Jesus On Trial

I know that I have read John chapter 5 many times, but it wasn’t until the last few weeks that I realized how important it is.  Oh, we know about John 3 because it contains probably the favorite verse of Christendom and the incredible interaction that Jesus has with Nicodemus, a questioning Jewish leader.  We also know about John 4 because of the classic encounter that Jesus has with the Samaritan woman at the well.  But we are probably not so familiar with John 5.

Why is that the case? Maybe it is because all we focus on is the narrative parts of the Gospels.  Maybe the kind of discourse Jesus gives is pretty overwhelming, hard to understand or even rather technical.  Maybe we just want to get from the healing of an invalid to the feeding of the 5000 in chapter 6 that we have not taken time to discover the rich truth of John 5.  But, I want to encourage you to look there and study what John reveals to us, giving us evidence that will lead to our belief which will, in turn, lead to our abundant life (John 20:30-31).

A Healing

John Chapter 5 is an account of Jesus’ deliberate provocation through the healing of an invalid man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath.  The Jews, or as I like to call them, the Sabbath Police (the religious leadership) are offended that the once healed man is walking around town carrying his mat.  The fact that he is healed doesn’t seem to catch their attention, but the fact that he is violating their Sabbath regulations does.  It is quite a sad picture, isn’t it, but this story is much more than a lesson on “how to bring glory to God by breaking the distorted Jewish Sabbath rules!”  It is, however, a deliberate action by Jesus to enter into a conversation with the Sabbath Police regarding the fact that He is equal with God and therefore, He is God.  Now I say conversation, not because we have record of the Sabbath Police’s words with Jesus, but only because they were speaking questions in their hearts that Jesus already knew about.  Here is how John records it…

1But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

A Trial

So, Jesus is now on trial.  He is being accused of claiming equality with God as well as responsible for inciting another to break Sabbath, and both were blasphemy to the Sabbath Police.  What happens next is a beautiful picture of Christ’s humility coupled with His authority.  He takes time to defend His claim to be equal with God by giving the following evidence.  First, he wants his hearers to understand that His equality with God is rooted in the fact that He is united together in His actions (i.e. creation), love (an intimate phileo relationship) and responsibility as a giver of life and a judge of the world.  Jesus is not saying that He is equal with the father as if He is another god somehow competing with the father.  No, He is saying that He is intimately united and that unity is the source of His Equality.  Second, Jesus stresses that those two responsibilities, giving spiritual life and judging in the resurrection can only be accomplished if He is equal with God.

21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

In other words, if you deny that I am equal with the Father then you are denying the Father and you not only dishonor Me but you also dishonor the Father whom you call God.

Witnesses

Now, what happens next is truly amazing.  Jesus is on trial and in a typical trial there are many elements:  An accusation, a defense, witnesses, accusers and a verdict given either by a presiding judge or a jury.  So, in true trial fashion Jesus, the accused, give his defense (5:17-30), but he also recognizes that His testimony is inadmissible alone in a Jewish court of law.  In order for it to have any bearing there must be some corroborating testimony to His claim to be equal with God.

So, He first appeals to the testimony of John the Baptist whom the Sabbath Police initially embraced as a true prophet.  In fact they were drawn to him and rejoiced at the fact that after 400 years God was, once again, speaking through a prophet.  But over time, when they actually listened to his message, they turned away from him, but not before hearing him say about Jesus…

34 …I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:34 (ESV)

Next, Jesus appeals to the testimony of His Works, which can best be understood as the signs that Jesus was doing throughout Jerusalem, Samaria and the region of Galilee.  Although John’s gospel specifies seven signs, the reality is that each miracle pointed to Jesus as being God and having qualities and power that only God could have.

Finally, Jesus appeals to the testimony of Scripture, emphasizing that

39 …it is they (the Scriptures) that bear witness about me.

This, of course reminds me of the words that Jesus shared with the two confused and discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus who having listened to Jesus said…

32 …“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32 

Confrontation

So, with three separate and weighty witnesses giving their testimony Jesus corroborates His personal claim.  But, He is not done talking.  Unlike our western trails, in the Jewish context the one accused has an opportunity to say something to and about those who are the accusers.  So, Jesus takes the opportunity to confront them in three areas:  Their ignorance due to their inability to understand the Scriptures; their emptiness due to the lack of the love of God in their hearts; and, their unbelief because they are not willing to accept the evidence clearly presented, but are willing to embrace false messiahs if they will scratch their backs and elevate them.

