Monday, September 19, 2011

In You, we have Hope!

What do you say to someone who asks: “Because Japanese vocabulary in relation to Christianity is confusing, can we study the Bible in English?” If the Christian message is covered with cultural terms and meanings that make it difficult to understand, how can the true message be understood? I have been told since early years in the church that the message HAS to be in the heart language of the people. While I agree with that statement, but I continually find it hard to balance out what I know, or believe to be true, and what is reality—from what I hear from people who are either searching for the true or teaching it. 

One such person is Mark P., missionary to the deaf.  He said the sign for God is the same as the sign for kami but the real sign should be: “The One Who Is!”

That would be a good example: The term “kami” for God. The word kami was originally applied to any object worthy of “respect and fear. Does that term really reflect the Biblical meaning of the Creator God of the Bible?   

In some research I have done for today, I have found three areas of conflict. Norihisa Suzuki writes:

Comparing this concept with the Christian concept of God, we find first that the Christian God is the sole God, whereas there is a plurality of kami (in the Japanese context).
Second, the Christian God is a transcendental god (exist above and apart from the material world) who supercedes ....humans, plants, animals, and all other living things in the natural world as well as all phenomena; whereas (in the Japanese context) anything that derives from such beings and phenomena that is “out of the ordinary” is a kami.
Third, the Christian God is an omniscient (knowing everything) and omnipotent (all-powerful) (G)od, whereas “evil and queer things” and other dreadful beings are labeled kami. (We sang a song a few weeks ago that called out these qualities: Invincible, unstoppable, all-powerful.)
F(ourthly), whereas the Christian God is the creator of the universe, not all Japanese kami are understood as such. 

Suzuki is a preeminent scholar on Kanzo Uchimura (1861-1930). The 12 volumes of nichiroku describes the immediate world in which Uchimura lived. He has also written a comparative study of translation of the Bible into Japanese plus a number of other texts. He teaches at St. Paul’s University, Tokyo, Japan.

Is it as confusing to the local merchant today in Tokorozawa as it was to the local merchant in the city streets of Damascus, Syria, 2,000 years ago?  I believe it was and is. Even when you look at the early Hebrews, who followed ELOHIM: “One God of Israel”. In the usage of ELOHIM, it is a plural term, but it was meaning ONE GOD.  The Hebrews AND us had a problem identifying this One God as one because of the usage of the same term by those around us.  The polytheistic gods of the Mesopotamian and Semitic religions had a similar name for their gods.  “EL” The general understanding then and now was/is that YAHWEH was the Hebrew’s God as opposed to the gods of other peoples. The Jews and Christians later astounded other peoples of those cultures with their claim that YAHWEH alone was the one true God and all the rest were false gods, with a small ‘g’.

Paul faced these misunderstanding at Athens (Acts 17:19-21) when he spoke of God, because of the Greek misunderstanding of the term God.  “Who are these other gods you are talking about, Paul? The Father, Son and the, what? the Holy Spirit?” 

But, once the people got behind the truth of this Gospel that there is One God and He wants a relationship with His creation, the people began to believe and have Faith in this God. And find HOPE.

The Nature of Hope: The character of Hope.
What do you have Hope in? Is our focus on God? A few verses to wet your appetite for today. 

Hebrews 6:17-20  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath.  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the Hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this Hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us…

2 Thess 2:16 May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His Grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,

Romans 5:5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

Romans 15:4-5 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.

The Quality of our Hope.

We might have a POOR THEOLOGY on what Hope is…or is not.

A Zen priest from Fukushima, by the name of Abe, said: “Many locals are farmers, who are despairing about their contaminated soil. Young people are leaving. In the past six months, there has been an increase in suicides. There will be more. If you don't give people hope, they lose their reason for living."

He is right, of course.  But what kind of hope can a person get? It HAS to be of high standard and quality.  It needs to have passed the test of time.  It has to have been tested during hard times and during times of doubt and comes out on top!

Where is that kind of Hope? I believe it is only found in the Person of Jesus.

Also, in another news report, I found this—in part: 
"In one of the hardest hit coastal areas in Sendai, Japan, Hirofumi Ouchi is rebuilding his farm.

"Over 100 of my neighbors died here, yet my family and I were allowed to live. So I need to keep exerting effort, to stand firm and persist to get this area back to how it was.""Most of the farmers from here that survived are much older than me," Ouchi said. "Their machines are broken or gone and it's hard for them to have the willpower to get going again. We face many challenges, so if someone doesn't take the lead and show them that this can be done, the others won't come back to this area."     "Some of the leafy vegetables are still very salty from the state of the soil, but here we have lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cucumbers," he said. "I am not a Christian but the Bible verse, 'God will not give you more than you can bear,' stays with me. So even with this tsunami, it isn't something that we cannot overcome. As you can see, we've already come this far."      "We're all trying to be normal again and get our lives back," Ouchi said. "My job is to grow vegetables and by doing so I can give back to everyone who has helped me and show other farmers that it can be done. That is my hope."

That is the kind of hope we can hold on to!  Just the evidence of the Word of God’s power in this man’s life even to SAY “But the Bible…” is wonderful.  May he know the Lord in a personal way real soon.

1 Thess 5:11-24  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.

The long lasting Hope:

Ps 119:114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your Word.

Ps 119:116 Sustain me according to Your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

Lamentations 3:21-27 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. 

• It really depends on what we are looking at: there is a saying: sorrow looks to the past; worry looks around; Hope looks up.

Isaiah 26:8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of Your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
Ps 62:5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.
Ps 71:14 But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.
Heb 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.