イザヤ 66:9 「わたしが産み出させようにしながら、産ませないだろうか」と主は仰せられる。「わたしは産ませる者なのに、胎を閉ざすだろうか」とあなたの神は仰せられる。

The context here is one of the most dramatic prophecies to be fulfilled in modern times, when the nation of Israel was indeed born in a day back in 1948, the year I, too, was born. However, this verse has much broader implications for every believer. The point is that God follows through; He doesn't bring us along and then leave us hanging. This has major implications in the area of trust. When God starts something, He's going to finish it! Paul put it this way: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) Failure to trust robs us of so much peace! We get all anxious about whether things are going to “work out,” forgetting the One who works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) God intends good for us, as countless Scriptures tell us, but we seem to have enormous difficulty getting that through our heads!

ここに書かれている内容は、イスラエルが1948年、国家として誕生した現代社会で最も成就されるべき劇的預言でしょう。その1948年に私もまた生を受けました。この節は、各信者 によって、より広い意味の解釈がなされていますが、大切なことは、神は成し遂げてくださるということです。神様が私たちを途中で放っておくことはなさいません。これは信頼という領域に大きく関わることです。神が何かを始められるとき、必ず成し遂げられます。パウロは「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。」(ピリピ1:6)と言っています。信頼できないと、平安を大きく奪われます。物事が「うまくいく」かどうかを私たちは心配しますが、神を愛する人々、すなわち、神のご計画に従って召された人々のためには、神がすべてのことを働かせて益としてくださる(ローマ8:28)のですが、そのお方を忘れていることになります。聖書に多く書いてあるように、神様は私たちの益となることを意図しておられるのですが、頭で理解することは大変難しいことのようです。

This is very much in line with the message God spoke through me yesterday, saying that focusing on problems and difficulties is failure to submit to God. I'm the first recipient of that message! It is ironic that when this church, and Cathy and I personally, have been given Habakkuk 2:2-3 so many times in a prophetic context that I would doubt for a minute that problems are going to be resolved and God is going to be glorified! I have seen the damage that a self-centered, problem-centered approach to life has done to others, yet I have failed to be fully Christ-centered myself. I have thought of being Christ-centered as placing Him as the highest value, the first priority, but that is only part of the picture. If I am to be truly Christ-centered, I've got to trust Him with every detail of my life, refusing to be anxious because such anxiety makes Him out to be a liar! I am to rejoice in Him, because that is what He desires and intends for me.


Father, thank You for further clarifying Your Word to me. Thank You for how that Word was received by those present yesterday. Help us all trust You indeed, not just giving You lip service but walking consistently in Your peace and joy, refusing every lie of the enemy. Thank You for how You are working in the life of each member of this church. Help us encourage and support one another, pointing each other to You and helping each other see through the lies of the devil, so that all of Your plans for us may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




イザヤ 63:14 家畜が谷に下るように、主の御霊が彼らをいこわせた。このようにして、あなたは、あなたの民を導き、あなたの輝かしい御名をあげられたのです。

When the Holy Spirit guides, the end result is peace and rest, but the journey may not be easy. In many cultures, cattle are led up to the heights in late spring and then brought back down to the lowlands in the fall, so this image is easy to grasp. Life in the highlands might be exciting for the cattle, perhaps, but it also has its dangers. Likewise, the trip itself can be dangerous, but once down in the valley there is peace and security in the barn and fold of the master. Sometimes we forget that life is a journey, that we haven't reached our final destination. The important thing to remember is that we have a good, faithful Guide, and if we follow Him we'll be all right. Things are going to happen along the way, and some of them will be scary, but we've got to stick with our Guide and not bolt and run. Doing that will only get us into more trouble! Sometimes the way seems familiar, and we can be lulled into something of a false security. Our guess as to what is around the bend may be right, but it could equally be wrong, so we must not push ahead or wander off the trail. There may be times when food and water are scarce on the trail, but we've got to remember that where we are headed, there is more than enough, and our Guide will never abandon us.


Recent events with family and friends have brought this point home to me. Youth is no guarantee against medical emergencies, nor is wisdom. We are responsible to be good stewards of the opportunities and resources we are given, but the outcome is ultimately in God's hands. It is good that I try to drive safely and that I'm working on getting my cholesterol into balance, but those things certainly don't excuse me from seeking and listening to the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I'm also responsible to teach the believers to seek and obey God's guidance. Human beings have an amazing capacity for thinking they are in control of their own destiny. My job is to teach people that is true only in that we are in control of who we follow. If we think we are leading ourselves, we aren't following God!


Father, as I pray regularly, help me indeed hear and obey Your Spirit more accurately each day. Help me trust You with the big decisions and the little details. Like the saying goes, “the devil is in the details,” and I have a lot of room to grow in trusting and obeying You in everything. Yesterday was a good case in point, as I was stressing out over planning for something that You intend as a major blessing. Help me relax and receive Your provision on Your schedule, neither being impatient nor lagging behind, so that I won't wander in any way off the path You have for me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

お父様 定期的に祈っていますが、毎日、もっと正確に御霊に聞き従うように助けてください。大きな決断や小さな事に至るまで、あなたを信頼していられますように。「悪魔は細部にまでいる」という言葉がありますが、私は全てにおいてあなたを信頼し従えるように大きく成長しなくてはなりません。たとえば、昨日は良い例でした。あなたが大きな祝福として意図しておられる計画を私は強調しました。私がリラックスして、あなたの時宜にかなって展望を頂けるように助けてください。早まったり、遅れたりすることのありませんように。そしてあなたが私に持っておられる道から逸れることのありませんように。あなたのご栄光のために。感謝します。神様を賛美します!


イザヤ 61:1-3 神である主の霊が、わたしの上にある。主はわたしに油をそそぎ、貧しい者に良い知らせを伝え、心の傷ついた者をいやすために、わたしを遣わされた。捕らわれた人には解放を、囚人には釈放を告げ、主の恵みの年と、われわれの神の復讐の日を告げ、すべての悲しむ者を慰め、シオンの悲しむ者たちに、灰の代わりに頭の飾りを、悲しみの代わりに喜びの油を、憂いの心の代わりに賛美の外套を着けさせるためである。彼らは、義の樫の木、栄光を現す主の植木と呼ばれよう。

This is definitely a Messianic prophecy, as Jesus asserted (Luke 4:14~) , but it is also the part of His commission that is passed on to us. (John 20:21) We cannot be the atonement for anyone's sins, and anyone who tries that is seriously deluded. However, the same Holy Spirit who was perfectly in Jesus is also available to us, and He works the same now as He did then. How we will do the things mentioned in this passage will be different for each individual, because no two people have identical gifting and circumstances, but everyone who is a true disciple of Jesus Christ will indeed be doing the things talked about here. The devil does all he can to twist the genuine humility that is essential for every believer into a false humility that says, “God couldn't do that through me.” Saying that instantly removes God from Lordship in our lives, because we are saying that our weakness is more powerful that He is. God wants to use every believer for His glory, but we draw back and refuse Him permission, which deprives us far more than it does Him.


