Fulfilled in Jesus

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Withstanding the Flood (Resisting His Rest)

By Ramone - December 26, 2007

This is one of the saddest pictures I've drawn to date, and when I think of it I get hit in the Spirit and want to cry... I wondered whether or not to post it here on this "Sabbath-rest" blog because I want things here to be restful. But my heart cries out for people to know His rest, and I know His heart cries even more than mine. Resting in Him brings peace and joy, but being in Him means sharing in His heart and that isn't always easy, but it is cleansing (see Zechariah 12:10 and 13:1). His heart feels pain and feels longing -- because He loves us all so much, even when we resist Him. This picture is part of His heart for many of us who are resisting His Sabbath-rest, resisting resting in Jesus Christ alone instead of resting in our good works and the works of the Law.

This is the person who clings to the Law because he thinks he must. He is afraid to let go for fear of being swept away. He can only see the danger of being swept away by sin -- he can't see the more powerful stream, no, the river of love that is pouring out from the Cross. When people tell him he doesn't need to hold onto the Law anymore, he sees them as saying a dangerous thing. And when he looks at them "resting" without Law, resting in the stream, they look like they are being swept away and they look "dead". He clings to the Law for fear of dying spiritually & morally if he doesn't.

And it gets heavier and heavier. And the Lord pushes him towards frustration so he will give up and let it go. Some of the drops of His grace and love flow over the top. Some break through (here they are breaking through the "Sabbath" because it points to Him). The Lord knows that if he doesn't let go, it will crush him. Like Christ cried, "I longed to heal you but you would not be healed", the Lord longs to heal him and bring him to rest, but he must let go. When he does he will see that wherever the river flows, it brings life and fruit.

But for now he is afraid to leave the shadows (the Law) because the shadow of the Law has always protected him (he's thought) both spiritually and morally.
You were wearied by all your ways,
but you would not say, 'It is hopeless.'
You found renewal of your strength,
and so you did not faint. (Isaiah 57:10)

He said, "This is the resting place, let the weary rest";
and, "This is the place of repose" —but they would not listen.
So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
"Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there" (Isaiah 28:12-13)

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it." (Isaiah 30:15)

When I think of this and see this, I ache.

Lord, help us all see and let go. In Jesus' name, amen.


For more about how to rest from the fear of sinning, let go of the heavy Law and rest secure in Jesus's ability to keep us in His river, see this earlier article: Life Without The Law - Finding Rest From Fear of Sinning

And to know that He has paid this debt (our debt to the Law) and has paid it all, see these pictures and the verses of truth under them: Before & After

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Cloud Over Japan?

I am re-reading Jackie Pullinger's "Chasing the Dragon" for the first time in about seven years, and was struck by how in Hong Kong at the time she was told by Christians and missionaries that China was under a cloud of unbelief, and that's why it was so "difficult" there and no one converted. But after one gang member came to Christ, she cast off that idea and knew that Christ indeed was there.

I was struck by this because Christians and missionaries have been saying the same thing about Japan for such a long time. But here there are many who believe the answer then lies in spiritual warfare -- not against real principalities (like pride, rejection, etc.), but against shrines, temples, and local deities which they have mistaken for being the principalities.

What occurs to me is that Japan is just like Jackie found Hong Kong. It is not under a cloud, and Jesus is here. The problem, like she found, was that Christians did not know how to harvest and did not go into the harvest. They wanted the harvest to come into their buildings, and they wanted the harvest to be neat and cleaned before it came.

In the same way, one problem is that the church in Japan is profoundly middle-class. Gospel outreach is mainly left for certain "ministries" instead of seen as part of every Christian's life.

But more than that, there is a problem of listening to and following Christ. It is a problem that is stuck on tradition and authority -- the traditional weekly church service, and needing the authority of a pastor or "covering" or whatever. Churches pray for "revival" but want it controlled, sitting in pews, and submitting to the authority of the local pastor by coming and sitting for the weekly lecture. The "cloud" is not so much over Japan as it is over Christians in Japan. The greatest spiritual warfare needed is in the church -- we need to be set free to follow Christ out of our comfort zones and traditions and into streets and homes where His heart is, where His harvest is.

This picture that I got awhile ago is starting to make more sense:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bigger Rest!

By Ramone - November 28, 2007

When I was a Sabbatarian (someone who believed the Sabbath day must be kept) I somehow knew that there was no instruction in the New Testament for Christians to keep the Sabbath. I knew it was missing. When I ran across the word "Sabbath" in Hebrews 4, I finally saw "Sabbath" mentioned, but it was different and not good evidence for keeping Sabbath. It talked about God setting aside a day to enter His rest, and that day is "Today".

