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

Monday, November 30, 2009 

"gods," Demons, & Teenage Girls in Japan

The Japan Times featured an excellent article last week about the latest trend of iede (家出) web sites where young girls who have run away from home look for kami (神 – god) or men who will take them temporarily off the streets in trade for sex or other favors. Some of the girls are aged 13 or younger, and use the sites to not only find protection, but also money.

Observers say such sites have emerged because the operators and male users want to dodge new laws on “deaikei,” or “encounter sites” (where members of the opposite sex can meet), that ban people under 18 from using them, diminishing the chance they will attract underage girls.

“If you regulate one type of Web site, users will go to another,” said Atsufumi Suzuki, an expert on Internet activity. Runaway sites first emerged about five years ago, he said.

With online encounter sites flourishing as a hotbed for sex with minor girls seeking pocket money, a law was introduced in 2003 that bans under-18 users and, since last year, requires site operators to register with authorities and confirm the identity of their users.

Read the full article here: ‘Runaway sites’ latest Net-based exploitation of young girls

We asked Shihoko Fujiwara of Polaris Project for her thoughts on the issue, and she had this to say:

Polaris Project Japan has known for sometime that SNS sites are sometimes used by criminals to target victims for commercial sexual exploitation, including trafficking, and we’ve known that runaway underage girls are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

最近はコミュニケーションが希薄で、彼氏や援交相手を見つけるのもネットです。見えない 相手に自分の切実な相談をするほど孤立していて、自分が侵されている権利を友達にも先生にも話せないのでネット上の知らない人に話すという逆転した状況が あります。そういう現実の中では、彼女たちが使う言葉でQ&Aをつくってネットに流すのが効果的だと思い、女の子向けの携帯サイトもつくっています。

(Recently, the Internet had become the place for girls to find boyfriends and enjo kosai (compensated dating/teen prostitution) partners. These girls are so alone that they have to find solstice in someone they can’t even see. They talk about their situation to strangers on the Internet because they feel they can’t tell friends or teachers. Working with those facts, we think making a Q&A on the Net using these girls’ own words would be most effective, and created own mobile site for runaways.)

This article confirms that where these two meet — the “iede saito” — is most dangerous for at-risk girls. This is one of the reasons we launched our on-line SOS site for teen-age girls and young women (www.POL214.com). The internet is a wonderful tool for connecting people, but it can also pose risk to those who are already vulnerable. Polaris Project Japan is committed to take the fight against sex trafficking to what is now ground-zero for traffickers — the internet — to help women fight back.

Jake Adelstein, an editor of this site and a board member of Polaris Project Japan, also had this to say:

Japan doesn’t have an effective support system for teenage girls or boys that run away from home. There are some shelters but in general the response of the police or authorities upon finding runaway children is to return them to the same abusive homes they fled from in the first place. Japan’s laudatory enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws has made it more difficult for traffickers to exploit foreign women and it seems to be the case that they are now setting their sites on Japan’s rootless teenagers, both boys and girls, as the new chattel for sexual slavery and exploitation. The business model of human traffickers relies on paying the sex workers/sex slaves as little as possible or nothing, and they have become very adept at recruiting young exploitable girls over the web. They (the traffickers) extend what appears to be a helping hand and then get a death grip on the girls and put them to work–as prostitutes, as porn actresses, as escorts, as massage girls–whatever they can be used for to make money. The men they see as benevolent “gods” often turn out to just be demons in disguise.


- Japan Subculture Research Center

Sunday, November 29, 2009 

Harry Reeder on Leadership

I don't have the book, but because the author is who he is, I can almost guarantee you it would be well worth your time. I got to attend the Embers to a Flame conference 2 years ago on church revitalization, & if every church in America was exposed to & practiced the Bible-ology laid out in those sessions, I imagine revival would be upon us. Not because of following a plan, but because the conference majors on the Word of God & I believe God would bless obedience to His Word with fruit.

Harry Reeder is a leader I would gladly give up limbs to serve under. I imagine this book on leadership is worth following. Hear the pastor's own description & driving motivation for writing it:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 

Embrace Further Light

It's Thanksgiving in Japan. Just read an interesting article on the Pilgrim-Puritans from the csmonitor.com. Here are some interesting notes:

- "Thanksgiving may offer an annual moment to reflect on Pilgrims and Puritans, who migrated to America on the grounds that the Church of England was beyond reform. On the eve of their departure from Leiden, Mr. Robinson, the pastor, says in a sermon remembered by pilgrim Edward Winslow that it is time to move past the Reformation. Lutherans will only go so far as Luther, and the Calvinists only so far as Calvin. In the present hour, Robinson says, it is possible to 'embrace further light.'"

