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February 12 / February 19 / February 26

February 5, 2017 - Super

Once again, we come to that all important national holiday ... Super Bowl Sunday! I checked back the last few years with my family news blog and I found that I wrote about it more than half the time. I kept going back in my memories and I cannot remember the last time I missed watching the Super Bowl. In human experiences, there are a lot of things in life that we miss, some of them very important ... but never the Super Bowl. Well, maybe there is something to that word "super." Webster defines it as; "of high grade or quality; very large or powerful; exhibiting the characteristics to an extreme or excessive degree." Now in a day and age where most things seem so boring and mundane, is there really anything "super" anymore? It seems like our society requires more and more stimulus to get people excited these days. There are always new gadgets coming out, new computer programs, and new audio and visual enhancing stuff. And then, they get boring within weeks, and not very "super" anymore.

I remember when I was 6 years old, the only toys I had was a small battery operated robot and a small train set. That's all I had to play with and they were so special to me that I even brought them to the US when we emigrated from Hong Kong. Now you can see a pile of toys in pretty much every home with children. And even with homes that have only adults, there are plenty of "big boy toys." They are called Giant TV's, Golf clubs, motor cycles, cars, etc. They were probably all "super” when we got them, but maybe not now. The best statement I ever heard about this was, "The 2 happiest days in a man's life is when he buys his boat and then when he sells his boat." That's pretty self-explanatory about "super" toys. So what's really going on? Are we just all looking at the wrong things to find excitement and happiness? Probably so, but look at what God says in Lamentations 3:22-23, "his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." So Jeremiah, experiencing years of discouragement with his people, was able to get excited every morning because of the "Super" God he worshipped and served. He uses these words ... "never fail... new every morning... great..." Well, they are words that Webster could use to define "super."

So we can have super days even when the Super Bowl is over, as long as we experience the presence of God. Enjoy today, have fun with family and friends, eat lots of chicken wings, imagine one day the Texans can be playing this game... and thank the Lord for the super life he has given to you.

February 12, 2017 - Valued

I am a number "6". What does that mean? Well, if you are running a race and came in 6th with a field of 7, you lost badly. If you came in your graduating class at UT with this number, then you will have dozens of employers wanting to hire you. If you were playing a dice game and this number came up, you probably will shout out a loud cheer. But if you are like me, being born at number 6 in a family of 7, well that's really not that great. Those middle children can be often forgotten and maybe even neglected. Number 1 or 2...and number 7 (the last one), they are the ones that usually get the priorities. It's just human nature, nothing sinister about it. Also, the number 6 in the birth order in today's world would be pretty rough. In almost all countries, you will not be born, period. Whether you never had a chance to be conceived, or you are aborted, that's what happens to number 6 in a world where most families have less than 2 children. What number are you? Have you ever thought about your life that way?

Growing up as a number 6 actually did impact my life. Pretty early on, I had this thing inside of me that believed no one really cared about me. I have no blames to give to anyone, certainly not my parents. They worked so hard raising a family of 7 children in a place where making an earning was so hard. Added to that fact our family was a refugee family from Communist China and my father was very sick for 7 years and unable to work. They did absolutely the best they could and I am forever in debt to their love and courage in caring for me and my siblings. Still, as a little boy, I didn't think too many people cared about me, and I lived that way. But someone really did. His name is Jesus, and when I got to know him and trusted him at the age of 13, everything changed in me. I suddenly had "value." I was not just another number 6, but I was a number "one" child of the King. I Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession..." Wow! I want you to know that every person in this whole world in need of believing he/she is of value needs to hear this statement from God. Tell this to an orphan who never met his parents, or to the dirt poor children who don't have a change of clothes, or to someone who has been working at the same mundane job for 20 years... or a middle child who doesn't think he matters... tell this to them, and you will see the spark in their eyes light up. And the great thing is they're all true. We are special in God's eyes and heart. We are special enough for him to make the most precious sacrifice so we can belong to him. He loves us and we are wanted by the God of the universe!

