Sunday, December 30, 2007
"Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. And the world should see us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder." - Martyn Lloyd Jones
"The Reason men worship God in a casual way is because they do not see God, in His Glory. If a man has ever had Isaiah's vision of the Holiness of God, he would be changed in an instant. But until men have seen God as He truly is (as 'the High & Lofty One') they will be forever guilty of the very same rebuke God gave to the wicked in Psalms 50:21: 'You thought I was just like you.' - Jeremiah Burroughs
Founders Blog reports:Tom Brady, the 3-time Super Bowl champion quarterback of the New England Patriots was featured the week in a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft on CBS. Brady is already a sports legend in one of the citadels of professional sports in America, Boston. His current team is 15-0 and is poised to finish the season undefeated, something that hasn't been done in the NFL in 35 years. He has won the Super Bowl MVP twice and been named to the Pro Bowl 4 times. He also was recently named the Associated Press' "Male Athlete of the Year."
He has dated actresses and supermodels and makes millions of dollars a year. He has been called America's most eligible bachelor. By most popular standards, he has it all. That is why I was struck by hearing him make the following statement during the interview:
"Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, 'Hey man, this is what is.' I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, 'God, it's got to be more than this.' I mean this isn't, this can't be what it's all cracked up to be."When Kroft asked him, "What's the answer?" Brady responded, "I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I love playing football and I love being quarterback for this team. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I'm trying to find."
The Founders Blog has a response for him. You can read it here.
Monday, December 24, 2007
For its own soul the church [and me too] needs to be involved in missions. We will not know God in his full majesty until we know him moving triumphantly among the nations. We will not admire and praise him as we ought until we see him gathering a company of worshipers for himself from every people group on earth—including all the Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist peoples. Nothing enlarges our vision of God’s triumphant grace like the scope of his saving work in history. (pg. 172-3)
Many Christmas celebrations, stories, gatherings, devotionals, etc. seem to focus simply on the baby in the manger, and often they don't leave the manger.
If I never leave the manger in my Christmas meditations, I miss the scope and depth of Christmas. The baby Jesus left the manger, increased in wisdom and stature, showed us true righteousness, and gave his life to ransom a people from the many peoples of the world.
For a meaningful Christmas season—and a meaningful life—it is essential to see that Christ was undertaking a global mission when he became a little baby in a manger.
The moral of John Piper's tale is this:
When things don’t go the way they should
God always makes them turn for good.
When things go better than they should
For people who are bad,
Remember, if they stay that way,
At last they will be sad.
Click here to read more of the whole story at the Desiring God blog
Though Japan in some sense is being evangelized, (as the above map shows) the hearts of the overwhelming majority of Japanese are still very closed to Christianity. Please pray for our friends in Japan. As we share our lives and testimonies, only God can do the surgery of taking out hard hearts and putting in soft hearts that respond to the love of God in Christ. (Ezekiel 11:19) Pray especially for men to see their need for Christ. We are in need of spiritual miracles, not just more information.
Friday, December 21, 2007
One of the biggest arguments I hear from many Christian scientists concerning a young earth is the issue of distant starlight. The logic goes, "If we can see stars that are billions of light-years away, then the universe must be old otherwise we would not see the light from these stars yet." AIG has some very provocative answers to this question. Click here and scroll down to the bottom to view a video over this topic; or click here to read an article over the same topic.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Being away from many good friends and family members as well as being away from my native land during Christmas is never a fun thing. However, I am sure that there are many things in all of our lives that aren't necessarily fun!
Tragedies, hard-times, and afflictions of many forms and degrees abound in this imperfect world.
Lately, I have been studying Lazarus from John 11. Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. They were his good friends. However, when word was sent that Lazarus was sick, Jesus stayed two more days where He was. The actual word there is "SO... he stayed two days longer where he was." (v. 6)! Why would a loving God PURPOSEFULLY allow pain into the lives of His beloved? Of course the answer is that He has a good purpose and a plan! Jesus stated that purpose very clearly to his disciples: "This illness does not lead to death. (though death did come at one point) It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified in it." (v. 4)
Most people don't like the sound of God-centered love. We want God to make everything nice right now, or else! Jesus realizes that the greatest blessing is not in receiving material/ physical comfort now, it is in knowing God and in seeing His glory, even if that means hardship. This is exactly the path that Jesus Himself took.
