Monthly Archives: January 2015

by -

mikesuzuki2Father Michael Suzuki (Mike) is a priest in the Passionist Community here in Japan and is the head administrator of the (Roman Catholic) Fukuoka Mokusou No Ie (Fukuoka Prayer Retreat House) located in Munakata City where we’ve lived since the fall of 1982.

Mike has become a man whom I deeply respect. His love for God is great. He laughs and listens. He serves. He cares. He works hard. He has a heart. He lives and breathes God.

One Christmas Eve, Andrea and I were invited to attend the Christmas Eve Mass that was being celebrated at the Mokusou No Ie. We arrived in time for the beginning of the 11 p.m. Mass. Father Mike was the celebrant, dressed in beautiful priestly garments with belts and stoles. There was also Father Matthew Vetter, who in his old age was still serving God with heart and vigor. Matthew was singing ‘Hallelujah, Amen’ and wafting the golden censor around the altar in preparation for this yearly Christmas Eve Mass.

I had read about and studied the symbolism and spiritual meaning of the golden censor when in Bible school many years ago, but had never actually seen the censor being wafted by a priest. An awesome sight, indeed. As the space around the altar filled with incense, Mike stepped in behind the altar and began reciting scripture from the gospels about the birth of the Son of God. Something that happened centuries, even millenniums ago was made very personal that night. Hymns were sung in unison by the probably fifty people present in the accompaniment of Sister Saito playing the keyboard of an old, old pedal organ. The round chapel was full of Roman Catholic believers; Andrea and I were the only Protestants there. Prayers were offered, scripture read and hymns and praises sung, all in this special evening of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

As it neared midnight, Father Mike announced that The Lord’s Supper would be served. One could see the excitement in the people. The Christmas Eve Mass was to be culminated with this ultimate expression of the Presence of God among the people, carrying us into the very morning of the celebrated day of Jesus’ birth. Even Andrea and I were excited, but…in his announcement of the communion service, Mike had also requested those who were not baptized Roman Catholic believers to please refrain from partaking. We understood completely and sat and watched in awe as the people made a line down the aisle to the altar where Father Mike was presiding over the broken Body and shed Blood of Jesus.

Mike served each individual the Bread, after which they returned to their seats. This was no ceremony, it was an experience for each person there. After each one had been served, a line for receiving the Cup of Blessing was formed down the center aisle. As each person approached to receive, I could hear Father Mike blessing each individual in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Wow! So personal! So real! And we were only observers.

After each person had received his blessing, they returned to their seats. It was then that Father Mike said, “Nils and Andrea, please come forward now and I will bless you.”

We made a beeline* for the front. Dressed in his beautiful priestly garments with belts and stoles Mike said, “Kneel down and let me bless you.” We did as he asked. Mike placed a hand on each of our heads and prayed God’s blessing upon us.

What a Christmas present! Mike then lifted his hands from off our heads, knelt down himself and said, “Now please bless me, Nils.”

* beeline: a straight line or direct route: from the belief that a bee usually flies straight back to its hive after getting nectar — make a beeline for [Colloq.] to go straight toward.

by -

the-sun-sunset-mountains-moon-stars-reflection-sun-sunset-mountain-moon-stars-reflectionSymbolic – The moon reflects the light of the sun during the darkness of night. The Son of God reflected the glory of His Father in the darkness of humanity.

The disciples said, “Shew us the Father.” Jesus answered, “Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known me? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, ‘Shew us the Father?’ ” John 14:8-9.

The blood of the Son of God shed on the cross turned our sin into the righteousness of God. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:20-21

Yes, symbolic. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs . . . And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. Genesis 1:14-17.

Yes, symbolic. LIGHT has one purpose, but is revealed in three ways to completely dispel darkness: the SUN, the MOON, and the STARS. God has one purpose, but the three beings of the Godhead,  the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY GHOST, are necessary to completely dispel all the sin of humanity.

