Why I Didn’t Care if the Mainstream Media Ignored the Flood

November 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Posted in The Flood | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In July, 2016, a Baton Rouge police officer shot and killed a man named Alton Sterling, prompting protests and national media attention. Later on that month, a gunman shot six Baton Rouge law enforcement officers, killing three, and critically wounding another. On August 12-13, 2016, the banks of the Amite, Comite, and Tickfaw Rivers disappeared beneath raging torrents of rain and runoff. The water began to rise at an alarming rate. Houses – and whole subdivisions – located on property which hadn’t experienced flooding since time immemorial began to fill up with water. The main shopping districts in downtown cities disappeared beneath newly formed lakes. Vehicles sank or floated off the sides of highways. It quickly became apparent that this was going to be one of those events that earn the adjective “catastrophic,” like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and tsunamis. The national media won’t admit it, but they love these things. They are great for ratings. Reporters rush to the scene and report live in their “rough-weather” gear, often holding onto something for support in the storm, and speaking of doom and gloom into a shaky camera.

Here in southeastern Louisiana it was going to be our turn in the spotlight… except it wasn’t. At least not at first. By and large, the national media, fascinated with the spectacle of a shameful pick-your-poison fiasco of a presidential campaign, and a weird scandal involving Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, gave short-shrift to our noble struggle to stay afloat down in Bayou Country. The difference was glaringly obvious. Social unrest and violence caused by alleged prejudice and bigotry? Alert the media. A common-cause weather disaster prompting us to set aside our differences and work to help each other? Yawn.

And the locals didn’t like it one bit. Social media gives everyone a voice and many people used it to express their disapproval. Why did Louisiana get big-time coverage for our problems, while getting ignored for our resiliency and unity in a desperate time? And, to be fair, the complainants had a point. Conceivably, faster and greater media attention could have resulted in faster and greater aid from around the country. Also, the perception that the Yankee media thinks that us Southern rubes make for better entertainment when we’re getting up to criminal hi-jinks, than when we’re nobly helping our our neighbors, is not without support.

I was one of the few that did not wish for more national media attention during the flood and its immediate aftermath. One reason is that, with the prevalence of social media, people are already overly-enthusiastic about seeking attention. There were plenty of people out doing heroic things during the flood… and posting about it on Facebook. Most of the so-called do-gooders were quickly hashtagged, shared, liked, retweeted, and instagrammed. When a boatful of Cajun good ‘ol boys ferries you from the roof of your house to a National Guard staging area, everybody logged in at home gets a nice case of the feels. When you click on a cell phone camera photo of some kid’s soggy rescue-pet puppy wagging his tongue over the gun-rack in the back windshield of a jacked-up high-water-defying pickup truck, how can you not get the warm fuzzies about your community and humanity in general? The national media would have only reinforced and emphasized a wrong view of ourselves and our true motivations, and that is the last thing we need.

Within a few days after the flood, the harsh reality started to set in. This was not going to be about heroism, bravery, and daring in an air boat, or about sandbag-delivering Samaritans, or about ice chests filled with bottled water instead of Bud Light for once. It was going to be about the cleanup, and, for Christians, it was going to be about opportunities to share the good news about Jesus. No one delights in viewing a Facebook photo of some old dude down on his knees in the back of a dark closet four days after a flood, trying to scrape out the last crumbles of moldy drywall so that it’s safe to put the new stuff up later when it arrives (plus my butt crack was probably showing from that angle and NO ONE wants to see that!). No one hashtags #LouisianaStrong or #BatonRougeProud over a picture of Grandma’s water-warped antique dresser lying smashed in a pile of debris out by the road. So, after the opportunity for glamour, comes the opportunity for ministry.

Wait a minute though, says the objection, shouldn’t we celebrate the spirit of resilience and golden rule reciprocity that comes when people put aside their differences and band together to help, while it is going on? Maybe we should. As Christians, though, we need to be very careful about what we celebrate and, especially, what we label as good. If the Cajun Navy restored your faith in humanity, or if seeing people with different skin colors sitting in the same rescue boat sharing a blanket made you think that people are basically good deep down, then you need to remember what the Bible says about our inherent “goodness” and self-righteousness.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Romans 3:10-11

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Titus 1:15-16

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Isaiah 64:6

Apart from Christ, every person, regardless of whatever “kindness” or “goodness” or “righteousness” he seeks to perform or demonstrate, is condemned before God. Unless they are born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His Gospel, every admiral, midshipman, and ensign in the Cajun Navy, every “good” neighbor and “good” ol’ boy, every rescue and relief worker, will go to the lake of fire for all eternity. And the mainstream media will not change that truth whether they show up or not.