I find I am very much involved in everything mentioned here, but I desire far greater effectiveness. I spend a good bit of time dealing with the brokenhearted (I like the Japanese expression of “those with wounded hearts”), but so often they seem to refuse the healing that is offered. I proclaim release to the captives, but they have to choose to walk through their prison door. Sometimes they are so used to their prison cell that they are afraid to leave. I am not to accuse, but rather encourage them to trust God who has made such a great salvation available to them. In all of this I am not to be discouraged by a low rate of return, but rather trust God and remember that not everyone who saw and heard Jesus received what He had to say, either.


Father, thank You for the privilege of being a disciple, hardships and all. Thank You for those who do respond, and for the opportunity to entrust them to You, and entrust those who don't respond as well. Help me keep growing in faithfulness and obedience, my spiritual hearing getting better day by day (whatever my physical hearing is doing), so that I may indeed fulfill all that You desire of and intend for me, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



イザヤ 56:7 わたしは彼らを、わたしの聖なる山に連れて行き、わたしの祈りの家で彼らを楽しませる。彼らの全焼のいけにえやその他のいけにえは、わたしの祭壇の上で受け入れられる。わたしの家は、すべての民の祈りの家と呼ばれるからだ。

The last part of this verse has been famous ever since Jesus quoted it when He chased the merchants out of the Court of the Gentiles of the temple in Jerusalem, and it is certainly significant. However, a phrase in the first part of the verse catches my eye this morning. The English renders it as, “give them joy in my house of prayer,” while the Japanese puts it as “cause them to enjoy my house of prayer.” The point is, church, and specifically prayer, is to be fun! That's not to say we are to be frivolous, and certainly not irreverent toward God, but it is to say that laughter is to be expected. The world can be a very serious, depressing place, but God's house is to be filled with laughter. Those with no sense of humor certainly have a lot to learn about God! Some people have taken James 4:9 to say that only long faces are appropriate in the House of God, but that denies Psalm 126:2 and many other passages, like this one, that speak of joy and laughter before the Lord. Repentance is essential, but understanding that the repentant are forgiven should bring overwhelming joy.


I am certainly grateful for the many times of laughter in this church, and specifically in prayer meeting. Those who don't come to prayer meeting don't know what they're missing! I am not to make light of, and certainly never ridicule, the things of God, but I must never take myself too seriously, either. Anyone with an overinflated sense of their own importance is going to be humor challenged! I need to keep in focus what a weak, foolish little thing I am, and that God loves me anyway, so that I may laugh freely at myself and help others do the same. We will not grow as well-rounded disciples of Christ if we don't laugh as He did, as well as weep as He did. As pastor, I need need to maintain an environment in which people are free to do either, or both – even at the same time!


Father, thank You indeed for the gift of laughter. Thank You for the many people who bring laughter into my life, and especially for those who do it in the context of a mutual relationship with You. Help me be a conveyor of laughter, not at all as ridicule but as release, and simple joy. Help me lift people's eyes off of their problems long enough for them to laugh indeed. Help us delight in You, so that You may delight in us. Thank You. Praise God!




イザヤ 55:3 耳を傾け、わたしのところに出て来い。聞け。そうすれば、あなたがたは生きる。

I have a problem when presented with Isaiah 55, because it is so rich. I could easily preach a series based just on this chapter! However, for this morning I'll let the Lord unfold this little part of a verse. As I have preached just this past Sunday, the Word of the Lord is incredibly powerful, and this whole chapter is something of an expansion of that thought. The problem is, for it to benefit us personally we have to listen to it and receive it. As Jesus said in John 6:63, His words are Spirit and they are life. Peter acknowledged that just five verses later in John 6:68, demonstrating that he was one who benefited from the Word, but like Jesus said in John 6:64, there were some even then who would not believe. Because the Bible is something of a cultural icon in America, many people have a surface familiarity with at least parts of it. However, there's a world of difference between recognizing the 23rd Psalm, or even John 3:16, and allowing God's Word to work in your heart and life. As the Lord says through Isaiah here, “Hear me, and you will live.” Rejecting God's word is choosing death rather than life, and it is tragic.


Recently I have been encouraged by several of the believers expressing hunger for more of God's Word, and have been saddened by some who have expressed the opposite impulse. I cannot govern people's response, but I must be faithful to speak what God is saying to and through me. I've got to stay firmly grounded myself, to avoid saying anything that is in violation of Scripture, and I've got to allow the Word to work in me as well as in my hearers. Even Paul was concerned that he might slip up after having preached to others. (1 Corinthians 9:27) I must be careful not only to speak a pure word, but also to do it in love. Some Bible teachers concern me, because I detect so little love in their words. It is true that love is strong and sometimes delivers blows, in the process of appropriate punishment or to “knock sense into” someone, but if love is not foremost, the blows are just blows. I must not hold back from anything the Lord desires to speak through me, but I must be very careful that my motives aren't tainted by pride, jealousy, hurt feelings, or human anger. I am not the originator, but I should be a clear expression of God's words of life.


Father, I pray for hearing ears, for myself and for those to whom I express Your Word. Thank You indeed for those who are receiving it eagerly. I ask Your grace and mercy on those who do not have that attitude currently. I ask a special anointing as I speak to those who have not yet made a commitment to Christ. Several come to mind. May Your Holy Spirit take Your words of life and love, spoken through me, and open their hearts to receive Your salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



イザヤ 54:15, 17 見よ。攻め寄せる者があっても、それはわたしから出た者ではない。あなたを攻める者は、あなたによって倒される。あなたを攻めるために作られた武器は、どれも役に立たなくなる。また、さばきの時、あなたを責めてくるどんな舌でも、あなたはそれを罪に定める。これが、主のしもべたちの受け継ぐ分、わたしから受ける彼らの義である。-主の御告げー

If this passage doesn't get a believer excited, they're in pretty bad shape! Jesus confirmed what experience tells us, that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33), but this passage is talking about what Jesus said right after that: “Rejoice, for I have overcome the world.” We often forget that there can be no victory without a battle. As a result, we run from the battles that face us, only to find that they overtake us and we are defeated. The key is found in James 4:7. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” If we don't stand and resist the devil, he will be completely unrelenting in his attacks. However, it's useless to try to resist the devil without submitting to God, and this is where most people trip up. The devil is much smarter than we are, and he knows our weaknesses pretty well. However, his power doesn't begin to compare to God's. It is only when we are submitted to God that we are fully clothed in His armor (Ephesians 6), which nullifies every weapon of the devil as this passage talks about


I have been quite practiced in running from conflict, and it has done me no good. I have preached on the James passage numbers of times, but I haven't understood the practical implications in my own life. When I am focused on the negatives of my situation I am focused on the devil, and not God. That's no way to submit to God! I need to focus on God and trust Him, not ignoring what is going on around me but not allowing it to dominate my thinking. If I am focused on a problem, I am submitted more to the problem than I am to God! I must keep God in the forefront of my thinking and awareness at all times, so that I will be able to see the problems as being as small as they really are. Any time a problem looks big to me, that means I'm not seeing God big enough!


