Feast in the House of Zion

April 19, 2023 | Benji Baker

First, I want to say thank you for your love and support for my family as you have walked with us in grieving the loss of our niece Hallie. I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 where he writes, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope."

My family is grieving but with hope. You have been a big part of that hope. You have prayed with us, wept with us (John 11:34-35), encouraged us with truth (John 11:25-26), and have been deeply troubled by death with us (John 11:33). This has reminded us of Jesus and the living hope we have in him! We are grateful.

I’m also grateful to have taken a trip in March and want to share a few highlights from that experience. I was privileged to attend a Global Disciple-Making Summit in Türkiye with 270 ministry leaders from 96 countries. We spent a week studying the movement of God in the early church and how the “word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” as the apostles and others took the gospel to the world. In Türkiye, our group toured the seven ancient churches that are addressed in Revelations 2 and 3.

Walking through the ancient cities was like reading scripture through 3-D glasses that made historical truths jump off the page. Since we as a church have been studying Ephesians, the city of Ephesus was one of my favorite locations. It was surreal to think about the 250,000 people that lived in this city and the impact the gospel had on them. This is the city where Paul proclaimed the gospel, reasoned daily in the school of Tyrannus, and performed miracles.

The church in Ephesus also became a ministry hub where all of Asia heard the word of God! In this city many repented, burned their books of magic, and turned to Jesus (Acts 19). While standing in the magnificent 25,000 seat theatre in Ephesus, I was reminded of the resistance to the gospel. Scripture tells us that this is the theatre where a riot started:

"And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods…When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  So the city was filled with confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel.  But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him."  - Acts 19:26, 28-30

I love the boldness of Paul and that his desire was to go toward the enraged crowd and proclaim Jesus, even if it cost him his life...reminds me of Jesus!

As incredible as these historical biblical sites were to visit, it was only the entrée to the feast! By far the best part of this summit was worshipping, sharing meals, and sharing stories of God with ministry leaders from around the world. I was greatly encouraged to hear—even amid persecution—the gospel is exploding in countries throughout Africa and Asia. A leader from India shared with me how he came to Christ in a slum and how this slum became the church in his village. Weekly they meet for worship, prayer, discipleship, and evangelism. Over the last 2 years this church has multiplied into 8 other villages. They are part of a network of village churches that have multiplied to 100,000 house churches and all within the last 10 years! They plan to reach all of India with the gospel…praise God!

Another leader from Malaysia shared how he was part of a church that was growing and had over 1000 members when one day the police arrested the head pastor and 60 key leaders. They were imprisoned for 10 years, yet the church continued to meet underground and now has over 10,000 members across the country. Resistance led to revival!

I also heard about a schoolteacher from the Philippines who shares Jesus at school by feeding malnourished kids. This is often their only meal that day. I loved hearing her passion for her mission!

I was also encouraged by the perseverance of the leaders in European countries who continue proclaiming the gospel and making disciples on hard soil. And finally, a leader from Ukraine shared how the church has not fled the war zone and is meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people in crisis. He shared how the gospel is now spreading through the whole country. Praise God that “the word of the Lord is increasing and prevailing” across the globe!

These testimonies were a feast for my soul, filling me with so much hope, and giving me a taste of heaven where God’s people from every nation will feast together. Little did I know that three weeks later I would be sitting at my niece's funeral weeping and longing for the feast described in Isaiah 25 and Revelation 19-21—the feast of the Lamb, the feast of eternity where tears are wiped away and death is no more! The funeral ended with God’s people weeping and singing about this glorious day…

We will feast in the house of Zion 
We will sing with our hearts restored 
He has done great things, we will say together 
We will feast and weep no more 

(Chorus from “We Will Feast in the House of Zion” by Sandra McCracken)

The loss of my niece has reminded me of the brevity of life and the urgency of sharing the gospel. Let’s not forsake our first love and follow Jesus. Let’s be bold like Paul and these ministry leaders across the globe and invite as many people as we can to this feast by making disciples of all nations!