Cardboard houses all in a row. Yet in the middle of it a church was there, serving and preaching the beautifully good news of heaven in what seemed like a hellhole of human existence. God’s church, alive and well, had come to the slums.
A small, cinderblock room tucked invisibly between two street shops. The open-air sales stands were two of literally hundreds along dirt roads so noisily crowded with bikes, rickshaws, people, and cars that finding the believers meeting there was close to risking your life. But there they were, packed inside and seated on the floor. God’s church, alive and well, had come to those streets.
A back patio of sorts behind the two-room house. Strung from the roof was a clothesline that hug lowly, weighed down by clothes, distracting your attention from the toys, open fire pit, and garbage all around the edges. In the middle? A pastor shepherding God’s people with the Word and by the Spirit, graciously leading them towards obedience to all that Jesus commanded. God’s church, alive and well, had come to that village.
A closet-sized space lit only by a small window and a cracked door that led to a roof-top overhang. And this was after five dark flights of stairs. Yet, the light of Life was seen immediately as the faith family gathered there in God’s name greeted us like we were their long lost family returning from a journey. God’s church, alive and well, was in the building.
Those are just a few of the snapshots I experienced in my recent visit to south Asia. I was beyond humbled, past amazed, and miles deeper than blessed. I’m left prostrate before a God so lovingly gracious and powerfully mighty that I’m appropriately fearful, more than ever, to speak on his behalf. I think the best word for this is “awe.” Yeah, that’s where I’m at. In awe of Yahweh, the eternal Three in One.
Yet, speak is what I feel compelled to do. And, oddly, more than ever. I desire to tell of his impeccable character, his incredible works, and his unstoppable plan. Not because he needs me to; heaven knows God doesn’t need anything. If only those on earth knew that.
Or because I need to. Using my service to God as some sort of self-medication designed to make me feel worthwhile is wicked idolatry and evil blasphemy. God will not be served up as a self-esteem fix. No, he will be worshipped, not worked. If you want to sense value, look at the cross. Stare at what God did for you, not what you can do for him.
But I know I—we—must speak because God’s glory leaves no other option. Declaring his marvelous praises becomes what we do, not because God needs it or we need it, but simply because we can’t not speak. Knowing who he is, as well as seeing all that he has done, is doing, and will do to accomplish his redemptive plan across the ages of the past, present and future demands our voice. So although we’re acutely aware we’re uttering words that represent the Risen and Ascended King, we venture out to speak. In awe, yes. But silent? No, that’s not an option.
With that in mind, I want to share three observations regarding God’s unstoppable plan to make his name great among the nations and spread his glory over all the earth that we, especially as Americans, need to ponder. Yes, this most recent trip brought these realizations to the surface. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. God’s current work of sanctification in my life revolves around adjustments he is making in me concerning the Great Commission, and much of it started last summer in my sabbatical. I truly look forward to sharing more in time. But for now, here are three observations for you to consider as you think about the indescribable greatness of our God and the life-generating power of his glorious gospel.
To read more of Todd's visit to South Asia, visit his personal blog.