Prepare the way for the Lord

 “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him…
And all people will see God’s salvation.” (Luke 3:4-6)

 What happens when people see God’s salvation? It is news too good to keep at home; it has to go viral and all media houses had better make it the leading story, the front page headline. This may not sound like much until you understand what exactly this salvation means: you need to hear the story of that former drug addict who was liberated by the Saviour Jesus; or that former prostitute whose life has been completely transformed by the Healer Jesus – she is now settled in a home of her own! God’s salvation can only be understood in the context of action – not just theory.

The present miraculous nation of Israel and the imminent capital of Jerusalem may not be seen directly as the work of the Saviour Jesus, but the same prophets spoke of Israel’s future and of the Messiah. The God of salvation is at work in world politics and among the people He created. There are happenings in the wider cosmos as well as in our personal lives which help us to see God’s salvation. These events and transformations are so dramatic that their telling propagates the good news that Jesus saves, which brings more and more people to see and experience this salvation.

Take Paul the Apostle for example: his was not a miraculous provision in time of dire lack, or restoration of a crumbling relationship – his was a total lighting up of his dark world; Paul was going very fast in the direction of deep darkness, getting farther away from salvation. One day he saw God’s salvation – on the road to Damascus when bright light shone around him and beat him down and Jesus Christ spoke to him! The evidence that Paul saw God’s salvation is littered in his passionate letters and clear unstoppable zeal for spreading this good news that Jesus saves. What happens when people see God’s salvation?

‘Do the work of an evangelist’ – spread the good news. This was Paul’s command to Timothy, and I recently emphasized the same to those going for various outreach missions. John the Baptist preached, ‘prepare the way’; for us today it is to tune our hearts to be the home of God’s salvation and to be ready in season and out of season to share this good news with all to whom we have been sent.

In a season when figs are not expected, Jesus cursed a fig tree that had no fruit; this is a good parable to demonstrate that for those who embrace Jesus Christ as God’s salvation, there is no off-season for bearing fruit. When people see God’s salvation, they are forever engaged all the time in spreading this good news; this will be through example of consistent life of worship, growth as Christians, as well as sharing overtly with a neighbor and groups of people at home, work or out in the mission field. May God give you the grace to live as one that has seen God’s salvation.

 

 

 

The Word – mysteries God has revealed

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matt 13:44)

 Today we celebrate Bible Sunday. John introduces Jesus Christ as the Word who was in the beginning with God, and this augments the value we must place on the Word of God. This Advent Season also presents the days of commemorating the waiting for the Messiah, and the days of recalling that we await His Second Coming. Numerous prophecies were fulfilled in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In darkest times the Word of God was light and hope to the suffering and waiting people of God. The same Word remains fresh and powerful in reviving souls today and tomorrow. It is worth giving special attention and celebrating.

The season of Advent is partially meant to help believers focus on the prophecies and promises of God that would eventually be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Isaiah stands tall among the prophets and in his long book that was placed first among the Major Prophets in the Bible, Matthew and other New Testament writers find and quote a great number of significant prophecies that were fulfilled. Do you hear the ‘voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God… the word of our God endures forever”’ (Isaiah 40:3,8). This might have been fulfilled in John the Baptist’s cry, but the voice rings out even today. Are you ready to receive your King? The fulfilled prophecies help us to see the faithfulness of God’s Word not only in Isaiah but also in the entire Bible.

The Holy Scriptures bring us a story from Genesis to Revelation – a story of God’s plan to save humankind, a story of good news. In every generation there have been stewards of these mysteries in form of Church leaders, Bible expositors, apologetics, and many ‘smaller’ leaders of Bible studies and those who go back to check the Scriptures to find out if what they heard was right. We all have a duty to love and treasure God’s Word, as well as be responsible stewards of the same. Supporting the work of Bible Society is part of this stewardship – that the Bible may reach many of our own folks. There are answers in the Word of God; it is knowledge and understanding and wisdom. It is life.

Great Deal: Jesus used business language about buying the most treasurable at the expense of all one has. Have you found this treasure? Jesus’ parable is applicable to God’s Word – mysteries God has revealed for our salvation and the good of our future; sell everything else, sell sweet and captivating deceptions, sell all other philosophies and ‘buy’ the Word and place Him above all.

