General posts about missions.

Something to Prove

I hope that you won’t take what I write here too seriously. The thoughts are not completely fleshed out, so don’t take it as criticism of others, because I’m just thinking out loud. Who knows if I’ll believe half of what I write here when I wake up tomorrow morning. It’s just thoughts, not conclusions.

I believe, intellectually at least, that God’s love for us cannot be increased by our righteous deeds. Sin has consequences, sometimes terrible consequences, but the diminishing of God’s love is not one of those consequences. His love is solely based on grace, nothing else. And by definition, grace is not something that we can influence by right deeds.

This was most clearly revealed to me about 6 months before I came to the field, when I studied hard the book of Hosea. I suggest you do so, too. In it, I saw so clearly at that time that God loves us because He loves us, not because of who we are (dirty prostitutes named Gomer, according to Hosea). When you love a prostitute without having sexual relations with her (Hosea 3), you show that how she gained her love and worth and value in the past (through her body) will not work on you. You love her for an entirely different reason than how she was loved by others. That is how we are before God: filthy and loved dearly. For those who are saved, no sin can dimnish that love. No righteous deed can increase it. His love for us is by grace, and no performance of our own can affect it. He loves us because Christ died for our sins and the blood from His side cleans our filth away. We do not clean ourselves.

That is what I believe. In my head, at least. The other question is not just if God’s love for us is constant, but if it is enough. It was for Paul: in all kinds of suffering He rejoiced. The Father’s love was enough for Jesus to lay down His life as a sacrifice to purchase His people. It was enough for the rest of the apostles who were violently murdered for their faith. None of these people feared men-they did not fear anything-because God’s love was enough for them.

It is not enough for me. I need the praises of men. Well, not their praises so much. I don’t like being praised particularly; it makes me feel awkward. But I at least need their indifference. It’s their scorn I can’t take. God’s love is not enough for me to endure just anything for Him. It is not enough to face the burning shame (before men) of really walking with Him and being bold to proclaim His Gospel. I know that His love is unchanging and will never leave me, but it is not enough for me. I need other things. Therein is the root of so much sin.

Sometimes I feel like we as missionaries are so insecure in God’s love that we have something to prove through our ministries. Do we truly believe that God’s love in unchanging? And is it enough for us? Is the reason that we bury ourselves in ministry because we are mistaken in one of these? After all, if we are working blasted hard for Him, we can be assured of His love: We’re missionaries! And if we are insecure in that, well, we always have the work of the ministry to fall back on, right? In other words, is discontent in the love of God a motive for ministry? Is ministry a way of hiding in this discontent?

In a place like Mexico, where with just a good stare someone will repent and believe and jump into the nearest lake for baptism, I assume that it must be just great to hide in your ministry. It must be quite easy to avoid the unpleasant reality of your discontent in God’s love (if such a thing exists in you). In rural Japan, it’s a bit harder. This place is just HARD. You don’t see many converts. When you work in a place like this, resting assured in your work instead of grace isn’t so easy.

Ah, but we are clever, we sinners. If the work shows no results, we can work harder. Pass out more tracts. Teach more English classes. Pray more. Join another community activity. Whatever. We can work ourselves into the ground, because if we do so, dagnabit, God must be pleased with us, whether we see results or not.

We are Gomers every one, worthless prostitutes. We want to buy God’s love with our bodies. But we must take our joy and content that God loves us despite our prostitution, otherwise we get into absurdities. So, my theory is that some of the time, the reason we missionaries work so hard is because we either do not believe that God’s love will be with us no matter what or because we are not content in it. Praise God for those who work hard because they are deeply enthralled in His love. As humans, it is impossible for us to look at other humans and tell if they are working hard out of discontent or out of a genuine response to God’s love. So I’ll try not to look at other people and tell.

For me, I have the opposite problem because of my insecurity. It’s why I run when I should be bold. Were God’s secure and all-satisfying to me, I would have nothing to fear.