Yet when I was a Seventh-day Adventist missionary in '99-'00, I remember talking with my mission director about how Sabbath is in the New Testament contrary to what everyone said -- I said, "It's in Hebrews 4!" And he nodded in approval. I knew it didn't say what I wanted it to say, but I held it up as proof of our position.

Now, years later, I am no longer a Sabbatarian and have left Seventh-day Adventism. I learned that the Sabbath day was a shadow of the fulfilled rest that we have in Jesus Christ -- He is our rest! The Sabbath day was a type, a shadow like the sacrifices and other feast days. The true rest was to be found in Him who said,
"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I realized that Hebrews 4 talked about a BIGGER REST, something much larger than a "day", for it says --
"Now we who have believed enter that rest"

We enter it by belief! By belief in the Son, Jesus Christ our God who has become "rest" for us. He is our rest from striving, our rest from works, our rest from trying to keep the law, our rest from sins, our rest from worrying about sinning. He is our eternal security, He Himself is our inheritance, and He is eternal life!

When thinking back on the conversation I had with my former director years ago, I realized that we saw only what we wanted to see. We wanted to see the Sabbath DAY, not the fulfilled Sabbath-rest, Jesus Christ. We cupped our hands around the rest of the passage, around the context, around what Scripture actually said. And we made it say what we wanted it to say. God has provided rest for us great and huge like a sunny blue day, but we wanted to be in the shadows! Even then I had the sense that there was something bigger the passage was talking about, something bigger going on, but I was trained to stay in the shadow and I could not fathom the great hugeness of the Light. I couldn't imagine something BIGGER. I couldn't imagine a BIGGER REST than the Sabbath day!

My eyes were blinded by the shadow, by the letter of the law (the ministry of death & condemnation), by the veil of Moses that Paul spoke about in 2nd Corinthians 3. But God is brighter and stronger! He has brought me out into the Light, and I can see clearly now -- and I don't have to be afraid of reading the context of Scripture and allowing it to say what it says! I don't have to cup my hands over it or ignore parts. Even if they're difficult and challenge what I think, I can trust Him to work it out -- because His Light is BIGGER! My own fleshy attempt to hold onto my idea will only be shadow and darkness. The pages of Scripture "light up" in the Light! In a word, I can rest now! I don't have to strive to "make it work"! He does it, and I rest in Him, in His finished work, in His explanation, and in His being GOD. I don't have to figure Him out. He is GOD. He will reveal Himself as He always has and always does.

I can only thank God for this, and I pray that He brings my friends, family, and former director out into the Light, into His freedom, and into His rest!

In Daddy's Arms

By Ramone - November 25, 2007

This is how I felt (and how I saw it) as I relaxed with my son in the afternoon. He was falling asleep in my arms, and I was sleepy too, and we were listening to worship music. It was sweet. God is sweet. He is wonderful, He is lovely. He is love. And we are in His arms. Rest in His arms today.

January 24, 2008 -

Recently a sister in Christ shared a discussion that she was having with a family member who is Seventh-day Adventist, like I used to be. The family member reacted strongly against Christians saying "I am saved". I wrote this in response:

Did God make a mistake when He had His apostles say that "we are saved"? Surely if the words would cause our spiritual growth to stagnate, God would have not allowed such words to be written! But no, He had them written. If you do not feel you have the right to make that claim, then you must understand that you are saying that neither did the apostles have the right to make that claim, either. Yet they did. It is one thing to say this for yourself, but to criticize other Christians (and the apostles included) for saying these words is unbibilical. Neither God nor the apostles saw stating that we are "saved" as an impediment to our spiritual growth.

The reason we are sometimes uncomfortable with these statements is likely not because we investigated them from scratch, but because we inherited this uncomfortableness from our spiritual family (Adventists) who in turn inherited it from their spiritual fathers, all the way back to Adventism's founders who did not accept the Bible's words.

In contrast, the truth is that our greatest motivation comes because we have been saved. When we know we are saved, when we see how great and complete Jesus's salvation is for us, we are energized. We are in love. We want to know Him more. We want to know the depths & heights of His love. We become hungry for more of Him.

We don't "grow" in order to attain salvation. We grow because we have been saved. Because we have been saved, adopted, we now are children of God, and the most natural thing for us is to grow, just like the most natural thing for my 10-month-old son to do is to grow. In fact, most of his critical growth happens now without him knowing it! But even later when he will have to study, he will still continue to grow. There is actually nothing he can do to stop it short of dying. And above all, from birth and infancy all the way through high school and to adulthood, he is still my son and will always be. God-forbid, even if he should pass away before he comes of age, he will still be my son.

