Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tales from Taiwan #11

Dear sisters,

Last Wednesday at the Buddhist orphanage I was supposed to tutor Alex, a third grader I've known since first grade.  As is often the case, several boys got upset at each other and then Alex refused to do any more English work.  Instead he climbed under some desks in the corner of the room and did his math homework instead (hey, can't fault a kid for doing homework!).  So I crawled underneath and joined him.  I just started praying for him and sang "Jesus Loves Me" to him in English while he did math.  

We stayed under the desks like this for maybe 20 minutes.  Finally Alex finished his math assignments and got up.  I followed him and asked him if he knew why we came every week.  He just shrugged his shoulders and looked at me.  I smiled and said, "Because we love you!"          

Alex would hardly look at me.  I think he's been hurt in the past and so it's harder for him to trust others like this.  I repeated it and told him he better remember it.  He nodded seriously and had a hint of a smile on his face.  The moment passed and he was ready to get on with English, but I know it was a big step of growth for this little third grader.  Of course, my heart is really for him to know of Christ and His love, but this is certainly a starting point for a boy rescued and put in a Buddhist orphanage!      

I could go on and on of what God is doing in my area of Taiwan!  Some of it seems so big and amazing!  Some of it seems rather small or insignificant at the moment, but then I remember this quote from John Piper:
"In every situation and circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know."

Praising God that He is indeed at work here in my island, in my life and in those around me.  And this - that He's at work in you and your life too!

For Him in Taiwan,

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Seeking God in a Busy World


"Are you busy?"
     I may not know you, I've probably never met you, but I know how you'll answer that question. We're all busy. You're busy. I'm busy. The world is busy. No one has time for anything, especially the things that matter most. We're all running ourselves ragged, day after day, and waking up every morning realizing we are just as far behind as we were the day before. When will it end? When will things finally settle down? More importantly, what are we spending all of this time on?
     I once saw an acronym for the word "busy": Being Under Satan's Yoke. My mother likes to remind me of this one often. Trust me, I need that reminder. The point is, if you're always "busy", you'll convince yourself, be it consciously or subconsciously, that you don't have time for the things that matter most. I'm pretty sure one of Satan's number one tools is distraction through busyness.
     Just so you see where I'm coming from, I'll give you a little peek into my world. (Don't worry, I'm not going to try to compete with your busyness, because the truth is we're all at different places in life and in this moment we all feel like we have more than we can handle.) I'm a sophomore in college hoping to get into vet school with a part-time job, sideline photography business, and the responsibilities as well as many blessings of being the oldest child of nine. That's just a little overview of my life in general at the moment. Looking at it in black and white makes it seem like nothing. But, to be completely honest with you, right now, all the little details that go along with those bigger things are driving me crazy. It feels like a lot. It feels like too much. There is not enough time in one day for me to accomplish the things that I feel must be accomplished. Honestly, I can't handle it. I know I sound like I'm complaining or trying to throw myself a pity party, but that's not my intention. I'm just trying to be real. I'm just saying I'm weak and I need God desperately.
     Speaking of being real, I'd like to point out a trend I see in the majority of Christians today. We put on a show. We want people to think we have it all together. We want people to think we're better than them somehow, and if we're honest, a lot of us probably think we are better than others. That's just the truth, folks. The thing is, what this world needs is not Christians who put others down and look perfect on the outside, but Christians who humbly proclaim their shortcomings and need of Jesus Christ because He is the ONLY way to find peace in the chaos of this world. If we deny this truth through our words and actions we're not examples of Christ, we're hypocrites.
     On that note, I want to share with you, what God has been reminding me lately. I tell myself that I'm living right because I pour my time into school, work, and family. Oh and I try to squeeze in some time for God. That's just the honest truth. I mean think about it, the world says that success is good grades and a nice paycheck. Meanwhile, the modern church says that success is a little time spent on Sunday morning with God and maybe even having supper as a family a few nights a week.
      What am I worried about? I'm a successful Christian, right? Go me! I'm awesome!
      ......except, I'm not. Not by God's standards. He didn't call me to barely make it through the day and forget all about Him until I need something. He has called His followers to much more than the mundane worries of this life.
     Clayton Jennings, an evangelist who has recently been an encouragement to me, made a very true statement: "If you only talk to God when you need something, you don't want a savior, you want a servant!" That hit home with me.
     When I realize my priorities and focus aren't where they should be, I start arguing, "I can't just go be a missionary. I have responsibilities here. I can't spare any time to serve others. I already give time to my family. I can't spend time in the Word. I have to study for school if I want to get into vet school. I can't... I can't... I can't..." I have an excuse for everything.
     That's when God reminds me in His bold whisper, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33) ...With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.(Matthew 19:26)"
     Boom! Attention, Emily, your argument is invalid.
      Not only is it entirely possible for me to put God first, serve others, and do what He calls me to do, but He says if I seek Him first all the other things will be given to me as well. I can't do it all on my own, but God says He'll help me if I'll just seek Him. How awesome is it that the Creator of the Universe cares so much for each and every one of us? All we have to do is seek God and His will for our lives first and He will give us all that we need. We don't have to do it alone.

