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SANACS Journal 2010 is now available!

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Two quick announcements!

• 10% discount sale for ISAAC publications! Go to “publications” at the ISAAC website. Click “Buy” and enter code ‘ FOUND ‘ at checkout You will save 10% off your purchase! [offer ends Aug. 31, 2010]

• The new issue of the SANACS Journal is now available! This issue contains the papers presented at ISAAC So Cal’s Asian American Equipping Symposium held at Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA) on Nov. 2-3, 2009. Go to “publications” at the ISAAC website.

Report: Art of Preaching in Asian American Settings workshop (NCal)

May 24, 2010 3 comments

The following is the report and raw data collected from the participants at the Art of Preaching in Asian American Settings workshop with Dr. Daniel L. Wong on May 13, 2010.

DOWNLOAD Art of Preaching Workshop raw data
DOWNLOAD Bibliography of Preaching in a Multicultural World, compiled by Dr. Daniel L. Wong

Over 50 participants attended this ISAAC Northern California event, which was held at the Chinese Church in Christ, North Valley. Most of the participants were pastors, ministry leaders, and lay preachers.

Dr. Wong provided a 20-minute presentation entitled, “Recent Trends in Homiletics and Implications for Preaching in the Asian American Church.” This was followed by a 45-minute discussion period where participants reflected on the outline and made recommendations for effective preaching in Asian American settings. Data from the eight discussion groups is found in Part 2 of the report. Rev. Dr. Karl Fung of Berkeley Congregational Church contributed a sermon that he delivered on Mother’s Day that reflected on how Christianity can engage Confucianism in East Asian cultural contexts.

Daniel has posted his outline, some recommended books, and links to his sermons and interviews relating to the topic of preaching. To view these resources, visit his home page at: http://www.tyndale.ca/~dwong/viewpage.php?pid=32

DJ Chuang interviewed Daniel shortly after our workshop at:
http://djchuang.com/2010/what-about-asian-american-preaching/ OR

Here is the link to Matthew D. Kim’s article on Asian American Preaching:
http://www.preachingtoday.com/skills/artcraft/53–kim.html

The general response of participants to the workshop was quite favorable. I think the opportunity to fellowship with fellow pastors and church leaders contributed to an enjoyable social gathering and a jovial atmosphere. Most also felt that we did not have enough time to engage the topic more deeply and therefore, were not able to “exegete” the Asian American distinctive carefully enough. I concur with this assessment. The large number of participants and short time frame made it impossible to get beyond the first question of declaring the importance of contextualized preaching in Asian American settings.

But that was not the only obstacle. Just about every Asian American ministry, theology, and scholarly gatherings that I’ve ever attended has been unable to get past the initial step. The fundamental challenge Asian Americans face is to create a relatively clear self-representation amidst our incredible language, cultural, and generational diversities. For example, using terms such as “yellow,” “Confucian,” or “shame” reflect East Asian contexts that South and Southeast Asian Americans do not share. I suspect that the only commonality we share is how we are treated or viewed by America. Our inter-generational challenges, our perceived foreignness, our shared history of anti-Asian discrimination are pretty much the only thing that we seem to hold in common. Can we truly create a new self-representation on this basis?

Another challenge relates to our theology. ISAAC and the participants in this workshop agree that contexualization is very much needed in our ministry and theological reflections. But to what degree do we contextualize? One generation of mainline Protestant Asian and Asian American theologians have come and gone (I think of Kosuke Koyama, C.S. Song, Jung Young Lee, Roy Sano, David Ng, etc.). Their theology is viewed with suspicion by many Asian American evangelicals for being too “liberal,” though I suspect most have not read these authors (their books are usually out of print and inaccessible). Without these pioneers in contextualized theology as resources, to whom can Asian American Christian leaders turn? No seminary in North America provides adequate resources for the development of contextualized Asian American theology and ministry (not even Asian language seminaries). So where can the next generation of church leaders in Asian American settings turn to if they seek to counter the assimilationist (and anti-global/anti-multi-cultural) assumptions in North American Christianity?

