イザヤ 40:9 声を上げよ。恐れるな。ユダの町々に言え。「見よ。あなたがたの神を。」

Once again the NIV has taken a step back from literal translation, and lost something in the process. I grew up with “Behold your God,” which is literal enough, but “behold” isn't used in normal conversation any more, so the emotional impact wasn't there. “Look and see your God” would be the best English I could come up with, but thankfully the Japanese is fine as it is. The phrase echoes in me because I am constantly telling people to get their eyes off of themselves and onto Jesus, probably because God has had to tell me that so many times! I am constantly amazed at how people can look at things and not really see them, and that's just in the physical realm. The problem is far more acute in the spiritual realm. God puts His grace and His goodness on full display, and yet we fail to see it, tying ourselves in knots over minor bumps in the road. If we would indeed “look and see” Christ, then everything else would fall into perspective and we would be able to relax and enjoy the journey.


Talk about preaching to myself! I got really irate yesterday at the nonsensical new regulations that won't allow anything over 1 pound (453g) to be sent to the US by air, blocking me from mailing Christmas presents. I wasn't ready to trust God, and I suffered for it. Later, I did hospital visitation for someone under a medical sentence of death. I could speak life and hope to him and his family, because I was at enough of a remove that I wasn't blinded by the circumstances. Surely I can learn to remember that God who can be trusted with the transition from physical death to eternal life can be trusted with the petty details of my life! Once again it is a matter of applying the truth that I already know to where the rubber meets the road.


Father, even as I am amazed at how others can look at things and not see them, I am also amazed at how I can know truth and not apply it. Thank You for Your grace and mercy! Help me continue to grow as Your child, seeing things as You see them, hearing what You are saying, and rejoicing to be obedient to You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



イザヤ 11:3-4 この方は主を恐れることを喜び、その目の見るところによってさばかず、その耳の聞くところによっ て判決を下さず、正義をもって寄るべのない者をさばき、公正をもって国の貧しい者のために判決を下し、口のむちで国を打ち、 くちびるの息で悪者を殺す。

One of the difficulties in translation is in deciding where to begin and end sentences, and the Japanese and English made different choices in this case. That does impact how we perceive what is said, even if analysis shows that the meaning is technically the same. The NIV connects the first line of verse 3 with verse 2, which tends to divorce the idea of “the fear of the Lord” from the righteousness and justice discussed in the rest of verse 3 and verse 4. Actually, the fear of the Lord is the only true basis for righteousness and justice, because mankind has demonstrated a virtually unlimited capacity for unrighteousness and injustice in those who do not fear God. For those who deny God, “righteousness” and “justice” are whatever are convenient for them at the moment, because absolute values depend on an absolute foundation, which can only be God. Several recent decisions by judges in the US have raised strong questions of what secret sins and perversions those judges might be hiding! The Bible is very clear that God hates acquitting the guilty as much as He hates convicting the innocent. (Exodus 23:6-7, Proverbs 17:15) Justice is not giving a free ride to those who will not work, or giving more “rights” to perpetrators than to victims!


This is an issue that can really get me worked up. However, I've got to remember that God is still God, and not just get indignant, but pray for change. I am to speak up when appropriate and I am to be faithful in prayer, and above all I am to live every part of my life in awareness of and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All the social issues that are so rampant today are spiritual at their roots, and that is how I must approach them. Spiritual battles can't be won by human schemes!


Father, with modern information technology I am much more aware of the incredible volume of injustice and unrighteousness that are rampant in the world today, but You have been fully aware of it all along. Help me remember that and release each thing to You in prayer. Help me submit my will to You in prayer, so that Your Name may be hallowed, Your kingdom come, and Your will be done in each situation, by Your grace and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



イザヤ 9:6 ひとりのみどりごは、私たちのために生まれる。ひとりの男の子が、私たちに与えられる。主権はそ の肩にあり、その名は「不思議な助言者、力ある神、永遠の父、平和の君」と呼ばれる。

This is one of the most famous of all Messianic verses, widely quoted every Christmas, but we still tend to overlook one little part of it. That is, the government, the Lordship, will be on His shoulders. This is precisely what the NT stresses, speaking of Jesus as Lord, but we don't have the same concept of Lordship in society today, and we miss the meaning. We get all tied in knots over various earthly governments, and indeed no earthly government is perfect, but the Bible calls us to remember that the ultimate government, Lordship, rule, rests with Christ; all other governments and authorities are temporary. This is why Paul, while living under the very oppressive Roman government, would tell the Romans, and Titus, that we are to be subject to the civil authorities. (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1-2) There are indeed times when civil disobedience is called for (Acts 4:19; 5:29), but we need to remind ourselves that Jesus is the ultimate authority, and be fully submitted and obedient to Him.


I have certainly allowed myself to get upset over human governments many times over the years, so it is good to have this reminder. I am reminded of what it says in Hebrews 2:8-9, that whereas we don't see everything lining up with what God desires in the world today, we do see Jesus with the eyes of our hearts, and that should be enough to give us peace and joy regardless of what is going on around us in the natural. The Lordship of Christ is far from being a merely theoretical, philosophical construct. It is the most practical reality there is, and I need to keep my mind and heart fixed on it.


Father, my shortcomings in this area cause me no end of grief. I get so stirred up over one thing and another, not recognizing on the emotional level that You are still God, Jesus is still Lord, and I have nothing to be upset about. Forgive me. Keep me from making demands of others, emotionally or otherwise, but help me rather rest in submitting everything to You. To this point I have gotten worn out almost every Christmas, particularly since becoming a pastor, and it has been far more from emotional stress than from physical activity. This year is so far no exception! Thank You for the training in releasing each activity, each responsibility, to You, so that I may avoid the thieving traps of the devil and delight in the peace and joy that You have provided for me, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



イザヤ 7:9 「もし、あなたがたが信じなければ、長く立つことはできない。」

There are times when “you” being singular or plural masks important meaning in Scripture. Isaiah was speaking from the Lord to King Ahaz, but here he specifically uses the plural pronoun to speak of standing in faith. Likewise, the NIV says “stand at all,” where the Japanese says “stand for long.” Sometimes we think we are standing pretty well, but without faith in God, our almighty Redeemer, that is a strictly temporary situation. It is clear throughout the Bible that faith, that is, relying on God rather than on what our senses and intellect tell us, is essential. That can be a major stumbling block to those who take pride in being rational and “scientific,” yet even most such people will admit, when pressed, that there are things our intellects can't tell us. The biggest problem with hyper rationalism is that it ignores the spiritual. That's highly ironic, when one of the biggest puzzles for astrophysicists (considered by many to be the pinnacle of the scientific world) is “dark matter,” that is, stuff they can't see. They insist on running their lives by what they can see, and yet they acknowledge that their own best data says that the majority of the universe is invisible! Any world view that leaves out the invisible and the unknown, attempting to eliminate the need for faith, is highly deficient to say the least!


I was raised in a highly intellectual household that was also a household of faith. What an incredible blessing! I was never taught to ignore my intellect, and science was highly respected and recommended, but there was always the underlying awareness of the limits to all that. God was presented as the absolute truth, though our awareness and understanding of Him is partial and imperfect. (1 Corinthians 13:9-12) I was taught that seeking God is even more sure of success than seeking intellectual knowledge. (Jeremiah 29:13; 33:3) My challenge right now is in communicating that truth to those who were not so blessed as to be raised in such an environment. I cannot be on some intellectual or spiritual high horse, looking down on those who do not understand; that would be completely counterproductive. I've got to seek God and trust the Holy Spirit to get His truth through to people, using my words and actions whenever He so desires. I have experienced more times than I could count the reality that I can't save anyone! I must stand in faith so that others may be brought to faith, for their salvation and the glory of God.

