The Kingdom of God

Last night, I went to sleep thinking about why I need God. Is He really necessary for everyday life?

About eight months ago, I started working for a company where I am the only Christian. (Well, a few of the Japanese staff went to a Lutheran high school, but are not Christians. So, I guess they know a little about my religion, but not much.) It’s my first time to have close relationships with non-Christians, and at first, I didn’t really know how to act. Just be normal is what I settled on. So, I “gambare-ed” and my co-workers accepted me, and of course they tease me, but they don’t poke unnecessary fun at me.

At any rate, I could see how they live their lives without any outside help, and occasionally I think about why I need God. What’s so different about my life with God in it, than theirs without?

And I can’t answer it. I don’t know! I don’t see that my coworkers can really see how God has changed my life, given me abundant life, except that I go to church on Sundays! Well, I try to be nice and have the Fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22), but my coworkers also have very good qualities. How am I different?

Today in church, Yoji-sensei talked about the kingdom of God, and something similar to what I have been thinking about. Luke 17:20-21: “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, `The kingdom of God does not come with careful observation, nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the kingdom of God is within you.`”

God’s life is within me, so I am shining for the glory of God. (I love being able to understand the Japanese worship songs!)

Why do I feel like I have to do something so the people will see that I am different? Why is there something wrong with simply letting my relationship with God take it’s course, and see what comes out of it? Why do I always have to be doing something?

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What Did Adam Say On The First Christmas?

I don’t think I ever fully woke up yesterday.Saturday and Sunday were super busy, and long days. Monday was a normal day, but it’s always long. But I couldn’t rest on Tuesday! Washington staff had planned three Christmas parties on this day, two children’s parties (split because the room wasn’t big enough for both at once) and an adult party. I left home at 8:30, and got back home at 9:20.

Actually, these parties were a lot of fun, and I enjoyed myself. But because I was so tired, it was hard to be so genki.

The children’s party: The room looked really beautiful! It was a traditional Japanese tatami room, and the ceiling’s lights were really pretty ^^ There was a small stage at one end, so we decorated it with Christmas decorations, and I organized a white board with large Christmas vocabulary words, and I was really impressed with the final product. Sometimes, I have gone to such Christmas parties and wanted to be a part of them, because they looked really good, and this year I got to. Satisfying. So, there was a finger play time, led by yours truly and Yuka Saruwatari,  and another teacher read The Gingerbread Man. Then we had two crafts: we provided gingerbread man cookies, and the kids got to decorate one: I tried to buy cookies off some kids.. three hundred yen for a cookie is a good deal! I even offered my bus card to two students, but they wouldn’t take it. Oh, if only they had know that I still had about 2800 yen on the card! But it was a lot of fun, and actually two students would have given me the cookie, but I said, “I think you should enjoy the cookie, but thank you!”
The other craft was decorating a Christmas picture frame.
Then we went back to the stage, the kids sang the phonics song they have been learning in class, and we sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas!” and Santa came! Oh my gosh! I can’t believe Santa came! But I think the kids figured out pretty quickly that it was a teacher, Kevin! ^^ Then the kids left, and got a present from Santa. I got to be Santa’s helper! One of them, anyway. Each student brought a present, they were collected at the beginning, and sacked (put into sacks). Then Mikiko and I handed them to Santa to give to the students. The End.

Except, once more please! The second children’s party was the exact same. Except a teacher didn’t read The Gingerbread Man, three sisters, Aoi, Haruka and Natsumi, who had spent 2 years in Montana and had fluent English read the book. Oh, Aoi-chan is so cute! Simply adorable, I’m so happy she’s my student~

Then we went to a restuarant called “Buenos Aires” to have the adult’s party. tabehodai and nomihodai commenced! (all you can eat and drink, respectively: taberu is to eat and nomiru is to drink). Two games, a word puzzle and Christmas Taboo (I love Taboo!). I was so tired at this party, though! I’m surprised I lasted the whole day. Santa of course had come and given presents to each student (which the students had brought, we had mixed up, put into bags and Will, Kevin and I went to each student at their table bringing the “Christmas cheer”, helped by Kyoko, Yuka and Mayu). One of the two guys at my table (everyone else at my table was an airline student) gave me his present from Santa, which was a Hello Kitty “mira- and co-mu” (mirror and comb!). Immediately I decided to regift this for one of my students. Hello Kitty is not high on my list of “wanted items”. But thanks for the thought.