At least in the area of preaching, ISAAC Northern California’s next step will be to try to develop adequate resources. We would like to invite a few participants to meet, review the raw data, do some additional research, and draft outlines of resources that go beyond the first step. Please let me know if you’d like to be part of a small group to develop this preaching resource further! I look forward to hearing from you!

In the meantime, I thank all our participants for coming and making the workshop so enjoyable. I hope we will find more opportunities to fellowship and support one another in our ministries! I want to again thank our co-sponsors, the First Chinese Baptist Church of San Francisco, Chinese for Christ Church of Hayward, Chinese Church in Christ North Valley, Grace Covenant Community Church, Overflow Ministry, and Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church, for providing funds, resources, and hospitality for this event.

Again, our philosophy is to partner with you and your ministries in order to develop resources for ministry among Asian Americans – so we are counting on you to help strengthen this special work for God’s kingdom! So keep looking out for future ISAAC Nor Cal events and opportunities to partner!

Peace,

Timothy Tseng 曾 祥 雨
Executive Director, ISAAC
Interim English Pastor, Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church

ISAAC National Update (Apr 28, 2010)

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Are you feeling irregular these days? In the San Francisco Bay Area, the unusual spring weather has left many feeling irregular. Every time I start to anticipate a stretch of warm, sunny weather, we are interrupted by a couple of cold and rainy days.

Asian & Pacific Islander North America is just as unpredictable. Each new immigrant wave from a different part of Asia redefines us. The diversity of our second-fifth generation responses to Asia, North America, and the Pacific also makes it difficult to “pin down” what it means to be API. Some believe that we have assimilated so much that we harbor nativist attitudes towards new immigrants. Others are determined to preserve our ethnic identities or build a strong pan-ethnic niche in a society that still discriminates against API people.

The irregular and unpredictable nature of API existence is a challenge for anyone who wants to work with them. Every community with API Christian participants will be confronted with this reality. But because there are no straightforward ways to do ministry in these settings, effectiveness can only be developed in dialogue between practitioners and scholars. Scholars are equipped with tools to interpret the API experience within national and international landscapes. But some of the most valuable insights come from ministry practitioners who engage scripture and theology with a careful reflection on the cultural contexts of their ministries.

ISAAC wants the conversation between academia and ministry to be relevant, effective, and on-going. Your participation will help us develop effective tools for equipping one another, future leaders, and scholars to serve faithfully and relevantly in API contexts.

May you be renewed this Easter season!

Tim  Tseng 10Timothy Tseng Ph.D.
Executive Director
Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity
* * * *
Interim English Pastor
Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church, San Jose

UPDATES
1. Audio-videos, presentations, and other resources from ISAAC’s events this past year will be made available soon. We are revamping the ISAAC home page so check there soon to find out more about the Asian American Equipping Symposium at Fuller, the various lectures and talks in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Asian American Women’s art festival in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest Symposium in Seattle, etc.

2. ISAAC East Region: Rev. Dr. Andrew Lee (ISAAC’s East Regional Director) met with the Princeton Forum for Asian Indian Ministries on February 20. This group seeks to promote work among Asian Indians in the United States and recently published Pilgrims at the Crossroads: Asian Indian Christians at the North American Frontier (see below for more information on this book or to purchase a copy). There are a number of similarities in the situations that Asian Indians face with that of other Asian American Christians. Rev. Lee became a member of the Forum’s Working Committee with responsibility in the area of theological education.

The 2010 ISAAC Summer Internships in the New York/New Jersey Metro Area for high school youth and college students considering full-time vocational ministry were awarded in April.  The recipients are Jennifer Consomer (Rutgers University), Lauren Lee (Liberty University), Winnie Lee (Binghamton University), and Dan Lin (Wheaton College). The participating churches are New York Chinese Evangelical Free Church in Brooklyn, New York Chinese Baptist Church in Manhattan, and Chinese Christian Church of New Jersey in Parsippany. The interns will begin serving at their churches and having weekly meetings with Rev. Lee starting in the middle of June.  Rev. Lee can also be reached at andrewlee@isaacweb.org
3. ISAAC Southern California: Rev. Dr. Young Lee Hertig (ISAAC-SoCal Regional Director) reports that the Asian American Women on Leadership (AAWOL) manuscript, Telling Hidden Stories: Biblical and Asian American Women, has been accepted for publication by WIPF & STOCK, with a tentative publication date of fall 2010.