We are not without witness of Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19:1

Maybe these thoughts will help you to understand a little more about God, when you see the SUN, gaze at the MOON, and marvel at the numberless STARS this weekend. 

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Isaiah 40:26

by -

Screenshot_003Yufuin is our favorite getaway spot! The natural hot spring spas, delicious food, quaint shops, and one special kind of coffee bean (that can only be purchased in this little getaway town) all helped us to experience the word “relaxation.” One or two nights did not seem enough to feel really relaxed, so we spent three and even then felt that wasn’t enough.

One evening, we were walking back to our hotel on a narrow street lined with all kinds of interesting shops and spotted this young family. “What an awesome picture,” I thought. Balanced in the middle with their little daughter, this young father and mother were a perfect picture of God’s plan for every Adam and Eve. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”

Families  a social unit consisting of parents and the children that they rear. Families are God’s idea. We were all born into one. It was not God’s intent to leave kids to look after and provide for themselves, but gave them a father, and a mother to guide them into their futures.

Because of the messed-up ways of the world in which we live, there are many children whose parents have forsaken them. We may not know why parents forsake their children, but they have refused to become the father, or mother God intended them to be. Husbands and wives are made parents in order to bring their children to maturity, to educate and nourish them. God creates children in His own image, but gives the responsibility of “rearing” them to the parent father-mother team.

The world system today is robbing parents of something more valuable than job position and wealth. It is robbing them of time, “family time.” It took God a set period of time to create the little girl in this picture in her mother’s womb. When He finished, He handed the baton to her father and mother by saying, “Train up (this) child in the way he/she should go: and when he/she is old, he/she will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 It takes a set period of time to create a family, too. 

Parents’ love for each other, the time they spend together, and the fruit of that love and time (our children), are what link families together. 

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife . . . 

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church — a love marked by giving, not getting.

Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, ‘so you will live well and have a long life.’ Eph. 5:22, 25 and 6:1-2 Eugene Peterson’s The Message.

As I look again, and again, at this photo, I realize that there are children all over the world walking a street at sunset, wandering alone, with no direction, no guidance — and no hand to grasp! 

This weekend would be a great time to go for an evening walk with the WHOLE family! While you’re walking, why not talk to them about God?

by -

He said unto them, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” And they said unto him, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” —Acts  of the Apostles 19:2, KJV

He aks um, “You wen get God’s Spesho Spirit fo take charge you wen you wen trus God, o wat?” Dey say, “We neva even hear bout God’s Spesho Spirit befo dis.” —Jesus Guys Wat Dey Wen Do 19:2, Da Jesus Book

New Christians, and old ones alike, have many questions about the Holy Spirit. It seems  it is expected that people who attend what we call pentecostal, full-gospel, evangelical, and even non-denominational churches should already know about the Holy Spirit. This is not so. Many of these churches do not even instruct their people about the baptism or gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The basic thing most denominational people fear about the “pentecostals” is the thing about speaking in tongues. For some reason they have taken the experience of speaking in tongues and equated to something demonic or evil; they may teach that it was something the early church of over two thousand years ago experienced, but it’s not for today.

The Word of God says very clearly, “Jesus Christ (anointed with the Holy Spirit in His fulness is) the SAME yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines.” Hebrews 13:8-9 The Holy Spirit of two thousand years ago is the very SAME Holy Spirit today, in His fulness of baptism, gifts and operations.

Da Jesus Book says it this way: “Cuz, Jesus Christ, he stay da same, yesterday, today, an foeva! Get all kine diffren kine stuff dat peopo teach, you know. No let dat kine stuff pull you guys away, an no take um in!”

Now back to the “tongues” thing. When one is receives what is referred to as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” the first, initial, beginning, opening, commencing, starting, inceptive, primary, preliminary, foundational SIGN or EVIDENCE that he has received is that of speaking in tongues. These words that describe “first” show very clearly that there are other signs that will accompany, follow the one who is filled with the Holy Spirit. However, the first sign of being baptized in the Holy Ghost is speaking in tongues. This “first sign” is recorded in three places in the Book of Acts. Read Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-46; Acts 19:1-6. So, in the mouths of two or three the Word of God is established.

