffering in unimaginable conditions. Abuse. Starvation. Thirty-two women and children in a single prison cell—with no toilet. Rose wrestled with God. Why did He make her Tutsi? Why did He make her a woman? Why did He allow her to become pregnant right before this nightmare? She was gripped by hatred for the four men who guarded their cell. (Who would possibly blame her for despising them?) But during her time in the death camp, Rose came to peace with God’s sovereignty and chose to forgive the four men who guarded and mistreated her and the others. The time came for Rose to deliver. On the filthy concrete floor of her prison cell, in the dark, having to cut the umbilical cords with …

The Price of Obedience

If we obey God it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the sting comes in. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything, it is a delight, but it costs those who do not love Him a good deal. If we obey God it will mean that other people’s plans are upset, and they will gibe us with it—“You call this Christianity?” We can prevent the suffering; but if we are going to obey God, we must not prevent it, we must let the cost be. - OSWALD CHAMBERS
This is by far the hardest thing we are likely to struggle with as we seek to live lives that are totally surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. What if obeying God meant that your family members lost a well-known or well-loved circle of acquaintances? Had to move to a smaller house? Drove uglier cars? Wore older clothes? Lived by a weekly rather monthly budget?Accepting this part of obeying God is especially difficult for men or women who are the breadwinners for their families. The cost of…

Where are you running to?

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. (Nahum 1:7-8 ESV) On 1st August Edward Snowden left Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport having been granted asylum by the Russian government. The move brought to an end the United States's pursuit of the intelligence whistle-blower. For all their military and economic power, the Americans in the end failed to catch Snowden and bring him to justice.
It turns out that Snowden is not the only one on the run! The Bible says that we are all on the run. As the Prophet Isaiah said "we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way". We are all running away from God our true Owner of our souls! And consequently we have created for ourselves a community of runaways.

11 questions to help confront sin

11 questions to help you identify, understand and deal with the struggle of sin in your life. One way to use them is identify a particular sin (e.g sexual temptation) you struggle with - and then ask the questions. But you can also take your life in totality - and work from there. 1. Where and how do you regularly set yourself up for failure? 2. Where do you tend to make foolish choices? 3. Where do you expose yourself to things that are not helpful? 4. Where do you tend to tell yourself that you’re okay when you’re not? 5. What are the things you say to yourself that allow you to remain hopeless? 6. Where do you look wrong in the face and do it anyway? 7. Where and when are you most susceptible to give in to temptation? 8. Where are you asking physical, emotional pleasure to satisfy your heart? 9. In what ways do you tend to minimize your struggle? 10. With whom are you being less than honest? 11. Are there moments when you still allow yourself to question God’s love? As P…

God as a Cleaner!

What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? - JESUS
That statement is from Luke 15:8. Actually, my answer to the Lord's rhetorical question has always been no. I do not know such a woman. Not one who does all three things as stated. I can see why the woman lights the lamp (it is dark) and seeks diligently until she finds it (it is worth something). But I can't see why she decides to sweep the house in the middle of searching for a coin! And clearly late in the day or more likely at night!
As someone who grew up in a village, I struggle to even imagine these three actions taking place at once! The reason is obvious. Sweeping takes time and distracts from the purpose of searching. But not only that if it is not done properly, depending on what we are looking for, it even leads to mistakenly throwing away other things!

Are you currently praying for someone?

Then read carefully this priceless advice from Charles Stanley from his book Handle with Prayer:  When praying for others, we must be willing to be part of the answer if necessary. If we aren’t willing to be used to answer our own prayers, we aren’t cooperating with God. As a result, He won’t cooperate with us; He won’t answer our prayers. Why? Because these are prayers of isolation and separation. We are saying, “God I don’t want to get mixed up in anyone’s problems. You take care of that.” Can you imagine Jesus doing that? “Sorry, Bartimaeus, I don’t want to get My hands dirty.”
God will not hear our prayers of isolation. If we aren’t more interested than that, then He’s not interested in our prayers. As long as we ask and do nothing, He will listen and do nothing. If it costs us nothing, we can expect little in return. Don’t pray for more missionaries unless you’re willing to go yourself or are willing to send your children. Don’t pray for another’s financial need unless you’re w…

Are we worth saving?

