Did You Bring Your Umbrella?

Well, it seems that the  Midwest is experiencing a drought.

This is not good news for the farmers, and anything that’s bad news for the farmers is bad news for the rest of us.  But don’t be too discouraged.  We have a God who can control the weather.  Mark 4:35-41 tells the story of Jesus who amazed his disciples by showing authority over a storm and saving their lives at sea.  Now, many of you may be thinking, “I’d rather God didn’t calm the storms right now.  If anything I wish he’d send them.”  Good point.

Let’s turn instead to 1 Kings 18 where God again showed his power over nature by first sending a drought, and then miraculously providing rain through the prophet Elijah.  That’s more like it, right? Well, it becomes sobering when we realize that God first sent the drought because of Israel’s lack of faith and loyalty to himself.  God mightily used the lack of rain and the recovery of rain to teach the Israelites an important lesson about his power, sincerity, and mercy.  So the question we should be asking ourselves is what does God want me to learn from the drought today?

I think one great lesson is found in a quaint story about yet another drought some years ago.  The story goes like this: a host of local farmers decided to hold a prayer meeting to ask God to send rain for the crops.  They were in a similar situation as the one today, and it was extremely important for the sake of the crops that they get rain soon.  The night of the prayer meeting came, and the pastor watched as the farmers marched into the church building.  He also noticed a little girl.  Of the hundreds of farmers and their wives, this little girl was the only one who brought with her an umbrella.  Now, who do you suppose had faith that God would answer their prayers?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 17 that if we have faith as a mustard seed, we can move mountains.  The problem is, many times we don’t even have that kind of faith.  Let’s remember the little girl who brought her umbrella because she believed that God could and would answer their prayers.  Let’s exercise a faith that not only believes, but acts upon that belief.

“And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain” – 1 Kings 18:45a (ESV)

“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “because of your little faith.  For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:19-20 (ESV)

A Brief Thought Regarding Holiness

Well folks, it’s finally here.  Your Shannon Baptist Church Blog.

For those who have been in my Sunday School class, this will be familiar territory.

We have been working through a book which discusses, often in gruesome detail, the pursuit of holiness in a Christian’s life.  Honestly, this is a topic that many of us avoid, so it has been interesting to work through these pages and try to understand our pursuit of holiness through the lens of scripture.  And it’s no wonder that we boycott this issue.  More often than not the word “holiness” scares us! We tend to look rather closely at our own shortcomings and failures which lends credence to the idea that holiness is an impossible goal.  We may consider the aspect of holiness to be a drudgery, envisioning pious puritans standing in a circle, holding hands and singing Kum Ba Ya.  We may toy with questions such as, “if Jesus saved me, why should I be concerned about holiness? I’m still going to heaven, right?” I get the sentiment.  I am right there with you.

But as we have progressed through our study, it has become clear that holiness is something often fundamentally misunderstood by Christians today.  We have looked at biblical examples such as Zechariah and Elizabeth, or even Job, who are said to have been righteous and blameless before God.  Models of holiness.  We have seen scripture verses, over and over again exhorting us to holiness such as 1 Peter 1:15-16 and Hebrews 12:14.  Indeed, it seems that God expects holiness to be something attainable for his children.  So how have we misunderstood holiness?

Far from being a Christ-like perfection, holiness is best conceived of as a separation from the world and a close proximity with God.  Being holy does not mean being a sinless angel (only Christ can claim the sinless card), but instead it means working hard to remove ourselves from the evil and sin of this world, to follow the commands and example of Jesus.  And sure, we’re not going to follow him one hundred percent of the time, or even with one hundred percent accuracy, but we should be striving for those numbers.  1 Timothy 6:12 urges us to fight the good fight.  Revelation 2 and 3 speak of those who conquer and overcome.  Christ has promised to one day glorify us to %100 perfection, but until that day comes we are exhorted to be moving ever closer to that goal.

Now this may be good news for some, but it may not reassure others.  You may think, “boy, I don’t know if I’ve been striving very hard lately.”  We can take comfort in the thought that our heavenly Father is a loving father who is pleased, even with our imperfect acts of obedience.  Our sincerity is something God can work with.  A wise pastor once told me, “God loves us so much that he accepts us where we are at, but God also loves us so much that he wants us to get better.”  Our God is not so unreasonable that he expects %100 obedience and perfection from day one; Christ has already offered his perfect righteousness for us.  God does, however gently prod us to take one more step in the right direction.  If you have accepted Jesus as your savior then He has already begun a good work in you, and will be faithful to complete that good work until the day Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).  Now is always the best time to put to death the old nature and put on the new nature we have in Christ.

Sure, this will take some effort.  Nobody said it would be easy! But boy will the reward for staying faithful be amazing!  Remember that loving God first and foremost and loving other people before yourself will always be pleasing to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Don’t forget that Christ, through his death, has enabled us to be holy! We have the Spirit of God living inside of us! He will empower and enable us to persevere in our pursuit of holiness so that one day we can stand before our loving Father and hear the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2

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