Aside

A friend of mine shared a song, “Clear the Stage” with me today. It seems to go along with the post, “Do You Ever Want More?” so I added the song link at the end of the post.
Great song, and lyrics are awesome. Post is below.

The OT Third Day Motif

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” [1]

Thus wrote the apostle Paul, using the phrase, “according to the Scriptures” twice. Paul was clearly referring to the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures which were the only “Scriptures” the earliest church read. Today, ask almost any mature Christian for OT references to Jesus dying for our sins, and it may result in answers such as Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, the sacrificial system, Passover, etc. However, ask the same individuals for OT references which support Jesus rising on the third day, and perhaps some may answer with only one passage, Jesus’ sign of His resurrection – that of Jonah being in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40).  While that is true, there are numerous other Scriptures to which Paul is referring when he writes in 1 Cor 15, “(Messiah) rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

While it is impossible to know with certainty what exact Scriptures Paul was referencing in the OT, it will be demonstrated in this essay that the anticipation and prediction of Messiah’s third day resurrection occurs in at least four OT passages:  Gen. 3:15; Gen. 22:1-18; Hosea 6:1-3; and Exod. 19:1-24.  This third-day motif begins in Genesis and continues in the law and the prophets. The motif seems to be mystically connected to these and other passages of Scripture in which the Messiah is anticipated, prefigured or suggested. So, what do the OT Scriptures reveal about Jesus being resurrected on the third day?

Prior to going through these passages, it would be helpful to provide some essential background. To begin, understanding what a motif is will be beneficial before proceeding further.  A simple definition of motif can be, a recurring idea, feature, dominant theme, pattern or design especially in an artistic or literary work. Thus, in the OT, the reader should see a pattern or dominant theme running through the Old Testament.  Next, does the OT even make references to bodily resurrections after physical death?  For a list of these passages, see the endnote below. [2] Also as further background, it is significant to understand that the third day motif in the OT was even recognized by early second century Jewish scholars.  C. Marvin Pate writes, “Jewish interpreters as far back as the Midrashim (second century AD in written texts but probably earlier in oral form) have claimed that the third day motif is used in the Old Testament for God’s deliverance of Israel or a righteous person.” [3] Another crucial factor to consider is Biblical interpretation.  To respect the text and what God through His Spirit is saying, the reader must conform to the text, not force the text to conform to what the reader desires the text to mean.  A trustworthy method of hermeneutics (the word, hermeneutics simply means a method of interpreting the Bible) is to interpret the OT the way Jesus instructed others to interpret it.  Utilizing the method Jesus gave will be a reliable and trustworthy method for OT interpretation.  His primary method as revealed in Scripture is that the OT reader must (absolutely must) read those OT Scriptures as they speak of Him.  In fact, He said that plainly and clearly on at least three occasions (see Luke 24:25-27, 44-45; John 5:39). To further emphasize this point, after His resurrection, Jesus tells the two people on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 that to fail to interpret the OT without understanding all those Scriptures were written about Him, is to be: 1. Foolish; and 2. Slow to believe (Luke 24:25). Finally for our background sketch, Jesus Himself regularly made references to His life-giving, third day resurrection, both directly and mnemonically, that is, using language in an intentionally illustrative way of communication to help the listener remember. For example, He clearly and directly identified the sign of the OT prophet Jonah being in the belly of the fish for “three days and three nights” as a sign of His resurrection. [4]  That phrase helps the listener (in a world where writing was used less than today) remember or memorize the point Jesus is getting across.  Another example Jesus used was that He also referred to His body as a temple, claiming to raise it up in three days. [5] So convincingly did He speak this way, that even the Pharisees and chief priests were concerned something was going to happen after the third day (Matt. 27:63).  One reference in particular Jesus made about death will help us transition to the goal of our purview of the OT Scriptures.  Jesus strongly implied about Himself, if “a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies…it produces much grain.” [6] The inference here is clear – His coming death He vividly described as a seed, which would produce much fruit or life.

Genesis 3:15 & 1:11-13

Accordingly, where might one find a reference to seed, death and life in the OT?  Certainly, one place to start is the beginning, in the Garden of Eden.  After the fall of Adam and Eve into sin (and death), when God pronounces judgment on the serpent, a promise of a coming “Seed” [7] is made by our LORD. This reference is commonly accepted as a Messianic prophecy (the protoevangelium – the first declaration of the gospel in the Bible) which instills hope and life for humanity in the midst of a statement of God’s judgment against the serpent.

Both the seed reference which Jesus gives in John 12:24 and the Seed reference in Gen. 3:15 may not initially connect directly to a third day reference for the reader until one realizes the fact that in the creation narrative, this cycle of reproduction itself (death and life in a seed) begins with seed-bearing plants and trees which bear fruit originating on the third day of creation. [8] The significance of this third day is further magnified and contrasted in the broader context of Genesis 1.  For God divides on Days 1 and 2 (i.e., light from darkness and the firmament from the waters).  God does not call the first two days, “good.”  On Day 3, rather than dividing, God gathers water, sets up a reproductive cycle and calls both “good.” This statement of “good” is significant. Prior to this reference, the only “good” thing was the light (1:4).  So, Day 3 contains the next two references to God’s declaration, “it was good.”  Thus far, the reader understands what is “good” is light (1:4), gathering the water (1:10) and the seed cycle of reproduction (1:12).  This is simply remarkable.  When read carefully along with Jesus’ statement in John 12:24, the learner can begin to see that the Creator is communicating a design and pattern that is “good,” and includes some intricate detail into His creation and literary work.  Fresh new life begins on day three when the Spirit inspires Moses to introduce and emphasize seed-bearing plants which produce life after entering the ground and dying. Thus, Jesus’ statement about Him being a seed which will produce much grain and fruit takes on deeper meaning in the context of the creative day 3.

If the reader only had that piece of information, it would not be sufficient to directly connect to a third day resurrection.  It is simply mystical.  In other words, there seems to be, perhaps, some connection with Messiah and the gospel illustration of a Seed or seed entering the ground and bringing forth resurrected life and new fruit.  Does the “goodness” of the third day hold significance?

Genesis 22

Thinking about the promise of the Seed, the question then arises, from where will this promised “Seed” come? Later, in Genesis 15:1-4, the LORD God reveals Himself to childless Abraham and promises a son.  While this son is not the promised Seed, a miracle does happen with this child’s birth after a long period of waiting.  After Isaac is born (Gen. 21), God tells Abraham to sacrifice his “only son Isaac, whom you love” on a mountain in Moriah. [9] Abraham takes his son, Isaac, and others on a journey to Moriah.  They arrive on the third day (Gen. 22:4).  When the boy Isaac asks his father where the lamb is for sacrifice, Abraham in faith answers, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.” [10] Because of the statement in Hebrews 11, we know Messiah was prefigured in this text. Abraham believed “God was able to raise him [Isaac, the son of promise] up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” [11] The author of Genesis tells us that Abraham sees and presumably arrives at the place of sacrifice on the third day of his journey. As Abraham is about to slay Isaac, God intervenes and provides a ram [12] for the sacrifice instead.

Surely this would have been a deeply emotional event since as a father, Abraham had waited years for his son of promise. He is so deeply impacted by the substitutionary sacrifice that verse 14 records that he names the place, Yahweh Yireh (The-LORD-Will-Provide). God provided a ram in Isaac’s place on the third day, and Abraham called the name of the place, “The-Lord-Will-Provide.” Again, the third day motif is clearly connected with an anticipation and prediction of the future Lamb of God which God will provide, Messiah.

Adam Clarke in his commentary quotes Henry Ainsworth on this passage about the third day, “’As the number Seven,’ says Mr. Ainsworth, ‘is of especial use in Scripture because of the Sabbath day, Genesis 2:2, so Three is a mystical number because of Christ’s rising from the dead the third day…’” [13] The point here being that the passage in Genesis 22 is Messianic, and that passage is joined with a third day motif – both Isaac and Jesus would arise to life, “on the third day.” [14]

Hosea 6:1-3

A third passage from the OT anticipating and predicting Messiah is found in the prophecy of Hosea. He writes insightfully, “Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up, (2) After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight!” [15] Scholars debate whether this passage is a direct prophetic reference to Messiah’s resurrection. In the last paragraph of chapter 27, Mark F. Rooker in The World and the Word writes that Hosea 6:2 “may possibly be a reference to Jesus’ resurrection if in fact the nation is a type of the Messiah and represented by Him (1 Cor 15:4).” [16] C. Marvin Pate quotes Craig A. Evans who is more definitive, “The allusion of this passage [Hos. 6:2] in all probability derives from Jesus himself and not from the evangelist or early tradents searching for a scriptural warrant [for Jesus’ resurrection].” [17] Pate states, “we concur” with Evans’ conclusion. The references to healing us, reviving us, raising us up on the third day in order to live with Him (eternal life) certainly seems (in our present hindsight view of history) to point to our Lord’s resurrection with a third day reference. Additionally in 6:3, the prophet alludes to His “going forth” being established “as the morning” which is indicative of a morning resurrection.

