Volume. XXXI, No. 28
Sunday, 08 January 2017


From the Pastors Heart: Truly Unknowable Grace of God


I do not know how you Christians feel about even pastors experiencing depression.  Right from the beginning, I need to clarify that I am not writing about depression and God’s grace because I am going through depression.  Though there were times of disappointments, I have not personally experienced depressions.  However, there are even sincere Christians who are the victims of depression.  Many times, reasons are not known to them.  Only sometimes we may understand the circumstances that must have caused them to be so saddened and discouraged even to the extent that they experience depression.  I heard about a seminary lecturer, an ordained minister, who had to quit his ministry because his wife divorced him.  He was innocent and his wife betrayed him.  Such circumstances deprived him of his seminary and church ministries.  What a difficult circumstance it was to him!  I also heard about a young preacher who just graduated from seminary.  The day when he received his graduate degree from seminary was the day when his wife told him that she would leave him.  His wife told him that she would not like to be a preacher’s wife.  Illness of mind and body can decimate a pastor’s life.  Probably, you know of Charles Haddon Spurgeon very well.  He was such an exceptional preacher, and affectionately known as the preacher of preachers.  His church in London, Metropolitan Tabernacle, grew into a huge mega church.  However, he fell into deepest depression and frequently referred to this affliction in his messages.  For example, he once said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”  He died in the very prime of his life.  Only God knows the reason for such sorrow and trial.  However, such state of pain and much troubles does not indicate that there was lack of the grace of God in the lives of these precious servants of the Lord.  Externally, we may see only miseries, but they lived in the grace of God, and it is something I’d like to talk about. 

Though we see different circumstances, we also find unspeakable grace even in such circumstances.  Look at Paul.  Paul had to endure afflictions.  For sure, he suffered much physical afflictions.  He also suffered great deal of inner afflictions.  For example, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”  The intensity of persecutions and trials he had to suffer with was very high and severe.  His tribulations were extraordinary in degree, and he felt great despair even to think that he was virtually dead.  In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul said of his great affliction for which he had to plead with God three times.  He described his condition as weakness and infirmities.  In fact, in verse 10, he says that he was in infirmities, in necessities, in persecutions, and also in distress for Christ’s sake.  Despite all these unbelievable circumstances, he relays the message of God to us in verse 9, “my [God’s] grace is sufficient for thee.”  I cannot explain this kind of grace with any words but “unknowable grace” experienced by the people of God.  People may be even sympathetic with him and have pity on him.  Paul’s new perspective argues that it was all of God’s grace! 

I would like to share some people’s testimonies which cannot but be experienced only by the unknowable grace of God.  I have been reading a book written by Tom Doyle, Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe.  This book talks about some modern day martyrs of Christ, who should not be pitied but honored.  I’d like to share some of their life and faith stories for us to know more about God’s grace.

In recent years, we have heard so many stories about Iraq and Syria because of ongoing wars and refugee issues.  Especially, ISIS has been in the center of many news items and discussions.  In particular, a place in Iraq, called Mosul, has been the hottest news source because of the most recent government attacks of the city against ISIS.  There are lots of human crises.  However, most of us have very little knowledge of Christians and Christian churches in such an area.  It has been known that in Mosul, ISIS gave Christians only four choices: convert to Islam, pay a large and unaffordable jizya (tax), leave, or die.  Having heard such inhumane stories, cruelty, harsh treatments against virtually everyone, torture, so-called Moslem fundamentalists’ practice of extreme sharia laws and modern day slavery, most of us, if not all of us, have never thought of the presence of any Christian in such an environment. 

Mosul is the ancient city once called Nineveh.  This city is well known to us through the Bible story of Jonah.  Jonah chose to run from God rather than obey the call to go there.  If we are modern day Jonahs and God calls us to go there to preach, I wonder how many of us will travel to Mosul (Nineveh), not to Tarshish (possibly Spain, or some scholars say Great Britain).  If we correctly understand the situation, I am sure that not many of us will jump into a barrage of criticism and sarcasm against Jonah.  For centuries, the Ninevites had earned a reputation as the most brutal regime anywhere.  The prophet Nahum had also brought a message of “repent or else” to the Ninevites, which worked for a while.  But they quickly returned to their treachery.  They killed, tortured, and maimed men, women, and children - and bragged about it.  They were even known to skin people alive!  Others so feared the Ninevites that sometimes entire villages committed suicide once they found out Ninevites were headed their way (Kindle reading, 1254).

