Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Advent: The Long Road to Bethlehem (1)

Bible Readings

  • Luke 1:26-38
  • Judges 13:1-24

Introduction

In Stay of Execution, Stewart Alsop, an apathetic Christian, discussed what it was like to live with incurable leukaemia. 

There was a period in which the disease was temporarily arrested. During this time, he discussed some variables with his physician. Finally, Alsop said, “There is one variable you keep leaving out.” “What’s that?” “God,” he said.

The doctor and the patient smiled. Alsop continued, “I don’t really believe in God, or at least I don’t think I do, and I doubt if my doctor does; but I think we both had in the back of our minds the irrational notion that God might have something to do with what happened all the same.”

Maybe this illustration describes the time in Israel before Samson was born.  God became an irrational notion in the back of their minds.

And maybe it also describes the general notion among Christians:  they attend churches, they expect to get married in churches, and to be buried with a church service, they attend the signing of Christmas carols, and might attend the odd Easter Service—all because God became an irrational notion in the back of their minds.

Spiritual life for many people only means to have their names on some membership roll.  Worship services are a good tradition, keeping one out of mischief on a Sunday because who knows, one can never completely discount the notion of God.  For some unbelievers praying to God in times of distress and discomfort becomes the last straw they hang on to—one never knows, maybe there is a god!

Does this describe your spiritual life? A “maybe” or “a just-in-case” relationship with God with no meaningful or effectual content to what you believe? No vitality, no living hope, no real substance, just a breathless, run-of-the-mill and bleached-out going through the motions, just in case God might be there, who knows?

It’s worse if this becomes the picture of a denomination, or even more deplorable if it describes the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These might be the symptoms; but what is the underlying disease?

The church became an undesired social institution

Israel of the Old Testament is the church of God under the pre-Christ dispensation, and certain truths stare us straight in the eye.  

God redeemed Israel to be his treasured possession.  Once redeemed from the Egyptian bondage, God promised to make true to them his covenant promises.  This is the story recorded in the Scriptures.  Moses reminded the people:  

The land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. (Deuteronomy 11:11–12, NIV)

The Lord gave them this assurance:

I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (Exodus 23:25–30, NIV)

Israel had to conquer the Land of Promise. It was the place where they had to make known the great Name of God by living as priests to the Lord, a nation of witness to the greatness of God’s Name.  This is God’s promise to them:  

… the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. Every place where you set your foot will be yours… No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as He promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go. (Deuteronomy 11:22–25, NIV)

Listen to this undertaking of the Lord:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:5–6, NIV)

There were stipulations attached: they had to follow the Lord’s command: 

When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. (Numbers 33:51–53, NIV)

Why?

“ … if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them. ” (Numbers 33:55–56, NIV)

Well, God’s people of old were extraordinarily blessed.  They received a land with large, flourishing cities they did not build,  houses filled with all kinds of good things they did not provide, wells they did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves they did not plant (Deuteronomy 6:10–12, NIV).

But what happened?  How successful were they in taking possession of the land?  

When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labour but never drove them out completely. … the Canaanites continued to live there among them. … Zebulun subjected the Canaanites into to forced labour… The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. Neither did Naphtali drive out … the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those … became forced labourers for them. 

Judges 2 helps us to complete the picture:

They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. (Judges 2:12–14, TNIV)

Another perspective from the Bible:

Yet you have disobeyed me. I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you. (Judges 2:1–3, TNIV)

How did it play out in history?  This takes us to Judges 13.

The Amorites confined the Danites [the parents of Samson were of the tribe of Dan] to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. (Judges 1:28–34, TNIV)

But before we continue, let’s make some application to the church of today.  Is it true that the Christian church in Australia is losing ground?  That’s undoubtedly what the statistics show!  But how does it stack up against the promise and command of the risen Christ who said, 

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV)

There are obvious parallels with the church of today and the church of the Old Testament, isn’t it?  The death-nail is to make compromises with the world. It happens when the church walks away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, watering it down, in an attempt to become more popular.  The war-cry is to become seeker-sensitive.  And the more we reach into the world, the more the world reach into the church.  Instead of being counter-cultural, we have become a cultural assimilating cultural body.  Our witness is watered down, our message has become stale and meaningless, the Bible is neglected in some worship services, church language and demeanour,  even worship music, is hardly any different from what the world has on offer.  We do these things to not be an offence, while it is exactly our calling is not to please the world, but to worship God.

The status quo is the new normal 

Judges 13 sketches the church of God at a low watermark.  Something like a refrain runs through the book of Judges every time a new judge is announced: “The Israelites did what was wrong in the eyes of the Lord…” But this phrase is missing when the angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother.  

With other judges, the people cried to the Lord for help, but not at the time when Samson’s birth was announced.   For forty years those whom Israel was supposed to dispossess, became the oppressors.  And it seems Israel got used to the situation.  They took the role is servants in the land which God gave them to possess and to reign for God’s glory.  

It got so low, that our chapter in Judges paints a picture of God’s own people not even knowing what His real name was.  The writer of the book used God covenant name JHWH, but Samson’s mother uses a generic term for God, “a man of God” or ”a godlike man”.  Her husband used another name, ‘Adonaj.  Maybe for longer than they had been married, there was no messenger of God.  It is only much later that they understood that it was indeed God who appeared to them.

The status quo of not knowing God became the new normal.  Not knowing Him also meant not knowing his will for them.  Even worse, not knowing Him, indicated that they have lost hope on salvation and freedom from oppression. Being dispossessed and living in bondage became normal.