Exodus 19

While there are other third day motif passages in the OT, [18] the final Scripture this essay will highlight is Exodus 19 where the law was given to Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai.  The contextual message of this chapter is rich in symbolism, comparisons and contrasts with Jesus’ resurrection and carries significant weight for the gospel. Tim Keller, when preaching a message on Exodus 19, establishes a very good argument that the gospel is found here at the giving of the law: 1. God’s undeserved grace (saving acts of the Lord – verse 4); 2. Response of obedience (v. 5a); and 3. Blessing of obedience (v. 5b-6a). [19] Keller quotes commentator, J. Alec Motyer, as writing, “The sequence of these central elements (in verses 4, 5 and 6) is extremely important for understanding the whole Bible. Nothing must ever be allowed to upset this formula.” [20] So, a crucial hermeneutical point should be made here:  in light of Jesus being full of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17), at the very giving of the law which came through Moses, the gospel of grace is firmly established first (19:4).

Later in chapter 19, the third day motif appears four times in three verses (11, 15 and 16). The emphasis of the first three references is a warning to the people to “be ready” for the LORD who will “come down” upon Mount Sinai on the third day. The final third day reference (verse 16) begins a description of the glorious phenomena preceding the LORD’s appearance in verse 18. Amazingly, most commentators researched make no connection with a third day resurrection. [21] Yet on the third day God clearly demonstrated to both Israel in the OT and to His disciples in the NT a visible and powerful display of His glory – the holy untouchable God in a theophany warning His people to stay away when first coming down on the mountain, and then His incarnate Son arising out of the grave in glorious display to be seen while encouraging His people (like Thomas) to touch Him in faith. The similarities seem to be an amazing representation of the shared message of God’s grace and holiness contrasted between the two covenants. There are other mystical, glorious contrasts and similarities Matthew describes, which are a bit beyond our purview. [22] Whether the passage specifically points to a third day resurrection might be questioned.  However, it greatly encourages this writer to see a glorious display in both testaments anticipating Messiah in the Old Testament and especially in connection with a third-day motif.

Even the writer of Hebrews follows the pattern of Jesus’ hermeneutical principle by exhorting “the Hebrews” (as well as any reader) with contrasts between Mount Sinai (which represents fear, darkness and death) and Mount Zion (which represents a festal gathering or assembly, heavenly descriptions, and “the city of the living God”) (Heb. 12:18-25).

Finally, as an aside, in one of his devotions Jonathan Cahn draws a special comparison between the sixth day (Friday), when the first Adam was created. The day of man. That first Adam sinned. His works from the curse would result in the ground producing thorns and thistles – which bring pain, suffering, division, broken relationships and blood. Similarly on what is now referred to as “Good Friday” (“good” because Jesus was reconciling the world to Himself) – the day the Son of Man was scourged, rejected and cursed – a twisted crown of thorns (symbolic of man’s twisted works) was placed as a mockery on the head of the Creator who created the first Adam.

Jesus said He did this for the joy which was set before Him.  What kind of love and joy is this? To die for the worst of us? He bore our sin and shame for pagan, sinful humanity, for you. This Friday was the day the 2nd Adam is cursed so that He can bring reconciliation (that is the heart of the cross), joy, peace, unity, love and eternal life to all who will put their faith and trust in Him. The greatest news ever! That reconciliation is a gathering through the death of the Seed to reproduce life and fruit. That act is beautiful, perfect, pure love, and it demands a reciprocal response – believe Him completely, die to self and let those past beliefs go.  Fully put your trust in Jesus and you will find peace, joy and security, along with eternal life.  Jesus says He who believes in Me has passed from death to life! How can we ignore such a sacrifice? By His power in us we can love! By His power in us we can be conformed to Him to lay down our lives for others!

In summary, the third day motif pointing to the Messianic resurrection is revealed not only in the above four Old Testament passages, but in other less prominent OT Scriptures as well.  The third day was descriptive of God’s “goodness” in saving His people.  Jesus rose on that third day according to the Scriptures.  He did not rise after three days as the Pharisees expected (see Appendix 1 below for a detailed explanation).  That belief simply does not line up with the motif in the OT.  In each of the four OT passages above, a message of God’s work through Messiah in the gospel is connected with the third day. While Israel arguably could not clearly see Messiah, could not clearly see the message of the gospel and certainly could not see mystical hints at a third-day resurrection as we see them in hindsight in the NT, the preponderance of the evidence from the OT anticipates and predicts the gift of God’s fantastic grace in the coming of Messiah – the sacrificial and powerful gift of our Father’s only Son and the gift of salvation and hope to humanity by the resurrection of Messiah on the third day, Sunday. May we reach out and see Messiah with believing eyes of faith. For without faith, no one will truly see or experience Jesus Christ who is our everlasting life.

Endnotes

[1] 1 Cor. 15:3-4 (NKJV).

[2] Some reference the sparing of Isaac, Abraham’s son, from his sacrifice as a “resurrection” from certain death had God not intervened. This passage will be considered later in this essay.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).

One reference about Messiah: Ps. 16:10 (NKJV). “For You (God) will not leave my soul in Sheol [the abode of the dead], Nor will You allow Your Holy One [Messiah] to see [undergo] corruption.”

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (Sheol), For He shall receive me.  Selah (Ps. 49:15).

Two references about resurrection in general: Isa. 26:19 (NKJV). “Your dead shall live…they shall arise…the earth shall cast out the dead.” Dan. 12:2 (NKJV). “…many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

“For man goes to his eternal home.  Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit shall return to God who gave it” (Eccles. 12:5e, 7).

The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones coming to life (Ezek. 37:1-10).

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave (Sheol);  I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues!  O Grave, I will be your destruction…” (Hosea 13:14).

Additionally, both Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-22) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-35; 13:20-21) miraculously raise dead bodies.

Finally, some see Jonah’s release from the large fish to be a type of a resurrection to which Jesus also refers (Jonah 2:6).

[3] C. Marvin Pate, 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2015), 343. See for example, “Palestinian Sandhedrin” 97A; “Babylonian Rosh Hashanah” 31A; “Palestinian Berakoth” 5.2; “Palestinian Sanhedrin” 11.6; “Midrash Rabbah” Esther 9.2 (on Esther 5:1); Genesis 56.1 (on Gen 22:4); Deuteronomy 7.6 (on Deut 26:12); Pirke de Rabbi Eleizer 51 (73b-74a).

[4] Matt. 12:39-40 (NKJV). It is worthy to note that Biblical scholars strongly debate whether Jesus was in the grave for 72 hours (i.e., a literal three days and three nights). C. Marvin Pate posits his answer in Question #38 in his book, 40 Questions. Additionally, Jonathan Cahn (a Messianic Jew and thus a believer in Christ who is from the tribe of Levi) provides various Biblical devotional insight in his popular book, The Book of Mysteries (see Day 47 and Day 124 amongst others). The three days / three nights controversy is addressed in Appendix 1 of this essay.

[5] John 2:19 (NKJV).

[6] John 12:24 (NKJV).

[7] Gen. 3:15 (NKJV).

[8] Gen. 1:11-13 (NKJV).

[9] Gen. 22:2 (NKJV). Jonathan Cahn in his insightful devotional book mentions that this is the first occurrence of the word “love” in the Bible. He also compares the requested sacrifice of Isaac, “whom you love” with the NT passage of God’s sacrifice of His Son, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” in John 3:16.  Interestingly, the word, “love” is not used in the Garden of Eden, but first used in relation to the child of promise.

Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries (Charisma House Book Group: Lake Mary, FL, 2016), Day 79.

[10] Gen. 22:8 (NKJV).

[11] Heb. 11:19 (NKJV).

[12] It is important to note that to Abraham God provided a “ram” (Heb, “ʹayil” #H352), not a lamb.  But in the future He would provide a “Lamb” for the sins of the world. This is significant as Abraham responded to Isaac’s question, “father…where is the lamb (or goat; Heb, “śey śȇy” #H7716) for a burnt offering?” Additionally, after the event happened on the third day, Abraham named the mountain, “The-Lord-Will-Provide,” not, “The-Lord-Has-(or Did) Provide” (past tense). Clearly, there was verbalized hope in yet a coming “lamb” to be a perfect sacrifice. Whether Abraham realized the significance or not of his naming of the mountain is inconsequential. The name he gave it became prophetic, as Mount Moriah eventually becomes Jerusalem where the “Lamb of God” was slain and sacrificed and then rose again the third day. In contrast, Abraham burned with fire the ram, perhaps prophetically picturing the ultimate conclusion of man’s imperfect offerings compared to God’s perfect Lamb which would give eternal life.

[13] Adam Clarke, “Genesis 22:4,” in Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Parson’s Technology, Inc., Electronic Edition STEP Files, 1999). Clarke includes additional significant comments by Ainsworth about the third day motif throughout the OT. Ainsworth’s entire comments are attached in Appendix 4 of this essay (below).

