On Sunday in the wee morning hour Our Blessed Lord came and took Tante Margaret home.  And on Monday evening, or Tuesday morning in Jakarta, Our Blessed Lord came and took Oom Arief home.  Two faithful members of our church are now attending worship in the House of the Lord along with other believers.  They are no longer beset by illnesses or other human infirmities; instead, they are clothed with glory and filled with love and peace and joy.

The day before Tante Margaret slipped into eternity, Santy and I, along with Cynthia and Roni had the honor of singing and praying with her and for her. Despite the oxygen mask she had to put on her face, she remained in good spirits.  She sang along and conversed with us.  Hours later she peacefully joined the heavenly hosts.  A couple of months ago I had the privilege of visiting Tante Betsy and Oom Arief in Jakarta.  As I shared with you, they were happy to see me and looked forward to “going home” to Monrovia where for years they lived and worshipped with us week after week. But God had a different plan, a better one, instead of Monrovia, it’s Heaven.

Isaiah (55:8-9) reminds us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  Once again, we are reminded that we do not know about tomorrow and that we can only make plans for tomorrow.  His plans may be the same or different from those of ours, but should they be different, we will still rejoice because we know that His plans are better than ours. 

On my birthday our daughter made her children create birthday cards for me. One of them drew me and him walking along the trees while holding a balloon.  To me, that’s the closest thing to being in Heaven. I am sure that you will agree with me that it is a far better place than anywhere on earth.  Heavens are always a better plan.

Pastor Paul

Those of you who already attended our church in the late 70’s and early 80’s might still remember Oom Po Djin, later knowns as Gene Ho, or Pastor Gene Ho.  On Monday Our Lord Jesus came and took him home.  The last few years had been hard for him as he was beset by physical challenges.  But each time he came out of it, he never forgot to give thanks to God.  I never heard him complain.

Oom Po Djin was the pianist of our church, perhaps, the first pianist. He was so talented that he could play classical pieces as easily as he played contemporary ones.  Sunday after Sunday he sat at the piano bench to accompany congregational singing, until Santy came and alternated with him.  And of course, our beloved Oom John would preach, and lead the congregational singing every Sunday, until one day he asked me to the lead the congregational singing.  His reason was, “I cannot reach the high notes anymore.”  Thank you, Oom! 

The past is the present.  We cannot incise the past; it is and will be in us.  Hence, the more and the better seed we planted in the past, the more and the better fruit we will reap in the present.  Oom John at the pulpit and Oom Po Djin at the piano both planted good seeds.  And these seeds continue to bear fruit even till today.  “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them,” John the Apostle reminds us in Revelation 14:13.  Rest, Oom Po Djin.

The older I get, the more I understand and appreciate opportunities.  I’d like to think that we can create opportunities, but I do not think so.  Opportunities are given from Above; they are gifts from God.  And they are like the train; they stop at the stations, but they move again.  If we do not get on board, we will be left behind.  And so is it with opportunities. Sent by the Good Lord, they come, and they go. 

Pastor Paul

Thank you for your love for my family and me which you showed me on my birthday.  I appreciate every bit of it. Now I can proudly say that I have officially joined the Medicare Club of FIBC.  We are one!

On a different and sad note I must inform you that Tante Margaret, Roni’s mom was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday for urinary tract infection.  When Bengky and I saw her, we felt sad because she could barely talk.  She tried to but it was inaudible.  Please pray for her that she will get better and stronger so she can go home.  Such is life, isn’t it?  One person’s happy day is another person's sad day.

We do not know what awaits us, but this is what matters: We are not alone.  To celebrate my birthday, our children and their families came.  I was not alone.  When we visited Tante Margaret, Laureen, her daughter, and Cynthia, her daughter in-law were there with her.  She was not alone.  Days may be bright, days may be dark, but if we are not alone, the bright days will be brighter and the dark days will not be as gloomy.  So, while we are healthy, cultivate relationships, not only with each other but also with God Our Maker and Father.

A friend in ministry told me a sad story about his son’s birthday.  His son decorated the hall by himself and sent the invitations himself.  On the day of his birthday, he waited, but nobody showed up.  My friend told me how devastated his son was; there was no one to celebrate his birthday with; he was all alone.  Be it a birthday or a sick day, if we’re alone, neither will be bearable; both are painful.

Psalm 37:25 reminds us, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken.”  Please note that the Bible does not say, “the rich, the famous” forsaken; it is the righteous.  We who live righteously will not be alone; God with us, others too.

Pastor Paul

Once upon a time a wealthy man comes to a Bible school in a small town.  After touring the facility, he then expresses the purpose of his visit: He wants to enroll his son in that school.  The problem is that not only is the son engaged in a sinful life, but he is also not known to have much interest in spiritual matters.  The father is of course aware of his son’s moral condition, but he is hoping that attending a Bible school might do his son good.  The president of the Bible school politely explains that a Bible school is a training facility for those called and are ready to serve God, so it is not a good fit for this young man. The right answer to a difficult situation.

