Dr. Schuller has helped my own pastoral ministry in a major way, inspiring me to believe the impossible.
Three years ago, my youngest son Quinn and I went to nearby Disneyland, had a great father-son time. From a long day and a long drive from Disneyland in Anaheim to Pasadena, California, my 11-year old Quinn and I arrived at the hotel around 10 pm, really tired after a long day at Disneyland, got to the desk and the receptionist said I didn’t have a reservation. I gave him my name: “Dan Chun, here’s my confirmation number, I called last night to say I was coming in and I got it confirmed. I had double-checked.”
“No.” said the desk clerk. “No, Dan Chun.”
I said, “How can this be? You have my confirmation number here it is. I just called last night, you have my name. So just give me another room.”
He said, “Sorry we are booked completely - no rooms.”
“But I had a reservation!”
“Sorry,” he said, “you’re not listed.”
So I said, “Well try the name of the company that made the reservation for me. Here’s the name of the secretary who made it for me – Wendy Walker.” Now here comes the fun part. I am I’m not exaggerating any of this. This is all true.
The desk clerk said to me, “oh, here is a reservation made by Wendy Walker for someone named Chun Dan.”
I said, “Well, that’s me. I mean see my credit card? Dan Chun, they just got the name mixed up.”
And the clerk said, “Sorry this reservation is for Chun Dan and you are not him according to your drivers license.”
For a brief moment I looked around, I’m thinking is there a hidden TV camera? Am I on one of those kind of TV shows, you know, that make fun of people publicly. So trying not to make my voice quiver with impatience, I said, “Listen, Dale (I read his name tag) listen Dale, what are the chances that you have a guest named Chun Dan listed and I, standing here, am Dan Chun and that we are not the same person?”
And Dale said, “Sorry sir, you are not Chun Dan.”
Under my breath I mumbled, “you got to be kidding.Okay, yes, I know that I’m Dan Chun but for this brief moment, please see me as Chun Dan!“What’s the chance that Chun Dan and I, Dan Chun, have the same confirmation number, and I gave you the name of Wendy Walker who made the reservation?”To which he looked at my piece of paper, with my confirmation number on it and he said, “Mmmm, you may have a point.”
To which I wanted to say in a very pastoral way. “Well, Duh!”But instead I said, “Yes, could you please look again? Confirmation number, Wendy Walker, Chun Dan, Dan Chun.”Finally he said, and I am not kidding, “okay I will give you Mr. Dan’s room.” To which I thought, “Tonight I am Mr. Chun Dan, thank you very much, I need my room.”
My wife later said, “Why does this always happen to you Dan? I mean I don’t know anyone else this happens to” and at that time, it was the only time it had ever happened in my life.
You would think it would never happen again, but it did again recently.
I went to Colorado Springs with our associate Pastor Sim Fulcher and our flight was delayed so we arrived at the airport again at 10pm. And we were tired traveling all the way from Honolulu to Las Vegas to Denver to Colorado Springs. And we got to the rental car desk and I saw that there was just one reservation packet with keys on it and we were their last customer. And I was relieved when I saw my name on the packet that said, “Chun COMMA Daniel.” Whew, they didn’t give up this last car. No cars left. Only reservation packet up there on the rack.
So I gave the agent my credit card and said, that’s my car reservation over there with the keys on it. I’m Daniel Chun. And he took my card and said, “Your credit card number doesn’t fit the reservation of this car.”
And I said well there must be a mistake, I mean I switched business cards recently and I guess I forgot to send you my new number but that’s me Daniel Chun.”
And he said, “I’m sorry, you’re not getting the car. Your credit card number does not fit with the reservation.”
Now Pastor Sim meanwhile was looking for our luggage while I was at the counter and I looked around the airport, and what I wanted to say was, “look mister, my name is a Chinese name, and take a look around; how many Chinese are there in this whole airport here in Colorado Springs.” Well instead I went through the routine again, politely as I could. “Sir, what are the chances that are at this late hour, that you only have one car left and that my name and the name on this reservation is the same and you knew that Daniel Chun was going to be arriving late on a flight, so here I am, with my ID that says Daniel Chun with my credit car number, a little off that I’m giving you a good one now, a new one so for tonight, please, I am Chun COMMA Daniel, and give me the car because it is freezing and windy on a cold Colorado night and this is the very last car!”
And he looked at me and at my ID and then at my credit card which it had my picture on it and he said, “Okay, here are the keys.”
People knowing our name is very important. Or to be clear the right people knowing our name is important. And with all of the identify theft, we only want the people whom we can trust to know us. But here is the good news. God, the Almighty God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Creator of the Universe loves us so much that He decided to come to earth in the form of a man, Jesus Christ to show us His love and how we can love others.
Furthermore, this God knows our name. He doesn’t get confused or have a deaf ear. Furthermore, this God said through Isaiah in the Old Testament, said this in the 41st chapter, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” This is not a distant God but a God who wants an intimate relationship with us. He is the kind shepherd who knows His flock, each sheep by name. We should not miss out on this important fact. God really loves us and really wants to have an ongoing wonderful, intimate, hanging out, guiding, mentoring, protecting, loving relationship with us. Everything we would want in a friend, a protector, a provider, a good parent, a Lord, He is it.
In fact, the Bible says He has known everything about us, even before we were born, before we were conceived by earthly parents. God said again in the Old Testament in Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Is that not amazing or what? In another part of the Bible it says in Isaiah, “Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you.” In fact, He says He has a destiny picked out for us waiting for us once we turn to Him. If we but trust Him, He will reveal that purpose, that job, that position, that cause.
