When God won't shut up
From the left: Gunnar, Samira, Shahrooz
“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”
It's time to share what God has done.
It’s easy to forget that the context in which I live and do ministry is not the context for everyone… I take for granted certain privileges that I don’t even understand as privileges until I meet my brothers and sisters who don’t have them.
When I talk of privileges I mean things like our church actually having a dedicated building to meet in as a faith family that has heating and chairs, privileges like being able to sing from the top of our lungs and preach through speakers without having to worry about the government finding out about our gathering and harassing us, hurting us or killing us for our faith, or the privilege of having a Bible in your own language that you can read and understand and you can give to people around you without having to worry about getting arrested for it.
Most of us don’t ever think about things like this, but unfortunately, we do have brothers and sisters in different contexts around the world who do worry about things like this…
It has convicted me more than once when I think of my preference for what type of worship music I’d like or how I’d love to change up the aesthetics. I have brothers and sisters who would just love to gather without having to worry about punishment, no matter what type of music was played or what the room looked like.
But it makes you wonder, in places like this where the culture is hostile towards Jesus, where governments hurt, imprison or kill people for becoming followers of Jesus and where they try everything to censor His word in cooperation with even families within the country, how do people come to faith? How does the church grow?
A Testimony of a living God
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
We serve a God who took on flesh and died on a cross, who lacked all military power, political power, or even social standing, and yet he is our Lord, the center point of human history… The nations have plotted, and they still do, and yet it is all in vain, try to shut him up, but He will speak.
I had heard of stories from the Middle East where people were having dreams of Jesus leading to their conversion or a random conversation with a Christian, but I had never heard it from someone who had the dream, or from any specific person I trusted.
I may be a bit too cynical and skeptical when it comes to supernatural claims. I grew up around so many claimed miracles of back pain and headaches being healed while people with terminal diseases died that it made me perhaps overly hesitant about accepting stories, especially if I could not talk to the source itself.
But as God blessed us with a growing number of Iranians who moved to Iceland I started hearing these stories firsthand, at one time around a table with 6 Iranians after our church service, 3 of them had conversion stories that involved a dream about Jesus.
One Sunday my Iranian sister Samira walks up to me with tears in her eyes, wanting to tell me something, she tells me that many years ago she had a dream about Jesus while she still lived in Iran, this was the first step that led to her becoming a follower of Jesus.
In the dream, Jesus was standing on a hill with a lake at the bottom of the hill and mountains in the background. In the dream, Jesus stretched out his hand towards Samira and he said: “Come to me if you want to be in my kingdom and forgive those who have hurt you.”
She grabbed his hand, and that dream stayed with her for years… “Come to me…” he said… on a hill with a lake and mountains in the background.
When she approached me that Sunday, it was her second Sunday with us, the first Sunday she came and went to our fellowship area that has huge windows with amazing scenery, and standing there she realized something.
Jesus was standing on the very hill where our church building was located saying: “Come to me”, and in the background? There was the lake, and there were the mountains.
Governments can try to censor God, they can seek to threaten and kill the church, they can try to censor talk of Jesus on the internet, make Bibles illegal and make sharing the faith with others a punishable crime, but one thing they can’t do, they can’t shut God up, and he continues to build his church and laughs at their vain hostility. Soli Deo Gloria.
I was looking for a picture that captured the scenery from the church with the lake and mountains in the background, the only thing I could find was this picture after Richard’s and Abena’s wedding: