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3 Reasons Why “How to” Doesn’t Work

How to Does Not Work

3 Reasons Why “How to” Does Not Work

Have you ever struggled with living the Christian life? Has it ever felt impossible to you?

You want to love God and people, but you find yourself failing.

You just had your quiet time. And now just a short time later, you regret the words you just spoke to your child, your spouse or a friend. Or you regret the tone and the attitude behind the words. Been there, done that!

As you go deeper into the Christian life, you realize sin is not just about outward behavior. Your heart attitudes, thought life and motives even for doing right can also be sinful.

For years I struggled with this question: How do I live the Christian life? What must I do? How can I experience freedom?

 I was asking the wrong question. “How?” is asking for a “how to.” A method to follow.

I wanted something I could do to get victory over sin.

I discovered that the answer is not in coming up with a plan, a method or strategy to follow. At the core of the Christian life there is no “how to.”

Why? Look at the following 3 reasons:

1. The Christian life is not a sin management program.

No program or plan will help us overcome sin.

Dallas Willard in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, used the term “sin management” to describe a Christian lifestyle with sin as the focus. This is a miserable and frustrating way to live. Have you lived with a focus on the sin in your life?

A constant struggle with sin is not the life that Jesus died to give you.

What a miserable way of living! Focusing on sin leads to more sin. Trying to rid your heart of idols will lead to replacing the old idols with new. Struggling with an addiction? Get rid of one and another addiction will take its place.

So you can let the burden of sin roll off your shoulders. Relax! There is a greater purpose to your life! Victory over sin is a reality. (Keep reading!)

OK, then should we focus on the positive? Should I come up with a plan to become the person that God created me to be? Wouldn’t a strategy for becoming a better Christian help us here? No, this will fail also. Why?

2. The Christian life is not a self-improvement program.

None of these work:

  • Following a method, a formula, steps or any do-it-yourself plan
  • Striving in your strength to live by biblical principles
  • Using spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study to live up to your standard of behavior
  • Trying and struggling and failing and trying again
  • Focusing on yourself and trying to fix yourself
  • Rededicating yourself to act like Jesus would

 All of the above are an emphasis on what I do. I want to be in control of the process. I want a “how to” list to follow. If that’s what I’m looking for, I’m still depending on self to live the Christian life. If we are operating out of the flesh, we cannot please God (Romans 8:8). We will constantly fail here, too. 

We can be doing good things and still be powered by our good “religious” flesh. The choice in the Christian life is not between good and evil. Moral living is not the point of the gospel.  

Pastor Timothy Keller in a message about “The Prodigal Son,” called the story, “The Two Sons.” One chose the good and the other the bad. He said both sons needed to repent—one for the evil he did and the other for the good he did for the wrong reasons. The elder son obeyed the Father and worked hard for him, but his heart was far from the Father, too. He did not receive his father’s love and then obey and serve from a heart of love.

So relax, my friend. The Christian life is not a focus on how to overcome sin or how to become a better Christian. Even how to become more like Christ, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), could lead you down the path to self-improvement. Don’t go there. There is a better way!

By asking “How?” I’m asking for a plan or steps to follow.

Paul asked the right question: “Who will deliver me?” (See Romans 7:24). Paul discovered that living the Christian life was impossible for him. Only Jesus living in Him could live the life.

The third reason why the Christian life is not a “how to”:

3. The Christian life is Christ living His life in and through you. 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

My friend, this is the life Jesus died to give you—His very own life in you.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, ESV).

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4, ESV).

For years I studied the Bible, read books about Christian living and admired the Christians who understood and experienced the truths that I was seeking to understand. I tried so hard to figure out this life of union with Christ.

My search was complicated because woundedness was one my challenges or so I believed. Wasn’t trusting God or anyone for that matter more difficult for me? That may be so, but all of my life was part of the process of learning to trust and surrender my life to God. I had to “own” all of the challenges of my life.

As I studied and taught grace and all that we have received in Jesus, the more I began to understand and experience the truth. Jesus is my life. He lives in me. I am still learning and growing in these truths. I long to experience more of the life of Christ.

Are you struggling with sin or yourself? With pain or grief? Or struggling to believe and trust?

Jesus says, “Come to Me. I will give you rest.

I am the end of your struggle for righteousness. I became sin for you. You are now righteousness in Me.

Do you need love for others? Come to Me. I will lavish my love and grace on you. You will be filled with My love. Love by that overflow.

