Your Kingdom Come

Anna, Sun 07 January 2024, Posts

Dear friends and family,

It's been nearly seven years since I moved to Japan, and although I've only averaged a couple of (lengthy) posts a year in that time, those of you who have taken the time to read them may be surprised to hear that today, I don't know what to write. Should I write about all the non-believers that started coming to our English/Bible group, several of whom seem to be hearing louder and louder knocks on the doors of their hearts each time they talk about the God of the stories we read? Should I talk about the events April and I were able to hold in 2023, each of which involved sharing the gospel with non-believers, including some of my and April's coworkers at our Movie Night and Christmas events? Should I talk about the foreign Christians and missionary friends we met last year, a blessing from God after a couple of very lonely years, friends that have provided fellowship, fun, ministry support, and opportunities to connect our non-believing friends with more Christians? Should I talk about personal struggles that have revealed how much I dwell on hopes, fears, and daydreamed scenarios regarding my future, and the pride and self-centeredness tied up in those thoughts, and the ways God has patiently been showing me how to trust and submit to Him, how to quiet my racing mind and redirect it to prayer and His Word? Progress feels slow with this last one, but God is good, and life is long; I trust He will continue to sanctify my mind as I choose to keep trying. He continues to assure me as He did Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."

And now I know what to write, and it is in fact about hope for the future, but for so much more than just my own. Toward the beginning of His ministry, Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Jesus instructed His disciples, and us, to pray to our Father in heaven "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus saw the harassed and helpless crowds of lost sheep in need of a shepherd and said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Jesus died for those lost sheep, and rose again, and commissioned His followers to "Go and make disciples of all nations." He promised to be with them always. They went where God sent them, and the Church, the Body of Christ, grew and spread like wildfire. In his letter to Christians scattered over many areas, Peter described them in this way: "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." And in Revelation, John sees what Jesus' sacrifice means as heavenly hosts sing a new song to the Lamb, proclaiming "Worthy are You to take the scroll and to break its seals; for You were slaughtered, and You purchased people for God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You have made them into a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.” And finally John sees a picture of when this present age, the age of sin and death, passes away. He hears a voice from the throne say, “'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away'. And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new'.”

The year of the Lord's favor.

The kingdom of God.

The harvest.

The commission to make disciples.

A people for God's own possession.

A people for God from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

Dwelling with God as His people, healed from what has passed away, and with everything else made new.

Do you feel the beauty and truth of these words? These passages, these pictures, are of course powerful because they are God's Word, but there is something significant about them that I think is often overlooked: the singularity of what they portray. Rather than multiple kingdoms or peoples of God, we see instead in Scripture this 'drawing in' of disciples into the way of life of the one kingdom of God that Christ proclaimed, a grafting in of people from all different backgrounds into one people, adopted as sons and daughters of God through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And those of us who have been grafted in to this people through faith in Christ have likewise been called with the same commission to make disciples, in the same harvest of the lost, until the day God makes everything new. This applies to all Christians everywhere; April and I are simply trying to follow this commission and labor in the harvest in Japan. But over this past year, God has put something on our hearts to do in order to see the words in the Scriptures above realized here, where less than 1% of the people are God's people.

To put it simply, God has put it on our hearts to unite Christians, starting in our small city of Miyazaki, Japan, and help us work together as one to see God's kingdom come and His will be done here. I don't think I need to remind anyone how fractured, separate, and insular various divisions of the church into different sects and denominations and buildings have made us since the time of the early church. Japan is no exception despite how few Christians are here. But perhaps we could all use the reminder that when we stand before the throne and before the Lamb, it will be as one people whom He died to save. Denominations, persecutions, pet doctrines, divisions--all of that will fade away when the redeemed stand together before the King of kings. With the hope of that day before us, April and I have been working on something to present to as many churches as will accept us, currently with three ways that believers from any church here can get involved.

  1. Taking care of Christian sojourners in Miyazaki

After the Sunday-evening, bilingual Bible study led by long-time missionaries Al and Rhonda Juve ended during COVID, with Rhonda passing away from cancer and Al returning to the States, things got increasingly lonely for us. Especially April, whose job has made it harder to learn Japanese, felt a growing emptiness without fellowship she could understand. A year and a half ago, with so few people coming to our ministry and with no fellowship with other Christians who understand what it's like to live and minister in another country, we were seriously considering leaving Miyazaki. But when we met foreign Christians and missionaries last year and found out they had actually been here, in the same city, during those lonely years, we felt the need to work together with believers in Miyazaki to find a new way to connect and care for sojourning Christians here. Please pray that God would raise up people in different churches who will join together to support the lives and witness of Christians who come here from all over the world.

