I’m Thankful For Rain


I read a post this morning that started by saying good things about the sun and how the short days of winter are not inline with enjoying lots of sun. I love the sun, too. It’s easier for me to wake up when day breaks rather than when night has a couple more hours to go.

But here in SoCal, we don’t see much rain, so I treasure those days. Unless I’m driving in it. Not my favorite thing.

And, you guessed it, this Thanksgiving Day, we are expecting rain. The storm is due to hit tomorrow morning in the wee hours, so it might have been raining for a couple hours before I wake up. Then, as is typical of SoCal storms, we will have rain throughout the day. There may be a short break here or there, but for the next two days, the weather people are predicting rain.

I’m thankful for the rain. I have to keep reminding myself as I anticipate a drive in the rain on Thursday.

Sometimes our blessings—and rain certainly is a blessing—have mixed consequences, the same way the things we dread or don’t like, do. I mean, there isn’t much that happens in this world that doesn’t have a flip side. Whatever happens might be horrible, but from the ashes something good comes. Or something great happens, but there’s a downside no one saw coming.

Let’s say, for example, a ball team wins the ultimate championship in their sport, and as part of the celebration, their “fans” riot in the streets after the game.

Some things do seem like they are headed nowhere, that the outcome is hopeless, that all is lost and no one is coming to save the day, or to bring first aid, or even a cup of water. That can happen. It does happen.

But for the Christian, all is not lost. All is never lost. Because our King is Jesus, and He has already conquered sin and guilt and death and sickness and sadness and abuse and persecution and any other thing we can imagine that could come against us.

The flip side of suffering, is God’s glory, His comfort through His Holy Spirit, His home that we can anticipate. Peter said it like this:

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:13-15; I added the italicized font for emphasis; the all caps indicate a quotation from the Old Testament)

Peter actually talked to those first century Christians a lot about suffering, and it all applies to us as well. In Chapter 4 he says

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (vv 12-14)

Did you catch that? As in the first quote, he says here in this second, that we are blessed if we “share the sufferings of Christ.” He follows this with a warning that no one is to suffer as “a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or troublesome meddler.” That covers a lot of territory!

But what if we suffer just because we live in a world in which bad things happen? I can’t explain really, but as Christians who trust God, we can trust Him in the bad things, too. We can. And we can bless His name. We can do what Jesus did: “He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23b)

Because God is righteous, because Jesus is already the Victor, as Corrie ten Boom liked to say, we can do what James says: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” (James 1:3).

Then of course there’s David who said in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me.”

I think the key is God’s presence. For the Christian He is with us, in us, never absent, slumbering, or inattentive. He knows.

So Daniel’s friends experienced God’s presence right there in the fiery furnace, and they lived to walk out of it, but Stephen experienced God’s presence through His angelic servants, and he died. The outcome isn’t really the point. The “entrusting ourselves to Him who judges righteously” is everything.

So rain or sun—God sends both because we need both, most of all for our spiritual strengthening and growth and well-being.

Published in: on November 26, 2019 at 5:24 pm  Comments (4)  
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Clouds Without Water


Lookout-960x700It’s been a delightfully cloudy day here in drought-ridden Southern California. I heard via Facebook from a friend who lives in the middle of the state that they were having rain. Ah, if only our clouds would produce some rain. But the weather forecast gave us only a fifty percent chance of getting measurable precipitation from this weather event.

So I look with longing at the gray sky, the unproductive sky that promises by appearances to bring us what we need, only to disappoint in the end.

Jude uses these kinds of clouds as a metaphor to describe false teachers. They looked promising on the outside, but like a tree that appears healthy and productive, yet doesn’t yield any fruit, false teachers don’t give what hungry hearts need.

Perhaps the worst trait of these false teachers is that they create division in the Church. They are “hidden reefs in your love feasts” and care for themselves, not for others. They are mockers who follow their own lusts; they cause divisions, are worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:18-19).

I’ve been thinking about division in the church of late. Jesus said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) So we are to love other Christians—that’s unequivocal. But love doesn’t always look like unity.

I mean when a child disobeys a parent and receives discipline, there may be a time when the relationship seems to hang in the balance. The child is angry and rebellious and determined not to give in. The parent is frustrated and adamant and determined not to give in. Where’s the unity in that?

So love doesn’t always look like unity, though the appearance might be passing.

In those moments when there’s a struggle, when love desires unity, a mending of the brokenness, there’s a temptation to yield for no other reason than to restore togetherness. And in the back of my mind, I’ve thought, isn’t that what love is supposed to do?