- "The Pilgrims – unlike British Puritans who wanted to turn Massachusetts into a theocracy – sharply advocated church-state separation...They were far more tolerant of other faiths and open to the idea that their theology, like all human dogma, might contain errors."

- "As Bangs and many other Puritan scholars note, it is impossible to conceive the mind and the soul of the Puritan as something other than biblical and religious. The Puritan model was to constantly examine the world and oneself in immediate terms of righteousness and sin. The Puritan mind was a blend of intense reason and piety; church was a place where God's word dwelt among the gathered, who were equal in His eyes."

"'The Pilgrims call themselves Pilgrims, and they see life on earth as a temporary stop on the way to heaven,'Bangs notes in an interview. 'You can't talk about Thanksgiving as something secular. They don't think in those terms. So the Pilgrims are experimenting. They will not draw from Anglican or Roman Catholic tradition. They aren't doing the English harvest festival, but a religiously formed appropriate day, using Deuteronomy and the 3rd of October in Leiden.'"


- entire article here

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 

Community & Communion

Paul Metzger has an interesting article at Out of Ur about how coffee bars have replaced the Lord's Table in the Western church in order to try to foster culturally relevant fellowship. He shares how his church once celebrated communion in community without diminishing the ordinance or replacing it with something else:

"A congregation I served restructured its space to celebrate Communion with greater intentionality. One Sunday after the sermon, the congregation proceeded to the fellowship hall to celebrate the Lord's Supper around large, circular tables. We were encouraged to intentionally sit with people with whom we didn't normally associate and to share with those at our table what the Lord's sacrifice meant to us personally. After each person shared, everyone was to break bread from the loaf provided and dip it into the Communion cup at the table. This process was to continue until everyone had shared."

"One woman came to me several weeks later and said that this had been the most meaningful celebration of Communion she had ever experienced. She was grateful the church had restructured its space to move us beyond our comfort zones of associating simply with the people we already knew."

Saturday, November 21, 2009 

Check Yourself & Be Warned

This was a stirring reminder to me - "Am I denying the power of God while seeking & loving only pleasure with just a shell or mask of godliness?" And, it reminds me to beware, those who do this are in the church, para-church, & missions agencies...leading...having the appearance of godliness, but denying it's power.


APPEARANCE OF GODLINESS

"At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16: 11)

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people" (2 Tim. 3: 1-5).

Timothy is told that in the "last days" difficulties would come, and he explains the type of person who would bring those difficulties. The first thing to note is that Paul had in mind the last days of the Judaic aeon, and not the last days of the world, or the space/time continuum. This can be seen contextually in that Paul says that a certain kind of person will be manifested in the last days, and he concludes the exhortation by telling Timothy to avoid those people. We can see this as the first application without reducing in any way the need for us to make similar applications in similar circumstances.

What sort of people would show up in the last days? Paul runs through a laundry list of sinful characteristcs, and holds his surprise for the end. People, he says, will be lovers of self, which indicates that there is possibly a problem with our culture's insistence that everybody learn how to love themselves. They will be greedy, lovers of money. Their demeanor will be an insolent one -- proud, arrogant and abusive. They fail in the most fundamental relationship -- they disobey their parents. Their attitude is ungrateful, and they do not care for holy things. Their hearts are filled with cruelty -- they are heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, brutal, and teacherous. They have no self-control; what they want, they want right now. They do not love the good, they are reckless, and they are swollen with conceits and vanities. Instead of loving God, they love pleasure. And now the surprise. From the description, we would be justified in thinking that Paul was describing particularly sullen members of some particularly tough street gangs. But no . . .

These people are in the church. They have the appearance of godliness, but deny the power of it. Timothy is told to stay away from them, meaning that they most likely aspire to some sort of teaching or leadership office. Now if this kind of person has the appearance of godliness, it is plain that in order to pull this off, some people have to be looking at the wrong set of standards entirely. The power of godliness lies in avoiding the list of sins that just went before. It does not consist of pounding a pulpit, writing a thick academic tome, wearing a robe, praying through nose in sonorous tones, or giving a big chunk of change for the new annex on the church building.


- Doug Wilson

Friday, November 20, 2009 

How Do You Know When You Have a Bureaucracy?

Whenever people begin to ask, “Does it fit our rules,” rather than, “Does it serve our mission,” then you have a bureaucracy.

