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Musiime Hall – A Gospel Witness

The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. (Joel 3:16-18)

Prophet Joel concludes his short message with an account of the future glory of Judah and particularly the LORD’s house. Physical developments and peace are God’s way of showing us His glory and favour. Prayers to enthrone the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, and giving to build for His glory are very important activities in the Church. We need peace and development seen on Kyambogo hill as our dwelling, our Jerusalem, and we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Prophet Jeremiah and King David in their various messages gave us inspiration and encouragement to pray for our city. And at Kakumba Chapel, it is time to rally our efforts in this direction – 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. Listen to the progress update and seize your opportunity to participate in this noble cause of building.

At least Ugx 280 million has already been spent (since July 2017), and the foundation, gallery (first) and second floor structures are up. Decking and all preparations for the third floor are almost complete. Thank you for your giving!  Next: we hope to cast concrete for this floor this week on 18th-19th July 2018. We need to raise more money for the concrete and the next tasks, which include fixing windows and doors in the lower floors, and building walls to enable the completed sections to be used safely. Meanwhile the University Top Management commended and blessed the project and we are grateful for their continued support. 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.

Joel reminds us through his three chapters that when a hard message comes from the Lord, it is not to discourage us to despair. It is to wake us up and align us to God’s purposes and will; and this starts with repentance, reconciliation, and goes on with re-building and building new structures which stand as testimony of God’s goodness and His glory.

 

 

 

 

The Message of Prophet Joel

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly… bring together the elders, gather the children… Let them say, ‘Spare your people, LORD.’ (Joel 2:15-17, also 1:14-15)

Joel has a chorus for us. When some message is repeated, those accustomed to music are quick to call it a refrain or a chorus, just like ‘Praise the Lord, praise the Lord…’ in the anthem-like hymn ‘To God be the glory’; not many people may know all the verses off-head, but majority will gladly join in the chorus when the few have finished each verse. This chorus normally bears the central message of the hymn, the core that completes each verse, so that if someone knows only the chorus, they know the hymn’s entire message approximately. Songs with a repetitive chorus are easier to learn and remember; even writers of poems and other prose-like pieces find some kind of ‘chorus’ to embed in their writings to facilitate memory for the main point.

Right at the center of the book appears Joel’s chorus: Joel 2:15-17 repeats verses 14-15 of the first chapter. The message is:

Declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.

For the day of the LORD is near!

In Chapter 2 (read), this Day is described as an unstoppable mighty army approaching to conquer and destroy utterly, in the same spirit as the appallingly destructive locusts of Chapter 1. This vivid picture is supposed to frighten all apart from those that will be shielded by the LORD himself – those who call upon Him in spirit and in truth. Hope us unveiled for them in this very Chapter. Unfortunately, many of the others put up an unfounded bravado that makes them deny the veracity of this shaking message; they continue in idolatry, fornication, stealing, or even lukewarm-ness, disregarding the Lord! They hope they will escape somehow by their own might and power, or perhaps the Day will not come at all!

God has assured us of the certainty of this message by bringing surprises in fulfillment of parts of this prophecy. For example, the bewilderment that confounded the cosmopolitan feast at Jerusalem in 27AD demanded explanation beyond the speculations of the spectators. The leader of the fire-spitting tongue-speaking band is Simon Peter, and he will clearly explain; and here is the most important spot where we find Joel standing tall as the Prophet to be quoted in the Pentecost sermon: “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’” (Acts 2:16-17, Joel 2:28). As surely as the Pentecostal outpouring happened, so shall the dreaded Day of the Lord come. Your only hope is to hide in Jesus Christ the Rock.

And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (v.32)

 

 

The Message of Prophet Joel

“Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near” (Joel 1:14-15)

 The bewilderment that confounded the cosmopolitan feast at Jerusalem in 27AD demanded explanation beyond the speculations of the spectators. The leader of the fire-spitting tongue-speaking band is Simon Peter, and he will clearly explain; and here is the most spot where we find Joel standing tall as the Prophet to be quoted in the Pentecost sermon: “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’” (Acts 2:16-17). More of this will follow next week, but for now let us go to the beginning of his good book.

