Suffering -a week of reflections

When in the middle of a trial it is easy to ask. “Why me?” We are tempted to look
at others and assume they have no troubles. A struggling friend said “others in the
church have perfect lives and can’t understand mine”. Being privileged to “pastor”
many I can attest that suffering is pretty universal. It may be a bad report from a
doctor, a horrific accident, a broken relationship or a natural disaster. Today we
read of a terrible tragedy in Toronto – so random, so unexpected, so undeserved.
There are amazing healings, reconciliations, rescues from seemingly impossible
situations like the Thai boys rescue but not all stories have happy endings.
How are we to respond to this? Within the last week I have heard the following:
a. A woman whose only son died from a fentanyl overdose hung herself because
her grief and shame was too much.
b. A young man in the midst of addiction lashed out and cursed God.
c. Another mother said that she respected Jesus but He had lost his power due to
the attacks of Satan and the sins of men so was impotent to answer her prayers.
d. In 2 Corinthians 1 we read how our sufferings can help us understand and
encourage others who suffer because we can also share the comfort we have
received.
e. I read in “Muslim Connect” that since suffering is universal there is the
opportunity for sharing “suffering overlap” which builds bonds and reduces
isolation.
f). These responses are not new, Asaph in Psalm 73 felt the same until he saw his
sufferings from God’s perspective then everything changed.
Heaven is coming. Let us be ready. And we do not mourn as those who have no
hope. Picture from Pinterest “First Day in Heaven” (Kerolos Safwat)

Eastside Celebration was a resounding success with over 260 attendees including
MLA George Chow and MP Harjit Sajjan. We had singers representing Korea,
Egypt, Nagaland, First Nations, Canada (assorted) and Nigeria. Over a dozen
organizations and businesses contributed to the door prizes and refreshments.

Catherine is in the midst of the Child Care’s summer program. They are featuring
community heroes and have interesting and informative themes each week.

We were scheduled to go to our organizations conference in Poland in August then
spend a few days of holiday in Turkey but my family doctor suggested that I stay
closer to home so we will chose exotic locales like Merritt, Kamloops and the
Okanagan in September for our holiday. 
The family from Iraq, currently in Jordan, are on a long wait list before they can
come to Canada. Conditions in the Middle East are challenging so it is a difficult
situation especially with three young children.
We sure do appreciate your support.

 

In Christ
Mark and Catherine

A MAZE ING religions

A MAZE 'ing religions -God ,divine being,Sovereign-all religions make exclusive claims and do not believe the same things

It doesn’t take long to be in Canada before you realize that most Canadians honestly believe that if religion is a valid option in this tolerant society than all religions are equally valid. It is true that some Canadians believe religion is dangerous and not something for any sane person to pursue, but for many there is still some sense of spiritual sensitivity to something. It only takes a national tragedy to realize this.

The Chaplain of the Humboldt, Saskatchewan junior ice hockey team devastated in the crash that killed 15 of the 29 members on board the bus that was T-boned by a semi-trailer truck remarked that two questions haunt us in tragedies like this. Why? And Where? We ask Why did this happen? And we ask Where was God? He said that although he couldn’t answer why he knew that God was both on the throne in control of this and he was in the middle of the valley of the darkness with the broken-hearted and wounded.  He said the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus showed God’s commitment to help us fear now evil because he was with us.

Few other religions have this sense of Immanence and Transcendence so intimately tied together. Many of the existing faiths consider that we are all travellers finding our own trails up the mountain of belief to get to the top where we will all meet God as he is. They don’t think he is really knowable.

What if the world of multi-cultural faith options are really a maze created by men to try and answer the four questions of who am I? where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Since we all have the same questions it makes sense that we’re all trying to find the same solution. We just find different ways to get there. Like finding our own path to the local Starbucks or McDonalds.

The vision of a maze makes sense if you realize that there is only one true path even if it appears that there are many ways to enter and find your way to the center. In reality, all are dead ends except for the path of Jesus.

In reality all religions make exclusive claims and do not believe the same things, regardless of what we would like to imagine. Most religions, apart from Buddhism, believes in the existence of some divine being – already we have a major difference. While Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim that there is one God while Hinduism presents the divine essence as made up of millions of gods and goddesses who inhabit the physical images created to represent them. Islam and Judaism rejects that Jesus is God in the flesh and therefore shows more differentiation in what we believe.

Ravi Zacharias, in his book Jesus Among Other Gods (p. 7), states that “All religions are not the same… At the heart of every religion is an uncompromising commitment to a particular way of defining who God is or is not and accordingly, of defining life’s purpose. Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of religions but also a caricatured view of even the best known ones. Every religion at its core is exclusive.”

Most of us are committed to what we follow because we have come to believe it for one reason or another. Why have you staked your eternity on what you understand to be true? How do you share your truth with people who believe differently than you? What is the best picture you can think of as to how we present the various attempts of man to find his way to God?

What’s the Difference?

difference,saviour

A TIME magazine article by Reynolds Price from November 28, 1999 states that “the single most powerful figure – not merely in these two milleniums [sic] but in all human history – has been Jesus of Nazareth … a serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus.”

Dr. James Francis, back in 1926, preached to a group of youth on “the Real Jesus”. The following is an adaptation of his fuller message.

“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

“He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

“While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

“Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

“I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”

What is it that distinguishes the founder of our faith from others?

Perhaps, the clearest difference is his exclusive claim not just to be the way to God but to be the God we all long to connect with.

C.S. Lewis, the great atheist turned Christian apologist, states in his book Mere Christianity that

“If you are a Christian you o not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through… If you are a Christian you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth… But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.”

Barton Priebe, in his book, The Problem with Christianity (p. 111) quotes Albert Mohler from a conference message:

If all we need is a teacher of enlightenment, the Buddha will do; if all we need is a collection of gods for every occasion and need and hope, Hinduism will do; if all we need is a tribal deity, any tribal deity will do; if all we need is a lawgiver, Moses will do; if all we need is  a set of rules and a way of devotion, Muhammad or Joseph Smith will do; if all we need is inspiration and insight into the sovereign self, Oprah will do; but if we need a savior, only Jesus will do.”

Why do you think Jesus is different than all other faith founders? How has this impacted the choices and relationships you make on a day to day basis?