‘Come, follow me’: Jesus Calling All

“Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” … Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)

 Behold, another gentile receives Jesus Christ – a great enlightening revelation that brings lasting joy! The breeze of the Epiphany season continues to blow gently and draw men and women to salvation. The commemoration of the revelation of Jesus Christ to gentiles now comes alive among the Africans with the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-39. Was it called a dark continent? Still described as third world, “good in nothing else but making noise, dancing, marrying many wives, alcoholism, witchcraft, pretending in church, jealousy, fighting and complaining of bad leadership”; more description: “the black man is a symbol of poverty, mental inferiority, laziness… [is] born a beggar, grows a beggar, falls sick a beggar and dies a beggar.” Is Africa cursed?

True or false, these are descriptions of men; but what is the view of God the Creator? To this Africa, the words of Isaiah 9:2 are now directed figuratively: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’ For our evidence, let us visit the experience of the Ethiopian eunuch: For two reasons he could not ‘draw near to God’ – he could not enter the Jewish temple because he was a gentile, and because he was a eunuch. Call him an African bearing the descriptions above, yet he still made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, perhaps to just worship God at the temple gate. However, his darkness was not because of this kind of alienation by men, but the lack of the enlightenment that Jesus brings. Now he saw the great light. The fact that this African received the miracle of salvation is encouragement that there is hope for this continent even today.

The eunuch’s experience was dramatic: Philip was brought to him by the Holy Spirit – Jesus was calling him somehow, even as He called the apostles directly; after the sweet fellowship that ended in his conversion and baptism, Philip disappeared! The diligence with which the eunuch pursued his reading, the earnestness with which he inquired of Philip, and the promptness with which he asked for baptism – all testify to the lofty nature of his character, that we should emulate. This saying is true: ‘Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.’

It is also good to know Africans are shining on all the six continents as stars in sports, great leaders and executives, journalists, professors in universities and even preachers. There is some light shining on Africa; but the great light that should be celebrated is the light of Jesus who calls everyone to follow Him. He may use different circumstances, but Jesus is clearly calling all, ‘Come, follow me’, and you do well to hear and heed His voice.

 

 

 

 

Revelation and Hope for Restoration

 “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples. (Mark 2:14-15)

 What do you do when your own family members write you off? When you are labeled and isolated as a black leg, and so locked up in that state by your job and the state powers that be, what do you do? Levi who is later called Matthew was possibly a subordinate officer, serving under the ‘publicani’, or superior officials who farmed the Roman taxes in the territory of Herod Antipas. As such he must have had some education, and doubtless in addition to the native Aramaic must have been acquainted with the Greek. His ready acceptance of the call of Jesus shows that he must have belonged to that group of publicans and sinners, who in Galilee and elsewhere looked longingly to Jesus; and to him, Jesus was revealed.

As part of the chain of that was a compulsory tool for the imperial Roman government to oppress and subdue the Jews partly through the taxation system, tax collectors were not popular. Worse still, many of them collected more than they were required to, perhaps for their own benefit, and this further put pressure on the Jewish common people; this is evidenced in John the Baptist’s sermon to them when they came to be baptized: ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to.’ (Luke 3:13). As a result, Levi and his workplace colleagues were isolated for serving the wrong regime, for corruption, and for associating with the mafia and the oppressor. They were labeled sinners together (and comparably) with prostitutes. What a great wonder that to such Jesus was revealed as Saviour and Teacher!

He was revealed to the tired and hopeless shepherds, and they enjoyed the heavenly choir singing sweet night carols; He was revealed to three wise Easterners, who travelled all the way to worship with joy; now Jesus Christ is revealed to the ‘black legs’ of the Jews, and dines with them to draw them to salvation. The picture of a broken society is not difficult to construct from the Palestine into which Jesus was born; and the hope that He was to them, He is to us today – in the brokenness and difficulties of our day. He is ready to be revealed to the locals and foreigners, to the lowly and the highly placed, to the oppressed and the oppressor and their agents.

In his fellowship, Jesus’ disciples embodied a restoration that was being announced to the society; among them were people from all walks of life and fortunate and unfortunate backgrounds. The revelation of Jesus Christ is our hope for restoration today in Uganda and in the World. He welcomes all who respond to the call, ‘Follow me’. Will you decide now to follow Jesus? He is our hope for restoration.

 

 

 

 

Revelation and Hope for Recovery

 Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow (Jer 31:13). 

 The Chaplain who has served longest at Kakumba Chapel, Rev Canon Ephraim Musiime was promoted to glory two years ago on 07th Jan 2016. Musiime broke ground for a phenomenal growth of this Chapel both physically and in ministry frontiers during a period that saw Kyambogo Institutions grow and merge in 2011 into the present University. He served as Chaplain from 1992 to 2005. He went on to serve as Diocesan Secretary and ministered even more widely, especially encouraging young ministers under training at College and in initial placements. His legacy is etched in both physical infrastructural developments he pioneered and in the hearts of many people he blessed through his intentional ministry.