Is this not how our Father sees us now? We will grow, but we have been born again. We are born into His kingdom and He lives inside of us. We are new creations, born of the Spirit who is our seal and deposit, no, our guarantee of our inheritance. The fact that the Spirit is called our "guarantee" reinforces the apostles' claims that we are indeed "saved". In Him it is guaranteed. That is how good His salvation is!

No matter where our growth "ends" while we are on earth, the fact is that we are saved when we believe on Jesus Christ. Our growth happens after being saved, after being born. We don't grow in order to become born! No, our growth begins after we are born.

My son will of course get interested in different things, school clubs, activities, sports, etc. He will reach. He will strive, He will try. He may not try hard at times, and I will have to motivate him. I'll even have to discipline him. But you know the one thing I am not going to say to him? I am never going to tell him that he will cease to be my son if he doesn't try harder. And this is the problem with the Adventist position against the Bible's teaching that we are indeed "saved". Adventism suggests that our Father will disown us if we don't "make advancement in our Christian growth, be watchful, earnestly endeavor to press on to higher attainments", etc.

The truth of the Bible is that we are indeed saved by believing on Christ, just as it says. No "but's". Furthermore, knowing His salvation is our source of strength, our motivation, and our joy in our growth with Him. Our old self is sinful, but we do not ignore the Bible's statements about our salvation just because of our old propensity to sin. On the contrary, we choose not to believe our old sinful feelings, but we choose to believe His word -- that He is greater in us than he who is in the world! Yes, He is greater than our old sinful propensities. We can take the Word at its word!

Be blessed and know that if you believe as the Bible has said, that you are God's child and you rest in His arms, safe and secure, and no one can snatch you out of His hand. Don't be afraid of believing what He says about you, that He has saved you. Rest in Him, rest in His hold of you instead of your hold of Him. Bless you today in Father's love!

"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him,
for He shields him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders."

- Deuteronomy 33:12

Rest in the Arms of the Everlasting Father

By Ramone - December 10, 2007

I inked this picture on the airplane back from the States yesterday. This is the best picture I could take of it in the cabin's light. On that flight there were about a dozen Mormon (LDS) missionaries on their way to Japan. As I stood holding my son, trying to get him to relax and fall asleep, I prayed for them. I didn't know how to pray, I didn't know what they needed. But this is what I received -- they need rest, rest in God's arms.

I grew up Seventh-day Adventist and served as an SDA missionary for one year -- my first year in Japan. While there are many differences between LDS and SDA, there are many, many similarities as well. Both have something extra added onto Christianity which changes the simple nature of the Gospel. Both seem to need the rest that comes from knowing Jesus' finished work. Adventism & Mormonism both have a lot of work. In Mormonism it is the burden of "eternal progression", the attempt to attain godhood (see this link for more about this particular burden). This picture and the prayet it came from are about resting in God, resting in the arms of the Everlasting Father (that is, Jesus). Not trying to attain His status, but instead letting God be God and you be you -- His saved, redeemed child forever. No further burden, but only eternal and blessed rest in His arms as His child forever.

I was led out of Adventism & its worries & works by the Holy Spirit and by learning about the New Covenant. Many people don't realize that the Bible is divided into telling the histories of two covenants -- the Old and the New Covenant. Ellen White (SDA's prophet) didn't know this, and I don't think Joseph Smith (LDS's prophet) knew this either, hence the description of the book of Mormon as "another testament of Jesus Christ" -- this would be calling it "another covenant" when the New Testament boasts only of the one all-sufficent New Covenant which is made for all nations.

On our trip to America, I had taken different watercolor pencils and a couple pens, but when packing I felt like I should carry-on only the grey inkbrush pen and the waterbrush pen. Sometimes this happens -- at the beginning of the day, or before going out, etc. God impresses me (and can impress you) with certain materials or things to take which you will need. You can take others, but you may not need them! This time it was for this picture.

I inked it and tried to photograph it to remember it and share it here. Then when the flight was de-boarding, I gave it to one of the two Mormon missionaries seated behind me. He was very thankful and I was struck by his very kind appreciation. I didn't say any of the things I'd written here, but only blessed him. I had written a little bit of this on the back of the picture as well as my email address & this site's address (and if you're reading this, please email me!).

