What is Real Friendship?

Is friendship, when you are there only when you can? Does friendship mean you drop everything when a friend calls? Do you tell a friend the truth all the time? What about what Thumper says in the Disney classic, Bambi, “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all,” or what about what Tom Cruise says in a Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth.” Or is it somewhere in between?

I have had a number of friends come under attack these past few months. Some of them started the battle, most it came out of nowhere. The really painful ones have been husband vs wife, employee vs employer, parent vs child, friend vs friend.

Honestly for me the choice whether to support them or not has been an easy one. I know my upbringing in the Islands plays apart in this. I never saw people go through hardship alone, friends always came a running, friends brought food, stayed up all night, called and you were not alone.

What happens when sin comes in the mix? What about if your friend is not without blame? What if others ask how you can side with a sinner? Actually that’s an easy one Jesus preferred the honest sinner to the professional religious person. Jesus loves the fallen and the needy so that’s not hard. So what about if hanging out with your friend comes at a cost? What if it’s not easy, or not convenient?

Well what does the Bible say about being a friend?

Job 2:11

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz , Bildad, and Zophar heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.”

So we are to be there when our friends are hurting

Proverbs 18:24

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”

Sometime the old adage blood is thicker than water is not true, in fact more often in my life it has been my best friends that have been there to stick by me.

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity”

I think true friends may not always agree with you but they choose to be there in the trench with you.

John 15:13

The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the definition of a true friend: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

True friends are willing to stick their necks out for a friend no matter what the cost

Proverbs 20:6

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?

Once again loyal friends show up when you need them too not when it’s convenient.

King David was a lover and a fighter but 4 of the best examples of friendship comes from him: David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-3, 20:17, King David and Abiathar (1 Samuel 22:23),David and Nahash (2 Samuel 10:2)and David and Hushai (2 Samuel 15:32–37)

David was loyal to the point of sacrifice and for me that’s the point. When something happens all your friends usually are there to start with but the true friends are still there 2 weeks, 2 months and 2 years later.

True friends:

  • Text and ask how you are doing
  • Facebook message and check on you
  • Drive over the bridge to check, get on a plane, stay up late to have a coffee
  • It doesn’t have to cost money but it always costs emotionally and with time.

John 15:3 says a friend lays down his or her life and I think that means gives up their rights, their time, gives their heart. Jesus laid down his life for us and as in all things He did he modelled sacrifice.

We can’t ever go as far as he did but just like Jesus I want to hang out with the needy, the messy, the lonely, the hurting and my friends.

MatthewFit 4 Life Staff

Faith – Some favourite quotes from the Bible

When I wrote my blog for Fit 4 Life on the topic of Friendship a while back, I listed some of my favourite quotations on friendship and why I liked them. Seeing it is my turn to write a blog again, although this time on the topic of ‘Faith’, I decided it would be a good idea to list some of my favourite Bible verses and give a brief blurb about what they mean to me.

Just as an aside, at our team meeting earlier this week my team said I need to write shorter blogs, so even though the Bible contains 54,248 verses, I have decided to focus on just three verses, at least for this time… (Well, really four verses, as one quote is actually two verses to give the sense!)

John 5:39,40 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to Me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life…”

In these verses Jesus was talking to religious people, and He was saying that they knew how to quote Bible verses but they had completely missed the point of what they meant and what they were intended to do – namely, lead people to actually come to know who Jesus is and have a real and vibrant relationship with Him! Thinking about these verses causes me to question myself all the time and to ensure I am not just quoting empty words – even Bible verses – to people, but rather I am attempting to help lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend”

When I think about this verse from Proverbs it speaks to me about how positive change in a person’s life occurs. Somebody once said, “You will be the same person a year from now apart from the people you meet and the books you read”, which I think is similar to what Proverbs 27:17 is saying. When I think back on my life, the greatest growth in my life has occurred from things which people (often friends and family – especially my wife!) have said to me which got me thinking about my behviour, eventually leading me to make positive changes to my life. (I like this verse so much I actually quoted it during my speech on my wedding day!)

 Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do…”

Through the years I’ve been accused of many things in my Christian life, but one thing I have never been accused of is being a slacker! I have worked hard to develop myself as a Christian and to take God and His Word (the Bible) seriously, and to live it out on a daily basis as best and as ‘hard’ as I can! This verse from Hebrews is a good reminder to me – and hopefully to others like me(!) – that God remembers our hard work. He has an accurate record of everything we have ever done for Him and for His kingdom, and He will not forget the efforts and sacrifices which we make for Him in this life. They will all be revealed and rewarded when we stand before Him one day!!

Hope you enjoyed some of my favourites! If you have a bible at home, look them up and find some of your own.

Bryce – Fit 4 Life Staff


Faith – Kindness and Love

Have you ever had a boss or workmate that you couldn’t get along with? I had a boss who didn’t like me from the first day we met. He would barely speak to me unless it was necessary. I had to try to show kindness and love to him somehow because he was my boss, but more importantly because God loves him and has called me to love him as well!

Kindness and love are great traits to aspire to have and give to others, but it can be tough. We can be kind and loving to those who are kind and loving to us. But what about to those people who aren’t very kind or loving! We don’t naturally want to be kind and loving to grumpy, nasty and sometimes self-centred people. It’s really hard and we can’t do that easily on our own. We need help with showing kindness and love in those times.

I don’t think this can come all at once in us to love the unlovely ones in our life. It says in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 3, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” God provides our needs to show love and kindness by His help through His spirit. We aren’t called to be on this earth without His help.

As I mentioned before, it is a process in our lives. Later on in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verses 5-7, this is explained how we can change. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness: and to goodness, knowledge: and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

As you see from the last two things listed, these traits are the end result of our process to follow God’s leading and help to be kind and loving towards everyone like He does. It starts out with faith, and we’ve all heard that it only takes a mustard seed of it to be useful! From there we move onto goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance and on to what God wants in us, godliness! We can’t move onto being kind and loving without God’s mark in our lives. He must be the one who models and gives us all that we need to be the people of God we need to be!

I can happily say now that I am good friends with my boss. He goes out of his way to speak to me and even asks if I need things. I think by showing him kindness and love through God’s help, has built a lasting friendship!

Jamie – Fit 4 Life Staff

Faith – The Harmony of Faith and Reason

I was in church last Sunday when the pastor said something in his sermon which I agreed with at the time, but now I do not…

Part of his message that day included some discussion about Rene Descartes – the 17th century French genius, probably best known for his great philosophical statement ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ which translated into English means: ‘I think, therefore I am’. With this insight, Descartes heavily influenced the modern world towards taking a rational approach to the way in which knowledge could – or should – be obtained (or ‘known’), and his insights have greatly influenced how people in today’s world determine or accept the “reliability of knowledge” about anything. People today place great credibility in the scientific method as the primary, or sometimes the only, way of determining what is true about anything, and Descartes’ insights and writings have had a great deal to do with this. I agreed with my pastor concerning this point.

