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.
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.
First Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5 both record one of the most important events in world history. A close comparison of those two inspired records of that event provides a profound insight about the importance of music.
The following table provides a verse-by-verse comparison of the passages. It is clear from that comparison that the author of 2 Chronicles provides information about musical ministry that took place on this occasion about which the author of 1 Kings 8 makes no mention.
|1Ki 7:51 ¶ So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD.||2Ch 5:1 ¶ Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the LORD was finished: and Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated; and the silver, and the gold, and all the instruments, put he among the treasures of the house of God.|
|1Ki 8:1 ¶ Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.||2 ¶ Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.|
|2 And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.||3 Wherefore all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto the king in the feast which was in the seventh month.|
|3 And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark.||4 And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark.|
|4 And they brought up the ark of the LORD, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up.||5 And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up.|
|5 And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.||6 Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude.|
|6 And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims.||7 And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims:|
|7 For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.||8 For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.|
|8 And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.||9 And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day.|
|9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.||10 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.|
|10 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place,
that the cloud filled the house of the LORD,
|11 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place:
(for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course:
12 Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:)
13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever:
that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
|11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.||14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.|
|12 ¶ Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.||2Ch 6:1 ¶ Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.|
|13 I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.||2 But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever.|
I’m confident that probing why this information is provided in the one account and not in the other will provide valuable insights about what the Bible teaches about music. I’m going to save my thoughts on the significance of this comparison for a later post.
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?
Understanding what the Bible teaches about marriage is a crucial matter. Pastor Minnick’s recent message, “Marriage of God’s Making,” provides eminently biblical instruction about this vital subject.
God’s dealings with king Nebuchadnezzar when he reigned over ancient Babylon reveal some profound demands that God makes over all governmental leaders of every nation, including American presidents. These demands profoundly refute a grave error that American presidents must not make in their thinking.
The Divine Demand for Social Justice
Daniel poignantly appealed to king Nebuchadnezzar to turn from his sinfulness, including his failures to deal properly with the poor in his kingdom:
Dan 4:27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
Although he was the king over the most powerful empire in the world in his day, Nebuchadnezzar needed to learn that his position of power did not mean that he could do whatever he wanted to poor people—he had to show mercy to them!
Similarly, American presidents must learn from God’s dealings with Nebuchadnezzar that they must show mercy to the poor. Every American president must make addressing social justice issues in his country a top priority, especially in doing what he can to show mercy to the poor.
The Divine Demand for Humility
When king Nebuchadnezzar became proud in his heart in thinking that the greatness of his city that he had built for his kingdom was the result of his exerting the might of his own power and that he had done so for the sake of glorifying his own majesty (Dan. 4:30), God abased him profoundly (Dan. 4:31-33). After God had humbled him and then restored him, he openly testified that God is able to abase those who walk in pride (Dan. 4:37).
Every president of the US needs to learn from what God did to abase Nebuchadnezzar that any greatness that he enjoys in his presidency is ultimately not because of his own resourcefulness and abilities to conduct an effective campaign and run the country well. Instead, as president, he has been put in that position of immense power by God and allowed to prosper in it so that he would humbly glorify God and govern in His fear.
The Divine Demand for Declaring the Truth about Who Reigns Over All
Nebuchadnezzar was the king of an idolatrous empire that had exalted itself greatly against the God of heaven (cf. Dan. 3). God revealed to him His demand that he had to recognize that God is the One Who reigns over all and exalts whomever He wishes to whatever positions of authority they have (Dan. 4:25).
By dealing with Nebuchadnezzar openly in a profound humiliating manner, God brought him to testify the truth about God as the One who reigns over all (Dan. 4:34-35). Every American president needs to learn from Nebuchadnezzar that God wants him to acknowledge that God is the One who reigns over all and is the One who has exalted him to his position of top authority in our nation.
American presidents must not make the grave error of thinking that because they govern a secular country, they are free from any obligations toward God. In spite of their exalted position over the American people, the divine demands on them remain the same as they were on Nebuchadnezzar.
Every American president must learn from God’s dealings with king Nebuchadnezzar that he must govern in the fear of God by meetings God’s demands upon him.