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, December 31, 2009 

Ring in the New Year with Prayer for Judson's People

Genocide plagues Burma, Crises Surpasses Darfur

"We heard a story about an eight-year-old boy who was told by the Burmese military, in front of his family, to climb a tree and climb as high as he could. They held him at gun point. He climbed as high as he could, and they told him to jump down, or they would shoot [his family]. So, he jumped to his death in front of his family."

- read whole article here

These are people created in God's image & I cannot fathom their lives. Many live a hell on earth existence only to be ripped into a literal, eternal Hell after a short life. But many of these people are our brothers & sisters as the labor of Adoniram Judson from over 100 years ago still bears fruit. Pray for believers to be bold, protected, & that they would be free from oppression one day soon. For the lost, pray that God would spare their lives, that they would hear the Gospel & respond, & that God would give them peaceful days on earth.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 

Fuji, Shizuoka, & the Pacific II

video

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 

Fuji, Shizuoka, & the Pacific I

video

Monday, December 28, 2009 

Shizuoka-shi, Suruga-ku

video

Sunday, December 27, 2009 

Loco, No?

28 Colombian Christians detained for refusing to denounce their faith

28 indigenous Colombian Christians have been imprisoned since October for refusing to denounce their faith.

Logan Maurer with International Christian Concern says the central government gave local governors relative autonomy. "They have devolved power to a governor there who has outlawed Christianity. He has said that if anybody there is a Christian, they're going to go to prison."

With that announcement, the local governor over the Kogui (ko-gee) called the Christians together on October 27th. "He was holding a meeting to discuss this issue," said Maurer, "and he surprised these Christians by saying, 'You're all under arrest.'"

The governor wants them to maintain more of the traditional identity to the tribal region, which includes animism. The group is still being held because they refuse to reconvert.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide says at last report, two of the kidnapped infants were seriously ill. The governor and his allies also humiliated non-Christian leaders who had supported the Christians in the community and protected them from being expelled.

What's especially odd about this case is that the Colombian government has apparently refused to act on behalf of the Christians. That's prompting outcry from human rights watchdog groups. Maurer adds that the Colombian government is "willing to ignore its own Constitution and its international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR, the ICSECR, and the American Convention on Human Rights--all of which explicitly protect the right of individuals to choose their own faith and to convert of their own free will."

ICC remains concerned about what this means for other believers. Maurer explains, "There's over 100 individuals that consider themselves Christians and would be affected. If this governor continues to imprison men, women and children, as he has done, you could be looking at up to 100 people in prison for their faith."

Pray for the release of these believers. Pray that their captors will see the love of Christ and repent. Pray for other Christian members of the Kogui community under fire in Colombia.


- MNN

Saturday, December 26, 2009 

Best of 2009

(disclaimer: these are not necessarily things from 2009, but things I came across & consumed in 09)

Best Books:

It was a 3 way tie:

1) A Praying Life

- because it is so instructional & hope-inspiring

1) Peace Like a River

- because I am new dad & was a sucker for the father/son relationship & the description of Heaven towards the end of the book is worth a lot of gold

1) Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

- because it has my favorite answer to the problem of evil I've come across & it helped me to see how much the Sovereign stooped to save a wretch like me - I ask "why me?" much less because of this book


Best Podcast:

This American Life


- because it's real, captivating, hilarious, tear-jerking, informative, & takes story-telling to an other-worldly art form


Best Movie:

Children of God


- because I used to want to adopt children someday. but this movie made adoption a need, a fire, an obsession in my heart. it also made me hate sin & Satan more.


Best Music:

Hide Away in the Love of Jesus from the album Come Weary Saints

- because it has been a weary, victorious year, & this is my anthem

>Honorable Mention:

All Jon Foreman albums which were new to me in 09 & James Horner's soundtrack to The New World

Friday, December 25, 2009 

From the Trough to the Pole...Merry Christmas

"He came to be humbled. He came to die.

Plan the event. Arrange the reception. The King of kings is coming. He will shoulder governments. He will be called the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor.

Plato, no covering your eyes, no throwing up in indignation, no offended boycotts of the crucifix set in urine. The Lord of all reality is coming to your hemisphere. And He, the pure Spirit, will take on flesh & need to eat & breathe & move His bowels, & have his diaper changed.

Don't look at me. I had plenty of glorious ideas. The blasphemy isn't mine.

He will be a carpenter, with splintered & blistered hands & cracking nails. One of His grandmothers was a whore of Jericho. He will enter the womb of virgin & expand in the normal way. He will exit her womb in the normal way. And then she will suckle Him as the cows do their calves. Because, well, He will be mammal.

These days, we dress the whole thing up & hum until it all seems holy. We set up little plastic scenes in our yards & then we backlight them.

If God is pleased, it is because they are trite & sill - entirely in keeping with the whole event.

The Lord came to clean the unclean. He brought the taint of Holiness, & it has been growing ever since. He was born in a barn & slept in a food trough...

The reversals in the story didn't stop at Christ's birth. Rather than being celebrated, one of the first plot elements was Herod's declaration of genocide. The King of kings is here, you say? Bathe the land in infant blood.

Slaughter, Rachel weeping for her children lost - these things are part of the Christmas story. For some reason, we leave the soldiers, dead babies, & weeping mothers out of the plastic figurine collection...

----

With whom did He sit & eat? Whores. Thieves. The unclean.

From birth to the end, He never left the trough. Christ walked from insult to insult, from filth to filth. Lepers. Prostitutes. Tax men. The Dead...

