As I write this blog I am sitting in the Dubai airport heading home. It is a bittersweet moment. Our hearts feel like they are in two places. We long to get home to see our family, but our goodbyes with our brothers and sisters in Christ was difficult.

At about 11:00 p.m. last night we were standing in Babu’s living room singing a Malayalam Hymn, followed by prayer, and then followed by tears. Yes, we only spent a week with these people, but there is a deepness to our bond. One that can only be explained by the Holy Spirit. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we are adopted into the same family of God, and therefore we love our family.

It is with this love that we desire to help our brothers and sisters. Before we left our team set some goals for each of us to strive for. The first is to be committed to pray daily for GCM. Second, we are committed to personally assist financially with GCM. Third, we are going to reach out to friends, family, churches, and communities to encourage them to consider sponsoring a pastor for five years. The cost to sponsor a pastor and his family is $50/month. Currently there are 35 pastors that need sponsoring. Fourth, we are going to attempt to speak at churches regularly to introduce them to GCM and the gospel opportunities that are available.

We would ask anyone who has been reading about our trip to prayerfully consider partnering with us, and partnering with GCM. If God directs your heart to help, please contact us on our website or via facebook.

Today, we went to the mountains of Kerala. They were impressive to say the least. As we looked out over these giants of granite, we couldn’t help but feel insignificant. The glory of the mountains overshadowed our presence.

When we stand in awe of things like this we need to look through the creation and onto the Creator. It is amazing to know that there is a God who created the Mountains. I can’t imagine standing in His presence, talk about insignificant.

“The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” (Psalm 97:5-6)

It is good for us to have a big God. Too often we make God too small. We fashion him into a false idol and worship him as if he just a man with superpowers. This is blasphemy. God is greater that we can imagine. His power is without limits. Melting mountains doesn’t even begin to explain who He is.

Seeing the true God causes us to fear him, and fear is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). It is the knowledge that we are sinners and we need a Savior, and his name if Jesus Christ. Second, after accepting Christ, we are adopted into God’s family. Meaning that God is our Dad. We can honestly say my dad is bigger than your dad, and boldly stand. Recognizing the power of your Father allows you to “confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

Yesterday, Babu took us to four different churches. One church was on the third floor of a commercial building and it is smaller than my office at work. In fact, I am guessing many of you have bathrooms larger. Babu said that twenty people meet every week in that small room to worship Jesus Christ. I had the honor of baptizing two of them last Sunday.

The next church was on the side of a hill, in the middle of the forest. It was one of the five Churches that they own the land and the building. Along the hills were houses. Many of the residents are Hindus, however God is on the move and every year more people are accepting Jesus Christ.

The third Church was an abandoned building in the middle of a rubber field. There were holes in the roof and it did not look safe at all. We sat inside in the dark, due to no electricity, and heard the loudest singing of our trip. We asked them about their struggles and how we could be praying for them as individuals and they responded that they do not need anything for they have so much joy in their heart for Jesus.

The last Church we visited was a rented space from another pastor not associated with GCM. It was comparable to a wine cellar. There was one light that hung from the center and it appeared that a car battery was used to light it. Bugs were everywhere and we saw a spider on the wall the size of my hand. But once again, it was a place that glorified God.

It continues to amaze me. God is moving in this nation. For those who are too busy to pay attention, it may not seem like it, for the Church in India is so small and so poor, but make no mistake Jesus is building His Church. The Kingdom of God is not of this world. It moves by the power of God’s Word and the power of God’s Spirit. And it moves from heart to heart.

“[O]n this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

Yesterday, we visited two churches. One church meets on the second floor of a three story business building. They rent the space. Justin preached on having faith in God.

The other Church we visited was in the midst of a rock quarry. The church building was right on top of a large piece of black Indian granite. It was a one room building that was 20′ by 50′. The building was comparable to an abandoned garage in America. Having said that, GCM is very thankful to have it. This is one of five churches where they own the building and the land underneath. For the other thirty churches they are renting space, or meeting in homes.

