My Reflections on this Thanksgiving: A Testimony

Rev. Peter Liu

ast Sunday, we left Jackson, Mississippi for the Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and we got home this evening. Tomorrow is the annual Thanksgiving Day again. The last two days, people have been dropping off turkeys for the patients at the Children’s Hospital and their families. In truth, I am in no mood to be thankful. To whom should I be thankful? Is there anything to be thankful about? Should I give thanks for the tumor growing in my daughter’s brain? Should I give thanks for the insurmountable issues I am facing? Should I give thanks for the sleepless nights I have endured and the uncontrolled weeping I have experienced? Should I give thanks for the helplessness I feel waiting anxiously for the test results of my daughter? The answer given by God through His word is always, “Yes!” We are to give thanks to God for the answered and unanswered prayers. We are to give thanks to God for health and the time of reunion, for sickness and separation. We are to give thanks to God for not allowing us to remain in this world forever.

“O Lord! I thank you not because you allowed me to experience the pain of life, death and separation, but because through it all, you have allowed me to experience the truth of your promise and your presence. I thank you, not because I have understood or accepted the challenges I face, but because through those challenges I know I have you with me. Answers are not what I seek, only that you will be with me forever.” This has been my prayer and my cry to the Lord.

A year ago, I was at a church in New Jersey. As soon as I have finished preaching my sermon, a sister whom I did not know came up to me and her words continue to ring in my ears to this very day. She said: “God will use you mightily but you will first have to undergo much pain.” At the beginning I did not think too much about it. In my heart I knew I had experienced much pain and suffering having faced death many times and survived, the emotional toll of painful relationships, and enduring sicknesses. It never occurred to me that the pain I had to endure in Joanna’s illness was so devastating and whose condition I was unable to accept. Whether this sister was speaking the truth or not is of no concern of mine, but the experience of pain was just too overwhelming for me. It was the pain in a father’s heart! In those days that have gone by, whether it is theological reflection and experiencing the love of God existentially, I have placed my focus on Jesus Christ and Him crucified but I have not thought much about the feelings of God, the Father. But now, being a father myself experiencing the pain of seeing my own daughter in her condition, I have now come to understand the pain of the Father. In truth, as the Father looked upon His Son on the cross, the pain He felt is more painful than the pain experienced by His Son. The One who was crucified was not only His Son, it was God Himself. For 33 years, from the time Jesus came till His resurrection, God the Father, in a sense, has sacrificially nailed Himself on the cross. As a father, how much I would long to be able to do something and pay whatever price possible to save my own. But I am unable to. As God the Father, He has absolute power to be able to save His Son, Jesus, by giving up on sinners who had abandoned Him. But, He did not choose to save His Son. Rather, He chose to save a depraved people like you and me. Yes! For the sake of love, He did not choose to save Himself, nor His Son, but sinners! Love is forsaking what you treasure most. That is what it means to love sacrificially. I now realize that I lacked in me this sacrificial love. I am not willing to give of myself sacrificially, more so my daughter. But the Heavenly Father has sacrificially given to love us. In reflection, I am so ashamed of myself! But all the more I am thankful!

Therefore, at this Thanksgiving, I want to be especially thankful to you for your sacrificial love. I want to thank you for Jesus and to you as God. Therefore, in these difficult times when the world finds it difficult to be thankful, I want to invite all of my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, to give thanks to God the Father and to His Son for what was given and done for us. Hidden from us in the obedience of the Son is the immense sacrifice of the Father. May the Holy Spirit allow you to experience the salvation brought about by this sacrificial love this Thanksgiving.

I had just prayed with my daughter and to thank God for this wonderful love for us. She is now soundly asleep and at peace. I know my Heavenly Father will take care of her and of me. He will give me the heavenly peace that only He can give and to be able to share with you this eternal love of God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Peter Liu, on the Eve of Thanksgiving, November 22 2017

(Pastor Peter is Pastor of the Chinese Baptist Church of Greater Jackson, Mississippi and a Vice President of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the US and Canada and has responsibilities for the Church Planting Initiative.)