Verdict

That was a scathing confrontation, but Jesus isn’t done.  Although He is the one being accused His humility continues to be demonstrated as He recuses His right to be the Judge in this trial.  Instead He establishes that Moses, one of their hero’s, the one through whom their beloved Law was written would be their judge and weight the evidence in the favor of Jesus.

There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

The accusation has been made, a defense has been given, three witnesses have been heard, the accusers have been fairly confronted and the verdict is in…

Jesus is, in fact, equal with God.  He is God!

Now, the point that John’s Gospel is making is that we are the jury.  We have the opportunity to look at the evidence and consider if it warrants belief in the Gospel.  If we do, and we believe, John promises that we will have everlasting life and we will have it abundantly. (John 20:30-31)

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A Gospel-Centered Quinceanera

For all of you un-Latinofied people out there it is not called a Quesadilla but a Quinceanera.  It’s not cheesy and there are no chimichanga’s involved (what is a chimichanga anyway?) although at the reception we did have loads and loads of Fajita’s, and they were good!

When my family moved from Michigan to California my children further discovered their Latin roots and culture as my wife is a second generation Mexican and our extended family is enormous.  We don’t go out for Mexican any more.  We have it regularly at home and especially when the family gets together for a BBQ (Carne Asada), for Thanksgiving (Chumpe) for Christmas (Tamales) and New Year’s (Menudo – Yikes!).

Now apart from great food, one of the wonderful cultural influences that we have come to love is the Quinceanera celebration which is a “coming of age” birthday celebration for a young lady on fifteenth birthday.  I could say that it is simply a birthday on steroids, but you might get the idea that what I am talking about is bigger and better dunk tanks, inflatables, giant hamburgers and the like. But that isn’t what I want to convey.

Let’s just say that a Quinceanera is a birthday party of sorts but the emphasis of the celebration is a much more purposeful time to rejoice with her, to challenge her and to encourage her about the life she has to live beyond that birthday.

Now, I am a pastor and the reality is that ‘most’ Qunceanera’s are written and formatted from a Catholic perspective, so I was forced to create a Gospel-Centered Quinceanera for my two daughters taking the elements traditionally included in the Quinceanera and bringing God’s Word and His Gospel to bear.

What follows is the ceremony that I developed for any of you who may be in my shoes wanting to honor their daughter’s with a Quinceanera, or their own “coming of age” ceremony, from a Christ-Centered perspective.  Please feel free to use and adapt as you see fit.  It worked exceptionally well for us and if it can help you I am more than happy to share it.

Now, there is some preliminary stuff to consider.

  1. Selection of Dama’s – I find it best to describe a Quinceanera as a wedding without the groom (may it never change!)  So, my daughter selected eight of her close friends to be her “Dama’s”, much like bridesmaids in a wedding.
  2. Officiator – Although I am a Pastor and, therefore, it was natural for me to preside over the ceremony.  I would like to encourage every Dad to consider an opportunity here.  I can’t think about a much better way for a Father to honor his daughters.  If you just don’t feel comfortable then ask your Pastor, maybe the Youth Pastor or someone who knows your daughter well enough, rather than a stranger.  This is too intimate a ceremony for pure formality.
  3. We did have two special numbers sung from two friends, another friend play the piano for the prelude, as well as a DVD slide-show of my daughter’s life and some Scripture Reading.
  4. We included a time for “Encouragements” where those in attendance were given opportunity to say some words, Scripture or some memories.
  5. We also selected two of the Dama’s to share something specific and to encourage our daughter to live her life for God’s glory, etc.
  6. My wife and I presented our daughter with a ‘purity ring’ praising for her purity and encouraging her to keep herself pure for the man whom God would bring her way in marriage.
  7. Grandma & Grandpa presented her with a Bible emphasizing the need to keep God’s Word central.

Below is the core of my Charge to my daughter.  Of course, there was much more meat on the bones of this outline and you will come  up with your own stories and explain God’s Word as you see fit and appropriate for the occasion.

