Menu Close

Category: Lifeline (page 1 of 5)

Short devotions pointing you to Jesus and His work on your behalf every week.

Your God is Ugly

“And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.”—Luke 15:14 (ESV)

The two sons in the parable of the prodigal demonstrate before our eyes the futility of giving ultimate worth to anything smaller than the Jesus of the Bible.

The younger son, who came peddling his Father’s death certificate before he could drop dead, showed that what he needed the most was not his Father but the Father’s things.

The older son also obeyed, not out of love for his Father but for his Father’s things.

Luke’s account tells us that the younger son got the things. We also learn that the things never saved him.

The god of the younger son was not enough for him. The things got used, and he began to lack again. The emptiness in him that he thought the things will fill became even wider. His god was finite and ugly.

To illustrate the ugliness of this god, you need to think about a bucket full to the brim with water. If you started scooping water out of that bucket, you would run it dry, one way or another.

That is what happens when we put our hope, trust, security, identity, worth, value and salvation in things that perish with use.

They run out.

In the end, we are left wailing, enslaved in enemy territory, destitute, smelly and ugly like the gods we trusted to deliver us in the first place. Even the pigs will not share their food with us because we are ugly.

On the other hand, the God of the bible is different.

He is like an ocean. From age to age, He never runs out; He never runs dry. He is infinite. He offers a sure salvation, but above all, He is beautiful and makes beautiful.

Christian, we have Autism

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”—Psalm 78:4 (ESV)

Autism is a rare disorder.

Children who suffer from it spend all their time focusing on a small aspect of their life. It may be a button on their jacket.

An autistic child can, for the whole day, restrict their attention to the button. They will do just that—repeatedly.

What therapists do for these children is disconnect them from the narrow focus the disorder restricts them to by making them look up in the sky.

When it comes to miracles, all Christians are autistic.

We have drawn conclusions of what qualifies to be a miracle and what doesn’t. Miracles are essentially the big things, the ones we will talk about during testimony time in our prayer meetings and heads turn. Anything short of that is not a miracle, we have concluded.

We focus on one aspect of life and close out everything else.

When we restrict our attention to the “extraordinary,” we miss a God who works in ordinary ways. We forget that the God of the Bible works and saves through ordinary means. He also gives Himself to us through the ordinary means of bread and wine. When we overlook the ordinary, we miss all the things God is doing in our lives.

We miss the miracle that woke up this morning.

We miss the miracles that we have people who love us.

We miss the miracle that God has given the opportunity to hear and believe His Gospel.

We miss the miracle that our children are able to go to school and graduate with degrees.

We also miss the miracle that we are able to give our children in marriage.

Yesterday as I was running late on my commute to work, I found a taxi which was to cut traffic jam by way of using a different route. Was that a miracle? Absolutely!

When I got to town, I found another taxi which needed just one passenger to hit the road. Was that a miracle? Because I’d be sitting waiting for it to fill up, it was a glorious miracle.

Miracles have their place in our daily grind. It is in the sweat of toil, the patience of parenthood, the perseverance in faith, the pain of suffering, dinner with a new neighbour, and the serenity of family quiet times that God works. Miracles happen every day.

What we need is to look up and see how vast the universe is. Until then, we will not be thankful for the miracle that we are alive today.

AMEN.

God’s Glory vs. Man’s Glory

 “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”—Isaiah 6:4-5 (ESV)

When one of God’s archangels in charge of administration started to question the authority of God, he thought of executing a mutiny.

Lucifer loathed the thought that every created thing on earth, above it and underneath it glorified God. He wanted that glory for himself. But his rebellion fell through.

Since then, Lucifer, the Devil has recruited men starting with Adam so that they will worship him instead of worshipping God in heaven. He promises them things as well as a false independence which, if bought into, keeps all men enslaved to this fallen angel.

When he came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, he promised him all the riches and glory of the world he does not own in exchange for Jesus’s worship of him: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8)

The Devil promises men that they will be great: that the other men will glorify them if they first glorify Lucifer himself. He lures men with lots of money, expensive cars, and problem-free life.

God, on the other hand, changes the people who are drawn to glorify him. His glory is so bright that it exposes the darkness in the hearts of men. It is what my hero Festo Kivengere called “God’s radiant character.” When sinners encounter God, they tremble and repent of their sin, which he washes away (Is. 6:6-7).

