What is the church? (Why I love it)

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The church to me is a collection of (close) relationships between people and God, their lives and their common faith. This shared faith, that Jesus is the Son of God, is what connects believers all around the world. We who share this common faith naturally have personal relationships with individuals within the church; friendships, brotherly and sisterly, motherly and fatherly ties even. We often break bread and share life together. Even through hardships and times of uncertainty, we learn to lean on each other trusting in what Jesus builds, his church (Ephesians 2:20). But what most makes us collectively connected as the church as a whole, is our own personal relationship to God through faith in Jesus.

Our relationship to God is what drives all other factors in our lives, including our relationships to each other. Jesus said that “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23), and I believe that love is demonstrated in loving our neighbor (Mark 12:31). If we love God, we’re going to have a chance to show it by loving on our neighbors. And in the context of the church, our neighbors are our brothers and sisters in Christ. God says he’s going to make our home with us, as our father. It means he wants to share life with you, but not just with you, the invitation is extended to all who believe because in the father’s house there are many rooms (John 14:2). Paul writes that we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19b). It’s with these fellow citizens of the church that we’re given a chance to have a special connection with. With the identity that our faith gives us, as members of God’s household i.e. the church, we can call each other brothers or sisters, even as Jesus did (Mark 3:35).

Church Family

On a personal level, I have opened up to people in the church and I have been able to connect with individuals that I normally wouldn’t connect with if we didn’t share the same beliefs. And it’s in connecting with these individuals that I start to see how my life fits like a piece of a puzzle that makes up the greater picture that is the church. In this greater perspective, I started to see that I could be of use and help others by serving in the church. Now that I serve in the church, I often feel most connected to the church through the relationships that are brought about because of the service I give to others, I mean serving others. Serving others, service to the church, or helping others, gives us a chance to connect with people and to share moments with them, even if small. It also gives us a greater chance to discover what we’re good at in relation to people, or maybe even what we’re made for. We may even begin to see how we as individuals, with special quirks and talents, fit into a larger whole of what the bible calls the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 1:22-23).

Dream Team

Each of us has something with which we can contribute, to encourage and to build up, to use for good. So I hope you are encouraged to serve in any way that you can so that you too can feel connected as I do, especially during this time of pandemic. Many of us are isolated from our friends and family and aren’t able to meet with those we love or care about like we used to. But in the faith we share, it’s important to remember how connected we really are, I mean at a deep spiritual level, despite the physical distance. Us being part of the body, being the church, having brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for each other, send messages to each other, share a verse or two to people that will help lift spirits during this difficult time. Also remember that as part of God’s household, we have the unique opportunity to connect with believers all around the world, spiritually through prayers and visibly through technology.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

7 steps

7 Steps to Financial Freedom

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Nothing makes you think about your finances like a disruption to them. COVID-19 has disrupted finances not just here in Japan, but all around the world. Many people have had reduced hours resulting in reduced income. Some people have lost their income altogether as job opportunities fell through or businesses had to close or cut back. While we can’t control world economies, the bible does teach us how to be wise with our own finances and how we can manage them well.

It’s never too late or too early to begin managing your finances. Why? Because we want to be good stewards of what God has given us so that we can be a greater blessing to the world around us! For a lot of people, the hardest part of managing finances is knowing “what’s my next step?”. Here are 7 steps to financial freedom based on Christian author Dave Ramsay’s book “The Total Money Makeover”. These are to help you find your next step for financial management.

(1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV) Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
(Matthew 25:23 NIV) His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

STEP 1. Get A Plan For Your Money – Budget Each Month

“A budget is telling your money where to go, not wondering where it went!” -John Maxwell
“If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time” -Zig Ziglar
A budget doesn’t have to be complicated, just think about and write down where your finances go each month. Make sure they are going where they need to first, then you can plan where else you want them to go – and stop them going where they don’t need to. The best rule of thumb – don’t spend what you don’t have.
Budget
(Proverbs 21:5 NIV) The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
(Luke 14:28 NIV) Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?

