Fleeing from the Presence of the Lord

Jonah 1:1-17 /  ヨナ1:1−17

This story takes place after the united kingdom of Israel has divided into two (the southern kingdom became Judah which kept Jerusalem as its capital, and the northern kingdom retained the name Israel and made Samaria its capital), after Solomon’s death. According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah was a prophet that served the northern kingdom around 786-746 B.C.   He was from a town called Gath-Hepher, just to the west of Sea of Galilee.

Although Jesus was asked many times for a sign that He was the Messiah, the only sign He would allude to was Jonah. An interesting side note is that Gath-Hepher was located very close to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.

God took note of the great wickedness of the people of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, and commands Jonah to go there immediately and speak out against them. However, instead of following orders, Jonah heads toward Joppa, which is in the opposite direction. He intends to go to Tarshish, which was in Spain, in an attempt to run away from the presence of God.

Jonah definitely is not acting as someone who is in the service of the Lord. Not only does he not obey God’s orders, he is not acting as an ambassador of God’s love. Although he knows that God brought on the supernaturally strong storm out on the sea, he does nothing to try to help those on board. While the sailors are valiantly trying to save the ship by praying to their gods and physically doing all they can, Jonah is sleeping down below. When God made it clear to everyone that the reason for the storm was Jonah’s disobedience, Jonah doesn’t even offer to pray to God, nor to repent. Jonah is more ready to die than to obey God’s orders, at the risk of the lives of everyone else on board. Not a great witness for the Lord.

The sailors realize how powerful Jonah’s God is and realize that there is nothing they can do to save themselves except to appease this God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land. They are horrified that Jonah had brought on God’s displeasure by disobeying such a powerful God. They ask Jonah what needs to be done, and Jonah tells them that they must throw him overboard. The sailors are not willing to do that, so they continue to try to guide the ship to safety, but when they are convinced that there is no other way to save the ship than to throw Jonah overboard, they reluctantly do, but only after praying to God.

So why was Jonah disobeying God? Was it because he was afraid that God would destroy Nineveh and all the people living there? Was he acting out of love and concern like Abraham did, when Abraham was told that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? It ends up being the opposite. In chapter 4 of Jonah, Jonah reveals why he disobeyed God. It was because he was afraid that the people of Nineveh would repent and that God would spare them. Jonah would rather that God destroyed Nineveh. He wanted nothing to do with God if He was going to spare Nineveh

To understand where Jonah was coming from, we have to realize that Assyria was an emerging great power in the region, and they were on an expansion plan. They were violent people who would invade countries and scatter the conquered people and have them intermingle so that they would lose their national and cultural identity. In fact, a few decades from when this story takes place, in 722 B.C., Assyria does conquer Israel and destroys it as a nation. They almost succeeded in conquering Jerusalem and Judah, but the southern kingdom was spared for the time being. As a result, the people of God got intermingled with other people and from the eyes of the Chosen People, they became impure and their religion also diverged away from the worship of the true God. That’s why by the time of Jesus, Samaritans were so hated by the Jews.

So from Jonah’s perspective, Nineveh was a danger to God’s people and to the worship of God. Although Israel and Judah had their faults and disobeyed God often throughout their history, they were the Chosen Ones, and they had a special relationship with God. They were loved by God in a special way. So it made no sense to Jonah that God would show love to such godless and wicked people who would end up destroying Israel.

Unbeknownst to the sailors who probably assumed that Jonah drowned, God saves Jonah and we know in chapter 3 that God gives him another chance to obey, and Jonah obeys, albeit reluctantly.

So is it possible to run away from the presence of the Lord? Since God is omniscient and omnipresent, we can safely conclude that no, it is not possible to run away from God. Jonah tried, but was not successful.

Psalm 139:7-10 7Where can I go from your spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

But is it a bad thing that we cannot run away from God? It might feel that way when we are planning to disobey God, and that He keeps pursuing us and will not leave us alone. However, this is because He loves us and wants us to repent and obey His commands. God created us to do His good works, and He will not allow us truly to be satisfied unless we are doing so.

