I just returned on Sunday from a 9 day trip to South East Asia. Our team of 3 traveled 18,000 miles around the world and back. We saw God at work in mighty ways.
The country we visited has a population of roughly 50 million people. 88% are Buddhists and 5% are Christians. I have never been anywhere with people so friendly and helpful. However, in the midst of their goodness there is such hopelessness. Buddhism is a way of life. It teaches that you must earn enough merit in order to reduce suffering in your next life. They believe that it is possible to attain nirvana, which will lead to a release from the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation.
There is a hopelessness to this endless cycle. Most Buddhists pray regularly to the Buddha in their homes and at the Temples and Pagodas. They have an intensity in their prayers. I was struck by the despair. They spend hours reading and reciting memorized prayers to golden statues that cannot hear, cannot see, and cannot act.
While on our trip I celebrated an anniversary. On March 15th I celebrated 20 years as a follower of Jesus! I was a freshman in college when I became of follower of Jesus and submitted my life to Him. It was only then in my life did I find peace, joy, and love. This all came through the grace and mercy of a God who knows me and loves me. He is a God who hears me, sees me, and acts in my life.
During our visit, I saw many people whose lives have been changed by Jesus. They are finding true peace and hope in their lives. The Lord is using many ways to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus. Some are meeting in tutoring sessions and learn about Jesus.
Others who are new believers are meeting for several months to study the Bible together and learn how they can be used to bring the message of Jesus to their people.
The people here are hospitable and open to the message of Jesus. Please pray for them that they would find freedom in Christ!
One of my heroes is Dr. Dave Black. He’s 64 years old and began running less than 2 years ago. On May 7th he will be competing in the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio. Yes, he’s doing the whole 26.1 miles!!
He is also using this as an opportunity to raise funds for cancer research at UNC Hospital. His wife, Becky Lynn Black, passed away in November 2013 from Endometrial Cancer. Dave raised $25,000 last summer to further research being done at UNC. As he sets his sights on this marathon, he is hoping to raise an additional $4,000 for research. He is looking for 154 people to donate $1 per mile. That’s a $26 donation from 154 people to the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer at UNC. You can read more about this project and make your donation HERE.
Pray for Dave in this endeavor. Help support this project. I have written in the past about his wonderful wife Becky Lynn.
Karis Lynn is 1 month old today. How can it both seem like yesterday and like a year ago at the same time? It has been quite the journey for our family in 2016.
It was the last few days of March when Matthea and I learned she had become pregnant. We were excited and scared all at the same time. It had been almost 2 years since June of 2014 when our son Kai was stillborn. He died 5 days before his due date. We weren’t sure if we would have another child. We weren’t sure if we wanted to venture down the road of pregnancy again. But, here we were with the news of another child. We didn’t tell anyone for a while. When we went to the OB doctor to confirm the pregnancy our 4 year-old son Christian sat in the corner of the room watching Netflix on an iPhone. We didn’t think he was paying attention. Later that day he proceeded to tell his siblings, “Mama has a baby in her belly and it’s a little girl. I know it’s a sister.” We swore our kids to secrecy. We were all excited and scared together. Our 4 older kids had been through so much we knew we were on this journey together.
To our surprise they kept the secret from everyone for 6 weeks! When the day came to share the news publicly, we were excited and scared. By this point we had spent 2 months trusting the Lord each day to watch over this little child. Our doctor (who was wonderful the entire pregnancy) would say to us, “we will take it one day at a time, and today everything looks good.” That was our reality every day for the entire pregnancy. These were quite profound words! In July we learned that this baby was indeed a sister! Christian was right! Everyone was so excited. Everyone was scared. Our 12 year-old daughter had long ago given up hope on having a sister. After having 4 brothers, it seemed like a sister would never come.
Through the fall we went every week to the doctor. They checked her heart rate and her growth with ultrasounds. They took such great care of us. Every day we were taking it one day at a time. Every day she was doing great. As we neared the end of the pregnancy, we were even more excited and even more scared. We were trusting in the Lord more and more. The doctor wanted to induce labor about 3 weeks early, so on the morning of November 15th, we arrived at the hospital. We were excited. We were scared. Later in the day we decided for a C-Section, we wanted to be cautious. She was born just before 6 PM. Karis Lynn Mae Glass was finally here! The name Karis means “grace”. She certainly is God’s gift to our family.