Of course when we get down and discouraged we want to know that God is not standing there coldly saying, "This is for my glory, so deal with it!" The truth is is that Jesus weeps. He mourns in our losses, and He has suffered such that He can understand our deep pain. A little further in ch. 11 is the shortest verse in the Bible. It says, "Jesus wept." Jesus wept with his friends in their great grief. He hated the pain, he despised the cross too and did not want to go there, nor does he wish any to perish. (Ez. 18:23) But above all of that, He has a plan through pain. Jesus wants to bring us into the greatest story and the greatest climax ever imagined: the revelation of God's glory - and the complete and eternal joy of His children in it.
Just like Lazarus we will see the living Christ standing over us saying, "LIVE!" and "Come out of death" again. We will live a full life with Him forever and ever and all our tears will be dried away - if we belong to Him by faith. But if we simply live for today, we will never know the amazing glory of God and the realization of our complete joy in Him.
The David Crowder Band song, "For the Glory of it All" sums all this up very well for me:
All is lost
find him there, find him there
Dawn is there, Dawn is there
After all falls apart
he repairs he repairs
Oh the Glory of it all is:
he came here
for the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all
oh he is here
for redemption from the fall
that we may live
for the glory of it all
oh the glory of it all
the glory of it all
oh the glory of it all
comes the light
dawn is here
dawn is here
it’s a new day
it’s a new day
everything will change
things will never be the same
we will never be the same
we will never be the same
we will never be the same
we will never be the same
Oh, The glory of it all is
you came here
for the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all
Oh you are here
with redemption for us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all
for the glory of it all
oh the glory of it all
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
"Lo, through ice and snow, one poor lost soul for Christ to gain; Glad we bear want and distress to set forth the Lamb once slain." - Moravian missionary to Greenland
Sixty years before William Carey set out for India, Moravian missionaries landed on the West Indian island of St. Thomas to make known the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Moravians were a group of Protestants that esacaped from anti-Reformation reaction in Bohemia and Moravia (present day Czech Republic) during the 17th century and had taken shelter on an estate at Berthesdorf at the invitation of Nicholas Zinzendorf, an evangelical Lutheran nobleman. "The whole place represented truly a tabernacle of God among men. There was nothing to be seen and heard but joy and gladness." (Grant)
In the first 150 years of this "passionate and glad" community, the Moravian community was to send no less than 2,158 of its members overseas! Stephen Neil said, "This small church was seized by a missionary passion which has never left it."
"I have one passion, and it is Him, only Him," - Zinzendorf
My prayer is that we all find more of a deep love for Christ and for the world He was born to die for this Christmas!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
One more reason I am living in Japan and not in America. Every year anyone in the U.S. can watch this on live T.V. in the comfort of their own home, in their own language. What a Christmas gift! America, with all of its sins, is still flooded with light. Let's share that light - the light of the gospel - with all the nations this Christmas!
Sunday, November 25, 2007
(Church & Home Educators Association) - Nagano, Japan
Noah braved the 7 -8 hour bus ride to Nagano very well. He is learning to sit up by himself ... and suck on his toes! He loves to smile at everyone.
Green Plaza Hotel - Hakuba. This is the beautiful place we got to stay for two nights.
The snowy mountains (Japanese Alps) were refreshing to see.
The kids were all so well behaved and joyful. We were very impressed with all the people we met.
Joshua Harris' brothers, Alex and Brett were there to give some very important messages for young people and for those who raise them. All of the Harris' were or are being home-schooled. In fact, their dad, Gregg, is one of the leaders of the home-schooling movement in the USA.
Here is Gregg Harris sharing a few words. I was very impressed with Pastor Gregg's insight, love for his family and for others and for his strong Biblical knowledge and stance. I had a great time asking him about his family a couple different times during the weekend. Maki had a good time talking with his wife, Sono, who is a Japanese-American.
All in all, 700 people came for this national event. We are feeling more and more led to homeschooling, at least for the first few years of school. We want to be the main influencers in our children's lives as well as get them off on the right foot towards a thoroughly bi-lingual education. As a teacher, I am excited to spend individual time raising up my child(ren) in the way that he should go. Maki also wants to be able to spend lots of time with her children helping them in many ways. We are very happy for this great support system in Japan.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
My brother Doug has a great post for everyone who needs a little encouragement today.
