Thursday, September 20, 2007

Shaken, Not Stirred

I remember my first earthquake like it was yesterday. We were in our Manila apartment, the 11th floor of a 19 floor building. I was at my computer when my head rocked back and forth. Was I dizzy? I then looked up to see the blinds swinging back and forth, then the ceiling light, and then I noticed that the whole building moved back and forth about 3 feet (1 meter) in a gentle sway.

Several things instantly went through my mind like the worlds fastest modem. All the engineering, Physics and math that I could never remember suddenly and uninvitingly came to mind and reminded me that concrete is not supposed to bend. In other words, this building was going to fall like many pancakes, and we were going to die. The next revelation was that we were on the 11th floor; again, we were going to die. Then I recalled volumes of Bible study that said that I was right with God. My last thought as we sprinted down the stairs was that I hoped that the architects who built this building made good grades. Actually, since that time I have used this example to prove to my daughters why good grades are important. “Would you want to live in a high rise or fly in a plane built by someone with average grades?”

When our quake experience was said and done, it was on a minor shake of 5.9 on the
Richter Scale, nothing too scary. There was another quake – a real quake – that was in the news in 1999. It was in İzmit, Turkey, and many thousands were killed from collapsing buildings. In the aftermath of that quake, engineers and investigators noticed something quite peculiar. Some buildings that stood side-by-side had different fates. One building was unfazed while another was reduced to rubble. What was even stranger was that these building were identical in design and suffered identical tremors during the main quake. A mystery was at hand.

When investigators dug deeper they could find no obvious difference in the way the buildings had been built, so they decided to test the materials by cutting two identical pieces of concrete from each building to compare. Again, they looked the same, so they decided to conduct a stress test by applying hundreds of tons of pressure to each piece in a hydraulic press to see if they could both withstand their design specifications. This is where the mystery ended.

The piece from the building that survived withstood the required pressure, but the piece from the collapsed building quickly disintegrated into dust. The dust was examined with the result that it was now clear that the builder had added much more sand than concrete mix in order to save time and money. He took a fatal shortcut that only became evident when stress was applied, and he did so knowing that he was in an earthquake zone.

As believers and leaders who raise up other leaders, it is a certainty that times of testing will come because this world is a spiritual earthquake zone. If we take shortcuts by focusing on exterior facades rather than internal character, we are dooming our building plan to a future cataclysmic failure. However, if we focus on the simplicity of laying firm foundations in our own lives and the lives of those whom we mentor we assure that when shaking comes we will not only stand firm but produce a testimony of God’s grace and truth.

Here are a few areas that will help secure us in our daily walk and assure long-term stability:

  • The Lordship of Jesus: abide in Him daily by studying His word and seeking His face in prayer. You can do nothing without this. Jn 15

  • Your family: In airplanes they tell us to put on our oxygen masks first so we can then put them on our children if the need arises. The simple reason for this is that you can save your kids but they cannot save you. Strong marriages make strong children.

  • Reaching & serving others: Pattern your life and lifestyle around the purposes of God. This brings prosperity to you, salvation and help to others and drives you back to the first priority.

These are only a few. Don’t be afraid that you might mistakes while growing in these areas. The serious error is to not do them at all, to take shortcuts.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall." Matt 7:24-27

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