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Showing posts from March, 2013

Finishing Poorly (Lessons from Fallen Kings)

A lesson from history : Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, "May the Lord see and avenge!" At the end of the year the army of the Syrians came up against Joash. They came to Judah and Jerusalem and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash. When they had departed from him, leaving him severely wounded, his servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings. (2 Chronicles 24:22-25) A good start does not guarantee a goo

Vulnerability and Leadership

More leadership has failed from a lack of intimacy than from any other cause. Leaders, no matter how brilliant, cut their tenures short or accomplish less than they might otherwise when they fail to establish close relationships with a few key people, a core of their followers. I have been in situations where followers, including myself, sought a closer relationship with a leader—not for personal gain, but for his sake and for the sake of the enterprise—only to be rebuffed. Every time a leader tries to go it alone, something less than the best occurs. - Bob Briner ( Source : Leadership Lessons of Jesus) It is an insightful observation. Many leaders clearly find it difficult to be vulnerable with others for two possible reasons. The first is the "big man" syndrome that we so often see in African political leadership. The leader feels that he towers above everyone - sort of like the village chief. It is almost as if being vulnerable means a reduction in that assumed

Moral Starvation In The Hunger Games

I finally got round to watching The Hunger Games . It is set in a dystopian future, where the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Every year a boy and a girl are selected from each district by lottery (“the odds”) to participate in the Hunger Games . The rules are very simple: the child players must kill each other and survive in the wilderness until only one wins by surviving. The games are broadcast throughout Panem. The games are part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion (or treason), and part intimidation of the population. The film centres around Katniss - a 16-year-old girl from District 12, who volunteers to take the place for her 12-year-old sister.

You Are Loved!

We are constantly tempted to look within ourselves to seek to find some reason why God should love us. Such searching is, of course, usually discouraging. We usually find within ourselves reasons why we think God should not love us. Such searching is also unbiblical. The Bible is quite clear that God does not look within us for a reason to love us. He loves us because we are in Christ Jesus. When He looks at us, He does not look at us as “stand alone” Christians, resplendent in our own good works, even good works as Christians. Rather, as He looks at us, He sees us united to His beloved Son, clothed in His righteousness. He loves us, not because we are lovely in ourselves, but because we are in Christ. Here then is another weapon of truth that we should store up in our hearts to use against our doubts and the temptation to question God’s love for us. God’s love to us cannot fail any more than His love to Christ can fail. We must learn to see our adversities in relation to our union w

Whose Reality Is It?

The critically acclaimed movie Another Earth is something of a hot bed of discussion among Sci-Fi fans. Opinion is sharply divided on what is depicted in the film. It appears that how one interprets the story depends on what you believe is the actual reality intended by producers. There are two plausible realities (or may be even more) and reviews differ accordingly. In plausible reality one , 17 year old Rhoda Williams is a clever astronomy student who is about to go to MIT. On the night of celebration she gets drunk and her car crashes into composer John Burroughs, killing his pregnant wife and baby son. On the same night, an identical planet to Earth is discovered – heading towards earth (a mirror Earth). Rhoda goes 4 years in prison and comes back out living with her parents. She becomes a school janitor and submits an essay to a contest where the prize is a ticket to travel to Earth 2. In middle of all this her and John have fallen in love (John doe

Great speakers and great challenges

Great speakers understand that people respond to a great challenge, even one involving huge personal sacrifice, when (1) they believe in the person making the challenge, (2) they see the challenge itself as being worthwhile, and (3) the challenge isn't sugar-coated but is put in stark, unforgettable terms. Too many public speakers mumble and drone when they would be far more effective if they said less and said it in a simple, direct way. - Bob Briner ( Source :  Leadership Lessons of Jesus) These are critical components. And yet all three carry enormous challenges that must be carefully managed. The people need to believe in the person making the challenge, but the speaker must not become the message. She must explain the challenge as worthwhile without pandering to their base instincts. She must challenge them - but realistically in a way that change is possible. No point calling people to action when the prospects in front of them are unrealistic. 

Light from a dark city

I have watched Dark City many times, but it is only recently that I have reflected on its fascinating plot. The story revolves around John Murdorch who wakes up one day in an hotel, totally unaware of who he is. He stumbles around looking for clues, when the phone rings with a voice urging him to flee from danger. As he looks around he sees a brutalised corpse of the woman, forcing him to runaway. As the story unfolds, we learn that John is developing supernatural abilities and that a shadowy group called the Strangers are after him. Who are these Strangers? Why are they here? Why is the city always dark? Why does no one seem to remember things? Dr Schreber a forced labourer of the Strangers fills in the blanks for us: First there was darkness. Then came the Strangers. They were a race as old as time itself. They had mastered the ultimate technology. The ability to alter physical reality by will alone. They called this ability "Tuning". But they w

What can the Crecopia moth teach us?

