ヨハネ 3:5-6 イエスは答えられた。「まことに、まことに、あなたに告げます。人は、水と御霊によって生まれなければ、神の国に入ることができません。肉によって生まれた者は肉です。御霊によって生まれた者は霊です。」

Earnest Christians work hard to bring people into the kingdom of God, but sometimes we forget that it can only be accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, there's a fair amount of discussion over whether being “born of water” refers to baptism or to amniotic fluid. Some people put so much weight on baptism (and it's often people who put little weight on the Holy Spirit) that it comes across as, “Get them dunked and they're saved.” That position is in pretty clear violation of the bulk of NT teaching! Baptism is important, but as I point out fairly frequently, the first person to join Jesus in heaven never had the opportunity to be baptized, because he was one of the men who were crucified at the same time. Salvation is a spiritual transaction, and we often show little understanding of that fact. We tend to think in terms of things like being saved from drowning, that is, a physical deliverance. Whereas it generally has physical repercussions, salvation is first and foremost a spiritual transaction, and forgetting that leaves us with a lot of unsaved church members.


This is a very immediate issue for me, as it is for every church leader and evangelist. From the human standpoint we look for behavioral change, but using psychological techniques for behavior modification doesn't achieve spiritual transformation. The whole issue of God's work and our work becomes very confusing at times. We are urged to be earnest in our obedience and to work hard at the tasks we are given, but good results are always by the grace and power of God, not by our effort. Forgetting that produces burnout, which is often fruitless on every level. I've got to remember that only the Holy Spirit can change people's souls, and also that He will use me in that process if I will stay available to Him. I have baptized people who weren't ready, but I have also seen some pretty remarkable transformations. I need to pray for people to be born of the Spirit indeed, without trying to avoid my part in that process.


Father, thank You for the counseling time yesterday. That girl was amazingly open, though at the same time remarkably ignorant of the Gospel, even though she sported a crucifix as a decoration. Thank You for giving her an awareness of right and wrong, so that the Gospel was indeed good news to her. I pray that as she reads the material I gave her that she would open her heart to You, to be born again by Your Spirit indeed. May she then in turn draw the rest of her family to You, convincing them by the power of a transformed life, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



ルカ 16:13 「しもべは、ふたりの主人に仕えることはできません。一方を憎んで他方を愛したり、または一方を重んじて他方を軽んじたりするからです。あなたがたは、神のも仕え、また富にも仕えるということはできません。」

Jesus' teachings are often repeated in the different Gospels, sometimes in different contexts. That may be from the use of common source materials, as some scholars insist, but it may also be because Jesus repeated Himself! I find various themes coming up again and again in my preaching, and my life is certainly linear! This statement about not being able to serve both God and money is important enough that Jesus probably said it several times, and it bears close examination today. Many, many people serve wealth, either because they have it or because they don't have it and they want it so badly. There are many problems with that. For one thing, wealth is a very cruel master, never giving real peace, joy, or contentment, but only momentary counterfeits. The biggest thing, however, is that as Jesus said, if you're serving money, you can't be serving God at the same time. A lot of people think that only the rich serve money, but actually far more poor people do. It's not a question of how much you have, but of where your priorities are. Jesus said very clearly that if we will make God our first priority, our needs will be met. (Matthew 6:33) We tend to forget, or at least not understand, that as God told the Israelites, He is a jealous God; He brooks no rivals. Paul points out that greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). That flies in the face of the world system, that says the person who dies with the most toys wins. The problem with that is, they're dead! Every part of that is a lie, and God wants to set us free from that.


I've done more than enough chasing after wealth, but that has been in spite of being raised in a family with a genuinely Biblical world view. That upbringing has protected me in large measure from seeking wealth for its own sake, but I have still lusted after things more often than I like to think about. God has been gracious in His provision, to the point that some people think we are quite well-off financially, when a large part of that has been unrelated to the world's financial system. Our bank balance has never been remarkable, but we have never gone hungry or naked. Experience has taught me to be at peace with that, but I deal with people every day who are very anxious about finances, and I need God's wisdom to deal with them. I need to help them understand that it's not an issue of provision, because God owns everything and isn't stingy, but it is an issue of our being in line to receive. I need to help them understand that if we are genuinely serving God, our needs will be met, just as any good employer provides for his employees.


Father, thank You for Your gracious provision. Help me be consistent in serving You, rather than serving the things You have given me, so that all these things, including my physical life itself, may accomplish what You intend them for, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ルカ 11:46, 52 しかし、イエスは言われた。「おまえたちもわざわいだ。律法の専門家たち。人々には負いきれない荷物を負わせるが、自分は、その荷物に指一本さわろうとはしない。わざわいだ。律法の専門家たち。おまえたちは知識のかぎを持ち去り、自分も入らず、入ろうとする人々をも妨げたのです。」

The people Jesus was talking to here were a far cry from the teacher of the Law that He talked to in Mark 12! This is the image that sticks in our minds, and it's a pathetic one indeed. This is the legalist, who is terribly picky about the details of the rules, but totally ignores the reason for which they were written. Sad to say, their number is not few even today. Such people get adamant about the accuracy or inaccuracy of a particular Bible translation, but they don't live out the command to love their neighbor. When they are involved in missions, as Jesus said in Matthew 23:15, they “travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, [they] make him twice as much a son of hell as [they] are.” That's pretty severe condemnation! And actually, such people are really to be pitied, because as Jesus says here, they have the key to the knowledge of God, but they won't go in and receive the salvation they claim to have. They are the ultimate example of self deception, as James 1:22 says, because they are convinced they are right, but in focusing on true things they have missed the Truth entirely.


Every time I get to such passages I tremble, because God has made me a teacher of His Word, and I must learn from these people's bad example. Repentance is indeed essential for salvation, but trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit in convicting people of sin is fatal, to them and to me. I am not to draw back from speaking the Truth, but I must always do it in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Since I have been given the key to knowledge of God, as Jesus said, I must be earnest to enter in, drawing people with me, rather than standing outside and making pronouncements. I am not to condone error, but there are times when I must overlook it, or I will miss the Truth myself. Perceiver gifting (Romans 12:6-8) tends to see things in black and white, which can add clarity but can also be merciless. Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 when He said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13) I must be true to the Word, but I must not miss God, Who is love, in the process.


Father, this is something I have struggled with over the years. I have indeed been soft on sin and error, my own and that of others, but I have seen the ravages that legalism has wrought in so many lives. Help me be true to You both in Word and Spirit, helping people get out of the mud they are stuck in, rather than just telling them they shouldn't be there. Keep me from being one who piles burdens on people. Rather, help me direct them to Christ, because Your yoke is indeed easy, and Your burden is light. Keep me also from excusing sin in myself. Help me be an example and an encouragement that it is indeed possible by Your grace to live in joyful obedience, so that many will join me in the journey, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




ルカ 10:29 しかし彼は、自分の正しさを示そうとしてイエスに言った。「では、私の隣人とは、だれのことですか。」

Everyone has the tendency to want to justify themselves, so it's pretty easy to recognize when someone's doing it. However, Jesus used this as an opportunity to tell one of His most famous parables. It's important to notice that this Pharisee had given a very correct answer to the question of how to inherit eternal life; the only problem was that for him it was a matter of words only. That's the problem with a catechism: giving the correct answers doesn't guarantee we've internalized them. It is indeed helpful to know the tenets of faith, and I have read a pretty compelling argument for the use of catechisms, but when they are used, those in the mentoring position must be careful to help those learning to both understand the words they speak and seek to put them into practice. Even if catechisms as such aren't in the picture, each of us needs to be careful to apply the truth we know, or we will be in danger of deceiving ourselves, as James says. (James 1:22)


As a pastor, I am very much on both sides of this situation. Having grown up in a home that was saturated with the Bible, a large percentage of it is in my mind, whether or not I can give chapter and verse. However, applying it consistently has been a different question entirely, and I have shown myself to be quite expert at deceiving myself. I've got to stand against that! At the same time, I am charged with teaching the Word to others. When I do so, I need to focus on application, application application. I must not present the Truth of God as something abstract, but help my hearers understand how it applies to them so that they may put it into practice. I think I've really fallen down in that area in the past, but by God's grace I'm improving. Some have reacted to that by feeling I was getting “too personal,” but the Word must be personal if it is to impart life.