     In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus states the greatest commands for His followers,  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” God first, others second, me last.  It's really that simple. Our sinful, selfish nature makes it difficult.
     So how do we do that? How do we seek God first? Obviously, I'm no expert. I fail at it on a regular basis, but God is teaching me, showing me, and reminding me how to better seek Him.  Deuteronomy 6:5-9 maps out how we can keep our focus on God and seeking Him throughout our day. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." I've been thinking about this verse and how to apply it to my life and here's what I've come up with... First and foremost, I need to be in constant conversation with God. It doesn't have to be a formal rehearsed prayer all the time. He wants a relationship with me. He wants me to come to Him with all the little worries and praises of my day.  He wants to be my best friend. He wants to be my Heavenly Father. Chances are if I start my day with prayer, continue to be in constant conversation with Him through out the day, and end my day with prayer I will be focused on His purpose for me that day. That's not enough though, I need reminders. Okay, I need a lot of reminders. Thankfully, being a college student, I've found the beauty that is sticky notes. I put sticky notes with scripture and quotes from inspiring Christians places that I will see them (above my bed, on my desk, in my truck, in my textbooks... everywhere) to help keep my focus. It's kind of like writing them on your door frames and gates. As silly as it may seem, what I wear can keep me focused as well. For example, I have a purity ring that my parents gave me when I turned sixteen that says "Matthew 5:8." That's a constant reminder to be pure of heart. Think about little ways we can remind ourselves what our focus needs to be. I spend I lot of time driving to school and work; therefore I spend a lot of time listening to the radio. I'll be the first to say, I like many different types of music outside of Christian/Gospel music. The thing is though, God created music to speak to our souls. So if I'm listening to music filled with perversion and promotion of sin, I'm letting that into my soul. Slowly, I'll start to accept it. I feel hypocritical typing this, because keeping my music pure is a struggle for me, but when I'm listening to Christian radio stations it is a thousand times easier to keep my focus on God. Finally, I try to talk about my faith in God as often as possible. I purposefully look for ways to bring Him into the conversation. He is the reason for all good things in my life, how could I not talk about Him?
     When it comes to talking about God, if the truth be told, living in a world that becomes more hateful towards Christians daily makes even speaking about God difficult. As Christians, as the hands and feet of Christ, we need to stop questioning if we're being politically correct and start questioning if we're speaking in love and representing Christ. After all, God never promised us the "right" to be a Christian. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." In John 15:18, Jesus encourages us, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first." If we truly want to be like Christ the world will hate us, but take heart, 1 Peter 3:14 further encourages us, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed..." We are not living for this world. We are here for a brief time in preparation for eternal life with God and His Son in Their Kingdom.
     We have one job in this life; love God and people. If we are truly loving God we will seek Him and His will first. If we are truly loving people we will serve them like Christ did and share the gospel with them so that they too may have the hope of eternal life in His Kingdom someday. Let's stop being busy and start seeking God. Let's stop putting on a show and start being real. Let's stop putting others down and start loving people. Let's stop worrying about political correctness and popularity and start being bold in our speech and in our faith. Let's stop trying to control our days and start giving them to God. Maybe if we did all these things our busy world wouldn't seem quite so busy and we'd find that when we put God first, others second, and ourselves last all the other things fall into place giving us plenty of time for the things of true substance. In his book (that I highly recommend), "The Purpose Driven Life", Rick Warren says, "Living on purpose is the path to peace." Live for God's purpose. He will reveal that purpose to you if you will simply love and seek Him.
     I pray that God uses this post to encourage and strengthen each of you in your walk with Him.
     "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3
(p.s. Ya'll should check out Clayton Jennings' Facebook Page or his website. He's on fire for Christ and serious about spreading the gospel! I love having his encouraging messages in my newsfeed.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tales from Taiwan #10

(I've actually been back in Taiwan since the end of August but it's been crazy busy so I'm just now writing an update of what God is doing here!)

Dear Sisters,

Isn't it funny how we pray for things and then are surprised when God answers our prayers?  It's like we know God is big and powerful and almighty, but then when we pray, we kinda don't expect Him to truly answer our prayers.  That's something God has been showing me recently - sometimes I catch myself praying and then not really expecting my Jesus to answer.  How silly is that?!  

But even last week, some friends and I went to an aboriginal village where some of our former students live.  We prayed that God would not only allow us to see our students, but that He would also let us see a lot of people.

Well, we drove into the village and saw all these people walking on the road and I just started laughing.  Here we had prayed we would "see a lot of people" and here they were, right in front of us!  Turns out, God had us come the exact day that the village was having a walking event and various contests for the day.  I eventually got coerced into joining the adults for a furious contest of peeling pomelo fruit.  Gotta love aboriginal contests!  It was pretty fun...and I won a whole ten cases of toilet paper to boot!

The best part of our village visit, though, was spending time with our students.  We taught them in fourth grade and now they are sixth graders.  We got to talk with them and just encourage them.  The whole time I kept smiling and thanking God, because He had showed me once again that He loves to answer our prayers!  

I'm so grateful to be back on the island where I can share His love and truth!  God is so good!

For Him in Taiwan,