  1. Praying together for Miyazaki and all of Japan

A few months ago, one of our missionary friends went around to churches in Miyazaki handing out a prayer booklet. The booklet was a collaborative effort of members of many different churches in Japan, in partnership with many missionaries, and includes things that Christians all accross the country agree we should be praying about for Japan. He gave them out with the hope that "someday", Christians in this city could come together in prayer, regardless of the differences in their churches. I told him with confidence in what God can do, "Not someday, Brian. Soon." Please pray that prayer warriors from every church we talk to will feel called to join the larger Body of Christ in prayer.

  1. Leading Bible studies with non-believing family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors

The missionary team whose house church we often visit for fellowship adopts the simple DBS (Discovery Bible Study) method of reading and discussing God's Word, both with non-believers they meet and with Christians who gather at their house. One man they did a Bible study with spent nine years going to church, wanting to believe, but feeling like he shouldn't voice doubts or ask questions in church. After only a few months of reading the Bible with the missionary team, who honestly said, "We don't know" to some of his questions, he discovered one does not need to understand everything to have faith. And he discovered his Savior, and he believed and was baptized, and now he tells anyone who will listen about the Bible and his journey with God. It has reminded April and me about our time leading Bible studies in college, and how the deepest discussions and most sincere seeking came from them regardless of our lack of experience. No materials are needed to do DBS other than the Word of God, and we know from Scripture that God's Word is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Please pray that believers in the churches we visit will have the desire to learn about how they, everyday disciples of Jesus, can study the Bible with others, and that they will have the courage to do so with non-believers they know and love.

These things are what we hope to share with churches in the city. April and I thought that as long as we went to pastors of churches with members we knew (which, thanks to Al and Rhonda's ministry and our new friends, is a lot), they would be open to us sharing with their congregations. Unfortunately, hindsight's 20-20, and the first two we talked to a couple of weeks ago said "No." (April asked after the second rejection why we were so bad at this, to which I said, "Because God's power is made perfect in weakness.";) The second pastor did, however, give us the advice to go through our pastor, whom other pastors here know and trust. The pastor of our Japanese church, Pastor Hideki, has been immensely supportive of us and our ministry over the years and very much supports our dream of uniting Christians here in the work of the kingdom, so we took that good advice. We went with Pastor Hideki to talk to two more pastors last week, and both of them said "Yes" (as long as their church boards also agree). Unfortunately our pastor hasn't been able to change the minds of the two who turned us down, but prayer is powerful, and God has time. We will be going with Pastor Hideki as we talk with more pastors over the next couple of weekends. April and I will also be visiting their churches just to connect with Christians there, and hopefully sometime next month we will start sharing the vision God has put on our hearts, along with specific days and times where everyone who is interested can come together in one place. Please pray for the pastors we will meet with, the Christians in each church who are ready to do more, and us as we navigate work, our ministry, and this new thing that is honestly something we are not prepared for or gifted in, but is just simply something we know God wants us to do.

In the first passage of Scripture I quoted above, Jesus stops in a significant place. In Isaiah, it continues, "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God." The day of vengeance, of judgment, the end of this age, has not yet come. In God's patience and mercy, the year of His favor, the time for opening blind eyes and setting captives free, has continued since Jesus came until now. But it has yet to reach the whole world. Most Japanese people are still captives, walking in darkness. My prayer is that the time for the year of the Lord's favor to come to Japan is NOW. Our God is "able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine," so I am praying for 10,000 people in the small city of Miyazaki, and 10,000,000 people in Japan, to be saved in the next five years. For that to happen, Christians here, both sojourners and Japanese, will have to work together as the Body of Christ, as one people with one kingdom, a kingdom that is higher in all ways than the broken kingdoms of this earth. And Christians back home who have kindly read this far, please pray the 'impossible' with me: for Christians here to let down their walls, cast off their fears, and work together to labor in the harvest and see the salvation of their friends and neighbors; for non-believers here likewise to let down their walls, cast off their fears, confront their sin and need and confess the One who died for them as Lord, and be saved; for the year of the Lord's favor to come like a tidal wave, washing Japan in God's grace, watering the desert, bringing life to dry bones; for God's kingdom to come, and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

In Christ, Anna Faeh