When we are in need of help, it is a great comfort that the presence of God is there, no matter what. So it is a good thing that we cannot avoid being in the presence of our God.

In Jonah chapter 2 it tells us how uncomfortable it was for Jonah to be sinking to the depth of the sea and drowning, and how glad he was when God saved him. Let us strive to be obedient to God’s commands, even if we are not fully in agreement with them, lest we find ourselves thrown overboard and be reminded that we cannot escape God.

(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano on July 12th via our JCC ZOOM worship time.)

Come To Me…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 28-30

「すべて、疲れた人、重荷を負っている人は、わたしのところに来なさい。わたしがあなたがたを休ませてあげます。わたしは心優しく、へりくだっているから、あなたがたもわたしのくびきを負って、わたしから学びなさい。そうすればたましいに安らぎが来ます。 わたしのくびきは負いやすく、わたしの荷は軽いからです。」マタイ11:28−30

Today’s text is the well-known and well-loved invitation of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened.” Are there any among us who haven’t felt that way at times? A kind of bone-weariness, tiredness, helplessness….it’s possible that you’re feeling that way today.

But along with the rest that Jesus offers in verse 28 – he appears to offer us work and a burden as well, when he says: “Take my yoke upon you”, and later when he says “my burden is light.” What does Jesus mean by this?

While there are many ways to view this text, the image of the yoke itself seems to give us insight to the meaning of Jesus’ words.

  • The yoke that is talked about here is a double yoke. It is designed for two animals. Some labor is too difficult for one animal to do alone, but a yoke provides a way to combine the strength of two animals.
  • When two animals were connected by a yoke, they were never the same. One of the animals was more experienced and the other was often younger and less experienced. Thus, during the work – whether it be plowing a field, or turning a millstone, etc. – the younger and less experienced could be guided and helped by the older and more experienced. This is always true, whether it’s a team of horses or a team of huskies for a dogsled. Jesus’ words to “learn of me” would point to this kind of relationship in which Jesus teaches and guides us through example.
  • When Jesus gave his invitation to “Come to me if you’re weary” he meant “Are you tired of trying to live your life on your own? Are you tired of struggling with such a difficult task?”
  • When he said “take my yoke” – he wasn’t offering a new burden to us – he was inviting us to come into his yoke so that we could work together. This is basic faith and discipleship in the Christian faith – it describes a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are being invited into a life and work relationship with Christ.
  • When we live our life with Christ – letting Christ guide us and lead us – i.e., walking and working together in the same yoke – we find that the result is much different than when we were trying to do it all on our own – more efficient… less stress…. a lighter burden!

Won’t you accept Jesus’ invitation to join him in his yoke – to enter into a relationship with Christ?

There is a warning here – the invitation is only to those who are weary and heavy-laden with burdens. Many in Jesus’ time saw his miracles and heard his teaching but refused to believe, feeling that they had a better answer. If you feel proud and sure that you can do it on your own – then of course this invitation makes no sense.

But if you’re at the end of your rope – exhausted and tired – then now is the time to accept this beautiful invitation and promise. Come!

(this is a summary of the message shared via our ZOOM worship time on Sunday, July 5th)

What Do You Most Fear?

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34

 わたしが来たのは地に平和をもたらすためだと思ってはなりません。わたしは、平和をもたらすために来たのではなく、剣をもたらすために来たのです。マタイ10:34

 What is it that you fear most today? In this time of pandemic, social isolation, unemployment, social upheaval and unrest – we may have many answers:

We fear a lack of supplies and money, we fear illness, we fear violence and an apparent crumbling of our society, we fear death. This is normal and these are things that are truly frightening.

During these times we, as believers, also seek the opposite of our fears – we seek peace and safety and assurance of well-being.

So what are we to make of today’s text? Jesus says “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” How are we supposed to understand that?