At this same time, we also celebrate the life of the former Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi-Nkoyoyo who passed on just two days ago; he blessed the world with his unique gifts and passion for serving the Lord – a great example that we must behold and emulate. It is during such celebrations 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.

I was sorely attacked by our leaders recently. I was attacked for speaking out on perils affecting my people for which God is concerned. In fact, the concerned Church in her different embodiments was criticized. In difficult times people look to every possible direction for hope; in Uganda today, those who do not see the challenges and failures with our systems of governance and public administration feel the pinch through economic difficulties incarnated through high prices of goods, high cost of doing business and high cost of services that would have been otherwise provided by the government to which Ugandans and well-wishers contribute through taxes and donations.

Like the miraculous revelation that came to the wise gentile men of the East who came to worship the new born King in Judea, the Lord Almighty is in the business of revealing his salvation to unsuspecting peoples. Let us not lose hope, but hold onto the God of light and all comfort and hope – even for the betterment of our nation and the region at large. Let us incessantly call on the God of our salvation, and He will heal our wounds and heal our nation.

 

Give thanks to the Lord

 “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm.” (Luke 1:46-51)

 Why would you give thanks? King David considered giving thanks because he was now ‘settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies’ (2Sam 7). Mary gave thanks because he saw in the events around her and Elizabeth that God’s ‘mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation’. On this last day of the year, it is a good think to look back and count your blessings, and find reason to give thanks to the Lord. Attitude matters: there are plenty of reasons to complain – you can find a thousand reasons to complain about your job, your family or neighbours, the government, or even to complain about God; but this comes down to attitude, and complaining only makes you sick. Gratitude instead breathes new health into your life, and there are plenty of reasons – real reasons to give thanks.

As you reflect on your own life, the examples of Mary and David are intriguing. Mary’s encounter with the angel was a great one, and in itself had wonderful promises and privileges – of mothering the Messiah! But when you think about it some more, Mary’s relationship with Joseph was in great danger, and her reputation in society was not only going to go down, but she actually risked being stoned to death for infidelity! I wonder how long it took between Joseph’s discovering Mary was pregnant and the time an Angel counseled him to go ahead with the relationship – whether it took days or weeks or even months, it must have been deeply troubling on both sides. All this was reality in Mary’s life, yet she was still able to sing a thanksgiving psalm that we still sing today. Some blessings may come with apparent danger, but you are encouraged to trust God and give thanks.

And as for David, it is his method of giving thanks that beats every mind that bothers to think about it. Even God was embarrassed and taken by surprise! He had to come and express his shock to the prophet Nathan in a long speech: How can David build for me a House, yet my last building instructions were for a mere Tent? I interpret what David conceived in his heart to have been so large an offering that God could not remain silent about his embarrassment. In human terms such expressions would be accompanied with tears of joy and a breaking voice in shock of a large gift brought by an unsuspecting friend. God quickly delivered profuse blessings even before the offering was delivered; this part of the blessing would even outlive David: ‘Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ All these highlight that it is a good and noble thing to give thanks, and to give thanks intentionally with a selfless gift.

 

 

 

 

Revelation and Hope for Rebirth

“Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies…

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Isaiah 62:8, Luke 2:11)

 Words of hope, words of life, give us strength, help us cope, in this world where’er we roam, ancient words will guide us home. As we celebrate the incarnation of the Word, the birth of Jesus Christ, my prayer is that you will be strengthened by the Ancient Words. Today we read from Isaiah 62, and God expresses determination to restore glory, splendor and welfare to a nation that was deserted, desolate and deprived. When Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, in his Christmas message, called for fervent prayer and fasting for our Nation Uganda, he warned that our society is drifting into a state of godlessness, lawlessness and perverse disregard of human life and dignity.

Perverse disregard of human life and dignity expresses itself through service delivery inadequacies, especially at government level. In his book ‘Uganda Today’, Zac Niringiye wonders ‘whether the extreme impact of failure of our social services is not causing extreme desperation’; leading to Dr Stella Nyanzi’s metaphorical use of unconventional and reckless sexually explicit language to characterize the tragic abuse of the dignity of the girl child in our school system, arising from the continuing plunder of public resources at the expense of the welfare of the people, especially the vulnerable. While exponentially improving access to primary education, the Universal Primary Education programme has become a death trap, with drop-out rates standing at a whopping 62% in 2006, 71% in 2012 and currently at an average of 75%.

Public healthcare institutions are poorly funded, under-staffed and well below minimum medical and other supplies. Maternal mortality ratio is still very high, more than double the MDG 2015 target; and with many more mothers surviving with lifelong debilitating illnesses and conditions. Considering the state of Uganda’s social services, and considering the taxes paid by the people, and donations made for the people, Isaiah’s statement evokes emotions: ‘your grain as food for your enemies … foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled’; those who plunder this nation are behaving like enemies and foreigners. But the Lord Almighty encourages His people and says, ‘Never again!’

