Positively Glorifying God in Negative Circumstances

Some time ago we are at a meeting for the young adults and were listening to the last message on the book of John from Sean Christensen.
It was a great message, and had all to do with following God and not being competitive.  This was the situation with Peter in John 21:18-25, as he questioned Jesus about John’s future—no doubt to measure it against his own God-given calling.  I really like verse 25, but that’s beside the point for today.    What really stuck out to me while listening in the message was verses 18-19.
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Peter was martyred, being crucified upside down.  What really grabbed my attention was the phrase “to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God”.  I guess we, at least according to our western culture, tend to think of glorifying God in terms of positive things.  I don’t know– things like giving praise to God, doing the right thing, leading someone into a relationship with God.  And those things certainly do give glory to God.
But maybe because of the history and values of our country’s founding, we tend to see persecution and things like martyrdom as a shame.  We may sometimes see it as honorable, but do we think of it as something that does indeed bring glory to God?  After all, someone was loyal to the point of death, and faithful in the proclamation of His name.
There’s a man right now who is imprisoned in the middle east for his faith.  We here demand justice, demand his release and safety.  I agree.  But through his trial and persecutions, the Gospel has gone forth.  Hundreds of thousands have been preached to, and have heard the Gospel where otherwise they wouldn’t have had the opportunity.  This has brought forth fruit for the Gospel.  It has brought glory to God.  Did it have to be this way?  Yes, he has been losing his life for the sake of the Gospel.
I certainly wish martyrdom on no one.  I’m not saying go set out to make yourself one.  That would be foolish– and perhaps the motivation would be glory for oneself than for God.  But what I’m saying is that it’s important not to see situations in the context of “our life” but rather, what will give glory to God.
After the Triumphal Entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, it says in John 12:24-28a:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  Now my soul is troubled.  And what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name.”
We ought not to pray to be saved from difficult hours but to bring glory to God in them.
v. 28b: “Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
May it be so.

Prayer and Purpose

Recently I’ve been slowly making my way through Luke, very slowly mind you.
But I read something last week from Luke 4 that has been on my mind quite often.  It’s a pretty big chapter– a lot happens.  In the beginning there’s the story of the temptation of Jesus and His time in prayer and fasting over 40 days.  Then you see Him at the Temple, reading from the scroll in Isaiah where He basically states His mission,  then a lot of miracles and then His moving on.
Ok?  So…?
WELL.  It’s interesting how at the beginning of the chapter in the temptation, Jesus is tempted to use His position and authority for His own benefit.  He’s even tempted to show off or prove to “another” His own identity.  I wonder how many of us have been in the same situation.  For example, the devil says, “If you are the Son of God,” (italics mine)… I remember those kinds of situations as a kid– “well, if you really are the best, then show me!”  It’s a dare to prove ourselves and secure the pride of our position.  It becomes more subtle as an adult.  But Jesus didn’t give in.
How was Jesus tempted exactly? Mind you that I can’t fully take credit for everything that I am about to share with you, as I learned much of it from a message.  The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy right?  Temptation is an attempt to do just that to you.  In each of these cases, it would have been a stolen opportunity that God had planned to fulfil in a bigger way later; and ultimately it would have destroyed the plan of God for Jesus.  I learned how Jesus was tempted to provide bread for Himself when He would later become “the Bread of Life.”  He was tempted to take the authority of the nations for Him, when He would later become the Ruler of the Nations– it would be given to Him as the Son.  He was tempted to go out and recklessly “prove God’s Word”.  This time, the devil used Scripture in his temptation– so it sounded more legit maybe (he includes Jesus’ identity again).
But Jesus had stored up God’s Word in His heart, that He might not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11).  It says in verse 13, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”  This last temptation would later be echoed at the crucifixion, where they challenged Jesus to save Himself if He was indeed the Messiah (Luke 23:35).  But Jesus did not use His glory, power, position or identity for Himself– He saved others.
Then we have Jesus at the Temple.  Here He basically states His mission as He reads from Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He later proceeds to do exactly what He told them His purpose was: heal and set free others as He moves along.
Finally, in verses 42-44, we see Jesus out praying again.  The people are searching for Him– He’s had a very successful ministry in Capernaum and Galilee.  The people loved Him.  They didn’t want to go, they wanted to keep Him for themselves.  That’s a tendency of ours, isn’t it?  To keep the blessings for ourselves, to want more of it, and not to share it with others….
But Jesus remembered His purpose, and He was guided by God, who reminded Him of His purpose.  Jesus replied to them in verse 43: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
It’s easy and for me, extremely tempting, to become comfortable where I find myself.  Successful ministry can easily lend to that.  But we must hold onto the purpose that God has given us.  Is that ministry where God is calling us to remain?  Then we must stay.  But perhaps it’s easy not to bother to pray about further direction and if we should be moving along– because after all, the people love us and we’re being successful where we are.
There have been times for me that I’ve found myself lulled by the beautiful valleys God has placed me in.  I remember last year reflecting on that and sharing it with Vicente.  I was comfortable in southern California– I enjoyed my job; I had established friends and relationships at my home church where I was being fed; I had a home with my husband in a state with wonderful weather year round!
Those things may sound silly, but I recognized the precarious position of my heart.  I knew God was calling us to move toward Japan.  I would, of course, move forward.  But I didn’t want to have any sense of… regret… in doing so.  It was a heart condition.  These things could easily become a hindrance for me fulfilling the purpose of God in my life, and having joy while doing so.
I am so impressed in this chapter to see Jesus choosing not to use anything about His identity and calling for Himself.  It enabled Him to fulfill it in God’s bigger better way later.  I am inspired by His purpose and mission which He was clear to state.  And He didn’t let success, love from people or circumstances keep Him from moving forward to accomplish that purpose and mission.
It all came from direction from God.  It’s important to keep seeking God so that we can effectively follow Him.  We are to glorify God, and He has purposes that are different for each of us.
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26

