Monthly Archives: April 2017

Zeal for the House of the Lord

For I endure scorn for your sake… zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. (Psalm 69:7-9)

 When Jesus Christ entered the temple and drove out those who were selling and making the House of God a marketplace, it was clear that he was being driven by some strong force. The disciples remembered the scripture in Psalm 69:9 – ‘zeal for your house consumes me’! The story in John 2:12-17 is clearly dramatic and a vivid expression of this zeal. The psalm brings out more details of what could have been reeling in the mind and heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. It evidently pertains to an individual sufferer; a man who regarded himself as suffering on account of his zeal for the service of God. It is this fact which is laid at the foundation of the psalmist’s prayer for the divine intervention in earlier verses.

There are other passages in this psalm which are applied in the New Testament to the Messiah and his times: Paul in Rom 15:3 also relates Jesus Christ with Ps 69:9b ‘the insults of those who insult you fall on me’; indeed as the sufferer recounts how he was ‘hated without reason’ in verse 4, Pilate himself would testify that he could not find a case against the Christ about who shouts of ‘Crucify him!’ were growing louder! Although these passages may be of so general a character that they do not seem to have been designed to refer exclusively to the Messiah, His life was clear embodiment of these descriptions. In the psalm, the sufferer first describes his condition (verses 1-6); he then represents himself as suffering in the cause of God (verse 7-13). He then prays to be delivered from these troubles (verses 14-18).

In John 2, Jesus is clearly evangelistic when he speaks of two places: ‘my Father’s house’ and ‘a market’. In his mind are deep expectations of what should be happening in the Father’s house – a house of prayer, fellowship, worship, testimony, studying the Scriptures, reconciliation, renewing commitment to justice – and these for both Jews and Gentiles who come here; yes, even Gentiles had a space where they could worship at the Temple. The focus of activity had gone away from these and turned to the market activities that were rife in the court of the Gentiles! When you see something going wrong, it is good to respond; it is good to express zeal for a noble cause.

It is good to re-point the people to the main point. It is good to pursue the right cause even when this may involve some suffering. We have just commemorated the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, his death and victorious resurrection. He had you in mind as he went through it all; to restore you to God our Father in warm and loving fellowship. His zeal took him that far. So should our zeal be for His house and the gospel.

 

 

 

The Work of the Holy Spirit

… all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul,
(Acts 19:10-11)

 Talk of sending as sheep among wolves, and Paul exemplifies this well. This Apostle’s mission in Ephesus was transformational. It touched the city’s life religiously, socially and economically. Ephesus was “the guardian of the temple of the great [goddess] Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven” – so they believed, and her worship was widespread; the business of idols was booming, with natives and visitors buying these idols and relics to worship this goddess. Even after Apollos’ mission and the formation of the 12-man Christian fellowship, there seems to have been no significant effect on the life of this city. They had believed, were baptized, they probably met regularly, but in terms of effects on city life, there was nothing to write home about.

That city’s foundations were spiritual, and only the Holy Spirit could move them. It is not uncommon that we try to do in our own human might and wisdom things that are beyond that realm; truly there is a breakthrough that requires the power of the Holy Spirit – in your career, or your relationships, or in your finances, or your business; but more significantly in the extension of the Kingdom of God among different peoples and places, the power of the Holy Spirit is indispensable. Don’t try to convert hard hearted people by your clever and articulate preaching or rivers of baptism; do not try drive out evil spirits using chloroquine injections or radiotherapy machines! Only the power of the Holy Spirit can shake such foundations, and we need Him even today.

In Ephesus, when the work of the Holy Spirit was manifested, when the believers were filled, the power released lifted a blockade and the Word of God was preached and received by all. To teach and preach the powerful gospel, we need the Holy Spirit. People came to repent and confessed their sins and gave them up; they were unashamed and bold to accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour in public. For that boldness to give up sin and receive salvation, we need the Holy Spirit. Healings and deliverances were witnessed as the Name of Jesus was invoked in prayers; there were extraordinary miracles as well; for convincing signs and total healing of body and soul, we need the Holy Spirit. The city’s economy changed; the business of idols started a sharp decline as many people turned to and worshipped the Almighty God. For cleansing and positive transformation of our cities and villages, we need the Holy Spirit. He has work in your life as an individual, as a family, and as a community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resurrection: Exalted to the Highest Place.

 He humbled himself… Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (Philippians 2:8-10).

Jesus Christ was crucified, he died and was buried. And what happened next? Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph over his enemies. He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign. This victory is the greatest that has ever been, and today we celebrate with this as our own. Jesus won this victory much humility that is summarized in one word: the Cross! Writing to the Philippians, Apostle Paul is full of evidence of his own celebration – in his living hope despite mundane sufferings, in the new citizenry imputed by Christ, and in his testimony about Jesus Christ.