Father, You have talked to me many times about this issue, because You know my weakness in this area. Thank You. Help me indeed learn the lessons You teach me, so that I will be faithful and effective in teaching others, so that together we may be Your disciples indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ルカ 7:47 「だから、わたしは『この女の多くの罪は赦されている』と言います。それは彼女がよけい愛したからです。しかし少ししか赦されない者は、少ししか愛しません。」

I think this story is often misunderstood, and/or misinterpreted. I doesn't seem to me that Jesus ways saying she was forgiven as a reward for loving, but rather that she loved so much because she had been forgiven. We tend to get that backward sometimes because of our misunderstanding of grace. It's not, “I've got to love God more so that He will forgive me,” it's “Wow! God has forgiven me so much, how could I not love Him?” Love for God is not something we work up or generate, it is the natural response and outflow when we understand how much He loves us. Part of the problem is in our limited understanding of sin. We don't know how how bad our own sins are, because we tend to excuse them, so we don't appreciate the magnitude of God's grace that forgiveness is available through the cross of Christ. Anyone who fails to love God is lacking in understanding of their own sinfulness, past and present. The other side of that is that we also need to understand that our sins really are forgiven, once we confess them to God in genuine repentance. Many people carry around guilt from past sins that are already dealt with, and that is crippling. We should not forget that humanly speaking we are so weak as to have committed those sins, but we are to rejoice that in Christ we are a new creation, declared holy by God and destined to grow into the likeness of His Son. When we really understand that, we will love God indeed!


So many people around me lack any real understanding of grace, love, and forgiveness. I keep coming back to this awareness, because it is the greatest barrier to people coming into God's full salvation. I have no persuasive power to open people's eyes to God's truth, but the Holy Spirit does, so I've got to rely on Him. I've done more than enough bemoaning of the cultural issues in this area that are such a trap to the Japanese. Rather, I need to look to God and trust and expect Him to set people free. Today's message is on expecting God to do marvelous things; I've got to do that myself! Understanding what God has done for me, I should be expecting Him to do it for others as well, and not be so surprised when it happens! I need to trust Him enough to release each person to Him, remembering how He has dealt with me so patiently and faithfully, and let His love flow through me to them. I am not to draw back when that love involves correction or even discipline, but I must be sure that it is His love and not my pride or hurt feelings. Remembering His grace toward me, I need to let that grace flow through me to others.


Father, thank You yet again for Your truly amazing grace. I have prayed to love You more; may I have an ever growing appreciation of Your love and grace so that I will indeed love You more, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ルカ 7:9 これを聞いて、イエスは驚かれ、ついて来ていた群衆のほうに向いて言われた。『あなたがたに言いますが、このようなりっぱな信仰は、イスラエルの中にも見たことがありません。」

I would like to have been there when Jesus was amazed! This was a blessing the Holy Spirit hadn't told Him was coming, and it knocked His socks off. I'm sure He felt good at least the rest of the day! For the person who is teaching the things of God, finding faith in someone is the highest reward, and this was faith of the highest order. Jesus had been trying to help his disciples understand who He was, and the Bible records in many places just how slow they were to learn. However, here was a Gentile who understood the authority that Jesus had, and he expressed that very clearly and practically. If we were to have that level of faith, we would never be anxious about anything, and we would be instant in our obedience! Real faith isn't an intellectual exercise, it's practical and immediate on the level of eating, sleeping, and breathing, even. What we say is important, as both Jesus (Matthew 12:36-37) and Paul (Romans 10:9, etc.) say, but if that is just words, it is meaningless. Real faith acts out the words that are spoken, as James points out throughout his letter, and this Roman centurion was a perfect example of that.


As a man of words, I've got to be constantly on the lookout that I don't stop with words, but follow through. I need to trust God with the kind of faith the centurion had, both knowing that He can do something and acting accordingly. I sing, and say, that God can do anything and nothing is too difficult for Him, but I still get anxious and think of contingency plans if He doesn't follow through. That's not real faith! I'm not to insist that He do whatever I have dreamed up, but I am to expect Him to be absolutely true to His Word.


Father, too often I've blamed You, at least subconsciously, for things that were the result of my failures. Forgive me. Help me trust You in practical terms all the time, knowing that Your plans are indeed for my good. Keep me from complaining, even internally. Keep me pressing forward in all You have for me, not doubting You for a moment but exercising the faith You have given me, so that Your will may be accomplished for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ルカ 6:36 「あなたがたの天の父があわれみ深いように、あなたがたも、あわれみ深くしなさい。」

Many places in the Bible speak of our being like God, or at least imitating Him, in holiness, mercy, and various other characteristics. As the saying goes, “Like father, like son.” We are quick to apply that to Jesus, but we are much slower to apply it to ourselves. Some of that comes from genuine humility, because we see how very far we are from being like God so much of the time, but if we are honest, we will admit that part of it comes from a rebellious spirit that doesn't want to be like God. The devil has tricked us into thinking that going our own way in self-centeredness is the way to satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness, when nothing could be further from the truth. There is ultimately no real peace, no joy, satisfaction or happiness, apart from God. God doesn't want us to be miserable for eternity, so He does all He can to conform us to the likeness of Christ, starting with the cross of Christ itself. The more we accept and welcome what He is doing in us, the more, and the faster, we become like Jesus. That is where true peace and joy lie, until we enter into ultimate peace and joy before the throne of God.


I have had incredible advantages in this area, from my ancestry all the way through the present, but I have been remarkably slow to apply them. Given the examples I grew up with in my own home, it would seem that being Christlike would be my automatic first choice. However, it certainly hasn't worked that way! Just like everyone else, I need to make the clear, conscious choice to be like Jesus, and renew that choice daily – sometimes hourly, or even more often! Temptations to abandon that path abound, and I must not take my spiritual condition for granted. The whole “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD) thing was quite a fad a few years ago. That was certainly one of the better fads, but as long as it is a fad, it doesn't make lasting changes. I am to keep God as my central, absolute priority, not as a bracelet or a bumper sticker, but with every part of my being. I cannot maintain that in my own strength, but I can make that choice and commit myself to God, and His power will work it in me.