Check it out here.
After that, watch this very inspiring video which encourages us that God will NEVER let go.
"Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and present you faultless before the presence of his glory with great joy." - Jude 24,25
Monday, November 19, 2007
Dec. 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor - "A day that will live in infamy" - FDR.
This year on Dec. 7, plan to celebrate one of the most amazing stories of inspiration that WW2 affords. - And pass it on to others.
When Japan looked around for a pilot to plan and lead a sneak attack against Pearl Harbor they decided quickly on Mitsuo Fuchida. An experienced pilot and passionate for action, Fuchida was just the man for the plan. Little did the military leaders know that God also had a plan for Fuchida's life; first to become the most famous person in Japan and then to become a radically new man by the gospel of Jesus Christ. His testimony and story would be used of God to lead thousands to Christ!
Read more about the story here and then
listen to Jake DeShazer's testimonies here - The man who led Fuchida to Christ after the war. Please pass these stories on to others on Dec. 7! (Especially listen to #9.)
And for other great stories from DeShazer's life look here.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Several presidents proclaimed individual days of thanksgiving for God's goodness to them, starting with George Washington.
Abraham Lincoln realized the need for Americans to turn back to God with a full heart. He gave this address to announce the new annual American holiday.
Lincoln's Thanksgiving Address
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.
We know that by his divine law, nations, like individuals, are subject to punishments and chastisements in this world May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins; to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole of the American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every pad of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
-President Abraham Lincoln
16th president of the USA
Friday, November 09, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
YouTube popularity is exploding in Japan, comments the Christian Pacific Rim Media blog:
“YouTube’s user base is growing more quickly in Japan than any of the other major websites, including Yahoo Japan, Amazon.co.jp or Wikipedia.org, according to the latest report by Internet research firm NetRatings Japan. Even though it does not have a separate Japanese-language version, YouTube recently achieved its 10 millionth Japanese visitor after just 14 months.
Implication: If more and more Japanese are going to YouTube and viewing videos, how could we use this low cost medium to reach Japanese?”
Also very important in Japan is the Manga-style comic and animation. So short animation clips in Manga style could be very significant. There are many Manga comics online in English and Japaneseas well as many Manga video clips. Rox35Media run an animation competitionfor mobile devices, and also training around the world in Christian comic production, cartooning and now also animation.
A Manga Biblehas been published by New Life League Japan.
click here to read more
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
"There will be a new children's movie out in December called "The Golden Compass". The movie has been described as "atheism for kids" and is based on the first book of a trilogy entitled "His Dark Materials" that was written by Phillip Pullman. Pullman is a militant atheist and secular humanist who despises C. S. Lewis and the "Chronicles of Narnia". His motivation for writing this trilogy was specifically to counteract Lewis' symbolisms of Christ that are portrayed in the Narnia series.
Clearly, Pullman's main objective is to bash Christianity and promote atheism. Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that "my books are about killing God." He has even stated that he wants to "kill God in the minds of children". It has been said of Pullman that he is "the writer the atheists would be praying for, if atheists prayed."
Click here for more
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Further details on GoningumiGoningumi Rules, 1662 (Shimo-Sakurai, Kita-Saku District, Shinano - Japan)
"1. Re : Christians. Following the investigations of the past, each and every one, down to the last person, has been thoroughly examined: not only house owners, [but also] men, women, children, servants and semi-independent branch houses (kadoya), renters, fully established branch houses (kakae), down to Buddhist monks, Shinto priests, yamabushi, ascetics, mendicant monks with flutes or bells, outcasts, common beggars and hinin, and so on—to make sure that there is not a single Christian in the village. If villagers see or hear about Christians, regardless of whether they are in the village or somewhere else, they must report."Source: http://content.cdlib.org/xtf/view?docId=ft0000034x&doc.view=content&chunk.id=d0e23492&toc.depth=1&anchor.id=0&brand=eschol
Friday, October 26, 2007
"And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men from every tribe and language and people and nation." (Rev. 5:9)
The Bible - God's Word - is radical about its purpose for all peoples. I do not necessarily say, "all people", I say all "peoples". More than winning masses of people, God is committed to redeeming his chosen people FROM every tribe and language and nation. (Psalm 67, Gen. 12:1-3, Matt. 24:14, 28:18-20, Isaiah 43:6-7 etc.)
