Friday, February 27, 2009

Home Again... For The Moment - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 13)

Jonathan in front of his houseWell, I am back home again. Last night I slept in my own bed and it was wonderful! And poor David didn't have to contend with my snoring! I guess David should be landing in Minneapolis within the next two hours. I am sure he is ready to get home.

My flight home was pretty good. It was considerably shorter than the flight out, thank goodness! However, it was a very bumpy ride from Tokyo to Minneapolis. Our plane was too heavy to get above the weather and the fasten seat belt signs were on for most of the flight. It was a lot more like riding in a stagecoach than a jet airliner! At one point the ride got so bumpy that one of the overhead hatches popped open. None of the flight attendants closed it, and as bumpy as things were I was very concerned that something was going to fall out on someone. Thankfully that did not happen. Hopefully, David's trip was much smoother than mine.

An antique airplane hanging in the Minneapolis airport.I haven't gotten back into my old routines yet. Yesterday I was traveling from Raleigh back to Rowan County and stopped at my parents' to wash clothes. I had planned to head up to the mountains to visit family up there, but a combination of jet lag and a little neediness on my niece's part postponed the trip.

I am sure that there will be additional posts on our trip to Japan as I begin to unpack all that I experienced and as I get more perspective on what we did and why we went. Thank you so much for your prayers and support as we have gone. Your continued prayers are welcomed as David and I continue to ponder our trip and research the things that God led us to discover. Please pray that we will have understanding of what we are to do with the knowledge that we gain and pray that God will direct our research. Thanks again for all of your support. I look forward to talking to you in greater length about the trip!

Every Little Thing She Does

Here's a really neat music video for The Police's song, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What If? - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 12)

Night lights in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Wow, it is here. My last night in Tokyo. It is hard to believe that it has come so quickly. We have covered a lot of miles both on foot and by train, and I have seen more new sights than my eyes and brain have been able to handle. I'll be weeks processing it all, and I can already see myself thinking of the names of random Metro stops at odd times once I get back home.

What an amazing trip I have had, and it isn't quite over yet, but in about 33 hours I will be landing in my beloved North Carolina. It will be good to be home. I will enjoy being able to get back to my routines. And it is garden season again believe it or not. I'll have to get started on mine pretty quickly after I get back if the weather will cooperate.

But what if?

What if this trip was merely to give me a taste of this country that is similar, but very different from mine? What if God were to call me to come to Japan as a missionary? I have certainly been invited to come by several missionaries. There is a part of me that is very inclined to take them up on their invitation. And at the same time there is much to keep me locked into my pleasant routines and friendships back home. Those friendships were hard won - especially the ones in China Grove. And what about my beloved family and church? These are precious to me. Do I really want to say goodbye to all of that?

I don't know. I don't know if that is what God is asking me to do. There is certainly a strong tug to say, "No, Lord, I'd much rather stay home."

I understand better than ever what must have been going through some of the potential disciple's hearts when they rejected Jesus' invitation to go with Him. How hard it is to leave the familiar and precious behind! But it is what we are called as Christians to do every single day.

Didn't Jesus tell us to take up our cross daily and follow Him? If He is calling us to die daily then are we to consider anything in our lives outside of the purview of His dominion and rule? The very nature of a covenant dictates that all that I have belongs to the one with whom I have made the covenant if he asks for it. And the same is true in reverse too. So can I refuse anything that Jesus asks from me? How could I withhold my comforts, relationships, and security when He has laid down His very life? The answer is I can't. It all belongs to Him.

Before anyone gets too excited or dismayed, I want to say that I haven't heard a clear direction about this from the Lord one way or the other. I do know that I have begun to have some ideas about ways that I could come back. I have begun to get some ideas for ministry here. That could be a factor of my own imagination and creativity or it could be from the hand of the Lord.

The bottom line is that I intend to do whatever God tells me to do when He tells me to do it. Thankfully, God is gracious and understands how we are. He knows what we need to be able to make a decision of this magnitude, and He is patient and capable of getting us to whatever place He wants to take us.

Jonathan Eller, Gilberto, and David Patterson after the 2009 JEMA Plenary Meeting in Ochanomizu, Tokyo, JapanToday we went to the JEMA plenary session. It was basically a business meeting. Yes, it was pretty boring at times, but we did learn some interesting information and most importantly of all we had the opportunity to meet and interact with some more JEMA missionaries. I was excited by some of the things that I learned today. There are some really good things stirring in Japan.

David and I got to talk to Gilberto again today. What an excellent brother! I am so excited about what God is doing in him. I am looking forward to what God will accomplish through him in the coming days. Gilberto is in the process of developing a prayer ministry in Tokyo. He is a member of the Prayer Committee for JEMA and is looking to do something similar to what the IHOP guys are doing in Kansas City. It will be interesting to see how this takes shape.

Jonathan Eller, Mizuko, and David Patterson at the JEMA Plenary Session 2009 in Ochanomizu Tokyo JapanI got to meet a couple of other really super people today. I hope that one day I will be able to get to know them better.

Today Mizuko was honored by the JEMA folks for her 25 years' service to JEMA. Mizuko is the face and voice of JEMA and it the only official employee. She has been a valuable aid to David and me. On his last trip here she really helped him a lot and opened some doors for him that he would have had difficulty opening on his own. She is a great lady and it is an honor to know her. Anyway, the meetings took the better part of the day. I think we finished up about 4-4:30. It wasn't a minute too soon.

Afterward we went to Shinjuku to see if we could find a little something for me to bring home to my niece. We did and decided that we would be more likely to find an inexpensive meal in Akasaka than we would in Shinjuku so we took the train home. We went to one of the many tempura places close to our hotel. It was delicious and inexpensive.

I don't know why, but we were worn out tonight. We didn't walk that much at all today by our normal standards - probably not even two miles - but we both felt the wear of the miles that we have walked over the past ten days. I won't lie to you: I am glad that tonight's trek is the last time I'll have to make that long hike from the Akasaka stop on the Metro to our hotel again for a while.

Well, it is nearly midnight here, and I guess I'd better get some sleep. I have to catch the bus to the airport tomorrow around noon. So this will likely be my last post from Japan on this trip. I do still anticipate writing more about this adventure as I debrief. So stay tuned for that. I also think that David plans to do some catching up on his blog here over the next couple of days. He is staying on in Japan until Friday and doing a little work for his company branch office in Tokyo while he is on this side of the Pacific.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support. Please to continue to pray for God to move in Japan. I believe that He has a great tsunami of His glory to release on Japan and cleanse it and set it free from the enemy's strangle hold. Though the enemy thought he had things locked up tight here, God's power will make the devil's schemes look as secure as a sandcastle in a hurricane. I am pleased to be a part of God's wave!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Short Rows - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 11)

The back stairway to the Hie Jinja shrine in Tokyo JapanSo let me tell you a little more about the Hie Jinja shrine. It looks like it may be the most important site spiritually speaking in Tokyo. It is probably a tie between this one and another shrine out close to the airport. But this shrine occupies higher ground and "houses" a couple major "deities." Today we went back to pray at the shrine. Unfortunately, I got my wires crossed with David and we went there BEFORE going to the Imperial Grounds tour.

I had had a very rough night last night and was tired. It was cold and rainy. And I had not gotten ready as quickly as I had hoped. Still, I thought that I had gotten ready in time for us to get to our tour on time, but my lateness had not left hardly any time for us to pray at the shrine. We did however pray there this morning. There were no dramatic events surrounding the prayer. No earthquakes, no fires from heaven - no one even tried to chase us away for praying there.