Father, thank You yet again for Your patience with me. I have been so slow to learn! Thank You that You are indeed merciful, and patient and loving and all the rest, because otherwise I'd be totally lost. Help me indeed not rely on my own strength, which is nothing but weakness, and rather rely fully on You, so that Your power may transform me into the likeness of Your Son indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



マルコ 12:32-33 そこで、この律法学者は、イエスに言った。「先生。そのとおりです。『主は唯一であって、そのほかに、主はない。』と言われたのは、まさにそのとおりです。また『心を尽くし、知性を尽くし、力を尽くして主を愛し、また隣人をあなた自身のように愛する』ことは、どんな全焼のいけにえや供え物よりも、すっとすぐれています。」

When Jesus tells someone, “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” we had better pay attention! We tend to paint all the Pharisees and teachers of the Law with the same brush, thinking they were all hypocritical legalists, but Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and this teacher of the Law had his head on straight. The problem was that most of them were focusing on peripheral issues, because that allowed them to ignore the condition of their own hearts. However, this man cut to the heart of the issue and acknowledged that, with a right understanding of Who God is, what matters most is love for Him and for our neighbor. I feel sure that, at least after the resurrection, he was a disciple, and perhaps was even among the 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Some people act like, or even say, that academic learning is antithetical to faith. However, this man was the equivalent of a PhD, and for that matter, so was Paul. Intellect (mind) is one of the things listed in the “greatest commandment” that we are to use in loving God! The point is that our focus is to be on God rather than on anything else: not gifts or abilities, not wealth or possessions, not rules or regulations. When that is the case, we will discover His love for us, and we will in turn be able to let that love flow to those around us, since we are secure in God's love.


I find myself fighting the battle for God's truth on many fronts at once. For starters, I've got to be careful that I myself am walking in the truth, and not deceiving myself or allowing the devil to deceive me. Then, I've got to stand firm against the great multitude and variety of lies that are expressed to me by people who are themselves deceived. Lastly, I am called and commissioned to express God's truth to others so that it will penetrate and set them free from the deceptions that bind them. My wisdom and strength certainly aren't up to the task! I've got to stay humble and submitted to God, not despising the intellectual and other gifts He has given me, but not relying on them either. Rather, they are to be tools in His hands for the task of setting people free and bringing them into His kingdom.


Father, thank You for the degree of understanding that You give me. Keep me from thinking it's anything I've generated! Help me communicate that understanding to others, so that together we may enter Your kingdom indeed, bringing many, many more with us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




マルコ 12:10-11 「あなたがたは、次の聖書のことばを読んだことがないのですか。『家を建てる者たちの見捨てた石、それが礎の石になった。これは主のなさったことで、私たちの目には、不思議なことである。』」

Things that God does are often amazing to us, sometimes because they are miraculous, but more often because we simply would never have thought of them. We say it, but we still have trouble grasping the reality that God is outside of time, seeing the end from the beginning, and He is perfectly wise. Chess masters get that way by being able to project what is likely to happen several moves in advance. God does that perfectly! Just as a chess master might make a move that would seem surprising to someone who was merely competent in the game, God knows all the consequences of every action down through the generations, which causes Him to do things for our good that at the time might seem anything but good. The particular thing Jesus was talking about here was actually His own crucifixion, which at the time seemed the most horrible of things, yet God designed and intended it for the salvation of all who would believe. That's not to say that everything in the world is as God would like it to be; the Bible is very clear on that point in many places and God has spoken it personally to me. However, for those who choose to love God and respond to His call, He works even the things that aren't good on the face of it to have good results. (Romans 8:28) That is to say, we all suffer from others' sins as well as from our own, but if we choose to submit those things to God, He can and will turn them around for good, and that is indeed “marvelous in our eyes.”


It has taken so many years for this truth to work its way into my thick skull, and I still ignore it at times! Getting upset at circumstances accomplishes nothing good, and it is certainly emotionally exhausting. That's not to say that I'm to act like I think everything is good. That would be insulting to those around me who are suffering, and a violation of Romans 12:15, which Brother Hiroki preached on Sunday in my absence. However, I am to teach believers, by word and example, to trust God and look for the good that He will bring out of everything they release to Him.


Father, I remember the time when I was praying with a church member, close to 20 years ago, and You spoke through me, “Don't be amazed at what amazes others. Rather, expect marvelous things from Me.” Help me be obedient to that Word. I am still so prone to get upset at circumstances. Forgive me. Thank You for such little things as keeping me from getting that extra computer power supply to a recycle shop back when I intended to do that, because You knew I'd need it today. Help me walk today, and each day, in full trust and obedience, anticipating with joy the good that You are going to bring out of everything, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah! 



マルコ 10:23 イエスは、見回して、弟子たちに言われた。「裕福な者が神の国に入ることは、何とむずかしいことでしょう。」

Even at face value, many people choke on this teaching, but it actually goes deeper than that. As the risen Christ said to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), thinking you are well-off, without need, is the biggest trap. That's not limited to financial wealth, even though that was the particular situation of the person who prompted Jesus to say this. This is a complicated thing to talk about, or really even think about, because we aren't to run around feeling needy. As Paul said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) However, as Jesus stressed in the Sermon on the Mount, awareness of need is the key to blessing. (Matthew 5:2-10) We aren't to feel that God hasn't met our immediate needs, but we are to be aware that there's always more, and seek it in Christ. However, that “more” is not to be things of the world! God is infinite and we are finite, so by definition God always has more for us, but we are to seek Him rather than just the things He gives us – and most especially more than material things. We are to be grateful for what we have been given, but always press in for more of God.


This is an issue I deal with constantly, in myself and in others, because it's part of the human condition. I recall the report I read of a pastor in southern Sudan who, on being told by an American that American Christians were praying for them in their poverty, responded, “We pray for you in your wealth. That is harder.” I must never think I have “arrived,” in any area of life, but always press in for more of God. I need to believe, trust, and teach that God's supply is always sufficient, without putting people down for their very real needs. I need special anointing to help them realize that however great their physical or material need might be, their spiritual need is greater.


Father, thank You for the example I had in my physical father. I remember Bob Culpepper, in that small missionary memorial service in the Culpepper home right after we had gotten news of my father's death, talk about how my father loved the chorus that says “I want more of Jesus, more and more and more.” That's an example I desire to follow, including the way my father modified the last line of that song to say, “so I'll give Him more of me.” Help me indeed give all I know of myself to all I know of You, growing and enlarging that commitment as I grow in knowledge of myself and of You. May I be an example to others as my father was to me, so that more and more may enter into true discipleship, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




マタイ 24:14 「この御国の福音は全世界に宣べ伝えれて、すべての国民にあかしされ、それから、終わりの日が来ます。」

When the Peter speaks of “speeding” the coming of the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:12), this is doubtless what he is referring to, because he was there when Jesus said it. I'm sure later circumstances in his life had caused the memory of Jesus' words to be engraved in his mind! There are probably moments for every Christian in which they would like Christ to return right now! However, proclaiming the Gospel to all nations is the only activity we can do that has anything to do with God's timing. Modern technology has made it physically possible for the first time to proclaim the Gospel to everyone, but it ultimately comes down to a “one to one” transaction; leaving it up to the “professionals” just doesn't cut it. Probably a majority of Christians have something of a panic reaction when confronted with their responsibility to share the Gospel, being afraid of people's reaction and being very uncertain they can do it in the first place. That comes from focusing on yourself, your abilities and how you will be received. The key, to this and to everything else in the Christian life, is getting your eyes off of yourself and onto God, who loved us enough to send Christ to die for us and whose love has not changed since then.


Since I am what most people consider a “professional Christian,” I find that my words are taken with that in mind. That is, non-believers expect me to urge Christ on them, and Christians think, “Oh, he can do it because he's a pro.” Like Paul said, I can't not share the Gospel! (2 Corinthians 5:11, 14) As a pastor, I am charged with equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12), not with doing it all myself! I need to teach and admonish and encourage the believers to recognize, accept, and then share the love of God, because the 2 Corinthians passage should apply to every believer! I am to teach and train so that people will have Biblical grounding in the truth they are to share, but the motivation must be the love of God. I can't force people to appropriate it, but I can work to open their eyes to recognize it.


