Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Family" Matters

Our "Family Portrait", taken at Vancouver YVR airport

  Three months ago, something extraordinary happened within a small group of friends whom I have known for some time from C4C @ SFU and attend the same church with. Over the last year and more, I had gotten into the habit of going to the same church service, sitting together, having meals, watching movies, talking, fellowshipping and sharing everyday life. Noticing long-standing patterns of interaction within our group dynamic (which only amplified over time) we gathered one Sunday afternoon to talk and address them. Some matters were touchy and sensitive, others controversial. Quite a bit of it had to do with me.

  I still have trouble expressing what happened at that gathering. I don't think anyone anticipated what happened, least of all me.

  We voiced concerns, grudges, emotions, sensitive matters, memories and processed them together. I had a lot of stuff to disclose, confess and repent for; so did everyone else. We vented, argued, rebuked, cried, shared, forgave, laughed and prayed together. It was strange and in some ways awkward for me, as I'd never done something like that before.

  But in the process, we experienced a very tangible and powerful bonding. I remember some of us talking about it days later and reflecting how we'd never seen or been part of something like that before. In many ways, we felt very much like a family, and some of us said so.

  Above all, I believe we saw the restoring power and grace of God through His Gospel brought to bear upon a community of fallen people. In his latest book "Has Christianity Failed You?", Ravi Zacharias makes a powerful observation:

  "Human beings will always find ways to divide and create hierarchies. Such is the plight of the human heart...This is the first clue to transcending ethnicity. One may call to Jesus out of his ethnic and cultural distinctive, but one's ultimate transformation comes in that personal dimension of trust apart from any cultural elitism...The call of Jesus is an invitation to freedom and trust. I am free only inasmuch as I can trust my fellow human being. If I cannot trust those around me, I am not free...The vision of God for humanity is that we might see his claim on us as an invitation to live and love, transcending all ethnic and cultural boundaries, not because Jesus is David's son, but because He is the instrument of power over all other power, of essential worth over political ideology, of human need over ethnic arrogance. He has eradicated every barrier of race and culture and position in life."

  So why am I writing this now? I stand at a fork in the road of my life, a turning point with a critical decision to make. I look around at those closest to me and see them looking back. I am moved, even unnerved by the depth of affection that I see  in their eyes. Maybe I am forced to confront the possibility that I have assumed myself to be unlovable by anyone, and shut everyone out  for years with that one assumption. 

  More often than not, we fallen human beings don't appreciate what we have, or the people God offers and makes available to us. Sadly, history will testify that the only way we realize value and are forced to grow is by losing and reflecting on what could have been. As the popular saying goes, "you don't know what you have until it's gone". From Genesis to Revelation and our own personal lives, we all have enough and more of those moments to remember and reflect on.

  To my Family and "Family": thank you for loving me in spite of my vacillation, moods, stubbornness, silence, stupidity, sullenness, bickering, sharp tongue, sensitivity, insensitivity, ingratitude, unkindness, and moments when I've shut you all out. As I realized a couple of days ago, I have nothing good to say about myself and everything good to say about my God.

  I love you all very much.

- The Wisdom Seeker

(Don't) Find God's Will

  Over the last week or two, I've been reading "Finding The Will of God: A Pagan Notion?" which I borrowed from my roomate, Paulman. I'd first seen it earlier in the summer at Sam and Esther's housewarming, and was attracted by the title. Written by Bruce Waltke, it addressed the fallacy amongst some Christians that the knowledge contained in God's will regarding a matter is 'hidden' and must be 'found' by some supernatural activity that enables a believer to penetrate the divine mind to get His decision. He also explained how 'finding' in this sense is really a form of divination, and why that is expressly wrong.

  It is a powerful book. Powerful because it removed numerous misconceptions, answered nagging suspicions, and laid things out in a concise and clear framework.

  It also saddened and infuriated me simultaneously.

  I felt sad as I recognized descriptions of many traps that I and others had fallen into in times past, each incontrovertibly described and refuted. Sad as I thought of how each mistake might have cost me in growing in maturity in my walk with God. Some of those mistakes might have had very costly repercussions or consequences; only God knows, I guess.

