Thursday, September 06, 2007

Testimony from our pastor Steve Rohrer
Philippians is one of my favorite books in the Bible.
Have you ever read Philippians?
Do any of you know what the theme of Philippians is?
Sounds good, huh?
Let’s look at a few verses from Philippians (2:17-18):
“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”
Now maybe some of you are thinking,
“Rejoicing and sharing your joy with others sounds nice, but sometimes circumstances in our lives make it pretty difficult to rejoice!”
Well, Paul certainly knew about that because he was in prison when he wrote this letter!
Put in jail for telling people about Jesus.
And one of the reasons he was writing to the Philippians was that he knew they had problems in their church.
People in the church were having a hard time getting along with each other,
But even in prison, Paul was rejoicing and he was encouraging the church to rejoice in spite of their problems.
Why? Because when we rejoice, we focus on what God is doing,
We see our problems from the right perspective.
They really aren’t as significant as they may have seemed.
And rejoicing together draws Christians together so we can be united in serving the Lord.
But what do we have to rejoice about?
If you are a Christian, no matter what your circumstances may be, there is always much to rejoice about,
For as Christians all of our sins have been forgiven,
We have become children of God and nothing can separate us from his love,
We have the hope of living with God for eternity,
We have the Holy Spirit who is at work in our lives,
And we have the promise that God works all things in our lives for our good, to make us more like Jesus.
I think that sometimes we don’t rejoice because we are so focused on our problems that we don’t take time to remember these spiritual blessings God has given each of us,
And we sometimes forget to look at the individual blessings God has given to us recently and how He has been at work in our lives.

This summer I spent a month away from my family studying at a university in America, and I had a lot of time to think.
I had also spent several weeks studying there last summer.
One thing I thought about was the past year, since I was last at that university.
A lot has happened and God has done many things in my life.
Sometimes it was hard.
But it was very good for me to look back.
It led me to rejoice.
So today I’d like to rejoice and share my joy with you all as I tell you of God’s goodness to me and my family.

After returning from the States in the summer of 2006, I started right back into school at KIU Academy.
Fall trimester is always busy, especially because every year my elementary social studies and Language arts classes write a historical play and make it into a video.
We study about some civilization or time period and then do a play about a person or event related to what we have studied.
Last year we were studying Greek and Roman civilizations, so we did a play about the life of Paul from the Bible.
He’s the guy who wrote the book of Philippians.
He was a Roman citizen who traveled around Greece telling about Jesus.
It was a lot of work, but it was also a fun learning experience for the kids in the class,
And it was also a good learning experience for me.
We read all about the life of Paul from the book of Acts,
And it really makes you think about it in a new way when you are trying to decide what to include in a play and how to act it out.
On the one hand I saw so clearly that Paul really had a very hard life.
We were trying to figure out how many times to show Paul being beaten and how many of his hardships could we show without the video becoming gloomy and depressing.
But on the other hand I saw so clearly Paul’s attitude of rejoicing in the midst of his struggles.
He was so focused on what God was doing in the world and how God was in control and was working even through all of Paul’s hardships.
That was a very timely lesson for me to learn.
We showed the video at our Christmas program, and during vacation I was finishing up the editing and making DVDs for my students.
Over and over I heard the song we used in the video titled: “God is in control.”
My kids walked around the house singing it.
Then, on the last day of winter vacation, my youngest daughter Julia came down in the morning and started vomiting blood in our kitchen.
That was a frightening experience, yet God had prepared us and given us assurance that even in this situation when we could do nothing, He was in control of what happened to Julia.
Julia came very close to dying, but God had mercy on her and on our family.
He protected Julia and kept her alive.
She has had two operations since then and her stomach exam a few weeks ago showed her esophagus is now clear of all the swollen veins that had ruptured and caused the bleeding.
We thank you for we know many of you have prayed for Julia.
But even more we rejoice and thank God, for He has been so good to us.
But it isn’t only when God heals that He is good.
I mentioned this promise earlier (Romans 8:28):
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”
In the apostle Paul’s difficult situations as well in ours, God was at work to bring good out of it.
Now this doesn’t mean God causes all of the problems in our lives.
Most of them are the results of sin in our world.
But God is so great, He uses even bad circumstances to bring about good results.
Paul rejoiced that his imprisonment gave him opportunities to tell his guards and judges and other rulers about Jesus.
In our family’s case, God used Julia’s situation to help our whole family grow in faith.
You know, when everything is going along smoothly in our lives, it is easy to forget about God and how much we need Him.
But when something like Julia’s illness comes along,
it shows us how helpless we really are and how much we need God.
This was true in our family.
Even Julia at her young age of five was learning how to trust God for strength to face difficulties.
You know, we wouldn’t ask for painful circumstances in our lives,
But often these are the times we grow most so I rejoice in what God has done in Julia and our family over the past 8 months.

