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Showing posts from 2015

Unconscious Racism

I have just finished reading ' Dataclysm ' by Christian Rudder. It has the interesting subtitle ' Who we are when we think no one is looking'. The book has some interesting reflections on what online data (drawn largely from the online dating data of OkCupid) reveals about our nature. Here is one quote that struck me : It is no longer socially acceptable to be openly racist. In response to that pressure, there is some portion of the public who have therefore slunk away: if I can't shout hate at some schoolchildren anymore, well, fine, I'll just shout it at the TV. This is not the typical American. Most of us—almost all, in fact—recognize that racism is wrong. But it is still implicit in many of the decisions we make . Psychologists have a name for the interior patterns of belief that help a person organize information as he encounters it: schema . And our schema is still out of step with how most of us know the world should be. By hundreds of small, everyda

Finding Jesus in Hip Hop

While Hip Hop is not an end to salvation, it does provide a similar reciprocity that builds people up, helps its members out and points to Jesus through creative forms within its art. Hence, Hip Hop is like Jesus to many urban post-soulists. So those of us who want urban post-soulists to know Jesus, need to know Hip Hop. What becomes problematic for some Christians is the notion that Jesus would even be in places like a club, rap concert, and/or event that was not centered around some church. Some Christians cannot see beyond the four church walls and the programs that run it. So, finding Jesus in these irregular and nontraditional places will be hard to understand. Still, even in these nontraditional spaces, community is happening. And, if we really believe that God is Alpha and Omega, omnipresent, "all-seeing," might Jesus be in that smoke-filled strip club trying to talk to the inhabitants there? Daniel White Hodge in his fascinating book T he Soul of Hip Hop'.  I  

Self first!

I came across this story of footballer Clarke Carlisle whose attempted suicide went "horribly right". He thankfully survived but mat great cost to himself and his relationships. Here is what he says about his path to recovery :  “I’ve come out knowing what I’ve done before is not good for me. And I feel very guilty and ashamed about the way I thought and acted previously. So I need to establish new boundaries in my relationships. And that is tough. It’s tough when you’ve been married to someone for eight years. It’s tough when you’ve been a son for 35 years, and a brother for 35 years....I need to maintain my wellness. Because if I don’t, anything else I do is going to turn to rubbish. It seems a little bit selfish but I have to focus on myself first. But it’s also altruistic because if I don’t focus on myself first I can’t be a dad, I can’t be a charity trustee or a chairman of this, because it will all go to pot.” Carlisle is correct. Self first is very important. We can

Injustice By Daniel Dorling (A Review)

Daniel Dorling’s  Injustice  aims to “redefine” our understanding of why injustice exists and how it is reinforced over time. The book is passionate and written as a rallying cry to the masses to agitate for greater  redistribution of power and resources in society. The question of course is why the masses don’t do that already, but that brings us to Dorling’s central argument. According to Dorling, although the developed world has become richer, people continue to live in an unjust world largely due to ignorance rather than conspiracy by the rich. At the heart of this new injustice is extreme social inequality, with the rich supported by a band of economists, continue to propagate social inequality through state machinery. They are able to get away with this because society at large continues to hold certain sets of beliefs that are aligned against positive social change. Over the ages these beliefs have taken many forms but in the modern era they have evolved into new five “modern ev

Re-reading leadership

It's important to realize that...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. A quote from Bob Briner's 'The Leadership Lessons of Jesus'. There is tremendous value in re-reading a book. First time I read this I only saw negatives. My view was that the authors missed the point that everyone is called to lead in some way, and should earnestly desire to lead.  The reason is that we are all leaders in one way or another. Some are managers at work, others are teachers of students or even a school prefect. Some are leaders at home. Think of a mum on her own leading your children in the way they should grow. Others are simply role model to their friends!  If it is true that

Quiet Sermons

I was recently preaching at a sister church close to our home, where I have done so over the last two years. There is a young man who attends the church with a learning disability called David (not his real name). He is looked after in a nearby care home.  Every Sunday morning someone brings David to the fellowship gathering. Many of the carers who bring him are not followers of Jesus. On Sunday he was brought in by John (not his real name).  John was the most attentive to the word preached throughout the sermon. I had an opportunity to chat with John afterwards. He found the preached Word a great help to him. Sadly, as I am only a visitor I couldn't follow up. Then it dawned on me. David with a serious learning disability, that includes is inability to speak, is bringing people who do not follow Jesus to hear the good news of a Saviour who died for sinners. He is doing more than able bodied people. God is using his disability in an extraordinary way.

