Monthly Archives: March 2017

Strange Rewards: By Grace

‘Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?Or are you envious because I am generous? “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”’ (Matt 20:15-16)

There are two kinds of people when it comes to the subject of predestination: The first kind say, ‘my fate was already set by God from the beginning; I should live life loose without any effort or strife, for I can change nothing – let come what may’; this type of person exercises little self-control and does anything for survival and self-gratification. Part of their conscience has died and they don’t feel guilty when the steal or sleep with another woman’s husband or another man’s wife. They wonder why the Creator – if He is powerful – could let so much evil and injustice thrive on earth, and finally blame God for having created Satan. They feel powerless to affect their destiny and resign to any effort, leaving their fate to chance or God – if He exists anyway.

The second category of people recognizes God’s power to determine their destiny, but they also recognize their responsibility here on earth, and make every effort as a good steward. They have come to terms that in the world, there is a battle for the soul: Satan on one side is seeking and luring people to his side (and the destination of these is eternal damnation); while on the other hand God expects and calls us to live according to His purpose, which is eternal fellowship with Him. Thus this kind of people get up when they realize they fell down, they turn to God when they realize they were drifting away.

Taking Jesus’ story in Matt 20, if some of the workers who had been hired early in the morning were in the first category, knowing that they will get one denarii just like those who come to the job later in the day, perhaps they would relax and drag and work lazily. Yet as good stewards, the Master expected them to give their best for the whole time! Or if those who were hired at 5pm had given up on learning that they only had one hour while their colleagues had been at work since morning, perhaps these late comers would have resigned and promised to come early the following day, yet the Master expected them to get to work as soon as he hired them.

At the end of the day, every worker was rewarded for keeping their part of the bargain; the Master was faithful. It was only in their own eyes that the deal seemed unfair – for early birds and late comers to get the same pay! Do not tamper with God’s right to do what He wants with His ‘money’ – his grace. Carry out your responsibilities according to the Master’s instructions and by His grace, you will be rewarded. And thank God for His grace towards other people – whether it appears less or greater that what you have received.

God bless you all.

 

 

Your Season of the Lord’s Favour

For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation. (2Cor 6:2)

The farmer understands well the significance of seasons because he needs all of them to be able to harvest with a smile; good rains falling in their time and sunshine following as expected will be an immense blessing to the farmer that was found ready – having planted in good soils at the right time. The good harvest that brings abundance of food will guarantee life to both the farmer and the community. In the history of God’s people, seasons of immense favour were experienced at various points, bringing life and vitality among a people that were facing deathly situations: After 400 years in slavery in Egypt, God poured out his favour and chose to lead the Israelites out of this bondage to form them into a nation. After 70 years of Jerusalem’s desolation and Israel’s captivity, the favour of the Lord flooded and the Persian King sent them back to rebuild the temple and resettle into their capital city.

The most significant season of the Lord’s favour was when Jesus lived here on earth; he accomplished all that was prophesied – healing the sick, releasing captives who had been held in bondages of demonic possession and physical disability, preaching good news to ‘the poor’ who were both in Israel and Gentile territories. Those who acknowledged their need for the life-giving message received Jesus’ ministry with joy. Jesus ushered in a season of grace that we still enjoy until He comes again. When Saul (Paul) encountered Him on the road to Damascus, he had lived a life of deep religious zeal and legalistic righteousness but almost missing the shift in God’s move to save the world. Saul’s encounter sent him ‘back to school’ and he learnt that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the many prophecies he had studied.

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul argues that this Christ-given dispensation of grace is the acceptable time and the day of salvation. This time will end when Jesus comes back, and there will be no more grace! Those who have received Him in this time will enjoy the presence of God in eternity while the others will be eternally separated. It is important that we take advantage of the knowledge of times and seasons: as a University student, sow the seeds that will make you fruitful tomorrow in career and in the Kingdom of God; the seeds of discipline and study. And in the field, every worker must sow the seeds of excellence in order to make full use of the opportunity while it still lasts. Most importantly, none of us should miss the ‘time of salvation’ which is now. The Lord’s ear is inclined and his arms are wide open to receive all that come to Him today.

