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January 8 / January 15 / January 22 / January 29

January 1, 2017 - Live For God

January 1, 2017. Wow, it seems only yesterday it was 2016 ... oh, it actually was. Well, it is time for New Year's resolutions again. How many did you accomplish last year? How many can you remember? I found one that I really like and I want to share it with you. It is from the very famous preacher Jonathan Edwards, "Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will." How's that for being succinct and poignant? In a society where things are often confusing and complicated, maybe we should just focus on simplicity. If we will make a simple life resolution to live for God, then everything else should just fall into place.

As I go through teaching "The End Times" Sunday School class this semester, I am not sure whether the year 2017 will just go on as before. Things are looking more and more like what the Bible has prophesied about. Who knows how many more years or even months this world will continue on? In a split second, the Lord can rapture us home. So as I look to make plans and hopes for the days ahead on this earth, I am certainly going to focus upon the Lord and all that he means to me. Sure, there is lots of stuff in life, but I think I will resolve to do what Pastor Edwards suggested, I want to simply live for God. Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." So don't plan too many resolutions about losing weight, reading books, getting a new hobby... Just plan to live for God in 2017. He will take care of the rest.

Happy New Year to all of you.

January 8, 2017 - Bless Others

2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."

This is my New Year's verse the Lord has given to me. It is a promise from God that his hand of blessings would be upon me, but with a wonderfully big purpose. He will pour out his blessings to me ... in order for me to "abound ... to flourish, to overflow, to be abundant" in every good work for others. Usually our hopes revolve around God blessing us, making things better for us, healthier for us, more prosperous for us, etc. But this verse connects the promise of blessings to impacting others around us with good works. In other words,God's blessings merely flow through us in order to touch others. We are conduits of his love, his grace, his power to others. Now that brings so much less selfishness and so much more meaning and purpose to seeking God's blessings in our lives.

I always remember an illustration that the great Chinese preacher Dr. Philip Teng gave in a message I heard more than 3 decades ago. He spoke about a time of drought in China and a farmer whose crops were drying up. He asked his neighbor who had a stream running through his land if he can dig an irrigation trench so some water can go to his parched fields. The kind neighbor agreed, but said only if he allowed the water to continue onto the other neighbors on the other side as well. People who are blessed by God must use those blessings in order to bless others. That's just the DNA of God's family. As we begin this new year, there is nothing wrong about starting out by desiring and seeking God's blessings for this year ... as long as it is understood that God will "bless you abundantly" ... so that you will bless others. So spend some time and set some resolutions that will allow you to be a blessing to people in 2017. There are ways you can give, things you can do, places you can visit, time you can spend, people you can speak with, folks you can encourage ... you can make a huge difference in so many lives this year, and God will bless you abundantly so you can. That's a promise.

January 15, 2017 - Pray for Our Teens

Last week as I prepared my message from Philippians on "Finding Joy," I did research on topics from Greek word meanings to Paul's circumstance at the time of writing and so forth. All the backgrounds in sermon preparations filled my time in my usual weekly pattern. However, one of the research items caught my attention and pulled me much deeper emotionally than I had thought would happen. It was the topic of teenage suicides and the stunning statistics about it. Without rehashing too much, the idea that one in 6 youths (Between 12-19) in America have contemplated killing themselves last year, and one in 13 have actually attempted it ... and that more than 5,400 try to do so every single day just plain startled me. That's almost 2 million teenagers each year who were distraught enough to try to end their lives. That's just heart breaking. Like all statistics, one can make it reflect whatever it is they want, but there is no disagreeing that life seems to be really hard for our young people to handle. And the answer our world is trying to give in response is not working, proven by the 24% increase in the last 15 years. So all the studies, the professional counseling, the medications, etc., they have not stemmed the tide. What are we to do, and how concerned should parents with teens be?

After ministering in the church context for more than 36 years, I know this; life can be very hard for a young person trying to discover meaning and purpose in this world. Sometimes it seems like it's not worth it to continue. I have names and faces in my memories of those who thought that and decided to give up. However, I also know so many who discovered the one thing that changed everything, the love of Jesus Christ and a personal relationship to him. What the Lord can do in a young person's life is amazing. I have seen completely transformed young people whose lives went from misery to absolute joy. They experienced the promised transformation of the Holy Spirit in their lives and are now living out a vibrant experience. There's another statistic that is amazing as well. 90% of Christians made their decisions to receive Christ's love by the age of 16. It is during the adolescent years of struggles as they wrestle with so many things that they found the only thing that can give them meaning in life. Jesus said in John 10:10, "...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." So let me encourage you today, if you are a young person, know that Jesus loves you and he is everything you need to have meaning in life. He has all the answers you need. If you are a parent or an adult believer, pray for our teens and do everything you can to share God's love with them. You don't know what's going on inside of them, but you know Jesus does. God's people can make a difference; will you join me in making a difference for our young people?