William Cowper's Blood Fountain (Part II)

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; and there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away. We continue our exploration of William's Cowper's 'Blood Fountain' with a look at this second verse.  This is an unexpected turn. It appears that far from being a place of sorrow, the fountain is in fact a place of joy. Those who come to the blood fountain are not expected to leave as they came, they leave rejoicing because the blood from Immanuel's veins flows with new life!

An Empty Page

I am nothing without you I am not ashamed to say But sometimes still I doubt you along my way I am nothing without you An eagle with no wings If I forget about you, I lose everything My heart is an empty stage O let your play begin My life is an empty page for you to colour me with your love It’s such a common feeling to be misunderstood But from you there’s no concealing You know my bad and good So I am not pretending my story never fails But I have already read the ending And your love prevails My heart is an empty stage Let your play begin My life is an empty page for you to colour me with your love The words are from Jonathan Veira’s song Empty Page one of the tracks off ‘ Rhythms of the Heart’ album. I like his music, especially this song. Sadly, I couldn’t find the lyrics online, so I had to write them down word for word. I have had this song for many years and it has always spoken me at many levels.

One Minute Lessons (Lesson 22)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2 Corinthians 5:21) Lesson: I am completely righteous in Jesus Christ whether Satan likes it or not. Not just righteous but the very righteousness of God! Not merely just an exchange of his righteousness for my sinfulness but completely transformed.

One Minute Lesson (Lesson 21)

Job responds to Zophar : Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for him?   Will you show him partiality? Will you argue the case for God?   Would it turn out well if he examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive a mortal?   He would surely call you to account if you secretly showed partiality.   (Job 13:7-10 NIV) Lesson : A poor defence of God is a sin.

Theology of Star Trek

Editor's note: A very insightful and detailed assessment of theological implications of Star Trek. The article is reproduced below - ' Strange New World: T he Humanist Philosophy of Star Trek by Robert M. Bowman, Jr. (Christian Research Journal, Fall 1991). On Thursday, September 8, 1966, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, "Star Trek" made its first appearance on television. It was not a particularly auspicious beginning. The episode, "The Man Trap," was a fairly routine monster story. Critics panned the show. After only a few weeks, NBC was threatening to cancel the series.[1]

Engaging people

A great way to be significantly more productive is to start anything you're about to do with one question: What does a wildly successful outcome for this meeting, project, conversation -- whatever it might be -- look like? If you ask that question up front you co-create success: people knows what you're shooting for and actively work towards making it happen. From a recent article The Best Way to Start Everything Important . The thrust of the observation is that to truly engage other people, we must always start with that one question: What does a wildly successful outcome for this meeting, this project, this sales call, etc. look like?

How online addiction works

The process starts with a cue or stimulus. That’s an external trigger. It’s most effective if it arrives when the target is feeling some kind of discomfort (which Eyal calls an internal trigger), from which it can promise relief—like a Facebook message that happens to arrive in your inbox just when you’re feeling alone. “The more times users go through the Hook, the more the product forms an association with internal triggers like loneliness, boredom, or fear,” Eyal explains. “When we’re lonely, we turn to Facebook. When we’re feeling out of the loop, we turn to Twitter. From a very helpful piece in How Facebook and Candy Crush Got You Hooked .  The main lesson appears to be that online addiction is not accidental, it is deliberate inbuilt into the programme. Whilst this should not necessary stop us from using these platforms it should make us more vigilant how we use them. This is especially so since unlike alcohol or cigarettes there is no warning labels. Copyright © Chola

A tale of two hymnals

I was recently attending a church service where, as it so often happens, the hymn "O Church Arise" was on the hymnal list. The hymn is generally very lovely, but I always struggle singing this verse : So Spirit, come put strength in every stride, Give grace for every hurdle, That we may run with faith to win the prize Of a servant good and faithful. As saints of old still line the way, Retelling triumphs of His grace, We hear their calls and hunger for the day When with Christ we stand in glory. It is clear that this verse is inspired by Revelation and Hebrews. But unfortunately, the last lines can be easily misunderstood by non-Christians or those new to Christ. In other words the sort of people churches ought to pay special attention to.