In his opening chapter, the Prophet Joel sharply calls for attention to a calamity that recurs to create worse and devastating calamity! The end is in contrast very bright and hopeful. In his book, there is a progression in the thought, rising from the solid, sorely smitten earth to a region ethereal, and the stages of advance are marked by sudden, sharp calls (Joel 1:2, 1:14; 3:9), or by the blasts of the trumpet which prelude the shifting scenes (Joe 2:1, Joe 2:15).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia paints the contextual picture: The land has suffered from a succession of disasters, the greatest that could befall an agricultural country, drought and locusts. The two are in fact inextricably connected, and the features of both are mixed up in the description of their effects. The extent of the disaster is vividly depicted by the singling out of the classes on whom the calamity has fallen, the drinkers of wine, the priests, the vine-dressers, the husbandmen; and, toward the close of the chapter, the lower animals are pathetically introduced as making their mute appeal to heaven for help (Joel 1:18-20).

If the Day of the Lord does not cause shivers in your body, soul and spirit, you must be made of iron or wood. Who does not feel an electric shock when a loved one is suddenly declared dead? Who does not tremble when a dear friend diagnosis comes through as ‘cancer’? Who is not worried about the nuclear weapons in North Korea? All these only give us a foretaste of how the Day of the Lord will terrorize creation. Joel comes like a doctor to immunize those who listen, so that the Day of the Lord will not take the toll it should have. Joel warns and recommends actions that will keep you safe when that time comes. Long before the Day comes – and it will come suddenly – turn to the Lord in worship, in prayer, in fasting, in total commitment in spirit and in truth – honour the Lord your God according to His Word, and you will be safe and secure, both now and on that Day.

 

 

The Message of the Isaiah: Hope for the Gentiles

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42:1-3)

 Isaiah, the prominent prophet to Judah, brings words of great hope for all people; his 42nd chapter opens with these ‘times of refreshing’. As God introduces his servant, he is described by qualities, purpose, and assignments that amplify the mission of God in the world. In many ways we can deduce who this Servant would be – the Messiah himself, Jesus Christ. In the gospel of Matthew, we can find two sections which are traceable to Isa 42. The servant is well introduced in Matt 12:18-21 after a controversial healing and teaching. He is the hope of the nations – all people groups. The weak that come to him are not broken; the unsure and the wavering are not cast out; the lost find their vision and hope in Him; all who could relate with ‘the smoldering wick’ or ‘the bruised reed’ receive great encouragement. “In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Another instance is of identifying the Servant is when John the Baptist, languishing in prison, sent messengers to confirm whether Jesus was the Messiah (Matt 11:1-6); he sent back a message with his identity sealed in the ongoing mission: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Again here, this is a quotation from Isaiah 42:6-7, from where the hope is bright. Surprisingly, this hope was hidden from John the Baptist, and he suffered some more and finally was beheaded! But to the nations – to the world, the gentiles, all peoples – this hope lives on. Such paradox of God’s operations leaves questions, but the answers are more powerful.

Isaiah’s opening chapter is an attack on false religiosity. In our day, he would be targeting pastors involved in financial fraud, choir and worship team members involved in fornication, dance and drama team members involved in secret sins and indecency, and any church leader or elder putting up a show yet in secret there are dark sports; Isaiah would also be targeting smart church goers who are consistent and seem deeply touched by the worship and message on Sunday morning, yet the rest of the days of the week are spent in the shady streets of naughty life. Isaiah starts off by attacking false religiosity that was abundant in his day and seems to be with us today!

Just like the Servant introduced in Isaiah 42 is hope for the gentiles – for all nations, so is the Message of Isaiah. The call to true worship is directed to all nations. ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed’ (James 5:16). This is the way to be preserved; otherwise, ‘every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire’!

 

 

The Message of the Isaiah: Fruit!

