Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good Advice from Rick Warren

"...many of us have trouble getting quiet. It's as if we are afraid of silence; it makes us very uncomfortable. The moment we get in the car, the radio or CD player goes on. The moment we get home, the TV goes on.

Yet, God, in a sense, says, "If you want to lower your stress, it's as simple as this: Shut up. Be silent. Stop talking and start listening."

I suggest that once a day you should go out in your backyard, (or if you are in Japan, somewhere quiet!) sit down, and just be quiet. I'm not talking about reading your Bible. You ought to read your Bible every day, but I mean get alone for five minutes a day and be completely silent. Ask God a question, and then just sit and listen.

Sometimes we say, "God, I really need your guidance on this," and then we get up and walk off. We don't wait for an answer. Could it be the reason we never hear from God is we never listen?"

Friday, May 29, 2009

 Does Prayer Really Change God's Mind?
In R.C. Sproul's new book entitled, "The Prayer of the Lord" he states:

"One of the most frequently asked questions in the theology
of prayer is, “Does prayer change things?” The answer is evident.
The New Testament makes it clear that prayer changes all kinds
of things. We’ll explore that issue more deeply later, but the next
question that comes is, “Does prayer change God’s mind?”
What would induce God to change His mind? Perhaps new
information, some knowledge He lacks until we communicate
it to Him for His consideration. However, the Bible tells us that
when we come to our King in prayer, He already knows what
we are going to ask for and He knows what we need better than
we do. We have to remember that this One we’re talking to is
omniscient. He doesn’t learn anything new. So if you’re going to
change His mind by your prayers, it won’t be because you give
Him new information.
Sometimes we change our minds because we realize that
what we had intended to do was a bad plan, that we made a
mistake in taking such a course. Perhaps we get counsel from
someone who says, “Oh, R. C., you shouldn’t do that because
if you do, A, B, or C is going to follow, and it’s going to mess
everything up.” Is this what happens with God when we come to
Him in prayer? Can we come to Him and say: “God, what You’re planning to do is not good. Let me counsel You to do the right thing”? That would be absurd. God never does anything that is not perfectly good, and we fallen human beings are certainly in no position to counsel Him.
In short, no prayer of any human being ever uttered in his-
tory ever changed the mind of God in the slightest, because His
mind doesn’t ever need to be changed. Sadly, when I say that to
people, they react in horror. They say: “Why should we pray?
What good is prayer if we can’t change God’s mind? Why should
we even engage in this exercise? It’s an exercise in futility.” At that
point, I have to remind them that, as I mentioned above, prayer
does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important
thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with
God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we
are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God
reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to
change in conformity to Him. Prayer changes us profoundly.
God did not give prayer to the church for His benefit. The
Sovereign has condescended to give us an audience. He has
invited us into the heavenly palace. He has lifted the scepter and
told us to enter. We have access to His very throne. But some-
times we come into His presence far too casually. We come to
Him and say, “Hi, God, how are you doing?” We talk to God
with the kind of familiarity that breeds contempt. It’s a familiar-
ity that reveals we have forgotten who He is and who we are. We
have forgotten that we are peasants in the presence of the King.
Not just a king, but the King, the King of kings, the Lord of
lords, the One who is absolutely sovereign."

I am reminded of Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."  May God give us his own desires as we seek Him so that our prayers will be effective!
Quote from Ronald Reagan 
"If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." 

For the sake of the world, would you join me in prayer that America does not keep going further and further from God?  Would you pray (for the sake of all the nations) that Christians in America would get off their couches and get on their knees on behalf of the rest of the world?
                              In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God says,
"If my people who are called by my
name will humble themselves and pray
and seek my face and turn from their
wicked ways, then I will hear from
heaven and will forgive their sin and
heal their land."
Let us seek the Lord while He may be found! 

Lately I have been thinking about the power of prayer that used to be in my life.  I have seen many miraculous things in my life, but I don't recall any when I wasn't really seeking God through prayer.  I long to get back to intimacy with God - and a passion for His Name in the world through prayer.  If we want to be effectively used of God, we must draw near to Him.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Little Megachurch
Despite the addition of a laser light show and a rock n' roll praise band, Jehosophat Baptist Church just couldn't seem to increase their attendance.

(Ht: The Sacred Sandwich)

Preaching Is Exultation

Preaching is exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply try understand what he explains. Rather, the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.
Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. The preacher worships—exults—over the word, trying his best to draw you into a worshipful response by the power of the Holy Spirit.
My job is not simply to see truth and show it to you. (The devil could do that for his own devious reasons.) My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a sermon and a lecture.
- Dr. John Piper (Desiring God Ministries)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Incredible Creatures that Defy (Macro) Evolution
From Exploration Films comes a series that I have enjoyed using in my science classes here in Japan.  There are some clips at the bottom of the page here.  Please take some time and watch these short, but very good clips.  Watch more here:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Family Man
Here is a thought-provoking song by Andrew Peterson accompanied by a nice video.  Though there is much to give up (even many good things) in getting married and investing in my wife and kids, I wouldn't go back to being single again for the world.  All the dirty diapers to change, all the crying, sleep-depraved nights are worth it to be a man who can be filled with the Father's love in a deeper way for others to see Him and know Him.  Okay, and it helps that my boys (and my wife) are so fun and cute!  Thank you God for them!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Clayton's Story
Here is a powerful video.  It is definitely worth the six minutes to watch.  Click here for a bigger screen.

(Vit. Z)

Monday, May 11, 2009

For Noah and Taka fans...