However, following his discussion about Descartes he then went on to quote a familiar text from John’s gospel where it is recorded:  ‘Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  (John 8:31,32). This is a very familiar text for Christians, and it is even quite well known by those who are not Christians. ‘The truth shall set you free’ can be heard as a line spoken by an actor in many movies (e.g. ‘Liar Liar’, starring Jim Carrey), and is quite a common adage bandied around today.

From this text, my pastor went on to make the point that Jesus Christ – instead of beginning with reason as the starting point as Descartes leads us to believe – rather asks people to begin first with faith to believe in Him and His words, and that it is the action of faith – rather than trying to reason out spiritual truth using the ‘Cartesian’ method (named after Descartes) – which ultimately leads people to know the truth and to Jesus Christ who is ‘the truth’. It was this particular section of my pastor’s message that I initially agreed with when I heard him say it, but now I do not…

Before I proceed I should say that I very much like my pastor and that I am good friends with him. He is a gifted and intelligent man, and it is quite possible that I might have misinterpreted or misunderstood the point he was trying to make concerning faith and reason in his sermon, so this blog is not intended to be a general criticism of him or his teaching – which I find to be very insightful and inspirational (at least most of the time!) (See the ‘Postscript’ at the end of this blog for some clarification from my pastor concerning his sermon content)

However, if I have understood or interpreted his point on Sunday about faith and reason correctly,  namely that people who are trying to discover or learn about God need to approach Him through the vehicle of faith rather than from the position of reason, and that if they do they will ultimately discover the truth and be ‘set free’,  then I think he either greatly oversimplified his point, or he has fallen into a rather common misconception whereby faith and reason are set before people as two opposite and polarised positions and that to hold to the one is to deny the other and vice versa.

Before we go further, let us assume that ‘Faith’ means what we believe and that ‘Reason’ means what we know or can prove. (I am not going to bother fully defining the terms ‘Faith’ and ‘Reason’ and what they mean in this blog, as I am trying to keep things simple. If you want more complicated definitions for these terms then go and read some philosophy or theological books, or surf around on the internet until you find a more detailed definition..!)

Many people today – both Christians and non-Christians alike – tend to see faith and reason as two separate and distinct things, like the diagram below illustrates:

With regards to the diagram above, imagine that the oval entitled ‘Faith’ defines all that can be known (or is assumed, or taken) by Faith and that the oval entitled ‘Reason’ determines all that can be known (or is discovered, or proven) by Reason. This particular diagram also illustrates how most people today separate these two things – Faith and Reason.

A belief that Faith and Reason are separate is called ‘Dualism’ and it is a popular ideology in today’s world. Because of the writings of Descartes and many other philosophers and thinkers over the last 500 years such as Hobbes, Voltaire, Shaw, Sartre, Nietzsche, Hegel and so on, many people today (especially in the West) have come to believe that faith and reason should not – or cannot – be combined; that the sacred and secular realms should not be mixed;  that the ‘church and state’ should be kept separate; that religion and science cannot cohabitate; that one must be right and the other wrong etc.

Dualistic thinking has had other side effects – for example the common notion today that one’s faith is a ‘private matter’ and should be kept to oneself, or that reason and one of its major subsets,  science, is the only legitimate way of determining or proving what is or is not true.

Now there’s only one thing wrong with dualism and that is that it is wrong – especially when it comes to faith and reason within the context of Christianity. There are certain circumstances when Dualism may be a perfectly reasonable ideology to hold to, particularly if a person practices an esoteric type of spirituality based purely on subjective and private mystical experience.

For example, if you worship the moon goddess ONJohn on the distant and invisible planet of Xanadu, which you learned about because you had a dream one night after eating some spicy pizza, and in the dream an albino pygmy appeared to you dressed in a fireman’s outfit, and he instructed you to show loyalty to both ONJohn and to Xanadu by busting out into disco-dancing every time Olivia Newton John’s 1980 hit song, Xanadu, was played on Classic Hits radio… then in a situation like this dualism is perfectly acceptable and logical – even if what you believe is not true. In situations such as this it is possible to have a separation of faith and reason; but it is not possible for one to do this, nor should they try, if they are a Christian – or even if they are not.

The reality is that when it comes to matters of faith and reason within Christianity, or in most areas of life for that matter, faith and reason cannot be divided so cleanly and separately as Dualistic thinking would have us believe. A far better illustration of how faith and reason interact with one another could be drawn like this:

Diagrams are simplistic – especially when it comes to trying to represent complex subjects such as faith and reason – but I am trying to show that there is a large overlap between faith and reason when it comes to Christianity and, indeed, to most of life. Perhaps we could shade in the middle section, to better illustrate how faith and reason overlap and complement one other, rather than stand in antithesis to one another (as Dualism would have us believe). Now our diagram would look like this:

Again, diagrams are crude representations – but I hope you can see the point I am trying to make, which is that faith and reason overlap and often to a large degree.

Now I am the first to admit that there are certain parts of Christianity that I have to take on faith or by using faith alone, because there are truths which one cannot reason out on their own, or discover, or even prove. One such belief is that the Christian God is a ‘Trinity’ and that God is three persons in one being, fully expressed in the perfect Godhead of the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. This triune being is the God of the Christians – and this ‘truth’ about the Christian God must be accepted by faith as no-one could reason this out on their own, and in many ways this truth is not even fully understandable by reason. Rather, this ‘truth’ is something God has revealed to us.

Now before the skeptic bleats out, “There, you see..; you Christians believe things that are not provable and are even bizarre”, which is an appeal to the primacy of reason and to rationality (and to dualism) over the act of faith, there are many things in life that we take by faith and/or which are bizarre – even if we start out by using reason to discover them.

The bumble-bee flies when, according to all scientific research and the laws of aerodynamics and gravity, it should not be able to fly. This is not ‘reasonable’ and is even bizarre, yet it flies. In this particular example we don’t have to exercise any faith, because we can see bumble bees flying around outside our windows and they were around well before scientists started researching how they could fly.

American scientist Robert Goddard over 100 years ago back in 1909 believed that a device could be created that could fly to the moon – today known as the ‘rocket’. He launched the world’s first-ever liquid propellant rocket in 1926 and was even criticised by a New Zealand physicist, A W Bickerton, (shame on him!!) who wrote, “This foolish idea of shooting at the moon is an example of the absurd lengths to which vicious specialisation will carry scientists.”  (A.W. Bickerton, NZ, 1926). Robert Goddard had the faith to believe that a rocket to the moon could one day be a reality and he continued his research right up to his death in 1945. He died 24 years before Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in Apollo 11 made flying a rocket to the moon a reality in 1969. In this instance, Goddard started with faith and used his reason to figure out how to make what he believed in, by faith – even something bizarre – happen!

