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Arise, Come Along

This is a sermon preached at a Filipino Fellowship in Noichi, Kochi Pref on Feb. 19, 2012. Hope you enjoy hearing this inspirational message. Pastor Paul Fukue

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Be Still, and Know that I am God!

\"Be Still and Know that I am God!\" Psalm 46
Pastor Paul shares his heart of faith with English speakers here in Kochi. This particular meeting is at one of the homes of Filipino friends in Tosayamada, Kochi Pref. Enjoy the message!

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English Message “The Fragrance of Christ”

The Fragrance of Christ

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When God Closes Doors

Scripture passage:  Acts 16:6-10

 When my wife and I first moved to Manila to teach there, we had a hard time to learn our ways around the city.  Every time we went out by car, we got lost.  One time we were in the heart of Manila and we were completely lost.  We found ourselves in a huge open market in the evening surrounded by hundreds of people and vehicles.  We couldn’t either move forward or backward.  We had no idea where in the world we were.  We quickly learned, derecho, kanan, kaliwa, meaning straight, right and left.  But three words didn’t take us very far.  We went into the twentieth gasoline station to ask the way.  The road we wanted to get on was called Ortigas Avenue.  I asked the man at the gasoline station desperately, “Could you tell me where is Ortigas Avenue?”  The man said, “Ortigas Avenue?  This is Ortigas Avenue right here!” pointing at the street we were already on.  I felt something dropped from my shoulder.  I almost worshipped the Lord right there. 

  Come to think of it, our life is a series of trying to find which way we ought to go.  And we sometimes face hard decisions in life that have impact on the rest of our lives.  Today I would like to look at the Scripture and learn what is the scriptural truth about life’s decision makings. 

  This little passage in the 16th chapter of the Book of Acts gives us a vital council as we seek God’s will for our lives.  The apostle Paul and his companions are on their second mission journey in Asia Minor, modern Turkey.  They have been visiting churches in different towns which they had founded on their first mission journey.  They were trying to encourage the believers and strengthen them in their faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul and his team were also hoping to explore new places to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ.   They wanted to go deeper into the province of Asia Minor but the Scripture says, they were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.”  This expression seemed strange to me for sometime.  How could the Holy Spirit prevent them from preaching the good news of Jesus Christ?  I thought God would always encourage Christians to preach the gospel under any circumstances.  But as we continue to read this passage, we discover a similar expression.  When Paul and his team wanted to go to another province called Bithynia, the Scripture says, “but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”  Again this appeared strange to me.  Why would the Spirit of Jesus not allow Christian workers to go into a new area to bring the good news of salvation?  After all, did not the resurrected Jesus say to the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation”?  Why would the Spirit of Jesus then do something contrary to what He said to his disciples?  This was a puzzle to me.

  But as we continue reading this passage, we find something quite extraordinary.  Not being able to go into the provinces they desired, Paul and his companions went down to the coastal town of Troas and stayed there for a while.  While they were staying there, Paul saw a dream one night.  In that dream a man from Macedonia was standing and begging him saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After pondering on this dream, Paul felt that it was the voice from the Lord.  And they decided to get on the boat and cross the sea over to Greece where Macedonia is to preach the gospel there.  Over this passage, one commentator says, “Authentic turning points in history are not many.  But surely among them this Macedonian vision ranks the highest.  Because of Paul’s obedience to the vision, the gospel was extended to the westward and ultimately to Europe and later the entire Western world was evangelized.”  This indeed was a turning point in world history.  But little did Paul know then how much impact his decision had upon the world history. 

  Looking at this passage, we learn that God not only opens doors, but He also closes doors sometimes.  Jesus said, “Knock, and it will be opened.”  But we need to learn that the Spirit of Jesus sometimes closed doors in our life.  More concretely speaking, we sometimes encounter such circumstances in life that we cannot go on as before.  External circumstances prohibit us to go on in the same way.  Pressure of circumstances forces us to change the direction of our life.  We need to learn that God not only opens doors but also closes the doors.  This is what we find in this passage.  But that is not all.  Paul was thinking that it was his mission to evangelize Asia Minor all the time.  He was devoting his whole attention and energy in Asia Minor.  But after months of searching the will of God, he finally came to realize that what God had in mind was radically larger than what he was thinking.  Paul had to expand his entire frame of mind.  He realized that God wanted him to cross over to Greece, a totally new territory for his ministry.  Herein we see a truth that when God closes doors, He has a special plan for us.  When God closes doors upon our life, He has a definite purpose for our future.  God  wants to lead us to a totally new sphere of ministry, a new quality of life, a radically new beginning in our life.  That is the reason for God to close  doors in our life sometimes. 

  Just as a shepherd leads his flock of sheep by preventing them from going toward certain areas in order to guide them to a pasture to provide them fresh green grass and a spring of fresh water, the Holy Spirit was leading Paul and his companions in their mission journey.  The Psalmist says in the 23rd  Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul.”  God knows what he is doing with his children.  His promise in the Scripture is an eternal truth.  God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  This is the plans God has for you and me.  Therefore when God closes doors, He has special plans for us, plans to give you hope and a future. 

