Monday, September 28, 2009

Face the Facts

I read the following the other day in the "Streams in the Desert" devotional by L.B. Cowman. It struck a chord with me and I hope it ministers to you.

"We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

"As believers, 'we live by faith, not by sight' - God never wants us to live by our feelings. Our inner self may want to live by feelings, and Satan may want us to, but God wants us to face the facts, not feelings. He wants us to face the facts of Christ and His finished and perfect work for us. And once we face these precious facts, and believe them simply because God says they are facts, He will take care of our feelings.

"Yet God never gives us feelings to enable or encourage us to trust Him, and He never gives them to show us that we have already completely trusted Him. God only gives us feelings when He sees that we trust Him apart from our feelings, resting solely on His Word and His faithfulness to His promise. And these feelings that can only come from Him will be given at such a time and to such a degree as His love sees best for each individual circumstance.

"Therefore we must choose between facing our feelings or facing the facts of God. Our feelings may be as uncertain and changing as the sea or shifting sand. God's facts, however, are as certain as the Rock of Ages Himself - 'Jesus Christ...the same yesterday and today and forever' (Heb. 13:8)

"When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every strong and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.'"

See the rainbow? Remember, God keeps His promises! It's a fact!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Just a note...

...about the "Snapshots of Uganda." In case you didn't know, if you click on the photos at left, you will be taken to where you can view them in a larger format, as well as see any captions I may have added. Enjoy! :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

"To whom are you loyal?"

Worshipping in a Lingira Island church with drums and voices as the only instruments.
Loyalty is a quality I admire. But, determining at whose feet your loyalty lies is of utmost importance.

As I was reading up on Ugandan culture a few weeks ago, I came across a remarkable story that I knew I wanted to share with all of you. It is the story of the "Ugandan Martyrs."

Before Uganda became a British protectorate in 1894, it was known as the Kingdom of Buganda, which was ruled by kings or "Kabakas." As Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries from France and England began coming to the kingdom and evangelizing, they found success in converting members of the court of King Mutesa I.

"The Christian religion was received with much excitement by the converts but it came with its own requirements. It denounced all the native religious behavior and practices as heathen and satanic. Therefore joining it meant a commitment to break away from the old life style, make and adopt new alliances, and adjust to new moral and religious standards, adherence and allegiance."1

Although King Mutesa himself never turned to serve the King of Kings, since he would have to forsake his pagan ways, he did not prevent the spread of Christianity among his subjects. But, just a few years after the arrival of the missionaries, the king died in 1884. The kingdom was left to his young son, Mwanga II. As a prince, Mwanga had been enthusiastically supportive of the missionaries, but he did not emulate his father's tolerant ways when he assumed the throne.

King Mwanga became "an intolerant and vicious persecutor of Christians"1 and other foreigners. He believed he was losing a grip on the loyalty of his subjects.

"The converts had diverted their loyalty to some other authority and their allegiance at all costs could no longer be counted on."1

Perhaps most humiliating to the king was that his pages, the least of his servants, rejected his immoral ways. It was simply unthinkable that a page would reject the wishes of a king.

Not even a year after Mwanga assumed the throne, he ordered the execution of the first three Christian martyrs, who dismembered and burned on January 31, 1885. Later that year and in the following year, many others, including a senior advisor to the king, were killed for their newfound faith.

This time of persecution climaxed in May 1886. No longer willing to suffer the divided loyalties of his court members, Mwanga demanded they make a choice - either completely obey his orders or continue with their faith and so choose death. Approximately 33 Ugandans, Catholic and Anglican converts, including 12 boy pages, chose the latter. They collected the bamboo sticks that would be their means of execution and were burned on June 3, 1886, feet first over a slow fire to give them opportunity to recant. It is recorded, however, that instead they sang praises to God as they died. In the following months, other Christians were also burned or speared as they chose the Heavenly Kingdom rather than that of King Mwanga.