In the famous film The Fifth Element, Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) poses a challenging rhetorical question to Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) : What's the use in saving life when you see what you do with it? (Watch here).She is speaking 250 years in the future, where life as we know it is threatened by the arrival of Evil. Only Leeloo (the "Fifth Element") can stop Great Evil from extinguishing life. Leeloo is the vulnerable but "supreme being" that comes as human being to save humanity.
To accomplish her task she has to activate the four elemental stones of earth, wind, fire and rain, with her self in the middle as the "fifth element" that is forged into the ultimate weapon against Great Evil. It is at this point of salvation, inside the temple of stones, that Leeloo becomes disillusioned and unwilling to perform the role. She comes to realise that human beings are themselves so evil that they are not worth saving. Any “salvation” will be temporarily at bes…

Jesus Never Fails

Many a times in my life, the words of this childhood hymn has been a tremendous encouragement. I pray this may encourage you too. Keep looking to Jesus!
Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails.
Your mother will let you down Your father will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails.
Your husband will let you down Your wife will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your brothers will let you down Your sisters-will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your church will let you down Your work will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your friends will let you down Your country will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Your wealth will let you down Your health will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails
Copyri…

Leadership Lessons from Liu Bang

I have just finished reading 'A Thousand Pieces of Gold: A Memoir of China's Past Through its Proverbs' by Adeline Yen Mah. Ten years on since my first read, I am even more impressed by how Yen Mah weaves an engaging account of the life and times of the First Emperor of China as recorded in China's Grand Historian Sima Qian's book Shiji and seen through her eyes. Here is how she describes the leadership of warrior Liu Bang : It is amazing that a man like Liu Bang, who came from a low-class background and maintained the habits and behaviour of a peasant, should have succeeded in capturing the people’s imagination in such a short time. By all accounts, he was lazy and feckless as a young man. Even when he became chief of a ting, he was always squatting down on his mat like a peasant, something considered undignified by nobles. His language was uncouth. Scholars and officials alike looked down upon him and, with the exception of Zhang Liang, all his followers were co…

Are you suffering from spiritual amnesia?

When Christians gain different forms of social influence (e.g., economic, political, educational), we tend to get them tangled up and confused with spiritual forms of authority. Unless one is careful, spiritual resources can be co-opted by social power and we can become dependent on the latter for our sense of well-being. - Steve Wilkens & Mark Sanford (Source : Hidden Worldviews)
This is a very helpful observation. Increased social influence always carries the risk of diminishing our spiritual influence. The more popular we become through our personality and skills, the less influential we might become spiritually. The reason is that we can come to easily rely on our social influence to change things rather than on God.

What does it mean that Jesus lives in me?

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20) I have read these verses so many time but Paul David Tripp has just blown me away with them how incisively he explains them in his latest book. Here is what he says : Paul reminds us of something that we must always remember as we deal with the relationships, pleasures, and temptations of this here-and…

Its All News to Me!

I recently finished reading BBC journalist Jeremy Vine's book 'It's All News to Me'. It has very useful insights on news, journalism and life in general. And filled with lots of jokes. Like this famous interview between presidential candidate George W Bush and a journalist (Hiller), which shows that the art of journalism is asking the obvious : Hiller: Can you name the president of Chechnya? Bush: No, can you? Hiller: Can you name the president of Taiwan? Bush: Yeah, Lee. Hiller: Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan? Bush: Wait, wait, is this fifty questions? Hiller: No, it’s four questions of four leaders in four hot-spots. Bush: The new Pakistani general, he’s just been elected – not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that’s good news for the subcontinent. Hiller: Can you name him? Bush: General. I can name the general. Just general. Hiller: And the prime minister …

How good is your eye sight?

