Pumpkin Muffin (2 Corinthians 12:3-4)

When my daughter was about five years old, she requested an unusual treat.


“Dad, could I have a pumpkin muffin?”


I was amused. “But sweetheart, you’ve never had a pumpkin muffin. Why do you want one?”


Without hesitation she replied, “Because I like it!”


“But you’ve never had one!”


“But I know I will like it!” she persisted.


“Ok sweetheart.” I smiled. And with that, we headed off to the bakery and surprisingly, we found a pumpkin muffin! I purchased it and we both enjoyed the treat. Yes, she did like it!


There are some things in life that we are convinced we will like, even though we have never experienced it. For myself, I know I will enjoy riding in the Goodyear blimp. I know I will enjoy seeing the aurora borealis. What about Heaven? Some non-believers and seekers deride Heaven as a boring place where we will have wings like angels, play a harp, and lounge around on clouds. It may be that but there is danger to assume something about a place that God has created for all believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  


And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

2 Corinthians 12:3-4 (ESV)


In this passage, the Apostle Paul recounts an experience in his life from fourteen years earlier. Most Bible scholars believe that Paul either died or was near death after being stoned in Lystra (Acts 14:9). Paul was taken up to Heaven and saw and heard things that were unspeakably astounding. Because of this experience, Paul knew what was awaiting him and looked forward with eager anticipation to the day when He would be in the presence of Jesus. Heaven was something so beautiful, so magnificent, that even Paul, one of the most eloquent and prolific writers of the New Testament, could not even begin to describe the experience!


In other passages from the Bible, we are given glimpses of the grandeur of Heaven. Innumerable angels and heavenly beings worshipping and singing in the presence of God. No more tears, pain, or sorrow-only joy, peace, and happiness for all eternity.


Heaven. I have never been there but I know I will like it!




Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.


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Kino Doku (Romans 6:23)

Growing up as a third generation Japanese-American, dinner conversations and family gatherings were liberally sprinkled with Japanese words and phrases. Before I formally studied Japanese in high school and college, I picked up the meaning of quite a few words. If my parents were gossiping about the neighbors, the word tonari, for neighbor, would be heard. I would strain to understand what they were saying and in so doing, would decipher the meaning of other Japanese words. However, one word that always mystified me was kino doku. From the body language and facial expressions of my parents, I surmised that it was associated with negative emotions, even annoyance.


It was only many years later that I began to understand the meaning of this word. An explanation can be found in the classic book written by Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture. Published in 1948, it was one of the first and arguably most important scholarly attempt to explain Japanese culture to the west. In the author’s own words…


Even the offer of a cigarette from a person with whom a man has previously had no ties makes him uncomfortable and the polite way for him to express thanks is to say: ‘Oh, this poisonous feeling (kino doku).’ ‘It’s easier to bear,’ a Japanese said to me, ‘if you come right out and acknowledge how bad it makes you feel. You had never thought of doing anything for him and so you are shamed by receiving the on.’ ‘Kino doku’ therefore is translated sometimes as ‘Thank you,’ i.e., for the cigarettes, sometimes as ‘I’m sorry,’ i.e., for the indebtedness, sometimes as ‘I feel like a heel,’ i.e., because you beat me to this act of generosity. It means all of these and none.


The true meaning of the word is heavily steeped in the nuances of Japanese culture. The situation is akin to a grand and unexpected favor or act of kindness that is done for us. For some, there may be an uncomfortable feeling embodying a sense of obligation to acknowledge or even repay the act of kindness. While this may begin to place this word in a western context, it still falls short. As Benedict points out, “it means all of these and none.”


With less than 1% of the 127 million Japanese population professing to be Christians, it is critical to understand Japanese culture and traditions in order to present and explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Understanding the meaning of this word, kino doku, is a critical first step.


Jesus Christ lived a sinless perfect life when He was on this earth. He died on the Cross, one of the most humiliating and painful executions ever conceived by man, to bear the burden and punishment of our sins, which we all rightly deserve. Because of His faithfulness to death, God raised Him from the dead by the power of the Resurrection. Jesus forever conquered death and restored the fellowship between man and God.


For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (ESV)


Yes, it is a debt we can never repay. Perhaps this is why the Japanese are reluctant to accept Jesus Christ. It is kino doku. But Jesus is not asking us to repay Him, no one can. He asks all of us to accept His gift of salvation and eternal life by confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.


All praise to the Living God!


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.


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Who Is Next? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Every morning I awaken to read of another high profile celebrity, politician, or industry leader who has been accused of sexual harassment and/or molestation. Who is next? Social media and modern modes of communication have facilitated the rapid reporting and dissemination of these stories, exposing events that were previously clandestine. The courageous testimonies of numerous victims, previously afraid of retribution by their perpetrators, has encouraged many others to come forward. The vetting process for their testimonies will continue but in many of the cases, the evidence has been verified.


Although one may think there is a pandemic of incidents, these tragic events have been occurring since the beginning of man’s existence. Man looks to place the blame on everything and everyone but himself. This is not a new paradigm of behavior, secondary to increasing exposure to environmental toxins or global warming or the natural consequence of our evolving selfish genes. No. There is only one explanation. We are all sinners and we live in a fallen world. By our own efforts, we will never be able to free ourselves of this morass of carnal desires. These sins can manifest as small lies or explode into sexual harassment.


The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)


The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words thousands of years ago. This sad fact rings ever more true today. Who can understand our heart? God does. He created us and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to live a life as a man. Jesus was fully man and fully God. When He lived on this earth, He experienced the same temptations we do but never sinned. He was obedient to God until His death on the Cross. And because of His obedience, God raised Him from the dead. Jesus understands our heart. All who confess and repent of their sins and place their trust Him as Lord and Savior will receive salvation and eternal life.


Who is next? I am. My heart is deceitful and sick. I desperately need a Savior who understands and loves me and can change my very nature into His image.


Only Jesus Christ can do this.


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.