Monthly Archives: June 2017

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit

And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:11)

What shall save us from conflicts and crisis? It is 20 days now since Qatar was plunged into bondage, as five surrounding countries abruptly cut off diplomatic relations. Reading the news, it is clear that the Middle East is not short on crisis: Syria remains engulfed by wars and the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II; Iraq faces conflict with ISIS over Mosul. In Yemen, 18.8 million are in need of aid triggered by both conflict and a naval and aerial blockade, with nearly 100,000 suffering from cholera. And now the Qatar crisis is here!

Withdrawing ambassadors and imposing trade and travel bans left the country without access to the source of almost 80% of their food supplies. Aircraft registered in Qatar cannon fly to the countries that cut diplomatic ties and vice versa. Qatar Airways had built Doha into an international hub, competing with Dubai and Abu Dhabi for long-haul travel. At some point net bookings for all airlines flying in and out of Doha for global destinations swung to minus 23,000 as a wave of cancellations hit Qatar. The airline also operates daily flights between Entebbe and Doha, making flights (now via Iran) last about two hours longer.

Reading Acts 12 paints a picture of another Middle East city in conflict. Jerusalem shed blood of innocent Apostle James, and locked up Peter in a maximum security prison for no crime. When reigning powers are strangling a helpless people, who shall deliver us from such bondage? Does Qatar presume that their oil and gas or trade savings and other international connections will deliver them? And what exactly was the church praying about in the case of the imprisoned Peter? In this homily I remind you of two points: First, there are matters that demand using human wisdom, energy, diplomacy and responsible stewardship; and we should not be lazy – all gifts and resources must be put to use to address challenges we meet – you don’t need a miracle there; God condemns laziness! But, secondly, there are also situations that require divine intervention, and only the Holy Spirit will lift that burden.

I believe our world today needs the intervention of the Holy Spirit, and prophets and prayer warriors need to stand in the gap than ever before. Is it a situation at personal or family level? Do not be assuming and proud; do not be ashamed to kneel down in surrender and confess before God your need for help. This is how Peter was delivered from prison. And in matters of regional and international peace, armies and diplomats have their have their duties, but the prayer warrior’s duty cannot be denied. There are believers affected by the crises above; and the people of God who need salvation in Jesus Christ cannot hear the gospel while the fire of guns rages on. In these matters the voice of God can be heard saying, ‘Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit’.

 

 

“We will serve the LORD”

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:14-15)

It puzzles many people if a soldier engaged in killing by shooting in battles as his usual occupation can be truly a born again Christian, or more so a preacher! News headlines are made by people engaged in activities in which they are least expected. Such occurrences bring to memory the words of Dr. Ben Carson about the American nation “The pledge of allegiance to our flag says we are one nation under God. Many courtrooms in the land on the wall it says ‘In God We Trust.’ Every coin in our pocket, every bill in our wallet says ‘In God We Trust.’ So if it’s in our founding documents, it’s in our pledges, in our courts and it’s on our money, but we’re not supposed to talk about it, what in the world is that? In medicine it’s called schizophrenia. And I, for one, am simply not willing to kick God to the curb.” There are such bad contradictions – where one finds ugliness where beauty is expected, wrong where right is expected, wickedness where righteousness is expected, doubt where faith is expected, atheism where Christianity reigned for centuries.

Joshua was a good ‘contradiction’ – a valiant soldier deeply in love with God. He is first introduced in Exodus 17 as a victorious commander of the Israelite army against the Amalekites, but he immediately combines this warrior status with being a servant and disciple of Moses. ‘Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tent.’ (Ex 33:11). I love this discipline of abiding in the presence of God. Joshua’s resolve to serve the Lord is deeply rooted; it does not just appear at the end of his life. Joshua’s lasting legacy are words I have seen in many languages and in living rooms: ‘… we will serve the Lord’ as a family commitment.

