Monthly Archives: October 2013

Building Blocks of the Kingdom

On Friday (25th), we completed six months here in Uganda!

This past summer I was invited by a local pastor (Jabel) to share a devotion with about 20 or so pastors here in the Jinja area at their monthly micro-finance meeting.  The presentation is just over an hour.  The pastors are giving great Building Blocksfeedback and I enjoy this kind of teaching and interaction.  They seem to enjoy it, too.

The topic I was led to present is what I call, “Essential Building Blocks of the Kingdom” – laying the foundation of a life structure with the purpose of glorifying God; Jesus being the chief cornerstone.  Since July we have covered the weightier, foundational topics of truth, trust, stewardship and this past week, humility (not an easy one).  We plan to continue with other key topics, too.

Something I learned during the humility presentation was, “Distance ourselves from our daily practice of religion by turning our hearts (a cup and vessel empty and void) to the Lord Jesus that He may secure His presence, His fullness in our lives by abiding in and yielding to Him.  Then, and only then, will the world begin to see God.”

Tomorrow is a Bible study for young college-age men and administrative work for Equip.

A couple other discipleship opportunities have opened up this past week, which I may be able to share later on.  Brittany joined our church’s worship team, and she is enjoying that ministry.  Your prayers for safety and protection for our Equip team are much appreciated.

The Pretender and the Genuine

There are two kinds of duty: 1) Duty of the unbeliever; and 2) Duty of the believer.  This can be illustrated by asking the question, “Why does the church goer attend worship service?”

Is it out of duty because it is good that the individual needs such encouragement and correction to be a good citizen of the great land of America?  This motivation being the protective establishment of a system of government created to provide a shield and defense of freedoms to despicable, greedy, corrupt and morally reprehensible citizens and people who naturally seek power and wealth to the detriment of themselves and society.

Or is it out of duty because I (eternally dependent upon the Spirit) am crucifying the flesh, mortifying the deeds of my old man full of evil and vile desires, that I by means of grace, therein proving through test and trial, pain and suffering that God has gifted eternal life and He will by His promise grant me by His gracious generosity on that Day the fulfillment and euphoric completion of His divine gift secured in His Son, worked out by His Spirit?

The duty of the first and former being completed by devout men and women, ignorant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having only a distant, formal, cold and incompatible public knowledge of the power of God similar to the vile devils, and thereby being spiritually dead do pile up future agony upon themselves when on that Day they come to realize their work of religion fails the test of a mighty, awesome, perfect and holy God who has patiently endured their arrogance, and in that patience has actually blessed them with many common graces that He has poured generously and lavishly upon His creation, which they have rudely, arrogantly and selfishly consumed.

The duty of the latter being the yielding and submitting of the believer to picking up the painful cross of Jesus Christ, resulting in the mortification of the deeds of the vile body by the all-powerful, artistic moving of the Creator and Savior God of the universe.

So do we then, the second, condemn the first?  No, not at all.  But rather we share the Good News of God’s great grace, that they too may believe not in themselves, but laying down their lives they take up the real and genuine power of the One who makes all things possible, even the salvation of filthy sinners by a holy and just God.

13For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:13-14

Thoughts written while reading “The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen (Chapter 1).

Driving & Walking By Faith

Driving here in Uganda takes faith, especially at night.  Below are most of the reasons I do not like driving here at night:

Much more difficult to see the road in front of you here in Uganda, more people drive with their bright lights on, some drive with little or no headlights or tail lights, numerous people are walking alongside the road and even one or two in the middle of the road, motorcycles are driving the wrong way on the road, bicycles driven at night with no reflectors or lights, vehicles stopped dead in the road with no warning.

In order to be safe we reduce evening activities away from home as much as possible.  This week however the last two of the three nights we have driven home two or three hours after dark.  As we left early tonight from our afternoon Bible study in order to make it home before dark, I told four or five men with whom I was chatting, “I don’t have enough faith to drive on the roads at night.”

Yet, it seems my faith is constantly being challenged.  The previous Sunday night we pulled out from Jinja at dark (later than I like and to my humiliation) with no headlights working on our vehicle, only parking lights.  We are grateful to God He got us home safely.  I found out the following Monday rats had chewed the headlight wire in two – only the headlights, thank you, Lord.

Tonight I was determined to get my family home safely before dark.  Sunset is always at 7 pm here at the equator.  So we left our Bible study meeting at 6:40 pm.  As we drive home I comment to Michelle how much easier it is to drive when I can see.  We make it safely home just a few minutes after the sun has dipped just below the horizon.  As we pull through our front gate, Michelle suddenly remembers that she was supposed to tell me to pick up one of our workers while we were in town.  She feels terrible.  My heart sank, then frustration rose.  I could see the test of faith in front of me.

