‘Take this child away, and nurse him for me’

“And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him.”  (Exod 2:9)

 Do you remember the stories about Moses? He is such a prominent figure in the Bible, involved in very interesting drama episodes: his movie has action – he killed an Egyptian enemy of some Israelite, and later led Israel to war with Amalekites and many others; the movie has comedy – he witnessed a burning bush that didn’t burn, and spoke with an invisible being as if he was mad! The movie also has magic – his stick could turn into a snake and it could perform magic (we call them miracles in the Bible), like bringing the plagues in Egypt. There are indeed many interesting stories about Moses, but for today we zoom in into his early years – his childhood especially.

The theme of this year is ‘Take this child away, and nurse him for me’ (Exod 2:9), drawn from the story of Moses’ childhood. Moses was born to Israelite parents in Egypt. At that time Israelites were slaves and there was a law that all Israelite baby boys should be killed; however, Moses’ parents decided to hide him and later took to leave him in the shrubs by the river. When the king’s daughter came and found him, she liked the baby very much and decided to adopt him as her son. It is at this point that she found an Israelite woman (who actually was Moses’ mother) to take care of the child until he grew up, then Moses would be brought back to live and belong to the Palace. ‘Take this child away, and nurse him for me’: when you think more deeply about these words of the Princess, many ideas and action points come to mind:

Children belong to the Palace. Children belong to God, who is the King. The Bible clearly says ‘children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD’ (Psalm 127:3). Moses’ Israelite parents turned out to have played only a limited role of producing and nursing the boy, but legally he belonged to the king (Pharaoh); we see later that Moses actually ran away and found where he truly belonged – to the King of kings, the LORD God Almighty, who called and revealed himself to an older Moses. What does it mean to belong to God? As a child, a youth or as an adult, it is important to consider how to live as one that belongs to the King of heaven. Also as a parent, it is important to consider how to care for children and youth who legally belong to the LORD.

We need to give every Child an opportunity to grow and excel in their God given gifts and potentials. For elders and parents, respecting the image of God in every child demands a Christ-like response to nurture them intentionally. We will spend more time this year drawing lessons form nurture stories in the Bible.

 

 

Epiphany: Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

“but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (1Cor 1:23-24)

 Epiphany is the moment of sudden and great revelation or realization: for the wise men recorded in Matthew’s second chapter, a provocatively bright star led them to this – to find and worship the new-born King; for the celebrants at the Cana wedding, turning water into wine drew their eyes and minds upon this miracle worker; for John the Baptist, the heavenly dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit rested on a man who John now identified as the Lamb of God. All these were Epiphanies – the revelation of Jesus Christ as King. Such Epiphanies continue in personal, community and national contexts: Think about Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus, when “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9) – a total conversion ensuing out of this great revelation. Follow this man to Corinth for another Epiphany.

Who were the Corinthians? When it comes to the task of preaching the gospel, there are places that are very hard – the gospel does not easily penetrate; plenty of birds are present to eat up every gospel seed that falls there, and the rock is so hard that any remnant seed just cannot start growing; or the thorns are so aggressive that any seed that dares germinate will be chocked immediately. Such was the city of Corinth – eminent among all ancient cities for wealth, and luxury, and indulgence. It was a signal illustration of the grace of God, and the power of the gospel, that a church was organized in that city of gay, fashion, luxury, and immorality; put simply, even Corinth experienced an Epiphany!

This shows that the gospel is adapted to meet and overcome all forms of wickedness, and to subdue all classes of people to itself. If it could happen in Corinth, there is not now a city on earth so gay and so reckless that the same gospel may not overcome its corruptions, and subdue it to the cross of Christ.

Albert Barnes’ introduction points to the possibility that ‘Sosthenes, who was the principal agent of the Jews in arraigning Paul before Gallio, was converted, and perhaps some other persons of distinction; but it is evident that the Corinthian church was chiefly composed of those who were in the more humble walks of life’. The two categories of people here in this city are the Jews and the Gentiles, some of high ranks in society, and majority of poor and lowly lowly status. Paul asserts that no matter what the story of Christ’s Cross sounds like to Jews or Gentiles, from both peoples have come a thrid category: those who believe, to whom the truth about Christ has been revealed. And to these that believe – those who have experienced the Epiphany – Christ crucified is the wisdom of God and the power of God. He is the same today – open your eyes, behold and embrace Christ the Lord in your life.

