The Sounds of Heaven

In the book of Revelation we get glimpses of the heavenly order through the vision that was given to the apostle John.  One of the recurrent images of the book is the people of God singing praise to God.  Again and again we hear singing and praise to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb;  thunderous waves of praise from the people of God.  In virtually every case we are told that those singing were from every race, tribe, people, and tongue.  The cacophonous praise is multi-lingual and international and it makes us yearn for the chance to experience it ourselves.  This past Fall I had a little taste of that experience.

In October I had the privilege to travel to Kenya to teach systematic theology at a pastor’s conference, but prior to arriving, I flew to Germany to meet up with my brother Stephen who would be heading to the conference with me. Stephen pastors in Neuenburg and he put me to work while I was in town and he scheduled me to preach; a privilege I look forward to every time I am there.   Yet, as much as I enjoy sharing God's word with my German brothers and sisters, I especially love to sing with them.  It is one of the great joys of traveling internationally when you are a pastor, namely, hearing the saints of God singing praise in their native tongue.  Especially great was when they sang a song that I knew, but in German.  Just before I stepped up to preach, the congregation rose and sang "Heilig, Heilig, Heilig," or "Holy, Holy, Holy," a hymn that many Christians will know well, if not by heart.  Knowing the tune and following their songbook I was able to sing along in very broken German a participant in praise with them.  What an awesome experience.

From there I travelled to Nairobi Kenya. As I mentioned, I was sent there primarily to speak at a pastor’s conference, but while in the country I was asked to speak at a local Bible college and teach at a local church.  As one might imagine, the experience was rich.   I knew before I left New York that the highlight of the trip would be the singing and I was not disappointed.  The day after I arrived, I was taken to the Great Commission Bible College in Nairobi where I was to give lectures on the book of Hosea and Haggai.  As I walked into the classroom the students were singing in their beautiful call and response format “Alpha and Omega, Alpha and Omega, Alpha and Omega, is our God.”  The harmonies and the sincerity were heart warming and soul exalting and I knew I was with family though I was far from home. What a joy it was to study the word of God and to sing praises with these men and women and to have them pray for me and my family and our ministry back in the states.  

After speaking at the Bible college I was taken to the house which serves as home to the orphanage that we run at Matthew 25.  There we met fifteen of the children that live at the house and that attend our Chapel Field school in Nairobi. Stephen Ndambuki is the leader of the school and orphanage and he is doing a wonderful job of training the children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.  He teaches them responsibility and instills in them a strong work ethic and a sense of family. The children were beautiful and courteous, welcoming us and serving us lunch.  As we ate the children sang, “We bow down and we worship you Lord, Lord of all Lords you will be.”  Later the rest of the students made their way in to join us and the singing continued as they belted out, “Jesus your the one who delivers us daily, who delivers us daily, Jesus your the one who delivers us daily, now and forever more, hallelujah, now and forever more.”  Song after song the children sang out with all their hearts, sometimes in English so that I could join in and other times in Swahili which allowed me to bask in the sounds of praise, not knowing the words, but understanding perfectly well the truth they communicated.  

As I travelled throughout Kenya, the singing continued and I did not want it to end.  As I left I came away with a fresh reminder of the global work of God in building His kingdom, filled with thanksgiving for being able to be part of it.  How easy it is to become discouraged about the decline of the faith in the West and in America in particular and for good reason.  But this makes it all the more important to lift our eyes and see what God is at work doing around the world.  On any given Sunday the saints are singing in German, Swahili, Farsi, Russian, Chinese and in every other language on Earth.  They may be invisible and inaudible to us now, but one day we will be together joining in thunderous praise and it will be overwhelming.

Here is a sample of what I got to enjoy at the Great commission Bible College: (sorry for the bouncing camera in the beginning of the video)