One of the many fascinating events in nature is the emergence of the Cecropia moth from its cocoon—an event that occurs only with much struggle on the part of the moth to free itself. The story is frequently told of someone who watched a moth go through this struggle. In an effort to help—and not realizing the necessity of the struggle—the viewer snipped the shell of the cocoon. Soon the moth came out with its wings all crimped and shrivelled  But as the person watched, the wings remained weak. The moth, which in a few moments would have stretched those wings to fly, was now doomed to crawling out its brief life in frustration of ever being the beautiful creature God created it to be. What the person in the story did not realize was that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon was an essential part of developing the muscle system of the moth’s body and pushing the body fluids out into the wings to expand them. By unwisely seeking to cut short the moth’s struggle, the watcher had actual

Why are we so violent?

Louis Rene Beres ponders where civilisation is as man's evil on man continues on a grand scale : After Nuremberg, after the Holocaust, one might have expected a far-reaching change in human conduct, a welcome reduction of egregious harms occasioned by both new knowledge and new law. Yet, let us look around us at the present moment. The views are not encouraging. Look at Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Sudan, Uganda, and the Congo. Let us try to figure out the presumptively democratic but also riotous ethos sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East. Not to be forgotten, there is present-day Iran. Today, its faith-based leaders openly declare a determinedly genocidal intent against Israel. Let us also consider Cambodia, Argentina, Rwanda, Somalia, and the former Yugoslavia.

Tragedies of Leadership

Tragedies occur when we fail to take on leadership responsibilities that we are clearly called to fulfil or when we pursue or demand leadership responsibilities without objectively and prayerfully examining our ability to lead. When either of these occur, people are hurt, resources are wasted, and good opportunities for growth are retarded. - Bob Briner ( Source : Leadership Lessons of Jesus) The challenge of course is knowing when the balance is right. It seems to me the reason many of us face this tragedy comes back to a single problem : we fail to place our inadequacies at the foot of the Cross. I have often shunned taking on full responsibility in one area because I have felt "not up to it". I have done so without sufficiently considering that God is able to enable me to fulfil that which he may be calling me to do. In those moments I forgot God's words to St Paul, "my strength is sufficient for you because my power is made perfect in your weakness

Images of God (Lawyer)

This poster should be on all our bedroom and office walls. In our society lawyers are usually seen as a necessary evil. My image of lawyers is still shaped by my university years when I watched the movie the Devil's Advocate. There the lawyers are presented as part of the Devil's scheme to conquer the world. As I have grown in knowing God, I have come to have a deeper appreciation of the image of lawyers. Lawyers now remind me of the powerful image of God presented in the Bible. In the Bible God’s image is that of a prosecuting attorney . He is the Lord who brings his case against nations. In one of the shortest books of the Bible, God indicts Israel’s neighbouring state Edom through one of his appointed prophets, Obadiah. God lays out specific charges. Edom will be judged because it is full of pride; trusts in false gods of material wealth and human ability; and, has committed unspeakable violence against its brother nation Israel.

Does suffering serve any communal purpose?

Trials and afflictions have a levelling effect among believers. It has often been said that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” That is, regardless of our wealth or power or station in life, we are all alike in our need for a Saviour  In the same way, we are all alike subject to adversity. It strikes the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the superior and the subordinate, all without distinction. In times of adversity we tend to set aside such notions of “vertical” relationships and relate to one another on a horizontal level as brothers and fellow sufferers. John could have rightly identified himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, as one in a position of spiritual authority over the suffering believers in Asia. Instead he chose to identify himself as a brother and companion in their suffering. Trials and afflictions also have a mutual drawing effect among believers. They tend to break down barriers between us and dissolve any appearance of self-sufficiency we

What is the source of bitterness?

Confidence in God’s sovereignty in the lives of people should also keep us from becoming resentful and bitter when we are treated unjustly or maliciously by others. Bitterness usually stems not so much from the other person’s actions as from the effects of those actions on our lives. - Jerry Bridges ( Source : Trusting God) Of course a lot of other factors contribute towards a bitter spirit, but without doubt at the root of much bitterness are expectations not met. The to-do-list in our hands do match the to-do-list in other people's hands. When we fail to rest in God's sovereign control over all to-do-lists we seek to wrestle control from others in any way we can. And we find ourselves failing, we begin to resent and grow bitter. A reflection that God is sovereign over every detail of our lives is indeed the right antidote for bitterness.

