Monthly Archives: December 2017

Revelation and Hope for Rebirth

“Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies…

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Isaiah 62:8, Luke 2:11)

 Words of hope, words of life, give us strength, help us cope, in this world where’er we roam, ancient words will guide us home. As we celebrate the incarnation of the Word, the birth of Jesus Christ, my prayer is that you will be strengthened by the Ancient Words. Today we read from Isaiah 62, and God expresses determination to restore glory, splendor and welfare to a nation that was deserted, desolate and deprived. When Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, in his Christmas message, called for fervent prayer and fasting for our Nation Uganda, he warned that our society is drifting into a state of godlessness, lawlessness and perverse disregard of human life and dignity.

Perverse disregard of human life and dignity expresses itself through service delivery inadequacies, especially at government level. In his book ‘Uganda Today’, Zac Niringiye wonders ‘whether the extreme impact of failure of our social services is not causing extreme desperation’; leading to Dr Stella Nyanzi’s metaphorical use of unconventional and reckless sexually explicit language to characterize the tragic abuse of the dignity of the girl child in our school system, arising from the continuing plunder of public resources at the expense of the welfare of the people, especially the vulnerable. While exponentially improving access to primary education, the Universal Primary Education programme has become a death trap, with drop-out rates standing at a whopping 62% in 2006, 71% in 2012 and currently at an average of 75%.

Public healthcare institutions are poorly funded, under-staffed and well below minimum medical and other supplies. Maternal mortality ratio is still very high, more than double the MDG 2015 target; and with many more mothers surviving with lifelong debilitating illnesses and conditions. Considering the state of Uganda’s social services, and considering the taxes paid by the people, and donations made for the people, Isaiah’s statement evokes emotions: ‘your grain as food for your enemies … foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled’; those who plunder this nation are behaving like enemies and foreigners. But the Lord Almighty encourages His people and says, ‘Never again!’

Arise and pray for Uganda! There is hope for rebirth; a better education is the knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ – the revelation that came to the Shepherds in Luke 2; the revelation that we all need; a better healthcare is in the manger, with the new born King. He has power to change the course of events here and in this age, and He holds promise for the ultimate rebirth in life eternal for those who put their trust in Him. The bright hope that the Ancient Word brings gives us strength for today and for eternity.

 

 

The Kingdom will be the Lord’s

“Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD’s. … Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Obad 1:21, Matt 23:39)

 In his Christmas message this year 2017, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali made a loud call to fervent prayer and fasting for our nation Uganda. Referring to a common Messianic prophecy from Isaiah, he asserted that now, more than ever, we need this ‘Prince of Peace’ to be our ‘Wonderful Counselor’ and ‘Everlasting Father,’ and, for the government to be ‘upon his shoulder.’ The call to prayer was further justified: “we are living with political upheavals, anarchy, and often incidents of mysterious killings, deaths, and perverse behavioural living… our society is drifting into a state of godlessness, lawlessness and perverse disregard of human life and dignity.”

A little more detail has been compiled in Zac Niringiye’s well written book entitled ‘Uganda Today: Crisis and Hope for Rebirth’, in which he writes about a nation ailing and teetering on the brink of collapse; at risk of similar disaster as Zimbabwe, Somalia, Libya or the Democratic Republic of Congo. ‘Uganda as it presently is, rather than be left to die slowly should be assisted to die quickly in order to see a rebirth of a new one – a born-again Uganda’, Zac recommends. His analysis goes back and forth from the NRM 10-point program of 1986 to the status of those promises today, illustrating initial progress that has been washed away in recent years, to plunge Uganda into crisis again!

In similar light, many other writers have compared and illustrated differences between the President Museveni of 1986 to 2000 to the President Museveni of the last fifteen years. The former promised democracy, the latter gives pseudo-democracy; the former was a servant of the people, the latter is not an employee – just a freedom fighter and not a servant of anyone; the former defeated government armies that were dangerous to the people, the latter is plagued unknown assailants murdering security officers, women and Muslim leaders; the former criticized omnipotent rulers who overstay in power, the latter signs off constitution amendments lifting limits.

We have reason to pray for Uganda. When Prophet Obadiah preached, Israel was facing tough situations including neglect by their own ‘brother’ Edom. Almighty God promised deliverance through leaders that would go up on Mount Zion and establish rule over both Israel and their negligent brother Edom. A new Kingdom was the only hope for Obadiah’s listeners; and this is a good reflection in this season when we commemorate the coming of the ultimate Deliverer – our Saviour Jesus Christ. However, there were real rulers than came before the Messiah and liberated Israel temporarily; while we are here on earth, God is concerned about the welfare of His people, and would not condone injustice, tyranny and oppression. Arise and pray for Uganda!

 

 

Heralding the Messiah

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” (Matt 2:5-6)

 Evangelist Matthew is good at taking us back in time to show us that even before John the Baptist, there were many prophets heralding the Messiah – God’s long term Salvation Plan, a plan that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s incarnation. Today’s challenge is about long-term plans again. I am fascinated by large and old things – talk of great old companies – someone must have had a real big long-term plan: Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese automotive manufacturer; in March 2014 the multinational corporation consisted of over 330,000 employees worldwide; in July 2012, the company reported the production of its 200-millionth vehicle. Toyota is the world’s first automobile manufacturer to produce more than 10 million vehicles per year. How can one company hold together in stability all over the world while a small country like Somalia or Southern Sudan wallows in social and political turbulence for decades?