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right… Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Isaiah 1:16-17, Matt 7:19)

Isaiah was a prominent prophet to Judah, who prophesied around 700 years before Christ – a contemporary of Hosea and Micah. He seems to have belonged to a family of high rank given the evident easy access to the king and close proximity with the priest (7:3, 8:2). His writings stand out: “For versatility of expression and brilliance of imagery Isaiah had no superior, not even a rival. His style marks the climax of Hebrew literary art” (ISBE). Isaiah recorded God’s message to Cyrus king of Persia before Cyrus had even been born and before Persia became a great power (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1-6). Isaiah bears at least twenty Messianic Prophecies that have their evident fulfillment in the New Testament. Isaiah is quoted directly more than fifty times in the New Testament – the second most quoted OT book (after Psalms).

So, what was the message of Isaiah? Suffice to start at the beginning of the book, since such a big and prominent scroll may not be hurriedly summarized. Isaiah’s opening chapter is an attack on false religiosity. In our day, he would be targeting pastors involved in financial fraud, choir and worship team members involved in fornication, dance and drama team members involved in secret sins and indecency, and any church leader or elder putting up a show yet in secret there are dark sports; Isaiah would also be targeting smart church goers who are consistent and seem deeply touched by the worship and message on Sunday morning, yet the rest of the days of the week are spent in the shady streets of naughty life. Isaiah starts off by attacking false religiosity that was abundant in his day and seems to be with us today!

Is God really not interested in ‘the multitude of your sacrifices’? How then shall his Priests and Levites survive, and how will the Chapel development project be moved ahead? Money is the blood of any economy; stop its flow and there will be a catastrophe! When God seems to be inviting this situation, there must be a serious point He is making. And the demand that He places above sacrifices must then receive utmost attention: ‘Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right’; in the words of John the Baptist, ‘Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’ Jesus warns strongly that the tree that does not produce good fruit will end up in the fire!

‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed’ (James 5:16). Fortunately, there is a way out – and this is it – for your sacrifices to be accepted, and for amends to be made to restore a joyful fellowship with God and with one another. God bless you all.

 

 

 

The Message of the Former Prophets

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” All the people … fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!”  (1Kings 18:21, 39)

What was the message of the prophets? Today we listen to Elijah as we peek more into this question. A strange vision in which Jesus, Moses and Elijah were seen together is recorded in Matt 17 – The Transfiguration – when Jesus’ countenance was changed, his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Moses and Elijah represented the testimonies borne in the Law and the Prophets about Jesus, whose true identity was now announced by God himself there and then, followed by a command: ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ What God said at this unusual conference is what the prophets preached at different times and to different audiences. They called people to Jehovah God, but also pointed to a Messiah that would come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

Elijah was the first prominent prophet to appear in the Northern Kingdom of Israel amidst a series of wicked kings. Elijah’s ministry was not able to change the hearts of the leaders of his day; after Ahab’s wicked reign and those of the six wicked kings before him, Ahaziah and the twelve kings following him all ‘did evil in the eyes of the LORD’ and ‘caused Israel to commit sin’. Ahab himself is said to have done ‘more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.’ At one point Elijah considered himself the only prophet of God while the idols – Baal – had over 450 prophets; there was such a saturation of sin! Then Elijah fearlessly appeared and in the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated the power of God:

Today:

Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism. The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience.

  • Romantic: Praise and Worship, Intercession, Preaching,
  • Romantic: Relationships, Worship, Business Negotiations

“If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” The prophet thus called on his hearers to return to the LORD and follow him because He alone is God. The drama of rain withheld and the drama of fire come down in answer to Elijah’s prayer were demonstrations for the people, many of whom repented and slaughtered the false prophets that had deceived them for a long time. Do you hear Elijah’s same message in Moses, Samuel, David, Obadiah, Jonah, Hosea, Daniel, John the Baptist, and in Jesus Christ himself? The list is much longer – all speaking the same language; this is no surprise as they were under the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The people saw the sign of fire at the contest at Carmel and declared, ‘The LORD – he is God!’ Today we have seen much more and there is no reason why anyone would stay away: the command also comes to us to Listen and Follow the LORD our God and never to trade Him for anything.

 

The Message of the Prophets

“It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.” (Deut 13:4)

 Happy Uganda Martyrs Day!

