Monthly Archives: May 2017

Living For God in Christ

“live for the rest of the time … by the will of God. Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness… and lawless idolatry.”  (1Pet 4:2-3)

After the victory of Jesus Christ, Peter now points his listeners to a future where they should be controlled by the will of God, as opposed to the past where they were controlled by the rebellious nature. Christ’s victory is the source of the believer’s power to live by the will of God. In the past, another force controlled this person and mauled him in the mire of all that ‘the Gentiles like to do…’ How would you face that force – like the Philistine that kept Israel in bondage until David appeared? No, until a boy that trusted in the power of God appeared. Only this trust could salvage this nation. Israel was dismayed, terrified, deeply shaken and greatly afraid. They couldn’t advance to fight, they couldn’t pray, they couldn’t think, they couldn’t answer the challenge! Some vices listed above grip like a strong man, and Peter knows no other power to beat them other than Jesus Christ.

How do you face difficult times? Let us quickly observe (in 1Sam 17) that when all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified, they had only heard the Philistine’s words – and they had not considered the Lord God with them. One way to face such frightening situations is to freeze and go numb as one stung and paralyzed, or to panic in fear just as the Israelites were greatly shaken. When all you hear are the words of that enemy and all you see is the large size of that problem and all you think about is the complexity of the situation, your strength will go down and it can make you sick. Yes, we may hear the Philistine’s words – the times may be difficult and the load may be heavy, but we should not succumb and respond without hearing some more – hearing from the Lord God who is on our side.

Even the Philistine, he was looking at the armies of Israel and saying, ‘I defy…’ – thinking, this is just another nation; he had not considered the God of that nation, who is also a mighty fighter. This ignorance continued when he spoke to David contemptuously… but he learnt some news when David responded with words and action: ‘I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel’ (1Sam 17:45). This is the winning posture: Listen all the way; when you hear what God is saying, the Philistine’s words will not shake you. When you know the Power of God who is with you, you can face that mountain with confidence that you will surmount it.

 

Jesus Christ was the ultimate revelation of God’s power to win – God’s power to overcome every bondage physical or spiritual. Living for God is the ultimate purpose of your creation, and the way to fulfill this purpose is only in Christ Jesus. May the Lord be your light daily that you will live to the fullness of God’s purpose for your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the steps of the Martyrs

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, … “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56)

This again is the season to remember and draw inspiration from those who were faithful to the end – the Uganda Martyrs who are remembered year after year; there are other annual feasts celebrated in honor of different saints, known and unknown, including apostles, evangelists and martyrs – whose life of faithful devotion and witness remains a great encouragement for today’s believers. William’s old hymn captures well the important theme:

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold. Alleluia, Alleluia!

These saints were faithful to the end and now form the Church triumphant where ‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’, while believers on earth are the Church militant where as Paul the Apostle encourages Timothy, they ought to ‘Fight the good fight of the faith.’ Faithful means manifesting a true spirit to a person to whom one is bound by a promise, a pledge, honor, or love. Walking in their steps demands a continual encouragement of one another until we behold the Lord as Stephen did in the hour of his death. Indeed it was the hour of his entrance into a new glorious life – and this seems to have been the same experience for many martyrs.

Our meditation today is from a very important prayer that the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians – and this should top any other matter on your list; make the need expressed in this prayer the most desired and the opening prayer item at every opportunity – ‘to be strengthened with power …  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’, and, above all other things, this is my prayer for you beloved of the Lord.

They came from different backgrounds but were bound by their faith in Jesus Christ. God respects faithfulness in following Him, no matter where you are coming from. In our following the Lord, we have many examples of faithful endurance – the martyrs of Uganda occupying a clear place in the list. Like the saints we commemorate, if you remain faithful to the end, God in His faithfulness has accepted you. Let us walk in their steps and support one another to tell generations to come of the exemplary witness and faithfulness to spur more people on to the same path. God bless you.