A One Thousand Year Flood

October 18, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Posted in The Flood | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Although the flood which happened in southeastern Louisiana in August, 2016, was declared to be a “1000-year flood,” there is some confusion as to exactly what that meant. Some people were saying it was such a rare catastrophic occurrence, that it was the kind of thing that only happens once every thousand years. Others said it meant that there is only a .001 percent chance of such an event happening in any given year. For those who found themselves wading through three feet of rain-and-river water flowing through their uninsured living rooms, it did not make much difference at that point, other than the meager consolation that, having rolled the meteorological equivalent of snake eyes during their lifetimes, at least now they wouldn’t have to deal with such a problem again.

While it is dubious as to whether or not this makes sense even statistically speaking, Christians, of all people, ought to know better. God – Who controls the weather – does not deal in “odds,” “chance,” “luck,” or blind “fate.” He could bring a flood in 2017, 2018, 2019, and every year thereafter, or He might decide never to allow a mud puddle to form south of the Mason-Dixon line until Jesus comes back. Living in a world that is obviously designed, but subject to apparent randomness in the events that affect it, can cause us, if we are not careful, to forget that the Lord is in control.

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.

Proverbs 16:33

He is under no obligation to follow a statistical pattern or to bow down to any so-called laws of probability.

But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

Psalm 115:3

As faithful Christians, we have the privilege of praying that God would send favorable weather, but we also recognize that He knows best, and we joyfully submit to His supreme, perfectly wise will. Otherwise we run the danger of being “spoiled” by this world’s system, which gives praise to “fortune” or “luck” rather than the sovereign God.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Colossians 2:8

Did the Devil Flood Livingston Parish?

September 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Posted in The Flood | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

If you are truly a Christian, then you have to have a certain level of loyalty to God. After all, He is your Father, Savior, Redeemer, and Provider. Therefore, it is somewhat natural to want to stick up for Him when others might question His actions. This can be a good thing, but it can also be problematic when our loyalty tips over into finite rationalizations. In other words, we want to give people a high opinion of our God (to “glorify” Him), but we also want to be honest. In other other words, God doesn’t need a PR agent.

We have seen this dynamic at work in the wake (pun intended) of the recent flooding in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, and the adjacent parishes. “God is all-powerful and omniscient, so how could all this devastation have happened on His watch?” we are afraid someone will ask. And the all-too-often-heard rationalization-in-advance is to blame-shift onto Satan. “God didn’t send all this rain into these too-narrow rivers, creeks, and bayous. God doesn’t ‘do evil.’ The devil did this for evil, and God will turn it around and use it for good.” It sounds helpful. It even sounds hopeful. But – and this is what really matters to God – is it true?

Does the devil control the weather? I want to be cautious here, and admit that Satan is certainly powerful. He is so much more powerful than any human being that we can not even make a proper comparison. However, he is a pipsqueak compared to God. As a created being himself, it is certain that Satan is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, and can only be said to be “omnipresent” in the limited sense that he may have demonic agents feeding him information and doing his bidding in all parts of the world. The only place to find reliable information about who can control the weather – God and Satan, or God and God alone – is the Bible.

Now, my wife made an excellent point when we discussed this. What the devil CAN do is this: He can seize upon the opportunity created by the aftermath of the flood and tempt people to become discouraged, to become bitter, to give up, to look for escape from their troubles in sinful habits and addictions, to turn away from God, to become divisive and petty, and (his specialty) to become proud – proud of their community, proud of their neighbors, proud of their church, proud of the way they themselves behaved in a crisis, and even proud to be a Christian (oxymoronic as that is!)

However, the Bible evidence is nearly incontrovertible that God is in charge of the weather – even the extreme weather events that we call catastrophes. The only possible support for the counterargument that I can find is the account of Job’s children, who were killed, as part of a challenge between God and Satan, with a “great wind” that blew their house down on top of them. However, even in that instance, the same account calls the lightning which took out the sheep and the servants the “fire of God,” so, presumably, Satan, acting under God’s permission, had to borrow some weather elements from God, or, perhaps, ask God to use them Himself.

All of which gives me the confidence to say that, no, the devil did not sneak around God’s throne, weasel himself into the royal Heavenly restroom, and break the plumbing, spilling four trillion gallons of rain right on top of southeastern Louisiana in a 24 hour period. It may not sound sentimental, and it may give ammunition to amateur skeptics and those bitter at a God too great for us to “figure out,” but, as His children, we are to rejoice over the fact that God is supremely in control of all events in, and beyond, this world, and that what He does is always right and always good, weather whether we like it or not, or weather whether we understand it or not.