First, it’s important to recognize that this entire text (Matthew 10) is about discipleship. Jesus is preparing his own 12 disciples to go out and share the good news. He gives them specific instructions about how to act and what to bring with them. He challenges them by saying – “Do you think that they will treat you differently than they’ve treated me? Don’t be surprised when you’re persecuted, hated, and misunderstood.” In other words, if you take your faith seriously, and preach this good news joyfully, you will meet resistance. True discipleship will be a dying to self…

Jesus is not speaking prescriptively, but descriptively. Jesus is not happy when there is division… he does not wish for broken relationships between father and son, mother and daughter. He is describing what happens when a person begins to take their faith seriously. THEY WILL MEET RESISTANCE. If you are not feeling resistance from some quarter today, maybe you need to take another look at your faith. Has it become a soft and easy substitute for real discipleship?

When we look at Jesus in scripture, we see that he challenged people and forced changes from everyone he met. He caused a crisis in people’s lives in order that they would change for the better.

  • He never seems to accept the status quo
  • He never seems to offer a quiet ease
  • He never directs toward the path of least resistance
  • He never encourages a “back to normal”
  • So here’s the question: “Does our faith challenge people around us in the same way?”

And so we return to the original question.

What do you most fear today?

If we are reading this text accurately, we may conclude that Jesus is challenging us NOT to fear persecution, rejection, hatred, discomfort. Those should be expected of a true disciple.

What we ARE to fear is :

A faith that’s pleasant and nice – but not transforming

A church that’s beautiful and peaceful – but not powerful

A gospel that’s good for some – but not for all

Jesus DOES offer real peace – make no mistake about that. Is it possible, however, that the peace he offers will NOT be a bland, back-to-normal, comfortable, easy-going, don’t-rock-the-boat kind of peace…. but one that will require hard work, change, tears, and some pain? As I consider our nation and our present struggle with systemic racism, white privilege, and blindness toward the plight of those that are marginalized due to the lack of economic power or the color of their skin…. Jesus’ words in today’s text sound uncomfortable – but ultimately challenging.

Come Holy Spirit, in this time of unrest in our nation. May we seek the Shalom that is possibly risky and dangerous. May we allow you to cut us with the sword / surgeon’s scalpel – in order that we may be truly healed.

(Thoughts for this devotional were inspired by the lectionary blogpost by Debie Thomas on the “Journey With Jesus” website. I encourage all of you to read it HERE.)

Remember…

Luke 24:1-12

1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

ルカによる福音書 24:1-12

1週の初めの日、夜明け前に、女たちは用意しておいた香料を携えて、墓に行った。 2ところが、石が墓からころがしてあるので、 3中にはいってみると、主イエスのからだが見当らなかった。 4そのため途方にくれていると、見よ、輝いた衣を着たふたりの者が、彼らに現れた。 5女たちは驚き恐れて、顔を地に伏せていると、このふたりの者が言った、「あなたがたは、なぜ生きた方を死人の中にたずねているのか。 6そのかたは、ここにはおられない。よみがえられたのだ。まだガリラヤにおられたとき、あなたがたにお話しになったことを思い出しなさい。 7すなわち、人の子は必ず罪人らの手に渡され、十字架につけられ、そして三日目によみがえる、と仰せられたではないか」。 8そこで女たちはその言葉を思い出し、 9墓から帰って、これらいっさいのことを、十一弟子や、その他みんなの人に報告した。 10この女たちというのは、マグダラのマリヤ、ヨハンナ、およびヤコブの母マリヤであった。彼女たちと一緒にいたほかの女たちも、このことを使徒たちに話した。 11ところが、使徒たちには、それが愚かな話のように思われて、それを信じなかった。 12〔ペテロは立って墓へ走って行き、かがんで中を見ると、亜麻布だけがそこにあったので、事の次第を不思議に思いながら帰って行った。〕

On that Sunday morning after the crucifixion of Jesus, women disciples of Jesus who witnessed Jesus’ death and laying of His body in the tomb came to the tomb to prepare the Lord’s body. To their surprise, they found the stone to the entrance rolled away and His body gone. While they were wondering what had happened to the body, two men in dazzling clothes suddenly appear and tell them that Jesus is not here, but is alive. They run to tell the apostles about this, but the apostles can’t believe them.

