Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Redeeming Marriage Project

The Song of Solomon, 4:1-5
"But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." - Jesus (Mark 10:6-9)

    This will be my 50th post on Ruminations! I thought I would use it to talk about a pet project of mine that I've had in mind for some time, ever since the "Marriage Gets Mangled" post last December. One evening around bedtime during the last week of 2010, I was re-reading the TIME Magazine article and contemplating what I would have said, if I was given an opportunity to write an article in response. I was also thinking about couples that I had seen or known who had strong, loving marriages that had lasted and flourished over time while others had crumbled. And then an idea occurred to me - why not talk to each of these couples and get their perspective on marriage, including their response to TIME's report on the shift in attitude of the culture around us?

    And so the idea for the Redeeming Marriage Project was born.

    If things go according to plan over the course of the next few months, I plan to talk to some of the couples that I currently know whose marriages are the antithesis of the status quo of the social mirror described by TIME. Hopefully, I will be able to interview them, and maybe even get video recordings of our talks. I want to write a blog post about each couple to introduce them, and post the associated video clips of my talks with them here. For me, this undertaking is more than just an interesting pet project to occupy my evenings or weekends, or take up real estate on Ruminations.

    I'm hoping that through the people I talk to, their perspectives, insights, and advice, those (including me) who get to know their stories through this blog will have hope and realize that:

  • As bad as the scenario may seem, all is not lost; one does not have to be resigned to the status quo.
  • It is possible to find a good, solid man/woman to share one's life with in happy, enduring and flourishing marriage. "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)
  • A happy marriage is not predicated upon the dictates of the social and cultural mirror.
  • While marriage is not a bed of roses, there is purpose and deep, abiding joy in persevering through difficult times together.
  • God is as involved in this area of their lives as in any other; He has not forgotten them. "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'" (Genesis 2:18)
  • He can be trusted to hold their dreams and desires carefully; He will not drop or mangle them
  • God weaves the threads of two people's lives together to create a marriage that is beautiful to both them and those who witness it
    These are my thoughts at the moment about this undertaking. Here's to some interesting months ahead as "Redeeming Marriage" kicks off!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Must Know Him

    This will be the first time in a long while that I'm able to post within a day or two of the last post :) Hopefully, as life settles into a routine, I'll be able to work out a 'posting rhythm' that fits in comfortably with everything else that is going on.

Thinking over things since the last post, I have come to the conclusion that I don't know Jesus as well as I want to. Maybe I don't know Him very well.

    Although it will be 16 years this year since I gave my life to Him in serious commitment, and though God has graciously granted me a better understanding of Him in the last few years, there is yet a nagging feeling of restlessness. I feel an inner urge to push on in trying to understand, almost as if things are in  danger of stagnation if I stay still with what I currently know of Him. It may turn out to be the "hot pursuit" of the rest of my life (and I suppose in a way it is fitting and right), for all my seeking so far in the Bible and the writings of those who have inquired of God tell me that His person is ultimately unknowable and unfathomable. Yet it simultaneously informs me that I will find everything that I need to know of Him in the person of Christ, who is described as "...glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

I have to know more. I MUST know more.

    With my desire to make this Easter different, I had bought "The Cross of Christ", by John R. Stott, having come across its reference by C. J. Mahaney while reading "Humility: True Greatness" on my trip to Victoria last month. Although I had initially bought it so that I could follow Mahaney's suggestion of reflecting on the Cross everyday as as an aid to pursuing humility by understanding it better, I came to another realization while thinking about the book during my lunch break today.

    I have recently been trying with diligent effort to discern truth from falsehood in all that I've assimilated in younger years in my experiences in different churches and communities. In the light of how I have come to know God in the last few years, I stopped short on my way to Starbucks to pick up a hot chocolate for lunch as a thought hit me: I had just bought a masterpiece of writing about the most effective starting point in strengthening the foundations of my faith - the Cross.

