Tag Archives: God

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!

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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.”

Driving & Walking By Faith

Driving here in Uganda takes faith, especially at night.  Below are most of the reasons I do not like driving here at night:

Much more difficult to see the road in front of you here in Uganda, more people drive with their bright lights on, some drive with little or no headlights or tail lights, numerous people are walking alongside the road and even one or two in the middle of the road, motorcycles are driving the wrong way on the road, bicycles driven at night with no reflectors or lights, vehicles stopped dead in the road with no warning.

In order to be safe we reduce evening activities away from home as much as possible.  This week however the last two of the three nights we have driven home two or three hours after dark.  As we left early tonight from our afternoon Bible study in order to make it home before dark, I told four or five men with whom I was chatting, “I don’t have enough faith to drive on the roads at night.”

Yet, it seems my faith is constantly being challenged.  The previous Sunday night we pulled out from Jinja at dark (later than I like and to my humiliation) with no headlights working on our vehicle, only parking lights.  We are grateful to God He got us home safely.  I found out the following Monday rats had chewed the headlight wire in two – only the headlights, thank you, Lord.

Tonight I was determined to get my family home safely before dark.  Sunset is always at 7 pm here at the equator.  So we left our Bible study meeting at 6:40 pm.  As we drive home I comment to Michelle how much easier it is to drive when I can see.  We make it safely home just a few minutes after the sun has dipped just below the horizon.  As we pull through our front gate, Michelle suddenly remembers that she was supposed to tell me to pick up one of our workers while we were in town.  She feels terrible.  My heart sank, then frustration rose.  I could see the test of faith in front of me.

I drove back into town (about 15 minutes one way) frustrated.  About two or three miles into the drive, I finally realized I had to give it over and let it go.  It was so obvious, faith is a lesson God is teaching me.

Without telling Michelle, I actually increased my speed a bit, though very difficult to see.  “If this is a test, I’ll be bold,” I thought.  “Insanely bold.”  We finally picked up our worker and arrived safely home.  As I recount the trip as I write this, I initially remember no significant incidents.  Then I was reminded of what happened on this trip to and from town – we hit a bat (love those animals, they eat mosquitos) with the vehicle, while passing a tractor trailer we almost hit a bicyclist and finally in our center turning lane a single headlight (motorcycle or boda boda) going the wrong way is driving toward us in our path.  I stay boldly committed to my lane and flick my headlights to bright – everyone else does.  The motorcycle swerves quickly out of the way while he passes a bicyclist pushing his bicycle loaded with sugar cane – yes in the center turning lane, coming right toward me too and at night.  Oddly enough I am not recognizing this as strange or significant any more.

Earlier in the week I conversed on Facebook with an atheist / agnostic friend of mine from college.  I also sought to minister to a Ugandan friend who was forced to move from his home and who lost his job.

The conversation with the college friend was nice – not angry, not seeking to put one another down – just sparring over faith and belief in God.

Like most atheists and agnostics I know and have conversed with, tragedy with suffering, along with few, if any satisfying religious answers, have all caused my friend to critically question Christianity, religion and God. I don’t have any problem at all with questioning things critically.  Too many religionists and Christians don’t ask the difficult questions.  But by week’s end the messaging finally drew to a respectful close.

I’m not sure if my friend admits that he walks by faith every day – faith in himself, in others, in farmers, in grocery stores, in what he eats, in rain, in sunshine, in the economy, in what he sees, etc. etc.  I assume he does.

The Ugandan friend of mine who lost his job and his home had a difficult week.  Tonight as I sat down to write, he called.  I just hung up the phone with him.  He told me he needed to talk tonight.  His walk right now is a walk of faith – he told me he went to the Bible for strength.  He asked that I read Psm 91.  “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.” Psm 91:2  His faith is in God.  Tragedy has struck his life, too, with the senseless murder of his father and eventual death of his mother from the same attack.  But his response is different: faith in God that honestly, probably wavers at times.  But faith in the reality of God’s help, nonetheless.

Faith is interesting.  We all live by faith every day.  The question is, in what or who do we really trust?  I dare say most of us (myself included) trust in ourselves way too often.  We all certainly prefer seeing, but when the night of tragedy, difficulty or suffering strikes (and it will) will we let the light of Jesus boldly shine in our lives and will we trust in Him?

When I Don’t Desire God

This past week was a bit of a dramatic roller coaster ride for Michelle and me – terrible conflict at the beginning of the week, but a wonderful breakthrough on Friday.

Terrible – adj; “adapted or likely to excite dread; formidable; anticipation of things mostly unfavorable.”   The kind of terrible that after it happens, you think, “Did I just say that?” and “S/he is so mean.”  The kind of terrible that causes you to want to give up.  And yes, we did say those things.  And yes, that’s what is down in our hearts.  Ugly. Sinful. Putrid.

Yet the breakthrough was the breakthrough I’ve desired for years – about 5 or 6 years to be more exact.

