Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Th 5:16–18
We have all had a difficult year to say the least – do you agree? There are so many things we could point to that have made the challenge of walking with God harder than it’s ever been. It’s easy to list them isn’t it? Lock down the world and fill people with fear. Divide the nation along political lines and create uncertainty and doubt. Take away the rights we have enjoyed in worshiping freely our Lord and Savior in public assembly. The list goes on and on. We can easily be distracted and manipulated by these circumstances.
We have had more than usual time to reflect and ask God – what are you doing!? If your sense of purpose, your regular lifestyle of work, family and friends is taken away, what is left? The real question is, what is first?
The current cultural climate on so many levels has reminded me of the Book of Daniel.
- Forced into captivity in a culture far different than he was accustomed. For him it was the “new normal”.
- Placed in a position where he must operate in the governmental system, yet maintain his faithfulness.
- Challenges to the very core of his relationship to God. What does he do? Where does he yield and where must he stand firm in God’s promises? He must now take on a politically charged posture that might even cost him his life.
- He can no longer be passive in his faith, but must step out upon it for all to see.
- He goes to God in prayer and asks whole heartedly, ‘Lord, what does this all mean and what shall I do?’
When all seems like life has been turned upside down, when event after event seems to distract us from the very core of our beliefs and practices, we need only do as Daniel did and remember this: God is still on His throne and worthy of all our praise and worship in all circumstances. Easy to say, but challenging to do. Yet as we seek God in ALL things, He gives us the strength to do it – to walk in the power of His will and purpose.
Daniel knew this proverb well and he surely exampled it in his life. We do well to remember this wisdom:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5–6
I conclude with these observations: What God has done most of all in these times is get our attention in new and compelling ways. We, as I am sure, are seeking the Lord and asking, ‘yes, Lord, you have my attention. What would you have us do in these circumstances?’
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is time to “think outside our usual patterns”. None of this catches Him off guard. Of the 7 churches spoken of in Revelation, which one, in the literal sense, is still with us today? The church in Smyrna – the persecuted church.
For me personally, God has been challenging me with this notion in a climate of “anti-social distancing” and isolation. Jesus was able to specifically and intentionally affect the lives of 12 people. He didn’t use social media. With great focus and intimate, diligent purpose, He reached most of the known world of that day. He has challenged me to focus on a handful of people at a time and encourage them to do the same. This is a powerful principle and practice, and replicated everywhere, is unstoppable.
One year in in Iwakuni
It’s been one year since we moved to Iwakuni from Tokyo, and it has been a good time of rest, growth and learning for us. Our intentions of relocating here were to spend up to 6 months or so resting, waiting on God, and seeking His will for the next season of ministry work in Japan. Well, with the Covid 19 restrictions our time of waiting was extended well beyond our initial plans. But God, of course, has His own plans and His own timing for all things.
While here in Iwakuni, which is just about a 25-30 miles south of Hiroshima, we have been able to slow down, step back from the frantic pace of Tokyo and really spend time with God listening, waiting, being ministered to through the Word of God, and being replenished and prepared for the next chapter of ministry in Japan. We have also been blessed to be able to help out in many small ways here at Calvary Chapel Iwakuni during our time of waiting.
Now, as things are beginning to open up in Japan, God has also begun to open up the doors of opportunity for us to venture out, meet with other missionaries and church planting teams, and to discover His plan for this new season of ministry.
We are very excited about a specific possibility of partnering with a discipleship and church planting team based in Hiroshima. We have already had some very positive meetings this month and will be meeting with team members, pastors and partner churches throughout the next several months. Please pray for us as God leads us forward in our small part of God’s great plan for the people of Japan.
Images from the past year: