Monday, November 28, 2011

A Great Week In Vancouver with RZIM Canada!

     Yesterday marked the end of RZIM's week long itinerary of events in the greater Vancouver area, which I had mentioned in my earlier post. Dr. Andy Bannister spoke at The Point Church's 10 AM service at SFU, and then flew back to Toronto, with a stopover in Winnipeg. Most of the team would have left by late morning, some like Michael Ramsden and David Lloyd heading back to Oxford, and the Canadian team heading back to Toronto. Unfortunately, I was only able to make it to two events during the week - the "Stripped Down Faith" event at SFU on Wednesday, where Michael Ramsden spoke on the topic "Is The Christian God Schizophrenic?", and the RZIM Builder's Dinner at the Ramada Hotel in Abbotsford, held last Saturday for RZIM's financial supporters.

    The event at SFU (in partnership with Campus for Christ) went very well, and the talk was most interesting and engaging. I recorded most of the main talk, and some of the Q&A session, which featured some very interesting, heartfelt and thought-provoking questions. I hope to have video highlights of the evening up on the YouTube channel shortly. Until then, here are some of the photos from the evening:

Andy Bannister and Michael Ramsden during the Question & Answer segment at SFU
Dr. Andy Bannister in conversation with a student after the event

Michael Ramsden deep in discussion. This conversation went on for a long time!
     The Builder's Dinner during the weekend turned out to be a wonderful evening, as I got to meet and connect with a number of RZIM supporters, some of whom were also graduates of RZIM's six-week summer program offered at their Oxford Centre of Christian Apologetics at Oxford University. It has long-been a dream of mine to one day do their one-year course, so it was with excitement (and not a little envy) that I listened to stories of their experiences in class, being taught by and spending time with some of the finest thinking minds in the Christian community. During the course of the evening, in between starters and the main course, we got to listen to Dr. Andy Bannister describe some of their experiences at their speaking engagements in the lower mainland over the last week. After that, Michael Ramsden gave a small talk on the famous doxology of Jude 1:24-15, intertwined with inspiring and powerful stories of their ministry experiences all over the world of the past year. It was a personally humbling experience to sit in the company of such great men and women, most of whom were much older than I yet both supporting RZIM and tirelessly involved in ministry of their own, even in their old age. Here are some of my favourite snapshots of the evening:

The venue at the Ramada Plaza in Abbotsford
Rick Manafo, setting up the soundstage
Testing, Testing...

With Andy Bannister, Rick Manafo and Michael Ramsden at the end of a memorable evening!

     Although I wish I had been able to attend all of RZIM's speaking engagements on the Mainland and Vancouver Island, it was a great week nonetheless. One of the unofficial highlights was being able to go out to dinner with my friend Rick Manafo, one of RZIM Canada's apologists and also their event manager. I had had the privilege of meeting Rick for the first time last year while visiting the RZIM Canada office, and helping him over the last several months with some of the details related to the Stripped Down Faith events at SFU and UBC. It was wonderful to go to dinner on a cold and rainy night in downtown Vancouver on Thursday, at the Banana Leaf restaurant on Denman Street, before he joined the team on Vancouver Island for one of their main speaking engagements. We got to both fellowship and review the events half-way through their itinerary, and possible plans for next year and the short-term future. I was really excited to see God open doors and connect people during this trip, and am looking forward to partnering and participating with more RZIM events in the Lower Mainland in the years to come!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Monday, November 21, 2011

Intercultural Marriage In A Diverse Culture: Kaleidescope or Collision?

"...for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." 
- Galatians 3:26-28, ESV

    Yesterday, I attended the second of a two-week class on marriage at Willingdon Church. It was particularly interesting because of two primary reasons. First, in all my three years at Willingdon, I had never been to a marriage-related talk, so I wanted to see how they would approach it. Second, this was more than a general marriage talk; it focused on a unique situation that many couples pursuing a romantic and marriage relationship in our cultural environment and time find themselves, where each comes from a different cultural and sometimes ethnic background. The series was appropriately titled "Intercultural Marriage in a Diverse Culture: Kaleidescope or Collision?", and was delivered by Pastor Cliff Ursel who serves as one of the overseers of the adult ministries at Willingdon. I had questions of my own regarding this topic that I wanted answers for, and so went for both sessions.

    In all, it was a fascinating talk with tremendous insights that provided me with helpful tools to critically think through the challenge of such situations. I scribbled furiously during both sessions, trying to take down as much as I could on the worksheets provided. Regrettably, the idea of recording the sessions on video never occured to me until after the first session, but I made sure to do so for the second with my little Cisco Flip. This post is special in this regard, because it marks the first time that I am making use of the YouTube channel that I created some time ago, which will hopefully contain many more interesting videos in the coming months! Here then is the complete main talk of the second session, and as much as I could record of the Q&A period that followed it, before I ran out of memory on my video camera. Please note that although these videos can be played in High Definition at 720p!