How would He conquer? When would He leave this path of uncleanness?

He came to be stripped naked. He came to be lashed. He came to have His beard ripped out & thorns rammed onto His head. He came to be mocked, to have His body pierced with rough-forged nails & a Roman spear. To be severed from His father & experience Hell as Adam - for man.

He came to live in the trough & die on a pole...

The Word has shown how far He can stoop. From the pole, He went into the ground. From the ground, He went deeper...beating out a path for those coming behind...

The whale did not spit Him up. He ripped the whale open. The stone was rolled away."


- N.D. Wilson, "Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World," excerpts from pgs. 191-195

Thursday, December 24, 2009 

2 Million Guatemalans in Poverty, Half of Children Malnourised

One day we will be in a world free from the effects of sin. While we should be as generous as possible, our first priority should be to get the Gospel to an unbelieving world. Whether they have a full belly or not, if they die without Christ, and we all will die, then the reality that awaits those who have suffered on earth is going to be eternally worse. Praying we can give radically this Christmas season since we have so much, but that as we do give to make this earthly life better, we won't be satisfied with that alone, but that we would be moved to share with our neighbors & the nations.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 

Radical: Take Back Your Faith from the American Dream

As you can tell by this string of posts, one of my heroes of the faith, David Platt, pastors in my hometown of Birmingham, Al. He has his first book coming out in May of 2010 titled:

Radical: Take Back Your Faith from the American Dream


It will be published by Multnomah Books. Here's the description:

IS JESUS WORTH THIS TO YOU?

"Do you believe that Jesus is worth abandoning everything for? Do you believe him enough to obey him and to follow him wherever he leads, even when the crowds in our culture--maybe even our churches--turn the other way?"

In Radical, David Platt invites you to encounter what Jesus actually said about being his disciple, and then obey what you have heard. He challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated a God-centered gospel to fit our human-centered preferences. With passionate storytelling and convicting biblical analysis, Platt calls into question a host of comfortable notions that are common among Christ's followers today. Then he proposes a radical response: live the gospel in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world changing.

Available for pre-order at Amazon.com

About the Author

DAVID PLATT is the lead pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a 4,000-member Southern Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama. Widely regarded as an exceptional expositor and motivator, David has taught around the world. He holds three advanced degrees, including a Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. David and his wife, Heather, are the parents of Caleb and Joshua, and are adopting a third child from Nepal.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 

david platt...JESUS IS...

Monday, December 21, 2009 

David Platt on the Gospel

Sunday, December 20, 2009 

100+ Earthquakes Rock Shizuoka in Central Japan

* I only felt one...go figure!*

Shizuoka Prefecture, just west of Tokyo, has been hit with a series of over one-hundred earthquakes ranging in magnitude of up to 5.3 on the Richter scale since Dec. 17th.

Between morning hours of the 17th and 8pm on the 18th (JST), 121 earthquakes powerful enough to be felt have shaken the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Nine of those earthquakes have been rated as a three or above on the JMA seismic intensity scale, which measures shaking on the earth’s surface. Any score of three or more is described as “rather strong” and felt by most people in the affected area.

The two most powerful quakes so far have each registered 5.3 in magnitude on the Richter scale, or a weak five on the JMA’s scale. They hit the Izu Peninsula at approximately 11:45pm on the 17th and 8:45am on the 18th.

One local resident described the strong morning quake to TV reporters, “I felt like it struck with a bang from underneath. Our TV fell down, and the framed pictures on the wall, too.”

At least seven people are reported to have sustained various injuries, including one elderly man who fell down the stairs in his house and suffered serious fractures to his lower spine. Houses, roads, and water pipes were also damaged during the larger quakes.

JMA released a warning of the strong possibility of continued powerful tremors for at least the next several days, based on historical examples in the earthquake-prone region. JMA stated that they believe the earthquakes are being caused by movement of magma deep under the region, but that it will not result in any volcanic activity.

While the current seismic activity is likely to continue, it is not believe that the quakes are related a “Tokai Earthquake,” an extremely violent quake feared to strike the great Tokyo region in the coming years, the Yomiuri reported.


- examiner.com



Saturday, December 19, 2009 

That Thing Missionary Speakers Do

Listening through John Piper's Desiring God on audiobook (which I've also read more than once), I heard the good brother go on and on about missions, urging... well, apparently, every reader to go out to The Mission Field. Piper particularly leaned on pressing the point of taking the Gospel to people who had never had a Gospel witness before.

This passion is expressed by Paul in Romans 15:20-21, where the apostle says "I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation,
but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.'"

And I wondered, as I always do when I hear such talk, "Why do missionary speakers so seldom tell of doing that?"

Here's what I mean. I remember the very first missionary speaker I ever heard as a Christian, 35-36 years ago. It was in a Bible Presbyterian church. They were talking about a mission in India. What do I remember them sharing? They shared about a tiger attack... and about teaching the kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

That's right: Indian kids, in India, learning the American flag salute.

Over the years, I've heard missionary speakers go on at length about visas, landing strips, diet, diseases, and various social projects.

One missionary talked about how important it was to regain what we had lost at the Reformation (!) — by which he meant monastic disciplines. You know, learning to be silent, to listen for God's extra-canonical voice in the stillness. We were too obsessed with the Bible, demanding that practices be found in the Bible.

(I talked with him afterwards to make sure I'd heard him right. I had. He was also a huge Blackaby fan. Surprise! Ideas have consequences, and horrible ideas have horrible consequences.)

The man did mention a boy becoming a Christian, but that was just in passing. It wasn't his focus.

