ヨハネ 3:2 「先生。私たちは、あなたが神のもとから来られた教師であることを知っています。神がともにおられるのでなければ、あなたがなされるこのようなしるしは、だれも行うことができません。」

Everything has a purpose, and miracles are no exception. They don't simply meet a need, they demonstrate the power of God and authenticate His messengers, as evidenced here. What Jesus taught would have been just as true even if He had not performed miracles, but those miracles made people like Nicodemus acknowledge that there was Divine activity going on. Today we tend to ask for miracles without thinking how God might want to use them. Actually, people today tend to be very jaded by technology. Someone said that “Any technology, if sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic.” Even when God works a miracle, we look for some other explanation. If God isn't going to get credit, why should He do miracles in the first place? That's probably a major reason why miracles are far more common in some African countries than they are in Japan or the US. If we give God credit for the things He is already doing in our lives, I can't help but feel that the “miraculous” would be far more common.


For 30 years I have desired dramatic miracles to demonstrate the truth of the Words God speaks through me, but I realize that there are many who would refuse to believe even in the face of miracles, and thankfully, there have been those who have believed without miracles. I still would not be upset at miraculous confirmation! I cannot dictate to God when He is to do what, because the probability that I would be wrong is very close to 100%. I need to be faithful in my obedience and active in expecting Him to act in line with His character. I should be at peace knowing that He is love, holiness, power, faithfulness, and all of that. At the same time, I am not to hesitate to pray for miracles, and to recognize and acknowledge them when they happen. As a pastor, I need to help the believers recognize God's hand in their lives. He does some pretty remarkably things all the time, and we too often fail to recognize them.


Father, You know my situation better than I do. You know my frustration when people dismiss Your truth simply because it is spoken by someone who is not Japanese. That's true enough when it happens with non-believers, but it is downright painful when it happens with Christians, and it has. Help me trust You fully with myself and with those in my care, so that You will be completely free to work Your miracles, recognized or not, in all of us, for Your satisfaction and pleasure. Thank You. Praise God!



ヨハネ 1:16-17 私たちはみな、この方の満ち満ちた豊かさの中から、恵みの上にさらに恵みを受けたのである。とい うのは、律法はモーセによって与えられ、恵みとまことはイエス・キリストによって実現したからである。

“From out of His abundance we have all received grace upon grace.” That truth is so real and so deep, and yet so many miss it. We don't deserve anything but destruction, yet God has poured His mercy out upon us. The minute we start thinking we deserve to have it easy, we lose out on most of the benefits of what we do have. The secret to a happy life is recognizing that we don't deserve as good as what we have, but that God in His grace and mercy has prepared even better for us. Gratefulness and expectation do a lot toward overcoming the negative junk the devil shovels onto us. The purpose of the Law of Moses is to help us understand how gracious God is. We cannot possibly keep every detail of the written code, and as James said, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) That is why we focus so much on grace! In some ways legalism seems easier than following grace, because external rules don't require us to think so much about why we are doing things. However the Bible is abundantly clear that we cannot be saved by our own efforts, that is, by obeying a set of rules, but only by believing in the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9)


In addition to this being of utmost importance in my own salvation, as a pastor I am charged with helping those around me understand it as well. Actually, this is at the core of the Gospel that all believers are charged with communicating. I've got to help people see that faith expressing itself through love is our goal. (Galatians 5:6) Christians today run around applying all sorts of litmus tests to one another to check on doctrinal purity and the like, but that is divisive in the face of Jesus' prayer that we would all be one! (John 17:20-21) That's not at all to say that I should accept anything that comes down the road, or that I should fail to lay a solid doctrinal foundation in the believers, but it is to say that I should focus on God's grace before I start looking for things to disagree with.


