He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

Thursday, April 30, 2009 

Koinobori

New article is up for May at the Outreach Japan site.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 

Why Have We Received Grace?

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


- Paul in his letter to the Romans, from the greeting.

Monday, April 27, 2009 

I'll Overcome Someday

I was listening to a clip of Martin Luther King's "We Shall Overcome" speech. It made me think of all the obstacles in reaching the Japanese here. On many hours of most days the thought of many Japanese getting saved & churches sprouting & the Spirit moving in such a mighty way that the nation would be transformed seems downright silly...almost.

Thinking about MLK & the faith he had that sooner or later racism in the US, at least on a human rights level, would crumble, humbles me in my weak faith that at least in my lifetime I will not see a vast working of the Spirit of God among this people.

"We Shall Overcome" became a type of theme song for the Civil Rights movement & today we hear it still as a rallying cry whether it be to return the Democrats to the White House or in news coverage of the Burmese Buddhists plight against their corrupt military government. But what I found interesting about this song was that, though this is disputed, it seems to have been adapted from Charles Tindley, an African-American Methodist pastor who wrote the song, "I'll Overcome Someday."

Now that song, complete with Christ at the center of it, is inspiring. And between it's words & seeing how all odds were against MLK & the black community of the Civil Rights era, & then to see the US today which often takes it's cultural lead from the black icons in music, film, & sports, to the election of the first president with African-American blood, I am encouraged & reminded that the Lord can move as quickly here if He so pleases with a dramatic sweeping of the Spirit in Japan. I pray it be so...until then:

I'll Overcome Someday

This world is one great battlefield,
with forces all arayed;
if in my heart I do not yield,
I'll overcome someday.

I'll overcome someday (some day),
I'll overcome someday;
if in my heart I do not yield,
I'll overcome someday.

Both seen and unseen powers
join to drive my soul astray,
but with God's word, a sword of mine,
I'll overcome someday.

I'll overcome someday (some day),
I'll overcome someday;
but with God's word, a sword of mine,
I'll overcome someday.

A thousand snares are set for me,
and mountains in my way;
if Jesus will my leader be,
I'll overcome someday.

I'll overcome someday (some day),
I'll overcome someday;
if Jesus will my leader be,
I'll overcome someday.

I fail so often when I try,
my Savior to obey;
it pains my hear and then I cry,
Lord, make me strong someday.

Lord, make me strong someday (some day),
Lord, make me strong someday;
it pains my hear and then I cry,
Lord, make me strong someday.

My mind is not to do the wrong,
but walk the narrow way;
I'm praying as I journey on,
to overcome someday.

To overcome someday (someday),
to overcome someday;
I'm praying as I journey on,
to overcome someday.

Though many a time no signs appear,
of answer when I pray;
my Jesus says I need not fear,
He'll make it plain someday.

I'll be like Him someday (someday),
I'll be like Him someday;
my Jesus says I need not fear,
He'll make it plain someday.

Sunday, April 26, 2009 

Japan's Exam Hell Reaches Pre-School

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0423/p06s01-woap.html

Saturday, April 25, 2009 

Shizuoka City - Our Home, Nihondaira Plain, Mt. Fuji

video

Friday, April 24, 2009 

Foreknowledge

"What about Romans 8?"

"That passage does tell us the object of God's foreknowledge. The object of His foreknowledge is not history, or choices, seen apart from His sovereign government. The object of His foreknowledge here is persons. Those whom He foreknew, He predestined."

"I agree that is what is says. But what does foreknowledge mean then?"

"The Greek word here in Romans is proginosko. The prefix pro means before, while the word ginosko has two meanings; one means to know, while the other means to approve. One of the meanings of this compound verb is to approve beforehand. Now if you put that understanding into the Romans 8 passage, how does it read?"

"For whom he approved beforehand, He also predestined to be conformed. . ." I broke off. "I see!

Predestination here is not to `becoming a Christian,' but to `becoming Christ-like' at the resurrection."

Martin smiled. "Exactly. Those on whom God set His electing love, He predestined to a final conformity to the image of Christ. And Paul follows this wonderful chain of redemption right to the end in verse 30."