This is a very sad state of affairs for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ:  if we don’t know and serve Him as Lord and Saviour, we will accept the lowest denominator as the standard.  The life of the church becomes stale, colourless, with no vitality, no living hope, no real substance, just a breathless, run-of-the-mill and bleached-out.  Churchgoers are going through the motions, just in case God might be there, who knows? And while the world laughs and scoffs, we take it as normal.

And just don’t rock the boat to upset the world!  When Samson began to terrorise the Philistines in an attempt to set his people free, of his own people rebuked him:  

Three thousand men from Judah said to Samson, “Don’t you realise that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?” He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.” (Judges 15:11, NIV)

It might be that the true man or woman of God who takes Christ on his word is considered to be the enemy of the very people who are supposed to be God’s conquering army under the banner of Christ.  

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, our Canaan is the lost world to be conquered with the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The church of God needs to be like a marching, invading army.  

Our series for advent goes under the heading, “The long road to Bethlehem”.  Samson was not the ultimate deliverer; he just “began” to deliver (Judges 13:5).  The final Deliverer was born in Bethlehem many years after that.  His deliverance was comprehensive and definitive.  In His Name, we should march forward, uncompromised.  The minute we become worldly, we lose, and God only becomes an irrational notion in the back of their minds.  But, He then becomes our enemy.  

Let’s fall at the feet of Christ and witness Him to the fallen world around us with undivided loyalty.

Amen.

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Living ‘in-Christ’ (4)

Bible Readings

  • Proverbs 10:18-32
  • Colossians 3:5-17

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ,

Successful advertising companies design their ads after careful market research, more so about the potential buyers.  Not only do they know their product, but they know who they want to buy their products.  

To get us to buy a product, they persuade us of two things:  you need something, and you deserve that thing.  Their product is always “better”, “bigger” or “faster”— but we’re not told better, bigger or faster than what! The clincher in the ad is using the words like “you deserve it!”

I sometimes wonder if most of them were looking over the shoulder of the serpent in paradise. The appeal then was on the desire to get what they thought they did not have!  The Bible tells:  

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. (Genesis 3:6, NKJV)

When our first parents fell, the floodgates opened, and sinful desire became like a bottomless well which never runs out of enticement.

We got engaged in the war of Satan, sin and the flesh.  We need a lifeline out of this enslaving mess:  someone to destroy Satan, someone who is victorious over sin, and to help us overcome fleshly desire.  There is only one possibility:  Jesus Christ! We need to live ‘in-Christ’.

The sermon today is still following the theme of Living ‘in-Christ’; the title is Put your mouth where your heart is. Remember these three main points:

  • When the heart is full of lust, the mouth is full of falsehoods 
  • When the heart is a fire, sparks will fly out of the mouth 
  • Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life

When the heart is full of lust, the mouth is full of falsehoods

It is clear from our reading from Colossians this morning that those who received salvation in Christ have received a new address.  Because they, by faith, are ‘in-Christ’ they are principally seated with Christ at the right hand of God (3:1).  They are ‘in-Christ’, they died with Him (3:3), they rose ‘in-Christ’ into a new life Christian, and ‘in-Christ’ they will one day appear in eternal glory (3:4).

However, no Christian is exempt from battle with sin. The war against sin has been won ‘in-Christ’, but the battles are ongoing.  Therefore this verse:  

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5, NKJV)

The truth of this verse is important because when the heart is full of lust, the mouth is full of falsehoods.  

The expression ‘evil desires’ in verse 5 is a manifestation of the sin which dwells in man and which controls him; it is the persistent root in us to seek our wills instead of the will of God. This desire arises out of the world, make up its essence and perishes with it.  It is like a wildfire:  if not kept under a lid, it will destroy and devour.  

The essential point in sinful desire is that it is an impulse, a motion of the will. When sinful desire in whatever forms knocks on my door it promises satisfaction and enjoyment; it persuades me that if I don’t give in to its demands, I will be unsatisfied, deprived, unfulfilled.  It convinces me that life without fulfilling the desire is unfair.  It is nothing less than anxious self-seeking. It bursts upon us with the force of immediacy.

This is the old life without Christ.  Paul writes: 

… we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:3, NKJV)

Those who received Christ, who live ‘in-Christ’ “set their hearts” and “set their minds” “on things above” (3:1-2).  It follows as a necessity for those who once were dead in sins of the sinful nature, but who are made alive with Christ (2:13).  Because we are forgiven, because we are rescued, because we are ‘in-Christ’, we must “put to death” our sinful desires.

The Bible warns us that the earthly nature (3:5), the way we used to walk (3:7), the old self (3:9) will keep rearing its head. If our minds are set on earthly things (3:2) these evil desires will pounce on us and severely impede on our Christian progress.  We will be limping along, and our lives will bring dishonour to the Name of Christ who died and rose for us.  No, our lives should be ‘in-Christ’.  

The Bible here uses very explicit language to warn us:  giving in to the desires of the flesh—which is born in the deception of satan—is idolatry, and idolatry is invoking the wrath of God.

The essence then is to mortify these desires in the power of the resurrected Christ.  Our verse says, “Put to death.” 

There is a dire warning about desires.  Jesus told the parable of the seed.

Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18–19, NKJV)

Paul writes in Galatians 5

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:17, NKJV)

Keep in mind, when the heart is full of lust, the mouth is full of falsehoods.  It is only when there has been a change of heart, a change of mind, that there will be a change in life.

When the heart is a fire, sparks will fly out of the mouth 

Little wonder then that Paul continues:  

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:8, NKJV)

The heart is the wellspring for the words of our mouths. Anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language as to verbalise the thoughts of the heart.  When Paul practically applies this principle he uses a very familiar example:  Do not lie to each other. 