Father, thank You for this powerful word of encouragement this morning. Not only is it a very effective continuation to the series You've had me preaching, it is exactly what I needed! Thank You for all You've been saying and doing in recent weeks to prepare me to receive this Word. Keep me from just saying, “Oh, that's wonderful,” and then going on just like before. Rather, help me make the changes in my daily attitudes and actions that You know I've needed for a long time. It's not that I don't know what to do, it's that I fail to follow through and do it! Help me put feet to my words and stop deceiving myself, so that all of Your plans for me may be fulfilled for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




イザヤ 43:10-11 あなたがたはわたしの証人-主の御告げーわたしが選んだわたしのしもべである。これは、あなたがたが知って、わたしを信じ、わたしがその者であることを悟るためだ。わたしより先に造られた神はなく、わたしより後にもない。わたし、このわたしが、主であって、わたしのほかに救い主はいない。

This is an absolutely clear, unequivocal statement, and it's the very first part that makes people most uncomfortable: “you are my witnesses.” This is of course echoed in Jesus' commission to believers with the promise of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8) The average Christian is terrified of having to tell someone else about God, both because they have no confidence in their own speaking ability and because they don't have a very clear idea of exactly what they believe. The first part of that is natural, and in a sense good, because depending on natural abilities isn't the way to accomplish the works of God. We have to depend actively on the Holy Spirit to be effective witnesses. It is the second reason for hesitation for which there is no excuse, and it is downright dangerous. A brand new believer doesn't know much, which actually makes it easier for them to communicate what they do know. The story of the man born blind (John 9) comes to mind. “The only thing I know is that I was blind, but now I see.” However, we are called and commanded to grow in knowledge and understanding of God, and this is where many people fall flat on their face. Regular Bible reading, including thinking about what is read and applying it to one's life, seems like too much work to a lot of people. They don't realize that kind of attitude is spiritual anorexia, and it is just as unhealthy as the physical kind of anorexia. We don't all have to become academic theologians, but we must have an active, practical, growing knowledge of God (theology). When that is the case, being a witness is no longer intimidating; we are only sharing what is central to our lives.


I am naturally committed to being a witness myself, but I am also called and commissioned to equip others to be witnesses, and that is where it can really get difficult. Teaching and training those who have a hunger to know more of God, and are willing to make the time investment, is an absolute delight. Trying to pour food down the throats of those who won't even keep their mouths open is a trial indeed! However, since I am absolutely convinced of the reality of verse 10, “Apart from me there is no Savior,” I have no option but to keep going. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14, the love of Christ leaves me no choice. My task is to communicate that love to the point that others will likewise be consumed with it, to be witnesses indeed.


Father, yet again I have outlined something I can't begin to do in my own strength. Thank You. If I could do it by myself, it wouldn't be worth doing! Thank You for Your call, Your commission, and Your empowerment. Help me keep my eyes off of myself and on Christ, so that I may move forward steadily, in full obedience and joy, bringing many with me as disciples into Your kingdom, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



イザヤ 38:17 ああ、私の苦しんだ苦しみは平安のためでした。あなたは、滅びの穴から、私のたましいを引き戻されました。あなたは私のすべての罪を、あなたのうしろに投げやられました。

It is very interesting that where the English says, “In Your love You kept me from the pit of destruction,” the Japanese doesn't mention love at all, simply saying, “You pulled my soul back from the pit of destruction.” However, it is the parts before and after that phrase that strike me most. In the first part of the verse Hezekiah expresses a revelation that has come to many people down through the centuries, but perhaps not often enough: his suffering was for his own good. The English says “benefit” while the Japanese says “peace,” but the original is probably “shalom,” which indeed means peace but means a lot more besides. God does not pick on us! We often have a hard time getting that through our skulls, and of course the devil doesn't want us to know or believe it. I have occasion at least once a week to point this out to someone, as I did yesterday, because we all go through suffering, just as Jesus said. (John 16:33) We need to stop making such a big deal of the fact that we are suffering, and instead choose to rejoice in God!


The last part of the verse is also significant, where Hezekiah says “You have put (the Japanese says 'thrown') my sins behind you.” Hezekiah didn't have a revelation of the cross of Christ, but he knew his sins had to be dealt with. He didn't see himself as worse than his contemporaries, and indeed he wasn't, but he had still built up a sufficient track record of sins that he knew God had to deal with them in some way. Repentance is essential for salvation!


As often as I seek to help others understand this, I sometimes slip up in applying it to my own life. I have no reason to complain about anything, ever! God has been more than gracious to me, dealing with me far more kindly than I have deserved and pouring out blessings I never earned. I have experienced suffering of various sorts, and that is ongoing, but none of it is wasted; God uses it all for my good. (Romans 8:28) People sometimes treat me like I'm a broken record, always saying that God will use anything that is committed and released to Him, and some people get actively angry, feeling I am making light of their suffering. I need to do all I can to keep from giving that impression, but I must remember that ultimately, each person's response to suffering is their own responsibility.


Father, recently my biggest suffering has been in watching people I love turn their backs on You in one way or another. That helps me understand Your feelings as You have dealt with mankind ever since Creation. Help me indeed love people with Your love, not as a personal burden, because I can't possibly carry them, but allowing You to touch them through me, without thinking that their response is to me personally. Help me extend to them the grace and comfort You have poured out on me, so that they too may lift their eyes to You and rejoice, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



イザヤ 16:5 一つの王座は恵みによって堅く立てられ、さばきをなし、公正を求め、正義をすみやかに行う者が、ダビデの天幕で、真実をもって、そこにすわる。

The English says the throne will be established in love, while the Japanese says it will be established in grace, but that is because of the different understandings of those two terms in the two languages. Otherwise, they agree fully on this verse, which is one of many in Isaiah speaking of Christ. It is significant that it is speaking, not of Israel or Judah, but of Moab. Isaiah received a clear revelation that God loves all mankind. That doesn't negate His covenant with Abraham, but it stands against any pride or claims of exclusivity. On a very immediate, practical level, this verse gives a concise description of good government: making judgments, seeking justice, and working righteousness without delay. Those things seem rather conspicuously absent from most governments today! In a democratic situation we are to work to achieve governments that approach that standard, voting people up or down on the basis of their faithfulness to it, but we aren't to pin our hopes on human government. We must always remember that God is God, and we aren't. Human governments aren't going to be perfect because they operate in a fallen world, but in the end, God's will will be done, and everything will be made right.


I have had plenty of temptation to get in a turmoil about government in recent years, both for Japan and America, but that has been largely wasted energy. I can't vote in Japan, and I vote by absentee ballot in the US only for presidential elections. I have prayed, but not enough. I have gotten vehement in discussions, largely for nothing. I need to remember that God is God, and at this point He is allowing us to have what we're asking for, though it is often not His best. I need to be sure that my own goals and motives are submitted to Him and allow Him to use me however He desires, but I should not waste my time and energy on distractions. The devil is an expert at waving things at us to take our attention away from what God has us doing, and I must not yield to that.