 

Epiphany: Revealing God’s Salvation

 “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize… said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain…’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”  (John 1:33-34)

 The manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the wise men from the East in Matthew’s second chapter is the great Epiphany we celebrate today. Epiphany is the moment of sudden and great revelation or realization: for the wise men, a provocatively bright star led them to this; they journeyed all the way to Bethlehem and found and worshipped the new-born King. This is the opportunity to celebrate the revelation of Jesus Christ to the nations, to all people. In Jesus Christ all God’s people are gathered and blessed together, and Jeremiah’s prophecy is fully realized: Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ (Jer 31:10)

Gropping in darkness is not just a bad experience faced by a few people; even Prophet John the Baptist, whose role was to prepare the way, for a long time did not know who the Messiah was. The darkness of ignorance is troublesome: When will the monster of corruption let go of our institutions? When will suffering cease and stability return to the DRC? When will a better regime come? You may compose your own ‘when’ questions; the Jews were (and some today still are) asking ‘When will the promised Messiah come?’ It is during such times that we must remember hope, a message that comes to light in Jeremiah’s four chapters (30-33) after 29 chapters of gloomy prophetic discourse. Now we read in Chapter 31, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’ and ‘I will turn their mourning into gladness’, plus comfort for Rachel who was weeping for her children (v.3, 13, 16). Our hope comes from God, and His promises are trustworthy and real.

John the Baptist was bold to testify about his former ignorance – that he did not know who the Messiah was. John kept the hope alive, and kept preaching and baptizing and waiting, until the sign came to pass. When the Spirit of God descended on Jesus, a bright light shone before John’s eyes and he ran out of the dark dungeon and beheld and showed off the Lamb of God. This is the revelation we celebrate – God’s salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. The adults and the children need this revelation. We need to learn three important things from John: First, he kept hope alive, holding onto the Word of God; second, he spoke up and testified when he saw and got to know the Messiah; and third, he called all the people around him to follow the Messiah. God’s salvation plan is for our welfare here on earth and in eternity. Keep hope alive, testify and glorify the Lord in every victory, and share the revelation that others may be drawn to the Saviour.

 

Grace to the humble: A call to prayer

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” (Eccl 9:11)

What was so special about the honoured people around baby Jesus? Was anything extraordinary about Mary? Or Elizabeth, Joseph or Simeon? Someone may point to moral traits of purity (Mary was a virgin), or righteousness (as Joseph) or priestly placement (Elizabeth was wife to the priest Zechariah), or royalty (both Mary and Joseph were from the royal clan of Judah) – but all these characteristics have existed in many other people before and after. I am not out to belittle these servants of God, but there have been many others almost more deserving! So, why did God choose these, and why did he send His Son to earth at that time? Jesus later rubbed in the question by telling his disciples, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’ (Luke 10:24)

The Preacher before Jesus time said ‘time and chance happen the them all’, and Jesus said ‘Blessed are they’: there seems to be no perfect formula! God’s choice is ultimate, and as He chose the people around baby Jesus for that special task, so has He chosen us for assignments today, and we do well to take them seriously. It was by God’s grace that Mary became the mother of Jesus Christ; by grace the shepherds heard the news of the Saviour baby, by grace the gentiles saw the bright prophetic star, and by grace Simeon was present at the Temple to hold in his hands and greet baby Jesus.

In the book ‘Remaking a broken world’ by Christopher Ash, ‘the judgment of God leads to scattering and He shows his grace and faithfulness by gathering’. The grace and blessedness depicted by gathering is evident in the work of the Messiah as prophesied by Simeon. In his thanksgiving, Simeon called baby Jesus ‘salvation that you [God] have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’ (Luke 2:30-31). To both Gentiles and Jews God’s salvation has come – the means of God’s grace.

Humility is important to the healing and salvation of our world: Mary humbly received favour and accepted to be used of the Almighty God, while Elizabeth was also humble enough to call the baby in Mary’s womb ‘My Lord’; Simeon gave thanks and worshipped the Lord when he saw Jesus. We can only receive Jesus Christ today as our Saviour when we look at our needy state, humble ourselves and draw near to Him in earnest prayer. Are you frightened by world powers? Or by a celestial revelation? Or by the imminent new year season? Do not be afraid; just humble yourself and call upon God; receive His will, receive His salvation plan, receive your Saviour.