- Matt Perman on 22 Words

BINGO!

Thursday, November 19, 2009 

Churches Send Missionaries

What are some challenges ahead for the International Mission Board?

The International Mission Board has taken major steps to re-organize for its 21st century mission. One challenge for the IMB is how to continue to restore mission initiative to the local church, just as our churches must repent for ceding all mission responsibility to the IMB. Local churches must become Great Commission churches who recruit, disciple, and support their members as they go on mission. They must stop recommending candidates who are unfit (morally, spiritually, or otherwise) for the field, and must stop sending candidates to the field while never really intending to support them.

Further, our churches must realize that the IMB is not the true “sender” of missionaries. The local church is. Churches send missionaries. Some churches will be able to call from their midst a team of church planters and handle all of the discipleship and team dynamics as they go to the field. The IMB provides oversight, further training, and strategy. Other churches may send only one member to the field, in which case they may partner with other churches in putting together a team to reach a particular people group, and to hold that team accountable. Regardless, we must work hard to help our churches blossom into Great Commission churches.


- Dr. Danny Akin

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 

Today God Showed Off in Shizuoka City

Sky on fire in ShizTown? No siree, Bob. That's just my God giving just a glimpse of His glory. He told me I was welcome.
video





 

Japan's Downward Spiral

One in six Japanese are now poor. The new government has vowed to tackle the problem, but how?



- read the partial article here

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 

You Are Not a Missionary If...

  • you just live in a different country
  • you are just learning a different language & living in a different country

  • you are just employed or supported by a missions sending agency

  • you are just building friendships/relationships

  • you are just doing a lot of administrative work & strategic planning

  • you are just learning the ins & outs of a new culture

  • you just learn all about the new culture & adjust flawlessly to it & thrive in it

  • you just serve in deed only with no words (clean water, english teaching, sewing classes, food distribution, etc...ad nauseum)
But you are a missionary if by words & deeds you are sharing the Gospel cross-culturally in a land that is not your home. And that's bare bones. For the Bible shows me so.

I just thought some clarity would be helpful.

Monday, November 16, 2009 

A Sympathetic High Priest, & Yet Sinless

Christ leads me through no darker rooms, than He went through before.

- Richard Baxter

Sunday, November 15, 2009 

When You Don't Feel Like It, Take Heart

Did you wake up not feeling like reading your Bible and praying? How many times today have you had to battle not feeling like doing things you know would be good for you?

While it's true that this is our indwelling sin that we must repent of and fight against, there's more going on.

Think about this strange pattern that occurs over and over in just about every area of life:

  • Good food requires discipline to prepare and eat while junk food tends to be the most tasty, addictive, and convenient.
  • Keeping the body healthy and strong requires frequent deliberate discomfort while it only takes constant comfort to go to pot.
  • You have to make yourself pick up that nourishing theological book while watching a movie can feel so inviting.
  • You frequently have to force yourself to get to devotions and prayer while sleeping, reading the sports, and checking Facebook seems effortless.
  • To play beautiful music requires thousands of hours of tedious practice.
  • To excel in sports requires monotonous drills ad nauseum.
  • It takes years and years of schooling just to make certain opportunities possible.
  • This goes on and on.

The pattern is this: the greater joys are obtained through struggle and pain, while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are right at our fingertips. Why is this?

Because, in great mercy, God is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly things, that there is a great reward for those who struggle through (Hebrews 10:32-35). He is reminding us repeatedly each day to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Each struggle is an invitation by God to follow in the footsteps of his Son, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

Those who are spiritually blind only see futility in these things. But for those who have eyes to see, God has woven hope (faith in future grace) right into the futility of creation (Romans 8:20-21). Each struggle is a pointer saying, "Look! Look to the real Joy set before you!"

So when you don't feel like doing what you know is best for you, take heart and don't give in. Your Father is pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (1 Corinthians 4:17-18)



- Jon Bloom & Amen

Saturday, November 14, 2009 

New Hearts

Ezekiel is the only OT writer to promise a “new heart” to Israel (18:31; 36:26). He promises hearts of flesh in place of hearts of stone. What has given the people of Judah hearts of flesh in the first place?

Ezekiel 14:1-7 gives an answer: They have set (stone – gold and silver) idols in their hearts, and those who worship stone idols become stony. The new heart is a heart that is no longer devoted to stone.