After the “first” sign of speaking in tongues, the one who is filled with the Holy Spirit will ALSO experience other signs (indicators).

Fruit of the Holy Spirit will begin showing up in the person’s daily life. Galatians 5:23. There are nine listed: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Nine. This is the number God has assigned to the Holy Spirit. It is an eternal number.

9 times 9 equals 81, right? The answer 81, 8+1 = 9

99 times 9 equals 891. The answer 891, 9 in the middle and an 8+1 on each end = 9

891 minus 81 equals 810. The answer 810, 8+1 = 9

891 times 9 equals 8019. The answer 8019, 9 on one end with an 8+1 = two 9s

8019 times 81 equals 649539. The answer 649539, 6+3, 4+5, plus two 9s = four 9s

Now, take a pencil and paper and try multiplying 99999 times 99999 and see what 9 combinations you get. Try 9,999,800,001 — that’s 9 billion, nine hundred ninety-nine million, eight hundred thousand and one. We see four 9s, an 8 and a 1. The 8 and 1 equals a 9.

Fascinating, isn’t it? No matter if adding, subtracting, dividing, or multiplying, the number nine continues forever.

Holiness becomes a desire from deep within the Holy Ghost-filled believer. The old ways begin passing away, and a greater desire to be holy like God begins taking over. 1 Peter 1:15-16

–A non-brash boldness and confidence fills the entire being of a Holy Ghost-filled believer. One is not afraid to talk about their new experience in God anymore. Acts 4:29-31. Plus . . .

–A desire to pray and commune with God more than ever before comes alive. Daily two-way conversing with God through the Holy Spirit. Acts 4:24-33

Did you know that the Holy Spirit cannot speak in tongues? He is a Spirit, and He needs the vocal instruments (the mouth and tongue) of the believer in order to speak the wonderful works of God. Look at Acts 2:4 where it says, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

To find the subject of this sentence, we must ask WHO began to speak? The only answer is THEY began to speak. It was not the Holy Spirit! It was He who gave them the words to speak as they opened their mouths and spoke willingly. The words bypassed their minds and they could not understand what they were saying. Why did the words bypass their understanding? Because God Himself was speaking to the thousands gathered there that day through these tongues-talkers the wonderful things about His Son who had died, was buried, rose again and was now being made known to those gathered there that day. 

The 120 who were filled with the Holy Ghost that day did not know the languages of all the foreigners gathered there that day. But God did! So, He miraculously spoke to all of them in their own languages. God gets the credit, not the 120. This was a miracle of the first degree.

Screenshot_002For those of you who have not experienced the wonderful initial evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, hey, a first-degree miracle of God is on the very tip of your tongue right now!

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit will take the you through the “eye of the needle” into the vastness and glory of the unending, inexhaustible and exciting love of God.

We have our needles of church tradition, customs and culture. We have denominational barriers that keep us from true fellowship with God and one another. On this side of the eye of the needle we find it dark, and, oh, so narrow that there is no space to move among ourselves (and God) in true fellowship. On this side of the needle it is very narrow because WE stand in the way. There is no space to let God show His glory in the church, perhaps because “we never did it that way before.” Those are the seven last words of any dying church, you know.

But, when we humble ourselves and pass through the eye of the needle, we lay aside the traditions and denominational rules that have been put on us to keep us from knowing God more intimately. On the other side of the eye of the needle we find the roomy, extensive, spacious and open places of God. We find freedom, liberty, no obstacles or hinderances. We find room to move in any direction the Holy Spirit leads us. It is as though we have been “translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of LIght, the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.”

Indeed, the other side of the needle is a kingdom made real only by the Holy Spirit.