The Message

I Remember…

  • Your Birth – It is etched in my memory as one of the hardest times in my life…I got a phone call at the church that Mom was in excruciating pain and that the EMT’s were on their way…I arrived home to find her in the care of the Fire Dept. but still in great pain…as I followed the ambulance to the hospital all I could think about was the real possibility of losing you or mom in the whole ordeal.  The doctors at the hospital couldn’t determine why Mom was in so much pain and your heart rate was increasing, so although you were 7 weeks early, they recommended an emergency C-section.  You were born and mom was safe, but for the next two weeks you were under special care, and mom and I would spend hours just holding your hand and rubbing your tummy…
  • When we finally took you home – I told you mom, “She looks like a Rubber Chicken” – so scrawny, with long legs…
  • You would eat like a Rabbit – And we wouldn’t let you leave the table until you finished a tiny portion of food…
  • Your three pointer against “Head Royce” – and all your excitement at the fact that you made a basket.
  • Etc

Challenge:

The Quinceanera is a “coming of age” ceremony that emphasizes the transition from girl to womanhood.  Its purpose is to emphasize the following realities in your life…

1     The Centrality of God in Your Life

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

  • That verse sounds like the cultural message of our society saying, “follow your heart”, but that isn’t what God is saying here.
  • God hasn’t promised to give you the desires of your heart.  What he promises is that when you delight in Him that you will be changed and conformed to His will and ways so that in turn your desires will be conformed to His desires.
  • What that means is that His desires will then be evident within you and that your desires will be a reflection of His desires in you.  They will be your delight just as much as God is.

 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1–3 (ESV)

2     The Importance of Family

  • You are stuck with Family and Family is Stuck with you!  The ties of “Flesh & Blood” are strong and that’s a good thing – in good times and bad.
  • Look around at your family.  They are here in support of you.  Many have labored hard to make this day possible and they want the best for you.
  • Family is always a resource that you can turn to.  So be sure to love, serve and honor your family.  The instruction from God’s Word to “Honor your parents so that it will go well with you” doesn’t end with becoming a Young Woman.  No, it is a life-long commitment.

3     The Embracing of Adulthood Responsibility

  •  With age and maturity comes greater responsibility, a responsibility that is generated out of initiative.
  • Responsibility means that you “want to” because it is “right”, not because you are being “told to”.  It is taking ownership of your place and role in the family, in the church, with your peers and in your community.

4     The Selflessness of Service in your Community & Church

  • Your place in the church is to use your God given gifts for His Glory.  Find your place, use your gifts:  your voice, piano playing, encouraging personality, writing ability, your energy.
  • Your place in your community is to shine the light of the Gospel by living a life consistent with God’s Word and then doing Good Works as a testimony to His Name.
  • Note:  I found this a great place to share the Gospel in the ceremony and to give a rational as to why living for God’s Glory as a faithful child of God is so important for the believer and for a young woman.

5     Establishing Friendships that will help you do all these things…

  • Friendships are important to growth and character.  You must choose your friends wisely as well as seek to be a Godly friend to others, to influence them toward Christ-likeness and the principles you are embracing and affirming today.
  • Note:  I referred back to Psalm 1:1 and to the reality that bad choices in friends is a quick entry point for failure in the principles already mentioned.

When I think of all of these qualities my mind goes to a Biblical example…

Ruth – She was Loyal to God, to her Family.  She took on Responsibility by caring for her Mother in Law, working tirelessly and both selflessly & humbly pursuing the good of the family through the line of Boaz.

  • God honored her for her selfless loyalty to her family and to her responsibilities even when most others would have walked away.
  • Becoming a Young Woman is a time to dig deep and be strong.  It is a time to take on hard challenges and to do all those things knowing the power and presence of God in your life.
  • I want to leave you with one passage of Scripture that encompasses all of these essential qualities.  It is familiar, but that is because it is so rich.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV)

I wish you could see how beautiful you look today.  God has truly blessed you and Mom and I with your beauty.  I am thankful for that.  But please understand, the beauty that lasts is the kind of beauty that comes from the inside out.  It is a beauty of Character.  Of putting God first, honoring family, taking on responsibility and serving others.  These are all activities that come out of a heart of Character.