I looked at the passage again. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

I looked up from the page. "But wait a minute. Couldn't someone object that our choice of `approve beforehand' is a case of special pleading? Why couldn't it be translated the other way?"

Martin leaned forward in his chair. "Because the other way doesn't make any sense, for either position."

"What?"

"In our discussions, I think you will see this again and again. Many of the verses brought to bear against this understanding of God's sovereignty have this in common. They invariably prove too much."

"What do you mean, prove too much?"

"If foreknowledge is simply referring to cognitive information, then this is the chain of redemption. `For whom He foreknew (everyone), He also predestined to Christ-likeness (everyone). Whom He predestined, He called (everyone), and whom He called, He justified (everyone). Whom He justified, He glorified (everyone).' There is no place for any individuals to escape. Everyone cognitively foreknown will be glorified. And that is universalism."

"Hold on, hold on! I didn't say that God foreknew everyone. I said that He foreknew those who would believe in Him."

"But the passage doesn't say that. That is something which has to be imported into the text. The object of His foreknowledge is persons, not actions, and there is no ground in the text for making it believing persons. That would be special pleading."

I sat thinking for a moment. Martin continued.

"There is another reason for denying that God elects based upon His foresight of our doings."

"What is that?"

"Express statements to the contrary in Scripture."

"All right, I'm game. Show me one."

"Turn to 2 Timothy 1:8-9."

I turned and read. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.

"Allow me to ask you a few questions."

"Go ahead," I replied.

"What has God done for us?"

"He saved us and called us."

"Correct. And He did this not according to something. . . ."

"Not according to our works."

"Correct again. Now, our works are set in contrast to that by which He did save and call us. What was that?"

"His own purpose and grace."

"Does the passage contrast our works with our faith?"

"No. It contrasts our works with His purpose and grace."

"Very good. Now where was this given to us?"

"Where?"

"Uh-huh."

"In Christ? Is that what you mean?"

"Right. When was it given?"

"Before time began."

"So God saved and called us with a holy calling, before the beginning of time, and He did this without reference to our works."

"Well, that is true. But how can you classify foreseen faith as a form of foreseen works? Faith is not a work."

"True faith is not a work because true faith is a gift from God. But if faith is something man does, on his own, and which appropriates salvation, which another man does not receive because he did not believe, then faith is a work."

"I'm sorry, I don't see what you are driving at. How can faith be a work?"

"One of the reasons people object to the idea of faith as a gift from God is that they think such gifts remove the possibility of praise or blame. It turns man into a puppet—that sort of thing. Isn't that right?"

"Well, yes."

"Now how can they insist that we keep faith as something man does—otherwise we cannot praise or blame him for having or not having it—but then object when someone says they have made faith a work? True praise or blame, according to this kind of thinking, can only be assigned to a man's work."

"I've got it. You are saying that if it merits praise or blame then it is a work. If it doesn't merit praise or blame, then the objection against faith being a gift is gone."

"That's it. So then, God elects, according to His own good purpose (and it is good, not arbitrary), and He does so without regard to foreseen human achievement, virtue, works, or meritorious faith."

"I've heard this doctrine called unconditional election. Is that what the unconditional refers to?"

"Yes. It does not mean that God had no conditions or reasons for doing what He did. It simply means He found no conditions or reasons in man for what He did."

I sat back in my chair. "It looks to me as though you have a point."


- Douglas Wilson, from Easy Chairs, Hard Words

Thursday, April 23, 2009 

Election

"Couldn't we say then, that God made His choice of certain individuals based on His foreknowledge of faith? That way, God chooses, and men have no one to blame but themselves if they are not chosen."

Martin thought for a moment.

"And what would the scriptural evidence for this theory be?"

"Well, 1 Peter 1:2 says that certain Christians were elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. And Romans 8:28 says something very similar. It says that those whom God foreknew, He predestined. . . ."

"Very well. Let's return to the whole idea of foreknowledge in a moment. But before we do that, we should carefully set out what you are saying."

"Fair enough."

"At some time in eternity, God looked down the corridors of time, into the future, and saw that Jones would have faith in Him, and that Smith would not."

"Right."

"On that basis, God elected Jones to salvation, and did not elect Smith."

