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Category: Grace and Life (page 1 of 2)

Articles on the intersection between grace and life

God does not Give Second Chances

You have heard it said that “Our God is a God of second chances.”

This is a popular phrase in the church today. I barely get through a testimony without hearing someone talk about a second chance God gave them.

I am not sure if what they always refer to is a second chance, necessarily, or it is a third, tenth, or a nine-hundredth chance.

Sure, we blow it every day. Fair to say, we blow it every microsecond, so I understand all attempts at ‘second-chancism.’ It sounds like Good News, a turning of a fresh page, getting a new opportunity to redo, only that this time we do it better.

At their heart, all attempts at ‘second-chancism’ are aimed at earning salvation from God with our tears, sweat and blood, just like we do every year with New Year resolutions.

When we say that “Our God is a God of second chances,” or when we pray that God gives us a second chance, what we are doing is seize the tools of salvation from God’s hand and get to work at saving ourselves and pleasing God with our ‘trying again.’

Because the culture is in our corner shouting “Don’t give up, be brave,” we go on to put our faith in our ability to do better at pleasing God so long as He grants us that second chance.

In his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Martin Luther had this to say:

The true way of salvation is this. First, a person must realize that he is a sinner, the kind of a sinner who is congenitally unable to do any good thing. “Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.” Those who seek to earn the grace of God by their own efforts are trying to please God with sins. They mock God, and provoke His anger. The first step on the way to salvation is to repent.

Nowhere in the bible do we find God telling his people to try harder and harder until they make it happen. Mr. Miagi in Karate Kid could give his little friend countless chances until he got the job done, but that is not how God operates. He gives us no chances to save ourselves.

He goes at it Himself. It is what the preacher in Hebrews 9:11-14 is saying:

 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

In salvation, God demands perfect obedience to the Law and then moves to perfectly obey the Law on behalf of sinners and sufferers.

God as a giver of second chances is not Good News; it is bad news. When salvation is put in our hands, there can only be death for the bible is clear when it says that we cannot please God by doing stuff (Isaiah 64:6; Galatians 2:16).

Martin Luther adds:

God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we may live through His merit. He was crucified and killed for us. By sacrificing His Son for us God revealed Himself to us as a merciful Father who donates remission of sins, righteousness, and life everlasting for Christ’s sake. God hands out His gifts freely unto all men. That is the praise and glory of His mercy.

The Good News of the Gospel is that the God of the bible is a God of one chance in His Son Jesus Christ. Christ comes once to offer a Himself as a sacrifice once for all for your sins and mine. That also goes for our spirited attempts to save ourselves through second chances, which is also covered in that one time sacrifice at Calvary.

The Gospel is a story of God coming down in the flesh and doing for us, with one chance, what we could never do with a million chances on our hands.

The 5 Most Popular Articles of 2017

This past year was an eventful one.

A lot of things happened including someone breaking into our office and taking off with our laptop computers. This event in particular dealt a blow to my writing spirit a great deal. All the projects I was working on for The Vertical Life were lost.

That said, the positives outweigh the negatives. There were some great articles published on mategyero.com. These articles are ranked according to views, social media shares and engagement.

Let’s jump right in.

  1. Why “Never Put all your Eggs in one Basket” is Really Bad Advice

This is a popular saying, we are always told to secure our lives, and since eggs break and baskets fall, we need to have so many eggs placed in so many baskets so that we will not lose everything.

But have you thought of the Gospel implications of this idea? That is the goal of the article.

Quote from the article:

“Jesus says that eternal life in the age beyond this one is for those who have given up on control and trying to secure their future using their things, like the rich man. When you desire eternal life, you bring nothing and hide behind nothing; you give up on human initiative and stake your life on God’s initiative—which, by-the-way, doesn’t look safe at all in human terms.”

  1. Why Repent when God Forgave us 2000 Years ago?

There are sects everywhere which peddle all kinds of ideas, one of those ideas is that we were forgiven once and for all and so there is no need to repent. The first part of the argument is fine but the second, wait a minute, with the help of a fictional story involving Aine, Louis and Cleo, let’s reflect on it.

Quote from the article:

“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.”

  1. My Dad and the Grace which Runs Deeper than our Sin

This comes off as the most personal article I have written for this website—I reveal way too much. I talk about my final moments with my dad—Mr. Mategyero—and also reflect on the lows and disgusting places Jesus went to as he preached and demonstrated grace.

