Archives For Discipleship

I wonder how many believers may have “desensitized” their inner man to one degree or another to the awe that God wants them to have about the true supernatural works of Jesus and other servants of God because they have filled their minds with fictitious accounts and images of imaginary “superheroes.” Has immersion in fictitious superhero accounts hurt many believers?

In an extended parable, God remarks on the heartlessness of people who fail to give newborn children the proper compassionate care that they should receive:

Eze 16:4 And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

 5 None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.

 6  And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.

This passage makes clear that God wants compassionate care given to newborn babies so that they would live. When such care is not given to them, it reveals the heartlessness of those who refuse to pity them and have compassion on them.

Arguing from the lesser to the greater, how much more heartless is it not just to fail to give compassionate care to newborns but also to take steps to kill them. In the same way, aborting an unborn baby displays the heartlessness of those who put to death a human being who is helpless, innocent, and undeserving of such inhuman treatment.

O God, please bring to an end the heartlessness of abortion and infanticide. Have mercy on these helpless babies. Work in the hearts of those who are doing these heartless things so that they will repent and believe in your Son.

Come quickly, O Christ, for the sake of these who are being mercilessly slaughtered. Hear their cries, O Father.

 

 

 

 

My life is a testimony to God’s providential leading. My father produced television commercials in Japan, and my mother was a copywriter. From my childhood, my parents were interested in me going into some sort of show business. Even before entering elementary school, my mother enrolled me in piano, Kabuki dance (a traditional Japanese dance form), acting, and ballet lessons. I especially liked ballet–if you can believe it!

In addition to all those lessons, I also received roles in television dramas and commercials. I had a very busy childhood. Everyone expected me to go into show business, and I worked hard to achieve show business success. God, however, had a different and far better plan for me.

My father was a self-declared atheist and my mother was a Shinto/Buddhist (a typical Japanese family). Never once during my childhood did I ever meet a Christian or even see a copy of the Bible. At one point, I thought the Bible was a magical book that only priests could read. However, I knew quite confidently that there must be a God. Lessons from nature and history taught me that.

The thought of God’s existence always made me uncomfortable because I also knew that I was a sinner and somehow knew that God was angry with me. The frustration of a guilty conscience grew heavier as I grew older, and this in turn led me into deeper sin and into self-hatred. God was gracious and although I didn’t yet know it, had a plan to rescue me from my miserable state.

At the age of 15, God led me to the island of Guam to attend high school. This move was precipitated by a long series of events over a period of years, and if even one of these events had been altered, I would not have made the move. My ballet teacher and her family had moved to Guam, and they invited me to come with them since they knew me as one of their sons and they knew that I was looking for a high school to attend. My parents were convinced that it would be good for me to go outside Japan for high school to better learn English and to start a new life.

My parents and I looked at every private school on the island. All of them were either Catholic or liberal Episcopalian, and all of them had a full enrollment for the upcoming year. The last place we visited was Harvest Christian Academy. This was our last choice because we didn’t like the idea of attending a “Christian” school and somehow Baptist sounded more “seriously Christian” than Catholic. Harvest Academy had one opening for a 10th-grade boy, and we had no choice but to accept.

The excitement of attending Harvest started while the filling out of the application. The first question was “What is your religion?” I was startled. No one had ever asked me that question before. I looked at my mother and asked, “What is my religion?” She thought a little and then said, “Just put down Buddhist.” It is not that unusual to be a Buddhist at Harvest, since Guam is a melting pot of different Asian cultures and religions and the school exists for mission outreach, but I was marked by teachers and administrators from the beginning.

My first year at Harvest was difficult. I didn’t know how to behave, and for once, I couldn’t get away with all the mischievous things that I used to do behind my teachers’ backs. I frequently ended up in the principal’s office, and my name was often mentioned in faculty meetings (so the principal has since told me). I felt caged and miserable. Because of my limited English, classes were difficult–Spanish class was the worst–and I could not converse with my classmates.

Thankfully, there was one boy, Ryan Izumihara, in my class who could speak Japanese. Since he was the only one I could speak to, we talked a lot and became best friends. Ryan had been saved the year before, and he had presented the Gospel to me and talked about how it had changed his life. We would often argue about religion, and I would tell him that I believed in UFOs, reincarnation, and the mystical nature of our afterlife.

One day Ryan told me, “Yoh, I just want to tell you that you are my good friend, and I want you to go to Heaven. I want to see you there too.” By that time, I had begun to admire and even envy Christians for their joyfulness and peace, so it was easy for me to respond to that invitation. After chapel that day, I responded to the invitation, trusted Christ, and began living a new life. From that day forward, God has continued to show me the greatness of His grace.