What I have almost never heard a missionary talk about, in thirty-six years of churchgoing from both sides of the pulpit, is preaching Christ in foreign cultures, to people who had never heard of Him.

This has been consistent, in my experience. When people (like Piper) are trying to pressure folks to go "to the field" (i.e. not-America), it's all about preaching Christ to those who have never heard. But when I hear missionaries in church telling us what they actually do, it is virtually always about anything but that.

Why the disconnect?

It's an odd thing. I have the minority view that any church not located in Jerusalem is a missionary church. It isn't a "not where Christ has already been named" church, but it's still a mission. Those pastors and workers preach Christ all the time. When (say) folks like Ray Comfort share about their work, they don't talk about how hard it is to get a driver's license or how high taxes are. They relay stories about telling sinners of Christ, and pointing them to the Savior.

But when a missionary gets a pulpit... well, do you think I've just been in the wrong place? Almost always? For thirty-six-plus years, including Missions Week at Biola University? Has your experience been different from mine?

See, if I'm going to participate in some missionary endeavor, I'm going to ask myself some questions. One big consideration is going to be, "Why do you need to travel ___ thousand miles to do that? Aren't there people there, indigenous folks, already doing that? Wouldn't it be wiser just to send them money to do what they're already doing, than to relocate a person or a family to duplicate labor?"

One response might be that these tales of odd clothes and visas are meant to involve hearers in the details of the mission's work.

It seems to me however that, given the brief opportunity missionaries have, the time is better spent talking about preaching Christ to those who haven't heard. Isn't that what the mission is about? Are they doing that? It isn't supposed to be a travelogue, right? The goal isn't to inspire people to want to see the world, right?

Isn't a talk about preaching Christ to the lost likelier to stir Christian hearts to want to support a ministry that isn't merely building clean bathrooms or teaching English, but is actually preaching Christ?

This isn't an attack. It's a question, a thought, and a concern.


- Author of this blog, Dan Phillips, encourages you to DISCUSS HERE

Friday, December 18, 2009 

Helpful Video Prayer Guide for Orphans of Guatemala

This is slow, but it's to give you time to actually cling on to some of these prayer requests. In the middle of the video there's also a brief bit of info on the current status of adoption in Guatemala. Guatemala is not allowing adoptions right now but the amount of orphans due to poverty continues to grow. Please pray that the Lord bless each of these children a family & a home, & most importantly, salvation through Christ.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 

Please Read For Solid Understanding of Challenges Christianity Faces in Japan

In hopes that some will read this, I am highly editing this article to shorten to the main points. For that reason, parts may read like bullet points & not an article, so if you want to get the context, you can read the whole article. Please click on that link if you want the full story from globalpost.com.


In Japan, the Christmas spirit is not hard to find. Twenty-foot trees with blinking lights line shopping boulevards; department stores decorated in red-and-green bunting offer holiday sales; and Kentucky Fried Chicken, which has dressed Colonel Sanders in a Santa outfit, is offering the popular “Kentucky Christmas” meal for Dec. 25 — a family-sized bucket of chicken, salad and frosted “Christmas cake” for about $40.

Though Christianity was introduced by the Portuguese in the port-city of Nagasaki in the 1500s, it has had a rocky history here, banned outright for 250 years by the Japanese ruling shogunate. Persecuted Christians went underground in a movement known as the “hidden Christians” until the late 1800s. The legacy remains: Today, an estimated 1 percent of the 126 million Japanese identify themselves as Christian. By contract, in nearby South Korea, more than 25 percent of residents are said to be Protestant or Catholic.

Last month, Ichiro Ozawa, the secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, added insult to injury when he called Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous” while speaking to a Buddhist organization. Though Christian groups denounced Ozawa, he might have given voice to a more broadly held sentiment.

“In a way, he was expressing a mainstream Japanese idea,” said Brian Burke-Gaffney, a Nagasaki-based historian and author. “Traditionally, the Japanese have been influenced by Buddhism and Shintoism, where the ideal is to achieve coexistence [with nature], so the idea of being allied to one specific religion is not part of the Japanese DNA or psyche.”

For those Japanese who do find God, the process can be daunting. Tora Ishibashi, 29, an assistant nurse at a Nagasaki hospital and member of Garrott’s church, had a Jewish American grandfather and a Catholic step-grandfather, both of whom met his Japanese grandmother in the U.S. military base town of Sasebo outside of Nagasaki. Though he attended church occasionally growing up, he never believed in God.

But in college, he said, he was struggling with his classwork and sought out philosophy books to deal with his frustration. That’s when he picked up an animated Bible by Osamu Tezuka, the illustrator best known for the comic “Astro Boy.”

Ishibashi was hooked and, after a trip to meet Christian students in Las Vegas, of all places, he converted and was baptized. Jesus saves! But when he told friends back in Japan, they formed a support group to save Ishibashi — from Christianity.

...Miho Yoshida, 36, a part-time receptionist who was baptized at the church last month. She had attended Catholic school for a year in kindergarten, but only began attending services after her father died a few years ago. After spending three months in Canada this fall, she decided to convert. But Yoshida, like Ishibashi, was stung by the reaction of friends back home.

“I had been depressed and was on medication and, when I told my friend I had become a Christian, she asked if I was still taking my pills,” Yoshida said.

Japan's rigid social structure, in which it is considered strange to try something out of the mainstream, makes it difficult to sell people on Christianity, said Yashushi Tomono, a pastor at the Nagasaki Baptist Church.“In Japan, the most important thing to a family is not what they think, but what other people think,” Tomono said. “It is very difficult for them to become Christians by themselves.”