Devoted to what then? We can corporatize this; Ezekiel is not just talking about individual Israelites worshiping idols, and hardening their hearts as a result. He is talking about Judah as a whole: They have set dead stone at the heart of their corporate, liturgical life, where they should have set the Lord of life. Ultimately, the transformation of hearts of flesh into stone requires an incarnation, an object of worship in flesh. When Jesus is set before the eyes and in the heart of His people, then their hearts are made human again.


- Peter J. Leithart

Friday, November 13, 2009 

A Life We Could Not Imagine - Praying for the Persecuted Church

Shafia's Story:



- VOM Blog

Thursday, November 12, 2009 

Hide Away in the Love of Jesus

Some precious friends sent us this album (& others) & I can honestly say that it has certainly been years since a song ministered to me as powerfully as this one is at this time in my life:

Hide Away in the Love of Jesus
(click link to play full song)

Come weary saints, though tired and weak
Hide away in the love of Jesus
Your strength will return by His quiet streams
Hide away in the love of Jesus

Come wand’ring souls, and find your home
Hide away in the love of Jesus
He offers the rest that you yearn to know
Hide away in the love of Jesus

Hear Him calling your name
See the depths of His love
in the wounds of His grace
Hide away

Come guilty ones, weighed down with sin
Hide away in the love of Jesus
The freedom you long for is found in Him
Hide away in the love of Jesus

Hear Him calling your name
See the depths of His love
in the wounds of His grace
Hide away

Come hopeless hearts, do not despair
Hide away in the love of Jesus
For ten thousand joys await you there
Hide away in the love of Jesus

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 

Fat in Japan? You're breaking the law.


As the health care debate rages in the US, Tokyo lawmakers set a maximum waist size. Are you too fat for Japan?

This is no joke!

- globalpost.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 

A Practical Conversation on Adoption

Once a blessing to my hometown of Birmingham, Al, Pastors David Prince & Jeremy Haskins are now blessing Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky with influence spreading beyond to folks like me in Japan & all over the world.

Listen to this very practical conversation on adoption as Jeremy shares with David his adoption journey. It's not only practical & helpful, but very encouraging & hope-full.

Monday, November 09, 2009 

Foolishness of God

When Jesus announces the betrayal by Judas at the Passover, He alludes to Psalm 41:9. The one who dipped his hand with me in the dish, Jesus says, betrays Him; centuries earlier, David had written, “My close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” That is Judas; he lifts his heel to crush Jesus.

This all seems wrong. Jesus is the conquer; Jesus is the seed of the woman. He should be the one lifting up His heel against others, against the wicked, against the Satanic accuser. But that’s not what happens. Judas the betrayer lifts his heel, and Jesus looks like the serpent being crushed beneath. Jesus looks like the one with the crushed head, not the one with the bruised heel.

That is the foolishness of God that reveals the deepest wisdom.



- Peter Leithart, Lifting the Heel

Sunday, November 08, 2009 

Paul Washer on Missions

2 Quotes:

1) The greatest need of our missionary forces are fresh outpourings of the Holy Spirit. The flesh profits nothing...

2)
Evangelism / missions cannot be organized into existence. They are born from above. They are the result of the Spirit's work in the church.

Saturday, November 07, 2009 

The Historical Resurrection of Christ

Friday, November 06, 2009 

Do Not Envy the 400-pound Man

“Look, you religious types are all alike. You look down your noses at people having a good time, and you’re envious. You wish you could get a little action. But you can’t because of all your rules. So you cram your rules down our throats.”

Evangelist smiled and slowly shook his head. “I will not defend the rules; they are not mine to defend, they are God’s. He will apply and defend them adequately enough. As to your accusation of envy, I have only one thing to say. If I see a 400-pound man on the street, I do not envy him all the additional pleasure he has had at the dinner table. Nor do I envy you your time in bed.”

Randy stepped back several paces, looking confused. He was not getting the best of the exchange, and he was not sure why. He usually had a good deal of fun with Christians.

“I can’t imagine anything more boring than what you say God requires. Making love to only one woman for life. God! That’s like buying one record and taking it home and playing it over and over and over again.”

“I’m afraid your analogy is a faulty one. It is not like buying one record, it is like buying one instrument and learning how to play it. If you are committed, boredom is not a danger.”

Randy’s laughter was increasingly nervous, and he had a hunted expression. “I just couldn’t live like you do. I want to spend my time around pretty women.”

This time it was Evangelist’s turn to laugh, but there was no mockery in it.

“Then why do you spend time with women who are not? My wife, Compassion, is a beautiful woman, and her beauty begins on the inside. I have never been ashamed of her. I would be very ashamed indeed to be involved with a woman who was willing to be used as a thing.”

