Richmond Wandera moved to a 12×12 hut in a Kampala slum after his father was murdered when he was young. His mother sent him out to the streets to fend for himself until a young woman named heather began to sponsor his education through Compassion International.
Since then, Richmond has earned a masters degree from Moody Bible Institute and a PhD in philosophy from Lancaster college. He spent 6 months studying the gospels to learn how Jesus multiplied disciples that could disciple nations. He has since returned to Uganda where he founded the Pastor’s Discipleship Network with a passion to see Uganda’s 85,000 pastors deeply grounded in God’s word.
In 2016, Richmond spearheaded a campaign to build the Daraja Center which has been used to train over 2,500 pastors so far.
Richmond’s enthusiasm and vision for discipling the nation of Uganda is contagious. I found myself thinking after our conversations that God would use him powerfully in the transformation of his own country. His passion to develop research-based solutions to pressing problems and his willingness to think outside the box make him a formidable leader. Yet I also found him to be warm and engaging as he shared his eagerness to draw people into the life of Christ through a deeper understanding of God’s word.
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Dr. Harvey Kwiyani is a professor of African Christianity and Theology at Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom. Originally from Malawi, Harvey received his PhD in Theology from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN where I frist met him. He is the author of Sent Forth: African Missionary Work in the West. He is also the founder of Missio Africanus, a new initiative designed to train global Christians living in the west to engage thoughtfully in mission and navigate cross-cultural barriers. Harvey has become a thought leader on reverse mission in which global Christians from the two-thirds world are living intentionally and missionaly in Europe and North America in hope of revitalizing Western Christianity.
I’m personally excited about the conversation because Harvey has been a personal friend for many years and is one the first African friends to help me understand the world of African theology and spirituality. Over lunch one day he told me about the Bantu philosophy of Ubuntu and I ran home so excited to write a blog post on the connections between the humanizing tradition of Ubuntu and the work of making disciples of Jesus. Harvey and I have spent time together on 3 continents and I have grown to appreciate him as a fresh voice in the global conversation on global theology and mission.
For more information on resources discussed in today’s episode:
WDA has developed a unique way to help you meet people where they are and know where the discipleship process is going. The Christian Growth Checklist provides a tool to identify where a person is spiritually and emotionally. It lets people have a starting point in thinking about what they should learn, what areas of their growth might need to be improved. Many people find that as they grow in their faith, life happens! I have the opportunity to learn and grow but I don’t have as much time to commit as I desire to that particular area. Evangelism might be a good example. Your church might be offering a class in evangelism and how to share your testimony. Yet the week that you were to do that task you miss and never get that one skill down. The Christian Growth Checklist would help you remember that. You would be able to go back and learn how to share you story.
The checklist isn’t a tool for spiritual arrogance or a method to make us feel bad about things we haven’t applied. It is a map that shows the places we have journeyed on our spiritual walk and gives us ideas where we can go next. The checklist isn’t a way for me to look at my friend and compare grades like we might have on a spelling test in elementary school. This works well when you have a Life Coach who helps you understand and works with you make a plan and create situations to learn together.
We all know the Christian life is a long walk toward being more like Jesus. Eugene Peterson wrote a book called “A long obedience in the same direction.” I like that idea. We are learning to grow in obedience to all the things Jesus wants for us today. Tomorrow I continue to learn and then the day following. The Christian Growth Checklist helps me take the first steps by knowing where I have gone and looking toward next steps.
My daughter defines “friendship” as a relationship where “you can just be yourself”. We all need relationships with people who love us and accept us completely, a place where we feel safe and secure. Every relationship is unique, but healthy relationships have this in common: they are based on trust, loyalty, and commitment. They are places where “we can just be ourselves”.
An environment of honesty, good will, and unconditional love reassures us that we are relationally protected. When we are with people who love us in this way we are able to be transparent, which serves to deepen the relationship. We all need relationships with safe people who love us if we are to thrive and grow. This is also true in our relationship with God. If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence. Conversely, if we feel condemned by God, we will not have a healthy relationship with Him. Being secure in our relationship with God requires two commitments. The first involves His eternal commitment to us, the second involves our commitment to stay in the relationship with Him.
