One of the first thing foreigners often notice when they come to Japan is the sheer amount of vending machines there are. They’re literally everywhere. On streets, in back alleys, on mountain tops, in buildings, in the city, alone in the countryside, you can find these ubiquitous machines just about anywhere. And once you’ve lived here for a while, you get used to seeing them everywhere, but if you go anywhere else in the world and you are reminded that vending machines aren’t guaranteed to be where just everywhere.
I can’t be sure why Japan loves vending machines so much, but I can guess that it’s because of their inherent simplicity and convenience. They sure are nice. For the most part, drinks (hot and cold) are what’s most commonly found in vending machines. But I have seen flowers, meals and even clothing sold in these machines. This made me wonder, “What’s the craziest thing that Japan sells in one of these machines?” It was the question that drove this weeks’ Life in Japan episode.
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:
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a] 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
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
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;
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.
9 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.
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!
When it comes to grocery shopping in Japan, there are a myriad of options. You can go the route of convenient and practical, near the train stations and along the way. There are many stores like this and can be very handy when in a pinch. If you want to save money, you can go to a number of different stores that are limited on selection and space but have a great price. And then there are the beautiful, large supermarkets where you can find just about anything, if you’re willing to pay a little more. It’s all here in Japan.
Not just your body needs food…
While preparing this video I kept thinking about the famous words of Jesus “Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Did you know that your soul, your spirit needs food just as much as your body does? Without proper nutrition, your soul and spirit starve into hopelessness, depression and despair. But with proper nutrition, the soul and spirit can thrive just as the body does. Jesus said “My words are spirit and they are life.” To interact with Jesus and His words bring health and life to the spirit just as a good meal brings nutrition to the body.
Has you been feeding your soul and spirit with good spiritual food? If not, I suggest a healthy meal of the book of the Gospel of Luke in the Bible. There you will read of the story of Christmas and the life of Christ and ask God to fill your spirit with life as you read His words.
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?
One of the best parts of living and working as a missionary, pastor and content creator in Japan is getting to enjoy the absolutely amazing landscape here. A couple of months ago, my friend Kazu told me about a hike he was planning on doing: a 3-night, 2-day hike down Japan’s deepest gorge. As soon as he told me about it, I knew I wanted to go! Little did I know the huge adventure that was in store. I ended up with close to 2 hours of footage from our adventure, and after many a late nights editing, came out with a 40-minute mini-documentary of our trip. Pop some popcorn for this one and settle in as you enjoy Japan at its finest!