Sunday, July 22, 2012

Goodbye Taiwan


My last week in Taiwan.

 Ah, the bitter sweetness of goodbyes, preparations, and memories; the hugs, the smiles, the tears… This has been a rough year for me; but the irony of difficulty, being a Christian, is that I am SO much closer to God. He has taught me so much. I’m a slow learner, but He is gracious and faithful. A few things I have learned:


Y  Getting away is not only okay, it is recommended. Schedule alone time.
Y  Learn to say no without a guilty conscience.
Y  Be honest and true to who you are. Remember. You do NOT have to explain yourself or your actions to people.
Y  God is a lot bigger than we give Him credit for.
Y  Not only are the things told to the Father completely confidential, but He is also able to solve the issue and replace the trouble with peace.
Y  Remember that it’s the follower who is usually caught. Don’t do anything questionable, even if someone else is.
Y  STAY CONNECTED with family and close friends. (I’m so grateful for skype!)
Y  A smile transcends culture, language, and religion, and is the easiest way to bless someone.
Y  Blessing offenders is the quickest way to eliminate enemies.
Y  Count your blessings. Write down answers to prayer. Keep God’s promises ever before your eyes.
Y  Show gratefulness for critique, and be quick to ask forgiveness. Keep short accounts.
Y  Choose your investments (time, energy, and money) wisely.
Y  DO NOT forget time with God, even for a day. It is essential!!!!
Y  Choose your friends with caution; because “who you spend time with you will become like.”
Y  Take lots of pictures. Memory fades, but pictures last a lifetime.

Thank you ALL for your prayers, notes, care packages, and love. Without you, I couldn’t survive on the mission field. Having you behind me is what gives me strength to continue, and keeps the enemy at bay.
I will be leaving for Taipei in just two short hours. There I will spend the night, and leave the country in the morning. Tuesday will be forty hours long, as I travel BACKWARDS in time to the States.
En-route to home, I will be staying at the IBLP Headquarters in Chicago for a few days, then going to a family encouragement conference. From there, my Aunt will pick me up and take me to her home. I’ve been invited to be the “missionary” for a VBS at her church. When it is over, I will take a train home. Whew! It will take about 3 weeks.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you, catching up, and seeing what God’s been doing in YOUR life this year.

Blessings in Christ,

蘇以樂
 “Bob”
Barbara Jewel Sutton

Thursday, July 19, 2012

God is... Wonderful


Wonderful
“Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declared and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” Psalm 40:5

Wonderful is so commonly used today, that when I came across this name of God in the Bible, I thought: “what does wonderful really mean?”  Here, according to online dictionaries, is what I found.

Inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration
      Extremely good
      Marvelous
Astonishing
      Exciting wonder

 “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee; I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.” Psalm 25:1

Exciting wonder, extremely good, inspiring delight, astonishing- the words seem to burn into my soul. This word is designed to describe God! And to think, He has done so many wonderful things, that they cannot be numbered. (That was way back in Bible times- think how many He’s done by now!) I can think of several wonderful things God has done in my life…

Gave me very good, loving parents, who brought me up in God’s way. (and siblings too!)
Demonstrated true love for me through various friends and acquaintances.
Died on the cross for my selfishness, pride, and wicked rebellion.
Wooed me to Himself, even though I wanted nothing to do with Him for myself.
Saved my soul, forgiving me forever!
Gave me His Word to guide and direct me, and to prove Himself.
Granted numerous requests for His provision and promises.
Filled me with His love for people, and teaches me how to see them His way.
Provides for basic and even extra needs; a home, family, green grass, air to breathe, a dog… the list is long.

-This is just a start. There are so many wonderful things that God has done for me, it would take days to write the whole list.

I challenge you to look at the wonderful things God has done for you. Write them down. Keep track. His blessings for you will blow your mind away! He is just like that.

“He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered…” Psalm 111:4a

Sunday, July 15, 2012

God is... Vine


Vine
“I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

Jesus goes on to explain this relationship between the vine and the branch; that if the branch does not “abide” in the vine, it withers, and is cast out. Indeed, without the Vine, branches are pretty useless. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. In this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you shall be My disciples.” John 15:6-8

At our home (in the US), we have several grape vines.