How do you develop a heart for all peoples? I think you start by getting yourself close to those who already do have a heart for all peoples - God, of course, but also people like John Piper. (www.desiringgod.org) More than anyone else after Jesus, this is the man that fueled my fire to become a missionary myself.
Listen, watch or read his message here.
or listen to a wonderful biographical sketch of John Patton here.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Watch the D'Souza & Hitchens Debate here
Hitchens, a staunch critic of Christianity, has recently gained much attention for his bestselling 2007 book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
D'Souza has been referred to as one of the “top young public-policy makers in the country” by Investor’s Business Daily. He has taken on today’s leading critics of the faith in his new book, What’s So Great about Christianity.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
A multi-year qualitative study of Willow Creek reveals that their program-driven philosophy of ministry is not leading to spiritual growth, and Bill Hybels responds: "We made a mistake."
Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.Read the whole thing.
(HT: Zach Nielsen, JT)
Friday, October 19, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
When I first started dating Maki one big cross-cultural problem that we ran into (we had several!) was how we treated "insiders" and "outsiders". I naturally treated her and my family generally better than others. She naturally treated acquaintances and unknown people better than me or her family. This was the cause of more than one "enlivened" conversation!
Coming from America I had the idea that my first allegiance and investment was to my close friends and family. Maki thought that since her family and close friends were always there for her, she could be real around her close friends and family, but around others she needed to be extra nice and polite. Usually people in Japan don't tell outsiders what they are really thinking, so she wanted to be extra sensitive to avoid problems with those on the outside. This idea always frustrated me until we slowly began to meet somewhere in the middle and realized that both cultures had good and bad points in this area. - We should love and respect all people all of the time!
Then I learned more about why this culture developed in Japan.
When Christianity first came into Japan it was adopted by many top leaders. Kyoto, for example was a hot-bed of Christian activity and the church experienced great growth. Then, very quickly, Japan began to see Christianity as an imperialistic threat, just as it had been in the Philippines. For the next 300 years or so, Christianity was brutally and completely eradicated from Japan. A more closed country the world has never known!
In addition to other very shrewd ways of finding Christians (like the "fumie" - a picture of Jesus that EVERYONE had to step on and renounce Christ as they did), for over 260 years, EVERY family was put into groups of 5 families to monitor Christians. If in one family there was found to be a Christian without the others snitching, then all 5 families would be killed! This was called: 連帯責任（rentai sekinin) meaning, "united responsibility." (If there is one person who gets in trouble, the whole group is responsible because they didn't help fix it.)
During this "Go-nin-gumi-seido" (5 person group system) Sometimes problems arose and one family or person began to not like another family. Sometimes people would falsely report a family in their group as being Christians. Therefore, it was very important to treat outside people very politely and nicely, even better than members of your own family.
People are still pressured today to be a part of the neighborhood group that cleans the neighborhood area (for example) and demands a fee to be a member. Instead of death, the fear of being gossiped about or being regarded as a "breaker of harmony" still looms large! People are shamed therefore into making a good face to outsiders. Outsiders, at least as an outward show, receive better treatment than insiders.
Please pray for Maki and I to do more than show a good face! Pray that we have God's true love for outsiders.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
As the rest of the world gets ready for Halloween, I encourage you to ready yourself to celebrate and tell others about the Reformation - which has its anniversary on Oct. 31. 490 years ago on this day, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenburg.
I just received my first e-mail today from GPD. I really recommend this free e-mail (or inexpensive magazine) to encourage your efforts in prayer. Each day is filled with interesting information and faith encouraging stories. The magazine form has charts and pictures as well. Click here to learn more.
Monday, October 08, 2007
An excerpt from my last message at church... (Sorry no MP3 files this time.)
Sometimes we forget that Jesus didn’t look like somebody special. He didn’t stand out from others physically. Actually, according to Is. 53:2 He may have looked worse:
"...he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him."
In John 8:52, that normal, average-looking guy said some shocking words to those who were listening, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.”
Could you imagine some average guy in blue jeans coming up to you and saying these words?
