Psalm 34:8

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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.

Let’s Dialog!

I posted this on Facebook tonight. Let’s do this!

A couple of times yesterday and today, I have posted the comments from pastor friends of mine who addressed common feelings about the ugly events in Charlottesville over the weekend.

And not just Charlottesville; the problem is everywhere and is rooted in sin. The only cure for the sin of racism is the same cure for all other sin: the Good News of the Gospel.

If you do not know the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I would love to tell you about it (and Him) personally!

Let’s really dialog over the *one issue* that matters for eternity as well as for the present. If you are interested in dialog (no arguing, no flaming, no hate-speech, no political-demonizing, no name-calling), please PM me, text me, or call me. (Note, I don’t run the FB Messenger app, so my response may be delayed) Or perhaps we should take this discussion to my blog, Psalm34-8.com.

God hates racism. God hates hypocrisy. God hates religion. God hates these things so much that He sent His Son to die to pay the enormous cost in order for His people to reconciled to Him.

Does the Bible Seem Boring to You?

Have you ever sat down to read your Bible and nothing happened? I mean, you read the words on the page but the words don’t leap off the page. You didn’t get goosebumps. You didn’t see what you were reading as being very applicable to you. It didn’t seem to connect. It seemed so …boring. I know I have!

You’re in good company! It happens to all of us from time to time. Take a couple of minutes to watch this helpful video.

 

 

A Meditation on the Ultimate Sacrifice

As I prayerfully prepared a sermon a few years ago, a random thought came to my mind about Easter, which was over a month away. That week’s sermon had nothing to do with Easter.

Sacrifices, though bloody, were relatively clean and simple, consisting of plunging a sharp object into the heart or slitting the throat with a sharp instrument…. Death came quickly, lasting only a few seconds, if that long. (If you’ve ever witnessed the slaughter of a goat, chicken, or some other animal, you know that there’s no suffering.)

The ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, however, was different. Very different.

Hours passed from his arrest until he breathed his last breath on a Roman cross.

He was beaten with sticks.
His beard was plucked out.
He endured scourging with innumerable lashes, His skin shredded with each blow.
A crown of long thorns was pressed into his scalp.
He carried a very heavy cross.
He stumbled under its weight.
Nails were driven into His wrists.
A nail was driven into His feet.
His cross was dropped into a hole with a sudden jolt at the bottom; He was already mounted on the cross at the time.
He hung there for hours in the blazing sun. Naked. Humiliated.
A disgustingly nasty sponge with vinegar touched His dry, parched lips.

All the while, bleeding.
Pushing against the nail in His feet, struggling for breath.
All the while, His lungs slowly filled with fluid. He was drowning.

It was an extended death. And it was ugly. Very ugly.

Perhaps the best depiction of the brutality of His torture was in Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. And perhaps even this portrayal was sanitized for movie audiences.

To ultimately atone for sin required the ultimate sacrifice. Contrasting with a simple slash of a knife in a ceremonial fashion, Jesus’ death was carried out brutally by the forces of hell itself through a perfected brutal torture, designed to inflict the most pain for the longest period of time. Sadism at its worst — glaringly on display. As he hung there, He barely looked like a human being.

I confess that I rarely consider the immensity of that sacrifice. But for that sin, His death also atones.

Thank God for Easter: an annual opportunity to remember!

[Note: This is a revised reposting of a blog entry I wrote in 2010]