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Thursday, January 14, 2010

"When Terra Is Not Firma"

We've seen the image on movies and newscasts: Someone has been on a
long journey, either by land or air.  As they disembark, they stoop
down and kiss the ground.  What's going on?  They have obviously felt
uneasy about traveling in a turbulent environment, and are relieved to
be back on solid ground.  "Terra firma" is Latin for "solid earth",
and we value this fact more than we generally realize.

What happens, though, when the terra is not firma?  Millions learned
the frightening reality of that experience in Haiti earlier this week.
A magnitude-7 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the capital city of
that island nation.  Buildings no longer had a secure foundation
beneath, and tragedy quickly followed.  It made no difference whether
the buildings were homes, schools or hospitals.  As this writing is
being composed, rescue efforts are ongoing.  The number of fatalities
is sure to be staggering.

Reports from Haiti describe masses of people in the streets.
Makeshift hospitals have been set up in parking lots; people who
escaped serious injuries have made temporary dwellings using whatever
materials can be found.  After the earth violently shook no one wants
to be inside of a building.  No longer can walls and ceilings be
trusted to provide shelter.  The most basic presumptions about refuge
are turned upside-down.

Long ago a triumphal celebration was thrown in the land of Philistia.
The archenemy of the people had been captured.  Once untouchable
because of his superhuman strength, Samson was now in chains.  As the
celebrants drank and danced about, they called for their captive to be
brought out for mockery.

Samson had failed in his God-given mission, but he prayed for one
final opportunity to thwart the Philistines, perennial enemies of
God's people.  "And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which
supported the temple ..." and pulled them down using one last burst of
strength.  The temple in which the Philistines had such confidence
came down upon them, killing about 3,000 (read the account in Judges

David was in turmoil as he wrote Psalm 11.  Taunted by enemies, he
cried out: "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous
do?" (v. 3).  But David's doubts evaporated as he remembered this
truth: "The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in
heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men" (v. 4).
God is the strong and sure foundation for His people.

Christians today are God's people.  Paul spoke of the confidence we
can have in this relationship: "For we are God's fellow workers; you
are God's field, you are God's building. ... For no other foundation
can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1
Corinthians 3:9,11).

At best, our lives on this earth are uncertain.  What we think is
trustworthy in the material realm is not; not even the ground beneath
us.  But those who turn to the Lord will find a foundation that can
never be shaken.  Inside His walls and beneath His ceiling one can
rest peacefully forevermore.

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him
in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you'd like
to discuss these ideas further.
--Timothy D. Hall

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