I See You are Religious

For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.
Acts 17

Last Saturday night about midnight, our team sat at a table in a small restaurant in Athens near our hotel. Hungry and jetlagged, we were still looking forward with excitement to the week ahead. As with most trips of its kind, we knew to be ready for the unexpected and unplanned. While I was enjoying my first delicious authentic Greek meal late on a hot summer night, I sensed the reality that we’d likely encounter the glories and the agonies of the city during the week of our brief stay.

REFUGEE:
a person
who has been forced
to leave their country
in order to escape
war,
persecution,
or natural disaster.

Yesterday, as I rode home with my person from a wonderful and worshipful time with God’s redeemed people gathered as Calvary church, I mentioned how surreal the days before had been. Had I really just been in an area of the world where millions of people live day after day in a different culture among different people speaking another language? As I pondered that thought, I remembered it was just about the time the night life would begin in Greece (9 PM). I thought back to a week ago when we ate dinner at midnight. That was before I knew what I know now …

  • That hundreds of Afghan women had fled to Athens, which has become a hub for refugees (some hoping it’s a connection to Germany.)
  • That Iranian men sacrificed much, even willing to give their lives, to get their families to the safety and freedom of another country
  • That many refused to believe what they were being taught about life and salvation and God
  • That some watched as fellow refugees sank into the sea and died as they tried to flee their oppression
  • That still others have had dreams that led them to escape tyranny’ and seek Jehovah God and reject Allah
  • That two special young women have learned a difficult language in less than a year, and are able to communicate with refugee women who have fled to Greece
  • That these women work tirelessly to build bridges among the refugee women in order to share the good news of the gospel with them so that they might have hope
  • That there’s a team of IMB missionaries on the ground in Athens working to love and share the gospel with refugees from countries where believers are unable to enter and share
  • That in their lives before war and the rise of dictators, refugees had homes and jobs and communities where they enjoyed hosting friends and families gathered around tables
  • That Sunday after Sunday a Persian church gathers and sings and prays and hears a message from God’s word that is truthful and timely
  • That God is bringing the nations to places where they can hear the gospel
  • That in a city where Paul preached about an “unknown god”, there are hundreds of Muslims hearing about Christ amid ornate cathedrals that are rarely attended

Paul wrote these words to his disciple Timothy, the son of a Greek man who likely was not a believer:
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord … but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel. He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on His own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!

It is for HIS purpose and by HIS grace that we have been saved to share the very good news. We desire to live daily in the power of the Spirit so that our message of hope is an overflow of God’s work in our lives. We pray for the words and a voice to declare His goodness: Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise – the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace. My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad, the honors of Thy name! Amen.

I can’t get away from the reality which John Piper reminds us: Worship is the goal and the fuel of missions. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Missions is our way of saying “the joy of knowing Christ is not a private, or tribal, or national or ethnic privilege. It is for all.” And that’s why we go. Because we have tasted the joy of worshiping Jesus, and we want all the families of the earth included. Seeking the worship of the nations is fueled by the joy of our own worship. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. You can’t proclaim what you don’t prize. Worship is the fuel and the goal of missions.

One day a few thousand years ago, there was another woman who was also an outcast – she lived a marginalized life. She came to a well in the city to draw water in the heat of the day, possibly hoping no one would be around. And there in the most unlikely place, she met Jesus…

But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and the people who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever He comes, He will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am He.”

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