  As a matter of fact, the Bible is full of illustrations that testify to this truth from the beginning to the end.  Think of the life of Moses in the Book of Exodus. The young Moses one day saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.  Moses wanted to defend the Hebrew and out of his youthful anger, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in sand.  The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting.  Out of his youthful indignation again Moses questioned one of them, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”  The man said, “Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”  Moses got scared hearing this.  He thought nobody knew about it.  But soon even the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, learned about that incident and tried to kill Moses.  Now Moses had no place to stay in the entire country of Egypt.  He only wanted to protect and stand by Hebrews, his own people.  But all the doors were closed before him and Moses had no choice but flee to outside the country in the land called Midian.  All the doors were closed upon this vigorous young man Moses.  He had to live hidden in the land of Midian for many years until God spoke to him to save His people from the burden of Egypt.  God in fact had been preparing Moses all those years to be the leader who could lead His people out of Egypt into the promise land of Cannan.  Moses had no idea of such an enormous task when he fled Egypt as a fugitive.   But God had a special plan for Moses, a grand plan that affected the lives of so many people for many centuries even to this day.  There was a divine purpose when God closed the doors upon Moses in Egypt.  When God closes doors, He has special plans.

  Let us look at another illustration in the Bible.  Going back all the way to the last Book of the Bible, the Revelation, we see there again such a testimony.  We are told that the writer of the Revelation is the apostle John exiled to a small island called Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor.  He was persecuted and exiled to this isolated island.  He was deprived of his freedom, his comfort, his fellowship, his family, his all.  All the doors were closed upon him.  But there on that isolated lonely island, John received the revelation of hope from the living Christ, revelation that has impacted the whole world these two thousand years and will continue to do so as long as the world exists.  When all the doors were closed upon him, the most earth shaking revelation was given to him that impacted the whole world for eternity.  John would have never dreamed of such a thing when he was persecuted and exiled to this island.  But in all things God works for good to those who love Him, and called according to His purposes.  When God closes doors, he has special plans stored for our hope and a future.

   And if that is the case, we should not get discouraged or disappointed when doors seem closed upon us.  We should not be short tempered and get upset nor give up just because things do not work as we wish.  Rather we should be alert and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our circumstances.  We should always say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.”  We should be sensitive to the voice of God.

  Oswald Chambers, a great spiritual man of God, has this to say.  “Has the voice of God come to you directly?  If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate persistence with which it has spoken to you in the language you know best, not through your ears, but through your circumstances.”  We are sometimes so determined to serve God in a particular way that we become deaf to what God is trying to speak to us.  He may have to radically change our circumstances in order to direct us to a larger world.  So let us not be discouraged when doors seem to close upon us.  God has a far greater plans than you can ever dream.  His plans are to give you hope and a future.  So when God closes doors, He has special plans for you.  So let us be sensitive to His voice.

  When I finished seminary education in the U.S., my wife and I returned to Japan.  I had hoped that some church would take me in as an associate pastor so that I could learn how to evangelize in Japan.  I communicated with district superintendent and expressed my desire to serve in some church in Japan.  I was ready to go anywhere in Japan if some church called us.  We waited patiently at my parents home for several months.  But there was no response and no church accepted us.  I was getting rather restless having no church to serve.  My relatives began to say, “Doesn’t the Bible say, if a man will not work, he shall not eat?”  I began to feel uncomfortable staying at my parents home.  Then one day I became sick and was taken to a hospital by an ambulance.  I got paralyzed and me feet and hands were as cold as ice.  It was unbearably painful.  I could not move my body at all.  I felt like I was in hell.  In my agony I cried to God, “Am I going to die now?  Why did you save me and prepare me to preach the gospel in seminary for such a long time?  Did you bring me home only to die?”

  The next day my paralysis was softened but it took me months to recover for the illness.  Doctors could not tell me what was really the cause of my illness.  I had no strength to get up and do something.  All I could was to read books.  I happened to read a small book written by a Japanese pastor who pioneered a church in Kyoto.  I got absorbed in reading this book.  And one night as I was reading the Bible, one passage from the Book of Hagai caught my special attention.  Hagai 1:7,8 said, “This is what the Lord Almighty says; ‘Give careful thought to your ways.  Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord.”  God spoke to me through this scripture, “Build the house of the Lord here in your hometown.”  I pondered on the thought for several days and weeks.  But the thought of building the house of the Lord in my hometown grew larger and larger in my mind and heart.  Until finally I concluded that God spoke to me to pioneer a church in my hometown right here in Kochi City and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And strangely from around that time I began to regain strength to get up and move.  From then on my wife and I began our pioneer work among our families and friends and neighbors.  Years later, I realized that God had to close down in order for me to learn that God wanted to evangelize my hometown and save my own people.  All the time I was thinking to serve the Lord in some other place than my hometown.  In order to radically change my plans, God closed all the doors until I finally learned what God wanted me to do.

  Friends, our God is a God of love and hope.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not become short tempered when things don’t work as you desire.  Do not get disappointed when doors seem to close upon you.  But just remember, when God closes doors on you, He has special plans for you.  So be alert and sensitive to the voice of God through circumstances.   And say always, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.”

 Let us pray:

  Dear Lord, your name is called ‘Wonder.’  What you do with our life is full of wonder.  May we learn to be so sensitive to your leading that we can hear you voice saying, “This is the way: walk in it.”  May we learn to say, “Speak, Lord,” every day, every moment of our lives.  This we pray in Jesus name.            Amen.

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Grace-given Constancy

Joshua 3:9-17

The crossing of the Jordan River was the first step of faith for the young new leader, Joshua, the priests and the whole people of Israel. If they fail in this endeavor, their many years of hardship in the wilderness becomes futile, their hopes for entering the promise land will be shattered. This was something they had to do, something they could not avoid to make their life meaningful. Continue Reading »

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