Monday, November 29, 2010

Do Christians Love to Sneer at Others?

What an important message from Jerram Barrs:

When people spend time with us do they more often see us filled with love and joy, or do they more often see us disparaging situations and those we disagree with? As Christians, are we demonstrating the grace and love of God in our words about non-Christians, or does it feel better to poke fun at, look down on, or even sneer at those who do not yet get the gospel of grace? Have we forgotten that we are Christians because of God's sheer mercy and grace alone?

I encourage you to listen to Dr. Jerram Barrs speak on this crucial issue (Postmodernism and Culture Wars) here, for the sake of more effective witnessing in the future.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

If You were Born Here Instead of There
Michael Oh:
If YOU were born into a fundamentalist Islamic family what would YOU want Christians in America to do? If YOU were born into a family of a Shinto priest, how would YOU want Christians in America to respond? Knowing what you know today, certainly you would want them to share with you about eternal life through the Savior of the world Jesus Christ. Certainly you would want them to bring the Gospel to their nation and teach them about salvation for their souls and about eternal life. Certainly you would want churches and Christians in other nations to sacrifice financially to send missionaries to teach you the Bible, God's Word to this world.

But again, by the grace of God, you WEREN'T born into those circumstances. You were born into your own. So you can ignore what COULD HAVE BEEN and just continue in the circumstances you have been given by God's grace. Or you can choose to recognize that you are who you are, that you are saved, that you are blessed, that you are undeservedly loved— only by the grace of God— and choose to do all that is in your power to help those in need. To invest the blessing of your education for those who have none. To invest the blessing of your finances to help those who have little or none. To invest your spiritually blessed life to help those around the world who are lost without Christ to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Takanori Oba is a young man who was born in Japan, the largest unreached nation of the world. He was born to a father who when he would get drunk took out his anger by beating his son and throwing golf balls at his head. In the evening when his father returned to their apartment Takanori would quickly turn out his light and pretend to be sleeping hoping to avoid a whipping by his father's belt. Perhaps you are thinking, "Thank God that I wasn't born into a life like his." Eventually Takanori and his mother escaped their father and home to start a new life. Years later the grace of God reached down to Takanori Oba and saved his soul. He later became the first graduate of Christ Bible Seminary in Nagoya, Japan where I serve as president. During the second year of his studies he was able to visit his abusive father, seeing him for the first time in over 15 years. When he saw his father, God gave Taka a logic-defying compassion for the man who had caused him such pain.

Why was Takanori born into his circumstances? Was it a curse? No, it was the grace of God. And today Takanori is seeking to share that same grace with the father who abused him. That's what Takanori would have wanted if he were born into his father's circumstances. That's the Golden Rule.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Free Book Give-Away
Overcoming Spiritual Barriers in Japan
Do you want to know more about how you can effectively pray for Japan?

I want you to know! I will be giving away one free copy of this book to a random reader of this blog. If you want to be registered for the drawing, just include your first name and your physical and/or e-address in the comment section below.

Here is a blurb about the book:
"More workers, more money or better methods will not help a situation that is a result of spiritual strongholds. When Christianity landed on the shores of Japan 450 years ago, Japanese people were so attracted to the Gospel that they chose torture and death rather than renounce their faith. Today, Japanese people seem indifferent to the message of salvation. What changed?"

Note: The give-away will end on Dec. 3, Japan time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Missionary's Home
Occasionally I am asked by Japanese people, "Do you think you will go back home someday?" That is always a difficult question to answer. I know they mean, "Do you think you will go back home (to the states) someday?" But it never really comes into my heart in that way.

A fellow missionary friend sums up my own thoughts nicely:

There is a “home” that is very comfortable and that we can easily fit into and be “normal people.”
[Then] we have our “home” here in this land where 2 of our 3 kids were born and where much of our heart is now. This home isn’t always comfortable, and we don’t often easily fit in, but yet we are here now and this is what God has us for now.
Finally, there is a third “home” - and that is our true HOME (
and the greatest home). Hebrews 13:14 speaks of it this way, “For here we have no lasting city (or HOME), but we seek the city that is to come.”
Japanese Cultural Awareness #2
(Updated video below.)
Taco Yaki.

Nope, no Mexican food here.

Taco means "octopus" in Japanese, and yaki means fried.

It is scrump-delish!

One taco yaki ball with sauce and mayo. I don't know how many I ate at this sitting.

Fuel For Prayer - Japan
This quote just devastated me today, "85% of Japanese teenagers say, 'I wish I wasn't born - I don't know why I live on earth.'"
(HT: Christopher Grissom)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Intellectually Unsatisfied Atheists
Richard Dawkins is perhaps best known for his much-cited comment that evolution "made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist." With the steady growth of atheism in America and Europe, it would seem that many are increasingly being "satisfied" by this bankrupt theory.

For most Christians one major part of our stories is coming to the point of seeing our need for Christ. We realized that the we were unsatisfied with the things of this world, both spiritually and intellectually.

To an atheist the material world is all there is. It would seem then that Christians, who truly love God and others, should be making it an aim to help others see how materialism is an unsatisfactory belief, in every way. If Christians can show the complete moral, spiritual and intellectual bankruptcy of the theory of abiogenesis/evolution, we could in many ways begin to reverse the secularizing damage that has been already been afflicted on so many.