    If there is any place to begin to understand Christ and find a reference point in helping me develop discernment, I suppose it makes the most sense to begin at the cornerstone of the Christian faith and indeed, even history. I'll be working my way through this book as well as another that I started earlier, "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment" by Tim Challies.

"The Cross of Christ" and "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment"
     I shall also try to post my thoughts as I process what I come across. See you in the next post!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Saturday, March 26, 2011

For The Sake Of The Name

    The two weeks after writing 'The Story Of My Life' have been really busy, but significant as well. As Easter approaches this year, I want to do things differently, given some new convictions that I've been mulling over since my last post. Looking back at some patterns in my life over the years, it seems to me that I've fallen into the trap of giving too much attention to Christmas, and too little attention to Easter. And it is an easy trap to fall into; at some point both believer and unbeliever have been conned into dreaming of the 'White Christmas' season on their calendars, with all the picture perfect images of snow, christmas trees, carols, presents, parties and commercial profit to boot. Easter, unfortunately doesn't seem to hold the same level of glamour; a pastor friend of mine recently remarked that far too often we wake up to the hurried realization that Good Friday and Easter Sunday are a week or two away, rush through them and then begin to look forward to other events of the year. And I've been as guilty as anyone else of being too complacent in this matter, when in truth it is Easter that is the more significant of the two.

    This year, two events came together to convict me that I was going to approach things differently. First, Pastor John Neufeld kicked off Willingdon's annual pre-Easter sermon series three weeks ago, and did so with a striking message - "Suffering and Vindication". Second, I went to the second and third  talk of a three-part series at Jamie's church over the last two Fridays, titled 'Christ Has Died. Christ Has Risen. Christ Will Come Again'. Listening to the second of the two statements last week - "Christ Has Risen", wheels began turning in my head of what I wanted to do differently.

    Then, last Sunday, Pastor Jonathan delivered a convicting sermon titled 'Powerful Words' covering the passage of John 18:12-27. It was a sermon that refreshed and encouraged me deeply, as I had come into church feeling somewhat frayed and dry, and wanting to draw close to God in order to find rest and comfort. In the course of the sermon, Pastor Jonathan made a point that a sense, the person of Christ is on trial in many places today, just as he was those many years ago. And that if we would be true and faithful disciples, we are called to follow Him in there - university classrooms, government, educational systems, law courts, and many others, with a willingness to affirm the identity we possess in Him as Christians when asked by seeker and skeptic alike, the same question put to Peter: "Who are you?"

    Reflecting on the sermon, I thought of all that I have written about my convictions since the beginning of this year. Recalling an unfinished poem that I wrote sometime during November of last year, around the time of the Passion Vancouver concert, I found it, finished it and thought I'd share it here.

For The Sake Of The Name
(by Kevin Thomas)

For the sake of The Name
Lord God, I come,
For the sake of The Name
Of The Holy One

For the same of The Name
Of the Lamb that was slain,
Crucified, died and rose again

For the sake of The Name
That hung on the Cross,
Broken and bloodied,
That I might gain through His loss

For the sake of The Name
That bids me go,
To take my cross
And Him follow

For the sake of The Name
Of Him that remains
Long after my days have passed away

For the sake of The Name
To humbly bow
To offer myself, here and now

For the sake of The Name
Who has known my pain,
Wept with me, bore my shame

For the sake of The Name
Of the only wise King
Who welcomed me home
With coat, shoe and ring

For the sake of The Name
Of the One who is light,
Who dispels the shadows
Of my darkest nights

For the sake of The Name
That must be hallowed
In the midst of grief and sorrow

For the sake of The Name
That owns my all,
My life, my dreams,
Great and small

Oh, The Name, The Great Name!

