Sunday, May 07, 2006

Article, "The Question of Foundation"



In 1174 the Italian architect Bonnano Pisano, began work on a separately standing eight-story bell tower. It's called the Tower of Pisa. The tower was to be 8-stories and 185-foot tall.

There was just one "little" problem. The builders quickly discovered that the soil was much softer than they had expected. The foundation was far too shallow to adequately hold the Tower of Pisa structure!

Sure enough, before long, the whole Tower of Pisa, had begun to tilt... and it continued to tilt. Then finally, the builders realized that nothing could be done to make the Leaning Tower of Pisa straight again.

It took 176 years to build the Tower of Pisa. And during that time, many things were done to try and compensate for the "tilt." The foundation was shored up. The upper levels were even built at an angle to try to make the top of the tower look straight. Nothing worked.

The tower has stood for over 800 years, but it leans 18 feet away from where it should be (10 degrees from the vertical, for all the engineers). One day, experts predicted it will fall inevitably all because it wasn’t built on the right foundation.

Jesus told a story about the importance of a solid foundation in Matthew 7. In this story, Jesus used three very common images: a house, a rock, and some sand.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!” (Matthew 7: 24-27)

I find The Message version of the text an interesting one: “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

Look at Luke 6:47-49 which says the same, “Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and puts them into practice—I will show you what he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep, and laid the foundation on bedrock. When a flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the person who hears and does not put my words into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against that house, it collapsed immediately, and was utterly destroyed!”

The people that Jesus was talking to often experienced sudden downpours during the rainy season in ancient Palestine. There would be violent streams in just a few moments of time after a heavy rain. According to Jesus’ story, when you combine these torrential rains and raging streams with weakly built housing sitting on shifting foundation such as sand, you have a disaster on your hands.

This is a parable about foundations, not avoiding the weather. When the pressure intensifies from all angles, the outcome is determined by the foundation we’re sitting on. Jesus helped the people to understand that God was not always going to be there to stop the rains, the flooding, and the tornadoes from invading our lives.

Nevertheless, Jesus expected us to be smart about life. He wants us to be careful about the priorities that we build our lives on. He urges us to be cautious about who we listen to and what philosophy of life we chose to live by. This is so because a wrong decision in these foundational areas would prove to be our undoing when the pressures and forces of life begin to mount.

Thus the idea of a foundation is so critical. One of the things that a lot of building contractors want to stay away from is digging out and pouring their own foundations. They would rather have a specialist come in and do it for them. Why? If you mess up the foundation, you’ve compromised the entire structure.

Building your life on anything other than what Jesus taught is to “mess-up” the foundation. It is to allow fault lines and cracks to form at pressure points of life. Just like every solid building has a foundation, every life has a foundation on which it is built. What does your foundation consists of? That’s Jesus’ point.

There are two people in Jesus’ closing story. Both hear his words, but only one acts on them. A person who hears Jesus’ words and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who builds with the right materials in the right location at the right time. Those who choose other ways are sand builders. And there are different kinds of sand.

First there is the shifting sand of worldliness, materialism, pseudo-prophecies, false teachings, the compromising trends of our times.

Second, there is the shallow sand of TV. Young people, watching and learning about life from MTV is sand! Don’t build on that. Watching and listening to Madonna or Michael Jackson is sand! Don’t build on that.

Then there is the quicksand of self-righteousness. Seeking an organized religion as your faith rather than the teachings of Jesus is sand. Don’t build on that. People have tried and pulled up empty every time. Endeavoring to live a sinless life, as your ticket to heaven is sand. Don’t build on that.

Instead of murder and hate, build your life on forgiveness. Instead of revenge and getting even, build your life on reconciliation. Instead of being consumed by pornography and lust, build your life on respect and honoring. Instead of ending your marriage for non-Biblical reasons and splitting up the family, build your life on faithfulness and love. Instead of being evasive and deceptive, be forth telling with the truth.

Instead of hating your enemies, build your life on prayer for them. Instead of just being outwardly religious, build your life on secret acts of kindness and worship. Instead of worrying your way through life, build your life on a firm trust in the caring hand of God.

Build your life on the foundation of Jesus.

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