ISAAC-SoCal sponsored an Asian American Continuing Education seminar at Fuller Theological Seminary on April 24, as a follow up to the Asian American Equipping Symposium held at Fuller in November. Upcoming initiatives include a May 19 planning team meeting for the pilot Asian American Summer Institute, which will feature an experiential pedagogy to bridge urban and suburban experiences and will be co-sponsored with the Mosaic Center and other partners, including seminaries, churches, and parachurch organizations.  Rev. Hertig will also be teaching an intensive course this summer (June 14-18) on Asian American Pastoral Theologies and Pastoral Leadership at Logos Evangelical Seminary.
The second AAES (Asian American Equipping Symposium) has been rescheduled for February 7-8, 2011, due to the Lausanne meeting in October in South Africa.  Please contact Rev. Hertig at younglee@isaacweb.org with suggestions for the symposium theme or for more information.

4. SANACS (the Society of Asian North American Christian Studies) invites submissions for the next journal under the theme of Asian American Biblical Interpretation. In addition to professional Biblical scholars, those working in other fields are encouraged to submit papers on this topic. Given the focus of this journal, papers ought to demonstrate relevance to Asian North American Christianity. The due date for submissions is Sept 1, 2010. All articles should follow the SANACS Manuscript Submission Guidelines with the following change: rather than sending the paper to Russell Yee, email submissions to Bo Lim at Seattle Pacific University 3307 Third Ave West Seattle, WA 98119 206.281.2347 Email Bo Lim

5. ISAAC Nor Cal will co-sponsor a free workshop, The Art of Preaching in Asian American Settings, for pastors, seminarians, and interested persons on Thursday, May 13th (9:45 AM – Noon, followed by a free lunch) at Chinese Church in Christ, North Valley (Milpitas). The workshop features Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Wong, Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry at Tyndale University College in Toronto, Canada. For more information and to register on-line click this link.

6. Resources: For a limited time only! You can get a 10% discount on ISAAC resources ordered through Lulu.com. Visit the ISAAC Cafe at this link, select your resources, and enter code “SHOWERS” at checkout. You can choose to receive $3.99 credit towards shipping cost instead by entering code “FREEMAIL305.” These discounts expire on Apr 30 & May 1, 2010.

If you are not yet an ISAAC member, please consider joining this year. Go to: http://isaacweb.org/a/support.htm for more information.**

** Give a gift of $120/year and you will automatically be enrolled as a 2010 ISAAC AND SANACS member. Members receive complimentary issues of the 2010 SANACS Journal and special discounts for ISAAC resources and events. Those who give $500 or more will receive complimentary copies of all publications and resources created in 2010.

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Workshop: The Art of Preaching in Asian American Settings (Nor Cal)

April 15, 2010 3 comments

What lessons have you learned about being an effective communicator among Asian American Christians? How can we equip one another and future pastors to preach faithfully and relevantly to the Asian American contexts? ISAAC believes that the most valuable insights come from practitioners who engage Scripture and theology with a careful reflection on the cultural contexts of their ministries. So join us and share your ideas at this free workshop!

Daniel WongThe workshop features Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Wong, Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry at Tyndale University College in Toronto, Canada. Daniel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a full-time English Ministry pastor at the Toronto Chinese Baptist Church and then at the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church for a total of 18 years. Over the past 10 years he has been teaching preaching as part of his course load. His D.Min. and one of his Th.M’s are in the preaching area. For more information, see Daniel’s website at www.tyndale.ca/~dwong/ and check out his article “Preaching in a Multicultural World.”

