Red beads click around a little girl’s neck as she skips down the hill. Children clothed in plaid uniforms and back packs head from shanty to school. Women clip laundry to twine in simple drying arrangements. Abandoned dogs scour streets, roosters peck on cardboard, and turkeys hop over ruble. City life is happening all around us as we go. We go to the people today to tell them about Jesus.
We walk up a dirt path that is so far from the indulgent lifestyle we are accustom. When our shoes push against over-worked earth, a funnel of dust swirls behind us. We reach the top and enter a squeezed-in-town with crudely built homes. Each dwelling place is constructed by individual families. They are made with boards and concrete and they hang off steep terraces of ground. Electrical wires cling to weathered poles and shoot through the shanty town. There is no running water here, only barrels of water dropped off for the people. This dry land makes me thirsty from the inside out.
My eyes scan a town with a paucity of resources and I know.
This is what Jesus came for.
This is who Jesus came for.
He came for them, He came for us.
The King of the Universe, clothed in splendor took off His royal robe, laid aside His crown and squeezed all of the fullness of God into a place like this… dirt floors, smelly troughs, loud noises, and meager surroundings. He calls my name right here and how I long to recognize Him here.
The squeezed-in-places, the dry-well-places, the moments that are loud and messy and uncertain, this is what He came for. The longings, the heartaches, the doubt and the wounds that our sin carves deep, that’s why He is here. And all this life suspended on rocky soil and empty paths, isn’t this why we come? Isn’t this why we take the Gospel to those with no foundation and say with all the longing in our hearts, “Come, Lord Jesus”?
I may not know this kind of physical poverty, but I do know what spiritual poverty feels like.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” Luke 4:18-19.
Jesus is here for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. However, when Jesus speaks of the poor, he isn’t always referring to those who live in shanty towns or have limited income. He also refers to those who are poor in spirit (see Matthew 5:3).
I remember being poor in spirit.
I remember my own personal depravity.
I will never forget my water into wine moment where Jesus created something new out of something old. When I said, “Yes,” and He did too. When He mended this broken heart; rubbed salve over blind eyes; and broke chains of oppression in my life.
A signal to return down the mountain interrupts my thought process. So I shuffle forward and I am quiet, humble, and overwhelmed. I know now… the truly blessed ones are the ones who know they are destitute of righteousness. And oh how I know this.
“The Lord helps all who fall; He raises up all who are oppressed. All eyes look to you and you give them their food in due time. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing,” Psalm 145:8-16.
Jonathan Edwards, the most significant American churchman of the 18th century once said, “If we are going to be excited about anything shouldn’t it be our spiritual lives? Is there anything more inspiring more exciting in heaven or on earth than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We should be humbled that we are not more emotionally affected than we are.”
Emotionally affected by the scandal of the Gospel. Emotionally affected by its redemptive rescue for worldly wretches. Emotionally affected by His saving power not because of what we do but because of what He has already done, (see Titus 3:4).
A couple of weeks ago I, and seventeen others from my church, board an airplane to a small village in Peru, South America. I recite the Gospel in my sleep. I roll it over in my mind. I can’t wait to engage people. I am living sent. The anticipation sprouts radical excitement down deep. The laughs, the tears, the mama guilt, the prayers…all usher me into this moment of praise and adoration and anticipation of proclaiming the Gospel “to the nations…”
One of my greatest joys on my first international mission trip is our time of corporate worship with the local church. The church in Chorrillos, Peru isn’t a big, beautiful building with stain glass windows and wooden pews. The church is a modest second story room with concrete floors and plastic chairs. This place reminds me of the “upper room,” as described in Acts 1:13-14. 13 “When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. ….. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer…” We climb narrow stairs and pile into the upper room. We squeeze in a circle and prepare our hearts. The Pastor tunes guitar strings as if to tune his spirit for the worship that is about to begin. We sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” in two languages. He sings with intense passion in a language I cannot understand. He is simply being with Jesus and I can feel God’s presence here more strongly than I have in a while. All my senses are full of His greatness. God’s glory has fallen down into this place like rain and is soaking us from the inside out. I raise my arms like a child as if to grab His hem and cry, “Jesus, I don’t ever want to be dry.”
The Pastor. Those sitting in the upper room ~ like Edwards says are simultaneously emotionally affected and humbled by the One who “meeked” and shamed Himself in our place. I am blown away by the greatness of our Lord, by the fact that God in all His mighty plans had cared enough for this Pastor, had cared enough for us, to put us together in this moment of praise.
While melodies continue to explode into the rafters, my mind wanders into the throne room. I imagine the etiquette of worship there. I imagine the strange, beautiful creatures with wings and eyes all over. I imagine they put down their wings as they drop quietly by the throne in reverent exaltation of the Lamb. I imagine shouts, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts,” as incense hovers and pillars shake (see Ezekiel 1:1-28; Isaiah 6). Every living thing is engaged in worship as they focus on the person of Christ. This is the same God I sing to in this moment. The inevitable goose-bumps rise and I wonder what heaven thinks about our worship?
As music fades into muted tone, we breathe a word “Amen.” I lift my head and open my eyes and I am humbled by how emotionally affected I am.