Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Because I Care!




"Love each other deeply,
because love covers over
a multitude of sins."
(1 Peter 4:8)

Today after re-posting a writing about Nagasaki (today is the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing), I suddenly wanted to paint a picture of Dr. Takashi Nagai.

I had to run to a class, but quickly printed out two pictures of him with his children at his bedside and a picture of the destroyed Urakami Cathedral to take with me. I had an art class at the church today, and used the time to pray and paint this.

Initially I thought it was just my desire to paint this, but as I started to look at the printed pictures, God told me that He had a picture for me in my spirit (just as He had a picture for me about Hiroshima).

I soon realized that He was getting me in touch with a part of me that has wanted to devote myself to looking at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the last ten years I've wanted to look hard at the reality and suffering that the bombs caused, to hear the testimonies of survivors, to watch the broadcasts of the annual memorial services on August 6th and 9th.

I asked, "Why have I wanted to look so hard, Lord?"

He said, "Because you care!" I want to care and share! Something in me just wants to hug them and be with them in this. I want to be at Nagai's bedside and hold his hand. I want to stand with them amid the ruins. I want to tell him, "No, you didn't deserve this!"

And so He gave me this picture from His Spirit (entitled "Shining with the Glory of God") to show me the desire that's been buried in my spirit all these years. Others had seen me seriously watching the peace ceremonies, visiting Hiroshima, collecting materials and more. I worried that they might think I was sad or depressed, or that I might have some desire to force myself to face the horror.

But God really set me free from those worries by explaining that no, it's simply that I *care*! I haven't known how to share that or tell others about that, and I've felt awkward at those times. But He shared His love with me for them, and I'm really thankful and grateful for that. (Thank You, Lord!)

*****

See also Nagasaki City's site about Dr. Nagai.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

How I Came to Understand Hiroshima


Earlier this year I learned that one of my students (who is middle-aged) was raised in Hiroshima, so we decided to spend the next lesson talking about the bombing. I thought it would be interesting since I was raised with American education, and she was educated in Hiroshima. Not just in Japan, but in Hiroshima. Regular Japanese education naturally doesn't have the same degree of education about the bombing as in Hiroshima.

I let her speak first, and here are a few things she shared:

About education in Hiroshima: Many teachers took it as a mission to teach students to understand about war, so that they don't go to war (because vefore and during the war, many teachers encouraged their students to go to war).

How she first learned of the bomb: When she was little, my student saw a book about the bomb at home and opened it up. She saw the injured and burned people and was scared, but then looked at it with her grandfather. He lived in the countryside, but after the bombing he went into the city to search for his relatives.

Not good or bad guys: When she was growing up and being educated in school, she didn't learn that "Japan was bad" or "The USA was bad,"but instead she was taught that "war is bad." She learned that making good judgments is important, and that if people make bad judgments, then wars happen.

Visiting Nanjing: When she was in her 20s, she went to visit China, along with other Japanese students from around the country. When she visited Nanjing, it seemed as if many of the students couldn't understand it very well. But my student who was from Hiroshima, and another student who was from Nagasaki, they seemed to be able to better understand and accept the tragedy of what had happened there.

*****

After she finished, it was my student's turn to interview me and ask the questions:

When did you first learn about the bomb?
Did you study about World War II in school?
What did you learn about it?


How I first learned about it:

I can't remember precisely when I first heard about the bomb, but I'm almost sure that I must have learned because of figher planes. When I was little I loved airplanes and often visited the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. I made models of WWII planes and fighter jets and borrowed books from the school library (and sometimes the public library) just to read about them. We went to air shows, too, and once I even twisted my father's arm to take us up to Tonopah, Nevada, to the corner of the Nellis AFB range to try and see if we could spot any stealth fighters.

I was interested in planes and the wars they were in because it seemed exciting. It was like Star Wars. These were the good guys, those were the bad guys. You cheer for these guys and defeat those guys. The reality of "war" was not reality to me yet. So just like you would buy a toy of the bad guy, sometimes I bought and painted models of Japanese or German fighter planes, too. I remember in 4th grade, I went through a phase where I liked drawing the symbols from the wings of the fighter planes next to my name on my homework and even if I did a math problem on the blackboard. Some of my friends remember I put a swastika up there and thought that I liked Nazis! I had no idea what I was doing. It was just good guys and bad guys to me. (And being raised in the Reagen years, well, the nation seemed to be on the same page.)

