What do golden orb spiders have to do with you 600 Andrews graduates this weekend?April 30th, 2010
What do golden orb spiders have to do with you 600 Andrews graduates this weekend? This past fall a shining piece of yellow-gold textile (11 ft x 4 ft) went on display in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Woven from the silk of more than a million wild female golden orb spiders, this rare cloth is a four year collaboration of seventy people searching telephone poles in Madagascar to collect the spiders (which bite), with another twelve workers gingerly extracting the silk filament from each of the arachnids (about 80 feet per spider). Weaving the 96-filament threads together resulted in “the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today.” (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/spider-silk/)
Why the fascination with spider silk? Because it’s “stronger than steel or Kevlar but far more flexible, stretching up to 40 percent of its normal length without breaking.” If science could mass produce spider silk, we could have fabric for biomedical scaffolds or perhaps an alternative to Kevlar armor. But so far we haven’t been able to replicate the spider’s stunning production that begins as liquid protein in a small gland in her abdomen. When she subsequently applies physical force to that liquid, she actually rearranges the protein’s molecular structure and turns it into solid silk, “stronger than steel!”
What’s all this have to do with you graduates today? Let me get a bit more personal now, since one of you is named Dwight Kirkpatrick Nelson (which means his mother and I are as excited as your parents over the incredible achievement that we’re celebrating together). For four years you’ve been the recipient of the “liquid protein” of a Seventh-day Adventist education. Semester after semester of information, knowledge, wisdom, experiment and experience have been poured into your bright minds. And tomorrow you receive the well-deserved accolades and recognition of your academic feat.
But as the golden orb spider reminds us, having reserves filled with liquid protein is one thing—producing shiny golden silk quite another. Which is why, like the spider, it will take the collusion of forces within you and around you—forces spiritual, social, intellectual and even physical—to weave a unique new silken tapestry out of your life—one you were destined for from the beginning. Choose the companionship of the God who has loved you from the day of your birth and guided you to this day of such accomplishment, and you can be certain your life tapestry and story will be woven with silk “stronger than steel.”
And so on behalf of your parents, who love you dearly and are very proud of you—and your professors and your campus pastors—let me send you into the uncharted adventure ahead with this unfailing promise: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (Philippians 1:6 Message).
It isn’t pretty when Mother Nature blows her stack!April 23rd, 2010
It isn’t pretty when Mother Nature blows her stack! For over a week now the economy of our little planet has been held hostage by an angry volcano fuming above the frigid plains of Iceland. They call her Eyjafjallajoekull (meaning “island mountain glacier”), and the good news is she hasn’t put on a display like this since 1821. The bad news is that back then she threw her tantrums for thirteen long months!
But there was no air travel back then. While flights have now been “ungrounded” in Europe, the airline industry has calculated that air carriers lost $1.7 billion as a consequence of their decision to keep their passengers and planes out of the wind-blown ash clouds. But that “better to be safe than sorry” precaution came with a very heavy price tag. Without auto parts shipments, BMW and Nissan auto plants in Germany and Japan were forced to close temporarily. Flower growers in Kenya—which exports to the world 1,000 tons a day of fresh goods—threw away 10 million flowers, mostly roses, with refrigerated storages overflowing. Asparagus and broccoli ended up, not on European tables, but as cattle feed instead. Tourism in Europe dropped. Train travel skyrocketed. Oil prices fell. And then the mountain went still. Almost.
But if she should resume belching her black plumes into the heavens for a prolonged period, Reuters reported that some economists estimate the European GDP could be lowered between 1 and 2 percent. Amazing, isn’t it, how a faraway island volcano can impact an entire globe?
Just another cycle . . . or just another reminder? After all, you could hardly expect Mother Nature to keep still as this civilization approaches the day of reckoning, could you? Seismologists in Southern California “cannot fully explain” why already this year that region has experienced 70 quakes greater than 4.0 magnitude, when there were only 30 in all of 2009 and 29 in 2008.What’s going on? No—who’s coming back?
The confidence implied in that second question is captured in the hymn of the psalmist: “God is our harbour and our strength, a very present help in trouble. For this cause we will have no fear, even though the earth is changed, and though the mountains are moved in the heart of the sea; though its waters are sounding and troubled, and though the mountains are shaking with their violent motion” (Psalm 46:1-3 BBE). Mountains shaking with violent motion in the heart of the sea—sounds like Iceland’s “Island-mountain-glacier,” doesn’t it? But never mind: “The LORD of hosts [the angel armies] is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (v 7 NKJV).
Great news for the students of this university who end another academic cycle. Graduate or returnee, the promise is that “the Lord of Hosts” or “the King of Angels” is with you. And who better to be with you, when nature trembles, the economy tumbles? Who better to open a closed job market than the God whose angel still guards and guides you? No wonder Psalm 46 can be your hymn, too. “For this cause we will have no fear.”