When the duck-billed platypus was first encountered by Europeans in Australia in 1798, a pelt and a sketch were sent back to Britain by Captain John Hunter, the second Governor of New South Wales. The initial study and conclusion by various British scientists’ was that the attributes were a hoax. English botanist and zoologist George Shaw (who ended up producing the first description of the animal in the Naturalist’s Miscellany in 1799), stated that ‘it was impossible not to entertain doubts as to its genuine nature’. It was thought that somebody had sewn a duck’s beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal and Shaw even took a pair of scissors to the dried skin to check for stitches(!) In this example a bizarre animal was discovered, certain parts (or ‘truths’) about the animal were revealed to others (e.g. the skin and a sketch), yet until a live animal was produced it was believed that it could not possibly be true – even though the platypus really did exist, and had existed for thousands of years! And there are many more examples like this in world history.

In fact, God revealing to mankind that he is a Trinitarian-being at first glance may seem quite bizarre, but it actually does make some sense – at least in part and to the Christian rational mind. For example, God also revealed He has always existed (Exodus 3:14) and that He is ‘Love’ (1st John 4:8). Now if God were not a Trinity but was (or is) only a singular being – like ‘Allah’ in Islamic religious belief – then He could not ‘be’ love and could not have existed eternally from everlasting to everlasting as love, because love can only exist between persons. (There are some nutters out there who, perhaps, love rocks or other inanimate objects – but rocks can’t love you back, nor can you ‘love’ a rock unless a rock even exists in the first place to love!) Thus if God has always existed, and existed before anything else existed, then He cannot say that he is ‘love’ unless something, or someone else, existed with Him. I cannot say that I am a loving person, or an angry person, or even a timid person if I am the only being in existence – existing all by myself – unless there is someone, or some object, for me to be able to express, or show, or demonstrate my love, or anger, or timidity towards.

Therefore, when it comes to God and his nature or ‘essence’, we begin to realise that in order for all of God’s statements about Himself to be true God must be more than one person – which fits in logically with his statements that while He is ‘one being’ (Deuteronomy 6:4), he is not merely ‘one person’ (Matthew 28:19). Thus God must at least be two persons in order for his ‘love’ statement to be true. But in many ways even a two-person God would not be as complete or as ‘perfect’ as a three person God, because – as CS Lewis rightly points out – a relationship between two persons can be, and is often, a very ‘selfish’ type of love in the same way that two teenagers who begin dating (or mating) are often wrapped up in themselves and ignore everyone else.  However, with three separate persons in the being of ‘God’, there exists a far more harmonious and unselfish interaction between the persons, because now six different ‘dynamics’ can operate namely i) The Father to the Son ii) The Son to the Spirit iii) The Spirit to the Father iv) The Father and the Spirit to the Son v) The Father and the Son to the Spirit; and vi) the Son and the Spirit to the Father. This may start to seem very confusing – especially to people with an attention span averaging less than two minutes – but one actually begins to grasp with their reason that a Trinitarian God really could make ‘sense’.

Of course at this point someone may say, “Well, if a Trinitarian God is good then what about a Quadritarian God with four persons, or a Septarian God with seven persons – the more the merrier”.  I’m sorry… but this is not possible. In addition to its strange characteristics we may wish for the platypus to have stripes like a tiger and also wings and be able to fly – but it does not. The platypus, as strange as this peculiar creature may be, is what it is and it cannot be more than it is. In the same way, I may wish to be 2.5 metres tall, African American and as athletic at Michael Jordan – but I am not; I am 5’11”, pakeha and I have never played basketball in my life apart from one or two games!

So when God reveals to us that He is a Trinity – three persons in one – we cannot require him to be something that He is not; He is the only God we have and we will have to accept Him as He is and just as He has revealed himself to us. I may have digressed a bit at this point, but let me return back to my main point about the overlapping of faith and reason – especially within the Christian faith…

There are many things which the Christian faith affirms or speaks about which are perfectly reasonable and ‘provable’. Christianity as a belief system says there is such thing as ‘good’ and such a thing as ‘evil’ – this is a truth that any thinking (rational) human being can see and believe from a study of the world around them. Christianity also says that there is a soul which exists in humans and that is different from merely our physical self – this particular truth was discussed and accepted by Greek philosopher’s centuries before Christianity came into vogue. Christianity also speaks about a historical person called ‘Jesus Christ’, who we know about from real historical records – in the same way we know about other figures of ancient history, such as Napoleon, Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great.

And even Christianity and its revelations about God such as the Trinity, are not left merely to oral traditions or some elder’s memory, but its history and teachings are recorded in an objective book still in our possession today – the Bible. The Bible contains statements of fact that are provable through rational, scientific and legal/historical methods of inquiry. For example, Luke chapter 3 verses 1-2 states:

 ‘In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene – during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert’.

Skeptics may not like the part about the ‘word of God coming to John in the desert’, and some of the words in this particular text may seem archaic or strange to our eyes. (For example, ‘Traconitis’ sounds like a disease a compulsive gambler ends up with after spending too much time at the Melbourne Cup!)

But within just these two verses alone there are at least ten references to historical facts, which any honest seeker could verify and test including:

  1. The existence of a person called ‘Tiberias’ and that he was a ‘Caesar’.
  2. That this event happened in the fifteenth year of this person – Tiberius Caesar’s – reign.
  3. That Pontius Pilate (in this same year) was governor of a place called Judea.
  4. That Herod (in this same year) was tetrarch of a place called Galilee.
  5. That Philip was tetrarch (in this same year) of places called Iturea and Traconitis.
  6. That Philip was Herod’s brother.
  7. That Lysanias was tetrarch of a place called Abilene
  8. That Annas was a high priest (in this same year)
  9. That Caiaphas was a high priest (in this same year)
  10. That there was a person called John who was the son of a man called Zechariah.

Such statements are not subjective or based merely on ‘faith’; they are statements of fact which can be tested and proven by our reason and rationale to be correct, or to be incorrect. And the Bible is full of such statements.

The Bible itself can be tested objectively because it is a collection of writings (or 66 ‘books’), that were written and recorded in original autographs and later copied into manuscript form. The New Testament alone has over 5600 manuscripts that exist in whole or in part, and which can be used to verify and ‘prove’ that what is written in its pages is accurate. You may disagree with the conclusions in the Bible (e.g. that God is a Trinity, for example). But you cannot rationally disagree with the accuracy of the copying and that what is written is an accurate copy – because to disagree with the accuracy of the New Testament writings one also has to logically and honestly dismiss the entire body of ancient literature, as the veracity of the New Testament is overwhelmingly attested to in the volume and number of extant manuscripts available today.