Quote from the article:

“Jesus comes to that booth—a place of shame—and calls Levi out. He is not afraid to associate with the outcasts that no one wants to be seen talking to. He leans over the booth and whispers to Levi: “Dude, join my team.” Levi is called as a tax collector not as a reformed man. Christ comes to him in his outcastness and treason and calls him without requiring him to first change. He calls him as he is—dirty and ridden with mixture of shame and national ridicule. In the stench of his sin, Jesus touches Levi’s shoulder and calls him to follow Him.”

  1. The Death of Relationships

We tend to think of relationships in terms of the roles each one plays and how the life of any relationship, be it a marriage, depends on how the other party performs their duties. Husband ought to love their wives while wives also are called to submit to their husbands.

It is however disastrous to put expectation and obligation ahead of gratitude in any relationship. Find out more in the article.

Quote from the article:

“What Paul is trying to communicate is that love in any relationship that seeks to see the light of a new day should always be inspired by gratitude, not obligation. Obligation says, “I will love my wife to the degree that she submits to me”, it also says “I will submit to my husband to the degree that he loves me.” But gratitude says: “Because Christ loved and gave Himself for me, I will love my spouse or anyone without expecting reciprocation.”

“True, heartfelt love and acceptance is a “because….therefore…” affair; not an “if…then…” affair. People who expect to give love after the other party has checked off all the boxes on their checklist of demands demonstrate their failure to grasp the gospel. Because at the heart of our longing for love, there is no amount of love from a spouse, children, parent, relative or colleague that will ever fully and finally satisfy our hunger and longing to be loved.”

  1. Sleep Until Something Happens

This is a creative reflection on the biblical event called The Transfiguration. You remember when Jesus and a few disciples were on the mountain and Jesus was praying, and all of a sudden Moses and Elijah show up? Well, the disciples were sleeping, which was a good thing. Find out more in the article

Quote from the article:

“You see, God sends us to sleep for a reason: He can put things right without us. Just like He did to Adam in creating the Woman, God sends us to sleep so that He can do the work. I think that is why he created us last, after the beetles, mice, mosquitoes and chickens. He didn’t need our ideas on giving the mouse a fifth leg so that it can run faster or giving bigger thigh muscles to mosquitoes. He kept us asleep in His plan of creation.”

  1. Why the Gospel Makes so many People Angry

I grew up in church and I know for certain that there are people inside church who detaste a gracious God. They rather hear about how they gave in last Sunday than a sermon on a God who gives gifts to the unqualified. Find out why this article resonated with most of my readers.

Quote from the article:

“The offense of the gospel is that it accepts these riffraff without requiring them to first change. To add salt to injury, the gospel does not ask for a guarantee that they will change after they are accepted. The gospel just opens its doors and lets it the riffraff, the beggars and fools in to eat and drink until they are full, without a coupon. Not just that, it asks them to stay as long as they want because this party is for always.”

11 Advent Quotes to Feed Your Anticipation for Christmas

Advent is that time of year when we make our final turn leading up to Christmas. Around this time, we feed on the promise of God to one day send the ‘seed of the woman’ who will crash the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15). Advent is the coming to life of that promise told in a variety of ways and through the lips all Old Testament prophets.

Below are some quotes from books, the hymnal and the prayer book to awaken you to the Good News of the coming of the Messiah.

  1. He comes to us in the brokenness of our health, in the shipwreck of our family lives, in the loss of all possible peace of mind, even in the very thick of our sins. He saves us in our disasters, not from them. He emphatically does not promise to meet only the odd winner of the self-improvement lottery. He meets us all in our endless and inescapable losing.—Robert Capon

  2. “Christmas is fast approaching. And now that Christ has aroused our seasonal expectations, he’ll soon fulfill them all!” St. Augustine of Hippo

  3. “Come, Almighty to deliver, Let us all thy life receive, Suddenly return, and never, Never more thy temples leave. Thee we would be always blessing, Serve thee as thy hosts above, Pray, and praise thee without ceasing, Glory in thy perfect love.”— Charles Wesley

  4. Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other- things that are of no real consequence- the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  5. “The Kingdom of God is the already but not yet.”― R. Alan Woods

  6. “O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny From depths of Hell Thy people save And give them victory o’er the grave Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.”— Douglas L. Rights

  7. “God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  8. “Let deeds of darkness fly Before the approaching morn, For onto sin tis ours to die, And serve the Virgin-horn.”— Paris Breviary

  1. “Veiled in darkness Judah lay, Waiting for the promised day, While across the shadowy night Streamed a flood of glorious light, Heav’nly voices chanting then, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”— Ancient Antiphons

  2. “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.”—Book of Common Prayer

  3. “Into this world, this demented inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.”― Thomas Merton

27 Lessons from a 27 Year Old

On 7th October, this past Saturday, I turned 27 years of age. Along the way, I have learned a lot majorly through failure. Here is a trimmed list of 27 lessons from a 27-year-old.

