Dec 12, 2014

The King Has One More Move

As shared with me from my friends in South Africa...



The king has one more move.

Today we stood at the graves of Werner Groenewald and his two children, Jean-Pierre and Rode.  When I said goodbye to Rode a month ago, after an incredible week of fellowship in China, I did not foresee that my next encounter with this beautiful young girl would be carrying her coffin to an empty grave. 

I kept on reminding myself the whole morning, over and over,  to "THINK KINGDOM"   I remembered the song sung by Christians in Egypt after their Church was burnt down in Minya last year.  After the sorrow of losing friends, family and fellowship they still declared bravely:  "We declare it to the whole world, our considerations are not like yours.  Our goal is the Kingdom of heaven."  I found comfort in this and yet we wept

I read again this morning in Acts 7 how Stephen, a young fearless disciple, was violently dragged outside the city by members of the Sanhedrin and then, under the supervision and approval of a young man called Saul, they stoned him to death.  I thought of Werner and the kids.  Where was God in all of this?  Has the presence of God failed Werner and his children when they needed Him most?  On the contrary.  We find one of the most beautiful descriptions of an ever present Christ in the Bible.  Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God's glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. What a glorious comfort.  This is the only place in Scripture where we find Jesus standing at the right side of God. Throughout Scripture we read that Jesus is seated on the right hand of God but in this occasion Jesus was standing up to welcome His faithful servant into eternity.  He was not absent nor ignorant.  He was there and Werner and the children knew this and probably echoed the words of Stephen.  I found comfort in this thought and yet we wept

Finally, at the service this morning, the Pastor shared a story that provided yet another seed of comfort.  This story has been told by Christian speakers as far back as 1955 when Billy Graham told a variation of it early in his ministry.

Two men are standing in front of a painting called Checkmate in an art gallery. In the painting, a man is playing chess with the devil.  The devil is grinning ear-to-ear because he has the man cornered. The title of the painting, Checkmate, indicates that the game is over. The devil has won the soul of his opponent in this chess match and he has no more moves left.

The first man looking at the painting wants to move on to other paintings in the gallery. But the second man, a chess champion, wants to look at the painting longer, so he waves his friend on and tells him he will catch up later. The chess champion stares and stares at the chess board, then suddenly he steps back, flabbergasted."It's wrong!" he exclaims. "There's one more move." He runs to his friend and together they look at the painting. "We have to contact the painter," the chess champion says. "It's not checkmate. The king has one more move."

Indeed, the Taliban might think it is game-over and that the Christian witness of the Groenewald family has been wiped out.  Check Mate!  Well, the king has one more move.  We believe this.  And as we wept we were once again reminded of Psalm 126:5  They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Yes, there will be a reaping.  Yes, the King has one more move.  Yes, our considerations are not that of the world.  And yes, Werner and his family are now at a place where Christ stood up to welcome them.  There was a joy in heaven as the heroes received their crown.  We should rejoice with them!  And we are!

Please continue to pray for Hannelie and the family.  The loss is great, despite the promise of eternal joy.

Dec 4, 2014

"We Only Die Once, So It Might As Well Be For Jesus"

While in Asia recently, Teri and I had the opportunity to meet the coolest family, the Groenewalds, who had given up their careers in South Africa in order to help the people of Afghanistan.  Bill had a few great conversations about music with their son, JP, and gave him a couple of his CDs, including "Aroma, the fragrance of Costly Worship", the CD that has "Wear The Crown" on it.  Then just over a month after we met them, fellowshipped with them, and worshipped with them, came this news and story.  I want to share this with you, as it is so powerful.

29 NOVEMBER 2014:  Werner Groenewald and his two children martyred in Afghanistan  

This morning (Sunday 30 November 2014) our hearts are broken.  We have lost a dear friend, a faithful worker and a precious soul-mate.  Werner Groenewald and his two beautiful children, Jean-Pierre and Rhodé, were killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul on Saturday 29 November 2014.  Hannelie, his wife, was not at home during the time and survived the attacked but lost everything. 

Three gunmen and suicide bombers stormed the compound where Werner and his family lived in Kabul on Saturday, exchanging fire with security forces before leaving Werner and his two children dead.  Six other hostages were rescued after the afternoon attack while one Afghan worker also died in the attack

The bloodshed began around 4 p.m. local time, when a grenade was lobbed at the gate of the compound, after which the militants stormed the building. The men were carrying machine guns, grenades and wearing suicide vests.  A Taliban spokesman said in a statement that it was targeting "a secret Christian missionary and foreign invaders' intelligence center."

This report is not an attempt to explain another theology of martyrdom.  It is simply an expression of grief and anguish and an appeal for the wider body of Christ to share in the pain of the Groenewald family, especially Hannelie and Werner's parents. 

How do we express our deepest empathy and condolences with the family members who now have to face the reality of losing a son, a brother, a husband and two children in one horrific incident of terror?  What words or theology can relieve the pain?

Like Jesus at, the grave of Lazarus, we can only weep.  Words are insufficient but tears can be offered on their behalf before a loving Father who understands the acts of violence against a beloved Son.  Yes, we celebrate the life of three martyrs who loved Christ more than they loved life but we mourn the death of three dear servants, friends and co-workers. 

Our last time of fellowship together was a month ago in Asia when we contemplated the joy set before us of serving Christ.  In Werner's last message to the international group of co-workers he spoke on "Counting the cost of following Jesus".  His words will remain in our hearts forever as he closed the session with these words:  "We only die once, so it might as well be for Jesus."

We had invited Bill Drake to lead the worship, and we listened to him sing the song "Wear The Crown" and the words rang in our hearts "It is your time to wear the crown". We did not know that soon it would be their time.   Together we worshiped, we laughed and we cried.  Together we knew that the call to carry our crosses and deny ourselves is not a theology but a reality.  Today we know that Werner, Jean-Pierre and Rhodé are wearing the coveted crowns set apart for an elect few. 

May we appeal to you to set some time apart in your service today to pray for Hannelie and the family.  Weep before God as you share in the pain of a loving wife and mother who lost everything and an extended family who lost a son, brother and grand children.

We also pray that their death would not be in vain.  May the blood of the martyr truly be the seed of the Church and ignite something in the hearts of believers across the globe, especially in South Africa, to follow Christ unconditionally, whole-heartedly and faithfully.  May we be inspired to be Kingdom-minded and pursue the redemptive purposes that Werner's s family so faithfully pursued in Afghanistan.  May our live be a testimony of Christ, and our deaths ultimately point to His glory

We honour these three heroes of faith who have given their lives for those who hated them.  We celebrate the invisible victory that can only be seen by those who understand the cross.    

(this article was written by our dear friends at