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Scripture Passage Mt 9:35-10:1; Luke 10:17 - 20
What a great privilege we had of going to Japan to serve our saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. God has us on the adventure of our life. We were able to work with our Japanese Brothers and Sisters to spread the good news of Jesus.
We want to share more about the work that the Japan Mennonite Brethren Churches are doing to respond to the needs which have arisen from the Earthquake and tsunami. We had a great time with the five guys who came from Meadow Brook Fellowship who came out to Japan for a month as an Action team under Mennonite Brethren Mission. About half the time was spent up in the area where the Tsunami destroyed so much. As a result of this effort, the key contact Koji Kumada who lived in this area has started a new church plant. We got to know Koji Kumada when we went up North. The area affected was about a 10 hour drive from where we were working in Toyota. Koji had attended a university in Oregon and met with Sam Krause a retired MB missionary living in the Salem Oregon area. Koji became a Christian and ended up attending our MB Seminary in Osaka Japan. He felt led of God years ago to head north to evangelize. To support his family and connect with the community he bought a small chicken barbecue truck that he set up at malls to sell fresh barbecued chicken to the public. It was something like the Hot Dog stands that set up outside of Canadian Tire. His kids handed out tracts and he talked to those who came to buy his delicious barbecued chicken. His Japanese wife whom he had met in Oregon was home schooling their seven children. He was living far enough inland not to be affected by the tsunami but the earthquake destroyed the utilities infra-structure. They were without power for 5 days and it was impossible to get any gas to travel. He was unable to work. After he was able to get his family to Hiroshima area about 15 hours away by car from the earthquake area. Koji felt the Lord calling him to leave his job and go and help those that had lost everything. He became the contact person to co-ordinate help from our MB churches in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. God continued to supply his financial needs even though he had no job and 7 kids to feed. What a great God we have.
The MB conference has started a new church in Watari, Miyagi Prefecture with Mr Kumada as the church planter. One of the families in the area has offered their house as a place of worship until they can get the house fixed.
One of the Christian couples that Koji knew because they were active in church, after the 9.0 earthquake, the married son who was at work called his mom to ask her to go and check on the house is see if the dog was OK. She got to the house and was looking around when the tsunami came. She grabbed the dog and ran to the second floor. The water came up to about 5 feet deep in the house. She was stranded in the bedrooms of the second floor. The tsunami came about 4:30 on a snowy Friday afternoon. She was finally rescued by military helicopter on Monday afternoon after four days of freezing weather, no food or water. They have joined the group that is meeting to reach people in the area.
Is the work easy? No. People are still not open to the love of God. They don't want change. The people are still hard of heart.
This week I contacted Mr Kumada in Japan to ask how the work was progressing. On Dec 28th 20 year old Akihiro Ikumi was baptized. He wants to become a missionary on the Logos ship. Koji said that Mr & Mrs Shirai will be baptized on May 13th. Mr & Mrs Gohara have ask to join the church and Mrs Yumi Takahashi, a mother of 3 young children, has confessed faith and will be baptized this summer. The church is growing. About 10 people from the community are coming so this is a fantastic start. Please pray for the Watari church.. Pray for Koji Kumada. If you can't remember Kumada, the equivalent of the Japanese Characters is Bear Field.
We would like to turn our attention to our scripture passages that were read this morning. I trust that by sharing verses very familiar to us all, we will again be encouraged and challenged. I don't do this to lay a burden on you, a guilt trip. Our response is not to live the Christian life out of duty or to earn our salvation but to respond to our Great God out of a heart of love. I seek to show my love for Christ by responding to his commands especially the command to love our neighbours and go and make disciples. Those two commands motivate me to go and do. The third thing that I keep in mind is to abide in Christ and love the Lord with all my heart.
Several things are evident from the videos of the Tsunami is that there were people who were clearly warned but failed to heed the warnings. Let me give the cultural context. In Japan every community there is a PA system that regularly makes announcements. In our community in Toyota we often heard announcements coming from the local community hall at 7 am in the morning. Some times the neighboring community also was making announcements at the same time and we heard both and couldn't figure out either one. That is a case where the message gets blurred but throughout the country these systems are set up and used regularly.
What is sad is that many people heard the warning but failed to act. In all the communities along the northen coast, the government used the loud speakers to warn the people repeatedly. We heard of one family where the husband implored his wife to bundle up their small child and leave. The wife responded. We have heard this warning many times. Nothing ever came of it. If you want to go, go ahead but I will just stay here. The husband fled to high ground with his infant child. After the Tsunami waters receded the young husband went back to his home but it had been swept to sea. His wife was gone. That story could be told many times over in the Tsunami area. Just as they rejected the warning about the Tsunami, they have repeated rejected the opportunities to learn about Jesus the Saviour. People who survived the Tsunami have had chances to learn about Jesus. Many of them listen politely and then reject the message that they have heard. Pray that the bondage of Satan will be broken and Jesus will be allowed to bring freedom into their homes and lives.
