Wake & Funeral Information for Kazama-san’s Wife

As many of you know, Kazama-san’s wife returned to be with the Lord last Saturday (3/5). There will be a wake for her tonight (3/9) at 18:00 and  a funeral tomorrow (3/10) at 10:00 at Ceremony Sayamagaoka Hall near Sayamagaoka Station (one station past Kotesashi Station on the way to Hanno). Use the East Exit and look for the large building next to the station. If you wish to attend, no gift is needed. The church will be giving a gift. Please keep Kazama-san and his family in prayer.

Daily Bible Reading – January 8

JANUARY 8 — Genesis 8; Matthew 8; Ezra 8; Acts 8

OUR VISION IS MYOPIC AND OUR understanding patchy. We rarely “read” really well the events going on around us. Consider the immediate aftermath of the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1-5). “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem” (8:1). That situation probably was not very comfortable for the believers undergoing it. Nevertheless:

(1) “[A]nd all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (8:1). Doubtless it was easier to hide twelve men than the thousands of people who now constituted the church. Moreover, to keep the Twelve at Jerusalem was to keep them at the center, and therefore to maintain some oversight of the rapid developments.

(2) “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (8:4). This signaled far more rapid extension of the Gospel than if the apostles had all gone out on missions while the rest of the church stayed home. Here was a force of thousands and thousands, most of them simply “gossiping the Gospel,” others highly gifted evangelists, disseminated by persecution.

(3) “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there” (8:5). Often in the book of Acts, Luke makes a general statement and then gives a concrete example of it. For example, in 4:32-36, Luke tells how believers regularly sold property and put the proceeds into the common pot for the relief of the poor. He then tells the story of one particular man, Joseph, nicknamed Barnabas by the apostles, who did just that. This simultaneously provides a concrete example of the general trend Luke had just described, and introduces Barnabas (who will be a major player later on), who in turn provides a foil for Ananias and Sapphira, who lie about the proceeds of their own sale (Acts 5). Thus the account is carried forward. So also here in Acts 8: Luke describes the scattering of believers, observing that they “preached the word wherever they went,” and then relates one particular account, that of Philip. He was one of the seven men appointed to the nascent “diaconate” (Acts 6); now he becomes a strategic evangelist in bring- ing the Gospel across one of the first social-cultural hurdles: from Jews to Samaritans.

(4) “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (8:2-3). The contrast is stunning. Saul thinks he is doing God’s work; in reality, the really godly mourn for and bury the first Christian martyr. Yet in God’s peculiar providence, this Saul will become one of the greatest cross-cultural missionaries of all time and the human author of about one-quarter of the New Testament.

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 2 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 2. Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.

Daily Bible Reading – January 7

JANUARY 7 — Genesis 7; Matthew 7; Ezra 7; Acts 7

EZRA 7 RECOUNTS THE MISSION OF Ezra in the postexilic community in Jerusalem and Judah. Obviously it was part of imperial policy that if exiled groups were permitted to return to their homeland, they should be supported by their priests. From the perspective of pagan superstition, the rulers would not want any of the regional gods angry with them (7:23); from the perspective of the covenant community, this was formidable evidence that the good hand of God was upon them, that he was able to rule the affairs of the mightiest empires so as to preserve his own people.

The nature of Ezra’s task could easily be taken as a model of the privileges and responsibilities of all whose duty it is to teach the Word of God to the people of God: “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (7:10).

(1) Ezra devoted himself to the study of the Law. There is no long-range effective teaching of the Bible that is not accompanied by long hours of ongoing study of the Bible. Effectiveness in teaching the Bible is purchased at the price of much study, some of it lonely, all of it tiring. If you are not a student of the Word, you are not called to be a teacher of the Word.

(2) Ezra devoted himself to the observance of the Law. For some people, study is an end in itself, or perhaps a means to the end of teaching. But even though the subject matter is Scripture, for these people there is no personal commitment to living under its precepts—to ordering their marriage, their finances, their talk, their priorities, their values, by the Word of God. They do not constantly ask how the assumptions of their age and culture, assumptions that all of us pick up unawares, are challenged by Scripture. The study of Scripture, for such people, is an excellent intellectual discipline, but not a persistent call to worship; the Bible is to be mastered like a textbook, but it does not call the people of God to tremble; its truths are to be cherished, but it does not mediate the presence of God. Ezra avoided all these traps and devoted himself to observing what Scripture says.

(3) Ezra devoted himself to the teaching of the Law. He was not a hermit- scholar; he was a pastor-scholar. What he learned in study and obedience he also learned how to pass on. Whether in large, solemn assemblies, in family or clan settings, or in one-on-one studies, Ezra committed himself to teaching the Word of God to the people of God. It is difficult to imagine a higher calling.

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 2 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 2. Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.