Job in folklore and in our own time

We were able to get out to the churches in the South (some of our so-called “bush churches”). Thankfully, we have some good, godly leaders who, even though like everyone else have been slowed down by COVID-19, continued to care for their communities.

Meeting can be very hard for these leaders who are separated by a day’s walk in a place where almost everyone has to walk. So we kept picking up folks in our truck and carried them to the final village. They killed a goat for us and cooked us some of their meager rations of rice. These people will literally starve themselves before being inhospitable. Then we met. And we met. We met well into the night and then the morning. Then we got up early the next morning and continued meeting. We talked about good things and bad things, encouraged one another and grieved together. But everyone was so happy to see each other!

That next morning, as we all sat wrapped in blankets in that sparse, concrete schoolhouse, we presented the story of Job. We brought a recording we had just completed the day before, where a team of Malagasy created a radio drama of the story of Job. The leaders sat in rapt attention and then, when the story was done, we began asking questions and drawing out what everyone had understood and learned from Job.

Those men and women sat there, after they had told us how hard things had been and how hungry they were, and vowed to be like Job and never turn their backs on God. Satan would not get the best of them, no matter how hard he tried!

One leader, Emanda, who serves in a local government capacity and serves as the statesman and wise elder of the group, said it reminded him of a Malagasy folk story, a story I now share with you . . .

In the kingdom before there were two great friends. These guys were inseparable. It didn't matter what they were doing or where they were going; they were always together. They had been friends since anyone could remember and nothing could drive them apart.

But one day, a troublemaker came to the king of that land. The king was watching these two guys walking down the road together, laughing and enjoying one another's company. "Do you see those two?" the king asked. "There's no one else like those friends. Nothing could ever break their bond!" But the troublemaker overheard the king. "What's that, O King?"

The king again point out at the two friends. "Nothing could ever drive those two apart, they're inseparable!"

"I can do it," said the troublemaker. "I can drive a wedge between them."

"You're lying!" cried the king. "And even if you could if would take so long it wouldn't even be worth it."

"Oh no, O king," said the troublemaker, "I'll be quick. I'll have them hating each other even for this day is dark."

So as the king and others watched, the troublemaker set out ahead of the two friends. As they passed him on the road, talking and carrying on with each other, the troublemaker flagged the one down. "Hey," he said waving. "I need to talk to you for a minute. It's important."

So the one friend broke off from the other and came to the side of the road where troublemaker stood. "What's up?" Troublemaker didn't say anything, he just looked at him for a minute. "Make it quick, man," said the friend, "I've gotta get back to my friend."

Then Troublemaker pulled him in and began whispering to him, making sounds with his mouth that never formed into words.

The friend pulled back in horror. "What in the world? What are you trying to say, man?!"

Troublemaker pulled him in again and whispered still, still moving his lips but not saying any distinct words. The friend was angry. "Listen, I'm not sure what you're trying to do but you're not saying anything! I'm going back to my friend." And he left, racing to catch back up with his friend further ahead.

"What was that all about?" asked the other friend once they were walking together again. "Oh nothing. I can't even tell you anything he was saying!" His friend stopped suddenly in the middle of the road. "You can't tell me he didn't tell you anything. I saw him pull you in and whisper to you. Now, please, tell me what he said."

"He didn't say anything!" exclaimed the one.

"You're planning to kill me aren't you? You're going to kill me and take my stuff!"

And the two friends argued and went their separate way to their own houses, each now the others' enemy. And Troublemaker laughed as he watched, having separated the best of friends without ever having said one word.

The whole point of Job is that Job refuses to jump to rash conclusions while still grappling with what he has seen and what has happened to him. Job struggles mightily not to read into what’s happening to him and instead just take his complaints directly to his friend, God. In the Malagasy story, it would be as if Job stands their quarreling with his friend without storming off.

I couldn’t help but ponder our sound and fury right now during this season. It’s not that I think there’s nothing behind all the accusations we’re hurling and the existential panic we feel. But as Job and folklore remind us in our time, we never really know what’s going on behind the scenes. But trust is key, and we need to spend more time building trust than tearing down one another.

Mahafaly Bible Stories

My name is Traveller. I’m going to tell you a story. And the story I’m going to tell you is called Abraham’s Sacrifice, and it’s taken from the Holy Writings . . .