May God give you strength, wisdom and discernment as you seek to live your life for His glory from this day on.

Note: I hope that this can be a help to others who want to think through ways of encouraging their daughters to live for God’s glory!

Dutch Indonesian Blitz

Recently I sat down to learn about the mother of one of my parishoners as I have been asked to officiate at her funeral.  I already knew that she was Dutch Indonesian like my uncle, something that I really hadn’t researched before, but what I didn’t ralize until he told me is that she and her parents had spent time in a prison camp under that Japanese conquest of Indonesia during the second World War.

That got me thinking.  I really don’t know much about WW2 beyond the events that related either directly to the US forces or the British Military.  That, of course, is understandable as one usually views such history from the perspective of the nation that is teaching it.  So I did a quick Google search and came across this article, Traces of war: Dutch and Indonesian survivors, in which three men give their testimonies about struggle, abuse, endurance, horror, anger and revenge.  In these articles the survivors are very candid about their experiences, yet there is much for us to learn about the nature of man, both in the abuse received at the hands of the Japanese as well as all the emotions that the survivors share were taking place and still take place in their hearts.

Below is the first of the three interviews followed by a few reflective comments of my ownd…

“During the Dutch period, my father was a forester on an enormous estate of some 25 by 30 miles. There were seven of us, and I was the sixth child. From age seven on, I lived with my grandfather. He was a nose, throat and ear specialist in Yogya. That’s why I could attend the Javanese school there. We didn’t use the Latin alphabet but Javanese script instead. The school had a three-year program. This is about as far as people belonging to the lower classes would get. You could only continue your education if you were descended from the kraton (the court of the sultan). So I went back to my parents and I assisted my father in his capacity as forester. Then the war started.

In June 1942, a Japanese soldier by the name of Kawakubu came to our village and asked my father if there were any people who could work, for wages, of course. My father then gave him my name. They first assigned me to help build a tunnel at Parangtritis, south of Yogya, on the coast. We didn’t get paid at all, however, and they told my father they’d kill him if he’d come to fetch me. Sure, the Japanese told us repeatedly: ‘We’ve come to free you from colonial oppression.’ But meanwhile they forced us to work for them!

We left from Gunung Kidul for Parangtritis with about 500 people. My estimate is that about 300 survived. It’s hard to be precise, for people were not buried but simply tossed into the sea. Some eight months later they shipped us out by the hundreds, including about 100 people belonging to the Gunung Kidul group. It turned out that they had taken us to Digul (in Irian Jaya, a former Dutch penal colony in what was then New Guinea) to cut trees for building a road and a prison. Compared to this place, Parangtritis had been pleasant. There at least we got a piece of cassava the size of my fist, and we could fetch water from a small mountain lake. In Digul, however, we were left to our own devices and so we had to forage for ourselves. For food, you had to look in the jungle. We ate leaves, and any snake you’d find was good for roasting.

That lasted for three months. They promised they’d give us a present if we did really well. So I started to work extra hard. But I got nothing. And nobody got anything. We dared not make any demands, either, for fear of being killed. Many of us died there, including a lot of my friends. Especially because of hunger, but also because of bad treatment.

I already said: there were about 100 of us from Gunung Kidul who went to Digul. When we left three months later, there were 75 of us left. I was not exactly in good shape anymore, and that was true for most of us. Many of them were ill, but I wasn’t. We were just skin and bones and we’d lost all strength. At first it took just four of us to drag a tree trunk, but toward the end it easily took 12 men to do so.

Finally, they told us we could go home. Everybody was elated. ‘Things are already going fine with your country,’ they told us. My parents received a batik cloth of the brand Becak, which I was alleged to have sent them, but I knew nothing about it. But about halfway, in the middle of the ocean, we began to ask ourselves: ‘Where on earth are they taking us this time?’ There was no land to be seen anywhere. The voyage took a month. Sometimes it was quite scary, with high waves, and several times the boat couldn’t continue because of engine failure. We finally arrived and got off the ship and that’s when we panicked: Where on earth were we? This wasn’t Indonesia, but then what country was it? This was certainly the case when we met people we couldn’t understand. After one week, I found out that we were in Burma. That’s what other romushas told us. And we asked them: ‘Where then is Burma?’ Well, they didn’t know, either.

