Choose Blessings!

Homily delivered 7 May 2015
St. Augustine’s Chapel, Kabale, Uganda

1 Peter 2: 11-end

A general theme I find in the readings of these morning devotions is of blessings. What must we do to receive blessings from God? How should we treat our neighbors? We’re aware of the rules, the 10 commandments. We strive to lead a godly life.

This reading from first Peter gets right to it: as God’s people in this world, avoid the lusts and the bodily passions which tempt us. How easy will that be for us?

For some of us it will be very difficult. Bodily passions are felt by all. But the writer tells that these passions war against our soul.

Is this who God has called us to be? Fornicators and adulterers? No. We are his chosen people. We have a higher calling than the pagans or heathen…who know no better or who cannot control themselves.

I ask myself in certain situations: Is God’s blessing present in this behavior? Is this who God created me to be? Am I behaving in his image?

We can test ourselves through the fruits of the spirit, which the apostle Paul describes in Galatians 5. They include:

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Humility
Self Control

These are blessings, the fruits, of a healthy life…of healthy relationships, where there is light and life.

In 1 John 1:5 God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him. If you are in the Lord, there is no hiding, no secrets, no sneaking around. There is light and life. And freedom.

As God’s chosen people, we are the light of the world. If not us, in this room, then who? We can set an example for others!

Verse 12 today, Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.

At home, a few years ago, a group of neighbours and I would meet on Sunday afternoons to play basketball. A lot of fun and very competitive. Afterwards, we’d sit around and talk. Occasionally the conversation turned to God. Not all my friends are believers, and a couple are very skeptical, or doubtful.

But rather than remain quiet, which I might have done earlier to avoid any confrontation, I stood up, and tried to explain the nature of God, as forgiving and loving—as Jesus—not the church.

I think we’re called to do that. I think we are special people.

15For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves.

This doesn’t mean your lives will be boring. They will be enriched and blessed! Can you handle that?

The world tempts us with great pleasures. God promises us his blessings:

19God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will. 20For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. 21It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps.

Be strong, my brothers and sisters. Encourage one another. Dont take the easy road. Look for the road less traveled.

24Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. 25You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.

My friends, you have a choice. Choose blessings!

Signs of Faith

2 May 2014

Agandi ba sebo na ba nyabo…(Good morning ladies and gentlemen)

Baranyeta Patrick…(My name is Patrick)

Nemshemerwirwe kubaleba…(Nice to see you all)

Ninduga California, the Golden State, in USA (I am from California….)

Ninye omukazi, nomwana w’omwojo (I have a wife and a son)

Ndakola a BCH, Nursing School, a BDH a video…(I am working at the hospital, the nursing school and BDP with video)

Nindenda kugabana nimwe amurukiga evizoba…(I will speak in rukiga for the next few minutes…)

Just kidding…

Some of us, if not all of us, profess to be Christian, followers of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

We may believe that in our hearts. But how would others know that about us? I have no visible signs on my body or scars that show my faith in Jesus.

The apostle Paul writes about the fruits of the spirit in his letter to the Galatians. Perhaps we display kindness or love for one another. Otherwise, how would anyone know we live a life in Christ?

I know many of you here are sportsmen and women. And I am a big sports fan myself.

Sports fans typically show their allegiances by wearing team colors, jerseys or caps. They mark their fellowship with the team in outstanding ways. Team followers form powerful groups.

I could be wearing this Uganda football jersey in Los Angeles, New York, Lagos or Nairobi. If you, or your parents or grandparents saw me in any of those cities wearing this jersey we could have an instant fellowship. We could share a love of Uganda, its football team, and sports. We could talk at length.

At home, I occasionally wear baseball caps. I could go into any city in the US and if I saw another fan with a ball cap, a total stranger, strike up a conversation about baseball. We may not support the same team, like if I wore an Arsenal jersey and you liked Manchester United, but there is still fellowship, which we can identify, because we outwardly mark ourselves.

When I arrived here last year, I knew no one. However, I knew that Christ was at the center of your work in this hospital so I joined a new community of believers and supporters. I got comfortable quickly. The same is true this year.

I am surrounded by fellow believers. We share our faith, we share our lives, we encourage one another. I witness your compassion to the patients who line up here every day.

Paul wrote about our fellowship in his letter to the Colossians 3:12-17 NIV

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Now who here wouldn’t want to be in a community like that, or to share the joys and benefits. Mukama asiimwe! Praise the Lord.

Fellowship in Christ is a powerful and formidable thing. All of us here have opportunities to share that fellowship with one another and those we meet. How many times have I let opportunities walk right past me.

God has marked us as his own in this world. We don’t need a Giants cap, an Arsenal or Uganda jersey to let all know what we believe. Let us step out in faith to share his kingdom in this place, this country and this world.

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Amina…

Flight of Faith

“I’m sorry, Mr. Hill, the flight has now closed.”

What? Did I hear that correctly? I missed my flight to Entebbe?

My heart sank. My anger combusted in a second. I turned to face a representative, who asked what I needed.

“I just missed my fucking flight,” I muttered, bewildered by my immediate options.

“Sir, stop swearing or you won’t get any help,” she said. Fair enough. I just lost my cool. Actually, for an interminable moment, I lost my faith.

Obstacles and inconveniences are a part of life. They slow us down but don’t necessarily stop us. Most can be surmounted. Our desire and ability to get past them shows God our fitness to serve him. Will we get sidetracked, lost or demonstrate resourcefulness to continue?

For months I have been living in the spirit and dealing with obstacles related to my video ministry trip. Stay calm, stay focused, and stay the course. it will all work out. To whom much has been given, much is expected.

I slumped at the customer service desk where an angel took my boarding pass, worked the computer and the phone.

God, I can’t miss this flight. What will I do? I just showed just how weak I am. Faced with a looming dilemma, my faith failed me. Yet God showed his steadfast faithfulness to me.

The angel was conversing with important people and got me back on the flight to Entebbe.

I had to go through security again, and did so pretty quickly. Then had to run around to find the gate while the message board still indicated the flight was “closing.”

Rushed to the gate and heard, “Mr. Hill?” One more check of ticket and passport and it was off to the jetway.

Now we’ve been sitting here for nearly 40 minutes as crews try to remove six bags from an individual who will not be on the flight.

Looks like I made this flight in plenty of time.

But my bags didn’t.

Once on the ground in Uganda, I discovered that my bags didn’t make the plane. Really? Despite the 45-minute delay they didn’t get on?

Another obstacle in my path.