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by on Mar.24, 2017, under Uncategorized

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What It’s important to Find out about Mobitech

by on Jan.11, 2017, under Uncategorized

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by on Dec.17, 2016, under Uncategorized

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by on May.12, 2016, under Uncategorized

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by on Sep.14, 2015, under Uncategorized

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Perspectives on Pain (Part 1)

by on Jun.30, 2007, under Uncategorized

One of the hardest questions to deal with in life runs something like this: Why is there (so much) suffering in the world? Each of the major religions has something to say in response to this question. In this article, I will attempt to capture the kernel of each of these responses for Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and (not a religion, but still worthwhile considering) atheism.

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Hinduism: Suffering brings balance

Most of us will have come across the concept of ‘karma’, the universal principle by which all events in the past balance out with present and future events. This balance spans not only your life, but all of your past and future lives (i.e. incarnations). When you die, according to a Hindu, you will continue being reincarnated until your personal karma allows you to escape physical existence altogether and reach a state of nirvana.

As a result, a devout Hindu encountering a person suffering from disease, illness or poverty will consider it to be ‘payback’ (to put it crudely) for that person’s actions, either in this life or in a previous one. Similarly, a child who dies at birth was obviously wicked or cruel or unjust in a previous life. Which is not to say that Hindu people are any less compassionate or humane than their counterparts who subscribe to other world views; rather this is how, philosophically speaking, a devout Hindu would explain the presence of suffering.

The solution offered is to seek to improve your karma, until such time as you are able to achieve nirvana.

On the one hand this is a brilliant explanation: it is intellectually satisfying and all but impossible to gainsay. On the other, however, such a world-view leaves little room for consolation. Granted, Hinduism emerged well before our therapeutically intensive society, and so does not share what John Dickson calls our “modern Western fixation with consolation,” (John Dickson, If I were God I’d end all the pain [Matthias Media, 2001] p. 21) this remains cold comfort to those suffering under oppression, persecution, poverty, illness or grief.

Buddhism: Suffering is an illusion

Buddhism arose in direct response to the problem of suffering. Sometime around 500BC a man named Siddhartha Gautama, the Prince of a regions near the present-day borders of Nepal and India, left his palace and stumbled across 3 examples of human misery on his doorstep: a man withered by age; a man incapacitated by illness; and finally a dead body. On returning to his palace he decided to devote the rest of his life to understanding the problem of human suffering.

After searching diligently for 7 years, lived in self-denial and asceticism, he still did not have any answers. According to legend he vowed to meditate day and night under a Bo Tree until he had gained the insight he sought. One night, under a full moon in the month of May, Siddhartha found what he was looking for: all pain is an illusion through which we must train ourselves to see. According to Gautama (known to later generations as the ‘Buddha’ or Enlightened One, in honour of this insight) suffering is directly related to our desires and affections for the things of this world. Thus the pain of losing a loved one is caused not by the loss itself but by the affection I feel towards my parent, spouse, child or friend. If I lose my job, my anguish is brought about by my desire to be employed. If I desire intimacy then being single will bring anguish.

To overcome suffering, therefore, you must follow the Buddha’s eightfold path in order to purge yourself of all desires and affections.

There is little doubt in my mind that the Buddha’s solution is an insightful one: who can argue that our experience of suffering is unrelated to our desires. But does this ‘solution’ provide us a way forward? Is it possible to live this way, to isolate myself of all desire and affection? What kind of life will I be left with?

Islam: Suffering is the will of Allah

Unlike Buddhism, Islam deals with questions of suffering only peripherally. Nevertheless the Muslim position is clear: all events in history, from the least to the greatest, occur according to the will of Allah. The word Islam translates as ‘submission’ (to Allah’s will) and the word Muslim translates ‘one who submits’. Suffering becomes an opportunity for the devout Muslim to ‘submit’ to Allah’s will; to do otherwise, to cry out ‘Why God?’, is to presume to question the Almighty, and therefore all but blasphemy.

Thus, all that happens in this world – good or bad – is attributed to Allah: a young woman dies of cancer; chemists develop a life-saving drug; a family breadwinner dies of AIDS, plunging their family into poverty; a couple get married; a child is born with a heart problem… all these things are according to Allah’s will.

Perhaps of more importance, however, is Allah’s reaction to all of these things: none. According to standard Muslim theology, Allah is the ‘unmoved mover’. He causes all things to happen, but is impacted by none of them.

The Muslim solution, then, is to train yourself to submit to the will of Allah.

Atheism: Suffering is natural

For an atheist, the question “why does God allow suffering?” is meaningless as God does not exist. Instead, suffering is purely according to chance, and is the outworking of the interplay between our actions and the laws that govern the universe.

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and we won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good; nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

- Richard Dawkins, “The Evolution of the Darwin Man”, published during 2000 in The Sydney Morning Herald and cited in John Dickson, If I were God I’d end all the pain, (Matthias Media, 2002) p. 29.

There is no point searching for meaning or purpose in life, because there is none to be found. That’s just the way things have always been and will always be. There is no solution to be found.

