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Hurricane Harvey Brings out the Best and the Worst

As I type this, Hurricane Harvey made landfall last week and has devastated Houston and surrounding areas with wind damage and “unprecedented” flooding. Some parts have had over FOUR FEET OF RAIN. I didn’t say that there was over four feet of flooding, but over four feet of rain! And rain continues to fall. Moments ago, I heard that a levee was breached.  This is NOT good!

Once again WeatherBell’s Bill Bastardi was spot-on in his predictions.

Thousands of victims have been rescued by the US Coast Guard, Texas Guard, US National Guard, and an army of volunteers who launched their personal boats at their own risk in an effort to rescue every person from the floods. A friend of mine loaded up his car with as much as he could and hauled his boat almost 300 miles to help in the rescue efforts. This IS good.

Even before Harvey approached the Texas Coast, Texas Baptist Men, volunteers who travel wherever there are disasters, loaded up trucks with roofing materials, food, water, and portable facilities for showering and laundry and began the near-300-mile trek Southward. This IS good!

Meanwhile, some long-time friends have posted comments and memes on Facebook callously mocking Texas politicians, saying they’re hypocrites for requesting and accepting federal money when they voted to deny such federal support for victims of Super Storm Sandy in New York. Some of my friends posted a link to an article saying that this Hurricane was related to man-caused climate change. However, seasoned meteorologist Bill Bastardi (mentioned above) says this is a “natural cycle” that has been observed before.

Here is my latest plea on Facebook:

Regardless of your political leanings, please show some semblance of respect and basic human DECENCY by not politicizing the disaster that was Hurricane Harvey, and as a tropical storm continues to deluge SE Texas and SW Louisiana.Your snide remarks, memes and other criticism of POTUS and Texas politicians are falling on deaf ears. You are only displaying your ignorance, cruelty, and downright indecency. Your attempt at levity in the midst of the gravity of this situation is sabotaging any amount of credibility and respectability you *think* you still have.

I have lost all respect for some long-time friends whose focus is solely on politics and not on the decency of helping victims of this tragedy. Debating politics is one thing, but it is disgustingly heartless to do so while the area is still being inundated by torrential rains and flooding. This is NOT good!

So how can people help? I’m glad you asked that question! Here’s what I said last night on Facebook:

Especially for this need, I might not recommend Red Cross (or any other organization whose CEO makes multiples of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year). As I understand it, the Red Cross pools resources from other organizations. Why not give directly to those organizations! If the Red Cross keeps 15% of what they receive, then only $.85 of your $1 would be able to pass along to the organization that the RC uses. Why not eliminate the middle man and give the entire $1 to one of the organizations below, who already have a low overhead and therefore operate more efficiently! And these are not fly-by-night organizations; they are well-established with an excellent stewardship history. 

So here are my recommendations (none of which has a high-paid CEO):

Texas Baptist Men go wherever there’s a disaster. This time, they stayed home to help fellow Texans. Some crews departed Dallas as early as last Thursday (before Harvey made landfall) with roofing supplies, food, water, portable shower and washer/dryer facilities. TexasBaptistMen.Org/give-now 

One friend’s church (in Virginia) made this remark:
Want to help victims of Harvey in Houston? Our denomination has the 3rd largest disaster relief organization in the country (SBC Disaster Relief) and they are already staged in Houston with hundreds of thousands of meals, water, chains saws, shower trailers, etc. They also have teams of chaplains to provide spiritual counseling in the wake of this disaster.
If you would like to donate, you can give directly through the NAMB website below or text SENDRELIEF to 41444.
North American Mission Board’s Hurricane Harvey Response 

And of course, everybody has heard of The Salvation Army.

 However you choose to help, please do so.

Growth and Witnessing

Oftentimes, spiritual growth and sharing the Gospel are not seen as being related. Well, of course you have to have embraced the Gospel message to be born spiritually in order to grow spiritually. However, I’m talking about once you’re saved, there’s not a lot of emphasis on witnessing. At least for many church-goers.

