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