"Right again."

"Now in this scenario, is God doing anything more than echoing the choice of Jones?"

"What do you mean?"

"It sounds like Jones is saying that he wants to be saved, and as a consequence, God says, `Me, too!' Is that all election is?"

"I wouldn't put it that way. God still makes the choice."

"Yes, but God makes His choice based upon the choice of the man. This is the basic difference: one position says that God's choices are based on man's choices, while the other position says that man's choices are based on God's."

"I see. Both sides agree that man chooses, and both agree that God chooses. They differ over which is the foundational choice."

"Correct. And in making man's choice foundational, the biblical terminology is stood on its head."

"What do you mean?"

"Instead of many are called, but few are chosen, it becomes many are called but few choose. Instead of God's elect, we become God's electors."

"I agree that you have a point in many passages. But how would you handle the verses I used earlier?"

"Let's start with Peter. Notice what he does not say. He says nothing about cognitive foreknowledge of choices. He merely says that God's elect were elect according to the foreknowledge of the Father. The text does not tell us the content of that foreknowledge. Because both positions agree that God's election is according to foreknowledge, this verse proves nothing either way."


- Douglas Wilson, from Easy Chairs, Hard Words

* will pick up on Foreknowledge tomorrow where we left off today

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 

Gospel Presentation & Testimony of Paul David Washer

Paul Washer video of his testimony leading into a very clear Gospel presentation on the streets of Lima, Peru. Well worth the watch to clarify what the Gospel truly is & to be encouraged to be bold in your witness.




Tuesday, April 21, 2009 

Shizuoka Matsuri

Somehow, I deleted 4 of my 5 videos from the Shizuoka Festival including the most meaningful, eventful, & interesting videos. So, that means your left with the only surviving & lamest one! Still, hope you enjoy!
video

Monday, April 20, 2009 

Shake Their Confidence

"This year the cherry blossom season has come as Japan stumbles into its worst post-war economic crisis.

Major manufacturers are in trouble, exports have halved of the cars and electronic gadgets that have powered Japan's rise to become an industrial and technological powerhouse.

Along with profits, the old certainties of the Japanese way are being eroded."

- Read the full BBC article with photos here.

I'm praying that this italicized part of the above article is & will be true. I know when you look around at all the poverty in the world, it is probably difficult to feel sorry for the Japanese, the world's 2nd largest economy. But I believe a soul in Alabama is the same as a soul in England, Burkino Faso, or Jordan, wherever. But I pray that if it takes earthquakes & economy performing poorly in order to shake the confidence of the Japanese in themselves & in their cutlure, then Lord, shake the grounds & empty their pockets. Pray that we would be willing to go through anything, any of it with them for the sake of the Gospel reaching this people. Will you pray with us?

Saturday, April 18, 2009 

Many People in This City

Friday morning as I read through Acts 18, one particular line in verse 10 stood out to me. I like to read through a chapter on my own praying for insights & listening to the Lord's voice through the Word, but then because I know there are many others who are more spiritually mature & trustworthy, I will seek to dig further in commentaries. I love Polhill's & Longenecker's commentaries on Acts, but they barely touched on the phrase that stood out to me.

So, I had gained some fresh insights from James Montgomery Boice that I posted previously, but his commentary is said to be more introductory & basic, so I didn't go to it at first, but was curious what his thoughts were on the phrase I was hungry to know more about.

I really am beginning to like James Montgomery Boice. For selfish reasons though, because it seems to me that often what I am thinking is in the realm of what he is thinking, so of course, you always enjoy someone who makes you feel as though your thoughts are right!

What jumped out at me from verse 10 of Acts 18 was the phrase, "I have many in this city who are my people." This came in the context of the Lord visiting Paul in a vision & encouraging him to keep preaching with an assurance that he wouldn't be harmed since the Lord had "many people" in Corinth.

So, as a new missionary in a new country in a new city, of course I am thinking, "Maybe God put us here because He has many in this city. Maybe the reason we thought we were headed to one nation, then began to sense the Lord leading elsewhere through prayer, then the reason we landed in this specific city, is because the Lord has many people here."

