All posts by Emmanuel Mwesigwa e

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.

 

Christ the King: Prepare the Way

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you.” Zechariah 9:9

Around 12 years ago, Queen Elizabeth came to Uganda to chair a meeting of heads of state of Common Wealth nations. Prior to her coming, everywhere you went across the country, it was obvious that the expected coming of the Queen had generated a great deal of excitement especially in the city. Old Testament prophecies express a similar sense of anticipation and excitement. It wasn’t the arrival of some foreign dignitary on a state visit or vacation. This was the king who had been part of their national consciousness for generations, the king who was going to bring peace, prosperity and fulfilled promises.

It is difficult to accept the news of a coming king because there is a sense in which all of us want to rule our own lives. But if a king starts trying to control every aspect of our lives – how we do business, how we relate to others, including our families, and even how we speak and think – we tend to resist! But Zech 9:9 says that this king is coming “for you” or “to you” (NIV). He was coming for their good, to benefit them and to ensure their safety and security.  There’s no doubt that the coming of this king was something worth looking forward to. And he is coming again! At the first coming, they rejected him because that’s not the kind of Messiah they were expecting. And many people still miss Jesus because of wrong expectations. They want a Savior who will instantly solve their problems, but those problems have not gone away. Or, they expect a Church where everyone always loves one another. But a church member treated them wrongly, so they dropped out in bitter disappointment.

To receive the benefits that this King brings, we need to recognize our need. Israel was under the domination of powerful foreign rulers. They were incapable of freeing themselves. But this King had the power to deliver them and He had their best interests at heart. Spiritually, we must admit that we are under the domination of sin that will destroy us and that we are unable to free ourselves. Then we will welcome the promised King and the benefits that He offers. Have you prepared the way?

How are we to prepare the way for the King in our own lives?  In Matt 3:2 John the Baptist says “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, The word “repent” in this text refers to far more than simply being or saying one is sorry for past sins; it means completely turning away from the past way of life. Today there seems to be no universal justice and righteousness in our world, and that could easily become a source of discouragement; but the fact that God has kept his promise in Jesus – His birth, death and resurrection, means that we can take heart and look forward to his coming as King of kings, to save us to life in eternity. God bless you.

 

 

“Great is thy faithfulness”

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

“Take heed that no one leads you astray.” – Lam 3:21-23, Mark 13:5

God’s faithfulness is proven by His comforting presence even in toughest of times, and His unfailing goodness across a long period of time. He is faithful in every step and faithful through the whole journey. He is faithful in the moment and faithful in the life-time. Such sweet words of hope are also found in the heart of the book that bears the ugliest name in the Bible! Deep in the Lamentations we find the God steadfast love, mercy and great faithfulness!

Celebrate God’s faithfulness in every step: Is it a tough assignment at work, or a course unit with a hard Lecturer, a wedding celebration, or a health condition that torments you? In the build up to World AIDS Day there have been many stories about positive living, and some of them can point to those moments when the person despaired and God picked them up!  Jeremiah celebrates God’s mercies, describing them from his daily experience: ‘they are new every morning’. That is the reality. However, many distractions come up and deceive us to see hardships and those tough times as drowning out the reality of God’s faithfulness. Learn from Jeremiah’s example and celebrate God’s faithfulness in every moment – in every step. Such many steps are what make a journey.

Celebrate God’s faithfulness through the journey: Is it a silver jubilee in marriage, or a birthday above our country’s life expectancy age? It could also be a loved one gone – recently a member of our church lost a grandmother at a full age of 103 years! These are all significant journey through which careful observation will notice evidence of God’s faithfulness, steadfast love and unfailing mercies.

The ultimate journey was fore-shadowed by Israel’s long trek from Egypt to Canaan – the Promised Land. The ultimate journey takes believers from today’s world to the eternal joy and fellowship in God’s presence. God is able to take all who trust Him through this journey.

As Jesus Christ prepared his listeners for the ultimate journey, He was aware of many fake teachers that would come up and deceive people using clever schemes in order to lead them to the wrong destination! ‘And Jesus began to say to them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray’” (Mark 13:5). He even warned of tough moments of suffering along the journey; but insisted that the Gospel must be preached to all nations, and those who endure to the end will be saved. Those are the ones who will truly celebrate God’s faithfulness through the ultimate journey. Part of Thomas Chisholm’s legacy is in the great hymn that should mean volumes for one that reads this message with interest: ‘Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness; great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me.’