Father, thank You for recent progress in this area in our church. Thank you for the opportunity You gave me here yesterday. Thank You that the wisdom and the power are Yours, because mine are certainly not up to the task! I ask for wisdom and power right now for the things that are to be done before we will be ready to leave here to go home. I ask for a smooth trip, in all senses of the word. I pray that the seeds You have allowed us to plant here will bear rich fruit in Your time, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



マタイ 17:4 すると、ペテロが口出ししてイエスに言った。「先生。私たちがここにいることは、すばらしいことです。もし、およろしければ、私が、ここに三つの幕屋を造ります。あなたのために一つ、モーセのために一つ、エリヤのために一つ。」

Peter's impulsiveness and his very human stupidity at times are what endear him to many people, because we recognize ourselves in him. I like it that the Japanese doesn't just say “it's good for us to be here,” (like the English says) but says, “It's wonderful!” There's no record of how the disciples knew it was Moses and Elijah, but Peter reacted like people tend to do with TV or movie stars today. He didn't really grasp that he lived day in and day out with the Son of God, and even Moses and Elijah were relatively small potatoes compared to Him! It was only when the Father spoke in an audible voice in the glowing cloud that surrounded even the disciples that it really hit Peter that he was in the presence of Deity. The problem was, he lived in the presence of Deity, and only had brief moments of recognition of that fact.


The old, “familiarity breeds contempt” thing works just as strongly in me, too. We all get used to blessings and take them for granted, and lose a good bit of the benefit over time. The past couple of days we have breezed by vistas that I wanted to stop and record with my camera, at least, but our local hosts were so used to them that they hardly even saw them. I'm no better off than they are, because my life is filled to overflowing with blessings I am so used to that I can't see they are blessings. I preach on gratitude, but I need to practice it! I find that I often get resistance and even resentment when I try to help others recognize their blessings, so I need to be gentle and patient with all. As in so many things, the key is in getting our eyes off of ourselves, and even off of what we have been given, and onto the One who gives them to us.


Father, thank You for this trip that You have provided for Cathy and me. Thank You for all we have already experienced, and for what today and tomorrow hold. Keep us from failing to recognize Your blessings because of being so fixated on our own agendas. May we be fully open, not only to receive what You want to give us but also for You to pour through us to others what You want to give them, so that in everything You may be glorified. Thank You. Praise God!



マタイ 12:7 「『わたしはあわれみは好むが、いけにえは好まない』ということがどういう意味かを知っていたら、あなたがたは、罪のない者たちを罪に定めはしなかったでしょう。」

People are quick to seize on externals, when God is far more interested in what is going on inside of us. In the physical realm, it's barely been a century since x-rays were developed, and such things as CT, MRI, and PET scans are of course much more recent, not to mention endoscopes. In the spiritual realm we haven't even gotten to the x-ray level. However, the Holy Spirit sees right through everyone, both physically and spiritually, and sometimes He clues us in as to what is really going on. On a more consistent level, the Bible gives us plenty of guidelines as to what should be going on. The Bible does talk about external activities a great deal, because they are far easier for us to monitor, but we must not make the mistake of focusing on those externals.


I am in an interesting practicum on this right now. I find I feel somewhat guilty for “abandoning” my church on a Sunday, but at the same time I am sharply aware of the pressures faced by the solitary believer we are visiting. I've never been in as actively Shinto a situation as this before, and it's hard to imagine what she goes through on a daily basis without like-minded Christian fellowship, with the closest Protestant church hours away on another island. I am to speak encouragement and blessing to her, building her up rather than attacking her on any level. The contrast between her situation and that of many others is striking. She would love to attend worship regularly but can't, while others have abundant opportunities and yet allow anything under the sun to be an excuse to keep them away. I am not to focus on externals, but I am to allow the Holy Spirit to use me to shine a light on people's hearts, so that they may see and acknowledge what is going on, repent, and receive forgiveness and restoration.


Father, this is a hard thing, but it's far from the first difficult task You've set for me! Help me grow in active dependence on Your Spirit, so that I won't get in the way of what You want to do through me. Give me strong love for the people I am with, that will value their blessing more than my comfort. May I not speak out of turn, but may I not draw back from speaking whatever You desire to say through me. May I always value Your opinion more than that of any person, and so stay true to You both spiritually and physically, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



マタイ 10:41 「預言者を預言者だというので受け入れる者は、預言者の受ける報いを受けます。また、義人を義人だということで受け入れるもの者は、義人の受ける報いを受けます。」

This is a very interesting principle, and one that probably operates in the reverse as well. That is, if someone is rejected because they are a prophet, or righteous, then those who reject them are in deep trouble indeed! The whole section from verse 40 to verse 42 is one I have thought about a great deal since coming to Omura. Many people have been gracious and generous to me and my family, and I find myself wondering what their reward will be. If they are nice to us simply because that's the way they are, or because they feel that is the culturally expected thing to do, I don't think it's wasted, but it's not what Jesus is talking about here. However, if they are nice to us because we come in Jesus' name and seek to share Him with others, then their reward will certainly not be lacking. God, as always, looks at the heart, and acts according to our motives.


This is a very immediate issue, when someone we have never met is providing us with transportation and a place to stay on our trip, simply because as a Christian, a mutual Christian friend told them about our plans. They will certainly not lose their reward! From the other side, Cathy and I have entertained many people who were “travelers in Christ,” so to speak. I leave our reward up to God, because He knows we didn't do it for the sake of a reward. I find myself much more concerned about the many people who have received us, yet who, to our knowledge, have never received Christ. I can only continue to share the Gospel with them, and leave the results up to God.


Father, this is something that concerns me very much. There have been people who have been very close to us, yet died without becoming Christians. There are several others who, though alive at this point, seem very much in danger of the same thing. I ask for more anointing to be able to get through to them, so that Your truth will set them free from the lies that have trapped them. I am painfully aware that I cannot convince them of the Gospel in my own strength. I have worn myself out trying! Help me be faithful to communicate Christ without taking people's response as my personal responsibility. I ask for ever-increasing effectiveness in the task, but I know that it is only by Your grace and power that anyone is saved. May that grace and power be more and more effective in and through me, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



マタイ 6:25 だから、わたしはあなたがたに言います。自分のいのちのことで、何を食べようか、何を飲もうかと心配したり、また、からだのことで、何を着ようとか心配したりしてはいけません。いのちは食べ物よりたいせつのもの、からだは着物よりたいせつなものではありませんか。

In English I have heard some good, “punny” advice for Bible reading: When there's a “therefore,” be sure you understand what it's there for. In Japanese, I would make a slightly more stretched pun. “Dakara” (therefore) is very similar to “takara” (treasure). Any time you find a “dakara,” it's likely to indicate a treasure of truth! The particular treasure that hit me from this morning's passage is that this one word links Jesus' very clear statement that no one can serve two masters, with His telling us equally clearly, and in more detail, not to worry. In other words, worrying means we're not really serving God! As the Lord had me say in a message a few weeks ago, if we're submitted to a problem, we are not submitted to God. We have such trouble believing all of the reality that God both knows and cares about every detail of our lives. The better we know God, the more we will trust Him and submit every detail of our lives to Him. If He's in control, why should we worry?