  But I also felt furious as the book accurately described numerous fallacious teachings I'd heard from the pulpit and various Bible studies over the years. I guess I felt conflicted in experiencing fury at the people who had not researched and prepared their material properly, responsible for teaching hungry people and feeding them falsehood instead. I wasn't sure if I should feel anger, or compassion in thinking that they might themselves have been duped and duped me and others through their own ignorance.    

  The following pair are examples among the many paragraphs that stuck chords of conviction:

  "The New Testament gives no explicit command to "find God's will", nor can you find any  particular instructions on how to go about finding God's will. There isn't a magic formula offered Christians that will open some mysterious door of wonder, allowing us to get a glimpse of the mind of the Almighty....God is not a magic genie....The reliance of special signs from God is the mark of an immature person - someone who cannot simply believe the truth as presented, but must have a special, miraculous sign as the symbol of authority from God."

  "Above all that, we fear making a mistake. For you see, a mistake suggests that I am not a competent, worthwhile person. Therefore I will go to extreme measures to make sure that any major decision I make will be a good one. Also, I truly want to please God, so I will seek to discover His mind on the matter at hand."      

  In contrast, Walkte offered the following as God's "Program of Guidance", which I've summarized in bullet form using his headings:

The Bible:
  •    Learn To interpret Scripture
  •    Learn To pray while reading through Scripture
  •    Learn To memorize and meditate on Scripture
  •    Learn To humbly obey Scripture
  •    Learn To memorize and meditate on Scripture
Having a heart for God:
  •   Are my desires correlated with Scripture?
  •   Are my desires correlated with presenting my body as a living sacrifice?
  •   Are my desires correlated with faith?
  •   Are my desires correlated with prayer?
Wise Counsel:
  • Whom to turn to
  • What to say
  • What is the call of God?
God's Providence:
  • God works on our behalf
  • We cannot always know why
  • The danger of putting circumstances above God's word
Wise Judgement:
  • Decisions in the light of Scripture
  • Decisions in the light of giftedness
  • Decisions in the light of ability
  • Decisions according to circumstances
  • Decisions according to an overall strategy
  This is an awesome book! I'm going to get myself a copy.

- The Wisdom Seeker

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Life As The TULIP

The thought that jolted me awake at 5 AM today morning:

"I look back on my years, and what do I have to show for them? A life of Total Depravity, that was hunted down by the Unconditional Election of the Father, rescued from the damnation of Hell by the Limited Atonement of Christ upon His Cross, drawn there cowering and trembling by their Irresistible Grace, and set free to partake of the Perseverance of the Saints by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am a man who truly has nothing good to say about himself, and everything good to say about his God."

Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints. That's TULIP, Reformed Theology or Calvinism, by the way. :)

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Angela Hung, with whom I have hung out, fought with, bickered, laughed at, laughed with, cried, prayed, fellowshipped, watched movies, shared meals, attended church and lots more, on the occasion of her Baptism. God bless you.

- The Wisdom Seeker

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Interview Blues

Yesterday, I came away from an interview feeling like an engineering imbecile. What made it especially bad was the fact that I really liked the company, and the product they're developing is really impressive. I'd come across them by accident and taken the initiative to approach them a couple of months ago, though they weren't hiring. Got a call from them on Tuesday night, asking me to come in for an interview. I was elated.

Unfortunately, it didn't go well, because my skill set isn't quite what they require at the moment. Although they appreciated my software skills and might call me back in future, I wasn't happy. I felt like I'd bungled everything, and felt like an idiot for not being able to 'get it right', for not being what they wanted. Drowning my sorrows in a hot chocolate from a Starbucks on the way home, I realised that I sometimes expect too much of and am too hard on myself when I fail. It's ok if an interview doesn't go well, or I don't get that job offer. It's ok if I can't recall my engineering knowledge perfectly or don't know everything; I'm not a supercomputer and I don't want to be. I don't have to be The Perfect Engineer or The Perfect Interview Candidate. I just have to do my best. That brings such relief, even in the midst of disappointment.

So here's a (hopefully) humorous and deprecating little poem I scribbled on the way home yesterday, remembering various interview stories that I've heard over the years. This is dedicated to those dejected, yet intrepid job-hunting souls, who have felt like the epitome of the "Doofus Ignoramus" after bungling an interview that seemed to be going exceedingly well. I especially remember my good friends Tim and Varun, who persevered through pressure and hardship for more than a year before finding good engineering jobs. I have deep admiration and respect for you.