Hey, uh, John. If anyone keeps and follows my words, he will never taste death.
Jesus was doing amazing miracles of healing but clearly people thought that he was just a man, maybe a prophet like Elijah.
He said these words and people’s jaws dropped open. What are you saying?!
In John 8:53 the people said - “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. But the Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.”
Jesus was saying, “I am not just a prophet, I AM GOD over all!
“Oh, cool – Thanks for telling us Jesus! Can we sing some worship songs now!” Is that what they said? No!
“Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” They were ready to kill Jesus for calling Himself God.
We don’t like when people try to make themselves out to be great.
But because Jesus is God – there is no more righteous thing He could do than to tell people the truth, and the best news they could ever hear – I am your God!
By his death and resurrection, He gives eternal life for those who put their trust in Him as the Majestic King over their lives and those who keep His word will never taste death.
This 6 min. video deeply moved me. With a little boy who just past 3 months old, it was probably more impacting.
Eliot was born with an undeveloped lung, a heart with a hole in it and DNA that placed faulty information into each and every cell of his body. However, that could not stop the living God from proclaiming Himself through this boy who never uttered a word.
In the midst of heartbreaking tragedy, this family found the presence of God strengthening, comforting, and guiding them. Their story reminds us to seek God and endure our struggles rather than blame Him for our hardships.
Watch the video here.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
This is a big question but one that is very clear when you read the Bible. (1 Peter for example).
This video (and set of videos) also sheds some present day light on the issue through the context of the Bible. I encourage you to think about this yourself in preparation for your next time of difficulty.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Only by the grace of God can we hope to persevere to the end with our faith still intact. We don't have anything in us naturally that would give us this persevering power. The difference between the one who falls away and the one who stays is simply an issue of God's grace. (1 John 2:19) I know for me that I often take for granted the fact that I continue to believe. One cannot really choose to believe something or not. Only by the Word of God and by the grace of God will my will be able to continue on in saving faith. I pray that even in deep difficulties and trials that my faith in God's good purposes would stand. (1 Cor. 15:10)
If you need help like me, check out these messages from the Desiring God National Conference.
Update: I am in the midst of listening to Jerry Bridges' message "Four Essentials to Finishing Well". I really recommend this!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Recently I have been thinking about how I can spur others and myself on towards more personal evangelism. What is it that keeps me from stopping to have a conversation with someone I see everyday? Am I too busy to care for people that God has made? Am I afraid that these people won't like me? Perhaps I think they are too busy? What would happen if I truly took an interest in people's lives and tried to get to know them?
One thing that I have found is that when I do take an interest in someone's life, things usually go well. They are interested to hear about my life also. They don't feel that I am being pushy when I start to share about Christ. They are open to fielding my questions about their spiritual life as well. If there is one thing that I have learned is that personal evangelism doesn't have to be unnatural or strange for anyone - though it does takes a step of faith in God. It is a good thing that it doesn't have to be hard, because we are ALL called to personal evangelism as Christians. All the disciples (including us) were given the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.
Check out these free downloadable messages about Personal Evangelism from Mark Dever
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I have been citing my brother Doug's blog a lot recently because he has some
great things to say. Here is another example. We Christians sometimes look more
like Pharisees pointing fingers than like humble people who realize they are ignorant
of many things concerning other people's lives, background and culture.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
The last couple weeks have brought the beginning of school (www.kyotoiu.org) and the starting back up of college ministry. Unfortunately, I have to leave my precious family each day for several hours now! (Sorry, this is new to me after getting to spend a lot of quality time with the family this summer!)
As a college ministry (CrossRoads) staff, we are beginning to have a Bible study and fellowship time (pictured above) which meets at our home. I am thankful that Maki really wants to do this, even though she is very busy with Noah!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Check out this new robot made in Kyoto. It moves to the beat and follows eyes so that it seems to be interacting with people. My friend told me that this robot is being used to help autistic children who find it overwhelming to interact with complicated facial movements and body language of adults. With its simple reaction to eyes and to where eyes move, Keepon can help children take steps in beginning to interact with others. - It also can "move to the rhythm" more than most people!
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Philippians is one of my favorite books in the Bible.
Have you ever read Philippians?
Do any of you know what the theme of Philippians is?
