Friday, September 24, 2010

Father, Forgive Them

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. Luke 23:34
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

September 11, 2001, will exist in the hearts and minds of our nation as a day of momentous, catastrophic tragedy that we experienced on American soil. May we pay tribute to those that lost their lives on this unforgettable, historic day and to the loved ones left behind. There is however, another day in history we would like to make mention of, December 7, 1941. 
Early the morning, of December 7, 1941, the roar of engines echoed in the ears of Mitsuo Fuchida of the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force. As a child, he had always dreamed of becoming a “mighty samurai warrior.” Though Japan no longer had professional samurai soldiers, his dream of becoming a hero would soon unfold. At the age of 21, he graduated from the  military academy as Japan’s top pilot. The country of Japan was on it’s way to ruling most of the Asian Empire except for one giant enemy, America.
The mission that morning on December 7, was to surprise and destroy the United States’ Pacific Fleet on the sleepy islands of Hawaii. While looking through binoculars, Mitsuo Fuchida and 179  fighter planes behind him, saw the magnificent American ships docked at Pearl Harbor. At 7:49 AM, Mitsuo Fuchida cried, “Tora, Tora, Tora!” into his microphone.  The Japanese warriors began to attack the mighty fleet of American ships and in less than two hours over 3,077 American Navy personnel lost their lives or were missing and 150 planes were destroyed. Out of the eight battleships docked at Pearl Harbor, only three were able to be repaired. What great victory Japan saw that day but the sleeping giant would awaken and take revenge. 
In the next four years, Mitsuo Fuchida would have two narrow escapes. While in the North Pacific Ocean, he had emergency surgery for appendicitis.  The doctor ordered him to stay in the hospital and rest but being the warrior he was, he did not obey the doctor and walked out of the ship’s hospital to the top deck. To his dismay, the Battle of Midway was unfolding and just when he thought they would win the battle a new round of enemy planes closed in. Within seconds, the enemy planes blew a hole in the side of the ship and all that were in the hospital lost their lives from the blast. 
On August 5, 1945,  a few years later, Mitsuo would leave the city of Hiroshima for another military base attending a week long military conference. Several hours after his departure, America dropped the atomic bomb on this great city sparing his life again. When the war was over and Japan was defeated, Mitsuo was devastated.  Bitterness and hatred had filled his heart and this great warrior had no recourse but to take up farming to make a living.
One day while Mituso was walking through a noisy train station, an American missionary handed him a tract that read, “I Was a Prisoner of Japan.” This pamphlet told of an American named Jake DeShazer, who in revenge of what had happened at Pearl Harbor, had participated in an attack on the city of Tokyo. He was captured in battle and put into a Japanese prisoner of war camp where he was brutally mistreated. He began to hate everything and everyone Japanese until one day, after two years of captivity, he was given a Bible. How had Jake gone from hating the Japanese to coming to Japan as a missionary? As Jake read the Bible he realized that Jesus Christ was his only hope and accepted Him as his personal Savior. To Mitsuo Fuchida, Jesus was a Western god but because of Jake’s story he wanted to know more. 
A few days later at the train station a Japanese man was handing out books. He was overtaken by the words of this man when he cried, “Get your Bible, --food for the soul!”  Mitsuo reached out and took a Bible. The words of our Lord struck his heart when he read, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  He realized that Jesus had died so he could be forgiven and on that day he became a new person in Christ. Mitsuo had become friends with the Japanese man at the train station and he encouraged him to give his testimony at a faith rally they were having.
Mitsuo consented to give his testimony that night at the rally and five hundred Japanese people accepted Christ as their personal Savior. He continued to share what God had done for him but still something was missing. He needed to have peace and that would come when he visited the man named Jake DeShazer. He certainly was a little fearful to enter his home and tell him who he was, the one that lead the attack on Pearl Harbor. With open arms and a forgiving heart, Jake DeShazer welcomed Mitsuo Fuchida into his home. Once bitter enemies, now embracing each other as brothers in Christ’s love.
Thought: Mituso Fushida would give anything to erase the memory of his past in leading the  attack of the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force against the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor but he cannot. His battle now is to fight against to great giants, hatred and bitterness and help others to fight against these enemies too. Are you fighting against forgiving someone for what they have done to you? Are you bitter and hateful against them? Forgive, my friend, that’s what Jesus would do and what He commands us to do as we love them with His love. Forgive them, as He has forgiven you.
Story found in Glimpses for Kids.

Friday, September 17, 2010

God's Reproof

Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:  I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

Wisdom is crying in the streets and she calls for the simple, the foolish, and  scoffers to stop, take heed, and listen. Proverbs 1:20-22 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
 She tells them that if they will fear the Lord and be mindful of counsel, they will not be destroyed when destruction like a whirlwind comes upon them. How long will they seek simplicity, the foolish things of this world, and mock the knowledge of God? Do they not know, can they not see, that this is God speaking to them?
There are three types of people, in the streets of the city, that Wisdom is crying out to. The simple, those sinners that are fond of their simple notions of good and evil yet, their reasoning is against God. They are intolerant to the ways of God and express admiration for themselves in their wickedness. Scoffers, are proud, but jovial people, that pleasure themselves in ridiculing the things of God and the people of God. They find it amusing to tear down everything sacred and serious to the point of mockery and sarcasm. The last person in the street which Wisdom is crying out to, is the fool. The worst of the three are the “foolish” for they despise to be taught the fear of the Lord and are adverse to those that are godly. They will not hear reproof or counsel and hate the knowledge of God.
Thought: What lies ahead for those that mock God and resist the reproof and counsel of the Lord? Will their lives be filled with adversity and tribulation? The answer is made evident in Scripture, they will suffer distress, pain, agony, torment, heartache, heartbreak, misery, sorrow, grief, unhappiness, desolation, despair and anguish.  Then, God will laugh at their calamity and they will be forced to eat the fruit of their own ways and be filled with their own insidious schemes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Love of God

