God’s image through your intellect

Man’s intellect is perhaps the strongest distinguishing attribute, for it sets him apart from https://thestandarducu.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/page-9.jpg?w=1462plants, and other animals. Unlike man, the other animals do not go to school, or undertake courses and programmes of study. They show no propensity to specialize in their knowledge nor do they write examinations.

This superior intellect tells us something vitally important about man’s incalculable worth in the created order.

When the Creator of all things, the Lord of earth and heaven, thought to create something in his image, he made man – male and female! The magnificence of the stars in the universe and the majesty of animals do not display such splendour as you do – created in God’s image. What an unfathomable thought!

This image may be flawed by sin and illness, weakness or disability, but each is no less stamped: “Created in the image of God”. This is true of every tribe and race, of the unborn child, the comatose patient, and the mentally handicapped. C o n s e q u e n t l y , Christians must abhor volitional abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Even tribalism belittles God’s precious creation. All this is injustice, which dishonors man, who is created in the image of God.

This image is in male and female equally, expressed through our gender categories. Since God is not comparable to our gender categories, imago dei , as theologians call it, is not gender related. To think in those categories is to wrongly infer that God is in our likeness. Prof. Wayne Grudem explains that “imago dei” means that “man is like God and represents God, but is not identical with God”. Churches that claim ‘identity with God’, that we are ‘gods’, propagate a heresy. To be ‘like’ is to show evidence of that likeness. Our knowledge of this likeness will always be partial because our knowledge of God is partial.

However, this image in us is the worth of who we are, our core identity; it is our distinguishing mark. Remove it, and evolution, materialism, pantheism, suicide bombing, and all the religious ‘isms’ make sense! We become comparable to other creation, leading meaningless lives.

Let me explore five ways in which this imago dei is made manifest:

We bear spiritual likeness to God. Man is incurably religious. All cultures have a form of religious expressionism.We pray and engage in rituals to connect with a higher being. The image longs for its divine nexus. It seeks after its life source.

  • Our moral likeness to God, the longing for righteousness and holiness. There is an innate sense of right and wrong, of good and evil, in each of us. Every human community has standards of right and wrong, and breaking them leads to feelings of guilt and fear of punishment.
  • Our relational likeness to God, imaging the trinity relationship, one God, three persons. Our sense of community and social intercourse is superior. Our social dynamics generate shared visions and lead to mutual growth and development. l
  • Physical likeness to God, God is spirit but He is nevertheless visible through our physicality. He is a God who sees; so we see too. We hear as he hears, we speak as he speaks, and express many other attributes of God through our physical members. Besides, we bear children physically in our likeness as he created us in his likeness. l
  • Finally, we bear intellectual likeness to God. Jesus is called the logos, the word of God, for our God knows all things and works through reason. So, man too is endowed with the ability to reason, to think logically, to learn and to create. He grows in knowledge and his creativity is far superior to other animals.

If you observe and study the world around you, you clearly see reason, the mind of God, behind its set-up. He made us in his image to bear a mind of reason like the original! He gave us an inquiring mind with which we study the intricacies of the created order.

We go to the university and spend hours discussing and arguing about complex things to grow in understanding. We want to know as God knows! We create and produce beauty, art, music, and literature, the sciences and technology. We were created in his image to use our intellect to create, as he the Creator, created all things “very good.”

Advertisements

The Agony of Christ

My topic today is common in churches. However, it is among the least understood messages because our knowledge of it is limited. This could be because it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the agony Jesus suffered during His Passion.

How can our human minds grasp the gruesome death of our Saviour and its compelling power? This is an attempt to unpack that mystery. Christ’s suffering is also called His Passion. The Passion of Christ has many angles, the first of which is His anticipated suffering.

As a little boy, malaria attacked me several times. Our town had a medical assistant who ran a treatment scheme out of his home. He was famous for his fearsome ‘needles’, as we called the injections that he liberally administered to young children suffering from malaria.