Here’s an Earth Day idea for you.April 15th, 2010
Here’s an Earth Day idea for you. Paul Hawkens in his “green” book, Blessed Unrest, tells of an old rabbinical teaching that if we hear that the world is ending and the Messiah is coming, we must first plant a tree and then go and determine if the story is true or not. For Seventh-day Adventists, who champion God’s creation memorial and who celebrate the return of the Creator, planting a tree isn’t such a bad idea, is it?
For millennia now our creation has suffered deeply under the effects of our very human rebellion. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Romans 8:19, 22). Can you imagine the latent longing within the natural world for the promised deliverance? But until then, how shall we live, we Sabbath-keepers of the Creator’s flame?
We could begin by eating green—that’s right, vegetarianism would diminish the number of animals raised and killed for consumption, and thus reduce the one-fifth of earth’s greenhouse gases livestock produce! We can turn off the lights in the rooms we exit. We could inflate our tires and save 2 billion gallons of gas a year, some say. We could shorten our showers by two minutes, saving twelve gallons of water. We could recycle. We could save a few trees by skipping the receipts at ATMs and gas pumps, saving by one estimate 3 billion feet of paper. We could use our own thermos bottles and quit drinking bottled water, since a one liter bottle requires 5 liters of water to cool the plastic, thus resulting in six liters of water for each bottle! Lists of “green” or environmentally friendly ways to live (like these from Ashleigh Burtnett in the Student Movement here at the university) are all over the web, and you can make your own.
The point? As Creator-worshiping, Sabbath-keeping, nature-preserving friends of Jesus, shouldn’t we be at the forefront of ecological conservation and environmental care and protection? Truth be known, God himself planted a tree once upon a time to save this creation. “To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread [our farmland] we eat is the purchase of His broken body. The water [our rivers, streams] we drink is bought by His spilled blood. . . . The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring” (DA 660). Given the infinite cost of planting that tree, we must join him in saving his creation. Don’t you agree?
Why wouldn’t a preacher want to visit there?April 7th, 2010
Why wouldn’t a preacher want to visit there? We just returned from spending the Easter weekend in Birmingham, England—preaching at a conference for a group of highly motivated young adults, AdvANCE (Adventist Apologetics Networking Conference on Evangelism). And I was blessed. Not only because of their passion to communicate the everlasting gospel to their extremely secular homeland (one European survey ranked the United Kingdom as the most “godless” nation in Europe). But also because just a few miles up the motorway is the English town of Lutterworth, the final parish of the great 14th century English preacher scholar, John Wycliffe. In that stone and brick sanctuary stands the pulpit containing wooden pieces from the very one Wycliffe thundered from during his pastorate (1374 to 1384). Behind glass are the fragments of the robe this great preacher once wore. And on the platform beside the altar is the still crimson-padded chair he once used.
On the south wall of the high-ceilinged sanctuary is a marble mural carving of Wycliffe, dressed in humble garb, standing in front of the cross, one hand pointing to an open Bible, the other raised to his gathered countrymen. Inscribed are these words: “His labours in the cause of scriptural truth were crowned by one immortal achievement, his translation of the Bible [from the Latin Vulgate] into the English tongue. This mighty work drew on him indeed the bitter hatred of all who were making merchandize of the popular credulity and ignorance: but he found an abundant reward in the blessing of his countrymen, of every rank and age to whom he unfolded the words of eternal life.” Incensed by the mendicant friars who plied their beggarly superstitions across England, Wycliffe, at one time a chaplain to the king, became a champion of the commoners’ right to read the forbidden Holy Scriptures for themselves, in their own tongue. Three times Roman and royal courts attempted to silence the Reformer’s voice. But all three attempts failed. Before his second and mortal stroke would fell him, Wycliffe completed his translation of the Bible. But with no printing press (yet to be invented), its leaves had to be hand-copied by volunteer scribes and secretly passed throughout the country by itinerant preachers (Lollards).
Why bother with this story of an Englishman? “The character of Wycliffe is a testimony to the educating, transforming power of the Holy Scriptures. It was the Bible that made him what he was. The effort to grasp the great truths of revelation imparts freshness and vigor to all the faculties. It expands the mind, sharpens the perceptions, and ripens the judgment. The study of the Bible will ennoble every thought, feeling, and aspiration as no other study can . . . . [and] would give to the world men [and women] of stronger and more active intellect, as well as of nobler principle, than has ever resulted from the ablest training that human philosophy affords” (Great Controversy 94).
Called “the Morning Star of the Reformation” (John Hus and Martin Luther would later draw their inspiration from his ground-breaking reforms), Wycliffe died in his parish at sixty. Enraged they had been unable to publicly silence him, forty years later Rome ordered his bones exhumed, burned to ash and then cast into the nearby Swift River—unwittingly symbolizing the eventual reach Wycliffe’s teaching would have, flowing to every shore on earth. We are his spiritual descendents. Then may the God of Wycliffe raise up a new generation of young, fearless, Bible-saturated defenders of Christ’s faith! That is my prayer.