Tuesday, October 21, 2008

David May asks: "Do you know where you are going?"

October 12, 2008

Each Sunday Pastor Stan teachers us from the Bible, principles for our everyday Christian living. We do need to be constantly reminded of how the Bible gives us guidelines to be used in our daily life. When I first started coming to ICCS Pastor Stan asked me,”What do you like about ICCS?” And I told him,”The teaching emphases.” But also I think we need to be reminded from time to time, where we as Christians are going. Where is our final goal? And who is going to take us there.

As some of you know, I like to jog. And last February, I join in the Tokyo Marathon. One of the things I did in preparation for the marathon was to try and memorize the map of the course the marathon would take. Show map. The marathon started in Shinjuku going east to Idobashi. And then south to Shinagawa. I was doing well to Shinagawa. At Shinagawa the course turned north heading to Asukusa. I knew, once I made the turn at Asukusa, I was ¾ of the way to the finish line. But it seemed like it was taking forever to get there. With each turn the course made, I would ask myself, “Are we there yet?” A little further, again I ask myself, “Are we there yet?” I kept asking myself this question until finally the course made the turn heading south toward the finish line. Now I knew where I was on the course. I knew that ¾ of the race was behind me. With each distance marker, I knew I was draw close to my goal. The point in all this is, that it helps in the same way in our Christian race to know were we headed, the points along the way, and where the final goal is.

Let us now turn to the text for today.

Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;

The Chapters of John (13-17) records the last meal Jesus would have with His twelve disciples. In these chapters Jesus reveals his heart to them. And not only to them, but also to those who would read these recorded words at a later time, which includes us. When he had convicted and discarded Judas, he set himself to comfort the remaning11, who were full of sorrow upon what he had said of leaving them, and a great many good words and comfortable words he here speaks to them.

I am going to look at this passage in reverse order. I will start with Jesus statement, ”I am the way.” Jesus Himself is the way that we follow to reach God. In other words, he is the only way that we can come to God. There is no other way. Some people say that other religions lead to God, too. This is not true. People cannot come to God by means of a religion, any way. The only way to God is by means of a person: God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And I would like to add that Christianity is not a religion. It is a Faith. Heb. 11:1 & 6 gives a very clear definition of what faith is.

1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…Without faith it is impossible to please God Because any one who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

And I ask, if there where other ways, why did Jesus suffer and die on the cross? And if there are other ways, Jesus is a liar. And if He was lying, none of He statements can be trusted. C.S. Lewis wrote, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great teacher. He’d either be insane or else he’d be the ‘devil of hell.’ You must make your choice.” He writes, “Either Jesus was and is the Son of God, or else He was insane or evil.” C.S. Lewis goes on, “Let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

But His disciples witness Jesus betrayed, lead off to be falsely accused before Pilate, hung on a cross, to die. Put in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. Then on that Sunday morning, some of his disciples went to see the empty tomb. Sometime later, a doubting Thomas put his finger in the nail holes in Jesus’ hand and feet. And touch the cut in His side and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!!!” Yes, Jesus is exactly who he said He was and is today; the Son of God.

Therefore we can trust the promises that He made.

When we believe in Jesus, we are following the only way to eternal life with God. This way is available to every person on the earth. But each person is free to choose it or to reject it

In life we have many choices to make. Some are not too important. For example, I go to the store to buy some coffee. The first choice I make is what brand, then should I buy mocha or espresso, or regular blend. Then do I want whole bean, ground our freeze-dried. After making the choice, I go home and brew a pot. At the first taste, I know that I have made a bad choice. Pouring it out I say to myself, "I will never buy that brand again." No bad consequence. Just a few hundred yen.

On the other hand, there many choices we make that, if we choose the wrong one, there are severe consequences. For example, Should I stop at this red light, and wait for the green light. Or should I ignore it and keep going. If I do go through the red light one of two things will happen. One, a policeman will see it and pull me over, resulting in the loss of my licenses. Or more seriously, a collisions with the cars going through on the green light, which could lead to death.

When I was in High school, I witnessed such an event. A friend and I were on our way to an auto parts store in a part of Portland that we were both unfamiliar with. While I was busy giving directions from the map, my friend was driving. He stopped for a red light waiting for it to turn green. Hearing a car pass us, I looked up from the map in time to see the car ignore the red light and collide with a car that was going through the intersection on the green light. Fortunately, other then three smashed cars, there were no fatalities. It could have been much worse. Definitely, the driver made a very bad choice.

Of all the choices in life, there is one of the greatest importance; where to spend eternity.

Matt.7:13, 14 tells us to take the narrow road to God.
13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Japan is a good example only a few will find it. What is the population of Japan? And of this big number, there is less then 1% who are Christians.

So here are just two choices. The broad way to destruction…where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat.8:12 )…where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.(Mark 9:48)…Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Rev. 21:8). Not a pretty picture. Or the narrow road that leads to life. Let's talk a little bit about this narrow road.