[14] There are other Messianic comparisons in the story of Genesis 22 including the fact that Abraham saddled a donkey, the very same animal on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Additionally, Abraham lays the wood for the sacrifice upon his son, Isaac, just as Jesus bore His own wooden cross on His back and carried it to His place of sacrifice.  Surely, as Abraham raises the knife to kill his son, Isaac must be thinking why his father would forsake him like this.  Similarly, as Jesus was nailed to the wooden cross, He cries out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Finally, it is this place where Abraham offers Isaac that both Jews and Muslims claim is where the temple mount is today in Jerusalem.

[15] Hosea 6:1-2 (NKJV).

[16] Eugene Merrill, Mark F. Rooker and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (B&H Publishing Group: Nashville, TN, 2011), Chapter 27, Kindle location 14845.

[17] Pate, 40 Questions, 345.

[18] Other interesting Messianic references also occur about the resurrection and the third day. A search for the phrase, “third day” in the Old Testament reveals more than thirty references each in the KJV and NKJV. New Testament references are listed in Appendix 2 and Appendix 3 of this essay.  OT examples of this include:

Genesis 42:18 Joseph releases his brothers from prison on the third day.

Joshua 1:11 “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’”

2 Kings 20:5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord.”

Esther 4:16; 5:1 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shusan and fast for me; nether eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (5:1) “Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house.” Esther is requesting corporate fasting for three days – either night OR day. This is not 72 hours. Additionally, she went in to the king on the third day. In other words, she didn’t wait until 72 hours was complete.

[19] Tim Keller, On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God 2012 TGC Women’s Conference. Published March 24, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rACtcpKA2vk, (accessed March 3, 2019).

[20] Keller, On the Mountain, 13:35 min mark.

[21] Richard Patterson, in a paper on the third day motif, categorizes the third day phrase in Exodus 19 under the heading, “Special Spiritual Activity.” He describes the motif as pointing to “actions and matters that take place on a spiritual dimension,” as well as “distinctive” and “unique” things pointing to “important things to follow.”

Richard Patterson and Michael Travers, The Third Day Motif, https://bible.org/seriespage/3-use-three-bible (accessed April 16, 2019), Article 3, under heading “Special Spiritual Activity.”

[22] These are listed in Appendix 5 in this essay (below).

Bibliography

Cahn, Jonathan. The Book of Mysteries. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House Book Group. 2016.

Clarke, Adam. “Genesis 22:4.” Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Electronic Ed. STEP Files, for Parsons Technology, Inc., QuickVerse, 1999.

Craig, William Lane. Jonah & Jesus: Three Days and Nights? YouTube Channel: drcraigvideos published March 24, 2017. Accessed April 21, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83ajEwGrJaw

The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.

Keller, Tim. On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God. 2012 TGC Women’s Conference. Published March 24, 2014. Accessed March 3, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rACtcpKA2vk.

Kostenberger, Andreas J. and Patterson, Richard D. For the Love of God’s Word, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications. 2015.

Merrill, Eugene; Rooker, Mark F.; Grisanti, Michael A. The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament. B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2011.

Pate, C. Marvin. 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2015.

Patterson, Richard, and Travers, Michael. “Article 3.” The Third Day Motif. Accessed April 16, 2019. https://bible.org/seriespage/3-use-three-bible.

Appendix 1

Are the “Three Days and Three Nights” Referred to by Jesus to be Understood as 72 Hours?

There are a few significant factors we need to consider when interpreting any Scripture:

1. We must approach God’s word carefully, humbly and respectfully. Kostenberger and Patterson explain it this way, “There is therefore an important ethical dimension in [Biblical] interpretation. We should engage in interpretation responsibly, displaying respect for the text and its author. The ‘golden rule’ of interpretation requires that we extend the same courtesy to any text or author that we would want others to extend to our statements or writings (Matt 7:21). This calls for respect not only for the intentions of the human authors of Scripture but ultimately for God who chose to reveal himself through the Bible by his Holy Spirit.”

2. We need to know (at least a little) something about “the third day” as presented in both the Old and New Testaments (see Scriptures in Appendices 2 and 3).

3. We need to know something about the Jewish mindset and Hebrew language before interpreting the passage.

4. We need to utilize a literal hermeneutic interpretation of Scripture. A “literal hermeneutic” simply means, “that a biblical text is to be interpreted according to the ‘plain meaning’ conveyed by its grammatical construction and historical context. The literal meaning is held to correspond to the intention of the authors.” This interpretation seeks to respect the author’s and Spirit’s intent of the passage under review.

5. Finally, there is a blessing when utilizing these steps. Jesus clearly stated that truth sets a person free (John 8:32). Will we permit and submit to allowing the Bible interpreting the Bible? Or will we put our own western, American or 21st century views and reckoning into the Scripture as we read it?  We must read it as the Spirit intended it.

Let’s first look at the language Jesus used in the New Testament. Jesus used various literary devices to get His point across or to make things easy to remember for an oral audience. Only a few examples of these literary devices are listed below:

A. Similie (uses “like” or “as”): Matt 24:27 “For as the lightning comes from the east to the west…”

B. Metaphor – Matt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth…” The 7 “I AM” statements in John.

C. Synecdoche – part is substituted for the whole. For example, Matt 6:11 “Give us this day, our daily bread.” We’re not praying just for bread, but our daily provisions of food or other things. In Rom 10:15 Paul wrote, “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news…” It is not just the evangelists’ literal feet that are beautiful.

D. Idioms – are a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. For example, “sleep” is an idiom used in the Bible for death; “breathing his last” is used as an idiom for dying in Acts 5:5. Another example is Malachi 1:2-3 God “hates” Esau, but loves Jacob. Perhaps the idea of “hate” here is an idiom. It is difficult to say with 100% accuracy in this example. Idioms are not to be interpreted literally.

E. Exaggeration – Jesus often used exaggeration to make a teaching point – “gouging out” your eye for lusting. Matt 26:52 “all (see next paragraph for a brief discussion on the word, “all”) who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” Is that 100%? It is exaggerated for effect. It helps people remember. Jesus says, for example, in Mark 13:1-2 “…not one stone will be left on another” (referring to the coming destruction of the temple), does that literally mean not one stone? It probably means “utter destruction.” How else would you say it? “99.6% of this temple will be destroyed.” Jesus seems to be using exaggeration to get His point across.

Another more challenging reference is when the word, “all” is used. Does the word “all” always literally mean 100% all? Luke 2:1 “all the world be registered.” That simply could not be taken literally – “all” the world? It was a literary device used by Luke to refer to only the Roman world. Or, Matt 2:3; 3:5 “all of Jerusalem was troubled…” does not mean every last citizen in Jerusalem was troubled. On the other hand, the word, “all” certainly can literally mean in some contexts, 100% all.

There are other literary devices used not only in the gospels but throughout the Bible. The parables themselves are a fascinating study.

Second, let’s consider how the Old Testament Hebrew language uses the third day. There is a clear pattern of God’s victory and release for His people on the third day. In this paper we have been reviewing a third day motif in the Old Testament. An interpreter should look at all the phrases in the Old Testament where “third day” is found. How is the motif and language used? As stated above in the paper (prior to footnote #3) Jewish interpreters are aware of a third day motif. It is clear that on the third day freedom, healing, release from prison, and victory are part of God’s story. According to Jewish writing and thought, a rigid 72 hours did not need to be completed prior to God’s deliverance, healing or victory. That assumption of third day continues into the New Testament.

Finally, Christian apologist, William Lane Craig, follows these steps above. He has a concise but sufficient answer for this question. His answer can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83ajEwGrJaw. Points are summarized below. I have added words for clarity and set my words off with brackets [  ].

“Obviously, there were not 3 days and 3 nights between Friday and Sunday morning [as we reckon time]. This [phrase, “three days and three nights] is an idiom in Jewish language that is variously expressed. Sometimes [the Bible] will say, “Jesus rose after three days.” More often it will say that Jesus rose, “on the third day.” And in Jewish reckoning the day begins at sundown at 6 o’clock. So, if Jesus is placed in the tomb on Friday afternoon before sundown, before 6, and then He was in the grave on Saturday. Then rose sometime after 6 pm on Saturday or Sunday morning, that [resurrection] is on the third day according to Jewish reckoning. Indeed, if Jesus were interred at 4 o’clock on Friday and raised at 7 o’clock Saturday night, the Jew would say He was raised on the third day.”

“So, these expressions are simply Jewish idioms which are drawn from the Old Testament expressing the time of Jesus’ resurrection. I think it is an indirect reference to the time of the women’s visit. It was on the third day, after the crucifixion, that the women came and found the tomb empty. So, naturally, the resurrection itself came to be dated on the third day [Luke 24:21 clarifies Sunday as “the third day”]. It’s simply an idiom to pick up the Jonah story, that Jesus like Jonah was in the ground for three days and three nights. It shouldn’t be pressed for literality. It’s an idiom. The use of the third day motif is a theologically significant motif. When you look at how that phrase is used in the OT, again and again, it’s on the third day that God delivers Israel from distress. The third day is God’s deliverance and victor. So, calling the date of the resurrection “on the third day” is a way of saying this is God’s day of deliverance and victory.

In conclusion, it is difficult to see how the “three days and three nights” can be taken literally with the overwhelming evidence of the third day motif in the OT, as well as the overwhelming descriptors carrying over into the New Testament,  “on the third day,” “within three days,” “in three days” or similar language, and finally, the abundance of literary devices Jesus used in the gospels. Jesus often spoke in such language that even the disciples grew weary of it and asked Him to speak plainly (Matt. 13:10; John 16:25, 29). So, the “three days and three nights” in Matt 12 does not literally mean 72 hours. Given our research, not only does the phrase mean parts of three days, but that one phrase interpreted literally as 72 hours makes numerous other passages difficult to interpret (Luke 24:21 and any passage which states “on the third day” or “the third day”).

Regardless of these notes, literary devices do NOTHING to compromise the validity and truth of the Bible as God-inspired. In fact, God’s creativity and poetic use of language in places in the Bible accentuates His abilities to hide truth, create a literary masterpiece, and sovereignly bring His words to pass, all while glorifying Himself.

Appendix 2

New Testament References to “Three Days

The phrase “three days” occurs 17 times in these verses in the NKJV and 19 times in KJV (KJV adds two passages in Revelation chapter 11:9, 11 which refer to the two witnesses).

1. Matt 12:40 “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
2. Matt 15:32 referring to the multitudes being without food.
3. Matt 26:61 “…and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’””
4. Matt 27:40 “…and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.””
5. Matt 27:63 “saying [to Pilate], “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’”
6. Mark 8:2 referring to the multitudes being without food.
7. Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
8. Mark 14:58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’””
9. Mark 15:29 “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days,”
10. Luke 2:46 after three days Jesus as a child was in the temple.
11. John 2:19 “Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.””
12. John 2:20 “Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
13. – 17. The remaining five references are in Acts and have nothing to do with the resurrection.

Appendix 3

New Testament References to the “Third Day

“The third day” is a phrase used in the New Testament especially of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A search of the New Testament for the phrase, “third day” reveals 16 passages each in KJV and NKJV. All but two of the 16 passages in the NT refer to Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. One other one (John 2:1) refers to a wedding day in Cana of Galilee where Jesus’ first miracle occurred, turning the water into wine. It can be argued that this specific “third day” miracle was also a precursor to His third day resurrection when joy would be brought to the full and Jesus would inaugurate His wedding with the Church body.

1. Matt 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

2. Matt 17:23 “…and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.”

3. Matt 20:19 “…and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”

4. Matt 27:64 “Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

5. Mark 9:31 “For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.””

6. Mark 10:34 ““…and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.””

7. Luke 9:22 “…saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

8. Luke 13:32 “And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox [Herod], ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’”

9. Luke 18:33 “They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”

10. Luke 24:7 “…saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

11. Luke 24:21 “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today (Sunday) is the third day since these things happened.”

12. Luke 24:46 “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,

13. John 2:1-4On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.””

14. Acts (written by Luke) 10:40 “Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,”

15. Acts 27:19 refers to Paul’s shipwreck.

16. 1 Cor 15:4 “…and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,”

Appendix 4

The Third Day

“As the number Seven,” says Mr. Ainsworth, “is of especial use in Scripture because of the Sabbath day, Genesis 2:2, so Three is a mystical number because of Christ’s rising from the dead the third day, Matthew 17:23; 1 Corinthians 15:4; as he was crucified the third hour after noon, Mark 15:25: and Isaac, as he was a figure of Christ, in being the only son of his father, and not spared but offered for a sacrifice, Romans 8:32, so in sundry particulars he resembled our Lord: the third day Isaac was to be offered up, so it was the third day in which Christ also was to be perfected, Luke 13:32; Isaac carried the wood for the burnt-offering, Genesis 22:6, so Christ carried the tree whereon he died, John 19:17; the binding of Isaac, Genesis 21:9, was also typical, so Christ was bound, Matthew 27:2. “In the following remarkable cases this number also occurs. Moses desired to go three days’ journey in the wilderness to sacrifice, Exodus 5:3; and they traveled three days in it before they found water, Exodus 15:22; and three days’ journey the ark of the covenant went before them, to search out a resting place, Numbers 10:33; by the third day the people were to be ready to receive God’s law, Exodus 19:11; and after three days to pass over Jordan into Canaan, Joshua 1:14; the third day Esther put on the apparel of the kingdom, Esther 5:1; on the third day Hezekiah, being recovered from his illness, went up to the house of the Lord, 2 Kings 20:5; on the third day, the prophet said, God will raise us up and we shall live before him, Hosea 6:2; and on the third day, as well as on the seventh, the unclean person was to purify himself, Numbers 19:12: with many other memorable things which the Scripture speaks concerning the third day, and not without mystery. See Genesis 40:12, 13; 42:17, 18; Jonah 1:17; Joshua 2:16; unto which we may add a Jew’s testimony in Bereshith Rabba, in a comment on this place: There are many Three Days mentioned in the Holy Scripture, of which one is the resurrection of the Messiah.”—Ainsworth.

Appendix 5

The Gospel Writer, Matthew, Contrasts and Compares Similar Events Between the Giving of the Law and the Resurrection

Matthew intentionally uses various descriptions throughout his gospel to show that Jesus is fulfilling Moses as “the new Moses.” These descriptions between Matthew’s gospel account of the resurrection and the giving of the law are not accidental, but rather are part of Matthew’s intention to support his idea that Jesus is the new Moses. This subject is better covered in, 40 Questions about The Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate, p.267 (see question #28 – “What Is the Main Message of Matthew about Jesus?”). Below are some the comparisons between Exodus 19 and Matthew’s resurrection account.

Exodus 19:11 “And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mt Sinai in the sight of all the people.” Now this was strange because in the Ancient Near East (ANE) every city of significant size had a ziggurat (pyramids with steps) in the city in which the pagan priest would climb the stairs to the top of the ziggurat to offer sacrifices and earn favor with the gods. A demonstration of the works of man to sacrifice, appease and call out to pagan gods.

Mt. Sinai is a ziggurat in the wilderness where Moses went up, but God came down. In all other religions, mankind goes up to earn favor with pagan gods, but here the one true God warns Moses and the people He is coming down.

1. A. Giving of the Law – Exodus 19:11, 20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain on the third day in the sight of all the people.
1.B. Resurrection – the LORD was crucified and seen by all and then arose and was seen by people on the third day (Luke 24:19, 21).

2.A. Law – Exodus 19:12, 23 “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'” When the law came down, it set boundaries and brought death with it. “Set bounds around the mountain!”
2.B. Resurrection – Before Jesus was raised from the dead, men made the tomb secure, sealed the stone (setting boundaries) and set the guard (Matt 27:66). When Jesus arose, He conquered our enemy (death) once and for all! It was Roman guards who became like dead men (Matt 28:4). After Jesus arose, dead people arose from their graves (Matt 27:52) and liberty and freedom from death and sin came (Gal 5:1, 13).

3.A. Law – Exodus 19:13 “Not a hand shall touch him (the person that touches the mountain in any way), but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow, whether man or beast, he shall not live.”

3.B. Resurrection – When Mary was crying in the garden at the tomb, the risen Jesus spoke to her!!! When considering the holiness of God contrasted through the lens of the law, this is amazing! “Mary!” She had such an intimate relationship with Jesus, she recognized His voice immediately! “Rabboni!” She saw the risen Christ in the Garden by the tomb when Jesus (probably politely and gently) told Mary not to cling to Him for He had not yet ascended to His Father. (John 20:15-16) “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ [which is contrasted to the natural fear in Exodus and when seeing a risen Jesus] And they came and held Him by the feet (contrast that to not touching the base of the mountain) and worshiped Him” (Matt 28:9). Jesus allowed the touching (He told Thomas to put his hand in His side and do it while believing). We can now approach God! What great, awesome and joyful news!

4.A. Law – Exodus 19:10, 14 “Then the LORD said Moses, ‘Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.'” v. 14 “Then Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes.”
4. B. Resurrection – At the resurrection, the clothing of the descended angel was “as white as snow” (Matt 28:3). The fine linen (clean and bright) is given (a gift) to the saints. “The linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8). This linen is imputed righteous works (“which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” – Eph 2:10b) as a result of grace through faith for the saints, not our own doing. It’s one reason the church at Sardis has filthy garments, because their works were not perfect (i.e. they trusted in their own works and obedience to the law), thus dirtying the clean and bright (righteous robes) of Jesus Christ. Jesus warns these people in His church who “defile their garments” with self-effort law and obedience instead of obeying from a heart of love from Him (1 John 4:19-21) to, “Repent! and you shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” The only way to be worthy is to be counted worthy by God. These in Sardis have a name that they’re alive, but they are about to die because they trust their obedience more than trusting Jesus Christ. Repent! He who overcomes (the self and its Pharisaical works of the law which Paul said was like dung – Phil 3:7-8), that overcomer SHALL (no stronger legal term than that) be clothed in white garments.” (Rev 3:1-5)

5.A. Law – Exodus 19:16 “Then it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.”
5.B. Resurrection – The giving of the law brought death and FEAR. While there was fear by the disciples at the tomb, the perfect love of Jesus Christ casts out fear (1 John 4:18). The angels and Jesus commanded the women and disciples to REJOICE!!! Matthew describes the descended angel’s countenance as “like lightning.”