Losing for Jesus?

An interesting piece about a competitive "Christian football" team in the UK that has lost every single match it has played so far this season. Not sure what actually what makes a football team "Christian". At the time the story broke, it had conceded 120 goals in just 16 matches. The manager says his team is losing because of the club's Christian principles. Amory Green Rovers FC manager Marc Hodsdon told the Express : We are absolutely shocking to be fair. We could well be Britain's worst football team — but we are certainly the nicest…Last Wednesday, we lost 15-1 in our local derby yet we walked off the pitch being the happier team.…We have had a lot of praise from the league for our sporting attitude. We have never had any sending off and we never abuse the ref. Our attitude is always spot on. The manager is certainly to be commended for prioritising participation ahead of winning at all costs. There is a sense in which the winner takes all ment

Found in Him By Elyse Fitzgerald (A Review)

Elyse Fitzgerald’s Found in Him aims to draw followers of Jesus into a closer and assured recognition of Jesus' presence and power in our lives. It encourages us to shift away from the obsession of self driven change and focus on our oneness with Jesus (commonly called “union”) and his amazing oneness with us (the “incarnation”). The book is not a systematic theological presentation on our union with Christ, large volumes have already been written on that. It is an invitation into a deeper reflection and appreciation of the work of God because only by doing that do we experience real transformation. The book is divided in two parts. The first part introduces the importance of God becoming man. It considers how Jesus’s earthly life, his manhood, substitutionary death on the cross and bodily resurrection assures us of our salvation. The second half focuses on considering the benefits of the work he did, particularly as our representative, brother, and husband. We are reminde

A Herald of Wisdom

I probably should not be saying this publicly, but I am quite poor at reading most things that come in hard copy! The main reason is that I have so many things to read so I usually restrict myself to things in easily digestable electronic format. Plus I have always thought that information that I need to know will somehow get to me. Perhaps I have swallowed the notion of "consumer sovereignity" too much that I forget that there are are many barriers to information flowing in my direction. Unfortunately, my failure to read hard copy means that I often miss out on good stuff that is genuinely worth knowing. Which is why I am grateful to God that atleast this month, I managed to read a copy of the GBM Herald. I have only just found out that some of the articles are available in pdf here .  But I would definitely recommend picking up the hard copy. It is very readable on a bus / train ride because of its A3 sizing. Most important it has some great stuff. Here are three quo

Jesus on the move

Three interesting news stories struck me over the last month that shows that shows the Lord Jesus is on the move overcoming opposition to the spread of the gospel.  After a half-century of continuous civil war in  Colombia  guerrillas in half of the fronts of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), can now be openly Christian and not killed for it. According to  World Watch Monitor   FARC leadership is allowing its militants to listen to Christian radio stations operated by the Bogota-based ministry,  Colombia  for Christ. In early March over 220 Iranians and Afghans were been baptised in two cities in the  Iran  region.  Elam Ministries  says: 'Please join us in praying for these new believers, and for the churches as they disciple them.' The baptisms were joyful day-long occasions, full of worship and fellowship over meals. One new believer at one of the ceremonies recalled how finding a New Testament by accident had started him on his journey to Christ. Remark

A Holy Charade

An interesting observation in Tim Chester's book A Meal with Jesus suggests that many churches have a charade of a Holy Communion : Holy Communion should be a feast of friends shared with laughter, tears, prayers, and stories. We celebrate the community life that God gives us through the cross and in the Spirit. We can’t celebrate it with heads bowed and eyes closed, alone in our private thoughts and strangely solitary even as we’re surrounded by other people. To be sure Chester is not ruling out that Holy Communion can have periods of quite reflection, though such quite reflection is not found in the gospel accounts or Paul's letters. But any such reflection is better practiced within the context of what Chester rightly notes as "laughter, tears, prayers and stories".  I would add songs because there would have been much singing in the Upper Room! 