During my daily travel I come across some bizarre sightings which usually sends my heart wondering. I have learned that nearly everything is telling us something about God and the nature of man.
Recently, I saw a Chinese man with his newly wed wife standing in the middle of the road in London with traffic in both directions. I know they were newlywed because the man was dressed in his suit and the woman in her bridal dressing!
Alongside the couple was the camera man. Somewhere along the way the two had decided that they wanted to remember their wedding against the backdrop of London’s historic builds and heavy traffic.

Salvation Explained!

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:5, 6) Four important truths we can learn from these verses. 
First, the love of Jesus is foundational to his shedding of blood on the cross for my sins. It was love that sent Jesus on the cross.
Secondly, the aim of Jesus' shedding his blood on the cross was to free me from my sins. His goal was freedom for me not merely forgiveness from sin (very important)!
Thirdly, the blood of Jesus does not just save me from sin but it brings me into a family of believers with a common Father. So I am no longer alone!
Finally, the outcome of a person who has been loved and freed and welcomed into God's family is service. I am saved to serve as a priest before God.
To these truths I am tempted to mention other major truths about adoption and open access to God. And of course the important point that a heart that…

Anti-Social Media

Janet Daley recently wrote in the UK's Daily Telegraph on the inherent anti-social nature of 'social media': Where has all this absurd, unfathomable rage and hatred come from? Has it always been there, lying beneath the surface of an apparently benign national life, just waiting for its chance to leap from the dark? I doubt it: I am more inclined to believe that there is something about the isolation of computer-based activity (and this includes online pornography addiction) that breeds deviant, narcissistic, almost autistic, attitudes to the outside world. Which may be another reason why obsessive participation in “social media” is not really social at all: why it can so easily become detached, insular and, in the end, deeply anti-social.. She is definitely onto something by noting that the nature of social media leads to living isolated lives. And that such isolation inevitably breeds dark deeds. As King Solomon warned, whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he …

Is human justice enough?

Ariel Castro was recently sentenced in the USA for forced kidnap and rape. The judge said he was too dangerous to be released. He duly sentenced him to life without parole plus 1,000 years. The infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer received a 1,000 years and the list goes on.
Why impose an additional 1000 years when the offender will never serve a year of it given he already has life without parole? A key reason according to American legal expert Franklin Zimring is that it serves the purpose of "symbolic denunciation" which is often influenced by media coverage and public outcry. It is a message to the offender and the public that the person is really evil and deserves the harshest punishment.

How Good is God?

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:7) The USA's Barner Research Poll asked, 'If you can ask God only one question, and you knew he would give you the answer, what would it be?' The overwhelming response was, 'why is there pain and suffering in the world?' In other words, just how good is the God we worship in the middle of so much pain and suffering?


God’s people in the Old Testament during Nahum's time faced similar questions. Nineveh had overpowered them and were left wondering where His goodness was amid their broken lives. To comfort them God gave Nahum a vision. In the verse quoted above we learn three things about the goodness of God.

When Were You Last In Hospital?

I recently visited a hospital and was particularly struck with the complete dependence of patients on the medical staff. The patients know their needs and follow every instruction of medical officers. There is trust there with the patient knowing full well the doctor means well for them.
The other thing that hit me was the vulnerability of the patient. There’s no judgement in the hospital because everyone is there because they are sick and in need of help. Therefore the most embarrassing positions in the outside world are accepted as normal. For example, is not unusual for the patient to urinate on the bed and call for help! Indeed, asking for help is encouraged as part of the healing process.
These two things strike a deep cord with me because I once complained to my older brother that many churches are surprisingly unreliable and lack the authenticity one would expect of true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. He helpfully responded, "what do you expect? The church is an hos…

Have you ever watched the Undercover Boss?