STEP 2. Save a Beginner Emergency Fund

If you haven’t started saving before, set yourself a realistic first goal. It will help you as you look to your next steps and larger goals.

(Zechariah 4:10a NLT) Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin
(Proverbs 21:20 NIV) The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.

STEP 3. Get Out of Debt – The Borrower Is Slave To The Lender

It’s hard to move into the future while dragging the past like a ball and chain behind you. Things like credit card debt don’t add value to your future, they just make you spend finance on the past instead of looking to your next step.
Ball and Chain
(Proverbs 22:7 NIV) The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
(Proverbs 6:1-5 NIV) My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, (2) you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. (3) So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go—to the point of exhaustion—and give your neighbor no rest! (4) Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. (5) Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

STEP 4. Save A Full 3-6 Month Emergency Fund

Take your time and save so that when disruptions come you don’t have to go back to the third step.

(Proverbs 6:6-8 NIV) Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! (7) It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, (8) yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

STEP 5. Invest For The Future

How can you move from simply saving for what might happen to investing in the future? This isn’t just for the typical idea of investments like property, it’s also about gaining new knowledge and skills to invest into your career, your family’s future, or even starting your own business.
Invest
(Matthew 25:19-21 NIV) “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. (20) The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ (21) “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

STEP 6. Steward God’s Blessing

Don’t look at your progress and forget about God, His provision, and why we want to be financially free. Thank God for the blessing, ask how you can use it well not just to build for yourself but to build for God. Don’t forget about the progress you made since step 1, live within your means and regularly update your budget to be a great steward of what God has given you.

(Deuteronomy 8:11-14 NIV) Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. (12) Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, (13) and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, (14) then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
(Proverbs 24:27 NIV) Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.

STEP 7. Build Wealth, Be Incredibly Generous and Leave A Legacy

Generousity is God’s heart, and is a trait that all Christians should be recognisable for. We aren’t being financially free just for ourselves, we want freedom so that we can be a testimony of God’s provision and a blessing to others.

(2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV) Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(Proverbs 13:22 NASB) A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.

If you would like a more in depth look at the 7 Steps to Financial Freedom, please visit the Blue Book online via the link below.
7 Steps to Financial Freedom BlueBook

Why I love Lifehouse College

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Hunger to serve, curiosity, passion for leadership, confusion… There could be a lot of different reasons to seek out an education in Christian ministry. When I joined Lifehouse College in September 2019, I wanted to learn how to worship and serve God more, and how to give back to the church family I love. I wanted to be more confident that I understood the basic foundations of how to live as a Christian, and how to encourage others. Those are all things that the Lifehouse College online course does really well.

How it works:

We watch the online teaching videos at our own pace (while following the recommended schedule), taking notes and submitting exams as we go. The speakers are amazing, and I feel blessed to learn from these wonderful ministers and teachers. Though the videos have been recorded over many years, the spiritual truths are of course timeless. The speakers are translated into many many languages, including Japanese with dubbed voice-over and Japanese notes.ISOM Screenshot

Creating community:

The best part is that the Lifehouse College team is bringing us students together more and more through online college meet-ups weekly. In these meetups, we deepen our learning and share with each other. This sense of community is really valuable to me.
College Zoom

What I’ve learned:

The rich teaching has brought me so much growth on my spiritual walk with Jesus. I’ve learned new practices to bring into my life. For example, I was encouraged to sing and worship more at home, and to bring more reflection, forgiveness, and repentance into my daily prayers.

What’s next:

I still have about 4 more months of college left before I graduate the first 1-year course, but I know I will return to these teachings again and again to really absorb all the lessons and encouragement. Lifehouse College is helping me grow as a leader and understand more about the structure of church life, and I want to use what I have learned to encourage others. Also, I want to improve my ability to teach the Bible and spread the message of God’s love for all of humanity.

Why don’t you ask Jesus in prayer about whether Lifehouse College is part of your next step in serving?