Tomono added that many Japanese cannot square the idea that the United States, though often considered a Christian nation, is involved in two ongoing wars. “Japanese ask why America is not opposed to war,” he said. “That is a big stumbling block.”

Despite the issues I have with Japanese issues, that is a pretty good representation of the perception of Christianity in Japan. Please pray for the work remaining. For all the "stumbling blocks" that there are to the Japanese, I am convinced that the main issue is pride - an unwillingness to give up the throne of their own lives & crown the one, true King.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 

10 Prayer Challenges for Iran

1 The Islamic revolution has lost its glitter. The legacy of bloodshed, cruelty, injustice, extremism and economic deprivation has discredited the conservative religious leaders and the Islam they promote. These leaders react with repression, restrictions and abuse of human rights because they control the police and army and manipulate the justice system. Pray for political change and a government that is truly accountable to their people and which respects human rights.

2 Iranians battle daily to survive in economic recession, political tyranny and, above all, the demonic system underlying it all. Pray that these shackles may be shattered and many Iranians find true liberty in believing in the Risen Lord Jesus. Pray that this land may open up again for the proclamation of the gospel.

3 Discrimination in jobs, housing and education is a daily reality to all Jews and Christians, but so is open and severe persecution for followers of the Baha'i religion, for all who use the Persian language for worship or witness and for all Muslim background believers. All Christian bookstores, conferences, camps, printing of literature and church newsletters, and production of videos are banned. Pray for true religious freedom to come to Iran.

4 The majority of the wider Christian community is from the traditionally Christian Armenian and Assyrian communities which are isolated cultural and language islands in a Muslim sea. Their existence has been tolerated, but fear, job discrimination, uncertainty, arbitrary arrests, interrogations, enforcement of Islamic dress for women, and Islamic religious education for children have provoked the emigration of a large proportion of these communities. Pray for a work of the Holy Spirit in these churches that the lives of Christians might radiate the glory of Jesus.

5 Protestant Churches were generally small and struggling before the revolution. The traumatic changes and suffering that followed gave them a brief period of renewal, outreach, literature distribution and many converts. Barriers between Presbyterians, Anglicans and Pentecostals were broken down. The 1990s were a time of severe persecution. Spies infiltrated congregations, and church buildings were seized or closed. Seven Christian leaders were martyred and others have had to flee for their lives. Pray for:

a) Courage and fortitude under persecution such that their enemies are won for Christ.

b) Wisdom, boldness and protection for all in leadership.

c) Adequate income for Christians who are increasingly impoverished. Emigration is a solution, both for pressured Christians and the Muslim persecutors, but their vital witness in needy Iran is lost. Pray that believers may break through this economic pressure and resist the temptation to leave.

d) Supernatural deliverances and fruitfulness for all Muslim Background Believers. Many are forced to meet together secretly or are unable to gather with other believers. Any underground church meetings are actively sought out and worshippers punished.

e) Churches outside Tehran which have suffered more. In cities such as Shiraz and Isfahan the witness has been decimated. Pray for new light to shine in every city of the land. There are 178 towns and cities but just a handful of local churches. Pray for leaders with vision and courage for planting new groups to be raised up.

6 The Iranian Diaspora is nearly 5 million. Most have found refuge in USA, Canada, Western Europe, Turkey, Gulf States and other lands where they can be evangelized. Pray for:

a) Several networks of over 70 Iranian diaspora churches, their growth in grace, unity (often a challenge) and preparation for return to minister one day in Iran.

b) The ministry of Iranian Christians International

c) Training of Iranian Christian workers

d) The many significant Iranian communities which have no church or witness – notably the Gulf States with over 60,000 Iranians.

7 Missions are not free to minister in the land but some tentmaking opportunities arise and tourism is actively encouraged. Pray for both Iranians and expatriates working among Iranians in Europe, North America and Australia. Pray that the door to Iran and its unevangelized millions may open once more. Pray also that agencies around the world may pray, plan and network together with Iranian believers in preparation for that day.

8 The spiritual needs of religious minorities:

a) The Zoroastrians or Parsees are followers of the ancient Persian religion and are prominent in the Bible – Cyrus and the three wise men being examples. They have their own distinct language derived from Persian. Communities of Parsees live in many South Asian, Middle Eastern and Western countries. Only 30 believers are known worldwide. Parsee numbers are probably much higher than those given officially. There may be up to two million in Iran – all totally unreached.

b) The Baha'i, a syncretistic religion that has spread worldwide since the 19th Century, are the most severely persecuted religious minority in Iran. They were outlawed, deprived of public service jobs and many maltreated or imprisoned. Very little Christian love and witness has been shared with the Baha'i in Iran or among the 6 million worldwide. Pray that in their extremity they may find refuge in the Lord Jesus.

c) The Persian-speaking Jews are descendants of those exiled to Babylon 2,700 years ago. Due to pressure and harassment they are declining through emigration. A number have become active, witnessing Christians.