Father, this is something I have been strongly aware of for a long time. It hurts me when someone rejects what I see as a Biblical truth, and it hurts me even more when, from my viewpoint, they lay down truth to take up error. Help me be consistent in speaking Your truth in love, not to defend You and certainly not to defend me, but to let Your Spirit work Your truth into people's hearts. May I be an effective channel of Your grace and truth to all I encounter, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




ルカ 16:10-11 「小さい事に忠実な人は、大きな事にも忠実であり、小さい事に不忠実な人は、大きな事にも不忠実です。ですから、あなたがたが不正の富に忠実でなかったら、だれがあなたがたに、まことの富を任せるでしょう。」

Verse 13 of this chapter is perhaps more famous, but this is equally deserving of our attention. This is the ultimate answer to those who those who ignore God in financial matters, whether by insisting that tithing was only for OT days or whether by perhaps tithing but then ignoring God in the use of the other 90%. Jesus is saying that material wealth is like play money, to teach us stewardship principles so that we will be ready for the real stuff. The problem is, we get entranced with the play money, and don't value what is real. I'm reminded of a cartoon I saw of someone who, for some reason, had been allowed to take a bar of gold with him to heaven. When he showed it to a friend who had arrived before him, the friend said in astonishment, “You brought paving!?” Children often play with pebbles they pick up, sometimes pretending they are gems. Jesus is saying that all material wealth is exactly like that. God has “the riches of glory” (to use Paul's _expression) available for us, but we need to show that we are ready to handle it by our stewardship of material things.

この章の13節はひょっとするとより有名かもしれません、しかしこの節も等しく私達の関心を向けるに値します。これは金銭的な問題において神を無視する人々 ―十分の一献金は旧約時代に限られたことだと主張したり、ひょっとすると献金はしているかもしれないが残りの90%を遣うことにおいて神を無視しているような人々―に対する究極的な答えです。イエスは物質的な富はお金で遊ぶようなものであると言っています、そして本質的な物事に備えられるように責任の原理を教えているのです。問題は、お金で遊ぶことからはいってしまうと、本質的なものを重要視しないということです。私は、何かの理由で、金の延べ棒を持って天国に入ることを許された人の物語のアニメを思い出しました。彼がそれより先に天国へ行っていた友達にそれを見せると、その友人は驚いて「君は(わざわざ)敷石を持ってきたのかい?」と言ったのでした。子供たちはよく小石を拾い集めては、それらを宝石のふりをしてごっこ遊びをします。イエスはすべての物質的な富はまさしくそのようなものだと言っているのです。神は(パウロの表現を用いるならば)「栄光の富」を私たちのために備えてくださっています、しかし私たちは物質的な富を舵取りできる準備があることを示さねばなりません。

Once again, I had a head start on a lot of people in this area because of my upbringing. In a missionary family there were certainly times when money was tight, but I don't remember ever feeling like we were poor. On the contrary, God provided abundantly for us in various ways, to the point that I think quite a few people thought we were wealthy. The point is, the focus was never on the material, but on spiritual, intangible riches. We loved music and reading and family, and above all we loved God, and He took care of everything else. As a missionary myself, and in my case, without the support of a sending organization, I have certainly experienced God's faithfulness in more ways than I could list. However, the temptation is always there to get anxious about material things, despite God's perfect track record. Right now we're in the middle of trying to simplify and eliminate, and that too is a part of stewardship. I need to be faithful in all of it, not just for my own sake but because I am an example for many, and almost everyone is caught in materialism to some degree.


Father, help me be faithful with everything You put in my hands, whether material or spiritual. As You said through me yesterday, everything You give us has a purpose. Help me recognize Your purpose for each thing so that it may be fulfilled, for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ルカ 15:10 「あなたがたに言いますが、それと同じように、ひとりの罪人が悔い改めるなら、神の御使いたちに喜びがわき起こるのです。」