In fact by way of comparison, there are only ~49 manuscripts of Aristotle’s works in existence today – that’s not even 1% as many as the New Testament has in existence! With Plato it gets even worse – only 7 manuscripts in existence (or <0.125% of the NT!) (See this website for more information about this.)

Anyway, getting back to my main point about the false dichotomy and dualistic separation of faith and reason, my pastor appeared to argue on Sunday that we need to start with faith and come to Jesus and His words and then we will know the truth. I disagree. What is needed is to engage both our faith and our reason to discover the truth, and that together this will set us free. One without the other is not sufficient; neither faith alone nor reason alone will suffice…  both are required.

Taking the text from John’s gospel as my pastor did on Sunday, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  (John 8:32), it might argued that it seems strange to be asked to believe in a 2000 year old person and his word – or words. Isn’t this purely subjective? Doesn’t this mean that you have to come to Jesus in faith and by faith alone and without reason or using your rational mind to believe and be set free? The answer is ‘No’.

With regards to discovering the truth about anything (and not just religious truth, as I have shown), sometimes our faith may be working harder or be stronger than our reason, or vice versa. But our faith and our reason do not work in opposition – they work together. Our faith and our reason may work together to bring us to wrong conclusions – that is, we may err and make mistakes either in our reasoning (objectivity) or in our faith (subjectivity) – or both at the same time, in the same way that the British scientists did not initially believe that the Platypus really existed either from their reason (study of the pelt) or faith (looking at the sketch and disbelieving it) – but faith and reason never – or very rarely ever – work alone.

Looking again at the passage that my pastor spoke from out of John’s gospel, this passage is not a purely subjective or ‘faith’ passage – and that was the reason why later in the week as I reflected on the passage and upon what he had said, I came to disagree with him.

It is recorded there that, ‘Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  (John 8:31,32). Within this passage we can actually see both subjective and objective truth – faith and reason – occurring at the same time. We see here that Jesus asks us to believe in His word as individuals (subjective), but He was also speaking as an objective (real) person; He spoke His words in the middle of a group of objective (real) people – the Jews; He was asking them to abide in His word – His objective words; He said that it was possible to know the truth (objective truth), and that this truth could set us free – objectively free. He did not say that by knowing the truth that we would ‘appear to be free’ (subjective) or, ‘imagine that we were free’ (again, subjective) – which is the stuff of delusions – but that we would really be free – objectively, even rationally, “free”.

In other texts and even later in the same chapter we read that this person, Jesus Christ, claimed to be the ‘I AM’ – the God of the Old Testament (John 8:58), and that he was ‘One’ with the Father (John 10:30) and yet he was an objective, personal flesh and blood man standing in these people’s midst. He was not an inanimate god such as is worshipped by primitive cultures, who worship or attribute deity to trees and to rivers – or even rocks. He was not a psychological (mind) god like the Eastern mystics worship such as Krishna, Shiva and Vishnu (who no-one has ever seen or proven). This objective person/’God’ also spoke words where He told us that our faith is not to be merely a private concern, but rather that it is to be a very public and objective practice. He said that it should be as objectively visible as ‘a lamp set on a table which everyone can see’ (Luke 11:33).

There is also no-where that we can find where He speaks and tells people that they can just subjectively believe whatever they want to believe about Him, or that they are free to make up stories, or myths, or even lies about Him – or to wait for dreams to come in the night whereby albino pygmies bring mystical revelations about distant planets with bizarre names and disco-dancing practices.

As I pointed out earlier, there are places where faith and reason overlap and areas where they do not. If I want to know how to repair an engine block for a Holden V8 I will not turn to the Bible but rather to a Holden V8 manual, or I will ask someone who has intricate knowledge of repairing V8 engines. But if I want to know about the life beyond this life and the nature of God, and how to experience freedom from sin, find peace, and have an abundant life then the objective words of Jesus Christ found in the Bible are a pretty good place to start.

Not everything that we read in about in the Bible is objective, or is difficult to prove – such as that there is a dark angel called the devil who deceives the world and tempts us to do evil, or that there is a place called hell where ultimately people who refuse to believe and obey God’s word will be sent. But even these subjective or ‘Faith’ truths are not entirely ‘unreasonable’. And there are large portions in the Bible which are factual and objective and which speak to things which can be studied using our reason – just like that platypus pelt placed in front of scientists 300 years ago – which we can use to determine whether what God has said, even about certain things that we must take by faith, could be really and rationally true.

To wrap this up, when I was a little boy my mother would tell me that Christmas was coming soon – and it always did. Christmas was real, it was fun and it was something to look forward to. I believed my mother when she told me that Christmas was coming again, using both my subjective faith and my objective reason. By faith – I believed her because the event hadn’t yet arrived; and by reason – because I had experienced Christmas the year before, and the year before that, and because my mother was a truthful person and, because of her truthfulness, I had learned to trust her and what she said.

In the same way, Jesus Christ asks us to involve both our mind (reason) and not merely our heart (faith). He asks us to believe in Him – someone who is not subjective or merely an apparition in a dream – but rather someone who has real objectivity to Himself. I do not doubt that the objective Jesus Christ (reasonable/rational being) who lived 2000 years ago is far more real than the words I read about Him today in the pages of my Bible; but He has not left me without objective truth or entrusted everything merely to ‘faith’. We have His objective words in the Bible where He said He can give us life and peace if we want these things. He said that if we believe in Him – both objectively and subjectively – we will have eternal life. He said that He is going to return to this earth; that He will come again to judge the world; and that every day which passes by brings us closer to that reality.

On the day Christ returns my faith will turn to sight and the subjective knowledge of faith will mesh perfectly together with the objective knowledge of reason – as right now they only do in part. That day my faith will unite fully and harmoniously with my reason and will co-habitate together perfectly for all eternity. In the meantime, I continue to wrestle with my faith and with my reason to determine what is true about God, about life and even about myself. But I never disengage my reason from my faith or vice-versa. And at all times I remain fully conscious and aware that the real Christmas will soon be here…

Bryce – Director, Fit 4 Life

Postscript  After posting this blog, I participated in some written correspondence with my pastor about his sermon content and my blog article. As I mentioned above in my article, I stated that it was quite possible that I had misunderstood my pastor’s main point about the separation of faith and reason. In fairness to him, here is some of his correspondence which he forwarded to me concerning the content and point of his sermon that particular day:

“I certainly agree that faith and reason are not separate things that can be kept apart in some kind of dualism. I mentioned in my message that the trend toward a split between objective facts and subjective faith was a sad result of Descartes’ philosophy that Christians unfortunately often accept. It leaves us with a sacred/secular divide that is unbiblical and unhelpful. What I was trying to critique, among other things, was the way we still tend to define reason in Cartesian ways, which is a problem.