January 22, 2017 - Encourage One Another

Do you know what this is? For those of you who are not very good at math like me, this is the formula for "Blue Monday." It is actually a depression equation put together by Dr. Cliff Arnall, who runs "happiness and confidence sessions" for organizations including the Department for Work and Pensions in Wales, England. He has come to the conclusion based upon this formula that the most depressed day of the year is the third Monday of January, that would be last Monday ( January 16). Credit card bills, weather, politics, etc. add to how people feel on this day. Of course, for Houstonians we can add the Texans, and those who live in Dallas, the Cowboys. Now what should people do about this situation? Should we even try? Well, Dr. Arnall suggested that we can focus on things we can change as one remedy, leading to the attempts in New Year resolutions. The other suggestion he gave was better, spend time with people who love and like you as you are. Not bad advice when you are blue. Do you know why? Because people get "blu...er" when they get criticized, but they get less blue when they are encouraged and loved. Now that doesn't take a scientific formula to discover, and it is very biblical too.

I Thessalonians 5:11 says "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up ...". If there is only one day in the year when we can get depressed, that would be awesome. However, we know that most days can be difficult and discouragements can easily come into our lives. The Bible is very clear that human existence can be very difficult and too many people, Christians included, barely survive. But the Christian life can be a victorious life and we can surely be overcomers, not just survivors. We know it happens because of the Holy Spirit living in us. But I want to tell you that having brothers and sisters who encourage you when you are down, pick you up when you fall, lend a hand when you are in need, and more than anything else, speak words of affirmation and encouragement to your heart ... that will go a long way in making that victorious living become a reality. We all get criticized way too much all the time. Let's not be those people who do that. Instead, let's be people who can build others up with kind words and loving actions. Maybe we can revive the old acronym again, WWJD... "What would Jesus do?" In addition, WWJS... "What would Jesus say?" I am certain his words and actions would change the blue demeanor in a lot of people.

January 29, 2017 - Lives Guided by God

Happy New Year! At CBC we have to say this 2 times every year. The first time on January 1st, and the second time during the Lunar New Year. In case you are wondering, this is the year of the "Rooster." I just happen to be born on the year of the rooster as well. That means I am "healthy, sporty, self-assured..." So far not too bad. However, I will also be "a little sensitive, stressed out, and moody." Hmmm ... not too good. And there are 12 of these animals, one that we all will match up with, and they will determine our personalities. Really? Who made up this stuff? So if you are born on the year of the pig, you will be ... "Honorable, philanthropic, determined, optimistic, sincere, sociable." Huh? The only one characteristic that matches is "philanthropic" because being delicious pork chops on the dinner plate is very giving and sacrificing. The rest, not so much. We can all have fun with this stuff, but millions of people really believe them. More than that, they pattern their lives in accordance with them. For instance, many will choose to get married in the year of the Tiger which will guarantee them a good marriage. On the other hand, a Rooster marriage is probably doomed. Also, the year of the pig is great to be born into. All babies will surely get rich and prosperous ... have you ever seen a skinny pig? This actually caused a huge problem in China and other areas with large Chinese communities in 2007 for fear of too many maternity cases causing a lack of hospital rooms and too many maternity leaves at the jobsites. Superstitions? Absolutely, but with very real consequences.

How are we as God's people to feel about this? Since I am a Chinese person with generations of history and heritage in my DNA, I want to honor and respect this great and fabled culture. However, I can't help but see a lot of bondage imposed upon such beliefs that have absolutely no truths behind them. Furthermore, it seems to give so much credence to chance and luck which demeans the value of the individuals. As a Christian, I am so glad when I read Psalm 139:13-16, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made ... My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." We are specially made by the almighty God, with qualities so unique, values so important, and lives so full of purposes. Our lives are not predetermined by animal characteristics or some other nefarious forces directing humanity. Our lives are guided by the loving hands of the God who created us, the Lord who saved us and the Holy Spirit who lives in us. I may be a rooster to some, but I am really and simply a child of the King.

Enjoy the Lunar New Year. Be blessed and be a blessing as you celebrate with your family and friends.