I hope those who have been in the workplace for some time will remember their own early interview foibles and gaffes with a smile and shake of the head. Cheers, y'all!

- The Wisdom Seeker

True Blue Interview
(by Kevin Thomas)

Walked into the office dressed for success,
Suit, tie and shirt neatly pressed.
Knew my stuff, unflappable attitude
Radiating confidence, I was The Dude
Looked around, felt right at home
Wasn't self-conscious, or feeling alone
"You can do this, old chap,
Piece of cake, it's a snap."

"Why, hello there!," the interviewers said
Vigorous handshakes, as we each the other read
"Tea? Coffee? A glass of water, maybe?"
Such hospitality, they must surely like me!
70 mm Kodak smiles flashed all around
Off to a great start, things looked sound.

"So, tell us a bit about yourself"
That's easy, I could fill a whole shelf!
Careful now, don't say too much
Short and precise, just the right touch
Beaming smiles, they looked happy
Seems like my answer wasn't too sappy
And off from there we happily went,
Like the perfect Waltz, all was well.

How we joked and laughed as we talked shop!
Let the good times roll! Who wants to stop?
Java, Linux and Networking too,
Embedded systems, Digital Logic to boot
Question after question I answered with flair
At this rate the job offer would surely be there!

Then, like the serpent in Eden's paradise came
An innocent question to defame and shame:
"So, what kind of experience do you have with.."

Heart nearly stopped, body went stiff
The rolling meadow turned into a massive cliff
Mind stuck in neutral, scrabbling to engage
Trying to remember, but stuck in a cage
"Oh, good grief, what shall I do?"
Is this my curtain call, to bid adieu?
Hadn't touched that stuff in such a long time,
Don't remember anything, that's not a good sign!
"Um, uh..," vauge answers were the best I could do
The Titanic was sinking, they could see it too

The Oldest Engineer gave me a kindly smile,
The type one bestows upon an imbecile child
Asked more questions, tried to help
Didn't do much good, I could only yelp
Their method of ending my misery was humane;
Didn't nick an artery, or cut a vein:
"Do you have any questions for us?"
Thank you kind sir! It's no big fuss,
Although I feel like I've been hit by a bus.
Pleasantries exchanged, wrap-up time
And onto the street, Vancouver's winter clime

"I'm sorry, God", I say
Failed again, but that's ok
Time to head home for a cup of tea,
Tolkien's waiting there for me
Cheer up! Chin up and smile!
God's kept it waiting, just one more mile!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Heavenly Mother ?!

I was at Starbucks at Metrotown mall a few hours ago, feeling the need for a hot chocolate after having made it out for my driving lesson in -10 degree weather. So I'd decided to sit down in the foyer, sip for a bit and get warm before going back outside to catch the Skytrain home. While I was sitting there, this well-dressed chap holding an iPhone came up to me, asking if he could give me a presentation for some 'homework' he was doing for his church. Curious at being approached by an apparent Christian and wondering if he was doing some kind of evangelism with his iPhone, I agreed. He started off by telling me that the earthly reality that we see in this life is a shadow of things in heaven, which is the true reality.

Things were going fine until the I saw the first slide of the presentation at the end of his first sentence. I inquired which church he went to, which I shall leave unnamed. I guess they didn't go in the direction he was expecting after that.

It was the picture on the first slide that didn't seem right. The lower half depicted an 'earthly' family with a father, mother brother and sister. The upper half showed a corresponding diagram of a 'heavenly family' with a corresponding Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, Heavenly Brother and Heavenly Sister. The Heavenly Mother entity had a question mark above it, implying that we needed to figure out who this was. 'Heavenly Mother? What the...', I thought. Things didn't make sense and a little bell in the back of the head was beginning to tinkle.

It ramped up from there in the next two or three slides. He attempted to stitch together Revelation 22:17, 21:2, 21:9-11 and Galatians 4:26 to make his case that the church is the Bride and therefore the entity that corresponds to the Heavenly Mother in the first slide. By this time, the tinkle had turned into a fire alarm and things were feeling distinctly uncomfortable, so I hit the brakes and asked him to explain how he arrived at his conclusions.

When we got to the root of the issue after a lot of back-and-forth inquiry, it really emerged from his understanding of God as the Trinity. He didn't believe that there were three distinct persons in the Godhead, but just one being adopting different roles, putting on different 'masks' as a Father, then Son and finally Spirit at different points in the recorded history of the Bible. Since there was only a monad in the entity of the Heavenly Father, he could comfortably assume the 'Bride' to correspond to the Heavenly Mother in his family diagram.