All reasoning involves faith or subjectivity of some kind. Scientists work within particular traditions, doctors place their faith in particular tools, philosophers build premises on the assumptions of logic, history writers review events from a certain perspective. We are all ‘subjective reasoners,’ to coin a phrase! We don’t stand outside the world as impartial, neutral observers of it, but we observe the world from within it as subjective creatures, through a certain lens.

We always analyse the world through a certain lens, even when using our ‘objective’ reason. The question then becomes, ‘What lens are we using?’ This is where I introduced John 8:31, to show that Jesus gives us an alternative lens through which to view reality which is personal faith in him. I didn’t mean to suggest that this way of knowing tells us to leave our brains at the door or is anti-intellectual. In fact, you could argue that it is the most intellectual way of pursuing truth, as it uses our minds as they were designed to be used, in a Christ-centred way! Jesus certainly invites us to use our minds in the pursuit of truth, but he frees us from a way of pursuing knowledge that places supreme importance on our own rational minds and grasps at the illusion of completely certain knowledge in this life.

I think we’re agreed on the importance of integrating both faith and reason together…we may simply differ on how that integration happens and what the ‘reason’ part involves. Either way, I completely agree that they belong together!”

You can see why I like my pastor…

PS You can listen to his full message in mp3 format at http://www.shore.org.nz/teaching/  (Message on August 14: Ecclesiastes 7:23-29 – True Knowing)

 

Fitness – What does being ‘fit’ really mean?

I have had the privilege of working as a team chaplain with rugby players since 2005. These guys are the epitome of being fit. They eat, breathe and sleep fitness. If they aren’t as fit as the coach, trainer or nutritionist wants them to be, they are immediately told how to get back where they need to be! Unless you’re training as an elite athlete, you probably don’t have the luxury of a fitness team around you like that.

So how do you get fit and stay that way?

I have a different outlook on fitness than most. Yes, physical fitness is beneficial, but there are 2 areas that are overlooked, one more than the other. I’m talking about mental fitness and spiritual fitness.

Mental fitness is easy to figure out. Read a book, take a class or even study a subject on your own to increase your knowledge.

But what about spiritual fitness? How do you increase your spiritual fitness? I believe God has put us on the earth for a reason. He wants us to have personal relationship with Him. He loves us and wants us to rely on Him for strength and wisdom to make it through this life. We are spiritual beings and He wants us to be fit spiritually!

You can start being fit by reading theBible and understanding how God wants us to be spiritually fit. A good place to start is in the book of John in the New Testament. Talk with friends who go to church and ask how they stay spiritually fit. Visit a church and find out why people go to stay fit.

One verse in the bible that sums this up is found in 1 Timothy, chapter 4, verse 8. It says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

Fitness is very important to us all. We’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t use it you lose it!” Make sure you stay sharp and in shape by using the abilities you’ve been given. Stay fit physically, mentally and most important, spiritually!

 

Jamie – Fit 4 Life Staff

Faith – Forgiveness

This is a subject that I struggle with.  I have noticed over the years that I tend to hold grudges against people whom I feel have wronged me in some way.  I don’t think I consciously plan to do so or think about it a lot, but it is definitely there. It is a hard thing to forgive someone when they haven’t asked for it or shown any recognition of the wrong that was committed.  Sometimes they may not even be aware that they have done anything.

A few weeks ago I was challenged to think more deeply about this attitude and consider some of the consequences of not forgiving others.

Unforgiveness causes bitterness and poisons other areas of our lives.  It increases stress, it effects our emotions – we feel angry, irritable and drained and it can also affect our immune system lowering our resistance to disease.

So with all of these negative effects why have I been unforgiving?  Sometimes it is because I know that the person doesn’t think they are wrong so if I think that if I forgive them it lets them off the hook.  Other times it can be because of pride.  I feel that they owe me something.

As a Christian I have an amazing example of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  Jesus died on the cross 2000 yrs ago as payment for the wrongs I have committed.  This is massive sacrifice, if you don’t think so go out and rent “The Passion of the Christ” and I think you will change your mind.  Jesus endured all of that pain and suffering because he wanted to forgive me of all the things I have done.

Compared to this act of forgiveness my grudges and feelings of injustice pale in comparison.  In the Bible Jesus tells a parable about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35.  He talks about a servant who owes his master more than he could pay back in 1000 lifetimes and the master clears the debt.  The servant then goes out and has a fellow servant thrown in prison for owing him aprox. 1/3 of a year’s wages.  The master hears about it and then has the first servant thrown in prison and made to pay for his original debt.  This story illustrates just how much I have been forgiven compared to things that I don’t want to forgive.

How do I practically do this though?  There have been some things that have happened in last few years that I have found very difficult to forgive.  But I have been learning recently that forgiving doesn’t mean that the person isn’t at blame or doesn’t need to answer for what they have done.  What it does mean is that I no longer have to carry the weight of responsibility for making sure justice is done.  Instead I need to turn it over to God an allow Him to take the responsibility.

Because Christ has forgiven me for so much, I need to forgive others and entrust justice to Him.

 

Jason – Fit 4 Life Staff

Faith – Practising the Presence of God in Thailand

Over the summer break I was very blessed to have had an amazing holiday in
Thailand with some of my extended family.  I experienced and saw many things, and thought I would share a couple of things I learned while being in the humbling and slower paced culture in Thailand.

  • Practising the Presence of God
  • “Jai Yen”

G (my uncle) and I went for bike rides throughChiang Mai (Northern Thailand).  Up and down the back roads along the rivers and rice fields.  As we were peddling away one day, G reminded me about intentionally practising the presence of God.  What he meant was to take the time to savour the quiet moments with God while being there. I’ll never forget the many moments as I stood mute, walked, ran or rode in silence, taking in God and the scenes around me and loving Him more.

Now that I have come back to the reality of our busy Auckland city-lifestyle, where it’s so easy to get caught up in doing “stuff”- like being with people, (which is not always bad) letting my mind wonder about the problems of the world and the suffering and pain we feel at times, etc. The idea of ‘practising the presence of God’ is a real challenge for me.  Honestly, I still end up having full days with work and meeting up with people but I’m consciously making the time now to soak in and dwell in silence with God as it’s important to me, not just when I’m driving from one place to the next or at the end of the day before I sleep.  I have a renewed awe of God, a quiet peace and inner strength to face whatever is ahead of me knowing that He is right with me.

My friend ironically gave me his book recently called “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence.  It’s an easy little book to read or you can download it too which I encourage you to do.  Through a series of conversations and letters, he talks more in depth about what it looks like to be in the presence of God and the blessings of doing this all the time in daily life.

This brings me to the second thing I learned which really ties in with the first one… the phrase, “Jai Yen” (in Thai) which means, “calm heart”.   I saw Thai children in orphanages, teenagers, adults in tuk tuks (taxi trucks) or working in markets and malls, and no matter what the hardships, abuse or poverty they had experienced, it seemed they still had this joy – “Jai Yen”.  I don’t see much of this attitude in our Kiwi culture, yet we have so much more than a lot of them.