私はとても知的な家庭に育ちました。それはまた信仰を持った家庭でもあります。なんとすばらしい恵みでしょう!私は自分の知性を無視するようには決して教わったことはありません。また科学は非常に関心高いもので推奨されていました。しかしその全てにおいて限界があるという認識が常に基礎にありました。神様についての私たちの認識や理解が一部分的なもので不完全でありますが、神様は絶対的な真実として存在していました(コリント人への手紙 第一13:9-12)私は神様を求めることは知性を求めるよりももっと成功を確実にすると教わりました(エレミヤ書29:13、33:3)私の今のチャレンジは、知的な環境で育ち、あまり幸せでない人たちに真実を伝えることです。私は、理解していない人たちを見下すような、知性的態度や霊的な傲慢な態度でいてはいけません。それは全く逆効果です。私は神様を求め、神様が望まれる時はいつでも私の言動を用いて、精霊様が神様の真実を人々に伝えてくださるということを信じなければなりません。私は誰をも救えない現実を数え切れないほど経験しました!人々の救いのため、また神様の御栄光のために、彼らが信仰へと導かれるように、私は信仰にしっかりと立たなければなりません。

Father, thank You for expressing this so clearly through me this morning. Help me depend on You at all times, rather than on the gifts, intellectual and otherwise, that You have placed in me, so that in everything Your will may be done, in and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




申命記 18:18-19 「わたしは彼らの同胞のうちから、彼らのためにあなたのようなひとりの預言者を起こそう。わたし は彼の口にわたしのことばを授けよう。彼は、わたしが命じることをみな、彼らに告げる。わたしの名によって彼が告げるわたし のことばに聞き従わない者があれば、わたしが彼に責任を問う。」

This passage has been seen as Messianic since hundreds of years before Jesus was born, but as is usual with long-range prophecies the Lord gives us, the fulfillment didn't match the preconceptions. The Japanese is a little more explicit than the English, grammatically speaking, in specifying that this is talking about a single individual. That actually is why this was seen as Messianic, when God raised up many prophets over the years. The verses immediately following are obviously talking about many prophets of varying authenticity, which makes the Messianic attribution seem somewhat out of context. However, Jesus is the only person ever to fulfill these two verses perfectly. (Hebrews 1:1-2) Prophets since then are a different category, and this is where modern understanding gets confused. It is clear from the Biblical record that God continues to use prophets. One such case is Agabus (Acts 11:27-28, 21:10-11). This idea of God using prophets today is hotly contested in some areas by people who insist that once the NT canon was completed, there was no more need for prophets. However, those same people are likely to consider their own sermons as being on the level of Biblical prophecy! Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is indeed poured out on all believers, but the degree to which He is received and welcomed varies greatly. That means any believer can, and should expect to, be used by God to speak into situations. However, that is different from the office of Prophet that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:11. The point to remember in all of this is that when God uses a human instrument to speak to people, those people are responsible to God for what they have heard.


As a Pastor/Teacher who has been used both in direct prophecy and in prophetic preaching, this is of great concern to me. I am to keep my spiritual ears tuned and unclogged to hear what God is saying to me and what He wants to say through me, but I am not to try to hold people responsible to me personally for the truth I speak. Rather, I am to recognize that if God is really speaking through me, then He can take care of what happens after that as well. I must be especially careful not to deceive myself into thinking I am in any way exempted from having to be obedient to the truth I speak. Jesus Himself was perfectly obedient to everything He said. I am never to place myself on a pedestal, but I am to recognize that God has chosen to speak through me, and walk in the purity and humility that are called for.


Father, it is enormously satisfying to realize You have spoken, or even are speaking, through me, but pride is a major problem. Help me be fully faithful, without taking personal credit. I don't deserve any! I especially ask that You enable me to live out what You speak through me, filled and motivated by Your love, so that I will in no way hinder what You desire to do through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



出エジプト記 34:2 「朝までに準備をし、朝シオン山に登って、その山の頂でわたしの前に立て。」

This verse has never stood out to me before that I can remember, but it strikes me right now as a pattern for devotions. In the first place, we are to be prepared. That means having gotten enough sleep, and it especially means preparing our hearts to meet with and hear from God. If we really expect God to meet with and speak to us, we will have open, expectant hearts, and we will likely be prepared to make a record of what we are told. The second thing I see here is going to a specific place to meet with God. For each person that will be different, but I do know the difficulty of focusing on God when we are surrounded by things that remind us of other things we need or want to do. There are practical limits to the degree of isolation we can have on a regular basis, but I know from experience that it is extremely difficult to have a good devotional time when surrounded by hustle and bustle. The third thing I see here is standing before God, presenting ourselves with no other agenda than to hear and obey. We are all too prone to go to God to try to manipulate Him into doing what we want. It is absurd that we think that way, but we do. Rather, we need to go before God with our agenda in our hands and lay it down at His feet, renewing our commitment to Him as Lord of every detail of our lives. If we will do that, He will indeed meet with us, and “tell [us] great and unsearchable things [we] do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)


By God's grace I have developed a strong habit of daily devotions, but I haven't had nearly the success I would like in encouraging others to do the same. People are touched when I share the insights I am given, yet God stands just as ready to speak to them as He does to me. I think a big part of the problem is that people don't see God as personal enough, as interested enough in them to speak to them. That can be a tough wall to break down! I am to keep sharing what God speaks to me, and I am to encourage others to listen to what He is saying to them. That means especially communicating the love of God, because without that awareness, we are afraid of what God might say to us! I need to help them understand that because of the cross of Christ, repentance brings real forgiveness, making them holy and pure enough to hear the words of our holy God. Hearing from God is addictive! I don't get a big “hit” every morning, but it doesn't take very many of those to get me hooked to keep trying!


Father, thank You for Your amazing grace! You are indeed gracious, loving and compassionate, just as You told Moses. Help me communicate Your reality to more and more people, more and more effectively, so that they too may enjoy the fellowship with You that their hearts really long for, and that You desire as well. Thank You. Hallelujah!




出エジプト記 33:13 「今、もしも、私があなたのお心にかなっているでしたら、どうか、あなたの道を教えてください。そうすれば、私はあなたを知ることができ、あなたのお心にかなうようになれるでしょう。この国民があなたの民であることをお心に留めてください。」

This is certainly the prayer of every true Christian leader. As Moses starts out by saying in verse 12, it is God who calls people and sets them into leadership. Some desire leadership positions out of personal ambition, but in the kingdom of God, that is a sure recipe for disaster. As I was saying to a young man just yesterday, to great agreement, no one should even attempt to be a pastor without the call of God to do so. Even given such a call, though, we are helpless without God's guidance and direction. It is the task of every Christian leader to seek to be led by God. The good new is, as Joy Dawson has said, God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led. It is never the problem that God doesn't care! Problems come because we ignore God and fail to seek Him. It is highly ironic that Christian leaders would ignore God, but it happens all too often. As the Lord said through me on the 14th, obedience to God starts with character, and only then moves to activity. A heart that is pleasing to God is one that recognizes our dependence on Him, not in abject fear but in joy and gratitude for His mercy, grace and love. Such a heart will indeed seek God fully, and as God said through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:13), when we do that, we will certainly find Him.