I really would have liked some more time to spend praying. I didn't feel like I had really gotten anything accomplished. But then again, am I the one who is supposed to be accomplishing anything? This has been the big struggle for me personally on this trip. So much about the trip has not been clear. Have I accomplished what I came here for? It is hard to measure such things when you haven't been given a clear mandate about what you came to do. It means that I have to trust in God's sovereignty and his ability to lead someone who can be as dense as I am at times. May God forgive me for my ability to forget my place! I can do nothing without Him and my only job is to obey His direction. If I obey I have done well. I shouldn't have to see results to know that I have done His bidding.

One of the keeps from Edo Castle on the Imperial grounds in Tokyo JapanIt was a miserable day for a tour to put it bluntly. There was a light soaking rain and it was cold. It just wasn't a great day to be outside. Well, the ducks didn't seem to mind, but I could think of more fun things to do. OK, I'll stop griping.

We managed to make it to the Imperial residence just as the tour was about to start. We were supplied with umbrellas and listening devices and headed out into the rain to take a tour of the grounds. The taped tour information was helpful. It answered a question that I had about some markings that we saw on some of the stones of the ramparts that we had seen around town. It turns out that the different shogun would put their family crest on the sections of the ramparts that they were working on.

I also learned that when the emperor was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo (after the failure of the Tokugawa dynasty to discourage Commodore Perry from forcing Japan to open itself to the world) that he had an entire building dismantled and relocated from Kyoto to the Imperial grounds. There are some close ties between Kyoto and Tokyo spiritually too. The Hie Jinja shrine was a "disciple" shrine of an older one that was on Mount Hie close to Kyoto.

There were some interesting things to see on the tour, but I think that it would have been much more pleasant in April. It was kind of dreary in February. It is sad that the old Imperial Palace was destroyed in the firebombing of 1945. I would have liked to see the original building.

David P standing in the rainLunchtime today consisted of a combination of udon noodles and tenpura. It was very oishi-i (delicious.) It definitely hit the spot and put some warmth back into our cold, wet selves. We came back to the hotel to dry out and get ready for tonight.

Tonight at JEMA we had a great time getting to know some more Japanese missionaries. We brought a bag supper (we brought KFC) and then indulged in some delicious treats that had been prepared for us. I was particularly delighted with some mini cinnamon muffins and with the walnut cake that someone brought. The cheese ball was delicious too.

At the JEMA meeting we had the opportunity to find out about some really neat things that are going on here. One fellow - and sadly I cannot recall his name - told us about some Christian manga that have been developed. He gave us some free samples and they were really interesting. I plan to read mine on the plane home! I am very excited about what they are accomplishing with this genre of literature and was thrilled to hear how God had saved several very talented manga artists and brought them to this gentleman for the purpose of making this project a reality.

In a second seminar, we learned about how Japanese are communicating with each other with cell phones much more so than we do in the States. They use their cell phones for email and for surfing the web and most of their deepest interactions are done via phone. The gentleman who spoke to us about this showed some really great strategies for putting a church or ministry out where it will be easier to serve the Japanese people where they are. Both seminars were very interesting and quite exciting.

Well, it is getting late here and I have to be back in the meetings tomorrow at 10:00, so I'd better wind this down for now. I will do my best to post one more time before I leave. Perhaps tomorrow when we get back from the JEMA conference. In the meantime, thank you for all of the prayers of support. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just Two Days Left - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 10)

Jonathan Eller in front of Tokyo's Statue Of LibertyIt hit me today when I was writing an email to a friend that for all intents and purposes I only have two days left on this trip to Japan. Yes, I will technically be here on Wednesday, but that day will be obsessed with packing and getting to the airport. How could this time have passed so quickly?

I guess this realization has made today a day of reflection and contemplation about the trip thus far. In some ways I am disappointed that I cannot point to some very clear reason for why I came - at least a reason that would be easy to explain to most people. God often does things that are not obvious. The times that seem the least productive are the times that the Lord is moving the most - even though we haven't a clue. So it is probably my own flesh that wants to justify the trip with some very clear reason that God chose to go to such expense to send me. There is, however, another part that wonders if perhaps we just haven't gotten to that part of the trip yet.

I tend to think that tomorrow will prove to be the most significant part of our trip. In a moment I will talk more about that, but first I want to talk about some of the things that we encountered the past couple of days.

Saturday, we traveled to Shinjuku to take a care package to Abby who is here in Japan as an intern with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists. (It will forever be the FMB to me. I don't care what they call it now.) Poor Abby had gotten pink eye and a cold just before we were to meet with her. Nonetheless we did have a nice visit with her and enjoyed a tasty meal at a Japanese steak house. (Which is nothing like what you are thinking of back in the States when I say that. This is not like Ichiban at all.)

We had a really good conversation with Abby that helped me to understand some of the cultural issues in Japan that I haven't encountered yet. It was very insightful, and I am grateful for her sharing these observations with us. She helped me to understand how easy it is to become isolated in this culture - both for the native Japanese and for foreigners.

A statue to Venus in Odaiba, JapanAfter we left Abby to rest, David and I headed to Odaiba to do a little exploring. This area isn't too far from Walt Disney World - Tokyo. There were certainly some interesting things to see there, including a smaller replica of the Statue of Liberty - which you see in the picture above. There is a large mall there close to the train station where we decided to go for some refreshment. On our way in we discovered a strange sign. One of the entrances to the mall was called the "Gate of godess." I'm not exactly sure what that was referring to, but not too far from there we discovered an idol of the goddess Venus. I have no idea what that is attached to her head and I have no idea what that is beside her. If there is any consolation at all, it is that it does not appear that this idol is being worshiped. Still, it creeped me out a bit. The statue reminds me a lot of some of the images that I have seen of Artemis of the Ephesians.

There were some other interesting things we encountered. We found a monument that looked like a gold, pointy cigar that we think was called the flame of liberty. It looked a lot like Ultraman's rocket.

While we were at the mall we did a little shopping for souvenirs. There was a Toys R Us there and we were very pleased to find that it wasn't filled with a bunch of American toys. Almost everything there was Japanese. We also talked over a drink at Starbucks about the conversation that we had with Abby and about what we have been learning about Japan. It is clear to us that man's inventiveness and clever programs will not set this people free. Nothing short of the power of the gospel quickened by the Holy Spirit will break through in this nation. We also talked about a very unorthodox idea that we had to help reach people here.

We wandered around a good bit, and by the time we decided to head back home we were completely worn out. But before going back to the hotel, David treated me to a wonderful dinner at Outback Steakhouse. In the midst of all of the differentness that there is here, it is nice to find something very familiar. There were some small differences, but it was a great meal.

By the time we got home last night we were both beyond done. We both went to bed pretty early.

Today we went to church at a church that David had found online. It is called the Jesus Lifehouse and was within walking distance from the hotel. It was apparently started by Australian missionaries and is growing very quickly. According to what they told us today they have over 700 people attending the various services through the week. They are running 3 services on Sunday and one on Saturday night. There are also many small groups that meet all over the city. The services are in English and Japanese. Most of the worship songs were from Hillsong in Australia. I don't know if there is a direct link between the two churches or not.

We got the opportunity to speak with several people from the church today, and their report is that God is moving in Japan. They are seeing many people coming in and getting saved and they are finding that the people of Japan - especially the young people - are hungry for something and when they are being shown the gospel they recognize that it is what they have been looking for. We heard a testimony today of a young woman whose job made it hard for her to attend church, but she asked her boss in faith if she could have Sunday off. When she explained why she wanted the day off, she had such favor with her employer that he gave her every Sunday off! Another young man shared how he had come to Christ after being challenged to study the Word of God. We met Nick who told us how he had been raised Buddhist and Shinto, but how through friendship with an American missionary he had been convinced of the truth of the gospel. By seeing him live his life for Jesus, this man was convinced that Christianity was true. I hope that some of the people that we met today will stay in contact with us.

