SHOWERS SENT FROM GOD

We have had some rain showers this week.  Nothing like the severe storms that plague parts of the country at various times of the year.  Just showers, maybe some light thunder and a streak of lightning here and there, otherwise just showers.

 

rain-in-mississippi
Rain is visibly falling in several places as we were driving through Mississippi, and heading toward the storm.

If you live in an area where the land is flat and there are no mountains to interrupt your view of the surrounding terrain, you can see the rain showers as they head your way.  We took this picture as we were traveling through Mississippi.  While the cloud covers the entire area, the rain showers are visible as darkened spaces from the cloud.  The lighter spaces are the areas where the rain has not yet started. 

We look forward to rain showers because they are good for the earth.  They water the grass and plants, they reduce the pollen in the air (something great for allergy sufferers), and they provide refreshment to all God’s creatures. 

Of course, there are some who don’t like showers.  Children who want to play outside; people who work outside in the elements; people who have errands, and the rain makes the task more difficult.

Scripture talks about showers as being both a gift from God and a punishment from God.

In the book of Isaiah, we have a beautiful passage which tells of God’s good pleasure and power as He speaks to King Cyrus, a pagan king who was used by God to rebuild Jerusalem:

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: … I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it.”

Isaiah 45:1, 5-8

In Genesis we see the judgment side of God’s use of rain.  Here, God is telling Noah that the world will be destroyed by rain because of the great sin and abomination that the people have committed:

For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

Genesis 7:4

Noah and his family were spared because he had built the ark as God commanded and he took the animals aboard so that there was a remnant spared from the devastation of the flood.

Scripture also tells us that God is capable not only of sending rain in judgment but also of withholding rain as a judgment upon His people.

“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.  When I shut up the heavens so tht there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’”

2 Chronicles 7:12-14

Then, too, we see the prophet Elijah who told Ahab that there would be no rain and, after three years, the prophet prayed for rain.

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”

James 5:17-18

Elijah’s faith was so complete that, after his prayer for rain, when the servant searched the skies for rain clouds six times and saw nothing, he told the servant to look again.  That time the response was that he saw: “a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea”. 1 Kings 18:44  Then Elijah told the servant to run to Ahab and tell him to prepare the chariot so that he would be stuck because of the deluge that was coming. Faith in the promises of God.  The prayers of a righteous person have great power!

Rain can be a blessing from the Lord or it can reflect judgment on rampant sin.  Rain can come in flooding torrents or in gentle showers.  However it comes, indeed even whether it comes, remember that rain is always under God’s control. 

When I was a child, we sang a hymn in my home church called “Showers of Blessing,” the words taken from Ezekiel 34:26. 

“And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.”

Beloved, look around you and see the showers of blessing that the Lord has already given to you.  Look inside you and realize the showers of blessing that the Lord has provided to you through Jesus Christ and His atoning death and resurrection.  Look at the evidences of the Holy Spirit, resident within you, when you walk your life as a Christian.

Showers of blessing – they are already here, and the Lord will continue to bless His people as they call upon Him in faith. 

Father, I praise Your Name for the blessings You have provided in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I thank You that You have promised blessings to Your children now and forever more.  I bow in reverence and awe at Your love and majesty, Your power and grace, Your judgment and mercy.  May I glorify You all the days of my life.

 

WILDFIRES IN TENNESSEE

In 2016, wildfires erupted in the Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee.  Ironically, they started at a location known as Chimney Tops and then, fueled by hurricane strength winds, the fires barreled through the mountains toward Gatlinburg, a beautiful resort town at the entrance to the National Park.

Tennessee had been in significant drought and the woods were tinder dry.  While the Chimney Tops fire was thought to be contained, nature changed that opinion quickly.  We had been on the “quiet side” of the mountains, in Townsend, Tennessee, as a gift from our children for our 30th anniversary.  Going home on November 28, 2016, we could see some smoke in the sky.  When we stopped at a local store, a law enforcement officer was present, so we asked about the status of the fires.  He said that they were not a worry, that they were contained, and he expected them to be extinguished that day or the next.

His expectation was not realized, however. That same afternoon saw winds as high as 87 miles per hour, which blew sparks from the existing fires to new dry tinder over a mile away.  The winds created an additional fire hazard, as its strength blew down dried trees, which resulted in downed power lines that then contributed new sparks to the tinder beneath.  Because of the loss of power and because some of the pumping stations had burned, hydrants went dry the next day. 