One kind we have are wild, “riverbank” (without the river) grapes, that are small and sour. Let me repeat. They are WILD. We trim them when they get in the way, but otherwise, they are left to make it on their own. Some of the branches sprawl out on the ground, where people and animals alike often trample them; while a few branches cling to trees, often killing them in the process. A few actually found their way to the fence placed there for their benefit. THESE are the branches from which we get fruit, small, extremely sour grapes.

However, we also have another kind: concord grapes. In stark contrast, these vines are well groomed (well, for amateurs) and produce juicy fruit. The branches are not allowed to sprawl anywhere they want, but have been trained to grow in a safe, well-watered, beneficial place. Some of the branches are pruned off the plant to allow for the vine to concentrate on fruit. It actually took a few years for us to reap the benefit of our work. Surprisingly, these vines are the healthier, beefier ones; not the vines that are wild and left to themselves. We wait in anticipation for Concord grapes to ripen each summer!

The question is this:

Which vine are you on?

You have to be on one of them, for we are designed to be “abiding” in something, whether the indulgences of worldly pleasures or the simple walk of faith. 

Every once in a while I get a taste of spiritual fruit that it is SOUR. What a wake-up call! Looking at my branch, I see that it’s attached to a vine of selfishness, pride, slothfulness, or something similar. Yikes! When did that happen? That is not where I want to be. That is NOT the fruit I want to be producing. Tearfully, I cry out in repentance for God to prune that branch, and graft it back in the True Vine. He does. Each and every time. And then, as I abide in Him, and His Word abides in me, I begin to experience His sweet fruit. It is well worth the work and wait!

Are you abiding in the True Vine?

Unripened Concord grapes before I left the US last summer.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Camp Week 2


Dear Praying Friends,

The Red Hen story.
Thank you for your prayers dear friends. We surely felt them this week. We had a single, though very large, class this week, made up of several fourth and fifth grade classes. The fifth graders were really sixth grade and acted like middle-schoolers. They really didn’t get excited about much. On the other hand, the fourth graders acted very much like small children. Therefore, right away on the first day, we decided to split the fourth and fifth graders for English class. That worked much better.

Teaching this group was really quite comical. As I went through the pictures taken, I had to laugh. There would be a picture of three children all looking three different directions… It seemed to not matter what we did or tried, the fifth graders would chit-chat through lessons, and the fourth graders, well, we did great if they were in the classroom. It sounds bad, but all in all, they were very controllable; a great way to finish the year’s teaching.

Yesterday, as I traveled to the train station for my violin lesson, I saw so MANY people. Some that called out to me, and I stopped to chat with them. It’s amazing that even though my Chinese is not good, a smile and nod makes many friends. The people here are so down, due mainly, I think, to their religion. They have no hope. While I can’t yet share the gospel, I have learned how to say “Jesus loves you,” and can of course share a smile.

Today (Friday) the kids went on a field trip, and there wasn’t enough room for the English teachers, so the camp ended early this morning, and we have a very quiet day ahead of us.

10 days ‘till I fly to the States!

By God’s Grace,
Barbara  蘇以樂

"Dragon" -a new English word for most

"Miserably" at Peace part 2

It's been a while since I've blogged on this subject, so if you want to catch up on part one, you can read it here.

So, has it gotten any better?

Sadly enough, no. Of course, just like anything else, there are good days and bad days; but over all, I would have to say it's stayed frustratingly hard. Every day is a constant struggle to take God at His Word and keep my attitude positive.

I know you're thinking: "For real? You're a MISSIONARY. You're supposed to be the perfect Christian!" But hey friends, I'm just as normal as any other Christian young person out there. I have struggles too. In fact, being on the missionfield makes me more vulnerable to the attack of Satan. He doesn't like to see souls coming to Christ and throws anything in the way he can. -One thing in particular has been a constant "thorn in my flesh" so to speak.

Feeling inadequate still gets to me. It wrenches a knife in my heart and forces me to tears every time. As I think about it now, I think this feeling is rooted in my childhood years. There was one person in my life who was very influential, yet very detrimental to my mental, physical, and spiritual health. I was never enough for him, no matter how hard I tried. I wasn't smart enough, wasn't a good enough shot (we live in NRA country), wasn't brave enough, wasn't ladylike enough, and so forth... and I NEVER could satisfy his sensual desires. Labels like "not the best," "under par," and "not _______ing enough," are familiar to my ears and engraved deeply on my heart.

