God's Word

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mbccI remember well something an Assembly of God missionary to Japan said once that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Love your own church.” Don’t you just love short, simple and, in this case, powerful little one-liners like this?

The Greek word for the word “church” is ek-klā-sē’-ä and means “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly.” In the Christian sense it means “an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting,” or “a company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake.”

Having been a missionary in Japan for more than 36 years, I’ve come up with my own definition of the word “church.” I think it is a pretty good definition —

The “church”

—is the people;

—is the building;

—is the fellowshipping, laughing and eating;

—is the worshipping;

—is the practicing, rehearsing;

—is the cleaning;

—is the studying;

—is the praying;

—is pulling weeds in the church yard;

—is the going to bed at night wondering how others are doing;

—is praying for them to keep on keeping on, to grow in knowledge and grace;

—is going to visit them;

—is building relationships with others outside the church.

I would NEVER think about leaving this group of people without definite confirmation from God and at least two or three others. The main reason people leave churches is because of not agreeing with leadership, not wanting to follow the leader. Yes, there are mistaken leaders, but we must learn to let God deal with them.

Let’s take a look at Romans 12:1-12.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”

Church people belong to one another, just like our arm belongs to our physical body. Paul states here, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

Each member has a special ability (gift, talent) given to them by God.

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation:he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”

We cannot choose which gift or talent we want from the list. We must discover the gift, talent God has given us. It may take some time, but it will be confirmed as we develop it. In the Proverbs it is noted that “a man’s gift makes room for him.” Proverbs 18:16 These gifts are for the edification, building up of other members of the body of believers, not for one’s self.

People in the church are to love one another, as God loved us, in spite of all our idiosyncrasies (modes of behavior). Our love is to be truthful, respectful and honorable. “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”

How do you suppose people in the church should act and treat others? Paul gives clear guidelines. Read it here with me:

“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

What is the secret to real JOY in any Christian gathering called a church? Let’s spell the word together.

J — JESUS first

O — OTHERS second

Y — YOU last

Love does not seek to benefit itself. Love always considers the other person more important. It’s an attitude of the heart — and that is where God lives.

Let’s love our own church!

―nils olson

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I’ve been thinking recently about the things that are going on all over the world — earthquakes, pestilence, disease, wars, economic upheaval, distrust, self-centeredness, weird weather, political differences, murder, suicide, moral breakdown, exorbitant spending, debt, famine, unrest, lying, stealing, deception, pride . . . and on goes the list. They are like dark clouds on the horizon.

Yes, folks, it getting darker out there. These unthinkable dark clouds on the horizons of nations and peoples around the whole world should not surprise us. A friend recently told me, “It shouldn’t surprise us at all, Nils. It’s written in the Word (of God, the Bible).”

“For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” KJV

“The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, all people sunk in deep darkness.” The Message Isaiah 60:2

I get the feeling that in those dark clouds on the horizon there is awful lightning, thunder and torrential rains. A fearful storm is brewing. What do you suppose has caused those clouds of darkness so full of these things to gather on the horizon? Looking at the laws of nature, we understand that what goes up, must come down. All of the self-centered things described in the list above have risen into the heavens as it were and the result is about to be poured out on the nations of the earth in disturbing, fearful destruction. When it rains, the rain falls on everybody — the good and the bad.

We’ve got to — 

stop

— and decide which way we’re going to go to avoid the fearful consequences of these things.

“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” KJV

“There’s a way that looks harmless enough; look again –– it leads straight to hell.” Message Proverbs 16:25

You might find yourself frantically asking, “Which way should I turn?” By all means, make a RIGHT TURN (a proper, good, moral, virtuous, ethical, honorable, honest, exact, precise turn) and get inside, before the clouds of the storm open up. Inside there will be light, warmth and most of all peace of mind.