On our way to church this morning we passed a shrine. (It was the Hie Jinja shrine.) We didn't know that was what it is this morning, but on our way back home from church, we decided (well, it was more David's idea than mine) that we should go up and check it out. (Once I found out it was a shrine, I really didn't want to go there.) When we got there we looked around a bit. I doubt that I will take the time tonight to go into all of the details. I need to download some pictures and we need to process some of the information that we have found out since getting back to the hotel tonight.

But to make a long story short, this shrine predates the Tokugawa shogunate. It has been here for a very long time, and it "houses" two very major "deities." The primary one supposedly protects the city and the Imperial family. It is the "god" of the high places. There is also another "deity" here that is a "goddess" of fertility. This "goddess" is one of the most popular figures worshiped in Japan. 1/3 of all of the Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to her. Her name is Inari. (I think it is interesting that a character in the series Firefly was named Inara. This, I suspect was not an accident.) This shrine sits on one of the highest points in the whole city. There is also a major link to a similar (and much older) shrine outside of Kyoto.

I was not game for going to the shrine. I just would rather not be in a place where demons are worshiped, but I believe that it was good for us to go there because it gave us the clues that we needed to be able to find out what is really going on there spiritually speaking.

Perhaps the saddest thing that we saw there were some parents teaching their children to worship the idols in that place. Perhaps we should have said something to them. I wish I had thought of that at the time, but I was feeling particularly out of place there. Please pray that I'll do better.

Tomorrow we go to the Imperial compound for a tour. Then we plan to return to this shrine. In both locations we intend to pray. Later that night we will have a time of fellowship with some of the missionaries that have associated themselves and their ministries with JEMA. I truly believe that tomorrow is going to be a pretty important day. That being said, I need to wrap this up and call it a night and get some sleep. Please continue to pray for us as we are wrapping up this trip. I'll update you tomorrow night on what we discover.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh Wow, Tomorrow's Saturday! - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 9)

Jonathan Eller in front of a statue of a Sumo wrestlerYesterday was a busy day. The past two have been a bit of a blur to tell the truth. I think if I am remembering correctly that we kind of took our time yesterday morning getting ourselves ready to go. We got lunch at a restaurant called Jonathan's (they even spelled it right!) which is kind of the equivalent of a Japanese Shoney's. The food was good and the best part was that it was reasonably inexpensive. David was impressed that I was able to eat corn and rice with chopsticks. I'm getting pretty good!

When we took this picture a policeman was walking by. He kind of smiled when he saw that I was posing like the sumo in the picture. I see now that I needed to extend my arm more...

After lunch we hopped on the train and went to the OCC (not the same one from the stupid TV show) to visit with the people from Japan Evangelical Missions Association (JEMA). David had met some of the people from this group on his last trip to Japan. We had signed up for a fellowship that they are having on Monday night and wanted to see if it also might be possible to sit in on some other parts of the conference that they are having.

We really didn't know how long we would be there. When we arrived the Association's administrator was trying to finish up some booklets for one of the sessions of the conference. We jumped in and helped to bind them. It was fun. By the time we had finished there were several missionaries working on the booklets and we were having a great time chatting with each other.

The one that we spoke to most is a Brazilian missionary named Gilberto. Part of his ministry focuses on serving the Brazilian-Japanese population here in the Tokyo area. He is also in the process of trying to get a prayer ministry started here. A couple from his church attended the One Thing Conference that I have been raving about since December and have been spending some time at the International House Of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Gilberto also had the opportunity recently to visit the Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. I am excited about what he is getting started here. I believe that committed prayer will begin to change the atmosphere here like nothing else has been able to do so far.

He told us that there really hasn't been a strong prayer focus in the churches in Japan. I had to admit that there hasn't been one in the churches in America either. Perhaps that is why the numbers of Evangelical Christians has been shrinking instead of growing in our country.

The OCC (Ochanomizu Christian Center) sits on land purchased by an Irish missionary known as "Sensei" Irene Webster-Smith. The story of how that came about was pretty amazing. I think David may have told the story in a blog post from his earlier trip. Here is a little blurb from a book that David has about Irene that was published in 1965 titled Sensei: The Life Story of Irene Webster-Smith

"With only $18 to her name she (Irene Webster-Smith) bought a house in Tokyo to establish a Christian Student Center. And despite the fact that its price was $18,000, she never once missed a payment. Fourteen years later the property was worth $1,000,000"

Can you imagine what it would be worth today? The building houses many Christian ministries and also has a very nice Christian Bookstore on the second floor.

After we finished up at the OCC we decided to grab some supper. We ate at a Subway just up the street. They have some different menu offerings here. I had an avocado and shrimp sandwich. It was pretty good. I would eat that again. They also had some different cookies from the ones that we can get back in the States. I had a really delicious chocolate and coconut cookie. Mmmm.

The area where we were was full of guitar shops. I think we counted five or six! It was guitar players' heaven. By the time we got back to the hotel we were thoroughly exhausted.

A Fender amp that goes to 12This morning it was raining when we got up. We took our time getting ready to go and by the time we were ready to get some lunch the rain had stopped. We went down to Ginza and had lunch and decided to walk around and see what we could see. One of the places we stopped was a giant music store. I think three floors were CDs. Then they had additional instruments as we continued up the building. One floor was mostly guitars. That was neat. We found an amp that went all the way up to 12! They also were having a special emphasis on recorders. They had every size of recorder (remember the one they tried to teach you to play in elementary school?) imaginable. One of the large ones cost ¥ 300,000! (That's roughly $3,000!) These were all made of wood. I saw one the same size as the one I have for about ¥ 1400. I was very tempted.

We ended up in a department store with a Starbucks on the top floor. We were both pretty tired so we stopped for a bit to give our feet a rest. While we have been here I have been reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. I pulled it out to read while I was having a lovely chai latte. He made a comment that I thought was a little shocking. He said,

It is not those who profess to know Christ who will enter heaven, but those whose lives are holy. Even those who do "great Christian works" will not enter heaven unless they also do the will of God. Jesus said, "not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons, and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evil-doers!'"

I have always thought that this saying of Jesus was radical, but today when I read this in conjunction with the words that Mr. Bridges wrote I realized just how different this is than the "gospel" that is being preached in many places - especially the United States. How many times have you heard someone declare that holiness is required to enter heaven? As I have pondered this passage what he says is certainly true. Without obedience to God's Word - holiness - we won't see God. And if we don't know Christ - truly having relationship with Him - then we won't desire holiness or be equipped to walk in it. What a fearsome passage of scripture.

After our break we did a little souvenir shopping - more window shopping really. All the stuff we saw there was pretty expensive. Still looking for something cool to take home for my niece and nephew that won't break the bank.

There was another park that David had seen on the map that he wanted to see. So we headed over that direction. As we rounded a building we came face to face with....

Godzilla statueG

As you can imagine we were quite excited about it. He wouldn't sign any autographs and he didn't destroy any buildings, so we got bummed and left.

When we got to the park there were lots of things to see. The park was apparently the first western style garden/park in the country. We came across some different kinds of statuary, including, oddly enough, a copy (I think) of that statue of the she-wolf suckling Remus and Romulus. There was a statue of what we are guessing was a Roman or Greek goddess. We found some other turtle statues. There were some interesting things strewn about the park.

Liberty Bell reproduction in Tokyo JapanBut I think the thing that surprised David and me the most was when we found a replica of the Liberty Bell right there on a high knoll in the park.

It turns out that General MacArthur got some American businesses to donate it to Japan after the war. There was a plaque on the back side that explained. There were also some Japanese characters on the bricks that made up the tower. We couldn't read them though.

After we finished up at the park we headed back toward the hotel for the evening, but stopped at a restaurant for some more traditional Japanese fare for dinner. This was the biggest adventure of the day by far. In fact, it may have been the biggest adventure of the trip.

