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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 138
May 2002

WHO'S IN CHARGE?


We were still within the shores of the placid bay, and the ship was moving so slowly that I imagined it might take us days just to clear the final buoy. Yet already my stomach was rolling about and the bones in my legs were turning to gelatin. Suddenly this huge ship--a bulwark of steel seemingly as immovable as the pier to which it had been secured--was bobbing and swaying beneath my feet, offering little support for my quivering constitution.

It was the very, very beginning of my six months in the vicinity of Vietnam, and the small-town, heretofore landlocked boy from Iowa was getting his first taste of the sea. The first quivering moments notwithstanding, after about a week's time, I had gained my "sea legs" and was moving about the ship with the unfaltering step of the old salt I was fast becoming.

Then the real waves hit.

One night I dreamed I was clinging to the very tip of the mast. As the ship (in my dream) would roll to one side, I would reach down and touch the water on that side of the ship, then, as the ship would roll back, I would reach down and touch the water on the other. I awoke to the sounds of unsecured furniture sliding across the floor and crashing into bulkheads. Suddenly everything in my world was being tossed about like furnishings in an upended dollhouse. I awoke to the disturbing truth that my dream had been based on the reality of my surroundings--and that old, familiar quivering began again in my belly.

Years later, while living in San Diego, I was at work at my desk when, from out of the east, I felt the earth rumbling toward me. This was not like the vibration caused by a passing truck, or even the pounding iron wheels of a diesel locomotive. No, this was the earth itself rolling as if it were a subterranean steamroller, huffing and puffing toward me. The rolling approached from out of the distance--the earth quivered and shook like a huge carpet that someone had grasped from the other end and given a good snap. The rolling wave passed beneath my feet and the cement foundation of our house, then rolled on into the opposite distance.

Every so often we are reminded that we are not in charge. Every so often the earth will not just roll past, beneath our feet, but will give a mighty heave like something roused from confinement, like a huge beast rousing to claim its freedom. When it does there will be fires and explosions and great gushers where water lines are snapped, massive slabs of reinforced concrete will fall away and crash onto helpless victims as if made from papier-mache.

At such times we are reminded of an important Biblical concept: dust.

Mankind has become accustomed to thinking itself the highest form of life. We imagine we are masters of our universe--masters of everything we see. We can do what we want, build where we want, take what we want; we answer to no one and apologize for nothing. The present mindset eliminates the need--or desire--to answer to an all-powerful God. But in our arrogance we have forgotten that we are "but dust."

 

SIMPLE ORGANISMS

Oddly, the proponents of the "green slime" theory have at least some of it right. In a recent article, a comparison was drawn between ancient (implied: silly) theories on the creation of life and modern (implied: serious) theories. You be the judge.

 

PILES OF RUBBLE

The young man was being interviewed by someone from the national press. He and his wife were standing before a pile of rubble that had been their apartment. Just moments before, the video camera had recorded the scene as the couple's cat had finally emerged safe and sound from the shapeless pile of building parts.

The young man's face was calm, almost emotionless as he told their tale. He patiently described how, without warning, their home had crumpled atop their heads. Miraculously, he said, they all had survived unscathed.

Perhaps he was in shock. Perhaps he was still numb from his rude awakening that morning. We should be forgiving of those who have just been through such traumatic events. We should not be quick to jump inside their heads to rearrange the thoughts. Nonetheless, the words with which he finished the interview were smug and assured--almost chilling--and were illustrative of a society filled with people eager to surround themselves with the trinkets of success.

"I have nothing," he said with an unblinking countenance, "nothing. Everything I had was lost. I have nothing but the clothes on my back."

Nothing? I thought at the time. What about your life, your health? What about your wife, for crying out loud--doesn't she count? And let's not forget the family cat. How incredible, I thought; as this man's family was defined, his family was still intact. They were not only alive, but healthy and sound, standing on their feet. Yet, to him, he had nothing left.

From where have we learned to expect more? If everything belongs to God, then how can we feel cheated when we have less than others--or less than we had yesterday? If even those things we "create" are simply bits and pieces of things God has already created, how then can we boast in our creations?

While they can indeed be traumatic and unpleasant--even tragic--natural disasters are excellent classrooms in which to observe the priorities of this society. From floods that sweep away homes and whole towns, to raging infernos consuming everything in their path, to earthquakes that rend our globe as if it were paper--from all of these and more we may observe how some individuals have placed their faith in the accoutrements of living. Written across the strained and anguished faces we can see that some have even invested all of their self-worth and self-estimation in those things purchased with a paycheck.

They have become what they own--no more, no less.

 

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

The earth need not be moved by great and terrible seismic forces for our trust in a sovereign to be put to the test. Life's moments of unbridled joy, as well, can demonstrate the difference between an earthly and heavenly perspective.

Outside chopping wood on the afternoon of November 19th, 1997, I listened with interest to the radio, and the first news conference. As I swung the axe and stacked the wood that would later be burned in the fireplace during the approaching winter evenings, I marveled and wept with joy over what I was hearing.

As most everyone who was paying attention at the time knows, on November 19, after 30 weeks of pregnancy Bobbi McCaughey, from Carlisle, Iowa, gave birth to seven premature but vigorous babies.

Present at that first news conference were the principal doctors who attended the Caesarean births. I was immediately impressed with their calm, comfortable demeanor. The two Iowa women--Paula Renee Mahone, M.D., and Karen Lynn Drake, M.D., both perinatologists--described with quiet good-natured confidence the events of the birth, and fielded the many questions tossed their way by members of the media.

This news conference with the attending physicians continued a pattern not always apparent to those getting their news from the national media, such as the broadcast and cable television networks. The general public in Iowa, following the story via the local television, radio and newspaper sources, knows very well that the entire event has been literally drenched in the words and behavior of Christian faith.

Real trust in God is not dependent on what we see happening around us. There will be evil giants in every life; there will be impenetrable fortifications encountered in every person's passage upon earth; inconvenience and insurmountable odds will be found at every turn--but God is still great. Great earthquakes and fires and floods--even the joys of birth--are all reminders of our small size. Like ants scurrying over a collapsing hill, we would be drowning in our own insignificance were it not for the new and forever standing we have obtained through His Son Jesus Christ.

It is elementary to know that through Jesus Christ we have gained access to the eternity of heaven. We are not owed this; it is not a return to that place from whence we came, but a permanent change of address to a place where we only now belong. But for most of us--certainly anyone reading this--that change of address has yet to take place. What about now? What difference does this make right now? How might this change our perspective?

Watching the news reports, it's easy to spot those who have this more eternal perspective--and those who do not. It's easy to spot those who are leaning on Christ, and those who are leaning on themselves. Those who are trusting in Christ have about them an almost supernatural calm. When everyone around is prodding them toward anxiety, they display a peace that is seen as inexplicable--and is often mocked--by those without Christ. In their uncomfortable ignorance, they struggle to discount such grounded trust as simple-minded.

Those who know Christ need not fear the uncertainty of tomorrow, or even the calamity of today. Those who rest in the Lord carry around with them a peace and a confidence that can only baffle those who do not know Him.


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Issue No. 138
May 2002

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Aspects is Copyright © 2002 David S. Lampel.

Permission is hereby granted for this original material to be reprinted in newsletters, journals, etc., or to be used in spoken form. When used, please include the following line: "From Aspects, by David S. Lampel. Used by permission." Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture is from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (Updated Edition), Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. Where indicated, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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