 

 

 

 

Worship in Spirit and Truth

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Introduction: The question on worship was a good way to deflect a conversation that was getting personal and uncomfortable as Jesus Christ poked deeper into the life of the Samaritan woman in John 4. Who wants to discuss with a strange man passed relationships that went bad? Not with the mix of hurt, regret, ‘I was the bad one’ and ‘he disappointed me’ feelings. ‘So, if he is a prophet that has discerned all my life, let us discuss another matter: Worship’, thought the woman. Her question invoked a teaching that is the subject of this reflection. In his answer, the Lord deflected her mind from peoples (Jews or Gentiles) and places (Jerusalem or Gerizim) to point her to what acceptable worship is: God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

People and Worship: The concept of people groups is a reality, but the Lord is concerned rather with true worshippers. Worship is at the heart of every people group and culture; when the ark of God was captured, or when the Temple was ransacked and destroyed in war, Israel felt terribly violated, raped, and desecrated; similarly when , or when Dagon fell and broke into pieces, Philistia was shaken to the core. Worship is an essential fabric that ties people together; it is a centerpiece which when broken things fall apart.

Do not be deceived with the term ‘atheist’. They too have a religion and celebration times and places – whether at the casino or golf course or some free mason house or some other meeting point. However, this article must now concentrate on Christian Worship.

Worship (definitions): “Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (Exodus 4:23). This passage appears 8 times in Exodus between chapters 4 and 10. The Hebrew word translated as ‘worship’ in this verse is ‘awbad’ which means ‘to work, serve, till, be enslaved’. This is clearly both ritual (the retreat and ceremony to which the Hebrews were being required to go for) and life – as these words are clearly applicable – to work, serve or being enslaved by a master.

The Greek in John 4:23 is ‘proskuneo’ translated as worship means ‘to kiss, prostrate oneself in homage, reverence, adore’. There is here also evidence a master-servant relationship, in which the worshipper has a perpetual obligation of service and honour to the master. This still goes to both ritual and life.

To worship in spirit and truth brings in the idea of worship going beyond outward show; the spirit is the heart – the intangible, the will. The entire being of the worshipper must be inclined and wholly sold out to honour the master. Truth in John’s gospel points to Jesus Christ himself: He is the true light (1:9, 14), the true bread (6:32), the true (living) water (4:10) the truth (14:1), and the true vine (15:1). Jesus Christ is therefore the way to true worship.

Deflection – the problem: The problem lies in arguments and monuments that deflect or distract the worshipper from the master. For the Samaritan woman, the debate on the place of worship seems to have been blinding her from the real tenets of true worship. In similar vein, legalistic righteousness can overshadow worship in spirit and truth. We have had examples of such deflection schemes in the media and politics.

 True Worship: Several Bible passages illustrate the necessity for ritual and life to move together if worship is to be acceptable to the Father:

1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Isa 1:15 When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Isa 29:13-14 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote;  therefore, behold, I will again do marvelous things with this people, wonderful and marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid.”

Isa 58:6-7 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Justice is a prerequisite for acceptable worship – in spirit and in truth. In practice it is a full circle of work and service, as well as ritual celebration – such as in church: epitomized with music, dance, offering, and the important ministry of the Word.

In conclusion and in summary:

  • The hour is now. The call has been on for a long time – not just when Jesus spoke to the woman.
  • True worshippers are what the Father seeks. Regardless of your dichotomous belonging – religious or tribal – it is important to focus whether or not you relate with the Father as a true worshipper.
  • Deflections are numerous and every intending worshipper must avoid and clearly focus on the master in order to keep their obligation.
  • Worship has the two major components, which both are important and must-haves: the ritual and the life.
  • In spirit and truth means faithfully in life and in ritual, and that is the only acceptable worship.

God bless you all.

Jesus our Cornerstone

As you come to him – the living Stone… you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house… through Jesus Christ. 