See, I have trouble “accomplishing things” in the ministry. I just… I want to rest in the certainty of God’s love. So when I encounter hard-working missionaries (whatever their motives, good or bad), I just can’t keep up with them. I like a slow pace of life. So when I’m around those hard-workers (God bless them for their sacrifice), I just want to cry “Grace, grace! Give me a rest!” I am a weak child who just wants to sleep in (I can be a pretty lazy sinner). I like to take things slow, and I want to spend lots of time with God. If I could have anything in this place of trial and hardship, this field of Japan, I would want to dance and play like a naked child in the tall grass with my Father on a bright day. I want to experience more of Christ and see His pleasure.

“That I may know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” That’s the purpose of my life: to know Christ. I would be just as happy to do it without the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings (like I said, I like to take it easy), but unfortunately, the two seem inextricably linked. I just can’t escape that. I want to know Christ. That’s why I’m here. He has chosen me to come here and to preach the Gospel. I wish I were better at it. But I want to see His love. I want to relish in it. I want the freedom to be an innocent child and to laugh and play and know Him more. That’s why it’s hard for me sometimes to work hard as others: I just want to see the smile of God, and I know I won’t see it by working myself to death for Him. But I’ll also be looking the wrong way when it comes if I fail in the tasks He’s set before me: I’m a steward of so much that He’s entrusted to me for a season, and I would be a faithful one.

But when all is said and done, I just want to play in the garden with my God. I want to be content in that and then do whatever good deeds that contentment drives me to. I wish I could be…

Japan is a workaholic culture. I feel out of my element here. Perhaps that workaholic spirit is part of the reason that we missionaries, too, are often workaholics. Finding a place in such a place is not easy.

Again, these are just ramblings and ponderings, not conclusions. Don’t take them as though I’ve figured any of this out.

By | 2014-02-25T15:41:55+00:00 March 10th, 2009|Devotional, Japan, Missions|1 Comment

The rest of my vacation thoughts.

Before you read this post, make sure you’ve read the previous! It’s a continuation of my thoughts from my vacation.

I wrote in my head while riding the Chuo-Sobu line into Tokyo from Mitaka and listening to “Breaking Out” by the Protomen (google it). What a rush. I wrote it on paper on a train to Yokohama after transferring. For me, poetry is well… often not very poetic. At least, this one isn’t.

 

Hell’s Train

“Chuo-Sobu line, the next station is Nishi Ogikubo.” A hundred men in business suits ride this train, plus some women and about a thousand hanging posters. But they are lost, every one, save for a little lady sitting in the priority seat, and she would deny it. They are lost and doomed, doomed for ーつぎは、おぎくぼ*ー for Hell. The eternal fires where there will be no escape. And Satan would have them think of anything, anything except their eternal souls and the salvation that could be theirs. Alcohol, cell phones, bottled tea, endless droning television (even here, on the Chuo-Sobu line, bound for Shinjuku and Tokyo stations), but most of all the noise, the constant noise of Japan: ads in English and Japanese on every wall, keitai mail, manga, commercials blaring soundlessly from the monitors overhead. I hear the endless clank, clank, clank of the tracks, then BOOM, a train passes inches from my ear on the opposite track. But the hanging posters are far louder.

“Anything, anything save Christ. Take money, food, Sapporo beer, seek love anywhere you please (so long as it doesn’t become public), but don’t think about – 「次は新宿です。ありがとうございます。」*** Be busy! Be so busy that you can go to bed every night without thought or wonder. Clank, clank, clank. You’ll be happy – ‘This is Shinjuku. Please change here for the Yamanote line, the Shonan-Shinjuku line, the Chuo local service…’ – keep listening to that woman speak. Go ahead, change. Be good people, give to the poor, be polite. Change in any way you please: Tenrikyou, Sokka Gakkai, classic Buddhism in a dozen forms, or plain old superstition. I would love you to be a good person, so long as you do not think about my foe, as long as you never meet one of his followers, and if you do, they are just as engrossed with their keitai** as you are with yours. Become pious, as long as it is not pious for Him.”

Whoosh, the doors open with a blast of cold air, and a hundred men in business suits exit, while a hundred more step onto this train, しゅうてん**** hell.