Big Questions, Bigger Jesus

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him   (Colossians 1:16) I have always had a strange relationship with these few words in the Bible. They generate a weird combination of comfort and concern. The comforting comes from the reminder that Jesus is a Big God! In a world where we appear at the mercy of aircraft pilots, morally bankrupt politicians and Jihadism, it is important to remember that Jesus is actually the one who is truly in charge of all things.

God wants you to party!

We are living in the great age of God’s message! Many people can now access the Bible for free in many languages through internet, apps, etc. This is great because the Bible is God speaking to us in our time and place. It reveals His character and master plan to reconcile all things to himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, for many Christians the Bible is like an antique. It is treasured but never used!  We have fallen in the error of equating possession of the Bible with knowing and living its message! It is a dangerous temptation that people in every age have faced. Perhaps it’s the serious need to avoiding this danger that lies behind this beautiful message that God gave the nation of Judah :

On the Kindle

I recently stumbled on this book Economics for the Curious: Inside the mind of 12 Nobel laureates . As it says on the strap line, it is basically a collection of short articles from 12 Nobel laureates in economics edited by the Nobel laureate Robert Solow. There are some good essays in there (e.g. Krugman on "depression economics"), but also some difficult ones follow (e.g. Nash on game theory). My favorite one was from Finn E Kydland on policy commitment. Here is a great quote on Ireland that sums up the importance of credible policy commitment :

The Second Machine Age (A Review)

Driveless cars, humanoid robots, 3D printers and the Internet of Things are just a few of the many technological developments that are increasingly converting science fiction into everyday reality. A recent book The Second Machine Age’  by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argues that as extraordinary as these changes are, these are merely warm-up acts of a broader 'second machine age' that is already transforming us and is poised to sweep us off our feet in the near future! The first machine age was characterized by muscle power epitomized by the steam engine and its descendants. In the second machine age, computers and other digital advances are increasing use of our brains, enabling us to understand and shape our environments. This is vast and unprecedented boost to mental power means that we are at an “inflection point” in the history of economies and societies. Crucially it is an inflection point in the right direction - bounty instead of scarcity, freedom instead o

A reality check!

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God .  (‭Psalm‬ ‭3‬:‭1-2) We all have a tendency to deceive ourselves about our true circumstances. The behavioural science school calls these “cognitive biases”. We tend to underestimate our problems. Whether it a struggle with sin, emotional pain or physical suffering! This is why I find reading Psalm 3 so refreshing.

On the Kindle

I have enjoyed reading every Sunday afternoon over the last few months Proverbs : Wisdom that Works by Raymond C Ortlund. It is part of the “Preaching the Word” commentary series. Although he does takes a somewhat topical approach after Chapter 9, it still rich in depth. The only quibble I would have is that the Ortlund sometimes moves too quickly in connecting the text to Christ. But I suppose that is a good problem. Otherwise this is a very rich and practical reflections on problems as illustrated by this helpful excerpt from the book : The Lord Jesus Christ who died for you also claims you, all that you are from head to toe. The gospel calls you to deploy your very body for him: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

God is an Undertaker

I recently came across this article about Chloe McKnight one of the youngest female funeral directors in the UK. She was inspired at the young age of 12 to one day become a funeral day after visit the local funeral home on work placement. She remembers that on arrival, she was confronted with a corpse in the chapel of rest and felt "strangely comfortable with it".  It is quite a thought - being comfortable with death. I was very assured though when she later says that the job has tonnes of sadness : " When the police call you to remove a body on behalf of a coroner, you don't know what you're going to see – an accident victim, a suicide …It can be overwhelming at times – even now I sometimes have to take a deep breath – and it's always unsettling when the person is younger than I am".  This double tension of anundertaker - comfortable and yet unsettling is worth bearing in mind as we come to one of the most interesting descriptions of God

The Road to Golgotha (Part IV)

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.  (Matthew 26:47-50) The key point Matthew is making in his narrative is that Jesus willingly embraces not only his betrayal but also his betrayer. Jesus is not distancing himself from Judas. He still has arms extended wide. We shall see this amplified later in the context of Peter. This is a tremendous source of comfort for all of us. There is no doubt we are in the garden, not with Jesus but with the crowds. We are carrying swords and clubs. We are those who everyday seek to crucify Jesus all over again with our sinful deeds.