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1Peter 2:4-6)

 The most thrilling news after the resurrection came from those who saw the Lord Jesus Christ alive; they spoke to others with a renewed hope and excitement that would not die down in ages. Jesus appeared to his disciples at various occasions, and these appearances gave rise to reviving testimonies to a crest-fallen generation at the time when they needed salvation most. They are summarized in part by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1Co 15:5-8):

‘and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.’

It is now Peter’s turn to testify: he spoke boldly from the day of Pentecost and kept on preaching and teaching both Jews and Gentiles. In today’s focus passage 1Peter 2:1-12, he exalts Jesus Christ as the living Stone, the precious stone in Zion chosen and laid by God, the chief Cornerstone. It has a dual effect depending on how one responds to this revelation: to those who do not believe and reject Jesus Christ, the Stone causes them to stumble and fall; but those who believe and trust in Him will never be put to shame – they become living stone and together form a spiritual House founded on Christ, and God dwells in them – what a fellowship, what a joy divine!

There are questions you should ask yourself: Are you excited about the resurrection – about Jesus Christ the living Stone? Do you believe and trust in Him? Do you know who you are in Christ and why? There are some three actions Peter emphasizes for those who believe: You need to ‘grow up in your salvation’ (v.2), and that is why we should continually feed on the bread of His Word; secondly, we are to keep ‘offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God’ (v.5), and that is why we must remain connected to and founded in Jesus Christ the chief High Priest; thirdly, you are to ‘declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’ (v.9), and that is why you were chosen and set apart. This declaring is by word of testimony like the apostles did, and deed; the call to holiness is not just a call to justice and being good, rather it is a call to shine the attractive and reviving light of Christ so that people ‘may see your good deeds and glorify God’ (v.12).

We cannot grow in salvation or offer acceptable spiritual sacrifices or shine reviving light unless we are rooted in the chief Cornerstone. In this Easter season, remember that the great hope restored is too exciting to keep to yourself; share it widely and joyfully.

 

 

 

Prophesied: ‘He had to suffer’

“Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained … (Luke 24:26-27)

 After the resurrection, Jesus Christ appeared to his disciples at various occasions. These appearances gave rise to reviving testimonies to a crest-fallen generation at the time when the needed salvation most. They are summarized in part by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1Co 15:5-8):

‘and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.’

The case of Cleopas and his friend was very dramatic, and they too came to Jerusalem and gave testimony that Jesus is alive. This good news is too good to keep – it must be broadcast and shared widely.

But let us draw lessons from the drama: Cleopas and his friend were on the road to Emmaus and their countenance and discussion were hopelessly sad! They were lamenting and mourning the death of their hero, the one they ‘had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel’. Now he was dead and buried, but his grave had been vandalized – very perplexing! Perhaps they had only hoped according to their own wishes and understanding. This was the basis of the attack on them by this ‘stranger’ who joined their conversation, and started explaining from Moses and all prophets that this Redeemer had to suffer first before entering his glory.

They had read the prophets, but had they understood? Had they accepted and believed the entire message? Yes, Moses wrote about God speaking to the serpent, ‘he [the woman’s offspring] will crush your head’ but he also wrote, ‘and you will strike his heel.’ Isaiah wrote first ‘it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer’ and then ‘Therefore I will give him a portion among the great’ (Isa 53:10-12); King David had similar sequences in his prophetic Psalms. Indeed the Scriptures were not unclear about the Suffering Messiah.

Two lessons must stand out: reading and believing the Scriptures is paramount to a believer that would progress on the journey of salvation until we come to the eternal Kingdom through Jesus Christ. Secondly, when the journey goes through a valley of suffering, our heads should not bow down and sink into blinding disappointment – disappointment that makes one forget great and hope-filled promises. Without ignoring and denying the moment of pain, the believer ought to look forward to the greater gain and victory that is assured by our loving God. The Messiah walked a similar journey and conquered the greatest enemy. Now he reigns forever and ever, and we shall reign with Him. Hallelujah!