Sure, evolution, like the love of money, is not the root of all evils. It is simply one of the major roots of deception around us today. However, taking out this massive and cancerous root of deception, I believe, will surely take an increasingly central role in the ministry of Christians around the globe as time goes on.
All or Nothing?

In football it is all or nothing, win or lose with no points for close games (unfortunately for my Iowa Hawks today!)

How about life? I sometimes wonder, are all my little efforts for anything lasting? Does it really count or matter what I do in secret? If my efforts are not seen or praised by other people, do they still matter?

If God does not exist, all my efforts and good deeds (seen or unseen) eventually count for absolutely nothing! The most giving, kind, powerful, influential, famous and historical figures will someday all vanish from all recollection and remembrance. Without God everything is finally and absolutely meaningless and vain; in other words it is nothing - just chemical reactions. However with God, faith as small as a mustard seed will give us a perfect score and record in heaven (through Christ's work) for all eternity! Not only that, but we will have an eternity to celebrate the victory in Christ! For my money, that is a better bet than any college football team!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hilarious - The Power of the Group!
Japan: Picture Profile
Some great pictures and information on Japan here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Don't People Come to Jesus?
Have you ever wondered why some people come to Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and some do not? How can some hear the good news of Christ all their lives and never come to a true saving faith, and how can others hear the message for only a short time and become fully convinced of the rightness and truth of the message?

John Piper writes:

"Why don’t people come to Jesus? At one level the answer is because they “refuse to come.” In other words, people do not want to come. Some call this the choice of free will. Jesus would probably say it is the choice of a will enslaved to sin. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Jesus would say that people do not come to him because they are enslaved to their supreme preference for other things. “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light . . . everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light” (John 3:19-20).
How then has anyone ever come, since we are all enslaved to sin and spiritually dead? Jesus’ answer was that God, in his great mercy, overcomes our resistance and draws us: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65). God grants the gift of new birth and repentance, which opens the eyes of the spiritually blind to the truth and beauty of Jesus. When this happens, all suicidal objections fall. We are finally free. And, finally free from slavery, we come."

I thank God for his powerful work among my Japanese brothers and sisters. I truly see his work in you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

White Lightning
Fall makes me think of football. Football reminds me of playing against this guy.
Polite Fictions: Why Japanese and Americans Seem Rude to Each Other

When I first came to Japan this book was a life-saver.

In America, the fundamental social fiction is "You and I are equal and we are all friends." This fiction -- and its corollaries -- explain much of American behavior (such as employees calling their bosses by their first name or the President telling jokes on TV) which is otherwise bewildering to Japanese people.

The corresponding fundamental fiction in Japan is "You are great and I am not very good." This social fiction (along with its corollaries) explains Japanese behavior that is equally puzzling to Americans (such as putting visiting guests alone in the backseat of the car).

Here are some other "polite fictions" further explained in the book:

U.S. - Relax! No worries / Japan - I'm being attentive to your greater status.
Americans tend to converse casually with strangers. Japanese tend to converse very formally with strangers.

U.S. - You and I are individuals. We make independent decisions. / Japan - You and I are a part of the same group. We make decisions as a group.

Twin Tale: Rising China, Japan's setting Sun
Unusual Japanese Food of the Day

Enjoy a sweet-bean bar!

*This is my attempt at cultural awareness. I hope to bring you more pictures of food periodically.*

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving
I have really enjoyed reading this book to my students during the Thanksgiving season. What a great story about God working through horrible situations. Eric Metaxas wrote this children’s book called Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, which includes the story of Squanto's Christian faith.

Another version, which reveals the Christian aspect of the story, is the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre drama, The Legend of Squanto (or for half the price, you can download it as MP3s).

You can jump over to my friend Justin Taylor's blog for a stream of the abridged version.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stop Trying to Please God & Men
I love this guy. Chris Caligiuri has been, and is, one of my best friends on the planet. Reason? He is so real, and so full of the gospel of grace. Be blessed as you enjoy this funny, real and life-giving message.

Message by Chris Caligiuri from Lutheran Church of the Cross on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can Death Be Called "Very Good"?
Everyone, even secular film producers, instinctively know that the death of animals is a horrible thing.

I was watching Planet Earth (a BBC documentary) today when this scene came up. The filming crew later said that it grieved them to watch the behavior of the lions. Why? Why should natural and "normal" processes grieve anyone? Does the "death" of plants produce the same reaction? Of course not. And therein lies a huge problem for those who do not believe the Bible as well as for those who want to insert millions of years into the Biblical text.

Read more here and here.

Veering From the Bible
Talking about his recent dealings with BioLogos Dr. Al Mohler writes:

"Virtually every form of theological liberalism arises from an attempt to rescue Christian theology from what is perceived to be an intellectual embarrassment - whether the virgin conception of Christ, the historicity of the miracles recorded in the Bible, or, in our immediate context, the inerrancy of Scripture and the Bible’s account of creation."

Hebrews 2:1 warns us, "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."

Read the whole article.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Beating Ichiro's Record
Listen to Matt Murton, of the Hanshin Tigers, talk about his record, about his life in Japan, and about the power he receives from his savior, Jesus Christ. (My former roommate and friend, Shigeru Homma translates.)
A Moving Story about Not Moving

(HT: Joe Crispin&Z)