The desire for adequacy causes me to shoot high and over achieve. However, if I don't cut the cake, or someone is displeased, I am crushed to  the point of depression. From there, I give up. This is a normal cycle in my life, and it needs to change. -But how?

I'm very aware that this job is over my head. I can't do it. I've done my best, but it isn't enough. No one is 100% pleased with my performance, including myself. I just didn't know what to do anymore! Regardless of capability, I'm here until the contract runs out. I'm worn out from trying to fill a role I can't fill, of trying to BE something I'm not. No, I haven't forgotten God's promises and His labels of me. (Ephesians 1) I just don't know how to apply  that. What would that look like in my life for the next two weeks? What steps could/should I take?

This is when feelings collide with faith. I must put my feelings aside and act out of obedience. I know this is where God wants me right now. Obviously then, I am the right person for the job, because God makes no mistakes. Why? I don't know. I may never know. What I do know, is God's promises to me of my position in Him.
-redeemed
-chosen
-holy
-blameless
-well-pleasing
-accepted

Therefore, I must boldly and unashamedly do my best, and not apologize for what I'm not. Who am I trying to impress, anyway? In Christ, because of Christ, I am adequate. -Not just okay, but well-pleasing in God's sight.

God is pleased. Well pleased. That is all that truly matters.

God is... Unsearchable


For a while, I was a little "stuck" for a name of God beginning with "U." It is not a common letter, and usually used as the negative prefix"un-" on words. However, as I read my Bible today, I came across Psalm 145, and it filled me with excitement. God is so amazing!

Unsearchable

 “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.”  Psalm 145:3

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.”  Isaiah 40:28

“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;”  Ephesians 7-8


“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”  Romans 11:33

Every day it seems I learn more about Jesus. It seems I can never know everything there is to know. The hint of mystery shrouding our God renders a sense of awe in His character. I love how no matter how much I study and read the Bible, I can learn something new every time. At times it feels as if I am eating from “salted oats,” leaving me with an even greater burning desire to know God when I leave than when I began. How beautiful to know a Good, Great, Unsearchable God!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Culture of Religion

This weekend, a friend took me to an old temple, built in the 1680's. She wanted me to see the heart of Taiwanese culture. I saw it, but perhaps differently than she expected. My heart broke for these people. They are SO BLIND to the truth. They don't know the Jesus that would set them free. There are so many things I wish I could tell them. With a heavy heart, I prayed through the night for these people to see the truth.

Upon entering the temple, I encountered rows of people paying obeisance to their god. 

The carvings (like our old paintings in great buildings) tell a story, usually religious related. The blackness is an indicator of the "success" of a temple due to the amount of smoke.

Huge gongs, hung from the ceiling, strike an eerie demonic rhythm.

The women in yellow are medians who can communicate directly with the gods.
Praise the Lord! I don't need a median. I can talk directly to God.

Gifts for the gods: flowers, fruit, and money. They give only the best, and many of them give up livelihoods and necessities to accommodate their god. 
This puts Christians to shame. I am often so tempted to give after I have what I need, or only a little. What God could do with Christians FULLY and WHOLEHEARTEDLY devoted to Him, who freely surrender all to His capable hands.

To them, the more smoke, the better. The smoke is what carries their prayer to the gods in heaven.
Jesus knows my heart. (Romans 8:27) I don't need anything or anyone to carry my requests to Him.

They choose the god that protects or blesses how they need, dress it, care for it, and carry it from place to place. It was raining, so the temple worker prepared an umbrella to protect his god from the rain. 
My God made the rain. He doesn't need protection- He gives it! I can't choose how I want Him to be or what benefits He gives. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Candle burning relates to afterlife somehow (I didn't understand it all, but this part reminded me a little of Catholicism.)

Convention of the gods. Their caretakers have brought them together for a visit.
The Almighty God is omnipresent, (everywhere at once) and does not need someone to transport Him. He inhabits the praise of His people.

Originally, the temple received it's name from a purple cloud that would descend and demonstrate the presence of the god.
'Sounds like a Bible story... The glory of God's presence over the Temple in the form of a cloud...

The woman in yellow (just off-center) is holding an object over the incense. She must douse it four times, and then it will be empowered to protect whomever or whatever it is tied around.
I don't need an object in this life to help me. Jesus is powerful enough that He can protect me without help.

