Overwhelming Kindness (Thank you Berean Baptist Church Livonia)
I don’t know about you but I almost never cry in front of other people. I remember on my wedding day shedding a tear when I saw my wife walking down the isle towards me. The dam walls around my eyes could no longer hold back the overflowing river of joy that I felt. I believe that tears are a wonderful gift from God that helps give expression to our feelings. For some the waterworks open easily, for others it tends to be a bit harder – I am the latter kind of person. So, whenever I do cry, it can only be because something incredibly moving has happened. Well, that happened for me yesterday (25 Oct 2017). Aven and I have been blessed to be part of a missions conference hosted by Berean Baptist Church Livonia. I don’t think I have ever experienced this level of generosity and kindness. Let me explain.
So the church invites 5 missionary families to be part of their annual conference. Sunday to Friday night missionaries get to share their work to the church and then we get to sing praise songs and listen to a sermon. Pastor Bob Johnson from Cornerstone Baptist Church Roseville Michigan is the keynote speaker. We have enjoyed exceptional preaching focused on missions being the heartbeat of God. These sermons have been a tonic for my soul.
On top of the great preaching, the church has welcomed us with open arms. Each night we are treated to meals, our host family has been a tremendous blessing to us, we are given so many words of encouragement and kindness…and then came the gifts. Aven was at a ladies meeting and sent me a message: “Come help carry”. Huh? When I got to the church to pick her up I saw SO many gifts from people in the church! People who don’t even know us. Its hard to put these feelings into writing. After we packed the car, as we were driving back to our host family, the weight of it all just became too great. The waters of emotion surged again, the dam walls collapsed, I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the tremendous generosity, kindness, and unconditional friendship offered by people I hardly knew, people I can never pay back.
At this conference I feel like one of the Old Testament characters in the Bible; Mephibosheth. Know him? He was the son of Jonathan who was the son of King Saul. Jonathan was killed in battle when Mephibosheth was 5 years old. Fearing that the Philistines will also kill the boy, a nurse rushed to try and get Mephibosheth to safety but in her haste she dropped him and he became a cripple for life.
Some years later, David conquered all of Israel’s enemies and in an effort to show loyalty to his friend Jonathan – David called for Mephibosheth. This guy must have been quaking in his sandals, it was well known that kings destroy any trace of the previous king’s descendants in order to wipe out any competition to the throne. So imagine, Mephibosheth standing before one of the most powerful kings…oops, he was probably sitting; remember he was a cripple! He is from the house of Saul, and he has absolutely nothing to offer David as a way of negotiation. But David responds in the most incredible way. David commits to showing Mephibosheth covenant faithfulness. David honors this man, he gives land to this man, he gives him a place in the royal palace, he showers him with grace, upon grace, upon grace! I am pretty sure the waterworks were flowing as Mephibosheth listened to David’s kind words. I am pretty sure this man had an incredible feeling of being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by kindness.
I relate to the story in the way I have been treated by this church. I have been given far, far, far more than what I deserve. I am a ordinary South African, I am by no means a superstar missionary, I am not much known to the people of this church. Yet they decided to shower us with such kindness. For that reason I feel like Mephibosheth.
But far more than this, I relate to the story on another level. God has decided to give me far, far, far more than what I deserve. I have been spiritually and physically crippled by my own sin. I cannot stand on my own feet, I cannot live in a way that glorifies God. I am broken, shamed, and condemned to a hopeless existence. BUT GOD! He stepped into my world to rescue me from the crippling affect of sin. Isaiah 40:31 – He makes me rise on wings like eagles, he makes me run and not grow weary.
Like Mephibosheth I am from the wrong house, a descendant of Adam. Yet through Jesus I am brought into friendship with God. Colossians 1:22 – I have been reconciled back to God through Christ. Like Mephibosheth I had no home, I had no family. But Jesus right now is preparing a place for me. John 14:3.
I have nothing in my life that I can use to bargain with God. Nothing to negotiate with. I am a cripple, poor, homeless, enemy standing in the presence of a Holy King. But this king is infinitely compassionate, kind and gentle. He is full of covenant faithfulness. He is a king worthy of my worship. This king exchanged his crown of glory for a crown of thorns. He exchanged his throne for a cross. He gave himself up for my sins so completely, how can I not be overwhelmed?
I hope that you will also be overwhelmed by this love and grace that God offers us through his Son Jesus.