Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Francis Xavier & Paul Anjiro - 1548




Japan's history with Christianity is a long one, filled with many difficult parts that we wish we could forget. Certainly many Japanese history textbooks throughout the years have sought to minimize the contributions Christianity made, as well as make it look like Hideyoshi knew all along that he would persecute the Christians. And we in the Church would probably like to forget that Christianity came to Japan on the boats of merchants and slave traders. We'd like to forget the Christian rebellion (the Shimabara Revolt) of 1637-1638, and we'd like to forget the Daimyos who, with Jesuit approval, ordered their subjects to tear down pagan temples and force mass conversions of their subjects. Most of all, we'd like to forget that the persecution of Christians was so thorough, and that so many apostasized.

Yet Christ said, "I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." So I don't think we'll benefit by forgetting. God lets these things happen for reasons we don't know, but that doesn't mean we need to be afraid of seeing them and struggling with them. Many fights hurt many people in Japan's history with Christianity, and many persecutions tried to bring Christianity to an end. But in His sovereignty, God let it happen. He even started it in motion. Why? Because He loves the Japanese people.

At the beginning He was there, moving hearts...

Francis Xavier bears the fame of being the first known Christian missionary to preach the gospel in Japan. Somewhat less well-known is Paul Anjiro (his real Japanese name may have been Yajiro), who bore the honor of being the first Japanese Christian. God was with them.

Anjiro, for certain reasons, killed a man and planned to flee on a Portugese friend of a friend's trading vessel. Yet when the time came, he set sail on the wrong ship. Yet the captain treated him kindly and told him of the hope in Christ. Likely Anjiro told him why he was running from Japan, and perhaps the captain knew that "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come." Whatever they said in private, the effect was such on Anjiro that he desired to become a Christian as soon as possible. When they reached Malacca, a vicar refused to baptize Anjiro when he found out Anjiro's wife was pagan. Discouraged, Anjiro boarded a ship to China and then one to Japan. But within sight of Japan such a fierce storm arose that the crew was forced to turn back to China. That made Paul think, and helped him remember his desire to be made new in Christ. There in China, he met his Portugese friend again, who encouraged him to return to Malacca and India to meet Father Francis.

Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the new Jesuit order, had been in India for some years and has become famouse in Catholic history for his work there. Yet from his letters we know that Francis was disappointed with things there. When visiting Malacca, he met Anjiro and something happened. A fire lit up in Francis' heart for Japan. He approached his friends with the idea of beginning a mission to Japan and was instantly bombarded with all of the impossibilities, as well as the needs in India. When his friends told him of the dangers of the mission, Xavier asked them if God's servant's should be less afraid of taking risks than merchants and traders.

Xavier said, "Were I certain of finding myself in greater perils than those already experienced, I would not give up going to Japan, so strong is the impression on my mind and so great hope do I have in God that I shall see our holy religion propogated there."

Francis Xavier was a man of his times. He believed in going first to the political leaders and winning their conversion and permission for preaching. Perhaps this caused him to hinge the Gospel on political success, which would have sad consequences for missions and converts to follow in Japan. Yet something in Xavier inspired those around him. God was in His heart, and he had an inexplicable desire to share God with everyone he met and those who didn't know Him. God sent Anjiro to the right man, the one whose heart held room for Japan. They came together at the right time, and Anjiro clung to Francis.

Paul wrote that when Francis first saw him, Francis' face lit up with great joy, and he knew that God's providence had brought them together. "Already the mere sight of Father Francis had given me satisfaction and comfort... Great was my joy at seeing him. Indeed, from the first moment that I had seen him, I was conscious of a holy emotion which inspired in my heart the desire to be in his service and never to leave him."

Anjiro was baptised and took the name Paul. Together he, Francis and two other missionaries would go to Japan in 1549 and begin the Japanese Christian church. They would see successes and failures. Paul would see his family become Christian. Xavier would journey to Kyoto on a vain attempt to convert the powerless emperor. Paul would be left at Kagoshima to care for about 150 new Christians, and would be persecuted so strongly by Buddhist priests that he would flee everything. He ended up in China with pirates, likely loaded with guilt and depressingly thinking of his moment in the Light as a dream. He would die with the pirates. Xavier would spend 27 months in Japan before leaving to pursue missions in China. He would die on the way there.

It isn't the picture-perfect ending. Many things would later happen that would seem worse. Yet God was with them and burned in their hearts. Two men were made to meet each other, and for God's reasons, they brought the Gospel to Japan, imperfect as they were. God's heart brought them to Japan. We can still hear His heart today. It's the same heart that caught Xavier and Anjiro for that brief moment in history. Never let go of that heart, because it never stops beating for you.