If God Exists, Why is There Suffering & Evil?

In Uganda poverty and suffering is rampant.  UN statistics place 50% of the nation below the UN poverty level.  One of the most asked questions is, “If God Povertyexists, why is there suffering and evil in the world?”  William Lane Craig was asked this question at the University of Iowa.  His response is quoted below.  I have read it again and again and hope you find it as insightful as I did.  I have emphasized in bold certain segments that were meaningful to me.

WL Craig’s answer:

“There are so many things one would like to say about this profound question (of evil and suffering). Let me just add a couple points. I think one of the reasons we tend to find the problem of suffering and evil in the world so intractable, is Sufferingbecause we just sort of naturally assume that if God exists, then His purpose in life for us must be human happiness in this life. That God’s purpose is to make us happy. And the suffering and the gratuitous pain in this life don’t seem to contribute to that end.”

“But you see on a Christian world and life view that assumption is false. The purpose of life is not human happiness as such, but rather the knowledge of God, which in the end will lead to ultimate human fulfillment and happiness. And there are many evils and sufferings in this life, which I think are utterly gratuitous with respect to producing human happiness, but which may not be gratuitous with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God either on the part of the sufferer or on the part of those around him.”

“And I strongly suspect that it may well be the case that only in a world involving a great deal of gratuitous natural and moral evil that the maximum number of people would come freely to a knowledge of God and His salvation.   And I say this not simply by faith, but really on the empirical basis of the demographics of the world today. If you read around the world where the Gospel is increasing and multiplying at its most rapid rates, there is almost a 1:1 correlation with countries where intense suffering is Moneyoccurring. And where the growth of the church is moribund, and the church is flabby and the growth rates are flat, is in the west where we are so comfortable and so content. But the countries like El Salvador, China, Ethiopia, countries in Africa – where the Gospel is growing at amazing rates – it is precisely in those countries where intense moral and natural suffering has occurred.”

“So I think that we constantly need to keep in mind that God’s purposes in life are much broader than what is merely conducive to our happiness. His ultimate purposes are to establish the Kingdom of God. And what we suffer should always be seen in light of that greater overarching purpose.”

“That leads me to a second comment that I want to make. That our suffering always needs to be seen, I believe, in light of the cross. Because God shows us in the cross that He is not a distant or grounded(?) Being or impersonal Creator who cooly sits by and watches us suffer. When people ask, when they go through intense suffering, ‘Where is God?’ then we ought to point them to the cross and say, ‘There is God.’ God is a God who enters into our world of suffering, and takes upon Himself the unimaginable suffering of bearing the penalty of the sins of the whole world, even though He was completely innocent. If anyone could complain of the problem of innocent suffering, it would have been Jesus of Nazareth. And though He was innocent, He took upon Himself the death penalty of sin that you and I deserved. And therefore seen in light of the cross the problem of evil takes on an entirely different perspective. j0435912When we see His suffering we now realize that the problem is not how God could justify Himself to us. The problem is how I, filled with wickedness and sin and morally guilty before God can be justified before Him. And I believe that when we look at the cross, we can say to ourselves as we go through times of suffering, ‘If God would go to that extent, if His love would carry Him to those depths for me, then surely out of my love for Him I can bear this burden that He has asked me to bear through this short life that I am enduring now.’ And I believe that this can give us the grace and strength to endure what God calls upon us to endure during this life.”

My comments:

In Uganda, too often, the “answer” to life’s problems becomes money.  But as we know in the States, money will not bring ultimate fulfillment or happiness.   Good grief, how shaky is the world’s financial system?  One hint of trouble, and the markets are negatively affected.  The world’s financial system seems to have the strength of iron, yet the fragility and frailty of clay.

Equip Uganda seeks to provide real answers and fulfillment in life by providing physical answers to life’s needs, as well as the ultimate spiritual answer to life, that of the Truth, found in no one else but Jesus Christ.  The answers are not quick and easy answers.  But they are answers that bring ultimate fulfilling satisfaction and contentment.

With God Raza & Daijon Succeed!

Two young men forced to the street. Challenged to respond and work. With God’s motivation and blessing, they succeed, learning responsibility, putting God first and other lessons.

Webster defines the word, “success” as, “an event that accomplishes its intended purpose.” How sweet it is when a person you’re relating with and teaching succeeds – accomplishing the intended purpose.

Raza and Daijon (not their real names) are two Karamojong brothers I met one particular Saturday outside of Masese III slum while Michelle was assisting in leading a community Bible study in Masese. Raza is 19 and Daijon is 18.

The Karamojong people are an ethnic group of what Wikipedia calls “agro-pastoral herders” who live in northeastern Uganda, occupying about one-tenth of the country. Articles on-line and Ugandans generally consider the K’jongs to

Karamojong Woman - no copyright found.

Karamojong Woman – no copyright found.

be uncivilized, primitive, obstinate and fierce as evidenced by their cattle rustling, primitive conditions, solving conflicts with force and perhaps even the long-standing tribal tradition of achieving manhood and marriage by the young male taking on his desired bride in a wrestling match. If he wins, he achieves manhood and the opportunity to enter into dowry negotiations with the female’s father. If he loses, it is said he marries a person outside the K’jong tribe.

Because of these traits, practices and other issues, there is a well-known Ugandan saying, which was uttered by the first president of Uganda in the 1960’s, which set the tone for how Ugandans view the K’jong. The saying goes like this, “We shall not wait for the Karamojong to develop.” Thus Ugandans separated and excluded or “cast out” these tribal peoples from the rest of Ugandan society. Even in Christian churches in Uganda, derogatory comments can be heard about K’jong.

These two brothers I met on a Saturday about seven months ago had traveled with their parents in 2000 to the big town of Jinja from northeastern Uganda, seeking to break out of village life and seeking an education and improved living. Eight years later, and little progress, the boys’ parents died of disease. Life was difficult, and at 13 and 12 years old the boys shifted to their grandmother’s care.

Education had been paid by the parents. Now education would be even more of a challenge. Public education for Ugandans is not cheap. The average income of a Ugandan is $500 per year. A school year consists of three terms, and the parents or children are expected to pay school fees of $80 – $150 per child per term, or $240 – $450 per child per year.

When I met Raza and Daijon around October of 2013 they had been out of school for a few years – no funds. They had completed the US equivalent of freshmen in high school.

On the Saturdays we were able to meet I spent some time with the brothers challenging them, asking about their faith and home life. They seemed spiritually connected to Jesus, at least for teenage boys.

Then at Christmas break the grandmother decided to return with the boys to the village in northern Uganda, basically to return for the remainder of her life. Raza and Daijon were taken to the village and then just before school started in Jinja they were sent back to stay with another family. After getting some assistance they started their sophomore year (Senior 2) in January of this year.

I started meeting again with these two once their first school term finished. The last day of April, I received a phone call from Daijon. I could tell something wasn’t right. He only asked me if I would be at Masese on Saturday. I assured him I would. The next night I got a phone call from Daijon telling me he and Raza had nowhere to stay. They had been “chased from the house where they were staying” and now were sleeping outside for the night. I sympathized with him and talked to my teammate, Jeremy who has worked in Masese for five years. He suggested since they were of age (18 is an adult in Uganda), they needed to come up with a plan to get off the street. Jeremy prayed with me that things would work out and that God would lead.

So early Saturday evening I took Jeremy’s advice and prayed with Raza and sunDaijon. Then asked them what their plan was as the sun was just starting to set on the horizon. Their plan was simple – for me to find them a place to stay. Although I did feel some responsibility, I was determined to take the more challenging road and put the problem back to them. So I asked them what they thought God wanted them to do.

The typical teenage response followed, shrugged shoulder and a “no idea” kind of look. So we started talking and I helped them walk through their options – some I had come up with prior to the conversation. At the end of the discussion, the options were not so encouraging. They either return to the village in the north (and I would pay their transport) or they start the task of working for a living, perhaps buying and re-selling food or other items here in Jinja. They did not want to return to the village.  So I gave each of them the equivalent of $4.00 US and told them I expected when I showed up the following Saturday that they will have added to the $4.00 (10,000 shillings), not just spent it. I illustrated what I was doing by explaining Jesus’ parable of the talents and how the workers were to bring back an increase.  They said they understood.  We also prayed that the woman who was housing them (who chased them away) would have her heart soften and let them back in. These two young men said she would not soften her heart, but I encouraged them to pray and seek God.