One of my favourite television programmes is Undercover Boss. Each episode usually features the CEO or owner of a company going undercover as ordinary entry-level employee in his or her company. The CEO alters her appearance and assume an alias and fictional back-story to avoid suspicion. She spends around a week, working in various areas of her company. This exposes her to the challenges the company faces, along the way getting to know the people who work their, and learning more about their professional and personal challenges.
My favourite part is always towards the end when the CEO summons the individuals to corporate headquarters and comes clean by revealing her true identity. She rewards hard-working employees through promotion, or financial rewards to improve their lives. Others she gives more training, better working conditions or in extreme cases, termination. Almost without exception, those in receipt of the surprise rewards are moved to tears by the act of generosity. As, …

How powerful is God?

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. (Nahum 1:3-5) A group of kids where asked, 'how powerful is God?'. One said, 'God is so powerful he could break this school in two'. Not an answer that impressed her headmaster! Another said, 'God is so powerful he can be the best pilot'. Clearly with a future career in mind perhaps! Another said, 'God is so powerful he can do anything he wants to'. All eye opening and sober responses! I easily forget the power of God amid many life’s challenges.

How have your prayers been lately?

A very instructive story from Charles Stanley on prayer that honours God : Carl had been praying for months about his rebellious son. His twenty-two-year-old son had left home and was living with some boys in a shack outside of town. Carl knew his son had been involved with drugs before he left home and soon after learned that his son had become a drug dealer. Carl’s two main concerns were that God would bring his son home and that his son wouldn’t be arrested.
One morning while he was praying for his son, God spoke to Carl. Carl realised that this had been a selfish request. He was well-known in his town and would be embarrassed if his son was arrested on drug charges. Carl told the Lord that if the only way to deliver his son from his sin was to allow him to be arrested, then he was willing for that to happen—even at the expense of his reputation.

Are you searching for a better Earth?

George Musser recently wrote a fascinating piece 'The Roadmap to Alpha Centauri' where he discusses the possibility of interstellar travel within our lifetime : "..When it comes to starships, it's best not to get hung up on details. By the time humanity gets to the point it might actually build one, our very notions of travel may well have changed. "Do we need to send full humans?" asks Long. "Maybe we just need to send embryos, or maybe in the future, you could completely download yourself into a computer, and you can remanufacture yourself at the other end through something similar to 3-D printing." Today, a starship seems like the height of futuristic thinking. Future generations might find it quaint...." Musser presumably wants to reassure us that in the end, as George W. Bush once said, "we do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this: human beings are headed into the cosmos". This eagerness of human beings to domi…

Hope

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:3-5a). Imagine someone gave you a $1 trillion guaranteed trust fund to cash in at a future day. They also made sure that you are given the best medical care and security to ensure that you do live to see that important day. How would you live your life? With confident assurance and less worry about your present circumstances. Indeed you may even be inclined to be more generous because with $1 trillion waiting for you giving away a few dollars is easy!

10 Tips on Effective Writing

Earlier this year, I crossed  the threshold of writing over 3000 blog articles on the Zambian Economist. I hope to share some thoughts on what I have learnt about blogging and writing. I thought I should start with the top ten tips that has has helped to make my writing as effective as possible. I am no expert but I have more than a million annual readers - so I must be writing right. Okay it is possible people just put up with me. But for what it is worth here are my tips:  
Tip #1: Know your key message. No point writing unless you can answer the basic question, ‘what am I trying to say’? Sum it up in single sentence. Then start writing!
Tip #2: Make it short. Not everyone is blessed with a huge knowledge of English. So make everything short. Make your words shorter. Even more important keep your sentences short by cutting out words. It is also important that you use one topic or idea per paragraph! But make sure you break paragraphs and keep them short too – it makes it easier f…

