There is a cloud

On a cold winter night in 1933, a boy was born. It was Christmas Eve. The boy’s parents were poor. Dirt poor. To add to his trials, the boy’s parents were not married when he had been conceived. Soon, siblings followed and they all learned to work on the family farm. But that boy, born on Christmas Eve, had bigger plans for himself.

When the boy got a hold of a catalogue, he would eagerly flip to the menswear section and stare intently at the men dressed in sharp suits. The boy wasn’t destined to keep working on the farm. His imagination was bigger than that. Someday, he would get to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy grew and continued to work on the farm. Circumstances led him to drop out of school before graduation. But he worked. He met a lovely young woman and, after a time of long-distance correspondence, he convinced the girl to marry him. Soon, they welcomed a baby girl into their family. The first of three. They were poor. Dirt poor. But that boy born on Christmas Eve still had bigger plans for himself and his growing family. He still wanted to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy, now a man, had his sights on a certain company, but that company was not hiring. The boy, now a man, didn’t think that should stop him from working for them. So every day, he got up, got dressed and went to work. He earned nothing but the respect of those he helped on the loading docks each day. It wasn’t long before the company decided to start paying the man who wanted to work so badly, he’d do it for nothing. Surely he’d work even harder if he knew he’d be earning a paycheque.

The man born on Christmas Eve worked his way up in the company. Then another company, and then another. By the time he retired, he’d been wearing a suit and tie to work every day for decades. All those days of looking at catalogues daydreaming of the future had finally come to fruition.

In addition to becoming a very influential businessman, the man born on a cold Christmas Eve to poor parents who hadn’t been married when he was conceived, the man who never finished high school, also pastored a church. And then another church and another after that. When the man finally went home to be with Jesus, the building where his own church met was not large enough to contain all of the people whose lives he had touched.

Nothing in the way his life began indicated that a boy born on a farm to poor parents would have had the capacity to affect so many lives in both business and ministry. But that is exactly what my grandfather did. Even when it was no longer fashionable, he still wore a suit and tie to work every day and to preach at church every Sunday.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'”

1 Kings 18:43-44 (NIV)

Like a cloud on the horizon the size of a man’s hand, where and how we start has little consequence on how we finish. That small cloud saved a nation from drought and famine. That boy born on Christmas Eve brought countless lives into the kingdom of God through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and his legacy lives on in every life he touched and every life those lives touch. Even if you are told, there is nothing there, look again. And again. And again. Surely there is a cloud. Maybe you just can’t see it yet.

Read: i Kings 16-18, John 1:29-51

Superstition

In the practical sense, I am not at all a superstitious person. I have a broken mirror in my hallway. I don’t care about black cats. And I walk under ladders all the time. So what? Superstition goes beyond the obvious.

Superstition, i.e. a way of live divorced from God and his guidance, is the parent of restlessness and instability and reduces men to the level of shepherdless sheep.

J.E. McFayden, The Abingdon Bible Commentary.

Zechariah opens chapter 10 telling Israel to ask the Lord for rain in the spring and then follows that up discussing sheep without a shepherd. At a glance, these two topics have nothing to do with each other. But a deeper look says that they have everything to do with each other.

Let’s say that a church has experienced great revival. The leaders prayed for it and, when it came, they couldn’t quite put their finger on what started it, but they refuse to change a thing so that it won’t stop. God’s Spirit moves. People get healed. People get saved. The church grows by leaps and bounds. But, after a while—like nearly every time of refreshing, things start to slow down. The leaders start to pick apart everything they’ve done. What changed? Who picked that song? Why did that greeter wear that jacket? Why did the colours on the screen change? Who folded the bulletin backward? We need to start right at 10:28, not 10:31!

What started out as an incredible move of God has been reduced to a method—specific natural steps taken in order to preserve something that began supernaturally. The supernatural becomes superstition and, soon enough, God is no longer in the method. It is merely human hands trying to replicate something they have no hope of repeating. And, instead of heading back to the prayer room, many people keep testing theories and methods in hopes of trying to spark something again. They are sheep following superstition rather than a shepherd.

Ask the Lord for rain in the spring and he will give it. It is the Lord who makes storm clouds that drop showers of rain so that every field becomes a lush pasture.

Zechariah 10:1 (NLT)

If God sends the rain in the first place, why would we ever look elsewhere when things start to look dry? Even Christians can become superstitious when a certain process works better than another. But the prosperity has nothing to do with the process and everything to do with the prayer that went into it. So ask the Lord for rain. And when it starts to get dry, ask Him again. And again. And again.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100:3 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 10-12, Revelation 20

 

Abundant rain

2017-08-02 07.19.33-1

This is what I woke up to this morning. This photo was taken around 7:00am Pacific Standard Time. This is my street. This is my mountain. It’s hard to see. It’s difficult to breathe.

Hundreds of kilometres away, wildfires are eating up thousands of hectares of forest forcing thousands of people out of their homes looking for safety. Weather conditions have pushed vast quantities of smoke towards the west coast from the interior of British Columbia as well as north from our American neighbouring Washington State. The province has been in a state of emergency for weeks now.

There is no rain, only dry heat, in the near weather forecast.

forecast

As I sat outside in the haze this morning to read my Bible, this is the verse that jumped off the page:

You send abundant rain, O God,
to refresh the weary Promised Land.

Psalm 68:9 (NLT)

God not only provides for our spiritual needs, but also for our physical. Right now, we need rain. Lots of it—and without the lightning that has been sparking additional fires. This morning, I’m praying that God would send spiritual rain to His people and put a burden on their hearts to pray for natural rain.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 68-69, Romans 3

Higher

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

Psalm 61:1-3 (ESV)

I have heard a tale told of a man who was caught in a great storm. The rains came and the city would soon be flooded. He prayed to God that he would be delivered from the destruction. After he had prayed, a neighbour offered to drive him away to safety. The man declined the offer. God was going to save him.

The rains continued to pour and the wind blew against his house. Soon, he had no choice but to take refuge on the roof of his home. Someone in a boat came along and offered him a ride. He declined. God was going to save him.

The storm continued and the man remained on the peak of his roof – the only part of his house yet to be covered by the waters. A helicopter came and lowered a ladder. The man refused to climb it. God was going to save him.

The storm pressed on and the man no longer had refuge on the roof. There was nowhere to go. The storm took his life. When he got to heaven, he railed at God asking why he hand’t been saved. God showed him the neighbour who had offered a ride. The man also saw the strangers in the boat as well as the Coast Guard in the helicopter.

“I sent help.” God said. “But you refused.”

How often are we like the man refusing help when it comes because we’re expecting something else? When we ask to be led to The Rock, the Rock may come in many different forms. Can we see it for what it is? After all, God’s ways are higher than our own. I can never expect to understand the grandeur of The Creator, but I can learn to keep my eyes open. When I pray and ask for help, I can look for the answer in ways I may not expect.

As a youth, David’s salvation from the giant came in the form of a stone, not in the king’s armour.

What does your strong tower look like? A simple stone? A neighbour reaching out?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 59-61; Acts 28:16-31