The preaching and Christian fellowship in Guam helped nurture my love for God. During my senior year, I learned about baptism and desired to testify publicly my love for Jesus. My baptism brought about great trials in my life. When my parents learned of it, they thought that they had lost their only son to a cult, and they tried everything in their power to pull me away from Christianity. They even considered bringing me back to Japan in the middle of my senior year.

In time, they relented and allowed me to finish at Harvest, but they absolutely condemned the idea of me attending a Christian university like Bob Jones. I persistently pleaded with them, and tried to be the best possible testimony to them. Eventually they relented and promised that I could attend Bob Jones if I would first go for two years to a conservatory in Japan (they were hoping that I would change my mind).

I auditioned for a small, private conservatory started by a famous Kabuki actor, and I was one of four students accepted. Although my major emphasis was ballet, I also had to take voice lessons. I have always loved singing. In fact, my elementary school teachers would often write on my report cards, “Yoh loves to sing–loud.” Taking voice lessons was a dream come true. Learning to sing loudly for a long time without hurting my voice was exhilarating (I didn’t yet care about sounding beautiful). Singing was more enjoyable and less strenuous than ballet, so I changed my major to musical theater.

Contrary to my parent’s expectations, my determination to come to Bob Jones University did not wane. I had planned to major in math at BJU, since I obviously was not going to be able to study Kabuki or ballet, but now I determined to major in voice performance. My parents seemed pleased with that choice and decided to come with me to BJU to see what kind of place this “Fundamentalist Christian University” was. After seeing the beautiful campus and the well-dressed friendly people, my mom was convinced that she could entrust her son to this school.

In fact, the Lord used the visit to begin to soften my mom’s heart to the Gospel. That fall we prayed for my mother nearly every night in my prayer group, and on Christmas day, she responded to an invitation at Harvest Baptist and trusted Christ as her true God and Savior. She has grown in grace through many different trials, and I can boldly say that now I have a Christian mother.

During my senior year at BJU, the Lord directed me in another marvelous way. My plans were to audition for a conservatory after graduation and to pursue a professional singing career. That fall while on a choir tour, we received news that Dr. Bob Jr. had passed away. I knew that he was a very talented actor and poet but that his real passion was for preaching the Gospel. The Lord spoke to my heart and during Dr. Bob’s funeral service, I dedicated myself to the Gospel ministry, and then I enrolled in the Master of Divinity program.

My father passed away during the first semester of my graduate study, causing greater financial need. As my graduate work progressed, I greatly desired a position as a teaching assistant, so that I could study languages and prepare for comprehensive exams in the summers. Eventually the Lord provided me with a teaching assistant position in the Division of Music. This provided for my financial needs and gave me an opportunity to experience the joy of helping to equip Christian young people to better serve the Lord.

I finished my Master of Divinity and my doctorate at BJU and then thought about returning to Japan to help train Japanese pastors for the ministry. After having been at Bob Jones University for ten years, I was looking forward to passing on to others what the Lord had taught me there.

Instead, I went to Singapore as a missionary replacement for Dr. Steve Reynolds for a year. I stayed on after the Reynolds returned as his assistant pastor and a teacher at Asian Baptist School. After being in Singapore for 3.5 years, the Lord led me back to Guam in 2010 to teach at Harvest Baptist Bible College where I currently serve as the dean of academic affairs and the mission’s pastor for Harvest Baptist Church.

 

A godly minister and his godly wife believe very strongly that everyone should be buried. They think that cremation is wrong in the sight of God. The minister and his wife both die before their three children do.

The surviving son of the minister is an ungodly man who actively promotes evil in the sight of God. A year later, he is killed in a car accident.

His two sisters and other family must decide whether to have him cremated or buried. What should they do?

Knowing the strong convictions of his parents, should they have him buried even though he was not a believer? Since his parents are already dead, does it make any difference what their beliefs were?

In 2 Chronicles 22, Scripture provides an instructive passage that reveals another important consideration about the importance of burial that pertains directly to what these family members should do.

Jehoshaphat, Ahaziah, and Jehu

Jehoshaphat was a godly king of Judah (2 Chron. 17:3-6). When he died, his son Jehoram became king (2 Chron. 21:1). Jehoram was a wicked king (2 Chron. 21:6).

When Jehoram died, his youngest son Ahaziah became king (2 Chron. 22:1). Like his father, Ahaziah was a wicked king (2 Chron. 22:3-4).