Depend on My resources–My love, power and wisdom–for all you need to live this life.

By My death and resurrection, you have everything you need. You have the Holy Spirit, My Spirit, living in you to comfort and encourage you.

Believe the truth and you will be free. When I set you free, you are really free.”

(See Matthew 11:28-20, Romans 10:3-13, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 3:14-21, 2 Peter 1:3-4 and John 8:32-36).

What resources are you relying upon to live this life? Yours or His?

Are you struggling or resting in Him?

Let me know how I can pray for you. Pray for me, too. Let’s keep our focus on Jesus, adore and worship Him.

Photo credit: Geralt via Pixabay

5 Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

Reasons

5 Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

I was studying the Bible at Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, and I was miserable! How could I be so unhappy? I was finally preparing for missionary service. I was following the dream God put in my heart. Why the depression and discouragement then?

I Did Not Understand Grace!

I did not understand grace. That’s the answer. Plain and simple. Not understanding grace and studying God’s Word put tremendous pressure on me to be and act like a saint, a very loving and kind Mother Teresa-type saint. Yet I felt like a horrible sinner. How can you live up to what the Bible says you should be?

The Bible condemned me. That’s how I felt. That was a lie from the pit of hell.

Romans 8:1 is the truth: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I didn’t get it.  Not yet anyway.

I looked at the Bible through the lens of law. I focused on me and not on Christ and what He had already done for me on the cross.

Of course, I believed that Jesus had died for me. I just could not stop feeling condemned for who I was and the sins I still committed. Sins like being unforgiving and bitter and acting in unloving ways with my attitude, behavior and words.

I did not need to try harder. I didn’t need to rededicate myself to God. I needed to understand and receive grace.

“Either we live under pressure to grow, or we celebrate grace.”

(Dr. Larry Crabb, Finding God, Page 132)

 For many years as a Christian I lived under pressure to grow and to change. That was miserable bondage. Thank God! He set me free!

Can you relate to what I’m talking about? If you can, let me tell you, there is freedom!

The process to understanding grace for me was a long one. The Holy Spirit, the Word, books about grace, and loving relationships with people taught me grace. In fact, they still teach me grace.

Can you imagine the change that would take place if you and I focused on grace everyday? Wow! What a daily celebration that would be!

Five Reasons to Focus on Grace Everyday

These reasons will motivate us to seek to understand and receive grace everyday. Here are 5 of many reasons to focus on grace everyday:

1. To develop a trust relationship with God instead of trying to live a Christian life on your own.

2. To enjoy an intimate relationship with God instead of running from Him.

3. To live a life of freedom instead of living in legalism (under law) or license (taking sin too lightly).

4. To understand our worth in God’s eyes instead of living in shame and self-hatred.

5. To pursue God Himself who is grace instead of seeking to fix ourselves.

How does this work out in real life? Let me explain further.

When I didn’t understand grace, the focus was on me fixing myself. I was driven to work on myself so that I would be acceptable to God, others and myself. I had to feel good about myself.

And how did that work for me? Of course, it didn’t. I couldn’t make me into who I thought God wanted me to be. Shame and self-hatred controlled me.

A focus on grace frees me from the compulsion to make myself acceptable. I already am! The truth set me free! Free to pursue the relationship with God that my heart longs for. In that relationship, God changes me.

Can I forget and start working on myself again? Sure! I can forget who I am and feel pressure to change. But when I remember grace, I celebrate all that God has done. He changes me as I trust in Him.

What are other reasons to focus on grace everyday?

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Where Are You on the Grace Journey?

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt via Wikimedia Commons
            Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt via Wikimedia Commons

Where Are You on the Grace Journey?

No matter what’s going on in your life right now, you are on a journey of the heart to your Abba Father. Those very circumstances that cause you pain or joy are being used by our loving Father to bring you closer to Him.

Are you turning to Him? Or are you turning away from your Father to an addiction or other distraction? Are you experiencing His grace and love and sharing it with others? Or is your heart broken and closed off? Are you daily enjoying the Lord’s presence or do you hide from Him in shame and guilt?

Take a few minutes and quietly in your heart, ask the Lord to show you where your heart is on this journey. Are you hurting, angry, fearful, anxious or joyful and resting in the Father’s heart. Be honest. You can journal. You might like to share with a close friend. You can also email me at christine@gracebreakthroughs.com. I’m happy to be a listening ear.