We all know about narrow roads in Japan. When I first started driving in Japan, I disliked driving down narrow roads. In fact, I still do. If I can avoid them, I do. One route I take to church goes down a narrow road for about one kilometer. Sometimes I take the long way around to avoid it. But then I tell myself, “take the short cut, you must get over your fear of narrow roads.” But the narrow road of Christian life is a one-way road; everyone is going the same direction; no on coming traffic. That makes a big difference.

Now, Jesus never said that His road would smooth. He never said there would be no bumps, no ups and downs. In fact, He says just the opposite. He said the world hated Him and it the same way the world will hate us. He also said, ”in the world you will have tribulations, but take heart, I have over come the world.” (John 16:33). I have a song on a CD that I listen to which says, “the trials and tribulation I face on this road of life draw me nearer to Him.” And that should be our attitude. Remember to spend your time counting your blessings, not airing your complaints.

When I was thinking about what kind of illustration to use, this though came to mind. When we choose Jesus as the Way, or The Road to God, Jesus gives us His ETC card, from the bank of Grace (Eph. 2:8,9), with a never ending supply paid in full by His death on the cross. In other words, He gives a free pass to Heaven paid by Him. One of the main points of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all times. He paid it all.

I remember the first time I used my ETC, as I approached the gate I thought to myself, is the gate going to open? I moved closer and closer. Is it going to open? Finally, to my great relief the gate opened, and I went through with no problem. When we use Jesus’ ETC called Grace, one needs not fear because the gate will always open.

A kind woman gave me this suica card. Actually it was Ann. Now I don’t know how much yen is on it. Maybe nothing or then many 1000 yen. I don’t know. But fortunately, there is a machine that will read this card and tell me how much is on it. And with the same machine, I can add more yen to it. Now if someone is relying on good works, there is no machine, which tells that person if he or she, has done enough to get into heaven.

From time to time, I get an update telling me how many frequent flier miles I have acquired. I also have a chart that lists the number of frequent flier miles I need to fly to Hawaii, or to North America, or Europe, etc. But have you ever seen a printout of the points required to enter Heaven?

It is a sad thing, that some are on this road thinking their own ETC card, bought with good works will open the gate into heaven. But they are going find out that the gate won’t open for them. It will be just the opposite, the gate will slam shut on them.

I imagine that some of you have had the same experience as I did going through the ticket gate at the eki. I purchase a ticket from the machine. But unknown to me, I had purchase a ticket at the wrong price. Thinking I had bought the right ticket, I had no worry about exiting the gate at my destination. Wrong. As I was quickly going through the ticket gate, I was rudely stopped by a shutting gate; embarrassing to say the lest. And that is the exact experience that will happen to them.

Now, Jesus not only gives us His ETC card , but also by means of the Holy Spirit He seals us guaranteeing our safe arrival to Heaven. If you have an important document that you want to make sure the one who you are sending it to receives it, what do you do? Using a special envelope, you seal with your signature or hanko, and a tracking code is placed on it. The person who receives it at the other end must sign for it proving that he indeed received it and you receive back a note that proves the person you intended to receive it received your document. And this is the same idea the Holy Spirit does. He seals us for the day of redemption guaranteeing one’s safe arrival to heaven.

Now we as believer not only have Jesus’ ETC card and are seal by the Holy Spirit. But here is the amazing thing, Jesus Himself is coming back to give us, His children, a personal escort to the Kingdom.

Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." Jesus had given His promise that He would return. This promise was given some two thousand years ago and it still remains to be fulfilled.
When? We don’t know.

Scholars and theologians have written many volumes about the second coming and have draw elaborate time lines showing what sequences will take place. But still we don’t know when Jesus’ return will be.

My take on prophecy is like viewing Mt. Fuji from a distance. My route to church is via road #407 and then road # 50. Now road #50 crosses road #16 Saiyama Shi. Just before crossing road #16, on a clear morning, Mt. Fuji can be seen in all its beauty. It doesn’t look that far away. If I turn right on to road # 16 and head toward Hachiyoji, at one point, Mt Fuji again can be seen looking oh so close. I think in just a few minutes I will be at the mountain. But then I go down into a valley and cannot see the mountain for awhile. Then I come up on a hill top and they is Mt Fuji looking so close yet in reality it is still very far away.

This is the same with the Second coming of Jesus. To the disciples, His return was near, so they though. To the early Christians, they too though Jesus return was near. In fact, some were not working, but waiting around for Jesus return. Paul had to write and tell them to get back to work, because the time of His return is not known. This has been the same sequence down through church history; Jesus return seems so near at one point and then it seems so far away.

But Jesus did say, in Matt. 24:4-8, "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

II Timothy 3:1-5
1"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

Sounds like a description of today doesn’t it. Although we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do have a good description of what will happen when He does return.

This time, no baby in a manger. No announcement to lowly shepherds. No visitors from the east. But read to the following:

I Thess. 4:15-18
15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

And again in II Corin. 15:51-58

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

In closing let us look in Rev. 21, and 22, for a description of the Kingdom were Jesus has prepare dwelling places for us. I am giving you a ten-minute, open book test. List everything describing what it will be like in heaven. Here are two free answers.