Later on the same day, two of Jesus’ followers who were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus are discussing what had happened, and a man joins them. The man teaches them about the OT prophesies concerning the Messiah, and suddenly disappears during dinner. Only then do the two remember the things that the stranger said and realized that it was the risen Lord with whom they just spent most of the day. They turn around and hurry back to the apostles to tell them what had happened.

The apostles had heard the reports from the women as well as from the two who were on their way to Emmaus, but they don’t know what to make of it. Even after Jesus suddenly appears to them, they cannot believe that He is alive and fears that what they are seeing is a ghost. They only are able to believe after Jesus reminds them of all the things He told them while He was alive that was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem.

Remembering is often overlooked in the process of faith, but it is very important in the gospels and is confirmed in our experiences. The women believe only after they were prompted by the angels to remember what Jesus had told them. The two men on the way to Emmaus were able to believe only after they remembered the encounter and teachings of the man who just suddenly disappeared. And the apostles were able to believe after Jesus reminded them of all the things He told them about the Son of Man.

Faith does not usually move from promise to fulfillment, but from fulfillment to promise. Often, recognition/understanding comes because of remembering. In other words, the promises in the Bible often go unrecognized as such at the time it is happening. It is only afterward that we remember the words of the Bible and how they apply to what had happened.

That is why it is important for us to keep sharing the story of Jesus. Such sharing may not have any immediate effect on the listeners. However, the time will come when the listener will be reminded of what was shared and then understand.

It is clear that today, both believers and non-believers need God’s love for them. God uses the Bible and His followers to tell the world about Jesus. Often, people will not react positively to what we have to say about God and His promises. Most of the time, non-believers do not come to believe in God’s love at the time they are reading the Bible, or when we are sharing with them (that certainly was the case for me).

However, if we continue to faithfully witness to the world, the Holy Spirit will help us. He will cause the people to remember our words and deeds, and some will come to be saved.

Of course, they cannot remember if we do not share or act. So let us keep studying the Bible so that we can fully appreciate what God has done for us and be able to share it effectively. Let us keep witnessing to our relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors about God’s love. Let us keep praying that someday, they will remember and be able to believe.

(this is a summary of the message that was shared at our JCC Worship Zoom session by Shun Takano on Sunday, June 14th)

Be Filled With The Spirit!

hawk and snakeThe Eagle does not fight the snake on the ground. It picks it up into the sky and changes the battleground, and then it releases the snake into the sky. The snake has no stamina, no power, and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable – unlike on the ground where it is powerful, wise and deadly.

Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles. Don’t fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battleground like the Eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer. You’ll be assured of clean victory. Pray without ceasing!                                                                          (shared on Facebook by Jonathan Kobayashi)

Many of us want to make changes in our lives.   We strive to grow and to be better people. We long to become more like Christ, but we don’t know how. Therefore, we continue to stumble and fall over the same things over and over again.   Knowing this, God gave us a special gift… the gift of the Holy Spirit. Why? So that we could do what we couldn’t do in our flesh.

The Bible says to be filled with the Holy Spirit. How? By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. By trusting in His Word. Believe that you have died with Christ on the Cross. It is no longer you who lives, but Christ lives in you (Gal.2:20). You have now entered the Spiritual realm. As you meditate on this simple but deep truth, thank Him. Rejoice in your new birth. Sing praises in your heart to the Lord.   Keep praying to God the Father of your needs, knowing that He is with you, as He has promised. Allow Him to do the inner work in your hearts. And through this work, the outward fruit of a changed inner life will begin to blossom.

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.  Eph.5:15-21

15そういうわけですから、賢くない人のようにではなく、賢い人のように歩んでいるかどうか、よくよく注意し、16 機会を十分に生かして用いなさい。悪い時代だからです。 17ですから、愚かにならないで、主のみこころは何であるかを、よく悟りなさい。 18また、酒に酔ってはいけません。そこには放蕩があるからです。御霊に満たされなさい。19 詩と賛美と霊の歌とをもって、互いに語り、主に向かって、心から歌い、また賛美しなさい。 20いつでも、すべてのことについて、私たちの主イエス・キリストの名によって父なる神に感謝しなさい。 21キリストを恐れ尊んで、互いに従いなさい。エペソ5:15−21

God Bless You!