The Heart of Abba Father

One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, wrote a book called, The Return of the Prodigal Son. The book is an in-depth study of Rembrandt’s painting and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Look at the image above. You can easily pick out the Father and the Prodigal Son.

Rembrandt pictured the elder son at the right in the same scene. Both sons needed to come home to the Father. Jesus told this parable in answer to the grumbling of the religious leaders of that day, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

This parable is really about the heart of the Father. He is always waiting and longing to lavish His love on both sons.

The younger son sinned so openly and was surprised by His Father’s love and acceptance.

The elder tried to earn His Father’s love by doing everything right. Look at the older son’s stance in the painting. He rigidly judged his brother. He did not understand the Father’s heart nor did he experience and enjoy His love.

The amazing conclusion of Nouwen’s book is that the goal is for us to have the heart of the Father toward others. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Experience the depths of His love for you and that love can’t help but overflow from you to others.

Where are you on the journey to the heart of your Abba Father?

In one sense you are already there. Jesus brought you to the Father by His death on the Cross (1 Peter 3:18). When you believe and receive Jesus, you become His child (John 1:12).

You are His beloved child and He is your Abba Father. The Father loves you as much as He loves Jesus, the Son.

In another sense, you are not yet there. Here’s what I mean:

You are on a journey to understand and experience Abba Father’s love and grace.

At times of confusion and deep pain, I needed to see that events in my life were not just random and without purpose. When my dreams were shattered, my hope was that I am on a journey to know God. The point was not my comfort or happiness, but the ultimate purpose of knowing His grace and love and sharing His glory with others.

When the pain of shame and fear nearly overwhelmed me, I had to “see” the compassion on His face, the tender love in His eyes. Without a growing understanding of His love and grace, I would not have survived. That may sound a bit dramatic, but that’s the truth.

Knowing my Abba Father and His Son Jesus Christ in an intimate love relationship is life (John 17:3). He is my Life!

Dear friend, the Father is drawing your heart to Himself. Open your heart to Him. Tell Him where you’re at. Ask Him to reveal His love and grace to your heart. Turn to Him. He knows what you need. You can trust Him.

Let me know if I can pray for you. I would love to hear your story and how you are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

In God’s amazing grace and love,

Chris

christine@gracebreakthroughs.com

P. S. Check out the “Recommendations” tab for books to read for your encouragement. You can order Henri Nouwen’s book through my affiliate link here, The Return of the Prodigal Son.

 

3. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan

Grace Breakthrough Connection Blog

Journey Together to the Father’s Heart

 

Called and chosen to be in an intimate love relationship with the living God! He longs to lavish His grace upon you. He has been leading you on a journey to His Heart of Love.

At times the way is through dark valleys of betrayal, loss and confusion. The road seems to lead away from His love. Your heart is in such pain that you cry out, “Where are you, my Abba Father?”

Other times the way opens up into the bright sunlight of His loving face. You have some moments of rest in His love. Inexpressible joy flows. You are refreshed and ready to continue on this inner journey of the heart.

Suddenly you look around and see you are not the only one on this journey. Your Abba Father is leading countless others to His heart, too. They are your brothers and sisters.

You long for connection, to belong, to feel safe with your fellow travelers. You were created for relationship with them, too.

But a long-buried terror rises in your heart. You tremble in fear.

You remember how certain ones nearly destroyed you. They stole precious jewels from your heart. They trampled your worth under their feet. You still bear the wounds and pain as you continue on your journey to the heart of the Father.

Isolation seems the better option. No pain. Really? Or how about control so no one hurts you like that again. Protect yourself at all costs. Keep your heart closed.

Then your Lord Jesus comes to your side. (You know, He is the way to the Father.) He hands you a beautiful white orchid. “This is who you are and who you are becoming,” He says to you with a compassionate smile.

“What do you mean?” you ask.

“Your new heart is beautiful like all the shining jewels of the world. You are righteous and pure by my gift to you. I became sin for you. Your shame and guilt are taken away by my death on the Cross.”

He continues, “Now look at the face of the orchid. How would you describe it?”

“Exquisitely fragile and open. So delicate and yet so open. Yes, open.”

Tears begin to slide down your cheeks. You sense His deep love for you. At the same time with a sudden burst of insight you know what He is asking of you.

As you walk this healing journey with Jesus, you open your heart to receive the restoring love of your Abba Father. And by the power of grace you love your brothers and sisters.