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac

It came true! What the Prince of Creation had spoken when he promised Abraham came true! Even though Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was old they had a son. His name was Isaac. There and with that, the Prince of Creation touched Abraham’s thoughts. The Prince said to Abraham, “Abraham! Take your son, of which you have not two and not three, and worship me. Go on, and I’ll show you the land and the mountain.”

“Ok,” said Abraham. So Abraham woke up the next morning and took his son, Isaac. He also took with them two younger boys. And they left.

So they went, and went. After three days, Abraham saw the mountain. And, you know, he thought, “That’s the mountain the Prince of Creation was talking about.” He said to the two young boys with them, “You boys stay here. We’re going, me and the child, on top of that mountain over there.”

“Ok,” said the one.

So they left, climbing and going up the mountain. When they had gone a little ways, Isaac said, “Um . . . Baba . . . Where’s the sheep we’re going to worship with? Only the knife, the wood, and the fire are here.”

“Uh-huh,” responded Abraham, “The Prince of Creation will see the sheep we’ll worship him with.”

So they went, and they climbed higher. And they arrived at the top of the mountain there. When they arrived there on top of the mountain, they constructed the place, the place they would make the sacrifice. After everything was done to do the sacrifice, the father seized his son and was about to slit his throat. Just when he was about to slit his throat, the Prince of Creation’s messenger spoke, “Abraham! Don’t kill the child. God sees that you believe and trust in his voice.”

Abraham turned with that, hearing a male sheep stuck in a small, thorny tree. And Abraham saw it. He untied Isaac and grabbed the sheep, placed him on top of that wood they had brought, slit its throat and worshipped The Prince of Creation.

And when all that was finished, the name that was given to that place was, “The Price of Creation will see.”

Afterward, the messenger spoke again, saying, “Abraham! The Prince of Creation has said to you, ‘He will make many, many, like the stars or the sand of the seashore, your offspring. The Prince will bless you, and you will be protected by the Prince.”

Then, with that, they went and got off the mountain, Abraham and Isaac. They met up with those two boys they had left below there. So they went back home together and arrived back in their village.

And that’s the story taken from the Holy Writings, the sacrifice Abraham made.

Mahafaly Bible Stories: Abraham

Hello, it’s me, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.

First, madam and sirs, let me tell you that after the curse came in, Adam and Eve, well their relationship with God was severed. But God, you see, he still wanted the relationship with humanity. Yeah, so Adam and Eve sprouted and their tribes began to settle. Then, after this, you see, God chose one person to be in relationship with so that he could have humanity worship him again. The name of this person was Abraham. The story I’m about to tell you is about this guy, Abraham. 

“So,” says God, “Abraham, leave your lands, leave the lands of your father, your ancestral lands. You go and travel to a land I will give you. You will be blessed by me. Your offshoots will be made so many by me. Your fame will be made my me to be heard from the ground to the sky. Also rooted in you will be all the people on this earth that I go on to bless. 

Abraham says “Ok,” and he takes his wife and everything else he’s in charge of, his shepherds and all of his belongings. Abraham was seventy-five years old at this time.

So that was that. He left. Now let’s keep the story moving . . .

They made it to that land there. They explored all over that land. Then, once finished going all around the land, Abraham set up camp.

“So,” says God, “This right here is the land I’m gonna give to your offshoots.”

And with that, you see, Abraham thanked God.

So there Abraham was for a long while. But let’s keep the story moving . . .

“So,” says God, “Abraham! I’m gonna bless you. Don’t be scared. There still a lot of other big things I’m gonna give you.”

“Huh,” says Abraham, “And what exactly will I do with these good and great things you will give to me, me not even having any offspring? Are all these workers here going to inherit everything?”

“Oh no, says God, “You will beget a son who will be your heir. Those workers of yours won’t be your heirs. You go on outside.” Abraham went outside. “Now you look up above you and watch.” So, Abraham looked above him and watched. “Just like these myriad stars above you, I’ll make your offshoots many.”

Abraham trusted this pronouncement. And God also saw that Abraham trusted his pronouncement. And there was relationship between God and Abraham.

Darkness and Light: Psalm 139

Tessa here for a quick devotional! This week I want to share a Scripture that has become especially meaningful to me during this strange time of pandemic. Many of us are familiar with Psalm 139. I have loved these verses:

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

This is the version I was used to. However, back in March I heard someone read aloud these verses from the New American Standard Bible.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

For some reason these minor changes shifted my idea of this Scripture, especially at an unprecedented time like this. I think I’ve always understood these verses to mean that God’s presence will make darkness light . . . I won’t notice the darkness because God is right there, lightening things up. 