Perceptions

http://mentalfloss.com/article/55140/10-japanese-travel-tips-visiting-America

This was a very interesting article that we found for Japanese people travelling to America.  It’s a bit amusing to see how others perceive us.

It wasn’t until I began living in other countries that I really realized how different cultures can be.  Of course, we all know that generally about cultures, that they’re different.  It’s easier to spot differences when we see them in other cultures than to note the nuances of our own culture.  Typically it’s because that’s all we’ve ever known– and that’s “just the way things are!”

When I lived in Mexico, I remember getting that answer a lot.  Sometimes I answer that sometimes too.

Being in an cross-cultural marriage, I see more differences as well between cultures and it’s made me be able to pinpoint them a little better. It’s also taught me to really appreciate the value of the differences– learning to adjust to some of them have made my life better!

Anyway, that’s a rant.  I learned more about American culture reading this article– particularly the part about laughter.  Makes me wonder what people may have thought about me when I was there!

And February…

So, in the interval between the last blog and now, so much has happened.

A couple weeks ago, my doctor put me on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.  It really drives me nuts not to have anything to do.  Luckily in December, I knew upcoming projects and wrote them in the months of my 2014 planner.  January was so busy that though it was constantly on my mind, I was unable to get to my January Project.

End of January rolls around, I’m on bedrest and within two weeks, both January and February’s projects are done (Japanese visa paperwork has been organized and sent to Japan to begin translation.  Don’t be fooled, this is only part one of the process– but at least it’s done!).  Taxes are also ready to be filed.

Bedrest thought it could conquer me– but I can get stuff done from the couch/bed too!

In December we finished the marathon Perspectives Course, ending in a 10 page paper about Japan.  That took me back a few years– I haven’t written a paper with proper citations since college!  At any rate, it was a great experience for Vicente and I.  We learned a lot about missions through the course, grew together as we learned and researched a lot about Japan.

But it was nice not to have so much homework.  We have a few books to read for organizations that we’ll be working with, but other than that, we’re done with a big bulk of the work.

Stay tuned for further articles on Japan.  I hope to get back on track in time for the baby to throw off the blog again!  Our apologies, but know that we are making efforts!

Blessings friends!