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

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


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


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




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

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


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


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



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

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


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


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




エペソ 3:20-21 どうか、私たちのうちに働く力によって、私たちの願うところ、思うところのすべてを超えて豊かに施すことのできる方に、教会により、またキリスト・イエスにより、栄光が、世々にわたって、とこしえにありますように。アーメン。

This benediction expresses one of the fundamental problems with faith: God is so much greater than we can comprehend. That's why a life of obedience to God is a life of continual discovery. God reveals Himself to us, but until He does, He is more than we can imagine. At the same time, His blessings are greater and deeper than we can imagine, and that is what this is specifically talking about. We tend to bring to God a “laundry list” of things that we feel need to be dealt with, when often those particular issues are irrelevant because of what God is already doing that we aren't yet aware of. Jesus told the story of the rich man who planned to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, not knowing he was about to die. The same principle applies in the other direction, when believers get all worked up about things, not knowing that God is about to pour out a blessing that will wipe out whatever they are anxious about. It is hard to remember that God is infinite and we aren't. However, keeping that in mind can save us from a lot of anxiety.


This is something I try to teach, but I'm still learning it myself. I don't want to be lazy or irresponsible, but I also don't want to waste time and energy being anxious. I am often called on to speak into anxious situations. I must always speak faith and trust, so that those to whom I talk may be encouraged to lift their eyes to God. This applies both to believers and non-believers. Everyone needs help in remembering that God is God, and they're not.


Father, years ago You told me not to be surprised at what surprises others, but rather to expect great things of You. Help me follow through with that, not placing my hope or expectation in myself or in any other person, but in You alone. I know full well that left to my own devices, I fail miserably. I also know that when I am fully obedient to You, there is no limit to what You can do. Help me not just know that intellectually, but operate in it in practical reality all the time, so that all of Your plans may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



エペソ 2:3 私たちはみな、かつては不従順の子の中にあって、自分の肉の欲の中に生き、肉と心の望むままを行い、ほかの人たちと同じように、生まれながら御怒りを受けるべき子らでした。

The biggest problem in evangelism is that most people who fit this category don't even understand that it is a category, much less that they fit it! Even in America, which has over 300 years of cultural Christianity, people don't understand that they are headed for hell, not because they have done some terrible thing like murder, but because they have ignored God and simply done what they felt like. In countries like Japan that don't have a Christian heritage, the lack of understanding is even greater. Any parent can testify that when their children repeatedly refuse to listen and do as they are told, for their own good, that it makes the parent both sad and mad. How much more then would God, who created us and knows perfectly what is best for us, be upset when we ignore Him! If you don't understand sin, you can't understand grace and forgiveness. People being like we are, self-centered and wanting our own way, sometimes get mad when told they are headed for hell. They should accept the warning and choose to do something about it! Thankfully, some do, but it is a sad reality that many do not. An additional problem is that once a person has become a Christian, they sometimes forget how they used to be, and so lose sight of grace from that standpoint. When that happens, all sorts of pride problems rear up, and they can be very destructive.

福音主義で最も大きい問題はこのカテゴリーに合う大部分の人々がそれがカテゴリーであると思わず、ましてや自分達がそのカテゴリーに該当するなど考えもしないということです! 300年以上のキリスト教文化の歴史があるアメリカにおいてでさえ、人々は殺人のような残酷なことをやったからという理由ではなく、神の存在を無視し単に自分達がやりたいようにやったという理由だけで地獄へ落ちていくのだということを理解していません。キリスト教的な伝統を持たない日本のような国において、そのような理解の欠如はさらに大きくなります。親なら誰しも子供達のためを思って言っているのにそれを彼らが聞くことや守ることを拒否したら、悲しくなるし腹も立つということは理解できるでしょう。

As a pastor/teacher doing the work of an evangelist, I have to deal with this issue in the unsaved and the saved. I certainly need the help of the Holy Spirit to do so, because there's no way I can do it right on my own. Prayer is absolutely key. If I really believe that God can do it but I can't, I'll spend time in prayer rather that getting frustrated at butting my head against the issue time and time again. I must never forget that I have certainly been “among the children of disobedience” all too much, despite having been raised in such a strongly Christian environment. That should take care of any pride issue for me, but unfortunately it doesn't always. I need to walk in humility, being careful that I don't fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

福音伝道の仕事をしている牧師/教師として、私はまだ救われていない人達と救われた人達においてこの問題を対処していかなければなりません。確かに私は聖霊の力が必要です、なぜなら私一人の力では正しくやれるはずがないからです。祈りは絶対的な鍵です。もし私が神には可能で私には不可能だと本当に信じるならば、私は何度もその問題に頭を突っ込んで不満に陥るより、祈りに時間を費やします。私はあんなにも強いキリスト教的な絆で結ばれた環境で育てられてきたのですが、確かに“(神に)従わない子供たちに囲まれて”いることを決して忘れてはいけません。そうすることで私のプライドの問題に対処しているのですが、残念なことにそれはつねに成功しているとは限りません。私は謙遜を着て、倒れないように気をつける必要があります。(第一コリント人への手紙 10:12)