On Sunday, I visited a church of surpassing caliber. I have never seen its like in Japan. I spent the entire day with them, and though they live in the busiest city in the world, they took in a full-time work day of fellowship. It shone like a column of light, reaching to the heavens in this sin-stained city. The church can never die, and so there is hope for Japan.

 

 

*The next stop is Ogikubo

**Keitai – cell phone

*** The next stop is Shinjuku. Thank you very much!

**** Shuuten: Final stop (at the shuuten, everyone gets off the train).

 

5 PM

What I learned from talking to another MUP missionary in Yokohama station:

Whenever you see someone with something, they obviously care about it, so it can be a key to a relationship with them. i.e. if someone is walking a dog, they obviously like the dog, same if you see them tending a garden. Use that to form a relationship with them.

 

Feb. 7, Saturday, West of Yokohama (Ninomiya)

10 PM

Tonight, at this home group, I was tired and barely interracted with anyone. They are even still here, and I’m not interracting with them. I formed some good relationships in Tokyo, but here on the tail end of my trip, I’m tired and just can’t stand forming any more quick relationships that could be great – if we knew each other for more than a day. Oh, if only things were different and we could truly get to know one another! If only… God forgive me for cursing so much the lot You have given me.

It’s hard not wanting to go back to Kagawa. But I will. Through God’s strength I will. It’s not as bad as I feel right now.

My deliverer is coming. My deliverer is standing by. A slightly overblown song I heard today here, but so true. The fact of the matter is, because God is a being who intervenes in the natural world, I can have hope. I just wish that more people in Kagawa believed and would remind me of that. And I long to speak to those back home.

Oh God, help me to adjust and make it long term here in Japan. A good friend or a wife would help tremendously in that. Some of the local missionaries have already, but I need a peer. Oh how needs can go unmet, which drives us to You. I don’t know how long I can last without a resonating soul.

“As long as I have ordained you shall.”

That’s always Your answer. Help me to persevere!

 

He has delivered me half a dozen, significant times already since coming here, and He will continue to deliver me. I need a new miracle of hope every month, lest I perish.

I want to become a capable vessal in this land. To learn this language. Learn this culture. Learn how to minister here. Learn how to love God better and serve for the sake of the Name. Learn, learn, learn, and then go out and be used, all while learning more, growing more, loving God more, worshipping more. I have been a lousy missionary in so many ways, and I can’t wait for the Spirit’s changing work to be farther along. Oh God, wash me in a shower of your grace and clean all this filth and sin away. I am so sick of it. I want to be clean, want to be better, but half the time I try, it just seems like I’m trying to buy grace, which is twice as bad. Help me to come to you with a humble heart, and not false humility, true.

God, I wanna be happy. Part of me feels guilty for that, despite all the John Piper I’ve read, because to me, that happiness seems focused on human relationships, like SLO. Maybe too much, good as those are.

But I feel like I can’t find that happiness here, and if I go back to CA, even SLO, I will be dissappointed with that choice for perhaps the rest of my life. I will know from the moment of retreat that I ran out of selfishness and chose the second-best, that I failed to obey the purpose of my life, “That I may know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings…” (Phil. 3:10-11) And in comfort, in fellowship, even in marriage, for many years, I will live in regret, either mild or severe, that I did not choose the warrior’s road.

So, if I want happiness, it is to be found here – 日本(Japan). Unless God gives me a radical change, if I want happiness, true happiness, it must be found here, on His road, the road of the cross, in Japan. As I look to return to the island where darkness reigns, I must remember that. And I must pursue true しあわせ (joy)、IN GOD. I cannot live and not pursue happiness. I cannot. ‘Tis foolish.

But I must pursue happiness with all my might – working hard, going to あ治(Aji), embarrassing myself, being a naked, dancing clown. In all these things, I pursue my happiness. Whole-heartedly. Through difficulty. Throughさびしさ(lonliness). Through unbearable, blinding, hell-echoing pain. That is how I pursue my happiness. In eternity and on this earth. A happiness I do not yet see, cannot yet taste, cannot even see the possibility of coming into existance, that happiness. That happiness do I pursue, and it will surpass all other joys, all imaginable self-bought happiness, for it shall come from the hand of God himself.

