Foundations

You guys remember that Bible study I was doing?  The one all in Japanese… highlighted everywhere with English notes all around it?  The one taking hours each week to prepare for?

Well, it’s done.  Whew!  I’m sad but also immensely relieved at the same time.  It was a great book that takes you from Is there a God? and How was the Bible written? to How to walk and grow in your new faith.  It shows you a great deal of how Japanese reason, given the examples and analogies they use.  And it’s a great exercise in what I call language mathematics… namely, that double negatives in Japanese make a strong positive.  Take for example this sentence, translated literally: “However, we to become happy, by just that, enough you couldn’t say not necessarily don’t you think?” which I think could be translated to: “Wouldn’t you agree that we cannot become happy by ourselves alone?” Bah.  My brain hurts.  Word for word translation just does not work.

Well?!? And?!? I thought you might ask.

The young lady I was meeting with made her decision to follow Jesus. (WOOO-HOOOOOO!)  I think the decision was made maybe before I brought it to the point, but making a decision publically (or at least with another person) is an important moment. The enemy sure waged some war against her preceding it, but praise God, He prevailed! We have a new sister in Christ.

We started reading through Mark in our personal devotion times before she had even made a decision.  Each week, as we go through, she brings out her journal with thoughts and questions on what she reads.

Apart from asking me what Jesus meant when He said that the friends of the bridegroom will fast when he is gone away, she also had questions like:

“Who is David?”

“What happened with Judas Iscariot?” (we haven’t read the full book yet)

along with the following exclamation:

“Jesus says that anyone who does His will is family. It is wonderful!”

Beautiful moments.  It’s awesome to journey together as she discovers God’s word for herself.  It’s tricky to answer questions sometimes (try explaining justification and redemption in another language).  And it’s humbling to recall that the things I take for granted as known (even though I know better!) are a new foundation of understanding for this precious sister.  It’s a privilege.

But it comes with great responsibility and so want her to rely first on the Lord, but to count on me to walk along the path as we both follow Christ.  And just like a child is trained in the ways that he should go, so a young believer needs to be taught and discover principles, fed as a youngin’, given milk that will nourish and is not tainted with my American cultural interpretation of the Bible (you perhaps doubt me when I say this, but it’s very true) and even my idea of what application looks like.

She will be travelling for a while, and so we are continuing our discipleship meetings via Skype, and are excited now to continue onto the next little booklet for new Christians.  Per her request, it’s in English.  I’m not disappointed about that at all.

But, I will continue to re-study this current evangelistic book and pray for new people to work with… that His name may be known!  And that I can proclaim this message more and more clearly, as I ought… in Japanese!

Community

If you happen to get any of our prayer newsletters, you’ll recall that we usually mention our thankfulness for your partnership in prayer.  It’s true, we are so very thankful.  And though you might not consider it partnership, we do.  Any prayer for Japan and for us is as linking arms with us, giving us strength to push forward.  Two people with linked arms pushing forward will make some progress, but 10 people with linked arms will make further progress, 100 even more… and so forth.

But sometimes it gets tiring to use the same words, no matter how sincere they are.  I sat at my computer, fingers paused above the keys, working on the prayer newsletter. I was stumped.  How can I communicate without saying something that people have surely heard many times?  Something that people won’t read over with glazed eyes, looking for important information?

So I did what any English student might do.  I checked the thesaurus.

There are a lot of synonyms for partnership.  Some amusing ones: cahoots, chumminess, cartel. Others that make sense: association, firm, friendship.

But I came across one that struck a chord with me: community.

Community– something you share in.  Something everyone has an interest in.  Something that you contribute to, connect with, cooperate in, participate in, take ownership in.  It’s community.  And for us, that’s what prayer partnership means.

We’re a community to reach Japan. As you pray with us and for us and for this wonderful country, you make an impact. You connect with an unseen body, scattered over thousands of miles, crying out for God to move in this country.  You link arms to join a mission moving forward.

We recently heard a story about three men.*  They were each working hard, laying bricks.  The first one was asked what he was doing.  Laying bricks, of course.  The man moved on to ask the second what he was doing.  Building a wall.  However, the third answered, “I’m building the most amazing building the world has ever seen.”

Three men doing the same job.  But one had vision.  So please, don’t just consider yourself as laying bricks when you pray.  Consider that your prayers are making an eternal impact for the future of a nation.  For the future of individuals who are precious to the Lord.  For the spread of the Kingdom of God and the fame of His Name across the earth.

A Community… with a Vision… for His glory.  And we’re grateful to be a part of this community.

*We heard the story from Pastor Gumer here in Japan. We want to give credit where credit is due!

Song of the Crow

Today’s blog needs background music.  So click play on the above specifically-chosen video and read on.

I bet when you think of this song, many things may come to your mind, but none of which would be crows.