 

 

You Need Jesus

“she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)

The University Semester ends soon, and the year ends soon after that; we thank God who has brought us thus far. We have enjoyed peace in the Kyambogo and in Uganda as a nation, despite turbulent debates in Parliament and on some streets. We also thank God for another opportunity to commemorate the incarnation of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Many people have renewed their faith in Jesus Christ, and many others have been impacted by attending and participating in various Chapel activities. As some go out for holidays, others are graduating and getting into the marketplace, and still others are going out to share the gospel – whoever is reading this – I need to remind us that we need Jesus Christ today using three quick reasons:

1) For an Education Proper: The highest academic achievements prove to be dry and meaningless because as someone has put it, ‘the more I study, the more I don’t know’! The learned of those days wondered at the intelligence and wisdom of the apostles who were well known to be uneducated village fishermen. The only explanation that could be given as to why they were outwitting the learned and seasoned is that “they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Jesus gives thanks to God the Father that certain important things had been hidden to the ‘wise and understanding’ but revealed to little children… Without this revelation, all manner of academic disciplines and height end in an excruciating vanity. You need Jesus for a revelation that will make yours a real education.

2) For a Father Proper: Not to say that our earthly fathers are not proper, but among them are those who abandon their children, those who do not provide sufficiently, even those who molest their children, those who do their best but give up because of disappointments, and some have already departed from this earthly life. The Father Proper is God Almighty who is revealed by the Son. You need this Father, and the relationship you enter with him will traverse all manner of temporality and known mishaps and enter you into life eternal.

3) For Rest and Peace: In his call, Jesus recommends that you exchange your heavy and difficult burdens with the light and easy option he gives. He is ready to carry your challenges, loads, troubles, weaknesses, anxieties and difficulties and give you rest and peace. He demonstrated this by going all the way to the cross carrying your sin guilt and taking on your death sentence! He has done great things.

For many more reasons and details, it is undeniable that we all need the Saviour, the Redeemer, the Way to the Father… You need Jesus Christ. He has promised to receive all who come to Him. May God bless you.

 

 

 

Christ the King: Who?

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:15-16)

 Calendars: Just like the Calendar Year begins on 01st January and the Financial Year begins on 01st July, the Church Year begins on Advent Sunday. We are coming to the end of the year which began on Advent Sunday of 27th November 2016; we started by ‘waiting for the promise’ during Advent, then celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ during Christmas, and then rejoiced at His revelation to the Gentiles during Epiphany; this was followed be Lent that culminated in the commemoration of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection during Easter; we then celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day, and this ushered in the long Trinity Season in which all aspects of Church life are discussed with a view of pointing the world to God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Having come full circle, as we end the year, we are celebrating Jesus Christ the King!

The question of ‘Who is Jesus?’ was asked before, during and after Jesus’ life on earth. In the gospels we often read people asking, ‘Could this be the Messiah?’ The words Messiah, Christ, and the Anointed One mean one and the same thing (just from different languages) – they mean the long awaited great King that would perform better than King David, and return Israel to its superpower position or even greater. Indeed, Israel was the world’s superpower in the times of King David, but had now degenerated to being ruled by various gentile empires, from Babylonians to Persians, Medes, Greeks and then Romans during whose reign Jesus lived. Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles took turns to ask the question of Jesus identity, with some acknowledging without a shadow of doubt that He indeed was the long awaited Anointed One. When Simon Peter made the great confession ‘You are the Messiah’, Jesus did not deny but instead affirmed this and promised to establish a Church that would live through the times – as is alive today.

John the Apostle in the Revelation writes of having heard ‘loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”’ (Rev. 11:15-19) To celebrate Christ the King at the end of the year is symbolic of the ultimate end that John describes when indeed the Messiah will reign over the entire world forever and ever without competition and without limitation. The enemy and all opposing forces will be judged, condemned and destroyed while God’s servants the prophets and His people who revere the Lord’s Name, both great and small will be rewarded. We may not know when this end will come, but it surely will. Your answer to Jesus’ question will determine your destiny: “But what about you, who do you say I am?” There is overwhelming evidence that Jesus our Redeemer and Friend was so prophesied, lived on earth and lives forever, and is ultimately Christ the King.