White Orchids

Lesson 3 — Loving One Another Is Experiencing the Love of God

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23, ESV).

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:9-12, ESV).

Beloved one, meditate on these verses (and all of John 14-17). Your Abba Father loves you as much as He loves the Son. Jesus loves you as much as the Father loves Him. You are in union with the Father and the Son and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. To love one another is to experience the love of God.

Yes, I had precious experiences of the love of God in Japan. I continue to learn and experience more of His love. Everyday I need His love and grace.

Another amazing joy is to experience God’s love by loving one another. Grace breaks through our hearts. We open our hearts to love our brothers and sisters. We are empowered by grace through faith to love. We love one another and experience even more of Abba Father’s love. Amazing grace!

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV).

May you be filled up with all the fullness of His love.

With much love in Abba Father,

Chris

 

2. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan


Journey to Heart of the Father

Journey to the Heart of the Father

You’re here and excited about the journey ahead. You know where you’re going. You know what you’re going to do. And you know why you’re going. This is the greatest day of your life. You’ve planned and prepared for this moment, and now it’s going to happen!

For you this might be your wedding day, the birth of your first child, or graduation from college. Maybe you’re starting your first job or your dream job or retiring and finally getting to do what you always wanted to do. Whatever it is, you know the excitement and the anticipation.

For me this journey was going to Japan as a missionary. This was my calling and dream since junior high school. From an abusive childhood background to a self-destructive lifestyle…out of that mess the Lord saved and called me.

I was certainly not a very likely candidate for mission work and especially not for the difficult work environment of Japan (see my previous blog posts). As a single missionary I left my family behind and stepped foot into my exciting new life of service to the Japanese. Sounds great, huh?

The Journey of the Heart

My loving Lord had called me to Japan to share the good news of grace to the Japanese. That was the outward journey. He was also taking me on an inner journey of the heart. The Lord would use the outward circumstances to woo me, to cause me to hunger for Him, to bring me great satisfaction and joy in His presence.

In fact, what was happening on the missionary road whether joyful or painful was being used to help me along the inner journey of the heart. The love of my missionary family and Japanese friends, the struggles of language study and cultural adjustment, the rejection of some and conflicts with others–all the joys, the stress, the discouragement and loneliness were leading me on the deeper Journey to the Heart of the Father.

Ever wonder what God is up to in your life? Here’s one possibility:

Our Lord is guiding you to the Father’s heart where you will experience the depths of His love for you.

Nothing on this earth compares to this love. There is no greater joy than to know Him by experience. This is far greater than a mental assent to the facts of the Bible.

I’m talking here about encounter with the living God that turns your life right side up. Knowing Him will “ruin” you in a good way. You won’t be satisfied with those sinful pleasures that once captured your heart. You won’t be able to run with the same friends if they are leading you down a road away from the Father.

Lesson 2 — God Chose Me to Bring Me to His Heart of Love

So this is the second powerful grace lesson I learned in Japan and continue to experience and learn. The Trinity is about relationship with us. The Father sent the Son to die for us to give us life with Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to live in a love relationship with the Father and Son. The Holy Spirit pours this love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).

Why does it take so long to get it? To understand and experience this love? You may have understood God’s love when you first believed or even later down the road. But for those of us who have been wounded and deeply hurt–well, to believe and receive this life-changing love may seem impossible. Here’s why:

  • “Father” is not a heartwarming word to many of us due to past painful experience.
  • Trust in someone’s word, especially someone you can’t see with your eyes isn’t easy. Trust itself is near impossible for some of us.
  • Woundedness causes us to isolate and close our hearts off from the love we so desperately want and need.
  • We might be angry with God because He didn’t prevent or stop the pain and wounds.
  • Control is the only way we know how to survive. We will get what we want on our terms.
  • God is unpredictable and wild in His love toward us. That scares us. We can’t control Him.
  • Surrender to anyone feels like death. We are afraid to lose ourselves. We fear being hurt again.
  • We haven’t forgiven those who have hurt us so bitterness is choking out the love that could be ours.
  • What would you add to this list?

How to Experience This Love

If you have read this far, I know you want to experience this love. You know this is what you are seeking. Your pain is driving you to the comfort of His loving embrace. You know nothing else but His love will calm your anxiety and fear.

You may be asking, “What should I do then to experience the heart of God, His love for me?”