Necessity of Adversity

We may think we have true Christian love until someone offends us or treats us unjustly. Then we begin to see anger and resentment well up within us. We may conclude we have learned about genuine Christian joy until our lives are shattered by an unexpected calamity or grievous disappointment. Adversities spoil our peace and sorely try our patience. God uses those difficulties to reveal to us our need to grow, so that we will reach out to Him to change us more and more into the likeness of His Son. From Jerry Bridges's Trusting God : Even When Life Hurts It is a very helpful reminder that we only know ourselves partially. It is only when we are truly under adversity that our true character comes out. Adversity is therefore an essential part of revealing the imperfect aspects of our lives that need to be brought and under the submission of Christ. Trouble is even though we know that truth it is very tempting to not to see the bigger picture - namely that God is working all things…

Designed for Discovery

The capacity of the universe to surprise appears to be infinite. UK scientists have recently discovered that plants have a built-in capacity to do maths, which helps them regulate food reserves at night. A fact which has allegedly "amazed" because they did not them.
Mathematical models show that the amount of starch consumed overnight is calculated by division in a process involving leaf chemicals. Overnight, when the plant Arabidopsis cannot use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and starch, it must regulate its starch reserves to ensure they last until dawn.
Experiments by scientists show that to adjust its starch consumption so precisely, the plant must be performing a mathematical calculation - arithmetic division. The scientists told BBC News, “They’re actually doing maths in a simple, chemical way - that’s amazing, it astonished us as scientists to see that. This is pre-GCSE maths they’re doing, but they’re doing maths.....This is the first…

Leadership is Lonely

I recently read Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby a quite popular CEO in the United States. The book seeks to challenge leaders to allow integrity and faith to guide their decisions by outlining seven principles that break down the natural walls within corporate cultures, empowering managers and employees, disarming difficulties, and cultivating an atmosphere that builds long-term success. The book is not perfect, but its got many gems like this one : Leadership is a lonely business. When we rely only on our own perspective, we miss our blind spots. We do the best we can, but if we have nobody telling us the real truth, we will not improve over time. The unfortunate news is that the more senior you are in your organization, the more difficult it is to get the truth about how you’re performing. Finding someone you can trust to give you honest feedback is a rare gift that all leaders need but few receive. You will have to find these companions on…

What is Eternal Life?

The definition given by the Lord Jesus Christ : Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3) What is does it mean to “know the only true God, and Jesus Christ”? It is having Jesus' truth in us and living in Jesus. It us in Jesus and Jesus in us! Jesus now becomes our very life. How does this happen? Apostle John answers this in his first letter : "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12) In short, Jesus makes us really live by living in us. When we repent we now have a real and interactive relationship with him.
Jesus in us changes everything! He is now never far away, but becomes truly God with us! It means we have an infinite resource to draw on for strength, comfort, love, etc! We have an awareness and experience of God.
That is having eternal life! And of course that life gr…

Cost of Secrets

In The Amazing Spider-Man Peter Parker’s uncle has passed away at the hands of a armed robber. He is now being looked after by Aunt May. One day he turns up late at home and finds Aunt May waiting for him, when the following exchange takes place: Aunt May: Where were you? Peter Parker: I was out. Aunt May: Did you get the eggs? Peter Parker: Nope. Forgot the eggs! I'm gonna get it now. Aunt May: No, you most certainly will not! Not at this hour! [Peter turns away from his aunt] Aunt May: Look at me, Peter? Take off the damn hood and look at me. [Peter takes off his hood and turns to face his aunt, his face looking beat up] Aunt May: Where do you go? Who does this to you? Peter Parker: Please go to sleep, Aunt May. Aunt May: Please tell me. Peter Parker: Aunt May, please, please please go to sleep! Aunt May: I can't sleep! Don't you understand? I can't sleep! [there's a moment of silence] Aunt May: Peter, listen to me. Secrets have a cost, they're not for free. Not now, no…