これは確かにどの本当のクリスチャンリーダーの祈りです。モーセは12節で言っているように、人々を呼んでリーダとされるのは神様です。幾人かは個人的な野望からリーダーシップのポジションを望みますが、神様の三国ではそれは崩壊の確実なる要素です。昨日私が青年に言ったように、お互いとても同意したのですが、だれも神様が牧師になるようにいわない限り牧師になるよう試みることさえすべきではありません。そのようなしるしがあったとしても、私たちは神様の導きや指示なしでは役に立ちません。神様によって導かれることを求めることはどのクリスチャンリーダーの役割です。良いことに、Joy Dawsonが言ったように、私たちが導かれたいと思う以上に神様は私たちを導きたがっています。神様が心を留めないという問題は決してありません。私たちが神様を無視したり求めなかったりすると問題が起きます。クリスチャンリーダーは神様を無視することはとても反していることです。しかしそれは頻繁すぎるほど起こっています。14日に主が私を通して言われたように、神様への従順はその人がどのような性格であるかということから始まり、それがあってから初めて行動へと移るのです。神様を喜ばせる心は、救いがたいほどの恐れではなく、彼の慈悲、恵みそして愛に対する喜びと感謝の中で私たちが彼に依存しているということを理解する心です。そのような心は神様を完全に求めるでしょう。そして神様がエレミヤを通して言ったように(エレミヤ書29:13)、私たちがそのことをすると私たちは神様を確実に見つけるでしょう。

I am something of a case study in this. I did not desire to be a pastor, because, again as I was saying to the young man yesterday, I didn't want the responsibility. I wanted to exercise the teaching gifts I had been given, without the messy, day-to-day dealing with interpersonal relationships and problems. God had other ideas! I have complained for most of my pastoral career that I wasn't given administrative gifts. My lack of gifting remains, but that's beside the point; I've got to seek God and depend fully on Him. He has indeed grown and changed me a great deal over the years, and I need to trust Him to keep doing that. I commented yesterday that I'm not good at praising people. That too got great agreement! I need to be active in seeking to encourage people where they are, and not just place some lofty goal ahead of them. I need to praise progress, and not withhold praise until completion and/or perfection. I've got to remember, as Moses said to God, that these are His people, before and far more than they are mine. Saying “they are God's and not mine” is trying to evade responsibility, but I certainly have no right of possession, and the wisdom and power necessary to shepherd them lies with God and not with me. I need to remember, as I often tell others, that God will never ask of me anything He hasn't enabled me to do.


Father, thank You for yesterday. It was filled with “pastoral ministry.” I don't know that I did it perfectly, but You did some good things through me. Thank You. Help me not complain about anything, but rather trust You to guide me as I need it, seeking to be Your obedient child in every area of my life. This season of the year can be overwhelming for a pastor. Help me let You handle the emotional pressure, and rest and rejoice in You each moment, delighting in You so that You may delight in me, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



創世記 22:18 「あなたの子孫によって、地のすべての国々は祝福を受けるようになる。あなたがわたしの声に聞き従ったからである。」

If I recall correctly, I've used this passage in a message titled, “The Blessings of Obedience.” God's love is unconditional, but He uses those who will listen and obey Him. Abraham faced perhaps the ultimate test of obedience, harder even than being asked to sacrifice his own life, and he passed. That is why God could use him in a long line that went through David to bring us Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Abraham was hardly a perfect vessel, any more than any of his descendants before Jesus was, but he had the absolute commitment that God was looking for. God still honors such commitment. Jesus gave Peter a magnificent promise when Peter asked what the apostles would receive for their commitment. (Matthew 19:27-30) The Gospel of Mark is generally agreed to be the recollections of Peter, and he specifically includes persecutions in the list. (Mark 10:28-31) Following God in total obedience isn't an easy path, but the rewards, for ourselves and for others, are magnificent.

私が正しく覚えているなら、私はこの箇所を説教の中で「従順することの幸せ」というタイトルで使いました。神様の愛は無条件ですが、彼に聞き従う人を使います。アブラハムは自分自身の命をいけにえにするように求められるよりも辛い、あの従順という恐らく究極であったテストに面し、そして彼は合格しました。それはなぜ神様が彼を、ダビデから神様の息子、世の救い主であるイエス様を私たちに与えてくださるまでの長い歴史において使うことができたかという理由です。アブラハムはイエス様がいらっしゃる前の彼のどの子孫よりも完璧な器だったとは言いがたいのですが、彼は神様が求めていらっしゃった確かな献身さがありました。神様はそのような献身さを今も高く評価しています。ペテロが使徒は献身さのために何を頂けるか質問した時、イエス様は彼にすばらしい約束をしました(マタイによる福音書 19:27-30)マタイの福音書は一般的にペテロの記憶であると言われ、彼はそのリストにはっきりと迫害のことを述べています。神様に完全に従うことは簡単ではありません。しかし私たちへのまた他の人たちへのその報いは壮大なものです。

My obedience hasn't been total, nor as instant as it could have been, but I'm growing! I know that I desire to be totally obedient, so I rest in God's promise in Philippians 2:13. He is indeed working in me both to will and to do what He desires, and I am profoundly grateful. I will not be perfect at it until I am out of this body, but I know that He's on the job, and it doesn't depend just on me. I am to rejoice in every opportunity to choose obedience, knowing that each time I do so will make the next choice easier. As a pastor, I need to encourage the believers that God is at work in them as well, even when they stumble and fall. I need to teach and preach obedience to God with­out compromise, but I need to do so with love, mercy, and compassion. I am not to excuse disobedience to God, but I am to proclaim repentance and forgiveness. God's love and grace are indeed bigger than our failures. I encounter situations daily that are the result of disobedience, and I need to be available to God to speak His truth, light, and life into them, for healing, redemption, and salvation.


Father, Thank You for all You are doing. It is painful sometimes to see what my spiritual children are going through, but I know You will be as faithful with them as You have been with me. Help me be the encouragement and the example that You want me to be, so that the Body of Christ may be built up in every respect, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



創世記 3:4-5 そこで、蛇は女に言った。「あなたがたは決して死にません。あなたがたがそれを食べるその時、あなたがたの目が開け、あなたがたが神のようになり、善悪を知るようになることを神は知っているのです。」

Sometimes lies succeed because of their very audacity. Satan is calling God a liar and a deceiver, not to mention saying that He is stingy. Eve didn't have any background of life experience to prepare her to withstand such a lie, but she still had her free will, as did Adam, and she could have chosen obedience to God. The particular temptation, of becoming like God, is powerful precisely because it is so close to the truth. God indeed desires that we become like His Son, as is expressed clearly in Romans 8:29,but that's not the same thing as our taking the attributes of God for ourselves. Many false religions build on this very idea, with Mormonism being a prime example. That is the way of pride and greed, when God's way is one of humility and serving. The path of life is obedience to the One who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).There is no other way we can attain to resurrection and true life (John 11:25-26).


This is of course the very heart of the Gospel I preach, but I too am vulnerable to appeals to pride and greed. Intellectual pride has tripped me up more times than I care to think about. It was a major breakthrough for me when I finally got it through my head that it's not that God's smarter than I am, it's that He's smart and I'm not. It is not wrong to seek knowledge, but it is a terrible trap if, in that, we fail to seek the One who is the Source of all true knowledge. This is so obvious in the world today, with so many pursuing Science as an alternative, humanistic god so that they can “discard the cultural baggage of religion” and do whatever they want. That leads not only to spiritual death, but also to the worst atrocities known to man, not to the utopias that people claim. I am to stand firm in the Truth of God, because only that will keep me free from the traps of the devil.

これは言うまでもなく私が説く福音のとても中心となるものです。しかし私はまたプライドと貪欲に負けてしまいます。 私は自分が気づいていない以上に何度も知的なプライドのわなに捕らわれてしまっています。神様が私よりも知的だということではなく、神様は知的で私はそうではないということを自分でやっと理解したとき、それは私にとって大きな突破口となりました。知識を求めることを悪いことではありません。しかし、もし私たちが全ての確かな知識の源である方を求めることに欠けるなら、それは恐ろしい罠です。これは、多くの人が人間的神として科学を代わりに追及し、宗教の文化を捨て、彼らがしたいようにするという今日の世界ではとても明確です。それは霊的な死へと導くだけではなく、人々が求める理想的な世界ではなく、いわゆる最悪な残虐行為へと導きます。私は神様の真実にしっかりと立ちます。なぜならばそれが唯一、私を悪魔の罠から自由にさせるからです。

Father, thank You for both the simplicity and the depth of the Gospel. Help me not only be faithful and effective in proclaiming it, but also fully active in appropriating it and living it out. Help me indeed not trust myself, but trust You in me. That might look the same to an outside observer, but the results are so different! Help me seek You always and be instant in my obedience, so that all Your perfect plans for me may be fulfilled, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




黙示録 2:4 しかし、あなたには非難すべきことがある。あなたは初めの愛から離れてしまった。

I have heard a great deal of discussion of what their “first love” might have been, but what strikes me this morning is that in their zeal for theological orthodoxy, they had forgotten to love. As the Lord said through me very strongly in the message yesterday, if we aren't loving God and loving our neighbor, then we aren't being obedient to God, whatever else we might be doing that He told us to do. The Bible is clear (and not just in 1 Corinthians 13) that without love, everything else is meaningless. Thinking of this verse this way, the picture that emerges of the church in Ephesus is all too familiar: the church that is active in programs and orthodoxy, but has become critical and unloving. Christ commends them for their orthodoxy, but says that it is not enough. From this perspective, “the things you did at first” would be welcoming and loving all who walk in the doors, using spiritual discernment to weed out the imposters, but focusing on love rather than judgmentalism. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17), among other passages, should make it abundantly clear that love, expressed in practical action, must be our first priority.