But here is this passage in Jude saying the mockers, the ungodly ones who have crept into the Church, are causing divisions. Is it the responsibility of believers to yield to the demands of the ones creating division, the “persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v 4b)?

So how do we know who is turning grace into a license to sin?

I’d say, we have to turn to the authority of God’s word to answer that question. Who is advocating a departure from the clear instruction of the Bible?

In our culture there are progressives who “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” by re-imaging Him or reducing Him to a mere man or stripping from Him the miraculous power He demonstrated day in and day out.

There are also people on both sides of the sex wars who ignore Scripture’s instruction to husbands and wives, who care more for themselves and their advancement than they care for God’s name and glory. Talk about divisions!

The sad thing is, these progressives, these feminists or advocates for the manoshpere, are clouds without water. No rain comes from them to wash away the grim, to water the soil, to produce a crop. In other words, all their rhetoric doesn’t solve any problems. In fact, they create divisions in the Church. They are the problems.

But what are the rest of us to do? Hating disunity, do we capitulate?

Sure, OK, if you want to believe the Bible is true as a metaphor and not literally true, we’re fine with that. We don’t want there to be any division in the church. Or, sure, if you want to believe that a husband as the head of his wife can—or should—dominate her and control her instead of serve her and sacrifice for her as Christ did for the Church, we don’t want to actually denounce you, because, you know, unity. Or how about this one—sure, if you want to believe that there are certain things we have to do in order to be saved, that’s your choice, so you can be part of our church and teach in our Bible studies because we don’t want to offend you or cause division.

The people following God’s word are not causing the divisions. It’s the people who are departing from the Bible that are causing divisions. What are we who believe the Bible to do—rail against the offenders? picket? leave for a different church?

The latter seems to be the choice of a good many Christians. Or maybe it’s just leave without the “for a different church” part.

But leaving isn’t an option, God commands us to assemble together. And any other congregation is as likely to have hidden reefs as the one we’re thinking of leaving.

Here’s what Jude tells believers to do:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (vv 20-23)

I’ll distill that into four points:

1) grow some spiritual muscle by praying, maintaining your relationship with God, and looking forward to life with Him.
2) have mercy on people who are doubting
3) save others
4) have mercy with fear on those living in sin

What does it look like to have mercy on those who are doubting or who are living in sin? That’s another whole blog post, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve hurling invective, in person or on line.

The Heat Is On, Or The Rain


storm-1442004-mSome of you may or may not be aware that Southern California where I live is experiencing an extended heat spell. September is often one of the hottest months here, but some Septembers are hotter than others. This one is record-setting for a number of cities.

Yesterday LA tied the record at 103°. My computer has a weather channel app, and I knew it was going to be a hot day when the predicted high was 96° and the current temperature at 1:00 pm was 102°.

Ironically, the local news had more to say about the rain some in the viewing area experienced. All summer long we’ve had one hurricane after another sweep up from the south, bringing humidity and occasional rain, mostly in the high desert and mountains. This latest storm, the remnants of Hurricane Odile that hit Cabo San Lucas in Mexico’s Baja California, brought thunder and lightning and strong winds, even a few would-be tornadoes that never touched down. The rain was more like a torrential downpour that knocked down trees and flooded various buildings, including one high school gym.

Of course the heat can’t be ignored. Some communities have experienced power outages and some schools have dismissed at noon because of a lack of air conditioning.

Oddly enough, the weather extremes have made me think of the Egyptians and the plagues they endured. I wonder how much the average Egyptian, without email, Twitter, or Facebook, knew about Moses and his demand to Pharaoh that he let the Israelites go to worship God.

When the first plague hit—the water-to-blood event—did the people think it was some sort of anomalous extreme they had to work around? Extra work, sure. They had to dig beside the Nile to get water fit for consumption, but not, surely, an act of the Israelite God.

When the frogs came, did the people revise their thinking? Or did they see a cause/effect connection—the bad water had chased the frogs onto the land and into their homes.

Then the gnats or lice followed and the swarms of other insects. And we know that insects can carry diseases, so no surprise that pestilence followed. Or maybe the Egyptians, who may not have known the connection between bugs and disease, were surprised.

At what point did they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was bringing these “natural disasters” on their land? Was it when Goshen where the Israelites lived became exempt from the effects of the plagues? Was it when Pharaoh’s magicians could no longer replicate what God did through Moses? Was it when boils appeared on humans and animals alike after Moses stood outside and threw ashes in the air?

At some point, Pharaoh’s advisers got the picture that God was behind all they experienced, and they urged their supreme ruler to capitulate. Eventually the everyday people got the picture, too, because they eagerly gave the Israelites their gold and silver and valuable cloth just prior to their exodus.