9 Unreached peoples – all the peoples are unreached. Iran contains some of the largest totally unreached peoples in the world; only in eight of the 70 ethnic groups are there known groups of believers. Pray specifically for:

a) The partly nomadic Iranic Luri and Bakhtiari and the Turkic Qashqai who live in the Zagros Mountains. Only now are the first attempts being made to reach them and only a handful of believers are known. Pray down the barriers that these major peoples might hear the gospel. Many are illiterate.

b) The various Kurdish peoples of NW and NE Iran. They have lived through political, economic and ecological disasters in the 20th Century that have impoverished them, but their greatest poverty is lack of a knowledge of the gospel.

c) The Turkic Azeri, Khorasani Turks and Turkmen in the north. They are closely related, but scarcely have had any positive contacts with Christianity. Pray for workers to be able to reach them, the Scriptures to be translated and for churches to be planted among them. The Azeri Bible is in preparation.

d) The peoples of the southeast – the Baluch and Brahui. They are restive and unhappy with Iranian rule. There are no known believers.

e) The Gypsy communities with nearly 1.5 million people but with no Christians nor workers committed to seek ways to reach them.

10 Christian Help ministries are of special value for the Iran of today – often being the only means of reaching the majority of the population.

a) Bibles are in very short supply. The Bible Society and all Christian literature distribution outlets closed in 1988 and banned supplies have dwindled away even for Christians, but a steady trickle of Bibles continues to enter the country. Some reckon that 10 million Bibles would be gladly received were there opportunity. A new translation of the Persian NT was published in 2001; the Bible is to be completed in 2006. Pray for innovative and effective ways of distributing God's Word and for a deep impact to be made through it. Pray also for translation teams to be raised up for the many large and smaller languages without the Scriptures.

b) Christian literature, when available, is much sought after. Pray for the impact of literature already distributed and that all the harsh banning of Christian literature ministries may be ended. Much has to be done from outside Iran to publish and distribute literature.

c) Christian radio has become a key ministry. Millions listen despite government restrictions and thousands of response letters are received.

d) Christian TV, video and film ministries. There is a large black market for banned secular and religious tapes and over seven million have access through illegal satellite dishes. Both Christian Persian-language films and the JESUS film have been shown a number of times. The JESUS film was available in 12 Iranian languages in 2000 with a further five in production. Pray for ongoing impact through these ministries.


- Operation World

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 

The Slow Life in Japan

Great piece on the other side of life in Japan...an appealing life!

Monday, December 14, 2009 

Looking at the Other Side of Illegal Immigration

I believe immigration should be done legally & the whole package, yet I think far too often political conservatives & sadly even Christians have a heart that is hard towards those who are sneaking into the states. Maybe this video can give a look at the other side of the lives of those who feel they have no other choice but to come to the US & it will fuel some compassion & prayer for those we often just look at as illegals.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009 

Japan 'Junior Idols'

A 10-year-old "junior idol" poses for a photo at a bookshop in Akihabara. Fans who buy a girl's DVD get complementary tickets to events where they can meet the idols and take their photos. Photo by Sarah Noorbakhsh

A 10-year-old "junior idol" poses at a bookshop in Akihabara. Fans who buy a girl's DVD get tickets to events where they can meet idols and take photos. Photo by Sarah Noorbakhsh

An article posted a few weeks ago but recently brought to my attention through Japan Probe:

Tokyo Metro Police create dedicated anti-child porn unit

A special Tokyo police unit to combat the spread of child pornography on the Internet will begin work Thursday.

The unit will also operate a 24-hour hotline, hoping that citizens’ reports will help expose child pornography violations. The hotline will be the first in the country dedicated to combating the banned material.

In 2008, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested 60 people on child pornography violations — about double the number of four years before — and in a joint operation with the Fukuoka Prefectural Police in January and February this year arrested a group operating a pay site for obscene images out of Hong Kong and a pornographic movie site from a server in the United States in order to avoid exposure in Japan.

Read the article in full here.

And a second more recent one:

Gov’t sets up working team on eradication of child pornography

In response to the rise in child pornography cases, the Cabinet Meeting on Anti-Crime Measures has decided to set up a working team toward the eradication of such crimes.

The government made the decision — in light of the international community’s criticism of Japan’s delayed handling of the issue — that in addition to making amendments to the Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, related ministries and agencies must take other action toward eradication.

By mid-December, National Public Safety Commission Chairman Hiroshi Nakai is expected to propose the establishment of the working group in a Cabinet Meeting on Anti-Crime Measures. The first meeting of the group, to be composed of vice ministers and ministerial aids from related ministries and agencies, will be held in January. It will also consider fielding input from experts on Internet distribution and care for child victims.

Read the article in full here.

Neither article explains whether the people arrested last year were involved in possession of full-blown child pornography or “junior idol” materials. Despite Amazon’s crackdown in 2007, books and videos depicting scantily clad teen and pre-teen children in sexually provocative poses are still available in bookstores throughout the country, though most popular in Akihabara. Some say the industry gets by because they simply “toe the line” between artful photography and pornography, but an arrest of Shinkosha producer Jisei Arigane in October of the same year for pushing the limits too far while making a DVD in Bali would make some wonder if that line is in the wrong place.


- Japan Subculture Research Center

Monday, December 07, 2009 

Adoption

1 John 3:1 – “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

Japan is a difficult place to set yourself apart and to show Christ by acts of Christian love or service. The culture of the Japanese requires that if you give something to somebody, you are obligated to give a gift in return. It is even possible to be stuck in an endless cycle of giving – you give to your neighbor your neighbor gives back to you and so you give back to your neighbor…you get the point.

This can be highly frustrating as you seek ways to show the love of Christ in tangible ways. The motives of the heart cannot be seen, so while you may be giving motivated by the Spirit of God, it cannot be discerned from the Japanese who are giving due to cultural requirements.

Yet, this past month I found an area where the Japanese cannot match the heart of God and where naming yourself a Christian and following the heart of God sets you apart in a way the carnal mind in this culture cannot understand. It is adoption.

