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January 14 / January 21 / January 28

January 7, 2018 - One Year Closer to Heaven

I was organizing my desktop calendar this week. I use a Franklin Covey system so I had to remove the 2017 stuff and replaced them with the 2018 ones. As I was doing that, a lot of memories from the last year came to my mind and I was slightly amazed at how quickly 365 days came and went. Time really does fly. Then I got a little introspective and did something I have done a few times before... I did some calculations. According to statistics, an average American man lives about 79 years. So I have already lived out 76% of my life. I only have 24% left. If I was a cell phone, I will be connecting myself to a charger right now. But life is not like that. You don't get to "extend" it that way. Hmmm, that's a bummer... but maybe not! We can look at the New Year as one year closer to heaven. A bit closer to experiencing all the wonderful things God has promised. A little bit nearer to meeting again all our loved ones who went earlier to heaven. You know all those aches and pains you have every day? Well, you are closer to not having them anymore. And the best thing of all, we are that much closer to seeing our best friend, Jesus, face to face.

How many days will we get to see in 2018? Only God knows. I can believe that Jesus will return sometime this year. And if not, it's possible that some of us will pass on from this life and enter into his glorious presence. No matter what happens, we know that he is the one who holds the future in his hands. Ira Stanphill wrote this well-known hymn in 1950, "I know who holds tomorrow," and one verse says, "Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand." Because we know Jesus, we have no fear for the future, and no fear for getting older. So instead of only having 24% left, I am actually 76% closer to eternal life... and that percentage is growing every day! That's a good thing for sure.

One more time, "Happy New Year to all of you." I hope to worship with you throughout this whole year. If you are looking for a church family, we hope CBC can be that for you in 2018.

January 14, 2018 - The Harvest

As we enter 2018, we want to praise God for the outreach ministries he has allowed CBC to enter into. Did you know that Houston is the most diverse city in America? Seriously, it is even more diverse than NYC. People from all over the world are coming here to study, to work, to raise their families, and to make Houston their home... away from home. Along with the well-known immigrant groups from China, Vietnam, Mexico... we can add on folks from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Congo, El Salvador, Iran, Bhutan, and more than 345 people groups (UBA). There are people from more than 140 countries living here who speak 220 languages. WOW!!! The 6 million plus population in the greater Houston area is certainly an awesome harvest field for the gospel message. And guess what, the Lord is opening doors for our church to minister his love to them. Beginning this week, a Russian language group will be worshipping in the afternoon. They are people from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, etc. who will become part of CBC. Their youths will come to the Youth ministries on Friday. Their children will be joining AWANA. We have been praying that God will reach this group in Houston for 6 years. There are more than 60,000 people in this group (Houston Public Media) and there is not a single church ministering to them. Also, a Brazilian fellowship has started. Portuguese speaking Christians are bringing their family and friends to experience the love of Jesus Christ. And Trinity Classical School continues to be a ministry the Lord has allowed CBC to partner with in reaching this great diverse community we call Houston.

More than 60 years ago a great bunch of people from First Baptist saw a group of immigrants from China and decided that they needed to share the gospel with them. God blessed the efforts and CBC was formed, leading to dozens of Chinese churches throughout this city. Now it is our turn to seek out the lost and reach them for Jesus Christ. It so happens that they still include immigrants, and there are many of them. The Lord said to us in Matt. 9:37-38, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Who knows how the harvest in the next 60 years will reap? But I am certain that God wants us to be a part of the harvesting of souls for his kingdom sake. We are starting strong. Let's see how many more opportunities God will give us in 2018.

May you have a wonderful and fruitful week serving the Lord and impacting Houston this week.

January 21, 2018 - A Better Path

Wow! What a wintry week in Houston. In 10 years that we have lived here, this absolutely felt the most like the North Pole. Good thing I brought with me from NY my snow shovel and ice scrapers. I really needed them. If only I had not given all my coats and boots away. Now being good former Northerners, we were well prepared for this cold. Everything from wrapping up trees and bushes to putting all our plants in the garage, turning off all water lines... and insulating all our pipes. In fact, I went to Lowes and Home Depot to get additional insulations and duct tapes. There were so many people lining up for them. So, we were set right? Wrong! I went out late Tuesday night and my driveway was a giant waterfall. Yup, my sprinkler pipe that had been carefully insulated burst and well, you can imagine the rest of the story. Good thing I am pretty handy so we were just without water for one night. I think my fingers are still tingling from fixing those cold pipes.

You know, we can always make plans, but we can't be sure they will be followed. Psalm 94:11 states something that all people should keep in their hearts, "The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile." Having lived long enough and ministered with countless people, I know this is so profoundly true. Whether it is a plan to keep your pipes from freezing or to be successful in your career, there is no certainty that they will be done. Here's a better path to take, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." (Proverbs 16:3) This is why Barb and I never take anything for granted but always lift them up to the Lord. Whether it is traveling on a trip, coming to church to minister on Sunday, visiting someone, or making most any decision, we will pray and ask God to guide and direct. Yes, I prayed over the plans for the pipes too. They did burst, but it was not in the middle of the night when no one would know and the neighborhood would wake up to a skating rink. And I fixed it for $6. I praise God for that... and I get to share that praise with you!

May you have a wonderful and fruitful week serving the Lord and touching lives every day.

January 28, 2018 - Misunderstanding

"Misunderstanding." What an important word. The dictionary describes it as, "a failure to understand something correctly." Then it adds these synonyms to its definition, "disagreement, difference of opinion, dispute, falling-out, quarrel, argument, altercation, squabble, wrangle, row, clash, scrap, tiff, rhubarb." I am not sure what the last word means, (which I think is a vegetable), but all the others sound like things that would cause bad situations in this world. Like broken friendships, lawsuits... and maybe even wars. So many things can come out of misunderstandings, and they happen easily and way too often. This week alone I had to help a few people get out of some nasty entanglements because of misunderstandings. Wouldn't it be nice if everything said and done could be understood to be exactly that? Well, that just doesn't happen with people... all of us have different filters processing information that comes to us. I remember a factory job I started working at while going through Seminary that had a break time. Everybody chipped in for the donuts and coffee. When I was asked to do so, the person couldn't speak English too well and I thought he asked about something else, so I said no. After the break in which I thoroughly enjoyed the pastries, I was accosted by a couple of pretty angry co-workers. I pleaded innocent and said, I "misunderstood" the guy and ponied up a few bucks. Who knew that not being able to understand a Middle Eastern accent can get you despised?

Misunderstandings can happen because of so many reasons. Preventing them is certainly not easy, but it is worth trying. And then solving them is something we must make great efforts at. As people, we will have them, but as God's people, we can turn them into things that can glorify God and bless others. How? By God's grace and the love that he instills within his people. Here is a promise from God that most of us know, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28) So even misunderstandings can be turned into things that can be good... if we allow God to work in and through us. Here's another verse that can help us in the midst of misunderstandings, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt.5:9) So whether you are a part of a misunderstanding or you are called upon to resolve one, know that God can turn that around for good.

Make some efforts today to be an instrument in God's hands for blessings to others.