Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Easter is Coming!

Lord willing, this is the song that I will be leading (both in English and in Japanese) for our Easter service.  Please pray that it would go well and that many would be touched.  I don't think we'll have quite the turn-out as you see here : ) ... and so I can praise God in all things!  Let's also praise God for what he has accomplished for us on the cross and by his resurrection!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Could you Forgive like This?

I encourage you to look at my friend Justin Taylor's blog, from which I took this video.  He has had several great posts lately that I'd like to post here!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Discipleship Training

Okay, I am only half joking.  I feel that spending time with these precious kids of ours is one of the best things I can do both now and for the future of Japan.  Mainly through my close relationships with my wife and boys can they know Christ.  And mainly through my relationships with my wife and boys can others around me see Christ.  The marriage relationship and the parent-child relationship are the key analogies we can use to personally show what kind of God our God is to each other and to the world.  It is wonderful to do work simply by taking time to really love your family.

 One song that relates to this and that has been deep in my heart lately is called, "Love Grows Love", by Caedmon's Call.  Here is how part of it goes:

"I fell in love with you/ and that love became something new/ it keeps getting stronger/ than we ever could have longed/ love keeps growing more love/ When we got the news/ we had to call our families/ and start painting the room/ a nice bright blue/ Our vows they started breathing/ and they took on flesh and blood/ and we held them in our arms/ and tasted God was good/ I fell in love with you/ and that love became something new/ It added a name and it added a smile/ it keeps getting bigger every further mile/ There on your bended knee/ we sewed the seeds of our history/ They're coming up stronger/ than we ever could have longed/ love keeps growing more love..." 

May the Lord be pleased to use our love to grow even more love.

Gyoza Party

It was fun to have some friends over for some homemade gyoza!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Am I Sermon-Proof?

"Tens of thousands of churches {in the West} have become smugly sermon-proof.  'The Lord says: These people come near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up of only rules taught by men.' (Is. 29:13)]

This also stung me:
"For countless millions of people, following Jesus is little more than a cultural experience.  Joining church means little more than a cultural social club where they can meet new people and exchange pleasantries about inconsequential matters.  If the Bible is read at all, it is from a sense of duty rather than as a part of a relationship with its real, vibrant and life-changing author... Jesus is viewed as a historical figure who died on the cross, and as a future figure who will one day come again, but few Christians really, genuinely, walk with Jesus today, sharing their dreams, fears and concerns with him as a lover, friend and Lord."

Forgive us, and change us, dear Father and Friend!

Quotes again are taken from "Back to Jerusalem" by Paul Hattaway

Woe to us parents …

by Doug Wolter
 "These words by Piper pierced my gut today:
Woe to us if we ever become so fixated on the welfare of our own children that we lose our passion for rescuing lost neighbors and reaching lost nations.
There will be God-ordained, Christ-exalting kingdom-advancing strategies for parents that are not built around the ideal comforts and securities and earthly possibilities and pedagogical excellence for children. There will be times, Jesus says (in Matthew 19:29), when “for my sake” you will leave children. And no doubt in leaving you will feel that the ideal home situation is being lost. And it is. But God is able to do more than we ever dreamed with the painful circumstances created by following his radical call. “One hundredfold”, is the word he uses. “One hundredfold” (hekatontaplasiona)!
O God, give us a proper view of our children and the mission you have given us as a family.  Let us be willing to take risks for your name’s sake!"

(Doug has had a couple great posts about training children for God's glory in the world lately.  I encourage you to check his site out.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eager for God's Glory among the Nations

"When we were selecting the first group of Back to Jerusalem missionaries, it was actually difficult to keep the numbers down to just thirty-nine. House church leaders shared the vision for Back to Jerusalem in just a few meetings, and immediately people jumped up with their arms raised, proclaiming, 'I will go! I am willing to die for Jesus!' In some of the meetings over half of the people in attendance insisted on being among the first to go."

"We encourage Christians and churches around the world not to focus on their own needs and desires! If you do, you will surely shrivel up and die. God's principle is that when you seek to bring blessing to others, your own lives will be blessed. When you make missionary outreach to nations that have never heard about Jesus the priority of your church, you will not fail to be blessed and revived: 'Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.' (Matt.6:33)."
"If a man pickes a hot stick out of the fire and runs with it, the movement will fan the flame back into life. If he sits down and watches it long enough, the fire will diminish and finally be snuffed out all together. The Christian life is one of action for Jesus, not inaction."
"So many Christians are doing their own thing, and don't know or even seem to care that God's cloud and pillar of fire have moved on! Let's decide to wake up an find out what the Lord is doing and see how we can get involved! The difference between mere 'Christian activity' and being a front-line soldier in the Lord's battle is as wide as day and night."