 

 

When the bridegroom comes: Are you ready?

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” – Matt 25:13, Amos 5:24

Learning never ends. As we ask today’s question – ‘Are you ready?’ – we continue to reflect on the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ; but there are many illustrations around us that make the point clearly to anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see. Climate change offer one illustration – that dinosaurs failed to adapt to a fundamentally new climate, and they became extinct; and technological trends affecting business offer us another such an illustration. Kodak will suffice to illustrate the effects of these technological disruptions:

When Steven Sasson at Kodak introduced the very first digital camera in 1975 with 0.01 megapixels, everyone laughed at him. Kodak had all the patents for the digital camera, yet they went out of business because of it. How could this happen? Simple, short term thinking instead of long term planning. It would have taken long term vision on behalf of the executives at Kodak, to beat the future and be a top player in the digital world. Their only focus during this time was selling more chemicals and paper to fulfill the current film demand at the time. The short term thinking strategy failed them. The digital age overtook them and left them behind, lonely, broke and bankrupt!

The customer of tomorrow is being raised today; this is a new type of customer that will not settle for a photo image but wants a quick downloadable image to share in a millisecond with over 10 thousand social media fans. ‘Welcome to the New Kodak Moment- the moment when an exponential force puts a linear company out of business.’ – says Peter Diamandis. The big question is, ARE YOUR READY? Is your company ready?

The business lessons about are greatly applicable to even longer term planning – into eternity; indeed it only serves as an illustration. The warnings Kodak received and ignored are similar to what God’s prophets have spoken again and again to God’s people. Jesus himself called on us to wait for the Kingdom of God as wise virgins waiting to receive a bridegroom. In John’s Revelation, Christ is described as a Bridegroom that is coming for a Bride (the Church) without spot or wrinkle.

When the bridegroom comes:

Will your lamps be burning bright, will your robes be shining white?

Will the sorrows of the past all be changed to joy at last?

Will you join the ransomed host or be found among the lost?

When the Lord shall call his own, can you stand before the throne?

Will your wearied heart rejoice at the sound of Jesus voice?

Oh be ready for that day, with your sins all washed away.

 

 

I once was lost – among Children

 “I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners” – Isa 57:18

Learning never ends. As a young person, as a growing person, as a living being, always keep your mind open to learn. I am currently meditating on reaching out with the gospel message to people whose language I don’t understand! I need to learn their language first; then I’ll be able to share a message. What do you need to learn? Are you growing in learning? This is what will keep you alive. Today’s Scripture passage from Isaiah 57:14-19 climaxes in hope from our God for a people who walked in sin for a long time and were punished by God; their hope unfolds in verse 18 where God speaks confidently: ‘I will heal them’. I turn this hope to those who are repenting of ‘ignorance’ or repenting of ‘stopping to learn’. The disciples kept inquisitive, seeking to learn. Think about the disciples who were researching on who will be ‘the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven’.

Jesus Christ is the greatest source of learning, and thank God He was available to answer the disciples’ question. He amazed them with his answer the question on greatness. “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). I am sure the disciples did not imagine this kind of answer could pass for that important question. Yet Jesus Christ made this important revelation for our educations – that in that little Child is the example of lowliness that is required to be great in the Kingdom. He used the opportunity to further draw us to love and care for children.

There is great need for us to pay close attention to children, not just for the sake of learning how to become great in the Kingdom of heaven, but to also carry out our responsibilities of caring for one another and caring for them. In this generation, it is real hard work; there are many enemies to fight – the cartoons that need to be put in right context, the misleading examples in the media that need to be explained so that children do not imitate… much work is needed to care for children today. When John Newton quit slave trade and turned to Christ, one of his deepest expressions of repentance and reformation was his hymn ‘Amazing grace’. He literally was lost in all those voyages, but when he was found by Jesus Christ he regretted and received the hope and renewal.