Life

  1. I am more sinful than I can dare believe (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5 ) but God is more gracious than I can dare imagine (Romans 3:23-25; Hebrews 8:12)
  2. Stop trying to chase 35,000 dreams when you have one life to live. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and pick something you are passionate about, then do it—and do it well.
  3. We are born to die. The earlier you discover this, the earlier your life will find meaning.
  4. Failure is not what they told us it was, it is not something to avoid but one we should make our daily teacher.
  5. While everyone wants to be famous, no one wants to do the dishes.

Knowledge

  1. Strive for intellectual curiosity. Read blogs every day and at least a book every month, then ask yourself this question: What did I learn this week/month?
  2. Learn from people who are better than you. Sit at their feet and shut up.
  3. Listen to podcasts–a lot of them. Avoid YouTube videos.
  4. Trash the selfie stick and replace it with a pen.
  5. Carry your notebook to the shower; it is a labour ward for great ideas.

Dreams

  1. A true dream is one that is bigger than you, the dreamer.
  2. Have you a dream? Want to be a writer? Start now. Open up blogger.com and start writing. They say that water does not begin to flow until the faucets have been opened.
  3. Is your work creepy? Keep going, even butterflies are born ugly.

Friendship

  1. Your true friends are defined by what they do for you when you are not around, i.e., dead.
  2. It is good to have friends but it’s even better to become a friend.

Love

  1. Love is not earned, it’s free.
  2. Marry the one you love so that you will love the one you marry. (I heard that from a movie)

Purpose

  1. No one is born without a purpose.
  2. Our primary purpose is not to be something but to receive something–salvation (grace and mercy) from God.
  3. The theological why to all life’s whats and hows has to be the Gospel. In other words, the only inspiration in life should be Jesus’s work on behalf of sinners and sufferers.

Law and Gospel

  1. The Law of God is holy and perfect. It also reveals to us what God is like–perfect and in turn shows me the depth of my sin.
  2. The Gospel is not what we do or what God has called us to do.
  3. The Gospel is solely God’s work.
  4. The Law may demand that I obey, but only the Gospel can produce in me the desire to obey.

Sin

  1. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.
  2. No one has the power to defeat sin, God Himself is the only One able to defeat it on our behalf.

Plans

  1. Resolutions are a way to atone for the mistakes committed in the past year.

[Bonus] Manifesto

  1. Whatever you do, live by a code. I live by the Ragamuffin Code: [Lord] Have mercy on me a sinner.

Image: Unsplash/ Ryan Holloway

How to Become Better without Selling your Soul

The colonial education system was one way colonialists instilled order in the people they controlled. For the best part, schools—like the Police and the prison services—ensured that colonised people knew who runs the place.

The only way one could become better in such a school system was by submission whether you liked the program or not. Some pupils were good at doing the program while others always messed up.

What inspired improvement in school was the terror which the teachers were known for. There was always a saying that the backside (akabina/ekibunu) belongs to the government and so the teacher was free to whip his learners. All the time, we obeyed because the whip was always in view.

Our obedience was a result of fear. We didn’t like what was being imposed on us but it was easier to obey than endure the agony of punishment.

Terror-inspired obedience is always grounded in insecurity. Obedience is meant to earn something—respect, approval, favours, acceptance, and love. You can’t become better this way, you instead become a lunatic who is a good person when the guy you fear is around but when they are away, you become something else.

This is the kind of obedience legalism produces. A legalist treats God as a hungry bookkeeper out to get everyone who is cheating on the taxes. Such a God carries carrots for the good boys and girls, and sticks to whip the bad ones. Obedience under such a God is through fear—the fear of the heinous things that God will do to them.

Paul in Romans chapter 6 demonstrates a different kind of God, one who takes the initiative. He puts on flesh to do what we have all failed to do.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:20-22, ESV)

This kind of God graciously hangs on a tree, with nails through His hands and feet, but shouts “forgive them.” In His pain, He sees our pain instead, and dies so that we will live. For us who were once slaves to sin because of Adam’s transgression (which was imputed to us), He by faith makes us slaves to righteousness, again by imputation. All this happens after He has accepted our sin—far and wide—to be imputed (credited) to Him. The God of the bible deals in only one currency—grace.

It is from this free gift of grace which none of us deserves that is now our new identity. We are children of God who now call Him Father. His love for us attracts us to him, not the other way round. And this love alone can transform our lives.