Often you will hear in the streets passing by “mai bpen rai” which means no worries/take it easy.  I love this attitude and want to have more of it!

A lovely Thai lady shared her story with me over a meal.  She told me after I shared with her this observation of the Thai culture, “We don’t let things that are beyond our control get us upset.  We just have to focus on the things we have control over and let the rest take care of itself.  We don’t worry… Jai Yen is the Thai way to get through life and it makes you happier and live longer.”

I believe that this is a great attitude to take on board but even better, is to have a gentle calm spirit of the Lord.  For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is true freedom and contentment.

Our nation is hurting from the earthquake disaster in Christchurch at the moment.  You may also be personally hurting or struggling with other burdens right now too.   It’s my prayer that you will practise the presence of God wherever you’re at and experience “Jai Yen” and His love and freedom which we find in Him.  From this, may confidence and acts of love flow in and through you to those around you.  God has promised that as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us and we will experience Him with us.  His perfect love drives outall fear.  You are not alone on your journey.

God loves you.

Kirstie – Fit 4 Life Staff and Group Fitness Instructor


Faith – Pain, Suffering and God

A few days ago my wife found out one of her close friend’s son has developed a potentially life threatening disease. I won’t disclose details to protect confidentialities, but needless to say this news was highly distressing to my wife and even more so to her friend and her son.

Events like this sometimes make me cringe as a Christian. My life mission includes telling people that there is a God out there who loves and cares for them, but how can that belief be true when people are experiencing deep pain and suffering on the earth? Where is my loving God in their pain and hurt?

The question of pain and suffering is an important one to answer if the Christian faith is really true. At the same time I’m aware that merely giving answers – even answers which I think are intellectually satisfying – don’t necessarily make a suffering person’s life any easier while they are living with their hurt and pain on a daily basis.

I think our human presence by the side of a hurting friend, or a hug, or a word of encouragement can do far more to help another person in their pain and hurt than any intellectual argument ever can that might explain how suffering can exist if God is really good. Still, since it’s not practically possible for me – or you – to stand by the side of each of the nearly 7 billion humans currently occupying planet earth when they are experiencing pain, perhaps there is some place to present answers as to why suffering exists if God is supposedly good like the Christians claim.

It’s important to define what I mean by ‘Suffering’ for the purpose of this blog. I would define suffering as any physical or emotional pain we experience or, more broadly, anything that we don’t get that we desperately want, or anything we may get that we desperately don’t want. However, even defining suffering this way is not entirely satisfactory as there are different kinds or degrees of suffering.  Four different categories of suffering can be identified, which are:  i) General Frustration; ii) Suffering caused from our own Foolishness; iii) Injustice; and iv) Cosmic Suffering.

The first level of suffering – General Frustration – relates to events that bother us on an everyday level. This category would include events such as a long line at the grocery store when we’re in a hurry; not being able to find a parking space when we need one; or our 15 year old freezer breaking down the day before Christmas. While events and situations like this annoy us, we usually accept them as being part of life even though they can be incredibly frustrating.

A certain amount of suffering also happens from our own Foolishness and poor choices. For example we spill a cup of coffee on the carpet because we had placed it too close to the edge of the coffee table; or our computer crashes and we lose two weeks of work because we hadn’t backed up our files; or someone drinks and drives and then wraps their car around a tree and ends up in a wheelchair for the rest of their life. We may feel sympathy for such people – as we probably should – but it doesn’t seem to disturb our sense of fairness, because there is a sense in which the person seems to be deserving of what happened to them. They did something foolish and so have suffered the consequences for it.

The next level of suffering is Injustice which is suffering caused to us by someone else’s choices. We have to differentiate two different levels of suffering in the injustice category. At the first, and much shallower, level someone makes a choice that we may not agree with but it affects us emotionally, however only in a temporary way. Our life is not drastically altered by the other person’s (or people’s) choice. For example our parents may not have allowed us to watch a certain TV show when we were growing up that we really wanted to watch; or we had a teacher at school who gave us a detention one day for not doing our homework even though we had a legitimate excuse; or perhaps a girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with us when we thought that we were going to be with that person forever and our heart was broken. Events like these cause us some temporary emotional pain, but we survive and our life goes on without us being much worse for the wear.

However at a second – and much deeper – level, actions of Injustice against us could be labelled ‘evil actions’ committed against us by another person or persons which, as a consequence, we (or somebody we know) are now deeply and permanently affected for the remainder of earthly life.

Examples in this second category include travesties such as being the victim of a drunk driving hit and run where the victim is left paralysed while the drunk driver suffers no permanent after-effects from the crash; or victims of child abuse; or of rape; or of acts of terrorism such as 9/11, continuing all the way along a continuum right up to the genocide that took place against the Jewish people during the reign of Nazi Germany during World War 2. In situations such as these there is usually someone to blame for the suffering, and in many such cases at this level people feel betrayed or abandoned by God, or that He cannot be real because of what they have suffered.

Finally, there is the Cosmic category where suffering occurs but no obvious human perpetrator exists. Events happen to us or to others who we know (or see on TV) that appear to be random, unlucky or unfortunate. Physical ailments, illness and disease are the most frequent offenders in this category. However, this category also includes natural disasters such as the December 26th 2004 tsunami that killed almost 200,000 people; or the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year; or the recent floods in Brisbane. (It’s interesting to note that destructive natural events are often called ‘Acts of God’, which again raises questions in people’s minds about God’s goodness. However it’s amusing to me that we often refer to natural disasters as Acts of God, but when good things happen to us such as a nice sunny day, or rain after a long summer drought that God is not usually credited with the result – however, that is another subject altogether!)

Regardless of the nature of the suffering – especially at the Injustice and Cosmic levels – we are left with the question, “If God is good and all powerful, then why is there suffering (and evil ) in the world?”

Here are some possible answers to this question.

Possible Answer 1:  There is no God.

This appears to solve the problem quickly. Eliminating God means we remove the personal agent who appears to be the perpetrator of all our suffering – since He made everything in the first place.

However, if we remove God from the equation then this means the universe really is purposeless and meaningless, and notions such as pain and cruelty and injustice do not really exist apart from some arbitrary social construct that has been made up by humans.

The great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis put it this way: “When I was an atheist…my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A person does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. Atheism, then, turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning we should never have found out that it has no meaning… ”

If our notion of the universe being ‘cruel’ is really artificial (assuming God does not exist), then we can also decide the universe is not cruel – but ‘that’s the way things are’. Hence we ought to be able to choose to not perceive events such as the death of a 2 year old son to cancer as ‘sad’, but rather to attribute them to, ‘that’s just the way things are; oh well; too bad’.