*****

A favorite hymn of Francis Xavier's, often attributed to him:

"O God, Thou art the object of my love,
Not for the hopes of endless joys above,
Not for the fear of endless pains below
Which those who love Thee must not undergo.
For me and such as me Thou once didst bear
The ignominious cross, the nails, the spear;
A thorny crown transpierced Thy sacred brow;
What bloody sweats from every member flow!
For me in torture Thou resign'dst Thy breath,
Nailed to the cross, and sav'dst me by Thy death.
Say, can those sufferings fail my heart to move?
What but Thyself can now deserve my love?
Such as then was and is Thy love to me,
Such is, and shall be still, my love to Thee.
Thy love, O Jesus, may I ever sing,
O God of love, kind Parent, dearest King."


(translated by Dryden)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Sources




"A History of Christianity in Japan: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant Missions" by Otis Cary, D.D. First edition 1909; Copyright in Japan, 1976, by Charles E Tuttle Company.

My good friend Matthew Shores has lent this great book to me.

Otis Cary's Dedication:

To all, of whatsoever church or nation, who with love
for the Lord Jesus Christ are trying to give His Gospel
to Japan, I dedicate this book.

Differing as we do upon so many points, it is easy for
us to see what we deem defects in one another's belief
and practice; but if He to whose pure eyes all men
must seem so imperfect "is not ashamed to call them
brethren" whom He is sanctifying, let us not withhold
the name from any that love and follow Him.

May He prosper our work so far as it is in accord with
His truth.

May He overrule our mistakes.

May His Kingdom come to Japan.

May He grant that we, whose notes have now too much
of discord, may all at last find ourselves in harmony as
we join with the ten thousand times ten thousand and
the thousands of thousands in singing:

"Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the
power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honour,
and glory, and blessing."

*****



“Japan On The Upward Trail” by William Axling. Copyright, 1923, by Missionary education Movement of the United States and Canada (New York). Once owned by the New England Baptist Library, Ford Building, Boston (Accession Date: 8-20-1950).

I picked this up (as mentioned in the introduction) at the used book section of the Osaka Christian bookstore (not Life Center) and paid 1000yen for it. It's very old, and it was a blessing from God to find it.

Gattaca


"There is no gene for the human spirit."



Vincent is a wanted man. He's not a murderer, but he is a liar. His greatest crime, though, was being born naturally. In the world of "Gattaca", wise parents leave nothing to chance.

Murphey's Law says that no matter how well you plan, if there is a 1% chance of something going wrong, it will happen. We spend most of our lives trying to avoid Murphey, don't we? Perhaps in the future we will be able to convince ourselves that we can overcome him.

Society, in Vincent's time, believed they had, and they thought the human race -- or the human genes -- would forever be better off because of it. Yet often when we humans overcome something, we tend to look down on others who haven't. Society overcame defects, but people like Vincent weren't "properly" planned. Vincent is the remainder, the leftover in an otherwise perfect calculated society. He is one of those who were unfortunate enough to be born naturally, and so his fate is already decided. He will die early and not be allowed to hold any important job. Since he is not as well-constructed as others, his dreams are literally useless. Though genetic discrimination is forbidden by law, everyone does it. After all, no one would want a genetically unstable person who might die or who might not have 100% capacity to do the necessary task.

But Vincent was born with a stubborn dream streak inside him, and he doesn't accept his destiny completely. He continues to dream, and one day his weak heart takes him further than he ever thought he could go. That little victory gives him the courage to step out into the unknown, never looking back. That's how you follow your dreams.

"Gattaca" is science fiction, but that does not mean it has aliens, spaceships, mind-boggling CGI, or even amazing gadgets and super futuristic technology. It does have beautiful macro cinematography and stunning geometric sets that would be as sterile as a Stanley Kubrick movie were it not for the limited tan color pallete, giving it instead a very classic feel. The time is set "In the not-too-distant future". The technology is not too far-fetched. People still wear suits. People still have joys, worries, and prejudices, although the latter are no longer based on appearance. If a science fiction movie has no stunning technology, great computer graphics or space aliens, why would we want to see it? If you're looking for those things, this is not your movie. Instead of the usual Sci-fi fare, it has heart. It wants to lift your spirit instead of dazzling your eyes.

Although the social discrimination of "Gattaca" poses the "What if?" question, the hypotheticals fade quickly and I am only left remembering the spirit that chased a dream. In the end I marvel not because of its hypothetical ramifications, not because of its technology, but simply because it has a heart that tells us not to be afraid of dreaming. Not to let the weaknesses we have discourage us from stepping outside.

At one point when someone discovers that Vincent was born naturally, they ask in shock: "You're a God-child?" In their society, only fools let God decide the future of their children. Yet in the end, who is the fool, Vincent or his society? Strange how society discourages us from dreaming, killing the hearts of would-be explorers before they ever learn how to set out. Ironically or not, God is not to be mistaken for the voice of society. Let's say He made Vincent perfect, flaws and all. And you & me, too. Those who know God can testify: Murphey can work both ways, and is usually not a bad thing at all.

*****

GATTACA
1997 - Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Loren Dean
Written & directed by Andrew Niccol
PG-13

"Gattaca" was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the author of the Jim Carrey film, "The Truman Show", which also told the story of a human in a "perfect" cell who dreamed of becoming an explorer, and risked his life to escape his safe, pre-charted destiny.