I grew up in an atmosphere that encouraged trusting God, so for me the problem has been in distinguishing between trusting and presuming. I have wasted time and energy being anxious, and I have wasted opportunities being presumptuous. I have sinned in both areas. This isn't the sort of thing we can decide once and be done with, because temptations to anxiety and presumption come every day. I need to start, continue, and end each day with a conscious attitude of trusting obedience. I am to delight in the blessings God pours out on me, but I must never forget they are grace, and not anything I have earned. Thinking about it, being anxious is practically spitting in the face of God, because it is saying we don't trust Him, even after all He has done to demonstrate His love. As a pastor I deal with many anxious people. I am not to put them down, because I've been there. Rather, I am gently and firmly to point them to God, expressing His love and character in terms they can understand, so they can choose to serve Him and not their physical needs or desires.


Father, thank You for repeating this truth to me. Help me remember how many times You have had to tell me the same thing, so that I will have patience and understanding toward those to whom I speak Your truth. Thank You for what You are doing in this church, for the very real and very good changes I am seeing. It is doubly ironic when I am anxious about the church, because it's Your church to begin with! Help me be faithful in prayer and service, without thinking that I personally make anything happen. Help me be available at all times as Your instrument, so that You can make Your will happen in all that touches me, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




マタイ 5:43-45 「『自分の隣人を愛し、自分の敵を憎め』と言われたのを、あなたがたは聞いています。しかし、わたしはあなたがたに言います。自分の敵を愛し、迫害する者のために祈りなさい。それでこそ、天におられるあなたがたの父の子どもになるのです。」

From our standpoint, Jesus redefined everything. His definitions of such things as love, joy, faithfulness, and religion are still at odds with the way society in general thinks. Even Christians face a constant challenge in maintaining a Biblical world view. A recent poll in the US showed that a distressingly small percentage of even those identified as “Evangelical Christians” had a genuinely Biblical world view. This particular passage is an excellent case in point. It is very famous, and I've had it quoted to me by several non-Christians, including some who were very antagonistic. They were giving me opportunity to practice what this says! Jesus' definition of love was certainly not sex and it wasn't even emotion. Jesus was talking about desiring the very best for the other person, to the point of being sacrificial about it. That is where “God is love” comes in. If we think of love as a schmaltzy, emotional thing, then “God is love” makes no sense at all. It is only when we recognize that the cross of Christ is the ultimate definition of love that we start to understand what it's all about. Loving people isn't about being a doormat (which is how some of our enemies want us to understand it, so they can walk all over us) it is about caring enough to do whatever is best for them, even at personal loss. This is where loving your children enough to discipline them comes in. It is often easier, at least in the short run, to cave in to children's demands, but a genuinely loving parent will expend the energy necessary to set boundaries and enforce them.


I have the incredible advantage of having been raised by parents with a Biblical world view, but that doesn't exempt me from the pressure to think like and define things as the world does. I've got to keep watch over my attitudes and thought processes to see that they line up with the Word, and repent quickly when I find they don't. As a pastor, I deal with people whose world views run the whole gamut, from Biblical to totally worldly. The temptation to associate with the former and avoid the latter is very real, but that in itself is part of the world's attitude, liking those who are like you and disliking those who aren't. I need to love them all with Godly love, desiring the very best for them and offering myself to God as His instrument of blessing for them. In that, I need to remember that God's very best for every human being is for them to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, and often that requires strong discipline. I need to love people enough to correct them, even at the risk of their rejecting me.


Father, that last point is one of the most painful in being a pastor, but You understand it far better than I do. Help me remember that my model is Jesus, who as Isaiah said was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53), yet who rejoiced to be Your agent of salvation. Help me recognize and appropriate Your love for me enough to let it flow through me unhindered to all, to those who love me in return and to those who don't, just as You do, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



マタイ 3:6 自分の罪を告白して、ヨルダン川で彼からバプテスマを受けた。

Frankly, this is something that has largely been lost, from the Protestant Church at any rate, and the Church is immensely poorer for it. People confess, “I am a sinner,” or “Jesus died for my sins,” but they don't confess specific, personal sins. That isn't always a problem, but all too often it leaves the person being baptized without a clear sense of being forgiven. It also tends to make the whole process formulaic, as though the words were all that mattered, rather than the attitude of the heart. This is not to say that public confession is to be the rule, but it has certainly been a hallmark of many great revivals over the centuries. When you've confessed sins before the congregation, it's not so likely you'll let pride puff you up after that! Most of us don't want to admit how bad our sins are, and so we seek excuse rather than forgiveness. That's not repentance at all. The formalization of “indulgences” by the Catholic Church was a major trigger for the Protestant Reformation, but we still seek them on an informal basis all the time. The problem is, we are guilty. There is no repentance without acknowledging that, and no forgiveness without repentance. Sometimes a general awareness of sinfulness and a desire to turn from it is sufficient, but as I've said, generalities can be risky.


This is a vital issue for me, both in my own walk and as a pastor. I must not whitewash my sins, but parading them before the congregation wouldn't be helpful. I've got to keep my repentance specific and current. As a pastor, I've got to encourage people to confess, in private at least, so that they can accept responsibility for their sins and thus receive the forgiveness God offers through Christ. The whole issue of guilt, repentance, and forgiveness isn't “politically correct” any more, and the devil is delighted with that fact. I need to help people grasp the reality of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, even though few today have any real background in their upbringing to prepare them to understand it. Saying that I need the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit is an understatement! My failures in this area have done major damage to this church over the years, and not just in baptizing people who then disappeared, though that has happened too many times. Japan being a “shame culture” rather than a “sin culture,” people are extremely loath to confess sin openly, because they have no emotional understanding that they can really be forgiven. It still boggles my mind that most Japanese, even Christians, are offended if someone says, “I forgive you,” because that means that in the eyes of the speaker at least, they have committed a sin. Hello! That's what people do! We commit sins against one another and against God all the time. I keep coming back to the conviction that this issue of sin, repentance, and forgiveness is what has held the Japanese back from Christ for so long. I must not give up, but allow God to speak and act through me so that His truth may penetrate and set people free, for their salvation and His glory.


Father, this is certainly not the first time You've spoken this to me. I hope I'm learning, a little bit at least. Keep me from relying on my own powers of logic and persuasion, because they are certainly ineffective, but keep me also from apathy and despair. I do see some who are walking in repentance and forgiveness (both receiving and giving), and I need to trust You and be encouraged. Help me release everyone – myself and those I work with – to You, expecting You to do great things, for our blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



ゼカリア 8:4 万軍の主はこう仰せられる。「再び、エルサレムの広場には、老いた男、老いた女がすわり、年寄りになって、手に杖を持とう。」

Aging is part of God's good plan for humanity. Current society worships youth, but that is an aberration. If we didn't age, most of us wouldn't be ready to move on to the next world! Among other things, aging is a reminder that “This world is not my home; I'm just passing through,” as the old Spiritual says it. Desiring and working for good health is entirely reasonable and appropriate, but that means different things at different ages. Quite a few people, mostly men, have literally killed themselves by acting much younger than they were. The various things that accompany aging aren't to be complained about, because there are many pluses along with the minuses.