By this time Randy looked very uncomfortable. He was looking at the ground, and he started to move away.

“I really need to be going,” he said.

Evangelist put a gentle hand on his arm.

“Before you go, may I ask you one question?”

“Go ahead.”

“You have a habit, and that habit has enslaved you to your lusts. So much is understandable. But why do you boast in the vice?”

Randy looked at Evangelist for a moment. He was obviously thinking hard.

“If I come back here later, will you be here?”

“If God is willing.”

“You say that I am a slave. Do you know how slaves can be set free?”

“I do.”

“I need some time to think. I may be back.”

With that, Randy turned and slowly resumed his walk down the road. It was clear that, for the first time in many years, a completely different kind of desire had come over him.


- Douglas Wilson, Persuasions, pp. 13-14

Thursday, November 05, 2009 

Immorality is Vandalism

“Where are you going?” asked Evangelist.

“Oh, nowhere in particular. I just go where the women are.”

“And why is that?”

The young man laughed, and his laugh seemed to be full of both mockery and shame. “What do you mean why? Everyone needs a little now and then.”

Evangelist answered him gravely. “Are you speaking of fornication?”

“Fornication? You make it sound like a disease! Sex is a normal and healthy thing.”

Evangelist replied, “To be sure, sex is normal and healthy. But I wasn’t talking about sex, I was talking about fornication.”

Randy laughed again. “And what’s the difference?”

“Fornication occurs when there is no marriage commitment. Adultery occurs when a marriage commitment is violated. But sexual activity within the boundary of marriage is something at God honors.”

“God! God! You’re not religious, are you? What does God have to do with sex?”

“He invented it. That’s like asking what Thomas Edison has to do with light bulbs.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that God is the one who designed sex in the first place.”

“Then why do you Christians have such a thing about sex? You’re always saying who should be sleeping with whom and who shouldn’t.”

Evangelist replied, “It is a common misconception that opposition to the perversion of a thing is the same as opposition to the thing itself. But of course the idea is absurd.”

“How is it absurd?” Randy asked.

“If someone wanted to draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa, would that be an act of vandalism?”

“Of course it would.”

“If you had the opportunity to stop such an act, would you?”

“Certainly.”

“Would you step in as a friend of art or as an enemy of it?”

“As a friend.”

“But suppose the vandal reviled you as an enemy of all that is beautiful. How would you answer him?”

“I would not need to answer him. The accusation is absurd.”

“Exactly so. Absurd is the right word. And if you have understood the argument, you will stop accusing Christians of being the enemy of the thing they desire to protect. Sexual immorality
destroys a very great gift of God. Immorality is vandalism.”


- Douglas Wilson, Persuasions, pp. 11-12

Wednesday, November 04, 2009 

I Love You

1 John 4:8 – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

In my language class one day I was shocked to learn that Japanese simply do not say to one another, “I love you.” Surely a husband and a wife do, right? I was told, “no.” Then only parents and children? I was told, “rarely.”

I thought my teacher must be wrong. So I asked my language partner. He concurred. I asked my Japanese friends, they all agreed. After many conversations on the topic I came to understand that the Japanese think this is too rare and too special a feeling to say often or ever. I began to realize how I often I say things like, “I love pizza,” “I love college football,” or “I love to read.” It does distort the depth of meaning so that when I say it with meaning to a loved one, I could understand if my words fail to communicate the true definition of what I am hoping to express.

But I fear the Japanese go too far when children rarely if ever hear from their parents, “I love you.” Husbands and wives and life-long friends may never hear this from one another either.

So you can imagine how foreign an idea it is to a Japanese when you tell them that “God loves them,” or that “God is love,” or that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son,” or that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Pray that the love of God would break through the stoic façade that Japanese have placed over themselves to conform to cultural standards and that His irresistible grace would pursue them until they are His beloved children.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009 

Solomon Kane

Methinks this will be incredible.

Monday, November 02, 2009 

Preaching is the Proof: Why Preaching Better Be Involved in Missions

You should not listen to a man who claims to be God (the extraordinary claim) unless He does something like come back from the dead. The resurrection is God's declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), and when we preach the resurrection, as we are charged to do, we are preaching the proof, not something that needs to be proven. God adds to the proof by anointing all such faithful preaching with His power, testifying to the testimony. It is the power of the Spirit that will convert the world by this means.

- Douglas Wilson

Sunday, November 01, 2009 

Japanese English

These are actual items in our home. If you need to make the image larger to read it, click on the picture. Wakarimashitaka?



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