In fact, after the final plague, when the Egyptians awoke to find the eldest son in each house slain on his bed, they “urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, ‘We will all be dead.'” (Ex. 12:33.)

I’m just silly enough to believe that heat waves and monsoonal floods and wild fires and tornadoes and earthquakes and hurricanes and West Nile Virus, while certainly not plagues, are nevertheless from God—“natural” events He uses to press us to His side.

The Egyptians were disbelieving until they couldn’t not believe. They may not have concluded that God was God and Ra was not, Pharaoh was not, the Nile was not, but they knew that Moses’s God must be obeyed.

Are we like the Egyptians? We know all about weather patterns now and, via satellite, can see hurricanes forming. We can track jet streams and air currents and the movement of high or low pressure zones. We aren’t like Pharaoh’s magicians in that we can make nature happen, but we can predict it. Which gives us a sense of control over it.

So I wonder if we don’t miss what God might be doing to press us to His side, to call us to repentance, to summon us to obey Him and not the idols of the world. I wonder if all our accommodating of the heat and the rain while we go about our daily business, is us sticking our fingers in our ears and saying, I don’t want to hear you, God.

Would that we could be like the boy, Samuel, who, when he heard God calling, responded by saying, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.”

Published in: on September 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm  Comments (2)  
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Anything For A Story


Sea_Cliff_Bridge_During_Rain_StormWestern society lives for pleasure–an adrenaline high or sexual titillation or culinary delights–if it feels good, then that’s what we want. The sad thing is that the parts of our day that don’t feed into these wants are often considered boring or second rate or something to be endured, to be gotten through.

Any wonder, then, that TV ads tell stories or make people laugh? The motto seems to be, whatever it takes to keep people entertained. Horrors if a product is described in boring terms. Why, even the dire warnings about possible side effects to prescription drugs are communicated in soothing tones while pictures of active, healthy seniors playing golf or basketball or swimming speed past our eyes.

So it’s not a surprise that TV news has joined the entertainment business. That happened some time ago. The sensational gets a hearing, especially if it comes with pictures.

What seems to be a new twist to this scenario, however, is the interpretation of facts to make them entertaining, one way or the other!

This tendency seems particularly noticeable here in SoCal concerning our weather. Maybe the meteorologists are simply tired of having nothing much to talk about, but I think it has more to do with creating a sensation. That, it seems, is now the role of TV news.

As most people have heard, all of California has been experiencing a drought. But at long last, news poured in this week that we had rain in the forecast. But not just any rain. We were looking at the BIGGEST STORM in YEARS! In fact, the “in years” turns out to be the biggest to hit the southland in three years.

Well, yes, since we’ve been having a drought during that time, there haven’t been any big storms. So this storm that has triggered mandatory evacuations and sandbagging and the construction of berms and barricades–to keep runoff out of homes and high surf out of neighborhoods–isn’t actually a particularly large one if you were comparing it to the storms in a non-drought year.

But the news media can’t pass up an opportunity to sensationalize even the weather. We can’t simply celebrate the fact that we’re getting rain, that farmers who have dealt with the lack of water, and ranchers who have had to truck in feed for their cattle, and small towns that have seen their wells dry up, are getting a little help.

Rain can’t be good. It can’t be an answer to prayer, most assuredly. Instead it has to be sensational. The irony of it all is that the one mention I heard of the rain and its affect on the drought was that it would help very little.

Sure, I get that this one storm isn’t going to replenish the lakes and rivers that have steadily shrunk over the last several years. But no help?

Must the story always be woe and beware? Well, yes, apparently the extreme and the dire fit the entertainment model, so that’s the kind of news we get. Even for the weather.

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm  Comments Off on Anything For A Story  
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Gray Days


rifts-on-earth-1265066-mI know people back East and in the South are experiencing a particularly hard winter. They’ve had snow, certainly, but also Cold.

On the West Coast we’re having a hard winter, too, but you wouldn’t know it for the most part. Our problem is, the weather’s been too nice.

We haven’t had any rain as we usually get this time of year. January is the second wettest month of the year for us, and we got all of a trace of rain. In fact, since July, which is when they start the rain-total year, we’ve received under an inch of precipitation.

Today was a gray day, though. The weather forecasters had predicted only a twenty percent chance of rain, but I’m convinced God can bring us rain, if He wants, when He wants, no matter what the prognosticators say.

In fact, I’m praying that we’ll have rain and lots of it in the months to come, in part because we need it so much, but also because our governor dissed God publicly.

