Morning by Morning

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward." Isaiah 50:4-5

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You Can’t Step Into the Same River Twice

Clergy Conference: Diocese of Kinkiizi

The Church in Uganda is a third generation church living in the afterglow of the East African Revival.  The Revival started in the 1930s on the hill in front of Namirembe Cathedral with two people who committed themselves to prayer.  One of the two went to Rwanda where the Revival began to spread rapidly entering Uganda through the Diocese of Kinkiizi and spreading throughout the country.  Today in Kinkiizi some of the grandparents of the current priests and lay leaders were directly affected by the revival.  The parents of our priests and leaders lived with the active memories and stories of that time; but there was another important event that marks the present church from that time, and that event was the history of the martyrdom of Christians in Uganda.

The history of the Ugandan Church began with the martyrdom of Bishop Hannington in 1885, and the subsequent martyrdom of 22 Christians.  From Universalis, a Roman Catholic Website providing the Liturgy of the Day Hours, we find the following description: “Many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, were killed by the Ugandan king Mwanga. Some of them were servants in the king’s palace or even his personal attendants. Charles Lwanga and his twenty-one companions (the youngest, Kitizo, was only 13) were executed for being Christians, for rebuking the king for his debauchery and for murdering an Anglican missionary, for “praying from a book”, and for refusing to allow themselves to be ritually sodomised by the king. They died between 1885 and 1887. Most of them were burned alive in a group after being tortured.”  In the second century the theologian Tertullian remarked that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  During the reign of Idi Amin, there was another wave of martyrdoms and the Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, was martyred in 1977 by Idi Amin's henchmen.

The present generation of Ugandan Christians live with both the stories of the East African Revival and the stories of the martyrs.  Their faith is intensely personal and enthusiastic with many evidences of the power of God and direct experiences of the presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit, but some of the marks of Charismatic revival as it has been experienced in the American Church in the 1970s are not currently part of the experience of Ugandan Christians. There is a tendency among American Christians to attempt to revive old revivals, but you can’t step into the same river twice, nor should you try.  Instead of attempting to relive the past we should be asking, “Where does the Holy Spirit want to lead us today?”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Do You Do When You Are Tired and Worn Out?

“…Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” ~ Bilbo Baggins

There have been times when I can identify with Bilbo.  He was a hundred and eleventy years old, and he had every reason to feel like butter that had been scraped over too much bread.  I suspect that most of us have been there at one time or another.

Even when you have doing your best, or perhaps, especially when you have been doing your best, that thin and stretched feeling can creep up on you.  There are several contributing factors.  Foremost among them is the fact that fallen humankind in a fallen world does not possess limitless energy.  Mind you, I think that limitless energy was part of God’s original plan in the Garden of Eden.  The curse Adam earned was, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat your bread . . . for you are dust and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 2:19).  We run out of steam because we were meant to be connected with Life Himself, and when that connection was impaired, death, and the potential for exhaustion, entered our world.

There is another factor that cannot be ignored.  At the very beginning, that Arch Liar, the Serpent, fed Eve a bundle of half-truths.  The central fib she was told was that she could be like God by doing things in her own way, instead of in God’s way.  The only safe thing she could have said to him was, “Be gone Satan!”  Make no mistake we are still in that same battle, a battle that will take its toll on our energy, and on our very lives.  Jesus said as much when confronting the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  There is an Enemy who seeks to drain us of all life and energy.  He is the Murderer of life, love, and joy.

There is a solution.  That solution is to continually, repeatedly, return to active fellowship with the God who loves us.  Isaiah asks us, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;  but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31). 

The Hebrew word for “wait” also means “to hope, to expect, and to bind together.”  When we are bound together with the Lord by dwelling in His Presence in prayer, in listening for His voice in Scripture, in praise, and in fellowship with the saints, our energy gradually returns.  Experience teaches us that this restoration is positive, gradual, and energizing like the charging of a battery.