But what manner name is this,
That I pour my heart out like this?
'tis The Name above every name;
The Name I chase with all my might,
Forsaking all for the sake of the risen Christ.
- The Wisdom Seeker

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Story Of My Life

     Hi! It's going to be almost 2 weeks since I last posted my thoughts in 'I'd Rather Be Shot' during my trip to Victoria. I'd fallen sick with a cold and sore throat after I returned to Vancouver, so spent the last week trying to recover from that. Although I haven't posted here during that time, it's been good in some ways. God has been using the down time to draw my attention to some things in my life that I've needed to see more clearly.

    Through 'Humility: True Greatness' that I read on my trip to Victoria and back, I've had to closely look at and acknowledge areas of pride in my life, and accept the blows of God's loving chastisement, rebuke and correction. I have to say that I've come out a much better man for it, seeing myself as a 'proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God', as C. J. Mahaney so succintly expressed it. I comprehended the magnitude of His gracious kindness towards me so much better now, and have had my thought process and perceptions changed; I constantly find myself thinking about how I can cultivate humility and mortify pride everyday. I've leared to see each day that I live through differently, as I realize God's graciousness and kindness to me and all of humanity in an abundance that we're all so totally undeserving of. In the process, I'm so much more aware of the depravity and sinfulness of my own heart, and the intensity of the battle for sanctification as God works on the transformation of all that needs changing...and there is so much that needs changing. Most of all, I understand and experience the person of Christ and the power of the Cross in a way that I have not grasped before.

    A. W. Tozer brilliantly described what I feel, along with anyone else who comes to that powerful experiential comprehension of the holiness of God, in the chapter on the holiness of God in his book 'The Knowledge of The Holy':

    'The sudden realization of his personal depravity came like a stroke from heaven upon the trembling heart of Isaiah at the moment when he had his revolutionart vision of the holiness of God. His pain-filled cry, "Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts," expresses the feeling of every man who has discovered himself under his disguises and has been confronted with an inward sight of the holy whiteness that is God. Such an experience cannot but be emotionally violent...We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God's power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness He cannot even imagine.'

    'Humility: True Greatness' reminded me that I have not even scratched the surface of understanding the holy God in front of whom I should tremble, having gained a small glimpse of the wretched sinner that I am without Christ and His Cross. God chose to use my favourite song of my favourite music artist to convict me about all of this during the last week. I first heard this song almost 12 years ago, played in the car of my dear friend and brother Kelvin Goveas, when starting my undergraduate degree in engineering at UT-Austin, Texas. This is 'Never Been Unloved', by Michael W. Smith:

    That song sums up my life without Christ. Every adjective rings true to the kind of person that I have been, the nature that still raises its rebellious head against the loving hand of my Heavenly Father, and every brother and sister that I have. This, truly, is the story of me: un-faithful; un-worthy; un-righteous; un-merciful; un-reachable; un-teachable; un-willing; un-desirable; un-wise; un-done; un-sure; un-broken; un-mended; un-easy; un-approachable; un-emotional; un-execptional; un-decided; un-qualified; un-aware; un-fair; un-fit; un-able; un-godly....

    BUT (And I'm glad that there's a 'but' in my story), the story of my life thankfully doesn't stop there. Because Jesus cared enough to love me, because of all that He suffered for me, I know that I have never been unloved by the holy God who has been kind and gracious in giving me the privilege of calling him 'Father,' calling him 'Papa'. Because of Jesus, grace upon grace beyond all measure has been poured out upon the life of this undeserving sinner, for which I am silent in humbled gratitude before my awesome God. He has accepted me where others have rejected, stood by me when others deserted, loved me when others hated, blessed me when others cursed, comforted me where others inflicted, lifted me when others struck down, been there when others have not. He was, is and always will be what none other can ever be. That's why, as Michael W. Smith so eloquently put it, 'He is still God, and I am still not.'

He is still God, and I am still not.

    I have said it before on this blog, and I will say it over and over till the end of my life and even beyond - I am a man who has nothing good to say about himself, and everything good to say about his God. I'm going to go listen to that song again. God bless. See you in the next post!
- The Wisdom Seeker