For the the glory of His name, and for the good of His Son and His Son’s redeemed people, God flooded Livingston Parish, Louisiana, on the weekend of August 13-14, 2016, and He did not choose to fill us in on what the kids call “the deets.” It may be a hard truth, but it is a true truth, and for those who suffered in it and through it, we are better off facing this truth. As the old song says, “When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.” Some folks move to Chicago, some folks move into their neighbors’ homes, and some folks move into a FEMA trailer. But all of God’s folks need to move closer to the true God of the Bible, and need to move into the lives of their neighbors who have not yet met the Savior and tell them the good news that the God of the flood will forgive you for your sins and give you eternal life when – AND ONLY WHEN – you repent, believe the Gospel, and trust His Son.

The Least (Polite) of These

August 31, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Matthew, The Flood | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

There is some debate about exactly to whom Jesus was referring when He emphasized the responsibility of His disciples to minister to “the least of these.” However, most Bible scholars agree that the list He gave was both specific and illustrative, counting as a summation of those who are the most helpless and neglected in worldly society.

As 21st Century Christians we are prone to romanticize the notion of “the least of these” and picture ourselves taking in a doe-eyed orphan with smudged but pudgy cheeks. Or perhaps we see ourselves caring for a kindly old grandfather, abandoned by His Gen-X children who are too busy with their own lives to benefit from his homespun wisdom and sage advice. Jesus did not, however, limit His description of the needy and the outcasts to those to whom we might find it easier – for sentimental reasons – to minister.

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Matthew 25:42-45

What our family found out during the recent flooding in our parish, which affected the rich and poor alike, is that the person who comes into your home during a catastrophe, needing food, water, clothing, and shelter, may be the “the most irritating of these.”

He might be a person who makes all his phone calls on speaker-phone, yelling at the top of his lungs and broadcasting the other person’s (who has not been told he’s on speaker) personal business to everyone within earshot.

He might be a person who comes in drenched with sweat, mold, flood water, and Chinese drywall, and, declining your desperate offer of a shower, plops himself right down on your couch pillows and puts his feet up.

He might be a person who is super touchy about everyone else’s failure to appreciate his plight, while also being hypocritically hypercritical of others who are worse off than him.

He might be the person who picks skin off his feet and flicks it on your carpet.

He might be the person who stands uncomfortably close to your wife, peering over her shoulder at the pot she is stirring on the stove while pompously offering suggestions about how to cook green beans to the best green bean cooker in the known world.

He might be the person who would rather sit up til late at night in the living room, spurning the comfortable guest bed you’ve offered him, while belching loudly 56 times in a row in front of your high school aged daughters.

He might be the person who, after four days of living with your family, has still not bothered to learn a single one of their names.

He might be all of these things and more, but, as a servant of the King, it is tough to rationalize away your duty to care for “the least of these” even when the category includes those with the least manners and common courtesy.

Post-Flood Church Services

August 23, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, The Flood | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It didn’t take long. The good feelings and perceived unity generated when people of various skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions, and economic classes put their differences aside and came together to help each other survive and rebuild after a catastrophic flood, started eroding faster than the banks of the tributaries and bayous around the Amite River – beginning on the following Sunday morning.

It seems that some local churches, despite doing everything they could to help their church members (our first obligation) and neighbors, and despite devastation to their own buildings, managed to clean out enough debris, and to dry out the mold-producing moisture just enough, to have a worship service to thank the Lord for sparing us from what we truly deserved (greater damage and destruction) and to praise Him for Who He is.

Some of the complaints sounded like this:
“I can’t believe they are having a church service while people are hurting and need help!”
“People need their homes cleaned out, while these so-called ‘Christians’ are singing and praying!”
“Jesus would be helping people. He wouldn’t be attending church after a disaster!”

I will admit that the church I attend was one of the ones that did have a Sunday morning church service on the Sunday after the flood. We did not have one on the Sunday of the flood, because on that Sunday our church building was in the middle of a newly-formed lake roughly the size of our whole parish, and because our church building had several feet of water inside it! Before the flood waters had even finished rising our church members were out rescuing people and trying to help. Two of our pastors and our church secretary lost their homes and most of their possessions, along with about 75% of the residents in our parish, including many of our church members and families. Those of us who barely stayed dry began to provide shelter, food, and clothing, and began the time-consuming and costly process of debris removal and salvage for those without flood insurance. A huge percentage of the homes affected were in “non-flood” zones, and therefore did not have flood insurance. And, yes, many of us worked hard on our church building, too, since it is our ministry headquarters, and since we believe that, as good stewards of the property that God has given us to manage, we owe a duty to protect it so it can be used for future ministry – including the most important part of ministry: the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We also needed the property to be a staging area for the distribution of food, clothing, and other necessities.