Please register on-line to give us an accurate count for lunch! Go to: http://bit.ly/d6aq24

Where:
Chinese Church in Christ – North Valley (Milpitas)
399 South Main Street
Milpitas, CA 95035

When:
Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 09:45 AM – 01:30 PM

Schedule:
· 9:45 AM Gather, register, snacks
· 10:00 AM Welcome, devotionals, and introduction
· 10:15 AM Daniel Wong presentation: “Current Trends in Homiletics with Implications for Preaching in the Asian American Church”
· 10:35 AM Pastors’ conversation about the art of preaching in Asian American settings (facilitated by Daniel Wong)
· 11:20 AM Break
· 11:30 AM Lessons learned and concluding thoughts
· 12:00 PM Catered lunch
· 12:45 PM Optional time to continue conversation or fellowship with one another

Easter Sunday: April 4, 2010

April 4, 2010 1 comment

Today’s Texts: Exodus 12:1-14; Isaiah 51:9-11; John 1:1-18; John 20:19-23

Reflection on John 20.19-23

And the end of a weekend conference, a student came up to me and declared, “I must not be very Asian.”

The first words that came to my mind was: Is she crazy? She was clearly Korean-American, not only in looks but also in custom and culture. But the words that came out of my mouth were more pastoral: I asked her why.

She said, “Well, I don’t suffer from a lack of self-esteem and I don’t have issues with my parents. So I must not be very Asian.”

It’s too easy for Asian Americans to define ourselves by our weaknesses. In our cultures, it’s easy to be tough on ourselves. It’s instinctive to counter an offer of praise with a retort of self-criticism. It’s natural to focus on the one bad grade on a stellar report card. And this very inclination may cause us to emphasize Good Friday at the expense of Easter Sunday.

Good Friday can almost feel cathartic, right? I can come to the cross with my faults and sins. I can ask for forgiveness. And it has been taken care of on the cross. It’s all about my weaknesses. And rightfully so. But Easter? Often, the resurrection is just proof that Good Friday worked. Since Jesus rose again, then our sins are truly forgiven.

But Easter is also so much more. It’s an invitation to life! The Scriptures say we died with him, for “we have been crucified with Christ.” With his resurrection, “we also live with him.” We actually live with Christ, and Christ lives in us. We participate in both Christ’s death and resurrection. And so, we don’t merely look back at what Christ has done for us, though we’re deeply thankful. On Easter, we also look forward to the new life God is springing up in us.

Because he lives, we too can truly live.

* * * *
James Choung Dr. James Choung is a second-generation Korean-American, serving as national director of InterVarsity Asian American Ministries. He has also written True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In and its companion booklet, Based on a True Story (both InterVarsity Press, 2008) to provide a simple way to talk about the big story of God. He is a frequent church and conference speaker, and enjoys teaching seminary courses in leadership and evangelism. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons, blogs at www.jameschoung.net, and his work has been featured in Christianity Today.

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Holy Week Devotional: Apr 3

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24; 1 Peter 4:1-8; John 19:38-42

A Burial Fit for a King (John 19:38-42)

Crucifixion was an effective deterrent against insurrection in ancient Rome because of its inherent indignity in a culture that operated on the basis of honor and shame. Not only were the criminals hung naked to die a slow and public death, they were also denied a proper burial. By the time the vultures were done picking off the corpses there would hardly be any recognizable human being of which to speak. Such might have been the fate of the crucified Jesus with the sign King of the Jews above his head. Yet Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two formerly “shadow” disciples, chose the most dangerous of times to come into the light and declare their allegiance by asking (bribing?) Pilate for Jesus’ body. They gave Jesus a burial fit for a king – a newly hewn tomb, an exorbitant amount of spices, and proper treatment in full accordance with Jewish customs – unabashedly proclaiming the truth about Jesus, that indeed Jesus was – and still is – King. Their honor of Jesus hearkened back to Mary’s anointing in chapter 12, where Jesus interpreted her action as an act of devotion that foreshadowed his death and burial. In honoring Jesus, Mary faced disapproval and Joseph and Nicodemus risked life and reputation. In the grand scheme of things, even their heroic gestures paled in light of the salvation brought to us by Jesus’ self-giving sacrifice on the cross. What about us? How much are we willing to risk for the sake of Jesus’ honor?