Let me ask you, “If you’re a parent, what does your child have to do to experience your love? Do they have to do anything?”

The Father says to you, “Come. Sit and rest. Enjoy my presence. I delight in you. I want to hear your voice. Just be with Me. Let Me love you. Open your heart to Me. Be aware of what I’m doing in your life to capture your heart and bring you to My heart of love. My grace will breakthrough your wounded heart. My love will overwhelm you and heal you. As you travel on this journey, look for My love. I will reveal Myself to you.”

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God” (2 Thessalonians 3:5a).

How would you answer this question: How can I experience the love of God?

1. Powerful Grace Lesson from Japan

God's Grace and Glory Fills All the-2

Ever notice a pattern in the difficulties you go through? They seem to come back around at you. Only the people and places change. They also may cut deeper the next time around. Or you may go through the same cycle with the same people over and over again. You might ask, “What in the world is God up to?” Let me share the first of three powerful Grace Breakthrough Lessons I learned through my missionary years in Japan. This may help answer that question:

Lesson 1 — God Chose Me and Does Not Reject Me

Ever feel rejected and unloved? Life throws some tough stuff at you. In the middle of the mess, you may feel like no one really cares. At least not the one or ones that you really want to love and accept you.

Then you open the Bible and read what God says to you. A verse seems to jump out and grab your heart. You see the truth and reject the lie. You rejoice in the Lord. You’re empowered to get up and face your difficulties. The circumstances don’t change but your perspective does. God’s Word connects with your heart. And the awesome truth is you connect with the heart of God.

Now that’s the ideal scenario. That’s happened many times for me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.  You may not be able to find a verse that speaks to you. Or if you do find one, you may struggle to believe it. For years.

You might be listening more to what you believe your life experiences are telling you. Your pain and confusion may be shouting so loudly that you can’t hear the truth. I’ve been there.

The Truth

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” Isaiah 41:9b, NIV

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4, ESV

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” John 15:16 NIV

This is a grace truth. You and I can do nothing to make ourselves worthy of being chosen.

My Experience

I was always looking for that special person to affirm and validate me. To accept me no matter what. I expected from people what only God could give. And I was always afraid of being rejected.

Talk about a pattern that kept repeating itself!

  • Unrealistic expectations of people
  • Demanding (oh, I hate to admit this!) from them what they couldn’t or didn’t want to give
  • Not relying upon my Father for what I needed
  • Result: Feeling rejected and so hurt

This was a hopeless and very painful cycle. Only our loving Lord knows how to break any sinful pattern that hurts us and those around us. Yes, though this behavior came out of my woundedness, the sin was still lack of love for others and self-centeredness. How was that ever going to change?

So where did I wind up going as a missionary? God gave me a heart for Japan, also known as the “graveyard of missionaries.” Why is it called that? Because the Japanese are known for their rejection of foreigners, “gaijin,” translated “outside person.”

Does God have a sense of humor or what? Why would He send me to a country known for rejection?

  • To face my fear of rejection
  • To go through the rejection by the grace of God
  • To experience the Grace Breakthrough–the truth that God chose me and does not reject me
  • To learn to live in freedom to love even in the midst of fear and rejection

Look again at the verse above:

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” Isaiah 41:9b, NIV

This is the verse that follows:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. 

Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you.

I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)

I experienced that verse in the midst of feeling rejected by a small group of Japanese. They sharply criticized me for not meeting their expectations. Did their words hurt? Yes, of course.

At the same time I sensed the presence of the Lord with me, giving me strength and help, holding me up and shielding me. That made all the difference.

Have I felt rejection since that time? Yes, I have. Feeling rejected or ignored still hurts. I have also sensed the presence of the Lord with me at times when I needed Him the most.

The soil of Japan was fertile ground for learning this Powerful Grace Breakthrough Lesson: God chose me and does not reject me. This is one of the foundational grace truths that empowers me to love others.

Your Experience 

Are your present circumstances fertile ground to learn what God so lovingly wants to teach you? Maybe a Grace Breakthrough is just around the corner. Feel free to share what you are going through and learning.

Stay tuned for the 2nd powerful Grace Breakthrough Lesson learned in Japan, probably the most important and foundational lesson of all.

(Just to let you know–Japan was not all rejection. In fact, Japan was more about deep, loving relationships that were formed. God blessed me with some very special relationships. See my first blog posts about the 2 Japanese sisters.)