I read with excitement about America's success in winning wars. We were always the good guys. And we always had the best technology. We had the best planes, and if we didn't have the best at first, we improvised and developed the best. (If we didn't have the best stuff, we overcame through courage and fighting spirit because we were... were what? I don't know, somehow it was just our inherent right-ness and better-ness: we were the good guys.) When I first read about the atomic bomb, it was like a crowning achievement, an amazing piece of technology. We made something bigger and stronger, and won!

What I learned (and didn't learn) in school:

The effects of the bomb... I didn't hear about those until a bit later. As I grew up, I remember some of my elders saying that they didn't want to look at the pictures from the bombing because it was too horrible to look at. I can't remember how long I held onto the idea of how amazing the bomb was, but it was not for long. I read the story of Sadako Sasaki while I was still interested in WWII. As I think about it now, I realize that I must have been around 12 at that time—the same age as Sadako when she died. And maybe a year or two later, I wrote a letter to a missionary in Tokyo who then connected me with a student as a penpal. Though I didn't realize it at the time, the "good guys and bad guys" idea had been shaken and would never fully recover, even though I stayed interested in America's wars for many more years.

I can look back now and see that there was more to the story than I had been taught in school. I can't say that we learned "about the bomb"—instead we learned that the bombing happened. We didn't learn what it did to people or see pictures of it. We didn't learn about radiation or consider that it had been an experimental bomb (that is, we never considered that it was on the same level as chemical warfare). The good-guy versus bad-guy narrative was never challenged by the American education I received; if anything, it was encouraged and given "facts" to support it. The bomb was an amazing technological feat, a witness to the superiority of America and our march to greatness as a world superpower. The bombing was taught, but not any examination of the lives or manner in which they had died. And Nagasaki was almost a footnote. (For some reason, the whole mention of Nagasaki in my elementary school textbook—one phrase—became etched in my memory: "A second and more powerful bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later.")

As I got older, I began hearing that some people fundamentally disagreed with the bomb, and I heard justifications and defenses for the bombing. In fact, it was almost as if it was wrong to mention the suffering that people experienced from the bomb. Someone always felt the need to offer the political justification, and everything centered on that. You couldn't talk about their suffering without someone trying to "balance it" by talking about Japan's bad deeds in the war. It was a matter of pride. To acknowledge their suffering was somehow threatening without "balance" ("balance" meant justifying the bombing). The main point was never suffering and humanity, but national or political arguments.

I can't remember offering the justifications for the atomic bombing, but I know I must have done so at some point. But even from an early time, something just rang hollow in the justifications, so generally I think I stayed quiet if the topic came up of whether it was right or wrong. In later years I got in touch with my own griefs and wounds, and learned about loving and forgiving people—not requiring people to be "right" in order to love them or be proud of them. Then, when I finally was able to visit Hiroshima, I could look at it squarely without having to worry about anyone's pride.

And I cried.

Today:

I watched the yearly Peace Ceremony on TV this morning. At 8:14, one minute before the moment of silence, I cried again. I can't wholly explain why. I explained a little of what was happening to my son, who was sitting next to me. I wonder how he's going to feel growing up, learning that people from Mommy & Daddy's countries fought and killed each other, and eventually learning that experiemental things were done to humans that should never be done...

And that even today there are people (on both sides) who don't want to face what happened squarely because of pride, and the desire to be right. Because somehow we can't be proud or love our countries if we aren't "right." Good guys never do bad things. God, I don't want to tell my son about that.

It's been a long process of understanding for me. I began enamored with the "good guys vs. bad guys" view that I had been taught. But through many things, and a lot of personal healing in my heart, God helped me understand and care about how other people feel, and I have never been able to go back to being that young child amazed by the bomb.

Here is a picture I painted last year:



"Nothing I Can Do" - click here to read about the picture

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Monday, May 07, 2012

The Foundation of Revelation

(cross-posted at Weeping Jeremiahs)

The foundation of understanding the book of Revelation and all prophecies of the end times is twofold:

1) The testimony of Jesus
2) The commands of God

These are stated over and over throughout the New Testament:

1) "The testimony of God, which He has given about His Son... this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; He who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 Jn.5:9-11, see also Jn.3:16, etc.)

2) "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (Jn.15:12, see also Jn.13:34, etc.)

The most concise verse is 1st John 3:23 - "This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us."

THE CROSS!

The greatest point of revelation here is the Cross. On the Cross we see revealed God's heart which was not made known to humanity in other ages:

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature." (Heb. 1:1-3)

"The law was given through Moses; [but] grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son—who is in the bosom of the Father—has made Him known." (Jn.1:17-18)

And the Cross is also the foundation of the love He has commanded us to—"as I have loved you." This is why "Christ's law" is defined as, "Carry one another's burdens" (Gal.6:2). As He loved us and carried our burdens, He commands us to love one another and bear one another's burdens—forgiving one another, bearing with one another, being patient with one another, mourning with one another, and more.