Two weeks ago Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency and asked us to cut back our water consumption by twenty percent. As part of his speech he said that his declaration wouldn’t cause it to rain, and that some people thought the answer to the problem was to pray for rain, which was as likely to bring rain as was his declaration.

Either the Governor doesn’t believe God hears and answers prayer or he doesn’t believe God can do anything about the weather.

He’s wrong on both counts. I mean, Elijah, Scripture says, was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. (See James 5:17-18.)

So God answers prayer about the weather, according to His will.

I also thought about the Assyrian commander who stood outside the walls of Jerusalem and told the people of Judah God couldn’t save them from him, that they shouldn’t listen to their king and put their trust in God’s deliverance.

Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from my hand; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” (2 Kings 18:29-30)

As if that wasn’t enough, he sent a written message a bit later saying

“Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” (2 Kings 19:10)

He went further, equating God with those false gods worshiped by the nations around Judah:

Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? And when have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD would deliver Jerusalem from my hand? (Isa 36:18-20)

Of course, this commander, a man named Rabshakeh, was wrong to say what he did about God. And Governor Brown is wrong to say what he did about prayer and the unlikelihood that rain would result from asking God for it.

Whether or not God chooses to send rain is His decision. He chose to rescue Judah and sent the Assyrian commander home empty-handed.

God may not rescue us from this drought, but the fact is, He CAN send rain. He, not the weathermen, not Mother Nature, not uncontrollable jet stream patterns, is in charge of the weather, the political climate, the economic situation, the tides, the paths of comets, the rising of the sun and its setting. We are foolish to think God does not actively “hold all things together” as His word says He does.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:16-17)

So I do pray for rain, that God may be glorified over all these meteorologists, who truly do their best, and interpret the data with as much accuracy as possible. It’s just that they can only tell us what generally occurs when barometric pressure and wind currents and precipitation readings are what they are. They don’t know God’s mind or take into account His power.

He and He alone will decide if we need a drought or rain. But as for me, I will rejoice in every gray day that comes our way, and I will pray that God will be merciful and turn those predictions on their head and show His power so that all may see we have a mighty God who rules the Heavens and the earth!

Then God Said . . .


Happy winter. This, the shortest day of the year, marks the “official” start of the winter season. And for once, it feels like it here in SoCal.

December is often the interlude between our short and long rainy seasons, the first being a few weeks in November and the latter taking up most of February and sometimes part of January or March.

This year things are different.

For one, the climatologists were predicting we would be in a drought. Last year we had a surprising year of “normal” rainfall (most years either give us a shortfall or an abundance), but that, the experts said, would be followed up this year with more drought—the pattern we’d fallen into previously.

Instead of drought, we’re looking at perhaps the wettest December in recorded history here in the LA basin. My local paper quotes one expert as saying, “This is a very unusual event. Nobody really saw it coming.”

Well, “nobody,” of course, leaves out God. But we’ve gotten pretty good at doing that here in America, I think. Sure, we bring Him up during “the spiritual season” as the USA Weekend magazine article “How Americans Imagine God” called it. But not one person they quoted—and the article was primarily a composite of what people said in answer to the title question—said God is sovereign or Creator or intimately involved in the affairs of men.

“God is love” came out as the “one gleaming, common thread” weaving throughout the answers. “Christians, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists alike describe a loving presence who offers a pathway to goodness, peace and brotherhood.”

So god, the consensus seems to be, is all about the feel-good stuff. The rest?

Apparently nature, at least, has a mind of her own. From a public works spokesman quoted in today’s weather article: “[Slow, steady precipitation] doesn’t cause as much problems as when the weather decides to drop a lot of rain in a short amount of time.” (Emphasis mine.) Of course, this man may have been speaking euphemistically, but I’ve heard many similar references regarding nature, as if the elements create a collective conscience that dictates things like hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and yes, rainstorms.

The Bible makes it clear that God is in fact in control of nature. He brought the flood Noah and his family lived through. He withheld rain for seven years in Egypt and later did the same for three years in Israel. He made the sun stand still and a shadow reverse direction. Jesus Himself calmed a storm with just a word.

None of this should be surprising because God laid the foundations of the earth, after all. He counts the stars and knows them by name, feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies.

And an impossible thing like a virgin giving birth? No problem for God because He rules what He created.

If He spoke the world into being, can He not speak a little rain—unexpected as it was to all the students of His work—into being as well?

How topsy-turvy our world has become when we assign god (however you understand him or her to be) to that little brotherly-kindness corner over there; nature, that little weather corner over there; and Man, pretty much the rest of the room.

Apparently we have forgotten, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 6:28 pm  Comments (3)  
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