February 19, 2017 - Fill Our Minds

The wonderful Christian writer C.S. Lewis wrote his novel "The Screwtape Letters" which was published in February 1942. It was written in a fictional format, but it had everything to do with the very real efforts of the enemy to tempt believers and our efforts to resist him. Basically it involves 31 letters written by a senior demon named "Screwtape" writing to his nephew "Wormwood", who is a less experienced demon and had a job to guide a man called the "patient" down the path to Satan and away from God. Unfortunately for Wormwood, by the second letter, the patient had become a born again believer. So the rest of the letters were written to help the pathetic demon handle the Christians and their ways. In this one quote Screwtape says something that describes one of the most powerful weapons used against people. "It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out." Wow! That's profound. Have you ever thought about that before? We are always thinking that Satan tempts us all day long with bad ideas, evil desires, and wicked actions. I for one rarely thought that one of his strategies could be just keeping our minds devoid of the things of God, the word of God, and perhaps just plain empty. Today, people seem so mentally bored all the time. When I see so many people who are staring into a screen all day long, or completely ear plugged into their devices, and now with the 3d VR Virtual Reality Headsets... I wonder what's happening in their minds. Never mind what's going in there, what may be more important is what's NOT going in there.

For the last 37 years of my pastoral ministry years, I have already been amazed at how little the Christian community knew the Word of God. The Bible, comprising of 66 books, written by godly men but completely inspired by God, pointed people to God and to everything God wanted us to know. This Bible is now available in so many different formats and languages. And yet, at least in our nation, it is less known than ever before. Since 1978, before the internet to now, people are 3 times less likely to read the Bible. 57% said they read it 4 times or less in the last year (Pew research). And even church goers, only 20% said they read it every day (Lifeway). The word of God is just not going into our minds which means, it is not transforming our hearts and our lives. The Psalmist writes, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11) Perhaps we can understand better why our society is on such an immoral slide, where good and evil get all turned around, and where our young people have such a tough time finding a moral footing to stand on. Maybe, Screwtape's strategy of keeping things, God's things out of our minds, is working. Let's counteract that by filling it with the Word of God. Let's encourage one another with the things of God. Let's make God a priority in all that we say and do.

February 26, 2017 - Our Joy

Can you believe it, this Wednesday is officially the start of Lent. In case you don't know what that is, it is a traditional Christian observant of 46 days before Easter. While we Baptists don't really pay attention to it, other denominations do. They call Wednesday Ash Wednesday and some folks put a little ash on their foreheads symbolizing their observant of this period of humility and fasting leading up to Easter Sunday. The followers of this Christian event are supposed to spend these coming weeks being "more spiritual and holier" than normal. It has certainly become a lot more of a cultural than a spiritual thing. This is even an international observance in every country where the Christian message has touched. In addition to Lent, the people have added something else to make it even more popular. The folks added what is called "Mardi Gras." Often this name is referred to as "Fat Tuesday", the day before the beginning of Lent. It is a week long time to party and do excessive "worldly" things before the deadline when you have to behave in holy ways. It began a long time ago with the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683 when he hosted a big party, and then officially began in the United States with the first Mardi Gras parade held in 1837 in New Orleans. Now, New Orleans is famous for all the excesses of this event...and some have rightfully dubbed it "Sin city".

When I read about this whole thing, I am brought back to what Paul writes about sinful humanity in Romans 1:29, "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity..." Even in honoring an event like Lent, people still created and embraced a multitude of sin by surrounding it with Mardi Gras. Right now, millions of people all over the world are participating in sinful debauchery of all kinds, making excuses for what they are doing by telling themselves they will resist them when Lent finally arrives. Strange, isn't it? But that's what sin does to minds and hearts. I am so glad that our righteousness comes from Jesus, and our joy comes from His Spirit who lives in us. We don't need a mark of ashes on our heads to make us feel holy and we don't need to gorge ourselves with intoxication to have joy in our lives. Knowing Jesus and experiencing his love in us is enough. Praise God. Now if you know anyone who is involved with Mardi Gras, pray for them this week and ask the Lord to show them his love.