Why do we lie?  Invariably, we lie to either protect ourselves or to gain something unlawful.  Why would that be?  It’s purely because the desire to self-seeking has reared its head.  Sinful man will do the distance for as long as his self-interest is at stake.

Christians need to continually flee from this evil.  We need to remind ourselves to put off the old self and put on the new self (3:9-10).  We are called to display the image of our Creator who renewed in the image of Christ.  This means sanctification.  God made us his chosen people, and He calls us holy and dearly loved.  We are made new ‘in-Christ’, and we need to continue to live ‘in-Christ’.  There is no option.

You might have heard people saying something like, “I tell things the way they are; it’s in my nature.”  Or, “It just comes naturally to me to jump in, do things, and later feel sorry.  That’s the way I am.”

Some of us can indeed be a bit fiery, direct, stubborn and abrupt.  Honesty is a good thing, but there is also such a thing as a character being changed and renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit.   It must be true of any Christian! No Christian can hide behind old sinful traits.

Verse 11 almost seems out of place in this chapter.  It reads:  

…there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:11, NKJV)

What does it say?  At least two things:  

  • don’t hide behind your heritage when you get worked up and upset.  “I’m of Scottish heritage!”  “I am a Scythian!” (They apparently were fairly barbaric and could easily use their culture as an excuse for what might be unacceptable to others cultures. The once fiery, direct, stubborn and abrupt must put those things to death, because irrespective of your background, the demand is to live like a Christian.
  • always regard others in the family of Christ as your brothers and sisters, and treat them with the love of Christ, consistently putting them first. 

… bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (Colossians 3:13–14, NKJV)

The injunction is to take off the old, and to put on the new:  

put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Colossians 3:12, NKJV)

Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life

How do we mortify the desires of the flesh?  How do we overcome sin?  How do we have victory over Satan?

  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.  Dwell on the Scriptures.  Read it, know it, study it, and live by it.  It will drive you to live ‘in-Christ.” 
  • Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Let the Word be your standard when you want to criticise others.  And let’s be honest, it will be impossible to quarrel over petty nonsense if we sing together with grace in your hearts.  Right?
  • And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16–17, NKJV)  Set your whole life up to honour God and live in thanksgiving.

These things will guard your heart as the wellspring of life.  

Amen.  

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 4 November 2018

The shipwreck of partial obedience

Scripture Readings

  • 1 Samuel 14:31-45
  • 1 Samuel 15:17-23

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Friends of ours had a hobby farm. They had milking goats .  These animals were fairly expensive.

We arrived for a weekend visit, only to find everyone in pandemonium.  One of the goats was terribly sick, lying on its side with its belly resembling a huge balloon.  Over the telephone the vet had advised that the animal was poisoned by eating a certain plant which blossomed after the good rains.  (These things only happen on a Friday afternoon after hours, don’t they!)  If they wanted to, our friends could puncture the belly to let the air out, but before that could be done, the goat breathed its last and was no more.

The eldest boy of the family had good idea what the plants look like, and on command of his father he set out to chip out everything looking like it and collecting it into a bag.  They could not afford another animal dying.  What was left of the afternoon, and also the Saturday morning, the chipping of the culprit plants continued.

Alas!  That afternoon another goat died with a ballooned belly.  The father asked his son, “Did you chip out all the poisonous plants?” The answer came, “Almost!”

The consequence of almost in this case was death.

Righteousness demands holiness 

For some reason we think we get a score out of ten if we are obedient: 10/10 is admirable, but we sometimes see it as unreasonable; five or six might get us a pass, and we argue that’s good enough.

When it comes to our righteousness before God, nothing less than 10/10 will do.  God is perfect and holy, and He demands perfection and holiness. But, and this is where grace comes in, our saving righteousness can never be our own—to God’s standard we can never attain, but by his mercy and grace God provided our perfect righteousness in Christ.  His score is 10/10 in all possible ways. Who clings to Him by faith, receives his righteousness as if it is their own. “Nothing in may hands I bring, simply to Your Cross I cling; stained by sin, to You I cry: ‘Wash my, Saviour, or I die.’”

God appointed Saul to be the ruler over Israel not based on any inherent goodness, social standing, or leadership qualities; God did so because of grace.  Saul then was supplied everything he needed to rule and guide God’s people.  Do you remember how Samuel gave him the unction and how God confirmed his choice to Saul by having him prophesied with the prophets? The command to Saul was:

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24, NIV)

Disobedience by presumption

In many ways Saul was a disappointment.  The Bible records his first major failure in 1 Samuel 13.  Instead of waiting for Samuel as the Lord commanded him, out of desperate mistrust in God and fear that his men would leave him weak and vulnerable to the Philistines, he took it upon himself to make the burnt and fellowship offering.  Samuel then said,

“You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure… ” (1 Samuel 13:13–14, NIV)

We saw last week how Saul was too weak to even attack the Philistines.  His son, Jonathan, with his eyes fixed on God, attacked the “uncircumcised” while God sent them into great confession.  It was probably the earthquake God sent to brought about more panic, that shook Saul out of his stupor—only to then muster his forces for battle.  Although he first thought it a good thing to enquire of the Lord, his assessment of the situation then turned into self-confidence: his enemy was in such a disarray, that he could just pounce on them, with or without the direction of God; he would just go in and knock the enemy over. As far as Saul was concerned, victory was in his hands.

