Faith

When Clouds Gather, Remember the Rainbow

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I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud….When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  Genesis 9:13-14,16 (NASB)


An artist stands on the street before her easel, paintbrush in hand. Working with the colors from her palette, she applies paints to her canvas. Bystanders breathlessly wait for the finished product as spectacular scenery begins to take shape. Her vision fashions an incredible landscape. 

Now imagine our Creator God at work before His heavenly canvas. He designs His radiant rainbow in a cloud, the clouds that Scripture says are the dust of His feet (Nahum 1:3). If those massive billowy forms bear His footprints, how mighty is He, our Creator of the rainbow?

It staggers my mind to contemplate God’s magnificent grandeur. As I gaze into the heavens encircling me, I’m filled with awe and wonder. If my God is so big, surely I can trust Him to take care of me, my family, and our needs. I am comforted with the knowledge that I serve a majestic and powerful God until I notice the dark clouds of a fierce storm or hear of mighty clouds swirling into a ferocious hurricane. Then fear blows in with gale force winds and I start to wonder where God is. 

Over the last several years, the southeastern coast of the United States experienced massive turbulence in the forms of Hurricanes Irma, Florence, and Michael. The states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina encountered extreme ruin. Those mighty clouds brought danger and destruction to many residents, including some of my family and friends. More recently Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas, leaving behind death and devastation.

How could this happen? Why did God allow such disaster? Did He walk away from His own creation?

I don’t know. I have no answers for any of those questions. When I see such desolation, I am plagued with doubt about a caring God. But then I take time to reread His Word, and He reminds me of His faithfulness. Over and over again, He confirms His steadfast love. He answers us when we seek Him (Psalm 34:4-6). He is available to all who call on His name (Psalm 116:3-6). He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Even though it may seem impossible at times, we can count on Him no matter what. 

Remember Noah in the ninth chapter of Genesis? Noah and his family experienced a catastrophic flood. God protected them in an ark while death swirled all around them. Except for the creatures they had gathered and led onto the boat, all else was gone. For forty days and nights, they endured confinement and uncertainty. Forty straight days and nights of rain and clouds! Imagine how much water surrounded their vessel. Were they frightened? Angry? Yearning for their old life? Did they complain? Did they forget God was near?  

I think I can answer all those questions with a resounding YES! If I had been on the ark or North Carolina’s coast or in the Bahamas, I would have been crying with fear. I probably would have screamed WHY while I wished for my old life back. Big billowy dark clouds would have depressed me. I surely would not have seen them as the dust of God’s feet. 

But then a rainbow appeared!

When God placed His rainbow in the clouds, it signified an everlasting covenant with all of God’s creatures, a solemn promise between God and all of earth. He promised never again to destroy all life in a flood. He declared the rainbow a reminder to Himself. Even to this day, the rainbow guarantees God’s promise. Its colorful array reminds us to hold onto hope and believe God is near to us whenever we need Him. 

Hear with your heart His own words of truth. Know He is faithful.

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? 
(Deuteronomy 4:7)

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  (Psalm 34:18)
“Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord. 
(Jeremiah 23:23-24)

God’s rainbow gives us pause to remember His covenant with man. Its appearance proclaims we are not forgotten. Its beauty awakens us to the presence of an Almighty God through His Holy Spirit. We can celebrate the presence of Immanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ. And Jesus promised He would never leave us or forsake us. He is faithful.

Suffering usually strips us of our pretenses. It brings us to our knees, down to the nitty-gritty. When we call out to Jesus, we find Him waiting on us. He lifts us up in times of sorrow, sickness, and sadness. He offers hope when life appears hopeless. He is faithful. 

When clouds gather, remember His rainbow. He is faithful. 

Fan into Flame the Gift of God

 
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          It was the thirtieth day of May in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred fifty-four. According to the Order of the Church, pastors and elders ordained and consecrated my father as a minister by the laying on of hands. I can only imagine his mother’s delight—my grandmother who watched many Billy Graham crusades on TV. As I now held the certificate of ordination in my hand, I recall precious memories of a faith passed down from generation to generation. 

          Born a preacher’s kid, I attended church every time the doors were open. Sundays and Wednesdays especially found us all at church, even when snow kept everyone else away. My Dad made sure of our presence. While my upbringing has instilled regular church attendance, it’s my dad’s faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I cherish most. What a blessing to grow up in a household that celebrated the gift of salvation through Jesus. To be taught how to grow in faith through Him. 

          But faith-building isn’t always easy, especially when life appears hopeless. Ironically, learning to trust God emerges out of difficulties. Why does it seem we lean in and learn more when hardship hits or when death strikes? Living through adversity tends to shape our lives. Walking through tribulations with the Savior transforms life. 

          My dad’s death shook me to my core. How would I live without him? Along with grief, a broken relationship with my daughter brought me to my knees. I agonized over the discord and disassociation with her. I couldn’t dam my tears. They flowed like rushing water. Despite the misery, God continually reminded me of the blessed assurance handed down by parents and grandparents. Eventually I held on to salvation in Jesus and experienced peace through the Holy Spirit. 

          Day by day I encountered this peace, but pain came alongside. It’s as if I walked in between railroad tracks with Jesus on one side and agony on the other—peace paralleled pain. Such a bittersweet existence. 

          Over time I became receptive to the revelation of other wounded people, especially mothers with prodigals. I believe God steered them in my direction, and I identified with them—their tears were my tears, their heartache my heartache. Seeing them took my eyes off my own suffering. They needed to experience the peace I had discovered, the resolve in my heart that God guarded our lives. But how would I tell them? What would I say? I felt so uneducated when sharing the gospel. 

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord,” Paul told Timothy. (1 Timothy 1:8)

          Paul considered Timothy his true son in the faith, bonded by the blood of Jesus. Because he recognized Timothy’s youth and lack of confidence, Paul reminded him of the faith that lived in his mother and grandmother. And he prompted Timothy to recall the prophecies made over him at the time of his ordination. (1 Timothy 1:18-19)

          “Fan into flame the gift of God,” Paul said. “And know that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

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          Paul didn’t want Timothy to be afraid to share the gospel. He encouraged his spiritual son to join in his suffering, to fight the good fight, to guard the good deposit entrusted to him through the Holy Spirit. With honest eloquence, Paul motivated Timothy to keep the faith by saying, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:20)

          God used Paul’s words to speak to me. Being afraid to share the gospel was not an option. I needed to hold tightly to the words of the Lord, reject fearful thoughts, and intercede for my child. With more strength than I could have imagined, God galvanized a fight within me—a fight of faith, the faith of my fathers. He formed our group of mothers with prodigals and gave us a Scripture verse to sustain us, Isaiah 43:5-7. Together we determined to humbly pray for our children, believing God’s truth.     

          We refused to allow anxiety over choices made by our children to squelch the fire. The embers in our troubled hearts had been deposited by our Heavenly Father. The power of the Holy Spirit fanned them into flame. In unity but with distinct voices, we cried out to the True and Faithful One, Jesus Christ. And He strengthened us. 

          Timothy came from a line of faithful believers. I learned of faith from my parents and grandparents. Standing on a firm foundation, I’m compelled to fan into flame this precious gift of God, passing it on to my children and grandchildren. 

          With power, love, and sound minds, my prayer group and I will continue to keep the faith and share the gospel with a lost and hurting world. For the sake of our children, for the next generation, we yearn to set ablaze the gift of God. We believe our prayers will ignite the flame. 

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.
(1 Timothy 1:8). 

Oh the joy of future generations living in the truth.