Since arriving in Uganda I have recognized a sense of contentment in being here in Uganda, but the joy has been elusive.  Do you know joy?  Joy is different from fun.  Fun is self-centered, even with friends or family.  Fun is traveling, seeing new sites, eating at restaurants, attending a professional ball game, going on a cruise, buying a boat, buying a car, going fishing.  The vast majority of the time, that’s all fun.  When fun is finished (especially when its lots of fun) there can be discouragement.  Fun is fun, but it’s so artificial.  It’s a façade, a front, a disguise.

Joy is deeper.  Joy is real because it’s of God.  Yet I cannot seem to get a handle on it.  I seem to be doing ministry in Uganda out of duty, obedience, call, and obligation.  If fun is fun, then ministry should be hard, right?  Not quite.  There’s this desire for depth, for reaching the reality of joy.  The “fire” is not like it should be.  There’s still a strong desire to go deeper.  Serving is good, but I cannot understand why I can’t reach this point, this depth, this plateau of motivation by joy, and motivation by love.

So a few weeks ago I ran across this book by John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.  It caught my attention immediately and I’ve been slowly reading it.

So after this past week with all the arguing and wondering about where these marital arguments from years past are coming from, and feeling absolutely empty, I read in Piper’s book the phrase “means of grace.”  That caught my attention.

About three years ago at youth camp I was introduced to that phrase, “means of grace” by JR Vassar.  I studied it for days afterward.  It was so eye-opening.  Vassar contrasted grace empowered living to the vastly different concept of self-empowered improvement.  Don’t miss it – grace empowered living (radical transforming power – Christian) against do-it-yourself-empowered improvement (world).  Huge difference.  This sermon was so impactful at that youth camp; I sobbed for 10 minutes afterwards and met JR Vassar backstage to talk to him.  If this topic interests you and you’re tired of trying over and over again and still failing, after you finish this blog, check out this link: http://www.apostlesnyc.com/mediafiles/sermons.xml.  At the website scroll down about ¾ of the way to the message on July 4, 2010 entitled, Grace Empowered Change.  If this subject is intriguing, I think you will appreciate the message.

What I missed or forgot in that sermon was brought brilliantly back to light by the Gospel in John Piper’s book.  Piper describes “means of grace” when he writes, “There are things we must do in the battle for joy.  But if joy is a gift, it can never be earned.  So legalism that tries to earn things from God is excluded.  Not only that, but knowing that joy is ultimately a gift, and not a mere human achievement, also protects us from elevating technique and willpower too highly.  Our strategies must be humble and dependent, followed by ‘May the LORD do what seems good to him’ (2 Sam 10:12). Our strategies to fight for joy are simply means of God’s grace.  And means of grace are always modest.”

Piper continues, “The Bible illustrates the modesty of means in numerous ways.”  Piper then gives the following references:

Prov 21:31 (“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the Lord”);

Psm 127:1 (“Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.”);

Prov 19:21 (“There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand”).

The point being that we don’t earn a specified expected return on our investment with God.  Rather the means of grace relates to God’s gifts.  God decides if He will give a gift.  If so, how much of a gift and the size and the proportion.  Piper continues, “…joy is a gift from God…we will not trust in means, but in God.” Piper, John; When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, (Kindle Version, 17%, Chap 4, Joy in God Is a Gift From God) Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. 2004.

Then it all clicked!  I’ll explain what happened in my next post.

From Samuel: “How to Keep Your Faith in Time of Tragedy”

Regular blog readers here know about Samuel (see May 2013 Archives for the full story).  Samuel is a young pastor in Jinja who lost both his parents this past summer.  His mom and dad were brutally attacked during a break-in of their home back in May.  His father died that night and his mother lived for about two months and then she died.

I meet with Samuel weekly.  He does most of the talking when we meet.  Though hurt, his faith and confidence have been strong through these last few months.  I asked if he would be willing to write out his thoughts about how to keep faith in time of tragedy.  I will type his notes as he wrote them to me.  Here’s Samuel:

Why I lost my Dad in a murder by our own relatives inside the house at night on Saturday, May 11th 2013.  It was a horrible thing I have ever heard, and it was unbelievable at that time.  As I started to panic a lot but as soon as possible I realize my weakness by that time, then I rush with no words, kneeling down, and I ask God, please this is not normal God you know, but I need your strength and comfort.

But still there’s a lot of panic, and I started to speak of God’s attributes – e.g. God’s all powerful, all knowing, all wisdom, is Almighty God is loving, etc. and I started to gain my strength and sense by letting the Scripture speak to me more than my feeling – e.g. Psalm 139:1-6; 91:1; etc. which is the hardest thing to do at that moment.  But I have to accept the Scripture to tell me what to do, not my feeling.

And there I found my self encouraged and continue to stand on the ground still loving God and thanking God for all had happened.

So I had to overcome the fear, worry and the feeling of tragedy by seeing God through it, that nothing happens by mistake without God’s knowing.  Romans 8:27-30.