Also at this party was a “lottery”, where names were drawn to win prizes, the grand prize being a flight to Osaka or Tokyo (they could chose where to go)! Round trip, for two people, I believe. Surprise! There were two grand prizes! Oh my! Surprise again! THREE! Wow! Then us teachers and Washington staff went to the front for the end-of-year-speeches. Also we sang a song. We sang the same song we sang at the childrens party, which was a song from my favourite TV show when I was little (Sharon, Lois, and Brahm, or The Elephant Show). Yes, we sang “Skinnimarink” for adults. I was kind of embarrassed, but they enjoyed it. “Kawaiii!” (cute!) Then Mr. T. got everyone to stand up and sing along! Well, they just did the actions, I don’t thnk many caught the words. Finally, we took a picture. Everyone crowded up the the front, we held up a WIL sign, and I almost died from the body heat! As we teachers were lined up saying goodbye to the students, the guy who had given me his present said, “Jennifer!” (except it sounded more like, “je-knee-faaa!” and gave me a hug. Yes, too much to drink. Can you say awkward? But thanks to Kevin, he also got a hug (instigated by Kevin). Sometimes I don’t like being the only femail teacher at WIL.

Then Mr. T. treated us employees to the leftovers! (Actually, there was food provided for us upstairs, so we didn’t just get leftovers!) We went around the tables and finished what the students didn’t eat. It was cold, though really delicious. I would love to go back to that restaurant.

Finally, I arrived at home, took a bath (I love Lush’s Bath Bombs! Wow!), watched a movie and went to sleep. Now, I’m going to make cookies.

More Than Conquerors!

Romans 8:28-39:

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[a] who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[c] 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[d] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither 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.

It’s great to actually read these words. The great meaning behind them! I am blown away!

When I read the last phrase, “…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” I see God’s entire plan for humankind. God, the ALMIGHTY God of the universe, wrapped in layers upon layers of glory and majesty, who has the right to destroy us all to bits for the sins we’ve committed, who created the universe with a word, and saw that it was good, who created man and saw that we were “very good”, the only creation to get a “very”, wow, what an AWESOME God, no, there is NONE like Him.

And He LOVES us. We’ve done NOTHING to deserve this. There’s a song by Casting Crowns, “Who Am I?” and in it, they sing, “Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done; Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are”. Such truth! It’s so beautiful. He humbled himself to the position of servant, died on the cross and broke the chains of death. Why? So we could have life, and live forever in His presence, worshipping all that He is. Oh, I am so excited for heaven ^_^

And NOTHING can separate us from this love. Nothing. When you read “nothing” read “nothing”. Nothing. Not myself, not anyone else, not any worldly idol, even if my heart is worshipping it, and not the Rightful God. He will still love me, and welcome me back to glory and love. (Except, I need to be careful to not blasheme the Holy Spirit, as Jesus warned us.)

Wow. I am again blown away by the LOVE of God. Oh, how wide, and long, and high and deep! Hallelujah and Amen!

weekend adventures

Man, I love my friends at church~ they are so giving and selfless!

After work on Saturday, my friend, Julie dropped by and took me to a short Christmas concert… so beautiful~ and then she mentioned she had some things she wondered if I wanted. (When I first came to Kumamoto, they really helped me a lot with lots of little things for my apartment! Chuck and Julie are amazing~)

So, by the time I came home, I possessed electric beaters (yay!) and some speakers, among other little things. It’s kind of funny, because a couple days ago, I went into Best Denki (a really big electronics store) looking at speakers. Then I get some free ones. Nice.

So on the Saturday I went to prison, I also worked an hour later than usual, went to a Christmas concert, and my friend’s house. I didn’t get home until 11 PM, which made the day really long.

So it was nice to get home.

And then Sunday comes. Church was great as usual, Yoji asked the people who went to the prison for the first time to share their testimony, which was me, Andre, Ken and Junko. I was last and happened to share (see previous post) about what Yoji was going to talk about in the sermon (although what I got out of the sermon wasn’t really the same as what I shared about).

After church we had some delicious stew for lunch (any one have any good meal ideas for after church? Each cell prepares the meal after church, about once every two months. The last time the English cell did it (which was also the first time ^^) we made meat sauce spaghetti!) and had some good fellowship. I sat beside Kyoko sensei and her 3 year old daughter, Yume-chan. Yume is so adorable! During the meal, suddenly I felt something gently pressing my side. What on earth–? I turn to look only to find that it’s Yume’s head against my side. A really gentle head-butt. She did it three times, and I thought it was soo hilarious (still do, actually, I’ll be laughing about that all week ^_^)!!! I was laughing so hard, people were laughing at me laughing ^^; it’s been a long time since I laughed like that. (I miss you, Dana~)

Then went to the Minami YMCA for a children’s Christmas service. It was fun; the kids are adorable! And we did another sign dance, sang “Angels We Have Heard On High” (I think it was that one… “Glooooooooria! In excelcis Deo!”), went back to church to plan for the special service and Christmas service next week. So I didn’t get home until 6 PM.