Denying Evil

Max Pemberton writing recently in the Daily Telegraph argues that paedophilia is a illness :
It is too easy to see paedophiles as caricatures of evil, devoid of emotions and reason, but that view helps no one. In fact, the majority of those who find themselves attracted to children are tormented by their predilection. According to the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, paedophilia is a mental illness, yet there is scant investment in resources to help treat paedophiles. I find this dichotomy quite false. Of course paedophilia is a form of addiction and therefore by definition it is a physical illness that has left its addicts helpless and tormented. And it is also equally true that it is a spiritual illness of sin and evil in our world.  It is a spiritual disease because it is perversion of God's created natural order. 
What is important is for us to realise is that there's no conflict between these two facts. On the contrary one pressupposes the other. Sin by nat…

Taking Control of Your Time

Like most people I struggle with managing time and ensuring that my day to day activities are being spent on things that add genuine value and are ultimately God honouring. So I am always keen to read books that are helpful in this area. The recent one I read was the Harvard Business School's Taking control of your time . It is a collection of pieces written by various experts on the subject. Here are seven insights that are worth remembering : 1. When launching any important piece of work, visualise the end result. Conceive as much detail as possible the desired outcome of your individual effort, or that of your team.
2. The goal of enlightened time management is to allow you to spend most of your time on work that is truly important, but relative non-urgent.
3. Avoid meetings with more than 12 participants. Nothing will be accomplished. And before calling a meeting, you’ve really got to ask yourself, ‘What is the point?’ Do I really have to have this meeting’?
4. Do your own anal…

Empty Religion

Two weeks ago, as I was leaving the supermarket I was approached by a beggar who I knew very well was going to waste the money in my pocket if I gave it to her. So I said initially no, and headed to my car. I rationalised she was going to "waste it" or "feed the habit".
As I sat in my car, God whispered quietly - "how many times have I given you something even after you have blown it? I never keep a record with you or ask whether Chola deserves to breath the air today after wasting it yesterday. So why don't you for once show the same grace to this woman?"
I humbly repented while in my driving seat before turning the ignition. And lo and behold, the woman came to knock on my window. I rather was stunned. And gave her the money I had. I was thankful for her. Now of course the woman most likely conned me. But I also know God used that opportunity to teach me grace.
What I have found even more interesting is how God has reinforced that message. On my w…

The Incredulity of Thomas

Caravaggio’s painting of the remarkable moment of Thomas's doubt leaves one with many thoughts. The first thing that struck me is that Thomas appears being led by Jesus to place the hand on the wound in his side. He is almost reluctant as evidenced by his one hand gesture. He is not grabbing Jesus. Instead he remains slightly distant. The other disciples here whilst examining the wound closely as well as Thomas function more as an encouragement to help him look at that which he had wished for. Thomas's bold declaration prior to the appearance of Christ appears to have now turned into shame. Confronted with the evidence of the risen Lord, the weight of the appearance appears too much to bear. Caravaggio seems to say that the doubting man cannot ultimately face the truth he seeks. It is almost too heavy for him. Therefore he needs Christ's help to make sense of reality.
Which brings me to a related and more obvious second truth in the painting. Thomas's eyes appear dark…

Worldview as Redemption

Steve Wilkens and Mark Sanford in Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives argue that all worldviews are ultimately about salvation, even if those worldviews don't use that vocabulary.All worldviews offer definitions of the man's fundamental problem and provide solutions on how we might fix it. When you get right down to it, every worldview attempts to answer the question, "What must we do to be saved?". Here is a helpful chart from the book that summarises how each worldview answers this question:

The problem with each of these models of salvation is that their redemption offer is only for a portion of life. They envision the individual in need of redemption as a spiritual self, an economic self, a political self, a psychological self, a cultural self, an individual self, a moral self or a rational self. Because their understanding of the person is partial their plan of redemption is necessary partial. It fails to embrace all of life.
In co…