Arise and pray for Uganda! There is hope for rebirth; a better education is the knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ – the revelation that came to the Shepherds in Luke 2; the revelation that we all need; a better healthcare is in the manger, with the new born King. He has power to change the course of events here and in this age, and He holds promise for the ultimate rebirth in life eternal for those who put their trust in Him. The bright hope that the Ancient Word brings gives us strength for today and for eternity.

 

 

The Kingdom will be the Lord’s

“Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD’s. … Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Obad 1:21, Matt 23:39)

 In his Christmas message this year 2017, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali made a loud call to fervent prayer and fasting for our nation Uganda. Referring to a common Messianic prophecy from Isaiah, he asserted that now, more than ever, we need this ‘Prince of Peace’ to be our ‘Wonderful Counselor’ and ‘Everlasting Father,’ and, for the government to be ‘upon his shoulder.’ The call to prayer was further justified: “we are living with political upheavals, anarchy, and often incidents of mysterious killings, deaths, and perverse behavioural living… our society is drifting into a state of godlessness, lawlessness and perverse disregard of human life and dignity.”

A little more detail has been compiled in Zac Niringiye’s well written book entitled ‘Uganda Today: Crisis and Hope for Rebirth’, in which he writes about a nation ailing and teetering on the brink of collapse; at risk of similar disaster as Zimbabwe, Somalia, Libya or the Democratic Republic of Congo. ‘Uganda as it presently is, rather than be left to die slowly should be assisted to die quickly in order to see a rebirth of a new one – a born-again Uganda’, Zac recommends. His analysis goes back and forth from the NRM 10-point program of 1986 to the status of those promises today, illustrating initial progress that has been washed away in recent years, to plunge Uganda into crisis again!

In similar light, many other writers have compared and illustrated differences between the President Museveni of 1986 to 2000 to the President Museveni of the last fifteen years. The former promised democracy, the latter gives pseudo-democracy; the former was a servant of the people, the latter is not an employee – just a freedom fighter and not a servant of anyone; the former defeated government armies that were dangerous to the people, the latter is plagued unknown assailants murdering security officers, women and Muslim leaders; the former criticized omnipotent rulers who overstay in power, the latter signs off constitution amendments lifting limits.

We have reason to pray for Uganda. When Prophet Obadiah preached, Israel was facing tough situations including neglect by their own ‘brother’ Edom. Almighty God promised deliverance through leaders that would go up on Mount Zion and establish rule over both Israel and their negligent brother Edom. A new Kingdom was the only hope for Obadiah’s listeners; and this is a good reflection in this season when we commemorate the coming of the ultimate Deliverer – our Saviour Jesus Christ. However, there were real rulers than came before the Messiah and liberated Israel temporarily; while we are here on earth, God is concerned about the welfare of His people, and would not condone injustice, tyranny and oppression. Arise and pray for Uganda!

 

 

Heralding the Messiah

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” (Matt 2:5-6)

 Evangelist Matthew is good at taking us back in time to show us that even before John the Baptist, there were many prophets heralding the Messiah – God’s long term Salvation Plan, a plan that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s incarnation. Today’s challenge is about long-term plans again. I am fascinated by large and old things – talk of great old companies – someone must have had a real big long-term plan: Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese automotive manufacturer; in March 2014 the multinational corporation consisted of over 330,000 employees worldwide; in July 2012, the company reported the production of its 200-millionth vehicle. Toyota is the world’s first automobile manufacturer to produce more than 10 million vehicles per year. How can one company hold together in stability all over the world while a small country like Somalia or Southern Sudan wallows in social and political turbulence for decades?

Is there any institution more enduring or universal than a family business? Professor William O’Hara posed that rhetorical question in his recent book, Centuries of Success. He also provided his answer: “Before the multinational corporation, there was family business. Before the Industrial Revolution, there was family business. Before the enlightenment of Greece and the empire of Rome, there was family business.” In a world where family values are fast being compromised at the altar of personal gratification, we are in danger of losing the benefits of long-term plans that ride on the back of an enduring family line. Long-lasting (almost everlasting) companies: The oldest running hotel in operation has existed for over 1300 years – since the year 705 – a hot-spring hotel called Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Japan. Japan is home to the world’s oldest lots of things, with more than 3000 companies over 200 years old. Many of the oldest companies are local and family-owned. This longevity must be engrained in big long-term plans.

There are deep spiritual inspirations from all these large and old business fascinations. Matthew in his first chapter brings us generations of God’s long-term plan that is evident in Abraham, David and fulfilled in Jesus many centuries later. The purpose of today’s opening Scripture is to show the connection: The Salvation Plan of God was prophesied by prophets across a wide time-line including Isaiah and Micah over 600 years before they are quoted by Matthew. God’s Salvation Plan endures to date, and as we celebrate the coming of our Redeemer, King, Jesus Christ, we also look forward to His return, and that plan will fully materialize. Watch and pray, and always stand ready.

 

 

 

 

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.