Enter Boice's commentary. His title for his comments on Acts 18:1-17 is MANY PEOPLE in THIS CITY. "Good start," I thought. Boice says, "Of all the things God said to Paul in his vision undoubtedbly thiswas the most important...God, who alone is able to see the future & determine it, was looking ahead, saying that by the preaching of the Word through Paul's ministry he would bring many people to faith in Jesus Christ. They were his people & they would stand together as a church & bear witness in this most corrupt city" (pg 309).

Now, one area I'm always hoping to gain more wisdom in is in the area of hermeneutics. This passage was given to Paul in his day in a vision by the Lord. Can I possibly apply that to my life? Not necessarily, BUT, again, let's see what Boice says...

"We cannot take a text like this & simply transfer it to ourselves, as if God is saying the identical things to us: Nobody will ever attack you; nobody will harm you; I have many people in this city. However, I cannot help but think that if God has placed us in a particular place, it is because he has a work for us to do there, & for that very reason we should be encouraged & stay on & do it to the best of our ability. It is not because he does not have many people in our neighborhoods or cities but because he does. Our job is to keep on keeping on, knowing that God is with us" (pg 310).

Thursday, April 16, 2009 

Pretty & Dead

“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

It is impossible not notice how nice and put together the Japanese people are. It is rare to see a slouch or slovenly dressed Japanese whether at the grocery store or getting gas. You see the niceties, the polite bowing, the quietness on the streets, and the orderly nature of the society.

But they do not understand their righteous acts are like filthy rags, and that their clothes, though nice, cannot cover up the hideous corrosion of their Christless hearts. Please pray that the residents of Shizuoka City would stop focusing on their outward appearance to the world, being polished & pretty – a whitewashed tomb, while the inside is full of death and decay.

Pray for an outpouring of the Spirit on these precious souls so that they can know the freedom, love, peace, and joy that comes from being clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 

The Wrong Kind of Conversion

Japanese underworld boss quits crime to enter the Buddhist priesthood.

Sunday, April 12, 2009 

HOSANNA!

I am tangled up in contradiction. I am strangled by my own two hands. I am hunted by the hounds of addiction. Hosanna!

I have lied to everyone who trusts me. I have tried to fall when I could stand. I have only loved the ones who loves me. Hosanna! O Hosanna!

See the long awaited king come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Come and tear the temple down. Raise it up on holy ground. Hosanna!

I have struggled to remove this raiment, tried to hide every shimmering strand. I contend with these ghosts and these hosts of bright angels. Hosanna!

I have cursed the man that you have made me, as I have nursed the beast that bays for my blood. Oh, I have run from the one who would save me. Save me, Hosanna! O Hosanna!

See the long awaited king, come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Come and tear the temple down. Raise it up on holy ground. Hosanna!

You have crushed beneath your heel the vile serpent. You have carried to the grave the black stain. You have torn apart the temple’s holy curtain. You have beaten Death at Death’s own game.

Hosanna! O Hosanna! Hail the long awaited king, come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Won’t you tear this temple down, raise it up on holy ground. O Hosanna! I will lift my voice and sing: you have come and washed me clean. Hosanna!


- Andrew Peterson

Saturday, April 11, 2009 

Spring, Imagery of the Resurrection


“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” - Martin Luther

Friday, April 10, 2009 

Preaching as Evangelism - it's Biblical

I'm not saying preaching behind a pulpit or in an open air forum are the only prescribed methods of evangelism, but what I am saying is that as we face harsh realities on the mission field it is tempting to constantly show the love of Christ without ever adding words, thus never proclaiming the Gospel.

I also think think that missions is moving in the right direction with things like indigenous leadership, obedience based training, & reproducible methods. But sometimes we are so fearful of importing Western/American Christianity that we forget that preachers, preaching, & leadership in the church are things that are given to us all throughout the New Testament, & are not just American. Now, are ties & pulpits & a full-time salary necessary? No. Should one man have all the power over a body? Certainly not. But let us be careful as we snicker at the Western/American church as they lose relevance by the day. Yes, as we go back to the Bible & learn what it says about church, we are seeing that missionaries in the past have added many cultural values from the West as non-negotiable absolutes, thus hindering the spread of the Gospel. We are learning more clearly what the church was & is supposed to be. But we cannot pick the parts of the Bible that best fit our preferences or culture while leaving other clear prescriptions or commands of the Bible out. Preaching is found throughout the entire New Testament. Can we ignore 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus altogether, not to mention several other passages about the pastoral role in the church?