What Our Words Tell Us

David Brooks draws on what the search of frequently used words from Google's book database of 5.2 million books published between 2008 and 2015 tells about changing culture : Over the past half-century, society has become more individualistic. As it has become more individualistic, it has also become less morally aware, because social and moral fabrics are inextricably linked. The atomization and demoralization of society have led to certain forms of social breakdown, which government has tried to address, sometimes successfully and often impotently.
This story, if true, should cause discomfort on right and left. Conservatives sometimes argue that if we could just reduce government to the size it was back in, say, the 1950s, then America would be vibrant and free again. But the underlying sociology and moral culture is just not there anymore. Government could be smaller when the social fabric was more tightly knit, but small government will have different and more cataclysmic effec…

Love

On 22 July 2011, Anders Behring Brevik bombed Norway’s government buildings in Oslo killing 8 people. He then proceeded to undertake a mass shooting in Ut√łya Island  where 69 people perished. The court sentence came down to a single question: was Brevik mentally healthy enough to be held responsible for his atrocities? Some of the Court appointed psychiatrists diagnosed him withparanoid schizophrenia and criminally insane. 
If that diagnosis had stood Anders Breivik would not have gone to prison. He would have had to be detained in a psychiatric hospital. In the end he was found sane and sentenced to 21 years in prison. The trial sparked debate. What is normal healthy mind? What behaviour does it portray? Opinion was divided, but one thing everyone agreed on: the state of mind is reflected in our behaviours! Actions reflect mind!
The Bible says that all true Christians have a new healthy mind. Apostle Paul writing to Christians in Corinth said,  “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor…

13 Email Tips to Keep Your Inbox Under Control

Eric McKiddie provides the following helpful tips to help deal with the deluge of emails. I found number 12 surprisingly useful! 
1. It’s an inbox, not a staybox. Don’t store email in your inbox. It is a good place to receive information, but a bad place to keep it. Delete old emails that don’t matter, and file ones that do.
2. Zero is not the goal. Don’t try to keep your inbox at zero. That is a sign of unproductivity, not productivity. Check it several times a day, not continuously throughout the day.
3. Silence. Turn off notifications for your email, whether audible, visual, or both. This will prevent you from being tempted to dive back into your inbox.
4. Separate quick replies from long ones. Batch process your emails based on how long they take to reply to. First, go through your inbox and reply to everything that requires only a quick response. Then go back through and reply to emails that require more thought.

Eight questions on worldview

I recent enjoyed reading James W. Sire's classic book The Universe Next Door. It turns out that I am the only who has never read this book! But better late than never! Every chapter is a gold mine, especially the chapters of eastern and new age worldviews. But without doubt the most useful part of the book are these eight questions he provides that helps us unpack any worldview (and how different worldviews may answer) :

1) What is the prime reality - the really real? To this different worldviews give different answers e.g.  God, or the gods, or the material cosmos.The answer here is the most fundamental.
2) What is the nature of the external reality, that is the world around us? The answers point to whether the worldview sees the world as created or autonomous, as chaotic or orderly, as matter or spirit, etc. 
3) What is a human being? To this different worldviews may answer : a highly complex machine, a sleeping god, a person made in the imade of God, a naked ape. 

Using social media responsibly

I recently read an interesting article in the UK's Grace Magazine by Pastor Andrew King on christians and social media. The article identifies three dangers of social media to Christians and six opportunities that we should embrace to help us use social media responsiby. 
Three dangers :
1) The danger of being shallow rather wise. The vast amount of information that is generated by social media means that that there's a real danger that we waste our time updating or reading trivia. Most of what we read is not important. 
2) The danger of being selfish rather than serving. Whether it is carefully constructing my comments to attract a person's attention, or regularly checking for their replies, social media runs the risk of making an idol out of our own significance.
3) The danger of being connected rather than communal. Social media has the danger of removing our minds to 'somewhere else' rather than where we are.  With our phones and tablets on, social media escap…