Father, there are so many to whom I would like to communicate this message! I ask for wisdom, patience, and persistence so that Your Truth may penetrate and set them free, for their salvation and Your glory. There are those who are trapped in intellectual pride, thinking that rationalistic “science” is everything. There are those who are trapped in physical appetites, thinking that submission to You will deprive them of their pleasures. There are those who are trapped in materialistic thinking, not understanding that faith is necessary or even possible. I can't get through to any of them, but Your Holy Spirit can, and that is what I ask for. Father, pour Your Spirit out on this church and through this church, so that we may be powerfully effective in bringing people from darkness to light, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



エペソ 1:18-19 また、あなたがたの心の目がはっきり見えるようになって、神の召しによって与えられた望みがどのようなものか、聖徒が受け継ぐものがどのように栄光に富んだものか、また、神の全能の力の働きによって私たち信じる者に働く神のすぐれた力がどのように偉大なものであるかを、あなたがたがしることができますように。

The English and the Japanese chose to make different divisions in Paul's very long sentence, but the principle expressed here is perhaps the central theme of my ministry. Believers in general are far too ignorant, of God Himself (mentioned in verse 17) and especially of what God has done and stands ready to do in, for, and through them. Ignorance is not a good thing! It is not a sin in itself, but wallowing in ignorance and being satisfied with it ... such things as this strike me as sinful, because it means that our values are distorted and we don't value Christ above all. God is more aware of our weakness and foolishness than we are and He loves us anyway, which is why He allows things into our lives to shock us into seeking Him. If we can't see these things clearly, we need to be asking Him for better vision! God has so much more for all of us, and each of us, than we can imagine. That's why we need to be pressing into Him continually, allowing Him to show us these things and delighting to appropriate them. Few things delight a father more than for his children to delight in and make good use of what he provides for them. I know that as a father myself, and the Bible is clear that it is true for our Heavenly Father as well.


I haven't always been quick to seek, recognize, and delight in God's plan and provision for me, but I think my batting average is improving! I desire so strongly that it's painful sometimes for the believers to open their eyes, see, and believe what God has done for them. So often it seems like they run around with their eyes tight shut, bumping into things and complaining that God doesn't love them! I cannot force them to see, but I can pray for them as Paul did, because it is the Holy Spirit who provides our spiritual vision. I don't think I could list all the times God has opened my eyes to realize that He has already provided the answer to my problem, to see His provision. I am to be patient with the believers, but never stop encouraging them to get their eyes off of themselves and what they see as their problems, so that they will be able to see God and all His wonderful plans for them. I need to help them understand that if they will do that, their problems will fade to relative insignificance.


Father, again I have outlined something I can't possibly do in my own wisdom and strength. Thank You, because this means that when it happens, it will be clear that it is Your doing and not mine. Thank You for the sharp awareness of my own imperfection. Help me do as I seek to get others to do, fixing my eyes on You so that I will be able to see everything from Your perspective, resting and delighting in You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




エペソ 1:3 私たちの主イエス・キリストの父なる神がほめたたえられますように。神はキリストにあって、天にあってすべての霊的祝福をもって私たちを祝福してくださいました。

When the original Greek sentence is 12 verses long, it can be hard to pull out just one thought to focus on! However, the more this sentence is meditated on, the more riches we can pull from it. I can real­ly empathize with Paul being unable to stop writing once he had started in on the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. We have very little grasp of what we're talking about when we say, “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” We haven't begun to see the half of it! This is why the song is so true, “The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows.” Just as it takes time for a husband and wife to really get to know each other, it takes time for us to get to know Christ. It isn't hard to know Him enough for salvation, but that's just the smallest tip of the iceberg. And the more we discover, the better He is! The odd thing is, He already knows everything about us, and He loves us anyway! The longer we live with ourselves, the more we discover about ourselves, if we are honest, and those things aren't always nice. That is why it's so important to give all you know of yourself to all you know of Christ. A relationship that doesn't continue to grow, stagnates. When that is our relationship with God, that's tragic.


Once again I have the enormous advantage of having been raised by parents who continued to press into God, growing spiritually in every way. I can only pray to be as faithful as they were! Just as nothing is automatic in the relationship of a husband and wife, so nothing is automatic about spiritual growth. If we will put the effort into it, choosing God over other things and spending time in prayer and Scripture, then He will see to it that we grow. However, if we feel we have reached a level where we can coast, we will quickly discover that we are coasting downhill! This is sometimes not so easy to get across to the believers, because they tend to see devotional time as an intrusion into their schedules, rather than being the jewel of the day. I need to be both patient and persistent in urging them to give God the first fruit of the day, starting and continuing each day with an active awareness of Him. They expect me to have that, because I'm a “professional Christian,” but they don't understand that it's equally possible and desirable for them.


