Tag Archives: drought

Drought: Disaster or Reaffirmation

given on Sunday, September 30, 2012.

Scripture:  James 5:7-11 and Job 42:10-17

In all likelihood, no one disagrees that Summer 2012, has been a long one.  No one complained when the boiling temperatures came to an end, and the recent rain is liquid gold.  Yet, the record-making Drought of 2012 is really not over and the complaining has not ended.

During the week’s reading, the scripture from James surfaced.  While reading those few verses, the verses outlining the farmer’s leaped off the page:

7-8 Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work.

Surely those words were written just for 2012!

Time and again life hands us challenges.  The drought has tested farmers and non-farmers alike this year, and now that the temperatures are well under 100 and we have had dabs of rain, the results cannot be reversed.  The drought continues.

All too frequently life hands us droughts that can pass by without everybody not

icing.  These droughts are those of faith.  Maybe an illness destroys a  sense of well-being, whether the illness is a personal one or one suffered by someone dear to us.  Maybe the drought is of income after losing a job.  Still another drought could be loneliness after a relationship is broken.

The 2012 drought conditions experienced locally have also reached around the globe.  While googling images of the drought, I found images related to England, India, Africa, and more.  We are not suffering alone.  Each American is only one of the millions around this earth facing hardships due to drought conditions.

Yet the drought hits each one personally.  The drought challenges our faith.  It challenges the very foundations, both literally and figuratively, of our homes.  The drought looms around us as a disaster, but Jesus’ brother, James asks us to see the faith of the farmers:

9Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong.”

The drought is a disaster if we allow our faith to fail us.  The drought can serve as an affirmation of our faith is we remain patient, steady, and strong.  Certainly the conditions of this year’s drought have placed unbelievable pressure upon us.  Our personal health, especially mental health, has been pushed to the limits.  The health of the livestock in the rural communities remains at risk.  Yet, nature is sending out signals that with patience the drought will end.

Look at the signs all around you.  I found the lilac bush, across the street, in bloom—in September.  I discovered zinnias have sprouted up from the earlier summer blooms’ seeds.  The lakes and ponds may have less water in them, but that is not keeping the fishermen away.  The knockout roses have bloomed despite the heat and lack of rain, but lately they have flourished in even brighter colors.  And the trees also have faithfully stood strong—even the corkscrew willow is showing bright green leaves mixed in with the bear branches.

The new life appearing in the world around us reminds us of the rewards God promises us.  Job certainly battled his share of droughts.  He hung on to his faith, though, and was rewarded.  As many trials that Job experienced, he never gave up his faith.  When his friends asked him why did he continue to pray to his god, he answered by his actions of faith.  The drought around him did not lead him to a drought of his faith.

Not one soul–past, present and future—is going to have a life drought-free.  The drought may take on a variety of personas such as loneliness, illness, divorce, or death; but with faith in God and maintaining the practices, we keep our relationship with God strong.

James used the metaphor of the farmers who work to produce crops and livestock even in the worst conditions to demonstrate how to stay grounded, how not to lose faith in Christ’s return.  Looking through various study notes to James 5:7-8, this explanation was given:

We cannot make [Christ] come back any sooner.  But while we wait, there is much work that we can do to advance God’s kingdom.  Both the farmer and the Christian must live by faith, looking toward the future reward for their labors.  Don’t live as if Christ will never come.  Work faithfully to build his kingdom—the King will come when the time is right.  (Life Application Study Bible, p. 2252)

Drought 2012 does not have to destroy anybody.  This year’s drought simply challenges us to maintain our steady conviction in God.  It challenges us to look around and find others who need God in their lives and then to serve as God’s hands.  The drought is stripping us of all those accessories in life that can replace the importance of God in our life.  Drought 2012 can serve as a reaffirmation of our reliance on God and the promises he has made.

God’s promises kept Job faithful.  Even through all the trials handed him, he stuck to his faith.  Reading the epilogue, those last few verses in Job 42, provide a glimmer of hope:

 After Job had interceded for his friends, God restored his fortune—and then doubled it! All his brothers and sisters and friends came to his house and celebrated. They told him how sorry they were, and consoled him for all the trouble God had brought him.  . . . God blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life.

The drought experienced this summer may not be over, but we already see evidence that the earth heals.  The current drought may be a record breaker just like the Joplin tornado last spring, but consider the outpouring of Christian love afterwards—just like the lilacs blooming in late September.