Our father dutifully took us to him when we were unwell. The medical assistant would promptly take out his ‘needle’, immerse it in water in a saucepan, light a paraffin stove and proceed to boil the water in full view of the intended victim! I would sit there helpless, cringing with fear, anticipating the suffering when that needle would eventually tear through my backside.

My anguish to an extent reflects the agony of Jesus that night when Judas walked out to betray him. Jesus anticipated the physical, spiritual, mental, and social pain He would endure in the coming hours of doom. His perspiration turned into buckets of sweat; which Luke calls “great drops of blood”.

But I think that Jesus’ worst nightmare was separation from the Father! On the cross He cried, “My father, my father, why have you forsaken me?” To make sense of this, consider that eternity has no beginning and no end; eternity is.

The Father and the Son had known unbroken pure, loving, fellowship with each other eternally but on that cross they were parted. As humans, our love is time-bound and it has ups and downs. Even those who pledge the deepest love on earth can never assure unbroken fellowship. They get parted, and we talk of heartaches. The Father and the Son did not know this life.

Their love was deep and knew no end. That was broken for the first and last time on the Cross. The Father and the Son were parted because Jesus was carrying the sin of the world. This is another enigma. The Bible puts it simply: “He who knew no sin took our sin.” And He carried the full consequences of sin. Separation from the Father within Himself and physical death became possible this once in eternity.

Years ago, one of my sons was very ill. His body temperature tested the maximum on the doctors’ thermometers. One night, while my wife was away, and I was in bed with this young boy, his body touched me.

It felt like red-hot charcoal! I jumped up, gripped with fear, and dressed hastily to take him to hospital. I am glad there was no traffic or traffic police on the road. Love moved me.

My eyes welled with tears at the thought of losing a son I love. In a very small way I felt his pain, and I was there for my son. So it was with Jesus. He was there for you and for me. He suffered our pain of sin. Peter says, “He bore our sins in His body on the tree.” The final perspective I want to reflect on is Judas’ betrayal. As Michael Card sang,

“Only a friend can betray a friend.” Jesus washed Judas’ feet, and shared bread with him at the Passover dinner. John reflects on Jesus’ love, saying, “… having loved His own … He loved them to the end.”

Still, Judas betrayed Him and Jesus had to bear this agony too. Jesus went through agony, rejection, separation from the father, and betrayal by His friends, for you and me. The song writer Clay Crosse put it that, “He walked a mile in my in my shoes.”

One Gospel for All Mankind

Dr. JohnJohn 11.25-44: On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait without any provocation whatsoever. Given the restive situation in the gulf and the economic implications of this act, there was worldwide outrage.

At the time, my family and I were living in the USA. We attended a rather lukewarm church to minister to its hungry congregation. The pastor was a brilliant Phi- Beta-Kappa graduate of Yale University.

However, his messages were a blend of psychology and introspective reflections! His 20-minute sermons normally revolved around the subject of the ‘left brain and right brain’, and an abstract expose of how these impact Christian living.

Admittedly, sermon time attracted the least attention if one cared to follow his opaque discussions.

As the Iraq-Kuwait war raged, the pastor posted to all church members his usual weekly newsletter. In it he had various prayers for peace from around the world. Being the scholarly man he was, he had a collection of prayers from virtually every major religion, including from Animism (African traditional religions).

This matter was disturbing for me. I called him to discuss his unintended insinuations for I concluded that such prayers undermined the uniqueness and exclusive nature of the work of Jesus Christ.

I discovered from his explanation that his theology put all religions at par. He argued that there was enough truth in every religion for the ‘salvation’ of its adherents! I could not disagree more. 

The Gospel of Christ excludes the possibility of salvation in any other religion.

Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven … by which we must be saved.” This means plainly that salvation for you and me is in no one else, in no other person. This was his bold statement to a hostile Jewish Council to alert them that there would be no other Messiah.

Peter’s words certainly disarmed the Jews. Of course, this assertion can be argued convincingly. Nevertheless, suffice for me to present three truth claims, as we find them in the Bible.

Jesus said of Himself: “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Note that by this He offered Himself to be the only one to take us to God, the only one through whom we can know God, and the only one in whom we have life. He was saying, “You either have me or you are eternally lost.”

We may respond to Jesus’ words with one of these options. We may say Jesus was willfully lying, or these were the words of a mentally unstable, maybe a deranged man!

What would be His motive to lie? The liar or lunacy streak is hard to reconcile with the man.

One option remains: He was and is what He claimed to be – the way, the truth and the life, in an exclusive sense. He is what He said He is, and besides, He alone is what He said He is.

In John 3.16-18, we see that God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, for the salvation of the world. These words are the Good News, the Gospel, in a nutshell.

Jesus is God’s unique gift to you and to me that we may be saved. No other religious leader or founder ever made this claim. Instead they claim to be messengers; but Jesus is God’s message in flesh.

Furthermore, the Good News is this salvation is free! It cost God His Son; but it costs you nothing because the full price for your redemption was paid.

Thirdly, the Gospel is one for all mankind. His salvation excludes no one. If you are not saved, it is not because salvation is not unavailable.

When Jesus was on the Cross, you too were on His mind, in His salvation plan. Indeed the whole world was on His mind. 

Finally, God does not and cannot deny you salvation. “Whoever … does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Condemnation may be chosen by inaction, just as salvation is a choice. Many people do not seem to comprehend the meaning of ‘choosing by not choosing’! Postponing your decision for Christ is identical with not believing in Jesus Christ.

One choice remains: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Now is the day of salvation. His loving arms wait for any sinner to run into His warm embrace.

I believe in prayer

Dr. John
REV CANON JOHN SENYONYI

When I came to Christ, I was taught that God answers prayer, especially prayer offered up in ‘faith’. I witnessed miraculous answers to prayer.

Faith itself was a mystery to me. It sounded like the self-effort to accomplish the prayer. However, I was encouraged to ‘only believe’ and see God answer.

I was exposed to men of faith, usually Pentecostal believers, whose prayers availed much. This was exciting. So, I tried to stretch my own faith to mimic their faith, and to achieve as their faith-prayers achieved.

But alas, my prayers sometimes did not accomplish what I prayed for! Still, I had some evidence and stood my ground to testify that, “God answers prayer,” meaning He gives what we pray for. I thought that effectual Christian prayer is judged by the result!

In time, I asked myself: Why do some of my prayers go unanswered? The explanations I got were varied: sometimes God answers as we have prayed, sometimes He says, “No”, since He knows better what we need. And sometimes we may not have prayed according to His will, or sometimes He says, “Wait.” Or my faith may not be equal to what the Lord desired to act!

Nickel_657609-960x640
A woman prays during the Peace and Joy Celebrations held at UCU recently

Now, there may be some legitimacy in each of these answers. The problem is all answers left me with more questions. I could not apply any of them with accuracy to understand my ‘unanswered prayers’.

If God has promised and He wills something for me, why are my prayers hitting a stonewall? For example, I have prayed for the salvation of my siblings for 40 years! Their salvation is clearly God’s will.

Similarly, Martha and Mary pleaded for their brother, Lazarus’ healing. Jesus’ immediate comment on his sickness and the end of the story both tell us that Jesus indeed willed Lazarus’ good health. But Lazarus to died!

Did Martha and Mary have the faith that Jesus could or would answer their prayer? Yes, they believed Jesus to heal Lazarus. But they did not have the faith to believe that He would raise Lazarus from the dead! And He raised him all the same without this faith, as if He did not need their faith to raise him from the dead!

Prayer then becomes more mysterious. But Jesus promised, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” 

Does God answer the prayer of faith or not? Yes, He does, but this does not bind God to our faith either to act or not to act. He remains sovereign.

Martha and Mary believed in Jesus but not in or for the miracle. I obstinately believe in prayer. But I do not believe in prayer because of the miracles or the visible answers to my prayers. This story shows us a deeper reason for prayer, the relationship with Jesus.

Prayer is more, much more than answered prayer. It is about the primacy of our relationship and conversation with a loving God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of prayer. If our desire falls below the need to know and fellowship with God, our prayers are the poorer for it.

When we come to God we must chiefly seek God for who He is. Christian prayer is not a duty to be performed, and neither is it coercing God to our side; He already is on our side. We pray to a God who is our friend in Christ Jesus.

When we understand this, faith finds a place in prayer. Faith is the language that unites us with our divine Friend. Two friends remain in fellowship as they believe and trust each other. Doubting God, and especially unbelief, tells God that we are not sure of Him, as we walk with Him! Any relationship without faith is untenable.

Approaching Him with a pure heart becomes imperative for us. The Bible says that our God is of “purer eyes than to see (look at) evil.”

Sin is the reason for sending His Son into our world. God the Father and God the Son were alienated in their eternal fellowship because of sin. Sin must never stand between our God and us. 

Similarly, obeying God is necessary to our relationship with Him. Obedience is the expression of our love for God. Without obedience we bring tension to the relationship. We obey Him; He does not obey us. Doing His will assures us of His purpose for our lives. He made us and knows what is best for us.

The greatest treasure Martha and Mary had when they came to Jesus with their prayer was their relationship with Him.

What if Jesus had not raised their brother, Lazarus? I believe they would have still loved Him.

Tribulations test our Christian identity

pasted-image-7BY FREDRICK MUKHWANA

As we approach examination time, some of us are anxious because of a number of reasons. You could be asking questions: where will my fees balance come from? Some may not be sure whether they shall make it because their coursework marks are very low.

Maybe you are a lecturer and have not finished marking the coursework scripts, wondering if you will mark exam scripts on time. Whatever the reason we need to remember that these trials test our Christian identity. Fear sneaks into our hearts without permission.

At this stage we have all registered many successes. We need to always remember that fear turns our focus inward and reveals a heart that finds it hard to trust.

When these fears and worries strike, it is good to read David’s prayer in Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord and He delivered me from all my fears.”

In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1- 23), Jesus describes several situations. The seed that landed on rocky places did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.

When the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Jesus said that the one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. Since he has no root, he lasts only a short time.

When trouble or persecution come because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

The seed that fell on good soil produced a good crop. By implication, that seed that fell on good soil stayed connected to the source of its life and was not destroyed by trouble, persecution, the worries of this life, or the deceitfulness of wealth. When we deal with tribulation as we should, it authenticates our true identity as believers.

“The Lord gives us hope when we feel hopeless …He teaches that our identity is in Him and not in what we do. He gives us the courage to face unknown future”.

When we wear the rags of “ashes,” He gently gives us a coat of praise. We can only have real peace when we rest in His arms.

We often share testimonies because we faced trails and the Lord enabled us pass the test.

Someone once said that confession is the beginning of creativity. If you are facing some challenge, you should acknowledge it exists and place it in His Hands. Ask God to give you His peace as you face today.

The writer is the Head of Department, Child Development and Children’s Ministry and Chair of the Institute of Faith and Learning Service (IFLS) Committee 

Character is your best asset

Dr. John

REV CANON DR JOHN SENYONYI 

Young people have asked me often how they can hold out on their faith to withstand the storms of life and stand with integrity. I will use John the Baptist to attempt an answer to their question.

Jesus used puzzling words to describe John the Baptist. He said, “I tell you, among those born of women, none is greater than John. Yet one who is the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

Thus He lauded John as a great man, in fact, the greatest among those born of women. Admittedly, John’s influence was significant, so much so that while in prison, he was still a feared man.