Father, the political world is certainly in turmoil right now, but to be realistic, no more so that many times throughout history. Help me stay grounded in You, not whipped around by what is going on around me but being a point of stability for those I influence, so that I and they may trust You and be obedient to what You are saying. Thank You for the hope and assurance we can have of the Lordship of Christ. May we be fully submitted to that Lordship even now, whatever is going on around us, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



イザヤ 5:1 「さあ、わが愛する者のためにわたしはうたおう。そのぶどう畑についてのわが愛の歌を。わが愛する者は、よく肥えた山腹に、ぶどう畑を持っていた。」

The Japanese is a more literal translation, and specifies that what is to follow is a love song, and that is what strikes me most. (In its literalness the Japanese also says “fat hillside,” but the English “fertile hillside” is much easier to understand.) This is certainly a rather violent love song! The point, however, is that God responds so strongly to sin precisely because He loves the sinner. I am reminded of Jesus' “words of woe” to the Pharisees in Matthew 23. It was not until I saw the Visual Bible video of Matthew that I understood that Jesus spoke those words with a heart that was broken by His love for the Pharisees, who claimed to know God but who lost sight of Him in their legalism. God's love is not all “sweetness and light!” As came out in the reading a few days ago, we have great trouble grasping that true love sometimes punishes, because it desires the very best for the one loved. Parents have got to remember that for the sake of their children, but the concept is increasingly lost in modern society. God is the perfect Father, and He doesn't forget to punish unrepented sin. If the sin is repented of, then forgiveness is total, but even then the sinner is cautioned not to return to their sin. (John 8:11, for example) In our distorted focus on the love of God, we are prone to forget His justice and His holiness, and God cannot be one without the other. If God were not perfectly just and holy, there would have been no need for Jesus to die; God could have excused our sins. However, God's love is purer and stronger than that, and we must not forget it.


Growing up surrounded by love and grace, I too have been tempted to look lightly on my own sins. However, I was also raised with the awareness that there are absolute standards of right, wrong, and truth. I should not be overly simplistic, but most issues aren't nearly as gray as society claims they are. I must remember that true love forgives but it doesn't excuse. (That very statement is linguistically confusing in Japanese, because the two words sound the same!) I am to be quick to repent, before God and before people, and I am to be quick to forgive others, understanding how much God has forgiven me. The whole issue of communicating forgiveness is a major part of my calling and ministry, and it is one that is totally impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit.


Father, Your love and grace and holiness and justice are so much higher and purer than anything we can generate. Help me, help us all, grasp Your character and allow it to operate in and through us. As believers have demonstrated down through the centuries, if we will be committed and submitted to You, You live and act in and through us, just as You promised. Help me live that way and lead others to do the same, for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Praise God!



イザヤ 1:19-20 「もし喜んで聞こうとするなら、あなたがたは、この国の良い物を食べることができる。しかし、もし拒み、そむくなら、あなたがたは剣にのまれる」と、主の御口が語られたからである。

There is a significant difference between the English and the Japanese in the very first part of this passage. Where the English says, “If you are willing and obedient,” the Japanese says, “If you hear (listen) gladly.” Willing and obedient is certainly good, but it's got to start with hearing and listening to the voice of the Lord. That's why regular Bible reading and church attendance are so important. Most Christians, even, aren't to the level of intimacy with God that they hear His voice consistently as they're going about their daily routines. We need to read the Bible and listen to anointed preaching to help us. The devil does all he can to distract us and keep us from getting into the spiritual posture of listening to God, but as James says, if we will submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from us. (James 4:7) When people “turn off their ears” toward God, for whatever reason, they are putting themselves in the place of the 2nd half of this passage, and I don't think anyone really wants to be there. I feel that for the Christian, “eat the best from the land ” means, “enjoy the riches of the kingdom of God,” because that is the land of which we are citizens. It doesn't take a very extensive knowledge of the Bible to make that seem very desirable indeed!


I have known and experienced this, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to see people resisting and refusing the Word of God. The results of that are never good. I cannot force anyone to hear and receive what God speaks through me, but I can pray and I can continue to speak the truth in love. The best thing about it all is that the moment a person repents and turns to God with an open heart, they are forgiven and received. I need to remember, believe, and teach that, because it is good news indeed. I, myself, have had moments of resisting what God was saying to me, and I know full well the results of that are needless pain and suffering on various levels. I need to pray for God's mercy and grace on me and my hearers, the anointing of the Holy Spirit on mouth and ears and hearts, so that His Word may be transmitted faithfully to accomplish His purposes for His glory.


Father, thank You for the privilege of speaking Your Word. It is not just a high honor, it is a heavy burden as I see only some receive, and some reject. I do ask for skill as a speaker, but I know that no amount of skill is any good without Your anointing. Help me be faithful as Your mouthpiece, not distorting or muting in any way what You are saying, so that all who will hear may be cleansed, encouraged, strengthened and guided, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




雅歌 8:6-7 愛は死のように強く、ねたみはよみのように激しいからです。その炎は火の炎、すさまじい炎です。大水はその愛を消すことができません。もし、人は愛を得ようとして、自分の財産とことごとく与えても、ただのさげすみしか得られません。

This is certainly a very strong view of love, but such love cannot be categorized by the Greek terms used since New Testament times. That's probably a good thing, actually, because sometimes being overly analytical can destroy the thing you are trying to analyze. Throughout Song of Solomon the context is certainly romantic love, with all the associated hormones. Anyone with a good memory of their teenage years, or who currently lives with a teenager, can certainly understand the image in this passage of a raging fire! However, as the Bible as a whole makes very clear, love is far more than hormones. It is debatable whether the flames spoken of here refer to love or to jealousy, but the point can be made that they are two sides of the same coin. We sometimes forget that the Bible is very clear that God is a jealous God, which means that He cannot abide our running after other things in preference to Him. True love desires the very best for the beloved, and insists on it. One point that is made here is sadly being discounted in some situations, and that is that love can't be bought. In English it's easy to get confused on this point, since sex is often referred to as “making love,” but whereas sex can be bought, love can't. “Gold digger” is an English expression for someone who marries for money, but that can never lead to true happiness.


In one way and another I am constantly involved with love. Not only am I happily married (41 years and going strong), I am charged with helping people understand the love of God for them and to love Him in return. Likewise, I often counsel couples on how husbands and wives are to relate to each other. The multifaceted nature of love can make that difficult to do at times! Whereas “Love is not a feeling, it's an act of your will” is very true on one level, love has a very intimate connection to the emotions. I need to help people understand that whereas emotion isn't necessarily love, love will generate emotion. If people feel neutral toward God, they haven't learned to love Him yet. That's one reason the marital relationship is specifically stated to represent the relationship of Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5) I am called not just to explain love in all its levels but to demonstrate it, in all purity, because so many people have only seen it in some badly distorted form.