These are difficult times for many people. The recession alone is hard. The savings, the pensions, the salaries have been slashed. Many have lost jobs. And for others, the depression has gone just one day too far, or for some, they may have just been blindsided by a pink slip and they’re fired, or those divorce papers or that medical report and you wonder what can I do, whom can I trust, does anyone care about me? But God knows your name with all of the billions and billions and billions of people, He knows your name, and He so much wants to help.
A name makes all of the difference in the world.
I once was golfing in Hawaii, in fact with one of the members of the Schuller family and I may be the pastor of a golf course but I confess I’ve only played golf maybe 10 times in my life. Ironically, golfing is not my hobby. But on this one day, I was starting on the back nine of a course other than ours and it was my very first swing of the day and my ball went slicing off to the right and hit a chain link fence. Actually if it had hit the chain link fence it would have just of dropped and died but no at a million to one shot I happened to hit the pole that held up the fence and the ball ricocheted back at my party and we all had to duck as it went sailing over our head.
As luck would have it, that hole was near a parking lot at a very exclusive private golf course and the club sailed over our heads into the parking lot and I must have hit every single Mercedes, Lexus, Jaguar, BMW in the world. It was awful to hear the ping, pang, pung as I was slowly adding up the cost in my mind of this one ball.
And my hosts and I walked towards the clubhouse to admit I was the culprit when suddenly a voice rang out from an angry man walking towards me, pointing “You, you hit my car! You, you hit my car!”And I was in trouble; he was coming at me like a torpedo with a polo shirt, when suddenly the grace of God came upon me. I don’t know how I remember this and I said, “Steve! You remember me! It’s Danny, Danny Chun. We grew up together. We haven’t seen each other for years, in fact your mom’s dad married my mom’s sister so that makes me your cousin! Like maybe second cousin or something!”
And the man looked stunned and said, “Oh, well then that’s okay then.” He knew my name and my name meant – family! God knows our name and it means family. And when you are part of God’s family, He will do anything to help. He adopted us. We are not then just His children of God but heirs of God with an inheritance. He is not just a God way up there who doesn’t care. He’s right here among us. He came down to earth as Jesus. What is God like? He is like Jesus? He is Jesus! And He can be our God, meaning He wants to have a personal relationship with us.
I was asked once what is my favorite Bible verse. Many to choose from but one of my favorites is clearly: Isaiah 41:10 because it shows the intimacy of a God who loves us. The verse says: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God.” And I love that your part. I am your God. Not that we own Him or control Him but that He is saying I know your name; I am your Heavenly Father, I am in your corner and we can have a relationship and what is that relationship like? Well the verse goes on. “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.”
And you get the feeling that God will pick you up even if it needs to be by the collar of your shirt and say I will pull you up and help you and get you back on your feet. Or as it says later in the book by that prophet Isaiah, the same prophet that predicted the coming of Jesus that if we follow Jesus or follow the Messiah we can say, “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”Friends, we all live in a stressful, painful, hurtful world. Wouldn’t we all want to be able to run and not be weary, and walk and not faint?
Many, many years ago, before I became a pastor, while in seminary I went through a terrible divorce. In fact, I flunked my New Testament exam the day after I got my divorce papers. Got an “F.” I was sad, in despair, depressed. My self-esteem was so low that I could probably walk under any door at that time. I remember asking a lawyer how do you get food stamps? No job. Didn’t know anyone in Pasadena. I was just about to start seminary. The embarrassment and humiliation was hard. I felt down for years. I didn’t ever think I would ever be competent or qualified to be a pastor going through a divorce I didn’t want. Some felt I shouldn’t be a pastor. That was it.
But the Lord knew my name even in my mother’s womb. He knew me as Daniel when I was born, as Danny when I was a child, and as Dan when I was an adult. This God pulled me through. And today, by God’s grace, I am a pastor. And last year was my 30th year of ordination and by God’s grace, and by God’s grace my church is healthy and growing and by His grace one of the largest in the denomination, and is so out of the box in reaching people that it does ministry out of a golf club.
God allowed me to have adventures in spite of my sorrow. By God’s mercy and grace, the seminary where I was such a loser and I felt I’d a big “L” on my forehead, that seminary just voted me in last month to be on its Board of Trustees at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. No way! Amazing grace.
Five years after the divorce I married my wife Pam, and she and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary this year. No way. To God be the glory. The God who knows my name gave me a second chance and blessed me. And He continues so show His grace.
Eight years before my youngest son Quinn and I went to Disneyland, we found Quinn one day with a fever that over time rose to 105 degrees. It wouldn’t go down. We discovered he had something called Kawasaki’s Syndrome, a disease that if not treated properly within eight days could kill the child. We had discovered it at three days. The clock was ticking.
But it just turned out that his pediatrician had seen the very first case of Kawasaki’s in Honolulu many, many years ago as a resident, and so he accurately diagnosed the disease and he said the one who discovered the treatment, the antidote for the entire world, happened to be practicing at a hospital three minutes from our house. Today Quinn is fully healthy and this fall enters 9th grade.
The God who knew my name said, “Do not be afraid, do not fear, for I am your God.” It is not to say that all people are saved from death or dying, or danger. I lost my mom after a long four and a half-year battle with lung cancer. It was hard and grueling and people who are miraculously healed by God well it doesn’t last forever or else no one would die. But this I know, there is a God and He loves us not apart from pain but in the midst of it in the trough of life.
And if you are going through a depression or despair, if the recession is getting you down and your finances are falling apart, if there is an illness that is scaring the heck out of you, if there is a relationship that is crumbing, if it feels that there’s no purpose in your life, do not give up. You may have suicidal thoughts but don’t do it. God is saying to you today don’t do it. I have a future and a hope for you, if you don’t give up. For He says, and read it with me on the screen, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you; I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.”
For this is a God who knows our name!
Amen! God bless you.