The crows here in Japan are HUGE.  Let me repeat: HUGE.  I’ve always said that they are the size of Chihuahuas.  But I recently read that they can grow as long as two feet long.  Please measure that out with your hands right now.

YEAH.

So, the creeeeeepiest thing happened the other day as we were getting ready to head out.  We have a friend staying with us for the summer who is lodging in our daughter’s room.  We were getting last minute things ready and all of a sudden, our second story window caught my eye (we live on the second floor).  About 20 crows or so were cawing and swooping up and down outside of the wires that are quite at eye level for us.  I was like, oh my goodness, look outside!  My friend gasped.  It looked like something out of a horror movie.  Imagine- (20) 2 feet long, Chihuahua-sized birds literally within 20-30 feet of you swirling around like kamikaze animals.

But wait, there’s more.

We left a few minutes later after gawking from the window.  All the massive birds were still there with their haunting caws swooping around and I was a bit on edge, I’ll admit.  We began our walk down the street, thankful to be leaving what seemed to be their airspace.  But, as we approached a walled property along the sidewalk, probably 5.5ft in height, we were literally 2 feet from approaching the wall when (again, I’m not ashamed to use it) literally 8 or 9 crows landed to sit on that wall all in a line AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT.

Now these birds were just short of being at eye level.  It was the craziest thing ever. As we both gave a jumped pause and I kept my gaze straight ahead to keep walking.  Not one bothered us, and most few away as we approached.

BUT STILL.

It’s become a joke among us, especially as we’ve learned these interesting facts about crows (check this site out) :

-Crows can remember your face… as proven by scientists and many other internet users.  One user said that he had thrown a rock at a crow and a year later that crow occasionally dive-bombs him out of nowhere.  Now you know why this song is so appropriate.

-Crows communicate with one another and have dialects. They also apparently communicate to each other about people they don’t like.  Not only that, they apparently communicate this info for generations, according to scientists.

-They have crazy memories and have been known to change entire migration habits to avoid an area where even one crow was killed in the past.  They memorize trash schedules to optimize their feedings.

-They are crazy smart and uncannily handy.  Think chimpanzee smart.  They are well-known to perfectly time dropping walnuts in front of cars in order for them to be cracked open.

-Japanese crows live 7-10 years in the wild.  They’re actually a pretty big problem here because their predators are not around in Tokyo.

So now you know: don’t mess with crows.  My friend sent me the following picture which I’ll leave you with.

Now picture 10 of those life-size.

Shudder.

crow 1

Farming Tokyo

I really hate saying that it’s been busy.  I’m coming to hate that word. But I will say that EVERYTHING stacked up this week.  All on top of each other like a leaning tower of pancakes.

Thankfully, I think I have just about conquered all of it and have been all the while munching on some very good words from the Lord.

One of them… and perhaps I should know this already… was a brief teaching from our cell group sector meeting on Sunday.  The leaders and potential leaders met to talk about building our ministry teams so that we could effectively outreach and grow.

One of the thoughts that came out of it was from Matthew 13, the Parable of the Sower.  The seed was scattered over various types of earth.  Some soil produced good fruit, some didn’t produce any at all, some produced very short term fruit and some of the seed was stolen by the birds.  All of it was sowed by the farmer.

Now what is a farmer’s job?  To produce crops of course.  But a big part of producing a good crop is tending to the soil of the field.  If a farmer is given a piece of land, he is expected to prepare the soil to receive the seeds– he doesn’t just buy a bag of seeds and go out throwing seeds carelessly.   Rather farmers are pretty meticulous and turning soil… and I’d imagine getting rocks and weeds out… making rows and being organized, that type of stuff.

The thought mentioned on Sunday was that it would be ridiculous for us to blame God for a bad crop– or no crop at all– if we haven’t first tended to the soil.  It is our job to cultivate that soil, plant seeds and wait for God to bring them to bloom.  Of course, it takes a while to see all your vegetables and fruit trees grow up.  But instead of randomly throwing seed into the air and hoping that you get soil, take the time to work the area that you’ve been given in order to produce the best fruit possible.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16

I could just imagine myself standing in the foreground, looking out at an expanse of parched earth, but at the same time, knowing that with hard work, patience and perseverance (they go hand in hand, huh), seeing a lush dark rich soil producing the sweetest fruit and wholesome vegetables.

It’s gonna take cultivation, careful study of the layout of the ground we’ve been given, learning how to best care for this particular type of land, and working the ground so that it is ready to receive the seeds.  And as I change metaphors here, as the little seeds grow up into workers, the faster and more efficient this will become to work more and more of the land.

But, if I’m careless at the beginning, throwing seeds and hoping for a quick response, then the result will not be as good as it could have been.  And if patches of the good soil do yield fruit, it is easier to make sure you don’t lose the fruit to rogue rabbits or just a general lack of protection.

For my part, it makes me more determined to work the land with skill.  It gives me more desire for effective prayer… more desire for purposeful fasting, more desire to yield the best crop to the King.