(The above post is a summary of the message shared with us on Pentecost Sunday, June 1,  at our ZOOM worship time by Richard Nakamura)

 

Rohingya refugees, Cox’s Bazar and the coronavirus

Andrew West, of ABC Radio National (an Australian news organization), recently interviewed Rachel Wolff,  Senior Response Director of the faith-based international aid agency World Vision. The interview concerns the Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar and how the coronavirus is affecting their situation there.

For a short recording of that interview with RACHEL, click HERE.

(Rachel is the daughter of Pastor Steve and Betty Luttio.)

The Cross

Luke 23:32-49 (NRSV)

32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus£ there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[
34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]]£ And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah£ of God, his chosen one!”
36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,
37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38There was also an inscription over him,£ “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding£ him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah?£ Save yourself and us!”
40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into£ your kingdom.”
43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
  44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land£ until three in the afternoon,
45while the sun’s light failed;£ and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”£
48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.
49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

ルカ23:32−49(新改訳聖書)

ほかにもふたりの犯罪人が、イエスとともに死刑にされるために、引かれて行った。 「どくろ」と呼ばれている所に来ると、そこで彼らは、イエスと犯罪人とを十字架につけた。犯罪人のひとりは右に、ひとりは左に。そのとき、イエスはこう言われた。「父よ。彼らをお赦しください。彼らは、何をしているのか自分でわからないのです。」彼らは、くじを引いて、イエスの着物を分けた。民衆はそばに立ってながめていた。指導者たちもあざ笑って言った。「あれは他人を救った。もし、神のキリストで、選ばれた者なら、自分を救ってみろ。」兵士たちもイエスをあざけり、そばに寄って来て、酸いぶどう酒を差し出し、「ユダヤ人の王なら、自分を救え」と言った。「これはユダヤ人の王」と書いた札もイエスの頭上に掲げてあった。 十字架にかけられていた犯罪人のひとりはイエスに悪口を言い、「あなたはキリストではないか。自分と私たちを救え」と言った。ところが、もうひとりのほうが答えて、彼をたしなめて言った。「おまえは神をも恐れないのか。おまえも同じ刑罰を受けているではないか。われわれは、自分のしたことの報いを受けているのだからあたりまえだ。だがこの方は、悪いことは何もしなかったのだ。」そして言った。「イエスさま。あなたの御国の位にお着きになるときには、私を思い出してください。」イエスは、彼に言われた。「まことに、あなたに告げます。あなたはきょう、わたしとともにパラダイスにいます。」そのときすでに十二時ごろになっていたが、全地が暗くなって、三時まで続いた。太陽は光を失っていた。また、神殿の幕は真っ二つに裂けた。イエスは大声で叫んで、言われた。「父よ。わが霊を御手にゆだねます。」こう言って、息を引き取られた。この出来事を見た百人隊長は、神をほめたたえ、「ほんとうに、この人は正しい方であった」と言った。また、この光景を見に集まっていた群衆もみな、こういういろいろの出来事を見たので、胸をたたいて悲しみながら帰った。しかし、イエスの知人たちと、ガリラヤからイエスについて来ていた女たちとはみな、遠く離れて立ち、これらのことを見ていた。

Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested. He is first taken to Pilate, who finds him innocent of crimes, and upon hearing that Jesus is from Galilee, sends Jesus off to Herod, the ruler over Galilee, who happened to be in town for the Passover. Jesus refuses to answer any questions or perform any miracles, so Herod sends Him back to Pilate.

Pilate sees no reason to execute Jesus so tries to reason with the people, but to no avail. There was apparently a custom to free one prisoner at Passover, but instead of Jesus, the crowd insists on having Barabbas released. It is interesting to note that “bar” means “son”, and “abba” means “father”. So the innocent Son of the Father is being exchanged for the guilty “son of a father”. This is precisely the meaning of the cross. The Son of God, who was sinless dies so that our sins might be forgiven.