Though I’m sure this is true, after hearing it in the NASB, I have another impression. The verse ends, “Darkness and light are alike to You.” As in, it makes no difference to God if it’s dark or light, if things are easy or hard, if I feel happy or sad . . . He is the same (yesterday, today and forever) (Heb 13:8). He is always good, always powerful, always at work. His work in the world, His work in His Church, His work in our individual lives, doesn’t change. He is always working. Whether we feel frantic and terrified and confused and are desperately seeking Him, or we feel pretty good about things—He is the same. Whether we recognize sin in our hearts or are blind to it—He is the same. Whether we see the big picture of His work in the world or can only see our own individual struggles—He is the same. 

Darkness and light are alike to You.

Psalm 139:12 (NASB)

I am praying during this time to see Him as He is, to let Him show me sin in my heart, to seek forgiveness, to have greater awareness of His work around me—because He has been and is working always, no matter what personal concerns I’ve been consumed with. I want to look up, and see Him.

The Curse Enters

The Curse Enters

Of all the intelligent creatures, the snake was the most clever of them all. He could have taken the liver out of an ant. He came to Eva and said to her, “Now Eva, is it true you can’t eat of all the fruits from the trees in this garden?”

“Oh no,” said Eva, “Eat the fruit of all the trees in this field, is what God told to us. But the fruit of that tree of knowledge of the good and the bad, this one, this one we cannot eat or touch it, God said, or then the day that you eat from it you will die.”

“No,” said the snake, “You won’t die. God knows that if and when you eat it, you all will be the same as the Prince of Creation. You will know the good and the bad.”

Then Eva saw the fruit of this tree. It was good. It made her want it, and she wanted to be intelligent too. She took the fruit and ate it. Her husband too, was given fruit by her, and he ate it also. 

Then, when they were done eating it, they felt exposed, in their souls. They looked at each other and saw their bodies were naked. And they knew shame. They took tree leaves and made to cover their bodies.

Later that day, the Prince of Creation was walking through the field. He was calling, “Adam, Adam! Where are you?” “Here we are!” said Adam. “We’re hiding because we’re scared, and ashamed, and naked.” 

“What?” said the Prince of Creation. “What made you know that your bodies are naked? Did you both eat the fruit of the forbidden tree?”

“No!” said Adam. “The woman, given to me by you, ate the fruit, and she gave it to me to eat, so I ate.”

“How about it, Eva? What is this thing you have done?” said the Prince of Creation.

“It was the snake! He tricked me,” she said. 

With that, the Prince spoke to the snake, cursing it, saying, “You will crawl on your chest, snake. Dust will be your food. Your children and the children of the woman will be enemies. The child of the woman will stomp your head, and your children will bite the heel of the woman’s child.”

Then, the Prince turned to Eva. “You will give birth to suffering and difficulty in order to have children. You will desire your husband and want to control him. But he will rule over you.” 

Then, God cursed Adam, saying, “This whole earth is cursed now because of you, Adam. It will grow thorns. You will sweat to find something to eat, and you will work hard until you die and return to the ground. You were made from the ground and you will become ground again.”

But the Prince did not leave there, he saw them, still naked. He killed an animal, took its skin and the Prince of Creation clothed them.

Now with this, the Prince also said, “Here are these humans, but like one of us now in that they now know the good and the bad. I must throw them out. If not, they will continue to eat from the tree that enlivens them and they will live like this forever.”

Adam and Eva (Earth and Life) were then thrown out by the Prince of Creation and made to leave the beautiful rice field there. The Prince also put something to guard the way back into the beautiful field, so that no human could return.

That is the story, taken from the holy writings, of how the curse came in, and why we all die. 

Mahafaly Bible Stories: Creation

Much of our work since coming to Madagascar in 2009 (Tessa) and 2011 (Nathan), has been in crafting and telling the stories of the Bible in the Malagasy dialects local to our area. The one tribe with whom we’ve worked most closely and the longest is the Mahafaly.