The root of His justifying work at Calvary births in us a fruit of obedience. It is out of his love and mercy towards us who deserve wrath and damnation that obedience springs. Paul says that Jesus’s saving work leads to sanctification—which is theological word for becoming better. Being better, in the Christian sense, starts with Jesus, any other thing that promises results apart from Jesus is fake.

His love for us alone has the power to make us better. No elbow grease, no sweatshops, no treadmills, just sheer grace. Trust Him alone above everything else this world promises, you never know, some fruits may pop up in your life for the glory of His name.

My Dad and the Grace which Runs Deeper than our Sin

A few days to Christmas day of 2001, I remember walking to my dad and telling him that I wanted him to come with us to church on Christmas day. He had said yes.

My mum had died a year and a half earlier. She was the one who took us to church. When she died, there was no one to go with us to church. I remember my young brother Simon and me changing from our Anglican church to a nearby Pentecostal church where they gave biscuits and sweets after Sunday school. I was 11 and my brother was 7.

While growing up, the only time we went to church with dad was when my brother and sister were being baptised. I was 8 then, if I remember correctly. But the day I was baptised, he didn’t show. I don’t know why.

I was terrifically happy that my dad had accepted to go to church with us. On the morning of Christmas day, I happily walked the corridor that led to his bedroom to tell him to dress up quickly as we were running late. I found him in bed and that is when he told me that he was not feeling fine.

He was later admitted into a hospital and on New Year’s Day of 2002, he breathed his last. He never went to church with us.

********

I find the account of the call of the disciples particularly interesting. The calling of Levi (Matthew) strikes me the most. Luke in the twenty-seventh verse of the fifth chapter tells us that while Jesus was walking around (of course not aimlessly), he saw a tax collector standing at the tax collectors booth and he told him these words: “Follow me.”

Later that evening, the tax collector threw a party for Jesus and he invited fellow tax collectors. The Pharisees and Scribes also came.

I prefer Luke’s gospel because of his emphasis on detail.

Notice that Jesus comes to Levi’s booth. Back then, tax collectors were outcasts and traitors. They held both titles concurrently. They worked alongside the oppressive Romans to solicit taxes from their fellow Jews. In order to earn a wage, they had to charge an “extra” amount on the taxes. They kept that “extra” as their wage. But many of them, if not all, charged a hefty “extra” on the taxes thereby becoming stinking rich.

They thrived on exploitation which they did without shame, no one liked them anyway.

Jesus comes to that booth—a place of shame—and calls Levi out. He is not afraid to associate with the outcasts that no one wants to be seen talking to. He leans over the booth and whispers to Levi: “Dude, join my team.” Levi is called as a tax collector not as a reformed man. Christ comes to him in his outcastness and treason and calls him without requiring him to first change. He calls him as he is—dirty and ridden with mixture of shame and national ridicule. In the stench of his sin, Jesus touches Levi’s shoulder and calls him to follow Him.

This is only possible if there is something greater than Levi’s besetting sins. And yes, it is there: grace. The grace of God in Jesus was able to redeem Levi, even amidst his sins, because this grace ran deeper than the sins he had committed, even the ones he would commit later on.

Jesus is attracted to Levi because of the very thing that condemns him before his countrymen—his sin. Because “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

********

The time leading to the Christmas of 2001, dad was always sick. One time he was down for a couple of days. I remember my Uncle bringing a friend of his to pray for my dad. I think it happened on two occasions.

On none of those occasions was my dad preached to. Those men came to pray for him but never told him about Jesus and the love He had for my dad. They came to deliver God’s gifts, not God Himself.

I can’t tell why my dad always shunned church. May be it was the guilt. He had made some terrible choices that threatened to tear our family to shreds. May be he condemned himself for that. I know that a few relatives did.

I have always asked myself what would have happened if someone had told my dad about Jesus. That no mistake he had committed or would ever commit could ever hold a candle to the love that God had for him. I think of what would have been of his life had he heard the Gospel that the grace of God in Jesus ran deeper than his sins, the grace of God in Jesus Christ which exclusively redeems our mistakes. What about hearing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ?

No one sat my dad down to tell him that the sins he cannot forget, God cannot remember. When I think of what would have been and what is now, I thank the Lord for the men and women whose hearts burn to teach and preach the Gospel, the true Gospel of Jesus and His free forgiveness of our sins.

My brother later told me that some people had come to my dad’s deathbed and told him about Jesus. He also told me that my dad died after he had come to the faith.

Why “Never put all your Eggs in one Basket” is Really Bad Advice

The experts have said it. We have heard it, and done it.

You have heard it being said that “never put all your eggs in one basket”. You need some security and a number of options at your disposal. You need to be in control of the situation. You need to prepare for the unseen and the unexpected of occurrences.

