Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Aftermath of Ike

Hello everyone,

Well, a few hours ago, power was restored here at my house. So I send this out to anyone who is able to read and respond. I hope you’ll get in touch with me. I have been very, very concerned and prayerful for each of you, wanting to know how you did in (and after) this storm.

As for me and mine, we fared pretty well. We lost power, but thank God for this wonderful weather! Who needs AC, anyway? We lost a little bit of our fence, and thanks to the power loss, we’ll start from scratch in our fridge and deep freeze, but we’re blessed to have come through relatively unscathed.

As for the church, the news is good there, too. There was no major damage as far as I know of. The steeple is bent. A couple of signs got blown down. There were some water leaks in the Family Life Center, in the hallway outside the choir room, and in the children’s building. There may be other stuff that we’ll be able to see when power is restored, but that’s all we’ve been able to find.

The news isn’t so good for a sister church. I heard from a fellow minister that SW Central Church of Christ suffered major storm damage. Keep those folks in your prayers. If you have time and the ability to volunteer to help them, your help would be appreciated.

On that note, I hope and pray that each of us will have opportunities in these trying times to help out our neighbors, to show the love of Christ. I hope also that we’re taking the time to check in on some of our elderly and homebound members. I have definitely been praying for them. It’s been frustrating for me…With no church on Sunday, spotty cell phone coverage and no power, I feel paralyzed ministry-wise. But I keep praying, and I know God is taking good care of each of you. Again, report in when you can.

As for our upcoming schedule, we’ve made the decision to go ahead and cancel Wednesday night activities. Sunday morning, we WILL offer a worship service at 10:30. We’re exploring the best way to pull that off if power doesn’t come back online this week, but we’ll praise and preach, even if it has to be in the dark. I don’t know about you, but I just need to be among God’s people. As far as Bible study goes, we’ll make that decision soon.
Even in a difficult time, there are so many ways we see God’s goodness, faithfulness and love. But I’ll talk more about that Sunday. Hope I see you there.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Well, here we go. Many of us remember Hurricane Alicia 25 years ago, and at this point, Ike looks very similar. Of course, we don't know what will happen over the next 24-48 hours. We should all pray diligently that the storm will weaken, that the current evacuations of coastal areas will go smoothly, and that God would protect us, our loved ones and our homes.

Here's what I do know: Our church offices will be closed on Friday. Sunday morning, we will NOT have Bible study (Sunday School), but if there is power and we are able to get to church, I plan on having worship at 10:30. Other than that, I'd like to share the following safety tips from Gale Yandell:

Okay, being the safety person that I am...a few last minute details to think about:

1) Put important papers in a zip lock and/or waterproof/fireproof box. Make a copy of your medical papers, driver's license, birth certificate, credit cards, a few blank checks and such.

2) Close all blinds and drapes. That will help slow flying glass should your windows blow out.

3) Unplug your electrical appliances.

4) Dip matches in candle wax, that makes them waterproof.

5) Keep some cash available. If the power goes out, the ATM machines won't work.

6) Outside stuff, think flying missiles. Secure everything!

7) If you have a medical condition, PUT YOUR MEDICAL ALERT TAG ON!!! If you have a condition that requires a medical alert tag and you don't have one; 1) don't let me find out about it, 2) write it down as well as medications you take for it and put it in your pocket in a zip lock bag.

8) Take the mattress off of your bed and cover yourself with it in the bathtub should things get really nasty.

9) Pray

This list is in addition to batteries, water, food, a full gas tank and such.

I have already been out scouting this morning and the lines at the gas stations are long! The parking lot of several grocery stores are packed. If you need to go to these places, do it NOW. The lines will only get worse.

I know of some folks who need help boarding up their houses, if you are available to help, please call me on my cell at 713.501.4899.

If I think of other things, I will forward them to you.

Take care & be safe.


You are in my prayers and, God willing, I will see you again on Sunday. I am sure we'll all have some interesting stories to tell!