Father, thank You for the richness of Your grace to me. Help me communicate that more effectively to the believers so that they will get a glimpse of all the blessings of heaven that You have for them, and press in to lay hold of that for which You have laid hold of us. (Philippians 3:12) May we all have a growing revelation of Your grace, responding with all joy and obedience, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




ガラテヤ人への手紙5:16~26 私は言います。御霊によって歩みなさい。そうすれば、決して肉の欲望を満足させるようなことはありません。もし私たちが御霊によって生きるのなら、御霊に導かれて、進もうではありませんか。

People sometimes agonize over how to live a holy life, when the answer is actually quite simple: live a life filled with the Holy Spirit. This teaching is particularly appropriate in this letter addressing legalism, because a life filled with the Holy Spirit is the perfect antidote to legalism. As I was remembering just yesterday, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) The devil and the world do all they can to convince us that our physical appetites are to be indulged, because they are “natural.” However, those born again by the Spirit have a new nature, and that is what Paul is talking about here. We need to live like what we have become by God's grace, instead of like what we used to be. As Paul says, if we are walking by the Holy Spirit, we won't be trying to satisfy the demands of the flesh. We sometimes fail to apply Matthew 6:33 broadly enough. God knows what our bodies really need, and if we will seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, then He will see to it that those needs are met, in a holy, delightful, and thoroughly satisfying manner. When we get things backwards and focus on satisfying our bodies, nothing is right and it is ultimately not satisfying.


I've experienced this from both sides, as I have virtually every issue in the Christian life. God has been more than gracious in protecting me from some really severe stuff, but I have been on the edge of the cliff more times than I like to think about. As a pastor, my current task is not only to walk in step with the Spirit myself, but also to help others do likewise. The difficulty here is that it can't be done with a set of rules; that's the very legalism that Galatians was written to combat! I am not to ignore gross sin, and I am to make clear what a life in the Spirit looks like, but external controls will ultimately fail. I need to encourage openness to the Holy Spirit and make it clear what a joyful, delightful life that is. We don't tend naturally to self control, but as Paul points out, that is part of the fruit of life in the Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, and all the rest.


Father, thank You for what You are doing in this church. Thank You for each individual who is involved, and for what You are doing in their hearts and lives. Thank You for teaching us all about life in Your Spirit. Thank You for yesterday's message, and for guiding my delivery just as I asked. Guide me week by week as I prepare and deliver the message You want spoken, so that we will all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You. Praise God!




ガラテヤ 5:13 兄弟たち。あなたがたは、自由を得られるために召されたのです。ただ、その自由を肉の働く機会としないで、愛を持って互いに仕えなさい。

This verse is absolutely essential in this whole letter to the Galatians. The whole purpose of the letter is to combat legalism, so there is the real danger of people using it to justify libertinism. This verse should put a stop to that. The appetites of our flesh can easily get out of hand, as witness the epidemic of obesity in the US right now, not to mention the various kinds of licentiousness and perversion that are rampant. As it says in 2 Corinthians 3:17, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. However, it is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. The devil does all he can to foster the misunderstanding that freedom equals physical indulgence equals happiness (or at least fun). I saw a cartoon the other day of two male winged characters sitting on a cloud, and one is saying to the other, “Heaven would be more fun if we could raise a little hell.” Nothing could be further from the truth, but that's precisely the thinking the devil wants to foster. Paul is saying here that we must be diligent in avoiding it.


Years of immersion in Scripture have given me fairly solid footing in this area, though indulgence remains something I have to be on my guard against. However, as a pastor I work with people all the time who have no such background, and they see indulgence as “doing what comes naturally.” I am not to condemn them, but rather work to help them take in the Truth that will set them free indeed. (John 8:32) I need to present God's truth for what it is, the most joyful, liberating good news we could possibly hear. Our flesh indeed kicks at parts of it, but it is indeed good news that we don't have to be enslaved to our flesh! That's not to say that we aren't to take good care of our bodies, or that “if it feels good, it's sinful.” Asceticism is also a trap of the devil. However, when our flesh distracts us from obedience to God, we are not walking in freedom.


Father, the more You had me write just now, the better I realized that I really have as much potential weakness as anyone else. Help me be a good steward of this body without being a slave to it. Help me also communicate to the believers both the necessity and the possibility of such an attitude. I remember a deacon in the church I pastored in the US asking me if I thought a holy life was really possible, because his experience said otherwise. Help me both demonstrate and proclaim that the answer is a resounding YES. May I and those I pastor be a clear demonstration of Your saving, purifying grace, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



ガラテヤ 2:21 私は神の恵みを無にはしません。 もし義が律法によって得られるとしたら、それこそキリストの死は無意味です。

Believers through the centuries have been blessed by the fact that the Galatian believers were temporarily caught in a legalistic trap, because their problems caused Paul to write this letter. Legalism has continued to be a problem, but at least we have clear, unequivocal Scripture to refute it! Sad to say, essentially well-meaning people have “made God's grace as nothing” time and again over the years. We find it much easier to trust rules and regulations than to trust the Holy Spirit operating in the grace of God. However, as it says so clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9, we are saved by grace through faith, not by obeying a list of rules. Some people are quick to turn that on its head and say that our actions don't matter at all, but that too is a lie of the devil. We are indeed called to be holy, as God is holy, but holiness is the result, not the price, of our salvation. As Paul is saying in this verse, Christ already paid the price on the cross, and trying to add anything to that, not to mention substitute anything for that, is saying that the cross was worthless.


As a pastor, I not only need to maintain my own awareness of God's grace, I need to teach others about it as well. We all have some degree of difficulty in reconciling holiness and grace. I can't get it fully straight in my own wisdom, so I need the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit. That's true in my own heart, and especially so as I seek to pastor others. Part of that is that I need to extend grace to those who tend to be legalistic! I am to be gentle in correction, but as strong as necessary. Galatians is probably Paul's strongest letter! I am to be vigilant that no one would devalue the cross of Christ.