I drove back into town (about 15 minutes one way) frustrated.  About two or three miles into the drive, I finally realized I had to give it over and let it go.  It was so obvious, faith is a lesson God is teaching me.

Without telling Michelle, I actually increased my speed a bit, though very difficult to see.  “If this is a test, I’ll be bold,” I thought.  “Insanely bold.”  We finally picked up our worker and arrived safely home.  As I recount the trip as I write this, I initially remember no significant incidents.  Then I was reminded of what happened on this trip to and from town – we hit a bat (love those animals, they eat mosquitos) with the vehicle, while passing a tractor trailer we almost hit a bicyclist and finally in our center turning lane a single headlight (motorcycle or boda boda) going the wrong way is driving toward us in our path.  I stay boldly committed to my lane and flick my headlights to bright – everyone else does.  The motorcycle swerves quickly out of the way while he passes a bicyclist pushing his bicycle loaded with sugar cane – yes in the center turning lane, coming right toward me too and at night.  Oddly enough I am not recognizing this as strange or significant any more.

Earlier in the week I conversed on Facebook with an atheist / agnostic friend of mine from college.  I also sought to minister to a Ugandan friend who was forced to move from his home and who lost his job.

The conversation with the college friend was nice – not angry, not seeking to put one another down – just sparring over faith and belief in God.

Like most atheists and agnostics I know and have conversed with, tragedy with suffering, along with few, if any satisfying religious answers, have all caused my friend to critically question Christianity, religion and God. I don’t have any problem at all with questioning things critically.  Too many religionists and Christians don’t ask the difficult questions.  But by week’s end the messaging finally drew to a respectful close.

I’m not sure if my friend admits that he walks by faith every day – faith in himself, in others, in farmers, in grocery stores, in what he eats, in rain, in sunshine, in the economy, in what he sees, etc. etc.  I assume he does.

The Ugandan friend of mine who lost his job and his home had a difficult week.  Tonight as I sat down to write, he called.  I just hung up the phone with him.  He told me he needed to talk tonight.  His walk right now is a walk of faith – he told me he went to the Bible for strength.  He asked that I read Psm 91.  “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.” Psm 91:2  His faith is in God.  Tragedy has struck his life, too, with the senseless murder of his father and eventual death of his mother from the same attack.  But his response is different: faith in God that honestly, probably wavers at times.  But faith in the reality of God’s help, nonetheless.

Faith is interesting.  We all live by faith every day.  The question is, in what or who do we really trust?  I dare say most of us (myself included) trust in ourselves way too often.  We all certainly prefer seeing, but when the night of tragedy, difficulty or suffering strikes (and it will) will we let the light of Jesus boldly shine in our lives and will we trust in Him?

When I Don’t Desire God (Part 2)

Too many people here in Uganda want to come to America – land of opportunity – to solve their problems.  It’s their answer to their problems.  I am like my Ugandan brothers, I desired an experience. I desired God’s blessings.  I desired God’s gifts.  I desired means of grace.  Yet those were not satisfying.  Only God satisfies.  Experience, blessings, obedience only satisfy for a moment.  I was not desiring God.

One of my most pressing questions for years has been, “How much prayer is enough?”  I saw in Scripture where people prayed for a long time – Jesus prayed all night when choosing His disciples, but Elijah prayed a simple prayer and it didn’t rain for 3 ½ years.

So I was looking for the right amount of prayer for _______ (fill in the blank).  If it took X number of hours, that’s OK.  If I wanted the thing badly enough, I just needed to put the time in.  We saw in the last post, we still have to put that time in, but how God answers is up to Him (for example, Psm 127:1).  Relationships really do not have formulas – just ask my wife.

So my experience with God was one like a store owner (God) and a shopper (me).  My job was put the work in to find out the right currency the store owner requires (that could be sacrifice, offerings, obedience, hard work, prayer, Bible study, faith, etc.), then find out the right amount required for my need (blessing, assurance of some protection, healing, gift, etc.).  That’s where I had the problem – how much was enough?

From what I can tell from Scripture God wants more than just to give us blessings or gifts, He desires to give Himself to us.  Is that not what He did when He saved us?  Sure He provides blessings, assurances, healings, gifts, etc., but more than anything else, He desires that we know and receive His Son.

So all of life’s problems: marriage problems, financial pressures, loss and grief, frustrations, addictions, failure, mistakes, sin, etc. He wants us to turn to Him. Depend upon Him.  Trust Him.  Not just for the blessings, not just for the release of the difficulty, but so that we, through the difficulties of taking up our cross may yield to Him; experience what He experienced and live in faith as He lived so that He is strong in our weakness.

While we desire to be released from the troubles, He may want to reveal His glory through those troubles.  This is easier said than done.  In fact, we can’t do it, but the best news of all is that Jesus can!  Run to Him.  Invite Him for a coffee and just chat.  Keep spending time with Him and He will change your life.