A month after my mother was also badly hurt in the night of the murder of my Dad, she also died and I had see my self standing on open ground of no one along side me.  Both have gone, who I had loved them so much because the truth is ever since I was born now 28 years of age my dad has never beaten me once [Note from Mark: parents beating, caning and even burning or cutting children as punishment is too common in Uganda].  And they were part of my life every day I live.

Really I have loved them to see the fruit of their labor on me but God in his plan did not allow what seem right in his sight to be done, for he is God, and in my mother’s death accepted God’s will to be done, but letting him be first in everything good or bad (Colossians 1:18).  Never won’t I allowed to be threaten by any storm (Psalm 23).  God is God.  I will trust him.

What encourages me is that my parents died Christians (born again) and they will continue living in Christ and one day God’s will shall I see them again.  Life is not [about] flesh that has died and rotten by our soul and spirit that no man has power over them except the author, our Lord God (Genesis 2:7).

So I overcome or deal with the tragedy of losing my two parents by:

– accepting God in all situations;

– letting God control every step;

– allowing God’s word to speak to me by telling me what to do in every situation, not feelings;

– running before the throne of God of mercy and love for comfort and encouragement, wisdom and victory over every situation.

The devil will use your weakness to put you down but God will use your weakness to lift you up in Grace and Mercy.  Be wise in time of any tragedy by having God’s mind (scriptures) for the devil is so close to you at that moment of tragedy (temptation, test), but remember the good LORD will never leave the situation beyond your strength (1 John 1:10).

Nothing shall obstruct me from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39).

Glory be God our Father in Jesus.

Samuel’s faith strengthens my faith in the Lord, and I trust his faith strengthened your faith as well.  God’s word supports us.  Thanks for reading.

Learning the Importance of Engaging Others

On Monday, June 3rd at about 6:00 pm local time, I was approached on Main street in Jinja by Abraham, a twelve-year old local boy who saw our family of mzungus (white people) leaving a restaurant.  I was in a rush to get back to the Guest House to be with my family, yet this young guy caught my attention briefly by mumbling, “I wahnt sahma fuhd.”  Due to his thick Ugandan accent I had to ask him what he said.  He repeated the request which I understood this time, but he would not look me in the eye, “I want some food.”

Abraham did not look like a street kid – he was healthy-looking, dressed well, and knew where the street kid ministries were located that could help him.  He was unfortunately learning how to get what he wanted from the mzungus.

This is not the only time I have been asked for food or money since arriving here in Jinja.  I’m not complaining, it’s just caused some thought.  I was asked by two different parents to help them sponsor their children in school since school fees here are expensive and many families have numerous children.

Being in Jinja for just over a month now, I already see the power of money in a third world country.  The easiest, quickest response is money, and we’ve done that too.  Everyone wants just “a little bit more.”  And don’t we as Americans have relatively a lot of it?

So how are we to handle requests for money and food, especially when so many programs exist to help?

It’s interesting that there is an example in Scripture about money that leads us to what I think part of the answer is to this dilemma.  At first glance, the story may not seem to connect with this blog, but think about it more deeply.

MoneyIn Matthew 22, the story is recorded.  The Pharisees ask Jesus:  17Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

  18But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?   19Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

  20And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

  21They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Brilliant answer.

The well-known Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias in discussing this section of Scripture thinks that the Pharisees missed a great follow up question, which in his opinion they should have asked Jesus.  That question being, “And what belongs to God?”

Ravi thinks Jesus’ answer to this hypothetical question would have been something like, “Whose image is on you?”

On us?  Is there an image and an inscription on us?  According to Genesis 1:27 man is made in the image of God.  God’s image is on us!  So we belong to God – his workmanship and creation.  What about an inscription?  Incredibly Isaiah 49:15-16 tells us this truth, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb?Hand & Cross Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed (Heb root is to hack; implying to enact like laws written on stone) you on the palms of My hands;”

How much we matter to God, if we just stop for a while and consider!  He desires a strong relationship!  So much that He didn’t just throw money at us, but rather He cares for us more than a nursing mother does her child.  He took the inscription of our sins onto His palms through the nails that held Him to the cross.

I am learning this point:  relationships matter and we must make the time to engage people in our busy world and not just hand out money.  Love people – that should include engaging them while feeding them or helping them and tell them the Gospel reason why we are helping them.  Should we feed or give money in all cases?  I believe we should follow the lead of God’s Holy Spirit.  An important question might be:  Does handing generous sums of money out, bring those in need to depend on further begging or depend on Jesus?

Little Abraham had engaged me – whether for legitimate reasons or not, I do not know.  As Abraham and I were talking, I thought about Abraham’s request for food.  He knew the ministries where he could get food.  I did sense the Spirit asking me to engage him and we talked about real bread – the Bread of Life being Jesus.  I trust this was the appropriate response in this situation.  It has also reminded me of the importance of my quiet time in order to be prepared to face who God is leading to me that day.