To put all your eggs in one basket is to be sure that you will finally deliver the goods safely without upsets here and there.

Me + Baskets = Safe

In business, they say its disaster to have one income stream. If you run an enterprise that is healthy and making you richer everyday but with just one income stream, you are sitting on a time bomb. And bombs explode, my friend.

A fantastic businessman, therefore, will be him who can creatively find ways—not a way, but ways—in which his company can make more money. He should be able to find other baskets in which to place his valuable eggs.

This is not just a business thing; it’s our way of life. For example, I have not met any sane person who puts all his savings in one savings account. If I met one, I would pray that we don’t ever cross paths again. Such reckless tricks and total disregard for life are nothing to be proud of.

Control is our game, and you should play along.

The Rich Young Ruler—a Man of Baskets

Luke’s gospel carries an interesting story of a rich man who approaches Jesus for some consultation (Luke 18:18-30). This young man had made all the money that is there to be made, he had driven alongside the hottest girls in his open-roof Mercedes. He had seen the most beautiful sand beaches, and at that moment, I think he owned a fleet of private jets.

This guy had built mansions, employed many people and he was the master of an enormous chain of command. Since he was so rich, I assume, he had earned the right to set his own rules and then live by them.

But this young man wanted more. He wanted eternal life. It’s possible that he knew the saying that: “If you need something, go and get it.” Here he is trying to “get” eternal life. And so he asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Then Jesus tells him that eternal life is in keeping the 10 commandments. To Jesus’s surprise (and mine), the guy had kept them all since he was a kid. But Jesus was not done, He still had one more trick down His sleeve. He looked the rich guy in the face and told him to do one more thing: “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The next thing we read is that this rich man was dismayed by what Jesus told him. He went into the parking lot, jumped into his yellow Bughatti and drove off. We never hear of him again.

It’s clear that this guy had invested his entire life building a life around baskets. He may have had a multiple-income-stream-business, a couple of investments here and there, mansions at the beach and in the country. His life generally felt safe because he had put his eggs in so many baskets.

But he still wanted another basket full of golden goose eggs which is why he went to Jesus.

Jesus – Baskets = Safe

Jesus’ answer to this rich man was brutal, it unsettled whoever heard it. So Peter, the inquisitive one probed even more and Jesus gave him the answer which the rich man needed to hear:

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

In this mind-blowing statement, Jesus dismantles the idea that keeping your eggs in many different baskets is safe. In fact his assertion is that baskets, altogether, are not safe: that those who locate their security in houses, wives, relatives, and so many other things will never receive eternal life.

Jesus says that eternal life in the age beyond this one is for those who have given up on control and trying to secure their future using their things, like the rich man. When you desire eternal life, you bring nothing and hide behind nothing; you give up on human initiative and stake your life on God’s initiative—which, by-the-way, doesn’t look safe at all in human terms.

The reason we love this whole eggs-in-many-baskets thing is because we have a lot of weak unhappy gods we are controlling and we are not sure that they will do the job anyway. That is why the many the baskets, the safer we feel because baskets are weak. We need many of them to feel safe. But they never do the job.

It’s impossible to claim that we are Christians and still locate our salvation in the baskets that carry our eggs. The Gospel of Jesus is a call to abandon the basket project—to give up all control—so that our hope, meaning, purpose, identity, security and salvation are found in someone else, outside of ourselves—in Jesus Christ alone in whom we have rest for our weary bones, forgiveness even for our darkest sins, and eternal life in the world to come.

348 Words on Winning without Ever Lifting a Finger

When our world talks about winning, what comes to mind is adequate preparation, meticulous planning, to-the-dot execution, and later celebrating the victory. In pedestrian terms, down here, wins don’t come easy. The saying goes: “success comes to those who are prepared.”

Winning takes a toll on you. You do the work. You sweat in exchange for a hard earned win. This is how we have been schooled and this was God’s judgement to Adam in Genesis 3: A combination of sweat and soil were to produce the bread which would then feed his wife and children.

But there is another story of winning. It is Apostles’ story. Acts 5:17-21 tells the story of how the Angel of the Lord comes down to open the prison cells in which the Apostles had been locked up. The first word the Angel says is “Go” not “give me a hand here”.

The Apostles are passive in this case. The victory is theirs but they did nothing to enable it. They just open hands and take the gift of victory. It is theirs by faith.

Such is Christianity, God in Jesus who is the head of the church does the sweating, the bleeding and dying, and the church takes the victory. Just like that. He becomes poor so that we will become rich. He loses everything so that you and I will earn everything. Because Jesus was poor in spirit for us, ours is the Kingdom of God.