Disobedience by addition

To assure his own glory, Saul added to Word of God.  Taking own control he issued this command:

“Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food. (1 Samuel 14:24, NIV)

The Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under that oath.  He had no right to issue the command.  In his effort to take control, he did not understand that “…the Lord saved Israel”. (1 Samuel 14:23, NIV)

When Jonathan became weak of exhaustion, not knowing of his father’s orders, he found honey and ate of it to recharge his energy.  He regarded his father’s order as unreasonable and reckless, and rightly so.

Dead tired, the army—after the day’s battle—pounced on the plunder and butchered the animals and ate it with the blood.  This disturbed Saul greatly.  “Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.” (14:24)  Once again, without the intervention of priests, Saul presumed upon the office of the priesthood and built an altar.

Saul’s double standards in this story is dumfounding!  Once one starts to build one’s obedience in one’s own understanding of God’s law, one runs into the trouble of tripping over your own interpretation, and double standards follow!  It’s not good enough to only know about obedience to the Lord—Saul knew of it, but applied it as he thought right.  Obedience is only obedience when we fully go by what God actually commands. We might think we know about right and wrong, but because of our sinful nature we can easily add our own interpretation to right and wrong.  “If you ask me, I cannot see a problem with…” Or, “I don’t think what the Bible says actually means …”  That’s in essence disobedience! That’s to be wise in our own eyes. What I think is of no importance; what God says matter infinitely.

The rest of the story reveals the effect of disobedience by addition.

When Saul then wanted to pursue the enemy through the night, the priest thought it might be a good idea to find out what God thinks about it.  The men were tired, it was dark, and Saul’s ego was blossoming—a good mix for disaster.

Saul asked for God’s direction, but God did not answer him.  The only explanation for this silence was that someone sinned.  Saul interpreted this “sin” as disobeying his order. Once again Saul prayed for a right answer.  Keep in mind, Saul did not pray that God would point out the man who sinned.  What was important was that between the two of them only one actually sinned against the Lord—that’s the matter. He and Jonathan were taken by lot.  When the lot fell on Jonathan, Saul jumped to the conclusion that Jonathan sinned against the Lord by disobeying him!  Saul’s disobedience by addiction—adding to the Word of God—would have demanded the death of his own son—and once again there was no Biblical ground for it.

The rest of Saul’s men understood the lot on Jonathan the other way round.  Jonathan stood behind the success of the army that day, not Saul! He was the culprit.

The church can fall in the same trap as Saul.  Actually, the Roman Church added many traditions to the Word of God, like eating fish on a Friday.  Really? By what authority?  Many thousands of Christians who faithfully obeyed the Lord only according to his revealed will found in the Bible died at the stake because they refused to obey the additions of men to the Bible. Wycliffe died because he dared translate the Bible in English. What a “sin”!

Many a child who grew up in strict, let’s call it fundamentalist, Christian homes, fell from the Christian faith because rules not found in the Scriptures, were imposed on them as “authentic Christianity”.  Children can so easily get confused between man-made morality and godly conduct: when these two oppose one another, both are usually discarded.

Disobedience by omission

In the next chapter we find Saul on a mission against the Amelikites.  God’s command was clear:

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ” (1 Samuel 15:3, NIV)

Why this stern command?  It is all connected to God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants—and therefore God’s church through the ages—that those who curse him, God will curse (Genesis 12:3). While still in the desert the Amelikites, descendants of Esau, attacked God’s people.  Now God, through Saul, would strike them with the curse.

We know what happened.  Saul did attack the Amelikites, but not all of them.  He killed the animals, but not all of them.  His disobedience was by omission:  it was partial obedience.  Agag, the king, was omitted, and the best of the animals were omitted—in Saul’s opinion, the good ones escaped death. He applied his own standard to what was weak and despised, and what was good.  Saul showed himself more merciful than God! He actually thought what God despised would be good enough to sacrifice to God!

He became so arrogant that he erected a monument in his own honour (15:12). What completely escaped his mind were God’s words right in the beginning of the chapter:

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. (1 Samuel 15:1, NIV)

Samuel met Saul with a message from God:

“You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!” (1 Samuel 15:26, NIV)

What was the underlying principle?

To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23, NIV)

Disobedience, whether in the form of presumption, addition or omission, is nothing short of idolatry. Disobedience stands equal with witchcraft.

There is a verse in Revelation which comes to mind:

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:16, NKJV)

Conclusion

There is not a scale of obedience on which we can score 5/10 or 6/10 and still pass in the sight of God. Like the son of my friend, his “almost” was not good enough; maybe there was just one poisonous plant left which killed the goat.

God demands perfect obedience and perfect holiness.

Let’s go back to the scene in the woods towards that evening when Saul almost killed his own son.  The soldiers then said:

“Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die. (1 Samuel 14:45, NKJV)

God demands perfect righteousness.  Should Jesus die who has accomplished great deliverance?  No! He didn’t deserve death.  But He willing to die and gave his life for sinners.  When He did die, there was no-one to rescue Him.  His Father did not stop to pursue the enemy; He sent his Son to conquer them, but to do so, He had to die.

His obedience is our perfect righteousness.  Salvation is in Him only.

The king is dead; long live the King! Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 1st October 2017

 

Whose God is it anyway?

Bible Readings

  • Exodus 20:1-17
  • 1 Samauel 4:1-11; 5:1-12

Introduction

My dear fellow believers, during a stop-over flight I had the privilege to do a bit of sight-seeing in Malaysia.  They took us to a limestone mountain, Mount Batu.  Within caves in this mountain is a Hindu temple, to the honour of Muruga, of which a 140 feet statue stands outside the caves.   There is a steep staircase leading up into the caves. Priests and worshippers of this god climb the steps more than once a day with special containers of food to set it up at shrines within the cave.