Father, this is an ongoing struggle for me. I know that doctrine is important, and I should not downplay it. At the same time, I have seen time and time again where doctrine got in the way of grace, fellowship was destroyed, and Your Spirit was grieved. Show me how to be true to Your truth, while at the same time being true to Your heart of grace and love. I can't do that in my own strength and wisdom! Help me indeed be consistent in speaking Your truth in love, so that errors of all sorts may be avoided or corrected, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




第2コリント 13:10 この権威が与えられたのは築き上げるためであって、倒すためではないのです。

The whole question of authority can be a touchy one, in the Church and out of it. Jesus' very memorable encounter with the centurion with the sick servant (Luke 7:1-10) indicates how important a correct understanding of authority is. People long for authority without understanding that it always comes with responsibility. The two cannot be separated. James said, very rightly, that those in teaching positions will be judged more strictly than those not in such positions. (James 3:1) That's not to say that we are to avoid teaching others what we know, because almost everyone has something they can teach someone else. It comes back to what Paul is saying in this verse: authority from God is to build up, not to tear down. Sometimes authority must be used for correction and even punishment, but the purpose and motive must be to build up rather than to topple. If we fail to be secure in our awareness of God's love for us, we tend to try to rise by pushing others down. It should never be that way in the Church!


Authority has always been a touchy subject for me as a pastor. At times I am very aware of the authority God has vested in me, but even then I am very hesitant to exercise it, and the church has suffered in consequence. I need to remember that simply being given the authority also gives me the responsibility to exercise it to build people up, including correcting, admonishing, and even punishing. I don't like that last part! I am seeking to help the believers understand the tools God has given them to do the work He has for them, and I need to realize the same thing for myself. Authority is a tool that is to be used in all humility, but it must not be shied away from. I need to love people enough to risk their not liking me. That's a tall order, but again, I can do it through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)


Father, I'm back to getting my eyes off of myself and onto You. As the centurion knew, true authority only comes with submission to higher authority. Help me be fully submitted to You. May I indeed be one who builds up, encourages, and heals, even when healing calls for a scalpel. May this church and the individuals in it be built up indeed, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




第2コリント 11:15 彼らの最後はそのしわざにふさわしいものとなります。

We sometimes forget that God's going to take care of the bad guys! God isn't waiting around with a stick to whack us every time we get out of line, but the Bible is very clear indeed as to what will happen to those who choose to serve Satan. There are many mysteries, but that isn't one of them! Psalm 37 is an extended exposition of what Paul expresses so concisely here. It is something of a mystery why the devil and those who serve him are allowed as much freedom as they have at this point, but choosing to submit that issue to God is certainly a faith-builder. There are indeed times when God calls us to take specific action against activities that aren't pleasing to Him, as when Jesus cleansed the temple, and we must not shrink from them. However, we must remember that God's justice is absolute, and not waste emotional energy on things that God is not directing us to deal with.


What I have just written is true, but I must not use it as an excuse to avoid confrontation. I am to stand firmly and clearly for Biblical principles, calling people to repentance when they have strayed. At the same time, I am not to let those who stray drag me down. The whole issue can get pretty complicated, but this falls into the category of the things I can do because Christ strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) I am not to wish hell on anyone, but I am not to allow their choice to go there keep me from rejoicing to proclaim the Gospel.


Father, the longer I live, the more I understand the Lord's Prayer. Help me be active in praying, believing, and obeying, so that Your name may be hallowed, Your kingdom come, and Your will be done perfectly, right here. Thank You for faith. There are times when I would be in utter despair without it! Help me be more and more effective in proclaiming the good news of salvation by grace through faith, so that as many as possible may be brought from darkness to light, from death to life, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




第2コリント 9:6, 8 私はこう考えます。少しだけ蒔く者は、少しだけ刈り取り、豊かに蒔く者は、豊かに刈り取ります。神は、あなたがたを、常にすべてのことに満ち足りて、すべての良いわざにあふれる者とするために、あらゆる恵みをあふれるばかり与えることのできる方です。

This whole passage (6-15) has been so abused by some religious leaders in recent years that I almost don't want to read it. However, the fact that some people distort it doesn't make the Bible any less true. After all, the devil quoted Scripture to Jesus! The principle expressed here is not “giving to get,” as it is so often distorted, but trusting God enough not to hang onto what we think we have, so that God can supply us with what we really need. The point in this verse is that God's supply is so that we will be fully equipped for every good work, not so that we will have overflowing “creature comforts.” At the same time, the Bible as a whole teaches us that we are to be wise in our giving. Some kinds of giving, particularly as practiced by the government, are effectively paying people to be irresponsible, and that is effectively dishonoring God and benefits no one in the long run. Likewise, if we personally are to meet even every legitimate need we encounter, we will quickly be in dire straits. The point is that God is able to meet every need, and we are to be available as His instruments to that end, if He so directs. When our focus is on giving and getting, rather than on God, everything quickly gets out of whack.