Luke alludes to OT passages about the Messiah to emphasize that Jesus is the long-promised savior of the world: Offer of vinegar (v. 36 and Psalm 69:21); Casting lots to divide His clothing (v. 34 and Psalm 22:18); and Jesus’ last words from the cross (v. 46 and Psalm 31:5).

Two thieves are being crucified along with Jesus. One of them derides Jesus, but the other understands that they are guilty of crimes and deserve their punishment, but Jesus is innocent and doesn’t deserve to be crucified. Jesus is still saving people at this stage of His ministry.

In Luke 4, the devil tempted Jesus with an easy route to messiahship, one without having to go to the cross, but failed. Luke told us that the devil departed from Jesus until an opportune time. Apparently, this is the time, since there is a continuation of the devils’ temptations here – “If you are the son of God . . .”, through: the leaders (v. 35); the soldiers (v. 37); and the thief (v. 39). The last temptation is to stop the suffering and come off of the cross, to make them realize that He is the Messiah. Jesus had the power to come down off of the cross, but had He given in to this temptation, there would be no real salvation possible, even though a few more people might have believed that Jesus had God’s power. Without the suffering and death, there would be no forgiveness nor salvation for the world.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the world:

  • It opened up access to God
  • Simply through faith in Jesus, we can obtain: forgiveness for our sins; citizenship in the Kingdom of God; adoption into God’s family as sons and daughters; eternal life; Kingdom occupation
  • We are not qualified nor authorized to do Kingdom work on our own
    • Kingdom work can only be bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, who is God, and who lives within us
    • And doing the Kingdom work as directed, when directed, is what we are to be doing as saved people

Through us, Christ’s followers, is how God is going to show His love to this world. Through our obedient workings, people are going to get a chance to turn their hearts to Jesus and be saved. There is no guarantee that just because we do as commanded, people are going to be saved. However, if we refuse to do as commanded, people are not going to hear the good news about Jesus when they are supposed to hear it.

God the Father did His part in sending His only Son to earth. God the Son did His part in withstanding the enemy’s temptations and giving His life on the cross for us. God the Spirit is doing His part by teaching us, giving us the love and power sufficient, and directing us to the when and how to do Kingdom work – When and how to preach the gospel and be witnesses of God’s love.

In return, we need to do our part in carrying our cross daily and following Jesus.

(the above is a written version of the message shared with us by Shun Takano during our ZOOM worship time last Sunday, May 10th)

 

I’m available Lord!

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a person’s gift is prophesying, let them use it in proportion to their faith. If it is serving, let them serve; if it is teaching, let them teach; if it is encouraging, let them encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let them give generously; if it is leadership, let them govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let them do it cheerfully.                                                                                  Romans 12:3-8

私は、自分に与えられた恵みによって、あなたがたひとりひとりに言います。だれでも、思うべき限度を越えて思い上がってはいけません。いや、むしろ、神がおのおのに分け与えてくださった信仰の量りに応じて、慎み深い考え方をしなさい。一つのからだには多くの器官があって、すべての器官が同じ働きはしないのと同じように、大ぜいいる私たちも、キリストにあって一つのからだであり、ひとりひとり互いに器官なのです。私たちは、与えられた恵みに従って、異なった賜物を持っているので、もしそれが預言であれば、その信仰に応じて預言しなさい。奉仕であれば奉仕し、教える人であれば教えなさい。 勧めをする人であれば勧め、分け与える人は惜しまずに分け与え、指導する人は熱心に指導し、慈善を行う人は喜んでそれをしなさい。                ローマ12:3−8

In our text for this morning, the church is compared to a human body, with many parts, each part having its own function and work to do. As Christ – the head, directs and inspires us – the members, we become a healthy body, living and serving within our context. The question for many of us during this “stay home, stay healthy” time of COVID-19 is…. “How can we function as the hands and feet of Jesus? We’re all stuck in our homes and can’t really reach out to others. How can we fulfill our responsibility and serve as part of the body of Christ?”

I was reminded this past week of a formula that was shared with me by Pastor John Notehelfer during a chapel message back in my seminary days. He said that God often combines the following elements together in order for His body, the church, to function properly:

An available Christian + a needy person + God’s timing = God’s work

You might use other words for the end result such as salvation, mission, miracle, ministry, etc., but the point is that God’s will and work is accomplished when available believers are placed by God in a position to help needy persons.

