Nonogaki Rpt – December 2015
Being led by God – December 21, 2015
It has been 20 years since I started working with Yokota Church of Christ after finishing my graduate study in Harding School of Theology. I have noticed many differences between Japanese and American Christians. Most of them are doctrinally insignificant, but a few of them are critically important. One of the important issues is that Japanese Christians use the expression “I am led by God” casually more often than Americans. In fact, American Christians I know hardly use it. For example, a Japanese preacher would say, “Today this passage has been given by God.” A new member of a church may say, “I am led to this congregation by God’s Spirit.” Another one said to me, “I was led to read this passage when I opened the Bible this morning. The passage happened to be in front of me when I opened it.” This difference may be caused by differences between Japanese and American cultures. Americans think more logically while Japanese tend to believe in mysterious power. But the thought “being led by God” can have very negative effects on Japanese Christians although I do not deny that God leads people.
For example, a young man of the Yokota congregation once said to me, “I was praying to God and God answered me immediately. I was led to watch a youtube video in which a pastor was preaching. I was very encouraged by it.” After he had told me so, we watched it together to examine the message. I pointed out to him that the female pastor was using the texts out of their context and erroneously distorted them. That was out of question. He understood it. Since then we have been studying what it means to be led by God or the Spirit. It has been a very good study.
Goals for 2016 – December 24, 2015
A lot of things happened in our congregation in 2015. Several people left the Yokota because they have to move to another city too far from here. They are very dedicated Christians and faithful to the Lord. In the beginning of 2015, we made a goal that the church attendance would be over 20. We had 20 people attended a couple of times, but it was not constant. We have not experienced the breakthrough yet.
Once again we make a numerical goal for 2016. Making a goal is not bad as long as it does not become the center of attention. Proverb 16:1-4 says, “To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue. All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The Lord works out everything for his own ends- even the wicked for a day of disaster.” This passage keeps coming back to me when I think about carrying out the mission given by the Lord.
Therefore, we pray to Him, “God, help us be faithful to you. In the name of Christ, Amen.”
Writing a commentary on “Romans” – December 24, 2015
JSE (Japan School of Evangelism) has an annual publication. Several teachers are supposed to write a research paper annually. I will write a commentary on Romans. This will be a life long project. I hope I will get it done by my departure. I have now finished a first draft of “Introduction to Romans.” I have not written a research paper so long, so I have forgotten how to write a footnote. In fact, I thought I would never write a paper like this one and would not go back to school anyway. I threw away several books about how to write a research paper that I had bought at Harding School of Theology. I have bought a new edition of “A Manual for Writers” written by Kate Turabian. This is a standard book for research projects and papers. It is twice as thick as the edition I had bought.
Thankfully I have an access to enough resource books to write the commentary. Writing “Intro to Romans” has been quite challenging and forced me to restudy both the context of Romans and its contents more carefully. I regret that I do not have time to write it in English although I wish everyone would read it.
Becoming a friendly church – December 25, 2015
We had a visitor recently. At first he was very hostile to us and Christianity, but we remained very friendly. Our positive attitude broke his iced cold heart. He came to our fellowship meal while he was still talking crazy things about Christianity. We remained calm and continued being friendly to him. Once again he was becoming a little mellow. That was a good sign.
We are becoming kind of church we would like to be. We desire to have casual conversation with non-Christians and interact with them. I pray that we will receive God’s wisdom to act properly toward outsiders.
An old man baptized long ago – December 29, 2015
After the WWII lots of Japanese people were interested in Christianity. It was told that 1000 people were baptized per month in a particular year in 1950’s. If they still live, they are over 80 years old. Last week an old man who had been baptized by O.D. Bixler (an old time missionary in 1950’s and 60’s) came to the service. He is suffering from a stroke he had several years ago, so he cannot move around easily. He used to attend Ochanomizu Church of Christ downtown Tokyo 60 years ago. We talked about his church life and memory with Christians and missionaries. Next day I sent him a thank you card, so he called me back to say “I will keep attending the service.” This is a really good news. I called Bro. Obata, who was a former minister for the Ochanomizu Church. He knows the man very well and has been talking to him about the Yokota Church. Bro. Obata introduced him our church. This is a way of building up people network. I appreciate all the blessings given by God and His guidance.
A middle aged man – December 29, 2015
Last week a middle aged man came to the service. He had something in mind and wanted to talk to me about it. He had a marriage problem and read my web site “Introduction to the Bible.” He was very open minded and immediately got to know other people in the church during the break between the service and the Bible study. After everything was over and everyone left the building, he and I got together and talked over an hour. It was a very good time. He asked me lots of Bible questions while he confessed his sins. I pray that things will work out for him and his wife and family. He told me that he wanted to continue attending the service. I am very thankful for God’s guidance and wisdom given to me and him.