In Burma, life for a romusha was terrible. But compared to Digul it was better. I was fortunate to have a Syrian for my supervisor. He didn’t beat people, wasn’t cruel. However, there were Japanese there, too, and if we did anything wrong, they’d beat us up vigorously with their rubber truncheons. That was no joke. If you got beaten with that truncheon it would remove your skin when bouncing back, and that caused a lot of pain.

This is where I had to dig away dirt and stones for laying the track. Once I was smothered by an avalanche of earth. We were digging a tunnel when, all of a sudden, the walls caved in and I was buried. People were lying on top of me and underneath me. I was, therefore, not directly covered with earth and still had a bit of room to breathe. There had been quite a lot of us, maybe 50 or so, and only about seven survived. After two days and two nights, they dug me out, using a bulldozer. ‘I’m still alive, I’m still alive!’ I cried. But all those lying on top of me were dead. I immediately lost consciousness after this and I didn’t come to until a week later.

Whenever we’d come back from work to our barracks, I’d lie and think: How will I ever get home again? And where is home? I do not even know how to get there. Also, what am I going to eat? It was pure torture. There wasn’t anybody without edema: We were all swollen, but not because of our good health. When you pressed into our skin, little marks would remain. It was all moisture. Everybody was suffering hair loss, and later I heard that it had to do with malnutrition. Well, what do you expect, considering the food we got. What one man eats today, we had to share with the five of us.

During the day, while working, my thoughts went in all directions. I especially thought of my parents and my family. Would they still be alive, or had the Japanese maybe killed them already? And did the Japanese actually still rule Indonesia? It made it all more difficult. We often talked about our families, too. That made us quite emotional, and we cried. I really didn’t have any hope left that I’d ever get free. Whether or not I’d stay alive or be murdered was something I left up to God.

I had a friend called Selam, who came from the same village I did. He was so without any hope at all that he simply gave up one day and died. Eleven of us had left my village of Parangtritis as a romusha. Four were either beaten or kicked to death. One of them died in Digul, and then Selam died in Burma.

The five of us were very sad when he died. Whether we wept openly or not, we all wept in our hearts. We didn’t know either if or where he’d been buried, at sea or on land. He’d been wrapped in a cloth and the Japanese had taken him away in a truck. Following his death, the bond between the five of us only grew stronger. If you die here, then for all intents and purposes I will die here, too, that’s what the mood among us was. We’re all in this together. We tried to cheer up one another, especially by telling stories: Old Javanese histories and myths. One of us could tell stories from the Ramayana well, another about the history of the ancient kingdom of Demak (the first Islamic kingdom in 16th century Indonesia).

I think every one of us had something special, a force that helped us to survive. One of us got tied up by the Japanese one day and kept under water for over five hours. His head, too. But yet he survived! How, I couldn’t tell, that I do not know. But after that the mandurs (foremen) were afraid of him. There were five principles we clung to: honesty, obedience to Japanese rules, not being selfish, to conquer hunger with patience, and the belief that the five of us would return as one alive to our families. This came about after Selam’s death.

We spent exactly one year in Burma. One of my friends kept track by putting little stripes on his arm. We couldn’t bathe, so the stripes remained visible. One day, our Syrian foreman let it slip that we’d be going home in two weeks. He said: ‘Don’t tell the other mandurs I told you. But when you will all be back in your own country, then please let me know what has become of you.’

I didn’t quite trust this news, thinking: for all we know we’ll be killed now. However, after a month on board the boat, sometimes with high waves again, we arrived in Surabaya. From there, the five of us went back to Gunung Kidul. We tried to hitch a ride with trucks, but since we looked like a bunch of beggars or vagabonds nobody stopped. In the end, we began to walk: it took us 21 days.

When I arrived, everybody cried. They thought I’d been dead long since. I certainly looked quite different, because of the edema. During the first month, my family treated me a bit like a retiree, as it were. I was not allowed to work and they fed me very well.