Reaching for the Prize

Note: Since I first posted this a few weeks ago, we've decided to reschedule Reaching for the Prize. We'll start the year off with this emphasis in January.

If you watched the recent Olympics, you probably found yourself inspired as I did. No, I’ll never ran as fast as Usain Bolt, or dunk a basketball like Lebron James and the rest of our basketball team did. And I will never have abs like Michael Phelps (sigh), not to mention his eight gold medals. Yet I found myself marveling at the thought of experiencing a Christian life that would be that exciting and victorious. Imagine no more stumbling into the same old sins, wallowing in the frustrating quagmire of temptations we thought we had overcome. Instead, we conquer sins, standing in the glory of growth and achievement. Imagine a spiritual life where we always knew where God was leading us, and so spiritual disciplines aren’t dull and difficult, but refreshing as an early-morning swim.

Actually the analogy isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound. Paul was rather fond of comparing the spiritual life to athletics. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run is such a way as to get the prize (1 Co. 9:24). Those aren’t just empty words meant to encourage people who are born losers; God’s Spirit is constantly working to make us spiritual champions: Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). All we have to do in order to experience that renewal, that victory, is to get on board with the training program God has already custom-designed for us. With that in mind, Westbury will begin a spiritual formation campaign called Reaching for the Prize on October 5. For five weeks, all adult and youth members of WBC will be challenged through preaching, discussions and a personal devotional guide.

I designed Reaching for the Prize because I believe that WBC should be an Open Door to New Life. That means that people who don’t know Christ should meet Him through our influence. But it also means that every one of our members—from those who have been following Jesus a few months to those who have known Him for decades—should be experiencing new life, consistent growth, and amazing victory. My prayer is that by the time you finish the five weeks of Reaching for the Prize:

You will know exactly what God is trying to accomplish in your life.

You will have a detailed list of goals for your spiritual growth, along with a plan to achieve those goals.

Your Bible study leaders and staff ministers will have a better idea of how to minister to you and the rest of our church.

Please be in prayer for this campaign.

The Sermon on the Mount: Radical Ambition

I have always admired people who were cool under pressure. Years ago, I read a story about Joe Montana, the great quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers during their glory years. In one Super Bowl, the team was losing with little time left on the clock. They had to drive the ball the length of the field to take the lead. As Montana looked into the faces of his teammates in the huddle, he could see the apprehension, the anxiety. Then he looked over their shoulders and said, "Hey. Look at that fat guy in the stands. Isn't that John Candy?" The team all turned and looked for the comedian. Whether it was him or not, it made them all laugh. It released the tension. And they scored the winning touchdown.

I have learned one thing about overcoming worry and fear: You can't do it by sheer willpower. Simply saying, "I'm not going to be afraid," won't cut it. Jesus addressed worry and fear--and how to have satisfaction and joy--in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:25-34. As I read those words, He seems to be saying that our ambition is the key: What is most important to us? This Sunday (Lord willing), we'll take a closer look at those words of wisdom.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Radical Resource Management

Anyone who grew up in Baptist churches remembers the dreaded "Stewardship Sermon." On this infamous day of the year, the pastor would wax eloquent (cough, cough) about tithing, while we all fought drowsiness and hoped there weren't any visitors at church that day. Some of us were even unfortunate enough to attend churches that featured an annual Stewardship Series.

I have heard it said that Jesus talked more about money than about Heaven or Hell combined. I haven't done the math, but it sure seems to be true when I read the Gospels. Yet when I read what Jesus has to say about earthly riches, it isn't dry and boring like the old Stewardship Sermons, or spiritual pollyannaism like the current "Prosperity Gospel" preaching. Jesus spoke about money with a strong tone of realism, mixed with a willingness to challenge the way we think. Our Lord certainly wasn't about fleecing His followers; He died virtually penniless. Instead, He wanted to set us free from the bondage most of us feel toward our finances. And He wanted to show us how to be rich eternally.

Not surprisingly, Jesus spoke about money in the Sermon on the Mount. This Sunday, we'll see what He had to say in Matthew 6:19-24.