Father, once again I have outlined a task that is far beyond my natural ability. Help me love You, first and foremost, and then express Your love accurately and appropriately to my wife and to each person I encounter. I have not completely escaped the world's pollution, and I need Your constant care to keep me pure. I ask that You pour Your Spirit through me to give others a revelation of Your love, so that they may let go of whatever has held them back and respond fully to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



雅歌 5:9 女のなかで最も美しい人よ。あなたの愛する方は、ほかの愛人より何がすぐれているのですか。

In a spiritual context, this is a question many Christians are quite used to, but Americans don't even know they are being asked: how is your God better than others? In Japan, with its tradition of 8 million gods along with Japanese Buddhism that makes every dead person into a sort of mini god, the superiority of Christ is fairly evident, but the question then shifts to why Christ would be worth abandoning all the other gods. In the context of this verse, that would be like asking why monogamy would be better than polygamy. The reason Americans don't know they are being asked this question is that they don't realize people are worshiping the things that replace Christ in their hearts: money, success, physical pleasure, etc. Many a nominal Christian remains unconvinced that Christ is better than all those things put together, because they have never really repented of their sins and made a full commitment. Actually, the same may be said of nominal Christians in any country where there isn't active persecution. That actually is the value and even beauty of persecution: it weeds out those who are not fully committed. A true disciple of Jesus Christ knows who he believes and why he believes, even if he can't explain it in theological terms. Actually, theological terminology often gets in the way of answering the question we started with, because those asking don't know or understand it.


I find myself wishing people would ask this question more openly and honestly, wanting to know the answer. In Japanese society as a whole, people see religion as a cultural element and a minor accessory to life, required in some circumstances but hardly central to anything. That makes evangelism very difficult because people simply don't care. They'll let you believe whatever you want to, but they don't see how it has any connection to them. I have no choice but to rely on the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and that's a good thing. I am to train the believers to be ready to answer anyone who asks about the hope they have, as it says in 1 Peter 3:15, and I am to pray and lead others to pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in us all, so that believers may be matured and unbelievers brought to repentance and salvation.


Father, thank You for all You have been saying recently about not focusing on the negatives but rather on Jesus. Thank You for those who do seek and turn to You in honesty, and for those who are committed to spiritual growth and discipleship. Help us be faithful in prayer and obedience, not giving up on anyone but not taking others' behavior as a personal burden. Help us rejoice in You and overflow with hope, so that more and more people will ask us the reason and we can share Christ with them, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



雅歌 4:9 私の妹、花嫁よ。あなたは私の心を奪った。あなたのただ一度のまなざしと、あなたの首飾りのただ一つの宝石で、私の心を奪ってしまった。

The scene that is portrayed here is a familiar one in romantic literature, and it brings to mind another verse that is credited to Solomon: Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Our hearts are all too easily captured by things that are not worthy, when they were created for fellowship with God. There is nothing wrong with newlyweds' total involvement with each other, but even there the joy is much deeper and longer lasting when Christ is at the center of each heart and of the relationship. We are prone to give our hearts to various things, but all of that is ultimately empty if we aren't grounded on Christ Jesus and committed to Him. We indeed need to guard our hearts, to see to it that they are not stolen away from purity of devotion to Christ.


God has been incredibly gracious to me, because I certainly can't claim to have kept my heart in 100% pure devotion to Him all these years. I have been blessed with a believing wife, which has been a great help, but I have allowed any number of things to push God into the background at one time or another. It is never too late to start, and I am very thankful for the improvement in my focus on God, but I must never take God or my relationship with Him for granted. If I do, I will again open myself up to the risk of having my heart stolen by something unworthy.


Father, it is so sad to see someone who at one time demonstrated considerable devotion to You fall away, their heart stolen in one way or another. Paul wrote about Demas having “loved the world,” (2 Timothy 4:10) so I am well aware the problem is nothing new. Help me not only guard my own heart, but teach the believers to guard theirs. May we be a church that is individually and collectively committed to You in every way, not distracted by the many things that would tempt us, so that all of Your purposes for us may be fulfilled, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise the Lord!



雅歌 2:4 あの方や私を酒宴の座に伴われました。私の上に翻るあの方の旗じるしは愛でした。

Since the start of what has been called the Charismatic Movement quite a few songs have been written using verses from Song of Solomon, and this is one I learned back in the '70s. I think the reason for such songs was a fresh awareness of passion for God, and how intensely He loves us. This particular verse, if taken in the context of Christ and the Church, speaks of how abundantly God has provided for us. It was considered a shameful thing to run out of anything at a banquet, and every effort was made to provide the very best. The story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana comes to mind. God isn't going to run out of good things for us! Likewise, the distinguishing factor in God's attitude toward us is love, and He doesn't mind anyone knowing it. It is still common for banners to be used at festive occasions in almost every culture, proclaiming who or what is being celebrated, and why. God needs no excuse besides love! John was spoken of as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and he wrote with great depth about love, both in his Gospel and in his letters. Having a grasp of God's love for him, he could hardly help loving God in return.


I have always felt a great affinity for John the son of Zebedee. It may be because I have always felt loved, by my parents and by God. My difficulty now is in communicating God's love to those who have not been so blessed in their upbringing. A lack of assurance of God's love is crippling, and I want to heal the cripples! However, the majority of people have a distorted idea of what love is in the first place. They tend to equate it with spoiling, with meeting every whim, but that is very far from true love. As I have experienced and as I teach, true love desires and works for the very best for the one loved, and sometimes that very best involves difficulty, pain, and loss. That is so hard for us to grasp! I cannot get it through to people in my own strength, so I've got to rely on the Holy Spirit to put words in my mouth that will penetrate the fog of lies and lead people out into the light of God's truth. If I will do that, it will be love indeed toward my hearers.


Father, thank You for the testimonies yesterday that indicated my words are getting through to some people, at least. Thank You for all the good things You are doing here. Help me walk in trust, not focusing on what I see as negative but rather on Christ and the vision You have placed before me, trusting that You are moving me and this church along toward that vision, in Your love, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




雅歌 1:4 あなたの愛をぶどう酒にまさってほめたたえ、真心からあなたを愛しています。

From the time of its inclusion in the canon, many in the Christian Church have been uncomfortable with the Song of Solomon and it's graphic depiction of physical attraction, but for the same period of time it has also been lauded as an allegory of Christ and the Church. Since, as the NIV specifies in a footnote, the “you” in this verse is masculine singular, that's not indefensible. However, I find I take a view somewhat between those two. The intensity of attraction is indeed something many Christians and many churches could use more of in relation to Christ, but the book is fundamentally a celebration of physical marital love. The other side of that is that many people divorce sex from holiness completely, and since they have a strong sex drive, they think they can never be holy. Even the apostle Paul stands firmly against that position, and he was single! Paul also drew a strong and beautiful parallel between the marital relationship and the relationship of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5. At its best, sex involves every part of our being, which is why the devil does his utmost to distort and pollute it. It is probably going too far to take specific physical descriptions in Song of Solomon and apply them to the Church or even to Christ, but our love and devotion for Him should be as intense as what is depicted here.


I was incredibly blessed to be given a loving wife at a young age, but that's not to say that the devil hasn't attacked me in this area, and it's not to say that my devotion to Christ has always been intense. I have been kept from physical infidelity, for which I'm profoundly grateful, but my mental response to temptations hasn't always honored God. This is an area in which I must always keep my guard up, desiring Christ more than anything else and keeping my wife as the undisputed holder of 2nd place. This verse uses the phrase, “more than wine.” I must keep watch that I desire intimacy with God more than anything this world has to offer.


