I just finished reading a book someone gave me a couple years ago called, "Clouds Without Water," by Bill R. Austin. I have not been able to figure out much about who he was. Other than seeming to be a Pastor of a Baptist Church in Texas forty-three years ago, I know nothing else.
The book is an exposition on the book of Jude, and a mighty one at that. I am figuring that it was compiled from sermons he gave covering each verse thoroughly. I can honestly say this is a searching, convicting, and piercing read. I found some copies for sale on Abebooks.com if anyone is interested. Mr. Austin was speaking to our day, and his day, just as much as Jude was speaking to our day (I think even more than his own.)
The following is an excerpt:
"From 1950-1957, the western part of the United States was seized by a devastating drought. The dry, lonesome wind howled across the prairies and whistled through cracks in the houses. What began as mild gusts of dust became sandstorms until dirt-laden skies packed the atmosphere to the danger point for both health and visibility. Crops were futilely attempted and quickly burned by the scorching sun. Livestock died gradually or instantly, but always as a shocking reminder of the cost and cruelty of the drought. The earth burned and buckled, forming huge cracks, resembling gaping thirsting throats. Churches assembled prayer meetings to pray for rain. Professional rainmakers reaped a lucrative harvest in some areas. The slightest breeze and the smallest cloud turned every eye skyward. Huge, heavy clouds rolled in and hovered and slowly passed out of sight. The clouds never looked so thick and so promising as they did in those days. They seemed close enough to the ground to be punctured by a tree and turn loose the life-giving rain. But, week after week and month after month, no rain came. The clouds came again and again and again, but not until the fall of 1957 did the rains finally start.
A spiritual drought is settling over America. The prosperity and prestige of recent years have not penetrated to satisfy the thirsty soul. Attendance and interest in church activity is declining. The message of the church is ignored. The hope of the future is spurned. yet there remains and grows a spiritual thirst, a yearning for the spiritual reality which will not be satisfied with the superficial or quenched with a substitute.
Like low-hanging clouds of promise, the neo-theologians hover over the parched earth of human souls. Almost with hushed reverence, the starving spirits wait expectantly for the refreshing rain of new life and hope. They wonder if this new liberation from fundamentalism will also liberate them from the spiritual void and the unproductive nature of their lives. Some will pay these new religious rainmakers to seed the clouds and relieve the long hot summer, but they will wait in vain. Others will join the primitive rain dances of rebellion, riot, and revolution. By throwing off the inhibiting shackles of social conformity, they will hope to find a new and exciting power but will only find that valuable energy has been wasted and the showers are still withheld. Some who have surrendered to pious defeatism will sit with folded hands listening to lectures on the prophetic mysteries of spiritual drought and the deluge of iniquity. Still others are nonchalant and convinced that nothing can be done to either prevent or precipitate showers of blessing, believing they will happen like thunderstorms without antecedent conditions. What they forget is that even thunderstorms do not just happen, but have very definite causes." pp 86-87
The following is a quotable quote in one of the chapters:
"Moral anarchy always pays exactly the opposite of what it promises. It holds forth the tempting promise of personal freedom and eradication of guilt; then, it pays off in servitude to sin and compounded guilt. Tantalizing man with the possibility of self-fulfillment, moral anarchy, in reality, produces self-centeredness." pp 67
All quotations from "Clouds Without Water." Bill R. Austin, Copyright 1968 - Broadman Press, Nashville Tennessee.
One other thing for reason to recommend the book. Austin gives a compelling exhortation to anyone who would lead other believers in the taking of the Lords supper. He admonishes all to search their hearts deeply and see whether or not they are "Feeding themselves without fear." I was compelled to call out to God for salvation anew reading this chapter.
May this be salt and light...