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:35,37-39

The Love of God
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
words by 
Frederick Martin Lehman
When I think of my own life and my desperate need of love I recall in my mind the day of my salvation. My life was filled with sin and I was in fear of self-destruction and ruin. My last hope was to go to church and see if there be any possibility of escape from this path of destruction. As I entered the building, I felt strangely welcomed, almost as if they knew me, but they didn’t. 
I listened intently to the pastor of the church as he began to unfold before the congregation my life, my sin, my despair, or so it seemed. How did he know what my life was like? How could he have guessed my great despair? Who told him of my sin? All of these questions overwhelmed my mind, as I sat with my heart broken, in my sin, in need of a Savior. The invitation was given to receive Christ but I held fast to the pew, restraining the drawing of the Holy Spirit of God.
Then, an overpowering love conquered all my fears, and a hand touched my shoulder. I turned to see who was summoning me.  A voice behind me said, “Don’t leave without Christ.” Immediately, I excused myself from the middle of the pew and walked to the front of the church. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the moment I stepped out of my place, I was saying, “Yes,” to Christ. What an outpouring of love and joy filled my heart that day as I had never in my life experienced before. 
Could this be the beginning of the greatest love affair ever to be proclaimed? What   had happened to me, that this immense love had overtaken me? Could it be that I had been visited by the True and Living God and had been set free from the bondage and oppression of sin?  Oh, yes, His great love had filled my soul and through His immense sacrifice, cleansed every sin and stain. True repentance had taken place that glorious day and this poor sinner had undoubtably been, “Born again.”

Thought: Could man ever write with proficiency the depth and magnitude of God’s great love and then bestow upon Him, His due reward? What boundless, matchless, love He has showered upon us. This love so exceptional and vast that He left the splendor of Heaven to suffer and die for us. A love so limitless He gave all, all He, Himself could give, His own life’s blood. A love so perfect and incomparable, that it has surpassed any expectation in His magnificent power, to love sinners. How could we not love Him, He, who in His great love for us, spared nothing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

From Prison to His Presence

1 Corinthians 6:20
 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
1 Corinthians 7:23
 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

A young woman named Perpetua stood firm in her faith in the year AD 203 in Carthage, North Africa. Because she kept a diary, we know much about her. This short account is based on her diary. (Kids of Courage)
Perpetua and Felicitas, the servant to Perpetua, boldly faced death rather than deny Christ. All they had to do to get out of prison was to offer a small sacrifice of incense to the pagan gods. Just a pinch of incense to honor the emperor Septimus and they would walk free. Perpetua’s father insisted that something this small should be easy for her to do. Why was she being so stubborn?
"Father,” she said, “Do you see this pitcher?" She asked as she pointed to the water pitcher on the table. "I see it," he replied. "Can it become a dog?" "Of course not!" he exclaimed, looking at her as if being arrested had scrambled her brains. "It is a pitcher!" "You're right. It cannot become something it is not, and it is ridiculous for someone to call it something else. So, Father, she said, “ I am a Christian and cannot be called anything other than what I am. A Christian." Once again, her convictions just didn't make sense to him and he left the prison confused and in despair.
Pepetua was willing to give up everything, even her life to stand for Christ. As she sank down to the hard stone floor, deep anguish pierced her heart. She asked her self, “How could I cause so much pain to my dear father? I only wanted to love and serve the Lord from a pure heart.” The Roman official, Hilarion, was viewing her case, as her father returned to the prison begging her to abandon her Christian beliefs. "If you won't do it for me, then consider your infant son! Surely you don't intend to leave him behind for the sake of this new god you have found."
Finally, the sentence was handed down. Perpetua and Felicitas were condemned to the arena where wild beasts were set in place to kill and destroy. They would be called upon to give their lives for Jesus, just as He had given His life for them. They knew He would strengthen them for what they must do.
The other Christians were also sentenced to death and in their final days together, they prayed, sang and encouraged one another. They rejoiced knowing that their struggle would soon be over and they would be together in the presence of the Savior!

When the believers entered the arena, their faces reflected great joy! They had finally begun their journey from the dark prison walls of death and doom to the light of God's presence.
A mad cow was set loose in the arena upon Perpetua and Felicitas. Perpetua was thrown to the ground first and then the cow charged toward Felicitas. Though her gown was torn, Perpetua was not hurt. She covered herself with her torn garment and pinned her hair back up as it seemed she wanted to look her best to meet her Savior. The two friends embraced, awaiting the end.
The cries from the crowd began to increase and demanded to see their death. As Perpetua looked into the eyes of the gladiator who was to take her life, his hands trembled so badly he could barely hold his sword. Perpetua reached out and slowly guided the sword for him. As she whispered the name of our Savior, she left this world and entered into the everlasting presence of God.
Thought: Would you be willing to give your all? Is all you have, all you cherish and all you dream about, more important than Christ? Would giving your all for Him bring despair to your heart and mind or would the anticipation of being in His presence bring unspeakable joy? It is hard to place yourself in this situation because there are no arenas with wild animals to devour Christians but, there is a world that wants to bring shame and reproach upon the name of Christ. So, Christian, will you stand for Christ no matter the cost?  Will you stand for the One who gave His all, despite the cost, with the thought of you on His mind?