And to take that one step further, preaching is not just used in the church, but it is used all throughout the New Testament as evangelism. Did you know the book of Acts contains 10 sermons? When Peter heals the lame man at the Beautiful Gate in Acts 3, Peter then preaches to the crowd about Jesus. I know my reaction would have been this - I would have had the dude that just got healed standing before everyone sharing his testimony. But I love what James Montgomery Boice writes about this passage:

"Just as in the sermon at Pentecost, this new sermon focuses on Jesus. I suppose it would have been possible for Peter to have focused on something else. He could have focused on the miracle itself. He could have said, 'This is an important thing that has happened, & I want to make sure that you understand that this is really a miracle. Look at this man. Let's all gather around & examine him.'

Peter's sermon could have led into a testimony service. He could have said, 'Now brother, you have been healed. Here's your chance to give a testimony. Stand up & tell everybody what Jesus has done for you.' A testimony that might have focused on the man. The man could have said, ' Let me tell you about my experience. Let me tell you how I first came to be a part of what is going on here today...' The man could have gotten quite a bit of personal attention out of that.

But instead, Peter said, 'Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him' (v. 12-13).

Jesus! This is where the emphasis of the whole sermon lies."
- James Montgomery Boice, Commentary on Acts, pg. 66.


Now I think the healed man gave testimony to Christ for the rest of his life, or at least I like to think so, & I think this is a really good thing. But the priority is Christ proclaimed. Preaching is Christ proclaimed. Pastors & elders are overseers of God's sheep who lead by proclaiming Christ & exemplifying Christ. Preaching is not from the West or America. It's not just for traditional churches with buildings. Preaching is the means by which the Church is built up & by which men are called from life to death. Who better to be doing it than missionaries & those they disciple?

And pray for the American church today. I don't know about you, but if it wasn't for a few churches & many men & families of God from the US church:

1) I'd be perishing in my sin.
2) I could have lived maybe 2 days in Japan before running out of money & having to go home.
3) Nobody would be sustaining me & encouraging me & loving me on a daily basis.

She's beautiful (the US Church) because Jesus has made her beautiful, warts and all.

Thursday, April 09, 2009 

What I've Been Listening to for Easter Week

1

a highlight from the album:

I stumbled and fell in the road on the way home, Hosea, Hosea.
I lay in the brick street like a stray dog. You came to me like a silver moon with the saddest smile I ever knew.
Hosea carried me home again. Home again.
You called me out to the Valley of Trouble just to look at the mess that I’ve made, a barren place where nothing can grow.
One look and my stone heart crumbled--it was a valley as green as jade. I swear it was the color of hope. You turned a stone into a rose, Hosea.


2

a highlight from the album:

Come and see, look on this mystery
The Lord of the Universe, nailed to a tree
Christ our God, spilling His Holy blood
Bowing in anguish, His sacred head

Sing to Jesus, Lord of our shame
Lord of our sinful hearts.
He is our great Redeemer.
Sing to Jesus, Honor His name.
Sing of His faithfulness, pouring His life out unto death


3

a highlight from the album:

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

4

a highlight from the album:

Sin has brought me to my knees
Mercy lifts me to my feet
Gratefulness is filling me

Just as I am, without one plea
But that You shed Your blood for me
And You bid me come
O Lamb of God, I come

5

a highlight from the album:

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ's the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built.

-------------------------------------

In no particular order...


These make me praise God so much for the technology of portable music & so thankful for people like our friends in Auburn who gave us these wonderful blessings.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 

A HUGE Mistake

Sunday, April 05, 2009 

April Article Up on OUTREACHJAPAN.ORG

Here's my latest article at Outreachjapan.org with a photo of the cherry blossoms that are right around our home.

Friday, April 03, 2009 

The Unfinished Task

That All Peoples May Know Him

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  • From Exiled
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