I was talking to my best friend here about family and told him that I have two siblings in the adoption process right now. Japanese have a very hard time accepting adoption. In fact, there have been studies that show abortion is accepted at an astonishingly higher rate in comparison to adoption. Japanese are known for having small circles of family and friends, a circle in which outsiders are not allowed. For them, someone who does not share their blood, whether Japanese or not, they cannot conceive of calling that child their own, and so most would rather see Japanese women abort over giving the child up for adoption. You can find articles about how even foster parents in Japan can be persecuted in neighborhoods for bringing “reproach” to the area because they are housing children who are not their own and that is “shameful” to the neighborhood group.

So, as I talked to my friend about my brother & sister adopting and my hope for adopting in the future, my friend shook his head and said, “we Japanese cannot understand adoption. Why do you want to adopt?”

Why do we adopt? This opened the door for the beautiful, Gospel picture of adoption. I explained how when we read the Bible we see that once we were enemies of God, but now, as Christians, we are children of God. I explained how Japanese cannot understand how someone without the family blood can be considered family, and yet Christians share the blood of God’s perfect Son, Jesus, and how we see ourselves as the orphaned – once without the Father, but now through the Son and His work, adopted as sons and daughters.

Pray that the image of adoption will sink into the heart of this Japanese man and that he will be eager to cry out to his Creator Father. Pray that Japanese Christians would boldly lead the charge in their country to start a culture of adoption in their nation in order to show the love of the Father through their families. Pray for those of us who are sons and daughters, that we would be eager to speak of and share about our loving Father.

Sunday, December 06, 2009 

New Operation World

A completely revised 7th edition of the missions prayer book Operation World is due out in July/August of 2010!

Cop that yo.

Saturday, December 05, 2009 

9 Prayer Challenges for Saudi Arabia

1 Saudi Arabia once had a large Christian population. They were expelled when Islam gained control 1,300 years ago. It is now one of the least evangelized nations on earth. No Christian workers are permitted and all Christian "propaganda" banned. No Christian is permitted to set foot in Islam's holiest city, Mecca. Pray that one day soon this land may have many Christians praising the Lamb that was slain.

2 The world's 1.2 billion Muslims are required to pray towards Mecca five times daily. Every year over two million make the Hajj or pilgrimage to the city. This is the culmination of many people's religious lives. Pray that many may have their eyes opened to see the emptiness and bondage under which they live, and embrace the freedom that is in Christ. Praise God that a small but growing number are doing just that – even in Saudi Arabia!

3 Saudi Arabia probably has the world's worst record on religious freedom and human rights. This has been achieved through a corrupt judicial system, arrogant religious police (mutawwa), and the corroboration of the government. This woeful record is regularly condemned by both Christian and secular international bodies promoting equality and freedom of conscience. Pray for an easing of the tight control, and for freedom of religious expression.

4 Saudi society is straining at the seams. The ailing and aged rulers find it increasingly difficult to walk the tightrope between those pushing for liberalization and those demanding stricter Islamization. The economy is sagging and there is an increasingly marked gap between rich and poor. Saudi women have an average of seven children, but this young generation finds few employment opportunities. The government's goal of the Saudi-ization of the economy has resulted in the expulsion of millions of illegal workers and Saudis taking up jobs that they previously felt were beneath them. Pray that these tensions might cause many to seek the truth and peace found only in Christ.

5 A massive Islamic missionary effort is coordinated by the Muslim World League in Mecca. Billions of dollars are spent every year to propagate Islam around the world – aid to countries considered sympathetic, building mosques, sending missionaries, literature, radio, etc. The Saudi government denies Christians the liberty to share their faith, yet demands this liberty for Muslims living elsewhere. Some of the world's largest printing presses are in Saudi and churn out 28 million Qur'ans annually for worldwide distribution.

6 Although Saudi Arabia signed the U.N. Charter, which guarantees freedom of religion, Saudis who confess Christ face the death penalty if discovered. Still, a growing and substantial number are secretly seeking and finding Him. All converts discovered in the past have been executed. Pray for the preservation and multiplication of believers, and the legalization of Christianity for Saudis. Pray that Saudi believers may be able to meet together in safety and have access to God's Word.

7 Life is difficult for expatriates. Often pressured to leave home to make money here, they lose their personal and religious freedom. Many of these foreigners have little access to the gospel, although there are sizeable numbers of Christians amongst them. Pray for a witness to flourish amongst these groups, even as the authorities seek to replace Christian expatriates with Muslims from the same country.

8 Christian expatriates live under strict surveillance. Secret gatherings are hunted down with diligence and leaders sometimes subjected to humiliating beatings, imprisonment, expulsion, and even execution. This is particularly so for Asian Christians who have often been the most effective witnesses and whose governments have the least international clout. There are perhaps only 50,000 practising believers, although many more would join them were the risks not so great. Pray for encouragement and strength for the believing community. There are few opportunities to meaningfully interact with Saudis, and very few expatriates speak Arabic. Pray that other Arabs might gain a burden to reach Saudis.

9 Witnessing by other means:

a) Saudis abroad. Students, businessmen and tourists visit the West, where they can be reached. Many prefer to travel during the summer months and the month of fasting!

b) Christian radio. Over 146 hours of broadcasting weekly in Arabic are available. Many listen secretly and there are isolated radio converts in some regions.

c) Christian literature and video cassettes. These are banned, and are therefore in great demand. Many copies of the Scriptures and the JESUS video are in surreptitious circulation.

d) Satellite television. Almost 99.9% of homes have televisions and over 50% have satellite dishes – an indication of hunger for what the outside world offers. In such an environment, Christian television can be used tremendously to bring Saudis to Jesus.