It has been a real journey walking daily with the Lord through this. He never promised another child. He never promises a healthy child. He DOES promise to never leave us or forsake us. We have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and He was with us the whole time. Thank you for your prayer for our family and for little Karis Lynn.
We had a great discussion in Sunday School yesterday about spending time with the Lord. We talked specifically about Bible reading and prayer. There was a common sentiment that we often go to the Bible and hope to have an earth-shattering reading time each day. Then we get discouraged when that doesn’t happen. Do you ever feel that way?
If you’re in the habit of reading God’s Word on a consistent basis you’ve had timely encounters. But it doesn’t happen every single time. I like to think of it like eating. We eat 3 meals a day. That’s what we need for sustenance. Not every meal every day is amazing. Sometimes it’s just to get you through. Every once in a while we eat something incredible. Maybe it’s a new recipe you try…maybe it’s a new restaurant that opened up. Then we tell others about it. We rave over it. It’s good. Then we eat our usual 3 meals the next day. Regular Bible reading is like that. Just read it. Every so often it’ll knock your socks off. You’ll talk about it. You’ll post online about it. You’ll marvel. Then the next day, you read the Word some more.
One thing is for certain. These encounters with the Lord through His Word will not happen if you’re not reading the Bible. You’ll never have those big encounters if you don’t open your Bible and read it.
It’s Christmas time and we hear the word “joy” more often these days. Joy is an interesting word. It’s confusing. It gets mixed up with the word “happy”. There’s a big difference between the two. I heard someone say “being happy depends on what’s happening.” I think that’s true. Good things can be happening and we feel happy. Bad things happen and we don’t feel happy. Joy is different. Joy is not dependent on what’s happening. We can have joy, be joyful, and feel joy regardless of what’s going on in our life. Joy is a choice. Joy is based on truth that transcends circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. Joy is harder some days than others. Facebook has this great thing called “memories.” Sometimes it brings up good things from past years and sometimes not. In our family, the past 3 years have had many hard times. Each morning I click on “See Your Memories” and take a deep breath. But you know what I’ve found? I’ve found that even in the hard things, there has been joy. Joy because the Lord was always there. Joy because the troubles in this life pale in comparison to the life we’ll have in eternity. Joy because Jesus said life will be hard, suffering will occur, persecution will come. After all, He went through that as well. It was one of His closest disciples who betrayed Him. I’ve come to realize that the Lord seems closer in the hardships. That’s a good reason for joy! James 1:2 says to consider it all joy when we face various trials. James was on to something!
Our natural self wants to run from hardship and difficulty. I think that’s one reason why so many Christian books and speakers and preachers these days want to talk about shortcuts to joy. There is so much that is focused on self and not focused on truth. If we’re not careful we can ingest a heavy dose of “look how good you are, that’s why God loves you” that we fail to be honest with ourselves. This doesn’t give us any true joy. It gives us happiness, for the moment, because we ignore the bad and focus on the good. We want to avoid anything bad and so we’re really not living in reality. The trouble is when we wake up the next morning, we have to find another dose of that man-centered-gobbledygook to make it one more day. It doesn’t sustain us.
Joy is different. As we celebrate Christmas we can have joy. We can be honest with ourselves. Let’s not forget that Jesus (the reason for the season) came to die. He came for the mission of dying. His purpose was to die. And for what? Our sins! Yes, those awful things we want to run from. Those things we’d like to ignore. Those things we want to pretend aren’t in our lives. He died for those things. We have no reason to hide them, avoid them, or ignore them. Jesus knows about them. He died for them. For that, we can be joyful! “Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Joy to the world! The Savior reigns!” He is our savior. He came to save us. Choose joy.
Hours before Jesus was arrested, knowing all that would happen to Him, He spoke to His disciples. His teaching is recorded in John 13-16. He was preparing them for what would lie ahead. Christians have enjoyed many freedoms in our country. We asked the question, “what if we lose our freedoms?”
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Sunday November 6th, 2 days before the election, I preached a message called “What Can Change America?” We looked at our responsibilities as Christians and how we are to engage the culture around us as Jesus commanded.
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