Jesus saw the needs of the people as He traveled and taught in various places. Mt 9: 35,36 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." When we see crowds, so we see as Jesus saw? Do we have compassion? Are our hearts stirred by the bondage, the destructive actions that people in ignorance are doing to themselves and others? Do our hearts break because of the lost condition of people around us? Or are we like so many others, with the attitude, Well that's just the way it is now a-days. The Bible said it would be like this so I guess we just accept it. Are we exploring ways in which we can get the message out to our communities?
Do we see the need globally? When I think of those that have gone out globally from this congregations, you are to be praised for your commitment. We have a new generation that needs to be reached. We are living in a global world. We have the world coming to Canada and coming into our communities. What are our strategies to reach them? We need to have a missions mind set.
Twice Jesus sent out disciples to evangelize. In Matthew 10 He sent out the twelve and in Luke 10 he sent out 72 of his disciples to the towns and villages of Israel. Then he did a followup to go to those villages himself.
In both cases Jesus says, " The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Jesus then gives His disciples authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Then He sends out his disciples.
The first question was, "Are we seeing the need?" The second question is, "Are we sending out the workers?" The third questions I have is "What were His instructions to them?"
In Mt 10:7,8 Jesus told the twelve, "As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." Are you doing the things in Mt 10? Are they even possible for anyone who believes in Jesus?
Patrick Morley author of many men's books has said, "I'd estimate that 90% of Christian men lead lukewarm, often defeated lives—and they hate it." How about you? We exist, or do we really live? God wants us to have the abundant life. A life of thrill and joy as we serve Him.
Jesus said, " I am come that you can have life, and have it more abundantly." Are you enjoying the abundant life or has your Christianity become stale and a chore? Do the things in the world look more exciting than the things that are happening in the body of Christ?
We grew a kiwi vine and it never produced fruit so we bought a new vine and it didn't look like it was going to produce either. When we came home from Japan for a summer break in 2010, the kiwi vine was loaded. What a thrill to see the Kiwi growing in abundance. It was teaching me a lesson. The passage in John 14 came to mind. Jesus declared, "I am the vine and you are the branches he that remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit. My Father is glorified when this happens." Are we bearing much fruit? If not why not? I keep asking myself this question and asking the Lord to show me how I can be used of Him. Some of you may be saying, but I'm not a pastor or church leader. God wants to use everyone. Every very ordinary Christian to bring Him glory. Jesus told his disciples the night before his crucifiction what he expected to happen to them and others. Let's read John 14: 11 - 13 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." Do you think Jesus meant that just for his disciples?
Jesus said, "Anyone who has faith in me will do these miracles and even greater ones." Are you any anyone? I hope you are and that you will accept what Jesus said and apply it to your life.
What is the key to this kind of a life? It is too simple. But it is nearly impossible for us because it takes effort. I know because I am trying and it seems very difficult to do this. It is to "Abide in Christ." Get close to Him. Spend time with Him. Love Him. Sacrifice other pleasures for Him. Follow Him and offer your body as a living sacrifice for Him. Sounds simple?? It is difficult to stay consistent. Are you Jesus disciple? You need to bear much fruit to bring glory to God.
The needs around the world are great. There are many opportunities right here in Orillia but I would like to take a little time to give you a word picture of what ministry in Japan looks like.
How many people should be evangelizing to reach a nation for Christ? 1 worker for every 10,000 people? 1 worker for every 1,000 people. One worker for every 500 people? Where would those workers come from?
Currently in Japan on average there is only 1 church for every 15,875 people. However as we mentioned last evening there are 1,850 towns and cities without even one church. The total population of those unreached town and cities in Japan is 14.6 million people. How will these people ever hear about Jesus? That is about 43% of the Canadian population that live in towns or small cities without even 1 church.
On average there is only 22 per 10,000 people who attend church in Japan. In Orillia there are at least 24 churches. In Japan in a city the size of Orillia, there might be two or three churches with about 100 people in total attending. According to the internet there are 24 churches in Orillia and those attending here this morning would be more than double all the believers attending church in a city the size of Orillia. (40,000). Sometimes the Japanese Christian leaders get discouraged because the task looks sooo big. But fortunately we have a bigger God
We have the promises of that Great God who came down to save us. Jesus told us "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Mat 28:18 - 20 If we remain in Christ we will see tremendous transformations in our life and in the lives of people around us. Are you ready for a change?
Sunday morning April 22, 2012
Songs Mighty to Save Our God Reigns Here Am I, Lord So Send I You I love to Tell the Story We've a Story to tell to the Nations
I'll Go where you want me to go I am Thine O Lord Ready to Go