He stood faithful till the end when Herod’s concubine asked for his execution. What made this prisoner so special?

It certainly was not the geographical setting of his ministry – for he was a wilderness preacher.

You do not go to the wilderness to have impact on people. And if we are looking for a great man, we go to the State House or to dapper offices.

John’s clothing and earthly presentation were a letdown too, beneath what we would expect of a great man.

John was a hermit who spent his time in the wilderness. What was it about this hermit’s greatness, which Jesus lauded?

Clearly our yardstick of greatness is not Jesus’s. American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that, “Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force; that thoughts rule the world.” John lived consistently to apply his heavenly calling to his earthly circumstances. 

In particular, we recognise that John was a man of integrity. It was for this reason that he was jailed, for he told off a king about his illicit affair with another man’s wife.

Authentic character requires unflinching integrity. John was doubtless a man of integrity. It has been said that integrity is the commonest core value for organisations and professions.

And yet, this much discussed word seems to be an ever receding quality among the same entities.

And a discussion of character is woefully deficient if it does not enjoin integrity on those who seek to be men or women of character.

Integrity means oneness of being. It means to live one life both in private and in public. A person of integrity does not live for the human eye but for the God who sees all things, even the secret thoughts in our hearts.

character-quotes-like-tree-reputation-like-shadow-tree-real-thing-abraham-lincoln-wordsThomas McCauley says, “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he would never be found out.”

For example, I am faithful to my wife both away and in her presence. Similarly, the truth has one face. Integrity compels me to return advanced money, which I did not need to use for the purpose it was given. It also means I do not use money because it was advanced, but because I need to use it.

Integrity will not hire or promote a tribes-mate or relative, above more qualified staff unrelated to you.

And integrity would rather earn its salary at the end of the month than collect it with no or less work done.

John lost his life for his integrity, but he did not lose his name. The loss of integrity remains a permanent scar on one’s character. The end of a man with integrity is unalterable honour and pride.

Billy Graham said: “Integrity (or character for that matter) is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” 

Therefore, I suggest to you that your greatest asset in life is your character. Guard it jealously. Let it be seen in your work, study, and family.

Walk a life worthy of the calling

MasanzaBY DR. MICHAEL MASANZA

I was recently meditating on Ephesians 4:1, wondering what Paul meant by the statement: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”

What does it mean to walk a life worthy of any calling?

First, we need to understand what calling Paul was talking about. The clue is in the second verse where he uses the word “therefore”. This means he was talking about something prior to this.

In the preceding chapter, Paul was emphasising that God had a marvellous plan for the gentiles who through the Gospel of Christ had become heirs, together with Israel, sharing in the promise of Christ Jesus (Eph 3:6).

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that, “For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” This is our destiny: we are called to live extraordinary lives.

So how do we measure up to this calling? According to the 2014 census, over 84 percent of the Ugandan population is Christian while 14 percent are Muslim.

So, this percentage of the Ugandan population has been called to walk worthy of the calling, and therefore, be Christ-like in our behaviour and attitude. Unfortunately, as we all know, this is not reflected in our communities.

The likes of Luzira and Muchison Bay prisons are congested with Christians. And Uganda is cited among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Gods_Chosen_Generation

The above is a wake-up call to all of us, who have been called to this walk. None of us is immune from temptation.

In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul said: “Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall” (1 Cor 10:11-12).

But in 1 Cor 10:13 Paul said: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Friends, God does not wish that anyone falls. However, it is the choices we make that determine how we walk.

We must determine to walk worthy and not look back. In James 1:12-13 we are told, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil.”

The above implies that we need to be the same whether others are looking at us or not. We all know that only a small number of those walking unworthily are caught and the rest escape unseen. But the Lord knows our every action and nothing is hidden from Him. So, let us be determined to walk according to our call as Christians, that we may receive our crowns in the end. That is our destiny.

The writer is the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology