Sunday, January 1, 2012

“I will give you rest.” ~ Jesus said that. 「わたしがあなたを休ませます」イエスはそう言った。

The beginning of a new year.  We need to start at the beginning. Look at this.

 The Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet. ヘブライ語の最初のアルファベット、アルフを青字、ギリシャ語のアルファベット最後のオメガを紫色としています。 Not only does this symbolize the One who has come and will come again, it also emphasizes the continuity of God's work in history throughout both the Old and New Testaments. To better understand where we are now, we need to look back and see where we have come from.  Where do we stand as a Church?  What do we stand for?
Our purpose statement.    Who we are:
ICCS seeks to extend the transforming power of Christ through the world by ministering to the international and local community in Japan through worship, prayer, evangelism, lay training, and discipleship resulting in believers who are equipped and encouraged to stand firm in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Starting at the very beginning.  The start of the Church, as we know it, did not start 20+ years ago as an outreach to the Expats in the Tokorozawa area.  No, it did indeed start way back in the time of the Acts of the Apostles.  Peter, James, Paul and the rest, saw the birth of a new thing God was doing on the earth.  People from every tribe and nation were coming together under the same banner to worship the Living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus.  The Holy Spirit of God FELL on those early Believers in such power and with so much might, it shook the very foundations of the known world at that time.

Remember what happened? As Peter was preaching—as the result of some people suggesting they were drunk—the Good News of God’s Great Grace moved on them.  It did not stop there. Even with difficult persecutions, the little band of followers of Jesus grew each day.  1,000 here—5,000 there.  Here, ten, there, one hundred fifty five. In a matter of a few years, the entire known world—and with some evidence of even beyond that—had the opportunity to hear—for the first time, that Jesus was the only way to the Father.  Jesus, the Son of God, the Promised One.

Jesus’ promise of Matthew 28:20 was as true then as it is today. He is with His Church. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

So the opposite of that would also be true.  He is not with those who oppose His Church. He loves them, but they have chosen to exclude Him from their walk.  Cut Him out of their every day life.  Only give lip service to This Loving, Creator God. 

So, is He really with us as He told us? Was that only a figure of speech? Only a wild dream?  Well, we could just say, “yes, Jesus will always be with me” and move on.  However, to do so, might deny some reality. Truth be known, sometimes it really looks like He has not stayed with us at all but working against us at times. Can that be true?  We could say it is not true but our lives show a different truth.  At times, doesn’t it feel like you have been left outside in the rain?

Let’s look at this.  As we start the New Year, we want to be sure we got our story straight.  Let’s look back, shall we, to a time when God did speak verbally to His People.   
Exodus 33:14
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
出エジプト 33:14 すると主は仰せられた。「わたし自身がいっしょに行って、あなたを休ませよう」
First, the background. Israel in Egypt for over 400 years. (Genesis 50-Exodus 1) The last part of that had been really hard.  Slaves really, under the stern hand of the Pharaoh. (Ex 1:8) Moses. (3-6) Ten plagues. (7-11)  Passover. (12) Leaving Egypt richer. (12:33-42) Crossing the Sea. (14) Manna and Quail AND water provided by the Hand of God (16-17). At Mount Sinai.  The Ten Commandments given. (20) The Covenant Confirmed from the Book of the Covenant. (24:1-18)

The Ark (25) and the Tabernacle (26) where God’s Presence was. (32) The Golden Calf and God’s anger burned against the stiffed-necked people (32:10). And it is at this time, God was speaking to Moses again, and telling him, just as I had been with you in the past and had lead you through all that we went over just now.  Read from Exodus 33:12-23

What a thing to hear!  Did you catch the relationship between Moses and his God, the Great I AM? “If you are not going up with us, then we will not go.” “Oh, I WILL go with you because I know you by name.”

Does God know you by your name?  Does He even care to know you that way?  YES!  Exodus 34:10  “I will make a covenant with you.”  Even though we are a stiff-necked people!  34:14. “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”  He jealously looks to us and expects us to look to Him and He will give His People His rest!

 “And I will give you rest.”  What a great promise! Many in our fellowship are very tired.  Things have fallen into our lives and it has affected us in many ways.  Some deal with it in seclusion. Some rather not even deal with it and reject the problem.  Others are blaming everyone else for their problems.  That is called denial.  Yes, many of us are tired.  Worn out and we need to take a rest.  But some of us are taking the rest the wrong way.  Some have stopped coming to church, as they are upset or challenged with personal relationships. Is it easier to push the problem away and not deal with it or face it and deal with it?  Like a beach ball in the ocean, you can’t keep it under the surface.  It will come up—in time.  It MUST come up…but we deny it being there at all!

We don’t really want rest—we want justice.  We may even want vengeance.  We want the other person to pay. So we cut ourselves off from fellowship.  Or, we might always show up here each week, but we are far from being the kind of community God wants of us.  He wants to give us rest but He can’t because we are not forgiving each other.

I am saying this for the whole Church—everywhere! Israel had a problem with forgiveness.  The early church had a problem with forgiveness and the church today has the same problem with forgiveness.  We don’t feel we can be forgiven. And we don’t forgive one another. 

Yet, God still says: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And we say, NO YOU WILL NOT!  We would rather be in pain, than experience rest. Why? Because we know better! Isn’t that true?  We know better than God-who made us and wants to give us what He has for us NOT what we deserve.  More Grace than you can ever believe in.  More love than we could ever accept.  HE WILL GIVE US HIS REST when we accept His Grace!
“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present.” Madeline L'Engle
The New Testament gives us more information on this ans from the lips of Jesus: Matthew 11:28   “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” マタイ 11:28  すべて、疲れた人、重荷を負っている人は、わたしのところに来なさい。わたしがあなたがたを休ませてあげます。」
Bring it on!  Weary people, walking with no delight. Burdened people without any enjoyment!  WE NEED HIS REST BECAUSE WE ARE NOT FUN PEOPLE ANYMORE! We lack His Joy!

I love the song; Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee!
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
 God of glory, Lord of love;
 Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, 
Op’ning to the sun above.
 Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
 Drive the dark of doubt away; 
Giver of immortal gladness,
 Fill us with the light of day!
Thou art giving and forgiving,
 Ever blessing, ever blest,
 Wellspring of the joy of living,
 Ocean depth of happy rest!
 Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
 All who live in love are Thine;
 Teach us how to love each other,
 Lift us to the joy divine.
Oh, would that be true of us/of ICCS in 2012!  That we would embrace the JOY of His Rest as He instructed us. And as we do that, we are to carry on what He has given us to do. 
(In Matthew 28:18-20) Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
マタイ 28:18-20
To the very end of 2012 or until the Lord returns!