Sounds good, huh?
Let’s look at a few verses from Philippians (2:17-18):
“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”
Now maybe some of you are thinking,
“Rejoicing and sharing your joy with others sounds nice, but sometimes circumstances in our lives make it pretty difficult to rejoice!”
Well, Paul certainly knew about that because he was in prison when he wrote this letter!
Put in jail for telling people about Jesus.
And one of the reasons he was writing to the Philippians was that he knew they had problems in their church.
People in the church were having a hard time getting along with each other,
But even in prison, Paul was rejoicing and he was encouraging the church to rejoice in spite of their problems.
Why? Because when we rejoice, we focus on what God is doing,
We see our problems from the right perspective.
They really aren’t as significant as they may have seemed.
And rejoicing together draws Christians together so we can be united in serving the Lord.
But what do we have to rejoice about?
If you are a Christian, no matter what your circumstances may be, there is always much to rejoice about,
For as Christians all of our sins have been forgiven,
We have become children of God and nothing can separate us from his love,
We have the hope of living with God for eternity,
We have the Holy Spirit who is at work in our lives,
And we have the promise that God works all things in our lives for our good, to make us more like Jesus.
I think that sometimes we don’t rejoice because we are so focused on our problems that we don’t take time to remember these spiritual blessings God has given each of us,
And we sometimes forget to look at the individual blessings God has given to us recently and how He has been at work in our lives.
This summer I spent a month away from my family studying at a university in America, and I had a lot of time to think.
I had also spent several weeks studying there last summer.
One thing I thought about was the past year, since I was last at that university.
A lot has happened and God has done many things in my life.
Sometimes it was hard.
But it was very good for me to look back.
It led me to rejoice.
So today I’d like to rejoice and share my joy with you all as I tell you of God’s goodness to me and my family.
After returning from the States in the summer of 2006, I started right back into school at KIU Academy.
Fall trimester is always busy, especially because every year my elementary social studies and Language arts classes write a historical play and make it into a video.
We study about some civilization or time period and then do a play about a person or event related to what we have studied.
Last year we were studying Greek and Roman civilizations, so we did a play about the life of Paul from the Bible.
He’s the guy who wrote the book of Philippians.
He was a Roman citizen who traveled around Greece telling about Jesus.
It was a lot of work, but it was also a fun learning experience for the kids in the class,
And it was also a good learning experience for me.
We read all about the life of Paul from the book of Acts,
And it really makes you think about it in a new way when you are trying to decide what to include in a play and how to act it out.
On the one hand I saw so clearly that Paul really had a very hard life.
We were trying to figure out how many times to show Paul being beaten and how many of his hardships could we show without the video becoming gloomy and depressing.
But on the other hand I saw so clearly Paul’s attitude of rejoicing in the midst of his struggles.
He was so focused on what God was doing in the world and how God was in control and was working even through all of Paul’s hardships.
That was a very timely lesson for me to learn.
We showed the video at our Christmas program, and during vacation I was finishing up the editing and making DVDs for my students.
Over and over I heard the song we used in the video titled: “God is in control.”
My kids walked around the house singing it.
Then, on the last day of winter vacation, my youngest daughter Julia came down in the morning and started vomiting blood in our kitchen.
That was a frightening experience, yet God had prepared us and given us assurance that even in this situation when we could do nothing, He was in control of what happened to Julia.
Julia came very close to dying, but God had mercy on her and on our family.
He protected Julia and kept her alive.
She has had two operations since then and her stomach exam a few weeks ago showed her esophagus is now clear of all the swollen veins that had ruptured and caused the bleeding.
We thank you for we know many of you have prayed for Julia.
But even more we rejoice and thank God, for He has been so good to us.
But it isn’t only when God heals that He is good.
I mentioned this promise earlier (Romans 8:28):
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”
In the apostle Paul’s difficult situations as well in ours, God was at work to bring good out of it.
Now this doesn’t mean God causes all of the problems in our lives.
Most of them are the results of sin in our world.
But God is so great, He uses even bad circumstances to bring about good results.
Paul rejoiced that his imprisonment gave him opportunities to tell his guards and judges and other rulers about Jesus.
In our family’s case, God used Julia’s situation to help our whole family grow in faith.