That Sunday morning service was special. People with dire physical needs came and were helped. They also received comfort and were helped spiritually. For this we do not apologize.

Many of our church members went right back to work that same day, helping each other and others in our community. Anyone who would begrudge us ninety minutes of prayer, singing, preaching, and worship after one of the busiest and most traumatic weeks of our lives, has greatly misunderstood what the Bible teaches about the purpose of the Church.

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:10-12

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

As for this idea that, by trying to preserve our church building and by having a church service while others were working on their homes, we were doing what Jesus would not have done, let me remind you to be very careful playing the “WWJD” card that has become so fashionable in “Pop Christianity.” People tend to be very selective and biased in claiming to know what Jesus “would” do, when, in reality, we are far better off looking in the Bible and seeing what Jesus actually did do.

No offense, but the family who lost literally every worldly possession they had in the flood, but who live in 21st Century Livingston Parish, Louisiana, is still far better off than a Jewish family, under Roman occupation, in 1st Century Nazareth on their very best day. Yet:

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

Luke 2:43-36

He was “in the temple.” Not helping other families carry their belongings, not providing food and water. In the temple.

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

Matthew 26:6-11

Jesus did not condemn those who gave their resources to be used in worshiping Him, even though there were always poor people who could be helped with material and physical needs.

People read about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and going about the countryside helping and miraculously feeding people, and they somehow get the idea that Jesus would be opposed to church attendance, but:

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Matthew 4:23

Jesus did both. He attended worship services and He ministered throughout the land. Do you think there were people who were not hungry, who did not need help, while He was teaching and preaching? Of course there were! It is a peculiar brand of legalism which condemns Christians for focusing on church when a disaster strikes, but gives the critics a pass when things are normal. If you are tempted to criticize our church for having worship services during a flood recovery effort, you also need to be just as hard on yourself for preparing for a Spartan race or taking a family vacation while there are homeless people living under bridges in Baton Rouge and beggars on every street corner in New Orleans. Self-righteous hypocrisy can cut both ways, can’t it? I would not condemn those who skipped church that Sunday morning, under these exceptional circumstances, so they could bless people in need, but neither would I criticize those who assembled to worship.

Finally, as our Pastor pointed out on that first Sunday morning after the flood, we do have something of a Biblical precedent. Noah, upon exiting the ark with his family and the surviving animals – before he began rebuilding and even before they began repopulating – made a point of stopping to worship:

And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:18-21

The Louisiana Flood of 2016

August 18, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Posted in The Flood | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

I don’t know if, after a few months or a few years, the title of this post will be the official name of the flooding event that took place in South Central Louisiana on the weekend of August 13 or 14, 2016, or not. I don’t even know if it will have an official name. Many people (not including me) are already angry that the national news media – neither while it was happening, nor up til now – has given it the attention that these types of weather catastrophes usually garner (for reasons I may cover in a different post later).

Regardless, though, of whether the event ever enters or remains in the national consciousness, I doubt it will ever be forgotten by my neighbors. Apparently, the house in which the Lord allows my family to live sits on something of an imperceptibly elevated ledge, but our neighbors suffered massive flooding in their homes, and many had to be evacuated – some in boats, some in huge National Guard trucks with giant tires, and some in Blackhawk or Red Cross helicopters! The local news media is reporting that 90% of the homes in my parish (the equivalent of a “county” elsewhere) suffered flood damage. Not us, thankfully. While the water spilled across the highway in front of our house, and while it became a rapidly rising lake on the road behind us, and while it filled my next door neighbor’s home with a foot of water, my old Sunday School teacher, now a pastor, John Wilkerson, called to check on me. He lives in Indiana now, and, with AT&T cell service completely down, he somehow still had my landline number. As he prayed with me on the phone, asking the Lord to “honor His servant” (John 12:26), and to stop the encroaching waters, I became immensely humbled. I know that I belong to Christ, and that He shed His blood for me and saved me, but I also know for sure that I am not worthy of any honor! I am a faulty and neglectful servant at best, and much, if not most, of the time, the term “servant” itself could scarcely be applied to me due to my selfishness and impiety. However, after we finished the call, I walked outside to check. Thirty feet from my house the water appeared to have stopped, and maybe even receded a couple of inches. We were spared.

I want to thank and praise the Lord for protecting my wife and children, and the home that He allows me to manage. The next few weeks and months will be busy. We have already begun to tear out and clean out the damaged parts of the church building where our family meets, worships, and ministers, along with many of our church families’ and neighbors’ homes. There will be great opportunities to minister and to share the Gospel. The love of Christ, by His grace, will be made manifest, the Word will be proclaimed, and my prayer is that souls will be eternally saved.

I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

Psalm 32:5-6


Entries and comments feeds.