At 61, this is present reality for me, and it will increasingly be so for as long as the Lord keeps me here. I am to strive to be a good steward of the body I've been given, but not grumble because it's not intended as eternal in its present form. I anticipate more than 20 productive years ahead of me, but the definition of productive will change as I go along. This is also training in delegation and mentoring, as I supply the wisdom while younger people supply the brawn. That's not at all so say that I'm to decide, “I'm old,” and stop being active. That would be irresponsible and would greatly hasten the aging process. Rather, it's to say that I am not to let pride do me in. Cathy's and my upcoming little trip is a good case in point. We are to enjoy it fully, but not be foolish about it.

61 歳ですが、これが今ある私の現実で、主がここで私を生かしてくださる限り、このまま年をとっていくでしょう。与えられた肉体を奉仕のために正しく用いるように努力せねばなりませんが、不平を言うことのないようにすべきです。今ある状態で永遠に残るわけではないのですから。まだまだこれからしっかりと20年以上は、生産的に生きれると期待していますが、生産的であることの定義も変化していくことでしょう。これもまた代表者、教師としての訓練でしょう。若い人に腕力をつけるように、私は知恵をつけていきます。「私は年をとっている」とか活動的であるのをやめてしまおうと決めつけることではありません。それでは無責任で、かえって老化を大幅に早めてしまいます。むしろ高慢に入る隙を与えないようにすべきでしょう。家内との小旅行はそのよい例です。沢山楽しみ、しかしあまり羽目を外さないようにしたいものです。

Father, thank You for all You are allowing us to experience, and for what You are teaching us in the process. This past week has been a rough one for us both, physically, but You are faithful. Thank You that Cathy can go to the dermatologist this morning, and for how much her back has improved since she hurt it Friday. Thank You that I have antihistamines I can take, and that they're helping my situation. Help us cooperate with the healing and health that You have for us, living fully and responsibly, so that all Your purposes for us may be fulfilled, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise the Lord!



ゼパニア 3:9 そのとき、わたしは、国々の民のくちびるを変えてきよくする。彼らはみな主の御名によって祈り、一つになって主に仕える。

What a glorious promise of unity across racial and cultural lines! It is important to realize that this is going to require change. (The Japanese is more explicit about this than the English is.) Cultural pride being what it is, each group is likely to think “They will have to become more like us,” when actually everyone is going to have to change! When it speaks of our lips being purified, it doesn't mean we'll all speak the same language, but rather that the content of our speech will change. No longer will we be boasting of anything other than Christ crucified. No longer will we be belittling our neighbor. No longer will we be deceptive or dishonest. Those things are traps and snares in every race and culture! We will truly speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), building one another up and giving praise and glory to God. This verse actually is a foreshadowing of Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17, when He prayed that all believers would enjoy the same unity enjoyed by the Trinity. Now that's true unity!


I am very much in the middle of an “already/not yet” situation. I know that Jesus has already accomplished everything necessary for the fulfillment of this Scripture, but I don't see it completed in my time frame. I cannot change anyone else, so I need to focus on my own lips and heart being submitted and obedient to God. I certainly have a history of wounding people with my words, erecting barriers instead of taking them down, thinking I was protecting or defending myself. I have repented, but I must not forget that I have that tendency, just as everyone else does. I cannot look down on anyone in that area! Rather, I must extend to them the grace that was given to me, so that the Holy Spirit may work in them and in me toward the fulfillment of the prophecy of this verse.


Father, unity is a major issue for this church, as it is for every church, and among churches. Keep me from demanding that everyone become like me (other than in my love for You!). Rather, lead us all to be so focused on Jesus that His character is manifested in each one, with all the glorious variety that You planned and intended from Creation. Help us understand the difference between unity and sameness. This culture has placed a high value on sameness, and it has blinded many to true unity. Help us all seek You so fully that our differences won't matter, and Christ will be manifested in us for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




ミカ 6:8 主はあなたに告げられた。人よ。何が良いことなのか。主は何をあなたに求めておられるのか。それは、ただ公義を行い、誠実を愛し、へりくだって、あなたの神とともに歩むことではないか。

Few if any places in the whole Bible express, as succinctly or as clearly as this does, the difference between external religion and genuinely pleasing God. Verses 6 and 7 express what the standard religions of the day were saying would please God. Sacrifices of infants were common in the worship of Molech, and every religion of the day practiced animal sacrifice. However, as the Bible is very consistent in saying, God is more interested in our inner selves. Once again I don't know the Hebrew, but it is very interesting that where the English says “act justly,” the Japanese uses a rather unusual combination of characters. The only difference from the standard form is that in the pair of characters that mean “justice,” “public righteousness,” the character for “righteousness” does not have the radical meaning “man.” That puts this passage in line with standard NT usage, with a divine rather than a human standard. That is especially important in Japan, which is known for situational ethics rather than an absolute standard of right and wrong. It is increasingly important in the US, in which more and more people are saying that there is indeed no absolute standard. That's throwing out not just the Bible, but the whole concept of a Holy God! This verse brings us back to the basics in the best sort of way. We need to live according to God's standards of right and wrong, expressing them consistently to those around us, remembering that it is only by God's grace and power that we are able to do any of this.


I find myself continually confronted with the last part of that: I have no strength or ability to do any of this right on my own. I desire to communicate this sort of “religion” (which is worlds removed from man-centered organized religion) to others, but I am continually faced with my own inability. Humble obedience is the only answer! If I will be personally faithful and keep myself available to God, then He will do remarkable things through me, destroying the works of the devil in people's hearts and minds and setting them free to walk in His light and life. As long as my focus is on me, that cannot happen; it is only when my focus is on Him, in humble, joyful obedience.


Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the assaults on Cathy's and my health that have happened in the past day or so, reminding us of our total dependence on You. Thank You for this training in submitting to You and not to the problem. Thank You for Your Word that by the wounds Christ bore, we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5) Thank You also that we have to appropriate that by faith. Help us do so, in all humility. May we walk in all Your good plans for us, and not allow the devil to steal anything, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ヨエル 2:13 あなたがたの着物ではなく、あなたがたの心を引き裂け。あなたがたの神、主に立ち返れ。主は情け深く、あわれみ深く、怒るのにおそく、恵み豊かで、わざわいを思い直してくださるからだ。

The idea of tearing your clothing as a sign of contrition or grief is common in the Bible, but it's certainly not current today. The point of this verse, however, is clear: don't try to impress God with conventionalized piety, because it won't work. Rather, get real and repentant before Him. God reminds us through Joel of His character. If we forget what God is like, we will either fail to come to Him or we will take Him for granted, and either of those courses is spiritually very dangerous. God allows trials in our lives to wake us up to our sinfulness and our need for Him. Thinking “I've done nothing to deserve this” when something bad happens is very risky. Our first course should always be honest self-examination, with genuine repentance when it is called for. At times, as with Job or with the man born blind in John 9, our trials don't have anything to do with sin. If the Holy Spirit doesn't show us anything of which we should repent, then the next step is to ask God what He wants us to learn through the trial. Sometimes He will tell us, but often a major part of what He wants us to learn is trust, both simple and deep. This is what Job was expressing when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15) Eventually the Lord showed Job that he had indeed held too small a conception of God, but then that is true for all of us. I'm sure that Job's faith was absolutely rock solid when everything was said and done! God will never allow anything in our lives that can't be for our good (Romans 8:28), but the level of blessing we receive depends on our honest response to God.