You know, when everything is going along smoothly in our lives, it is easy to forget about God and how much we need Him.
But when something like Julia’s illness comes along,
it shows us how helpless we really are and how much we need God.
This was true in our family.
Even Julia at her young age of five was learning how to trust God for strength to face difficulties.
You know, we wouldn’t ask for painful circumstances in our lives,
But often these are the times we grow most so I rejoice in what God has done in Julia and our family over the past 8 months.
Now at the same time, we were facing a situation with our house.
For the last 19 years in Japan, we have been renting homes.
Often from owners who were away on business, so we would have to move whenever they came back and wanted the house.
Then in the spring of 2006, we received permanent residence visas, so we had the ability to borrow money and buy a house.
We started praying about it and looking at houses that were available.
But we didn’t find any houses that had what we wanted for a price we could afford.
We asked the real estate agent for the house we were living in whether the owner would be willing to sell.
He said no.
But then he told us last fall that the owner was coming back to Japan but would not be living in that house,
So we could get a new contract and stay there as long as we wanted without having to move.
I thought that sounded pretty good.
Maybe this was God’s answer to our prayers about whether we should move or not.
We stopped actively looking at houses, but we still received faxes of floorplans from the real estate agent from time to time.
One Saturday morning we got one.
It was very blurry and confusing and neither Jemi or I were very interested,
But we were not busy that day, so we decided we would go just to see what was available.
It was very big,
Not very old,
10 minutes drive from KIU Academy,
And a price we could afford!
Wow! We prayed and talked about it, and decided to buy it.
A few days later when I came home from talking with the bank about a loan,
I got a call from the real estate agent for the house we were living in.
He said, ”Oh, Mr. Rohrer, I have something very important to tell you!
The owner changed his mind.
He is coming back and wants to live in the house you are in now.
So you must move by February 9!”
That was less than 3 months away!
I replied, ”My God is so good!
He has provided the house for us to move to when we didn’t even know we would have to move!
And the owners are planning to leave about two weeks before we must be out of this house!”
As it turned out, God’s timing was perfect.
We moved February 2:
One week before we had to be out of our old house,
And 2 days after Julia got out of the hospital after her internal bleeding problem!
Again, I rejoice, for God was so good to us.
The house he provided is so good for our family,
And His timing was also good in that our new neighbors were concerned about our cute little daughter in the hospital,
Which helped us start good relationships with our new neighbors very easily,
And gave us the opportunity to share with them about how our faith in Jesus was helping us through that difficult time.
One of our new neighbors even said that she had gone to church when younger,
And she thought God had brought us to this neighborhood to help her.
Wow, that’s reason to rejoice, isn’t it!
God was at work, even through difficult circumstances.
God has also been at work similarly through my wife’s health problem.
For the past 4 years my wife has had trouble with hyperthyroid,
But God has graciously caused her condition to improve to the point where she could stop taking medicine for it a few months ago.
That’s more reason to rejoice,
But again, God was also working through that difficulty, with the result that several people from her hospital have come to Chapel and heard about Jesus.
We rejoice in what God has done and share our joy with you.
Now while all the medical problems were happening with Julia,
Life was still going on for our other four kids, and it was often rather stressful.
Those of you who are parents know it is often challenging raising children.
You teach them what is right and how to treat others, but you can’t make them want to do right.
We can try to guide their actions, but we can’t change their hearts.
Only God can do that.
And we have prayed to that end for our kids since before they were born.
And this year we’ve seen God answer some of those prayers.
This spring, the Holy Spirit clearly worked in my son, changing his attitude toward God and others.
I was so pleasantly surprised to see the kind way he was relating to his younger sisters.
I told him I really appreciated it.
He said, “Oh it’s no problem. It just comes naturally!”
But we both know the change really came supernaturally through the work of the Holy Spirit.
I rejoice to see God’s work in my son’s life.
Likewise, I’ve seen God at work in my daughter’s life.
One night before we prayed together at bedtime, I asked my daughter if she had ever talked to some of her friends about Jesus.
We started praying for them together.
Before long she had invited two of them to Chapel and they were coming regularly.
As a father, it is exciting for me to see my daughter’s concern for those around her,
To see her desire to share Jesus with her friends,
And to see God at work in her life, answering her prayers.
It’s another reason to rejoice.