Whatever challenges we handle, whatever drought we experience, God is with us.  Job turned to God despite all his sufferings and even prayed for his friends:

1-6 Job answered God:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”  (the MSG)

Job prayed.  He knew his scripture.  He repented and prayed.  His sufferings turned from self-pity to the needs of his friends.  He stood up and offered his intercession for them.  God heard him, answered him, and rewarded him.  This was under the Old Covenant.

Under the New Covenant, life is simpler but it still comes with suffering.  James did not let the New Christians forget their Jewish history.  He reminded them that Job, too, had suffered and yet persevered.  He said:

“If I were in your shoes, I’d go straight to God,
I’d throw myself on the mercy of God.
After all, he’s famous for great and unexpected acts;
there’s no end to his surprises.
He gives rain, for instance, across the wide earth,
sends water to irrigate the fields.
He raises up the down-and-out,
gives firm footing to those sinking in grief.
He aborts the schemes of conniving crooks,
so that none of their plots come to term.
He catches the know-it-alls in their conspiracies—
all that intricate intrigue swept out with the trash!
Suddenly they’re disoriented, plunged into darkness;
they can’t see to put one foot in front of the other.
But the downtrodden are saved by God,
saved from the murderous plots, saved from the iron fist.
And so the poor continue to hope,
while injustice is bound and gagged.

James and Job knew what a drought of faith could cause, but during the worst of the suffering, God will remain by our side.  We must remain by God’s side.

Drought is a condition of the earth, yet when the rain does come and the temperatures do drop, the earth responds with the greatest of riches—new growth, new color, and lots of surprises to reward us.

The truth is that we will experience private droughts or sufferings, but remain faithful.  God is beside you and will reward you with riches beyond our expectations.

Dear Faithful Father,

These long hot weeks of the drought have challenged us.

We struggle to keep our faith.

We struggle to know we are not alone.

We struggle to find hope along the paths of parched earth.

Thank you for your words of encouragement

         found in the scriptures.

Thank you for the support and love of the Christian family.

Thank you for evidence of your promises

          in the surprising spring blooms beside autumn mums.

Give us strength and courage to weather the drought of earth and soul.

Help us to look forward to the rewards yet to come.        

–Amen

These lilacs are across the street from our house.
What a surprise it was to find them on September 25, 2012.  They bloomed this year in March, a month early due to the warm winter.  Nature sure does surprise us.

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Dreaming through God’s Eyes

given on Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hot summer days are traditionally times when we fall into daydreams.  The thoughts of cool vacation spots in the mountains, sitting on a boat in the early morning cool, or lounging on a beach with a book may be the ideal getaway.  Daydreaming lets our minds escape and even gives us some mental relief from the harsh realities existing around us.

Why right now I am daydreaming about one of those summer rainy days when the great big, white, boiling clouds show up and the grey on the bottom intensifies until the bolts of lightening strike out.  The lightening and thunder usher in the rain that tapers into gentle, cooling showers that soaks into the dry-sponge-like ground.

A rainy day filled with relief from the reality of our drought conditions is a not a daydream but a necessity for us watching the crops and gardens struggling to remain productive.  Our daydream must turn into prayers of supplication.  We have no means of managing the weather, we have no control and that makes the reality even feel more demoralizing.  But, we have faith, we have hope, and we have God.  What we forget is to use the tools we have.

Looking at today’s circumstances around the nation, I am reminded of the dreams of the earliest settlers.  The land on which we live and farm were here before we were.  We must remember that others inhabited this land before the European explorers began their journeys into the unknown.  Still, if explorers had not dreamed, would we be living in our homes right now?

Dreaming is a tool.  Dreaming led the Puritans to sail to new shores.  Dreaming led revolutionaries to begin a new country.  Dreaming lead John Wesley to identify methods for developing and growing one’s faith.  Dreaming caused Methodism to grow into an active Christian denomination serving one another in love.

Dreaming is not a dangerous activity especially if we dream through God’s eyes.   As we read Genesis’s creation story, we can perceive God’s dream to have a universe, to have the flora and the fauna, and to have humanity.  As we read through the Old Testament stories, we see how God continually works to preserve the dream.

Imagine the frustration and disappointment even God experiences over and over.  His dream is endangered and he sends Jesus to demonstrate the tools needed to preserve the dream—the universe.  Jesus, God in human form, is love.  Over and over his actions demonstrate how loving one another is the one simple law all people really ever need.  God’s dreams, even our dreams, can be achieved by always maintaining that one commandment:  Love one another.

