Friday, November 30, 2012

In times like these, it helps to remember there have always been times like these. Paul Harvey

In 2004 my husband and I were blessed with a trip to visit our son in Japan for Christmas and New Years Eve.  He was teaching English as a second language in a small town south of Tokyo.  Above is a picture of some ladies collecting for charity.  I’m not sure what organization they represent, maybe Salvation Army.  Their outfits may be similar to outfits worn by the Salvation Army in the 40’s here in the United States.  Today, in our country, we usually see a Santa or someone dressed in a casual manor as a bell ringer.

As we traveled by train, bus, and car, I was amazed to see all of the Christmas decorations and holiday activity in Tokyo and the other big towns we visited.  The spirit was of shopping and materialism just like it is in the United States.  There was no mention of God being born as a baby in Bethlehem until we went to our son’s small protestant church he attended.  There we were enveloped with warmth of our people—Christians.  A missionary offered to translate the sermon for us so we could know a little bit about what was said.  We were greeted with many smiles and given a gift bag of cookies after church.  God’s people everywhere have a completely different focus than secular people.  This was like coming home.

On New Years Eve in our son’s small town the people built a bonfire and set up serving areas for hot bean soup and hot sake in the town’s evenly raked dirt square between the two Shinto shrines.   We were introduced to the important people in the town like the principal of the school.  I always enjoy doing something special on New Years Eve so this was a highlight for me.  We even stayed up past midnight.  The other English as a second language teacher in our son’s town asked if we would like to make a wish in the big or little shrine.  We declined. 

I began thinking about the difference between secular and Christian people.  God wanted His people—Israel –to be separate so He instituted the laws in the Old Testament to keep His people isolated.  But today God has given us a New Covenant because of Jesus Christ. I don’t know if I have a clear picture, but then, as I understand, in the New Testament God rescinded the dietary laws as symbolic that the disciples should go to the gentiles and teach them the Good News. Constant study of the Bible reveals to us a little more if we keep studying and don't give up. Through cross-references that we look up in the Bible we can understand more and grow closer to God. I do cling to my Bible until Jesus comes back and we can sit at His feet!
But our country is increasingly hostile toward Christians.  When I look at the first amendment to our Constitution (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances,) I see that the political correctness of this generation has squashed the free expression of our faith.  We can’t set up anything in public that will remind people of God or Jesus.  It is fine for Muslims to publicly pray or anything else they want to do, such as putting in foot baths at the University of Michigan using tax payer dollars for them.  If a Christian wants to set up a Nativity display, the Ten Commandments, the cross, sing Christmas Carols or any other reminder of Jesus or God it is challenged with a lawsuit or the threat of one. 

I think God is allowing all of this so that the Christians will study our Bibles, know what we believe, become strong in our faith, and be separate.  Maybe we can’t pray in school publicly anymore, but as long as there are tests there will be prayer in school!

Homeless in Tokyo live in neat tarps along the river.

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