Celebrations are rife in Namugongo and in Churches all over the world to commemorate the martyrs of 1886, whose shed blood was the fertile seed of the gospel. The theme message for these celebrations at the Anglican Shrine is: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10). This message ties well with the reflection for this Sunday on an important question: ‘What was the message of the prophets?’ A strange vision in which Jesus, Moses and Elijah were seen together is recorded in Matt 17 – The Transfiguration – when Jesus’ countenance was changed, his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Moses and Elijah represented the testimonies borne in the Law and the Prophets about Jesus, whose true identity was now announced by God himself there and then.

The first abandoned child recorded in the Bible, Moses, went on to become an Egyptian prince, a murderer, then a refugee. He later received a divine call, and carried out a revolutionary mission to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt; he saw God; he received the Law.

The message of the prophets has been encapsulated in Moses’ message to Israel: It is the LORD your God you must follow, obey him; serve him. Across different generations and by various messengers, it has been put in different words, given different illustrations both literary and physical; and finally the Apostle John heard the voice of an angel sending the same message in the words, ‘be faithful unto death’. Do you hear this message in Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Ezekiel, Daniel, John the Baptist, and in Jesus Christ himself? The list is much longer – all speaking the same language; this is no surprise as they were under the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

For the martyrs, it was King Mwanga and his establishment that sought to shake the young men that decided to be faithful unto death, and indeed they died. Today, we are faced with many factors that would shake the believer; the shakers seem even more flimsy but many are misled nonetheless. False teachers deceive people with signs and miracles, and age-old doctrines are abandoned. Some institutions and governments have doctrines that men have traded for the Kingdom of God! And most hurting is the age of romanticism: in the period of the Judges ‘all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes’ because there was no godly leadership. This seems to come back now and has been made official through certain ‘human rights’ without due consideration of what our Creator has given us as rights.

Listen again to the message of the Prophets; in heeding the same is your life. It takes determination to stand out from the crowds that are taking the easy way (that leads to destruction); it takes deliberate effort to be faithful to the gospel. Take the stand and be faithful.

 

They should not perish!

“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

(Isaiah 6:8, John 3:16)

The Church calendar is at a turning point – today is Trinity Sunday, and we celebrate the team of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God sent His Son, and when Jesus Christ ascended, the Father and the Son ‘sent’ the Holy Spirit. Remember in the Nicene Creed: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit … who proceeds from the Father and the Son; with the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified; and He spoke through the prophets.’ This team has been working from the beginning, and was manifested in a fresh way at the Baptism of Jesus Christ and in the events leading up to Pentecost. Gilbert Rorison’s work lives on especially in this hymn of the season that addresses God in the Trinity:

Three in One and One in Three, Ruler of the earth and sea,

Hear us, while we lift to Thee, Holy chant and psalm.

Three in One and One in Three, Faint our songs on earth may be;

Yet in heaven’s glory we shall adore your name.

The series of ‘sendings’ from Father to Son to Spirit are the epitome of God’s work on mission to save humankind. God at some points also sent fellow men to reach out to their brothers and sisters – all to the end that they should not perish in rebellion. Recall again the mission of this church: “To rouse and send God’s people… as disciples of Jesus Christ and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God…” The sending is according to how God has always carried out His mission. The entire Bible is full of such episodes. We will spend the months of June and July exploring and learning about the Prophets and their Message as those who were sent by God to His people.

In today’s texts we encounter Isaiah before the Lord answering the long standing question – ‘whom shall I send?’ We have much to learn from Isaiah – he was sent so that those who would heed his message would be saved. However, it is in Jesus Christ that we find the fulfillment of God’s mission. Whoever believes in Him ‘should not perish’ – and whoever does not believe in Him will surely perish! Anyone burdened about peoples’ welfare should not only end at the physiological – providing food, drink, clothing, healthcare and the like; the greater need of life eternal is real and has been on God’s heart for ages.