Shangdi - East meets West

Often times it is said in Japan that Christianity is a western religion.  However, today there are likely more Christians in China than there are in the U.S.  The biggest objection though is that in the beginning, there was one God, one Creator God, both in the east and in the west, and that fact is clear to see if you look into ancient history.

"ShangDi," in Chinese, is the Creator-God in ancient history.  This surely appears to be "one and the same as the Creator-God of the Hebrews.  In fact, one of the Hebrew names for God is El Shaddai, which is phonetically similar to ShangDi. Even more similar is the Early Zhou pronunciation of ShangDi which is ‘djanh-tigh’ [Zhan-dai].4 Another name for their God which the ancient Chinese used interchangeable with ShangDi was Heaven (Tian). Zheng Xuan, a scholar of the early Han dynasty said, “ShangDi is another name for Heaven (Tian)”.5 The great philosopher Motze (408-382 BC) also thought of Heaven (Tian) as the Creator-God:
‘I know Heaven loves men dearly not without reason. Heaven ordered the sun, the moon, and the stars to enlighten and guide them. Heaven ordained the four seasons, Spring, Autumn, Winter, and Summer, to regulate them. Heaven sent down snow, frost, rain, and dew to grow the five grains and flax and silk so that the people could use and enjoy them. Heaven established the hills and river, ravines and valleys, and arranged many things to minister to man’s good or bring him evil.’ 6
Today, Chinese Christians still remain truly eastern, as they trace the Creator God back in their histories and call God, "Shangdi" in respect to His love and deeds for them in the past.

Incidentally, the earliest recorded histories in Japan (the Kojiki) also describes the creation, by three deities and chiefly by the deity in the center of heaven.  Like the Chinese, the emperor of Japan since ancient times was an object of worship.  However, the emperor in China became such because originally, he was the only one who could act as a priest to make sacrifices to Shangdi.  Shangdi was believed to be too holy for just any person to approach.  Slowly, instead of worshipping Shangdi, the emperor, whom they could see, was worshiped.  It is interesting to note, however, that Shangdi was never to be represented by an image or by an idol.  (Learn more here.)

Lastly, it is important to look at the writings which both the ancient Chinese and the Japanese still use today.  They give us many clues as to the thought processes of these ancient peoples.  The following is a chart that shows some of the similarities between the Bible and the kanji characters still used in Japan and China today.
Chinese characters
Here are three other interesting kanji:
魔  This character means "evil" or originally, "tempt".  You can see two trees and hiding below them is an "oni", an evil monster -an orge or a demon.  The top and left lines show "hiding".  In Genesis, Satan hides in the trees to tempt Eve.
船 This character means, "ship", especially a large ship.  A smaller ship would be 舟   A larger ship would be one where there are eight mouths (the top means "eight" and the bottom box means "mouth")  Many believe this is because there were eight people on the ark, in which Noah made.  This story is not just a Bible story - in various forms it can still be found in almost every ancient civilization.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Dog Diary vs. Cat Diary

The Dog's Diary
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Dinner! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat's Diary
Day 983 of My Captivity

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now ...

(HT: Jer)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Student Wins Suit After Teacher Says Creationism 'Superstitious Nonsense'

"They lost, he violated the establishment clause," 

"From our perspective, whether he violated it with one statement or with 19 statements is irrelevant."The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from making any law establishing religion. The clause has been interpreted by U.S. courts to also prohibit government employees from displaying religious hostility.  

Wish that were true here.  

Read the whole thing here. 

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Melting Pot

Growing up Americans are often taught that America is the melting pot of the world.  Various cultures come, and we all learn to get along in unity as one nation under God - and under the English language.

Japan, on the other hand, is about 99% culturally Japanese, though linguistically it is one of the biggest melting pots in the world.  I admit my survey is severely limited, but judging from how Japanese have adapted and improved every invention known to man, I am quite certain they are also one of the best at adapting to (not sure about improving) the English language.  Let me tell you what I mean...

Every year the Japanese government approves of more and more English words to be officially accepted as "Japanese".  In popular culture, even more so, English has infiltrated every field, nearly every pop song, and nearly every conversation.  Surprisingly, it sometimes makes it even harder for a native English speaker to adapt to all the various pronunciations of English words - it would be easier just to learn a NEW word!

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, l will give you some real Japanese words.  See if you can come up with the equivalent English word! 

aisu chi-

Okay, here are the answers:

Now you know some Japanese!

At the rate in which words are changing, my guess is that someday - maybe in about 150 years, Japanese itself will be a complete sub-English language, much like pigeon English or Singlish (Singaporean English).  Japanese itself is the melting pot of languages!  The only thing that could change that would be another big war.  During World War 2, Japanese were forced to go back to using the traditional words instead of English infused words!  Baseball, could not be "besuboru" anymore.  Even today, it still remains as yakkuu  (Field ball).  The way Japan keeps beating America in baseball, I think that is one word that will never again be changed!

For any Japanese people reading this post, let me give you a fun game to try.  Try to have a conversation at the table without using any katakana English.  If you do, you are out.  My wife and some others tried to do this once.  Of course I was the winner!

Friday, May 01, 2009

What is Church like in Japan?  - part 3
Finding a good church in Japan is sometimes a hard task.  Many churches have few young people or are too traditional and stale to attract any young people.

For those of you in Aichi-ken, I really want to encourage you to check out All Nations Fellowship.  Michael Oh, one of the leaders there, has a wonderful vision.  Not only is he concerned with Japan, but he is concerned with giving Japanese young people a heart for spreading the good news of Christ in all the nations.

Find out more here.
Find out more about Michael Oh, and listen to him speak at the Desiring God's pastor's conference here.