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LIJ Episode Lives Videos

2021

If you’re reading this, you made it through 2020. Congratulations!! What didn’t destroy you has the potential to make you stronger. And what we learned in 2020 has set us up for a powerful 2021, even amidst all of the limitations we may encounter this year.

Limitations do not have to limit our potential, but can actually be a catalyst for breaking free from old patterns that have truly been our greatest reason for a stagnant life. It’s not life that was limited, but “normal” life. For that I am most thankful for 2020 — not for all the bad things that happened, but that it got the whole world out of the rut it was in. We often get so focused on little things that eat our time and energy, when they are merely superficial things that, in the long run, don’t really matter.

2020 helped show what those things were, because we had to stop many things we were doing and reevaluate everything. In fact this is still happening.

What can we expect in 2021?

No one saw 2020 coming, so it would be a little bit audacious to imagine what 2021 will be like. But I believe the biggest secret to thriving this year is not in what will or will not be allowed, or even what happens with Corona Virus or other world events.

The secret to thriving in 2021 is centered in our response to whatever happens. We can’t control the circumstance in life, but we can control our response. We can embrace the limitations and through that, find new ways to thrive.

In 2020 we lost many precious people and many precious “normalities” we had become accustomed with. We certainly can’t take anyone or anything for granted. Ultimately, I can’t hold on to my life, the life of precious ones near me or my way of life. But I can continue to look what can’t be taken away from me: my relationship with God the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ his son. His Word and promises gave me something to stand on, a source of joy and hope amidst a world full of dark news. And I know that even if my life or the life of my loved ones would come to an end, it is only a passing on to the glorious presence of God where I can enjoy life as it was always meant to be: without pain, sin, sickness, disease, corruption, war and all the effects of our fallen state.

If you would like to know more about a relationship with God that can do this, I invite you to join us in reading through the New Testament of the Bible this year. The New Testament is the part of the Bible that talks about Jesus, his life, death and resurrection and what happened afterwards as a result. To say that it is life-changing is a huge understatement.

The great part of reading through the New Testament is that it takes only a couple of minutes each day. When you read, ask God the Creator to reveal Himself to you. Discovering how much God loves you and that He desires a relationship with you is life’s greatest discovery. Here is the link to this reading plan: https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/13233

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Lives

Making Christmas Special

Christmas really is a wonderful time of year. Here in Japan, Christmas seems to center around Fried Chicken, Christmas Cakes, Santa Claus and illumination. In Brazil, Christmas time means a big meal with family late at night as Christmas Eve turns into Christmas. In America people decorate their houses and you see reminders of the season everywhere. But at the heart of Christmas is Christ! Christ-mas! Yes, it’s the biggest birthday celebration of all time — the very birth of Jesus Christ.

We have many traditions that we do to make Christmas fun and festive, but none of them would mean anything if it weren’t for the fact that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believed in Him would not die but have eternal life. This is the most beautiful message man has ever had, and it came in the form of the person Jesus, the Son of God. And it’s worth throwing a big celebration over!

So we do a lot of things to make this time of year special — put up decorations, bake cookies (and teach you how to do it in our newest episode of Life in Japan). But don’t forget: at the heart of Christmas is Jesus!

https://youtu.be/gkfTEOnG9xQ

And just in case you want to follow along with Ruth and make some of these wonderful cookies, just follow her recipe below. Merry Christmas!

CLASSIC CHRISTMAS COOKIE

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1¼ cup sugar
1 egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup corn starch 3 cups of flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in egg, vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Add in the flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt. Mix until we’ll blended. Roll the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper and place on a baking sheet in the refrigerator. Chill for about 15 minutes. Cut dough into shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 8-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 40-50 cookies.

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LIJ Episode Lives Videos

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Up until the last week, I thought Thanksgiving was a uniquely American holiday. This year does mark 400 years since the first Thanksgiving holidays were celebrated with pilgrim settlers and Native Americans in America. But as I researched it a bit, I found that many countries around the world, including Japan, celebrate Thanksgiving. It is often tied to the harvest, being thankful to God for His provision.

In Japan, they have a holiday called 勤労感謝の日 or “Labor Thanksgiving Day.” This holiday is a day off to commemorate harvest and production and thank each other for their hard work. While this day is set on November 23, the American holiday of Thanksgiving is fixed to the 4th Thursday of the month of November. The staple of the American celebration is a big meal centered around Turkey and fellowship, thanking God as the provider of all good things.

This year more than many others in the recent past Thanksgiving was especially meaningful. I think a big part of that was the challenging year of 2020 that we’ve all just come through. I can look back and see God’s loving care for us in the midst of so many difficulties. This fills my heart with thankfulness and joy, because I know His loving protection is a very real and tangible part of my life. Psalms 91:1-7 says this:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.