The problem with this position is that no-one has ever been able to live consistently like this! We find no examples of humans at any time in history or geographical location who, upon experiencing a situation of deep emotional pain or sadness, ended up saying, ‘That’s just the way life is’!! Instead, they usually say, ‘Why did this happen to me?!’

If God really does not exist then either we must say that the entire human race has been ‘brainwashed’ – that is, socialized into believing that pain and suffering really exist when it really doesn’t(!) – or that real pain and suffering really do exist and that we, somehow, have obtained the notion that the world should not have pain or suffering in it.

If this is the case – as CS Lewis argues – then where did this notion come from(?),  as it cannot have come from inside the material world?

Possible Answer 2: Pain and suffering are not real

This position is frequently tied to the idea that life is not real, which is a notion commonly found in many Eastern religions which teach the material world is an illusion. However, to hold that suffering is an illusion produces two problems.

i) Eastern religion teaches that not only suffering is an illusion but also that all of life is an illusion. Both good things and bad things are illusional. However, this seems to be contrary to reality as we seem to accept good things without experiencing any emotion. For example when we are healthy, we don’t notice our health; but when we are sick we grumble and complain that we should be healthy! This difference in our behaviour seems to indicate that we really do prefer being healthy to being sick – yet if they are really both really ‘illusional’ then why should we prefer one over the other?!

ii) If pain and suffering really are an illusion then why should we bother to help those who are suffering at all? Sadly the logical actions to this line of thinking is being lived out in many eastern nations like India and Thailand where there are more beggars, cripples, derelicts and abject poverty than in any other nation, yet few fingers are lifted by the ‘healthy’ people living in these nations to give aid and bring relief to those around them who are suffering, because the prevailing belief is the person’s ‘karma’ has caused their present situation.  However, the rest of the world reacts in horror to such images of tremendous human suffering. (Could there be a more inhuman belief system than to not be willing to help people who are truly suffering because, as many Eastern religions teach, ‘the people aren’t really suffering?!!’)

The answer that ‘Pain and Suffering are illusory’ flies in the face of reality and the predominant ‘normal’ human reaction to suffering.

Possible Answer 3:- God is not good

People who hold this position believe there is a real God but He’s not good. He is instead a malevolent deity.

Fortunately in the West at least, there are few organized religions that believe in malevolent deities that control our lives (although numerous animistic religions hold that view). But if we stop for a moment and think we realize that this argument is more flawed than might initially meet the eye.

When we become angry with God because of injustice or suffering we are experiencing in our lives, we struggle, and wonder whether God is malevolent. Yet we, ourselves, are expressing malevolent emotions – usually anger – against this ‘God’ and accusing Him of being malevolent!

Philosophically, this argument is weak because…

a) We are all hypocrites. Have we not ourselves caused pain to another person at some point in our life? Perhaps we picked on a smaller child when we were at school; or we hit our brother or sister one time; or we backed our car into a pensioner’s fence and drove off without telling them and paying restitution to have the damage repaired. When we accuse God of not being good because we are suffering, we find ourselves to be at least partially guilty of having committed actions during our lifetime that cause, or have caused, others to suffer either intentionally or unintentionally.

b) This position requires us to be the judges of what is good and what is bad – in other words to ‘pick and choose’ through our own subjective experience as to what is good and what is not. But throughout history humans have proven decidedly incapable of judging what is right and wrong. If a person is dying of aids contracted from frequent sexual contact, this may cause emotional pain to the person’s family and friends, but was their sexual activity appropriate moral behaviour in the first place? The American revolutionary war fought against England in the 1700’s was in large part a conflict over the issues of self-governance and taxation. Taxation without representation was – to the Americans – ‘equal to tyranny’. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the fight over the right of the American nation to self-govern and tax, yet America today now has one of the most complicated taxation and bureaucratic governmental systems in the Western world and I, for one, am far happier being part of the Commonwealth. (Please don’t think from this comment that I am anti-American; America has brought much good to the world and I am also married to an American!) Even events at the cosmic level can have both positive and negative consequences. The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the city’s 80,000 inhabitants. However, it was also of great assistance in destroying the millions of rats (and fleas) that had contributed to the bubonic plague!

To say that God is ‘wrong’ is again appealing to a standard of ‘goodness’ to which we are comparing God’s actions against and finding that He falls short. Once again, where did this standard of goodness that we are measuring God against come from?  A true knowledge of goodness can ultimately and only come from a truly moral (good) being. That being is God, who is the only person capable of truly defining what is ‘good’.

Possible Answer 4:- God is good but not all-powerful, so He is not able to eliminate evil in the world

This fourth position has at least some merit, although parts of this philosophy are weak. One could argue that God is not all powerful, but if we believe there are some things that God has no control over then we have no answer for some of the bad things that seem to happen for no reason and can  only be attributed to ‘randomness’ in the universe.

However, if God is not truly in control then the amount of bad things that may be possible in the universe could be infinite and the universe suddenly becomes a rather terrifying place where we never quite know what to expect.

It’s possible that this position could be used to defend the Christian faith, but it doesn’t really do justice to the teaching of the Bible which says that God is all powerful and that He is in control of His cosmos (Rev 19:6).

Possible Answer 5: God is good, loving and powerful, and He will ultimately solve the problem of suffering in time. However, for a season He allows it for His purposes.

The notion that we are in a period where God’s goodness is not absolutely seen yet, but we are coming to a time when all will ultimately be rectified is the traditional Christian view of suffering. Suffering is inevitable and while many times it is incomprehensible on a human level, joyfully it is endurable. However, for most of us, that’s still not enough of a reason!

God incorporates suffering and even evil into His world – even if we don’t fully understand why – for His ultimate good purposes. The Bible and our own reasoning tell us that there are many good purposes for suffering.  Some of these include the perfecting and purifying effect in our suffering that connects us with the divine. Suffering moves us out of our comfort zone and it drives us to God for comfort. C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”.

Another ‘good’ purpose of suffering is that it brings us compassion and empathy for others who are suffering when we recover. Suffering is also a way of helping us learn the true depth of our faith. It’s frequently not during, but rather after the crisis, that we know what we are truly made of and how we handled the deep emotions of the painful situation that we found ourselves in.

Also consider what a world without any suffering at all would really be like in its ability to turn people to God. While the promise of heaven is that it is a place without any suffering (Revelation 21:4), would anyone really turn to God in this life if they had never had any experience of suffering or pain in any way, shape or form at any time at all during their earthly human experience?

The Bible is not devoid of people who suffered – even sometimes very unjustly. Two of the greatest examples are Job and Jesus Christ! God’s view of Job is one of grace and forgiveness, and ultimately, although Job is never told of the heavenly wager or the reason for his suffering, his relationship to God is restored. That is what’s most important. And concerning Jesus, Christian’s see Him as God’s answer to our suffering because He became one of us to suffer along with us and ultimately for us.