God is committed to keeping us as His children.
Jesus spoke of His love for His followers by comparing Himself to a shepherd who walks in front of his flock, guarding them, leading them to good places, and reassuring them with his voice. “I give them eternal life,” He said, “and they shall never perish: no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
This remarkable assertion is founded on God’s unswerving commitment to those whom He loves. Because of His unending love and unstoppable power, He is willing and able to guard us. (II Timothy 1:12) Even our own sins and lack of faith will not lessen His commitment to those who are committed to Him. Timothy writes that “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (II Timothy 2:11-13) His love for us is not grounded upon our performance, it is grounded upon His perfect love and character.
If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence.
Make no mistake, God is holy and hates sin. But we still sin, even though we don’t want to. When we do, we need to remember that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. We have Someone who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-2:2) Because Jesus Himself suffered temptations and yet did not sin, He is able to be the sacrifice for our sins and also to help us when we are tempted. Through Christ, God remains steadfast in His love to us.
We are committed to continue as His children.
Someone said that home is where they have to take you in when you knock on the door. Unfortunately, not all homes are so welcoming. But God always welcomes His children. And He wants us to be assured of our place in His family. Because we are His children, members of His family, we have a role also; our responsibility is to remain in His family.
John wrote his letter, the book of I John, so that people would know whether or not they were Christians. Central to his message was the confidence that Christians can have in their relationship with God. He writes: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13) The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
John says, “I write these things” so you can have this assurance; so you can know for sure you are a believer. What are “these things” that he writes? He is referring to three evidences laid out in his letter that show a person that he has become a believer. These evidences are our love (4:7), our obedience (2:3-6) and our faith in Christ (4:15, 5:1a). It is not that we will demonstrate perfect love, obedience and faith but that we will experience each of these in ways we cannot explain apart from the fact that Christ is changing us on the inside. In these ways, the true believer remains faithful to the end, “continuing in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23)
At times we all face doubts, accusations, and even suffering. When this happens, it is essential to remember that we are God’s children, committed to follow Him. The fact that we are God’s children does not mean we never sin or disobey God. Nor does it mean our salvation is dependent on our obedience. It does mean that we continually participate with God in our sanctification, working with Him by faith to grow in Christlikeness. As true believers we continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” because we love Him and trust Him, pressing on to fully gain the salvation that is already ours through Him. (Philippians 2:12) To those who recognize both the divine and the human aspects of following the Living God, this approach is both mysterious and practical at the same time!
The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
Put another way, God has given us everything we need to live a godly, holy life and be sure of our salvation. But we must make every effort to grow in righteousness, remembering that we have been cleansed from past sins and called to live as children of God. This way we confirm that God has brought us securely into His family.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:3-11
There is a basis for us to be secure in our relationship with God and be certain of our salvation. The basis of this security is God’s eternal love coupled with His ability to keep us to the end. This is confirmed in our lives when we have a trusting dependence on Him and a maturing character.
We can be secure in our relationship with God.
A healthy relationship is based on trust, loyalty, and commitment.
God is committed to keep us as His children.
We can know we are God’s children and be committed to Him.
God has equipped us to live godly, holy lives assured of our salvation.
If you were God, what are some of the changes you would make in your own human character?
What are some of the signs in your life that God has begun that process of change?
Read and meditate on the book of I John.
Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store
“May the force be with you!” This now-familiar “benediction” of the Star Wars series has emerged as one of our cultural icons, characterizing an accompanying (albeit impersonal) power that is able to provide strength and comfort for lifes challenges. Unfortunately, this is also how many Christians view the Holy Spirit. For them, the Holy Spirit is a mysterious “force” who somehow influences and impacts their lives. Admittedly, explaining the Person and work of the Holy Spirit can be daunting. But the rewards of understanding God through the Person of His Spirit far outweigh the difficulties.
