Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
January 11th, 2023
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:17-18
Boy, we have been having a wet winter so far! I remember last winter we had a wet December, but then as soon as January started, the spicket seemed to be turned off! But so far this year, we have continued to have a couple of storms per week it seems – I’m finding myself thankful for days I can see the sun! But I have been loving seeing the grass-covered hills, and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. I pray this continues through February – March!
This of course has been a great relief to our multi-year drought, but it seems to be too much too fast! My heart is wrenched seeing scenes of flooded homes & streets, and hearing of deaths occurring due to the floods. We of course know that the earth itself suffers under the burden of sin (Romans 8:19-21), which, in my opinion, doesn’t exclude the possibility of man-made global warming & climate change. We are much of the sin problem, after all!
But, droughts and periods of famine have long affected and worried humanity. The first such drought mentioned in scripture is in Genesis 12, which caused Abraham to go down to Egypt, setting off a chain of events there.
Droughts & periods of rain are also sometimes accredited to the will of God in the Bible, such as the 7-year famine in Genesis 41-47, and Israel’s 3½ years without rain in 1 Kings 17-18 (referenced in the James passage above). Imagine how stressful & desperate these must have made the people, given that they did not have resources like we do, of reservoirs, canals, or desalination plants!
Peter’s Sermon in Acts 3, after the healing of the paralytic man, emphasizes what happens when we repent & turn to God: “That times of refreshing will come” (3:19). We’re currently being refreshed literally in California, but how much more important is the Spiritual aspect?
I think of what a spiritually refreshing time it was for Israel when Jesus came. In contrast to the Pharisees, who’s conversions were more effective to making people be children of hell than of God (strong language, Jesus! See Matt. 23:15) Jesus’ message included “preach[ing] the Good News to the poor; …heal[ing] the brokenhearted, to proclaim[ing] liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
What a refreshment that must have been to the people! Contrasted from a religion that created a “burdensome loads” for the people (Matthew 23:4), Jesus started his most famous sermon with a list of affirmations and blessings. Though you’re probably familiar with it, I encourage you to read this passage slowly, letting the refreshment of it “saturate” down into your hearts. Let Jesus speak this truth to you today:
“Blessedare the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those whohunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds ofevil against you falsely for My sake.Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, forso they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Affirming this is of course not to say that Jesus didn’t have standards: He gave many challenging and high-bar teachings further on in the Sermon on the Mount. But I think it’s worth pausing to really hear, and feel, and believe, and internalize these affirmations: they are the context in which the rest of the sermon is given.
I pray that you would be refreshed today and this week, more than on the surface literal level, but deep down to your roots, that you may be, as Psalm chapter 1 says:
“…Like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever [is done] shall prosper.”
May God bless you and your families the remainder of this week and beyond.
Pr. Mark Tatum