As I observed the ritual a saw a woman bringing fresh food, which was only put there after the earlier food was removed—all untouched, of course.  The face of the idol was expressionless, the body cold and lifeless, and of course it could not utter a word.  Yet, day after day this ritual took place at least twice a day.  And I wondered in amazement, “Why?”

True worship

Earlier in the service we read the Ten Commandments. The Second Commandment reads:

“You must not make for yourselves an idol that looks like anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the water below the land. You must not worship or serve any idol, because I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. If you hate me, I will punish your children, and even your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. (Exodus 20:4–5, NCV)

The Larger Catechism defines the the duties required in the second commandment “… observing, and keeping pure all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his word; and the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship; and removing it and all monuments of idolatry.”

There are perhaps three main reasons why making idols is forbidden. Let’s list them

  • Manipulation
  • Localisation
  • Participation

Once a man has made an idol, one can manipulate it; one becomes its boss; you can even feed it or withhold food at will.  Once man has made an idol, one can localise it – you put it where you want it—you can even lock it away for later use, or put it where it can become the centre of your existence.  Once you have made an idol, you make it do what for what you want done—you make it participate in your activities, and you can participate in its activities.  These three things are closely related.

This is the sort of worship we come across in the first few chapters of 1 Samuel.  The prayer of Hanna, of course, puts everything in perspective gain:  she worshipped the most holy, most powerful, most wise and most sovereign God, the creator of heaven and earth. The sons of Eli did not know God and therefore they invented their own god—one they could manipulate, one they assign a locality to, and one they could use for their own purposes.

One verse which stands out is:

“So the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I promised that your family and your ancestor’s family would serve me always.’ But now the Lord says: ‘This must stop! I will honour those who honour Me, but I will dishonour those who ignore me. (1 Samuel 2:30, NCV)

When God called Samuel He revealed Himself as the most holy, most wise, most powerful God who sovereignly decided to dispose of Eli and his sons. The Creator God, who, according to Hannah’s prayer “… protects those who are loyal to Him, but evil people will be silenced in darkness. The Lord destroys his enemies; He will thunder in heaven against them. The Lord will judge all the earth.” (1 Samuel 2:9–10), announce to Samuel that He is going to “… do something in Israel that will male the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle” (1Samuel 3:11)—this something was directly connected to the judgement on Eli and his family.

It seems this was the message Samuel was preaching, and all Israel heard and understood it to be the word of God (1Samuel 3:19-4:1).  Did all hear it?  Apparently not.  It made no change to the hearts of the sons of Eli.

Is God with us?

The next we read about is the conflict between Israel and their arch-enemy, the Philistines.  It took place at Ebenezer—which means, God is with us.  But in the first part of the battle Israel was defeated and four thousand men fell.  The reaction of the elders was astounding.

“Why did the Lord let the Philistines defeat us? Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant with the Lord here from Shiloh and take it with us into battle. Then God will save us from our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3)

The reason for their defeat was God!  Nothing of what Samuel was telling them even came into their minds.  Is God honouring those who honour Him, or is He despising them who despise Him?

For them the solution was to make an idol out of God.  By bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the camp, they fist of all manipulate God, they also localise Him, and of course they wanted Him to participate in their activities, not for his glory, but for themselves!

The outcome was disastrous. Not only did they fall before the enemies, but their defeat was indeed the word of God to Samuel which came true:  Hophni and Phinehas both died, old Eli fell off his chair and died, and Phinehas’s wife died in childbirth—all on the same day.  On top of this, the Ark of the Covenant was captured and ended up in the temple of Dagon.

What humiliation!  More so in the face of an enemy who actually seemed to acknowledge the greatness of God.  Hear them in their own words:

We’re in big trouble! Who can save us from these powerful gods? They’re the same gods who made all those horrible things happen to the Egyptians in the desert. (1 Samuel 4:8, CEV)

The topic of the sermon today is, “Whose God is it anyway?” On which side was God that day at Ebenezer?  Did He forsake this own covenant people and did He side with the Philistines?  Is there something we have missed here?  Or is there something we should learn today?

Where has the glory of God gone?

One way to translate the word “Ichabod” is to translate it as a question, “Where has the glory of God gone?”  God is never without glory.  If his people don’t glorify Him, He is not without glory.  If we give Him less glory, we do not make his less glorious!  In Isaiah God declares:

I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. (Isaiah 42:8, NKJV)

He who denies God, his existence, his glory, holiness and power, does not make God disappear, just in the same way as one who might deny the sun shining just because he can’t see it in the night sky.  I might say I don’t believe in electricity because I can’t see it, but I will sing another tune once I touched a live wire.  Unbelief does not make God less real—one day we will all stands before his throne of judgement, and no detail of who He is will make Him go away even then.

So, where has the glory of God gone?  Well, first of all, the dead bodies on the side of Israel’s forces were testimony to his glory.  Ask Hannah, she worship the real God of heaven.

“Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, And those who stumbled are girded with strength.” (1 Samuel 2:3–4, NKJV)

But let’s follow the Ark of the Covenant.  Just be clear at this point:  they did not carry God into the temple of Dagon—God is not captured in anything man’s hand can made, or He would be an idol.  However, they treated Him as if He was an idol, just as Israel thought of God.

Now we see his glory.  Dagon fell over flat on his face before the Ark of God (1Samuel 5:2).  Powerless the lump of rock just couldn’t move.  They picked him up “and put his back in his place”—that’s how you deal with an idol: you put him where you want him (localisation!)  He fell over again, and his head and arms broke off.  The translation is somewhat comical:  only the bit that was Dagon was still in tact!