Jesus Himself commissioned his disciples: ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ (John 20:21) The purpose is the same – ‘they should not perish’. It is true that we still have people around us heading to death because of unbelief; because they have not put their trust in and surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. Do you hear the voice: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

 

 

 

 

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They… believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me.” (John 17:8-9)

 The Feast of Weeks is just a week away. It is also called the Feast of Pentecost. It falls due seven weeks after the Feast of Passover. While Passover was transformed by the True Lamb of God slain once for all, and His Victorious Resurrection, the Pentecost was transformed by the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower the disciples for the mission Jesus left them with. But before this time, Jesus was taken up to heaven in a dramatic style witnessed by many disciples and recorded in Acts 1:6-11. This fulfilled the prophecy he echoed many times: ‘I will remain in the world no longer… I am coming to you’ (John 17:11) and in many other places in the Gospels. Jesus did many things to prepare for this situation – to arrange for his disciples spiritual welfare while He is gone; I consider this as most important part of that preparation: Jesus looked into heaven and prayed for his disciples.

The entire John 17 chapter is a record of important prayers that Jesus addressed to his Father. For now let us focus on two important aspects of these prayers: protection and sanctification. His prayer was for God to ‘protect them by the power of your name; … not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one’. Jesus is aware of the dangerous wild animals around us; he is aware of opportunistic enemies; and he is aware of the father of all lies, the devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour. Are you afraid of an approaching leopard? Are you afraid of destructive elephants? Are you afraid of enemies who pretend to be your friends? Jesus prayed for every believer’s protection against the chief enemy, the greatest disaster, the evil one. With this protection, be confident that a thousand may fall to your right, ten thousand to your left, but you will remain safe and secure in the Lord’s caring arms.

The other prayer was for God to ‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.’ Here is the remedy for those whose minds just can’t settle; those whose minds have been corrupted with perversion; those whose hand can’t let go of that dangerous drink or that wicked woman. God’s Word has power to sanctify and heal the mind and the body; He has the power to break bondages of every kind and set the slaves free to live in the Kingdom of God. Jesus prayed that you would be sanctified by God’s Word. Give thanks to the Lord who prayed for you; accept and walk in the protection and sanctification that He claimed for you; only by these shall we follow Him to eternity in the presence of the Father.

 

 

Walking in Obedience

“Walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” “I am the Lord’s servant.” (Deut 5:33, Luke 1:38)

Arrive Alive – this was a campaign by our Roads Authority some years ago, and with it came various police checks on vehicles and drivers on the road. More recently it was translated as Fika Salama. The purpose was to significantly reduce road accidents, which claim many lives; a recent documentary revealed that 18 people perish monthly in road accidents on Jinja Road alone! A reading from Deuteronomy brings memories of a journey in which many perished; all adults that started the journey did not arrive alive except only two! It definitely was not due to fatal road accidents; why then did they perish?

The Israelites met barriers along the way to their promised land; the physical barriers were not deterrent or dangerous – God Almighty carried them across the Red Sea, across the dry desert, and across the Jordan River. It was rather the barrier of disobedience that claimed many lives. Call it rebellion. You have a destiny according to God’s plan, and you must overcome three barriers on your way so that you arrive alive, prosper and prolong your days in your destiny, both here and in eternity.

The first barrier is Ignorance: Thomas confessed they did not know (John 14:5), and he represented many of us. God has dealt with this by revealing abundant knowledge in His Word. The Word gives us clear direction; lack of knowledge will no longer be a barrier. The second is Remoteness: Abundant knowledge can be inaccessible because it is far away or in a foreign tongue; God has dealt with this by sending familiar messengers: Moses for the Israelites of his day, and our preachers for us today – they speak our languages and bring the Word close to you. The third is Rebellion: This is yours to deal with. Having heard the instructions from the Word of God, walk in obedience; overcome weakness and impatience; do not give up on the way. To obey is better than sacrifice or mere routine religiosity (1Sam 15:22, Hosea 6:6).

Mary gave us a good example and a good line when she answered the messenger from God; the unexpected message was phenomenal and would transform her life forever, yet it was received with an obedient disposition: “I am the Lord’s servant.” This is true for all of us, but only those who agree actively and obey His instructions will receive the blessings of obedience. We celebrate Mary as the mother of Jesus Christ, and an example of godliness. She fulfilled her calling and lived contented in her destiny here on earth. We believe that she is enjoying her eternal destiny in heaven where there is joy everlasting. Do you want to arrive alive? Do you want to live and prosper and prolong your days in your destiny? Walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you.