Whoa, long weekend.
I can’t wait for New Year’s Holidays (December 27 to January 4).

Prison

On Saturday, my church, along with a group from the YMCA hosted a Christmas worship service at a local prison. Thanks to God, I could get the time off Saturday morning and go. A group of about 15 people prepared a sign dance to a song, “More than Wonderful”, by Sandi Patty (of course, it was translated into Japanese) for the prisoners (there were also some more songs prepared, a service, some Christmas carols, and prayer in the service, prepared by my church and the YMCA group).

It was my first time to go to a prison. And this prison was for people from all over Japan who had committed more serious crimes. I was told what to expect: some really unhappy faces, same clothes, same hair, but some people will sing along, and look interested, because Yoji, the pastor, had gone there about 120 times this year, and could talk with some prisoners about Jesus’ great love for them. (Sometimes Yoji reads letters in church from the prisoners; it’s a great ministry. God is doing something great in this prison.)

I don’t think I’ve ever really given prisoners (any prisoner) a chance in my mind before, because I was really struck by how much God really loves those men in the prison. My entire life since coming to Japan has been mostly with fellow Christians, at school my friends were Christian, and church was my only constant extra-curricular activity until I went to a Christian college. ^^

My life has been surrounded by Christianity! Finally, I am getting a chance to meet non-Christians. I am meeting and loving people who do not have the same hope and joy that I have! No wonder they are so unhappy! God has been my joy since I was a little child, and I can’t imagine living without that peace and love. Thanks to God that He has given me His grace all my life! Wow…

How can I show that love to my friends (Christian and non-Christian)?

The Starting Point

The 10 commandments. The most important being, as Jesus said, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. The second being, love your neighbour as yourself. All the law and prophets hang on these two commands. It’s been noted that if you keep these commandments, then every other law will be kept. If you love your fellow men, you won’t covet what they have. If you love God, you won’t give His glory to anything else.

The Question: Do I really love God?

The Terrible Answer: Not these days.

Recently, I listened to a sermon about “God on the Throne” from Walk in the Word (a really great resource for my spiritual journey – James MacDonald is really passionate about God!), where MacDonald talked about God’s throne in heaven: what it looks like, and how we should relate to it, using Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1 as references. Wow.

The only appropriate response is to fall as quickly to the ground as possible. How can I stand up under so much glory and holiness? It’s beyond words can describe.

And I’ve forgotten the absolute, ultimate majesty of God! I’ve been walking around with my head up high, the greatest thing since sliced bread. How dare I have such pride?

Put God first. He not only demands it, He deserves it.

I’ve been reading “True Spiritualily” by Francis A. Schaeffer, and the first chapter was about The Law and the Law of Love: a strong reminder for my inward life to be set upon the right priorities, then my outward life can show the true grace of God. Put my heart before God, face-to-floor, where I belong.

Life~

140 Life Experiences

Level 1
( ) I had an asthma attack
( ) Smoked A Cigarette
(x) Smoked A Cigar
( ) Tried Weed
(x) Drank Alcohol
(x) Been In Love
( ) Been Dumped
(x) Been Fired
(x) Been In A Fist Fight
( ) Snuck Out Of A Parent’s House

total so far: 4

Level 2
(x)Ever Had Feelings For Someone Who Didn’t Have Them Back
( ) Been Arrested/Seen Someone You Know Get Arrested
( ) Made Out With A Stranger
(x) Gone Out On A Blind Date
(x) Had A Crush On An Older Person (haha, on William Lane Craig even.. gosh, I’m such a nerd!)
(x) Skipped School
( ) Slept With A Co-worker
(x) Seen Something Die

total so far: 9

Level 3
(x) Been On A Plane
( ) Thrown Up From Drinking
(x) Eaten Sushi
(x) Been Snowboarding
( ) Met Someone you met on Myspace
(x) Been Mosh Pitting
(x)Taken Pain Killers
(x) Love(d)or Lust(d) Someone Who You Can’t Have
( ) Been in a bad relationship