When I returned yesterday (Saturday), Raza showed up. Normally when he sees me he always smiles, and yesterday was no different. He’s the quiet one of the two. Daijon talks constantly. I asked how this past week went. He was happy to report that the lady let them back in!  This woman has no legal responsibility to these boys that I know. Plus these two young men are adults. This really surprised me, but then again, we had prayed about it.

Raza said he had taken his 10,000 shillings, went to Jinja and bought two small chickens for 5,000 shillings each. He returned to his community and sold them for 7,000 shillings each. He had 14,000 shillings in his pocket, which he showed me after I asked to see it.

The confidence on Raza’s face was clear. I was thrilled. I shared with Raza how to set aside the money he has for capital, use it to buy more chickens or other items he can sell and how to use his profits, including taking part of the profit and giving it to others in need, as God commands us to do.

We talked about schooling the remainder of the year and I asked Raza if it were possible would he want the funds for school to go toward his business or toward schooling. I fully expected him to say he would prefer the money for business, but he didn’t. He wants to complete his education and is concerned he will not finish it.

Michelle at a Jack Fruit tree.

Michelle at a Jack Fruit tree on the Nile River.

Daijon did not make the meeting. He thought since it had rained earlier in the day I would not come. But I found today (Sunday) when I called Daijon that he had bought four jack fruit (see photo) for 10,000 shillings and sold each for 500 shillings profit, a gain of 2,000 shillings.

What an encouragement, not just to me, but to these two young men. Raza was beaming. We prayed a

Jack Fruit Inside

Jack Fruit Inside

prayer of thanksgiving to God and asked God to continue encouraging them. I hope this success will be an encouragement to them to work and not respond like so many do in the slum to feel defeated and oppressed. If you feel led by God to contribute to Raza and Daijon’s schooling for this year so they can finish their sophomore year, they will need 200,000 shillings (about $80 US) each for two terms (or $320 US total). You can send the money to Equip and earmark for Wise ministry funds. Thanks for your prayers for these guys.

———–

Update 5/17/2014:  I was able to talk to both Raza and Daijon this evening.  Raza bought more chickens and sold them, although he said the supplier raised the price by 1,000 shillings each, cutting into his profit.   I advised him on how to handle that.  Daijon made another 3,000 shillings this week selling jack fruit.  Raza was so happy.  He is really encouraged.  And I am, too.  Praise God!  Also, I have a letter from him I hope to scan and post in the near future.

Michelle Saves a Toddler From the Middle of a Busy Highway!

As mentioned in the previous blog, tragedy happens often here in Uganda.  Today as Michelle and I traveled to Jinja on a 4-lane highway with traffic going about 50 – 55 mph, a toddler was crossing the two lanes of traffic ahead of us – in the middle of the two lanes!!  I saw the kid first with both hands extended in the air to balance herself.  I started blowing the horn – no response.  Michelle asked, “Is that a baby in the road?”

This road is similar to the one from which Michelle rescued the toddler.  There is normally quite a bit of traffic on it.

This is the road from which Michelle rescued the toddler, although at a different location. There is normally quite a bit of traffic on it.

Our hearts were pounding!  Fear gripped us as I considered the gravity of situation and whether we would witness an horrific accident and a gruesome death.  Praise God no traffic was behind us.  As I stopped in the fast lane, Michelle unbuckled and jumped out of her seat even before I fully stopped, and  onto the highway, risking her own life.  I continuously glanced from the baby, to Michelle and to my rear view mirror, as Michelle swept the toddler off her feet and carried her to safety.  Now rescued, I could pull our vehicle off the road to safety.

My heart was pounding!  Michelle searched for the mother, who was at a nearby landscaping market, shopping and chatting with the owner, oblivious to the horrendous situation that could potentially have unfolded.  Praise God we were there.  A man on a boda (motorcycle) driving the wrong way on the road, began chastising the mother.  There’s irony there.

Praise God for His Grace Shown in Jesus Christ.

Praise God for His Grace Shown in Jesus Christ!!!

God’s grace covers our own daily neglect of our responsibilities.  We should be focused on our struggling spiritual life, but we are too often busy and involved in the day-to-day transactions of the world to even notice or take care.  Often God graciously swoops in through a kind act of mercy and covers us, rescuing us from the dangers of sin.

Michelle and I both came close to crying.  We have not experienced such a potential for disaster, and it stayed with us for miles down the road.  We just praise God for His grace and protection, allowing us to rescue a baby who might have been killed.

 

The Power of God is His Heart

The last few weeks I received invitations to speak at various churches in the area.  Today, I spoke at Samuel’s church, giving a message entitled, “The Power of God is His Heart” (Luke 7:11-17).  Samuel is the young man I have discipled for months.  This afternoon I created a small video of our visit – it’s not much, but hopefully will provide just a small taste of our visit.  Here’s the link:

Last week we visited Church on the Rock in Mfumbira.

On Saturday (March 29th) at Michelle’s Bible study in Masese, she was hit by a small rock while she was teaching.  The rock was thrown by some children and hit her in the chest.  It wasn’t bad, but she immediately recognized the influence of the enemy and rebuked the evil.  After the Bible study a lady asked Michelle to receive Jesus as her Savior.  Michelle prayed with her, and recognized what had happened – the resistance and influence of the enemy.

Sadly far greater tragedy happens in Uganda than being hit by a rock.  We hear of tragedies regularly here, far more often than we heard of tragedy in our community in the United States.  Some of these tragedies I only share generally, avoiding details on this public forum out of respect for the families.

Recently we’ve heard of the death of a father of some children our kids spent time with.  This man was killed after returning from work on his bicycle at night.  The children have no parents now.

We also learned of the tragic and despicable rape of 6-year old girl by a young adult male.  We visited the girl in the hospital and she was full of the Holy Spirit, smiling, singing songs about Jesus and asking to pray for others who were in the hospital.

After a four-day hunt, a large one-ton crocodile was finally caught within walking distance of where we live.  The croc was estimated at more than eighty years old and had eaten four people (mostly fishermen) and maimed others.  You can see the story here:

Man-Eating Croc Captured

One of those maimed by the massive crocodile was a worker for a local missionary friend of ours.  After not showing up to work for some time, the maimed man’s neighbor later admitted to killing the maimed man to send his body parts to a local witch doctor.  This murder leaves two children without parents now.

Pain, suffering, poverty and oppression are a way of life in Uganda, maybe more so than other countries.  But in the midst of affliction, pain and suffering I am reminded of Lamentations 3:32-33 where the Holy Spirit inspires “the weeping prophet” who was watching the brutal collapse and captivity of his nation to write, “Though (the Lord) causes grief, yet He will show compassion, according to the multitude of His mercies.  For He does not afflict willingly (the Hebrew word there literally means, “from His heart.”)…”

Did you catch that?  The real, true God, from His heart is compassionate.  If you hear people talk about God’s judgment, they may very well be speaking truth.  Because God does judge sin justly, but patiently.  Patiently because at His heart is compassion, mercy and love.  If we don’t know God’s heart, then we really don’t know God, do we?  “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are renewed every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  Therefore I have hope in Him!  ” (Lam 3:22-24)  Knowing God’s mercy and love is not just recognizing a beautiful sunrise in the morning – that’s only knowing the Creator.  It’s a good start, but does that save anyone?  Do we know God as Savior in the midst of suffering, pain, oppression and poverty?  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”

If you don’t know God, Lamentations tells us we can know Him. “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lam 3:25).  Trust Jesus – He’s at the heart of God – compassionate, kind, merciful and full of grace and love.  If you have questions, please ask.  If you don’t get satisfying answers, pray and keep looking.  Personally, I looked for years, and the answers finally came.  While I was in the midst of that time, I wondered.  Keep your heart open and seek earnestly with a teachable attitude.  You will find the real and one, true God.  May we know His heart.

Feeling Weak? Go to the Source of Your Strength

The source (beginning) of the Nile River is just a few minutes from where we stay here outside Jinja.

I'm standing at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, just a few miles north of the Nile's source, Lake Victoria.

Mark standing at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, just a few miles north of the Nile’s source, Lake Victoria.

The Nile is a powerful river that flows more than 1,600 miles north from Uganda through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.  The river is deep, wide and long.

Anna Poindexter, a single young lady from Colorado mentioned at our home church gathering this afternoon how she was standing by the mighty Nile when the Spirit brought to her mind how God’s love is like the Nile – deep, wide, and long with a continuous, unending source.  She asked, “Where does that water come from?”

She’s right.  Paul writes to the Ephesians in 1:7-8 In (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence..”

Grace in and of itself is…well…gracious.  But notice the words, “riches” and “abound.”  When I think of riches I think back to my childhood when I read comic books, especially the unlimited supply of wealth like Scrooge McDuck (Donald Duck’s uncle) had in the rooms in his house and swimming pool.

The idea of riches comes from my childhood days when I read comic books.

The idea of riches comes from my childhood days when I read comic books. Used legally from Free ClipArt.

Remember those pictures?  The coins and money were literally piled in his pool like water and filled his rooms.  God is so rich and He wants to share His wealth!  His riches are not just shared with us, they abound – plenteous and copious amounts!

