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

November 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Posted in The Flood | 3 Comments
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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 the downtown areas of 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 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.

glorious sins

Would You Rather? (Wisdom of Solomon Edition)

September 26, 2012 at 10:59 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 3 Comments
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Have you ever played the game “Would You Rather?” The idea is to take two equally unpleasant propositions (or, in a variation, two equally desirable propositions), and force the contestant to choose one. At least that’s how it was played at recess when I was a kid. “Would you rather get hit square in the face with a Nolan Ryan fastball or slide down a giant razor blade into a pool of rubbing alcohol?” Gross, huh? Well, I like to use the basic concept of this game in thinking about Ecclesiastes Chapter 7.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

Would you rather have: wealth or wisdom?

They say that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but that, if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. If we think of wisdom as only the means to acquire wealth, it might seem preferable to take the short cut and receive the wealth without the effort, but, according to the Bible, wisdom itself is the more valuable commodity. The caveat to the idea that learning to fish is better than receiving a free fish is: God is still the One Who provides the fish – and the rod – and the bait – and the water – and the strength to set the hook.

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?

Ecclesiastes 7:13

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

Ecclesiastes 7:14

Would you rather have problems or prosperity?

This is a no-brainer for most of us. However, in a previous lesson we did learn that problems are an inevitable part of life, and in some ways, they are extremely beneficial when facing an uncertain future. So the caveat to this one is: We have to accept adversity from God without getting bitter at God for sending it.

All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

Ecclesiastes 7:15-18

Would you rather have purity or pleasure?

As Christians we choose purity, which just so happens to contain real joy, which is far superior to temporal pleasure. But, again, there is a caveat: Beware of self-righteousness or pride.

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

Ecclesiastes 7:20

Would you rather have infamy or ignorance?

Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

On the one hand, no one really relishes the idea of being ignorant, but on the other hand, do you really want to know what everyone is saying about you? Sometimes, they say, ignorance is bliss. Here is the caveat to this one: Only Christ can control our thoughts and tongues.

All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

Ecclesiastes 7:23-24

Would you rather have a God who is knowable or knowledgeable?

I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

Ecclesiastes 7:25-28

If you are a lady, you are probably not appreciating the smug satisfaction my sinful flesh is taking in knowing that at least Solomon found one man out of 1000 with some wisdom, while not finding a single woman! (Sorry, just kidding.) The fact is, we have a God who is both transcendent and immanent. We can never truly know the depths of His glory, nor His secret counsels, nor the fullness of His wisdom. Yet He has revealed Himself to us to a degree that allows us to know Him intimately. The caveat to this is: We must accept that we can never know as much as God, and, left to our own devices, we tend to go astray.

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

Ecclesiastes 7:29

Don’t Ruin Your Name

September 10, 2012 at 10:03 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 4 Comments
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A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

Ecclesiastes 7:1

Your “name” (your reputation) is a precious thing. In Bible times ointment was expensive and precious. It could be used for medicinal salve or for perfume, but it could be easily spoiled. One little dead fly could ruin a whole batch of ointment. Don’t ruin your name.

The name “Judah” meant “praise” in the Old Testament, but the name “Judas” is now forever associated with treachery and betrayal because of the act of one man. I have no idea what the names “Adolph” or “Hitler” brought to mind prior to 1930s Germany, but they certainly haven’t been very popular names since then. Do you know any “Adolphs?” Did you go to school with a kid named little Timmy Hitler Smith? What about Charles Manson Jones? Those names were pretty much ruined by the deeds of evil men.

Ointment in the Bible was good, but it was fleeting. It had an expiration date. A good name is something that can be passed on from generation to generation. It can earn and carry with it trustworthiness. Cherish and protect your name by living your life according to the principles of the Bible.

Two Kinds of Heart Medication

August 22, 2012 at 11:32 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 4 Comments
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A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-5

Can it be that the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth? From King Solomon’s Old Testament, life-under-the-sun perspective, he could imagine a life so filled with struggles, troubles, pain, and sorrow, that leaving this world behind would be sweeter than entering. Of course, New Testament Christians shouldn’t be so pessimistic. We celebrate birth and new life passionately, but there is still in a sense in which it can be said that our “death day” will be better than our “birth day.” For Christians, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and our final breath in this earthly life will mean entering in to the far-superior Heavenly realm to experience the unsurpassable joy of the presence of Jesus forever and ever.

Solomon went on to state that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting. Can this be so? In a sense, feasting is a celebration of temporal, earthly things, and mourning is the facing of the reality that this world and its finite pleasures will come to an end. Mourning tends to help us face reality and truth, whereas – sometimes – eating, drinking, and merry-making suspend our sense of the importance of eternal things.

