Monthly Archives: December 2013

Aside

Do we take light, heat, and water for granted? Events this Christmas made me thankful anew for all the conveniences we enjoy because of electricity. Here in Southern Ontario, an ice storm ushered in the Christmas season. Freezing rain kept … Continue reading

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas means, God can empathize

Sadly, when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of understanding for those who hobbled around using canes. I wasn’t unkind. I just couldn’t relate. I walked fast, hiked, and climbed hills with verve. Aging has changed my perspeWalking stickctive. Now I’m the one who hobbles around using a walking stick—I still can’t call it a cane. My knees are shot. Replacement surgery is on the horizon.

Christmas, the coming of the Son of God as a baby in a manger, is about God expressing empathy for our human condition enough to live 33 years among us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin”(Heb.4:15). “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”(Heb.2:18).

Winterloghm, croppedAll of us find it difficult to understand those in situations that we haven’t experienced. In a recent conversation, someone talked about their antipathy towards cities, Toronto in particular. Personally, Mary Helen and I love living in the countryside. But we also love to immerse ourselves in the multi-ethnic nature of Toronto. Hearing different languages, seeing different races— to us is a taste of what heaven will be like. We can even understand why many prefer the convenience of city life with its transit, shopping and proximity to great museums, art galleries, and concert halls.

On the other hand we understand why many love country living with its fields and wild turkeys and big skies and wonderful woodlands. We’ve been there. Of course, not everyone loves the woodlands. I’ve heard of one man who said, “If you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all.” What? Oaks and pines and ironwood and poplar and…?

During the same recent conversation mentioned earlier, one person said he had ???????????????????????????????no sympathy for Muslims. We can understand why Muslims antagonize people in today’s climate. Fortunately, we’ve had happier experiences among them. Mary Helen and I, having lived 16 years in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, have more empathy. Most Muslims—the Taliban excluded—long for the same things we do: education for their children, economic security, basic human freedoms, and a safe place to live.

It’s human to react, express puzzlement or disapproval of something or someone we don’t understand. Few of us understand the conditions under which our native people live because we haven’t walked a mile in their moccasins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Christmas God sent His Son among us to save us from our sins, but also to express empathy with our human condition. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…became obedient to death—even death on a cross”(Phil. 2:4-8)!

So as we read the Christmas story, let’s remind ourselves of the lengths Christ went to so he could empathize with our condition. And let’s express a lot more understanding of others.

Can We Only Learn Grace Through Suffering?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWHY SUFFERING #8
On the surface, suffering seems meaningless—wasting precious human vitality, creativity, and energy. But are there things we can only learn through suffering?

Anguish and puzzlement about the purpose of suffering reverberates down through the centuries. Perhaps we can understand why some Christians who manifest immaturity, selfishness, or pride need the stern rod of suffering. But surely mature Christians such as the apostle Paul didn’t need to be subjected to this painful tutor? Well yes, he did, as he himself explains in Second Corinthians.

“Lest I be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Evidently, even the fearless apostle of grace could only learn about the sufficiency of God’s grace through enduring some chronic Our house, last year...we still hope for snow this year.infirmity. Why? Paul was highly educated, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He had a dramatic conversion and learned the gospel through direct revelation from the resurrected Christ. Grounds for pride. He could have easily trusted in himself instead of praying constantly for the help of the Holy Spirit. But his infirmity kept him dependent on God’s grace.

If Paul needed something to remind him to keep humble; so do we. God has to often use adversity to remind to bend the knee in humble dependence. Mary Helen and I had to learn it often in Pakistan. And, slow learners that we are, we keep relearning that, “He is able to make all grace abound to [us]” (2 Cor.9:8).

Do we doubt this necessity? Then consider the fact that even Jesus, though the Son of God, in his human nature suffered that he might realize how challenging it is for sons and daughters of Adam to learn obedience in a fallen world. “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2:10).

Think of it. The Son of God laid aside the robes of His deity to come at Christmas as a helpless baby. Ponder how he grew in grace and in favour with God and man. His human development e demonstrated his identification with us! Human perfection through suffering!

And since Jesus “shared in [our] humanity…[and] because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”(Heb. 2:14,18). Do we despair in the midst of pain? Are we fainting with weariness because of some suffering? We need to cry out to Jesus who understands and can moderate our suffering or give us the strength to endure it. He alone, who bore our humanity, knows how much we can bear. He alone understands that our emotions ebb and flo as we grapple with troubles.

What about the role of Satan in suffering? See #1 in this series on suffering for a description of the cosmic dimensions of suffering. See : http://www.ericewright.com/why-suffering

In this fallen world, we need to ask God to help us develop an ironclad Sunsetdependence on the sufficiency of His grace and the reality of His presence. From beginning to end, salvation is by the undeserved grace of God. We are saved by grace. We are kept by grace. We grow in grace, not by our education or skills or discipline or effort. Lord, help us to never forget this reality.