Who is Jesus? Christ the Saviour is born to us

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Merry Christmas! But who is this Jesus? I recently found on YouTube ‘Billy Graham’s Greatest Sermon – “Who is Jesus?”’ Many other influential preachers through history have preached on this question many times; academics have debated, fellowships have discussed, and authors have written. Greg Gilbert in his little book ‘Who is Jesus?’ presents him as an Extraordinary Man and a Claimant to the Throne. Greg begins at Jesus’ baptism when God spoke about ‘his Beloved Son’, and wades through both the many astonishing teachings and miracles and the many claims of Jesus Christ. But Greg critically misses out evidence around Jesus birth and childhood. The closest he comes to this point is from the prophetic angle when he quotes from Isaiah 9:6-7, which begins, ‘For to us a child is born’. What was his birth like?

First, Angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that the baby would be named Jesus [Saviour], called the Son of the Most High, and be given the throne of his father David to reign forever; then another Angel visited shepherds and announced the birth of a Saviour who is Christ the Lord; then wise astronomers from the East came seeking him ‘who has been born king of the Jews’; then Simeon in the temple called him ‘God’s Salvation’. Some extra-biblical sources bespeak of the astonishing things Jesus did as a child, and we also find in the Bible his astonishing debate with Temple elders when he is still a child! No doubt he was an Astonishing Man and a Claimant to the Throne.

Greg reminds us of William Shakespeare who heard King Henry IV complaining about the duties of kingship: why would Sleep rather live in the ramshackle hovels of the poor rather than in the palaces of a king, and why she could give her gift of rest to a soaked sailor boy being tossed around by the sea while denying it to a rich and powerful king in all his quiet comfort. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”, he concludes. But the person whose head lies even more uneasily is the man who claims to be a king when nobody else recognizes it. History has proved that the most likely end of this person is losing the head onto which he intended to wear the crown! Herod attempted so to kill Jesus when he learnt about the claim.

The question at hand does not demand an academic answer; finding the true identity of Jesus Christ does not end in the head or on paper. Living now in the time when we know what unfolded during and after his life on earth – the victories and proofs, we should not just acknowledge Him as rightly King of kings, but embrace him in our hearts – born to us, trusting Him to lead us through this earthly life, and tomorrow to bring into everlasting blissful fellowship with God the Father.

Grace to the humble: Do not be afraid.

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’” (Luke 1:30-31)

 Here comes Christmas – the time we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Many people have made the celebration into so many other rituals, traditions and fanfares, but Jesus Christ must remain central for the true Christian. In his first Chapter, Luke presents two women experiencing miracles: Mary, the much younger one, is confronted by an angel with the message of favour and an imminent child out of wedlock, while the much older retired Elizabeth is embarrassed with her very first pregnancy in her old age. Through these God was orchestrating the climax of salvation history.

‘Remaking a broken world’ is the title of Christopher Ash’s book that carries the thesis that ‘the judgment of God leads to scattering and He shows his grace and faithfulness by gathering’. In his passionate prayer, Nehemiah asked God to remember His word to His servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them… I will gather’ (Neh 1:8-9). Scatterings away from Eden, at Babel, to Assyria, and to Babylon were such typical judgments, while fellowship gatherings at Sinai, at the Jerusalem Temple, at the Cross, and in the glorious eternal Kingdom are such gracious blessings. The brokenness of our world is propagated by the same evil spirit that brought about the scatterings of the Biblical times – the pride of the heart. The symbol of meekest humility is the Cross of Jesus Christ, and there at Golgotha is the place where godly fellowship can be restored and our world reconstructed.

Brexit is a live example of how much confusion our pride brings upon us. The 2016 referendum to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union ended with a 52% win for those supporting ‘Leave’. Only two years earlier Scotland in their independence referendum had wisely voted to remain in the UK so that they do not lose their participation in the EU; no wonder they voted 62% for ‘Remain’ during the 2016 referendum. Now confusion looms over this former super-power, with Prime Minister Theresa May almost stuck with the Brexit deal that her Parliament does not support. Do these British know what they really want? All I can say is that the evil spirit of pride is working hard to scatter.

Humility is important to the healing and salvation of our world: Mary humbly received favour (recognized her needy state) and accepted to be used of the Almighty God (potentially losing her planned comforts and marriage prospect), while Elizabeth was also humble enough to call the baby in Mary’s womb ‘My Lord’. We can only receive Jesus Christ today as our Saviour when we look at our needy state, humble ourselves and draw near to Him. Are you frightened by world powers? Or by a celestial revelation? Do not be afraid; just humble yourself before God and receive His will, receive His salvation plan, receive your Saviour.

 

 

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 have emphasized the same to those going for various outreach missions recently. 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.