Psalms 91:1-7

These are amazing promises! They are real and wonderful and fill me with faith. Did you notice in verse 1 that it’s for “whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High God.” What does that mean? These promises are predicated on a very special condition, seen in verse 9

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;

Psalms 91:9-11

This protection isn’t for everyone — it’s only for those who run to the LORD for their protection and say out loud “The Lord is my refuge.” They don’t run to money. They don’t trust religion. They don’t put their ultimate hope in technology, medicine, science or abilities or talents or vaccinations or the list goes on and on. These things aren’t bad things, in fact they can be very beneficial, but they aren’t true protection and salvation either.

This is a theme that runs strongly through the Bible — it’s one of the main themes of the Bible, that the LORD is the only one we can call upon for salvation.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

Just as we learn in the Psalms of the promises that belong to those who call upon the name of the LORD, we later learn what the Psalmist didn’t know at the time He wrote his Psalm — that the name of the LORD is Jesus. We must declare Jesus as our LORD out loud for these promises to be active in our lives.

To proclaim Jesus is Lord is to put Him first in our life. It’s to acknowledge that He is the ultimate authority above every other and His Word is our authority for right living. Faith in Jesus comes as we read His Word, as we ask God for revelation of who He is so we can know and follow Him. Then we can proclaim with a heart full of faith “Jesus is LORD” and live a rich and full life in the promises of God!

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LIJ Episode Lives Videos

Living the Best Life

It’s tempting to think that life is better somewhere else, and it’s true that trips and vacations bring happiness for a moment, but when that moment is passed, only a memory remains. A truly rewarding life is built in everyday moments, prioritizing our families and communities. The way we live our normal life determines whether or not we will will enjoy a high quality of life or not. Here’s some of the secrets we’ve found for living the best life.

5 Secrets for Living the Best Life

Involve Others: Good friends and family know that one of the best ways to build good relationships is by spending time together. But it’s more than just spending time together. It’s involving others when you’re just going out to the grocery store, or inviting your child to help you make pancakes, or inviting a friend out when you need to go shopping. I’ve heard it said “If you want to get something done right, then you have to do it yourself” and many times I have subscribed to that thought. But the longer you go it alone to “do it right,” the further distanced you will become from others, ultimately losing what really matters: good relationships.

Get Engaged with Your Neighborhood: We’re learning Japanese because we live in Japan and we’re not just satisfied with skating by on our simple level of Japanese. We want to really get to know people, make good friendships and be a blessing to our community. To do that, learning Japanese is essential. We don’t expect others to learn English, we will rise up and learn Japanese. And in the process, we have met so many incredible people that want to get to know us and so they use English! That is special indeed.

Support Your Local Community: The community you live in should be better because you live there. I constantly see our retired neighbor out and about, cleaning the road, raking at the park, planting flowers, volunteering at community events, chatting with elderly neighbors. This man is an incredible example of someone who supports their local community. We too seek to support our local community by buying locally, supporting local businesses and even running our business to provide a useful service for our community. All of these things factor into supporting our local community.

Become a Part of a Good Church: A good church is a spiritual family that puts God and His Word first and others second. You don’t have to be a Christian to start coming to church. In fact, coming to church (whether online or in person) is one of the best ways to learn about what it is to be a part of a church and why it’s so important. In a good church you will learn not just about God, but led to know Him personally, and knowing God personally is the biggest life change anyone can undergo. In fact, it deserves it’s own point!

Put Your Faith in Jesus Christ: The sooner you can settle who Jesus really is in your heart and believe in Him, the sooner you can start living the fullest life possible. Jesus Himself said that He came to give us life and life to the full. It’s a life that goes beyond any of our natural capacities into God-sized living, and that type of living will blow the roof off of any other type of living there is, because it comes with a promise that once our life on earth is over, we will be with God forever in Heaven.

These are just some of the secrets we’ve found for living the best life. Would you add anything else?

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Lives

Finding Fun Locally

Japan recently celebrated Culture Day, a one-day holiday we all had off. We took advantage of Japan’s Go-to travel program to travel — this time locally. We explored Omori, an area of Tokyo in-between the major town center of Shinagawa and Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Not even rain could keep us from having a great time together as a family and discovering more about this amazing place we live: Japan.

We were a bit bummed not to be able to see the Tokyo Illuminations we had come out for, it was just raining too much. But an impromptu pajama party sprung up in its’ place and we had so much fun that we could have spent the whole night in the hotel and just had a blast! It just goes to show that some of the greatest things in life happen in the unplanned moments.