Firefighters also were battling nature without the use of their two-way radios when the system failed, also the radios of different emergency agencies were not compatible.  The 911 system could not handle all the calls it received, and the emergency operations center phone system went down completely when it lost power. Moreover, cellular towers were destroyed by the fires, so that cellular coverage became unreliable, thus rendering personal cell phone communications unreliable, at best.

All in all, the fires claimed at least 14 lives and injured 134 others. By December 12, the inferno had burned more than 10,000 acres (15 square miles) inside the national park and over 6,000 acres in surrounding areas outside the park.  At least 14,000 residents and tourists were forced to evacuate and over 2000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. 

Voices of Gatlinburg picture
Picture taken by Tennessee-based photographer Jeremy Cowart of Gary and Linda Jackson’s home as featured in Voices of Gatlinburg, December 2016.

In short, it was an horrific sight to watch on television and the stories of terror that fell so swiftly are difficult to hear.  Friends from church were in their cabin, atop one of the hills in the mountains when they smelled smoke.  Thinking it was from their fireplace, the husband went from the bedroom to the front room, just to double-check.  When he looked outside, he saw a wall of flames virtually at their lot line.

The two of them jumped into their car, leaving the other car behind, and headed down the mountain.  Their trip took them along the mountain road with flames on both sides, smoke so heavy that they could not see the edge of the road.  Finding one way blocked by fire equipment, they turned and went down another road.  The trip that normally would take 45 minutes took several harrowing hours. 

God was merciful.  They escaped without harm.  And, weeks after the fire when they were finally allowed to go back to their cabin, they found that their cabin was only minimally harmed by the flames and smoke.  All the other cabins on their cul-de-sac were destroyed, burned down to the block foundation. 

Many of the houses are being rebuilt, however it seems that just as many homes and businesses that were destroyed have not been touched.

Gatlinburg woods 1 year after forest fires
The woods, one year later!

Looking down from the deck of our friend’s cabin, one year after the inferno hit the mountains, it was encouraging as well as amazing to see the forest’s regrowth and reclamation of the land.  God’s creation does not wait for man to hurry in and rebuild.  Rather, His creation goes about the business of regrowth, of rebuilding the nutrients in the earth, of repopulating the animals, birds, and all that had been there before.  They will return in their due time.

I am reminded of Noah and the flood.  He and his family were tucked safely in the ark, along with their closest friends, the animals that were preserved from destruction.  After the rains ended, the ark came to rest, and the humans were anxious to leave their floating residence.  I would likewise have been in a hurry to get onto land after 150 days of rain, but they had to wait for the right time.  God had closed the door to the ark and only He could open it.  Genesis 7:16. 

Noah’s tests to see if the waters had receded sufficiently are described in Genesis 8. 

The point is that God commanded Noah to get into the ark, He commanded the animals to get into the ark, He commanded the waters to come, and He commanded the waters to recede.  When all was sufficient for Noah to live on the earth, God told Noah to leave the ark, commanding him further to take the animals so that they could be fruitful and multiply. 

The Gatlinburg fires caused numerous deaths and an untold amount of property damage.  They caused grief and suffering on a massive scale.  But, there is healing after the inferno.  The forests show that healing in visible real terms.  Other healing is more subtle and difficult to quantify, but it does come because God is leading us to heal.

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

Beloved, scripture teaches that healing will come.  We need to follow God’s direction, His mandate, and humble ourselves, praying and turning from our wicked ways.  We need to acknowledge that God is God and His ways are right, then we need to do that which He says.  If we do that, He promises that He will hear us and will forgive us of our sin and heal our land.

The fires were horrible, no doubt about it.  The loss of life was tragic and it sent families reeling in grief and pain, no doubt about it.  But healing does come. 

Seek Him and be healed.

Father, I pray that healing would come to our land, but I realize that first we must confess our sin.  We have failed to follow Your low and we have not done that which Your Son commanded.  We have not loved others more than ourselves; we have not treated the widow and stranger with love; we have not read Your Word and meditated on it day and night; we have …. Father, may we repent and turn to You today, before it is too late for us to do so.