God bless you all.

 

 

Anointed for Special Assignments

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Isaiah 61:1)

There are many indicators that bespeak an economy that needs a Messiah! News headlines of 87% of graduates unable to find jobs mainly due to skills mismatch, bribery to obtain forged marks and university degrees, hundreds of police officers wanted over loans, collapsing banks due to non-performing loans, and acute food insecurity in parts of such a fertile country Uganda – among others. The country seems to be tied with such ropes that simple human efforts are too weak to break. I know there are many leaders and technocrats who know the level of our challenges deeper and are perhaps working out some form of solutions. Their greatest need is the Spirit of the LORD.

The opening statement of Isaiah 61 evokes memories of a recurrent phrase in Israel’s history during the time of the Judges; the Spirit of the LORD came upon: Othniel, Gideon, and Jephthah and each became Judge for a season and delivered Israel from their enemies and oppressors. The Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon Samson and he liberated himself and all Israel from enemies such as lions and Philistines. The Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon King Saul and he prophesied among the prophets; again and he defeated the Ammonites who had captured and held hostage some Israelites. The Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David when Samuel anointed him king, and he later won many wars and expanded the kingdom.

What then was special with Prophet Isaiah’s declaration, ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me’? On face value, nothing really; for so the situation had been with many other ministers – prophets and kings, who received a special assignment from God. However, in the context of a nation that had slid into perpetual bondage, Isaiah and all other prophets and kings did not fully deliver the promises of deliverance and liberation hoped for by the people of God. They were looking forward to the Messiah, and these words awaited a greater fulfillment indeed.

When Jesus Christ read them in the synagogue, he added ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:17-21). Jesus went ahead in the special assignment of powerful ministry; He forgave sins, healed people, dined with sinners, liberated people from an oppressive law and gave a life, taught uniquely to all, made the great invitation, ‘Follow me’; and finally gave up his life on the cross for all to access salvation. He is the Messiah that the world needed. So we proclaim Him. Every leader today needs the Spirit of the LORD to accomplish that special assignment and deliver the people of God from oppressive situations, following Jesus Christ the ultimate deliverer.

 

 

 

The place of self-denial

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

We live in an era when more than ever before success is measured in terms of the abundance of one’s possessions. The pride in professional life, the integrity of civil service and the modesty of full-time ministry are sacrificed at the altar of mammon. The exciting testimony is not one of revival and renewal but one of exponential material increase – and this is true for both sheep and pastor! In this age when materialism is eating up society to the core, the message of the self-denial would be totally unpopular, yet without it the gospel is incomplete.

In his masterpiece, the Preacher recounts, there is a time for everything: ‘a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to be silent and a time to speak.’ These seasons in life are surely a reality. The Church Year provides for a season of Lent – a season of fasting and self-denial, to be quieter in reflection and prayer, in self-examination and penitence, in preparation for grand ministry assignments. Thus we remember the desert experiences in the lives of the lofty men of God like Moses the Law giver, Job the wealthiest, Elijah the great prophet, and Jesus Christ himself.

Jesus’ experience brings to mind what the Israelites went through in their 40-year journey; both were tested by God and tempted by the Devil. Jesus therefore used the lessons of the earlier experience to defeat the enemy later; yes He was hungry, and yes He could turn stones into bread, but it was neither the right time nor the right commander. At that time God was feeding his Son on much better food – His Word, just like He fed the Israelites on manna; and the answer to the tempter was befitting indeed: ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matt 4:4, Deut 8:3).

In his teaching, Jesus Christ goes ahead to challenge that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions; he then told a parable (Luke 12:13-21) of a rich man who was getting even richer, but because he was not ‘rich toward God’, he was addressed as ‘you fool’! How do you grow rich toward God? Ask, and may the Lord speak to you on this subject as you seek Him earnestly in this season. God forbid that we preach half the gospel – a gospel full of comfort and blessings here on earth, a Christ without the Cross. There must be in the disciple’s life a place for self-denial and taking up one’s cross in order to follow Jesus Christ. It is the journey that will end in a celebration that will never be stopped, eternal joy and peace.

God bless you in this Lent season.