Unlike the men who promise to change other men after they have glorified them, God changes people so that they will glorify and enjoy him in their new life. God does not deal in baits; he does not to trap mice.

The other thing is that men who demand glory from other men need it so badly to feel like they matter. Their life and identity depend on how many people will lick their feet and how many media houses will carry the pictures.

God, on the other hand, does not need a man to glorify him in order be God. Even if men do not glorify him, he remains God. This is what theologians called the ‘asiety of God’—He is self-existent and independent from the creatures he created.

We can, therefore, come to one conclusion: man was never created to be glorified. His quest for glory is a consequence of the corruption in him and into which he was born. When men seek to take for themselves the glory which only belongs to God, it points to the perversion in our worship. God alone deserves the Glory.

The answer to our idolatry is found in the Gospel. Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection alone, can transform our worship. He alone is able to convince us of the futility in bowing down to things and people smaller than Jesus.

The glory we give to men can only be redirected to God by God himself in Jesus. He already did at Calvary.

One Rejected Prayer which Forever Changed the World

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”—Luke 22:44 (ESV)

The culture we live in today is so full of itself.

One unanswered prayer can mean so many things. I have heard someone say to a group of people that their prayers remain unanswered because they did not purify themselves.

I am still trying to figure out what that statement means.

Others say that our unanswered prayers are because we have unrepented sin.

And also others say that we just don’t know the words to use when we pray.

What I have not heard, however, is someone explain away the reason why God (the Father) did not answer His Son’s request when he prayed in the garden. Is it not the bible which clearly says that “good fathers” don’t hand their children stones and snakes when they ask for a toast and some good fried fish?

Two lessons from this event hit you like a slap in the face.

Number one, fervor and frequency are never the stuff which get prayers answered. The angel at the Prayer Booth in heaven seems not to be very interested.

Luke, in his Gospel, when referring to Jesus’s routine activities, always uses the words “as was his custom.” Jesus’s custom constituted going to the temple and reading from the Law and the Prophets (4: 16) and praying up in the mountain (22: 39). But his prayers were also fervent for his idea of sweating was to bleed from the sweat pores.

That also did not move his Father in heaven.

Number two, God’s silence does not mean that he did not answer. I understand that all of us have an idea about how this world (including our lives) could be made brighter than it already is but the problem is that none of us down here owns a universe.

God has sole discretion over his universe and creation. He also has in his pocket the property deed to this universe. He owns it, solely.

Sometimes God does let us wallow in our sinful passions; that is granted. But that also happens because he has let us.

So, even as concerns our prayers, he is still sovereign. His “Yes” or “No” are both answers to prayer.

Think about it: What would be of this world had God the Father said “Yes” to the Son’s demands in the garden? What would be of salvation, mercy, grace, substitutionary atonement, simul justus et piccator, it is finished and all those beautiful statements we use to communicate the Good News?

Do you now see that one “No” from God is far greater than a lifetime of “Yes’s” from the entire mankind since creation?

Rest in the glorious reality that God’s “No” is also Good News because; it took a rejected prayer to save this world and all the train wrecks in it—even you.

AMEN.

How to Pray like a Pharisee

“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’”—Luke 18:11-12 (ESV)

When you hear the “Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector,” you can quickly brush it off as something you have moved past. The initial reaction to this parable is to say, “Well, I don’t pray like him, how could he!” And I’ll say: “Not so fast, friend.”

On close examination—I mean aside from moralising this parable and creating in it the gibberish categories of “us and them”—I have come to see how I pray like the Pharisee. You may think that this guy taught me how to pray.

I have on many occasions closed my eyes, (or humbled my eyes like my brother likes to say!) and prayed: “Thank you, God, that I have life, many have died….”

Or like this: “I thank you, Father, for the provision, for the food and clothing, many don’t have them…but I do…” What my prayer essentially is this: “I thank you, Lord, that am not like other men…”

The problem with the Pharisee’s prayer is that it is centred on him and how he is better than the guy in the pew across. So is mine. We, like the Pharisee, go before the throne and start bragging about how we are good in comparison to other people. Because it is boxed in prayer, we never get realise it.

Or, we may realise what we are doing, but it’s better than calling ourselves “sinners who are unworthy of anything, even the oxygen we breathe or the warmth and light given off by the sun.”

When we do this, we show how we are oblivious of the stench of death that surrounds us, it also shows how we have forgotten that the very life we live is a gift and any good thing that comes out of it is produced by God as benefit from Jesus’s work on our behalf. In short, to pray life the Pharisee is to forget the gospel which says that there is no life and justification in our goodness.

