Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas At Our House

Our Christmas came with a flurry of activity. Between the weather, all the festivities, and conflicting family schedules, we definitely stayed busy enough. David's youth group did a fantastic job at putting on a play enphasising the true meaning of Christmas. Mom and I helped out with a couple of music programs at some elderly homes.

Alicia and Isaiah came home for Christmas, with Isaac. He's growing so fast, and we all loved having them here to make the day just that much more special.
Christmas Eve, we all sat around the fire, while dad read the Christmas story. This year, we were evaluating it to find out the timing of events. Interestingly enough, we've always held to the fact that Jesus was two years old when the wisemen found Him; but really, he wasn't very old. In fact, the whole documented account takes place in less than 40 days, when Jesus was dedicated in the temple.

This year, we just opened family gifts on Christmas, which made it kind of different from other years, but we had a blast!

After a delicious meal, (and even better dessert,)...

...A Christmas ball was on the dockett! Nice to meet all the friends that we generally don't get to see.

What a Christmas! This year, the most precious thing I found was God's grace. Though I've been too tired to join in all the festivities, I have found Strength in my weakness. Truly, what a Friend I have in Jesus. He is precious to those who seek Him, and what better time to spend time with Him than on His celebrated birthday.
Merry Christmas all, and have a blessed New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Meaning of Christmas

'Tis a week before Christmas, just look all around,
There is hustle and bustle- so much to be done!

With shopping, and presents, and all Santa's reindeer,
Children, on "winter break," full of "holiday" cheer.

You hear music and laugher but where are the carols?
The songs tell of chestnuts, of snow, and marshmallows.

What happened to Jesus? -He cannot be found.
The meaning's been lost about God's own Perfect Son.

C is for the Christ-child born to bring us peace and light.
H is is for the Herald told by angels on that night.
R is for the Royalty He laid aside for man.
I is for the Incense that was brought by starlit wisemen.
S is for the Sin that would require such a ransom!
(such wretches as we are, we sin so much -and then some)
T is for Temptation; like us, and yet without our sin.
M is for the Men He sought to seek and save and win.
A is for Almighty God who sent His Son in love.
S is for Salvation bought by Jesus Christ's own blood.

This Christmas as you contemplate how much our Lord has done,
Remember now, the meaning's all about the Holy One.

So, as you hustle on with so much this next season,
Keep the Saviour in mind, for He's the real reason.

As you prepare festivities, in all that you do,
Be sure to put Christ first- He came in love for YOU!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Godly Music from God's Perspective

I've had many friends ask me what I believe about music. To be quite honest, I enjoy some more "peppy" tunes every now and then, but it's not my opinion or approvals that matter - it only matters what God thinks about music.
If you look up music in the Bible, you will find many, many, many Scripture passages on music. It is clear that God enjoys music and created it for His glory. Since music is often a "gray area" in churches and organizations, I looked for Scriptures that maybe weren't as common, but are very clear. These are a few of the criteria for Godly Christian music I found. (Please note: I used the KJV because it is the closest to the original languages of Hebrew and Greek.)
In Colossians, we are instructed to let God's Word dwell in our hearts through music. It is also obvious that Paul is talking to Christians. Godly music among Christians should encourage other Christians in God's Word, bring to remembrance the things that God has done, and most of all, bring honor and glory to God. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16)
Along those same lines, Psalm 40:3 states that good music causes others see and fear the Lord. It doesn't have the appearance of the world's rock concerts, because they see the difference. They don't just "feel His love", but they fear God. This verse also uses the term "new song". Now, the verse before, David is praising God for bringing Him out of the "miry clay"- a picture of the world. A new song then, would be a song that is different from the world. "And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord."
Even back in the O.T. God talks about good music. "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord... then the house was filled witha cloud, ...for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God." (2 Chronicles 5:13-14) A classical orchestra and a rock band can use the same instruments, but they sound totally different. The instruments mentioned in this passage could be used for good or bad. The difference? The orchestra and choir were as one; they had a unified sound. All the instruments, and the parts the singers had, worked together to make a melodious, peaceful, God-honoring sound. -And God's presence was so strong, the priests, God's own ministers, couldn't even stand in God's house. Where is that presence today?
There are also a few things that God doesn't want in music:
When God is describing the insincere, careless people in Israel that He would judge in Amos, he mentions those instruments again. Instruments like David's, but apparently not used in a good manner. But then he uses the word "chant". Something said redundantly, repetitively, over and over, and over, and get the point. In Matthew, God refers to "vain repetitions" in prayer. Music is a prayer with notes and sound. God doesn't want empty, repetitive phrases in His music. "That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David." (Amos 6:5) "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do..." (Matthew 6:7)
You all know the story of Moses on Mount Sinai, how he wrote the ten commands on two tablets, and then he did what? ...He broke them because of the people's sin. The sin of idolatry, the sin of wanting to be like the world around them. "And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear." (Exodus 32:17-18) As Moses came down the mountain, he ran into Joshua, (his side-kick) and they were confused about the sounds coming from camp. It sounded like war (i.e. chaos, angry, screaming, etc) but yet it didn't sound like victory or defeat, it sounded kind of like... singing? How strange! And that is the noise that accompanied their dancing and idol worship, all what they had learned from the world. Our music should not look like the world, and it definately should not incite sensual desires. Moses was so distraught over the people's returning to worldly ways that he broke the tablets, and the people had awful consequences.
One last verse I would like to share with you,
"For God is King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding." (Psalm 47:7)
Take a look at what God says in His Word, both these verses and others. God didn't mean music to be a "gray area". He created us to praise Him, and He wants us to praise Him with a pure heart. It doesn't matter what you think about music, it doesn't matter what I think; it matters what God thinks. He brought us out of the world to be different from the world and separated unto Him.
Sing with understanding.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Violin Quartet Special

