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September 5, 2017

The Worst Week and the Best Week

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Last week was the worst week and the best week all at the same time.

It was the worst week because 100,000 homes in Houston were flooded by the waters of Hurricane Harvey.  It was the worst week because 72,000 people had to be rescued by boat, kayak, canoe, helicopter, or whatever way was possible over the rising waters. It was the worst week because 150 schools and 700 churches flooded, roads were washed out, and driving cars around this city is like navigating through a war zone.  It was the worst week because after the rains stopped, the waters rose from the release of waters from the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, and thousands of additional homes flooded, many of them homes of families we know and love. It was the worst week because although Houston was under blue and sunny skies from Wednesday on, four feet of water stood and still stand in many people’s homes, making the salvaging of any of their possessions or memories in precious photographs, wedding and baby albums, or family heirlooms practically impossible.  It was the worst week.

But it was also the best week.  As the rains fell, the church rose, and the people of God went out into the storm to do their Bible, not just read their Bible, and the stories of courage and faith were staggering.  It was the best week because while it was hard to understand why God continued to allow the rains to fall, we also saw Him answer prayers so specifically and amazingly it was hard to keep record of them all.  It was the best week because the mercy of God was felt in specific and tangible ways that many of us had never experienced before. It was the best week because those of us who were left by the hurricane with dry homes were given the absolute joy of coming alongside those who needed rescue and relief.  It was a joy that surpassed any outing, vacation, gift, or gathering I have ever experienced.  It was the joy of comforting others with the comfort we ourselves have received through the gospel of Christ.  And for those who lost everything, it was the best week in that it forced them to cry out to God for a parting of the Red Sea, for Him to make a way where there seemed to be no way…and to stand back and watch as He moved.

One of those Red Sea moments for me happened last Wednesday when I sent out a post asking people to fast and pray on our city’s behalf.  Margaret Austin, a dear friend who lives in Clemson, South Carolina and a guest blogger on this site, answered that plea and called to pray with me while she sat in carpool line at her son’s school.

She wept tears with me, specifically asking God to allow my husband and the other men in his family to lead people to the Lord in decisions for salvation.  She asked for people to see this flood as a need for their67 souls to be made right with Him, and I wept right along with her.

The next day after our time of prayer and fasting, Jason spent the day with a group from his office in a neighborhood of our city known as Meyerland.  They met at an address where they knew help was needed and began ripping out sheet rock and tearing up floors.  The longer they worked, the more men showed up to help, and soon houses up and down the block had hands and hearts loving on and serving them well.  Jason and a few other men ended up in the home of an elderly woman named Roberta.  Roberta is in her 80’s and was all alone in her house with the exception of her caretaker.  Roberta shuffled out in her house shoes and asked how much it would cost for the men to tear out her sheet rock and flooring.  “Roberta,” Jason said, “I can give you the best price in the city – it’s free.”  And Roberta started to weep.

As they sat on the side of her bed in a home she had lived in for decades, Jason said, “Roberta, you are going to blink, and your home is going to be restored.  You are going to have new sheet rock, new paint, and new floors before you know it.  But none of this matters unless you are certain in your relationship with Jesus Christ and know where you are going to spend eternity.  It is eternity with Him that matters and counts.  Roberta, do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

“I think so,” Roberta said, through tears.

“It’s not good enough to just think so, Roberta.  You can know so.  You can have certainty of relationship with Him right now.  Would you like to pray together and ask Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of your heart and home?”

At her “Yes,” Jason and Roberta prayed right there, and Roberta’s home was not only secured from the floods that day, more importantly, her life was secured through relationship with Christ.

When Jason came home and told me the story, I remembered Margaret’s prayer the day before.  I had never thought to ask the Lord specifically that my husband would have the opportunity to lead someone to the Lord in the aftermath of this storm.  But Margaret did.  And when she prayed, God answered.

So, I am asking you, would you continue to pray with me and for many more salvations in our city?  Salvations and rescue and relief for people’s homes, yes.  But more importantly, salvations for people’s souls in rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhood.  In white neighborhoods, African-American neighborhoods, Hispanic neighborhoods, and Asian neighborhoods.  Because that is what this flood is all about.  It’s about getting the church out into people’s neighborhoods and homes where we would have never gone before and sharing the good news of the Gospel and security from the flood we have in Jesus Christ.

At church yesterday, Jason read a story about an incident from the childhood of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of classic books like Treasure Island, spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century. As a boy, Robert was intrigued by the work of the old lamplighters who went about with a ladder and a torch, setting the street lights ablaze for the night.

One evening, as young Robert stood watching with fascination, his parents asked him, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”

Friends, there are many, many weeks ahead we have left to love, serve, and pray for the city of Houston.  Thousands of people still remain displaced.  Thousands of homes are still standing under four feet of water.  And thousands of people still need rescue from the aftermath of the storm in their home and, more importantly, their hearts.  The weeks and months ahead still have the potential to be the worst of weeks.  But they also have the potential to be the best of weeks as we stand together to punch holes in the darkness through fasting, prayer, service, boldness in our speech to testify to the God of all comfort and grace, and acts of love.

Margaret was faithful all the way from South Carolina to punch a hole in the darkness…and that hole was Roberta.  Would you continue to stand with us this week and in the weeks ahead to punch holes in the darkness as well?  They have specific names, specific faces, and specific homes, and just as He heard Margaret, He will hear your cry as well.

Please consider joining me again this Wednesday and every Wednesday hereafter for the next several months, in fasting and prayer for our city.  Please consider these requests as you pray, using Daniel 9 as your guide:

  • Pray that our city would give attention to God. Pray that we would open His Word, read what He has to say, and give attention to it in our personal lives, our church’s lives, and in the life of our city.
  • Please acknowledge our city’s sin in turning away from God and seeking our way instead of His way.  And please ask Him to use the people of the church to lead many people to decisions of repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ.
  • Acknowledge the truth of who God is in your prayer – He is gracious and compassionate, forgiving, full of mercy, and cannot forget the covenant of love He has made with us (Exodus 34:6-7). He desires all to come to repentance and none to perish but for all to come to a saving knowledge of Him through Jesus Christ our Lord (II Peter 3:9).
  • Pray and ask the Lord to see our need and hear our cries to dry up our land and specifically the areas that are still flooded from the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. 
  • Pray and ask Him for rescue workers and those trying to salvage and restore their homes to be wise and safe.
  • Pray and ask the Lord to begin to help us in the process of recovery and rebuilding, and to guard against the tendency to go back to “life as usual” now that the rains have stopped. Ask Him to continue to mobilize crews of people to help, supplies and clothes and food to be provided, and for the people of God to radically and effectively show the love of God to a city in need.
  • Finally, ask for the Lord to raise up “Daniels” for the city of Houston, men and women who walk closely with God as Daniel did. People who will think and act in wisdom and humility for the rebuilding of our city and who will administer all plans and recovery efforts in justice and peace.