[ec23] Pureppu Devotion ② Bread is needed for the traveler.

Last time, I shared a message from the Book of Jonah, “God, too, has concerned.”

Just as Jonah regretted and lamented when the gourd withered, we too, when we lose something, realize how precious it was and mourn. However, the purpose of that experience was for us to understand that God also regrets for the people of Nineveh and the souls of the Japanese, to the point that God is distressed by the reality that those returning to Japan may drift away from the church. God wants us to stand in that gap.

That was the message from the last time. Indeed, God is inviting us to serve for the sake of those departing for Japan. Now that we understand this, the question arises: What can we do?

…What can we do? …Many believers who have encountered the Gospel, known Jesus, and received faith in the love of the cross, which is not present in Japan. They, as travelers, encounter various gaps upon returning and end up drifting away from the church. God regrets such events, and we have come to understand that feeling. But what can we do? What are we capable of doing?

In today’s reading, there is a portrayal of someone unable to provide the necessary bread for a traveler. Although this person cannot do anything for the traveler who needs bread, they go to seek help from a certain person. That person is a reliable friend, probably affluent and possessing abundant wealth.

He asks this friend to lend him three loaves of bread. He clings to the idea that if it’s that friend, he will give it to him. He thought, “I cannot do anything for the travelers, but I can ask that friend to provide the bread needed for the travelers.”

Think about it, everyone. How many friends can you ring the doorbell at midnight? Such a thing is possible only with the closest and most intimate friend.

This parable is told after the disciples asked Jesus to teach them about prayer, following the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. In this parable, Jesus is teaching us that He is the rich, reliable, only friend we can always seek help from.

In today’s scripture, it is mentioned to ask that friend for the bread necessary for the traveler.

Such prayers are called “intercessory prayers.” It is a prayer offered by someone who knows their own powerlessness.

And this scripture also teaches that such prayers should be offered fervently. Be persistent in prayer.

Why does Jesus ask for persistent prayer? The Greek word translated as “persistence” is ἀν•αιδεια (anaideia). Interestingly, the first part of the word, “ἀν” (an), conveys a sense of negation. For example, the English word “unbelievable” means “not believable.” The word ἀν•αιδεια (anaideia) translated as “persistence” means “not being shameless.”

Because it’s just three loaves of bread. It’s ringing the doorbell loudly at midnight. Jesus is teaching us to be bold in prayer and become skilled at asking. If you are interested in what skillful asking in prayer looks like, please learn from the prayers of Abraham and Moses in Genesis 18 and Exodus 33.

Surprisingly, this friend initially refuses, saying, “I want to sleep, so don’t bother me.” This is a parable, and we know that Jesus does not have such a character. So, what does He want to teach with this initial refusal?

I think Jesus wants to convey that He delights in our attitude of not giving up, continuing to believe, and waiting for the answer to prayer. Why? Because the relationship where we ask and the Lord gives is the bond between us and God.

For the men here, when a woman asks for something, when a favor is requested, when you’re begged for something, you’ve probably answered like this: “Hmm, what should I do?” Any experiences like that? No, there must be. (LOL)

It’s not a feeling of wanting to be mean; it comes from the desire to deepen the relationship between the two. Yes, Jesus is inviting us to become more fervent in prayer to deepen our faith and trust in Him.

So, what happens? What did this reliable friend give? Three loaves of bread? No, far beyond what we desire and think, this friend gives “anything needed.” This illustrates the need for us to realize our powerlessness when we cannot do anything for the travelers. When we realize that, we can be transformed into those who rely on this friend, who can provide everything needed, through prayer.

Now, let’s serve as intercessors for the returee ministry.

[ec23] Pureppu Devotion① God, too, has concerned.

Hello, everyone! In the EC Preparation Prayer Meeting at PUREPPU, Nobukazu Otake, a seminary student, gives a short message every time, and it’s always great!

So, I’d like to share it on the blog from time to time.

For those who are blessed and want to pray together for EC at Prep, the next session is on November 25th (Saturday) at 8 am (EST), 7 am (CST), 6 am (MST), 5 am (PST), 10 pm (JPN)!

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Have you ever experienced the feeling of regret when you lost something? I believe everyone has had the bitter experience of realizing how precious something was only after losing it. It may come with pain, but if possible, take a moment now to recall those feelings.

Because that experience is a pain well known to God, and it can even become a clue to deeply understand God’s love. To elaborate, God becomes our Savior because He is a God who cannot help but regret the lost existence. If we know the pain of losing something, we can understand the heart of God.

And those who deeply understand that pain carry the motivation to serve for the work that God desires.

I apologize for the delayed introduction. I am Nobukazu Otake, a seminary student, and I have recently been recruited as the Assistant Director for EC’s Prayer Team.

To be honest, I knew nothing about EC before and was in a completely new situation. I was invited to serve through my friend Hiyori Nishimura. Moreover, I ended up being responsible for delivering messages on the Word only at PUREPPU. Honestly, not knowing what to say, I spent the preparation period.

However, three days ago, I had a dream and woke up in the middle of the night. It was a dream that reminded me of a recent painful loss. Jumping out of bed, in the dark room, I recalled the experience of loss and, while lamenting the pain, whispered the prayer that had become a habit since losing something valuable: “Why, Lord?”

At that moment, a divine voice echoed in my head, asking, “Are you lamenting?” I immediately opened the Book of Jonah. There, a withered gourd, which God had caused to grow to improve Jonah’s mood, was depicted as withered and Jonah was once again angry.

I could understand Jonah’s feelings very well. There was the anger and suspicion that came from the sadness of loss, asking, “What is God doing? What is the purpose of making me experience this?”

Then, the Lord spoke to Jonah.

Jonah 4:10–11
“The Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?'”

Jonah experienced the sadness of losing the gourd and lamenting it because God wanted him to become someone who understands God’s concern for the people of Nineveh.

On the night I wondered why I had such a dream, I learned that God deeply regrets the souls of the Japanese people. Despite experiencing the Gospel overseas, knowing Jesus, and embracing faith in the love of the cross, many souls returning to Japan tend to drift away from the church due to the gap. God is deeply saddened by this reality and cannot help but lament it, calling out, “Why?” with deep regret.

God wanted me to understand that pain because I will be involved in ministry related to returnees at the end of this year. The Lord is passionate about the work of overseas Japanese missions. There is a purpose in Equipper Conference, and it is the fervent desire of God, who loves the souls of Japanese people so much that He cannot bear to lose them.

In the Name of Jesus (Henri J. M. Nouwen) Part 1

Dr. Sachi Nakamura (Christian Books Translator, JCFN Board member, Spiritual Director) 

 

Starting this month, I would like to share from the book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” by Henri Nouwen in three parts.

Henri Nouwen wrote many books and was a Dutch Catholic priest. He also taught pastoral theology at Yale Divinity School, and was appointed at the Harvard Divinity School as Professor of Divinity and Horace De Y. Lentz Lecturer. After two years at Harvard, he resigned the position as he was not able to enjoy its ambitious and competitive environment. He then accepted an invitation to become a priest for one of L’Arche Communities, an international movement of communities to welcome mentally handicapped people, in Toronto, Canada. He chose the path to live with people with disabilities.

Nouwen was a well-known, very popular professor at Yale and Harvard. But for the people in the L’Arche Communities, he was nobody. He started living among the people who did not know anything about his title or accomplishments, or even who did not care anything like that at all.  The book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” was written based on what Nouwen reflected on the Christian Leadership in the future through his experience in the community.

This book consists of the following three parts.

[I] From Relevance to Prayer
  The Temptation: To Be Relevant
  The Question: “Do You Love Me?”
  The Discipline: Contemplative Prayer

[II]From Popularity to Ministry
  The Temptation: To Be Spectacular
  The Task: “Feed My Sheep”
  The Discipline: Confession and Forgiveness

[III]From Leading to Being Led
  The Temptation: To Be Powerful
  The Challenge: “Somebody Else Will Take You”
  The Discipline: Theological Reflection

In the Chapter 1, “From Relevance to Prayer”, Nouwen tells us that a new Christian Leadership is not to claim and offer “what we do or accomplish.” Rather, as the one who is loved, chosen, and redeemed by God, it is a leadership to proclaim God’s love by offering its vulnerability.

 

Nouwen talks of “contemplative prayer” as the discipline needed for such a Christian Leadership. He even says, “We have to be mystics.” Contemplative prayer is not a kind of prayer to bring our petition to God, but a kind of prayer to keep us safe in the presence of God. It does not require many words. It is a prayer that helps you taste the love of God. Contemplative prayer keep us in the love of God who keeps asking “Do you love me?” and it helps us rooted there. That makes possible for us to dwell in God’s presence.

He writes,

“It is not enough for the priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God’s presence, to listen to God’s voice, to look at God’s beauty, to touch God’s incarnate Word and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness?” 

 

Nouwen continues to explain our need of contemplative prayer. “The original meaning of the word ‘theology’ was ‘union with God in prayer.’”

 

Nouwen says, “It is of vital importance to reclaim the mystical aspect of theology so that every word spoken, every word of advice given, and every strategy developed can come from the heart that knows God”, “the incarnate Word, Jesus” intimately.

 

Perhaps you might remember your own experience. When being asked for an advice, you might have responded based on your own knowledge or experience. Your urge to appeal that your knowledge or experience is relevant to the burning issue is rooted in the temptation. But if you sincerely listen to God in prayer, the Spirit will give you wisdom and words, flexibly, deeply, and timely to the situation. God would not lead you with simple solutions. The longer you have been in a leadership role, the harder to refrain from finding answers from what you have already obtained. But please remember to listen to the One who gives us the living water. You might be provided with something you had never expected. You might be able to unexpectedly touch the heart or the situation of the one you would like to help. There is no formula in this. Just rely on God’s heart. The Spirit will lead you.

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