When we looked at the menu outside of the restaurant it looked like something we would enjoy eating. When we got inside, we very quickly discovered that we were in trouble. Only one fellow knew any English at all and the entire menu was in Japanese. (Imagine that! Where do they think this is? Japan?) After much pointing and grunting and referring to a handy dandy pocket dictionary, it became pretty clear that most of the stuff on the menu was going to gross David and me out. Somehow we managed to order. I am really not sure what it was I got, although I have an idea and being not sure is fine with me. All I know is that my meal tasted very good even if the texture was a little unusual.

Tonight we have done laundry and I have been blogging and uploading pictures to my Facebook account. If you aren't on Facebook and would like to see the pictures you can click on these links to the albums:

Japan 1

Japan 2

Hillary Motorcade

Edo-Tokyo Museum

Japan 3

Tomorrow we will catch up with a missionary friend of David's and deliver a "care package" from home. We found out tonight that she has conjunctivitis, so we'll be careful. Prayers for her good health and ours are very much appreciated. Hopefully by the time we meet her for lunch tomorrow she will be past the contagious stage.

It is really hard to believe that tomorrow is Saturday. Time has really flown. It will be time to go back home before I turn around good.

I was asked by a missionary friend today what the most amazing part of the trip has been so far. I didn't get to respond to her because things got off that track during our chat. But I have been pondering my answer ever since she asked it. I guess at this point the most dramatic thing that has happened has been that God got us over here in the first place. That, far and away, has been the most dramatic thing that has happened. But there have been other things too.

Three days before I left I started coming down with a cold. I had been around sick people for months and hadn't even gotten a sniffle and three days before I was supposed to go to Japan I was starting to get sick. I prayed and stood against the sickness myself for a day and realized that I wasn't going to be able to beat it on my own. I went to church that night and asked my church family to pray for me. I also got prayer from two other friends. The next day I was about 90-95% better! By the time I got on the plane I was well. Prayer works! Thanks, guys, for lending your faith to me!

Most of what we have been doing while we have been here could be called "spiritual mapping." In some Christian circles, spiritual mapping is a form of spiritual warfare that does research with the help of the Holy Spirit to uncover elements in a geographical region's past that have either made it more or less receptive to the move of God. Once you know the spiritual strengths and weaknesses of an area it is easier to know how to pray for that region.

I believe that a lot of what we have done while we have been here these first few days has been beneficial, but frankly David and I have been chomping at the bit to discover what was so important that we needed to uproot ourselves to the other side of the world. Perhaps obedience to God is sufficient, but we both feel that we are to do something here that will have a direct impact on the spiritual climate of this nation.

We may have received such a revelation tonight. I will not go into details at this time, but we will certainly be praying about this between now and Monday. Please pray with us that God will give us clarity of purpose and that we'll understand what He wants us to do without question. I would like to get some confirmation about this myself. And please also pray that we will have the boldness, confidence, and courage to be willing to do anything that the Lord asks us to do.

Thank you so much for reading and I'll be updating you again soon!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Continuing On - To The Rising Sun With the Risen Son (Part 8)

Jonathan Eller in TokyoToday we went back to the area around the Imperial compound in front of the statue of the Samurai Kusunoki Massashige and took some time to do some praying. It was a gorgeous day. It was a little cold, but it was nice being outside.

There is a welcome center close to the park and they had some information about the moats and some of the plants and animals that can be found there. I was shocked to discover that they have Largemouth Bass and Bluegill in the moats! They were introduced here from the States. There are some other invasive species that have been imported. These species can really wreak havoc in the native ecosystem. Just as the Northern Snakehead is seen as a danger to North American ecosystems the Bluegill and Largemouth Bass are in the Japanese waters. I think I would have been pretty shocked to go fishing here and come up with a Bluegill on the line.

Anyway, after we finished praying in the park we took the train on a circular route around the city. When we finished with that we grabbed some lunch at an Italian restaurant that we had seen on Monday. We then spent the rest of the day in the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It was pretty interesting. They had some incredible models set up. There were lots of interesting artifacts as well, including some swords and amazing watercolors. The main thing that we were looking for was clues that may help us to understand what is making it so difficult for the gospel to spread in this nation.

Mount Fuji from the 40th floor of the Grand Prince Akasaka HotelI think that we found some interesting leads today that will help. One of the things that struck me was just how ingrained the Shinto religious worship was to many aspects of Japanese life. There were deities associated with nearly every important geographic feature of Tokyo that most likely still hold sway over the hearts and actions of the people. Another thing that stood out to me is that there have been many attempts to bring social justice to the people of Japan. So far those efforts, while well intentioned, have largely failed.

And yet still, as I am learning more and more about Japanese culture, I am convinced that there are also elements here that the Lord can use to make this people a special treasure for Himself. There certainly seem to be aspects of the culture that have a finger on the pulse of special facets of the heart of God. I think about their willingness to die for the sake of honor. If only that could be turned to a willingness to put to death the deeds of the flesh for honor's sake! They are the people of the kamikaze, the "divine wind," who believed that it protected their nation from attack. Is God's Spirit not also called the Ruach ha Kodesh, the divine breath? I believe that these are things that God has implanted into Japanese culture to one day help to lead them to Himself. Sadly, as he often does, the enemy has perverted these very things to prevent that from happening. The good news though is this: God doesn't lose to the enemy! What God has purposed to do in a people will be done regardless of how the devil tries to keep it from happening.

Back to the museum for a second; one of the neatest things I saw there today was a watersystem that the Japanese used in Edo (an earlier name for Tokyo) that was made out of wood. Totally impressive. The water flowed through wooden water mains that were buried underground and brought water to the city. I just thought that was awesome. How creative!

We ended up today by going to a very popular part of the city and getting a little KFC. The train trip there was an adventure to be sure. At one point there were so many people jammed into the railcar that one woman all but had her nose pressed against the window of the door. People were pressing up against me on every side of me that wasn't up against a bulkhead! I really thought I'd freak out, but I thought I handled it pretty well.

Anyway, I was really glad to make it back to the room tonight. I am tired, but it was a great day. Please pray that my snoring will subside. I was keeping David awake with it last night. It was so bad that he ended up sleeping out in the hall! Poor feller.

Tomorrow we will probably stay close to the hotel for the morning and then we are going to meet with the folks at the JEMA office on the other side of town. This is the organization that David made contact with the last time that he came over. We will be attending some events with them this coming Monday and our meeting tomorrow will kind of flesh out exactly how great our particpation will be in those and other events. It is hard to imagine that I only have a week left.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Diet Library - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 7)

Sakura blossomsYesterday we got the lay of the land a little bit. Today we walked down to the Diet Library. This was not a library full of diet books. It is the Japanese equivalent of the Library of Congress. The Japanese governing body is called The Diet. I think the Germans use a similar term.

So anyway we went there today to do some research. When we got there we had to try to figure out how to get permission to use the library. We had read a little bit online, but it didn't give us details. I must say that the people here are absolutely wonderful. They are incredibly polite and helpful. I have honestly been refreshed by the Japanese attitude towards work and hospitality. When I consider how some of the jobs would be done by Americans, I am frankly ashamed.

Everyone that we encountered in the library today went out of their way to help us. They got us information in English to help us use the online card catalog. They even sat down with us and walked us through the process. They dredged up all the English that they knew so that we would understand. Wow. These people are fantastic.

Japanese Diet Library Annex EntranceLet me gush a little more and then I'll get back to my story. I have also noticed just how well thought out many things are here. For instance, in the hotel, they have motion sensor activated lights that illuminate the hallway as you are approaching and then turn off again when no one is there. Brilliant! And for the place to be as populated as it is I have seen very little litter. It is incredibly clean. That is not to say that there aren't some "interesting" smells here and there, but I am honestly impressed. I wish the folks where I live were as conscientious about litter. And they have made it simple to recycle. Everywhere you go there are waste bins that make separating out the recyclables simple.

