Last Sunday, I went to Muikamachi to attend the worship service and the meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the church in that lovely, small town surrounded by beautiful mountains. -- I lived in that area from April 1992 through March 2009. Except the first few years and the last year, I was the only organist at the local church. I played the electronic organ there on hundreds of Sundays.--
A few months ago, I received a letter of invitation to the ceremony from the new pastor. I immediately replied that I'd like to come. Then he asked me to play the organ for their special music. We exchanged emails a few times, and decided that the members of the church were to sing "Singing I Go" in Japanese to the accompaniment of the organ in front of the guests. Looking forward to the day of the anniversary, I practiced playing the hymn at home.
Finally, it was Sunday, November 8. I woke up very early in the morning, and went to Muikamachi by train. Getting off the train, I walked to the church.
As soon as I opened the door, I saw them smiling beautifully. It had been there for the first time in six years and seven months, but it seemed as if we hadn't seen each other for only a few weeks. It was a delightful reunion.
The new pastor was kind and friendly, too. About ten minutes before the worship service started, we practiced singing the hymn once. Then, we prayed together in preparation for the service.
The sermon was based on Psalm 23.
... my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
After the service, we had lunch together. The ladies had cooked delicious curry and rice.
In the afternoon, more guests arrived. The guests included some of the former pastors, and pastors from the churches in the adjacent cities. The 50th-anniversary ceremony started at 14:00. There were three speeches, and a slide show of old photographs. We thankfully thought of the men and women who helped establish the local church, and praised the Lord. After that, we had tea with the wonderful sweet potato cake Mrs. A* had made. They also gave everyone a bag of gifts, including a jar of honey made in Mr. and Mrs. O*'s garden.
On my way home, I talked with the Rev. Mrs. I*, who sat next to me on the train. Her late husband had ministered to the church in Muikamachi before I moved to the town. When I started going to church in Muikamachi, they had moved to Tokyo. I had seen the couple several times before, but I had never really talked with Mrs. I* personally. I didn't even know her hometown was next to mine. So it was nice to get to know more about her.
This is the second last day of my 31-day blogging challenge. When I was wondering which verse I should write about today, the phrase "an everlasting love" occurred to me. I opened the Bible, and read Jeremiah 31:3.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love."
I repeated saying this powerful statement several times, and I was almost in tears.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
-- I believe this, and I love to read this convincing statement again and again.
'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty.
(Zechariah 4:6 b)
While the new church building was being constructed in the suburbs, this verse was printed on the church bulletins every week. In those days, I was a new comer, and to be honest, I wasn't very interested in the construction. I was a university student, and I was planning to move to a different city after graduation...
When the new building was finally completed, I was amazed by its beauty. It was more than six times as large as the old one. Seeing the magnificent building, I thought of the tremendous amount of time, energy, money and prayers that had been dedicated for this project.
About five months after we moved to the new building, I graduated from university, and got a job in a city hundreds of miles away. I've visited the church only once since then.
When I think of the beautiful church today, I'm reminded of Zechariah 4:6. When I read Zechariah 4:6, I think of the church with the red roof.
'--Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty.
This applies not only to a great project like constructing a large church building, but also to everything we do.
Last July, I helped organize an evangelical meeting as a member of a team. Making preparations, I was reminded of this verse several times. I was determined to rely only on the Spirit of God. Then my heart was filled with peace.
I have little 'might' and little 'power.' How can I depend on my 'might' and 'power'? --Strangely, however, I often find myself trying to rely on my own strength. I'm praying that I will learn to rely on His Spirit constantly.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs.
When I first read this verse in my native language, Japanese, I was deeply moved.
Looking it up in New International Version, however, I was a somewhat disappointed because it was a little different from the Japanese translation. My attention is attracted to the Japanese phrase, 涙の谷, which can be literally translated as 'a valley of tears,' is 'the Valley of Baca' in English. The footnote in my Japanese Bible says that the original word may also mean 'balsam trees'.
According to Blue Letter Bible, the phrase in question is translated as "the Valley of Baca" in most English versions, though in New Living Translation, American Standard Version, and Young's Literal Translation, it is translated as "the Valley of Weeping," "the valley of Weeping," and "a valley of weeping", respectively.
I've looked up an interlinear Bible, and found that the original Hebrew word 'Baca' means either 'balsam trees' and 'weeping.'
The expression in my Japanese Bible, "涙の谷 (a valley of tears)", is similar to "a valley of weeping."
I've had my share of valleys of weeping. The steepest, and the most difficult has been the valley of severe depression. Walking through that valley of weeping, I've learned to cling to God. It is comforting to trust that God makes a valley of weeping into "a place of springs." The water from the springs is refreshing. It gives me new hope and strength. It may also help encourage other people.
"As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs."
--Who are 'they'?
--They are the people whose strength is in God, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5)
My strength is in God.
As I pass through a valley of weeping, God makes it a place of springs.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, ...
(Isaiah 43: 3 a)
I hated myself. I constantly found myself saying to myself that I was good for nothing. Every night, when I went to bed, I wished I could disappear. Every morning, when I got up, I wished I had not been born. This was one of my symptoms of depression.
I thought that nobody loved me. When I was reminded of Isaiah 43:3, I cried and cried. "You are precious and honored in my sight." " I love you." In those days, it was hard for me to believe this, but despite my feelings, I chose to believe what He says. I am precious and honored in the sight of God. God does love me.
When I'm filled with negative thoughts about myself, I ask God to let me hear Him say, "I love you." --The truth that He loves me is the only reason why I'm still alive today.