We don’t always know WHO the needy person is. Sometimes it’s obvious – such as a homeless individual or someone with other visible needs. Sometimes the needs are unseen – spiritual, emotional, or financial. But we know this for certain – needy people are ALL around us!

Scripture promises that God will work. It’s God’s will that NONE should perish, that ALL would come to a knowledge of salvation. It’s also clear that God cares about our physical needs and emotional and financial concerns as well.

So the only question left in this formula is: “Am I available to be used by God?” The question is not: “Am I talented?” or “Am I trained well enough…?” or “Am I suitable for this service?” but instead…. “Am I available?”  If you are, God will surely put you to use. But be careful when you tell God that you’re available… you may be called into service!

So back to COVID-19. How can this work NOW? It’s true, we can’t function in all the ways that we are accustomed to. We aren’t able to reach out in all the familiar ways. But let’s tell the Lord, “I’m still available during this ‘stay home, stay healthy’ period. How can I serve you and others today?” You might just be surprised by God’s timing… and by the ways that God leads you to help those that are needy. A phone call? A note? An errand run? You’ll know when it happens!

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 3.29.10 PM

(the above is a summary of the message shared via our ZOOM worship time this past Sunday, May 3rd, by Pastor Tim)

Be Imitators of God

Be Imitators of God

「神にならう者となりなさい。」

Ephesians 5: 1-7

When you were younger, who did you want to become, or be like?

だれになりたかったでしょうか。

Athlete, Actor, Musician、Bill Gates, Bruce Lee, etc. We often had an idol we wanted to imitate. Even now, who do you want to become like? Who influences you in the way you live? Who do you want to imitate?

Unfortunately, in our hearts, we want to become like God, though we may not realize it. When we insist on doing things our way instead of Gods. Paul calls it idolatry. We are actually worshipping ourselves.

We want to be on top. Therefore, we make “gods” to fit our needs. But if we are the ones making gods in our own image, who is on top? We are.

And in the end, the Bible says we become fools.

Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.   (Romans 1:22)

彼らは、自分では知者であると言いながら、愚かな者となり、 23不滅の神の御栄えを、滅ぶべき人間や、鳥、獣、はうもののかたちに似た物と代えてしまいました。(ローマ1:22)

Why do we do this? So that we can be on top, #1, in control of our own lives. Ultimately, it leads to our destruction. When we make ourselves the focus, the Bible calls it idolatry. Christ came to save us from the penalty of sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

罪から来る報酬は死です。しかし、神の下さる賜物は、私たちの主キリスト・イエスにある永遠のいのちです。(ローマ 6:23)

This news is why Paul brought the Gospel to Ephesus. Ephesus was known for Diana/Artemis worship, magic, prostitution, banking, and wealth..   魔法、売春、銀行業

Immorality was a way of life.  People came from around the world to enjoy it pleasures. Paul went there to share the love of God and bring hope. And people responded to the Good News of the Gospel. There was a better way! They knew their sin. They knew they needed a Savior. A great revival happened.

After salvation, Paul gave instructions to the Ephesians as to how to live. Without Scripture, we will not know what God defines as sin, what pleases Him, how to live, etc.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  (II Timothy 3:16-17)

聖書はすべて、神の霊感によるもので、教えと戒めと矯正と義の訓練とのために有益です。 17それは、神の人が、すべての良い働きのためにふさわしい十分に整えられた者となるためです。(IIテモテ3:16−17)

Scripture challenges our former way of thinking and life. It causes us to react. Do we follow or not. But as we humble and submit ourselves to His Word, God blesses and uses us.

Today’s verse:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;  and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God [b]as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

ですから、愛されている子どもらしく、神にならう者となりなさい。 2また、愛のうちに歩みなさい。キリストもあなたがたを愛して、私たちのために、ご自身を神へのささげ物、また供え物とし、香ばしいかおりをおささげになりました。(エペソ5:1−2)

We are to be imitators of God.   What does that mean?

