Monday, August 25, 2014

The Obi


[Photo of a Japanese obi]

“Make every effort to keep the unity of
the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
—Ephesians 4:3

Usually, when we think of Japanese traditional attire for women, we think of the kimono. As early as the 5th century, these “robes” were worn by unmarried women. The T-shaped garment, traditionally, is tied together using an obi. These can be formal or informal, wide or narrow, and of many various materials, depending on the usage.

On-line research at discloses the following:

There were two reasons for the obi: firstly, to maintain the aesthetic balance of the outfit, the longer sleeves needed a wider sash to accompany them; secondly, unlike today (where they are customary only for unmarried women) married ladies also wore long-sleeved kimono in the 1770s. The use of long sleeves without leaving the underarm open would have hindered movements greatly.

A woman's obi is worn in a fancy musubi knot. There are ten ways to tie an obi, and different knots are suited to different occasions and different kimono.

There are many different types of women's obi, and the usage of them is regulated by many unwritten rules not unlike those that concern the kimono itself. Certain types of obi are used with certain types of kimono; the obi of married and unmarried women are tied in different ways. Often the obi adjusts the formality and fanciness of the whole kimono outfit: the same kimono can be worn in very different situations depending on what kind of obi is worn with it.

So, we see that the obi ties everything together with consideration for balance, beauty, and the movement of the person wearing the kimono.

What a perfect picture of unity in the body of Christ. Though we see many different manifestations of Christ’s Body, the Church, God blesses His people with the sash of peace that holds everything together in balance and beauty.

In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ has called us to peace. The Ephesians passage quoted at the beginning of this blog post goes on to say, in Ephesians 4:4:

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.

Are we married to Christ? Then our “garments” of His righteousness should be evident to all. Just as the obi of a Japanese woman speaks of her marital status, so should the peace which binds Christians together speal of our relationship with our Savior.

In this world of constant noise and strife, peace marks Christians, too. As Psalm 133:1 states:

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.

May this unity bind and beautify the body of Christ!



Monday, August 18, 2014

Doing Good


[Photo of Jesus healing a blind man]

“You know how…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
—Acts 10:37-38

Jesus showed His power wherever He went—not for personal aggrandizement, but for the good of everyone He met. We read in the gospels that He never went anywhere but what people with all kinds of problems would come to Him for help.

I find it interesting that the verse above from Acts 10 speaks of power twice. One kind is the power of the devil, and the other that of God. The devil only intends harm with his power. He only brings heartbreak and destruction—of physical, mental, and emotional health. Though we read in Scripture that he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He cannot be trusted and we should all be wary of his trickery.

In stark contrast with the devil’s activities, before Jesus left earth for His heavenly home, He told His disciples that this same power that He used in going about doing good would be theirs to use in doing even greater good. In John 14:12, Jesus said:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

He promised the power of the Holy Spirit to His followers so that they might tell others about Him and use His means to do good to others. (Acts 1:8). We have been given all we need to continue Jesus’ work in our world.

I know people who travel the world teaching the Word of God. I know people who befriend friendless people and bless their lives. I know others who constantly seek ways to build people up and supply them with encouragement.

Do you know people of faith who “go around doing good?” Do you see the power of Christ in their works and their words? This same power is available to you, and God expects you, with your unique gifts, to share His goodness with all you know for His glory.

What an awesome privilege is ours to go out each day in Christ’s name and in His power to obey His last wishes on earth! Let us pray that God will use us in this world alongside His other children to bring good to others, and to lift up His name to them.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Too Much Help


[Photo of little girls holds unripen vegetables in her arms]

“Not by works of righteousness which we have
done, but according to His mercy He saved us,
through the washing of regeneration
and renewing of the Holy Spirit…”
—Titus 3:5

How often do you run across current opinion that God will accept us if we have “lived a good life, helped others, and done our best?” Most people think that will accrue them enough favor to get them into Heaven when the time comes. They would offer the best “fruits” of a life they have lived trying to be the best they could be.

This kind of thinking reminds me of a child who goes out into the garden and picks green tomatoes thinking she is doing her mother a favor. How God must laugh at our similar offering. We have brought Him what we thought was our best. But, He lets us know through His word that all by ourselves we can’t please Him enough to win His favor. We are flawed and sinful creatures from birth. Our best gifts will never suffice to take away the filth of our sin.

Only Jesus, perfect and sent from the Father, could serve as the “propitiation”—the perfect sacrificing atonement—for our sins. Nothing we can do will ever be enough to gain us entry into God’s Kingdom. He says to us, “Please, friend, I would rather do it myself!” We have but to fall at His feet with gratitude for what He has done for us through His Son and present to Him our plea for an outpouring of His mercy, grace, and love.

This same kind of “helpfulness” on the part of the little girl sometimes also plays into Christians’ lives. We think we can serve God without His direction or without the guidance of His Spirit. We come up with grand schemes to serve Him, which He would also much rather do for Himself.

Take the story of David, for instance. In 1 Chronicles 17, we read that after David was settled in his own palace, he spoke with his friend, Nathan the prophet. He lamented that God was still “living” in a tent—the tabernacle that had been the worship place since Israel left Egypt. David wanted to build a house for God.

David drew up plans and thought he could do something for God that would significantly honor and bless God before David died. However, we read that God had other plans. David’s ideas were premature, not what God wanted at all. Here the story expresses God’s marvelous overwhelming grace to David.

God tells David that his son Solomon will build the temple, and that God has a far bigger plan for David than he ever imagined. This is what God said to him, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 17:8-10:

“Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed…I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you.”

Wow! Like our little veggie picker, God says, “You thought you had a wonderful meal for me. No, just wait awhile. I have a wonderful meal of ripe red tomatoes, perfectly grown and harvested on which you may feast. I know best the time and method to bring about what you wish. Wait on Me!”



Monday, August 4, 2014

Overflowing Blessing


[Photo of a china cup with coffee or tea running over the top]

“Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.”
—Proverbs 11:11

Does God’s blessing overflow to others like a cup overflows into the saucer? Apparently it does.

Joseph, son of Jacob, who served in Potiphar’s household, was blessed by God with favor and success in everything he did, but God also blessed Potiphar, as recorded in Genesis 39:5:

The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

In the life of Daniel, the commander of the king’s guard intended to execute the wise men of Babylon because they could not interpret the king’s dreams. Because God’s blessing rested on Daniel, and because God gave him the answer to the king’s questions, Daniel pled with the commander not to execute the wise men. Instead, as recorded in Daniel 2:24, the king put Daniel in charge of all the wise men of Babylon.

The Apostle Paul, on a ship bound for Rome, found himself in a deadly shipwreck. The crew had given up all hope of being saved. In Acts 27:24, Paul announced to them what God had told him:

“Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”

Think about times when God has graciously spared you from an automobile accident. Did He not also spare others whom you didn’t even know? Have you been the recipient of blessing because God had His good hand on a Christian employer of yours, or a public school teacher, or someone else whom God placed in a position of authority over you?

Eugene Peterson, in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, makes this statement:

Blessing has inherent in it the power to increase. It functions by sharing and delight in life. 1

When Christians live under God’s blessing, those around them enjoy the positive effects of that blessing.

Ask God today for His blessing, and watch to see how He blesses others around you, too!


1 Peterson, Eugene. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000.