The simple fact of the matter is, it is a joyful thing when someone gets saved by repentance and faith. It's odd, really, but sometimes we forget that. On the other hand, we also sometimes forget that salvation requires repentance, and people who “join the church” without acknowledging and repenting of their sins are indeed not saved. A person may go through the motions, and indeed have copious tears in the process, without really repenting, not of the consequences of their sins but of the sin itself. Esau is a good example of that, as it points out in Hebrews 12:16-17. He “repented” of the consequences of his attitude, but he didn't repent of the attitude itself. Recognizing that sin has consequences is an important step toward repentance, but “into bliss and out of blister,” as my grandfather used to put it, is not a Biblical description of salvation. My grandfather's point was that some people think that saying a little formula will get you from hell to heaven, without repentance demonstrated by a changed life, and it doesn't work that way. John the Baptist had that very clear. (Matthew 3:8 and Luke 3:8) The other side of that, though is that we aren't to go around being “salvation inspectors.” That's putting ourselves in God's place, ant that's a very serious sin in itself. We are to keep our own repentance up to date, and as we share the Gospel we are to be clear in communicating that repentance is necessary, but God is the ultimate judge of repentance and salvation, not us.


As a pastor I need to be very clear on this issue. I need to be gracious and loving, but also discerning, which isn't the same as judging but all too often is confused with it. I am to rejoice whenever anyone expresses repentance, but at the same time I'm not to take everything at face value, particularly in assigning responsibility. Paul was clear in 1 Timothy 3 that people are to be evaluated as John the Baptist indicated before they are to be given responsibility in the Church. I am to present as open a door as possible, but as Jesus said, that door is narrow, compared to what the world offers. I must remember that the kingdom of God is not a matter of legalism, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)


Father, sometimes I go too much one way and sometimes too much the other on this issue. Help me rejoice indeed with people who express repentance, while being Your agent in helping them learn to walk it out in daily living, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ルカ 11:35 だから、あなたのうちの光が、暗やみにならないように、気をつけなさい。

The English says “is not” and the Japanese says “does not become” darkness. I think that's a pretty big difference. I'll have to check with my Greek scholar wife to see which is the more accurate translation! God's Word is light, but sometimes we turn it into darkness by our interpretation of it. That is of course a problem in taking verses out of context, but it even happens with supposedly expository preaching, when the liberty of the Holy Spirit is exchanged for legalism. Jesus' biggest arguments were with the Pharisees, who were very much the Fundamentalists of their day. By standing on the letter of the Old Testament Scriptures, they missed the intent completely. As Paul said, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). That's not at all to say that what is written is unimportant, or that we can be cavalier in our interpretation. It is saying, as Jesus says in this verse, that we must not use the Bible as an instrument of bondage. That is darkness and not light! The Bible is to set us free so that we don't have to obey the flesh and the devil. It is indeed to lead us into righteous, holy living, but not by being bound by legalism.


As a pastor, this is a matter of particularly vital importance to me. I must be faithful in speaking the Word, but I must do so by the power and in the love of the Holy Spirit, or the light will become darkness. I should love the Word as much as the writer of Psalm 119 loved it, but I must apply that Word in the love of God toward the people He sent His Son to redeem. I see church leaders who dilute the Word to the point of nonexistence in an effort to make their churches attractive to non-believers, and I also see church leaders who take some Biblical truths and teach them accurately enough, but in violation of the love and grace of God. God is not pleased with either one! I am to be true to the Word in every detail, but as Paul makes very clear in 1 Corinthians 13, I must do so in the love and grace of God, or it will benefit nothing.


Father, this is humanly speaking a very difficult line to follow. I ask for Your grace, guidance, and power, particularly with those I see who are straying far from it to one side or the other. May I be Your agent of grace to all I encounter, so that Your light may not be dimmed in me, but shine clear and bright to draw many into the intimacy with You that You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ルカ 10:16 「あなたがたに耳を傾ける者は、わたしに耳を傾ける者であり、あなたがたを拒む者は、わたしを拒 む者です。わたしを拒む者は、わたしを使わされた方を拒む者です。」

