This year marks our 20th Christmas in Japan since we were sent out from City Bible Church in Portland, Oregon as missionaries in 1993. I led my three year-old son James, and my wife Satomi, who was six months pregnant with our daughter Alishea, back to her home town near Nagoya and we started a journey of faith.
In all these years God has been faithful to us. When we recognize our dependence on him and submit humbly to follow him wherever he leads, it opens the door to his blessings in our life. God’s will for us is always to bless us and never to harm us. When He sent his angel to a young Mary and then to young Joseph in a dream, they humbly obeyed and through that God brought the greatest blessing in history – the birth of Jesus Christ.
We are so blessed to be sent as missionaries and now to be supported by wonderful people who give sacrificially as the Holy Spirit leads them. Thank you for partnering with us as we endeavor to do our assignment in fulfilling the Great Commission by reaching Japan with the good news of Jesus Christ. 2014 will mark the 7th anniversary of Yokosuka Grace Bible Church. We believe this will be a year of blessing and growth for the church here and we pray that the blessing of God will overtake you and prosper you and yours in the coming year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Mercer family!
|Ray Mercer Pastor, Yokosuka Grace Bible Church
You can give online to help our ministry here:
***Warning, this is my rant on the U.S. budget crisis. It is only my personal opinion***
My son was recently laid off for a couple of weeks during the budget crisis and I need a place to vent. Since this is my blog – I guess I can do it here. If you don’t care, don’t read it – I won’t be offended. If you disagree, that’s OK too. Leave a comment below. I will read it.
My dad ran more than one very large business and was responsible for the bottom line – income vs expenses. His dad (my grandfather) grew up during the Great Depression, took over the family farm as a boy when his dad (my great-grandfather) passed away. Both of them have a lot of practical wisdom about money that came from experience. I know that for a fact because my dad used that practical common sense to successfully run a large national manufacturing company in the 1960s and 70s. He also had experience running two other companies (one an international company) in the 80s and 90s. One day my dad taught me a principle about money that he said he had learned from my grandfather, “You can’t spend more than you make forever.” Now that I have two adult children of my own and seen them off to college, I believe more firmly than ever that if my kids understand simple principles like this they will have less pain in their lives.
Recently my country’s government shut down because of a crisis. Since that time I have seen some numbers floating around the internet in various forms. They are a simplification of the actual budget numbers that congress worked with in 2011 when the national debt was 14 trillion dollars. Now in 2013 we are 17 trillion dollars in debt and going the wrong way fast! These numbers are going viral because they illustrate the simple point that my grandfather taught my dad. Apparently congress has forgotten this very simple principle. Here are the numbers (the citation is below if you want to read the article from 2011).
U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
Recent [April] budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000
My U.S. Budget Crisis Rant for 2013
(Remove 8 zeros and it could represent an out of control family budget)
Annual family income: $21,700
Money the family spent: $38,200
New debt on the credit card: $16,500
Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
Budget cuts: $385
These numbers are powerful because they represent how far the U.S. government has strayed from simple budgeting principles. When I read them all I could say was, “Wow.”
BUT YOU SAY THE GOVERNMENT IS DIFFERENT…
Some articles have come out that attempt to point out the differences between the federal budget and my family budget. They basically boil down to things like this; the government can print money, the government can borrow for less interest, the government is more complicated. These are all valid point, but the principle remains the same. If we keep borrowing more than we make (and taxes are the only income of our government) something is going to break. Yes, I agree that the U.S. government can carry more debt than I can and still survive. Maybe they can even carry a much bigger *percentage* of debt, but at some point the principle is going to come into effect – “you can’t spend more than you make forever.”
WHAT I WISH OUR POLITICAL LEADERS COULD DISCUSS (WITH CIVILITY)
The other problem I see with the many articles that have been written about why the government budget is different that my family budget is that none of them talk about the actual numbers. Someone is going to have to start talking about these numbers or they are not going to get fixed. Yes, it is boring and tedious work. No, it is never exciting to trim a budget. But forget all the Liberal vs Conservative politics and don’t let yourself be taken in by hate-mongering. Fact is, we are in 17 trillion dollars of debt and we need to discuss how to reduce that before the whole country goes bankrupt. Raise taxes? Sure, but what percentage of each person’s income should go to the government? Let’s talk about that and raise taxes if necessary. Close loopholes and simplify to reduce waste and cheating? You bet! Let’s simplify the system and talk about making it fair. Cut spending? If we don’t cut spending soon I am pretty sure that reality is going to kick in. The principle that my grandfather learned in the Great Depression is true and I don’t think there is any way to print enough money or raises taxes high enough to get around it. “You can’t spend more than you make forever.”
If I’m wrong about this, no harm done. Things will be fine. If I am right things will be OK anyway. I know that God will still bless those who trust in Him. But I think we will have less pain if we remember my grandfather’s simple principle about money.
James has been the official Music Director at Yokosuka Grace Bible Church since January of this year and his gifting and grace to lead is really growing.
Here are some of my favorite recordings of James. Hope you enjoy them like I do!
At the age of 17 I found myself in the church parking lot pondering the series of circumstances that had brought me to this point. In very quick succession I had been arrested because of my hoodlum activities, I had dropped out of a prestigious college preparatory high school, and then I had gone through two expensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs; a 40-day in-patient hospital program in San Pedro and a 30-day stay at a treatment center in Idyllwild. The results were the same after each; the head of the program pronounced me incurable and recommended that I be institutionalized.