At his retirement, Joshua preached his final sermon and challenged the people to make the ultimate choice (Josh 24). Joshua reminded the Israelites of all the wonders of Jehovah throughout the Exodus until they conquered and possessed the Promised Land; he reminded them of the instructions God gave them to guarantee their welfare, longevity and productive stewardship. And Joshua demanded a response as he threw to them the challenge of making a choice. What follows is a rushed acceptance of the people who promised to serve Jehovah, but Joshua contested such a response. The decision must be deeply rooted and not just an emotional excited flame that dies down as soon as you go back home. The decision must be part of the fabric that holds any family and generation that will fulfill God’s purpose for our life here on earth. It is a decision which every member of the family line is welcome to reinforce in their time. It is the best decision you can make for yourself and your family. Just like it was for Joshua, this choice can and should be your greatest legacy as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Family – Out of Reverence for Christ

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” (Eph 5:21,22,25)

Today we celebrate the Blessed Trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; their oneness and agreement is seamless; and what an opportune day to talk about love and family, with the Three Persons as the perfect example. We don’t really have to quote Aristotle to be convinced that man is by nature a social animal; about needs fundamental to human fulfillment, Stephen Covey offers the summary, ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy’. The need for love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. This need is fulfilled at various levels: in loose acquaintances, close friendships, and at the deepest level, in the family. The Creator’s design was that this social need should find its ultimate satisfaction in family – a foretaste of our relationship with God as Father.

The family institution has suffered abuse in the course of time: many boys engage girls, then they can’t sustain the commitment and they let go; many consummate immature love in pre- and extra-marital sex that results in physical and emotional health hazards and lost children; others stop cultivating the relationships within a seemingly healthy family, and in goes stale sooner or later! In these last days, the abuses have gone to the epitome of not only openly condoning but also legally authorizing unnatural relations in the name of freedoms.

However, regardless of where you find yourself, it is important to cultivate healthy relationships with those who are now your family members, in the will and purpose of God. Paul the Apostle offers the view that true love is the indispensable binder in any healthy relationship. In fact, love binds all virtues together in perfect unity. In family, love goes beyond philanthropy, which overtly takes an expression of material giving, but is instead expressed in willing submission, mutual respect, obedience, considerateness, wholehearted service – and all these not just for a show or for fear of repercussions, but in reverence for the Lord. Paul’s specific instructions (Eph 5:21-33) to wives, husbands and family in general always point to Jesus Christ the Lord as the standard and the motivation for our living in love.

One would wonder why a world and humanity so hungry for love, relatedness and belonging engages in heartbreaks and wars of the magnitude around us! With healthy families founded on love, other virtues would manifest in society and beat down selfishness, greed, malice, envy, and such other vices that keep dragging us back. Only God who is the source of real and true love will save us. We need Him to teach us and grow us in love that continuously builds the family.

 

The Holy Spirit – the breath of life

 “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ … and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2:37-38)

 That Pentecost described in Acts 2 was unique – none was ever like it before or after. Yes, pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem for the annual feast, but they received more than what they had come for. Just like the pilgrims that flock Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrines year after year, Jerusalem was especially filled with Jews and Proselytes from Egypt, Libya, Rome, Asia, Pontus, Cappadocia, Mesopotamia, Parthia and Media. Meanwhile, the apostles were holed up in the upper room waiting on a promise. When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, the physical manifestation of loud sound and tongues attracted the crowds; it was a miraculous occurrence in which, out of the apparent confusion, the people heard the apostles ‘declaring the wonders of God’ in their different languages!

Simon Peter labored to explain when they asked in wonder, ‘what does this mean?’ His answer was based on a clear knowledge and understanding of Old Testament prophecy as well as the saving work of Jesus Christ. He neatly weaved words of prophets Joel and David with the out-poured Holy Spirit and Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews were already fond of and familiar with the prophetic writings, and now would gladly receive the fulfillment that was clearly evident before their very eyes. The message touched their hearts, and three thousand became believers and were baptized! They were born again, even as new life entered the old feast. Today, we celebrate the renewed Pentecost who preeminent landmark is the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God’s breath of life: right from Gen 2:7, God breathed in what he had formed from the dust and the man became a living being; in John 3:5-7, Jesus explains that it is the Holy Spirit that gives new birth to those who get born again – He is breath of life. This concept is expandable to the different aspects of life: the Holy Spirit can be God’s breath of life into, an ailing economy, a war torn country, a violent city, a failing relationship, a troubled soul, a barren ministry. Search and present your situation and yourself to God as you seek only one intervention, as expressed in a simple prayer, ‘Breathe on me breath of God’. Edwin Hatch wrote this prayer as a hymn that captures the transforming power of the breath of God – the Holy Spirit:

Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew,

That I might love what Thou dost love, And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God, So I shall never die,

But live with Thee the perfect life of Thine eternity.

Summarizing the message of the hymn, British hymnologist J.R. Watson suggests that the breath of God “brings new life and love, purity and obedience, surrender and inspiration, and finally eternal life, as the hymn moves through various stages of Christian experience and discipline towards a unity with God.” Make it your prayer today.