The tax collector’s prayer, however, is different. It is an attempt to find life outside of himself, in God Himself. He was humbled by his unworthiness and took it to God, and in his sin, he found justification.

May we daily be reminded of how broken we are and that the answer is found outside of us—in God alone. May God be exalted as he humbles us.

Amen.

Image: Free Bible Images

Christ Came To Save Sinners

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”—1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)

The Apostle Paul, after planting numerous churches in the Gentile world and taking the Gospel of God’s free forgiveness of sins to places it had never been heard before, still thought that he needed saving.

After healing the sick, going through all forms of persecution, and spending the most part of his life in the cold, you’d think that he would at that moment consider himself “arrived.” He didn’t. Towards the end of his life and ministry writes to his Spiritual son, Timothy, he calls himself the chief of sinners.

With his influence, Paul still knew that he was weak. He was aware that because of the body of flesh he was putting on, he still needed daily saving. He was mindful of the fact that no matter his achievements, he was not beyond God’s saving grace. In other words, it rang true in his heart that Christians don’t grow by moving away from the Gospel to something else but by moving deeper into the Gospel. That the cross and blood which ushers us into salvation at the beginning is the same that keeps us in until we get home.

He was also acutely aware that the life which justifies him is not his own. He had died with Christ, and now he lived in Him, no wonder he could afford to sound ridiculous. Robert Capon has an eloquent way of saying it:

“The life of grace is not an effort on our part to achieve a goal we set ourselves. It is a continually renewed attempt simply to believe that someone else has done all the achieving that is needed and to live in relationship with that person, whether we achieve or not. If that doesn’t seem like much to you, you’re right: it isn’t. And, as a matter of fact, the life of grace is even less than that. It’s not even our life at all, but the life of that Someone Else rising like a tide in the ruins of our death.”

Regardless of what you are going through right now: relational tension, addiction, the crisis of faith, sickness, pain, fear, guilt feelings, etc., be reminded that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom [you] are the foremost.” For you the chief of sinners he came to die. You are hidden in him. He knows your struggles by name. Take heart, it is finished.

AMEN.

Why Jesus’s Life Matters

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”—Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

Does the life Christ lived matter? Why did He have to live for 33 years? Couldn’t He just come, die and resurrect in one day? We usually love to talk about Christ’s cross and blood, but we never give that much credence to the life that led to that death and resurrection.

Does it matter then? I’d say a big yes. When we talk about Christ’s atoning work, we should never separate His life from his death and resurrection. They are one package, so to speak.

You see, the real question is this: When you sin after becoming a Christian, what happens to you? Do you become a Christian again? Do you get baptised again? The answer is no! As a Christian, you are not justified by the imperfect life you live rather by Jesus’s perfect life lived for you. His life becomes yours in salvation.

What happens when you can’t resist temptation? Christ’s obedience in the wilderness becomes your obedience. What happens when you can’t submit to the will of the Father? Jesus’s submission, even to the point of death becomes yours. What about when you seek retribution? Jesus’s perfect love, even dying for those who crucified Him is credited to you in through faith alone.

That is the point. When God looks at a Christian (one who has staked their life on Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), He sees only Jesus’s perfect life as their own. In justification, our sinful life is imputed to Christ while His sinless life is imputed to us. Therefore, the goal is never to do more or try harder but to remember who we already are in Jesus Christ.

“Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered; 
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered. 
For our atonement, while we nothing heeded, 
God interceded.”—Johann Heermann

Amen.

Why Repent when God Forgave us 2000 Years ago?

Last updated on June 20th, 2017 at 07:19 am

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,”—Hebrews 10:12 (ESV)

Louis and Aine first met in Kindergarten aged 5 and 6 respectively.

They quickly struck a chord, becoming close friends regardless of their social background; Aine hailed from an affluent family while Louis’s was an African middle-class. This however didn’t stop their friendship.

They went on to primary, secondary, high School and were both finally admitted to study Land Economics at Makerere University. That is where Louis met Cleopatra, a beautiful light skinned girl studying to become a Geologist. He loved to call her Cleo.

Louis and Cleo had a colourful affair for the three years while at Makerere University until what would be the worst day in Louis’s life came: his best friend Aine had proposed to Cleo (and she had said yes!) He was poised to marry her a week to their graduation in January.