I don't remember too much of the conversation after that. However, the more we conversed, it turned out that he interpreted various parts of scripture to mean among other things, that:

  • God was male and female in nature, as inferred from Genesis 1:26-27
  • Christ would appear again in His original earthly body at the time of His second coming
  • The 'baptism' Christ was referring to in Luke 12:49-50 referred to Him coming again as the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
  • There were 'Feasts of God' that Christians should observe post-Cross and Resurrection, such as the Passover, Pentecost and others
  • Passover in the Old Testament corresponds to the Lord's Supper in the New Testament
  • It shouldn't be called 'Communion' because it was a man-made word not found in the Bible
  • It should only be observed once a year at a specific date, because Passover was celebrated in the OT only once a year

There was a whole lot more we could have talked about, but it was past noon and I had to go home and get on with my day. On the ride home, I reflected on how so much could go wrong in doctrine, interpretation of scripture and ultimately the outworkings in practical life with one wrong assumption.

The triune God forms the core of the Christian faith around which any framework of doctrine is built. Discrediting and eliminating the existence, evidence and implications of the Trinity means that one really has no 'Gospel' to share and no good news to tell, because the "God" being talked about is a phony; we're not even talking about the real Person anymore.

- The Wisdom Seeker

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What's In The Name?

On Thursday, I was up at SFU to help a friend with the set-up of a talk that he was giving for a new faculty initiative that he'd started recently, and drop in on my former research lab to check on some things. It was also the last day of United Way's book sale, and having picked up 4 books for $2 each (incredible deal!) I'd decided to have one last look to see if there were any nuggets remaining.

Apart from a Reader's Digest Illustrated Bible, my eye fell upon a book with a purple jacket and gold lettering called 'To Know Him By Name'. It turned out to be a beautifully calligraphed volume talking about the very same things I'd written about in one of my previous posts, "Withstanding God's Tests For The Sake Of The Name". The description on the inner sleeve went as follows:

"In the heart of every man and every woman is a longing: to somehow know and understand the God who is beyond our limited understanding. To catch a glimpse of the One our eyes cannot physically see.

Of course, God is entirely, and wonderfully, unknowable. It is this very fact which often reminds us that He is, indeed, God. Yet although we can never understand all of Him, we can explore many facets of His character. We can know God as a trusted friend. We can find hope and courage in knowing Him as protector, healer, provider, creator, and much, much more!

God calls you tenderly by name. Make sure you can call Him by His own. Experience the beauty and power found in fifteen of His biblical names in To Know Him By Name."

Thumbing through the book, I thought again about that previous post, and what I'd written. This time, not about why His name is important and meaningful, but why the God revealed in the Bible and Christian faith is distinctive because He has a name, or even fifteen different ones that He's addressed by. So what if He has one name or more? Why does that make Him different from the Allah of Islam, Brahman or the 330 million deities of Hinduism, or any other faith that puts forward an explanation for origin, meaning, morality and destiny? Two ideas seemed to emerge after a bit of thinking.

Firstly, I think that it is not just that God has a name, but that He is willing to share His name with those He calls His people. It is not just that He is "El", the Powerful God; it is more - that He is willing to impart that power to me, because I need His power in my frailty. He is not just El Emet, the Truthful God; He is willing to impart that truth within me, so that I can stop being a liar and become truthful like Him. He doesn't keep the name "El Yeshuati", God of my Salvation to Himself; He is actually willing to use it to save me. And perhaps most telling of all, it is that He is willing to extend the best name that He has to me - "Father", and call me to be a son in relationship, though I had nothing worthwhile to offer Him.