The power of the resurrection.

Obtained through the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

And it shall be a powerful witness to this world, for at this time I prophesy that it shall be (not my words, but those of scripture), so that when it comes, I can point to this very page and say, “See, it has come true!”

For now, I do not see it, and I do not know how these dreams could ever come to reality, but my deliverer is riding on the clouds of Heaven to my rescue, and His power that stretched the cosmos across the endless nothing of space and set every star ablaze with unquenchable fire, His power backs His Word, and I shall yet taste the unbreakable promises coming to fruition. God, help me, and let me see your provision.

And when all is said and done, a thousand souls will follow me into Heaven. Like a duck in flight, successful ministry is not something you can hit by aiming at it – aim for God, ad he content in Him, and all the world will follow the church into Heaven. There is my ministry strategy: “Abide in me, and you will bear much fruit.” (John 15)

God, make it so! Amen, amen, and amen.

-Joey

 

In this journal entry, some of the promises I refered to are those like Mark 10:29-30… “’I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied. ‘No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.’”

I do not for a moment believe in health and wealth teaching, that I am earning earthly riches for myself here in Japan. I don’t think those are the “fields” that Jesus talks about here. However, look at how He promises rewards in this present age as well as the age to come. I believe this is chiefly knowing Him more in this age (hence my theme verse of Phil. 3:10-11 that I may know Him more and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings), along with other blessings like the family of Christ to take the place of those we say good-bye to. A big reason why I don’t think this passage translates to worldly riches is because with this great reward comes persecutions! More joy, more suffering, God by our sides forever.

 

Feb 8,Sunday

 

7:30 PM

After leaving Jesus Community Chapel, my heart breaks. This trip is over – only the return journey remains. Not returning to 香川(Kagawa) would do unbearable damage, but the dread of returning is heavy upon me, mixed with the pain of leaving. 帰りたくない。帰りたくない。I don’t want to go back. But I must – it is the road before me, and God will be with me in it, despite that no one will be there to greet me. But if I walk this road, He will be with me. He will be.

 

9:40 PM One more time, on a night bus…

A few more so-called poems, if they can such be named:

 

The immense suffering of all the saints

 

The immense suffering of all the saints:

I hear their voices now.

Mine is among them.

Injustice in this world, injustice.

And agony.

We all cry out in our misery the simplest prayer: “Deliver.”

Deliver.

Some cry it with joy.

Some cry it with grumbling.

Some cry it along with the second prayer, “Thank you.”

But we all cry it.

There are no exceptions – save fools.

We cry it, for the kingdom is not yet full.

Evil is.

And sin is strong.

So, we cry, “Deliver.”

Oh God, deliver.

 

 

Changed again

 

I am changed again.

Suffering has done its work,

Followed by its more dangerous partner: beauty.

And now, with a prayer from my friend whose name is forgotten,

With that prayer, the only buttress that gave me strength to leave,

The only thing that held back my tears,

I left.

Not wanting it, I left.

Crying, “Anywhere, anywhere but there,” I left.

 

 

Relationships

 

If anything would cause surrender of this quest,

this adventure,

this destiny of mine,

it would be those that I have left behind.

They called it a revolving door.

The imagery was wrong.

More like a scatter-bomb,

a new one every day.

 

 

Pain and beauty have done their work, and so I write. I write anew. I’m reading The Heavenly Man, about Brother Yun, a Chinese house church leader and the Chinese house church movement, and I just read about the point in his life where, like Hudson Taylor and his spiritual secret, Brother Yun discovered that God really would watch over him in all things and that he needed not worry at all. That no matter what, God would deliver him.

Oh, that I too would understand that. Even in bitter loneliness, that I would understand that…

 

 

That night on the bus, I slept very little and read most of that book, The Heavenly Man. It truly impacted me, and I highly recommend it. I’ve always wanted to have an all-night prayer vigil, like Jesus so often did, and that bus was a great opportunity for that sort of thing (lots of reading and praying). Since I can’t sleep on night busses, I tried reading and praying instead, which made it a good trip back to Kagawa. When I returned, after all this, I felt very encouraged for having struggled through all this.