The five of us, meanwhile, could think of nothing but revenge. We wanted to find that Kawakubu, the Japanese soldier who had enticed us to come along with his false pretenses, and we wanted to make him pay. However, just then Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX of Yogya decreed that people could not take justice into their own hands. Vengeance was forbidden. And the sultan possessed certain powers. He could be in more places than one at the same time, for example. And if he should get angry with you and wish you dead, then you’d die, just like that and all at once. We feared him and so we abandoned our notions of revenge.

Because of all these experiences a person changes, naturally. Before I left, I had experienced nothing, let alone such a bitter experience as this. That changes the way you think entirely. I tend to think a lot more about things nowadays. I’ve learned to control myself. Anger only makes things worse. Through self-control you are actually able to prevent a situation from getting worse, from ever getting as bad as it was then.

I still dream a lot about those days, especially about the work we did: dragging stones, that sort of thing. And about that voyage across the sea. Those high waves. That results in a nightmare once in a while, and then I find myself screaming out loud. Whenever that happens, my wife has to wake me up. Then she says: ‘Better have something to drink first, and then tell me what that dream was all about.’ My gosh, to think that after 50 years I’m still dreaming about that!

I still think about it a lot and I often talk about it with my children and grandchildren. At first they could not believe I had experienced such cruelty. They simply could not comprehend it. They couldn’t until they had read books from the library.

I tell them these things so that they will treat other people well, not oppress or hurt them. Yes, and that includes the Japanese as well. Especially by reading Javanese books, I came to the realization that those dark emotions are no good. We are all brothers. Hostility among people only makes us weaker. And in the end, all that evil has still resulted in something good where Indonesia is concerned: our independence. Without it, we would never have become independent.”

As you can imagine reading such accounts makes me feel like my life has been relatively free of suffering, injustice, and heart-wrenching tragedy.  In fact, I feel somewhat guilty for the ease 0f life that I have experienced that is truly a gift of grace, or maybe it is simply a reminder that I am soft and could never endure such hardships.  Still, there are three ways that this article impacted me:  As a member of humanity, as a follower of Christ and as a Shepherd of God’s people.

  • As I contemplate humanity I know that extreme and continual suffering has been something I have only read about, seen pictures of and watched either in re-creation through the medium of film or real-life YouTube footage.  The truth is I can only empathize, but experiential knowledge is far from me.  Sure, I can tell you of times in my life (primarily youth) when I was picked on, ostracized or had a switchblade pressed against my chest, but it just doesn’t compare.  The reality is that there are hundreds and thousands, if not more, who have and presently are experiencing the kind of suffering and abuse that I cannot even imagine.  There is also true evil in the heart of oppressors who begin to see their prisoners as nothing more than animals to be used to accomplish their own ends of building roads, tunnels, structures and the like, and to push them to the point of death.  It is hard to comprehend.  It is shameful, but it is the result of sin that is rampant in mankind who doesn’t know God.
  • As a follower of Christ I read this account with horror, but also with an open heart to the reality of suffering that non-believers have also had to endure throughout history and in our contemporary context.  We talk much of the persecution of the church, and we should, but we must also remember that suffering is experienced by all and our compassion should be directed to those who don’t know the Lord just as much as to those who do.  We naturally want to hear about the endurance of believers and the ways in which Christ gave them strength to endure such hardships – and He does and has.  Still, there is a resilience that is compelling from these testimonies of those who don’t know Christ.  I am compelled to consider how they processed their suffering, the places in their hearts that the suffering took them and the methods or resolve that they established simply to help them day by day, hour by hour.  Here is the covenant that the five men established:

“There were five principles we clung to: honesty, obedience to Japanese rules, not being selfish, to conquer hunger with patience, and the belief that the five of us would return as one alive to our families.”

  • As a Shepherd of God’s people I am reminded that I need to be very careful to not judge a person by what I see before me, especially those who are older and have lived long lives.  Just like my life has been full of experiences, so those under my care may have had past lives that they just don’t talk about, but are full of struggle, endurance, affliction, abuse and heart wrenching tragedy.  I am reminded that I have a lot to learn about people, to be willing to listen to their counsel as well as realize that they may have much more to offer than I can even comprehend.

I have been the recipient of God’s goodness and grace.  Yet, He never promises that His grace will be free from struggle, abuse and great trial.  In fact, some of the greatest ways He grows us is through difficult trial.  I have to remember that His grace is always good, each and every day.