Dreaming through God’s eyes ideally leads us to repeatedly implement that law.  Loving one another may begin with loving God, loving self, loving family, and loving our neighbors, but it grows.  The very law of loving one another becomes a lifestyle; it becomes the driving force behind our daily activities, our jobs, and even our leisure.

In our daily crisis, we fail to maintain that one law.  We become so filled with anxiety that looking at the problem through God’s eyes is far from our first thought.  We find ourselves panicking as we sense the loss of a dream.  We fail to use the tools of our faith to stabilize the crisis.  We fail to keep in touch with God.  We fail to pray.  We fail to read the Bible.  We fail to work in community.  And, we lose the dream.

As we begin this week, we will take time on Wednesday to celebrate the dreams of our American forefathers.  They dreamed.  They prayed.  And they acted.  We value dreams as Americans, we honor dreams of the past.  Are we ready to continue dreaming through God’s eyes to continue working to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?

Maybe I perceive the world through a “Pollyanna” mindset, but I dream.  I do not think I could manage the various crisis’s life hands me without my faith.  I do not think I could wake up to another 100 degree day without the hope that rain will cool us down—sooner or later.  I hope I do see the world through God’s eyes.  My dreams, I believe, are ones God’s eyes see.

Yet, I know, too, that I fail.  I fail to use the tools.  I fail to keep my eyes open.  I even fail to dream.  Today begins a new year of service to the church; and the dreams of four years ago seem faded.  Yet, I refuse to quit dreaming.

Dreaming led me to Acts.  Struggling to find a way to renew my dreams, I needed to find the tools to sharpen them.  Acts is a book about transition.  Luke may have been shaken by the crucifixion, but his faith did not quit.  He continued telling Jesus’ story and helped bridge the gap between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

Luke knew the old dreams and even used Joel’s prophecy to reach across the generations:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.  (the NIV)

Even though Pentecost 2012 was celebrated over a month ago, the Pentecost initiated or baptized the Apostles with the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit.  The Holy Ghost is God’s personal tool that exists within us to carry out the dream of a transformed world, a world of believers working in unity.

Dreaming through God’s eyes leads us to use the tools he gave us, especially prayer and the Holy Ghost, to act in making the dream a reality.  The wonderful thing about God’s tools is that they never wear out, never need purchasing, never need redesigning, or anything.           Prayer is always available.  We can talk to God anytime, anywhere, for any reason.  We can cry, laugh, ask, thank, share whatever we have with God.  We also can hear God—if we listen in our prayers.  We can hear God, when we read the Bible or sing a hymn.  We can see God if we watch others who demonstrate loving one another.  Prayer is a tool we have 24/7; it is available in an instant, it never leaves us.  If we dream, we pray.

Dreaming creates the goal.  Prayer is the tool to keep it in touch with God.  But what is next?  Next comes the action.  What tool is there to put the dream into action?  The answer is the Holy Ghost.

Even the earliest Christians did not understand how they were going to continue.  They asked Peter what they should do.  In Acts 2:38, Peter makes one statement concerning how we know the Holy Ghost is with us:  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (the NIV)

Understanding the importance of the Holy Spirit—or Ghost—may still be a reason Christians do not know what to do.  Every individual has unique gifts, talents to use.  We may be carpenters, seamstresses, artists, farmers, bankers, or businessmen.  Our success is connected to the gifts we have been given.  When we combine all our talents, any dream developed through God’s eyes, can be achieved.  The Holy Ghost will provide the inspiration, the skills, the strength, and the pieces needed to accomplish a God-driven dream.

Look at what happens in the face of a natural disaster.  When the tornado tore through Joplin, or any community, can we doubt the power of the Holy Ghost?  People immediately join in and do what might be considered impossible were it not for God’s role in the work.  God—in three people, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—can work miracles.  We, his children, are able to perform the miracles needed to put the broken world back together again.

Today, dream.  But remember to dream through God’s eyes.  When you see something that needs work, dream a little and then pray.  Talk to God about the dream you have and ask him for his help.  Listen for him, and then act.  The Holy Ghost is with you, and you are equipped. Now you just need to act with all the confidence in the world because you are working to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  This is what God has commissioned you to do, so do it.

Dear God,

May your dream for a transformed world be my dream, too.

Give me the vision that you see through your eyes.

Talk to me so I know what you ask me to do.

Help me to use the gifts you have given me to do my share.

Thank you for the gift of your son so we know how to love one another.

Thank you for the gift of the Holy Ghost so we can act in your behalf.

Today we dream, we pray, and now must act.

Guide us as we work to follow your dream.

Amen.

 

 

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