Well, for a few days, at least…

 

-Joey

By | 2014-02-25T15:45:03+00:00 February 28th, 2009|Japan, Missions|Comments Off on The rest of my vacation thoughts.

Thoughts from during my vacation

I’m going to post some thoughts from during my vacation. Here are the first of them.

January 28, 2009. On a bus from Osaka to Tokyo

Something Dan said to me last night: “In ministry, there are needs, opportunities, and your giftings. Meetings needs and seizing opportunities is good, but in the long run, you will be most content working out of your giftings.”

2:40 PM

As I begin reading Revolution in World Missions, about KP Yohannan’s work as an itenerant evangelist, I weep for Japan and know that here, even if you moved from place to place and slept in ditched and preached on street corners, few would still come to Christ. No one would beat you, but no one would be saved.

Only the Spirit can break these barriers. I pray for His outpouring, for there is no other hope. Lord, could it be that You have willed a hardening at this time? Could such a terrible thing be true? How can that change?

8:05 PM

Reading KP’s book, I want to weep. In India, there are signs, wonders, mirales, and loads of converts. Loads of established churches. Yet here, in 日本、 we see nothing. It is like this night, driving along a highway through the darkness. While KP Yohannan has dreams of the harvest and reaching them through the bridge of hope, as I look out my window in this dark night, there is scarcely a street light, and now and then a green sign or tiny lamp. For all intents and purposes, there is nothing out there and never will be. Oh Lord, you will bring your dawn, but the night is so long, so dark!

Well, as much as I’d like to go work in the ripe fields of India, I’m not needed. Nor called. However, I am called here! And so, it is my lot to speed blindly through the dark, unseeing.

I’d love to visit India, see some of their work, but to me, perhaps, reading of it is enough while I stumble blindly through the harvest fields at night.

February 3

5:40 PM

I must repeat again the words of Gimli son of Gloin upon his departure from Lothlorien, for they ring so true in this life: “Why did I come on this quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying that we could not forsee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord. Alas for Gimli son of Gloin!” (Fellowship of the Ring)

See, today I played sports with some JCCC staff and a few American Crusade staff serving in Japan. It was fun. The Americans spoke amazing Japanese. They’ve used it a lot, versus my isolation. It was fun. Oh God, even though I am still a little sick, it was good to fellowship. So good. Yet even now, after leaving a slight cloud settles on me. That of friendlessness, isolation, and a hard, hard ministry that doesn’t seem to fit me well.

6:15 PM

How in the world am I to go back to Shikoku? And what will I do there to find fellowship?

Lord, the surrendered life seems impossible to me. The far-off, joyous cries of SLO still echo in my ears. My own tears resound from the soil of Tadotsu. Kagawa-cho is shrouded in かすみ mist before me. I feel like it is unreasonable and terrible of God to send me back there to be all alone again. And yet… it is the road to victory. It is the road to the field of Cormallen. And sometimes the hardest part is leaving a place of beauty. And what I have experienced today was beautiful. The simple joy of hanging out with people my age.

Oh Lord, help me to walk this dark road that You have me on, and trust You in it, even as I journey back to Shikoku.

9 months. 九ヶ月 have passed. And I feel like I shall never be anything but lonely – unless I falter and return to the states. But if I do that, I will live the rest of my life in regret. Though God’s grace would shine upon me even then that I should not. Yet the laughter of SLO, still ringing in my mind, seems a thing so lofty and full that it shall never be heard again, in no form, no matter what I do. I feel like things will never get better, because I see no signs of such.

But that is not true.

But that is not true.

Not true.

It has not always been like this; it shall not always be like this. There is hope.

I see no signs, no way of things improving while I am in my current situation, and 1 1/2 years seems an eternity to spend there.

Oh God, the situation is hopeless. I have no hope in this world nor in circumstances. My only hope is in You. Please come through.

I suppose my only comfort is that I have done this for the Name, and God takes care of His people.

By | 2014-02-25T15:45:24+00:00 February 17th, 2009|Japan, Missions|2 Comments