total so far: 15

Level 4
(x) Laid On Your Back And Watched Cloud Shapes Go By
(x) Made A Snow Angel
(x) Had A Tea Party
(x) Flown A Kite
(x) Built A Sand Castle
(x) Gone Puddle Jumping
(x) Played Dress Up
(x) Jumped Into A Pile Of Leaves
(x) Gone Sledding
(x) Cheated While Playing A Game

total so far: 25

Level 5
(x) Been Lonely
(x) Fallen Asleep At Work / School
( ) Used A Fake / Someone Else’s ID
(x) Watched The Sun Set/ sun rise
( ) Felt An Earthquake
( ) Kissed a snake
(x) Been Tickled
(x) Been Robbed / Vandalized
( ) Robbed Someone
(x) Been Misunderstood

total so far: 31

Level 6
(x) Pet A Deer
(x) Won A Contest
( ) Been Suspended
(x) Had Detention
(x) Been In A Car/ Motorcycle Accident
( ) Had / Have Braces
( ) Eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night
(x) Had deja vu
(x) Danced in the moonlight
(x) Hated The Way You Look

total so far: 38

Level 7
( ) Witnessed A Crime
(x) Questioned Your Heart
( ) Been obsessed with post-it-notes
(x) Squished Barefoot Through The Mud
(x) Been Lost
(x) Been To The Opposite Side Of The World (Been all around the world!)
(x) Swam In The Ocean
(x) Felt Like You Were Dying
(x) Cried Yourself To Sleep

total so far: 45

Level 8
(x) Played Cops And Robbers
(x) Recently Colored With Crayons / Colored Pencils / Markers
(x) Done Something You Told Yourself You Wouldn’t
(x) Made Prank Phone Calls
( ) Laughed Until Some Kind Of Beverage Came Out Of Your Nose
( ) Kissed In The Rain
(x) Written A Letter To Santa Claus
( ) Been Kissed Under A Mistletoe

total so far: 50

Level 9
(x) Watched The Sun Set With Someone You Care / Cared About
(x) Blown Bubbles
(x) Made A Bonfire On The Beach
( ) Crashed A Party
( ) Have Traveled More Than 5 Days With A Car Full Of People
(x) Gone Rollerskating / Blading
(x) Had A Wish Come True
( ) Been Humped By A Monkey
( ) Worn Pearls
(x) Jumped Off A ledge into water

total so far: 56

Level 10
( ) Screamed “Penis” In Class
( ) Swam With Dolphins
(x) Got Your Tongue Stuck To A Pole / Freezer/Ice Cube
( ) Kissed A Fish
( ) Worn The Opposite Sex’s Clothes
(x) Sat On A Roof Top
(x) Screamed At The Top Of Your Lungs
(x) Done / Attempted A One-Handed Cartwheel
( ) talked on the phone for more than 6 hours
(x) stayed Up All Night

total so far: 61

Level 11
(x) Picked And Ate An Apple Right Off The Tree
(x) Climbed A Tree
(x) Had / Been In A Tree House
(x) Have been/Are scared To Watch Scary Movies Alone
( ) Seen/ felt a Ghost
( ) Have/Had More Then 30 Pairs Of Shoes or Flip Flops
( ) gone streaking
(x) Been to/Visited Someone At Jail (gonna count the future in this one ^^)
( ) Played Chicken
( ) Been Pushed Into A Pool With All Your Clothes On

total so far: 66

Level 12
(x) Been Told You’re Hot By A Complete Stranger
( ) Broken A Bone
(x) Been Easily Amused
( ) Caught A Fish
( ) Caught A Butterfly
(x) Laughed So Hard You Cried
(x) Cried So Hard You Laughed
(x) Mooned / Flashed Someone
(x) Had someone Moon / Flash You

total so far: 73

Level 13
(x) Cheated On A Test
(x) Forgotten Someone’s Name
(x) Slept Naked
(x) French braided someones hair
( ) Gone Skinny dipping In A pool
( ) Been Kicked Out Of Your House.
(x) Rode A Roller Coaster
( ) Went Scuba-Diving / Snorkeling
(x) Had A Cavity

total so far: 79

Level 14
(x) Been Used
(x) Fell Going Up The Stairs
( ) Licked A Cat (eww!)
(x) Bitten Someone
(x) Licked Someone
( ) Been shot at with a paint ball/bb gun
( ) Had sex in a field/garden
( ) Flattened someone’s tires
(x) Drove in a car until the gas light came on
(x) Had five dollars or less and bought something.

total: 85
Repost Your Results Like This….
140 Life Experiences. I’ve Had 85