I believe the implications of this are both significant and powerful in the struggles and challenges I face in everyday life. I believe it calls me to see, think and approach the circumstances that I face differently, because His Word is explicit that God is eager to share the power behind His name to help me through those events. Beyond that, I believe that it is a significant and powerful distinctive of the Christian faith. I do not know of any other deity that is as explicit and willing as the God of the Bible who voluntarily puts His name on the line for His people over and over again, from first book to last:

"If my people, who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV)

Secondly, I realized that it isn't just that He has His own names that I address Him by. In calling me to be a son in relationship, He is also able and willing to give me a name of my own, one that He has promised to reserve exclusively for me when I see Him face to face. In the book of "Revelation", the last and final book of the Bible, one of the great rewards Jesus promises those who persevere with Him to the end is a new name:

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will...give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it." (Revelation 2:17, ESV)

"So what?", is among the first thoughts that spring to mind. What's the big deal in getting a new name? I'm fine with the name I've got now. I don't mind being called Kevin, or John, or Peter or whatever else it is that I got named with at birth or christening. I think I've missed the point. Although my name is Irish in origin and means "gentle, lovable", it name doesn't really describe who I am. It doesn't even tell me much about myself. For most of us, we've had to find out about ourselves the hard way - hardship, disappointment, struggle, rejection, heartbreak, introspection, therapy, counselling and a myriad of other scenarios that only provide bits and pieces of insight here and there.

I'm not sure this is conclusive, but I believe that when God finally gives me the new name that He has promised, it will say everything about me than I could ever have pieced together from the broken perspectives that are offered to me in this life. I think it is for this reason that the Bible repeatedly emphasizes that the only one who ever really and truly knows us in entirety is God, and for the same reason that He is able to promise us a new name that only we will know - because He has known it first.

When God revealed Himself to humanity in His utmost perfection, He introduced Himself as "Emmanuel", because it meant that He had come to be with us. If you've been seeking for someone who will know and call you as you really are, and you haven't met this God that I write about, may I encourage you to call Him by His name - Jesus? He has promised to answer those that seek Him with all their heart, and promised that He will not be far away and slow to respond.

Call. He will answer.
- The Wisdom Seeker

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another Sleepless Night

It's 2 AM and I can't sleep (again). This time, it's definitely not because I had too much strong tea before bedtime. A few hours after a Flux CM Leadership small group where we talked about worry and anxiety, I find myself deluged by the same stuff we'd vigorously discussed. Pacing my room as Tolkien scurries around the floor in oblivious and happy exploration before I put her back in her cage, I'm consumed with all manner of thoughts that seem to have erupted out of nowhere.

Where are things headed? Will I do anything significant for God with my life? There's so much I want to pour my life into before He calls me home. Have I been a faithful son with what was entrusted to me? I'm terrified of being "the son that causes shame", that Proverbs talks about. Have I been wise in my affairs? How am I going to accomplish the dreams and calling that I feel propelled to? What if I fail and it all takes a huge nosedive? What if everything sits on the runway and never takes off? Is God happy with me? Have I disappointed Him? Why do things in life seem to be moving so slowly or at a standstill right now? I wish I could get more done, and be more effective. I wish my mind would work faster and I could learn and do more. I wish...Is God listening to this? Where are you, God? No, can't think like that. I know You're there. Can you say something?

After all that furious thinking and feeling like my feet have been firmly planted in mid-air with no conclusion in sight, I do what I should have done much earlier. I open my Bible and start reading. Why is it that I have this tendency to open it as the last resort after going through a mental gymnastics session? "Good grief, man" I find myself thinking. "This is becoming ridiculous. We just talked about all this stuff at small group. Get yourself in line." And as my eyes fall on the words of Psalm 90, some answers slowly emerge and I'm jotting them down here.

"Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth...from everlasting to everlasting you are God...For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night." (Ps. 90:1-2, 4, ESV)

The transient nature of my finite existence only attains meaning in the reality of God's self existence.

The search for my origins is pointless without a place to return to, a place to call 'home'. Without my home that I find with the person of God, it leads me to a void - where I must jump into pitch black on the other side of death, and commit my soul to the great 'Perhaps?'

"You have set our iniquities before you; our secret sins in the light of Your presence." (Ps. 90:8 ESV)

Any attempt to make sense of my own depravity through the construction of a moral framework will ultimately have to be done in pitch darkness without the light afforded by God's presence. It is only in the light of who He is that I can even see the mirror that shows me who I am. Without this, the "isms and schisms" that mankind constructs to hold our fragile societies together are as hollow as ourselves.

"For all our days pass away under Your wrath. we bring our years to and end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away....So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Ps. 90:8 ESV)

Contrary to all secular human logic, the search for wisdom for now and forever is fruitful only when I am cognizant of my fleeting life in the presence of an everlasting God.