The cost to purchase land and build a one room church building is $20,000. Due to a majority of the parishioners being poor, the likelihood of this happening is very slim; however, with God all things are possible.

The people do not seem to be affected by the poor conditions (or lack there of) of their church buildings. The outside of the Church may not be beautiful, but when the inside is filled with the praises of God, it melts your heart. Why? It is because their faith is founded the Rock of Jesus Christ, not on things of this world. Their joy is not found in how nice their buildings look, or how comfortable their chairs are (many churches have no chairs). Their joy comes from knowing the steadfast love of the Lord.

At our first church visit, Freddie preached on being chosen by God before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). It is a powerful reality to know that God has loved you before there was a you. God tells us that He has loved you forever. After Freddie’s message, a man named Lubies (our driver), approached Javan and said, “Good sermon. Tears.” He then made a motion with his hands of tears coming down his face.

I would exchange the greatest Church building in America, for a church full of people with hearts like Lubies.

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2 ESV)

Today Babu arranged for us to have a day of relaxing. We drove about three hours to the backwaters of India that lead out to the Arabian Sea. It was a great time of fellowship with my American and Indian brothers. A lot of laughing and a lot of getting to know each other better on a personal level.

Along the backwaters are long stretches of man made dikes that create large fields of rice paddies. These dikes stretch for tens, if not hundreds, of miles and along these dikes are houses. And not just a couple houses, they are scattered everywhere. My first thought as I saw these houses and these people was who will share the Gospel with them?

On our way home we drove through several towns during the rush hour time. It was mayhem. People and vehicles everywhere. Once again, I think to myself who will share the Gospel with them?

At times you can get overwhelmed by the work that needs to be done, and the lost that need to be reached. It almost causes you to want to give up, but God in His Grace reminded me of a verse:

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” – Habakkuk 2:14

It is verses like this that motivate me to continue to push forward. For God’s purposes will be accomplished and His name will be hallowed, not just in India, but everywhere. The task may be daunting, but going and making disciples is never in vain. The Church is a means to reach the glorious end of the earth being filled with the Glory of God, and for that I am humbled to be a part of such a great commission.

If I (John) could only come to India for one day on these visits, I would insist that it be convention Sunday. There is so much rich and glorious worship, fellowship, love and encouragement packed into one day. It is the sweetest exhaustion that we go to rest with tonight.

Baptism: I will never get over the weight and joy of the baptism celebrations here. To describe it in writing would not do the experience justice. I imagine that watching a video even leaves something missing. The totality of the experience heralds authentic submission, elated union, and corporate sanctification.

Continue reading “The Climax of Convention Sunday”

It is about 3:30 a.m. here as I write this blog. I can’t sleep. Last night was the end of the Convention. I preached a sermon titled, “To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain.” This verse comes from Philippians 1:21. It is my favorite verse in the Bible. I have preached using this verse before in America, however, it is more real in this context.

The book of Philippians is written by the Apostle Paul. He writes this while he is in imprisoned, and death is looming over his head. The reason he is imprisoned is because he has obeyed the Great Commission, and proclaimed the gospel. It is in this circumstance that he speaks, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” By this he means that dying and being with Jesus is better than anything this World has to offer. He is saying that if they decide to make him a martyr, they are actually rewarding him, for it gets him to Jesus sooner.

As I preached this message, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of these words differently. In America, the worst thing that will happen if you preach the Gospel is that people will be annoyed or it will be socially awkward. Having said this, many self proclaimed Christians in the United States never share Christ with the lost. In India, sharing the Gospel could literally mean jail or death. I believe as Christianity grows more in India, we will see more and more persecution, for this is the pattern that we see in the book of Acts.