Price Tag By Jessie J

I recently had an opportunity to discuss music with a group of young people at church. For some unexplained reason I chose Price Tag by Jessie J (2011). The song consists of two verses by Jessie J, a chorus and a  final "rap" by B.o.B that more or less restates Jessie J's  two verses! Jessie J's first verse: Seems like everybody’s got a price / I wonder how they sleep at night / When the sale comes first / And the truth comes second / Just stop for a minute and smile / Why is everybody so serious? / Acting so damn mysterious? / Got shades on your eyes / And your heels so high that you can’t even have a good time The verse is a statement of the main problem under examination. The singer believs that "everybody's got a price”. And though her immediate target may be the music industry, her statement relates to everyone. Everyone is up for sale. In short, we have become "commodified" and for the right price we are easily morally trafficked to the highe…

Reforming the Unreformable, By Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (A Review)

In 2003 Nigerian President Olusengun Obasanjo invited Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to return to Nigeria from the World Bank and become the country’s Finance Minister. Her primary task was to sort out Nigeria’s economic mess which had been inherited from previous successive military regimes. The country was practically on its knees after years of rampant inequality, pervasive corruption and power struggles at the top. What was previously a diversified economy had increasingly become a mono economy perpetually dependent on a poorly run oil sector. Economic growth was excessively volatile, with spending largely tracking changes in oil prices. The Obasanjo administration was saddled with inefficient state-owned enterprises crippled by rising debts and pension liabilities. Political patronage was rife, with over 5,000 boards’ seats in state enterprises maintained purely for political expedience. Nigeria was virtually bankrupt.
Okonjo-Iweala’s Reforming the Unreformable is a narrative of how she as…

Limits of Digital Fellowship

Lindsey Carlson has an excellent piece on The Plastic Fruit of Online Livingwhere she makes the following observation :
Avoiding real-life connections—the ones you see every Sunday morning—to unpack your heart in the digital community doesn’t only set you up for a delusional view of self, disappointment with your physical community, and social isolation; it also breeds spiritual stagnancy.
No matter how great your internet friends are, they aren’t standing beside you, sensing your suffocating self-absorption. They don’t see you at your worst or notice when you’re avoiding fellowship or suffering from spiritual depression. They won’t pick up on your dissatisfaction with your spouse, your constant bitterness or negativity, or your refusal to forgive the friend who hurt you. But real-life friends, the ones who can drive to your doorstep when you call, will.
I need friends who will get in my grill, iron sharpening iron, and help me to conquer sin head-on. I may turn a blind eye to my own …

Equality in Addiction

The way of the hedonist fails. The tragedy is this : since we do not find lasting pleasures, and do not discover lasting satisfaction in them, our ability to find any satisfaction begins to disappear. The satisfaction addict is no more able to say 'I have had enough, I am satisfied' than is the drug addict. There is never enough in this world to satisfy us. From a recent book I read by Sinclair Ferguson on The Pundit's Folly : Chronicles of An Empty Life. The book provides important reflections from the book of Ecclessiastes.  The quote is particularly incisive in noting that really at the core we are all no different from porn or drug addicts. We all have addicitions which cannot never be satisfied by the material things we crave. Needs which can only be satisfied by God himself. In the words of the Preacher, God has "set eternity in the hearts of men" with the consequential result that nothing in this life will truly satisfy us.

King Solomon said, "just a…

What Money Can't Buy (A Review)

Michael Sandel’s What Money Can't Buy : The Moral Limits of Marketsaims to awaken the public to the increasingly perverse role prices play in our lives. Everything appears to be up for sale. We appear to have moved from having a market to being a market. This triumphal encroachment of the price mechanism in every facet of life has been defended by its proponents as necessary for our “social good”. Sandel believes it’s precisely the opposite. Far from being neutral, as usually assumed by economists, prices corrupt the good things we value and care about in life. Reliance on prices diminishes social value hence the urgent need for everyone to take a step back and decide the moral limits of markets. For in doing so we are ultimately defining what society we want to live in.

According to Sandel, the increasing reliance on the price mechanism could be socially tolerated if it was a true measure of value. Unfortunately not only is it broadly accepted that prices can be a poor signal of…