Today, Sunday, we welcomed the bravest man in America to New Orleans. Pastor Le Ngoc Thuong has moved here from California to become pastor of the Viet Nam Baptist Church. Others are moving out, but this courageous brother is moving in. He is inheriting a fine, active congregation. When I arrived for their morning service, I found I was in the order of worship to bring a “short message.” Like I’m capable of that. And, with a translator, the length is automatically doubled. But I managed to keep it to 10 minutes, and directed them to Acts 20:28 where the pastor is told to guard himself first of all, even before ministering to the congregation. After all, I told Pastor Le, if you lose your health, you’ve lost your ministry. If you lose your spiritual life, you have no ministry. If you lose your marriage, you have no ministry. So, take care of yourself first of all, then you’ll be able to take care of the church of God.
The odd thing is how many church members think they come before the pastor’s family, his spiritual life, or his own health. Not all, thank the Lord. God has blessed me with wise church leaders through the years who knew to support me in taking care of first things first so I would be able to take care of them and the church to the fullest.
James Carson is director of missions up in Winnsboro, LA. Saturday, he said something I thought you would find fascinating…
“While training mudout teams, I came across this Scripture that jumped out at me as a background for what we do with our mudout disaster relief unit. In Leviticus 14:33-48, God gave Moses and Aaron the laws for cleaning leprous houses, meaning homes and buildings where mildew and mold had set in. The priest was instructed to do the same thing we do with our mudout units.”
Brother James then, being a good Baptist preacher, comes up with a three-point sermon on this text. (1) The Plague. v. 33-35 He compares this with the plague of sin which affects us all. (2) The Prescription. v. 35-45 He tells how the units disinfect and decontaminate the houses after stripping them, comparing it to God’s remedy for our sin problem, the cross of Calvary. (3) The Provision. v. 48 Just as only the priest can declare the leprous houses clean, we can be declared cleansed of our sin only by the blood of Jesus.
Well, friend, as we say, “That will preach.” Thank you.
The front page of Sunday’s Times-Picayune carried an editorial under the title: “It’s time for a nation to return the favor.” It’s worth your reading. Here are some excerpts, followed by a request for you to do something.
“The federal government wrapped levees around greater New Orleans so that the rest of the country could share in our bounty.
“Americans wanted the oil and gas that flow freely off our shores. They longed for the oysters and shrimp and flaky Gulf fish that live in abundance in our waters. They wanted to ship corn and soybeans and beets down the Mississippi and through our ports. They wanted coffee and steel to flow north through the mouth of the river and into the heartland.
“They wanted more than that, though. They wanted to share in our spirit. They wanted to sample the joyous beauty of our jazz and our food. And we were happy to oblige them.
“So the federal government built levees and convinced us that we were safe.
“The levees, we were told, could stand up to a Category 3 hurricane.
“By the time Katrina surged into New Orleans, it had weakened to a Category 3. Yet our levee system wasn’t as strong as the Army Corps of Engineers said it was. Barely anchored in mushy soil, the floodwalls gave way.
“Our homes and businesses were swamped. Hundreds of our neighbors died.
“Now, this metro area is drying off and digging out. Life is going forward. Our heart is beating.
“But we need the federal government–we need our Congress–to fulfill the promises made to us in the past. We need to be safe….
“Some voices in Washington are arguing against us. We were foolish, they say. We settled in a place that is lower than the sea. We should have expected to drown.
“As if choosing to live in one of the nation’s great cities amounted to a death wish. As if living in San Francisco or Miami or Boston is any more logical….
“The federal government decided long ago to try to tame the river and the swampy land spreading out from it. The country needed this waterlogged land of ours to prosper, so that the nation could prosper even more.
“Some people in Washington don’t seem to remember that. They act as if we are a burden….
“We can’t put up with that. We have to stand up for ourselves. Whether you are back at home or still in exile waiting to return, let Congress know that this metro area must be made safe from future storms. Call and write the leaders who are deciding our fate. Get your family and friends in other states to do the same. Start with members of the Environment and Public Works and Appropriations committees in the Senate, and Transportation and Appropriations in the House. Flood them with mail the way we were flooded with Katrina.
“Remind them that this is a singular American city and that this nation still needs what we can give it.”
The editorial page lists key congressional leaders to contact. Briefly, the Senate Majority Leader is Bill Frist of Tennessee. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the Senate Budget Committee. James Inhofe of Oklahoma the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert of Illinois. House Majority Leader: Roy Blunt of Missouri. House Appropriations: Jerry Lewis, California. House Budget: Jim Nussle of Iowa. House Resources: Richard Pombo, California. And House Transportation: Don Young, Alaska.
I said to our prayer walkers Saturday, “We must not pray instead of working, but pray while working.” As the old line goes, “Work as if it all depends on me; pray as if it all depends on the Lord.” Both are on target.