 

 

Advent and the Kingdom: 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 revisit the question – ‘Are you ready?’ – we begin a learning series on the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ: it is not just a season in the Church Calendar, but a reality, that Jesus Christ came and is coming again. Charles Wesley’s musical announcement in the hymn ‘Lo! He comes’ is quite dramatic: with clouds descending, thousand thousands attending, robed in royal majesty… At His coming, some those who will be ready will join him in the clouds and ascend to enter eternal joy and peace. The Lord left us with the assignment preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God to get people ready for that Day. He told many stories to illustrate that the Kingdom is near, and we continue those stories. He used every possible opportunity to draw the attention of his listeners to the Kingdom message.

Readiness for the Advent means readiness for the Coming of the King Jesus Christ who will usher in the Kingdom of God per-excellence fully. When it comes to advent-readiness, there are many illustrations around us that make the point clearly to anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see. Climate change offers one illustration – that dinosaurs failed to adapt to a fundamentally new climate, and they became extinct; and technological trends affecting business offer us many more such illustrations. Businesses that do not adapt to a new climate become extinct – whether it is in transport, marketing, banking, school… 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. They did not intentionally embrace and develop this new technology. 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 (old technology) to fulfil 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 business lessons 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 keep watch, waiting eagerly, even when no one knows the day or the hour. His concern from start to finish of his ministry was the Kingdom of God – Kingdom-readiness. Oh be ready when He comes.

 

 

Apostles – the sent ones

“And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” (Mark 6:7)

  Kyambogo experienced a great visitation last Sunday – the Archbishop was well received and his ministry among us was greatly appreciated. He appreciated the well-organized function; this appreciation goes to all who worked hard to make it a success – the Diocesan Secretary for coordinating well, the Chapel Council, those who prepared breakfast and lunch, the dancing entertainers, and all members of the organizing team. Thank you very much. Bishops have another title which they rarely use –they are the Apostles – the sent ones. Jesus came into the world as a sent one from God, and he immediately entered the business of calling and sending.

If the Lord has called you, he has also sent you. In Mark 6, the Lord begins with as low-going mission outreach in the neighborhood of his home. There is even a controversial verse 5: ‘And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.’ Is Jesus Christ limited by earthly circumstances?Yet the description of the difficult mission shows that it was indeed tough; Jesus even marveled! He marveled at the unbelief of these neighbors who claimed they knew him (talking about his parents, relatives and their family business); they were using only human eyes without deeper understanding and spiritual revelation.This must have shown Jesus’ disciples that mission work was not always going to be easy and well-received. Just after this story comes a commissioning.

 He called to him the twelve, and began to send them out. As if the difficulties observed in Jesus’ own Galilean mission were not enough, He tells them to go with no back-up plan; no bread, no bag, no money! To make matters worse, He even tells them the likelihood of a “place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you” –rejection like it happened to him Nazareth! Is this what it means to be the sent one? God is teaching important lessons through this commissioning; it was an internship of sorts to convey many lessons that we do well to receive even today.

The one who sends is the one at work. All He requires is the obedience of the envoy. He will make you a fisher of men; He will give you what to speak; He will follow you with signs; He will be with you all the way; He will accept no excuses. To have no back-up plan is to have the ultimate and best back-up plan – the invisible one which God caries as He watches you go. This message may sound like it is for the few God has called; but it is for every believer. Are you following the Lord Jesus Christ? You are the sent one. If He has called you, He has sent you.

 

 

 

 

The Seed of the Kingdom Gospel

 “It is like a grain of mustard seed… the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:31-32)

Although Mark is prominently a book of Jesus’ mighty works, recording nineteen miracles and only four parables, it is still clear that the wonderful Worker Is also a trustworthy Teacher: John the Baptist is a preacher, and Jesus also is introduced as a preacher, taking up and enlarging the message of John. Striking references are made to His originality, methods, popularity and matchlessness as a teacher (Mark 1:22). A miracle is definitely declared to be for the purpose of instruction (Mar 2:10), and the implication is frequent that His miracles were not only the dictates of His compassion, but also purposed self-revelations. Not only is He Himself a teacher, but He is concerned to prepare others to be teachers (Mar 3:13-14).

In his teaching about the main subject – the Kingdom of God – the Lord uses the illustration of seeds that are planted and result in edible fruit or large trees in ways far beyond the understanding of farmer (Mark 4:26-32). This must have made little sense to those who listened to the Lord when he was sowing this gospel seed; many Jews were not buying it, especially the leaders. How would it become a great tree? How would it survive the persecution of the Jewish authorities, let alone the Roman imperialists? Indeed the gospel has been met with adverse conditions and numerous attempts to wipe it off the surface of the earth, but it still thrives, and thrives really big today. Symbolically, the birds that come to perch nests on the large tree have even much less understanding of how the little seed grew into such a structure. Remember the ignorance expressed in parts of this hymn:

I know not how this saving faith to me He did impart,

Nor how believing in His word wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin,

Revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him.