As we read Scripture, we get to know Him, His love, grace, holiness, justice, etc. We begin to understand true love, which is unselfish, others-focused.

1 John 4:19 – We love, because He first loved us.

私たちは愛しています。神がまず私たちを愛してくださったからです。

We cannot walk in Christ’s love unless we understand how he loves us.

Good Friday – I watched “The Passion” (I watch it every year). I cried again. A glimpse of His love for me. The sufferings should have been mine, but Jesus took my place.

I want to love like Jesus. Paul calls us to be imitators of God.

Be imitators of God also means living in Holiness.

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;

あなたがたの間では、聖徒にふさわしく、不品行も、どんな汚れも、またむさぼりも、口にすることさえいけません。

These are the very issues that plagued Ephesus. Immoral lifestyle. We have to humble ourselves and let God be the standard, not the world. The word immoral comes from the word Porneia. Which is where we get pornography. Any sexual expression outside of Biblical marriage is wrong (sex before marriage, gay-sex, incest, animals, etc). It does not fit with the character and holiness of God. But God’s standard goes against our culture today, just like it did in Ephesus.  The immorality today is not fitting to holiness. It does not match being “Imitators of God”.

Christ is Holy. Love is holy. Love is not immoral.   God calls us out to be holy. The world/Satan wants the church to conform to its standards.  God wants the church to conform to His standards.   Spiritual Battle.

And Paul also addresses Greed. Ephesus was the banking center of that area. Money was their God.   Money gave them power, material goods and ….sex.

1 Tim.6:10   For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Money is neutral. It is neither good or bad. The LOVE of money is the problem. We are to love the LORD.

Matt.22:37, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

Have you learned to be content with what you have? Can you trust Him even with little?

Phil 4:11, Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

To be imitators of Christ means also…

… no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

また、みだらなことや、愚かな話や、下品な冗談を避けなさい。そのようなことは良くないことです。むしろ、感謝しなさい。

Is your speech full of thankfulness? Or is it filled with swearing, crude jokes, gossip, or tearing someone down?   I remember God used my brother’s speech to influence me. He used to swear a lot. But after becoming a Christian, the way he talked changed. He stopped swearing. Others are full of complaints. We should rather be known for words of thanks.

A warning is given. Not because God is mean. But because God is love, holy, and just.

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them;

あなたがたがよく見て知っているとおり、不品行な者や、汚れた者や、むさぼる者――これが偶像礼拝者です、――こういう人はだれも、キリストと神との御国を相続することができません。6むなしいことばに、だまされてはいけません。こういう行ないのゆえに、神の怒りは不従順な子らに下るのです。7ですから、彼らの仲間になってはいけません。

God says a similar thing in 1 Corinthians 6

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

あなたがたは、正しくない者は神の国を相続できないことを、知らないのですか。だまされてはいけません。不品行な者、偶像を礼拝する者、姦淫をする者、男娼となる者、男色をする者、10盗む者、貪欲な者、酒に酔う者、そしる者、略奪する者はみな、神の国を相続することができません。

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  (Heb.10:31)

生ける神の手の中に陥ることは恐ろしいことです。

But once you know God and his love and forgiveness, our grateful hearts should want to become more like Jesus. Jesus came to rescue us from this terrifying judgment.

God wants us to turn the other direction and become more like Jesus. But we can’t do it on our own strength. We need his grace and forgiveness. We need the Holy Spirit to help us. As we believe and trust in Him, He will transform our hearts as we walk with Him.

Praise the Lord!

We are being challenged today, much like the Ephesian Church was then. Turn to Jesus and become imitators of Him.   Allow Christ to shine in you!

Think of ways to share the good news of the Gospel to your family and friends who need love and forgiveness; who need hope and a new life.

God Bless each one of you.   If you have questions, feel free to email me here: rich@send.jp

Benediction:

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.     Ephesians 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越(こ)えて豊かに施(ほどこ)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、とこしえまでありますように。アーメン。

(this message is a written version of the words shared with us by Rich Nakamura during our ZOOM worship session last Sunday, April 26, 2020)