With Dagon’s hand missing we read:

But the hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumours, both Ashdod and its territory. (1 Samuel 5:6, NKJV)

His glory was displayed in places not expected, even in the temple of idols.  The Philistines were terrified—their biggest nightmare played out before them: the God who terrorised the Egyptians and all other nations during the journey and the settlement of Israel has come to visit them!  The Ark was moved from one city to the next as they tried to escape the plagues of tumours and mice, and in the end they returned it to Israel.  However, they did not worship God; they only feared Him!

Miracles do not make people worship—it’s only the Spirit of God who applies the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ to the heart of man which brings life.

So, where has the glory of God gone?  Whose God is it anyway?  Someone writes:

It is a story about people playing a game we all know too well: the Israelites were presuming on, and the Philistines were defying, the power of God. The Israelites’ presumption turned to desperation as they suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of their enemies. What is to be said about the Philistines’ defiance? (Woodhouse, J. (2008). 1 Samuel: Looking for a leader. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)

When God becomes an idol

From this episode in the history of Israel we need to learn that there is a real possibility for even Christians to turn God into an idol.  It is indeed possible to try to manipulate God:  God is there for me, and when I pray God has to do as I ask.  This is not to worship a sovereign God.  I cringe when I hear people demand God to do certain things; the new trend is to pronounce a claim of blessing—God is not my servant; quite the opposite is true.

We can indeed make an idol of God if we think that we can localise God.  God is not on our side just because we put Him where we want Him to be; quite the opposite.  And if God does not answer us from where and when we expect Him to answer, we worship an idol, not the living sovereign God.  When we think we can lock God up in the church between Sundays and carry on they way we want during the week, only to call on Him when we are in some need, is to make an idol of Him.  When we expect God to come down to our level to participate in my dreams, ideals, wants and desires, I have made an idol of Him.

Such a God will certainly disappoint, because He is not the God of the Bible.  More than that, such a God will deal with me according to his holiness, justice, knowledge, and unchangeable sovereignty.  Such a God does not answer prayer, but metes out judgement purely He is being treated like an idol.

Whose God is it anyway? Is God with us?

God does not belong to anyone!  We don’t own God, if anything, He owns us!

Can we say Ebenezer, God with us?

The Ark was never meant to be showcase of who God is.  No, it was the meeting point between a holy and gracious God on one hand, and a rebellious people who was called to act and live like people saved by grace.

Let’s turn it all around: our life must show the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  Our meeting point is the cross of Christ.  It can never be a point of boasting, never a showcase of what we achieved, but always a showcase of God’s mercy who gave us his Son—perfect in holiness, and perfect in saving grace—and not before I have met the living God at this point to receive mercy and forgiveness, He will just remain an idol which I control, I manipulate, and I want to become part of me.  And life will remain one big struggle of unresolved battles against the enemy.

I proclaim a Gospel to you today of the living, sovereign God who calls you to repentance at the feet of Christ, and live in his peace, completely sacrificed to his service.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 July 2017

The Coming of the Christ (1)

Will there be fruit in the vineyard of the Son?

Scripture Readings

  • John 1:1-15
  • Matthew 21:33-46

Introduction

My dear friend in Christ Jesus,

The prophet Isaiah recorded a parable in Isaiah 5 which is very much like the one we read in the Scriptures this morning from Matthew 21. It tells about God who planted a vineyard.

He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? (Isaiah 5:2–4, ESV)

The purpose of planting a vineyard is to enjoy the fruit.  In terms of the Bible fruit stems from faith in God and Jesus Christ and presents itself in righteousness, obedience, holiness, service in God’s church and the world, etc.  In short, to bear fruit in the Kingdom of God is to glorify and love Him in all we do, while we present Him to the world in which we live: what we do here on earth should be aimed at making God look great, and point the unsaved to Him so that He could save them too.

Last week we heard the Bible speak to us when God declared us to be his treasured possession and his priesthood of a nation. We are called to live holy lives as God is holy.

The long-suffering of God

God’s people does not exist because they worked themselves up as a nation with special characteristics. They did not become the people of God as if they reached a certain standard first and therefore had the right to choose a king of their choice, which was the Creator God.  It is quite the opposite.

Our text states:

There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. (Matthew 21:33, ESV)

The landowner planted a vineyard.  It was his choice.  For this vineyard He provided a fence around it to give them safety and security.  In this vineyard He gave all that was needed to produce a good crop: there was a wine press and a watchtower.  He then, as landlord who can do with his vineyard as he pleases, rented it out to some farmers when He went on a journey.

The vineyard remained his property; the farmers worked for Him and He would pay them for their labours when He returned.  The fruit belonged to Him, as the Bible says,

When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. (Matthew 21:34, ESV)

This is God at work. The church is God’s property.  He called the church, saved it, provided everything for it, protected it and gave enough so that there would be a harvest.

In the narrow context of this parable Jesus is addressing the Chief Priests, but the reference to the withered fig tree without fruit in the middle of the chapter also includes the whole nation of the Jews as God’s Old Testament church. They were the vineyard of the Lord.  The farmers seem to refer to the religious leaders of the people who were supposed to lead them into holiness and fruitful living to the glory of the Lord.  For them God did everything.

Over centuries He sent his prophets to call them to repentance, over and over again.  They refused to listen to these servants of the Lord, beat them, killed them and stoned them.  In long-suffering and unspeakable grace the Lord then continued to send servants, even more than the first time, but even they were treated the same way.

