My tips for Depression and Anxiety

Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss our mental health and not include it as part of our physical health, but anyone who has struggled with mental health issues will tell you that the two work together.

At Fit 4 Life we have included mental health as part of our four focus points – Fitness, Finance, Faith and Friendship. A number of our staff have been dealing with or have dealt with ongoing mental health challenges from burnout and anxiety to depression and more. As you struggle with what’s going on in your brain, it makes life harder including your personal fitness regime. Staying motivated is so difficult when it’s just a challenge to get out of bed and thus the vicious circle is born. Physical fitness and the endorphins that come with exercise are a vital part of recovering and moving through mental health issues.

Here’s a few tips that I have discovered about myself as I deal with anxiety.

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor – it can be a huge relief to have someone journey with you who has some expertise in health issues.
  2. Don’t be a martyr about medication – anti-anxiety and depression meds are there for a reason. They help our brains reboot and gives us the space to start being the person we want to be and make the necessary changes. My doctor told me that I might need medication for as long as it took me to get to the place I was in. I feel better on my meds so I am in no rush! 🙂
  3. Do share your story – keeping your mental health stuff a secret only magnifies it. Find some people that are your friends and don’t care if you repeat your health story a million times. They can be a listening, empathetic ear as well as give us perspective when we need it sometimes.
  4. Do realise that your mental health challenge is going to change you – you might find your ability to cope is diminished or your ability to balance a hectic lifestyle may be changed. It’s ok…..becoming comfortable with just being is part of the journey.
  5. Do find things that bring JOY in your life – hobbies, people, TV shows, movies etc. Whatever gives you even a smidgen of fun, joy and distraction can be a good thing for your mental health.
  6. Do some exercise – try and do something physical every day – work out at the gym, go for a stroll, garden, dancing or whatever….find something you enjoy!
  7. Do realise that others are not going to fully understand what it is like for you and we need to have appropriate expectations of others.
  8. Don’t be ashamed to find others who are experiencing similar things to you. There is a real sense of camaraderie that comes when you share your story with someone who is also struggling.

Hope you found some of these helpful. They are just things I have done to help me in my journey with anxiety.

Christy – Fit 4 Life Staff

Christy

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)

 

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 – 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 – God On Mute – How does Prayer work?

“Hello? Are you there God?”

Prayer is something I’m trying to figure out. It is way to communicate with God, but how does it work? (I’m sure answering this will be part of my life long journey haha!)

Whatever your faith background or beliefs, prayer is probably a familiar concept too? Prayer is simply talking with God. However, it has a reputation of being formal and polite. To be honest, for me it is often a desperate and disorganised call out to God, usually for help.

Recently I was given a book from a friend called ‘God On Mute- Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer’.  http://www.amazon.com/God-Mute-Engaging-Silence-Unanswered/dp/0830743243 ]  

It is a Christian book and I’ve really enjoyed it, even though sometimes titles like that intimidate me! The writer, Peter Greig, has a great style of writing and the content has been insightful. I appreciate that he uses his personal story to take you through this rather heavy topic. Especially as we go through some unexpected and harder experiences in life, it has been helpful to explore some of the possible reasons why our prayers may seem to go unanswered.

If you enjoy topics about bigger questions in life, I’d definitely recommend it- it is also not too intense of a read.

Sarah – Fit 4 Life Staff


Faith and Questions – How does that work?

This week’s blog article is on faith. Having questions about your faith is important.

What?! You may ask.

Well it is true – having questions about what you believe is a healthy thing, because it is in the search for the answers to those questions that you will discover if what you have put your faith in is something solid or not.

For me, searching for those answers has strengthened my faith in Jesus Christ and what He did and His promises for me.  If you are reading this and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus I really want to encourage you to look into it.  Here is a good place to start.

One of the things as a Christian that I have really enjoyed over the years and that has really helped me is the ministry of CRI – Christian Research Institute.  They have resources available on lots of different topics and they also have a daily Q&A talkback radio show called “The Bible Answer Man”.  I have found this broadcast to be very interesting and enlightening.  Check out their website www.equip.org

Jason – Fit 4 Life Staff


Faith, Hope and Relationships

Hey friends…

Recently I have been grieving some relationships in my life with people that I love.  It has been very painful for me as relationships are so important to me.  In these moments of grief, I am learning how much I need God in my life and how thankful I am that God understands me, accepts me and loves me unconditionally.  I’ve been learning a lot about God’s grace and I am thankful that His grace is truly sufficient for me and gets me through each day.  I can trust God because I choose to believe what He says in the Bible is true and I find complete freedom and love in this choice!!

I am a person that does get disappointed easily as I have high expectations. This is something I have been learning a lot about lately and I am working on lowering my expectations to ones that are more realistic.  There’s no way I can expect the people in my life to be perfect, because after all no one is perfect except God Himself!!  But, I still get disappointed by the people I care about. I am just learning lots about how to manage that disappointment.

I wanted to share a verse that gives me hope from Romans 5:5

HOPE does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His LOVE into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us!”

So if you are going through a hard time or you are grieving relationships…know that there is HOPE and most of all that you are soooo LOVED and cared for by God and He does understand exactly what you are going through in your life. I know this from experience and not just because I read it somewhere.

Paul wrote a letter to the church of Ephesus and as you can read below, he shared one of his prayers for them which is now my prayer for you who are reading this now…

“I pray that out of God’s glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”

If you want to know more about how you can experience this unconditional love and acceptance, then come and talk to any of the Fit4Life staff…we each have a story here too and want to help you and care for you, and point you towards knowing the greatest love that you will ever experience.

Kirstie – Fit 4 Life Staff

Your Fortress

The night time can be harsh particularly when you are alone or lonely. In the past few months, there have been times where I haven’t been able to sleep because of things we are going through, or Jason has been away when we have received sad news, making it hard to survive the night. It is dark, quiet and still. It is a feeling you don’t forget. (As Good Friday approaches, I wonder too, how intensely alone Christ felt that evening, when he was praying on the Mt of Olives before he was betrayed- Luke 22:42.)

It is especially in light of these situations that I think of Psalm 91, as it has been a comfort in the moments when I have felt afraid or vulnerable. It reminds me that God is my refuge and my fortress. He is also my shelter and my dwelling place. He rescues me and protects me. I can rest in His great shadow.

Maybe it is because the psalmist uses such familiar terms relating to physical cover that I like, I’m not sure, but these words of God’s protection and presence have been priceless to me as I have read it over and over in the past two years, when fear has seemed overwhelming. I was initially challenged to read it once every day for a month, and from there, I have come back to this psalm repeatedly.

If you are going through a lonely time too, I hope you find some rest in God’s word. (If you are like me, I still often seem to forget that the Bible is the best place to go to first.) I encourage you to read Psalm 91 over and over too, so maybe you will remember it at times when you need it most. Here’s the link to that passage if you want to have a read.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm%2091&version=NIV

Sarah – Fit 4 Life Staff