Last week, we looked at the issue of spiritual growth and sharing the Gospel. We looked at the context of Jesus’ comments about “the fields are white for harvest” from John 4: the Samaritan “woman at the well” went to invite the townspeople to come meet Jesus who knew all sorts of things about her (as well as her friends and lovers). As they were coming to Jesus, He told His disciples that, “the fields are white for harvest”. (John 4:35)

Our job is to pray to the Lord of the Harvest, asking Him to send His workers into the harvest (Luke 10:2). By the way, that doesn’t mean that we pray for somebody else to come along and do the work for us. The idea is that we ask God to send others to help us bring in the harvest. So how do we do that?

One plan is called 4xFour and it was developed by Greg Wallace of Woodridge Baptist Church of Kingwood, Texas. He suggests the first step is to Identify four “unchurched” (i.e., lost) people within your circle of influence, whom God wants you to share your faith. To do that, we have to realize that there is a harvest, we are called to be involved in bringing in the harvest, and that now is the time to be about the Lord’s business of bringing in the harvest. And that requires that we pray, asking God to lead us to our “four” (we don’t just pick out four random people).

This is just the first step of one plan, which I suggested for Fellowship Baptist Church. You may not like this plan. That’s ok. So what is your plan? How is your plan working for you? (I assume you have a plan)

God hasn’t called anybody to win the entire world to Christ. But God intends all of us to witness to some (1Cor 9:22). We can start by Identifying your “Four”.

So have you identified your “Four”?

Pastor Craig
Luke 10:2

Out of the Ashes…

I was privileged to take part in a meeting today that many from my first pastorate will find very good. First, a little background.

 

Like many Baptist Churches, Bethel Baptist Church formed as a split from another church. After meeting at several locations in Weatherford, the church body obtained property just off FM920 northwest of downtown Weatherford in the late 1970s. Several men served as pastor of the church as the attendance numbers ebbed and flowed.

 

In late June/early July 2007, I received a call from the deacon chairman asking if I was available to preach on the following Sunday. The one-week invitation turned into an interim position which turned into my first pastorate which lasted just over six years. We had good days and we had bad days. Although our numbers were shrinking, our depth was growing.

 

In October 2013, we knew that we could no longer to afford to keep the doors open and it was clear that God was leading us to close the doors. Our bylaws stated that the building and property would be given to the Parker Baptist Association, so after removing my library and other personal items, we handed over the keys to my long-time friend and fellow seminary student, John Thielepape, the Director of Missions of Parker Baptist Association. During our last meeting, some members voiced fears that the Association would quickly dispose of the property, putting to death the legacy of our church. But I knew it would be OK. I reiterated that God was leading us to do this and that I trusted John and the members of the Association’s Executive Board.

 

A few months later, God opened doors (literally) for ministry to continue at the property. Among other ministries, MercyHeart, a ministry founded by a friend of mine began ministering to the Parker County families of inmates on Tuesday Nights. A local church had sold its property to developers and the new building wasn’t ready to move into, so they began to meet on Sundays and Wednesdays, bringing their air conditioners to replace Bethel’s broken units.

 

Ministry continued.

 

After serving in several interim pastorates in Parker and Wise Counties, this past July I was called to be the pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, five miles north of Weatherford. Yesterday, John (back from a sabbatical) called to welcome me back to the Association and to tell me of the meeting this morning. The meeting would consider the proposal to enter a lease-to-purchase agreement with a young church. A related proposal would take proceeds from the lease payments to designate for funds for church planting and missions. John said he’d like for me to be there.

 

Today’s special Called Meeting of the Association’s Executive Board required 20 attendees to form the Quorum. I was the last person to walk into the meeting and signed the attendance sheet in the twentieth position. We had a quorum. Both proposals passed unanimously.

 

I must give a big shout-out to the Parker Baptist Association Executive Board and its Director of Missions, my friend John for their wise stewardship of the property and their vision of extending the ministry on the property.

 

Those who feared the worst in closing the doors of our church should feel a great peace because God continues to use our former church building to do ministry and extend His Kingdom. And that’s a really good thing! God is good!

 

Please join me in praying for Pastor Joel Kindberg and Grace Covenant Church as they begin ministering to the people of Weatherford from their new address at 201 Kathey Street in Weatherford. MercyHeart will continue their ministry alongside Grace.