Friday, April 19, 2013

Ale Chrystusem: "But, Christ"

     This is the first post in four months, and unfortunately, the first post I've finally found time to write of this year. After three very eventful and incredibly busy months at work, this comes once again at a time of upheaval and uncertainty in my life. The locomotive that held my plans for the rest of the year, along with prospects that seemed rosy and promising, was suddenly forced to grind to an emergency halt as I once again found myself out on the open sea of uncertainty, my cautious and dawning hopes for certainty dashed to pieces with a few simple words at the end of a busy workday.

     In the midst of trying to find sure footing and move forward, I have decided to make a determined effort to return to my "first things" [1] that give me peace and comfort. One of them has always been this blog, and the definite sense of relief, clarity, accomplishment and satisfaction that it has provided in being able to process my thoughts and emotions, and gain perspective through writing.

     Over the last three weeks, I have been thinking over a Polish phrase that I heard Dr. Ravi Zacharias discuss at the close of one of his new talks on his radio program, Let My People Think. The talk was titled "Why Hope?" [2], and as the segment closed, Dr. Zacharias expanded on the phrase "Ale, Chystusem," the title of a conference in Poland that he had spoken at during the 1980's:

"...the finger of God is in all of history, and Christ as its central figure....I remember in the 80's going to Poland...the conference I had to speak on had the theme 'Ale, Chrystusem'....and I looked at my host Henrik and I asked him 'What does this mean?' He said 'It's very hard to explain without a context....the only way that I can explain it to you is sort of as a phrase, 'but, Christ. but, Christ'....'to the Polish person reading that, they will think of all of the dark blotches on their history. All of the deprivation, all of the killing, all of the slaughter. But, Christ. But, Christ. But, Christ preserved them. But, Christ brought them through'.. I don't know what you're going through in your life right now, if you'd just put 'but, Christ'. If everything seems to be collapsing around you, but Christ. Ale, Chrystusem. The finger of God in all of history and Christ as its central figure."

     As with much of Dr. Zacharias' past words in his books and speeches that God has used along with His Scripture at crucial moments over the last few years, these few short sentences were a comforting and soothing balm to my perplexed and anxious heart over the last couple of weeks. I was reminded of a scene in my favourite movie trilogy, The Lord of The Rings, as Lady Galadriel gives Frodo a bottle containing the light of The Evenstar with the words "...may it be to you a light shining in dark places."

"Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in heart of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger." - St. Patrick

     The finger of God is writing my history, and Christ is the central figure even here. Ale, Chrystusem. But, Christ. But, Christ. Christ will preserve me. Christ will bring me through. I really need His light right now.
- The Wisdom Seeker

[1] The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Stephen R. Covey
[2] Why Hope?, Ravi Zacharias, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), 2013

Monday, December 31, 2012

Jesus, Be...

   Christmas and Advent have come and gone, New Year's Eve is suddenly upon us. I just got back home from a beautiful candle-lit New Year's Eve service at Willingdon Church. It was a fitting and memorable way to end my year, surrounded by the gathering of faithful men and women to remember God's faithfulness in our lives over the last year, hear His Word, and place our trust in Him in the new year to come.

   As the candles flickered and steadily burned through the evening, we progressed through the readings of Scripture, the singing of songs and testimonies of men and women who came forward to share with us about God's amazing work in their lives over the past year. I sat in quiet contemplation throughout it all, silently reflecting on the events of my own life over the last 12 months - tests of faith and conviction; a point of difficult decision-making and the accompanying feelings of loss; processing the difficult terrain of my spiritual history and its theological implications; a wonderful year's journey with my church small group as close bonds of fellowship were formed; finding the happiness, comfort, support and companionship of a helper sent from God, even as I was let go from my job four months ago and thrashed about in a hole of internal conflict and uncertainty for two months, before finally climbing out and finding my feet again. It has indeed been a tumultuous year.

     It was in this context that I was deeply stirred in mind and heart by one of the responsive reading of towards the middle of the service:

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace."
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NKJV     

    "It has indeed been a time of many things this year," I thought, as I read those verses in response. And as I looked for words that would similarly guide my thoughts to the year to come, I took note of a song as the service came to an end, "Jesus Be The Center." I have noted part of it here:

"Jesus, be the centre
Be my source, be my light

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in these sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus, Jesus"

     This indeed is my prayer for the coming year - "Jesus, Be..." I have made it through this last year only because Christ was with me. I know that I cannot make it through the coming year (which is just over an hour away) without Him. As I head to bed, I pray that the coming year will be a blessed one for you, and that Jesus will be to you all that you need, and more.
- The Wisdom Seeker

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent 2012, Day 3: God Arrives On Time

"'Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,' says the Lord of hosts." - Malachi 3:1, NKJV

   400 years of silence followed that proclamation from the mouth of the prophet Malachi. I wonder how many generations passed during that time, as Israel clung on to the word of their God who had repeatedly issued this promise, but seemed to take endlessly long to deliver. I also wonder what it would have been like if I had lived during those centuries of silence. Would I have held on in expectant faith till my last breath, or would I have given up, doubting as the years went by without any sign of fulfilment?

   But God operates in history at His own time and purpose, pulling the threads of lives, places and events together; weaving a tapestry of an intricate and complex pattern, beyond the comprehension of His creation that is but "a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales" (Isaiah 40:15, NKJV). And when He decides that the time has come to implement His promise, it begins at a most unlikely source - an old priest, rendered impotent by his age and his barren, childless wife. When God delivers the news to him, Zechariah's matter-of-fact response seeps with the faithlessness that plagues even the best of us: "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." (Luke 1:18, NKJV). Contemplating God's methodology, the natural tendency is to wonder if He could have perhaps chosen more "capable" candidates. But then I am reminded that even in this there is purpose, for "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, NKJV).

   Reading the Advent passage of the day (Luke 1:68-71) from John Piper's devotional, "Good News of Great Joy",  I was struck by what he had to say regarding Zechariah after the birth of his son: "Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah that he puts it in the past tense. For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done."

    Bringing my devotional time to a close, I was reminded of a short but interesting text message I had received on my cellphone many years ago, regarding God's timing:

"Don't run ahead of God,
Don't lag behind.
God's clock is neither early nor late,
It always strikes on time."

   "Now the long-awaited visitation of God was about to happen", wrote John Piper. "...indeed, he was about to come in a way no one expected." May we look forward expectantly to His coming this Christmas.
- The Wisdom Seeker