為何感恩 : 我的見証及反思

刘奇峰牧師

周日出发去孟菲斯的儿童医院,直到今天傍晚回来。 明天就是一年一度的感恩节了!这两天都有人送火鸡给儿童医院的病人和家属。但是,真是无法提起精神感恩!感谢谁呢? 有哪些感恩的事情呢? 难道为女儿的肿瘤感恩吗? 难道为无法奔赴的事工感恩吗? 难道为了夜里无法睡着,无奈的哭泣感恩吗? 难道为束手无策,焦急等待化验结果感恩吗? 圣经给我的答案总是”是的!” 要感谢神, 为那蒙垂听的祷告,也为那没有被应允祷告。要感谢神,为健康和团圆的日子, 也为疾病分离的日子。要感谢神,赐下生命,也感谢神不让我们永久留在这个世界!

“主啊, 我感谢你不是因为我要在世界经历的生死离别,而是感谢一切之中都有你的应许和陪伴! 我感谢你,不是因为我是否明白和接受我生命里的这些挑战,而是因为在挑战的时候,我仍有你! 答案不是我所求的,只是渴求你永远同在!” 我这样祷告,也这样呼求着。

一年多以前, 在新泽西的一间教堂里。我刚刚走下讲台,有位不知名字的姊妹走到我面前。 他对我说的话今天仍然回荡在耳边: “神会大大使用你, 但你要经历痛苦。” 我当时并不特别在意,心中想:”痛苦我已经经历多了。濒临死亡都好几次了,感情的痛苦,疾病的痛苦,我都经历了。还有什么痛苦呢?” 没想到,Joanna生病带给我的痛苦是始料未及的,也是我无法承受的。无论这位姊妹说法是否正确,但是痛苦的滋味,我倒是真的尝透了。我品尝的是作父亲的痛苦! 在过去的日子里,无论是神学还是经历神的爱, 我都把焦点放在耶稣基督,这位为我们而钉死在十字架上爱子的身上。但从未过多思考过天父上帝的感受。 但是,如今我作为父亲经历了女儿的病患,深深体会到了父亲的心痛。原来,天父看到儿子上十字架,比自己上十字架更加痛苦! 耶和华神钉死的不单单是自己的儿子,更大的牺牲是天父在耶稣来到世界直到基督复活升天,三十三年之久一直都把自己钉在了十字架上! 作为父亲,我多么渴望付出一切的代价来拯救自己的孩子。但是,我无能为力。 作为天父,他有能力毫无费力地拯救自己的爱子耶稣,他唯一要做的就是放弃一群已经放弃自己的罪人。但是, 他却没有选择自己的儿子。选择了拯救像我一样堕落的罪人。 是,因为爱,他没有选择自己,没有选择自己的儿子,他没有为自己选择,而是为罪人选择。爱,意味着放弃当得的。这就是牺牲的爱! 现在, 我忽然发现在我里面没有这种牺牲的爱!我不愿意牺牲自己,更不愿意牺牲自己的孩子。 但是,天父你却用如此牺牲的爱爱了我们! 我很惭愧! 但我更加感恩!

因此,在这个感恩的季节,我唯独要感谢你! 为你牺牲的爱感谢你,为基督感谢你,更为你是神感谢你! 因此,在这个世人看来特别难感恩的日子,我邀请所有认识的朋友和主内弟兄姊妹,一同感谢圣天父和圣子,感谢他们为我们所舍所做的! 圣子顺服的背后,原来隐藏了更伟大的圣父的牺牲! 愿圣灵把这份救赎的爱在这个特别感恩的时刻带给你!

刚刚和女儿一起祷告,共同感谢圣天父和圣子的奇妙大爱! 此刻,她安静地睡着,我知道天父必看顾她,也看顾我,也赐给我属天的平安向你们诉说这份来自永恒的爱!

彼得写于2017年11月22日感恩节前夜

(劉奇峰牧師是密西西比州杰傑克遜華人基督教會㑹牧,美加華人浸信會聯㑹副會長負責教會植堂事工。)

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