Father, You've placed some powerful things in us, and the enemy of our souls does all he can to distort them. Help me not only walk in joyful purity myself, but also encourage, guide, and help others to do the same. May this church be characterized by purity and intensity of devotion to Christ, so that we will be able to hear and obey You consistently and fully, so that all Your plans may be fulfilled for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



伝道者の書 9:1 というのは、私はこのいっさいを心に留め、正しい人も、知恵のある者も、彼らの働きも、神の御手の中にあることを確かめたからである。彼らの前にあるすべてのものが愛であるか、憎しみであるか、人にはわからない。

Frankly, I find Ecclesiastes rather depressing, because Solomon had so little understanding of the love and grace of God. In a sense he feared God, but obviously not enough, or he would never have taken all those non-believing wives and he particularly would not have engaged in idolatry with them. In reference to this verse, it is true that no one knows whether they will receive love or hatred from the people they encounter, but a right appreciation of God will give anyone an assurance of His love. Solomon obviously had no real awareness of life after death, and that's one reason for the nihilistic tone of Ecclesiastes. That is ironic and sad, when his father David obviously had a good bit of insight on that point. It all boils down to Solomon depending on the intellectual gift he had been given, to the point that he discarded whatever he couldn't prove empirically, or at least feel that he had “figured out.” That's tragic.


I have been tempted in that direction, but fortunately my father did a much better job of transmitting faith to his children than David did. My father's intellectual gifts were formidable, but they were always submitted to the God he knew by faith, as well as by reason. I am still tempted to arrive at conclusions without putting God into the equation, but years of experience have taught me how foolish that is. I am to be a faithful steward of the gifts God has given me, but I must always remember that God is God and I'm not, and that's a good thing. I indeed don't know whether people will love or hate me, or just ignore me, but I do know that God loves me intensely and cares about every detail of my existence. I am charged with communicating that awareness, that understanding of God, with those around me. Logical persuasion alone won't do the job; it is the Holy Spirit who open's people's eyes. However, if I will submit the gifts I have been given to God, then He will use them by His Spirit to draw others into right relationship with Himself.


Father, I am sharply aware that we on earth are in a battle. Help me keep my eyes on You and rejoice in Your victory, whatever I see going on around me at the moment. Keep me from allowing the temporal reality of my situation distract me from the eternal reality of my place in Christ. I ask for words and anointing to lift the eyes of the people of this church to You as well, so that together we may understand how small our problems are in Your eyes and rejoice in Your love and grace and faithfulness. Thank You. Hallelujah!



伝道者の書 5:10 金銭を愛する者は金銭に満足しない。富を愛する者は収益に満足しない。

What we set our hearts on makes all the difference in the world. God has provided a wide variety of things in the world for our enjoyment, but when we set our hearts on those things instead of on God, we lose real peace and joy. As Paul said, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), but that doesn't mean that money in itself is evil. It's like sex, which is a beautiful gift from God given for our blessing, but which has been horribly twisted and distorted to become another “root of all kinds of evil.” One problem with anything temporal is that it is finite, meaning that there are always limits, and our ambitions and lusts aren't satisfied with that. It is only when our hearts, our desires and longings, are fixed on God who is infinite that we experience real satisfaction.
When it comes to money, an incredibly rich man was once asked, “How much is enough?” His answer was straight out of this verse: “A little more.” The same thing applies to everything temporal, which is why Buddhism teaches that the way to peace is the elimination of all desire. What Buddhism doesn't teach (in fact they specifically deny it) is that there is an infinite God who loves us infinitely. When our desire is fixed on Him, there are no limits. Jesus wasn't just talking about material supply when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)


I have done my share of lusting after the things of this world, and it has never brought me more than temporary enjoyment. However, when my heart has been turned and tuned to God, not only have I had peace and joy that are otherwise unobtainable, the material things have actually been more enjoyable. That defies human reasoning, which makes it a difficult thing to teach. I think it's part of what Jesus was talking about when He said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) Of course eternal life is the primary focus here, but even our life on this earth is included. I have no wisdom or persuasive ability to get that through to people in the face of all the lies of the world and the devil, but if I will maintain focus on God in my own life and stay submitted to Him, He can and will use me to bring others out of the traps of the devil into His eternal life of abundance.


Father, You keep giving me glimpses of the incredible riches of glory that You have laid up for us. Thank You. Help me indeed maintain my focus on You, even in the face of all the distractions that assault me constantly, so that I will be able to delight in the intimacy with You that You desire and intend, drawing many more with me into right relationship with You, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



伝道者の書 3:1, 11 天の下では、何時にも定まった時期があり、すべての営みには時がある。神のなさることは、すべて時にかなって美しい。

Living in time, we often get obsessed with it, with schedules and planners and all sorts of conflicts. However, God is outside of time, and as He points out in several places in the Bible, He sees the end from the beginning. He's never in a hurry, and He's never late. Those things are all a matter of our perception. From our perspective, time is a mystery, because we can only posit God being outside of time; we can't understand that reality on an emotional level. Peter pointed this out by saying that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) It is amusing how many people take that verse and try to plug it into history and Bible prophecy to say where we are on God's timeline! Peter's whole point is that God's idea of time is by definition different from ours, so all such calculations are futile. However, Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose in time, and He understands our perspective. He repeatedly said that because we don't know God's timing, we've got to be ready all the time, to serve Him or to welcome His return. When that is our perspective, all other issues of time fall into place.


I am certainly one who has gotten tied in knots over time, but age has mellowed me somewhat. I still like to be on time for everything, because I feel that's courtesy and good stewardship. However, I'm a little less uptight about it all, though I still have plenty of room for growth. That's because I've experienced God's perfect timing so many times, and to some degree I'm relinquishing my need to be in control. That last item has caused me more stress than I could calculate! I am called to be faithful and obedient, but I must remember that ultimately, I am not in control nor could I be, because God is God.


Father, thank You for this reminder this morning. I had a packed schedule yesterday, and You worked it all out, down to the minute. I missed a couple of cues and so had just a little more stress than needed, but it was a good example of Your orchestration. I have conflicting items on today's schedule as well. Help me relax and receive them as You give them to me, not insisting on some schedule in my mind but trusting You. May I do that each day so that, as I pray frequently, I will be doing Your will on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



箴言 29:1 責められても、なお、うなじのこわい者は、たちまち滅ぼされて、いやされることはない。

What this verse says to me is that teachability is essential. Anyone who stubbornly will not receive instruction, or correction as this verse has it, is indeed setting themselves up for destruction. No one is perfect, and the more we are willing and able to learn, the better off we are. On the other side of that is integrity. Some people are all too willing to learn immorality! However, genuine integrity is going to want to learn truth, and how to apply it. Intellectual and moral growth should be lifelong; anyone who has decided they have no more to learn has decided to die. On the spiritual side, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. If we are open and responsive to Him, then we will keep growing, receiving all that God intends for us.