Little boys filling the role of worshiper of the family, to protect their homes and loved ones.
This just breaks my heart.
 "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14)


She is imitating one of the gods, hoping to gain favor.
God loves me immensely. It does not matter what I do or say; God will not love me any more or less. (Ephesians 1)

This couple is burning letters, so the smoke can carry the words to heaven.

In the end, my friend told me her conclusion: "If you have an open mind, you can accomplish many things. These people all believe different things and worship differently, but they can exist peacefully together. Christians shouldn't be so narrow-minded."
Knowing where she stands with Christians, I knew speaking in defense would have only strengthened her resolve against Christ, but my heart replied: "I can't apologize. I'm not ashamed of being 'narrow-minded,' because I have what all these people are so desperately trying to achieve- a personal relationship with God."

"...Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Camp-Asia style


Dear Praying Friends,

The troops are weary, but God is faithful. This week was a blast! The children were very obedient and sweet, making them easier and encouraging to teach. Thank you Lord! This week, we split floors, so I only taught one of the two classes. It was really nice. I feel like I know the kids better. (On top of their good English and my Chinglish.)
School is out, but that means zilch here. Summer camp is basically the same as any other week- classes every forty minutes, long days, hard chairs. I think I would have died as a fourth grader if I went to summer camp like this! However, that’s normal for Taiwanese. They learn full time, just in different locations when school is out. Being American though, we try to make class as FUN as possible. They have enough of thinking classes. Let’s play a game!
One class this week had come before, which is a first for the institute. When the bus arrived, they excitedly RAN off the bus to give us high fives and hugs. At first, the teachers wondered what to teach them, but they didn’t remember much and could be taught the same information again.
The other class, a mix of three separate classes, is the class I taught. Their English level was amazing! Often, we would ask for a translator, but the kids would translate the sentence without the aid of a translator. Because it is summer camp, two siblings, a third grader and a fifth grader, tagged along this week. (Usually, we only have fourth grade.) No worries though! They did well staying with the class. All the children were well behaved; they knew how to have fun, and then how to quickly get under control.
A couple of kids became my shadows, following me around everywhere. It made me double check to make sure I always did things that showed good character and not just acting out of bad habits. A good pressure to have, and a great reminder that I’m always being watched.
I often get a kick out of the written English posted everywhere here, because it doesn’t make sense or its worded funny. At the train station, there is a sign for the “KISS AND RIDE,” which we would generally say “DROP OFF/PICK UP.” So, when one of the kids brought in a bag with English that made sense, albeit still a little funny, I had to take a picture.
Please pray for the children next week. It is unusually hot in Taiwan this year, being in the 90’s (F), with high humidity. There is no AC anywhere in our building, and so the heat makes it difficult for the children to sleep, which of course, affects their behavior. Also, we English teachers haven’t slept either. We are running on adrenaline, and that’s running out. Pray for cooler weather, and that we will be able to sleep in spite of the heat.

By God’s Grace,
Barbara  蘇以樂

Sunday, July 1, 2012

God is...Truth


Truth

The world’s message is so depressing, and it surrounds us everywhere we go. It shouts to us from billboards, it plays over the radio, it shouts at us on TV, and permeates even the church atmosphere. These same ideas even find their way onto the mission field and through the lips of friends. 

Worthless   failure   ugly   dirty    ALONE   depressed   unloved   helpless   can’t do anything right


These thoughts are debilitating and cripple the Christian into stagnate action. So what can we do?  It seems there is no way to escape.  How can we find worth, purpose, and joy?  

You and I must go to the very source of truth: Jesus Himself.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
“…To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”   (John 18:37)

What relief! There is truth in the world.  Another name for Jesus is WORD (see John 1), so we know that what the Word tells us is truth. The exciting part????  Through the blood of Jesus a whole new set of labels applies.

Forgiven    loved    child of the King     unique and beautiful             joyful servant    chosen    without blame before Him in love    FREE

One of my favorite chapters to read whenever I am listening to the Satan’s whispers instead of God’s truth, is Ephesians 1. Ephesians 1 comprehensively explains the position of the Believer in the kingdom of God. There is no reason to walk around defeated and down!  God sees you and I as precious and beloved in His sight.

Praise the Lord for Truth!