I have experienced God's generosity many times, both from the receiving end and from the giving end. I have also been greedy, as well as stingy. Neither of those have left me with a good taste in my mouth! I need to grow in practicing trust on both sides of the giving/receiving equation, keeping my focus on God rather than on anything material. I find this is not an easy thing to teach on, but I must be faithful to do so anyway, because distortion of this issue is so rampant. I know that God indeed wants us to abound in every good thing, but I also know that His definition of “every good thing” is sometimes quite different from ours! I need to help the believers grow in trust, for provision of material needs as well as for solution of every other problem. We are so glib with “Seek first the kingdom of God” that we fail to really consider what it means. I need to keep growing in my own application of the principle, and I must not give up in encouraging the believers to do likewise.


Father, I can see that I have grown in this area, but I also see that I have a lot more room for growth. Thank You for Your grace and patience toward me. Help me be gracious and patient toward the flock, so that by the encouragement of the Holy Spirit they may be and do what You desire and intend, not under compulsion but joyfully, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



第2コリント 8:9 あなたがたは、私たちの主イエス・キリストの恵を知っています。すなわち、主は富んでおられたのに、あなたがたのために貧しくなられました。それは、あなたがたが、キリストの貧しさによって富む者になるためです。

This is something we tend to forget. People living in “advanced” countries today have so much luxury they take completely for granted, but that doesn't begin to compare with what Christ had with the Father before He came to earth as a human being. We find it quite a hardship when, say, the electricity goes out. We can't really imagine what it was like for Christ to be born to a carpenter's family 2000 years ago. On top of that, they were political refugees for the first few years, and then from the time He was 12 He was expected to do a man's work in the carpenter shop. When He was active in ministry He had no place of His own to call home, and when He was executed the only personal effects He had for the executioners to divide were the clothes He wore. In His ministry He limited Himself to the power of the Holy Spirit, rather than His own power as the Son, but that was precisely so that we could see the power that He made available to us at Pentecost. We need to have a better grasp of what Christ gave up for us, because only then will we have a better grasp of what He has provided for us. We have an inheritance in heaven that beats every­thing on earth put together, and it doesn't just start when our bodies die. The same Holy Spirit, the same intimacy with the Father that Jesus operated in on this earth are made available to us, but we must choose to receive them. Hanging onto the things of this earth – money, position, physical pleasure, or whatever – keeps us from receiving the riches Christ has provided for us.

このことは、私たちは忘れがちです。「先進国」に住んでいる人たちは贅沢を当たり前にしてしまうが、その贅沢は、キリストが人間としてこの地上に来られた前に父なる神様とともにあった状況に比べられるわけではない。私たちは停電でもかなりの苦労と思ってしまいます。イエス様にとって2000年前の大工の家族に生まれることはどうだったかは、本当に想像もできない。その上、最初の数年間、家族は政治難民でしたし、12歳からイエス様は大人として大工の仕事をしなければなりませんでした。弟子たちを教えていた間、イエス様は自分の家と言えるところもなく、死刑されたとき、死刑士が分けた彼の私物は着ていた服だけでした。この地上でイエス様は御子の力ではなくて、聖霊の力だけを使いましたが、それは、私たちがペンテコステで与えられた力は何ものであるかを理解できるためでした。キリストが私たちのためにどれほどを捨てたかをより知らなければなりません。それは、キリストが私たちのために備えてくださったことは何であるかを理解できるためです。この地上にあるものすべてに勝る遺産が私たちのために天国にありますが、それは肉体の死後にしか楽しめないわけではありません。イエス様がこの地上で楽しんだ聖霊様、父との交わりは私たちにも提供されていますが、私たちは受け取る選択をしなければなりません。この地上のもの - 財産、地位、肉体の快楽、何でも - を握ってしまうと、キリストが私たちのために備えた宝を受け取れないことになります。

This is closely connected with the message series the Lord has me in right now. The grace-gifts of the Holy Spirit are magnificent, but we won't operate in them so long as our values are conformed to the world. Lots of Christians would like the gifts of the Spirit, but with the same level of understanding and desire that has non-Christians chasing divination, “paranormal phenomena” and the like. That's a major mistake! I need to be very careful to help the believers understand that the gifts aren't to aggrandize them, but rather to build up the Body of Christ. I need to remember that myself, and exercise the gifts I've been given faithfully, building up the flock as a good shepherd.


Father, every time I come to a passage that is part of my job description I am aware that I can't do it in my own strength and wisdom. Thank You for that awareness. Help me indeed take my eyes off of myself and fix them on You, just as I am continually exhorting others to do, so that Your Spirit and Your Word may flow freely through me to accomplish Your will in Your way on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



第2コリント 6:1 私たちは、神とともに働く者として、あなたがたに懇願します。神の恵 みをむだに受けないようにしてください。

The first part of this verse requires Chapter 5 for it to make any sense. We have so much trouble grasping God's plan to work through such frail, foolish beings as we are, and here Paul is boldly calling himself “God's fellow worker!” We've got to keep in focus the reality that God working through us isn't limited by our weakness, but only by our faith, trust and obedience. That said, the second part of this verse bears some deep thought. What is it to receive God's grace in vain? God is gracious to all mankind. As it says in several places throughout the Bible, He sends rain on the just and the unjust, along with the gift of physical life itself. Failure to recognize what God has given us in that way leads to hearts that are ungrateful and rebellious, and I don't have to go into detail as to where that leads. However, even those who have received salvation need to be careful, because we are charged with being good stewards of all that God has given us. Someone who has received salvation but then never shares the love of God with anyone is certainly not being a good steward! There is literally no limit to what God is prepared to pour out on us, but we are charged with the stewardship of what we have already received. Failure to use it in trusting obedience to God is indeed receiving it in vain.