When Jesus disappoints!

It is a common experience of mine. I have prayed. I have sought God's will. I know that which I seek is not grounded in selfish ambition. There is no doubt in my heart that my request is in the right place. In fact under close examination I sense there's even some common justice to it. And yet, God does not answer or even respond. I feel even ignored by the silence of God to the request.  Indeed, in fact if I am very honest God's response appears humanly irrational and not quite in line with how I have always understood His truth. This is my experience. And it is an experience that is best summed by one word : disappointment. Many times God has disappointed me. He has not quite fulfilled what I expected. These disappointments are particularly hard when God seems to meet the needs of other people and he seems blind to my own. It seems in those moments, God is purposely turning a blind to my concerns. It turns out, that in fact, I am not the only one who feels this way s

Is everyone called to be a leader?

It's important to realize (again) that there is nothing disgraceful or shameful about failing this or any other tests of leadership. Not everyone is called to be a leader. After all, for leaders to succeed, there must be followers. Most of us need to be good, dedicated followers in our earthly pursuits. And all of us, naturally, need to be followers of the Lord Jesus. In God's sight, leaders are not more highly valued than followers. He loves us all . - Bob Briner ( Source : Leadership Lessons of Jesus) I would add that leadership comes in all shapes and size. So perhaps it is better to distinguish between public and private leaders. We may not be public leaders, in the sense of consciously leading the crowd, but we are all private leaders in the sense that someone is watching how we live and learning from us. So in a way we are all leaders and followers at the same time!

Does God’s Name Matter?

Does God have a name? Is God the name for God? Is God bothered what I call him? Does God care about it at all? And if he does, why does God care? Am I obligated to care for God’s name? How do I know when I am not caring for God’s name? What happens if I don’t care for God’s name? These are important questions! Questions that boil down to a single one: Does God’s name really matter?  The third commandment provides the clearest instruction in the Bible concerning God’s name. Among the Ten Commandments that Moses delivered to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai contained this injunction: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” [Exodus 20:7] There are three observations we can make about God’s name from this verse. First, God has a name . Exodus 20 begins with God making himself known to His chosen people Israel. He declares, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of th

Why is it difficult to trust God?

It often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him. The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable. The law of God is readily recognized to be good for us, even when we don’t want to obey it. The circumstances of our lives frequently appear to be dreadful and grim or perhaps even calamitous and tragic. Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. Trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God. We are always coping with the unknown. Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon Hi

Beyonce and Satanism

Growing up listening to hip hop, I have always been aware that Satanism has held it in its grip. DMX's " Its Dark and Hell Hot" is essentially an "ode" to Satan. Similarly Bone Thugs 'N' Harmony and the Wu Tang Clan all exhibited such deep satanism in their music. I remember once listening to Ras Kass's Interview with the Vampire and I can never forget the deep lasting impression it left on me. As i now look back and go over the relics, it is certainly one of the most devilish track of music I have ever listened.    That the Devil holds much of modern is sadly not in surprisingly. But we can be happily surprised that there are now increasingly Christian ministries which are focusing on identifying this dark side of much of the music.  We must thank God for that. We also need to pray for them and those they are seeking to reach. We also need to love and pray for Beyonce. In particular that God who called light of darkness may speak more powerfully

Should we tell God how we really feel?

Far from impious, it is imperative to tell God how we feel so long as we confess our base emotions without approving them. We need to clear our inner decks of toxic emotional waste. Otherwise this debris will poison our spirits. No one should ever complain that there is no one to whom we can talk. No man is an island where God is. Who understands our infirmities better than he does? Who has more power to alter our circumstances and restore order than God Almighty? - Jim Andrews ( Source  : Polishing God's Monuments)

Trusting God, By Jerry Bridges (A Review)

Trust is the bedrock of human relations. It is a necessity in a world of finite creatures. We do not know everything and we are powerless over many of the events that occur in our lives. We depend on others to make life work. We cannot afford not to trust. Trust deepens us as individuals by bringing us into mutually satisfying relationships. It enables us to know, love and learn from each other. The tragedy of life is that the one person who we can truly depend on and deserves all our trust, is also the person we struggle to put our trust in. When it comes to trusting God, we are all bankrupt. This poverty is most acute when we go through pain and adversity. Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God aims to help us take a fresh look at God. To help restore our confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God. This issue is important because though many of us claim to trust God, our thoughts and actions speak otherwise. In our private moments we often ask: how can we trust a God who is supposedly