The spark from these martyr's faith ignited the spread of Christianity in Uganda. Those who had observed the martyr's deaths sought out instruction in the Christian faith and thus the followers of Jesus multiplied in Uganda. Hundreds of loyal Catholics and Protestants suffered horrible deaths. However, "...conversions outpaced executions as the church went underground." 2

The Ugandan Catholic martyrs were canonized as saints in 1964 and June 3 is observed nationally as "Uganda Martyrs Day." It is estimated that 80% of Uganda's population is Christian, including Catholic, Anglican and Protestant believers. This small east African country has the largest percentage of professing Christians of any country on the continent.
Pastor Moses shares with a small mainland church. (It had three walls and a tarp for a roof.)
I wish I could say persecution in Uganda was limited to the reign of Mwanga, but Muslim dictator Ida Amin murdered some 500,000 of his countrymen, among them 300,000 believers, during his reign of terror from 1971-1979.

I imagine that those loyal Christians of more than 100 years ago had no idea how the spark of their faith would ignite a nation. For me, personally, I am grateful for the sacrifice of these souls for they helped lay the groundwork of what is occurring in Uganda today. There is much Christian activity in this nation. When I was there in 2006-07, I was so blessed as I met and became aware of many missionaries and nationals dedicating themselves to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Uganda.

So, before I wind up this post, may I ask "To whom are you loyal?" You may or may not ever have to face death for your faith, but if you did, what would you answer? May I note that the Ugandan martyrs were killed not just for a verbal profession of faith, but because they lived loyally to Jesus. They would not have necessarily been a threat if they had only been followers in word, but not in deed. Are you living loyally to Jesus today?

Other sources:

Baptism in Lake Victoria.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Like a Penny

There is a cute little song my dad taught Leah and I when we were younger, that I think is a good illustration of love. It goes something like this:

"Love is like a little penny,
Hold it in your hand and you don't have many.
But lend it, spend it, the best that you can,
You'll have so many, they'll roll all over the floor.

"Love is something when you give it away, give it away, give it away.
Love is something when you give it away, you end up having more."

A couple posts back I wrote about love and specifically God's incredible love toward us and how we can show our love back to Him.

But, as I read in I John today, God does not intend for us to hoard the love, but to give it away.

"By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." - I John 3:16

I believe this "knowing" is experiential - we know God's love because we have experienced its immeasurable fullness in the fact that we have forgiveness, salvation and new life through Jesus' sacrificial death.

"As an example, Jesus shows us that true love is concrete and active, not merely felt or thought, but lived out." - IVP New Testament Commentaries

It may be difficult to wrap our minds around the idea of "laying down our lives." What does this really mean and how do we do it?

"Christ alone laid down His one life for us all; we ought to lay down our lives severally for the lives of the brethren; if not actually, at least virtually, by giving our time, care, labors, prayers, substance: Non nobis, sed omnibus. (Latin for "Not for ourselves alone.") Our life ought not to be dearer to us than God's own Son was to Him. The apostles and martyrs acted on this principle." - Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

John also gives further explanation of how to live out love.

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in Him?" - I John 3:17

Wow - this hits me right in the heart. I know I have seen, yet passed by, so many needs of others in my life. I have put my wants and priorities before them. I have been unwilling to give unselfishly without expecting anything in return. So many times I have been reluctant to get dirty, to give sacrificially, to just plain give. Yet, "love is something when we give it away."

Love is a noun, but it becomes a verb when it becomes active.

"Our superfluities should yield to the necessities; our comforts, and even our necessaries in some measure, should yield to the extreme wants of our brethren. 'Faith gives Christ to me; love flowing from faith gives me to my neighbor.'"

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth." - I John 3:18

As I think about going to Uganda I think about love and being able to love as God would want me to. I know my brand of love is often selfish, wrongly motivated, shallow and limited. It can also be superficial. My version of love might make people like me or encourage friendship, but, in the light of eternity, is that kind of love really effective?
Honestly, I don't have the love that is required on the missionfield or even in my daily life here at home. Which is why I need to be emptied of my tainted love, to be filled with God's pure, life-changing love. It is only God's brand of love that can truly touch hearts and change lives for eternity. It is purely motivated, sacrificial and unlimited. When we draw on God's love we never have to fear running out before we reach the next person.
I simply love this verse from the hymn, "The Love of God."

"Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky."

Take your cup, your basin, your bucket and dip it into the ocean of God's boundless love. But, don't keep it to yourself, pour it into the lives of others. Give it away!