Most explicitly, God's agape love means that "God first loved us" (1 Jn.4:19), "not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 Jn.4:10).

THE MOST DIFFICULT COMMAND OF ALL

The most difficult part of this command of His is how it creeps into the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us." Forgiveness is not what we naturally want to give! But it is what He has called us to, because just as He has loved us, He has also loved those who have hurt and offended us. This is why He commanded us to love our enemies (Mt.5:44, Lk.6:27, etc.), because He loved *us* while we were still His enemies:

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the UNGODLY... God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still SINNERS, Christ died for us... when we were God’s ENEMIES, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son." (Rom.5:6-10, emphasis added)

This is how He has the gall to ask us to love our enemies—because that's exactly what He did for us! Like it or not (naturally "not", of course!), this is part of His command. He didn't say it would be easy, but forgiveness does set us free if we try it in Him. (As with all things, He didn't say we had to be perfect at this—this love is a gift! We can ask Him for it, and He will give us grace as we step into it!)

THE TWO GREATEST COMMANDS

Looking at these two things, the testimony of Jesus and His law of agape love, you can see that they are a restatement of the two greatest commandments AFTER the Cross, in the light of the revelation of Christ and His agape love:

"‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt.22:38-40)

THE FIRST AND GREATEST

Before the Cross, the greatest command in the Law was to love God with everything. But after the Cross, as Hebrews 1 and John 1 say (see above), God has revealed the exact representation of His being, His very nature; He has brought forth from His bosom (His heart!) His Son! And so the 'way' to love God with everything is to believe on His Son and love Him. This is why John wrote that the one who has
the Son has the Father as well (1 Jn.2:23), and it is why Jesus said that whoever believes in Him and loves Him is loved by Father (Jn 16:27, etc.).

The "first and greatest commandment" of the Law is good, wonderful and beautiful, but it is still veiled to the revelation of Jesus Christ. By taking His Son out from His bosom and sending Him to us, God has opened His very heart to us and asked us to receive it. It's little good to try and love God with all your heart, soul and mind if you don't acknowledge and love the heart (His Son!) that He's held out and offered to you!

His Son is His heart, His gift to us—the free gift of His righteousness given to us! The work God requires is that we believe in the Sent One (Jn.6:28-29). Believing the testimony God has given about His Son—that He is our life, He is our righteousness—is first in God's book! In fact, you could say that it is "first and last" in God's book, because His Son is named, "The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." The beginning is that the Son is our life, and the end is that the Son is our life.

The command to accept and love the revelation of Jesus—the revelation of God's exact nature—is superior to the command to try to love God with everything, because God has revealed and opened His heart to us. Before we even attempt to try to love Him, He wants us to know, "I have first loved you!" The first and greatest command is enhanced by infinity here! He loves our love, but wants us to know that His love is greater, and He has loved us first! He has given His Son as the Lamb to take away our sins so that we can be with Him forever!

THE SECOND WHICH IS LIKE THE FIRST

In the same way, the second-greatest command ("love your neighbor as yourself") is also enhanced by the power of infinity because of the revelation of the Cross. The command to love your neighbor is based on "as you love yourself." It's the golden rule:

"In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Mt.7:12)

The second-greatest command of the Law, like the first, is good, wonderful and beautiful. But the Law of Moses falls short of the awesomeness of the law of Christ (and the far-greater power of Christ's command to penetrate and convict, as well). The Law of Moses based the command of love on how we would imagine we ourselves wanted to be loved, but the law of Christ is not based on our idea, but based instead on *His* idea, based on *His* love for us!

In all our wildest dreams we would never ask for what Christ has done for us. He healed us, He raised us up, He touched us when we were leprous, the Holy came to the unholy and made us holy. The Lover took in a prostitute, washed her with His words of love and made her radiant in His joy. He carried our griefs, sorrows, burdens, sicknesses and diseases, and more. And then He died for us while we were still His enemies! He forgave us as we crucified Him.

Obviously He's not calling us to atone for others' sins, but He is calling us to love them like He loved us. His command is based on His love, not on ours. The Cross of Christ resets our whole definition of what "love" means, and what it means when He commands us to "love":

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 Jn.3:16)

THE HEART OF REVELATION

These two commands are the heart of the book of Revelation and everything God has to tell us about the end times. If we do not have these as our center, then we will not rightly understand Revelation or the end times, because these are the center of God's book.