「初めの愛」がどのようであるかという大きな議論を聞いたことがありますが、今朝私を打ったのは、愛することを忘れたという神学的正説に対する彼らの熱心さです。昨日そのメッセージの中で主がとても強く私を通して話されました。もし私たちが神様を、また私たちの隣人を愛していないなら、たとえ神様が私たちにするように言われた他のことをしていたとしても、私たちは神様に従ってはいません。聖書にははっきりと愛がなければ何の役にも立たないと(コリント人への手紙 第一 13章の以外にも)書いてあります。エペソにある教会のイメージがすべてとても馴染み深いものであったなら、この説を考えると、その教会はとても活動的で正統であっても批判的な不愛の教会になっています。キリストは正統であるべきことを命令していますが、それは十分でないとも言っています。この視点から見ると、「あなたが最初にしたこと」とは、ドアに入ってくるすべての人を迎え愛し、偽者を取り除くため、裁きよりも愛に焦点をおき霊的な優れた判断力を使いことでしょう。他の箇所にある(ヨハネによる福音書 13-17章)二階の広間での会話は、実用的な行動の中で表現される愛は私たちの最優先であるべきことをとても明確にしています。

As a pastor and as an individual believer, I've got to keep this in sharp focus. With modern mobile society, we get people in the church from a wide variety of spiritual backgrounds. I have no room to be proud, because those I have raised personally aren't necessarily the cream of the crop! I need to work with all the Lord gives me, seeking to lead them into loving obedience to God in every area of their lives. It's not easy being loving and teaching love to those who are unloving! I need to be gentle and clear in helping them understand how their attitudes and actions are less than loving, so that they may repent, just as Christ called the Ephesian church to do.


Father, help me keep growing in my own love, for You and for my neighbors. Help me set a clear, strong example, so that the Body of Christ in Omura may be as You intend. Lord Jesus, thank You for reminding me just now that You said You would build Your church. Keep me from trying to take over, but help me be fully yielded and available to You for that work, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



黙示録 1:17-18 それで私は、この方を見たとき、その足もとに倒れて死者のようになった。しかし彼は右手を私の上 に置いてこう言われた。「恐れるな。わたしは、最初であり、最後であり、生きている者である。わたしは死んだが、見よ、いつ までも生きている。また、死とハデスのかぎを持っている。」

It is very beneficial to consider, every once in a while, just who it is we worship. John had been as close to Jesus as anyone during His earthly ministry, but even he “fell at His feet like a dead man” for sheer “shock and awe.” But Jesus, true to His nature, put His hand on him and told him not to be afraid. We are so prone to forget, on an emotional level at any rate, that our God is totally awesome! We tend to focus on one aspect or another and ignore the rest, when God is absolutely magnificent in every dimension. We tend to focus on Jesus' humanity and neglect His divinity. The one thing that would have been surprising to the Israelites who were with Moses at Mt. Sinai about this experience of John was that Christ laid His hand on him and told him not to be afraid. They had seen the fire and heard the thunder! John was the perfect person to receive this revelation, because he was the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” (John 13:23, etc.) close enough to lean his head against Jesus' chest, the one charged with taking care of Mary until she died. (John 19:25-27) Even he was blown out of the water by the absolute power and majesty of Christ in His glory! If we can have even a taste of that revelation ourselves, then every earthly consideration fades to insignificance.

時に自分が礼拝している対象が誰なのか考えるのはとても益になります。ヨハネはイエス様がこの地球上で宣教している間他の者と同じように彼のそばにいましたが、彼でさえ、本当に「ショックと恐怖」のために「彼の足もとに倒れて使者のようになった」 しかしイエス様は、彼の本質どおり、彼の手をヨハネの上におき恐れるなと言いました。私たちは感情がどんなレベルであるにしても、私たちの神様が本当に荘厳であることを忘れがちです。神様はすべての面において完全に優れていますが、私たちは、一つの面に焦点を合わせて、残りを無視する傾向があります。私たちはイエス様の人間性に注目したり、彼の神性を無視する傾向にあります。イエス様が手をヨハネの上に置き恐れるなと言ったヨハネの体験は、シナイ山でモーセと一緒にいたイスラエル人にとっては驚くことの1つでしょう。彼らは火を見、雷鳴を聞きました。ヨハネはこの黙示を受けるほど完璧な人でした。なぜならば彼は「イエス様が愛しておられた者」(ヨハネの福音書13:23等)であり、イエス様の懐に頭を寄りかかれるほど近い存在であり、マリヤが亡くなるまで彼女の世話を任された者(ヨハネによる福音書 19:25-27)でありました。彼でさえ、キリストの栄光の中で、絶対的な力と尊厳によって非常に驚かされました。もし私たちが自分達であの黙示を少しばかりでも経験できるなら、あらゆる地球的考えが取るに足りないものへと弱まります。

I had the great blessing of being raised with a strong awareness of the love of God, which is probably a major reason I identify so strongly with John. I need to see Christ as He is portrayed here! I have an intellectual awareness of who He is, but my emotions don't necessarily keep up. I have had times of deep worship, but I can't say that I have ever been flattened by sheer awe, the way John was. I sing the little chorus, “What a Mighty God We Serve,” but the reality behind the lyrics hasn't sunk in as much as it might. I am not to forget that He is love, but I also need to be equally aware that He is power and authority and holiness.


Father, give me a revelation of Your power to carry me through. Sometimes I let circumstances and schedules overwhelm me, and today certainly has that potential. Help me rest in You, allowing You to replace my strength with Yours, knowing that Your strength is absolute. Help me trust You fully, refusing anxiety of any sort, knowing that the vessel is no big deal, considering the treasure that is in it. I pray that the service, the counseling, the choir rehearsal, and every other detail of the day will go exactly as You intend, in Your power, love and grace, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




第1テサロニケ 3:13 また、あなたがたの心を強め、私たちの主イエスがご自分のすべての聖徒とともに再び来られるとき、私たちの父なる神の御前で、聖く、責められるところのない者としてくださいますように。

This is a continuation of the prayer that Paul began in verse 11, and again I like the turn of phrase used in the NIV: “strengthen your hearts so that ...” Purity and holiness come from heart attitude long before they are expressed in action. That's the problem with legalism: it only addresses external matters. Jesus dealt with this repeatedly with the Pharisees, who were very focused on externals. When we find ourselves doing things that aren't pleasing to God, we need to examine our hearts. Jesus said that it is out of our hearts that evil words and actions come. (Matthew 15:18-19, Luke 6:45) Legalism seeks to attach the fruit of the Spirit to people by rules and regulations, but that would be like tying apples onto a tree. At best, they are there only briefly before drying up, rotting, and/or falling off. Real change comes from the inside out. That's not to say that rules and guidelines aren't helpful at times, because in our immaturity we don't always distinguish between things that please God and things that are of the flesh. Spiritual children are just like physical children in that respect. However, again like physical children, unless right values are internalized and owned, things go out the window the minute outside pressure is removed.