1. We already know that we will have dwelling places prepared by Jesus.

2. And Paul tells us, for those who have longed for his appearing, a crown of righteousness.
II Tim. 4:8

“Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Living in Forgiveness

Psalm 130
1 Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD;
2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
3 If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope.
6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 O Israel, put Your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

It is hard to forgive yourself. We tend to live in regret. We have the propensity to live in the past. We are inclined to live not forgiving ourselves or for our blunders. Jonah was every much like that as we are.

He remembers the way it was back before the boat to the fish’s tummy. Before he went away from God’s plan for him. He found it really hard to live in the forgiveness that was already his.
We find it hard to live in the forgiveness we already have in the Lord as well!

Look at Jonah 3:10. “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.”

God’s forgiveness is nothing like the forgiveness of humans. Again, we are liable to remember evil done against us. We are predisposed to hold on to the past.

Time to let go!
Time to let yourself be healed of the pain.
Healed of the sorrow.
Healed of the reminder of our past life away from the Lord.

We will get to our text soon, but first, let’s look at the problem Jonah had. He is displeased because WHY? Because God answers prayers. Strange reason to be bitter, but a real issue for some--for most. We are inclined to keep count.

In Matt 18, Jesus is asked an important question. They knew it was the right thing to do in forgiving people, but how many times do we need to forgive them before we can’t forgive them any more?

We are looking for a way to give then what they deserve. If the truth be know, they want to hurt them back. We want justice--but on our terms and not the same justice when it comes to our own lives with it’s disappointments. Jesus sees right into the heart of the matter and finds a place to touch-a God-Touch Place.

Chapter 18 deals with humbling one self like a little child in order to be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. (So much for the proud.) He speaks of the one sheep that took off from the herd and how the Good Shepherd went after it and brought it back. A real picture of the Lve of God toward us! Then the question of people who sin against you..then, this:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Jesus then goes and tells a lengthy parable of the unmerciful servant. The whole idea of this parable was to point out that the huge debt he had was canceled but the man held onto a small debt owed him. He was unmerciful. Mercy was lacking in his life.

Is mercy lacking in your life?

Mercy was great to get but was not so great to give!

Sounds like our man Jonah! He was so thankful for the second chance on life after the experience in the stormy sea and from inside the fish. He was not to happy with what happened with the city that was at war with Israel. God forgave them. God’s compassion was great toward them and did not bring the destruction He had threatened them with.

Now Jonah was angry, yet he prayed. He not only prayed but he justified his anger with God. “This is why I disobeyed You” ...because of Your Character.

Gracious /
compassionate God /
Slow to anger /
abounding in love

Real positive traits of God and Jonah was angry about his God’s Character. Jonah also FORGETS that this same God was that way toward this evil city was the same toward him!

With God, there is no distinction? I am the same in His eyes as a pagan person? In truth, yes...and no. His love toward me as a Child of God is secure in His Son’s Blood over me but His love for the pagan is just as real. When He looks at me, He sees His Son: when He looks at someone who is not yet His Child, He sees a potential family member.

The God who relents from sending calamity… “therefore take my life away.” “Let me die!” “Better to die than to live!”

What is the meaning of LIFE?
If you have been forgiven, why throw your life away?

ILL: A train accident in the Osaka area a while ago. In the tangled mess of train cars, people were found...some alive, some injured, some without a scratch. One such man made the news last week. He was one of the survivors. Spent some time in the Hospital, overcoming some physical injuries and mental stress. Last week, he ended his life. He, who was spared death in that terrible accident, took his own life. Found it hard to handle why he was alive while others died. Now the families of the ones who died wonder, why did he get to live and then kill himself while our loved one was not given that same chance? Seemed unfair/sad!

Chapter 4:4 “‘But the Lord replied:’“Have you any right to be angry?”
“Do you have any right to say, KILL ME!?”

Was Jonah forgiving? Who did he hate? Not just the people and nation of Nineveh but also, God and himself. Not a really nice person to be around. All this hate and angry is unhealthy. It created in Jonah a desire for self-destructive. These types of feelings are somewhat common--even in small areas of our lives.

How many times have you said: “I don’t deserve this!” “Oh, no, not me! I am not good enough…” “I could just die.” “I wish I were dead.” “If I could just end this…”

Your feelings are real. Now, move from there.
Don’t dwell there.
Don't build a house there in that hate filled area of living.
See how God handled them with Jonah?

He was patient with Jonah. He is patient with you.

Please read the following passage and ask God for this kind of heart.
Joel 2:12-14
12 "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.

Please go to www.gdopjapan.com for information on the next evening of Prayer on November 1. Those in the Tokyo area are encouraged to come to the GDOP 1/2 Year Check-In at the Seibi Kaikan in Higashi Kurume at 6:30-8:30 PM.