October 2007


This is hiliarious, and yet reminds us of how important the Reformation really was.  Enjoy!  And don’t be surprised to find yourself humming the chorus the rest of the day. 

jackolantern01.jpgIt’s that time of year again and I thought it would be helpful to post some previous thoughts by Tim Challies as well as some helpful links as you ponder what to do with Halloween.

Helpful Quote:

“One night does not a neighbor make (and one night does not a pagan make), but Halloween is the one night of the year where the good neighborliness that flows from being in Christ is communicated and reinforced. We are citizens of another Kingdom where The Light is always on.”

Helpful Thoughts:

My encouragement to you today is to think and pray about this issue. I do not see Halloween as a great evangelistic occasion. I do not foresee it as a time when the people coming to your door are likely to be saved. But I do think it is a time that you can prove to your neighbors that you care about them, that you care about their children, and that you are glad to be in this world and this culture, even if you are not of this world or this culture. Halloween may serve as a bridge to the hearts of those who live around you who so desperately need a Savior.  ~ Tim Challies

Helpful Links:

big_mouth1.pngWhat do people think of you?  I’m not talking about “church-going people” but regular people in your neighborhood, workplace, or school?  How do they view you?  What would they say about you if you were not around? 

With the help of a book called UnChristian by David Kinnaman, God has convicted me about my lack of concern and care for unbelievers in my sphere of influence.  Sadly, this lack of love is common and noticable to the outside world, especially among young people. 

In a recent survey by the Barna Group, it was found that most 16-29 year olds view Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, and anti-homosexual.  These perceptions were often formed out of painful experiences with Christians–experiences that led to spiritual scars that prevented them from seeing Christians rightly and more importantly seeing Christ rightly.

I’m convinced that part of the problem is that we try to love people with our lips before we love them with our lives.  Sure, we have good intentions.  We want to bring people to see the seriousness of their sin and need for a Savior.  But maybe our big mouths are getting in the way of bringing people to Jesus.  Maybe our big mouths are trying to do it all while our hands and feet lay limp and inactive.

Rick Warren says something similar:

For some time now, the hands and feet of the body of Christ have been amputated, and we’ve been pretty much reduced to a big mouth.  We talk far more than we do.  It’s time to reattach the limbs and let the church be the church in the twenty-first century.

I say, “Amen” to that.  Far from minimizing the audible message of the gospel, we must make the message visible by our lives.  Our good deeds should support the good news so that the real Jesus is shown to outsiders.  The Jesus who was both full of grace and truth.

Andy Stanley shares the same perspective as he writes,

We must put the emphasis on developing relationships with nonbelievers, serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted.  Only then would we earn the right to share the gospel.  Their acceptance by us should not be predicated on their willingness to accept Christ.  After all, God loved us before we were lovable.

Let me be clear.  In our efforts to promote the gospel, our aim should not be to change our culture’s perception of us.  That may never happen.  Our aim should be to simply live like Jesus.  Our aim should be to embody the truth and love of Christ in our words and actions.  By our good deeds matching up with our good news, the gospel will be made clear to a culture blinded by its own perceptions.  And our big mouths will only be big because of the uncontainable joy we have in seeing more people brought to the Savior.

   

I thought I would let everyone know how much I appreciate you, Doug.  It is easy to say that I love you and am so encouraged by you – but it is so true!   If you have been encouraged by this blog, I encourage you to leave a note for Doug too.  In His sovereignty, God used my brother to show me what a life filled with Christ looks like.  Through that, God moved me to pick up the Bible – and as I began to read, God showed me grace and I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.  Without Doug, I do not know where I would be today.   I am glad I don’t have to think about that!  Thank you also for letting me hog your blog this week.  I apologize for those who were expecting to hear from the other Wolter!

by Mark Wolter

As many of you know Japan, although an economic powerhouse and advanced country, is one of the poorest spiritual countries in the world.  (“The world’s largest unreached people group” – Joshua Project 2007) With a less than .5% Christian population and 1 in 1,000 people attending an evangelical church on Sunday, Japan is a place that needs hope.  But how did it get this way?