Who is the Holy Spirit? Is this only another name for God? A force? An impersonal “it”? A separate personality? The Holy Spirit, like the idea of the Trinity, can be a difficult concept to understand. (In fact, almost all the cults stumble over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, denying the existence of the Holy Spirit as God.)
Fortunately, we have the light of Scripture to show us God’s will and reveal His truth. This is particularly valuable in our understanding of the Holy Spirit. At this point in history, God is invisible to our human perception. But though invisible, He is still there, and He is active in the affairs of our lives. Even though the wind is invisible we can describe it and see its effects. In a similar way we cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see Him in the Bible and witness His effects in the lives of believers. (John 3: 5-8) By studying how the Scriptures describe the Holy Spirit, we can know God more fully .
The Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit
It is important to recognize that Scripture does not always give lengthy explanations or formal lessons about God and His Kingdom. The Bible is not an entire account or testimony of the acts of God toward His creation and His people. As such, we find that Scripture clearly teaches us about the Holy Spirit but does not set out to prove the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the Bible writers assume and teach the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.
The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity
In many cultures, it is common when first meeting others to inquire about their family relations. By knowing someone’s family name, it is possible to gain insights into the community roles and context of the new acquaintance. In a similar way, knowing how the Holy Spirit relates to the other persons of the Trinity gives us a better understanding of who He is.
As we read through the Bible, we can observe that God the Father’s role is primarily that of planning and initiating. Jesus, God the Son, executes God the Father’s plans. His Messianic role as suffering servant and delivering king is central to who He is. Finally, the Holy Spirit’s role is to apply the plan to believers.
We can see these roles of the Trinity in the work of salvation. The Father plans and sends the Son. Jesus the Son executes the plan by dying on the cross for our sins and being raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His dwelling in their lives.
The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
Sometimes the best way to relate to people is to learn what they do. Actions, as the saying goes, speak louder than words. The Holy Spirit takes many actions on behalf of believers, and it can help us understand God the Holy Spirit by considering these ministries.
The Holy Spirit automatically gives certain benefits to us when we first repent and believe in God’s salvation. Titus 3:5 tells us, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” John 3:3-8 and Ephesians 2:4-5 also speak of this regenerative ministry. The Holy Spirit testifies to us about Christ’s sacrifice and sets us apart for God’s purposes when we are first saved. (Hebrew 10:13-14). He indwells us, seals us, intercedes on our behalf and gives us spiritual gifts. (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:26-27; I Corinthians 12:7-11) The Holy Spirit accomplishes each of these acts on our behalf at the moment of our salvation.
Other ministries of the Holy Spirit, however, are applied to the believer only as we cooperate with Him. John tells us that the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin and teach us truth as we yield to His influence and power. (John 16: 8- 11, 13-26) He guides us, empowers us and fills us, manifesting His grace in our lives as we seek God’s will. (Galatians 5:16-18; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 5:18) In essence, the Holy Spirit walks with us, affecting us throughout our lives by an ongoing process of making us holy. (Hebrews 10:13-14)
The Holy Spirit not only works in the lives of believers, but He also convicts “the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment,” making people ready to hear our Gospel message. (John 16:8-11). Finally, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, literally “breathing” God into the writers. He is the ultimate source and authority of the Bible. (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21).
Therefore, we should be humble and grateful because of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in our lives. He is a personal God who is at work in our lives, helping us as we strive to obey and follow Him. We must seek Him in the Scripture and in prayer, continuing a lifelong process of cooperating with Him.
We can know God more fully by studying how He has revealed Himself as God the Holy Spirit.
Scripture assumes and teaches the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.
The role of the Holy Spirit is better understood in relation to the roles of the other persons of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His indwelling.
Some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit are automatically applied to the believer at salvation.
Other ministries of the Holy Spirit are applied only with the believer’s cooperation.
We should humbly and gratefully cooperate with the Holy Spirit throughout our lives.