* * * *
Diane Chen Diane G. Chen is Associate Professor of New Testament at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, PA. She is a member of Narberth Presbyterian Church.

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Holy Week Devotional: Apr 2 (Good Friday)

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

Room Enough For All Generations (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

Ministry is messy because people are messed up. Everyone who has served in any church or ministry knows that. And we know it well in the Asian American churches where we have wrestled with our identity and purpose, especially with regard to the next generations. Whether it is found in generational or cultural tensions, or paradigm shifts of church ministry in a postmodern era, we must not scapegoat one generation for another. Neither should we blame the increasingly hostile post-Christan society for our deep unease about ourselves. As much as we tend to point our fingers at another to shift the blame, during this Good Friday season, God is basically saying the buck stops at the cross.

As we reflect on this famous servant song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we should be gripped by the miracle and scandal of God’s acceptance of and love for unacceptable people through the finished work of the cross. There is indeed nothing in us, if we are truly honest to ourselves, that should make Him love us. We are loved by Him simply because of who He is. We are not loveable; yet we are loved by God. Get the difference? So if I didn’t earn His love; if I didn’t pay for it or deserve it, then get this – we must build our lives, ministries and churches on the bedrock of this unfathomable love of God. It is this simple, changeless message of the Good News that seems to be drowned in the noise of our struggles to discover and develop our identity and purpose. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the cross again on this Good Friday. We are freed by God’s unconditional love, and we are therefore now free to accept and love one another.

The finished work of the Servant at the cross is both redemptive and reconciling. As much as He redeemed us through the cross, He reconciled us to one another. The generational and cultural diversity in our Asian American churches should indeed mirror the unifying grace of God at the cross, where all barriers are broken down (Eph. 2:11-22). We belong to God, and therefore we belong to one another. While generational and cultural differences will not go away, we must think through these differences through the accomplished work of the cross. No generation is less valuable to God. No generation is beyond the reach of God’s love. There is indeed room enough at the cross for all. The question remains if there is room enough for different generations in our churches. If we allow Christ to be the defining reality of our identity instead of our cultural preferences, and if we all take up the Servant’s burden, there will be room enough for all.

Another implication for leaders in Asian American churches is the obvious example of a servant-leader. Asian American churches are blessed with the innate DNA of servanthood, given the collectivistic emphasis of group goals and community before self. If we allow this innate servant quality to emerge and be patterned after Christ’s example of genuine servanthood, the challenges we face will be better met through leaders who will lead well by serving others through empowerment and enablement. As servant leaders, our paramount goal is the best interest of those they lead, and our concern is for spiritual significance rather than earthly success and recognition. It is obvious from the apparent short-term failure of the Servant’s ministry that Jesus is the Servant leader par excellence, who willingly submit to do the Father’s will by going to the cross for our sins. Just as the Servant is determined to obey God at all cost and leave the outcome of His service to the Father, so must we. Such is the call for a generation of leaders in Asian American churches today. There are no easy paths to take to address out ministry challenges. Instead many have been wounded and scarred by the messiness of our ministry contexts. Others have been discouraged to try serving and leading in Asian American churches. We need to be prepared to leave the outcome of our servanthood in Asian American churches in God’s hands. It is a call for perserverance for the long haul – a call for faithful servants who willingly and sacrificially obey and do the Father’s will. There would be room enough for all in our churches if we have room in our hearts to be shaped by the Servant’s way.

* * * *
Peter LimPeter Lim was born and raised in Singapore. He has served in churches in Singapore and the USA, as well as ministered cross-culturally in many countries in Asia since 1989. With the completion of his D. Min. dissertation, “Family Ties that Build, Family Ties that Bind,” Peter hopes to apply his work to help strengthen Asian American churches through the work of ISAAC, where he is Director of ISAAC Pacific Northwest Region and Project Director of the Greater LA Chinese Church Research Project. He is married to Karen, who will be teaching in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University (Irvine).

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Holy Week Devotional: Apr 1 (Maundy Thursday)

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Exodus 12:1-42; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Reflection on John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Listen to Audio

Have you ever felt betrayed? Was it with someone who was close to you? What did you experience mentally and emotionally? Unbelief? (This can’t be happening … I thought we were friends) Anger? (This isn’t right!..How can they do this to me!) Gut-wrenching pain? (Words are inadequate) What did you do? Did you “stuff it” or  become passive-aggressive? Let me just say that I write from experience.

Reflecting on this well known passage we often recognize the humility and example of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. Yet this time I was struck by the contrast of  the number of times Jesus refers to Judas and how He knew his close disciple would betray Him (13:2, 11, 18-27, 31). Yet Jesus loved him (13:1b), He did good to Judas, He served Judas by washing  his feet, He spoke with him without anger in His voice and Jesus was going sacrifice Himself for him. The Lord gave him opportunity after opportunity to turn to him, even at the betrayal event itself  He called him “friend”(Matthew 26:50). Jesus was emphasizing how he loved all his disciples (13: 1b), and how he set the example of costly love, and wanted them to love each other (13:34, 35) even to the extent of loving the one you know would betray you.

Have you ever felt betrayed? May we love, through Christ’s power in the way Jesus loved Judas.

* * * *
Steve Esther Quen Steve Quen is joyfully married to Esther for over 30 years and has 4 young adult children. He has served on the staff of Bay Area Chinese Bible Church for 22 years, 13 years as the Senior Pastor.

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Holy Week Devotional: Mar 31

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 70; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32

“Peace of Bread” (John 13:21-32)

It is easy to point at the other, instead of looking at ourselves. However, Holy Week is a time when we, as individuals and as a society, take responsibility for what we have done and said before, without blaming others. Each of today’s scripture readings describes the virtues of Christianity, some of which seem almost   forgotten in our ostensibly Christian society.

In John 13:22, Jesus declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”   The disciples look at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. They were looking for someone who was going to betray Jesus. In this chapter, Judas was the person who would betray Jesus directly. However, in a broad sense, all of the disciples betrayed Jesus on his way to the cross, by denying, avoiding, or   neglecting the life and purpose of Jesus. How easy it is for one to see another person’s mistake, to cast blame on others, while hiding or denying the truth about oneself. The bad news in this story is, it is not about Judas alone, but about every disciple who betrayed Jesus, intentionally or unintentionally, by commission or by omission. The Good News is, they were all welcomed at Jesus’ table.

In Matthew’s telling (26:14) Judas betrayed Jesus before the Last Supper. Judas was being paid pieces silver as the other disciples received pieces of bread from Jesus. But according to John (13:30) Judas was with Jesus for the breaking of the bread and received a piece from Jesus before he went out. He, too, was included among Jesus’ beloved. Surely, for imperfect disciples like us, this is a more hopeful telling.

“A piece of bread” reminds me of Japanese Christian activist, Shozo Tanaka. Tanaka Shozo (1841-1913) is widely acknowledged as Japan’s “first conservationist.” Although he was a politician, he took off his legislator’s lapel pin, struggled with the people of Yanaka village against the Ashio Copper Mine’s pollution of the Watarase and Tone Rivers, northwest of Tokyo. Many Christians, including women of the Japanese Temperance Union supported him through his years of struggle. When he passed away, people discovered that all he had in his pocket were a few stones and a Bible. No pieces of silver, just the life of Jesus in his heart, I think.

*****************************************************************

“Awakening leadership” (Isaiah 50:4-9a)

In Isaiah 50:4-6, the prophet prophesies God’s word so that the weary may be sustained. In 50:1-3 the prophet says that God was waiting for human society to turn to him. The many problems current in his time were not God’s purpose, but consequences of what human beings did. Yet, God told the prophet to prophesy that God was ready to help them. The prophetic leader was the one who listened for God’s word upon awakening each morning. However, being a prophet was a risky business. The prophetic leader had to stand in front of people who tried to humiliate prophetic work. There was no guarantee that the prophet could avoid adversity and ridicule. In this respect Isaiah’s prophetic work resembled that of Jesus.