Louis disappeared from home and he  didn’t even graduate—he was heartbroken. He hated himself, Cleo and his long-time best friend, Aine. He loathed everything that reminded him Cleo, even the scents, colours and stories.

Amidst his loathing, he dusted off an old bible in the small hotel room he was staying. He opened it to 1 John 4 and slid down to verse 10 which says: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” He read it again, and again and again. All that while he was thinking about how the people he called friends could stab him in the back and how God had moved, even amidst his hate, to love him.

Convinced he was. As he continued to dig into the scriptures, he encountered a God drenched in love, the love that ran red. This God always seemed to return good for evil. Louis’s heart was illuminated and the heaviness of hate started to go away each passing day. That is when he came to the faith.

Seven years later, he received a phone call from Cleo telling him that Aine had been in an accident. Without waiting, he rushed to hospital. On seeing his now bearded face, Aine broke down in tears as Louis ran down his bed to hold his right hand.

Without hesitation, Aine said to Louis just three words: “I am sorry.”

“You were my brother”, Aine continued, “these seven years have been the worst in my whole, will you please forgive me. I have learnt my lesson.” All this while Louis was looking at Aine’s face dripping with tears. Tears of repentance.

Then Louis said something. He told Aine that he had become a Christian during his breakdown and that the God he met saved him from hate. “I forgave you seven years ago”, Louis said. And he hugged his bedridden friend.

How could Aine know that he needed forgiveness if he didn’t say it? How could he show his desperation for forgiveness if he didn’t ask? He had been forgiven seven years earlier but this forgiveness became true for him only when he asked.

It’s true that God forgave our sins once on the cross, all of them past, present and future are covered in that one act of forgiveness. The problem is not God’s forgiveness but us—we have a hard time believing that God will never withhold his forgiveness.

Therefore, when we repent, we show our need for God’s free grace. Forgiveness is available for all but it’s only effective for those who really need it, and repentance is how we show our need every day.

AMEN.

I shall not Want?

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.”—Psalm 23:1-2

Perhaps the most popular chapter in the whole bible, Psalm 23 has had its fair share of misrepresentations. The most popular one has to do with verse 1b which says “I shall not want”. To many of us, this means that God, our shepherd, will provide whatever we want.

The writer of this Psalm is extolling God for his grace and care and prays that like a sheep which stays under the care of the shepherd, he will stay in the care of his God and do only what his God requires, not what he wants.

The shepherd does not give the sheep what it wants, he gives it only what it needs. For starters, the sheep don’t know what they need. They are lost in the web of wants and will not waste any time crossing over into someone else’s wheat field and eating it all up before moving to the next one.

We are in so many ways like sheep. We jump onto anything that promises life even if it really spells death. We have come to the disastrous conclusion that for our lives to have worth and meaning, all we need is money or a Galaxy 8+ and then later, if we remember, we will add: “…and may be God.” But the reason we want God is not because He is God but because we think He has stuff to give to us. That is how we have reduced this beautiful Psalm to a program of self-aggrandisement.

The truth of the matter is that what the sheep need is not the corn or wheat in the plantation across; all they need is the Shepard. He leads the sheep to where he knows the grass is good not where the sheep decide to go. The shepherd does not give the sheep whatever they want, He offers only what they need—Himself.

Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd offered to die in place of the sheep so that the sheep could have Him as their Shepherd in this life and beyond it. Because He infinitely knows that what the sheep need, first and foremost, is not all the grass under the sun but Him who created the grass and makes it grow.

AMEN.

You can’t be Free and still be Afraid

Last updated on June 9th, 2017 at 01:42 pm

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.—1 John 4:18b (ESV)

Fear is a present reality in the life of a Christian. We fear of punishment, death, sickness, old age, bereavement, and above all, the fear of the unknown.

I have met people who have told me that when they were about to finish a particular level of education, say, primary school, something bad happened and the trend went on. Most of the time, what happened was similar to what had happened before: sickness, attacks of all kinds (including panic attacks). Fear was the fuel that kept this train going.

When we are afraid of something, we are captives to that which we are afraid of. So people who fear the unknown will look at the horoscope in hope that it will give them some good news about their day ahead; people who fear old age will do all they can to look and sound young; those who fear punishment will go out of the way to obey even when they don’t mean it. We are captives to what we fear.

John Stott was right when he says that “Fear and freedom are mutually incompatible…” because to fear something is to give it the weight (glory) that it should have never had in the first place. Fear is a prison.

John, in his first letter, talks about the perfect love of God which casts out all fear. He goes on to say that because God has reached down to love us, that this love of His has birthed in us a love for Him (4:19) and so the fear we had of God punishing us is cast out and replaced with love. Think about it: when you love someone, do you fear them? When they walk into the room, do you get panic attacks or you are filled with joy—a joy birthed out of the love you have for that person?

The good news is that Jesus’s cross and blood by which He defeated the powers of darkness also frees us from fear. You don’t have to fear tomorrow because your life is in the hands of Him who created tomorrow. You don’t have to look to a horoscope for good news because the real Good News is that you are perfectly loved by God with a love so fierce that it drives out all fear. “It is finished” also applies to all your fears.

So, what are those fears keep you awake at night? What are the demons that come at 3am in the morning? Be reminded that they have been crashed under the feet of Him who crashed the head of the serpent.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

AMEN.

Why Jesus Christ as Lord of all Creation is so Good News

Last updated on June 10th, 2017 at 08:42 am

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”—Colossians 1:15 (ESV)

The satirical website, The Onion, published an article a while back titled Newborn Loses Faith In Humanity After Record 6 Days which talked about six-day-old little Nathan Jameson’s record breaking and picture-perfect diagnosis of this broken world:

“Though he has not yet developed the capacity for speech, extensive cognitive testing has definitively shown that the shockingly perceptive 6-day-old fully understands and accepts that human beings cannot be trusted, that they remain far too ignorant for their opinions to be reliable, that a lack of self-awareness about their own destructive tendencies pervades the species as a whole, and that most are too ineffectual to successfully pursue even the shallow self-interested agendas that rule their lives.”

We may go about denying it but all of us, in our heart of hearts, know that this world is a humanity walking on broken clutches: the wars that never end, propaganda, deceit, sickness, enmity, and a whole lot of destructive behaviours that we engage in in a quest to find life, meaning and purpose.

Everything we do under the sun is a way of finding a solution to this fallen humanity. But since the fall, nothing under the sun has proved to be a lasting solution to the ills of this world. Everything we have tried has not worked. Creatures continue to mess up creation in a bid to redeem it.

Paul, in Colossians 1:15-17, makes it aware to the little churchgoers of Colossae that Christ is indeed the one Lord of creation in this world and beyond it—through Him and for Him all things were created. That everything whether visible or invisible, above or under submits to Him because he is Lord of them all.

Here is how liberating this truth is: God the Son—Jesus Christ—has to be the above and Lord of all creation in order to redeem all creation. Only the One above creation is able to renew it. Creatures cannot redeem themselves, only  God can and by grace He has redeemed creation and one day, everything will be new.

Amen.

Are you (really) Enough?

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”—Colossians 1:19-20, ESV

When Hollywood actor Jim Carrey appeared last year at the Golden Globe Awards to present an award, he introduced himself as “two-time Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey.” He also added that when he dreams, he doesn’t dream any old dream. He dreams about “being three-time Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey” because then, according to him, he would be enough, and finally stop the terrible search.

Its common knowledge that nearly everyone in church today knows Sola Gratia (grace alone) from Eph. 2:8-9. We may all wax eloquent about being saved by grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus alone, but do we believe it? I think most of the time we don’t. Even when Paul says that “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” in Jesus, we continue to search. We look under every rock and behind every tree hoping that if we found that one thing, we would finally be enough.

Christians may not, on face value, be guilty for rejecting the Gospel, but you and I’s innocence is questioned when we add things to the already finished Christian Gospel. It may be a happy marriage, good grades in school, a good job, well-groomed kids etc. In a sense, I am led to believe that in order to be enough, I need Jesus and a happy marriage. Or Jesus and some fine knowledge in my head (knowledgeability), or Jesus and cool friends. Name it, it’s always Jesus + Something else = Enough. When we do this—which you and I do every day—we actually reject the Gospel. Where the Gospel shouts “it is Finished”, we shout back: “no sir, it is not finished, at least not yet.”

What Paul is saying is that if you got Jesus and tried to fit him into our universe, and all the billions of trillions of galaxies, he wouldn’t fit—because he is infinitely bigger than our universe. Why then won’t that Big God-Man be enough for your small life, which is just an iota in this universe? The verdict is simple, he is enough for you. Because of Jesus’s blood and cross, you are also enough. Stop the search, you have been found. It really is Finished.

Amen.