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June 11 / June 18 / June 25

June 4, 2017 - Shine The Light

On our recent trip to Ukraine with a member of our Missions team, we had a discussion about the safety of the city of Bucha where we ministered. Sharon asked us if it was safe to walk around our neighborhood. We responded by saying that it was, but not at night. The reason was not that there were lots of dangers from thieves and gangsters, but that it was really dark. You may get hit by a car with a driver that won't see you. In most areas of this country, streetlights are rare, but so many people travel by walking. It's amazing how folks can just walk so far in the dark. It is a really strange scene when you are not used to it. We Houstonians either walk on streets with lots of lighting, or we drive. Walking long distance in the dark is simply not our way of life. But if you live in Ukraine, and perhaps many other countries, walking in the dark may be something you are familiar with and it may just be a normal experience in life.

Now walking in the physical darkness may be fine, and God has certainly equipped our eyes with an ability to adjust... and we can also thank God for flashlights. But there's another darkness that may have become normal for people as well... and unfortunately they have adjusted to that kind of darkness too. It is spiritual darkness. It is so dark that blindness takes place. People are blinded to the truth in God's word. They are blinded to anything spiritual. They are blinded to the God who created them, loves them, and who is seeking them. Without realizing it, so many live their lives in the dark, missing out on what a great and wonderful life they can have, and just merely accepting what the darkness have for them. If only they can see, if only they can discover, if only they can grasp... the abundant life, the amazing possibilities, the eternal hope that Jesus has for them. Who can make that happen? Matthew 4:16 says, "...the people living in darkness have seen a great light..." Guess what, it is within our power to shine that light for them and make it happen. I noticed that the people walking in the dark walk much slower. Whenever they come to a lit area, they speed up their walk. Why, because they can see again. It is amazing when you experience living in the light of God's word. Life is different, because God makes the difference.

Barb and I are worshipping with you through the Internet in Ukraine today. We are 8 hours ahead so we have already worshipped and ministered in the Baptist church here. Thank you for keeping us in prayer as we do ministry with an orphanage and foster homes here. We look forward to seeing you all next week.

June 11, 2017 - The Body

I have never in my life had a massage before. I never liked watching others get them, never wanted anyone's hands bruising my back, and never really understood why they are so expensive... can cost up to $75-90 for an hour, Yikes! Well the other day one of our good friend's brother who was a masseuse came by and gave Barbara a really good massage. Another friend also was getting one, so I thought, why not. It's about time. I am getting on in years and I may never get the experience of being bruised on purpose. So there I was laying flat with my face down. It was in so many ways everything I thought it was... but surprisingly I kind of enjoyed it a little. In the midst of suffering through painful yelps, I learned that certain muscles and ligaments are attached in ways that I never thought was possible. For instance, there were a few places in my upper shoulder areas that are causing some numbness in my fingers. When Yuri pressed them, I felt it in the fingers. He also said my knee problems had direct correlations to my back somehow. That he said can\'t be fixed till at least after the 7th appointment. What a nice sales pitch. After 45 minutes or so, he was done. It only took another 15 minutes for me to get up. I think perhaps I might do it again... maybe.

Now you know a preacher is going to see an illustration that connects this to the Bible. Yup, it's right here in I Corinthians 12:24-25,"But God has put the body together... so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." Paul describes the church and its people like a body, all connected together. Whenever one part is touched, the others can feel it. We affect one another. There is a link, no matter how distant, that makes things matter to all of us. I would have thought a massage on my upper shoulders would never make a difference in my knees, but it does, because it is one connected body. So remember, you matter and what you do matter because you are in the church body together in Jesus. Keep this truth in mind, and you will do things differently.

June 18, 2017 - Spiritual Issues

I received an invitation this week for an event hosted by Elijah Rising; the Houston based Christian organization focused on combatting sexual trafficking. In it they made a profound statement, "We know that sex trafficking and sexual exploitation are spiritual issues and must be addressed first by a spiritual response." Here we are talking about and dealing with perhaps some of the worst human depraved activities, affecting individuals, families and whole communities... requiring courage and massive resources to overcome... but to succeed, we must recognize that it has a spiritual dimension. I love seeing such wise recognition of our world and our paths in making a difference in it. 21 million enslaved people, mostly young women, in this horrific crime will not be rescued without first seeing its roots spiritually. I certainly applaud Elijah Rising and all the other Christian groups who are praying, working, and helping free these girls in our city and around the world. CBC is a part of helping and for that I am so glad and proud.

So often when we encounter any problem or circumstance, we mentally calculate and measure what is needed to solve it. Whether it is an addiction, a lack in resources, some dysfunctionality, etc., we see the physical, the psychological, and even the relational issues. But do we ever go to the root of them all, the spiritual issue? Some issues are huge like sex trafficking and some are smaller like an argument amongst our children. Can we see beyond the surface and find some spiritual correlations? No, we don't need to make mountains out of mole hills, but if we can always recognize that our lives interrelate beyond the natural into the supernatural, we may be much more successful in solving issues at their roots and not just putting band aids on the symptoms. That's why the Bible tells us to do this, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Phil. 4:6). So in every situation, God wants us to understand that there is first of all a spiritual dimension in it. Begin there and you will find the rest much easier to handle. One more thing, will you take some time each week and join with Elijah Rising folks to pray and ask God to destroy this mountainous sin of sex trafficking? Only God can do what is clearly impossible to do by men. But he can.

June 25, 2017 - Hurt Together

So our first major threatening storm "Cindy" came and went without many issues for Houstonians. With a history of devastating storms, we always have to take any possibility seriously of course. Phrases like, "we dodged a bullet, we were lucky... and thank God for his protection," are used all the time for having escaped possible traumas, but others were not so fortunate. Our relatives in Lake Charles got hit pretty badly by Cindy. Worse, remember Rita in 2005, known as the 4th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever. Following after Katrina, Houstonians feared for their lives. Remember the massive traffic jams leading out of the city? Well it missed Houston, but hit dead on into Lake Charles. The destruction was apocalyptic. Whole neighborhoods were left with nothing but light poles. Most of our relatives could not go back home for more than 6 weeks afterwards. Wow! But we Houstonians were thanking God for sparing us. And I don't think that there is anything wrong with being thankful, but... (I will leave it for you to add your thoughts here).

I have heard people say this phrase too often, "I am glad it wasn't me," when describing bad things happening. I am sure we all have thought it sometime in our lives. Again, this is pretty normal. But is there something else we should be thinking and feeling when those situations happen as a believer in Jesus Christ? I Corinthians 12: 26 says when describing the church body of Christ, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." So even when I am not hurt, but my brother in the Lord in some distant place is hurt, I need to feel it in my soul. Even more than that, we need to want to help minister to him. I think that just being glad it wasn't me is a selfish thing. God's people need to be more than self-preservationists. That's why I am so supportive of ministries like Samaritan Purse, International Missions Board of the SBC, Voice of the Martyrs, etc. They touch lives and minister to our Christian family in ways that we don't and we can't. They help unite the body of Christ together so that we can rejoice together and hurt together. I hope you are a part of those works. This week, will you keep those affected by Cindy in your prayers, and if there's an opportunity to help out, take it.