From the desk of… ‘Solid foundation’

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By Pamela Strickland, Lt. Colonel

Earlier this year, my husband, Ron, and I went on the Greece and Turkey Bible Study Tour. We had a wonderful experience along with 35 other adventurous individuals—14 days to visit sites and cities in the “Footsteps of Paul.” I stood in awe at many locations, realizing I was looking at pillars, statues and tiles that were anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 years old. They have stood the test of time.

After the tour, while still in this part of the world, we visited our son, Stephen, who is a diplomatic agent with the U.S. State Department in Dubai.

From the airplane, the skyline was a dusty haze. Once inside the airport the first thing we saw was marble flooring. The customs agents wore the kandura or dishdash, the long white cloak that the male United Arab Emirates Nationals wear.

Dubai’s builders intended to make everything here bigger and better than anyplace else on earth. The city is known for having the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, 2,716.5 feet, with 160 floors and the highest outdoor observation deck on the 124th floor. It is opulent in design, structure and content. It has the most expensive racetrack and three of the largest and most expensive shopping malls—and a financial crisis next to none.

The city skyline is impressive from a distance. When you get up close, you realize these beautiful structures are empty. Most are not even completed in design. The lower floors look good, but the upper stories are abandoned. All the cranes are still standing, propped up with scaffolding, as if construction will commence again soon. The abandoned buildings create an eerie atmosphere, like you stepped into the “Twilight Zone.”

These buildings are incomplete in design and structure. The height and framework is complete, but not the detail. Without the detail, the building is worthless. These structures are attempting to emulate a society of power, money and influence, only to come up short—missing the mark as far as substance and intention. Although occupied on the bottom floors, they remained incomplete and shallow imitations of what was to be; beautiful on the outside and from a distance, but without substance and depth upon a closer look. Very deceptive.

I am reminded of Saul in the Old Testament. He started out with great leadership potential. Scripture says he was the most handsome man in Israel, head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land (1 Sam. 9:2). Saul had many successes when he obeyed God in the early days of his rule. Unfortunately, he allowed his self-sufficiency, and then his disobedience to God to rule his later days of kingship. He was driven by fear instead of courage, resulting in his greatest failures by acting on his own without God.

He was like a strong skyscraper in Dubai; the potential was all there. He had a solid foundation at the base, but as time went on, through disobedience, Saul became a shallow, empty leader. “So because you rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you from being king” (15:23).

The process for selecting a new king again puts into perspective how something that may look beautiful from a distance is not always what it seems.

The Life Recovery Bible says that physical gifts of strength or beauty are not what make people great. God judges people by their thoughts and intentions. It is not what we see that is important; it is who a person is inside. God is concerned with our humility and obedience. God desires heartfelt obedience in every area of our lives. Our actions on the outside reveal the condition of the heart.

As the centuries have passed and time has taken its toll on the ancient cities in Greece and Turkey, I am wondering what will be left of the modern city of Dubai. In 100 years, will it just be a crumbling city of stone and crossbeams from buildings that were left empty and unused, never quite reaching their potential and intended purpose?

1 Corinthians 3:10-17 states: By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

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