Quotes taken from "Back to Jerusalem - Called to Complete the Great Commission"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Life in Japan - A Japanese Perspective
Hitomi is a friend back from my days in Shizuoka.  Watch part of her testimony here.  I think it will give you a good idea of the life most Japanese young people experience.

*UPDATE: Heart-wrenching quote from part 2: "They don't know God, they don't think about God."
(Tangle won't let me embed this videos for some reason.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

If I was in America, I would be There
22,000 people, drawn from 142 countries...
For my sake, please do not miss the Urbana Missions Conference this December 27-31!  Of course, if anyone wants to fly me there in their place, that would also be an option.
Check out the videos and info here.
Back to Jerusalem
"The ongoing story of the Chinese 'Back To Jerusalem' movement – perhaps one of the most significant missions movements in Church history – now told on television. Out of the great and continuing revival in China – now with an estimated 130 million Christians there, or more! – comes the powerful 'Back To Jerusalem' movement. This is the Chinese house-church networks’ vision and goal to take the Gospel in to the strongholds of darkness in central Asia and the Middle East all the way back to where it started, Jerusalem. Thus the name, 'Back To Jerusalem.'"

Find more here:  www.backtojerusalem.com
True Freedom for Persecuted Nations
Brother Yun, in the book, "Back to Jerusalem" writes:

"The past fifty years of suffering, persecution and torture of the house churches in China were all part of God's training for us.  He has used the government for his own purposes, molding and shaping his children as he sees fit.  That is why I correct Western Christians who tell me: 'I've been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.'  This is not what we pray!  We never pray against our government or call down curses on it.  Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our own lives and the government we live under...  Don't pray for the persecution to stop!  We shouldn't pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure!  Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power.  That is true freedom!"

Obviously he is right.  The simple fact that China is the fastest growing church in the world gives you an idea that his words are true.  Jesus' example and his words to take up a cross - literally, "go to die", is the confirmation.

May we "comfortable Christians" make ourselves uncomfortable to express to a dieing world the love of the Savior and bring true freedom to the nations.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Billy Graham at Harvard 47 years ago

Justin Taylor writes:  "I came across some files tonight I hadn't heard before: Billy Graham's 1962 lecture at Harvard University on "Evangelism and the Intellectual" (Part 1, Part 2).

For those of us whose only image of Dr. Graham is of an older man speaking slowly in a stadium while giving the simple gospel message, it's quite interesting to listen to the 43-year-old evangelist quoting contemporary psychologists and playrights and philosophers as he seeks to explain sin, atonement, conversion, and meaning to an audience of skeptics."

I also recommend these messages whole-heartedly.  They are well worth the time.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Heart for the Nations

Here is a message I gave last summer about my desire to be in Japan.  It is a message that is really at the core of my being, when I let myself focus on it.  (For example, I still got tears in my eyes when I listened to it again just today.)  There is nothing so great as to be a part of God's overflowing love to all the nations.  May God bless you also to overflowing as you listen.  (Also check out Michael Oh's message, a few posts down.  It should also stir your soul.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Valley of Vision

This is the title of a book I picked up last summer when I was in America.  It is basically a collection of deeply God-focused, Bible-saturated prayers from various Puritan authors.  For anyone looking for a help for their prayer life, this is a book to consider getting.  I had heard many good things from others, but when I actually started to pray the prayers in the book, my prayer life started to go a lot deeper!  I am planning to use this book more often to help me get started in prayer before I go to bed each night.  Here is a sample prayer, which is actually the first prayer and the title of the book.  It is called:

“The Valley of Vision.”
Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

(See other thoughts about this book at www.challies.com)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Success in Ministry, part 2
By Chad Nuss

In planting a church, we deal with this (issue of success) constantly. Whenever I tell someone we are planting a church the inevitable question asked is “How many do you have coming to your meetings?” This question is very telling about what people perceive as success in ministry. Our members have been studying the Scriptures together to define success from the perspective of our King Jesus. We have found the following 12 characteristics to be an accurate picture of what success looks like in ministry:
1. Love for God and the saints.
2. Passion for the gospel.
3. Faith and hope in God.
4. New life in Christ.
5. Good works.
6. Joy in God.
7. Maturity and discernment.
8. Discipline and holiness.
9. Respect for God's Word.
10. Perseverance and suffering.
11. Prayer.
12. Order in the Church/family.
I think no matter how big or small your ministry is, if you get these things right you will hear the words of Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”