The gospel story is a story of a God who gives trophies to bad kids who didn’t even finish their homework; it is a story about a slave who is adopted as a son to inherit the estate he had nothing to do with by faith alone.

Frankly, this is the best story ever told, the billion dollar lotto doesn’t come close. And who would be so silly not to take up on such a deal? A deal that asks nothing but gives everything to you. Not me. Certainly, not me.

“Sensible people, of course, should need only about thirty seconds of careful thought to realize that getting off scot-free is the only way any of us is going to get off at all”—Robert Farr Capon.

This is You, This is Me

“And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf.”—Exodus 32:4 (ESV)

Do you have a social media account like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram and the rest? What number of comments, replies, likes or shares daily would you need to feel like you matter in this world?

How many people do you need to reach on a daily basis through your social profiles to feel like you are making a mark on this world?

We, by nature, anchor our identity and meaning in small things. All of us look to created things to define us. We look to things smaller than Jesus for life.

Social media is one of the things we have crafted a messiah out of, but there are so many others.

Please, don’t read this and go like: “Goodie! Paul never puts his phone down, and Leroy is ever looking at his Instagram. I am gonna forward this to them, God is finally speaking to them.”

Wait a minute….

….this is you posting your pictures on Facebook every 30 minutes to garner likes and “you are hot gal” kind of comments; this is me trying to tell everyone that I had KFC for lunch via a selfie.

This is you dressing to impress, most of the time in uncomfortable attire; this is me standing in front of the mirror for 30 minutes so that my hair would look perfect (this world needs to marvel at my afro!).

This is you trying to win every argument, even the insignificant ones; this is me trying to make a point where wisdom dictates that I should just shut up.

This is you trying to fix the world by telling everyone what they should be doing (because you know and everyone else doesn’t); this is me judging people who are unlike me.

This is us trying to force an accent; this is us trying to walk with swagger in a new town because first impressions can do to us a world of good.

We all live for these things. They define us; they are our meaning and identity. We have a problem with people who are different from us, we even fight those who carry divergent opinions.

Because of the first Adam, we have all fallen short of God’s requirement of perfection. We have looked for answers in simple imaginable things when God gives us Himself—the unimaginable, unfathomable as our identity.

Like the Israelites, we have taken the gifts God has given us, and crafted idols out of them. We have taken good things and turned them into ultimate things.

Our skill, like Aaron and the Israelites, is to craft idols out the good things God has given to us like social media, friends, education, work, family, property, knowledge, theology etcetera.

But there is Good News: Jesus came. The old hymn says: “He came to love, heal and forgive.” In His perfect love demonstrated by His perfect life for you and me, Jesus forgave our idolatry and then healed our image before God.

He takes our place by becoming our idolatry. He was perfect, worshipped the Father in truth and junked Satan’s demands in the desert. But he bled and died.

He bled and died for your idolatry and mine. He was whipped to pulp for our idolatry. Nails ran through Him for our Idolatry. This is love, that God would die for the ones who rejected Him.

But you who are in Christ will not be condemned because Christ was condemned in your stead. In your place condemned He stood, sealed your pardon with His blood. Hallelujah what a Saviour!

“By grace alone shall I inherit

That blissful home beyond the skies.

Works count for naught. The Lord incarnate

Has won for me the heavenly prize.

Salvation by His death we wrought,

His grace alone my pardon brought.”

(Christian L. Scheidt)

 

You are justified in God’s sight. You are wholly forgiven and the Kingdom of Heaven is yours. So “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32, ESV).

Just like that, because of Jesus.

That is your Lifeline, Amen.

The Broken Mirror

 

https://i1.wp.com/www.mategyero.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Broken-mirror.jpg?resize=640%2C421

 

We love mirrors. We really do, but not always. On my good day, when I look ‘stunning’, I want to stare into the mirror over and over again. I love what I am looking at. I guess that goes for you too. The mirror in a sense gives us hope—that we still got ‘skin in the game’.

 

But there is another side to the mirror. This side we don’t like. It is the fact that the mirror does not lie. And why would it? I can’t think of any reason why the mirror would tell me what is not. Because there is always a side to us that we don’t like that much, we surely frown when it’s mirrored.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I have looked into the mirror and did not like what I saw. But that didn’t change a thing, did it?. Even if I stamped my feet on the ground in protest, the mirror will not be moved. It will still do its job—show me the truth.