着物を引き裂く事は、聖書では悔恨や嘆きの共通の行為ですが、現代社会では見受けられません。この節のポイントは明白です。様式化した月並みの敬虔さで神に臨んではいけないということです。役に立たないからです。むしろ、神の御前、現実的になり悔い改めるべきです。神はヨエルと彼の性質を通して私たちに思い出させてくださっています。神がどのような方なのかを忘れると、神に近づかないか、あるいは神を当然視してしまうでしょう。そのいずれも、霊的に危険なことです。罪深さと神の必要性を気づかせるために、神は私たちの人生に試練を与えられます。何か悪いことが起こった時に、「私はこれに値するような悪いことは何もしていない。」と 考えるのはとても危険です。まず第一にすべきは、正直に自己吟味をすることです。求めに応じ、真の悔い改めをすることです。ヨブや、ヨハネ9章に出てくる生まれつき盲目の男のように、試練と罪とは無関係です。聖霊様が何を悔い改めるべきかを示して下さらないなら、次のステップは試練を通して学ぶべきことを神に尋ねましょう。神が語られることもありますが、ほとんどの場合、私たちに信頼を学ばせたいのです。単純で深いことです。ヨブが「主が私を殺しても、私は主を待ち望む」と表現しているとおりです。(ヨブ13:15)最終的に主はヨブが神を少ししか分かっていなかったことを示されましたが、私たちみんなにも言えることです。すべてが語られ、なされた時、ヨブの信仰は完全に強固だったと私は確信します。神はすべてのことを働かせて益としてくださいます。(ローマ8:28)けれども、私たちが受ける祝福の度合いは神への誠実な応じ方にかかっています。

I've run head-on into this in my own life, and certainly in the lives of those to whom I minister. The difficulty comes in sharing this truth with someone without making them feel you are disregarding their suffering and putting them down for it in the process! There's no question that I don't have the wisdom to do that consistently on my own, so I've got to be constantly seeking God's grace, guidance and anointing, to relate rightly with those around me. Recently the Lord has been giving me a higher perspective on my own difficulties, even including the oral pain I've been having the past couple of days, and it certainly makes things much easier to tolerate. I'm still learning, though! I need to be as gracious with others as God has been with me, and that requires a growing awareness and appreciation of that grace.


Father, thank You for all You allow me to experience. I can't say it's all fun, but the joy certainly outweighs the pain in the long run. Thank You for the pain as well as for the joy, because You mean it all for my good. Help me be increasingly conformed to the likeness of Your Son, so that through me many may be drawn from death to life, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



ホセア 14:9 知恵ある者はだれか。その人はこれらのことを悟るがよい。悟りある者はだれか。その人はそれらを知るがよい。主の道は平らだ。正しい者はこれを歩む。そむく者はこれにつまずく。

This verse could rightly be added to just about any place in the Bible! As it says in Proverbs and elsewhere, the true measure of wisdom is a right understanding of God, and that requires the help of the Holy Spirit. As Paul told the Corinthians, spiritual things are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14) The Bible is the Word of God, and someone with spiritual discernment is going to accept it as such. The Holy Spirit, being the Author, is certainly the best interpreter/commentator on the Bible. That said, the last part of this verse is really fascinating to me. The Japanese, being a more literal translation than the English NIV, says “The way of the Lord is level.” In a level road, there's nothing to make you stumble. However, it goes on to say that the rebellious will stumble there. It's all a matter of attitude. For example, if you are going up or down a staircase and have in your mind that there is one more, or one less, step than there really is, you will stumble when you reach the end. Likewise, you can be walking a level path and an optical illusion can make you think the way has a dip or a rise when it really doesn't, and you will stumble. The way of the Lord is very much like that. It takes submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit to help us understand just how level it really is, so we won't stumble. As long as we insist on making our own value judgments, we will stumble.


I've certainly experienced this in my own walk. Obedience to God is much easier in the long run than rebellion, whatever it looks like at the moment! The devil has done all he could to convince me that God was depriving me of what I should have, or that I didn't need something God was offering me, and there have been times when I've listened to the devil. The results have never been good! As I continue my life journey, I need to be sure that my feet are shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15) so that I will walk, with assurance, the level way God has laid out for me. As a pastor, I also need to help others understand this truth, as well as extend a loving hand when they do stumble.


Father, thank You for this insight this morning. It's a good one! I find myself torn about what I should speak on Sunday. Help me be faithful to listen to what You are saying to me and also discern what You want me to say to the flock, so that they will be nourished and guided and encouraged, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ホセア 11:3 それでも、わたしはエフライムに歩くことを教え、彼らを腕に抱いた。しかし、彼らはわたしがいやしたのを知らなかった。

God is incredibly gracious to mankind, but most of the time we don't recognize His hand. It is terribly ironic, blasphemous even, that in English we speak of an “act of God” only in relation to some natural disaster. (Many insurance plans exclude “acts of God.”) God is good to us in spite of our hardheadedness and rebellion. As came out in Sunday's message, we can't take even a single breath without God's permission and grace, but you'd never know it to talk to most people. Even Christians don't act like they are aware of how utterly dependent we are on God. God allows us this much leeway to give us the opportunity to turn to Him on our own, becoming His children by our own decision and commitment, but most of us squander His grace. Much is made currently of how we have been such poor stewards of the earth, but that is just the tip of the iceberg; most of us are poor stewards of life itself.


I don't have much to brag about in this area myself, but at least I realize it's a problem! Recently the Lord has been reminding me of how good He has been to me, and I need to be more active in my stewardship of His grace. Complaining about anything seems less and less reasonable the more I think about it! I need to spend my days in constant gratefulness and praise. As a pastor, I also need to work to help the believers come to this same awareness. When that is achieved, we will indeed be the people of praise and worship, prayer, and proclamation that God intends us to be.


Father, the principle of grateful obedience is so important, yet we are so insensitive to Your gracious blessings. Forgive us, forgive me. Help me be Your agent in opening the eyes of the believers to the depth and breadth and height of Your gracious love for us, just as Paul prayed in relation to the Ephesians. (Ephesians 3:14-19) May I be Your agent in every area of my life, doing Your will on Your schedule with a grateful heart at all times, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



ホセア 6:6 わたしは誠実を喜ぶが、いけにえは喜ばない。全焼のいけにえより、むしろ神を知ることを喜ぶ。

There is a very interesting difference in translation in this verse that is common to verse 4. The English for verse 4 speaks of “your love,” and in this verse it says “I desire mercy.” However, the Japanese uses “faithfulness” in both those locations. I don't know Hebrew, but faithfulness certainly seems to fit the context. The point is that God desires continuing commitment; neither passing emotion nor ritualized observance move Him at all. The first three verses of this chapter are a very beautiful statement of returning to God, but the point is that God wants more than words, however beautiful and true those words might be. Words are important, and the Bible speaks in many places of bringing words to God, offering the sacrifices of our lips. However, for those words to have real value they must be from the heart, backed up with actions. The life of a disciple of Christ isn't a 50 meter dash, it's a marathon. The value of our commitment, and our words, is demonstrated in the long haul.