The RIGHT WAY to turn is into a personal relationship with Jesus, the Christ. He is the answer to all chaos! Speak His name and a great calm will overwhelm the heart. Atheism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Judaism, the occult, the Moonies, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian Scientists, and even being a Christian in name only are not the RIGHT WAY. Owning jewels, club memberships, properties, stocks, bonds, or huge bank accounts are not the RIGHT WAY.

Again, the RIGHT WAY is the person, JESUS, the Christ. He is the answer for which the deepest part of you cries out. Here it is in black and white —

Jesus said, “I AM THE WAY, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6 KJV

Here it is again, written three times so clearly that even a child can understand it —

Old King James says it this way: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Eugene Peterson says it this way in The Message: “Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” Acts 4:12

The American Standard says it this way: “And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Now, for something that may surprise you! Remember where I wrote above, “I get the feeling that in those dark clouds on the horizon around the world there is awful lightning, thunder and torrential downpour?”

We won’t end on a negative note today because AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUL is an archaic English adjective that truthfully meant inspiring reverence or dread; it meant to be overcome with awe; reverential; solemnly impressive; inspiring awe. These days we hear young people say it this way: “Oh, man, was that ever AWESOME!” Another way to properly define this word AWFUL is FULL OF AWE. So, what originally was meant to mean an attribute of God being full of AWE, somehow has turned to mean something negative — “Oh, it tastes awful.” However, in its true meaning one could easily say, “Oh, man that dessert was FULL OF AWE.”

The dark clouds on the horizons of the nations described above are on the one hand full of fearful destruction for those who refuse to make a RIGHT turn. On the other hand, they are full of the rain, lightening and thunder of GOD’s Holy Spirit falling upon those who make a RIGHT turn to Jesus. Clouds, rain, thunder and lightning are descriptive of the work of God’s Holy Spirit in the days that are on the horizon.

Every one of us will come to a STOP in life and have to decide which WAY to turn. If you find yourself there, by all means make a RIGHT turn to the One who will direct your path. Allow Jesus to be your GPS (God’s Peaceful Solution) in life, and proceed straight ahead. It will be the most AWESOME decision you’ll ever make.

(Notice the lower right hand corner of the STOP photo above — there is VERY little light left in the day.)

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Many of us have had this most famous Bible verse of all memorized since our Sunday School days as a child. After coming to Japan as a missionary in 1978, this was one of the first verses I memorized in Japanese. It’s still powerful, no matter what language one speaks.

There is a verse in the Bible that has been translated into more than 1100 languages. It tells of One who loved us with an everlasting love. The verse here is recorded in 27 languages of the world which are understood by more than three quarters of the earth’s population. The verse is John 3:16. (From a Gideon’s International Bible). Click here to view John3:16 in 27 languages.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

I have various copies of Bible translations in my library. One of the most unusual is a copy of the Japan Bible Society’s 1897 AINU New Testament translated by missionary  John Batchelor as he worked among the AINU of northern Japan. Even though I don’t understand the language, I take it out every once in a while and read just to hear the beauty of the language that is spoken by only a very few these days. It will be “all Greek” (I mean) “all Ainu” to you, but nevertheless, give it a try.

“Inambe, gusu ne yakun, Kamui anak ne koro shinen ne Poho koropare pakno moshiri omap ruwe ne, nen ne yakka nei Poho eishokoro guru obitta aisamka shomoki no nei pakno ne yakka ishu ramat koro kuni ne kore nisa ruwe ne.”

I recently celebrated my birthday and received a wonderful present from a friend — a reprinted copy of the 1837 Gutzlaff Japanese Translation of the Gospel of John. In the back jacket of the book there is as CD of six chapters being read in very old, old Japanese. There were 1,690 copies printed in Singapore in 1837, but there are now only 16 copies left in the whole world, two of which are held by the Japan Bible Society. I would like to share John Chapter 3 here with you.

Click here to listen to the reading the 3rd Chapter of Gutzlaff’s Gospel of John. 

 

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Please, please do all you can to lead your family into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You might ask, “Why?” Because life, death and eternity are very, very real.