 

There is a mirror God has given to us so that through it we will see who we are—the broken mirror—the mirror of God’s creation. But there is something about this mirror, we don’t like it.
Unlike the mirrors hanging on our bathroom walls, this one—we believe—has a lot of reasons to be conspiratorial.  But why? Someone once said that “We can’t handle the truth.” 

 

This broken mirror is in the bible and around us. We read about it and walk by it almost every day.

 

In Adam, his desire to be his own god and his desperate need to cover what he feels uncomfortable with about himself. In Cain, blaming his unworthy worship on someone else and later killing them for it. In Abraham, his desperate need to lie in order to save his skin. And what about looking for answers elsewhere apart from God—including in Hagar the Egyptian slave girl? In Jacob, the cunningness in taking what does not belong to him and then choosing who to give his love to and who to exclude from it. In Moses, taking matters into his own hands and then thinking not about the consequences of his actions. In Gideon, his fear, lack of faith and the need to see ‘proof’ amidst the proof of assurance from God that He is with him. In Samson, seeking pleasure outside his God-ordained confines. In David, wanting more at the cost of other people’s lives. In Peter, selling out when he should have known better. The story goes on and on.

 

All these characters and more are for us, not to idolize but see ourselves through them—specifically through their brokenness. We are Adam, Moses, Cain, Abraham, Jacob, Gideon and all of them. We are just as broken as they were—if not worse. Their story is our story. Their mess is our mess. Their idolatry is our idolatry. Their adultery is our adultery. Their self-salvation is our self-salvation. Because the sin which ravaged their day, is the same sin still breaking our backs to this day. 

 

They are not for us to draw great examples from but, first and foremost, for us to see and acknowledge our desperation and dire need of God’s inexhaustible grace. They are for us a mirror to see what God sees: “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis. 6:5, KJV).” And that: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah. 17:9, KJV)”

 

This also goes for the people in our lives. Those we meet at the train station wishing that a puff of cigarette smoke will fade away their worries into obscurity; that single mother standing in the line inside a bank hall thinking about the last time her cheque bounced; that fifteen year old sitting across the column in the classroom contemplating what his life will be like after his parents’ divorce is finalized; that father in the church sitting in the cold pew wishing that he will once again talk to the mother of his children who has been on life support for the last 90 days; that teenage girl in a dark corner abusing drugs because the memory of her being sexually abused at the age of seven is still fresh her mind; that woman in front of a motel trying to sell herself to the highest bidder in order survive another day or quench a sex addiction; that corporate executive sitting in a dark corner of a bar, while trying to drink away all the besetting inadequacies of his actions.

 

All this, the broken mirror shows us. But it does more than show us the brokenness in and around us. Its mirroring goes deeper to influence us in a way so defiant than anything else can.

 

This broken mirror erases the dividing line of categorization. It wipes away the classifications of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It echoes in our ears the voice of God through his beloved but broken apostle saying, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans. 3: 22b-23, ESV).” This mirror, broken by sin, levels the playing field. In a sense, to say that: “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ but ‘us’ and ‘Him’—God.”

 

When we start to draw distinctions, we blind ourselves to what we really are—broken. And so grace extended to those who have acknowledged their brokenness becomes an offence to us.
The Pharisees closed the door of God’s free grace on themselves when they thought they were better than Zaccheaus, or the woman caught in adultery on the basis of their ‘moral standing’.
One time I had someone ask me why I went to visit a person she labeled ‘not a good example’ and went on to list her sins to me, one by one. When we do this, we quench the fire of desperation which would have drawn us to the table of grace but instead draws us away from it. We stop to believe what we see ourselves in the broken mirror. Jonah came to learn this the hard way when he wrote: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8, NIV)

 

There is another thing. The broken pieces of this mirror are not to be thrown away; they are to be embraced for they compel us. They compel us to love, accept, approve of people we may otherwise think of as not being like us. Because the dividing line is no more, grace has been ushered in. And so we love them because we are not any better (even when the world wants to make us believe otherwise). This mirror is God’s creation, a symbol of His love for a fallen people that is why it compels us. John, the apostle knows why: “We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).”

 

Amidst this brokenness, there is good news. God is committed to transforming this broken mirror into something good (2 Corinthians. 3:18) and one day there will be a new mirror (Revelation. 21:5). No more shall we have a broken mirror but a perfect one, with no spots of sin. Why? Listen to Paul:

 

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1: 9-14).

 

God’s whisper of our brokenness is not His last word but His first. His last word is that our brokenness is not the end. That through Him, and by Him alone, this brokenness has been overcome. He traded bondage for freedom at the expense of His beloved son. For you and for me so that we will now look at the brokenness not as a barrier but as a gateway to a life of scandalous joy and exceeding freedom, and even surprising faithfulness! Because everything we need has been freely deposited on our account, we go out not to take anything but to give everything.