As always, I am convicted by such a passage, because I see that God has poured incredible blessings out on me, and I feel I have done effectively very little with it all. Even as I urge others not to receive God's grace in vain I must receive that same exhortation myself, or I will not receive the commendation of “good and faithful servant” that I so desire. My use of time leaves a lot of room for improvement. Relaxation is not bad, but must not be central! I need to ask God what He wants me to do with each moment, and then be joyfully obedient. Management skills are not my strong suite, so I need to let God be my manager, and listen carefully to what He tells me to do when. Only then will I be a faithful steward of His grace.


Father, thank You for how You are working in each member of this church and in the body as a whole. May we all recognize Your grace to us individually and collectively and rejoice to be good stewards, accomplishing Your purposes on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



第2コリント 5:20 こういうわけで、私たちはキリストの使節なのです。ちょうど神が私たちを通して懇願しておられる ようです。私たちは、キリストに代わって、あなたがたにお願いします。神の和解を受け入れなさい。

To me, this is one of the most glorious verses in the whole Bible. I memorized it as a young child when I was a member of Royal Ambassadors, an organization for young boys in the Southern Baptist denomination, but I think that hardly anybody associated with the organization really believed all the implications of this verse. We tend to run from the idea that God wants to reconcile people to Himself through us. The language in this verse, considered seriously seems like extreme hubris to us. However, this verse is entirely consistent with what Jesus told His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17, specifically 15:18-21). We are not being offered a life of luxury, quite the opposite, but we are being commissioned as Jesus said after His resurrection: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) When believers get it through their minds that they are Christ's ambassadors and that God speaks through them, all sorts of things change. We are of course to strive to live lives appropriate to our commission, but an ambassador's authority does not rest in himself. He speaks on behalf of the entity that sent him. If we are in right relationship with God and obedient to Him, His words come through us as surely as if they echoed from the clouds. When that happens, His words accomplish everything for which He sends them. (Isaiah 55:11)


As a pastor, I strive to get this truth through to the believers. As a believer, I strive to live it out myself. There is no room for pride in this, because the power is all God's. However, failure to act on it is putting ourselves in the place of the servant who buried his talent. (Matthew 25:14-30) If God speaks through me, then I must pay attention to the words that come out of my mouth (or my fingers as I type), not just communicating them to others but being obedient myself. I must immerse myself in the Bible, allowing the Word to wash and cleanse me, so that I will not be deceived into speaking that which violates God's heart (Ephesians 5:26, Romans 12:2). My heart's desire is that every believer would genuinely accept this commission, so that all of God's plans for us may be fulfilled.


Father, help me live our Your Word and teach others to do the same, so that Your kingdom may come as Your will is done, right here in hearts and lives and everything that springs from them, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!




第2コリント 1:24 私たちは、あなたがたの信仰を支配しようとする者ではなく、あなたがたの喜びのために働く協力者 です。あなたがたは、信仰に堅く立っているからです。

There is an interesting difference in nuance between the English and the Japanese here. The English says, “because it is by faith you stand firm,” while the Japanese says, “because you are standing firm in faith.” I would have to agree with the English that faith enables us to stand firm, and I would also agree with the Japanese that it is far easier to cooperate with someone who is standing firm in faith. There is a very pointed statement in Isaiah 7:9 that in the NIV reads, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” In Japanese it reads, “If you do not believe, you will not be able to stand for long.” All of us are under attack, and it takes faith to put on the armor God provides and stand firm (Ephesians 6). Such faith cannot be commanded by someone else, but it can be encouraged. In the final analysis, faith is a choice, and that choice cannot be made by anyone for someone else; each person individually must choose to believe. However each person has (or certainly should have) someone they feel they can really trust. For children, parents should certainly be in that position. When the trusted person expresses faith, both in words and in their lifestyle, it is easy for someone to choose to have life-giving faith.


As a pastor, expressing and encouraging faith is a large part of my job description! I must never forget that I cannot command faith, but rather do all I can to encourage it. I am not to put down those whose faith is weak, but challenge them to step out in the faith they have so that it may be confirmed and strengthened. I have seen people who take it as a personal challenge to destroy others' faith, and I must do the opposite. There are so many good reasons to believe and trust God, and my job is helping people recognize those and act on them.