 

 

Photo Credit: Leung Cho Pan via Canva

1. Welcome to Grace Breakthroughs!

Welcome!
Photo Credit: Canva

Welcome to Grace Breakthroughs! My name is Chris L’Heureux. My goal is to encourage your growth in understanding and experiencing the grace of God. My desire is that this website and all that is shared here will lead you into a deeper experience of God Himself and His love.

If you have struggled with understanding God’s love and grace for you and with living as a Christian, then this blog is for you. If you want to experience all that Jesus died to give you, join me on this grace journey!

My prayer is that we will experience more breakthroughs in our understanding of the Father’s grace so that we will have an even deeper love and trust relationship with Him.

You are invited to leave comments and feedback. You can also write a short testimony of God’s grace that you experienced. You can leave a prayer request, too. I will read all comments and will reply as I am able. I have a day job with commute time, too.

OK, let’s get started on this grace journey….

Where to begin? How about with the story of two Japanese sisters who knew very little about Jesus and probably nothing about grace. Why would they need grace? How would the Lord reveal His grace to them?Spacer1x1

Grace Breakthroughs for Two Japanese Sisters

On my “About” page I told you I would tell you about the two sisters. Their stories are so amazing and so filled with the love and grace of God. I can’t wait to tell you about these dear friends of mine. I’m going to take a few days to tell their stories so that you can more fully enjoy and savor the depths of God’s love revealed to them.

Today I’ll set the stage for these grace breakthroughs.

Tomorrow you’ll hear about the grace I experienced before these stories happened.

The next day the older sister will tell her heart-touching story.

Then the fourth day the younger sister will amaze you with her testimony.

What happened about 26 years ago still impacts my life today. You’ll soon understand why.

Grace Breakthroughs for Japan

My first trip to Japan was in the summer of 1976 when I was a Bible school student. I taught English in a church in Osaka and stayed with the pastor and his family. I fell in love with the Japanese people and the country. What a life-transforming summer!

When I graduated from Bible school three years later, I followed my God-given heart’s desire to go back to Japan as a missionary with OMF International, formerly the China Inland Mission founded by J. Hudson Taylor in 1865. I longed to see the Japanese come to know the love and grace of God.

However, serving in Japan was not going to be easy.  So few Japanese are Christians, less than .5%. For so many years missionaries have prayed for breakthrough in Japan that God would open the hearts of the Japanese to believe the gospel. Why do so few believe?

  • The Japanese view Christianity as a Western religion.
  • The Japanese are Buddhist and Shinto as a culture and might send their children to a Christian kindergarten. They can’t see why only Jesus Christ is the way to God.
  • Japanese are obligated to pray to their ancestors and the eldest son and his family must maintain the family Buddhist altar in their home.
  • To become a Christian is to become unJapanese in their minds. They are leaving behind their cultural practices, ancestor worship for one.
  • The Japanese do not have a concept of sin. They are a “shame culture.” Committing a crime would bring shame on the family. This would be sin to them.
  • The concept of grace is very strange to a culture that is based on duty and obligation. You give me a gift so I must give you a gift. You offend me, I will never forgive you. Free gifts and forgiveness are so much a part of grace, but not Japanese culture.
  • Receiving anything just by faith and not needing to work for it is almost impossible to understand. You must earn what you receive.

Bible studies, English classes, cooking classes, hanging out with the Japanese, listening to their hearts, enjoying them, telling them about Jesus, working in churches, leading two churches temporarily until the missionaries returned from home assignment, praying, enjoying the Lord’s presence and fellowship…six years, yes, six years, friendships formed and developed but no one had believed in the Lord through my ministry. Had I failed? What do you think? Use the contact form to let me know how you evaluate success and failure. Have you ever called yourself a failure? Was it truth or a lie? More to come…please go to the next day.

 

 

 

 

2. “I’ll quit if I have to go back!”

Grace Breakthrough at 30,000 feet
Photo Credit: Elena Photo via Canva

Grace Breakthrough at 30,000 Feet

Have you ever felt like giving up?

Have you ever wanted to change your circumstances or get out of them?

Have you looked for advice to go along with your line of “escape-to-better-circumstances” thinking?

Ever wonder what grace breakthrough you would miss if you did leave your uncomfortable circumstances?

