“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Pastor Gavin asked if I would write a short reflection on our recent trip to Japan. Fortunately, I kept a list of God’s blessings: miso katsu, tonkotsu ramen, kaiten sushi, melon soda . . . (Wait, sorry that is the wrong list of blessings).[/vc_column_text][vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1493751128118-1500e704-46b2-4″ include=”7271,7272,7270,7269″][vc_column_text]More seriously, if I were to describe the trip I would say it was a picture of God doing far more than I expected or even asked. As Pastor Gavin has shared in previous blogs, part of the purpose of the trip was to teach two seminars (one for leaders on counseling those in the Japanese business world; and a second for workers on how to deal with stress at work). The basic hope was to introduce Gospel-centered Biblical Counseling principles to a culture that is largely devoid of such teaching. Now I wish I could say that I had total confidence in the material, but in all honestly I had many worries. I worried if things would translate well; I worried if we had spent enough time thinking through counseling in the Japanese culture (even though we spent hours upon hours doing so); I worried about what CBI would think and if this would open or close doors for further ministry. It was enough of a concern that I was wrestling spiritually going into the trip. Numerous times I asked my wife for prayer because I didn’t want to “blow it” and ruin future chances for Lighthouse to teach Gospel-centered Biblical Counseling in Japan.
Now I could talk about God’s grace in bring peace to my own heart, but let me instead offer just a few pictures of God doing far more than I could have expected.
- A picture of the church family: As the teaching portion of the trip was my responsibility I was feeling the pressure to get put together these seminars. However, because of my ignorance of design and Japanese I needed a lot of help with the notes. Though God graciously provided Hide and Yasuyo to translate, and Pastor Eufemio to work on the graphics, I felt bad because of the dozens and dozens of hours it required. But they served with such faithfulness and joy that I was reminded that we are a church family and each of us has the blessing of using our gifts to further the ministry of the gospel. Yasuyo and Eufemio didn’t even get to go, and yet they loved the Japanese people through their service.
- A picture of friendship: I was so caught up in preparing for my teachings, that I put little thought into who I would be seeing. But spending time with the Rayls, the Chas, Gary, Yoko, Yu, Kuni, Paul, Ian, the Gonzaleses, Jeremy, and the Millers (among others) was an unexpected grace. I was both encouraged by the fellowship and blessed by the faithfulness of these men and women who serve God so faithfully in Japan.
- A picture of hunger: Before we left I was told that we had less than 10 people signed up for the seminars. I can honestly say I was ok with that, but then God brought out over 50 people between the two seminars, and I marveled at God’s grace and at the hunger for hope among the Japanese people. We were told the seminars we gave were completely unique, and you could see how much the Japanese Christians want to hear how the gospel can change lives.
- A picture of the power of the gospel: I mentioned earlier that I was concerned about how the teachings would translate, but then I got glimpses of grace. One Japanese businessman came up to me after the seminar (in his suit, looking like he came straight from work), and said with tears in his eyes, “Now I have hope.” Though we had spent hours thinking through how the counseling principles would apply to the unique Japanese culture, I was reminded of how the gospel transcends culture and can bring help and hope to people anywhere.
- A picture of hope for the future: Japan is considered the second largest unreached people group in the world, and yet even on this trip I saw glimpses of what the future could hold. Unexpectedly we had unbelievers come to the evening seminar. Though it was really meant for believers God still used it to touch unbelievers. One person who invited her unsaved coworkers was worried that they might be offended because we talked about how we are all sinners, but one of them said, “I needed to hear that.” Another unbeliever came up to me at the break and said, “I don’t know anything about the Bible, but I want to know what my idols are.” I had such a good opportunity to point her to Christ. Though you can’t technically biblically counsel an unbeliever, it was neat to see the potential of using the worldview of biblical counseling to provide unique opportunities to share the gospel.
- A picture of family: I think one of the greatest blessings was my wife. When I am gone there is a cost to her. She doesn’t get to see the fruit of ministry; she doesn’t enjoy the fellowship; she isn’t thanked for her sacrifice. Despite all of this, she joyfully freed me to go on this trip. Though I know it can be tiring, she only encouraged me and never made me feel bad about being gone. Her excitement for the ministry freed me to serve wholeheartedly and with joy.
Honestly, there are so many more blessings (I really did keep a list), but I hope these few pictures help you see that we serve a God who does far more than we can ask or even think.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]