Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sheep With Sharp Teeth

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing. Image Copyright: unknown
"And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”- Matthew 21:13, ESV

   I had wanted to upload this post while it was still fresh in my mind yesterday. Amidst the business of this weekend, that didn't happen. As the weekend draws to a close, I want to complete this post before I go to bed.

   While reading the blog of a ministry that I am following with interest, I came across a music video that they had linked to. I found its title interesting, because it is relevant to personal experiences along my spiritual journey through the terrain of different church environments over the last three decades that I am still thinking through. I had briefly summarized this journey in a post dedicated to Reformation Sunday, titled "Visiting The Crossroads". I will be exploring this in greater depth in the weeks and months to come.

   My curiosity was aroused, and as I did some further research online, I came across the following short video documentary produced by Christianity Today that not just disturbed, but made me really, really angry. I doubt if I could adequately verbally express the kind of fury that I felt as I watched this:

   Why am I so angry? Because I have personally heard and witnessed countless such abominations of the gospel preached from platforms and podiums during my time in the Middle East and India. This mockery of Christ and His cross has been perpetrated on unsuspecting and sincere believers, exploiting and led many astray. I am personally cut to the core and anguished in my spirit as I recollect those memories, because I too was once duped by these people into believing their promises of "blessing". And it cost me heavily. 

   But by the mercy and grace of God, He led me out of such false teaching and over the years, has helped me unlearn much of this theological nonsense, guiding me along the path of truth and discernment. I am deeply grateful for the church He mercifully guided me to - Willingdon, where I have found true water for my soul and have made my home for the last four years. God willing, I will call this my home church till the day I die. I shudder to think about where I would be now if it had not been for the merciful hand of God, who has promised to lead those who He has chosen and called His own. I have no words to thank Him for saving my soul.

    It's time to bring this post to a close and head to bed. As I was writing this, I was reminded of the following passages, which the Lord has been bringing to mind over the course of the last two weeks:

"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears." - Acts 20:28-31, ESV

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." - Galatians 1:8-9, ESV

"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this that no one may delude you with plausible arguments." - Colossians 2:1-4, ESV

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of this world, and not according to Christ" 
- Colossians 2:6-8, ESV

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared..." - 1 Timothy 4:1, ESV

   I have a lot of hard thinking and processing to do. I'll be writing more about this in coming posts. If anyone has thoughts that they'd like to share about their own experiences, I'd like to hear from you. Until next time, goodnight.

Grace and peace to you,
 - The Wisdom Seeker

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Roses for Vancouver: Sharing the Faith, Hope and Love!

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers...Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."  
- 1 John 3:16 - 18, ESV

   Like the the "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" event hosted by the young adults group at Willingdon Church last Friday, last Saturday was equally memorable, because of an outreach and evangelism event downtown that I participated in with some friends of mine from Willingdon and other churches. Geared towards the upcoming Valentine's day, they had ordered more than a thousand roses, and painstakingly attached a gospel tract to each of them. The event was set to occur at the intersection of Granville and Robson streets, where I had first ventured out on my own last summer to share my faith after the Stanley Cup Riots [1].

     It turned out to be a wonderful afternoon, as we gave away almost 1,200 roses to passers-by, and in the process has a great chance to engage in conversation with many of them! People were incredulous at first; the most common question that I was asked, was "You mean these roses are free? How come?" I had the pleasure of telling each person that I gave a rose to that it came to them from us with the love of Jesus Christ, because we loved the people of this city and wanted them to know the good news of His gospel. Here are some of the photos that I took of the event:

Two baskets of roses at our corner of Robson and Granville, outside Sears
The stand at the opposite intersection of Granville and Robson, outside Future Shop
Tyron handing out flowers to passers by, and engaging them in conversation
Mauri outside the Bay, as Esther and Stephen engage a passer-by in conversation
Sharing the love of Jesus with pedestrians on the streets of downtown Vancouver!
    As things happened, some of my friends from Willingdon's Entry Level also decided to use the occasion to do some video interviewing of people on the street for our upcoming "John 3:16" event. With my tripod and little Cisco Flip in tow, we had an afternoon of wonderful conversations with a number of interesting people!

