Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Anatomy of Faith & the Quest for Reason

Perhaps the best message I have heard in response to the rationalistic, evangelical atheism of today.
Listen to Ravi Zacharias' 20 min. message here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Further details on Goningumi

Goningumi 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."


Saturday Fun

We are encouraging Noah to "fly high" in life!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Call into Missions

"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. ( 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

Life Together
This week I will be guest blogging for my twin brother Doug, as he is away with his family. Please check out Doug's blog too when you have the chance.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

“Is Christianity the problem?”

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

Willow Creek Repents

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."

Bill Hybels:
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)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why Japan?
This video was a made from a friend who is with the Navigators (whom I used to do ministry with and whom I respect highly.) This video sums up our heart to be in Japan very well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

五人組制度(The 5 person group system)- Japan, 1600-1860

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

Desiring God

The original message of John Piper's meditations as a "Christian Hedonist".
I encourage you to take some time to think and enjoy God with him. This message (and study) has profoundly influenced my life for good.

Listen or read here


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Disappointment with Billy Graham

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Martin Luther at Worms

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.

Global Prayer Digest
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

Meekness and Majesty

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.
99 Balloons

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


Does God always heal those with enough faith? Many people believe so these days and it is destroying Christians everywhere. Watch this short video from

Why do Christians Suffer?

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

Some New Pics

Daddy catching some Z's with Noah!
Noah is trying to keep his head up! Now if his parents could take a good picture!

This is a cool, short testimony put to images by a friend who didn't grow up going to church. He went to Dartmouth and met Christians there who helped him.

Click here to see this fine website.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Perseverance of the Saints

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!