Now God wasn’t at work only in our family,
But we’ve seen Him at work in encouraging ways in the lives of others around us in answer to our prayers.
A good example is Akemi Yamaguchi’s father.
You may have heard Akemi’s testimony about it a few months ago.
Mr. Yamaguchi used to attend our Suminodo Int’l chapel years ago and my family also attended there.
Many weeks I helped him practice his English speaking,
And then after the message I would try to talk with him about Jesus,
But he had no interest.
His heart was hard toward God.
Then, years later, we heard from Akemi that his condition was rapidly deteriorating from cancer.
Our family prayed for his physical condition, but we prayed even more for his heart:
That it would soften and that he would repent of his sin and give his life to Jesus before he died.
I must admit that my faith often was not very strong as I thought back to my talks with him at Suminodo,
But my young daughters prayed for him faithfully almost every night,
And God answered.
Again God graciously worked through a difficult illness to bring about good:
Mr. Yamaguchi’s heart softened and he turned to Jesus.
He died at peace with God and will be with him forever in heaven.
This was so encouraging to our family and to many others at Chapel.
That is reason to rejoice!
Now the question arises: Why has God done all of these wonderful things for my family in the past year?
Is it because I am a missionary or some kind of great Christian?
No, as I said earlier, I think my children’s faith is sometimes greater than mine.
But this summer as God brought to my mind the blessings of the past year,
tears ran down my cheeks,
And I saw it is all because of God’s grace,
Because He is such a loving and generous God.
It is such a blessing to know Him.
All I can do is rejoice and give thanks to Him.
His grace is the hope for my family.
His grace is the hope for this church.
His grace is the hope for Japan.
Most people in Japan see no need for Jesus in their lives.
*As the Bible says, (Romans 3:10-11) “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
That was Mr Yamaguchi’s situation
And Maybe this is your situation today,
But just like with Mr Yamaguchi’s case, God still loves you and He is seeking you.
He is the hope for your life,
And that is reason to rejoice.
What reasons do you have to rejoice today?
Think about it,
Then rejoice and share your joy with others.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
In 2000, I remember a friend telling me, "Going to live in Japan is kind of like climbing Mt. Everest. Are you really ready?"
Well, I don't know if I've really reached any summit, but Sept. 2 brought the 7th anniversary of my coming to Japan! It also was the 5th anniverary of meeting my wife, Maki. It has been great to see all that God has done and worked during that time. When I look at the short-term, sometimes it is hard to see much of anything happening. However, God often works in mysterious and slow ways. During my 7 years I have seen many friends come to Christ - something very rare in Japan. I have seen my Japanese language abilities go from nothing to something and I have gone from a young, single guy, to a grown (?) man with a beautiful wife and child. But most of all I have learned to trust God in a greater way as the Provider, Protector, Creator and Sustainer. He is simply the all in all. All things, including me, have their being in Him. (Acts 17) Thank you God! (Below is another little picture of Noah - I know that is what most people want to see! - I don't blame you!)
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Jesus & Natural Selection
I have been studying Psalm 8 recently in preparation for a message at church. One thing that I noticed is the desire God has to bless and lift up the weak and the humble. He ordains praise for little children while prideful Ivy League professors, by and large, are blinded to His wonders. (1 Cor. 1:18-31) He is mindful of sinful man and cares for the son of man (literally "adam" - one made of dust), but He sits far off from the proud. To people who exult in their own foolish pride, like Nebuchadnezzar, (Daniel 4) He makes more animal-like and machine-like, incapable of wonderous delight in anything bigger than themselves.
Charles Darwin himself said, "Up to the age of 30 or beyond it, poetry of many kinds... gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intese delight in Shakespeare...Formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great, delight. but now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music... I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did... My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding laws out of large collections of facts..."
As I watched, "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" today I wasn't surprised to learn the following:
Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 people and themselves in the worst school shooting in US history up that time. Their goal was to bring death to more than 500. Harris wrote on his website, "YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE??? Natural SELECTION. It's the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms."
The autopsy report for Harris revealed that on the day of the attack, he wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Natural Selection." Harris and Klebold, who planned their rampage for a year, paid homage to their hero, Adolph Hitler by carrying out their killing spree on April 20, Hitler's birthday.