So, we have now looked at 4 of the main approaches to understanding suffering in the world today. Next time, we will look at how Christians understand both the problem, and its solution.

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1 Peter 1:1-21: “Live in Hope”

by on Jun.29, 2007, under Uncategorized

I love the apostle Peter. I love the way he always knows exactly what not to say, and exactly when not to say it. I mean, come on, if there was anyone of whom the saying “he doesn’t open his mouth except to change feet” were true, it’s Peter. Many of you, like me, would have been amused at Stephen Hilaire’s Black Stump renditions of “Jesus and his Merry Men” – with poor Peter the butt of every joke and the source of much frustration and headshaking on Jesus’ part.

As we read on in the Bible, however, we start to get a glimpse of a very different Peter indeed. Here is a man confident to speak in front of huge crowds1 and courts2, to heal cripples3, to pronounce judgement leading to death4 and even to minister to his gaoler. What could possibly change a man who is afraid even to be associated with Jesus( (Luke 22:54-62)) into one who can rejoice at being flogged because he had been counted worth of suffering disgrace for the Name5?

  • What do you think could cause such a change in you?

I believe that Peter reveals some of his secrets in his first letter. Throughout the course of this and the next couple of studies I reckon we should get a picture of exactly what motivated this change in Peter… and what can bring about the same kind of change in you!

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Background to 1 Peter
The first thing to know about 1 Peter is who it is written to and why. Peter, probably writing from Rome, is writing at a time when Christians are just starting to enter a time of intense persecution. The emperor Nero had recently come to power, and tormenting, torturing and killing Christians was starting to become the in vogue thing to do. History tells us that people lost their jobs for being Christians, were shunned by their society, cast out of their houses, deprived of all their possessions. Many ended up running for their lives and hiding in tombs just to stay alive, whilst others were cast into the Circus Maximus to do battle to the death with gladiators or lions for the public amusement. Peter himself was crucified (upside down, because he did not consider himself worthy of suffering in the same way Jesus did) under Nero. Peter no doubt had some insight into all of this, and so he writes to those who are strangers in the world (1:1), for whom the world has no love but rather hatred and enmity.

  • Imagine that you were facing such horrific prospects. Where would you look for strength? What would give you hope?
  • On the flip side, what kind of things would you offer as encouragement to Christians today who are suffering persecution?

Living Hope
Read 1 Peter 1:1-5

  • How could the words of Peter in the opening verses of his letter (1-5) bring comfort and hope to people who had been driven from their homes and exiled to foreign lands?
  • God has offered a storehouse of treasures for all who follow Him. What are some of the treasures Peter highlights that can never be taken away? How have you experienced one of these treasures in your own life?

Our “inheritance is kept for us, and we are kept for it”6. Not only will it not perish, spoil or fade, but we ourselves are shielded by God’s power until we receive it.

Read 1 Peter 1:6-12

  • Peter describes some of the fruit that is born in our lives through times of trial. What grows in the life of a follower of Christ through times of struggle, loss and trials? (vv. 6-9; cf. Romans 5:3-5)
  • Tell your group about a loss or time of struggle you have faced. How did you experience God’s presence and work in your life through this time?

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.”7

  • Peter promises that hardships lead to “praise, glory and honour” to Jesus. Do you believe this? Have you seen it happen? How?

Read 1 Peter 1:13-21
Verse 13 signals a big shift in Peter’s train of thought. The first 12 verses have been focused on the hope that God provides us, but now he is more interested in how we are to respond. He is calling us to have right attitudes and actions.

All of us have faith that may be mixed with improper attitudes or sinful motivations… In the crucible of life, God our Goldsmith skims off our impurities. Through trials, God burns away our self-reliance and self-serving attitude, so that our genuineness reflects his glory and brings praise to him.8

  • What are some of the attitudes and actions that Peter calls us to?
  • How is God challenging and growing you in one of these areas? How can your group members encourage and pray for you in this area?

Christians look toward the return of Jesus, when pain will end and perfect justice begin. Faith will be rewarded and evil will be punished. But what should we do until then?

The Bible’s answer is simple but not easy: Because we know the future, we must faithfully server God here and now. If today that means resolving a conflict, mending a hurt, working a dull job, confronting a belligerent child, rebuilding a marriage, or just waiting for guidance – do it all with the joy of God, who will return with his reward!9

Some prayer suggestions

  • Pray for group members who shared about a trial they are facing.
  • Pray that God will show you how to respond to Peter’s call to right attitudes and actions, particularly the specific areas that God is challenging you in at the moment.

[Parts of this study were adapted from 1 Peter: Stand Strong by Bill Hybels (Zondervan 1999)]

Endnotes

  1. Acts 2:14-41
  2. Acts 4:1-22
  3. Acts 3:1-10
  4. Acts 5:1-10
  5. Acts 5:41
  6. Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, IVP 2006, p. 47
  7. Mary Stevenson, “Footprints in the Sand”
  8. Life Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter and Jude (Tyndale 1995) p. 32
  9. ibid. p. 33
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