In conversation with Alexander, who was handing out flyers for Burger King

A very interesting conversation with Josh, who knew quite a bit about the Bible!
      I had a great time last Saturday, and came away feeling happy and fulfilled. It had been a long time since I got to actively engage people on the street in conversation about my faith - almost six months, I think. As I bring this post to a close, I am reminded of the following verses composed by Charles Wesley:

Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
to work and speak and think for thee;
still let me guard the holy fire,
and still stir up thy gift in me.  
Ready for all thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat,
till death thy endless mercies seal,
and make my sacrifice complete.
- "O Thou Who Camest From Above", by Charles Wesley
   The more I get to speak for Christ and share the reason that I have for putting my hope in Him, the more I feel a deep sense that this is something I am actively called and gifted by Him to do. I'm looking forward to doing more of this in the weeks and months to come. Hopefully I'll get a chance again this weekend!

Grace and Peace to you,

- The Wisdom Seeker

Thursday, February 16, 2012

His and Hers: Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them." - Genesis 1:27-28, ESV

     Last weekend was comprised of a really interesting series of events. One of them was an event held by "Entry Level", the young adults group at Willingdon Church that I'm part of, and lead a small group for with my good friend Esther. Last Friday evening, Entry Level held a "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Night" geared towards young adults who were single, dating or married and wanting to think through the Biblical roles of manhood and womanhood.

     One particular aspect that this event covered was developing a Biblical paradigm relating to the opposite sex in many streams of life, as opposed to those promoted by the culture around young Christians that continually presents ideas that run contrary to Scripture.

     Taking the stage for this event were Cliff and Erin Ursel! Cliff is one of the pastors at Willingdon overseeing the young adults ministry, and his wife Erin helps lead worship during services and is quite involved in the women's ministry. I first met Cliff and Erin long before I ever came to Willingdon, through Erin's parents who were my next door neighbours when I first moved to Vancouver almost six years ago. Cliff and Erin both gave a talk about their gender as man and woman, and how it defines their roles in many aspects of life - in marriage, family, work, friendships and many other spheres.

     This event was something I really wanted to record, so I took my little Cisco Flip along and recorded the main talk in HD! I wanted to record the Q&A session but was unable to due to lack of space and time. Ladies and Gentlemen, Ruminations of The Sage happily presents for your viewing pleasure, instruction and edification - "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood":

     This talk gave me a lot to think about, especially as I have had questions in this area and am prayerfully seeking God's direction in my vision to be married one day to a woman who would happily and enthusiastically be willing to help me serve God in the call that He has on my life. I will be writing about this in the posts to come, as many of the thoughts that I have been wrestling with over the last few months come together. See you in the next post, in search of wisdom!
- The Wisdom Seeker

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Gospel Stops "The Game"

It's been an extremely busy week with work, ministry and errands to run so I'm really glad that it's the weekend (although the weekend looks like it's filling up pretty quickly too)!

I've just arrived at the half-way mark in Tullian Tchividjian's "Jesus + Nothing = Everything", and it's given me so much to ponder, while transforming my mind to comprehend and marvel at the brilliant truth and beauty of the gospel. I've had to unlearn some wrong ideas in my Christian walk, repent of those sins and turn to Christ as my all-sufficient source of grace and power in my life. As the Holy Spirit has guided and brought me to those moments of conviction and change, I've felt free of those shackles and chains that burden the mind and heart.

As an example, in a section of Chapter 7 subtitled "Foolish or Free", Tullian wrote the following words that I found quite personally relevant and convicting:

    "God hates legalism. That message sounds throughout the Bible, and it's certainly a major theme of Paul's, especially in his letter to the Galatians. Legalism insists that my ongoing relationship with God is based on my ability to do good. That approach is always inconsistent with the gospel, and Paul shoots it down in every letter he writes - both through the way he structures those letters and in their content...In his letter to the Galatians, especially in chapter 1, Paul uses the strongest terms possible in exhorting believers to go back to the gospel as the one and only basis for their Christian lives....Paul goes on to declare, 'For freedom Christ has set us free;' and that must include letting go of the burden of having to 'become a better you.'" [1]

It was during December 2010 that I went through a time of some painful realizations and processing of memories and scars from my childhood years. This led to a four-part series of posts as I processed some of my childhood hurts, heroes, and realizations about both:
In the marvelous providence and timing of God, while working through similarly painful convictions brought to my attention by Tullian's book, I came across a video recently that told a similar story told in the life of my friend, Hannah. I have known Hannah now for about two years since she came to serve as a staff member for Campus for Christ in the metro Vancouver area. I had always known her as a conversationally witty, easy-going and laid-back woman who is committed to her faith and purpose in life and able to hold her own in a discussion. But as I watched this video, it struck me how little one might be aware of the deep scars of the heart that may lie below a friend's exterior, or their struggles. But as in my own painful episode of two years ago when God gently hammered away at my pseudo-armor and brought down my walls, Hannah's story also reminded of the deep love of Jesus and the tremendous power of His gospel to free us from our enslavement to sin. Here is Hannah on YouTube, recounting her journey in answering the question "Would you rather play and always lose or never play at all?"