Are you lost when it comes to dealing with children? Do you not see in them the lesson and example of greatness as expressed by our Lord Jesus Christ? There is hope, and this is an opportunity for you to revisit your position and value these little children of God who are a gift to us for responsible stewardship. God bless you.

 

 

Welcome Home! Give thanks and celebrate.

 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce… and say to the priest in office, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” (Deut 26:2-3)

Today is the Kakumba Home Coming Sunday, and we welcome in a special way those who are ‘coming home’. It is a great think to look back at a journey that has brought us this far, reminisce, and celebrate. True, the journey may not have been smooth all the way, but every experience and every patch and every corner was a learning opportunity. Now we have the space to put the lessons together and make them a thrust for the life ahead as we seek to advance in life and fulfill our callings. The indicators of arrival – whether it is a stop-over or a final arrival – include rest, refreshment and revival. Today’s key Scripture above calls the Jews to go and make offerings before they enjoy these three gifts.

The children of Israel were finally gathered into the Promised Land, after going through many challenging years of hard life in the wilderness wanderings. Many didn’t make it there, but those who arrived were full of testimonies and memories of all that the Lord had done for this chosen race. It was too much to tell in one event, and that’s why by law they had to celebrate the arrival into the Promised Land (the In-gathering) every year with a one-week long Feast; this was also called the Feast of Tabernacles, which reminded them that as they went through it all in the wilderness, they dwelt in temporary shelters. At such a feast, Jesus taught many things and multitudes put their faith in Him. But some sinners were also there! One woman caught in the act of adultery towards the end of the feast was brought to Jesus and to her and to those who brought her Jesus preached covertly and overtly, ‘go and sin no more’. Many lives were thus transformed.

The fulfillment of the Feast of In-gathering in Jesus Christ will be when the children of God will finally be gathered into the final Promised Land in heaven. Imagine saying these words before Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, saying them with the knowledge that you have arrived into eternity for good: ‘I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.’ I reckon this will be such a great moment, and those who arrive will be the real harvest – the wheat and not the tares, those who did not defile themselves, purchased from among mankind, no lie was found in their mouths, they are blameless (Rev. 14:4).

The promise is sure and the hope is living. There will be great celebration and it will last endless ages. The Lord himself will receive us and say, “Welcome Home!” and nourish us with perfect rest, refreshment and revival. The joyful feast today is a foretaste –

 

The way to give, the way to worship

“You are to offer a male without defect… Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” (Lev 1:3, Mal 1:14)

I have encouraged the congregation about the Musiime Hall Project. The completed project will truly stand as a gospel witness, reminding us of the gospel witness of faithful men and women of God who laid the foundations for development work in this place. Indeed, it is time to build! Kakumba Chapel embarked on the vertical extension of the Chapel Hall to create more working space and the Musiime Hall – a multi-purpose Hall which will majorly be used as a Teens’ Chapel, and also for fellowships, meetings, parties, short courses and University lectures and exams.

The motivation of these physical development actions is the Gospel; we want the good news of Jesus Christ to reach more and deeper, and to equip more people to go and proclaim the same. The gospel liberates and gives life and light. Our teens need deliberate focus; they are in transition from being children to becoming adults, and are many times lost in between; yet they face potentially confusing circumstances both from internal changes happening in their bodies and from external influence by peers real and virtual. How can we support this project? What kind of offering shall we bring?

The book of Leviticus outlines different kinds of offerings for different purposes and occasions: burnt offerings as free will offerings, fellowship offerings, sin offering to atone for accidental wrong doing, guilt offerings to atone for deliberate sin, and a few other variations. For all these, it is repetitively mentioned that an offering from the flock or herd must be without defect flock or herd. This phrase is repeated at least 35 times in Leviticus and Numbers alone. In fact, there is a curse from the Lord as recorded in Prophet Malachi for one who goes against this rule: “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty. ‘Without defect’ means complete, sufficient and the best from what the Lord has given you. May the Lord give us the grace to bring exactly this to His service.