The Lamb of God is at the center of God's throne!
Yes, He is the King who is strong & mighty like a lion;
Yes, He is the One perfect in works like a yoke-bearing ox;
Yes, He is the Son of Man who sympathizes with our humanity;
Yes, He is the Prophet who sees all and cries out like a flying eagle;
but at the center of the throne He is the Lamb who was slain!

God is agape love. The Lamb is the beginning and end of God's testimony to us and His commands to us. Any looking at end-time 'events' or trying to 'identify' things is going to go awry if we do not have the Cornerstone and Capstone in place: the Lamb and His agape love. And if we have Him in place, then we know that as Paul said, God's grace to us in Christ is "the full gospel of God" (Rom.15:19).

Therefore, understanding that He gives in Revelation and about the end times is going to lead straight back to the Lamb and His love. As it is only the Lamb who is able to open the seals of the scroll, so also it is only by knowing and looking at Revelation through the Lamb and His love that what is sealed will become unsealed to us.

*****

Art: "Because I Love You"

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

"What Good Is It?"


"What Good Is It?"

In nations there are various hopes we have--freedom, peace, prosperity, blessedness and more. We strive to fight to establish 'our rights' (and then if we succeed in getting them, we live in perpetual fear that they'll be taken away).

This year when the new NIV came out, I read the translators notes and found that scholars now agree that "thieves" was a mistranslation; the two who were crucified with Christ were *rebels*, like Barabbas, who had also "taken part in a rebellion." And it makes sense: after all, common sins like thievery would not be punished with crucifixion, but putting down political rebellions and then crucifying rebels would send a message of fear to other would-be rebels. This is why the Jewish leaders repeatedly emphasized that Jesus claimed He was the Messiah, the King; they wanted to stress that He was committing treason against Rome. They wanted to present Him as the leader of a rebellion, as a threat to Rome.

Understanding this makes a lot of things fall into place, doesn't it? After all, Christ didn't merely take our place as those who committed common sins--He took the consequence of our *rebellion* against God!

Suddenly, the crucifixion becomes the meeting place of ideologies, of aims, goals, efforts and striving. Barabbas and the two rebels sought to gain back their ancient land, freedom and sovereignty. The Roman centurion followed orders and lived to protect Rome, its assets, its people and its way of life. Into this mix comes Jesus, giving grace to the sinners and unreligious, and preaching *love* of all things, even for enemies! He says He is King, but here He is hanging on the cross, defeated.

"Love didn't work, did it!" The two rebels mock Him. The Romans divide up His clothes. Still He loved His enemies and forgave them. But wait... one of the rebels starts to notice. "Wait a minute, we earned this and are paying the price of this, but *He* didn't deserve this!" And a Roman centurion looks up in wonder as well, seeing something divine, above and beyond the way of the world that depends on physical might and power.

The unrepentant rebel continues on, "What good was it, Jesus?" Because he is still bent on rebellion--still bent on getting his rights, his homeland, his freedom. He is still fighting for the spoils of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But the other two have begun to notice an eternal kind of 'life' in this death in front of them. They begin to see the tree of life.

*****

See also:
"Trustworthy Power"
"The Release of Barabbas"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy All Hallows Eve!


"Happy All Hallows Eve!"
Click to see larger!

Happy All Hallows Eve! and happy Reformation Day!

On October 31st, 1517, (the evening before All Hallows Day) a monk named Martin Luther nailed up a list of 95 problems with the rules made by the church, because Jesus' love is FREE! Sometimes we Christians make lots of rules and say that God won't accept you until you keep them. But the Bible says,

"God forgave us of our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations... He took it away, nailing it to the Cross." (Colossians 2:14)

Jesus died on the Cross to free us from the burden of trying to be perfect because He knew we couldn't be! He doesn't want your perfect show or performance—instead He just wants YOU!!! He loves you and LIKES you so much that He'd die just to be able to spend forever with you!

A few years ago I wrote about "Re-formation" (see this link) and had the idea of posting a note about the significance of the day on your door. I suggested it to some friends in the States and they turned it around, asking, "Can you make one for us?" So I prayed about it and God said YES!

So here it is! You can print it out, post it on your door, or print a bunch of them and give them to trick-or-treaters along with candy. If you'd like a larger file so that you can print in better quality, just email me: Contact Me!

I think another great idea would be if you print out some verses of your favorite promises and wrap the candy inside them (make sure to wrap *over* the candy's original wrapper—don't take the original wrapper off!). You could put verses like, "Taste and see that the Lord is good!"

And if anyone's bold enough, it'd be fun to put on a monk robe and go out with the trick-or-treaters to give something to people! You could give them the message, but I think it'd be good if you give them some candy, too. =)