This is an immediate, pressing issue to me as a pastor, as it is to every spiritual parent. Like Paul, we pray that the hearts of believers may be strengthened, because it's for sure outside rules aren't going to do the job! We are charged with expressing Biblical standards so that people will know what they are aiming for, but trying to run a church by rules is exhausting as well as futile. I am not to run from admonishing and correcting, but my focus must be on the internal spiritual development of each believer, rather than on specific activities. That's why training and encouragement in personal devotions is so important. However, people need to grow spiritually enough to make having a devotional time each morning a priority. The devil, society, and our flesh cooperate to make that a steep hill to climb, but once the commitment is there, the rewards are abundant.


Father, I find myself surprised and disappointed so often when I ask believers about their devotional life. I ask for wisdom and anointing in communicating what a rich blessing it is to spend time just with you at the start of each day. I ask that You give each believer wisdom to know how to arrange their schedule to make that time, and give them the will to follow through. Help them recognize the traps that steal time from them, and desire fellowship with You more than the empty pleasures of this world, so that their hearts may indeed grow strong as You intend, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



第1テサロニケ 1:3 絶えず、私たちの父なる神の御前に、あなたがたの信仰の働き、愛の労苦、主イエス・キリストへの望みの忍耐を思い起こしています。

The NIV gets slightly creative with the prepositions in this verse, but I don't think it does violence to the meaning at all. The trio of faith, love, and hope are most famous from 1 Corinthians 13:13, but this is also a very important verse on the subject. The point is that faith works, love labors, and hope endures patiently. If we claim to have these qualities yet aren't involved in the activities they produce, then we are deceiving ourselves. The letter of James is the best known exposition of the principle that real faith works, and the 1st letter of John has a strong exposition of the labors of love, while references to the patient endurance of hope are found throughout the Bible. Various statements in the Bible are sometimes taken as abstract, but closer examination will always show that they are real and practical, applying to concrete, verifiable circumstances. It is said as a joke that “I love humanity; it's individual people I can't stand.” However, it's in individual interactions that our love is tested and demonstrated. We might say, “I believe,” but it is our lifestyles that show what we really believe. We might think that our hope is in Christ, yet find we are unable to tolerate delays in the fulfillment of our desires. God knows all these things, yet He loves us anyway! Perhaps that is the greatest miracle of all.


Time and time again I have had to face up to the reality that my faith, love, and hope were/are not as I would like them to be. Like all of us, I'm growing! I am to welcome the specific correction and encouragement the Holy Spirit gives, but I am to stand firm against the blanket condemnation the devil tries to dump on me. As a pastor, I need to teach the believers to do the same. Accepting ourselves as we are and yet not being satisfied to stay as we are is sometimes difficult, but it is a vitally important skill in overcoming the devil and becoming like Christ. I must be very careful that my words of correction to others are clear, specific, and loving, to give the devil as little chance as possible to twist them into condemnation. I need to lead the church in having patient endurance toward ourselves, each other, and our circumstances, expecting great things of God and expressing love and faith in the process.


Father, thank You for not giving up on us! Help me be an accurate expression of Your attitude toward us, believing, loving, and hoping as You intend, so that I may lead this flock into the abundance that You have planned for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



コロサイ 4:2 目をさまして、感謝をもって、たゆみなく祈りなさい。

People who like to think of themselves as scientific consider prayer impractical, but Paul certainly has a different opinion. In this extremely practical letter he tells his readers to pray without giving up. The two conditions he gives for prayer are certainly worth noting. First, we are to be awake or alert. Christians should never be in a fog about what is going on around them. In this Information Age it is easy to be so inundated with information that we pay real attention to almost none of it, but that is not the right response. We need to be alert and discriminating to know what is of importance to us and what is not, and responding to the information by “forwarding” it to God in prayer. These days everyone gets lots of e-mail forwards, and that's a good metaphor for how we should respond to much of the information that comes our way. The second condition we need to maintain in prayer is thankfulness. Particularly through the news media, much of the information we get is essentially negative. Even if we can't be thankful for the particular thing we're hearing about, we can be thankful that God is still God, and no matter how severe the problem, God is much bigger than that and He can and will use it for good, if we will release it to Him.


This is certainly an important point for me, because I'm something of an “information junkie,” always wanting to learn more. The past couple of years in American politics have been a very good case in point. I have allowed myself to get upset at what was happening far too many times, failing, however briefly, to remember that God was still in control. I need to focus on being thankful, allowing the Holy Spirit to use me to pray God's will without giving up. That, of course, applies to the many things I pray for much closer to home as well. Every concern needs to be converted to prayer without delay, and with thanks that we have been given access to the throne room of God by the blood of Jesus. As a pastor, I need to be teaching and training the believers in this approach to prayer. So many see God as distant, and so they are hesitant to pray. I need to help them understand that He is closer than their own skin, that He cares, and that He's always listening.


Father, thank You for the message You're building in me for Sunday. So many people see You as so different than You really are, and it warps their perception of, and response to, everything else. Help me not only walk in an accurate, healthy relationship with You, but also lead others to do the same. May I indeed be alert and thankful, praying without giving up because I know You and I delight in Your love and grace and holiness. May I draw many more with me into that sort of relationship with You as well, so that together we may overcome the traps of the devil and walk in all that You intend for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



コロサイ 3:17 あなたがたのすることは、ことばによるの行いによるとを問わず、すべて主イエスの名によってなし、主によって父なる神に感謝しなさい。

When you think about the fact that Colossians was written to a group of believers Paul had never met, but had only heard about, it is easy to think of it as written to us, whom Paul knew about only by faith. That makes it all the more significant that it is an extremely practical letter, dealing with the nitty-gritty details of living as a Christian believer in this decidedly non-Christian world. This one verse could be said to sum it all up, because doing things in someone's name meant doing them in keeping with the character, values, and personality of that person. (That's a good think to remember when we tack “In Jesus' name” on the end of our prayers!) Here Paul is very specific that this applies to both words and deeds. Sometimes we think we are fine because we haven't overtly done bad things, when our words have deceived and wounded, and that is hardly in keeping with our Lord Jesus. And it is significant that here again Paul brings up the matter of being thankful. A heart of gratitude goes a long way toward keeping us right before God. The devil is all too successful in convincing us that the Christian lifestyle is restrictive, when the reverse is true. When we walk in obedience and gratitude, our eyes and hearts are opened to recognize the abundance of God's grace toward us, and that is enormously liberating.


Like Paul, I often deal with people who honestly don't know how to live a Christian life. The things pointed out in this chapter are in many cases at variance with societal norms and expectations, particularly in the areas of sexual morality, honesty, and forgiveness. I am to be patient and gentle, but unyielding in proclaiming the Biblical principles in each of those areas. I was able to do that this past Sunday when I helped people understand that other people are never their enemies, only Satan is. That was an eye opener for some of them! And as I proclaim the truth to others, I must be careful to walk in it myself, never thinking that because I am a teacher I have it all down pat. I have a wealth of experience behind me, but fundamentally I am as vulnerable to deception as anyone, and I must not forget that, or in that moment I will be deceived.


Father, thank You again for all You are doing here. Help us live out all You are showing us and leading us into. May we grow in trust and obedience as we walk through the issues we face: jobs, relationships, finances, or whatever. May we learn what it is to do everything, in word or in deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that everything will indeed be done according to Your will, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

父よ。あなたはここでなさっているすべてを感謝します。あなたは私たちに示したり、導いたりしていることをすべて実現できるように助けてください。私たちは直面している問題 - 仕事、人間関係、経済、何でも - を通ると信頼と従順に成長できるようにお願いします。すべてが御栄光のために、御心どおりにされるために、私たちは言葉によっても行動によっても、すべてを主イエス・キリストの御名によって行うことを学べますように。ハレルヤ!