Can sorrow be better than laughter? Who would rather cry than laugh? Again, we must temper our understanding of Solomon’s pronouncements by taking a long view of the good of our souls. The Bible does say that a merry heart can be like medicine, but sometimes we need to experience sorrow to diagnose our true ailment.

Can being chewed out be better than someone singing a song to you? It depends on the person doing the rebuking or the person doing the singing. To be entertained by a fool can be far worse than being rebuked by a wise friend who is holding you accountable in truth and love.

This passage of Scripture always reminds me of a poem by A.E. Housman which starts off with the line, “Terence, this is stupid stuff…” One of the points of the poem is that grief and mourning and meditating on tragedy strengthens people for future troubles and trials and difficulties which are sure to come. Housman uses the example of King Mithridates, who is supposed to have intentionally consumed small doses of poison over long periods of time to inoculate himself against assassination attempts (which in ancient times often took the form of poisoning the king’s meat or wine). I don’t endorse all the sentiments of the poem from a Christian perspective – especially since the narrator endorses drunkenness as a valid means of dealing with heartache! But this section of the poem is a pretty good summation of what Solomon was getting at in Ecclesiastes Chapter 7:

And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.

A.E. Housman

Christians find our true joy, peace, and fulfillment in Christ Jesus when times get tough, but we do not live in a make-believe world where suffering, grief, mourning, and tribulations are to be brushed aside with frivolous distractions or vain entertainment.

The Husband of One Wife – Part 2

October 11, 2010 at 10:45 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Marriage | 9 Comments
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We have seen:
I. What God Authorized
Now we are looking at
II. What God Allows

The practice of multiplying wives grew in the Old Testament, and considering the number of wives he had as king, it seemed to reach its zenith during the reign of Solomon. King David’s most well-known sin was his affair with Bathsheba and its murderous consequences, but what is often overlooked is that after David was given Saul’s daughter, Michal, as his prize-bride, he had an additional six or seven wives besides Bathsheba.

The following colloquy between David and his son, Solomon, takes place when Solomon is a boy, around the time when he first begins to take a serious interest in girls. It is purely imagined. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that such a conversation actually took place. However, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Solomon “learned” from the example of his earthly father. I am using it strictly for illustration purposes.

Solomon: Dad, how did you meet Mom?

David: Well, the kings were going out to battle one time, and I didn’t go, and I happened to see her.

Solomon: Where?

David: Well… she was up on a roof, and I was on my roof – a little higher up – and I saw her over there.

Solomon: What was she doing – hanging her laundry out there? Come on, Dad – I really want to know.

David: … She was taking a bath.

Solomon: Okay – did you run downstairs, and then wait until she was decent, and then go over there to meet her?

David: No, I kept looking…

Solomon: Okay, well, I’m sure she covered herself up when she saw you, but you remembered her and ran into her later?

David: No, actually, I had her brought to me.

Solomon: Well, you were the king – and she was a single lady –

David: No – no… she wasn’t single.

Solomon: I never realized Mom had been married before – I guess her first husband must have died?

David: No, I had her husband killed.

Solomon: Wow! He must have been evil and abusive!

David: Actually, no, what happened is – he was away at battle – and I brought him back home… to try to cover up the fact that I had got his wife pregnant with your older brother.

Solomon: I have a brother?

David: Well, actually, no, he died under the judgment of God. But when I brought this man home, he was so honorable that he wouldn’t go inside his home because he was an honorable man, and loyal to his fellow soldiers… So, I had… well… I had him killed.

Now, when we read in the Bible that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, does it surprise you that the richest, wisest man in all the world found life to be vain and empty?

And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

Ecclesiastes 7:26

And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.

I Kings 11:3-6

At the end of the Old Testament, God makes it very clear how He feels about more than one wife:

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…

Malachi 2:16

So then, you see by the time of Christ that the practice of polygamy is only common among Gentiles and pagans.

III. What God Accepts

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

I Timothy 3:1-2

These verses are not saying that a bishop must be a “super-Christian” – really exceptional and special. They are not saying that only church officers should be all these things. They are saying that a church officer must be a blameless Christian – just as all Christians should be striving to be blameless. The phrase, “husband of one wife” can be debated as to whether it means “never having been divorced,” but any serious Bible student, teacher, commentator, or scholar will have to admit that, whatever else it means, it definitely excludes polygamy. Monogamous marriage is the only acceptable type of marriage to God.


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