As a secular teacher and a pastor, I have certainly run into those who have decided not to be taught! It's not at all easy for me, but it's even worse for them. It's quite sad, actually. Almost every year I have one or more students who decide ahead of time that they aren't going to like or benefit from my class, and it almost always turns out that way. On the other hand, I have students who don't expect to do well but are willing to give it their best shot, and often their performance amazes even them. In the church, when someone's heart is hardened toward me and/or the Lord, nothing I say gets through to them. That can be heartbreaking for me! I have no desire to see anyone go to destruction, even if it is their own choice. I cannot force anyone to receive correction and learn, but I can pray for them and I can seek to present the truth in ways that will be easier for them to understand and receive. Ultimately, however, the choice is theirs. At the same time, I've got to keep watch over my own attitude, and strive to receive and abide by whatever the Lord is teaching me by whatever means.


Father, as I deal with people who are unteachable toward me, I understand better Your heartache as You deal with Your rebellious children, including me. Help me “see (and hear) You more clearly, love You more dearly, and follow You more nearly day by day,” as the song says. May I express Your love accurately toward all, whether they receive it or not. May I so abide in Your love that the barriers to that love, in me and in others, may be dissolved so that Your will may be done, as perfectly here as it is in heaven, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



箴言 27:5-6 あからさまに責めるのは、ひそかに愛するのにまさる。憎む者の口づけしてもてなすよりは、愛する者が傷つけるほうが真実である。

The Bible comes down pretty firmly on the side of openness and frankness, though with wisdom and love. That puts it at variance with much of Japanese society, which values appearance over substance much of the time. Unfortunately, people can't live on appearance alone, however desirable appearances might be. Actually, this touches on a rather important theological question: did Christ really become human and really die, or did He just appear to do so? This was a bitterly fought question in the Early Church, and to their credit they resolved it by stating that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Every culture professes admiration for someone who is exactly as they appear to be, particularly when their character traits otherwise are admirable, but such people are also are often treated as misfits, because they disdain the “white lie.” Jesus was the ultimate “straight arrow,” and people both loved and hated Him. As He told His disciples, we should expect nothing less. (John 15:18-20).


Well, we're back to my penchant for conflict avoidance! As much as I desire to walk in absolute honesty, I still tend to skirt the truth at times rather than risk conflict. That's not at all to say I'm to go looking for trouble, because the Bible tells us we are to seek to live at peace with our neighbors. (Romans 12:18 and elsewhere) However, I must not let short-term tranquility outweigh the long-term benefits of honest interaction. I can recall times when strong words spoken to me were more loving than soft words that failed to help me look at myself honestly. I need to remember that in dealing with others, risking estrangement, even, for the sake of their souls. I need to care enough to correct, love enough to rebuke, leaving the results in God's hands.


Father, this is a difficult thing. As I have demonstrated time and time again, I don't have the wisdom or depth of love to do it right. However, You do, and I know I can trust You. Help me listen to You and allow You to love others through me, so that together we may avoid the traps of the devil and walk in the love, the purity, the growth that You intend for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



箴言 22:15 愚かさは子どもの心につながれている。懲らしめの杖がこれを断ち切る。

In America, at least, the small percentage of parents who abused this verse have caused the vast majority to abandon it entirely. The very idea of “corporal punishment” is anathema to many parents who are otherwise logical, thoughtful people. The problem is, there's a lot of truth in this verse! Infants by definition know nothing of the world, and their ignorance can cause them to act very foolishly. The first time or two, gentle but firm correction is certainly the best idea, but if the behavior persists, stronger measures are certainly called for. As children age they gain intellectual prowess in figuring out what is dangerous and what isn't, what is acceptable and what isn't. The problem is that many parents punish their children in anger, rather than objectively, and that can create a host of problems. What needs to come across is, “you are my dearly loved child, but that behavior isn't acceptable.” Parents sometimes feel so guilty about their mistakes that they become paranoid about punishing their children at all, and the fallout from that reverberates through society as a whole! There is no such thing as loving your children too much, but that is not at all the same thing as indulgence. Proper parental love will express itself in correction and punishment as needed, as well as in many other ways.


This is an issue that is dear to my heart because I see it all around me. So many people carry severe emotional and developmental handicaps because of failing to be loved properly as children. I tell couples in premarital counseling that the opposite of love isn't punishment, it's indifference, but I wonder how well that gets through to them. I am blessed to have that opportunity to make an impact, and I must not give up. Right now my own children are in the throes of raising my grandchildren, and they are no more perfect at it than I was. I am not to meddle, but I am to be available for advice as it is sought. The difficult thing in giving such advice to anyone is that the children involved aren't mine, and I'm not involved with them day in and day out like the parents are. I need to pray for parents and children alike and be available, and restrained, when God wants to speak a word or two through me.


Father, thank You for being the perfect Father, and as such the perfect example for us. Help us recognize Your discipline and mend our ways, walking in the way You know is best and leaving foolishness behind, for our blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




箴言 22:15 愚かさは子どもの心につながれている。懲らしめの杖がこれを断ち切る。

In America, at least, the small percentage of parents who abused this verse have caused the vast majority to abandon it entirely. The very idea of “corporal punishment” is anathema to many parents who are otherwise logical, thoughtful people. The problem is, there's a lot of truth in this verse! Infants by definition know nothing of the world, and their ignorance can cause them to act very foolishly. The first time or two, gentle but firm correction is certainly the best idea, but if the behavior persists, stronger measures are certainly called for. As children age they gain intellectual prowess in figuring out what is dangerous and what isn't, what is acceptable and what isn't. The problem is that many parents punish their children in anger, rather than objectively, and that can create a host of problems. What needs to come across is, “you are my dearly loved child, but that behavior isn't acceptable.” Parents sometimes feel so guilty about their mistakes that they become paranoid about punishing their children at all, and the fallout from that reverberates through society as a whole! There is no such thing as loving your children too much, but that is not at all the same thing as indulgence. Proper parental love will express itself in correction and punishment as needed, as well as in many other ways.


This is an issue that is dear to my heart because I see it all around me. So many people carry severe emotional and developmental handicaps because of failing to be loved properly as children. I tell couples in premarital counseling that the opposite of love isn't punishment, it's indifference, but I wonder how well that gets through to them. I am blessed to have that opportunity to make an impact, and I must not give up. Right now my own children are in the throes of raising my grandchildren, and they are no more perfect at it than I was. I am not to meddle, but I am to be available for advice as it is sought. The difficult thing in giving such advice to anyone is that the children involved aren't mine, and I'm not involved with them day in and day out like the parents are. I need to pray for parents and children alike and be available, and restrained, when God wants to speak a word or two through me.


Father, thank You for being the perfect Father, and as such the perfect example for us. Help us recognize Your discipline and mend our ways, walking in the way You know is best and leaving foolishness behind, for our blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



箴言 21:30 主の前では、どんな知恵も英知もはかりごとも、役に立たない。

There are minor differences between the two languages – the English says “against the Lord” and the Japanese says “before the Lord,” the English says “succeed” and the Japanese says “is of any use” – but the point is clear in either language: humans can't compare to God. It is very significant that a major part of the original temptation in the Garden of Eden was, “You will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5) In classical Greek thought that was called hubris, and it is the ultimate expression of pride. There is real irony to that, because God in His grace desires and intends that we become like His Son Jesus (Ephesians 4:13, 15) and Jesus prayed that we would be in Him as He is in the Father (John 17:21, 22). However, that is initiated from God's side and is something we receive and grow into, rather than anything we deserve. This verse is actually dealing with a subset of that whole issue, the matter of wisdom. It took an absurdly long time, but I finally woke up a few years ago to the fact that it's not that God is smarter than I am, it's that He's smart and I'm not. Human ingenuity is remarkable and God allows us to accomplish some amazing things, as the news informs us almost daily, but that doesn't change the fundamental fact that God is God and we're not. Being like God, from creation (Genesis 1:27) is never a question of equivalence.

