Last week I returned with a small team from eleven days in Manila, Philippines – a huge, noisy, bustling city. For two Sundays we were privileged to be able to fellowship with local believers at two different places. One was a gathering of around 50 underneath a tin roof out the side of a house down a back alley, and the other was held in a very simple building with fans keeping us slightly cool from the hot and humid air. What a joy it was to join with them, young and old, in singing praises to our great and glorious God! I had the privilege also of leading music and preaching at both of these places. And I reminded the people of our unity in Christ, even across cultures and languages.
A Preview Of Heaven
As we filled the air with some of the very same songs we sing at home, I had a smile on my face and my heart was filled with joy and excitement. It’s good to get outside your own little place sometimes to see that God is at work in people’s lives in every nation across the earth. Though there’s many things we share in common, the church in Philippines also takes on many different flavours than the church in New Zealand. Their culture is very different and so the way they express themselves is many times different.
Worshipping together with the Filipinos reminded me in a tiny way of a future occasion we read about in the Bible:
“… I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10 – ESV).
This heavenly worship scene features people from all nations, all languages, all tribes. They all have eternal fellowship with God because of their faith in Jesus Christ and His death for their sins and resurrection:
“… you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God…” (Revelation 5:9-10 – ESV).
Perhaps there’s nothing in this life like worshipping together with saints from different nations that gives such a great glimpse of heaven and its multi-cultural worship! I had that joy in a tiny way during our short time in Philippines.
God’s Work Continues
It was an encouragement to see that around this world, Christ still continues His great work of building His church (Matthew 16:18). Nothing can thwart His purposes. Even in a massive city filled with religion that unfortunately is mostly cultural and dead, God had pockets of His children who gathered to worship Him, encourage each other, learn from His word, and dispersed to faithfully witness and be beacons of God’s grace and truth in the communities around them.
And I also witnessed that singing and making melody in your heart is an outflow of Spirit-filled believers everywhere! (Ephesians 5:18-20)
Isaiah’s words seemed to ring true a little more clearly than before….
“Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.” (Isaiah 24:15-16 – ESV).
“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.” (Isaiah 42:10 – ESV).
What are your own experiences of praising God with people from different cultures and tongues? Feel free to comment below….