The name "Gattaca" is explained on this site from the IMDB.
Read Roger Ebert's review of Gattaca.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New Links


Super Good News is the blog of my friend Haroldo Camacho (who is the father of my bro Les Camacho). Jesus loves us and is very excited about us, and Haroldo is excited about telling you that and getting lost in Jesus' love & the freedom of the New Covenant.

Worldwide Church of God is a denomination focused on proclaiming the awesome goodness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have a very moving history about how they began at the outer fringes of cultic-Christianity and came to rest fully on Jesus Christ.

Jesus Otaku is going to be my second webpage (in blog format). "Otaku" means "freak" in Japanese, so roughly the page means "Jesus freak". I'm reading a few books about Japanese Christian history, and occasionally come across the stories of people like Ayako Miura. I really feel Japanese Christians, missionaries in Japan, and Christians abroad need to hear their brothers' & sisters' stories. Jesus has left some touching footprints here and has set His heart here in His children. Please pray for me as I research, read, pray and write on this page. Thanks! (And if you run across stories, please let me know so I can share them!)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Old Introduction


Old Treasures

One day I wandered into the other Christian bookstore in Osaka's northern hub, Umeda, and I was surprised to see that they were selling used books. They even had some in English. To my delight I found an 80 year-old book called "Japan on the Upward Trail" and bought it for less than ten bucks.

The book turned out to be a very, very positive review of the state of Christianity and its progress in Japan. It was written in 1923, and the next twenty years would make the author's excitement seem sadly ironic. However the book also contained some beautiful treasures -- stories of Christians in Japan's history who had sacrificed everything for Jesus. Of people like Grace Hosokawa and Joseph Neesima.

I had never heard these stories before! When missionaries come to Japan (like I did), often we don't know how God has been tilling, working, preparing and planting seeds in the soil before us! Many of us felt like we were starting from scratch. And so we did start from scratch. I think maybe that's one reason why we've met with so little "success" here.

I know every missionary has their theory of why missions are so difficult in Japan, and every theory also has a solution that if we know this then revival will come and sweep the nation. But I would like to share this humbly based on my own experience and attitudes.

Jesus is Already Here

When I came, I didn't know that Jesus had been here before me. It sound simple, but it's really important to know that God has been there ahead of you and that He will be there after you leave. We are just cogs, so to speak, pieces in the middle, the middlemen to help things along at only one point of a much larger story.

Somehow I think we often forget this whenever we go to a "new" mission field. I think we've been doing that for hundreds of years -- trying to convert heathen pagan cultures without recognizing that God had prepared them long before we ever arrived. Not only that, but they had heard His witness in some way. Jesus is "the true light that gives light to every man who comes into the world" (John 1:9).

Jesus Made the Japanese Heart

It's very simple. Jesus made the Japanese people. He is the very root of their being, even if they don't know Him. They are made for Him, by Him, and through Him. Just like you and I are. Yet when many Japanese become Christian, instead of feeling like they're "coming home", many feel like they're leaving their home culture. I think we need to recognize that Jesus is Japanese, if you know what I mean. I want to let Him shine, even within the Japanese culture, and let Him show Japanese in His way that He made them and that they are made for Him. I want them to feel like they are coming home when they come to Him.

It's my prayer that the stories I post here will help Japan discover her heritage. Even though her history is frought with cultural clashes, misunderstandings about Christianity and lots of arguments about which Christianity is right, in the Beginning, Jesus made the Japanese. In the end, Christianity will be reduced to Jesus -- who is a living and real Person. Not a set of beliefs. We come to Him, not to articles. He has been with Japan throughout her history, and He is wooing her people to Himself, as His beloved bride.

In Christ---Maker of you, me, and the Japanese,
Ramone Romero

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Yes!


Yes! I am fulfilled in Jesus!

Thank You so much, Jesus!

I am fulfilled in You. You are my fulfillment. And You fill me. Thank You for filling Your heart with me, and filling me with Your heart for me and for others. Your heart is full of them, too. I want to be full of them, too, Jesus.
I love You.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Against Such There is No Law


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such there is no law."
(Galatians 5:22-23 RSV)

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."
(Galatians 5:18)

Against such things, there is no law!
In sight of these things, the law is nothing!

Not only that "there is no law against love, joy, etc." (though this is also so
true!), but that the law collapses in sight of these things! Just like the law
could not save but the Son can! The feeble "don'ts" of the law cannot stand
up to the "do" and "love" of Jesus. The Spirit shatters the law, producing the
fruit that the law never could. Compared to the Spirit, there is no law
-- nothing!

When He shines on you in His love, joy, peace, goodness and His
faithfulness, all your ideas about what's right to do and what's not right just
simply collapse. You see that it's only Him who is right, and He alone is
worthy. In that moment you know only Him and you put aside your
efforts to try and "reach" Him or vain ideas of becoming righteous, because
glory is His alone.