The name of the president of that Bible school is Dr. Albert Ko, a humble and quiet man of God, who just slipped into the presence of the Lord last Monday.  I served under his leadership when I joined the Bible school in 1991.  The person who related to me the story is a former colleague of mine who happened to be a student at the Bible school when the incident happened.  He always remembers the incident because Dr. Ko’s decision not to admit this young man showed not only courage, but also integrity under pressure.

You see, at the time the Bible school was struggling financially; it’s almost certain admitting this wealthy man’s son would guarantee a better financial future.  But like a rock, Dr. Ko was unmoved; he held on to the Rock of Ages, Christ Our Lord, to provide.  He did not bow to pressure, and he did not compromise his integrity.  A humble and quiet man, not known to many outside the Bible school community, but was intimately known and loved by those who knew him.

It was a quiet morning when God the Father came and raised Jesus from the dead.  Neither the disciples nor the crowd were there, only some soldiers.  You see, God does His greatest work when it is quiet.

Pastor Paul

In his book, Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson writes, “Something we cannot see protects us from something we do not understand.”  I cannot agree more.  God knows that we are not as ready as we think we are in knowing something.  He knows that knowing before our time might prove to be more harmful than good.  Hence, what God does is He shields us from seeing something we should not see. 

In his farewell speech, Moses the servant of the Lord said this to the Israelites, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  I wonder what Moses was thinking when he said this.  I wonder if he thought about his experience of walking with God, how God led him out of Egypt after living there as a prince of Egypt for 40 years, how he lived and raised his humble family in Midian for 40 years, and how God finally called him to lead His people for the last 40 years of his life, how he, in each phase of his life, had no clue what God had in store for him, and how he only obeyed what was revealed to him.

When Mary heard the call to anoint Jesus Our Lord with her costly perfume, I imagine, she must be confused and perhaps, wondered if she had heard correctly.  That’s a lot of perfume—and money—to give away.  But it was revealed to her, so it belongs to her—for her to obey.  So, she obeyed.  Did she know that what she was about to do would reverberate even till today, 2000 years later?  No.  Did she know that Jesus Our Lord was going to be crucified days later and be buried?  No.  Did she know that perfume was never poured upon the body of Jesus after His death because by the time the other women came to do it on the third day, Jesus had already risen?  No.  She did not know but what she knew, she obeyed.  So, the honor was given to Mary of Bethany, who always sat at Jesus’ feet. 

Pastor Paul

C. S. Lewis writes, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.”  I can see the point that Lewis tries to make but I must also say that the fact that God shouts in our pain doesn’t make it easier for us to understand the message of pain and suffering.  Pain and suffering can be so confusing that we cannot ascertain what God is trying to say to us through it.

That explains why in Gethsemane, Our Blessed Savior struggled to accept His Father’s will for Him to die on the cross.  And that also explains why on the cross, Jesus the Son of God cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Pain and suffering so covers our eyes and close our ears that we cannot see what God is doing and hear what He is trying to tell us.  So, this is what I usually tell those who are in pain and suffering, “Do not try to understand the message behind all this pain and suffering because you may not understand it.  Let it be.  In God’s time, He will reveal it to you.”

Even though the disciples were around Jesus Our Lord all the time and heard Him speak about His arrest and death, they still did not get it.  They finally got it later—after the fact, after Jesus Our Lord rose from the dead, after He ascended to His Heavenly Father.  But once they got it, they stayed faithful to the end.  But here is what we need to know: The key to their understanding the message of suffering was that they remained close to the heart of Jesus.

So, that is what we will also do—to remain close to the heart of God and wait—wait on Him and wait for Him.  Mrs. Charles Cowman in the Streams in the Desert explains, “When we wait on God, He is waiting till we are ready; when we wait for God, we are waiting till He is ready.”  When we are ready, He will let us know the message that comes with it.  Then we will wait for Him to get us out.

Pastor Paul

Yesterday our sister Shinta and our brother Pardi celebrated their golden anniversary.  Congratulations!  The fact that they have been together—lovingly together—for 50 years is nothing short of great.  But what makes this union special is also the fact that for the past few years our brother Pardi has been sick.  He is no longer able to talk or to remember much anymore.  Despite his limitations, our sister has always been there for him, treating him with the same love and respect that have bound them together all these years.

Some say that the greatest gift we can give to our children is the brain, or education.  All the knowledge and skill they learn will be their future assets.  I agree.  Some also say that the greatest gift we can give our children is the spirit, or spiritual heritage.  What they see in us as we walk obediently with the Lord will motivate them to lead a godly life.  I also agree.  There is one more thing that we sometimes neglect to mention: the heart or relationship with our spouses.  The stronger, the more harmonious, the more loving our relationship is, the more equipped they will be in building their marriage and family.  And the kinder they will be toward others.