Thanks for reading. See you in the next post, which will be carrying some very exciting news! Until then, grace and peace to you.
- The Wisdom Seeker

[1] Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Crossway, Wheaton IL, Pgs. 101 - 102

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

This Just Arrived....

New Arrivals!
Well, I just got home from small group 15 minutes ago, and sipping a cup of my custom hot chocolate mix before heading out for my weekly small group meeting at 5:30.

Before I go, just thought I'd share the contents of a parcel that was waiting for me inside my hallway when I walked through the front door. I guess the landlord must have put them there since they were too big for our mailbox.

I'm excited to have got Ravi Zacharias' new book, "Why Jesus? Discovering His Truth In An Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality." I've been looking forward to reading it since I first heard about it some months ago, and got it from Christian Book Distributors during their special offer last month.

Since there were some other items available on substantial discount, I also got myself DVDs of the movie "Fireproof" and the incredible documentary of "The Star of Bethlehem." I'm looking forward to showing the last one to my small group sometime soon. I think they'll find it really interesting. It amazed me the first time I watched it.

Time to hit the road in a few minutes. I might upload another post tonight after I get back. Till then, God bless!
- The Wisdom Seeker

[1] Fireproof: The Movie
[2] The Star of Bethlehem

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wanted: Courage To Be Courageous

A poster for the movie "Courageous", from Sherwood Pictures
"I will not leave you nor forsake you...only be strong and very courageous...Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9, NKJV

     It's the end of another Monday, and it'll be bedtime soon. I'm beginning to feel sleepy, but I want to write this post before I go to bed. It's been more than a month since I updated this blog, and it hasn't been for lack of things to think and write about. I think it's been a combination of indiscipline and lack of prioritization on my part, while being swamped by the busyness of everyday life. But it feels good to tap away at the keys again, and pour my thoughts out into writing. I think a definite sense of restlessness would pervade my life without my writing; it gives a sense of purpose, passion and above all, pleasure as I've been taking the effort to blog on a regular basis since I began taking it seriously.

     Although there are a number of things I've been wanting to write about (and which I will hopefully get around to in the next few days), this post is about the tremendous impact of the movie "Courageous", which I saw for the first time about two weeks ago after its release on DVD and Blu-ray. It had been in theaters last year when I went to visit my parents in Toronto, and caught my attention because it was made by the same people who created the movie "Fireproof" some years ago. I have now watched it twice at home, and I think I will be watching it a few more times in the weeks or months to come.

     "Courageous" was and still is deeply convicting on many, many levels. It has strengthened my desire to be a man after God's own heart, a man of integrity and purpose, possessing the nobility of conduct that stems from a nobility of character. It has driven home the seriousness of the call and responsibility that God places upon a man to lead, first himself and then others in the roles that he is given as a follower and servant of Christ, husband, father, friend, employee and many others. It has given me clarity and inspiration in my vision of the kind of man that I want to be, the kind of strong marriage that I must actively seek in order to build a God-honouring home and the kind of husband and father that I must become to leave a legacy of faith to the generations to come. Though I have conceptually understood this in my mind so far, I am now coming to better understand why this is important, after having seen it visually narrated in a powerful and compelling story that illustrates the lives of those men that obey and take up the call to courageously lead their lives, marriages, families and professions, and those that abandon and squander the opportunity to make an impact for God in the most important mission that they will ever be given.

     I have been contemplating this movie's message for over a week now, and increasingly so after watching it the second time. God is using it to burn the flame of passion that He has lit in my heart for His truth, gospel and glory and  tremendously shape my decisions and resolve. I'd like to share the music video of a song which is featured on the soundtrack of this movie, and shares its name. This is the song"Courageous", by Casting Crowns:

     The  following prayer with which I end this post is inspired by the lyrics of this song: Lord, make us courageous. Oh God of might and power, I need courage to answer Your call, no matter the consequence, or whatever you ask me to give up for the sake of your gospel and kingdom. For the sake of Your name. For the sake of Your kingdom. For the sake of Your glory. In Christ's name.

I want to be Courageous.