Paul uses Christ’s experience of suffering to call upon his hearers to humility that will finally result in being exalted just like Jesus was exalted to the highest place. Philippi was a city full of Roman veterans trained in the Roman wars to hardness and discipline and loyalty; they were proud of being Roman citizens. Paul exhorts them to behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ (Php 1:27), and he reminds them that though they were proud of their Roman citizenship, as was he, they all had become members of a heavenly commonwealth, citizenship in which was a much greater benefit. He later explicitly states that “Our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). This has been facilitated by the humility, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Philippians is a letter of love and joy. Paul is elated, and one theologian has summarized the message of this letter as, “I rejoice, rejoice ye!” He might be scourged in one city and stoned in another, imprisoned in a third and left for dead in a fourth, but as long as he retained consciousness and as soon as he regained consciousness, he rejoiced! Nothing could dampen his spirit. Nothing could disturb his peace. In Philippi he had been scourged and cast into the inner prison and his feet had been made fast in the stocks, but at midnight he and Silas were singing hymns of praise to God. He later wrote the letter in prison in Rome, but he is still rejoicing! Paul is old and worn and in prison, but some 20 times in the course of this short letter to the Philippians he uses the words, joy, rejoice, peace, content, and thanksgiving. Paul’s life similarly paints a picture of one that humbled himself and was exalted.

The fullest and most important putting of theology of the incarnation and exaltation is a short passage in Php 2:5-11; he is exhorting the Philippians to humility, and he says to them, ‘have the mind which was in Christ who emptied himself and then was exalted’. He was equal with God, but He emptied Himself of the omnipotence and the omniscience and the omnipresence, and was found in form as a man, a genuine man obedient to God in all His life. May his humility and the power that raised him to life and to the highest place be your aspiration this Easter season and beyond.

God bless you.

 

 

The Cost of Following Jesus Christ.

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. …

He said to another man, ‘Follow Me.’ (Luke 9:51,59)

Uganda is a country where citizens are familiar with wars and gun fire. We have fought at world war fronts and in our local villages; ambushes by rebel fighters and Karimojong warriors before the disarmament robed us of our brothers and sisters and friends. One Gonahasa survived several such ambushes and vowed never to use roads but to always fly to his workplace in Kotido. After a few years, he felt confident to drive again, and on his way back with visitors from Kampala, just after Moroto town, they were ambushed and he was shot dead! It was always that costly working in a fire-infested region; many Christian and humanitarian workers and our dear armed forces risked their lives going to such places, and some paid the ultimate price – they were killed!

At one point in his life, Jesus lamented over the city of Jerusalem as one that killed prophets – a bloody city full of hypocrites; yet, even after many threats on his life and knowing fully the plan of his enemies, he ‘resolutely set out for Jerusalem’! Every Palm Sunday is an opportunity to remember Jesus’ triumphal entry – being received as a King, yet less than a week later there would be shouts of ‘crucify him!’ He foresaw all these things, and accepted God’s perfect will for the redemption of humankind, and He was willing to pay the full and ultimate price. There are lessons to learn from our Lord’s final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-62).

The Samaritan opposition seems to have stemmed from a jealousy that was oblivious of Jesus’ final destination and the importance of this trip. Unfortunately, Jesus’ followers had to suffer and feel this resentment to the point of calling down fire – they were really angered. Jesus’ response (he stopped their intervention) shows us that some of the suffering has to be endured and perhaps is part of the cost of following this Master.

There were also half-hearted volunteers and those who gave various excuses when called, not knowing that the cost is much higher. There comes a time when following the Lord is not just fun and joking and comfortable business, but serious devotion and separating oneself from all that would distract and focusing on the caller and giver of divine direction. When you come to that point, be ready to pay the cost. It may be uncomfortable and painful today, but the joy of a race well run and fight well fought is immeasurably more. Just like those who for earthly causes have paid with blood, Jesus for the salvation of the world paid the ultimate price in Jerusalem on the cross. It will never cost you more – but you have to willingly surrender and yield when you hear his voice calling and saying, ‘Follow Me.’

God bless you!

 

 

Stewardship and Leadership

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38)

Today is a special day to commemorate Mary the mother of Jesus. I will draw from two instances where she sets a great example of stewardship and leadership. But before going that far, it is an opportunity to celebrate our dear mothers who play a unique and essential role in our lives. I have clear memories of my own mother disciplining me as a child, taking us to the garden, and to the market to assist on her stall, teaching me how to bake cakes and chapatti and sell them, visiting me at school, teaching us to read the Bible and pray – lots of memories; and she still so cares even today! My father and mother work together on all these things, but today’s opportunity to celebrate the mothers could just not pass me by. All of us have profound testimonies about that special woman who mothered you: We praise the Lord for these dear women of great value.

Mary’s story unfolds when she is in a conversation with an Angel; the messenger from the Lord had brought an assignment from the Lord. Yours may not have been brought by Angel Gabriel in the spectacular manner that Mary experienced, but you too for certain have an assignment from the Lord. What is your assignment? Whether you accept it like Mary or not, you are the Lord’s servant; that’s what we have been created for. Mary’s example is one of loyal submission. When you hear the Lord’s call, do not harden your heart; this may be in your ‘secular’ job – how you should transact to honour the Lord, or in your voluntary service in Church or elsewhere. The question of your assignment from the Lord is not to be ignored.

The second Mary instance was at Cana of Galilee: She noticed a crisis to which she wanted to contribute a solution; there was no more wine and while joy was fading and the party could easily end prematurely, there was a looming embarrassment as well! The crises in our world today call for us to follow Mary’s example and not just turn a deaf ear and a blind eye, but notice and point out these difficulties to Jesus Christ. You may not have the solution, but you can point them to the solution. This is good stewardship and leadership. After some negotiations, the problem was no more. Hard work and good stewardship brings satisfaction, confidence, health and joy. After Mary’s example, may the Lord help us to continually be good and faithful servants.

God bless you!