Now at the same time, we were facing a situation with our house.
For the last 19 years in Japan, we have been renting homes.
Often from owners who were away on business, so we would have to move whenever they came back and wanted the house.
Then in the spring of 2006, we received permanent residence visas, so we had the ability to borrow money and buy a house.
We started praying about it and looking at houses that were available.
But we didn’t find any houses that had what we wanted for a price we could afford.
We asked the real estate agent for the house we were living in whether the owner would be willing to sell.
He said no.
But then he told us last fall that the owner was coming back to Japan but would not be living in that house,
So we could get a new contract and stay there as long as we wanted without having to move.
I thought that sounded pretty good.
Maybe this was God’s answer to our prayers about whether we should move or not.
We stopped actively looking at houses, but we still received faxes of floorplans from the real estate agent from time to time.
One Saturday morning we got one.
It was very blurry and confusing and neither Jemi or I were very interested,
But we were not busy that day, so we decided we would go just to see what was available.
It was very big,
Not very old,
10 minutes drive from KIU Academy,
And a price we could afford!
Wow! We prayed and talked about it, and decided to buy it.
A few days later when I came home from talking with the bank about a loan,
I got a call from the real estate agent for the house we were living in.
He said, ”Oh, Mr. Rohrer, I have something very important to tell you!
The owner changed his mind.
He is coming back and wants to live in the house you are in now.
So you must move by February 9!”
That was less than 3 months away!
I replied, ”My God is so good!
He has provided the house for us to move to when we didn’t even know we would have to move!
And the owners are planning to leave about two weeks before we must be out of this house!”
As it turned out, God’s timing was perfect.
We moved February 2:
One week before we had to be out of our old house,
And 2 days after Julia got out of the hospital after her internal bleeding problem!
Again, I rejoice, for God was so good to us.
The house he provided is so good for our family,
And His timing was also good in that our new neighbors were concerned about our cute little daughter in the hospital,
Which helped us start good relationships with our new neighbors very easily,
And gave us the opportunity to share with them about how our faith in Jesus was helping us through that difficult time.
One of our new neighbors even said that she had gone to church when younger,
And she thought God had brought us to this neighborhood to help her.
Wow, that’s reason to rejoice, isn’t it!
God was at work, even through difficult circumstances.
God has also been at work similarly through my wife’s health problem.
For the past 4 years my wife has had trouble with hyperthyroid,
But God has graciously caused her condition to improve to the point where she could stop taking medicine for it a few months ago.
That’s more reason to rejoice,
But again, God was also working through that difficulty, with the result that several people from her hospital have come to Chapel and heard about Jesus.
We rejoice in what God has done and share our joy with you.

Now while all the medical problems were happening with Julia,
Life was still going on for our other four kids, and it was often rather stressful.
Those of you who are parents know it is often challenging raising children.
You teach them what is right and how to treat others, but you can’t make them want to do right.
We can try to guide their actions, but we can’t change their hearts.
Only God can do that.
And we have prayed to that end for our kids since before they were born.
And this year we’ve seen God answer some of those prayers.
This spring, the Holy Spirit clearly worked in my son, changing his attitude toward God and others.
I was so pleasantly surprised to see the kind way he was relating to his younger sisters.
I told him I really appreciated it.
He said, “Oh it’s no problem. It just comes naturally!”
But we both know the change really came supernaturally through the work of the Holy Spirit.
I rejoice to see God’s work in my son’s life.
Likewise, I’ve seen God at work in my daughter’s life.
One night before we prayed together at bedtime, I asked my daughter if she had ever talked to some of her friends about Jesus.
We started praying for them together.
Before long she had invited two of them to Chapel and they were coming regularly.
As a father, it is exciting for me to see my daughter’s concern for those around her,
To see her desire to share Jesus with her friends,
And to see God at work in her life, answering her prayers.
It’s another reason to rejoice.

Now God wasn’t at work only in our family,
But we’ve seen Him at work in encouraging ways in the lives of others around us in answer to our prayers.
A good example is Akemi Yamaguchi’s father.
You may have heard Akemi’s testimony about it a few months ago.
Mr. Yamaguchi used to attend our Suminodo Int’l chapel years ago and my family also attended there.
Many weeks I helped him practice his English speaking,
And then after the message I would try to talk with him about Jesus,
But he had no interest.
His heart was hard toward God.
Then, years later, we heard from Akemi that his condition was rapidly deteriorating from cancer.
Our family prayed for his physical condition, but we prayed even more for his heart:
That it would soften and that he would repent of his sin and give his life to Jesus before he died.
I must admit that my faith often was not very strong as I thought back to my talks with him at Suminodo,
But my young daughters prayed for him faithfully almost every night,
And God answered.
Again God graciously worked through a difficult illness to bring about good:
Mr. Yamaguchi’s heart softened and he turned to Jesus.
He died at peace with God and will be with him forever in heaven.
This was so encouraging to our family and to many others at Chapel.
That is reason to rejoice!

Now the question arises: Why has God done all of these wonderful things for my family in the past year?
Is it because I am a missionary or some kind of great Christian?
No, as I said earlier, I think my children’s faith is sometimes greater than mine.
But this summer as God brought to my mind the blessings of the past year,
tears ran down my cheeks,
And I saw it is all because of God’s grace,
Because He is such a loving and generous God.
It is such a blessing to know Him.
All I can do is rejoice and give thanks to Him.
His grace is the hope for my family.
His grace is the hope for this church.
His grace is the hope for Japan.
Most people in Japan see no need for Jesus in their lives.
*As the Bible says, (Romans 3:10-11) “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
That was Mr Yamaguchi’s situation
And Maybe this is your situation today,
But just like with Mr Yamaguchi’s case, God still loves you and He is seeking you.
He is the hope for your life,
And that is reason to rejoice.
What reasons do you have to rejoice today?
Think about it,
Then rejoice and share your joy with others.

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