Once again, it was surreal, and at times overwhelming to think that these words from Philippians 1:21 may be preparing some of the people in the crowd for suffering in ways that many of us cannot comprehend.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ her in this nation

Today we had a full day at the convention. This morning, I (Phil) preached to the Pastors of GCM. Approximately 40 of them sat before me, warriors of Christ. It was somewhat intimidating. These men are not beginners. They are seasoned laborers. They have been in the trenches in ways that I cannot fathom. Each Bible tattered and torn. Obviously used against the schemes of Satan. What can I tell these men?

Nothing.

This is the cold hard truth. I have absolutely nothing to offer these men. I have no right to stand before them and tell them how to be a Pastor. Nor do I have anything of value. My wisdom is not worth more than the paper my sermon would be written on.

However, God does have something to tell these men. They work at God’s pleasure with God’s Power and therefore they must hear from God’s Word. My only option as I stood before these men was to give them the only thing that would benefit them. The Word of God.

It is the Word of God that will revive the soul. It is the Word of God that reminds them of God’s abundant provisions. It is the Word of God that pierces a man’s heart and convicts him of his Sin. It is the Word of God that speaks like into their dry bones. Therefore, I was compelled to give them what they need most.

As I did, I reminded myself that the Word of God always has power. Whether it comes for a novice preacher like myself or from John Piper, it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

‘”For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

It is only because of God’s Word that I, a sinner, can stand before other sinners and have confidence that God’s will will be done in their lives.

Tonight we begin the convention. This is when Grace Christian Ministry brings together 35 churches in Pathanaparum. It is somewhat surreal to look across a sea of 1,000 Indian faces.

They attempt to draw unbelievers into the convention by attaching large speakers to a car and driving around the town blaring music and a recorded invitation.

Tonight I (Phil) will be preaching. My sermon is on the Great Commission. Another name you could give the Great Commission is the Great Invitation. The Great Commission is the command of Jesus to his disciples to make disciples. The way one makes a disciple is by proclaiming the Gospel. It is this Gospel that invites people into the family of God.

Many people wrongly believe that the Great Commission is about living a Christ-like life. There is some truth to this, but it falls short of the real command. To make disciples you must tell them how get into God’s family. You must proclaim to them the gospel. The gospel is the message of God’s wrath and Christ’s salvation. For all who want to be reconciled to God, we must repent and believe in Christ.

My prayer tonight is that the Christians in India embrace this truth. I pray that they submit to God’s command and go and make disciples. I pray that they trust in the power of the Gospel and walk the streets of their town and proclaim the Great Invitation into God’s Forever Convention. A convention that has fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

Last night we had the convention in their new building. It was a building that was a result of a large financial gift given three years ago through the people of New Life Community Church in Monticello, IA. This new building has become very useful to GCM for their local Church, the College, and for the convention. The building is not completed, but it is usable and worked very well last night.

As I stated in my last post, I preached on the Great Commission. I assumed that my sermon was going to be too familiar to the people. I have always assumed that the followers of Christ in India were very bold in sharing the Gospel due to the cost in following Jesus initially. However, after the sermon I found that for the common Christian in India, this is not true.

I was told that it is not a part of the Indian culture to go to others. They are a very formal and introverted people at an individual and family level. However, after the sermon they agreed that they must obey and go and make disciples. They cannot expect people to come to them. Even Babu at the end of the night expressed his disobedience in going and making disciples. His humility before the Lord is overwhelming. The man who has planted 35 Churches in India and who is training up pastors still believes he can do more. It puts me to shame.

One young man approached after I was done preaching and he told me the sermon was for him. He was somewhat shaken as he spoke. He is a student at GCM. I asked him what his plan was for after college and he was not sure. I spent time praying that God would give him direction and he would have the boldness to trust and obey. I look forward to being in Heaven and hearing about how God used him for His Glory.

As I laid in bed at the end of the night, I marveled at how God works. Many times we see missions as reaching the lost, and it is; however, one way we reach the lost may be to stir up your brothers and sisters in love, to speak words of exhortation and encourage them to follow Christ.