What we don’t know does not stop the reality from continuing. The seed of the gospel is potent and alive; when buried, it won’t just stay in the ground. It will sprout at some point, and beat the odds of weather and winds and grow, taking to the skies and standing firm and tall. The tree serves the farmer, the strangers who rest in the shade under it, the birds of the air, and the animals that eat the fruits falling down. Similarly, the benefits of the good news are for a wide variety of people. Our role is to spread this gospel; what we sow may look tiny and in danger, but God will bring up somehow.

But, “I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able

to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”

 

 

Jesus Christ Is Calling You

And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” (Mark 2:14)

 Earthly glories should never cause one to lose their vision and purpose. As Jesus gained more and more fame, he could have stopped and basked, enjoying the earthly honours – when everyone was searching for him, but he did not. And he said to them,“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:37-38). Jesus kept his the scope of his outreach mission in focus in order not to be derailed by any distractions – bitter or sweet. In the passage in the next Chapter, observe the unity of his actions, his words, and his message of beckoning that demands a response even today, because the mission is still on.

Mark 2:13-17 records the Lord teaching many beside the sea, then calling one he found at a tax booth. He then accepted to go dine with this one Levi, whose friends were his peers at work and their friends – tax collectors and sinners. These actions speak louder than words; the Pharisees were hearing but hardly understanding what Jesus was saying through these actions. In many African and Asian cultures eating together is very significant in building and maintaining close relationships. It means deep mutual acceptance of one another. How could such a righteous Rabbi stoop that low to eat with these sinners? Levi and his friends did not ask that question; they simply understood the gesture and followed and were transformed by their new friend Jesus Christ.

The scribes of the Pharisees who dared question Jesus’ actions were given a seemingly obvious answer: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Luke (5:3-11) gives more details of what happened when Jesus called Simon Peter, “… he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” Now another sinner has been called by the same Master. He promised Peter to be a fisher of men,and indeed he fished them – beginning with 3000 on the Day of Pentecost, then anymore, both Jews and Gentiles, from the three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.Levi demanded from the people to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar; in his new calling he demanded from the people to give to God what belongs to God. The Gospel of Matthew is his legacy to bring the same message to generations in the future.

His actions are clearly consistent with his words. Given that the mission is not yet over,Jesus still calls to send out, and He is calling you. You may see shortcomings in yourself,as did Peter and Levi, but what is required is just to trust and follow the one who calls. Like a physician that turns around the sick and sad to become healthy and happy,the Lord is able to transform the losing sinner into a loving winner – a worthy vessel to participate in this great divine mission at hand.

 

Jesus in Power and in Prayer

And they were all amazed… “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27,35)

Our Lord Jesus Christ was quickly rising to fame in Galilee due to mighty words and mighty works. His captivating preaching and conspicuous power were celebrated and sought after. His hearers were amazed then, and even his readers today are amazed. The most valuable response could only arise from a clear appreciation that Jesus’ life was characterized with a balance of power illustrated and disciplined prayer. This reflection examines why he worked the wonders, how he kept his ministry focus, and what he did with the fame.

The visitations of Jesus Christ in synagogues or in homes were great blessings with sweet words and transforming miracles. Mark 1 records Jesus teaching in the synagogue, and thereafter defeating and casting out an unclean spirit; he then went to a friend’s home and powerfully ministered to the town that evening (v.21-34). These actions attested to the Lord’s teaching about the imminent kingdom of God. The evil spirit in the synagogue was seeing more than just a man in Jesus Christ; it was seeing greater power that could expel and even destroy the powers of darkness. This is exactly what happened there and at the evening ministry – Jesus cast out many demons. People should not only hear about but also see the evidence of the more powerful kingdom that Jesus Christ represents; therefore, they should believe his words and put their faith in Him and thereby receive this kingdom.

As to how the Lord kept his ministry focus and effectiveness, one verse is helpful, yet it is almost hidden in the more amazing events: “a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed” (v.35). Prayer is the crucial discipline that characterized the life of this busy man, giving him impetus to work. We are not informed of the exact time when he went out, but it was a great while before day, maybe at 3am or earlier. Many other places record Jesus in prayer, and in some instances he prays all night! The importance of prayer in daily life and especially in ministry cannot be overstated; if the Lord himself needed it, then how about mere mortals? Prayer was the necessary fuel that kept the Lord’s ministry engine running effectively.

With all the great things happening, Jesus was in danger of being made king by force by those who longed for a political liberator. He could have let it be and enjoyed the earthly honour and glory, but he did not. And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out” (v.38). He instead went to other places, so that they may hear and see the kingdom of God. In the same way, earthly glories should never cause one to lose their vision and purpose. More on this will be shared next Sunday.

 

 

The Gospel of Mark: Good News

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)

We will take time and study the Gospel of Mark in this season – the second book in the New Testament. It is the fastest gospel, bringing you Jesus in action straight, without long background and introductory remarks. Right in Chapter One, Jesus is and adult, baptized, in the wilderness, back to Galilee starting a serious preaching career, calling disciples, performing miracles of healing, praying alone, and traveling throughout Galilee preaching and driving out demons. Mark leaves us with a book full of action and energy, presenting with fine details a Worker and a Teacher. A great article in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives detailed description of this book:

A Book of Mighty Works: Judged by the space occupied, Mark is a Gospel of deeds. Jesus is a worker. He hastens from one task to another with energy and decision. It is not strange therefore that the uneventful early years should be passed over. Nor is it strange that miracles should be more numerous than parables. According to Westcott’s classification Mark has 19 miracles and only 4 parables, whereas the corresponding figures for Matthew are 21 to 15 and for Luke 20 to 19. Of the miracles 2 are peculiar to Mark, of the parables only 1. The evangelist clearly records the deeds rather than the words of Jesus.

The Worker Is also a Teacher: Though what has been said is true, yet Mark is by no means silent about Jesus as a teacher. John the Baptist is a preacher, and Jesus also is introduced as a preacher, taking up and enlarging the message of John. Striking references are made to His originality, methods, popularity and matchlessness as a teacher (Mark 1:22). A miracle is definitely declared to be for the purpose of instruction (Mar 2:10), and the implication is frequent that His miracles were not only the dictates of His compassion, but also purposed self-revelations. Not only is He Himself a teacher, but He is concerned to prepare others to be teachers (Mar 3:13-14).

A Book of Graphic Details: There is a multitude of graphic details: Mark mentions actions and gestures of Jesus; Jesus hungers, seeks rest in seclusion and sleeps on the boat cushion; he pities the multitude, wonders at men’s unbelief, sighs over their sorrow and blindness, and rebukes in sadness the wrong thought of His mother and brothers. With many vivid touches we are told of the behavior of the people and the impression made on them by what Jesus said or did. These details strongly suggest the observation of an eyewitness as the final authority, and the geographical references suggest that even the writer understood the general features of the country, especially of Jerusalem and its neighborhood.

As you study more of the book of Mark, remember the ultimate message: “The time has come; the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 

Perseverance: Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel) – Deut 6:4-9

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” This is the blessing that Paul the Apostle prayed for his audience at the end of one of his letters. It has been adapted into a prayer that Christians use frequently; it is probably the most widely known prayer. Among the Jews, the most important part of the prayer service is called the Shema; it is recited twice daily. It is traditional to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.

Perseverance means continuing in a noble activity one is committed to without getting discouraged. It means persistence, determination, diligence, or insistence – a stubborn refusal to give up or even to slow down! We can well understand this by a physical attempt at work or exercise like walking or running a long distance. This perseverance is required even in loving and serving God.

The words Shema Yisrael’ (Hear, O Israel) are the beginning of this famous passage which is taken from Deut 6:4-9. It consists of an affirmation of belief in God’s unity and in His sovereignty over the world, an unconditional love of God, and a commitment to the study of His teachings. It emphasizes the religious duties to love God, to teach the Word of God to one’s children, and to talk of the Word at every possible time. As an effort to remember and recite the Shema and in order to fulfill the Biblical commandment to inscribe the words of the Shema “on the doorposts of your house” (Deut 6:9), a mezuzah is affixed to the doorframe in Jewish homes. The mezuzah is a piece of parchment (often contained in a decorative case) inscribed with specified Hebrew verses (the Shema Yisrael). When one is getting into or out of the house, they touch the mezuzah and recite the Shema.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, he quoted from this very Scripture: “love the Lord your God…” It would be obvious that Deut 6:4-9 is among the most widely known scriptures among the Jews; we learn from their practices high discipline of studying, memorizing and teaching the Word of God to one another and to our children. Most importantly, through accepting Jesus Christ, we reach the epitome of loving God. Many times people say ‘The grace…’ to indicate a conclusion to prayers, without knowing which Scripture it is adapted from (2Cor 13:14), let alone the context. It is a powerful blessing that is many times left to pass as a mere ending. These widely known and recited Scriptures need attention so that the routines do not rob them of their deep and powerful meanings and effects. Take time to think and consider for yourself what it means to love and serve the Lord your God with perseverance – with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.