When Christianity first came into Japan it was adopted by many top leaders and became VERY popular. Kyoto, for example was a hot-bed of Christian activity and the church experienced great growth. Then, very quickly, Japan began to see Christianity as an imperialistic threat, just as it had been in the Philippines. For the next 300 years or so, Christianity was brutally and completely eradicated from Japan. A more closed country the world has never known!

In addition to other very shrewd ways of finding Christians (like the “fumie” – a picture of Jesus that EVERYONE had to step on and renounce Christ as they did), for over 260 years, EVERY family was put into groups of 5 families to monitor Christians. If in one family there was found to be a Christian without the others snitching, then all 5 families would be killed! This was called: 連帯責任(rentai sekinin) meaning, “united responsibility.” (If there is one person who gets in trouble, the whole group is responsible because they didn’t help fix it.)

During this “Go-nin-gumi-seido” (5 person group system) Sometimes problems arose and one family or person began to dislike another family. Sometimes people would falsely report a family in their group as being Christians. Therefore, it was very important to treat outside people very politely and nicely, even better than members of your own family.

People are still pressured today to be a part of the neighborhood group that cleans the neighborhood area (for example) and demands a fee to be a member. Instead of death, the fear of being gossiped about or being regarded as a “breaker of harmony” still looms large! People are shamed therefore into making a good face to outsiders. Outsiders, at least as an outward show, receive better treatment than insiders.

Please pray for Maki and I to do more than show a good face! Pray that we have God’s true love for outsiders. I will pray the same for you.

(Read more about this at Mark’s blog: http://www.markandmaki.blogspot.com)

by Mark Wolter

Konichiwa!  As Doug said, I am Doug’s twin brother who lives in Kyoto, Japan.

Doing missionary work in Japan is often times a slow process.  It takes time to build a trusting relationship that can bear the weight of  “heavy” discussion about God.  While this may be true to some extent in America also, I have noticed that Americans are generally much more comfortable sharing their own opinion-  about almost anything – if asked.

When I was in college, a good friend of mine named Chris was always brimming with the gospel.  Almost every other week he would come to Bible study and say, “I had an opportunity to share the gospel with someone!”  Finally, after several weeks of this I just asked, “How do you get all these opportunities?!”  He just handed me a tape and said, “It’s all there.  Just listen!”

Listening to Bill Fay‘s tape, “How to Share Your Faith Without an Argument” became one of the biggest tools God used in my life to get me into a life of faith sharing.  Being naturally somewhat of a “quiet” guy, and not an apologist by any means, I was caught immediately with the fact that by God’s grace, I could do this!  Sharing your faith doesn’t have to be about convincing anyone.  In fact, that is exactly what it is NOT!  If you convince them, they are not saved!  “No man comes to the Father unless the Father draws him.” (John 6:44)  Sharing your faith, as Bill says, is, “Living your life out for Christ” and “loving others by asking good questions”.  I encourage you to equip yourself and listen to this message – the same one that changed my life 10 years ago.  Be forewarned:  You may end up a missionary too!

cawpm3kp1.jpgI will be gone the next several days for some time away with my family. While I’m gone I’m thrilled to have my twin brother, Mark, fill in for me as a guest blogger.

As you can imagine, Mark and I share many memories–too many to recount in this small post. However, I’m most grateful for how we’ve continued to sharpen and encourage one another over the years even after Mark was called to be a missionary in Japan. If any of you are twins or have twins in your family, you can imagine how hard it would be to not see your twin on a regular basis. And yet, God is gracious and continues to bring us together over the miles through email, blogs, and Skype.

I encourage you to check in these next few days as Mark will no doubt be a blessing to your faith. He is a gifted, humble man who has a heart for investing himself into the lives of people for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Along with his precious wife, Maki, and 4 month old son Noah, Mark patiently gives his life to Japanese young people (both college students and little children). He works for International Chapel Ministries (ICM) and teaches Science to 5th graders at Kyoto International University and Academy (KIU). Check out this video to get a glimpse of Mark and Maki’s heart for Japan. And while you’re at it, lift them up in prayer and send them an e-mail at markinkyoto(ATmark)gmail.com if you want to know more about how you can support their ministry.

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