4 節に通じるこの節には興味深い訳の違いが見られます。英語の4節では「あなたの愛」となっていますが、ここでは「あなたの憐れみを望む」となっています。しかし、日本語では「誠実」という言葉が使われています。私はヘブル語は分かりませんが、誠実という語がここでは文脈から言ってもしっくりくるのではないでしょうか。大切なのは、神は常に献身を求めておられることです。感情的なものや、儀式的な行いで神様は全く喜ばれません。この章の最初の3節は神に立ち返ることが書いてあるとても美しい表現です。しかし、神は、言葉がどんなに美しく、真実のようであっても、言葉以上の物を望んでおられます。言葉は大切ですが、聖書には神への言葉が多く書かれていますが、真に価値ある言葉は、心から出てくるもので、行動によって裏づけられなくてはなりません。キリストの弟子の生き方は、50メートル全力疾走したのではなく、長距離走でした。私たちの献身の価値、言葉は長期間、続くべきなのです。

In some ways this is an uncomfortable truth for me, because I am a man of words, a wordsmith, so to speak. That is how God made and gifted me, and I am not to devalue it, but I must be doubly careful that my service and obedience to God doesn't stop with words. With my gift set, I tend to feel that once I've said something, that's the end of it, when that's not the case at all. Not only do I have to live out the truth I speak, I've got to communicate it in practical, applicable ways, rather than in the abstract. Whereas it is true that believing and confessing brings salvation (Romans 10:9), American Christianity has done a great disservice by focusing on getting people to say a little formula and then declaring them “saved.” No confession of Christ is to be discounted, and every spiritual journey has its ups and downs. But as the English proverb says, the proof of a pudding is in the eating. We've got to live out our confession of Christ. As a pastor, and particular as a missionary pastor, I've got to be careful to help people understand what it is they're confessing and committing to, so they won't be left half-born, spiritually speaking.


Father, this is a deep, on-going concern, for this church and really for every church. I ask for wisdom and sensitivity in dealing with each individual, because no two people are identical. Keep me from being formulaic. Keep me also from being a legalistic taskmaster. Rather, help me be an encourager, nurturing the sheep of Your flock, providing food and teaching them how to eat, being careful that their water supply is clean and abundant, so that they may grow to be all that You desire and intend, in all faithfulness, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ホセア 3:1 主は私に仰せられた。「再び行って、夫に愛されていながら姦通している女を愛せよ。ちょど、ほかの神々に向かい、干しぶどうの菓子を愛しているイスラエルの人々を主が愛しておられるように。」

To me the Japanese, though only a little different from the English, makes more sense here. The English says, “though she is loved by another and is an adulteress,” while the Japanese says, “though she is an adulteress even while loved by her husband.” The English seems to equate love with sex, even though that's certainly not the case with God's love for Israel, which is the whole point of the story. However that point of translation is resolved, Hosea is certainly a powerful example of unconditional love. I can hardly imagine what it was like for him, but I have heard of a modern example: a pastor's wife who “went off the deep end” and left her family, becoming a stripper and prostitute. There too God's love and mercy triumphed, but it makes me profoundly grateful never to have faced anything of the sort myself. This is indeed one of the most apt pictures of how we treat God, and how He still loves us. Even when He has to punish us and leave us to the consequences of our actions, it breaks His heart. We tend to love little because we have such a small grasp of how much He loves us, and we are much the poorer for it.


I grew up in a home where unconditional love was the norm, and I couldn't begin to overestimate the value of that. I saw it between my parents, and I felt secure in it myself. Sadly, most people have not had that advantage, and they can't conceive of God's unconditional love for them. As I said yet again in the wedding I performed yesterday, human love is conditional practically by definition; it is only when we allow God's love to flow through us that we can love unconditionally. I strive to do this myself, but as a pastor I am called to teach others to do the same. When people haven't grown up in a loving environment like I did, they tend to disbelieve and distrust it even when it is offered to them. This is where my grasp of God's love is really tested. I am not to coddle – true love is anything but weak – but I am not to abandon anyone. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son, I've got to be ready to welcome them the moment they return.


Father, You are doing good things in this church, even though some of them are painful. Thank You. I ask You to enlarge me as a channel of Your love, even though I know that's a risky request. May I be so secure in Your love for me that nothing will hinder the flow of Your love through me, whether that love is received or not, so that hearts may be healed and many brought into Your full salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




ホセア 2:23 「わたしは彼をわたしのために地にまき散らし、『愛されない者』を愛し、『わたしの民でない者』を、『あなたはわたしの民』と言う。彼は『あなたは私の神』と言おう。」

Given the context, I think the English is entirely justified in rendering “scatter” as “plant,” as in scattering seed. The point of the passage is that in God's timing and plan, a nation's fortunes can turn around completely. However, what is required for those fortunes to turn good is repentance. God's grace is indeed amazing, but it must be responded to for it to be effective. The whole story of Hosea and his wife is a parable of God and His people that must have been incredibly painful for Hosea at the time, but I'm sure that he and Gomer are currently rejoicing at having been chosen as part of God's redemptive message. Like the man born blind in John 9, God planned and allowed this story to unfold for His glory, to express the depth of His love to a wider audience. We often don't know the purpose of the trials we experience, but we are called to trust God anyway, knowing that His plans are good, whatever they look like at the moment.


This is quite personal for me, because though I haven't had the sort of intense trial that Hosea experienced, I have had almost 29 years of ministry with very little to show for it, on the surface at least. However, the Lord has allowed me to impact many people for Him in various ways, and I've got to leave the harvest in His hands. Just as God recreated the nation of Israel in a day, so God can bring revival to Japan overnight. I cannot dictate any detail of when or how that will happen, but I can be faithful at the task at hand, and that is what I am to strive for, not losing my hope and anticipation of the harvest.


Father, thank You for Your plan, even though I see only the smallest part of it, even in retrospect. Help me trust You, implicitly and explicitly, not agonizing over the “why?” but resting in the assurance of Your grace and love. Thank You for the privilege of speaking Your Word, in the pulpit and out of it. May I allow Your Word to go forth through me to accomplish that for which You send it, today and every day, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



ホセア 1:7 「しかし、わたしはユダの家を愛し、彼らの神、主によって彼らを救う。しかし、わたしは弓、剣、戦い、および馬、騎兵によって彼らを救うのではない。」

We tend to decide in our minds how God needs to save us, and more often than not He uses another method entirely. Human beings are by definition short-sighted: we can't really see past the end of our own nose. God, on the other hand, sees, knows, and understands everything at once, which is why His thoughts and ways are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55:9) One definition of genius, for humans, is the ability to see ideas and solutions that others can't. By that definition, God is the ultimate genius! That's why we need to trust God rather than waste energy worrying about how He is going to express His love and faithfulness to us. Our job is to be faithful in our immediate circumstances, and “leave the driving to Him,” as the old ad for public transportation used to say. (“Take the bus, and leave the driving to us.”) When we try to grab the wheel, we run off the road at best, and at worst we involve others in terrible accidents. I'm also reminded of the Christian bumper sticker that says, “If God is your co-pilot, swap seats.” Excellent advice!


I've done my share of trying to be in control, and I know what an enormous amount of energy, emotional and physical, that wastes. It has taken a long time and a lot of hard knocks to get me even as far as I am, and I've still got a lot of room for improvement! However, I must not use “trusting God” as an excuse not to plan, much less not to be faithful at the task at hand. I may not see (probably won't see) why God has given me a particular task to do, but my job is to be faithful and trust Him with the outcome. At the same time, as a pastor I'm to be teaching others to do the same, and that's where the rub comes in. Teaching faith and trust is, on some levels at least, and impossible task. What I can do is present the truth, clearly and lovingly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then let Him work that truth into people's hearts and minds. I can't pound it in with a sledge hammer, as much as I might like to sometimes!


Father, thank You for the path You have laid out for me. It's certainly challenging at times! Thank You for Your grace, mercy and patience toward me. Help me extend that same grace, mercy and patience to those to whom I minister, so that they too may see what a great, wise, loving, and powerful God You are, trusting You with everything and rejoicing in Your salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!