英語の「主に逆らって」と、日本語訳の「主の前で」と少々異なっています。英語では「成功する」が日本語では「役に立たない」となっています。どちらの訳語にしても、要点は明白です。人は神にかなわないと言うことです。エデンの園で誘惑が始まったのですが、その大きな部分を占めていたのが、「あなたは神のようになれる」(創世記3:5)でした。古典ギリシヤ語では、傲慢を意味します。その究極にあるのが高慢です。本当に皮肉なことですが、恵み深い神様が望んでおられるのは、私たちが御子イエスにに似た者となることです。(エペソ4:13,15)そしてイエスはまた、イエスが御父にあるように、私たちもまたイエスの内にいるように祈りました。(ヨハネ17:21,22) しかし、それは神様の方から始められたことで、私たちはそれを頂き、成長すればよいのです。本来は私たちは受けるに値しないのですが。この節は、この問題全体、つまり知恵に関することを示すものです。ひどく時間がかかってしましましたが、私は2~3年前、神様が私より賢いことに、ようやく気がつきました。神様が知恵者であって、私ではないと悟ったのです。人間の創意工夫の才能は素晴らしく、神様は私たちに驚くべきことをなさせてくださっています。そうしたニュースなら毎日、あります。しかし、神様が神様であり、私たちは神様でないという根本的事実が変わることはありません。創造の時から人を神の形とされたことは(創世記1:27)疑う余地のないことです。

Application is indeed the big issue here: what difference should this make in the way I live? In the first place, I need to seek God's guidance in everything, particularly in planning. The Bible has almost countless passages that either say this explicitly or point out the stupidity of failing to do so. I need to be grateful for the abilities God has given me, but never be puffed up because of them. Rather, I need to submit everything – my abilities, my plans, my circumstances – to God and seek His kingdom and His righteousness, as Jesus said. (Matthew 6:33) After all, God's wisdom and power are infinite, and His plans will succeed!


Father, thank You for Your gracious blessings to us. They are certainly far more and better than we deserve. Help us recognize Your plans for us and rejoice to follow them, because Your provision is always abundant when we are in Your will. Specifically, I ask for Your clear guidance as I shepherd this flock, that moment by moment we may be and do what You desire, nothing less, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



箴言 20:11 幼子でさえ、何かするとき、その行いが純粋か、正しいのかどうかを明らかにする。

God is the only one who knows someone's heart before they act, but a person's actions, their lifestyle, can make their heart pretty clear. This is the major thrust of the letter of James. Martin Luther, having re-discovered the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, called James a “book of straw,” but today we have great need of it because of the many Christians who claim faith but don't demonstrate it in their daily lives. On the other side of that coin, external rules and regulations can create a semblance of rightness but not touch the inner man. That's why Jesus had such a fight with the Pharisees, and why legalism in general is such a snare. That creates something of a difficult balance for any thinking person who desires to be right with God and with men. The more we care about it, the more we are forced to depend on God, because only He can really cleanse our motives and purify our actions. However, that doesn't eliminate our responsibility to be committed to righteousness. Saying we want to please God but failing to seek to live according to the Bible is hypocrisy, pure and simple. However, as human beings we are quite prone to misinterpret each others' actions, ascribing motives that aren't there and receiving hurts that were never sent. That's one of several reasons why a judgmental attitude is very dangerous.


I have certainly walked through the middle of this struggle, and I won't be out of it until I stand before God's throne! As a physical and spiritual father I am responsible for guiding and correcting my children, so I need to be evaluating their activity. However, if I sit in judgment on them I put myself in the place of God, and that is dangerous in the extreme. I've got to be faithful and constant in seeking God's evaluation, of myself and others, and respond accordingly. He is the only one who fully knows our hearts, as well as all of our actions.


Father, I have blundered so many times in this area, failing to ask You how I should act or respond to someone. Forgive me. Help me entrust people to You indeed, not focusing on them so much as I focus on You, so that I may be encouraging and not judgmental, helpful and not hindering. I pray that all of us in this church, and all those You will add, may focus more and more on pleasing You in thought, word and deed, so that Your purposes for us may be fulfilled for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



箴言 19:22 人の望みは、人の変わらぬ愛である。貧しい人は、まやかしを言う者にまさる。

Not knowing Hebrew, I don't know how “A man's greed is his shame” would be an alternate translation for “What a man desires is unfailing love,” as the NIV indicates in a footnote, but either way, this verse speaks to me. People can say what they want to, but in the depth of their being, what they really hope for is to be loved and to love, because that is what we were created for. The devil deceives us into thinking we really want riches or power or pleasure, and those things delight for a while, but many rich and/or powerful people have the taste of ashes in their mouths, because they have abandoned love in their pursuit of other things. People are quick to lie, to try to deceive, to get what they think they want, not understanding that such behavior is antithetical to the love they really crave. Not only does deception interfere with loving human interaction, it shuts us off from the greatest love of all, that of God for us. Paul stated in the strongest terms in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, but we've got to be honest with God and with ourselves to be able to receive the full benefits of that love. Anyone who is pretending they have not sinned isn't walking in God's love.


I have been blessed incredibly in the area of love, to the point that some are jealous. I was raised in a genuinely loving family, and that included appropriate discipline. I was given a loving wife at what many consider a very young age, and our love has grown and matured over the past 41 years. Above all, I have known that God loves me, and that has been a rock in the middle of some stormy times. I don't think I've ever thought God didn't love me. I've known at times that He wasn't happy about things I did, and He has been gracious in correcting me, though that correction was sometimes painful. I had the incredible advantage of being raised by a father who lived by the principle of absolute honesty, and that has made a huge difference. I have lied at times to gain what I thought at the time was advantage of some sort, but I have been quick to recognize it was no advantage at all. I have a tendency to tell too much, actually, and that has caused problems at times, but I prefer that to being deceptive. As a pastor in Japan I face many challenges, because honesty is not valued as highly as surface harmony, and I have difficulty communicating not just the Biblical principle of total honesty, but even the idea that it is desirable. I need the anointing of the Holy Spirit to get through to people, because logical argument doesn't do the job. The devil is a liar and the father of lies, as Jesus said (John 8:44), and he does his utmost to wall us off from the love we desire and for which we were created. I've got to speak the truth in love at all times, regardless of the immediate response, so that people will have a chance to know the truth and be set free indeed.


Father, I didn't expect all of this from this verse! Thank You for Your faithfulness to speak to me. Help me indeed be faithful to speak the truth in love, being unstinting in both halves of that: love and truth. Keep me from saying more than I should. Help me gauge people's hearing ability accurately, so that I won't turn them off with a flood of information, however true (which I'm quite prone to do). Help me love people enough to risk rejection, so that Your truth may indeed set them free, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!