Probably what followers of Christ in Syria fear most are the crucifixions.  It’s a horrifying prospect.  Death on a cross is gruesome, and on top of that, crowds mock and torture the believers leading up to actually nailing them onto crosses.  Some who face this are new in the faith.  There are still people who die of this cruel form of execution two thousand years after the Lamb of God went to the cross in Jerusalem. 

Ibrahim al-Medina was converted to Christianity, a believer of Jesus Christ of only eleven months.  His heart was burnt with passion to share the message of Jesus with his people.  Though he knew that his conversion story must have reached his home town, for sure to his father’s ears, a ranking member of ISIS, he walked back to his home in Mosul.  He knew the danger of this journey.  Despite warnings and persuasions from his best, he went home in Mosul and met his mother.  Then, his father stormed into the house and found him.  He said to the father, “Father, if you kill me, I will have completed my holy pilgrimage.  God sent me here to bring you the truth.  You are the family I love – nothing can change that.  But it is Jesus who has set me free. . . . I am not afraid to die.”  The father, Jihad al-Medina, said, “We will see if that is true.”  “Within an hour, Ibrahim knelt in the intersection by the northwest corner of the Al-Nabi Yunus Mosque; hands duct-taped harshly behind his back and tinged blue from lack of circulation. . . . Jesus . . .  forgive my family.  Forgive these people.  Please show them mercy.  Jihad al-Medina touched the muzzle of his AK-47 to Ibrahim’s forehead and spattered the mob with his son’s head” (Kindle reading loc. 1333-1346).

I do not fully understand all aspects of God’s grace.  However, one thing we should not ignore is that even in the seemingly darkest moment of life, there is still the sufficient grace of God.  It was the grace of God leading Ibrahim to martyrdom, and it is also the grace of God leading us to a quiet life.  After all, all in our lives is of His grace.

Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements


*Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Sisters Amy Han, Clara Ki & Bernadette Ng. Helpers next week: TBA.
*Working Bees required on Sat, 21 & 29 Jan, to help with moving of furniture from Rectory to church building, & from BCSA & Stone Mansion to new premises respectively.
*Please encourage and support Providence BPC this afternoon, if you are able. Afternoon service begins at 3pm at the home of Pastor David & Sis Susan Weng, followed by dinner.
*Cambodia Missions, 13 - 21 Feb 2017. If you are interested to go with Pastor Ki, please inform Elder Michael D Lee ASAP.


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Dn Sung Hyun & Sis Amy Ma & family; Dn John Wong (Melb/Adl) & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Dedication & Thanksgiving, Calvary BPC (Jurong).


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev George van Buuren; Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore); Grandpa Ki (S’pore); & others in affliction.
Special Prayer: Rev Edward Paauwe (recovery & rehab from surgery).
God’s comfort & strength for Mrs Lehia Paauwe.
Healing & guidance for Bro David Paauwe.
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Laos Missions.
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for Task Force & congregation.
God’s guidance & help in new ministry in Wagga Wagga - Rev Alfred & Sis Ruth Ngoma & family.
Encouragement & God’s guidance to Pastor David Weng & Providence BPC.
God’s guidance for our theological students next year - Dn Sung Hyun Ma & Bro Kevin Low.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Journey mercies: Dn John Wong (Melb/Adl); & others who are travelling.
Health & safety in pregnancy: Sis Tabitha Tan.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
God’s guidance for settlement of new church on 20 Jan 2017.
Australia - Salvation of Australians & for our politicians to govern this nation with justice & equity.
God’s guidance for Covenant, Ebenezer, Hope & Providence BPCs to form an Australian B-P Presbytery.
Unity of doctrine & fellowship of Australian B-P churches.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063