LIFE 命—

This character shows people gathered on bended knee with faces nearly to the ground  listening to a man of God speaking words vital to living. 

Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. John 6:68

DEATH 死—

This character shows a bare-boned skeleton of a fallen person.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

ETERNITY 永遠—

The first character in this calligraphic picture shows a small river, tributary, or creek flowing into a main river. The second shows a clothed person going forward in a journey.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17

God created each one of us in our mother’s womb with the purpose of living eternally. He said, And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our (eternal) likeness — So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:26-27

When Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate of the fruit, they sealed their own fate; they chose death over life. Their spirit-man died the moment they took the fruit in their hands and ate it. They were guilty. They felt the guilt in their shame of disobeying, and tried to cover it up immediately, just like we do. Yes, we are all children of Adam. Adam’s physical-man died when he was 930 years old. That’s a long, long time, but nevertheless, he died, just like God said he would if he took the fruit and ate it. 

Our bodies are clothing for our spirits. When death comes, we lay down our clothes and sleep. It is our spirit-man that lives eternally. We must decide during  our physical-man’s lifetime where we will spend that eternity: Heaven, or hell. Jesus said in John 3:16 that the one who believes in (trusts in, has confidence in, entrusts their life to) Jesus, will not perish (be lost, ruined, or destroyed), but have everlasting life. 

The word “everlasting” is fascinating and shows that it WAS God’s purpose and plan that all human beings created in His image and likeness should live eternally. αἰώνιος (ī-ō’-nē-os) has three uses of its meaning: 1. without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be; 2. without beginning, and 3. without end, never to cease, everlasting.

This shows that the everlasting life God breathed into Adam was interrupted by SIN, killing his spirit-man. But Jesus died, was buried, rose again from the eternal punishment of death, and showed Himself ALIVE to numerous people, thus fulfilling His promise of eternal life to our spirit-man, to those who choose to believe in Him. 

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time . . . For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 21.

Adam was caught butt-naked in sin. So are we — caught butt-naked, ashamed, until we confess Jesus as the Lord of our heart according to Romans 10:9-11, 13 — That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed . . . For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

THEN we get a new set of clothes! They won’t dry out and get all crinkly and crackly like the fig leaves Adam and Eve used to cover-up their shame. The new set of clothes will outlast anything that Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Tom Ford, Christian Dior, Ralph Loren, Donatella Versace, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan or Coco Chanel could ever possibly design, create or produce. 

Your new set of clothing is original and will last forever. It’s World Designer, first class, with this label appearing on each piece — In The Beginning — Original GOD-Created.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

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According to God’s Word, there is a great importance in loving one’s neighbor. Let’s consider that for a few moments here. Matthew 22:34-40 says,

But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The Hebrew word here for “neighbor” is ray-ah. It comes from a root meaning to tend a flock, pasture — like a pastor does in a church. He feeds and watches for each member. The word’s meanings include: brother, companion, fellow, friend, husband, lover and neighbor. The Greek meaning defines this word as neighbor, man, countryman, friend. 

In the first part of this chapter (verses 1-10) Jesus answered a group of legalistic and religious leaders by speaking a parable. In essence, the meaning of the parable was that God was inviting the Jews to a big wedding. He sent his servants (the prophets of the Old Testament) to invite them, but they wouldn’t RSVP. They even ended up killing some of those messengers God had sent. Their response enraged and exasperated God to the point that in 70 A.D. Jerusalem was completely burned up and destroyed. 

In turn he said to the remaining servants, “Go therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, invite them to come.” They obeyed, and they found a whole bunch of people, both bad and good, to come to the wedding. The last words of Jesus himself before returning to Heaven said to his servants were, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel (that everyone is invited).” God has something big planned and He wants everyone to be a part of it, but we have to get out there and do the inviting.

Yes, there are lots of bad and good neighbors out there waiting for a friend. Love, joy, support, understanding and help are just a few of the things a relationship with Jesus offers a person by you extending your hand and heart to a neighbor.

YOU can offer the same to a neighbor today, too.