- Operation World

Friday, December 04, 2009 

My Only Victory is Jesus

Should all the poor know my name
And all my gentle mercies every heart proclaim
Should by my own two hands
All the world be changed
Still the truth would yet remain

My only victory is Jesus
His life and death and resurrection
I place my hope alone in Jesus
And the coming of His Kingdom

Should my heart be pure and true
And my mind be bound to wisdom through and through
Should ever my spirit, Lord, cry out to you
This one thing still is true

Or should I fail in every deed
Confuse the things I've wanted with my needs
Should I return the curses of my enemies
The truth will ever be:

My only victory is Jesus
His life and death and resurrection
I place my hope alone in Jesus
And the coming of His Kingdom



- Justin McRoberts

Thursday, December 03, 2009 

How Quickly Cute Becomes Creepy

Wednesday, December 02, 2009 

Misunderstanding: The Outward Form, Structure, and Methods of the Church Are Not Nailed Down in Scripture

I’m a typical American. I like to “get ‘er done,” as they say. We’re practical, can-do folks. Let’s not spend a lot of time thinking about what we are doing. Let’s just do it! Many evangelicals assume that the Bible gives us a clear message, but then leaves the methods of delivering it up to us.

However, even in the Great Commission the command to “Go into all the world” is followed by the specific components of this calling: namely, to preach the gospel, to baptize, and to teach everything he has revealed. Acts 2 tells us that the community created at Pentecost was dedicated to “the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” (v 42). These are all communal, structured, public activities. (In Greek, the definite article in “the prayers” suggests that early Christian worship carried on the form of the synagogue liturgy with respect to corporate prayers.)

Throughout the Book of Acts, the apostles busy themselves with the elements of Christ’s commission. In fact, the diaconate is established so that they can give themselves entirely to the ministry of Word and sacrament (Acts 6). Then, everywhere they have a nucleus of converts, the apostles ordain ministers and elders. “This is why I left you in Crete,” Paul reminds Titus, “so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Tit 1:5). While Paul the Apostle could invoke a direct commission from the risen Christ, he bolstered Timothy’s confidence by reminding him of the calling and gift he received “when the council of elders [presbyteriou] laid their hands on you” (1 Tim 4:14). Eventually, this ordinary ministry will replace the extraordinary ministry of the apostles. The former will build on the foundation of the latter. Not only are local churches to be organized with pastors, elders, and deacons; they are responsible to each other in a wider fellowship of mutual encouragement and admonition. When the churches in Antioch brought the case of Gentile inclusion to the whole church in Acts 15, the “whole church” was represented by “the apostles and elders” from each local assembly. The result was a written decision that was expected to be received by every local church.

Then when we get to the Epistles, specific offices and qualifications are clearly stated, especially in the pastoral letters. Clear instructions are given for the meaning and regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 10-11), for church discipline (Mat 18; 1 Cor 5-7), and for public worship (Ac 2:42-45; 1 Cor 14:6-39) and the diaconal care of the saints (Ac 6; Rom 15:14-32; Gal 6:10; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-13). We are even told why we sing. Why does God need to tell us why we sing? Because singing in corporate worship is not mere exuberance, entertainment, or pious expression of our own thoughts, feelings, and commitment. Rather, the purpose of the singing is the same as the preaching, the sacraments, and the prayers: “…so that the Word of Christ may dwell in you richly…” (Col 3:16). Christ cares so much about every aspect of his visible church because he knows how prone we are to wander and to set up idols, demanding our own forms of worship. Not only the message of Christ, but the means of grace that he has appointed, are calculated by the Triune God for delivering Christ to sinners—including believers—throughout their pilgrimage. The same gospel that brings those “far off” to Christ also brings to Christ those who are near to the covenant promises: “you and your children” (Ac 2:39).

A major heresy swept the ancient church in the second century, known as Gnosticism. Trying to assimilate the gospel to Greek thought, the Gnostics drew a sharp division between spirit and matter, invisible and visible, outer and inner. It was not the external ministry of Word and sacrament or external ministers like pastors and elders, but an inner ministry of the Spirit through spontaneous ecstasy and enlightenment, that the Gnostics extolled. Paul’s agitators in Greek-dominated settings (such as Corinth and Colossae), whom the apostle had sarcastically dubbed “super-apostles,” were likely forerunners of this sect. However, Jesus did not found a mystical sect of the inner light; he founded a visible church, where he has promised to deliver Christ and all of his benefits through the public ministry of Word and sacrament and to guard his sheep through loving discipline and care of body and soul.

Christ is not only our prophet and priest; he’s also our king. As such, he has not only determined our personal piety but our corporate practices as his body. Jesus did not redeem his sheep only to make them “self-feeders.” The Spirit disrupts our lives and disorganizes the ordinary course of this present age, but only to re-organize and re-integrate a new society around the Son.

As I observed above, I’m as pragmatic as the next American. However, this is not a benign character trait, especially if it keeps us from taking seriously Christ’s claims as king of his church. American evangelicalism is deeply indebted to the Second Great Awakening, led by Charles Finney. The classic American pragmatist, Finney saw the doctrines of original sin, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, justification through faith alone, and the supernatural character of the new birth as obstacles to genuine revival and society’s moral improvement. His “new measures” (such as the “anxious bench,” a precursor to the altar call) supplemented and eventually supplanted the ordained means of grace. Revival was as normal as any other programmed event, dependent on the most effective means of persuasion that could be imagined by a clever evangelist.