コロサイ 2:6-7 あなたがたは、このように主キリスト・イエスを受け入れたのですから、彼にあって歩みなさい。キリストの中に根ざし、また建てられ、また、教えられたとおり信仰を堅くし、あふれるばかり感謝しなさい。

This appears to be one of those rare passages in which the NIV is slightly more accurate than the Japanese. Neither language has a tense that specifically indicates continuing action, while Greek does. The Japanese uses the simple present, “walk in Him,” but the NIV uses “continue to live in Him.” (Actually, the Greek says “walk” instead of “live” here, but that's simply a turn of phrase here.) All that aside, the major point is that Christian faith is far from static. Salvation is indeed an eternal transaction, but the commitment involved is ongoing and growing. One of the biggest hindrances to that is the failure to be thankful. Three days ago the Lord spoke to me about the severe danger of a sense of entitlement, and here it is again. When we think we deserve stuff, we fail to be appropriately thankful for it. When we overflow with thankfulness because of our faith that God is meeting all our needs (Philippians 4:19) and that He will use everything we experience for our good (Romans 8:28), then we will grow spiritually by leaps and bounds, continually experiencing more and more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

こんなことは珍しいが、この箇所にはNIV訳は新改訳より正確です。英語にも、日本語にも、「継続形」はありませんが、ギリシャ語にはあります。新改訳では現在形( 彼にあって歩みなさい)を使っていますが、NIVは「彼にあって生き続けなさい」を使っています。それはともかく、ポイントは、クリスチャン生活は静的なものではありません。救いは確かに永遠の取引ですが、それに関わる決心は継続し、成長するものです。それに対する大きな妨げは、感謝しないことです。三日前、主は私に「権限感」の危険を語っていたのに、またありますね。よいものは私たちに与えられるのは当たり前と考えると、感謝しないのです。神様が私たちの必要を満たしていること(ピリピ4:19)、私たちの経験するすべてを益に用いてくれることに対して感謝にあふれると、私たちはぐんぐんと成長し、御霊の実をますます体験します。(ガラテヤ5:22-23)

I'm happy to say that thankfulness has been on the rise in me for some time. That's not to say that I don't have problems and disappointments. I have plenty of those! However, I am more and more aware of how richly I have been blessed. As a pastor, I am constantly dealing with those who don't have that awareness. Ungratefulness is such a burden and a curse! Frankly, some people look at how I have been blessed and are jealous, unable to recognize the blessings God has poured out on them. I must be consistent and faithful in pointing people to God, and I must be open about the negative things in my life as well, to help people understand that everything is by grace, and must be received that way.


Father, thank You that I'm not responsible for other people's attitudes. Help me keep my own straight, and help me point them to You. I ask for wisdom and anointing to be effective in leading people to walk continuously in Christ, recognizing Your grace and blessings and overflowing with thankfulness indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



コロサイ 1:28-29 私たちは、このキリストを宣べ伝え、知恵を尽くして、あらゆる人を戒め、あらゆる人を教えています。それは、すべての人は、キリストにある成人として立てさせるためです。このために、私もまた、自分のうちに力強く働くキリストの力によって、労苦しながら奮闘しています。

Once again we encounter my job description! The goal of Christian life is to glorify God and enjoy fellowship with Him. The goal of Christian ministry, which every believer should be involved in to some degree, is to bring everyone to full maturity in Christ. This of course involves getting them saved in the first place, but it certainly doesn't stop there. I recognize an interesting struggle in myself in comparing the NIV, which uses the word “perfect,” with the Japanese translation, which uses “fully mature,” Jesus did indeed tell us to “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), but our full perfection awaits our arrival in heaven. Maturity, on the other hand, is something we have much less trouble understanding and aiming for. No minister can make his flock perfect, but he can lead and encourage them in maturity. It can be exhausting work, which is why it is so important that it is Christ's power that works in us to accomplish the task.


I am a perfectionist in a number of ways, which has interfered with effective ministry and made life difficult for those closest to me. I have been slow to praise and encourage progress, as apposed to completion. That has discouraged some people and even driven some people away. I need to work on my own maturity as well! I need to remember that instant maturity is an illusion, but God can give insight that leads to maturity. I think maturity could be defined as insight combined with follow-through. My job as a pastor/teacher is to make insight available to people. The follow-through is their responsibility! I know that my biggest personal struggle is not in understanding what God's will is, but in following through consistently in doing it. I must remember that, and exercise patience and grace toward those I lead.


Father, thank You for the magnificent service yesterday. Thank You for the Word you spoke through me, and for how it was received. Thank You for how You are indeed maturing each member of the flock, and for how that is so evident. Help us all grow in insight and follow-through, so that we may be powerful in destroying the devil's works and setting people free, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



コロサイ 1:13-14 神は、私たちを暗やみの圧制から救い出し、愛する御子のご支配の中に移してくださいました。この御子のうちにあって、私たちは、購い、すなわち罪の赦しを得ています。

Sometimes people, who weren't “bad” by the world's standards before they became Christians, forget how much Christ has done for them, because they don't really understand that being apart from Christ means being under the dominion of darkness. It really helps to have a grasp of just how bad sin is, not just to help us avoid it but also to give us an appreciation of God's grace. God didn't choose the cross as the means of redemption because He had a flare for the dramatic, He did it because it was absolutely necessary; sin is that bad. In ancient times, in many countries, simple disrespect for the monarch, or even one of his high officials, could easily get you killed. In modern, democratic times we are horrified by that, but even in supposedly Christian Europe they had a doctrine of “the divine right of kings.” In the case of God, He is the one who gives us life and existence, and it would be impossible to overestimate the seriousness of failing to recognize Him for who He is. That is why sometimes, people who have been criminals end up as better Christians that those who never did anything the police would be interested in: they know from what they have been saved. Thankfully, it doesn't take committing a serious crime to have a revelation of sin, righteousness and judgment. That's the work of the Holy Spirit, and He's good at it. (John 16:7-11) However, we must be willing to accept that revelation and repent indeed of our sin, or we are playing around in the dark and don't know what pit we might fall into.

This is a reality for every Christian, and I am no exception. Meditation on the cross will help me understand how bad sin is, and help me communicate that to others, as is my calling. I cannot be really effective in sharing the Gospel if I don't have a firm grasp of how and why it is such good news. Most people seek salvation simply because their sins and those of other people have put them in unpleasant circumstances. God will use that, and it is a major reason why He allows unpleasant circumstances, but once those circumstances have changed, all too many people forget why they needed Christ in the first place. I need to remember, and help others understand, that we are no less in need of God's grace, mercy and love after a 70 year history of serving Him than we are at the moment of salvation.

Father, You had me preach on salvation, but I barely scratched the surface. I ask for a deeper understanding and appreciation of it myself, and for anointing to communicate its reality to others. Words fail me, and I'm not used to that! Help me be fully open to all Your Spirit wants to do and say in and through me, so that I may be an agent of salvation indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ピリピ 4:4 いつも主にあって喜びなさい。もう一度言います。喜びなさい。

Rejoicing is fundamentally a choice. Anxiety is one of the biggest hindrances to joy, and Paul deals with that in verses 6-7, but even without that, we need to choose to rejoice. Some people rejoice for the wrong reasons, such as the misfortune of others, and that is certainly a bad mistake, but many people simply fail to rejoice, not recognizing the abundance of blessings God has poured out on them. A sense of entitlement is probably a bigger hindrance to consistent rejoicing than even anxiety! That is why people who have been through great danger or hardship are often so joyous: they know what a blessing ordinary things are. I'll never forget being told by a young woman who was dying of leukemia how much it meant to her to be able to visit her home and just stand in the garden, smelling the smells and feeling the sun and breeze on her. She said her sense of joy was indescribable, even as she knew she was dying. Since then I have tried to be more appreciative of the little things I usually take for granted. God is indeed gracious and loving toward all, if we will only choose to recognize it. If we will do that, we can indeed rejoice.