     This is Pastor Cliff's main talk:

     And this is most of the Q&A session that followed:

     Like the Willingdon IRONMEN retreat that I went on two months ago, I will be updating this post in the next few days with the detailed notes that I took during the two sessions. I will post notifications on Facebook and Twitter when I do. If you aren't following or subscribing via e-mail and want to keep updated on this post, please check this space over this week! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the points put forward on this talk, so please feel free to leave them below this post, or on the YouTube channel here. See you soon!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

RZIM In Vancouver!

     I've been wanting to put up this post for several months now, and the time has finally come! Ever since I first heard from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries [1] at the beginning of year that they would be coming to Vancouver for a week of speaking engagements at different venues, I've been looking forward to seeing them again. Last year, I had written about how RZIM has been used by God to tremendously impact my life in a post [2] that featured a video of Dr. Zacharias in an interview with 100 Huntley Street [3]. I was elated when I got to visit RZIM Canada's office in Toronto while on vacation last year! Since then, it has been a real privilege to get to know the team that comprises RZIM Canada, and support and help them in whatever way I've been able to. In the process, God has kindled a burning passion in my heart to use my abilities to write, speak and think for Him in a similar fashion. But those are aspirations for the future, and I should come back to the events of the here and now!

    RZIM will be in the Greater Vancouver area (including Vancouver Island) towards the last week of this month, from the 22nd to 28th. As far as I know, their public speaking itinerary is as follows:
  • Tuesday, Nov. 22 @ 11:30 AM - TWU chapel @ TWU (Dr. Andy Bannister)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 22 @ 5:00 PM - Wood 6 @ UBC (Dr. Andy Bannister, Nathan Betts)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 22 @ 11:30 AM - TWU chapel @ TWU (Michael Ramsden)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 23 @ 6:30 PM - SSCB 9201 @ SFU (Michael Ramsden, Nathan Betts)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 23 @ 7:00 PM - Mark Isfeld Secondary School, Vancouver Island (Michael Ramsden)
  • Thursday, Nov. 24 - Vancouver Island
  • Sunday, Nov. 27 morning - The Point Church @ SFU (Dr. Andy Bannister)

        I will definitely be attending the events at SFU and UBC after work. They should be really interesting given the topic that Andy Bannister and Michael Ramsden will be speaking on respectively - "Stripped Down Faith", looking at what faith is, and why it is even necessary in this day and age. I really wish I could make it to the event on Vancouver Island, which addresses the perceived "failings" of the Christian faith, raised by those who believe that it has failed them or preached an empty promise that is unable to deliver. You can find more information by clicking the pictures below, or at RZIM's Stay In The Conversation website:

    RZIM's University Tour: "Stripped Down Faith" at UBC and SFU respectively
    RZIM's main Vancouver Island event: "Christianity - A Failed Hope?"
         There are other public and private events happening during the week, and I will update details here, on Twitter and Facebook as I get to know more from RZIM. Buy your tickets now!
    - The Wisdom Seeker


    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    The Shout of The Gospel!

         I came across the following video a few hours ago, and have been replaying it a few times while clearing up my room. The words of this short but powerful and riveting vignette, created by South Hills Evangelical Church (SHEC) in Missoula, Montana [1] for their Easter 2011 service are a compilation of verses from across the Old and New Testament that relate to the person of Jesus Christ and the saving power of God through His Cross.

         It stirred my heart deeply, because my mind and heart hears once again the thundering shout of the Gospel - the message of the unfathomable love, forgiveness and justice of God upon the evil of the wretched man that I am, visibly demonstrated with real power on the broken body of Jesus Christ that hung on His blood-soaked Cross. I do not compose these words out of maudlin emotion, brought on by a need to vent a superficial sentimentality. Rather, it is grounded upon solid conviction of the reality and depth of my own depraved nature, written with very real grief and sorrow in the kinship that I share with the Apostle Paul who wrote thus of his own desperate struggle:

        "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with ythe law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" - Romans 7:15-25, ESV

        Yet even as I share sorrow with the Apostle over the contemplation of my struggle against sin, I also share his joy and hope as I follow his call to turn my thoughts to the person of Jesus Christ. The call to persevere, struggle and overcome is worthwhile and meaningful because of the One who has won. It is a message with power because of Him who has the power in Himself to save us, because He has done the impossible. A passage that was quoted from in the compilation used in this video is one of the most famous prophecies about Jesus from the Old Testament. It is taken from the book of Isaiah, and says:

        "...he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected2 by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and lwe esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

        All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

        Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."
    - Isaiah 53:2-11, ESV

        This is the thundering and victorious roar of the Gospel, its "Good News"- that there is hope for mankind, because God has sent redemption. And it sets my soul on fire because the burning passion of my heart is that same message that brought life to my dead spirit be shouted across the streets and rooftops of this city. I want the millions of parched souls across the GVA to hear the words of the Gospel of John, that "these things are written so that you may believe that that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:31, ESV)

        May I live and breathe this message for the sake of His name and glory.

    - The Wisdom Seeker