So we went to the library today to see what we could find. We were going to see if we could find any clues as to why Japan has been so hard to the gospel. One of the hypotheses that we have been working on has to do with some of the things that were done by Japanese forces during World War II. The library has a collection of papers from General MacArthur related to the occupation and military tribunals following the war here in Japan. We spent most of our time today looking through that for clues. We found some names that were mentioned quite a bit and we will do some research on them tomorrow.

We have done research on some of the things that we saw yesterday too. We discovered a statue close to a museum of the Japanese leader who was responsible for driving out the early missionaries and who tried to crush Christianity after it was first introduced to the nation. For some reason the man's image is standing on top of a giant turtle. We are still working on trying to figure that out.

We spent most of the day in the library. We even had lunch in the cafeteria. They have an interesting system for that too. You go through the line and look at models of the food that they make. Then you go to a vending machine and pay for the meal you want. It gives you a ticket which you take to the counter for the kitchen. They give you the food and voila you are eating.

I think the most interesting thing that we saw today was at the library. As we were leaving there was an impossibly tall Japanese man (he looked to be well over 6 feet tall) in a bit of a standoff with the police at the entrance to the library. He had cigarette dangling from his mouth and this kind of crazy hairdo and bell bottoms. He looked a bit like a rock star. (Try to imagine a Japanese Keith Richards...) I was surprised that they were trying to polite him out of the building. It was about 10-1 in their favor. We left and got our personal belongings out of the locker. On our way out the door we were even more surprised to see that they had succeeded in getting him out of the building using politeness. Unfortunately for the police he headed to a different exit. Kind of wish I had taken some pictures of that and that we had hung around to see what happened.

We went to dinner tonight at the Hobgoblin Pub. The food was filling, although I would have to say that I think I could teach them a thing or two about shepherd's pie. Still, the atmosphere was nice and the service was friendly.

Secretary Clinton's motorcade in Tokyo Japan February 2009We are also pretty sure (about 95%) that we saw Secretary Clinton's motorcade pass our hotel today. I have some pictures. There were two motorcades that we saw. Most assuredly one of them contained Madam Secretary. I'm guessing it was the one with the big black cars instead of the one with mostly Japanese vehicles.

Another highlight of today was that I got to see Mt. Fuji from our hotel. I'll try to post more pictures tomorrow.

We are still feeling things out here. We plan to do a good bit of praying tomorrow. Thursday we are going to meet with some folks at with a missionary organization and Monday evening we'll be participating in some events with them. I trust that as we continue to seek the Lord's direction on this trip that He is more than capable of getting us before the people that we need to meet and helping us to accomplish the things that He wants us to do. Your prayers for our success are welcomed and appreciated. Please pray especially that we will be in sync with the Holy Spirit and the mission that He sent us here to accomplish. Thank you all for your support!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Here In Tokyo - To the Rising Sun With the Risen Son (Part 6)

We have arrived in Tokyo. We arrived at about 4:20 on Sunday afternoon. The flight was pretty good overall but quite long. It is hard to conceive of just how long a 13 hour flight is going to take. I don't think that there is any way to prepare for that.

I did see some really interesting things though. I saw Siberia for the first time and arctic ice flows. That was pretty amazing. I tried to take some pictures from the window of the plane, but from what I can tell it really didn't do what I saw justice.

It was amazing how good the kids were that were on our flight. They got fussy a couple times, but I was right there with them thinking, "I feel your pain, kid."

Upon arrival to Japan I have been amazed at how organized they are. So many of the things that they do make such sense. Of course, in America I tend to think that we are probably too rebellious and self-centered to follow the rules to make these systems work here as well. I have also been amazed at how industrious everyone is. These people seem to just love their jobs and they take real pride in them. It is really something to see. I think my dad would really relate to them.

Anyway, when we got here we had been up nearly 24 hours, but we knew we had to stay up a little longer so that we could beat the jetlag and get on a normal schedule. We managed to stay up until about 10:00 their time and then crashed. I was so tired I felt drunk.

Today we did some exploring and found some interesting things. We saw some statues and have begun researching them. No real earthshaking stuff yet, but we are just getting going. Secretary Clinton is supposed to arrive in our area tonight, so that might be interesting too.

I have been surprised by how familiar so many things have felt here. I can read a lot of the signs (many are in English) and there are English translations all over the place. I do wish I had had the time to learn some Japanese though. I'll work on that some while I am here. I'm going to try to learn the Katakana alphabet before I leave.

Thank you all for the prayers and support that you have offered. I will keep you up to date on what we get into while we are here. Don't forget to check my friend David's blog too for updates.

More to come from the Rising Sun!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Powerful Ad

This kind of puts things in perspective if you ask me. Too bad NBC decided that they wouldn't run it. But what's the first amendment for anyway, right? Apparently free speech only applies to the people that agree with their godless view of the world. We can be exposed to perverse, voyeuristic ads like the Doritos ad and the Big Daddy ad, but apparently this was just a little too much for us poor Americans to see.

A reckoning is coming. Mark my words. It is on its way.

You Know It Is Going To Be An Interesting Trip When... - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 5)

A Tibetan protester being arrested by Japanese policeSo there I was...

sleeping like a lumberjack, sawing down vast swaths of virgin timber. Suddenly I was awakened by a knock at the door. Not sure if I had actually heard right, I decided to lay there a second and see if I heard anything else. Not only did I hear something else, but I could tell someone was walking around in my carport with a flashlight. I heard the screen door open and a louder knock at the door.

I began trying to imagine what might be going on. It looked like the power was still on and began to wonder if there were some kind of disaster or family emergency. I got up and went to the door to find one of China Grove's finest standing there.

He asked me if the car in the driveway belonged to me. I looked and, lo and behold, there was a car sitting at the end of my driveway. The police officer told me that he had run the plates on the car earlier for some reason (the details are a little fuzzy since it was 1:30 in the morning and because I had been abruptly awakened out of a Benadryl coma.) Before he had been able to get the information back from his check the car had disappeared. (Not like actually vanished, the person drove away.) Like I said it is all kind of fuzzy at this point. I still don't know if it was a traffic stop or what made the officer run his tag. And if it was a traffic stop, why did the officer let him drive away?

When the tag check came back showing that the tag didn't match the car the officer went to look for the car and he found it abandoned in my driveway.

Anyway he asked if he could look around and wanted to make sure that I knew that he was doing it. This was probably a good thing. If I had heard someone rummaging around and gone to investigate with a shotgun this story may have ended badly.

After I spoke to the officer, I got to thinking that I had better check the truck to make sure that nothing was missing out of it. I had left the doors unlocked and my briefcase was in there with my passport inside. Thankfully nothing was missing. I locked everything up and went back to bed. I have no idea whether they caught the guy or not.

And in another development, after being around sick people literally for months now without so much as a twinge of sickness I am in a full on fight to keep a cold from setting in.

It's going to be an interesting trip.


I read an incredible story on the Bound4Life blog about a courageous young woman who bucked the pinheads in her school to do a speech on abortion. You should check it out. And here is the speech that she gave:

Oh that God would raise up millions of young people like her. This is what it means to be salt and light.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bag That... - To The Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 4)

A Japanese woman in traditional dress outside a demonic shrine walking in the snow.OK, I'm not going to continue the third person narrative. It was becoming tedious. At least it was for me. I'm thinking it probably was for you too. So I shall spare you further grief along those lines. Back to my normal voice. I thought the narrative voice worked on the first one, but not so much when I tried to continue it.

So here is the latest:

On Sunday I received an additional $550. Oops! I forgot that my friend's son contributed the final $3.60 needed to cover my plane ticket. I think that is totally awesome! I hope that when I have kids one day they will have a similar heart towards giving.