 

 

 

God’s Promise – Real for Sure?

scoffers will come… They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2Pet 3:3-4)

This is a season to encourage one another to trust God’s promises in our daily lives, but also for the far future. Jesus said, “I will come back and take you to be with me”; at his ascension, angels appeared and encourage the ‘men of Galilee’ that Jesus would come back in the same way. Paul wrote that the Lord himself will come down from heaven, and John from his revelations several times quoted the Lord Jesus Christ saying, ‘I am coming soon’. There are numerous Scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments pointing to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but there are some people who doubt it. The study of the events of the last days and end times prophecy is called Eschatology. This also involves the question of the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, we learn that ‘The eschatological interest of early believers was no mere fringe to their religious experience, but the very heart of its inspiration.  The coming world was not to be the product of natural development but of a Divine interposition arresting the process of history.” The early Church having received the witness of the eyewitnesses and apostles lived in constant anticipation of Christ’s second coming. John’s Revelation came at a time when some were starting to grow weary of waiting; they started questioning if this promised second coming was really going to happen. Have you questioned like this before? Or, even worse, have you met scoffers who just make fun of God’s promise as predicted in 2Pet 3:3-4?

No need to doubt: whether in our time or later, the day will surely come, and our faith should remain firm – He is only giving time and chance for more people to turn away from sin and repent. ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air’. (1Thess 4:16-17)

Trusting God’s promise does not just end in the heart but must be lived out in all aspects of life like forthcoming exams. Those who live in eager anticipation of Christ are called upon to faithful stewardship and watchful prayer. It is not about just sitting there and waiting, but rather working to the highest profitability using the resources God has put in our care. He will gladly congratulate and reward the ‘good and faithful’ servants and admit them into a wonderful holiday and fellowship (Matt 25:23).

 

 

 

The Eternal Word – mysteries God has revealed

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” “… fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” (Matt 24:35, 2Tim 1:6)

Last Friday evening’s Christmas Production etched a telling memory on the minds of those who gathered at Kakumba Chapel, Kyambogo. A spectacular display of talent and passion relived the inquest of the three royal wise men into the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem. They testified baby Jesus was the Great King – whose story was also told by cosmic bodies – and they worshipped him with most expensive gifts.

Today we celebrate Bible Sunday. John’s Gospel 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. Jesus Christ himself assured us that His Word will never pass away! 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 and beyond. Our greatest thanksgiving for the saving revelation in God’s Word is the giving of our lives wholly to his service. Fan into flame that gift of God which is in you.

 

 

Advent: The Eternal Throne

“For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.” – Jer 33:17-18

 You are warmly welcome to Kakumba Chapel!

There are times when taking over a position is difficult and risky. Think of Kampala in 1976 just after the murder of Archbishop Janan Luwum; who would take over this risky position while tyrant Idi Amin was still in charge as President of Uganda? Many bishops were fleeing abroad for dear life, yet someone had to take over leadership and serve.God did not lack a man. Think of the idolatrous inland China – still covered with deep darkness eighteen hundred years after Jesus commissioned his disciples to evangelize all nations; who would go there among savagery people with an unwelcoming government? Perhaps it would take a mighty conqueror armed with more than the sword of the Spirit, but a frail young  man arose from England and successfully broke in. God did not lack a man.

Jeremiah wrote the above verses at a time when it was very difficult for his audience to take the message in. Only a few Chapters earlier, this same prophet had assured the Jews that their exile would last seven decades (Jer 29). The Davidic dynasty had miserably crumbled under the heavy hand of the Babylonians, and it seemed that God’s promise had failed! How dare he say ‘David shall never lack a man’? The priests were deported with other nobles to Babylon; and the Temple had been destroyed – a terrible heartbreak! How dare Jeremiah say ‘the Levitical priests shall never lack a man? Hope of restoration decades later could not mix well with the present disgrace of a vandalized Jerusalem! There was a deeper meaning to Jeremiah’s message.

James Hudson Taylor was the frail young man God took to inland China to preach the gospel for decades; he also mobilized many missionaries for this vast land, piercing the darkness of long-standing darkness with the light of Jesus Christ. Archbishop Silvanus Wani took leadership of Uganda’s Anglican Church after a gruesome murder of his predecessor. God will indeed never lack a man.But when it comes to the descendant of David on the throne, and a Levitical priest at the Temple, we find much later a convergence of the two in the Messiah. His would be and eternal priesthood and His would be an eternal throne. As was prophesied, Jesus was born and was confirmed as the promised Anointed One whose government will be forever. Advent means the arrival of this great King, this great High Priest. He came down and lived among us as a man, ushered in the Kingdom, which was the gist of his teaching; and He is coming again to take His throne forever and ever. With this Priest and King, we can agree with the prophet, indeed God will never lack a man.