Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where is God when it hurts? Why does God allow suffering?

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Why does God allow suffering is an important question. It is important because people's belief in God and trust in the fundamental beliefs of Christianity can be based around the answer to the question. The inability to grasp an answer to this following a painful ordeal in life, we know, has seen some turn away from faith in Christ. The question is a prudent one, one that is worthy of exploration. The following extensive quote is written by John Hick, in Philosophy of Religion (1963) and is cited in Philip Yancey's Where is God when it Hurts (1990). The language is somewhat philosophical, but hopefully is helpful to some readers:

"Suppose, contrary to fact, that this world were a paradise from which all possibility of pain and suffering were excluded. The consequences would be far-reaching. For example, no one could ever injure anyone else: the murderer's knife would turn to paper or the bullets to thin air; the bank safe, robbed of a million dollars, would miraculously become filled with another million dollars (without this device on however large a scale, proving inflationary); fraud, deceit, conspiracy, and treason would somehow always leave the fabric of society undamaged. Again, no one would ever be injured by accident: the mountain climber, steeplejack, or a playing child falling from a height would float unharmed to the ground; the reckless driver would never meet with disaster. There would be no need to work; there would be no call to be concerned for others in time of need or danger, for in such a world there could be no real needs or dangers.

To make possible this continual series of individual adjustments, nature would have to work, "special providences" instead of running according to general laws which men must learn to respect on penalty of pain and death. The laws of nature would have to be extremely flexible: sometimes an object would be hard and solid, sometimes soft...

One can at least imagine such a world. It is evident that our present ethical concepts could have no meaning in it. If, for example, the notion of harming someone is an essential element in the concept of wrong action, in our hedonistic paradise there could be no wrong actions--nor any right actions in distinction from wrong. Courage and fortitude would have no point in an environment in which there is, by definition, no danger or difficulty. Generosity, kindness the agape aspect of love, prudence, unselfishness, and all other ethical notions which presuppose life in a stable environment, could not even be formed. Consequently, such a world, however well it might promote pleasure, would be very ill adapted for the development of the moral qualities of human personality. In relation to this purpose it would be the worst of all possible worlds.

It would seem, then, that an environment intended to make possible the growth in free beings of the finest characteristics of personal life, must have a good deal in common with our present world. It must operate according to general and dependable laws; and it must involve real dangers, difficulties, problems, obstacles, and possibilities of pain, failure, sorrow, frustration, and defeat. If it did not contain the particular trials and perils which--subtracting man's own very considerable contribution--our world contains it would have to contain others instead... "

Thanks John Hick for those words back in 1963. Thanks to Philip Yancey's Where is God when it hurts (1990) which, like any of Philip Yancey's books, is worth a read.

Why does God allow suffering? Where is God when it hurts? These are questions worth asking, debating, discovering, exploring, so that we have a greater understanding and revelation of who God really is, and why the world is what it is, and why life is full of so many ups and downs.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

If Oprah came to my church...

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If Oprah came to my church...

If Oprah came to my church, the people would be an hour early.
If Oprah came to my church, the seats would be filled to overflowing.
If Oprah came to my church, the morning tea would be great; in fact we’d probably do a luncheon!
If Oprah came to my church, the toilets would be cleaned by some, and the walls would be scrubbed by others. Every little bit of rubbish would be cleaned up.
If Oprah came to my church, there would be an element of awe and reverence for such a person.
If Oprah came to my church, the people would give financially because of having the opportunity to meet someone of such fame.
If Oprah came to my church and she was having a special gathering before the service started, we’d probably have to ask some to come back later because of a lack of seats.
If Oprah came to my church, we’d shout and be excited to be in the presence of such a person. We might even start to sing songs ad lib, and make chants and encourage others to join in the celebration.
If Oprah came to my church... it would seem like heaven on earth.

What an exciting thing...

Hmmm...

I wonder...

I wonder whether I would find all of this and more...

When Jesus comes to my church...?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Recipe for Growing Healthy Churches

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Well, I'm still working on the recipe, and others may have ingredients and methods they wish to share, but here is my Recipe for Growing Healthy Churches.

Ingredients:
* A Genuine Faith in Jesus
* Passion for the Kingdom of God
* Innovation
* Holy Spirit Filling
* Leadership Gifting
* A love for people
* A constant amount of Discipleship
* A grasp of the Word of God
* Ongoing Prayer for growth

Method:
Start with a genuine faith in Jesus. If you begin with any other ingredients, your recipe will come up short. Mix this faith with a passion for the Kingdom of God, and add the Holy Spirit Filling. This is the kind of recipe where you can never have too much Holy Spirit Filling. Over time, hone your skills in leadership and innovation and add them to the mix. Try not to get the recipe perfect at this point, as your leadership gifting and innovative skills will enhance over time (if developed in the right environment).
To create the best possible opportunity to grow healthy churches, make sure you also combine a love for people and a constant amount of discipleship. Whisk discipleship in regularly. If you stop whisking at some point, your recipe might become shallow and growth will most likely be stunted. While whisking in discipleship, make sure you add a continuing grasp of the Word of God, as a basis for the discipleship. Without this ingredient you might end up with unbiblical churches, that are self-centered, or apathetic, or judgemental, or theologically off kilter. In order to stir up the ingredients well, you must pray. Praying allows the ingredients to bear fruit, and create the recipe you so desire. Without prayer, you will have a mish-mash of 'nice' ideas, without any substance or power.

For the recipe to work, you must partner with the head chef. In fact, this is God's recipe, and we are merely trying to work with God to accomplish the finished product. When the head chef asks you to sacrifice things, you do it. When the head chef gives you advice, you take it. When the head chef warns you about a particular method in the recipe, you heed to that advice. When the head chef wants to pour out an entree of blessing upon your life, you say, 'Thank you Lord'!

When you are finished combining the ingredients according to the method shown, allow the combination to rest in the arms of God, indefinitely. Continue to combine ingredients and methods, over and over, under the leadership of the head chef. Expect a great recipe. Expect growing healthy churches that will impact people's lives around you.

Any advice on adding to, or adjusting methods to this recipe are more than appreciated.
   


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