It has been an education just grappling with Scripture verse by verse with our Mahafaly friends, and watching them take in and then re-verbalize the stories in their own vernacular. Suddenly, the stories come alive for them. And while we think all of us should be doing the work to ingest, digest, and then retell the story of the Bible in our own local culture and parlance, we also wanted to give you all the chance to hear how your brothers and sisters here in Madagascar retell those stories. These are familiar stories. But we hope you see how the Mahafaly have made them their own. These are translated from Mahafaly into English, I’ve adjusted them only slightly for our ear.

These are not the stories of the white man or Americans or Westerners. This is the story crafted by God himself, about the origins of humanity, and the end of evil. And as such, all of our stories are wrapped up in this one.

Creation

Hello, it’s me, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.

The first story I must tell you is . . . Creation!

Back when all was very still and quiet, there was nothing there yet—nothing at all moving around, no people like us. But the Prince of Creation was there. He spoke. He made the world we see around us today, just by speaking it. 

He said, “There is light!” and there was light, and also dark. He called the light, Day, and to the dark he gave the name, Night.

He said, “There is water!” and there was water. And the Prince of Creation saw that what he was doing was good. 

Then, the Prince of Creation said, “The water is gathered together and the dry land appears! There are trees and growing grass!” And the trees and grass began to grow as the new, dry land appeared, as the waters pulled away. This land was called, Earth, and the gathered waters were called the Sea. And the Prince of Creation saw that what he was doing was good.

The Prince of Creation said, “There are stars, a moon, and the sun!” And they all appeared. Prince of Creation saw that this too was good.

He said, “There are animals in the water, jellyfish and whales, all different kinds! There are flying birds like hawks and bats and animals on the ground like chameleons and sheep, all different kinds! And these appeared. And the Prince of Creation saw all that he was doing was good. 

Then, the Prince of Creation said, “I am going to make a human.” So he did. The Prince of Creation made a human, but he created him in a different kind of way. He did not use just his word. He took some dirt, and then molded it. When he was done, he blew into it. It came alive, and started moving! This was the first man.

The Prince of Creation called the man, Adam. That’s the name he gave him, which means, Earth. Then the Prince of Creation took the man and put him in this one, green rice field that was there beside many rivers. Now, in this beautiful field, there were many trees there. Also, in the middle of this field there were two special trees. One tree was a tree that gave life. The other tree was a tree of knowledge—both of the good and the bad. 

“Ah, yes,” said the Prince of Creation, “Eat the fruit from all of these trees here. But the one tree there in the middle of the field, the one that gives knowledge of the good and the bad, don’t eat the fruit from that one. If you do eat it, you will die.”

But now, the Prince of Creation saw that Adam was alone. “Ah,” Prince of Creation said, “This is not good, for the human to be alone. I will find him a fitting partner who can add to him. So the Prince of Creation brought by all the animals to Adam. He brought the dolphin and the lemur, the zebu and the parrot. But none of them seemed to fit as his partner. So, with that, the Prince of Creation put Adam to sleep. Then, he took a bone from Adam’s side. And with that, the Prince of Creation made another human. It was the first woman. He brought her to Adam. When Adam saw her, and that she was a human like him, he said, “Ah, yes! Her bones are from my bones. She is flesh from my flesh.” So he called her, Eva. That is the name he gave her, which means Life.

Now at this time, Adam and Eva (Earth and Life) were still naked together, but knew nothing of shame. The Prince of Creation saw that this was good. Everything the Prince of Creation had made there was so good! 

The Prince of Creation blessed the humans, saying, “Multiply and cover this earth! Everything that moves here on earth belongs to you all. They are under your care as Masters and you must take care of them.” 

Then, the Prince of Creation saw that everything he had done was good. He had finished his work there. Six days it took for Prince of Creation to finish all of that. Then, he rested. And he also blessed this day when he stopped and rested with his creation.

And that is the story of how the world we see around us was created. It’s from the holy writings—the Bible. 

Theology Tuesdays: Wisdom

Tessa and I are trying to communicate more regularly here on more of a schedule. So every other Tuesday we’ll start adding some theological reflections like this one. They say routine and schedule can add some semblance of order to our lives these days. We’ll see!

I’ve been doing what little I can, having a few people over here at the house to pray, reflect on God’s Word and work in the community. That has taken the form of crafting the biblical story of Job to broadcast on the local radio and some community development as we walk through the book of James together.

