Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:16-17, ESV)
Our team was almost out of breath, legs screaming (except for Slade), as we ascended the 270+ steps to a cave in a mountain. This is a popular tourist destination in the area, not just because of the natural beauty, but also because of the temple and numerous shrines that are at the top. Our team started by praying at the bottom of the stairs that God would destroy the spiritual strongholds that undergird Hinduism (2 Corinthians 10:4).
The cave was a beautiful place, unlike anything our team had experienced in America. Monkeys abounded, some of which were very mischievous as Jackson learned when a monkey pilfered his water bottle. The natural splendor of the cave was juxtaposed with the unnatural worship that was taking place. People pay money at these shrines so priests will bless them. There is a humongous statue of an idol at the base of the stairs, standing guard like a sentinel over the tourists. As you can see in the picture the false god holds a spear. Thaipusam is a festival that occurs in this country, at this location. After working themselves into a frenzy, chanting incantations, the participants pierce themselves. Some pierce themselves through the cheeks, and attach their holy books to the ends and carry them up the 270+ steps to atone for their sins. How thankful we are that we worship a savior who “was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). How thankful we are that instead of climbing towards God, laboring under the weight of our works, God came to us in the flesh (John 1:14). How thankful we are that “God saved us. Not because of righteous things we had done because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5).
Our team had many great conversations in the cave. There were people there from many different countries visiting as tourists. We spoke to one man, Mutir, who worked at one of the shrines. We were able to share Christ with him and praise God that he said he wanted to believe in Jesus. One of our partners will be heading back tomorrow to talk to him for further discipleship. Hannah had a spiritual conversation with a Canadian woman named Jess who admitted she “was not very religious.” Please pray for Jess, and the seeds that Hannah planted. Members of our team had other spiritual conversations including an Iranian couple. Pray that we would continue to be bold in having spiritual conversations that would eventually lead to the Gospel.
Paul was grieved by the idolatry he experienced in Athens, and it led to one of his great speeches (Acts 17:22-31). We pray for similar boldness in the face of idolatry. We are also reminded that although we do not have idolatrous shrines displayed so boldly in our cultural context, we are still guilty of idolatry. We worship at the altar of money, fame, sports, work, success, or materialism, among other things. Pause and ask God to reveal any idols in your life and ask Him for the strength to remove them.
As we walked through the darkness of the cave we looked up and saw a beautiful opening that let in the light. Praise God that the light pierces the spiritual darkness that envelops the heart of those who are in rebellion to God.
- We are heading to a famous landmark in the city tonight to engage with the people group we are trying to reach. Please pray for our boldness, and that God will lead persons of peace (Luke 10:6-7) across our path.
- Pray for our energy as we are starting to feel a bit exhausted and some of us are still struggling with jet lag.
- Pray for us on Tuesday as we receive refresher training in ANY3, the evangelism technique we will use while we are here.
- Pray that God will move in the people of this city, and many will decide to follow Christ.