This is an extremely important principle, but it is also subject to misapplication. Whereas it is very true that Christians shouldn't take rejection of the Gospel personally, some seem to have an attitude of “If you don't like me you don't like Jesus.” That's taking it a bit too far! We are commanded to love one another, but that doesn't mean that all personalities coexist smoothly! When we are filled with the Holy Spirit it is certainly easier to deal with abrasive and otherwise irritating personalities, but that's no excuse for us to be abrasive or irritating! That said, I need to come back to why Jesus said this in the first place. Many people are threatened by a proclamation of God's truth, because they know they are in violation of it. Actually, someone who reacts vehemently is a better prospect for salvation than someone who doesn't react at all, because they are at least hearing what is being said. The hardest people to reach are those that simply ignore the Gospel.


Japanese culture can make it hard to determine how you are being heard. I have often gotten polite smiles and nods and even words of seeming agreement when actually there was no comprehension at all of what was being said. Japanese congregations are notoriously stone faced, though thankfully that has been changing in recent years. It can be very hard to gauge how a sermon is being received. They are the polar opposite of the US Black churches I have preached in! However, that doesn't mean that Japanese do more poorly about applying the Word they have received. I need to be faithful in communicating what God has spoken to me and leave the reception in God's hands. I need to be as personable and winsome as possible, but always remember that it doesn't matter particularly what people think of me, but rather how they respond to Christ in me.


Father, this has been an issue with me, but sometimes from the opposite direction. People seem to like me, but they can't seem to understand that what they find likable is Christ in me. I ask for words and anointing to communicate that more effectively, helping people understand that they can have everything they find attractive about me. I ask for that particularly tonight as I go to the graduation parties, that the impression I leave with my former students would be of Christ more than of me, so that in Your timing they would seek You and find You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ルカ 8:17 隠れているもので、あらわにならぬものはなく、秘密にされているもので、知られず、また現われないものはありません。

This verse, taken seriously, is terrifying to some people. A lot of people act like it isn't true, or was never said in the first place. However, you can't change God's word like that! The impulse to hide goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve tried to hide from God because they knew they had disobeyed Him. The same reaction can be seen in children today! However, denial never brings resolution and absolution. Many people realize that keeping secrets wears you out, but many others haven't come to that point yet. There are numerous benefits to a policy of absolute honesty! That doesn't mean we are to be letting everything hang out. That can cause needless hurt. However, the fear of being found out can be absolutely paralyzing, and the best defense is being up front about it in the first place. God of course knows everything, so trying to hide something from Him is totally futile, but hiding things from one another is, in the final analysis, futile and damaging as well. That's not to say that there is anything wrong with surprise presents and the like, because the intent there is specifically temporary. What Jesus is addressing, and what we must acknowledge, is the impulse to appear as something other than what we are, to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.


This is an important consideration in every person's life, and I am no exception. I've only had a few experiences at trying to keep dark secrets about myself, but those were enough to teach me that it is poisonous. We are created for intimacy with God, and on a lesser level with one another, and that requires openness. I need to stay open and frank with God, of course, but also with the people close to me. I am not to nurse hidden wounds, for example, but bring them first to God, choose to forgive, and then approach the person who wounded me, if that is called for to prevent further problems. I have hurt others unintentionally, and when they have let me know it, I have done my best to mend my ways. However, when they have nursed their wounds in secret, they and our relationship have been poisoned. This is a major issue in pastoral ministry. It isn't very easy to deal with even when I am not involved in the original incident, but it is difficult indeed when I am one of the primary parties. I need to do all I can, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to foster an attitude of openness in this church, so that the inevitable hurts may be dealt with promptly and not allowed to fester, and people may have practical training in forgiveness, for the health and blessing of everyone.


Father, thank You for my father and His policy of absolute honesty. I am greatly blessed to have been raised in such an environment. I ask for wisdom and grace in ministering to people who were raised to be closed about their feelings and many other things. May Your light shine in all our hearts, so that when areas needing repentance or forgiveness are exposed, we may be quick in our obedience, allowing Your love to flow over, among, and through us, building the Body of Christ for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!