While Jehu was rendering God’s judgment upon Ahab, a very wicked king of Israel, Jehu had Ahaziah killed (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Chron. 22:9). His doing so was from God (2 Chron. 22:7).

In a striking statement about the aftermath of the death of Ahaziah, Scripture reveals that Ahaziah was buried for an instructive reason:

2Ch 22:9 And he sought Ahaziah: and they caught him, (for he was hid in Samaria,) and brought him to Jehu: and when they had slain him, they buried him: Because, said they, he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart. So the house of Ahaziah had no power to keep still the kingdom.

Those who slew Ahaziah at the direction of Jehu buried Ahaziah because he was the son (grandson) of godly king Jehoshaphat who sought God wholeheartedly. Out of consideration for the godliness of Ahaziah’s grandfather, Ahaziah was buried when he died even though he himself was a wicked king.

Application

Just as Ahaziah was buried out of consideration for the godliness of his predecessor, the sisters and family of the wicked son who died in the accident related above should choose to bury him out of consideration for the godliness of his parents and their strong beliefs that burial is the only right thing to do. Even though this minister’s son was a wicked man himself, his surviving relatives should not choose to cremate him because his parents, even though they have already died, would not have approved at all of having their son cremated, were they still living.

Choosing to bury people who are from godly Christian families but themselves are not godly is supported by what Scripture reveals was done in the case of Ahaziah after he had been killed. The surviving relatives of such people should not choose to cremate them.

Scripture warns high-level civil authorities not to consume alcohol because it puts them at risk of failing to fulfill one of their key responsibilities:

Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

Only God knows how much justice for afflicted people has been perverted by leading civil authorities who have not heeded this divine instruction. If you are a leading civil authority over people, you should not drink alcohol so that you can faithfully provide justice to afflicted people.

Praise God for all those who have faithfully served our country in our armed forces in any capacity! Thank you for your service to us all. May God prosper all our veterans with grace to do His will for their lives.

Balaam professed that the Lord was his God (Num. 22:18). Yet, both Testaments record that he was a wicked man who harmed God’s people greatly (Num. 31:16; Rev. 2:14).

God gave profound authentic revelation about the Messiah through him (Num. 24:15-19). God has even inscripturated that revelation for all time in the Bible.

Theologians have rightly used the authentic revelation given by God through Balaam in spite of his wickedness. We can and should learn doctrine and edify one another through the recorded oracles of Balaam that God has given to us in Scripture.

Similarly, God’s people have used songs or musical pieces that accurately convey truth about God even though they have been written by otherwise perverse people.

Given that the former practice (using divine revelation given through Balaam) is indisputably proper, are there any valid reasons to hold that it is improper for us to use good music that has been produced by ungodly sources? Should Christians use good music from ungodly sources?

Job was a married man who was neither a Christian nor a Jew. God testified on two occasions that he was the most righteous man of his day (Job 1:8; 2:3).

Job did not live in a Christian or Jewish country, and we have no evidence that Job lived under a theocracy. What Job therefore tells us should be the role of civil authorities is profoundly important for a biblical understanding of what civil governments should and should not do.

In Job 31:9-11, Job speaks of what he believed would be the case had he as a married man committed adultery with another woman:

Job 31:9 If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door;

 10 Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her.

 11 For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.

12 For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase.

Job specified that his having relations with a woman other than his wife, including his neighbor’s wife, would have been a heinous crime. As a righteous man, Job believed and taught that adultery was a horrific crime.

Job also made known that he believed that adultery was an iniquity that was “to be punished by the judges,” which shows that Job believed that civil authorities would rightly punish any such adulterous relations that he would have had. Because Job did not live in a Jewish country and as far as we know, he did not live under a theocracy, his giving this teaching provides vital revelation for what righteous people are to believe that civil authorities in any nation should do with those who commit adultery.

Based on this revelation that preceded the giving of the Mosaic Law by many hundreds of years, we learn that the Bible teaches that adultery is a heinous crime that civil governments are to punish. The Bible does not teach that adultery is a sin but not a crime.

“Always the Same” is a beautiful hymn by Ron Hamilton that extols how Jesus is unchanging. Recently, four of us from my church ministered this hymn as an oboe, cello, viola, and guitar quartet.

Ezekiel 6:9 And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.

What a sobering thought it is to have God tell us that He was broken with the “whorish heart” of His people who had departed from Him and with their eyes that had gone whoring after their idols!

When we think of the pain that we who are His people can bring to the heart of our God who loves us perfectly, how prayerful ought we to be that God would keep us from sinning against Him!