I have enough to be able to go now. I think there is enough to cover my travel, but I still have some expenses here that need to be covered. We are definitely close now to having absolutely all of the expenses covered for this trip.

Today I did some running around. I got in some walking when I went and cashed some checks and paid some bills. Then I went to a bookstore and picked up an English-Japanese dictionary and basic book on Japanese. I was tempted to buy a couple books that I saw there about Japan. One on the Samauri looked very interesting - and it was on sale! But I resisted this temptation. I also went looking for a replacement quick release clip to repair one that got broken on my rucksack. I ended up driving to Pineville to the REI that is there. Then I drove back to Salisbury to let my dad borrow the camera.

In the past couple of days there have been some interesting points of resistance that have come up. I am still praying and thinking about how to respond to one of them. And not unexpectedly it looks like the enemy has tried to put some sickness on me. In the name of Jesus I will not receive it. I think a lot of this is merely a test to see if I will back down or believe and fight. I choose to fight.

One thing that the resistance has made me very aware of is that I am not as well-prepared as I would like to be for this trip. I have wasted some time on frivolous things like minesweeper, solitaire, pyramid and Facebook. Some of this has come from the enemy and some of it is just my stupid old flesh.

I have in some ways treated this trip like it is one of the lightweight mission trips that I have been on in the past that requires more of me physically than spiritually, and the Lord has shown me more of the nature of the foe we will be facing. It was a very sobering revelation. It made me think about the mission trips of Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, and Silas. These were men of God who walked in anointing and power. They weren't casual at all about their mission. And even though these men were spiritual giants, they still faced very grave peril at the hands of men motivated by the spirits that they were resisting and preaching against.

I know now that this will not be a "business as usual" type of trip. It will take faith, courage, and sobriety to complete our mission. And right now our orders are still sealed. We will have to go in faith and trust the Holy Spirit to get us to where we need to be physically and spiritually. It is very exciting to be stepping out into the wild blue and yet at the same time I expect there to be a cost. I am not afraid of this cost; I just want to be as prepared as I can be to face it and bring glory to God in the process. Perhaps I am being overly dramatic and making more of this than I need to, but I'd rather be prepared for the worst and be pleasantly surprised instead of being prepared for an easy ride and end up getting a buckboard ride over the side of the Grand Canyon.

Tomorrow I need to finish cashing checks, get travelers' checks, go to the grocery store, go to Wal-mart (shudder), and take my rucksack to get it repaired. I also need to do some more reading and get my packing list together. It will all be here too soon. I can't believe it is almost Wednesday already. I am also trying to figure out how to get my computer to recognize my Treo so that I can sync to it. I already have a profile on this computer, but I have never sync'ed my current device to this computer. The last time I had to do this it took forever before I finally figured out what to do. I plan to strip a lot of programs and files off of it so that I can download the Japanese practice exercises and some music and/or scripture to it. It will also make it possible for me to take pictures with it again.

So that is about it for right now. There is still a ton of things to do before I leave and I need to get my rest. That being said, I bid you goodnight!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Go God! - To the Rising Sun With The Risen Son (Part 3)

Mt Fuji
Later that day, Jonathan got to tell several other people, including his former pastor and his sister and brother-in-law, about the things that God had done to make the trip possible.

Jonathan's sister was totally shocked that he was going. She just stared at him slack-jawed in unbelief. But after they talked about everything that had taken place and all that the Lord had done, she agreed that it really looked like God wanted him to go. When his nephew Josh heard that he was going to Japan he said, "That's awesome! Would you get me some of those chocolate-covered pretzel sticks they have over there?"

Jonathan laughed, "You want some Poky? You know they come in lots of flavors. You want chocolate, strawberry, or banana?"

Josh said, "I want some of them all!"

But the excitement that day was far from over. That very night after he got home Jonathan got a call from David. After some general conversation about all of the neat things that had happened that day for Jonathan, David said, "Well, the reason I called you was some people gave me some more money today for your trip. I tallied it all up and basically it is enough to pay for all of your plane ticket but $33.66!"

"You've gotta be kidding me!" Jonathan hollered. "This is nuts!"

The next day Jonathan went to visit his parents and tell them the news. When he told them they were stunned. The really were shocked, but as Jonathan told them the story of how this had developed they also agreed that it was the Lord's plan for him to go. They asked lots of questions and told him that they were excited that he was going.

Jonathan returned home that night pleased that things had gone so well, but he was concerned that he had been neglecting his time in the Bible and in prayer over the past week. He determined that he needed to break through all of the distraction and move that back to the place it had been in his schedule.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Extravagant - To the Rising Sun with The Risen SON (Part 2)

Two Japanese women in traditional clothingI am sitting here at my computer, drinking some lovely Japanese tea (the only word I can read anywhere on it is Suntory the rest is in Japanese), and pondering just how much of a show-off my God is.

I think that we (especially in America) tend to think of God in deistic terms: that God is up there and He created everything and set everything in motion and then got bored and left it to its own devices. This seems to be borne out by the wickedness and brokenness that we see all around us. We don't often see the miracles of the Bible in operation around us. We don't often hear His voice. This is even true of many Christians (although we don't want to admit it) and is a great source of vexation for us. We see the great disconnect between the stories in the Bible and our experience here in this life.

Such a view couldn't be further from the truth. God is still quite involved in our world and in our lives. The problem is with us and not with Him. We have allowed the weeds of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the lure of entertainment to so distract us that we cannot hear the voice of the Lord.

We also do not actually trust the Lord to do anything. We believe that our provision and success comes from our ingenuity and hard work. We believe that our health comes from doctors and medicine. We believe that our security comes from a good job and lots of stuff. We believe that knowledge comes from our scientists. And we believe that our safety comes from our strong military, intelligence community, and law enforcement agencies. This even happens in our churches! Whether God's Spirit shows up for the service on any given week or not, we'll still have a pretty good show.

Why would God do anything dramatic for people that aren't humble enough to recognize that they need His help? This is the reason that we don't often see God at work among us.

We have grown accustomed to getting everything right when we want it and just how we want it. We are not used to thinking of anyone actually ruling over us - that anyone actually has the right to tell us what to do or to tell us no. So when we pray and things don't go just exactly as we think that they should or exactly when we think that they should or if the cost is too painful or too great, we go off in a huff and quit praying and quit believing and accuse God of not caring about us.

We really don't know God. What little bit we do know about Him is so often tainted by the lies of the enemy. But I want to reiterate to you today that God is a bit of a show off.

God was showing off when he sent the plagues against Egypt to set His people free. He was showing off when He parted the waters of the sea for His people to escape. He was showing off when He allowed the enemy to kill Him through evil people and then rose again from the grave three days later. And God is still showing off today.

To prove my point let me tell you a true story.

Not too long ago, right here in America, there was a man who loved God, but his life seemed to be cursed. He loved to give to other people but found that he really never had the resources to do so as he wished. He had changed careers three times, but had never found a vocation - something that was more than a job to him. It seemed like everything he tried just came crashing down in failure.

After leaving his last job he had been unemployed for two years. He had looked for jobs in a field that he was well-qualified in, but couldn't get any responses to his job applications. For a while the Lord miraculously sent him financial provision; for over 6 months the Lord brought him the money that he needed to live on without having to ask anyone for help. But by the end of the first year of unemployment the assistance had dwindled to the point that he had to depend on the help of his family to get by.

During this time the Lord was working on his heart, healing old wounds and correcting incorrect views that the man had about Him. The Lord began to break the power of fear over the man's life and caused him to recognize that God is good and trustworthy - even in the midst of hardship and even when His provision did not come in a way that was preferable or comfortable. God stripped away many of the man's distractions and took away his desire to be constantly entertained. He helped him to become used to quiet and solitude, and in that environment began to speak to the man more clearly than the man had ever heard before.