Emotionally burned out after leading a church in Aomori City, Japan for a year, I was done, finished with Aomori! I was tired of struggling on in the work with little or no results, tired of dealing with the mentally ill, criticism and difficult relationships. The missionaries who were in charge came back from Home Assignment. I went back to the States for a 5-week vacation.

How great it was to feel the refreshing, restoring love and understanding of family and friends! Everyone I talked with agreed that I shouldn’t go back to Aomori. Yes, change to more congenial and supportive surroundings.

OMF mission leaders agreed a change was possible. This would be discussed after I returned to Japan.

Boarding the plane to return to Japan, in true Jonah-style I said to myself, “I will not go back to work in Aomori. I’ll quit OMF if I have to go back.” That’s how negative I was about Aomori.  I could not face the thought of going back to the isolation, loneliness and general gloomy and depressing atmosphere I felt in Aomori. (You’d agree with me, too, right?)

Over an hour into the flight, we experienced the worst turbulence I’ve ever felt. I really didn’t think we were going to make it to Japan. I didn’t get thrown out of the plane and swallowed by a great fish, but I did do some serious thinking and praying.

I realized I had not asked the Lord to show me His will about my return to Aomori. I had simply accepted the advice that I wanted to hear. Well, we had a grace breakthrough at about 30,000 feet. By that I mean my Lord won the argument, and I agreed to go back to Aomori. Funny how that happens!

Gradually my attitude toward Aomori changed. By the time I was on the train, almost “home,” my heart was full of joy, excitement and praise to God. Encountering God and following Him gives great joy and contentment in any situation.

The circumstances didn’t change. I still struggled with discouragement and depression. But I found my Father and His grace to be enough to meet all my needs and to satisfy my heart.

And then about four months after my return to Aomori, something happened that made me so glad that I had not gone someplace else. God had a major blessing coming that I would have missed if I had moved to more comfortable circumstances.

Have you ever stayed in a situation that was difficult for you, and then later you were glad that you did? Tell me about it in the contact form or by email to christine@gracebreakthroughs.com.

Please go to the next day as another amazing grace breakthrough happens–in the older Japanese sister’s life.

3. Grace Heals a Heart

Heart Healing

Photo Credit: Photocreo via Canva

Have you been wounded by what’s been done to you?

Do you deeply regret what you have done to hurt someone else?

Either way can leave you feeling shame, handicapped and unable to move forward to live a meaningful life.

Grace can heal your heart.

The following true story is told from the perspective of the older Japanese sister.

“Hello, my name is Yumi. I am from the Tokyo area but my family transferred to Aomori because of my husband’s job. I like to laugh and talk with friends so I was able to make new friends after we moved to Aomori. I met other mothers at a play group for young children at the church.

One of the missionaries wanted me to study the Bible with her. We did a couple times but I didn’t feel I could measure up to what the missionary was like. She was a good mother and seemed to do everything right.

Over Winter Vacation my daughter Chieko studied the Bible with another missionary, Chris. Chieko had many questions and went to church on Sunday on her own even though she was only in 5th grade.

Chris came to my house with Chieko. We began to talk. She invited me to an English class movie. I decided to go.

I had no idea how that movie would affect me. I started crying and couldn’t stop. I couldn’t tell Chris why I was crying. I felt so awful and so ashamed because of what I had done. I couldn’t tell anyone.

Then Chris invited me to the women’s Bible class. I went a couple times, but I was still feeling really awful. I had a secret and I didn’t want anyone to know about it.

Then on February 14th I again went to the Bible class. Chris spoke about John 3 and being born again. The other missionary, Mr. Payne, was there, too. Chris asked if anyone wanted to believe. I did so they prayed for me. I have never been the same since. I felt God’s presence and knew that my sin was forgiven. My heart was filled with joy. I was forgiven!

Later I told Chris my story. The movie we saw was called “The Hiding Place.” A Dutch family hid Jews in their home during World War II. They were caught and all were put in a concentration camp run by the Nazis. All but one of the family died in the camp.

As I was watching this movie, the truth hit me. I was like the Nazis because I had killed my unborn baby. I had an abortion because having a baby then was not convenient. Oh, how I regretted that decision! I suffered and my heart was pained, but I couldn’t change what I had done. Then when I believed, I knew God forgave me. I’m free! I’m not bound up by that sin anymore.

I had other hurts in my heart, too. When Chris and I got together, I would cry and cry. Sometimes I didn’t even know where the pain or tears were coming from, but I cried my heart out. God in His grace was healing my heart. I am so grateful for His forgiveness and working in my heart. I am free!

