Japan Countdown (T-Minus 13 Days)

A cute Teddy bear for the picture just for fun 😉 and I think there is time for at least two more of these Japan Updates. The best news first, I am down to under two weeks left here, and though I enjoy the work over here it will be very nice to come home to see Family and Friends! These past couple weeks have been great, with beach hikes, a Japanese baseball game, a couple trips to Yokohama, and lots of reading and praying! I have had a couple different ideas I wanted to write about, including “making much of God” about the disrespect we give to God every day, and also one based on some thoughts that I had as I listened to a Hillsong song on the train up to Yokohama today. The song was “we the redeemed” and I had a whole flood of different thoughts that will make for a great post, now if only I can remember them all!
My overall impression of Japan has been good, the Japanese hospitality and customer service makes most American shops and stores look downright rude. I did find one thing very interesting, and that is how private everyone can be even in an overcrowded city like Yokohama. Yes, when you walk into a store you will be greeted kindly and they will help you as best they can; but when your walking through the train station or on the street no one seems to look at or acknowledge anyone else. I am use to going on walks along the water with Anna and smiling and saying high to a lot of the people as you pass them. But here in Japan that never happens, as a habit I will smile at people if I make eye contact with them, but they just ignore it. And I don’t think it is because they are trying to ignore you or be rude to you, they are just very private people. This whole thing was reinforced today as I was on my way back to catch a train to Yokosuka-Chuo, the station where the base is. It was crowded in the station as usual and as I walked through I saw only one other American couple in the station and walked past them. The other guy saw me and we exchanged smiles and just a simple hi, and hey. And it made me smile to think about, just a little US hospitality in Japan.
I have been keeping up with a couple things while I have been here. The two I am most happy about are my prayer time and my reading. I start each day with a half hour prayer time and then a Bible reading time. Then after work in the evening I sit down for at least 30minutes to an hour of reading. I usually go to the gym after work because it’s free and has treadmills, a swimming pool, basketball courts an outdoor soccer field and a driving range. I usually work out a couple days in the week and on the other days either shoot some baskets or go to the driving range and hit a couple buckets of balls. Most of my nights are spent around the hotel, maybe a walk to the mall for an ice-cream cone, or around town to take some pictures. On the weekends I usually relax and maybe go see a sight or two. So overall very low key, the last couple times I have been out I simply started walking in a direction I hadn’t been for a while and saw what I saw. With 14 days left I have a couple projects I am working one that is video related and another that is gift related 😛 The video one is king of a collaboration of allot of the things I wanted to try and God gifted me this idea that tied them all into one project. So when that is done if it turns out the way I am praying it does it will get a couple of its own posts. The gifts are just some souvenirs and what not that I am looking at for different people when I get back, so if you are one of the lucky persons who will get one enjoy! That is all for now, the last update will be in a week or so, and then I will be home!

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The Japan Countdown (T-Minus 24 days)

It is past due for another Japan update so here it is in all its glory. First with the sad news, Anna is back home and has been there for a week and a half now and I miss her dearly. While she was over here the countdown wasn’t a huge thing because I saw her every day, but now I am all alone again so I have ample time to write these blog posts. As far as work goes my boss, at least while I am over here, flew back to the states a week ago for training so I get to set my own schedule even more than before which is good and bad. Good because it teaches me to stay focused and bad because without a lot of work that can be hard! This past Saturday (July 31st) I climbed Mt Fuji in Japan with 4 other guys from work. We did the climb in 5 hours and had a great time. It was actually a big answer to prayer because I had no idea how I would be affected by the lack of oxygen at a higher altitude. Besides a headache after an hour on the summit and some sore knees on the way down, I was fine! Praise God! It was really a fun experience and if you ever get the chance I recommend it. Sunday I went to church once again and enjoyed the worship and communion. The chaplain spoke on a passage out of 2 Chronicles 30 and though it wasn’t the greatest sermon I have ever heard it was encouraging and I learned a couple good lessons about myself as I listened to it. After church I went to see the movie Inception with a guy from work and I loved it! I wrote a whole blog post just for my thoughts on it, so go read that if you have seen the movie already. While Anna was still here we started watching lost and we really got into the first season, then when she left we decided to continue watching it “together”. So I finished it up yesterday and am looking forward to starting the next season. With all the time I now have after work and in the morning I have worked out a list of things I want to do before I leave and get home. Some of these are simple things like go paintballing at the bases paintball course or exercise every other day and hit 100 golf balls twice a week at the range. The list also includes finishing 3 books: a missionary biography my dad sent me, Unity of the Bible by Dan Fuller and Doctrine, which I am currently reading, by Mark Driscoll. So each day I have set aside 40minutes to an hour to read through these books. The morning time is also on the list, and has become a prayer time for me as I get up and first thing sit outside and pray and read a chapter or two in the Bible and get some quiet time to listen to what God wants to tell me. Other things on the list include going back to Tokyo to try and get some good videos for a Japan collage I want to put together while I am here, filming editing and finishing a short video on Psalm 1, and finishing out the design for this website, which is nearing completion, so that I could learn a little more about how to do it. Let me know if you like or don’t like this theme that I chose by the way. ? That’s about it for this update, have a great day in the Lord. -Josh

Inception: A glimpse into the power of imagination as gifted by God

I have to start by saying that I loved the movie. From the start to the end it had me intrigued. In some ways it reminded me of the matrix, and in most ways it surpassed it. The special effects were great from cities being turned upside down to worlds being created in someone’s mind. The whole idea was believable in the sense that it was just a dream state; it wasn’t a future world where robots stuck giant metal rods into our heads to use us as batteries. I am constantly amazed at the imagination of Hollywood, and while most of the time it comes out in a perverted, God attacking form every now and then they do it get it right, and to me this is one of those times. To see the type of work that a sinful corrupt group of people, like Hollywood, can produce makes me wonder at the glorious joys that will be revealed in heaven. After all, we need only look to our own body, or the trees, or the sun and the earth to see the imagination of the one who, with the spoken word, brought it all into existence. When I see this overarching framework and then look to the simpler level of dreams that are a miniscule part of the entire creation, and then see this idea masterfully used to paint a story like inception I can’t help but praise God whose imagination gave us an imagination in his likeness to glorify Him!

There are two things that I saw in this movie which made it stand out for me over other movies I have recently seen, and even all other movies I have seen. These two things are the imagination and the parallels to Christianity that can be seen in inception. The whole concept of the movie is a testimony to the imagination; to come up with the story, to put the visual effects together with actors who sell the roles to us and then to polish it all off with music that draws us in, it was truly inspiring. To top this off I saw an incredible parallel between the movies plot and Christianity and the world we live in. The world we live in with all the temptations and desires would be the dream world of the movie, trying to trick us into believing that we are in the “real” world when in fact we are only dreaming. As the Bible says, we are aliens in this world (1 Peter 2:11). And as aliens we should not conform to this world (Romans 12). And just like the movie this world, more specifically Satan, loves to trick us into believing there is no other reality but the physical, that what you see is what you get. There is not an easier way to trick someone into not believing God then to have them convinced that He doesn’t even exist. This was one common theme throughout the movie, trying to convince the person that they where not in a dream when they were in fact in one. When Satan can convince us of this, everything else starts to fall apart. We become consumed with ourselves and care less about others and in the end we give up all hope that there is any reason to be alive. This is the victory that Satan is looking for, and this is the battle we must not lose. The good news is that we are not defenseless against this attack. If we look at the movie we see the trinkets that each character had in their dream, they called them totems. In the movie these totems were used to remind the character that they were either in reality or they were dreaming. In our reality we have the same thing, and it’s called the Word of God. Having doubts about God? Look to the word, it’s the one place that will always ground us in the reality of Jesus. Nothing in it is made up, from Israel’s exodus and the kings of the Old Testament to the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Word of God we have a defense against the attack of the American dream.

One final striking similarity between the movie and our lives was the entire concept of inception. Planting a thought in someone’s head and getting it just right so they think that it is their own thought. The scary thing is this is more a reality than anything else in this movie. Every moment of the day the Devil is trying to do this one simple thing. Thoughts of lust, anger, fear, betrayal, jealousy, if it can be turned against God the devil will twist it and try and plant it in your head. If he can get us to think of these things and dwell on them the victory starts to tip to his side. The scary part is that it can be just about anything, from billboards that are glanced at to conversations that we overhear. The good news is that Jesus will not let us be tempted beyond what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). That doesn’t mean that these thoughts are not planted in our minds, but it does mean that we have a means of identifying them as counterfeit and then eradicating them. Just like the movie we can train ourselves to fight off these attacks from the devil. To do this we need only look to Jesus and his temptation by the devil. For every temptation he fought back with a verse of scripture, and every time the Devil left it alone after his defence. So the next time you find an idea that doesn’t seem right in your head, capture it (2 Corinthians 10:5) and put it to death by the spirit of God! (Romans 8:13). The sword of the spirit is our one offensive weapon (Ephesians 6:17) and as Hebrew 4 explains, this weapon is the word of God! So take up your Bible love it, read it, memorize it and with it you can become a conqueror of this dream world that we live in. In fact as Romans 8 tells us we can be more than conquerors through Jesus!

Thoughts

Tonight I was reading through the book Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and came across the idea of Satan and how he will gladly give us sex, money, power, pleasure, fame, fortune, and relationships because his goal is for us to take this bait without seeing the hook and then when he has us on the hook he will reel us in to be his captive. This caught my eye because of how subtle this hook can be. Of course in the world today if we live as Christians and read our Bibles we know the obvious hooks: pornography, lust, money, power and so on. But I think one of the biggest hooks that Satan has is the hook of contentment. We have a decent job, a house, a family and a nice car, we go to church on Sunday and even help out, so this type of life can’t be sin, right? But the answer is much different then it appears on the outside. To be content in our Christian walk should be a large warning sign that something is not right. We should always learn to be content with the worldly possessions we have, much like Paul was (verse), but our faith is different. This should always be growing, always maturing, always seeking to go deeper. There is no limit to an infinite God, which means there is no point in our lives on earth, or in heaven, when we can say we have learned all that we can. The promise God gives us is seek and you will find and there is no constraint on the seeking or the finding. We are not told to seek until we retire, or seek until we lead a small group; we seek, and keep on seeking until we get to heaven. The same is true for the finding; if we seek we will find it is a promise that will not fail. So as far as the seeking goes the finding is right with it. What a comfort this is!

I would love to hear any thoughts you have on this, this was just my thoughts as I re-read this part of the book.

Church in Yokosuka Japan


The Japan Countdown (T-Minus 33days)

So I attended my fist church service on the navy base here in Japan and I was very impressed. It wasn’t the music, which was good but not great, it wasn’t the song choice, which consisted completely of songs I know and love except one I hadn’t heard, in fact it wasn’t anything that you might think about when you think about your local church. It was simply being in a place with others who share this belief in Jesus and praising him. I must admit during the first song I was almost brought to tears of joy in just singing to Jesus! Very refreshing! So as I start the next month away form my lovely wife and family and friends back in Washington this was a wonderful way to see Jesus clearly. And to top this off the sermon was great as well. It was a simple sermon on the Lords prayer. But don’t be fooled by my description as simple, for though it was easy to understand it was full of words that every Christian needs to hear and learn from. The chaplain used the Lords prayer as a channel into the power that prayer offers for Christians and how little most of us actually tap into that power. The average Christian prays just 3 minutes a day, and most of that time is at meals. If that’s not shocking enough the average pastor only prays 13 minutes a day! The Chaplain used a Martin Luther quote as an example of prayer; Luther said: “with everything I have to get done I wouldn’t be able to finish it without 3 hours a day”. Of course 3 hours is not a good starting number for most of us, but I have often had this same strange and amazing realization. No matter how busy we think we are and how little time we think we can spare, if we make time for prayer it will surprise us how everything else seems to run more smoothly and things which we “don’t have time for” get done. The Chaplain also made a great connection between sanctification and prayer. He talked about how sanctification is the process of becoming more holy, more like Jesus. And the key to this is prayer, because as we pray and listen to God the power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed in our lives. In other words since sanctification is the spirits doing, and prayer is how we access the spirit, prayer is vital in the sanctification process. It reminds me of a quote from piper on this subject, and how he was quite sure that in heaven there would not be anyone who did not pray. One other great point was how prayer is not all about us talking; it’s about listening to God as well. This is something so many Christians ignore. We ask and ask and ask, but then we just go about our business, not taking the vital time needed to wait and quiet souls to hear what God has for us. So in the end this sermon reinforced the idea that I have been trying to do while I am away form you all, that is stay connected to God through prayer, I am trying to do at least a half hour of prayer every morning, with Bible reading on top of that. That half hour will be broken into prayer for things and waiting on the Lord to hear what he has for me in the day. I challenge you to join me, and if you already do this amount of prayer, or more, bump it up by 15 minutes, you won’t be disappointed!

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God in Japan

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So with my time over here I have been able to take the plunge and get a DSLR camera. The base I am working out sells them and it is tax free, which makes for a sweet deal. With this new camera comes many new ideas for videos and the first one I am working on involves Japan and, as most things I like to do with video involve, the Bible. Stay tuned it could be a while before its done.

Life Together

Thoughts on life work and the great commission

Work. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear this word is a repulsive reaction. I think about days that turn into months that turn into years of doing something I don’t want to be doing. In other words I have a pity party in my mind. From there it is simple to turn these thoughts into many different sins. God why did you put me here, or I must be doing something wrong and this is my punishment, or why isn’t my life like this person. These thoughts will never escape me, or any of us really, no matter if we are poor or Bill Gates. Envy is one of the Ten Commandments because of the ease in which it slips into our lives. As I thought about work and then read the book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer my whole world was turned upside down concerning this thinking. Not because of some new, solve all your problems, type of idea but because of the elagance and simplicity of how Bonhoeffer gives meaning and understanding to what the Bible commands us to do concerning work. First of all I encourage you to read this whole book, it is a short book at only 122 pages, but it is full of things every Christian should know and understand. And the main point I want to try and explain, to help myself understand it completely, deals with what Bonhoeffer calls the “it”, which is your job. What so many people think of when they describe this “it” is close to what I talked about at the beginning of this post. But what Bonhoeffer sees in this is the “instrument in the hand of God for the purification of Christians from all self-centeredness and self-seeking.” What a complete 180 from what we are told in the world when it concerns careers. Make all you can, do something you love, it all revolves around us. Even for those who “hate” their jobs, the reason they stay is often all about themselves. I am not of course saying that we should all quit our jobs if we don’t like them, or that you cant have a job you love and love the Lord as well. But what I am saying is that we should use our work to Glorify God. Col 3:17 says it wonderfully: whatever you do in word or in deed do it all name of Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but I surely can’t do something I “hate” to the glory of God if all I think about is how much I hate it. Bonhoeffer gives a masterful explanation of this idea:
“In work the Christian learns to allow himself to be limited by the task, and thus for him the work becomes a remedy against the indolence and sloth of the flesh. The passions of the flesh die in the world of things. But this can happen only where the Christian breaks through the “it” to the “Thou” which is God, who bids him work and makes that work a means of liberation from himself.”
What a great way of defining that verse in Colossians. In order for work to become “all to the glory of God” we must master it, we must control our thinking and our in simplified terms be the optimist and not the pessimist when it comes to our work. As we trust in God He will not leave us hanging, He will give us the strength to fight through things we don’t enjoy, and He may even give you a change that you love. But no matter where He places you it is for a reason. And that reason is to Glorify Him, so if you can’t stand your job, or your bored with it, or you love it, whatever is your case, work to the glory of God. Make it a tool to please honor God and grow closer to him. The crazy thing about a tool is that they require practice, techniques that don’t work need to get thrown out, and techniques that do work need to get refined. This book “Life Together” was one of those refining techniques for me. And I encourage you to not only read it, by try and learn something about Glorifying God from it!
That’s my $.02, in the next couple days I will post my thoughts on the book “Do hard things”, which was a book that took me a little to warm up to, but was great after that.