The Lord began to teach the man and explain to him why this extended period of leanness had come. He began to tell the man that the time of leanness was nearly over and that the major pruning that He had been doing in his life was nearly finished. The man wanted to believe these messages, but honestly had difficulty hoping that such a wonderful promise was true and that it was coming to him soon.

The hard times had taught him how to survive emotionally through a teeth-gritted perseverance that did not look for the struggle to end (though he often cried out to God that it would) any time in the foreseeable future. In fact, out of a desire to never EVER go through such a trial again, the man sometimes prayed that the Lord wouldn't end the trial until the message was so thoroughly learned that he would NEVER have to go through such a trial ever again.

One day the man was praying for a friend of his who has a heart for Japan. His friend had visited the nation before and the Lord had showed him amazing things about the spiritual climate of that nation. God had begun to stir in his heart that it was time for him to return to Japan.

Well, the man was praying for his friend about him going to Japan and asked the Lord, "Please give my friend wisdom about the next step with Japan. Please help him to hear Your voice clearly." When he had finished his prayers the man went to check his email. He had a message from the friend that he had just finished praying for that said, "Wanna go to Tokyo with me? My plan right now is to go Feb. 14-Feb. 25. I'll give you more details later. Maybe we can get together one weekend for prayer and hanging out."

Sensing the significance of the fact that he had just been praying for his friend and a trip to Japan and that he had felt an enthusiastic yes in his heart to the invitation the man wrote back, "Hmmm. Funny you should mention that. I just got done praying for you and your mission to Japan! I am definitely interested, although there is much that would have to be worked out (passport, money, etc...) I look forward to talking to you about it."

That night the man prayed to the Lord, "Father, I know that this is not difficult for You, but I have some questions. How am I to go about getting the money to go? My friend says it will probably be about $2,500. How am I supposed to justify spending that much money on a non-necessity when I can't pay my own bills?"

The Lord answered and said, "Who says it is a non-necessity?"

The man agreed, "If You want me to go then it is necessary, but please help me to be able to justify this. I have no money for a passport, and that will need to be started now or very soon at least. There are still bills to be paid here. How can I ask for the money to go on this trip without the money to pay my bills?"

God said, "Perhaps you will have the money for both?"

"Yes, this is possible," the man agreed. "In my heart I want to go. I feel that You want me to go. I need some confirmation, and I am either going to need a plan or a windfall. I am willing, send me. Give me the grace and the faith to see it through. I know You can do it. I must admit that I am struggling with believing that You will do it though. Please help my unbelief."

The Lord advised him, "Son, spend some time praying about this and I will make things clearer."

The man traveled two hours away to visit his friend that weekend. They talked about the trip and prayed about it. They agreed to seek the Lord about whether they were supposed to go on the trip together. They determined that one way that they would know that the Lord had ordained the trip was if the money came in for the man's passport in time for him to get one before the trip. (The scheduled departure for the friend was only 5 weeks away.)

While he was there the man began to think, "There's no way that I could get that kind of money together in that short amount of time. Besides that, how can I justify spending that kind of money when I'm not even able to pay my own bills? I think that I am not actually supposed to go on the trip but that I am supposed to just support my friend in prayer and availability here." To him the matter was more or less settled in his mind.

When he came back home the man avoided bringing up the topic in prayer. In fact, he got very busy with many other things and quite distracted, for he was afraid of what the Lord would tell him. He was both afraid to be told yes and afraid to be told no. (Unfortunately, fear isn't something that is easily conquered....)

The man was pretty much convinced then that he wasn't to go and had allowed himself to think that for the two weeks that he was running from hearing God's voice about the matter. Then one Sunday night three weeks before they were supposed to depart his friend called him back up and told him, "I spoke at my church tonight about the trip and afterward someone gave me $100 for your passport. So now you have the money for your passport, and that's what we said would be our sign that you are supposed to go."

Oh boy. This definitely created a situation. Now the man had to admit that he had not been operating in faith at all about whether he was supposed to go or stay. He had only been looking to the natural and his ability and hadn't believed that God would possibly make a way for him to go on this trip.

The man and his friend had agreed to fast and pray about the trip on Tuesday of that week. They were going to seek a clear and final answer over whether the man was supposed to go.

Tuesday came and they fasted, but the man struggled to pray about the trip. He was still running and afraid of what he would hear. He finally managed to sit down to pray and said, "Father, my doubt and unbelief when it comes to money is so incredibly strong. I know You have provided for my needs for months now, and yet when it comes to a large (to me) sum of money that is needed I tend to shrink away and not believe. It isn't that I don't believe that You can do it, it is that I rather doubt that You will do it. Forgive me for my unbelief. There is so much that seems to be pointing to me going on this trip with my friend, but my doubt and unbelief - especially about money - has caused me to hesitate to even talk to You about it."

"Father, my needs have been so great for so long, and I have just learned to cope and not think about it too much. And yet I know that eventually the bills will come due and nothing will be able to stop it then. I need the money to pay my bills. I need the money to pay those taxes. I need the money for food and clothing. These needs are real and present and urgent. And yet I find that You ask me to go to Japan at what seems a great expense to me. How can this be when there are so many other needs?"

"I feel overwhelmed. And here I am fasting today, and I don't feel like I have even done what I should be doing for that. I haven't even done my prayers today. And I haven't spent time in concentrated prayer in over a week. How do I bring balance to all of this?"

"I need direction, Lord. I need You to speak to me. Open my ears. I bind the devil from being able to cover them. Angels please do warfare on my behalf. Father, I must be able to hear."

The Lord answered him and said, "Calm down."

"I'm trying," the man replied, "but I feel anything but calm. This is change, and it is radical change, and I don't feel like I have assurances that everything is being covered. Something about this trip has triggered a fear response in me that I don't understand."

"Well, you are not much of one to draw attention to yourself, and you are afraid that you will be doing that on this trip," said the Lord.

"True," he answered. "And I don't know the language. And I don't have the money. And I don't want mom and dad to be offended. Plus when I have gone out on limbs like this before I have often come back disappointed."

God asked the man, "Son, how often have you really gone out on the limb?" (OUCH!)

"I did with the mission trip to Scotland after college."

"And the money was there, wasn't it?"

"Yes," the man had to admit.

"I've made provision for you every time you have responded to My call," said the Lord. (OUCH again.)

The man asked, "Why does it seem like You haven't?"

"Because I didn't do it the way you thought I would," God replied, "and because the enemy is a liar."

"That's true enough," agreed the man. "He's a pain in the butt too."

The Lord said, "You want to stick it to him? Then you need to go on this trip. What you and your friend will be doing will rock his kingdom to its core. You will help to set a whole people free."

"Wow. Really?" the man replied. "OK. I believe that You want me to go. What must I do for that to happen?"

About that time the man's friend called. The man told him, "Well, I believe that the Lord wants me to go."

His friend was excited, "Well, we need to order your plane ticket now before the plane gets filled up. I'll put it on my card and you can pay me back when the money comes in."

Panic seized the heart of the man. "Uh, you sure you want to do that?"

And his friend said, "I'm willing to loan the money to the Lord for a little while. If He wants you to go He'll bring it in."

Later that night the man prayed, "I know You are generous of heart. I have heard that Your name means 'the God of more than enough.' You aren't pinching pennies in heaven. Everything in all of creation belongs to You. Finances are not a problem to You."

"Father, I am still scared - especially with my friend fronting the money for my plane ticket. I'm sorry I am doubting. But it doesn't pay to try to pretend. I must confess this sin and ask You for Your help. Please forgive my unbelief. Help me to trust You. Please give me grace to believe. Please give me the grace to trust."