My family & I had a connecting flight at Tokyo and then continued onto Osaka. As we picked up our luggage in Osaka, there was my Mormon friend to thank me again, as well as do a little of his job by putting in a plug for Mormonism, giving me a card of a Mormon tabernacle and saying it was a place I really wanted to be at. I thanked him and couldn't think of what to say. That's me, haha. I've been better at writing most of my life rather than speaking -- so far, that is! Praise God, it will not always be that way.

I didn't know how to tell him that after coming out of Adventism, I had met the real Jesus and been filled with the one Holy Spirit, and could never be led astray again to another 'true church'. In appreciation of his kindness (not to mention how sleepy we all were), I didn't share then and I didn't want to argue anyway. I was blessed to have blessed him with the picture, and was blessed by his kindness.

As I was leaving the airport I thought of what I really wanted to say in reply. It's in the words of a song by Craig Musseau --
I sing a simple song of love
To my Savior, to my Jesus
I'm grateful for the things You've done
My loving Savior, my precious Jesus

My heart is glad that You've called me Your own
There's no place I'd rather be
Than in Your arms of love
In your arms of love
Holding me still, holding me near
In Your arms of love

I know he wanted me to come to a Mormon church, but I'm blessed beyond all imagination in the arms of my loving God. There's no place I'd rather be than in Christ alone. In Christ alone. By faith alone. His Word (the Bible) alone. The New Covenant. The complete revelation of His Son in the Scriptures as Hebrews puts it. I pray that my Mormon friend and his co-laborers will one day find the same rest in the simple, blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For more resources about LDS, visit Living Hope Ministries and their links page.

Relief, Assurance

By Ramone - July 2, 2007

This came while Yoko and I were talking about some dear friends in Adventism. (My wife and I are both former-Adventists, having left the many complicated beliefs of that system behind to rest in Jesus Christ alone.) We have been very blessed by these friends and their love & faith for God, yet there is just even a little more that we wish they could know.

It is simply the rest, the relief, the assurance that comes from knowing God has done it, He has saved us! (Adventism has historically taught you can never say you're saved until the end). The assurance that comes from seeing that Christ really has saved us, that He really has finished all the work necessary for our salvation --- whew! What a relief!! You don't have to worry anymore "if" you might "make it" or not!

As Yoko and I talked, I found myself unable to verbalize this relief, this rest, and I just put my body in this position because I couldn't describe it any other way. It's the Sabbath-rest, the rest that comes from knowing Jesus has finished all the works, and you find joy, relief, peace and rest in the salvation He finished for you. What good news!

Lord, I pray this for our friends. You've abundantly blessed them and given them wonderful, wonderful faith and love for You. Yet there is still a relief that I know they don't yet know -- bring them to that relief, to that rest and "whew!" sigh of joy. In Jesus' name and in His love, amen.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy New Year - Nengajou 2008

Nengajou 2008 - click for nice, larger picture
(Click for larger picture)

Happy New Year! I'm a little late putting up our "nengajou" this year (traditional Japanese New Year's greeting postcard). In keeping with the last three years' cards, I've used only cellphone pictures. This year in place of the usual random wackyness, instead we have plenty of incredible cuteness! Our son, Timothy Tsuyoshi Romero was born on March 20, 2007 (see this post).

In fact, if people put pictures on their Nengajou, they usually put pictures of their children. It's rare that they put pictures of themselves. So our last few years' cards have been a little strange, I guess, but I careth not. (^_^)

This year's pictures are all in chronological order to show Timo-kun's development, although since I missed almost four months between pictures 1 and 2, you might think he's always looked the same! (To see his progress and a bit of variety in looks, see these posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Here's a closer look at each picture and the stories behind them. Hold your pointer over the picture to hear what Timothy thinks of each one... (^o^)

Yes, I was such a quiet baby ...ONLY in the first four hours! Aww, aren't I cute? Do I look Japanese or Caucasian?  What say you?

The first picture is the day he was born, about three hours after birth, when I and Yoko's family were googling at and watching Timothy sleep out in the hall. Once in awhile he suddenly jerked as if being shocked by electricity, but didn't wake up. It was at this point that I first noticed that he looked like me... and strangely enough, like my brother, too! The second picture is July 3rd at Starbucks, and is the very model of cuteness, methinks! I love to show this picture (and others) to students and friends and ask, "Do you think he looks Japanese or Caucasian?" He is kind of a rorshach (sp) test, in that I get a different answer every time, hehe.

Yes, I smile with my tongue sticking out!  That way you think I'm cute, but actually I'm sticking my tongue out at you ha ha ha ha! Thbbt! Underneath I'm learning how to tickle Papa!