As I mentioned in the previous blog (below), Jesus is our source of strength.  So many times I want to err back to trusting in my obedience instead of trusting and resting in Jesus Christ, the very source of our strength.

The Nile water just keeps flowing continually – I saw it again today.  The source of our strength, like the Nile, is the riches of God’s grace, love and mercy found in His Son Jesus Christ!  How awesome is that?  It’s so awesome it gives a dead person LIFE that springs up eternally!

To Trust Obedience is to Fail, Bro.

The way to be eternally secure is to cleave to, trust, rely on and have faith in (believe in) Jesus Christ!  The way to be eternally insecure is to cleave to, trust in, rely on and have faith in anything else, even one’s obedience to God’s perfect law.  The latter will fail a person.  The first will secure a person.  His name, Jesus, means God is salvation.

When I trust in my obedience to God’s law I fail to see my own terrible lack and deficiency, my own disobedience.  I fail (come short of, be deficient in, cease to be furnished with, be cut off from the supply) in life by focusing on the idolatrous illusion of my own obedience to the detriment of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  When I trust in my obedience to God’s law I am blinded to the miserable, pitiful decay, lack and deficiency of my own need – the very reason Jesus died.  Therefore when I trust in my obedience to God’s law and commandments, my obedience is idolatrously exalted and the Source, the very Source of Life is relegated to an inferior position.

To believe in (be habitually, routinely committed to) Jesus Christ is to trust (assured resting of the mind in the veracity, integrity, justice or other sound principle of another person; confidence; reliance) in Jesus Christ (i.e. God) for my salvation. One path to failure in salvation is to trust and believe my obedience to God’s perfect commands or commandments will save me.  My obedience will fail me because I am human.  The source of life is not obedience.  The source of my eternal life is none other than Jesus Christ, who judicially declares me justified, sanctified and to be glorified.

To be saved then starts with a simple belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12) which over time will grow to a confident assurance (strong belief) and absolute resolved single-minded purpose and determination in Jesus Christ first and foremost, above everything else and to then obey out of thanksgiving for what God has done.  As we grow we learn to not just to obey because of His gifts or His blessings, but in all assaults and barrages of lies and deceit from the enemies, in all of physical life’s circumstances we grow in Him through good times, as well as terrible suffering.

To God be the glory – He is the source of our salvation!

Update (3-21-14):

John 11:5 (Amplified Bible) “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.]”

When I read this verse this morning, it occured to me, I don’t view Jesus in the same way as Martha, Mary (her sister) and Lazarus did.  That’s tragic.  Why is that?

As I thought and prayed about that, it occurred to me that I still struggle in my view of God.  I still see Him too often as a Being who is watching my every move to catch when I disobey so He can correct it.  Do we really think thoughts like mine were the thoughts of Martha, Mary & Lazarus toward Jesus?

It’s their relationship with Jesus that better proclaims the beauty of the Gospel – God coming into His creation to build a relationship with fallen sinners, even an intimate friendship.  Friends and even marriage partners don’t worry about obedience, it’s more about respect for one another.  They don’t fret about obedience because obedience is not the focus of the relationship.  It’s deeper than obedience, love and gratitude toward the other person are the focus.  The focus of obedience is on the self.

Now certainly disciplines, “ought to’s,” and even at times “commands” are part of love.  But aren’t commands and obedience more of a framework, rather than a way of life?  Doesn’t the question from Jesus, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments?” a question targeted more toward those who are immature or are children than a mature friend?

Obedience certainly is clearly addressed in the New Testament, but it seems to me (and I need more time to process this and would appreciate feedback here), that obedience issues in the New Testament relate more often to non-believers and to immature believers who need warning about going astray, using grace as a license, and taking God far too casually, etc.

Think of it:  “a friend of Jesus – one who is free.”  It’s a relationship concept that I trust we all desire to have with Jesus, instead of a slave relationship (which involves oppression, not freedom).  That friend relationship is not to mature to a trust in obedience, but should mature into a strong relationship of trust in Jesus, the One who died for us.  He’s the object of our desire, right?  Or is the object obedience?  I think Jesus is the object.  For “a slave (a person oppressed to obey and keep commandments, who points to his obedience as to whether he is worthy enough) does not abide in the house forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).  Free to be a child, a maturing believer, a dear friend and eventually an intimate spouse of the King – in His very house relating to and with Him.

Update From Week of March 2nd 2014

This past week started off with laughs and tears, and included hitting a motorcycle.

Last Sunday we stayed home due to sickness, but recovered rather quickly.  Samuel texted me last Sunday night asking what Romans 8:28 meant.  He has been through so much.  I responded with something like, “Wow, that’s a big topic, can we talk Monday at 10 am?”  He agreed and it was a fantastic time.  I fully expected and planned to do a lot of listening, but Samuel was hungry.  He was asking questions.

What’s so incredible is that for the past two to three months I have been going through studies and giving messages on suffering.  As I covered with him the Scriptures which I had been studying, he devoured them.  He highlighted them, asked questions, texted me later asking me to remind him of a reference for a particular one.  That part of the conversation ended with Shane and Shane’s, Though You Slay Me video.

Did you know many Ugandans can spend a lot of time in prayer and fasting?  It is the Christian culture here to spend Friday nights at church in all night prayer services.  Christians can pray or fast for hours beyond that.  We as Americans tend to look at all this spiritual “work” and point to little physical results – no house, little clothing, no vehicle, living in a third world country, not improving themselves to American standards – but we’re missing something.  I tell you the truth, I think suffering has enlightened him more to God than me or most American Christians I know.  He better understands suffering.  He doesn’t like it, but he better understands it.

So the time with Samuel included laughs and tears.  He said he was encouraged and sensed the Spirit.  For that I praise God.  I am now meeting with him regularly to see where God will open up a job.  Our next meeting is Wednesday.  We both would appreciate your prayers for him and a job, especially as a single dad.

Other highlights of this week included our worker Ruth getting glasses, the college ministry, Michelle’s Bible studies (she held three this week), lunch with Tommy and Sandra Boone (our Equip teammate’s parents who are visiting), looking to diagnose another noise on our vehicle, and yes, hitting a boda (motorcycle with a driver and passenger that pulled out in front of me from behind a taxi without looking).

Both riders of the boda are fine.  Long story, but an accident with two tractor trailers in a ‘round-about caused traffic to go the wrong way in the ‘round-about.  We saw the accident, entered the ‘round-about the correct way, kept left, slowed down (all with absolutely nobody directing traffic) and the boda darted from behind the taxi without looking!  I was so mad at the guy, even blurted out a yell at him, “What are you doing?!!!”  [Wonderful missionary example].  Michelle screamed, then immediately cried.  Our vehicle lightly tagged the boda – enough to knock it over.  It slightly scratched the front passenger side (remember the driver sits in the car on the right) below the plastic of the bumper.  The passenger was able to jump off and land on his feet safely.  The boda driver couldn’t have been more than just a few years out of school and there’s no training for them.  Both riders walked away and seemed fine.  The driver was apologetic to me.  I bet he won’t dart out from behind a vehicle without looking any time soon.  Josh, who was in the back with Brittany, said a few minutes later his legs were still shaking from the ordeal.  Praise God it wasn’t anything more serious.  Your prayers are appreciated and important!

Finally, I spoke at Bugembe this morning.  I appreciate pastor Jabel and his wife, Janet, inviting us there so the church could pray for the girls before they leave for the States.  The church service went Bugembe Mark 2to 2:20 pm.  I spoke about 45 minutes.  We had the countries of Uganda, Canada, Austria, Switzerland and the US represented, along with a man from Tennessee who spoke, as well.  The church is also trying to raise $300 US to reinforce the wooden poles that termites are eating.  The church building is actually leaning and could collapse in the near future if something is not done.

At the service the girls received a word of knowledge / prophecy from the lady from Austria, who told them that fear was an issue, but encouraged them to believe that God has all things in control.  She gave a picture illustration of what she saw in the Spirit during the prayer time.  It was encouraging to hear and the Shofarword she gave the girls addressed the very issues we’ve been facing.  As a symbol of the victory that the girls have in Christ, she blew a shofar (Jewish ram’s horn – see photo, although her shofar was turned a bit and longer).  That was a first for us, but a nice picture of the reality of God’s promises.

 Monday is a trip to Kampala for Equip Uganda.  Another busy week coming up, but we love it!

Suffering & Pain

Lyrics to three of four songs about suffering are below.  The best of the four songs in my opinion is Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane.  I have included a YouTube link with subtitles and brief thoughts about suffering.  Excellent video.  I hope these lyrics and video may bring a bit of purpose and/or meaning to suffering:

“I Will Not Be Moved” by Natalie Grant

“Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

“You Were There” by Avalon

and “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane with a special message from John Piper.  The link to that video is here – it’s a comforting, hopeful message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY

If one or more of these songs mean something to you, please consider purchasing at Amazon or another provider.  The cost is about the same as a cup of coffee and the impact you receive should be greater than a 3-hour jolt from caffeine.  Much love.