Is there any institution more enduring or universal than a family business? Professor William O’Hara posed that rhetorical question in his recent book, Centuries of Success. He also provided his answer: “Before the multinational corporation, there was family business. Before the Industrial Revolution, there was family business. Before the enlightenment of Greece and the empire of Rome, there was family business.” In a world where family values are fast being compromised at the altar of personal gratification, we are in danger of losing the benefits of long-term plans that ride on the back of an enduring family line. Long-lasting (almost everlasting) companies: The oldest running hotel in operation has existed for over 1300 years – since the year 705 – a hot-spring hotel called Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Japan. Japan is home to the world’s oldest lots of things, with more than 3000 companies over 200 years old. Many of the oldest companies are local and family-owned. This longevity must be engrained in big long-term plans.

There are deep spiritual inspirations from all these large and old business fascinations. Matthew in his first chapter brings us generations of God’s long-term plan that is evident in Abraham, David and fulfilled in Jesus many centuries later. The purpose of today’s opening Scripture is to show the connection: The Salvation Plan of God was prophesied by prophets across a wide time-line including Isaiah and Micah over 600 years before they are quoted by Matthew. God’s Salvation Plan endures to date, and as we celebrate the coming of our Redeemer, King, Jesus Christ, we also look forward to His return, and that plan will fully materialize. Watch and pray, and always stand ready.

 

 

 

 

Prepare the way for the Lord

 “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him…
And all people will see God’s salvation.” (Luke 3:4-6)

 What happens when people see God’s salvation? It is news too good to keep at home; it has to go viral and all media houses had better make it the leading story, the front page headline. This may not sound like much until you understand what exactly this salvation means: you need to hear the story of that former drug addict who was liberated by the Saviour Jesus; or that former prostitute whose life has been completely transformed by the Healer Jesus – she is now settled in a home of her own! God’s salvation can only be understood in the context of action – not just theory.

The present miraculous nation of Israel and the imminent capital of Jerusalem may not be seen directly as the work of the Saviour Jesus, but the same prophets spoke of Israel’s future and of the Messiah. The God of salvation is at work in world politics and among the people He created. There are happenings in the wider cosmos as well as in our personal lives which help us to see God’s salvation. These events and transformations are so dramatic that their telling propagates the good news that Jesus saves, which brings more and more people to see and experience this salvation.

Take Paul the Apostle for example: his was not a miraculous provision in time of dire lack, or restoration of a crumbling relationship – his was a total lighting up of his dark world; Paul was going very fast in the direction of deep darkness, getting farther away from salvation. One day he saw God’s salvation – on the road to Damascus when bright light shone around him and beat him down and Jesus Christ spoke to him! The evidence that Paul saw God’s salvation is littered in his passionate letters and clear unstoppable zeal for spreading this good news that Jesus saves. What happens when people see God’s salvation?

‘Do the work of an evangelist’ – spread the good news. This was Paul’s command to Timothy, and I recently emphasized the same to those going for various outreach missions. John the Baptist preached, ‘prepare the way’; for us today it is to tune our hearts to be the home of God’s salvation and to be ready in season and out of season to share this good news with all to whom we have been sent.

In a season when figs are not expected, Jesus cursed a fig tree that had no fruit; this is a good parable to demonstrate that for those who embrace Jesus Christ as God’s salvation, there is no off-season for bearing fruit. When people see God’s salvation, they are forever engaged all the time in spreading this good news; this will be through example of consistent life of worship, growth as Christians, as well as sharing overtly with a neighbor and groups of people at home, work or out in the mission field. May God give you the grace to live as one that has seen God’s salvation.

 

 

 

The Word – mysteries God has revealed

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matt 13:44)

 Today we celebrate Bible Sunday. John introduces Jesus Christ as the Word who was in the beginning with God, and this augments the value we must place on the Word of God. This Advent Season also presents the days of commemorating the waiting for the Messiah, and the days of recalling that we await His Second Coming. Numerous prophecies were fulfilled in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In darkest times the Word of God was light and hope to the suffering and waiting people of God. The same Word remains fresh and powerful in reviving souls today and tomorrow. It is worth giving special attention and celebrating.

The season of Advent is partially meant to help believers focus on the prophecies and promises of God that would eventually be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Isaiah stands tall among the prophets and in his long book that was placed first among the Major Prophets in the Bible, Matthew and other New Testament writers find and quote a great number of significant prophecies that were fulfilled. Do you hear the ‘voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God… the word of our God endures forever”’ (Isaiah 40:3,8). This might have been fulfilled in John the Baptist’s cry, but the voice rings out even today. Are you ready to receive your King? The fulfilled prophecies help us to see the faithfulness of God’s Word not only in Isaiah but also in the entire Bible.

The Holy Scriptures bring us a story from Genesis to Revelation – a story of God’s plan to save humankind, a story of good news. In every generation there have been stewards of these mysteries in form of Church leaders, Bible expositors, apologetics, and many ‘smaller’ leaders of Bible studies and those who go back to check the Scriptures to find out if what they heard was right. We all have a duty to love and treasure God’s Word, as well as be responsible stewards of the same. Supporting the work of Bible Society is part of this stewardship – that the Bible may reach many of our own folks. There are answers in the Word of God; it is knowledge and understanding and wisdom. It is life.

Great Deal: Jesus used business language about buying the most treasurable at the expense of all one has. Have you found this treasure? Jesus’ parable is applicable to God’s Word – mysteries God has revealed for our salvation and the good of our future; sell everything else, sell sweet and captivating deceptions, sell all other philosophies and ‘buy’ the Word and place Him above all.