At least Ugx 86 million has already been spent (in the first five weeks of the construction work), and the foundation and gallery structures are up. Thank you for your giving! Unfortunately, work has temporarily stalled as we raise more money for next tasks. The next activities include pushing the columns higher and casting the Second Floor slab (the Musiime Hall). I call upon you to support the physical prosperity and peace through your generous contribution to the building project at hand – the Musiime Hall Project, to cost us Ugx 300 million (this phase). The successfully completed project will stand as a gospel witness – a statement that God is able, He provides and His worship must continue through generations.

 

 

 

 

‘Filled with Knowledge’

“he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— He has filled them with skill to do all kinds…” (Exodus 35:31-35)

African Evangelistic Enterprise together with the Churches in Kampala have been running a mission under the theme, “Kampala Return to God”. We welcome the messenger of God today to bring us the reviving Word of God under the auspices of this mission.

Today is also a Special Sunday for Uganda Christian University. Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi, the Vice Chancellor sent this message below to explain and rally us to support and action:

Earlier this year, the House of Bishops was pleased to establish and designate the UCU Sunday to mobilize the entire church toward prayer and support for the Church of Uganda Provincial University, UCU (including all its Campuses). Henceforth, the UCU Sunday will be on every last Sunday of the month of September each year.

It was in the mind of Provincial Assembly at the time of establishment in 1996 that all Dioceses would contribute and thus have a stake in the University. The UCU Sunday comes to operationalize that original resolution.

We seek to achieve three cardinal objectives: (1) Prayer for the University, (2) Sensitization of Christians about their Provincial University, and finally, (3) Raise financial support for Uganda Christian University projects. The last of these will help greatly with various projects; this year all of financial support on this Sunday will go toward funding the UCU Medical School Project. In addition, 10% of the proceeds from the UCU Sunday will be used to fund Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology (BTSDT) scholarships and for sponsorship of Clergy children at the University. While UCU has for several years supported the training of ministers for the Church, this has not been underwritten with actual funding.

The theme this year is Filled with Knowledge’, Exodus 35:31-35. We invite you to pray that:

1) The Vision, Mission and Values  of UCU will be upheld: We seek to be “A Centre of Excellence in the Heart of Africa”  to be achieved through dedicated teaching, scholarship, service, spiritual formation, student development and social involvement, and  preparing students for thoughtful, productive lives of Christian faith and service in their respective professions and places.” We need to uphold these in our relationships with Students and their families, UCU national and international partners. The integrity of our staff is pivotal in nurturing students and achieving our mission.

2) The Medical School Project to be run with Mengo Hospital will start.

I thank you for your partnership, ministry and service to our Church.

 

 

‘What does the LORD require?’

“With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?” … And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

The Uganda Keswick Convention chose a theme from Micah for this year. The question of ‘What does the Lord require?’ is prominent in this book and elsewhere in the Scriptures. One prophecy about our Lord Jesus Christ goes: ‘and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign … with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.’ Looking back at the governments in the days of Isaiah and Micah leaves us convinced that the promise of a better reign – one of justice and righteousness – must have been received with great enthusiasm and eagerness. There was great need for just governance internally as well as liberation and protection from external threats. Our times are not very different; we need the Messiah.

The question that Micah brings to us in his sixth chapter is worth giving attention. It is a question that matters, lest we waste time misfiring and going astray. Before you start the marathon, you need to clearly know the track map, know the way and the rules of the race. You may have drawn many plans, but to stop and ask Micah’s question could help refocus your plans to achieve much more and for longer lasting benefit. The question is: What does the Lord require? What does the Lord require of you?

The importance of this question today is augmented by the nature of our times – dynamic and fast changing. For example, at school then, it the teacher was required to dispense knowledge to her students, test them and give them feedback; a successful student was one that followed through that discipline and finally graduated. This graduate found a ready job waiting for him, and the future would be bright ever after. Gone are those days; today’s information is no longer in the custody of the teacher, but rather it is easily accessible in vast quantities through electronic media on TV, computer and mobile phones. Today’s teacher must break loose from the shackles of the old mould and herself, ‘What is required of me today?’ And the same process is required for all other marketplace participants, in business and in governance.

Many people love God and desire to honor Him. A deep reflection on what the LORD requires today is vital if we are to please Him in the year ahead and beyond. In your work and at home, among friends and in your technical sphere of influence the LORD requires you ‘to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’.