I met a minister who came from the Philippines and has been serving in our denomination for a long time. For several years he served a Japanese-Canadian congregation. One day, when I learned that his father had been killed by Japanese soldiers during the Pacific War, I asked how he could serve Japanese Canadians. He responded that he decided to forgive, as Jesus did him. He decided to follow the example of Jesus.

However, some ministers expressed difficulty with his desire to be “Christ-like.” This minister, who had found the strength to forgive Japanese through his faith in Jesus’ example, was considered by some to be “too evangelical; not liberal like us.” When I saw how this minister’s “Christ-like” way aroused suspicion, I found  myself wondering what it means to be a church leader today.

In today’s society, many of the Christian virtues appear to be lost, or terribly distorted; like humility, peace-making, love, unity, faith, truth, hope and joy. I wonder how many congregations or ministers are struggling with conflict, discord, doubt, error, despair, sadness and darkness. Is there fear of talking about the Bible among followers of liberal theology? Do the prevailing winds of secular society – or triumphal patriotism, depending on where you live – cause members of our faith community to fear being faithful, humble, merciful, hopeful, joyous, reconciling, a seeker of truth, or an advocate of peace?

I sometimes feel an odd disconnect when I hear misgivings being voiced about church leaders who were trained outside of Canada because I have come to know how faithful they are. They have a deep passion for mission, are kind, love their community and the church, and are very hard-working, regardless of how “liberal” or “conservative” they might be on individual points of theology.

Again, how could we keep holding a peace of bread that was given by Christ, when we live, work, preach and all through our lives? Although it might be risky for us to continue prophetic work, Jesus’ life, His love, His broken body is for each and every one of us.  No exceptions.

For more information about Tanaka Shozo, click this link. You may also be interested in this book: Kenneth Strong, Ox Against the Storm: A Biography of Tanaka Shozo: Japans Conservationist Pioneer (Classic Paperbacks)

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Maki FushiiRev. Maki Fushii has been an ordained minister since 1993. She was minister of the Vancouver Japanese United Church (2004-2008) and is currently Program Coordinator for Minority Ethnic Ministry and Leadership Development in the Intercultural & Diverse Communities in Ministry Unit of the United Church of Canada General Council Office. She is member of Canadian Council of Churches Human Trafficking Study Group. Former campus minister and human rights counselor at International Christian University in Tokyo (1997-2002). She has worked closely with Asian ecumenical partners as women’s and children’s rights advocate through National Christian Council in Japan in the early 1990s.

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Holy Week Devotional: Mar 30

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 71:1-14; Isaiah 49:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36

Isaiah 49:1-7  (NLT)

The Last Supper or communion was begun by our Lord as part of the last Passover meal he experienced before he was crucified. The Passover meal reminds the Jews of how God spared their firstborn sons by the sprinkling of lambs’ blood upon their doorstep and lintel when God took the lives of all the firstborn sons in Egypt as a way of forcing Pharaoh to free the Jews from slavery. Jews eat unleavened bread at Passover in remembrance of when their ancestors fled Egypt and had no time for the bread they wanted to take with them to rise.

Jesus introduced a new Passover patterned by the original Passover. Jesus broke the unleavened bread of the Passover meal and served it to his disciples saying, “this is my body.” Then he did likewise with the wine saying, “this is my blood.” In this way, Jesus presented himself as what John the Baptist had predicted he would be, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Jesus, the Lamb and Firstborn Son of God, would rescue all who believe in him, not merely from physical death, but eternal spiritual death by dying sacrificially on the cross the following day.

But, what did Jesus have to endure to “take away” the sins, not only of the Jews, but of the whole world. This is where Isaiah 49:1-7 is so revealing. This is one of four passages referred to in Isaiah as the Songs of the Suffering Servant, all of which are considered Messianic prophecy about Jesus. If this is true, how do we feel about the words attributed to Jesus, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. . .” Could this actually be how Jesus felt as he faced his impending death on the cross? Could he have believed that he failed so miserably in what God had called him to accomplish?

Just as Jesus was tempted in every way that we are and yet was without sin, so I believe Jesus also suffered, died and went to hell in all the ways we justly deserve, yet without sin. He emotionally experienced all the horrific consequences of our Sin. And, since he died as the fully human Son of Man, he physically died without the satisfaction of seeing the fruit which would come from the completion of his mission on the cross. Only a few fearfully faithful stood at the foot of his cross when he died. All others had deserted him. No wonder the fully human Jesus pled with God in the Garden,” Please take this cup of suffering away from me,” and, just before he died on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus experienced separation from God for the first time in his earthly life and in all eternity.

It was the fully human Jesus–the Son of Man–who emotionally experienced the horror of total abandonment and alienation. However, it was the fully divine Jesus–the Son of God, with the Spirit of God within him–who, throughout this ordeal, countered his human frailty with divine faith and undying expectation. The Spirit of the Son of God enabled Jesus to respond to his heavenly Father with brave resolve at Gethsemane, “nevertheless not my will but yours be done,” and with confident surrender on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Also, in Isaiah 49 where he had just exclaimed that his work seemed so “useless,” had accomplished “nothing,” and was for “no purpose,” Jesus was then able to follow these words by saying, “Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand: I will trust God for my reward.”

I thank our heavenly Father for how deeply he identifies with what I have felt at times over the past forty years of ministry as I have sought to be used by God to help reach the vast majority of people of Japanese and other Asian ancestries who do not yet know Christ. When I have evaluated the fruit of my ministry, at times, I too have said words like those in Isaiah, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.” I haven’t seen the spiritual breakthrough I have yearned for, prayed for, and labored towards all these years even though I remained confident all along in my call to do this work. It is the heavenly Father who gives me permission through our Lord’s example to feel discouraged. God understands and identifies with our discouragement. Discouragement itself is not sin. It is how we respond to it that may be sin. Jesus taught me that I should not respond to discouragement by giving into it, but rather by giving it up to God, the only person who can fulfill any call he gives to anyone. Every call God gives is more than any person can fulfill themselves. It is only by the power of the Spirit of the Son of God within that any call is possible of fulfillment and fruitfulness.

When Jesus responded in Isaiah 49 to his discouragement by saying, “Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand: I will trust God for my reward,” the heavenly Father “honored” Jesus, gave him strength and then told him, even though he would not see it before he died on the cross, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”  We, too, may not see the fruitfulness of our faithfulness to God’s call, even before we die, but its results are certain. Countless lives of those each of us has been called to reach and serve will, in God’s timing, be transformed by Christ because we were available to be used by the Spirit of the Son of God today.

Thanks be to God!

To view other ISAAC Lenten devotionals, visit isaacblog.wordpress.com.

Stan InouyeStan Inouye is the President and Founder of Iwa, a non-denominational, faith-supported ministry which seeks to provide whatever training and resources are necessary so that more people of Japanese and other Asian ancestries will come to Christ. Stan has held national and international responsibilities with Campus Crusade for Christ, taught as an adjunct at Fuller Theological Seminary, and was the first national director of Asian American Christ Fellowship (AACF) sponsored by the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS). He has also been a long term consultant to denominations, parachurch organizations such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and Asian American churches such as Evergreen Baptist Church and Christian Layman Church. Stan has spoken widely at conferences and retreats across the United States, and published articles in Christian books, most recently Complete Evangelism Guidebook, The: Expert Advice on Reaching Others for Christ (Baker, 2006) and Asian American Christianity  Reader (ISAAC, 2009), periodicals, and the Holy Bible: Mosaic NLT (Meditations) (Tyndale, 2009). Iwa has piloted and begun distribution of the first of five highly interactive, multimedia, small group Bible study series included in Iwa’s God Man series. This first series comes in two forms, one for renewal (Meeting Jesus Again) and the other for evangelism (Meeting Jesus for the First Time). Stan has a wonderful wife, Janie, and two amazing daughters, Heather and Joelle (in heaven). Email Stan.

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