Marriage is not meant to be easy. I am sure our sister Shinta and our brother Pardi will agree with me.  Marriage is meant to be so hard that only those who love each other and are committed to each other can keep it together, and not break it.  Marriage is also meant to be hard because only that which is hard will render the greatest reward.  And the reward of marriage is not only love and satisfaction but also seeing our children grow to be full of love, full of commitment, and full of obedience to God and us, their parents.

Congratulations to our sister Shinta and our brother Pardi.  You’ve set a good example to us; in sickness and health you stay and love.

Pastor Paul

Life is full of struggles, but some have more than others.  Days ago, I spoke with someone who has been struggling over the course of decades.  The thoughts of suicide have come and gone; it is the fear of the Lord that has kept these desires at bay.  Ever since I first met him over a dozen years ago, he’s always been depressed.  He told me that he felt guilty and ashamed of himself for letting God down.

He thought of himself as a failure and believed that God thought so, too.  I disagreed with him.  I told him that the fact that he’s standing firm against the current, despite a few steps back from time to time, showed that he’s making progress: he’s not failing, he’s moving on.  Had he given up, he would have been swept by the current and we would not be having this conversation.  Standing matters!

This reminds me of an illustration given by C. S. Lewis about taking a test that we know we’ll fail.  There are two choices: We can either leave the paper blank or we can try to answer it as best as we can.  If we leave the paper blank, we will get no point at all or zero, but if we try, we’ll get some points. God looks at our efforts and He gives us points for trying.  At times standing matters more than walking. 

At the beginning of the week our sister Andri was admitted to the hospital and had to be put on a ventilator.  When Santy and I saw her, in a comatose state, our hearts crushed.  But when we saw her again a couple of days ago, our hearts leaped with joy.  She was off the ventilator and all cheerful; for the first time in weeks, we could communicate with her. Yes, she did not recognize us and could not remember going to church but this was what she said about church, “I love church.”  Coming out of her mouth, that touched our hearts. She can’t do much; she cannot sing in the choir or clean the church.  But she can still love the church.  To God that is more than enough.

Pastor Paul

God uses men and women alike. Years ago, when I visited a small town in Java, I was told by the pastor of the church that they had a ministry up in a mountain outside of town. But the ministry was not started by him or the church that he pastored; it was started by a woman missionary. Despite her limited ability to communicate in the local language, she managed to win many to Christ.

One of the women God used in a special way was Amy Carmichael,a British woman who gave 53 years of her life serving God in India. One of the men that influenced her was Jeremy Taylor, a British pastor who lived in the 17th century. One of his prayers that he wrote became her prayer for life, “Lord, do Thou turn me all into love, and all my love into obedience, and let my obedience be without interruption.” A beautiful and powerful prayer, especially the last part of it, “let my obedience be without interruption.”

As I reflect on it, I must admit that my obedience is often with interruption. There are times when I take a break and do not obey God. In other words, I am not always consistent. So, it is fitting for us who take following God seriously to strive to obey Him without interruption. At any time, in whatever condition, we obey Him. But as the prayer indicates, it can only be made possible by love. We obey God because we love Him. Only love can make us obey God consistently, without interruption. Without love, nothing lasts.

And it was her mother’s love for Jesus that released Amy to go to India as a young woman, as she eloquently wrote to her dear child, “So, darling, when He asks you now to go away from within my reach, can I say, no? No, no, Amy, He is yours—you are His—to take you where He pleases and to use you as He pleases. I can trust you to Him . . . . “ Let our love and obedience be without interruption.

Pastor Paul

In his book, 12 Rules for Life, Jordan B. Peterson points out that it is not easy to live with healthy people. The reason is a good, healthy person is an ideal, hence, it requires strength and courage to be near such a person. Simply put it behooves us to have humility to be near a healthy person. It’s like standing in front of a mirror and seeing who we are; healthy people show us who we really are.

In the same way we might not like to be near godly people. Being near them requires humility and courage because we get to see who we really are. And we might not like what we see. It is no wonder that we often run from those who lead a godly life. We do not want to see what we don’t like to see. And that is what godly people do to us, even though they may not even want to do that.

God brings different people to our paths for a lot of reasons; one of them is for us to see who we are. King Saul should have benefited from David because David was not only a healthy individual, but he was also a godly man. Living near David should have given Saul a clear picture of who he was and driven him to grow to be a better man. Unfortunately, Saul did not seize the opportunity for growth; on the contrary, he tried to squash David. The same we can say about Cain. Instead of repenting, he resorted to killing Abel.

God uses a variety of ways to call us to repentance and growth and He gives us plenty of opportunity. Whether or not we make full use of the opportunity depends on one factor, as pointed out by Jordan Peterson, humility and courage. We, who are not humble, and we who have little courage to confront our own vices, will usually waste the opportunity given to us. The end is often tragic, as we can see in the lives of Cain and Saul. So, when God brings healthy and godly persons into our lives, welcome them, and thank God for them.

Pastor Paul