When Love Came Down

I was very encouraged by church today. I woke up and prepared the message (I don’t want to use the word sermon because I am not a pastor). I seem to hold off on preparation until late Saturday/early Sunday, and in the past few weeks it’s been a cause for a bit of guilt. Even though I did all the preparation only a few hours before service, I felt the message almost write itself. Romans 10:14-21 is straightforward but with very poignant lessons. Salvation is a 5-part process: 1) sending of a preacher, 2) preaching of the good news, 3) hearing of the good news, 4) believing in the good news, 5) calling on the name of the Lord.

A lot of preachers use this passage as support for missions, and they are right to do so. However, as I read John Piper’s sermon manuscript and Matthew Henry’s commentary, I was reminded that the “Israel problem” is still in full view in Romans 10. The whole reason for writing of the process of salvation was to justify the need for Paul to witness to the Gentiles in the face of the Jewish rejection of the gospel. Romans 9:1-5 and 10:1-4 demonstrate Paul’s burden for his fellow countrymen. By quoting the Old Testament prophecies, he shows that Israel’s rejection of the gospel is all part of God’s plan.

For the Gentile believer, Romans 10 should produce two equally deep emotions. The first is thankfulness, that because of Israel’s hardheartedness, God chose to open the inheritance promised to Israel to the Gentiles. The second is brokenness, for it was only because Israel rejected the gospel that it was spread to the ends of the earth. The joys of the overwhelming response in Gentile hearts is tempered by the sadness of the persistent stubbornness of Jewish hearts. Romans 11 goes over this more thoroughly, and there’s a verse that sums it up well: “So I ask, did they [Israel] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (11:11-12).

I reminded the congregation (seems strange for me to use that word in place of “the kids”) that if not for the sending of missionaries to Korea and their gospel work, we probably wouldn’t be sitting together in that room today. When I prepared for the message, I read the story of Robert Jermain Thomas and his early death at age 27 at the banks of Korea in 1866. I finally saw photographs of Horace Allen (1858-1932) and Horace Underwood (1859-1916), the first Presbyterian missionaries to Korea, and upon matching their faces to their names, I felt a deep gratitude for their work. During service, I told them of how barely 150 years ago, Korea was vehemently anti-Christian. How blessed we are now by the presence of the gospel in so many households in the Korean-American community.

There were many small things that encouraged me today. They all pointed toward increasing unity and love for one another and for the church. The kids didn’t need to be told to sit down as the start time neared. Almost everyone brought their Bibles today and was attentive as I taught. I told Austin he should do the OHP (overhead projector) every week without being told and he agreed to do it ungrudgingly. The tambourine wasn’t a source of distraction this week, probably partly because I told them it shouldn’t be. Everyone seemed more animated during praise, as in actually singing rather than blankly staring at the front. Our last song was “When Love Came Down,” by Stuart Townend, the gifted songwriter behind the beloved modern hymns “In Christ Alone” and “How Deep the Father’s Love.” The second verse is so moving, especially with the pause between its final two lines.

When Love Came Down

When love came down to earth
And made His home with men,
The hopeless found a hope,
The sinner found a friend.
Not to the powerful
But to the poor He came,
And humble, hungry hearts
Were satisfied again.

What joy, what peace has come to us!
What hope, what help, what love!

When every unclean thought,
And every sinful deed
Was scourged upon His back
And hammered through His feet.
The Innocent is cursed,
The guilty are released;
The punishment of God
On God has brought me peace.

Come lay your heavy load
Down at the Master’s feet;
Your shame will be removed,
Your joy will be complete.
Come crucify your pride,
And enter as a child;
For those who bow down low
He’ll lift up to His side.

Grace was willing to take care of the offering basket every week. Andrew was more friendly today. A lot of people helped out with lunch. Jisun seems more outgoing to everyone, not just with people her age, which is awesome because she only just started attending about a month ago. We had cake for Justin, who turned 19 last week, and we didn’t really have to tell the kids to gather together; they just all came in and we sang happy birthday. Sandy, who normally sits with the 1st gen kids, sat with the rest of us since there was no space with them. I arm wrestled Brian and John. We laughed with (at? haha) Austin as Andrew made him do calisthenics. We had bing soo at Ice Keki and had to stuff someone in my trunk to fit everyone for the drive there. It seems everyone looks forward to fellowship after church now.

We’ve added new people, too, which is crazy. They’re bringing their friends, and they’re staying. I would love for their to be more diversity in future growth, particularly more 2nd gens, high schoolers, and unchurched. If we do get churched members, I would love for them to be mature believers who are willing to serve and lead. But this is encouraging as it is.

Thank You, Lord.

One response to this post.

  1. praise God! glad things our turning around at church and it’s haunting and awe-striking at the same time how if Mr. Allen and Mr. Underwood never had the heart for Korea, we would be living very different lives right now.

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