Father, it breaks my heart when people refuse to believe, and I know it breaks yours. Help me trust You enough not to lose heart when that happens. Help me stand firm in the faith You have given me, as an example and an encouragement to others so that they too may choose to believe and trust You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



第1コリント 16:13-14 目を覚ましていなさい。堅く信仰に立ちなさい。男らしく、強くありなさい。いっさいのことを愛を もって行いなさい。

Here's a passage to turn male chauvinism on its head! In most cultures, the average male would not associate standing in faith and doing everything in love with being strong like a man. That's because the devil has distorted the image of what God intends men to be. In Genesis it states clearly that we are created in God's image, and Paul says that our goal is to be like Christ, so we need to consider what Jesus was like in order to know how we should be. Jesus didn't marry, so we don't have that example in a specifically family context, but the picture is pretty clear even so. As a carpenter He was doubtless muscular (no power tools in those days!), yet He was also studious, because He had a very thorough knowledge of the OT. He was willing to lose sleep for the sake of prayer, and He consulted God at every juncture. He was both forceful, as when He drove the merchants out of the Temple, and very gentle, as when He called the little children to Him and blessed them. He treated women with more respect than perhaps anyone else in the country, allowing them to sit at His feet as learners at a time when many teachers absolutely refused to have anything to do with them, saying that teaching females was a waste of time. He didn't defend Himself before the Romans, even though He could have called legions of angels, but instead spoke words to cause Pilate to think deeply, in hopes of leading him to repentance. That's the kind of man Paul is urging us to be, and it cannot be done without faith and love.


I have the enormous advantage of having grown up with a father who sought to embody Christlike manhood, so I knew what it looked like since childhood. That doesn't mean I do a perfect job at it myself! However, I know that by God's grace it's possible, and it is my goal. Part of that is also to provide an example and a mental image to those who have not been so blessed as I was. Most men and boys don't really know what a godly man looks like because they've never seen one! That has led to all sorts of aberrations in society. I can't wave a wand and fix everything, but I can make an impact on one person at a time, and I must be faithful in all God allows me to do.


Father, thank You yet again for Your grace. Help me be an accurate instrument of that grace to others, drawing them to You even as I seek to draw closer to You myself. May I indeed be the man, husband, and father (both physical and spiritual) that You intend me to be, for the blessing of those around me and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




第1コリント 14:12 あなたがたの場合は同様です。あなたがたは御霊の賜物を熱心に求めているのですから、教会の徳を 高めるために、それが豊かに与えられるよう、熱心に求めなさい。

The thing that strikes me immediately from this verse is that very few Japanese churches could be described this way. The whole concept of spiritual gifts seems to have great difficulty taking root. In Japanese society, it is seen as impolite or conceited even to acknowledge that you are gifted in ways other people might not be, and the idea of actively seeking after gifts that wouldn't be the same for everyone is almost repulsive. That is a ploy of the devil, and it has been sadly effective. As a result, churches aren't built up, and they drag along with very little effectiveness. We seem to have great difficulty grasping that God's love and grace can be equal for different individuals without being the same. This is part of what I mean in saying that when Japanese Christians wake up to who they are in Christ, the nation and the world will be changed. To this point, Japanese society has not been kind to the exceptional, in any area. “The piling that sticks up gets hammered down” is all too famous as a Japanese saying. That is why Japan was very slow to accept handicapped people into general society. They have made great strides in that area in recent years, but accepting and utilizing gifting hasn't caught up, particularly in the Church. Paul tells us to earnestly desire spiritual gifts!


I have taught on spiritual gifts, but certainly not enough. I haven't wanted to seem like a “Charismaniac!” However, that has left this church no better off than other Japanese churches. I need sensitivity and guidance from the Holy Spirit as to how to get through to people past their various preconceptions. There are those who are indeed leery of Charismania, and there are those who think it hubris to seek gifts and abilities from God. I have to pastor both! However, skirting the issue helps neither, and it deprives us of tools God wants us to have. I need to help everyone in the church understand the grace that is the foundation for everything God gives us, so that their fears may be dissipated and their hearts encouraged to take hold of all God offers to us.


Father, thank You for bringing this up at this time, and for the message You are building in me even as I write. Help me hear you accurately and be faithful in my obedience, so that I may speak Your truth in Your love to produce Your results for Your glory. May we indeed be transformed into the likeness of Your Son, so that we may be powerful in destroying the works of the devil and bringing many into Your kingdom, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



第1コリント 13:4-8 愛は寛容であり、愛は親切です。また人をねたみません。愛は自慢せず、高慢になりません。礼儀に 反することをせず、自分の利益を求めず、怒らず、人のした悪を思わず、不正を喜ばずに真理を喜びます。すべてをがまんし、す べてを信じ、すべてを期待し、すべてを耐え忍びます。愛は決して絶えることがありません。

This is a justly famous description of agape love, read in countless weddings with no thought of the irony involved. (Probably very few couples indeed get married with this level of purity in their love.) The problem is that for most of us, this sort of description is just words; we've never seen love like this. As I say in every wedding I conduct, we can't generate this kind of love, we can only receive it. If we will receive it from God, who is its source, then and only then can we let it flow through us to others around us. In marriages and in churches, people are forever trying to work up this sort of love, and they just can't do it. You can't love like this without the security of knowing that this is how you are loved by God. From our perspective, it comes down to a decision to love, because of God's love for us. As Don Francisco sings so memorably, love is not a feeling, it's an act of your will. Don says in the song, “Jesus didn't die for you because it was fun.” Human love tends to last only as long as it feels good. The miracle of agape love is that we can express it at all, but it is the glorious testimony of believers down through the ages. It is precisely because it is supernatural that it is such a striking indication that we are Jesus' disciples, just as He said. (John 13:35)


My life is a practicum in this, as is the life of every believer. As a pastor I am often called on to talk about it, but I must not stop with words; I've got to practice it. Precisely because this sort of love is a choice, it can be commanded. And it is commanded throughout the NT. If I fail to love with agape love, I am being disobedient to God! I don't want that. As a pastor, I need to help people see and understand God's love for them before I can focus in on their need to love their neighbors. The devil does all he can to get us to focus on problems so that we won't realize that God is indeed love, and everything He does is an expression of it. We equate love with indulgence, and that blinds us to what agape love really is.