Job and ill-timed truths

Job has always fascinated me. As a former theatre junkie, it reads like a dramatic production to me every time. Maybe I’m trying to realize some of my dreams with this radio theatre venture now! James, however, I consider a more familiar book . . . except it’s kicking my butt right now. Both are steeped in the biblical, Jewish wisdom tradition. Along with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, Job is a reflection on how to live. If Proverbs is the optimist and Ecclesiastes the pessimist, Job is the realist of the wisdom books.

We were reading through Job a month ago. It struck me how much more poignant the story is now. I imagined certain people sitting here in the slums or on the side of the road voicing Job’s cries of injustice. I could see their pastors shaking their heads at them, or the local Christian ladies dressed in their Sunday best doing their best to comfort them by telling them to repent so that things would go back to normal, rubbing salt in an angry wound. I could see myself, speaking platitudes about God’s care to them from a place of privilege and health while they wail and moan and dare to ask why this is happening to them.

Derek Kidner, one of my favorite scholars on the Hebrew Writings for his clarity, put something into words I’ve never noticed before about Job’s friends. It’s not that they’re wrong, per se . . .

“A closer look at the material shows that the basic error of Job’s friends is that they overestimate their grasp of truth, misapply the truth they know, and close their minds to any facts that contradict what they assume.”

Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job,& Ecclesiastes, 61.

The Bible has a category, an ensemble of characters even, that teach we can be technically right but contextually, relationally dead-wrong. To say it another way, if I could speak every language that exists, have the solution to every problem down to global poverty, have enough faith that I can actually physically toss mountains into the ocean, but don’t know how to treat people . . . I’ve got zilch, nada–I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-2).

How in the world are we any different than Job’s friends right now? It was startling for me to realize early on in this crisis that I did not need the barrage of spiritual encouragement sent my way. Faith over fear? Really!? As if a catchphrase will help me sleep at night or calm my pent-up three-year-old or suddenly open the borders of the country in which I feel stranded without help.

Then I thought about those around me. How many times do I do the same to them. Instead of sitting with them in their pain, I offer trite solutions. It’s not that “Faith over Fear,” or “God’s in control,” “She’s in a better place now,” or “All Lives Matter” are patently false statements. They aren’t. Neither are they helpful when someone is in pain.

Job’s friends all understand something true about God’s character. But then they misapply that truth and use it against one made in God’s image. And God makes it clear he is not cool with how they’ve handled the situation (Job 42:7-8). He calls their words of wisdom, “foolish.” They kept blabbing on about stuff they didn’t understand, making up excuses for God, it seems like, to help themselves feel more in control. Job gets his own remedial wisdom class, but he passes the test because he loves God too much to accept pat answers about him. He knows something’s up and he won’t rest until he figures it out and knows his relationship with God is solid.

The hinge of the book is chapter 28, where Job declares, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom! And to depart from evil is understanding” (28:28), which bookends the wisdom books at the opening of Proverbs (1:7) and the close of Ecclesiastes (12:13). This is wisdom distilled: Fear God, flee evil. But as we see with Job, this lesson is refined in the furnace not learned in the classroom; it will take our full attention to maintain the tension of standing in awe before the God of the whirlwind as we sit scraping our sores on the trash heap.

Too often, we fall into the trap of making excuses for God to make ourselves feel better instead of honestly wrestling with him. We either say he is too good to let us suffer (though it clearly happens) or we say he is obviously not good at all (which we clearly owe him our very lives!). But for those who say “maybe . . .” and try to push for answers, struggle to find real footing with God, we show only resentment. For some reason, we (and I am right in the middle of we) seem in short-supply of empathy, and it may be because, just like Job’s friends, we would be better off just sitting, listening, and not getting angry at things that contradict what we assume to be true of the world. In a context where, in real time, no one knows what’s really going on, it’s better to wrestle with God than lean on dogma. Because as Job shows, the world is a confusing place, and we don’t even know how much we don’t know.

James and double-talk

Speaking of being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (1:19), James stands out as the wisdom book of the New Testament. Reflecting on various proverbs, psalms, the storyline of the Old Testament and also Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” James is giving the first Jewish church in Jerusalem Wisdom 2.0, in light of “glorious Lord Jesus Messiah” (2:1). He even references Job . . .