I do better now at rejoicing than I have at some times in my life, but I still have a lot of room for improvement. Fairly often I take a mental inventory and marvel at how gracious God has been toward me. That's not to say I don't still grumble and gripe over various things, most of them insignificant. Such behavior certainly doesn't help me rejoice! I need to be intentional in my priorities and focus, not letting minor things distract me from the abundance of God's grace and provision. God is never stingy, but often He waits for us to recognize what He has already given us before He gives us something even better. As a pastor, I need to help others cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” as well, so that we may rejoice in the Lord together!


Father, thank You for helping me understand more and more how insignificant most of the things that upset me really are. Help me choose to rejoice in You whether I have a headache or not, whether the computer system is working or not, whether I have a bank balance or not, whether people seem to like me or not. Help me encourage the believers to do likewise, so that together we may escape the traps of the devil, who only comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and instead walk in the peace and joy that You intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ピリピ 2:5 あなたがたの間であは、そのような心構えでいなさい。それはキリスト・イエスのうちに見られるのです。

The Japanese makes a much stronger connection between verses 3-4 and verses 6-11 than the NIV does. Verses 3 and 4 deal with how we should relate to one another within the Church, and Paul is saying that attitude is what Christ Jesus expressed in His incarnation. If we are worth Christ coming down from heaven and dying for us, then our brothers and sisters in the Church are surely worth inconvenience and even sacrifice on our part! This is something we logically agree to, but we often have difficulty carrying out. However, Paul's language is clear that this isn't just a suggestion, it is something we must do. Failure to do so means loss for us, not just for the brother or sister we failed to respect or help. That is something our flesh has a hard time grasping, so it is very helpful to spend time meditating on the incarnation of Christ, as in verses 6-11. The better we grasp just what He did for us, the easier it becomes to follow His example in our relationships with others.


In marriage counseling I always use Ephesians 5:25, which tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and that's another expression of this same thing. That's why Paul brings up the marital relationship when talking about qualifications for Church officers. If a man doesn't treat his wife right, he isn't going to treat anyone right! Once again I have the enormous advantage of having grown up with good, godly examples in my parents, but most have not had that advantage. I'll never forget the time I told one man that wives aren't to be beaten, and he responded with “Who says?” It is sometimes hard for me to remember that not everyone has the same framework for interpersonal relationships that I do! At the same time, I must remember that my blessings are all by God's grace, and extend that grace to others as it was given to me. I'm just as self-centered by nature as anyone else!


Father, thank You yet again for Your patience with me. By Your grace I was taught the Bible from my childhood, and yet I still so often stumble in living it out. Help me indeed express to others the love You have poured out on me, lifting them up, encouraging them, and pointing them to You, so that together we may give You the praise, worship, and obedience that You deserve. Thank You. Praise God!



ピリピ 1:21 私にとっては、生きることはキリスト、死ぬことも益です。

Many Christians would like to make this statement in honesty, but they aren't there yet. Most of us are too attached to the world! God intends us to live as Christ. This is evident in many, many places, starting with Jesus saying that He was sending His disciples as He was sent. (John 20:21) However, being attached to the things of the world interferes with that. When our perspective is on the basis of what feels good to the flesh, we aren't going to be very good ambassadors for Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:20) The second half of the verse is a good check as to where our priorities are. From the world's standpoint, saying “to die is gain” is to be suicidal. That is never the attitude of someone who is walking in full obedience to Christ. However, the more we know of Christ, the more attractive eternity with Him becomes. The toys and pleasures of this world can't begin to compare!


This is an attitude I have been growing into over the years. I find that I really understand my father as he waited for the surgery from which he didn't wake up. He had strong emotion and even tears as he thought of leaving people behind, but he certainly had no fear of what lay ahead for him. He knew that it would not be easy for those he left, especially my mother, but he also knew that God's grace would be sufficient for her, as it had been for him. I find that for myself, I enjoy life, its toys and activities, and especially speaking the Word of the Lord, but I know that it doesn't begin to compare with what is laid up for me in heaven. I am to be focused on living for Christ here and now, not letting my longing for heaven distract me from the task at hand but rather letting it be a comfort and encouragement to me. There are so many I want to take with me to heaven who haven't accepted their ticket yet!


Father, I am sharply aware that I am only two years younger than my father was when He went to be with You. My talking about that understandably bothers Cathy. I know of no reason that I would not far outlive him physically, and You know I try to be a good steward of this body You've given me. Help me be a faithful steward of all the time and each opportunity You give me on this earth, so that I will leave nothing undone of what You have for me when I go to be with You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ピリピ 1:6 あなたがたのうちに良い働きを始められた方は、キリスト・イエスの日が来るまでにそれを完成させてくださることを私は堅く信じているのです。

I have loved this verse for a long time, quoting and singing it on many occasions. Even so, it bears further reflection. There are many fundamental concepts expressed or assumed in this short verse. For starters, there's the basic conviction that Christ Jesus is going to return at a specific point in time to judge the living and the dead, as is expressed in much more detail in many other places in the Bible. We sometimes forget that, getting caught up in the here-and-now to our peril. We need to remember that life has a final examination! Another vitally important thing that is expressed here is spiritual growth. We don't instantly become mature, complete Christians the moment we commit to Jesus Christ as Lord. We might desire that, but it would be no more natural than for a baby to come out of the womb able to speak and do gymnastics! We are created to grow, and we need to remember that. We are not to condemn ourselves or each other for being immature, but neither are we to be satisfied with that condition. We are constantly to be pressing into God, learning more of Him and exercising our faith in day-to-day situations, so that when big things come along we'll be able to sail right through them. Another thing expressed in this verse is the awareness that it is God who works maturity in us; we don't do it on our own. We are called to cooperate, and indeed, some people refuse to do so, to their own great loss, but we can't generate maturity in ourselves. Emotional and spiritual maturity is the end result of a series of choices, some of which might seem totally insignificant at the time, but which have an effect on our direction. Remembering that God is the source of our maturity and strength – and everything else good – helps us make the right choices consistently.


I certainly haven't made the right choices all the time, but God has been faithful, occasionally knocking me back on course. Those knocks haven't always felt good, but I'm deeply grateful for them! I need to remember God's grace toward me as I deal with others, being quick to encourage and slow to condemn. There are some who are in despair about their own lack of progress, as they see it. I need to help them understand that their very concern over the issue means that God is working in them, and they don't need to be anxious. I need to help the whole church understand the principle of growth, so that we will be able to rejoice in Christ even in the middle of our imperfection. That will happen only when we take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on Almighty God.


Father, thank You for this Word this morning. Guide me in sharing it tonight at prayer meeting. We don't usually have a teaching time at prayer meeting, and I don't want to shift the focus away from prayer, so I ask for wisdom in how to do this. I am so quick to kick into “teacher mode,” and that could really squash the spirit of prayer, not to mention taking up all the time. May we grow and mature in our prayer meetings, as in every other area of church life, so that we will indeed express the full stature of Christ Jesus our Lord, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



エペソ 6:12 私たちの格闘は血肉に対するものではなく、主権、力、この暗やみの世界の支配者たち、また、天にいるもろもろの悪霊に対するものです。

As often as we are reminded of this, we still tend to forget it. We are physical beings and so tend to fixate on physical things, forgetting that we are also spiritual beings, and even that there is a spiritual world. That is dangerous from two standpoints. First, we fail to recognize traps and attacks for what they are, and second, we tend to focus on other people as our enemies. Both can be disastrous! Lots of people in mental hospitals are there because of spiritual attacks that they had no idea how to stand against, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Some teachers downplay the idea of spiritual attacks because there are indeed a few people who use this as a cover for irresponsibility. They rightly say that we shouldn't give the devil more credit than he's due. However, incessant spiritual warfare was the rule in the early Church, and it is the rule today. Christians are called to submit to God and resist the devil. (James 4:7) Claiming that is not so, is in clear violation of Scripture and lays a burden of guilt on earnest believers that God doesn't intend for them to carry. The other side of the problem is in fixating on people as our enemies. People are indeed used by our common enemy, the devil, but that means they are to be pitied, not hated. That can be difficult when we encounter individuals like Bin Laden and Hitler, but it is true none the less. However, such “super baddies” aren't the biggest problem. We get into the most trouble when we fixate on that co-worker, or even that church member, as our enemy. That gives the devil his biggest pleasure. We must not give him that satisfaction!