"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." (Ps. 90:14 ESV)

His 'hesed' is all I need to find my peace and satisfaction every morning.

And with that, I'm happy again and find the peace that passes all understanding. Tolkien scurries under my chair, brushing by my foot and stopping to look up at me on her way to explore the area under my study table. Time to put her back in her cage. I can go to sleep now. Good night.

- The Wisdom Seeker

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Withstanding God's Tests For The Sake Of The Name

This post and its title is the result of an amalgamation of two different sermons delivered seven years apart by two different pastors at Willingdon, my home church. In early 2004, Dr. John Neufeld gave a brilliant sermon titled "Withstanding God's Tests", during a series in Genesis on the life of Abraham. That sermon is so compelling that I've played and replayed it more than 15 times now since listening to it earlier this year. Late last month, Dr. Daryl Kroeker titled his sermon "For The Sake of The Name", based on verses 7 and 8 of the third letter of John. For some reason, events worked out in such a manner that dots I couldn't (and didn't) connect before fell into alignment and led me to one of those moments where I wished I'd learned this earlier.

Covering the twenty-second chapter of the book of Genesis, "Withstanding God's Tests" took a hard look at God's test of Abraham in asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Using passages like James 1:2-4, 12, Hebrews 12:7-11, 11:17-19, Proverbs 9:10, 10:27, 14:27, 19:23 and Exodus 20:20 in a way I'd never heard it exposited before. I doubt if John Neufeld could have used a better attention-grabbing line than his apocalyptic opening statement, which he repeated for added emphasis - "God is determined to test you!" I also doubt if he needed anything to keep me riveted for the remaining half-hour than the follow-up question a little while later - "So, here's the question - how do you pass God's tests?". The important points that he proceeded to lay out for the rest of the sermon attempted to answer three main questions:

- How do we identify the testing of God?
- How do we respond when God tests us?
- What is God hoping to accomplish by putting people to the test?

Answering the first question, Pastor John pointed out three main things that God is looking for from someone He puts to the test - obedience, meditation and faith. Similarly, he also explained that God puts someone through tests for specific outcomes - that they might fear Him, count on His provision and rest in His promise. Rather than explaining the sermon, I thought I'd put down some of the interesting quotes I liked during the talk:

"See, Abraham is always the Great Negotiator with God, always carrying on with these things, but this time the Great Negotiator is silent; not one word is spoken...no delay, no argument, no anger, just simple obedience...the great story of Abraham is that this man passed the test because he was not negotiating, he was not complaining that God was unjust. He was obedient."

"...and there the old man walks for three days and he remembers what God has said, and the question he must have asked himself is this - 'Is it possible that this promise could fail?' Because if God would fail, then what would be left?"

"...you see, the world that Abraham lived in, the imagination that Abraham had of his world, was the imagination of a God-bathed world; a world in which things don't happen by accident, and they are never out of the design of God. A world in which God can always be counted upon and trusted. It was in the walking, it was in those three days of silence, that Abraham made up his mind - it was not possible to come down that hill without his son...Abraham has come to the conclusion that if Isaac dies on the altar, then the universe as now exists would cease to be, because He who holds it together is Himself cursed"

"God wants from you three things. He wants first of all a man or woman who says 'yes' to Him at every point in time; to obey God regardless of the cost, knowing that obedience always comes with a great personal price."

"God wants you to be a meditator; God wants you to think about a world that is bathed with Him. Some of us still allow these words like 'accidental' or 'lucky' or such things to slip out of our mouths, when in fact this is a world controlled by the sovreign hand and plan of God. Nothing is out of order."

"One of the reasons why in North America we lack often wisdom in life is because for the North American Church so many of us have become comfortable with a buddy-buddy relationship with God."

"You know what happens when you sign a contract? You're swearing by yourself. But as you know that, it's only as good as your own reputation and character...but there is nothing greater for God to swear by than Himself; places His own character behind it. 'I swear by myself, that I will keep every promise that I have every made to you."

"Which life do you want? Do you want the ordinary life, or do you want the life of God? And if you want the life of God He will lead you on a wild adventure of faith, and God will test you like the Harley engineers tested their bike and in the end God will make you complete and lacking in nothing."

And to top it all off, Pastor John read quoted the same poem that I found inspiring and posted more than a year ago, titled "When God Wants To Drill A Man", which you can see here. I love this poem!