September 25 and November 16, respectively. By the end of the summer he was sitting up, although mostly with our help. But he soon figured out how to back up and sit up by himself. He couldn't crawl yet (that would come in November or late October, I think?). These pictures came from Yoko's cellphone from one day when she was playing with him while I was at work (behold his joy!) and later when she brought him to pick me up from finishing work at our subway station. By November it had gotten colder, so I put him in my jacket. (^_^) It's much colder now. Crazy.

My clothes were made in Israel!  How cool is that?  Actually, they're too hot!  Mama, take them off!  Is Israel in the South-Pole or what?  And where's Kalu?  I wanna spin him... Papa, you're not going to give me hot sauce, are you?  I can't read this menu... No hablo Espanol y Ingles y Japones y...

Two nights later at home, November 18th, I took this picture of Yoko holding Timothy who is wearing a pair of clothes (sweater & pants) that I actually wore when I was a baby! My mother had sent them and the seasons and his size worked out so that he could wear them. Note our magnetized poisonous rainforest frog (named "Kalu") making a Spider-man cameo in the background. The second picture is December 4th at Rosita's Place, a delicious Mexican restaurant in Phoenix that my father took us to. In early December Timothy made his international debut when we went to visit my father in Phoenix. Now if only Rosita could open up a restaurant here in Osaka...

Just wait'll I start walking, mwahahahaha! Do I look like I'm joking?

December 16th and 19th, respectively. Timothy started standing up on all fours much to our amusement! We hadn't seen him do this before, and he held this position for probably a good five minutes while Yoko and I photographed him from every angle, haha. Continuing tradition, one of our plush whalesharks appears here in the background. It could be Jimbeizou, but I think it's his lady, Mei-chan instead. The last picture is a cute one of Timothy in a new house jumpsuit Yoko got him. His rosy cheeks that day made him look like a jester, don't you think? If you look carefully you can see a little shiny-ness under his nose because he had a cold.

Two pictures that should have been on the card!

Hey, sucker, c'mere! Mine, all mine!

June 9th, filling in a little of that missing gap! This is him probably after taking a bath. We used to bathe him in the sink, but now I wash him in the ofuro (Japanese bath) and we soak in the water afterwards. Fun! In the summer months, though, it was too hot to use the ofuro. But because it was hot, we could leave him naked a little longer, so we could take our time changing his clothes. This picture is him on the changing table (read: our kitchen table with some cushions on it!) What do you think he's saying in this picture?

The last picture is from July 24th at a local Chinese restaurant. Timothy here is eyeballing the fried rice and trying to pull it towards himself. I don't think we had started giving him solid food at this point, but somehow he knew what it was... smart kid. Actually, he still hasn't gotten the idea of "chewing" completely yet, though he's made great progress on that in the last two days. He's also not one of the kids who puts stuff in his mouth a lot (yet!) ...he likes to play with it instead. Even his food. Just like his Papa...?

Okay, hope you enjoyed! Which picture is your favorite? Leave a comment below!

We pray that you have a blessed-in-His-rest 2008!
In Jesus' love,
Ramone, Yoko & Timothy Tsuyoshi

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Pictures... FINALLY!

Well, it's been a short ice age since I've put up pictures of our fast-growing baby. One friend visited here a few months ago and--having seen only the old online pictures--saw Timothy sitting upright and said, "I expected to see a baby!"

Now he's trying to stand. Everyone says this stage is really fast... they start walking soon. He's becoming good at standing very fast, but his only trouble is that he's not quite so confident getting back down yet! So once he stands, he's kind of stuck until he falls by accident or we move him. He's stood that way for more than ten minutes more than a few times!

We've got him on mostly solid food & bottle now. Today, by the way, he is 10 months old! So we're hoping to wean him off breastfeeding by the time he's a year old. Recently he's moved to eating solid food three times a day, usually at the same time we eat (otherwise he sits there and licks his lips while watching us eat). Here you can see some of his full-tummy happiness. And below some of his playfulness...

The first picture he is actually not playing peek-a-boo. Instead he's either sleepy or smacking himself in the head. Sometimes he hits his head with his right hand. Go figure. The second picture is Yoko & him playing & clapping at Mister Donut. I was probably making some strange joker-like face at him in order to get the picture. Our cellphones have a focusing delay so it's difficult to get pictures of him because he moves so fast! (Oh yeah, all these pictures are from my cellphone this time.)

He's started enjoying mirrors... this one is also at Mister Donut, which, by the way, I like better than Crispy Creme. But maybe not better than Dunkin' Donuts, because they don't have powdered donuts here nor do they have jelly-filled. But Crispy Creme is too sugary, I think. So there. (^_^)