Just as the Spirit’s inward call is often contrasted with outward means, evangelicalism celebrates the charismatic leader who needs no formal training or external ecclesiastical ordination to confirm a spontaneous, direct, an inner call to ministry. Historians may debate whether the Protestant enthusiasm is more of a consequence than a cause of the distinctively American confidence in intuitive individualism over against external authorities and communal instruction, but the connection seems obvious. In Head and Heart, Catholic historian Garry Wills observes,

The camp meeting set the pattern for credentialing Evangelical ministers. They were validated by the crowd’s response. Organizational credentialing, doctrinal purity, personal education were useless here—in fact, some educated ministers had to make a pretense of ignorance. The minister was ordained from below, by the converts he made. This was an even more democratic procedure than electoral politics, where a candidate stood for office and spent some time campaigning. This was a spontaneous and instant proclamation that the Spirit accomplished. The do-it-yourself religion called for a make-it-yourself ministry.

Wills repeats Richard Hofstadter’s conclusion that “the star system was not born in Hollywood but on the sawdust trail of the revivalists.” Where American Transcendentalism was the version of Romanticism that attracted a wide following among Boston intellectuals, Finney’s legacy represents “an alternative Romanticism,” a popular version of self-reliance and inner experience, “taking up where Transcendentalism left off.” Emerson had written, “The height, the deity of man is to be self-sustained, to need no gift, no foreign force”—no external God, with an external Word and sacraments or formal ministry. And revivalism in its own way was popularizing this distinctly American religion on the frontier.

Writing against Charles Finney’s “new measures,” a contemporary Reformed pastor and theologian, John Williamson Nevin, pointed out the contrast between “the system of the bench” (precursor to the altar call) and what he called “the system of the catechism”: “The old Presbyterian faith, into which I was born, was based throughout on the idea of covenant family religion, church membership by God’s holy act in baptism, and following this a regular catechetical training of the young, with direct reference to their coming to the Lord’s table. In one word, all proceeded on the theory of sacramental, educational religion.” Nevin relates his own involvement in a revival as a young man, where he was expected to disown his covenantal heritage as nothing more than dead formalism. These two systems, Nevin concluded, “involve at the bottom two different theories of religion.” He was certainly right and we can’t just staple the five points of Calvinism to an essentially Pelagian methodology.



- Mike Horton

Tuesday, December 01, 2009 

Christmas in Japan: Materialism is King (just like USA)

Demographics

Between the 23rd and 26th of October 2009 1,162 members of the goo Research monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 62.9% of the sample were female, 10.5% in their teens, 20.7% in their twenties, 30.8% in their thirties, 21.9% in their forties, 9.0% in their fifties, and 7.0% aged sixty or older.

I’ll stick with the number one choice, whatever. Judging by the huge preference amongst men for whatever, perhaps there is a sense that if they ask their partner for anything she will expect rather more in return, so by not specifying anything hopefully her expections for what she will receive will be lowered. That’s how I think, at least!

Ranking results

Q1: What do you want from your girlfriend for Christmas? (Sample size=431, men)

Rank Score
1 I’ll be happy with whatever I get 100
2 Something handmade 25.6
3= Wallet or other accessories 22.4
3= Wristwatch 22.4
5 A meal at a posh restaurant we normally don’t go to 16.0
6= Travel 14.4
6= A letter 14.4
8 Shoes 12.0
9 Home electrical items 11.2
10 Western-style clothes 9.6
11= Bag 8.8
11= Interior items 8.8
13 Sweeties 8.0
14= Ring 7.2
14= Japanese-style clothes 7.2
14= A night at a posh hotel 7.2
17= Necklace 5.6
17= Flowers 5.6
19= Bracelet 4.8
19= Furniture 4.8

Q1: What do you want from your boyfriend for Christmas? (Sample size=731, women)

Rank Score
1 I’ll be happy with whatever I get 100
2 Ring 72.9
3 Necklace 57.2
4 A meal at a posh restaurant we normally don’t go to 45.4
5 A night at a posh hotel 43.2
6 Earrings 42.8
7 Wallet or other accessories 41.5
8 Travel 38.9
9 Bag 38.4
10 Wristwatch 31.9
11 A letter 31.4
12 Flowers 31.0
13 Bracelet 28.4
14 Shoes 23.1
15 Western-style clothes 21.0
16 Home electrical items 15.7
17 Interior items 14.4
18 Japanese-style clothes 13.1
19 Furniture 10.5
20 Sweeties 9.2

Q2: What do you not want from your girlfriend for Christmas? (Sample size=431, men)

Rank Score
1 CD, DVD by an artist I don’t know 100
2 Accessories that don’t suit my style 98.5
3 Clothes that don’t suit my style 95.4
4 Original mix tape, DVD 93.8
5 Cheap accessories 60.0
6 Hand-knitted scarf 58.5
7 Money, gift card 56.9
8 His and hers matching clothes 52.3
9 Cologne 47.7
10 Flowers 44.6

Q2: What do you not want from your boyfriend for Christmas? (Sample size=731, women)

Rank Score
1 Clothes that don’t suit my style 100
2 Accessories that don’t suit my style 90.3
3 Original mix tape, DVD 83.4
4 CD, DVD by an artist I don’t know 80.7
5 Hand-knitted scarf 62.2
6 His and hers matching clothes 60.6
7 Cheap accessories 54.4
8 Character-branded items 49.4
9 Lingerie he likes 46.3
10 Ornament 43.6

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  • From Exiled
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