In the Christian view, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is the evidence that God has not forgotten us. The life of Jesus and His death and resurrection is the down payment on the promise that He will ultimately wipe away every tear from our eyes- as He says He will do when He returns… That’s how I am able to process the pain and suffering we experience in this life and can move through it, though it is never easy.

Hope some of these words may provide comfort and knowledge no matter what the circumstances.

Bryce – Fit 4 Life Staff


Faith – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Christmas is over for another year and like most years, I am able to truly enjoy the season AFTER the fact. Every year I say to myself that this year will be less busy, less stressful and less complicated so I can just breathe and enjoy. This year it was busier than ever with family visiting from overseas, more people to buy for, more food to make and the end of school year activities were multiplied due to prizegivings and end of primary school graduations.

But now that it is all over I am reminded of why we celebrate this season. It’s not because we need more stuff or need to commemorate the passing of eras (like primary school) or that we need to eat more food or spend more time with family….we celebrate because of a baby born 2,000 years ago. A baby who cooed and did all the normal baby things, yet was a promise to the world….a Saviour!!! It’s hard to imagine that this tiny baby became a man who altered the face of history and provided each of us a way to personally reconnect with God through his death on a cross in Jerusalem and all despite how we have chosen to do our own thing. WOW!! I am thankful beyond measure.

Wherever you might be at in your spiritual journey, take some time to examine the life of this baby, Jesus!!! See how His life transformed others and how He wants to be a part of your life every day. I am so thankful He is part of mine and as I look forward to 2011 I am excited to see what He’s going to do in my life this next year.

If you’re a part of Fit 4 Life Fitness and want to know more about how Jesus transforms lives, feel free to talk to any of the staff…or if you just have some questions, we’d love to help you find the answers you’re looking for. As we say at Fit 4 Life, we’re “more than a gym” because we not only want to help with the fitness side of life, but also want to encourage everyone who comes our way to look at all aspects of life whether it be finances, faith or friendships.

Here’s to a new and exciting 2011!!!

Christy – Fit 4 Life Staff

Some resources to help:

The Case for Faith – Lee Strobel

Answers to Tough Questions – Josh McDowell

A Skeptics Guide to Faith – Philip Yancey

Faith – Five Reasons I Believe……

I’ve been thinking lately about why I am a Christian. There are a lot of arguments against there being a God, especially in modern Western society. The notion of a ‘God’ seems quaint, ancient, irrelevant, and/or distant to many, but I still believe and here’s five reasons why..

Because something exists

Regardless of whether you believe life on earth evolved from microbes into the present diversity of animal, insect and plant matter etc, you still have to answer the question why there is even an earth in the first place. Planet earth’s mass has been estimated to be something like 5.9736 x 1024 kg, and that’s a lot of weight (more than I’ve ever lifted at the gym!) Where did the earth come from? And that’s not even considering how the sun, the stars, the galaxies and the entire universe came to be…  Some great minds like Steven Hawkings say God didn’t create the universe; but if He didn’t, then you are only left with two possibilities – either it ‘created’ itself (for sake of a better word), or it has always existed. I’m not going to try and poke holes in these two alternatives. All I can say is that believing in God (or in something powerful outside of the known Universe) seems to be the best of the 3 choices available, at least to my mind.

Common Consent

A second reason I believe is because the great majority of people down through the ages have this common notion that there is something supernatural out there beyond the universe. I am not at the point of saying that what is out there is the God of the Christians – at least not yet. But the vast majority of people who have lived throughout the centuries have believed in God or ‘the gods’. And we’re talking of billions of people here, across all cultures and ages, from primitive tribes in the Amazon, to organised ancient societies like the Egyptians, down to people (like me) today living in western New Zealand in the year 2010. We have this notion that there is something out there. Where did it come from? Atheism, as it turns out, is a relatively modern belief system, and only a very small number of people (comparatively) believe that there is no God or gods. If they are right (the Atheists, that is) then all these billions and billions of people who believed there was something supernatural out there have been wrong. It seems like a long shot, at least to me, that the Atheistic position is correct and that all these others – again an overwhelming number of billions – were just plain wrong on the issue.

Existence of Evil

Many people believe that if God were real there would be no evil, and use this as a ‘proof’ that God doesn’t exist. However, we can only measure what is evil or ‘bad’ against what is good. And that means there is some concept of good or ‘goodness’. And that leaves us with a problem of explaining where we got the knowledge of ‘good’ from. There have been different arguments proffered to explain it. Some have argued that it comes from social conditioning, or from a preservationist perspective to keep our society alive and growing. However if that is the case, then evil is not really a lack of goodness, but it is merely the way things are. If that is the case, then we really shouldn’t be upset about it – as that’s the way it is. However, every day our newspapers are filled with the problems of the world and our society like murders, rapes, thefts, and great tragedies like floods, pesticide, genocide and the like. If this is just the way things are, then why are we so focussed on it – or why do we even try to prevent things like this from happening? I believe the answer is because there really is evil and evil behaviour, but we only know it because the reality of goodness does exist, we have a knowledge of it, and humans cannot have created it. It must have come from something outside of us. Either it came from the inanimate universe, or it came from a mind or being outside of the universe, and that being is God or ‘the gods’ who are (or is) better than us and gave us the insight.

The Person of Jesus Christ

This is where I move more from ‘the gods’ to the God of the Christians. And it’s because of the person called Jesus Christ who existed 2000 years ago. Again, there’s a lot of debate about who he was. Some don’t believe there ever was such a person, but all reasonable historians acknowledge a person called Jesus did exist. Whether you believe He could do all the miracles attested to Him or not, He seemed to be a very exceptional person. His teachings and behaviours (miracles aside) show Him to be very different to most other people in history, and a great number of people seem to have believed Him that he was ‘the Son of God’. History is divided around his life (BC-AD) which strikes me as very interesting. Regardless of whether you may think of His claims to deity (which I believe) he certainly is a person worth studying and reading about.

Christian philosophy seems to produce ‘wellbeing’

I don’t like things that don’t work. Being a very practical person, I like to have a philosophy of life that makes my life better. And I don’t believe I am alone in finding that the Christian life produces people who have hope, who have less stress (as we believe God can aid us in times of trouble), and they have a plan of life that makes ‘sense’ of all the facts. Many studies have been done showing people who are Christians tend to have better marriages, improved sex life, better educated kids, and more fulfilled lives. And that’s not  even considering the great contributions Christians have made to the world throughout history, with movements and ‘inventions’ that include introducing universities, hospitals, emancipation of slaves, health care, women’s rights, child labour laws, relief of poverty and on and on to the world.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have my doubts at times – especially when I am facing some difficult challenge in life. But I fall back on these points – and more – and remind myself that ‘if I didn’t believe in God, what is the alternative?’ Belief in nothing seems pretty empty…

Bryce – Fit 4 Life Staff