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

James 5:11 (NIV)

I recommend James to you as a 2020 read, especially in light of the vitriol, double-talk, and double-mindedness that we’re seeing. James is concerned the church has double-standards:

  • They pray for wisdom, but don’t actually want to be given any (1:5-8)
  • They blame God for the bad without thanking him for the good (1:12-18)
  • They think everyone should hear their opinions, but don’t listen to any others (1:19-27)
  • They help out the upstanding, yet stand on the downtrodden (2:1-13)
  • They claim to follow Jesus, but never do anything for others (2:14-26)

And that’s just the first two chapters!

The wisdom of James is to not forget our history in the faith, the wisdom of God’s word, but to live our lives in gratitude before king Jesus. Re-verbalizing Jesus’ own teaching, his little brother says, “Say what you mean, do what is true, and love others like you want God to love you.” Most of the time, we say, do, and love only in a way that benefits me, myself, and I.

Last week, me and the guys were looking at James 1:19-27; this week we were in 2:1-13. Both times I’m struck by what I’ve never noticed there. James clearly is talking to a stratified congregation of Haves and Have-nots. He says it several times (1:9-11; 2:1-7; 2:13-17; 5:1-6). Let that sink in, because it permeates the whole book. I’ve never understood that being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger are conversation guidelines for Christians in different socioeconomic positions. But it clearly is, as some people were claiming to know Jesus yet hadn’t been listening to the needs in their own community. They were listening to the sermons on Sunday but they hadn’t visited with the poor (1:27). Is there a more Jesus-like thing to do?!

In 2:1-13, James lays down the law (literally), saying “Don’t have faith in Jesus and partiality.” Partiality, discrimination, favoritism, racism, they’re all talking about the same reality. And the passage that I have used as an apologetic for how all sin is equal in the eyes of God (2:10-11) is actually making a much different point in context. As Craig Blomberg, another of my favorite Bible scholars, writes:

Discrimination is sin and breaks the law. The word here for “show favoritism” is the verb from the same root as the noun in 2:1, again with the connotation of viewing people’s external appearances only instead of seeing them as whole persons.

Craig Blomberg, James; ZECNT

God hates our unequal treatment of any person as much as he hates murder and adultery. It doesn’t matter if they have Corona virus, it doesn’t matter if they are or are not wearing a mask. If we are going to take Jesus’ name, we better start treating all people as “whole persons.” Not to improve our position, not just people who agree with us, not just people who look like us. The “law of the kingdom,” as James calls it, is a law of freedom based on the mercy of Jesus who did not come to yell at us but loved us, even as broken people. At a deep level, James is saying to the extent we have a distorted view of others we are distorted ourselves. We have become double-minded.

Wisdom is the opposite. Wisdom is an integrative principle. It is the truth of the living God lived out in loving relationships between God and his image bearers. It is a truth that survives the strongest scrutiny in the worst circumstances, and it is a truth that pulls us together instead of fracturing us. It derives from the fact that how we love all humans has direct bearing on how we love God and even ourselves. But we’ll save that for another Tuesday.

Manuely

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been meeting with a couple young guys here in Toliara. We’re studying through the book of James as well as planning how to help the community in this crisis. I wanted to give them a chance to encourage you as well with what we’re learning. Here’s Manuely . . .

Transcript: Good morning, everyone! We thank God for this wonderful day he has given us, so that I can share with you what I have learned from God’s Word. I have been studying with Nathan Baker. Thanks to Nathan Baker for teaching me in English. If it wasn’t for God’s Spirit using Nathan, I wouldn’t be speaking English. I hope that you can understand me now.

The one thing I want to share with you today is about temptation. You know that we have a problem around the word because of this COVID-19, right? But that doesn’t mean we should stop preaching the gospel. Instead, we should communicate with our family and take advantage of this time to share God’s Word. Especially, we have a lot of churches not open because of this virus. Worshippers of God are discouraged, because you do not understand what has happened. People are asking, “Is this from God, or from evil?” But if you worship God, don’t be afraid.

James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil. And he himself does not tempt anyone.” What does that mean? That means, He is not testing you. Instead, he gives you a choice, to trust him or to blame him. But you should know, like James says, the good things you have are from God. Even if you blame him, he is good and he does not change.

For proof of that, you can read 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says, “No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can do. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way so that you can stand up under it.”

So for us, we should have courage and remember, God has given us a way out in Jesus. And even in COVID-19, we can stand strong in him. I guess, that’s all today. Thank you for listening and watching me. God bless you wherever you go and whatever you do. Bye!