Similarly, Dr. Daryl asked the question, "For the sake of what name?" in his own sermon outline, seven years later. He pointed out that The Name of God that Christians recognize and worship is exclusive (John 14:6; Romans 1:18; Acts 4:12), powerful (Acts 10:43; John 20:31), global (Philippians 2:8-11) and inclusive (Romans 10:13) in nature.

You can listen to both these brilliant talks at the Willingdon Sermon Archive [1].

So how do these independent sermons line up for me?

I had never fully comprehended what the painful, difficult and disappointing moments in my life were about, finding myself struggling to gain and adopt the right perspective; trying to stay afloat while splashing about in various moments of heartbreaking reality that seemed to have crept up on me like a perfect storm. I remember in earlier years desperately running from parent, to pastor, to priest, to well-meaning believer, pillar to post looking for answers to painful questions Time and again, I seemed to be met with answers that ran along the lines of "Don't worry. Remember Romans 8:28? God is working all things for your good! Smile!" That these meant well and were well-intentioned I have no doubt; however, I am in no less doubt that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as the famous saying goes.

I don't know if it is conclusive at this point, but I have come to believe that understanding the importance of The Name and why everything is designed "For The Sake of The Name", helps me adopt the right posture of my heart during those times when it seems that I am in that painful space between God's mighty hammer and anvil. Why is The Name important to me?

The Name of El is important; seeing The Powerful God,
I know my fragility
The Name of El Echad is important; in The One God
I find unity in diversity
The Name of El Hanne'eman is important; The Faithful God
shows me my own faithlessness
The Name of El Emet is important; The Truthful God
shows me the liar that I am
The Name of El Tsaddik is important; The Righteous God
shows me my own deceitful heart
The Name of El Olam is important; in the Eternal God
I see my own transience
The Name of El Shaddai is important; God is All-Sufficient,
and I am undependable
The Name of El Elyon is important; in front of The Majestic God
I see my own lowliness
The Name of El Roi is important; The All-Seeing God
shows me that I cannot hide
The Name of El Yeshurun is important; without Him
I have no redemption
The Name of El Gibbor is important; without The Warrior God
I have no victory
The Name of El De'ot is important; The God of Knowledge
shows me I am a fool without Him
The Name of El Haggadol is important; The Great God
reminds me I am nothing in front of Him
The Name of El Haggavod is important; The God of Glory
shows me that my own glory is meaningless
The Name of El Haggadosh is important; The Holy God
shows me that He is forever separate
The Name of El Hashamayim is important; The God of the Heavens
rules over everything, including me
The Name of El Chaiyai is important; without The God of my Life
I have no life at all
The Name of El Channun is important; The God of Grace
shows me my own ungraciousness
The Name of El Sali is important; without The God of my Strength
I falter so easily
The Name of El Rachum is important; The Compassionate God
shows me that I'm such an indifferent man
The Name of El malei Rachamim is important;
I have been unmerciful without The Merciful God
The Name of El Yeshuati is important;
without The God of my Salvation I have no escape
The Name of El-Kanno is important; The Jealous God
is the only one who watches over me
The Name of Immanuel is important;
without The God Who Is With Us, I'm lonely
The Name of El Hannora is important;
I have nothing to show-off in front of The Awesome God

In his groundbreaking book "Desiring God" [2], John Piper makes the point that at God does everything for the assurance of His own praise and glory from all His creatures, because He is the centerpiece of everything and it is all about Him. Knowing all this, my perspective on the events of my life where things don't make sense has undergone a tremendous shift. They become times when I go to a place in my mind that no one knows of and none have been, where the gates are shut and the doors of the Great Hall are closed, and I bow in silent worship at the throne of The Name That Is Above Every Name, the Kyrios, and Adonai.

In his sermon series on the book of Habbakuk earlier this year, Pastor John pointed out that there is a time when all conversation must cease, where there are no questions to be asked of God, and the only appropriate response is worship. The alabaster jar of the heart is broken, and everything within poured out on the feet of El for the sake of The Name. For the sake of The Name. That is what matters. For the sake of my Father's Name. For the sake of His glory.

It is worth withstanding God's tests for the sake of The Name.

- The Wisdom Seeker

[1] http://willingdon.org/services/sermonlist.asp
[2] Piper, J., “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist,” Oregon: Multnomah, 1986