 

It is finished.

 

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39 (KJV).
(Image: Flickr/John Perivolaris)

 

 

 

Religion You Wear Like a Coat

What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness (Mark 7:20-22).

Lip-worship is as common in our day as it was

when Jesus visited this world.

People not only respect the traditions of the past—

as they ought to—

but they ordinarily honor them

and desperately clutch at them

like a drowning man latching on to floating debris.

They wear their religion—put on their religion—

the way a person might put on a coat.

 

As the prophets persistently enunciated,

this is abominable to God.

Hymn-singing, the making of prayers,

the confessing of creeds

the symbols and rituals and religious exercises

that are an important part of our churches,

are valid and desirable—

and they are pleasing to God.

But He looks deeper into the heart of man and woman,

into his or her real desires and motivations,

into the honest beliefs and intentions

of His human creatures,

He looks for faith.

 

The spirit of God breaks through the visible

and the apparent, the words people say,

the motions they go through,

and the rituals they perform;

He sees and knows what is in the hearts

of His children.

If hatred is there,

recognized but unconfessed sin there,

disobedience or faithlessness there,

the spirit of God knows,

and the heart of God is displeased.

The hymns of praise, the verbal confessions and prayers,

and the religious ceremonies enacted do nothing

for those people who wear their religion like a coat.

 

People may impress their naïve and undiscerning friends

with their religious activity,

but God looks into the hearts of His creatures

and He knows what goes on there.

It is not what a person wears

that makes that person acceptable to God;

it is what he or she truly believes—

what he or she is truly committed to—

that determines the source and object

and quality of faith.

Mark 7:6-23.

Adopted from: ‘Jesus/Now’ by Lesile F. Brandt. You can get the Jesus/Now from Amazon here.

 

Jesus is My Hero—and Yours Too


As I write this, my home country, Uganda is commemorating Heroes’ Day. For the best part of the day, medals will be awarded to our National heroes, both dead and alive. It is the same

energy on Facebook. Everyone, young and old; male and female; poor and rich, is letting the world know who their heroes are. The list goes like this: mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, uncle, auntie, sister, brother, class mate, the list is endless.


This got me thinking, “Who is my hero?” the only answer I could come up with was that there is only one hero—Jesus Christ. Not that I am trashing what role my national Heroes, friends and family played and continue to play in my life, no. its because Jesus redefines heroism itself.

The Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary defines a hero as “someone, especially a man, who is admired by many people for doing something brave or good.” Today we are celebrating the ‘good and brave’ people in our lives, even those who have done so much to the point of losing their lives in the name of Nationalism.

There is a special hero. The One am going to talk about is more than a hero. First, read what Paul says:


For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21, KJV).



I believe the most important words there are “for us”—that Jesus became sin for us. Now the one becoming sin, Paul says, “knew no sin.” Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t it humbling that God himself did come in the image of a baby to save us from our deeply entrenched slavery—sin—and all that comes along with it? Paul writes somewhere else:


Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8, KJV).



He died on the cross to save us. He was beaten, spat on, mocked, wrongfully judged, laughed at, and so many things but kept calm because He had you and I at heart. Even when the heart was frail and fear setting in, the load too heavy just like Moses, yet He could only come to one conclusion, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matt. 26:39b).” All that He said with you and me at heart. 

Unlike our earthly heroes who went as far as dying for our liberty, Jesus did something more: He lived for us. He was made in the likeness of man, living through the doom and gloom of this earthly life. He was tempted, betrayed, denied, hated, beaten, abused, and all those things which stress us every day. But because He had you and me at heart, He lived like a man, even when under no obligation to do so. He went ahead and did so for us.
Our heroes played (or continue to play) a part in our lives and at an appointed time, it will be us at the wheel. But look at Jesus—He did not just do something so that we will do the rest—He did EVERYTHING. Fastened to a cross with his arms stretched, he shouted: “It is finished (John 19:30).” Redemption, from that moment on, was ours. And we will forever be free. Jesus was aware that we, even if granted ten thousand lifetimes, could never workout our freedom, so He did it all. All of it!


Now you and I can say, “I am free, forever!” No need to guard the borders. No more do-it-yourself projects. With assurance we can then agree with Paul when he says: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39, KJV).” Friend, because of the work of Jesus, you are forever accepted and loved by God. You are clothed in an irremovable garment of righteousness (!). 

If you need a hero, I give you Jesus. Does He sound like a hero character to you? I think He is more than that. Jesus is our all in all. If He is indeed our hero, then every day should be Hero’s Day!