God gave us an amazing opportunity to encourage a couple of churches here in Oklahoma City by playing a violin quartet. Last Sunday evening, we played a hymn together at Southern Temple Baptist Church, and this Sunday, we played an arrangement at Western Hills Baptist Church. We've had so much fun practicing together and we've learned a lot about blending parts, overemphasizing dynamics, and mirroring bow movement.

Sarah Espinida played first violin, Esther Staddon played second violin, Barbara Sutton played third violin, and Sarah Waller played fourth violin. All four of us sound so good together, and God really blessed our effort and dedication. One dad came up to us after the service and said that he watched the intent faces, deep concentration, and determination, and would be sure to remind his kids later that that's what it takes to play their instruments well.

The neatest thing was how God put the service together. The speaker gave a sermon on the power of God's Holy Spirit, and then we played a special on "Abide With Me". So amazing to watch God piece the whole thing together to His honor and glory. It is so wonderful to be used by God in such a way when He could easily use someone else or do without. What a God we serve!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hey all! It's been amazing being on the front lines here in Oklahoma City, watching God work! God surely is faithful to those whom He has called. I've gotten to lead a young girl to the Lord at a Bible club, and have had several good conversations talking to kids.
Please pray, as we are experiencing several Spiritual attacks. Some classes are just plain crazy, many of the team members have been/are sick, and many of us have struggled with depression and our devotional lives. The work is great, and if Satan can slow us down, he's got us. It's been a great fall semester!
The next few weeks are going to really fly, as things start to slow down and the semester ends. Our days are cram-packed with work and activities, and our team so enjoys ultimate frisbee! God will bless though, and hopefully many kids will write us over break.
Through Christ Alone,
Barbara J.
"The Lord giveth strength unto His people, the Lord blesses His people with peace." Psalm 29:11

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Return to Oklahoma City!

It is hard to believe that the school year is here already! The summer just flew past! I've enjoyed hearing from many of you and visiting friends I haven't seen in a while. Here's a quick update on where I'll be next:

Wednesday night, I leave to return to teach a character program in Oklahoma City. It is an amazing opportunity to trust the Lord, use time wisely, learn more about God's Word, and most of all, teach kids about God. I will desperately try to give updates every week to keep you up to date on the Lord's workings until I return November 22nd. Thank you all for your kind prayers and support.


Change and the Future

In Montana, if you don't like the weather, or the way the wind blows, wait five minutes, and it will change. Quite frequently, we can use the AC, heat, and an umbrella in the same day. Go figure. Whether we like sunshine or rain, that's the way it is. The weather man thinks he knows what will happen tomorrow, but God created the sky. He definately knows what's coming.
Some things are just plain more challenging than that though. You know the ones. Like, when people ask you what you are doing next. Or, when they ask you to "keep this in mind". Or maybe, when others are telling you thier plan for their life, and you're asking yourself: What about the future? What then? Will I be a missionary, a farmer, a wife, or a miserable failure? Will I ever go to college? How can I know for sure?
Well, I have good news and "bad" news for you. The good news is, just as God created the sky, God created your life, and He knows exactly what will happen. Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has good planned for your life, and not evil, if you obey His commands and follow Him.
However, the "bad" news is, that you and I both will not find out until it comes. Matthew 6:34 tells us not to worry about the future because "it will take care of itself". God lets us know what we need to know when we need to know it.
So, trust God. Love Him with all of your heart, and stay in tune with His Spirit. Then, when His Spirit leads, just follow.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Harvest is Ready

As harvest approaches, I am reminded again how God loves object lessons. In the song America the Beautiful the writer states, "O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain." He must have been writing about Eastern Montana. That definately fits here! It is so lovely this time of year, with acres and acres of wheat swaying in the breeze.