The Lord replied, "Son, I will demonstrate My ability to make this happen. Follow My direction and watch and see what happens. This is the beginning for you."

Excited, the man asked, "The beginning? Does this mean that the leanness is finished for now?"

"It means that I am beginning to open the door to your destiny," God answered. "You won't walk in the fullness of it yet, but it is beginning. You need some time to get used to this and to learn the ropes. The leanness is about to start paying dividends."

One day the man decided that he would see if God would provide for the trip through a windfall from the lottery. He spent the money for the ticket and scratched it off only to come up empty. God showed him that He wasn't going to provide for him that way. He showed him that if he won the lottery that no glory would come to God. The Lord showed him that the lottery was man's solution to things. It was the best that a lost person could hope for - but not the answer for a child of God. God could take much better care of him than that.

That night he prayed, "Please forgive me for seeking the world's way to pay for this trip. Please forgive me for my lack of faith and unbelief. Help me to trust You to bring the finances for this trip in. I believe that I am supposed to go. I believe that You are sending me. I believe that You will provide. If You do not provide I cannot go. I need the money for my passport. That really needs to happen today or at the very latest tomorrow. Please help me to get it."

Well, it was evident that the next step was for the man to get his passport. The only problem was that he had no cash on hand with which to do it. By now there were over $300 that had come in to help pay for the trip, but all of it was with his friend. The man prepared his application and then planned to travel to visit his friend again to get the money and order his passport.

Not surprisingly there were some hurdles to be overcome. Most of the Post Offices where his friend lived were overbooked with appointments for passports. The earliest appointments for most of them was a week after they were supposed to leave! However, the friend found a location that only allowed walk-ins. The man left that night to go there so that he would have plenty of time the next day to apply in the event that there might be some delay or unforeseen obstacle.

He had about ¾ of a tank of gas and about $13 cash. If he didn't spend any money on anything else he should have the money for gas to get back home. So instead of asking his dad for money, he left, trusting God to get him there and back.

The next day he went to the Post Office. There was hardly a line. Within 30 minutes he had completed his application. The real danger though was that the projected turn around time for the passport was only one day before he was supposed to be leaving on the trip. The agent suggested that if he wanted to be sure that he would get the passport in time that he should get an appointment and drive to Washington, DC where he could get the passport that same day. In a flash of faith the man determined that he wasn't going to be afraid, but would trust that if God wanted him to go on this trip then He was more than capable of getting the passport there on time.

The trip home was a real test of faith. Gas prices were higher than he expected and he wasn't able to purchase as much as he had anticipated. He drove home, praying hard that the Lord would help him to make it. He did with about a gallon or so to spare.

Six days later the man's passport arrived. Over the course of that week without asking one person for money, God brought the man $210.

This story is true. And if you haven't figured it out yet, I am that man.

Does it make sense at all that God would take a man who has no income and has plenty of debt and would send him to Japan on a mission trip that will cost almost as much as 3 months' expenses? Would anyone believe that you could get a passport in less than a week? We are talking about a government agency in the midst of an administration change! What are the chances? How often do people make contributions without being asked? God's hand is all over this. God is showing off. He is proving that there is absolutely no excuse for not obeying Him. He is doing something miraculous through a very unlikely vessel. If he can take someone as beaten up as I am in so many ways and make a way for them to go to the other side of the world, then He can do anything. It's kind of his MO.

Grab your popcorn, folks. This story is starting to get good. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Their Blood Cries Out From The Ground To God

Here is a brief excerpt from an excellent article by Alan Sears:

Yes, these are grim days for children in our society, but give the administration this: it’s not limiting its persecution to the children of America.

Just one day after hundreds of thousands of Americans swelled the streets of Washington, D.C., to declare their allegiance to the protection of life from the moment of conception, President Obama issued an executive order freeing U.S. taxpayer monies to be given to Planned Parenthood and others to fund abortions that will take the lives of children all over the world.

Guess he finally figured out his pay grade.

God forgive us.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Quote Of The Day

You can't help but wonder if Democrats ever pay taxes. It seems from the headlines that the way it works is that Democrats levy taxes but only Republicans have to pay them. (Republicans and proles.... Yes, it would seem that the Democrats are applying Matthew 17:24-27 to themselves. Too bad this question wasn't above their pay grade.)

For a president who said he was going to preside over the most ethical administration in history, Barack Obama has shown an astounding talent of being able to find appointees who mistakenly manage to forget to pay their taxes. (Our good President couldn't even carry his predecessor's shoes in this department, let alone fill them or exceed them.) ...

When a Democrat stands before a judge after straying from the straight and narrow you can expect that he will admit to having made a mistake and, what the heck, everybody makes mistakes. That's why they put erasers on pencils. (The real travesty is that the poor, misunderstood, Democrat was actually called on the carpet for doing so.)

- Michael Reagan from his article When Crimes Become Mistakes
(Parenthetical comments all mine.)

Bravo, Michael Reagan! These crooks think that they are getting away with this stuff, but a reckoning is coming... a reckoning is coming.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

HUZZAH! Tom Daschle Backs Out!

Oh this is some of the best political news I have heard in a long time. Tom Daschle didn't get a free pass on his failure to pay his taxes. It is one thing to not pay when you don't have the money to pay, but an entirely different matter when you are making millions of dollars a year. And it seems terribly suspicious for someone who helped to write the tax laws to not understand them. If he really didn't understand them, then how are the rest of us proles supposed to?

I hope that the President will begin to do a better job of selecting people with the character to fill the offices that he is appointing them to instead of selecting his old Washington insider buddies for these jobs. I thought we were supposed to be getting change? I guess it is like Cal Thomas said in his article Leona Helmsley Lives,

"Recall President Obama's vow to "change the culture of Washington." With Geithner and Daschle (and prior to them, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who withdrew his nomination for commerce secretary under pressure of a federal investigation into how his political donors landed a lucrative transportation contract), we are still waiting for "change we can believe in."
The article I read points out that not one, but FOUR of the President's nominees have been tarred with character weakness. Thank God that three of them won't be "serving" (most likely themselves) in these roles anymore. I'm glad that America still gets ticked off about some moral issues. Too bad that the list doesn't seem to include outrage over the wholesale slaughter of the unborn in our nation.

The White House announced that Daschle had asked to be removed from consideration as health and human services secretary and that that Nancy Killefer had made the same request concerning what was to be her groundbreaking appointment as a chief performance officer to make the entire government run better.

"They both recognized that you can't set an example of responsibility but accept a different standard of who serves," said spokesman Gibbs.

Sounds like the same old Washington to me.

Need more? Here it is:

Bill Richardson had been Obama's first choice for commerce secretary, but the New Mexico governor bowed out amid a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors. And last week, the Senate confirmed Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, but only after days of controversy over the fact that he had only belatedly paid $34,000 in income taxes....

Democratic lawmakers were surprised, too - and disappointed. Axelrod rushed to Capitol Hill to soothe frayed nerves.

"I was a little stunned. I thought he was going to get confirmed," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the panel that would have voted on Daschle's nomination. "It's regrettable."

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Daschle's former Democratic colleagues had leapt to the former Democratic leader's defense. And it seemed that the clubby way that senators treat one of their own was likely to help Daschle survive the controversy.

But particularly after the divisive Geithner debate and vote, it apparently became too bitter a pill. Tax issues are easy for the public to understand, and also particularly easy to resent in wealthy officials at a time of widespread economic crisis.

They also created an opening for a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans and on newspaper editorial pages that Obama was engaging in a double standard: proclaiming his administration to be more ethical, responsible and special interest-free than his predecessors' and yet carving out exceptions almost daily.

All I can say is "THANK YOU JESUS!" I hope that the Lord will continue to expose every single scalawag in Washington and remove them - even though that might mean starting from scratch. I am sure that we wouldn't be worse off than we are now.