One of the main themes regarding sin right through the Bible lies in idolatry.  Idolatry is to produce one’s own god.  Israel and its leaders in the time of the Old Testament did not altogether do away with God, but they used his Name and fashioned for themselves another god to suit their need of what a god should be like. This is in disobedience of the Second Commandment:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4–6, ESV)

When one devises or in and any way approve any religious worship not instituted by God himself; or when one makes any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever and worship it, one corrupts the worship of God.  We may not add to the way God commanded, or take from it, even add tradition from others.  Neglect of God-ordained worship is nothing else but idolatry.

All these things Israel did some point in time; sometimes only part of it, and sometimes all of it at the same time.  Yet, God kept sending prophets.

The last book of the Hebrew Old Testament, 2Chronicles 36 reads:

The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15–16, ESV)

One asks, “Was God unreasonable by sending them off to captivity in Babylon?”  No!  His righteousness demanded it.

The question we need to ask ourselves, of course, is, “What is there that God has not done for us to bear fruit?” What does his church look like in terms of fruit bearing? What do we do with the message of the Scriptures preached to us every week, year in, year out?  We are God’s people, his vineyard, the fruit belongs to Him.  He is sending his Son again to bring in the harvest.  That is the theme of advent: God sent his Son to seek and save the lost, and when He returns on the clouds on that glorious day, He will gather in the harvest which He bought with his own blood.

God sent his Son

In the chapter from John’s Gospel we read this morning, we heard:

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:9–11, ESV)

He came to his own but his own people did not receive them.  The parable of the tenants puts it this way: they did not respect the son for what and who He was.

The popular notion then that Christmas time is just a time of joy, fun and laughter tells only one side of the story.  There is a dark side to Christmas:  Christ’s own people rejected Him.  He came to die for sin, and the world was indeed extremely dark when He was born.  There was no joy at the time; just misery and spiritual darkness.  The Son, the Creator of all things Himself, was rejected by his own – in a narrower sense, his own Jewish people.  They did not recognise Him, and therefore they rejected Him.  And yet,

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, ESV)

That is the good news of Christmas: The Son became flesh, a human being like us, and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory.  Of Him we sing: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King!”

It seems as if the farmers of our parable actually knew who Jesus was, but they refused to hear, they hardened their hearts and stopped their ears to hear the truth.  Listen what they said:

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. (Matthew 21:38–39, ESV)

Each generation of Jewish leaders sanctioned the deeds of their fathers by repeating them. They made all the previous murders their own by adding to them; and the climax was reached by the last generation of these leaders when it killed Jesus.  They killed Jesus because they feared to lose their own positions. Their blind unbelief hid the spiritual nature of the kingdom from them, and thus the fact that they could never hold the outward rule while its inwardness was foreign to them, remained hidden from them. “Let us have” means “possess” the inheritance. They wanted to possess the branch on which they sat by cutting it off from the tree which bore that branch.

Not many days after Jesus told this parable, not even a week, He was arrested, falsely accused, deserted by his disciples, flogged, and nailed to the cross.  They killed the Son.  But they did not get the inheritance.

The same Jesus is coming again; this time not to save the lost, but to judge the living and the dead.  He will return to the world which was created trough Him; He will purge it from dross, He will crush those who rejected Him, because those who fall on Him will be broken to pieces, and he on whom it falls will be crushed.

Let what happened to old Israel be an example to us, God’s privileged people in Jesus Christ. Let’s not wait till it is too late before we fall before Him and worship Him as King and Lord.  There is no second chance.

The Kingdom given away

The death and rejection of the Christ did not eliminate Him. The very contrary is true: this made him what the new structure needed: “corner head,” cornerstone. The dead Jesus arose from the grave. The cornerstone would be the whole foundation. As such He is set at the chief corner and as such He governs every angle of both the foundation and the building itself.

Up to that point he kingdom had been confined to the Jews. This was true even with regard to the ministry of Jesus; but now this would be changed.

John said his own rejected Him and did not receive Him.  But this is not where the story stops, it continues in good news:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13, ESV)

God’s plan was to extend his Kingdom to other peoples besides the Jews.  It is now not only those who by natural descent, like the Jews, are called children of God, but those “born of God”.  And they who are born of God receive Christ; when this happens God gives them the right to become children of God.

This new “people” is defined as one that produces the fruits of the kingdom. It is the new spiritual Israel of true believers, composed of men of all nationalities including also Jewish believers.  They now become a “nation” with the God of grace ruling in their hearts through Christ. The term “fruits”, which are, of course, contrition, faith, and works of faith.

It is by the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God who came to seek and save the lost, that the Gospel came to us, and that we may be called children of God.  It is only by faith in Him that you may be called a child of God – more that this, you receive the right to be His child.

Paul writes to the Ephesians:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21, ESV)

Time for the harvest is approaching

It is custom to in the weeks leading up to 25 December, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, that we ponder the meaning of his coming to do the will of the Father on earth.  We read the story of how his birth was foretold, and how those prophecies were fulfilled in the splendid night of his birth.

We know the story well, but there is a danger in listening to this story only:  hearing it over and over again might just lead us to not look at his Second Coming.  We might even be caught unprepared like the Jews who knew the prophesies about his coming, and yet, when He came, they were unprepared.

Let us hear that message again this time of the year, and let us sing carols and songs of joy because of his Birth: the Messiah is born; He became flesh and He lived amongst us and we saw his glory.  Praise God!

But let us also reflect on his return.  Our parable says harvest time approached.  Two thousand years have passed and we are now so much closer to the harvest of all time: Jesus is coming again!

