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

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 – 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 – 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


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