Today we worshipped with a small group of Christians on the barrier island of Cijin, just off the coast of Taiwan. It is an island that lives under the control of the darkness of traditional temple worship: a blend of Taoist, Buddhist and animist practices. Serving and trying to appease many gods is the daily ritual of the majority of these islanders. Their homes face the temples. Their marriages and funerals are conducted by the priests of these temples. Business decisions and a multitude of other choices are made through various rituals offered in the dim and depressing light of the temples. In their darkness amid the burning incense on the altars, beside the offerings of food and flowers presented to the gods on the tables scattered throughout these ghoulish establishments, people express their hunger to find and know God.
Today while the Christians met and worshipped the One True God in the newest HIM church in Taiwan, Satan did his best to distract and discourage these first generation Christians. Pastor Hong preached from Psalm 81 declaring the Chinese “moon festival” celebrations should be a time when the church gives thanks to God as Israel did in the Old Testament for the blessings of harvest and that they should not worship other gods. He said this exactly as the Psalmist proclaimed many years ago. While he was preaching, the temple immediately across the street prepared an outdoor stage and conducted a parade to celebrate the moon festival and the birthday of the god of that specific, nearby temple. Right outside the church door about 20 feet from where we sat, religious contortions took place. But under the shadow of the church cross standing high for all to see and with the Word being boldly proclaimed by the pastor in spite of the din of noise outside, we worshipped and sang and gave praise to God!
Outside the music continually blared and thousands of fireworks exploded. The people danced to their gods in the streets. At one point the fireworks were so loud and the noise so intense that it shook the church building. The pastor had to stop preaching for a time and the people covered their ears. Next our national pastor genuinely smiled and gently encouraged the people to ignore what was happening outside, and he then continued to preach. A gentle, sweet calm descended on the assembly, and everyone relaxed and worshipped. I sat and prayed and asked God to allow their sound system to blow up or something happen to stop the parade and the noise. God did neither, but he did remind me that victory comes not through vengeance or anger but through love. Then I watched as the brave band of Christians dismissed and left the church smiling and rejoicing in God because a miracle had happened during the service. In the midst of the deafening, pagan celebrations two young boys were baptized by sprinkling in traditional Methodist style just as their parents did months earlier. They each verbally committed to follow Jesus. One used English to do so! We had these boys in summer camp this year and watched them sincerely pray on Wednesday during the camp and give their hearts to Jesus. The saints worshipped, the Word was preached, and as Christina and I crossed the street to reach our mission van to go back to the mission center, we walked through heavy smoke on a road covered in the litter of thousands of fireworks. We walked between the dancers as they sat on the roadside seeking shade – worn out, hot, and miserable from their ritual dances. I noticed they were sad. I saw no smiles, only weariness produced from their crazed worship. I also noticed the neighbors angrily washing their porches and sweeping away the trash from the fireworks. I thought of Elijah and the worshippers of Baal and how vain all of their efforts were. I thought of Jesus on the cross dying for these precious people, and I prayed. I prayed not for vengeance this time, but for forgiveness and for love. “Father”, I repeated, “forgive them for they know not what they do.”
This morning Satan tried to stop the worship of the One True God, and he failed miserably. I was powerfully reminded again why God called Pastor Hong to this island and why we planted an HIM church in that exact location. God is not willing that any should perish and desires that all men should come to saving faith in Christ. This morning’s events reminded Christina and I again why we are in Taiwan to live and work here and to minister throughout Asia. We have been called to help carry the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus!
Please, let this simple and true story remind you to give and pray as never before so that God’s Word will continue to be proclaimed throughout Asia. The battle is real. We have never experienced such direct and shocking attacks from the enemy as we have experienced in recent days, but God is giving us the victory! His purposes will be fulfilled and His kingdom will be established!
~ David W. Black, Director of HIM Asia