For those who believe this is absolutely good news, and we cry out as the longing bride of the groom:

“Amen! Come Lord Jesus!”

He cannot come soon enough.  Of this world where sin and its effect is getter darker by the day; of this world where the vile is becoming viler, and those who are doing wrong seems to boast in their wrongdoing, I don’t want to be part.  Something deep inside my says I have something better to long for.  On the pages of the Scriptures I read of the Groom returning to his bride, and I pray that the Lord will come.  I pray for his Kingdom to come, not now in this dispensation only, but come – finally!

With the joy in my heart about this day, I cringe when I read,

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. (Revelation 22:12, ESV)

I realise that his return is also a time of giving account.  And I pray that I will be found busy in the things of my Lord when He comes.  I pray that the world and what it has on offer will not become my home; I pray that I will not be led astray and I be caught without oil in my lamp at the return of the groom.

But one thing sets my heart at rest:  He paid for my; He made me righteous in his blood; through his Spirit he adopted my as son and gave me the right to be called a son go God.  And that gives me peace.

Conclusion

We need to ready for Christ’s return; we need to busy for his return.  Don’t give your kingdom away.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 December 2012

 

A Nation Repents Before God

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Uganda’s Independence,

President Yoweri Museveni
President Yoweri Museveni

publicly repented of his personal sins and of the sins of the nation:

“Father in Heaven, today we stand here as Ugandans, to thank You for Uganda. We are proud that we are Ugandans and Africans. We thank You for all Your goodness to us. I stand here today to close the evil past and especially in the last 50 years of our national leadership history and at the threshold of a new dispensation in the life of this nation. I stand here on my own behalf and on behalf of my predecessors to repent. We ask for Your forgiveness.

“Forgive our sins of pride, tribalism and sectarianism; sins of laziness, indifference and irresponsibility, sins of corruption and bribery that have eroded our national resources; sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness and debauchery; sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and revenge; sins of injustice, oppression and exploitation; sins of rebellion, insubordination, strife and conflict.

“We pray for prosperity and transformation. Deliver us from ignorance, poverty and disease. As leaders, give us wisdom to help lead our people into political, social and economic transformation.

“We want to dedicate this nation to You so that You will be our God and Guide. We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nations whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice, to fulfil what the Bible says in Psalm 33:12: ‘Blessed is the nation, whose God is the Lord. A people You have chosen as Your own.’

“I renounce all the evil foundations and covenants that were laid in idolatry and witchcraft. I renounce all the satanic influence on this nation. I hereby Covenant Uganda to You, to walk in Your ways and experience all Your blessings forever….

The churches in Uganda suffered severe persecution under the Muslim dictatorship of Idi Amin, who seized power in the Military Coup of 1971. Hundreds-of-thousands of Christians were slaughtered under Idi Amin’s brutal wave of terror which was described in books and films as The Ugandan Holocaust.

Operation World reports revival and growth from 1986 onwards with widespread prayer movements, and a strong Evangelical presence in the Church of Uganda: “making Uganda one of the most truly Christian nations in the world, with church attendance high and public prayer common, even the government and judicial buildings.

Alexander MacKay
Alexander MacKay

“Pentecostal and Charismatic growth in the last 20 years is remarkable. The fastest growing churches in Uganda are almost all from this background – from mega churches of 15,000 to house and storefront churches. The spiritual fervour and expectation see transformational efforts – in Kampala, crime rates have fallen and it is estimated that more than half the population attend Evangelically orientated services.”

Uganda has tremendous agricultural potential, with most of the land very fertile and well watered. The climate is temperate in the highlands.

The 2010 edition of Operation World reports that of 28 million people, 84% of Ugandans are officially Christian. There are 14,600 Anglican congregations in Uganda, comprising over 5 million members and over 12 million adherents. 37% of Ugandans are Evangelicals, 19% Charismatics, and 5.7% Pentecostals.

Photo: Operation World reports revival and growth from 1986 onwards with widespread prayer movements, and a strong Evangelical presence in the Church of Uganda: "making Uganda one of the most truly Christian nations in the world, with church attendance high and public prayer common, even the government and judicial buildings.
Fertile Uganda plains

Despite the devastation of the Amin and Obote dictatorships, warfare on their borders in the Congo, Sudan and Rwanda, and the terrorism of the Muslim-supported Lords Resistance Army (LRA) the government in Uganda has succeeded in introducing multiparty elections, a free enterprise system and a free press.

Stanley wrote and urged for missionaries to come to help evangelise and disciple Uganda. The Church of England sent out a series of teams, including the very successful Alexander Mackay, who Stanley described as the best missionary Africa had seen since Dr. David Livingstone. The church in Uganda grew dramatically, and today the Anglican Church of Uganda is one of the largest in the world.

P.S.  An interesting note:  Wikipedia states:

“His tenure has also witnessed one of the most effective national responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa.”

Uganda has seen a tremendous return to family values and faithfulness in marriage.   This fact is not recorded by popular media outlets.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, Museveni was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders.

And yet, there is a veiled attempt to tarnish his person by labelling him as a “fundamentalist Christian”. One can one wonder why.  Maybe because he maintains that “gay relationships were against God’s will.”

Pray for this nation.  And pray for our nation!

The god of the family

“It is no unusual thing for a little child to be the god of the family—and wherever that is the case, there is a rod laid up in store in that house. You cannot make idols of your children without finding out, sooner or later, that God makes them into rods with which He will punish you for your idolatry!”

– Charles Spurgeon