Father, You know better than I do that in my strength alone I can't love. And I certainly can't teach others to love, in my strength alone. Thank You for Your Spirit in me, expressing Your love to me and to those around me. Help me be consistent in allowing that love to flow freely, so I may recognize it more and more. And especially so that others may be drawn to open themselves up to Your love, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




第1コリント 8:1-2 知識は人を高ぶらせ、愛は人の徳を建てます。人かもし、何かを知っていると思ったら、その人はま だ知らなければならないほどのことも知っていないのです。

This is an extremely important point, yet at the same time a difficult one. Paul is not saying that we aren't to be assured in the things we learn about God, as though God were ultimately unknowable. That is actually the basis of agnosticism. Sad to say, many church members, even, are practicing agnostics, because they don't act on what they claim to know. However, what Paul is saying is that standing on a point of knowledge to the detriment of a brother, even if that knowledge is true in itself, proves our ignorance. The specific issue at question in Paul's day is quite applicable today, with very little change. Then, it was food sacrificed to idols; today it might be drinking alcohol. Now, the Bible is consistent on the dangers of drinking too much, but it is clear that virtually every Biblical figure, with the exception only of those under the Nazirite vow, drank wine on a fairly regular basis. However, water supplies are much safer now, and the rationale for drinking alcohol is much weaker. At the same time, there are some who feel that drinking any amount of alcohol is wrong, and there are also alcoholics for whom even smelling alcohol is a powerful temptation. Knowing that drinking is not wrong in itself does not free me to drink if someone will be badly impacted by my drinking. The principle that Paul expresses here is that love builds up. Anything that doesn't build up my brother is less than loving.


Though it doesn't feel like temptation, I am one who is greatly susceptible to being puffed up, because my mind is somewhat like a sponge: I like to know things. Frankly, that has been a refuge for me in the past. When I have felt inadequate or rejected for one reason or another, I have retreated to “but I know so much more than they do.” Anytime I do that, I am demonstrating that, as Paul said, I don't know as I ought to know! I have a strong desire to be “in the know,” and that has made numerous problems throughout my life. That's not to say that I'm to stop learning, by any means, but it is to say that I must consider the benefit to my neighbor before I go spouting off what I think I know, and it also means that my wealth of information does not make me inherently better or more valuable than anyone else.


Father, thank You for Your gracious gifts to me. Help me use them in faithfulness and love, toward You and toward my neighbor. May I be one who builds people up, rather than one who tries to inflate myself. When I encounter error on serious issues, help me deal with the error rather than attacking the person. Help me be clear and strong on what You have shown me, without descending into knee-jerk condemnation of those who don't see things the same way as I do. Help me let You be the Judge, without condoning what You have made clear to me is wrong. Thank You. Praise God!



第1コリント 4:15-16 この私が福音によって、キリスト・イエスにあって、あなたがたを生んだのです。ですから、私はあ なたがたに勧めます。どうか、私にならう者となってください。

Particularly in this culture, it is often considered conceit for one person to tell another to imitate them. However, imitation is the most fundamental learning method we experience. Babies don't learn to walk if they don't see people walking! We understand that fact with babies and small children, but we tend to forget it as people get older. However, the principle still applies no matter how old a person is. The governing factor is generally one of attitude: whether the person thinks they can learn, and whether they want to, particularly from the example in question. It is true enough that many people don't present an example worth following! However, as long as we're focused on ourselves, we are either very vulnerable to conceit or we don't think we could be a good example to anybody. It is when our focus is on Christ that we can safely tell others to imitate us. Paul made that a little clearer in chapter 11, when he said “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” If our hearts are committed to follow Christ, we need have no hesitation in telling others to imitate us.


As a pastor, being a good example is a major part of my job. The same may be said for my secular teaching work as well. Accordingly, I've got to be doubly on my guard against conceit. That has indeed been a snare to me over the years, and I must not get careless. At the same time, I must encourage the believers in being examples to those around them. That's where Japanese self-deprecation gets in the way. It is seen as conceit to claim you are an example worth following! I must not be the only good example in this church, because many people write themselves off as being unable to follow the example of a “professional Christian.” That's why my job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry, as it says in Ephesians 4:12. I need to help them understand that the Holy Spirit is just as ready to work through them as He is through me.


Father, this is a pressing issue right now, with two faithful members likely to move away because of job situations. Help me encourage all the believers to believe that they can be just as true and useful to You as those who are leaving. Keep me from emotionally rejecting those who are leaving, in a petty reaction to the hurt of their departure. Help me be honest, with them, with myself, and with the others in the church, that it is painful for them to leave, but that God's plans are far greater and better than anything we could come up with. Help me trust You indeed, looking forward to what You are going to do next, to whom You are going to raise up, so that I won't allow the devil to use circumstances to steal my peace or my joy. Thank You. Praise God!