Tomorrow my sister will tell you her story. This is going to amaze you!”

Do you have secrets and hurts in your heart that you need to grieve? Pour out your heart to the Lord. Then talk with someone you can trust. Grace will heal your heart. If you were sinned against or if you sinned, Jesus’ blood covers all.

Don’t let secrets or past sin rob you of the life that Jesus died to give you.

Don’t allow the crippling power of shame keep you from the healing community of your brothers and sisters in the Lord.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a).

Abba Father, walk my friend who is reading this into your amazing grace and love. Cause their heart to open to You. Heal their heart with your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

4. The Lord Jesus Shows Up!

Amazing Grace

Photo  Credits: Elena Photo and Ariwasabi via Canva

Usually when we say the Lord showed up, we mean He did something for us and we know it was He doing it. This grace breakthrough story takes Jesus showing up to a whole new level!

For decades an amazing phenomenon has been taking place in countries where missionaries cannot openly share the gospel. People without knowledge of the gospel and who do not know any Christians have had dreams or visions of Jesus Christ that have transformed their lives. I heard a missionary speak about this and then watched the video, More than Dreams. The link is below.

More than Dreams Video – This video is also available in Instant Video on the same page (affiliate link).

Now for what happened in Japan…

Soon after the older Japanese sister believed in Jesus, she and her family moved back down to the Tokyo area. I was able to visit her a number of times. On one of the visits I met the younger sister, Sumi. I’ll let her tell her story.

Sumi’s Amazing Grace Breakthrough Story

“Hi, my name is Sumi. When Yumi, my sister, moved back to the Tokyo area, I was very excited. But then she told me she had become a Christian. I was sad because I didn’t think we would be able to talk much anymore.

She told me a little about Jesus. I didn’t really understand, but I began to read Christian books.

Then it happened. The one night that changed my life forever.

Jesus Himself appeared on my veranda! He had long white hair and was wearing a long white robe. I knew it was Jesus. I was surprised but His presence gave me peace.

When I heard that the missionary, Chris, was coming to visit Yumi, I told Yumi I wanted to meet Chris.

We met and she knew I wanted to talk about Jesus. She told me a little about the gospel, but she really didn’t need to say much. I was so ready to believe in Jesus. We prayed together. Chris was very surprised when she heard that Jesus had appeared on my veranda.

Looking back now, I believe God in His grace gave me that encounter with Jesus. I needed that because of what was going to happen in my life.

Before I met Jesus, I had a very happy home with my husband and two children. I was totally dependent on him. All that was going to change.

My husband was not happy when I told him I became a Christian. You see, he is the eldest son in his family. He must continue the family religion. I was expected as his wife to perform all the religious duties in the home such as offering food on the Buddhist altar. I knew that I couldn’t do that anymore. I could not serve any other religion.

Jesus meant everything to me. His love was worth more than anything in the world. I could not do the religious duties for my husband and his family. I refused.

My husband became very angry and left me. He moved out and later I had to get a job as a waitress to help support my children and me.

Though it was very difficult when my husband left, I believed in Jesus and I knew He loved me. That love carried me through the hard days.”

Surprised at God’s Amazing Grace

I was totally surprised when I heard Sumi’s story. She was so eager to believe in Jesus. I didn’t have to explain much at all. Then when I visited the two sisters a number of times later, they were so eager to know more about Jesus and to talk about Him. They wanted to ask questions and study the Bible. I was amazed at how much they understood. God in His grace had done the work in their lives. The three of us rejoiced in His love and grace.

Later I looked at Revelation 1:13 and 14. The way Sumi described Jesus was just like what was in Revelation, “and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow.

In Western countries you don’t usually hear of stories like this. But in countries “closed” to the gospel or where the people have very little knowledge of Christ’s work on the cross, the Lord on occasion has revealed Himself in an amazing way.

What if I hadn’t gone back to Aomori? Wow! What blessings I would have missed. I would not have seen God’s gracious work in these dear sisters’ lives.

Be encouraged! Trust and wait on the Lord to meet you in your circumstances. Your encounter with Him may not be as dramatic as this story. Still He will “show up” in a way that will encourage your heart.

Share your story. Let others know how God has worked in your life. I would love to hear your experience of God’s love and grace. You can email me at:

christine@gracebreakthroughs.com