Up until this point I had avoided church for years and scoffed at anyone who tried to share the Gospel with me. I felt that I was certainly brighter than any of those weak-minded people who fell for the Bible and I enjoyed arguing with (or just telling off) anyone brave enough to broach the subject of God with me. But now my self-centered lifestyle had finally caught up with me. The only open door I had left was at my praying mother’s house in Redding.
Mom welcomed me by looking at my scraggy beard and unwashed hair and saying how much I looked like Jesus. But within a short time I managed to strain even her patience. I totaled the family car by driving recklessly and running a red light directly in front of the main police station. When the driver of the other car approached me I expected him to begin shouting in anger. I deserved it and I knew it. Instead, he said, “Praise God, no one is hurt.” Before the shock of those unexpected words had even worn off he explained that he was going to totally forgive me and not press any charges. There was some kind of power in that act of undeserved forgiveness that took away my defenses. It was like the straw that broke the back of my resolve against God.
That following day, my mom followed her normal routine of attending mid-week church services. But this time when she invited me to join I could not refuse. How could I, when I had just totaled her car and then been forgiven for it? I felt like the only response I had left was to accept. I remember some things about the church service. But most of all, I remember that it seemed every word spoken there was directed at me. The words spoke of security, “You don’t have to be afraid any more because Jesus loves you.” They spoke of victory, “The devil wants to destroy your life but Jesus is stronger than the devil.” After a few minutes of this I just had to get out of there. The people assembled in church that day saw a long-haired skinny kid get up and walk quickly out the back. I didn’t care what anyone thought. This was just too much to handle.
And so here I was, alone in the parking lot, finally alone and wondering about it all. It dawned on me that there might actually be a Creator God and even more, that He might care about me personally. The same feeling I had when I totaled my mother’s car came back on me but this time it was magnified by a thousand. “I know I have really messed up my whole life. There is no way to fix it now. But God if you are really there would you please show me?”
As I prayed that simple prayer it was as if I opened my heart just a crack, and apparently that is what God was waiting for. I was flooded with a peace that was greater than anything I had ever experienced before. I suddenly knew beyond a doubt that God was there and that He would take control of everything. In a flash I knew that, yes, I really HAD made a mess of my life but that Jesus was giving me a second chance and that He could and would do a lot better if I let Him take control. My very countenance changed and the expression of toughness and cynicism that I had worked for years to build just melted off my face. I felt an intense joy because I knew that I was doing the right thing. I could not stop smiling. I think I smiled for a week straight from the sheer happiness that was now in my heart.
Later, a pastor read the book of Romans with me and explained the meaning of life from God’s perspective. As we read together about all men being hopeless sinners and about God sending Jesus to help those who would accept Him I experienced physical sensations which were not pleasant. He had me read a passage from that Bible that said that the Blood of Jesus could make me clean and I felt so unclean at that moment. I realized later that I was actually being healed of my drug and alcohol addiction. When we read about Jesus paying for my sins, I was more than willing to admit that I needed to humbly ask God for help. By the time we had finished reading and the pastor had prayed with me, I was totally clean and spiritually alive for the first time. Amazingly, since that day I haven’t been addicted to alcohol or drugs even though I had been diagnosed by several different respected professionals as an incurable alcoholic/drug addict less than a year prior. I am really amazed and thankful for this miracle in my life. I don’t know why God chose to give it to me – I just know He did.
Since that time, the Lord has led me on an amazing journey of faith. I have a new friend who guides and encourages me daily. Before I became a Christ-follower I never imagined that one could have an actual relationship with the Creator of the Universe. And I never imagined what an amazing future He had in store for me. I have never regretted the decision I made that day to turn the control of my life over to the Holy Spirit. I can say with certainty that if it weren’t for God’s amazing love for me and awesome restoring power I would have been lost long ago. But now I have a beautiful family, a wonderful church and my life belongs to an awesome God who really deserves all the honor for any good things that come from my life. I also discovered something else – a purpose for my life. I now know there is actually a loving Creator who is watching over us and all of human history. He has a plan and I’m privileged to be a tiny part of making it happen. I live in Japan now where people didn’t grow up in a culture that is based on Christianity and 99 out of 100 people don’t even know much about it. I have Christian friends from all over who have partnered with me and my family to help us reach Japan by telling people here about Jesus, and planting churches.
If you are a Christ-follower and you want to help, let’s talk. Or if you have not yet made a personal connection with this Jesus that I have been talking about then I’d love to hear from you too. It would be my privilege to introduce Him to you! You can reach me at the email here on this site.
(new video version – April 1st)
This video contains footage that I took personally in Ishinomaki, Japan shortly after the Great Earthquake of March 11, 2011. I combined it with photos from our Every Nation churches working together to help Japan. James Mercer’s heartfelt song expresses our faith that God would meet every need.
In times like this I’m reminded
That my life belongs to you
In times like this I will not fear
Everything is in your hands
When the Earth shakes
I’ll be ready for Your call
For I know You will guide me through
When the Earth shakes
I will serve You all the more
For I know in You I stand secure
When I’m alone I’m not alone
You are always there for me
When I’m confused You give me peace
You give me strength so I can lead
Mondays are my day off. Sometimes I sleep in. Last Monday I woke up with the song “Monday, Monday” going through my head:
I suddenly realized that I’ve been singing this song on Mondays ever since I was a small child. I love music and I have many “rituals” in my life that include music. Singing the “song dejour” seems to relax me on Mondays, so I started wondering if I had a song for every day of the week. As I pondered, I thought of a song for Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday that I often sing on those days! So I did some googling and came up with Wednesday and Thursday, but Friday was tough. I finally compromised and used a sermon that I often think of on Fridays!