The Road to Golgotha (Part III)

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:45-46 ESV) As we continue our daily walk to Golgotha through Matthew, we see one of the big themes of Matthew's Golgotha narrative emerging : Jesus is the betrayed King!

On the Kindle

At the beginning of each year I try and select a couple of hot books from the year before as selected at the end of the year by Amazon Editors. I do this to keep in touch with what others are reading. It also exposes me to issues that I would not naturally read about. There is nothing better than picking up a book and discovering it is a gem!     I have just finished reading  one of the top Amazon Singles from 2014. I never knew what an Amazon Single was until I picked up the book Perseverance by Kristin Peck .  It is a very short memoir / personal essay by Kristin Peck which chronicles her emotionally charged struggles with infertility and persevered through to a happier ending.  Two quotes from the book struck me, and perhaps highlights the double edge of the book. The first quote expresses a common human struggle : We did our best to try to focus on anything other than our fertility problems as we took the twelve- hour flight to Maui. But your problems manage to travel

The Road to Golgotha (Part II)

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. (Matthew 26:40-44 ESV) As we continue our daily bible verse walk to Golgotha through Matthew we find ourselves here.  A few points worth noting. First, the  three disciples are sleeping, but here Jesus addresses only Peter. Secondly, watching and praying is offered as the solution for Peter's upcoming temptation. Thirdly, it is unclear what the temptation for Peter is - is it lifting the sword or is it the denial to come? Either way, the antidote is the same : pray, pray

The Road to Golgotha (Part I)

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.   Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’  (Matthew 26:36-39 ESV) We begin our journey with Matthew to Golgotha here, along the way we shall spot some details that strike us afresh. As we start, it   is important for us to recognise that the sacrifice of Jesus begins from his conception. As one author says, Jesus was born crucified. Most important the pain of Gesthmane is part of God crushing him for our sins.  What strikes me most is the Lord's vulnerability "stay with me". Oh, how we all need to learn to say to othe

Satan Worship at the Grammys

The love affair between satanism and famous music stars continue. The only surprise, I suppose it is not a surprise is that these issues get very little coverage among Christians. It is a real danger and one we must keep flagging up!

Jesus is Number 1

[He is] the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created… ( Colossians 1:15 b-16a) Jesus is the firstborn in the family of creation. That is to say has the first rank of all creation. Paul will later tell us  that Jesus is also the first rank in the new creation: he is "the beginning, the firstborn from the dead".  Jesus is not the first to rise from the dead but  he ranks first among God's new creation, just as he ranks first in the old creation. The idea of Jesus  being even ranked among creation is perplexing. Is Jesus not above creation? The answer of course is yes and no. Jesus in his divine nature  is certainly above creation. Jesus is uncreated because Paul has already told us Jesus is God made visible : "he is the image of the invisible God". Jesus is the Eternal Son of God.

Humour in Luke

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. (‭Luke‬ ‭9‬:‭51--55) The cheek of James and John! They are standing with Jesus, God in the flesh, and they want to know if Jesus needs a little help :  “Do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven?” “Jesus, it was  great when you healed the keeper, and the whole casting out demons stunt was quite interesting. But come on, Jesus, we’re going to have to call out the big guns for this job.” The look on Jesus must have been priceless!  Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2015

Jesus, Love and Terrorists

I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you   - LORD JESUS   Is there a harder commandment in the Bible than this one? There is no escaping its force. Followers of Jesus are to love the people who not only oppose us intellectually but also people who willfully work and take pleasure in doing much harm to our bodies emotionally, physically and spiritually. Apostle Paul, a man who spent the early part of his life murdering followers of Jesus, later found forgiveness in Jesus. Jesus transformed him and in his letter to the church in Rome echoes the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them". Apostle Peter has the same words with a new twist, " Do not repay evil for evil...but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called". Peter says this posture of love for enemies is the very essence of being a follower of Jesus.