Before I moved to the country though, wheat harvest didn't make sense to me. Some called it "amber waves", some called it "ripe", sometimes it was mentioned as "too green", and the Bible called a ready-to-harvest wheat field "white". It might has well been explained in Chinese!

When it comes down to it though, it depends on the type of wheat. A lot of the wheat grown where I live is very green at the start of summer, then it ripens to a golden or "amber" color. Then, right before harvest the field literally turns white. -That's when you harvest. Right then! If you wait, the wheat overripens and is good only for chicken feed.

Amazing huh? God told us to not wait, but to gather the harvest of unbelievers, because the field is white, ready for harvest. If you and I wait... it could be too late for the old lady down the street, the cashier at the SuperPumper, and the little boy who comes to Bible Club. You never know when their time on earth will be done, when death will knock on their door. Will it be your fault they didn't go to heaven?

"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest." John 4:35

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cleaner than the Environment

Today, as I was picking lettuce for my mom, the Lord brought this verse to mind:

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Matthew 5:37

Mom told me to make sure I washed the lettuce real good because, though it looks clean outside, it is very dirty. -Even though it looks better than the dirt and weeds it's surrounded by, when it is washed with water, it looks filthy!

Sometimes, my Christian testimony is the same... Though my language may be cleaner than those around me, when it is "washed" in the water of God's Word, it's really dirty. How is your language? God said that every idle word will be judged. Perhaps there's some words that really don't need to be said, or should be taken out of your vocabulary. Don't judge it by those around you. Judge your words by God's Word, for His standard is the only one that matters. -And God will honor those that follow His Word!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Family CD

It is great to watch God work sometimes. This is the cover for the CD that our family just put together. Since this summer is the last time we may be together as a family, a church gave us a gift to get recorded. Praise the Lord! May the Lord use it to His honor and glory.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Berry Picking

It's berry picking time here at the Sutton farm! Raspberries, blackberries, currants and cherries, all waiting to be made into jam, pies, or ice-cream. Since I have picked berries since childhood, I often take for granted that we can. Choosing carefully only the biggest and the best berries for my bucket, I leave the rest for the birds. Because of the cool air and plenteous rain, we have some great berries!

Then it occurred to me that we get to pick berries because we planted them. Not only did we plant the berries, but we planted the right kind of berries. Now after a great deal of time we are able to reap the berries. Wow! Really if you think about it, our Christian life is the same way. You will reap. In fact, you will reap exactly the same kind of fruit you planted. And, to add to that, you will definitely reap it after a great deal of time.

What kind of fruit are you planting? Are you planting seeds for fruit that only the birds will want, or are you planting seeds for big, juicy, godly fruit? Remember, you will reap after a great deal of time. Be faithful. Don't give up. It will be worth the work and the wait!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just a Dishwasher?

This last week I spent in Bozeman, Montana, at a Christian camp there. The dean had asked me to come wash dishes for him. As things turned out, I was the only dishwasher for just shy of one hundred people. That's all I did! You know what though? The Lord really blessed and lots of people came through to help or encourage me. By the end of the week, I thought, "Why do I come back year after year to wash dishes? Why don't I ask for a 'more important' job?" Then the dean came to the kitchen and profusely thanked me for doing dish pit for him, for though he has no trouble finding counsellors, no one will come to do the thankless duty of a dishwasher. Right there the Lord convicted me. I was doing exactly what the Lord wanted me to do. He didn't want me doing a "more important" job. If I didn't wash dishes, the counsellors would have to, leaving the campers to themselves for a while, or perhaps, the dean would have to do it, or, the cooks,... and using any one of them would distract them from the task God wants them to do. My job as dishwasher wasn't thankless; it definately had it's reward. So many kids were reached because the counsellors, and others were free to talk to them. God worked in a great way, and I got to be a part of it!
All that to say, have you ever wanted to do something great for God? Go be a blessing by doing the job that no one wants and leave the spotlight to Someone else...God. Sometimes it is easy to forget Who really gets the glory and honor anyway.
Through Christ alone,
Barbara J.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Patchwork of People

Life is so amazing... the people you meet, the places you go. To think that God arranges it all just blows my mind. In today's sermon, the speaker said that every spiritual battle, there is someone who is watching and will either choose God or choose against God. That sure makes my choices important. Never thought of it that way. Right now, I'm struggling with something, and I could tell you the person that is watching to see what I'll do, and that's a fearful thought. O Lord, help me to do what is right and be a positive example!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

1 Corinthians 2:8-9

Truly eye hasn't seen and no ear has heard the things that God prepares for His servants. What He reveals through His Spirit is amazing! Last night I gave my first session of a character training seminar for teachers. It went very well (thanks to all those who prayed for me), and they went away excited to come back next week. Never in a million years have I ever dreamed I'd be doing this. God is so amazing!