I couldn't begin to claim that I'm not in the middle of a fierce battle, or that I haven't slipped up at times in both of the areas I've just outlined. However, I need to remember, and teach, that life in Christ isn't just a battle, it's also resting in Him, sometimes at the very same time! Our rest comes from submission to God, and that is also our strongest fortress in battle. Choosing to rest in Christ is often the wisest course when we recognize an attack. I need to remember, and teach, that God allows nothing in our lives that He can't use for good, if we will submit it to him. The key comes in the submission!


Father, I'm used to spiritual warfare and it comes as no surprise, but my heart aches for the believers who don't yet know how to stand. Help me strengthen and encourage them, giving no foothold to the devil through either bitterness or false guilt. I have not known how to stand on behalf of those who were under attack in the past, and I still have no wisdom of my own in that area. I ask You to open my eyes and my heart and guide me in standing in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) on behalf of the sheep You have given me, so that together we may be strong in Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




エペソ 5:15-16 そういうわけですから、賢くない人のようではなく、賢い人のように歩んでかどうか、よくよく注意し、機会を十分に生かして用いなさい。悪い時代だからです。

This is about as practical as anything Paul ever wrote. God gives all of us many opportunities. Sometimes we recognize them, sometimes we don't. Even when we recognize them, sometimes we “let them live and make use of them,” as the Japanese expression has it, and sometimes we don't. Paul is saying very clearly that it's not wise to walk around in a fog, failing to recognize the opportunities God is providing. Often those are double-edged opportunities. Sometimes in marriage counseling I mention that I have had many “opportunities” to be unfaithful to Cathy, and I am very thankful that I have never “taken advantage” of any of those. In such cases, God was giving me opportunities to reaffirm my marriage commitment, and by His grace I made wise use of them. Sometimes we recognize that God has just presented us with an opportunity. That can feel really good, or it can feel downright scary. That depends on whether we are looking at God or at ourselves. If we are looking at ourselves, we can fear embarrassment or failure, but if we are looking to God, we can get excited about what He is going to accomplish through us. That attitude is certainly the wiser course!


I couldn't begin to count the number of “divine appointments” I have had. Sometimes I haven't recognized them except in retrospect, but then I could only shake my head in amazement at God's perfect plan. I need to grow in recognizing opportunities better: opportunities for obedience, for example. I don't like to admit it, but often when I don't want to do something that needs doing, God is giving me an opportunity to grow in obedience. I need those, but they aren't much fun at the time! Sometimes God is giving me an opportunity to speak into someone's life, and sometimes He is giving me an opportunity to learn better how to hold my tongue. I need more of that last! The wisest thing I can do is choose to listen and obey at all times. If I will do that, I will indeed make the most of every opportunity.


Father, thank You for Your grace to me. Thank You that You aren't holding all my missed opportunities against me. Help me indeed be a faithful steward of each opportunity, acting as Your agent at all times, so that You may be glorified as Your will is accomplished. Thank You. Praise God!




エペソ 4:32 お互いに親切にし、心の優しい人となり、神がキリストにおいてあなたがたを赦してくださったように、互いに赦し合いなさい。

I started to write that this should be prominently displayed in every church, but what we really need is for it to be engraved on every believer's heart. The better we understand how God has forgiven us in Christ, the better we are able to forgive one another. As I often have occasion to say, this culture has very little understanding of forgiveness. The Church is the only hope for healing the culture, but believers have to open up to the reality of forgiveness themselves for that to happen. As I have written before, a faulty understanding of forgiveness is perhaps the greatest barrier to the salvation of Japanese, because not understanding that real forgiveness is possible, they are naturally very reluctant to acknowledge and confess their sins, and repentance is essential to salvation. The other side of that is believers who fail to understand that by Jesus' own statement, refusal to forgive is one of the greatest sins. Matthew 18:25 should strike fear into the hearts of many church members, if they would look at it honestly.


I have been on the receiving end of unforgiveness, but that doesn't mean I, myself, have been perfect in forgiving. Sometimes unforgiveness can be one of the hardest things to forgive! I must remember Jesus' example and not revile when reviled, never repaying evil for evil but rather living out this verse. I cannot let myself be bound by someone else's obedience or disobedience to God. I cannot force obedience to God on anyone, because for the most part, even He doesn't do that. And the moment I try, I am putting myself in the place of God, and that is dangerous indeed. I must remember how I have been forgiven, and extend that same gracious forgiveness to all.


Father, the difficulties of this culture in relation to forgiveness have been evident to me since childhood. Keep me from allowing that to tie me in knots. Rather, help me teach forgiveness by practicing it. Thank You for the message You have given me for today. Acknowledgment of sin and accepting Your forgiveness are a big part of it, because You have me speaking on Salvation. I pray that my words will be what You are saying, no more and no less, so that all who hear may hear You, and be transformed by Your Word to them. There will be several non-believers here. Give them courage to make the commitment necessary for salvation. May the believers renew their commitment, both to You and to communicate Your Gospel, for the advancement of Your kingdom and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



エペソ 4:12-13 それは、聖徒たちを整えて奉仕をさせ、キリストのからだを建て上げるためであり、ついに、私たちがみな、信仰の一致と神の御子に関する知識の一致に達し、完全におとなになって、キリストの満ち満ちた身たけにまで達するためです。

I have quoted verse 12 for a long time as part of my job description, but for some reason I had never really connected verse 12 with verse 13. I didn't understand that preparing the saints for works of service moves them toward unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. As someone with gifting as a teacher I have certainly sought to impart knowledge of the Son of God, but I didn't understand that preparing the saints for works of service is part of that. You can't really understand Jesus apart from His washing His disciples' feet. Serving is an integral part of understanding Christ, because otherwise we descend into pride and jealousy and all sorts of things that cloud our minds and hearts. Jesus taught service first of all by example, but then He used words to make sure His disciples understood what He had just shown them. A church leader who fails to exercise a servant spirit isn't going to build up the Body of Christ in unity of faith and knowledge, however gifted he might be otherwise. Imparting information without providing opportunities and training for using that information isn't going to do much for building up the Church. That is probably a major flaw in the prevalent model of how we “do church.” A half-hour lecture (or 15 minutes, or an hour, or whatever) from the pulpit once a week is going to do very little to move the Church toward “the full stature of Christ.”


Ouch! That certainly hits me right between the eyes! With my gifting and personality, I tend to feel that simply imparting information is sufficient, when that is far from the truth. I have wanted the believers to be grounded in Scripture and take initiative and responsibility in serving, but I haven't walked them through things so that they will really know what to do. I have been heavy on lecture and light on practicum. Any time I teach a truth, at the very least I need to give pointers in how to walk it out. I have tried to do that, but I need to seek and make use of teachable moments outside of the pulpit so that the believers may indeed grow into full maturity. For example, I can't expect them to be aggressive in evangelism if I don't show them how.


Father, this isn't the first time You've tried to point this out to me. Its just the first time You've used this passage to do so. Forgive me for being so slow to understand and follow through. Thank You for the training opportunity You're opening up to me right now. Help me be faithful in exercising it, so that the Body of Christ may indeed be built up. Thank You for this chance to go beyond words and grow in my own living out of Your Word. I certainly don't know the details of what You have planned, but it is exciting. Keep me from the traps that lie along the way, so that I may faithfully fulfill all that You intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!