I Will Not Be Moved by Natalie Grant

I have been the wayward child
I have acted out
I have questioned Sovereignty
And had my share of doubt
And though sometimes my prayers feel like
They’re bouncing off the sky
The hand I hold won’t let me go
And is the reason why…

[Chorus:]
I will stumble
I will fall down
But I will not be moved
I will make mistakes
I will face heartache
But I will not be moved
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
I will not be moved

Bitterness has plagued my heart
Many times before
My life has been like broken glass
And I have kept the score
Of all my shattered dreams and though it seemed
That I was far too gone
My brokenness helped me to see
It’s grace I’m standing on

[Chorus]

And the chaos in my life
Has been a badge I’ve worn
Though I have been torn
I will not be moved

Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day

To everyone who’s lost someone they love Long before it was their time You feel like the days you had were not enough When you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains Keepin’ you back from your life You believe that there’s nothing And there is no one who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that’s struggling just to hang on Have lost all of their faith in love And they’ve done all they can to make it right again Still it’s not enough

For the ones who can’t break the addictions and chains You try to give up but you come back again Just remember that you’re not alone In your shame and your suffering

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus

When you’re lonely And it feels like the whole world is falling on you You just reach out You just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone Wipin’ the tears from her eyes For the children around the world without a home Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

You Were There     by Avalon

I wonder how it must have felt
When David stood to face Goliath on a hill
I imagine that he shook with all his might
Until You took his hand, and held on tight

‘Cause You were there, You were there
In the midst of danger’s snare
You were there, You were there always
You were there when the hardest fight
Seemed so out of reach
Oh, You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So there he stood upon that hill
Abraham with knife in hand was poised to kill
But God in all his sovereignty had bigger plans
And just in time, You brought a lamb

‘Cause You were there,
You were there
In the midst of the unclear
You were there, you were there always
You were there when obedience
Seemed to not make sense
You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So haven’t I learned that my ways
Aren’t as high as Yours are
And You alone keep the universe
From crumbling into dust
You are God and though we would
Not have understood You
There You were

Hanging blameless on a cross
You would rather die than leave us in the dark
Every moment, every planned coincidence
Just all makes sense
With Your last breath

You were there, You were there
During history’s darkest hour
You were there, You were there always
You were the Victor and the King
You were the power in David’s swing
You were the calm in Abraham
You are the God who understands
You are the strength when we have none
You are the living, Holy one
You were, You are and You will always be
the Risen Lamb of God

You were, You are and You will always be
The Risen Lamb of God

Is There Any Purpose or Meaning to Suffering?

Before starting this blog, please note that this blog will probably offer little or no sufficient answers to a person who is currently suffering. Having experienced my own oppression, discouragement and suffering, rarely did people attempting to provide answers seem to help. Yet I think it important in times of lucidness to find meaning in suffering since people have difficulty doing so.  Even some agnostics or atheists have used suffering to question God’s existence. In reality and truth, suffering reveals glimpses of a God who has a purpose and a God who cares.

Did you realize or consider that pain and suffering are clearly acceptable at times, and at other times pain and suffering are not? Why the difference? Philip SufferingYancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts? quotes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable.”

Yancey then notes the different views of suffering and pain by using a couple examples, NFL football player Merlin Olsen who continued playing football on a bum knee through pain and fluid retention. His persistence and willingness to endure pain and suffering is remarkable. As the fluid buildup got so thick, medical personnel had to almost drive the needle in with a hammer. Olsen was quoted as saying, “Damn it, get the needle in there, and get that stuff out.” His words are a stark glimpse into Olsen’s willingness to endure pain in order to fulfill his desire to play football.

Yancey then contrasts birthing a child with passing a kidney stone – a similar level of pain. A woman experiences the excruciating pain of child birth because there is meaning and purpose, and then may desire to have more children. Yet, there is no desire to have additional kidney stones.

The difference is in purpose and meaning. This is no small issue.

The senselessness of Nazi Germany is often referenced by some as evidence that given the brutality and scope of the suffering, God must not exist. Some ask, “Where was God during that terrible tragedy?” Yet Yancey notes that some Jews (Frankl, Bettelheim, Wiesel) and others found meaning and fared better overall than those who did not find meaning amongst the suffering.

When pain has a positive result or outcome, we might possibly accept it better, but more importantly it gives us meaning. There’s purpose. There’s hope! To lose hope causes a person to want to quit; to despair. Despair is a painful emotion in itself. So, as humans we try to cope. In order to avoid despair, tragedy, hurts, problems, etc., one alternative is to indulge in the present, “the now” with its pleasures and entertainment. Like pain medication or drugs, indulging in the present only temporarily relieves pain and numbs the senses. But like the drug user who desires an escape, while imbibing in the drug, the drug user cares not that the high is only temporary. All that matters to the user is the “here and now.” More importantly the high postpones / defers the critical need to address underlying problems and issues the druggie has.Drugs

I believe America (and the world at large) is utilizing the drugs of pleasure, entertainment, sports, materialism and other riches to avoid the realities of and purpose of life. Rich America is not the only place. This numbing happens here in the slums of Africa, too. Sex, alcohol, drugs, pleasure, entertainment, money, material items, etc. are all desired in order to avoid and/or escape the reality of severe underlying problems – the day-to-day issues of lack of good health, lack of proper food, lack of happiness; and the larger issues which result from a broken relationship with our Creator, such as lack of answers, lack of peace and contentment, along with ultimately despair and lack of hope.

Ironically and amazingly it seems one of the challenges in an increasingly wealthy society is that meaning and purpose fade as life becomes easier, more pleasurable and materialistically driven.

Knowing this, God has provided wise counsel for those who are relatively well and are not suffering very much. Rather than stay busy with life and work, He counsels His people to care for those who are suffering: outcasts, orphans, the sick, fatherless, prisoners and the poor. Spend time with a disabled child or in a slum in Africa – be quiet, that is “shut up” talking, visit and listen, perhaps for weeks. Attend funerals, not parties. Does God work through those who suffer? Does God speak quietly and provide answers through those who suffer? I believe He does slowly, and I see Him working.

What about those folks who suffer to the point that there is no satisfactory answer, purpose or fulfillment. For example, the issue of totally disabled children (IQ’s of 30-40) or senile adults (with Alzheimer’s) who lie in bed day in and day out. Yancey asks the question, what could possibly be meaningful to these people who suffer? Yancey provides an example of an East German doctor who cared for severely mentally disabled children. For years the doctor could not answer that question, until a survey of new trainees mentioned the fulfillment and rewards the trainees experienced of helping others. The children (and their disability) gave the trainees meaning, purpose, fulfillment, compassion, appreciation for life, a different perspective, more tolerance, patience, less complaining, a renewed looked at their own problems, an appreciation for what love can do for people. It gave purpose while the child received necessary care and love.

NOTE: One should not, in my opinion, surmise from the above example that God allows or creates mentally disabled children or causes / allows adults to develop Alzheimer’s for the sole purpose of other people’s own learning and advancement alone. This kind of logic seems myopic and can be quite cruel and calloused. Rather, these terrible conditions exist in a fallen world. It is the responsibility of the world’s inhabitants to respond in care and love, and a result could very well be an insight to life’s broader questions.

Love in a society is paramount.  It should be elevated to the highest standard.  Yet our society is promoting selfishness and self-absorption, similar to drug addicts.  In February 1995 Mother Teresa stated at the National Prayer Breakfast the following reality:  “By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

What messages are we sending our young people – to commit violence and murder in order to live happy lives?

Finally, Yancey also briefly references the existentialist, Sartre’s play, No Exit Drug Paraphenaliaabout three people (two men and a woman), who after death are locked into a room together for eternity. One of the three characters in the play, Garcin, concludes, “Hell is other people.” At the end of the play (after much analysis, attempted sexual acts and attempted murder) the play closes ironically like an addicted drug user – rather than freely escaping the room of hell (which they could have done), the three characters at the close of the curtain agree, “let’s continue on.”

I ask, “For what real and lasting purpose should the three in the play continue on? Other than for purely selfish reasons?” And isn’t that the point? True hell is selfishness. Watch the lives of a drug user who will do anything to get him/herself a temporary high.

Lack of meaning. Lack of purpose. People are not hell, unless the world is all about me. People are not hell until they refuse to satisfy my needs and my pleasures. At that point people start irritating the hell which resides in each of us.

Then again, maybe people are hell, broken in pieces. And God’s purpose might just be to rescue us from ourselves by entering hell in the person of Jesus Christ and saving those who trust, believe and rely on Him. As He saves us, He whispers simple answers to life: “I am your hope, your Outcastfulfillment, your purpose.  As I have rescued you in your sin as a pleasure- seeking drug addict, follow in My steps and focus on those hell-filled sinners, especially the broken and humble of society. In that path of life you will catch a glimpse of who I (God) am while discovering love, mercy, satisfaction, meaning, fulfillment and purpose in life.”