Tag Archives: earthquake

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

What would you do if the the world as you know it ended?

In “I Am Legend” Will Smith, playing Dr. Robert Neville, shortly after his world ends, sets up a science lab to reverse the effects of a world destroying disease. In “The Book of Eli” Eli, Denzel Washington, wakes to a demolished world and spends the next thirty years journeying west while protecting the world’s last remaining Bible.

These stories are not as far fetched as they first appear. The world as we know it has ended multiple times.

Worlds collapse in many ways too, not just in apocalyptic, cinematic ways. What would you do or have you done when the world as you know it ended?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezra 3:1-4:25

1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4

Psalm 28:1-9

Proverbs 20:24-25


Ezra 3:1-4:25: Change is hard. Ezra takes his people back from exile to a ruble pile that once was Jerusalem. They begin rebuilding. At one point, they lay the foundation for a new temple, bigger and grander than even Solomon’s. “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy,” reports Ezra. Despite the fact that Jerusalem and the temple are being rebuilt, some people mourn rather than celebrate because their minds and hearts still reside in the past: on what they once had, what God once did.

Yet, God never rests. God never looks back. God is always dragging us into his future. Unfortunately, when we face these inevitable changes, we just as inevitably look back grasping and weeping for what we had and possibly missing what God plans for us.

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In June of 1965 my family and I stood atop Ruby Hill, a high spot in southwest Denver, and watched the South Platte River sweep cars, mobile homes, trees, bridges, people’s lives, and eventually, a mile wide swath of Denver away. A police car sped down the street below us, lights flashing against the driving rain, as the road collapsed into the raging river behind him. A fifteen to twenty-five foot crest was on its way and every river or creek in the Denver area was in flood stage.

Stunned, we rushed home and prepared to evacuate. We lived just a quarter of a mile north of Bear Creek. Our street was already filled with water. I remember collecting my favorite things–a small metal safe–and sitting in our living room waiting for the word to evacuate. I thought the world as I knew it was about to end.

I still wonder why I so valued the little safe and how I actually intended to use it to rebuild my world. Fortunately I never had to find out. The flood subsided and our house was safe.

For Ezra’s portion of the people of Israel, the world as they knew it had ended. A flood of God’s wrath against them carried them from the promised land, their holy city, Jerusalem, and, seemingly, God himself. But what do they do in this apocalyptic world when the clouds break and they return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild their broken world?

In the aftermath of the Denver flood, the city first rebuilt bridges, roads, the two power plants, houses, and began talk of building dams. This makes sense.

Why is it then that Ezra and the priests first rebuild the “altar of the God of Israel to offer sacrifices on it”?

Because they understood that at our core humans were created to be in a worshiping, loving, dependent relationship with God. This is not to say they did not erect shelters and rebuild more “practical” things. They did.

Still Ezra seems to know that in order for his people to survive, they must put God–and community worship of God–first. Ezra’s building plan is a direct and practical response to the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me,” not even your own safety and comfort. But it is also a shrewd realization of how the world as God knows it really works.

The world as we know it can come to an end in many ways: divorce, cancer, loss of work, loved ones, even flood and national disaster. But physically and materially rebuilding our lives after the world as we know it has ended without first letting God rebuild our souls leaves us empty shells and ready for another collapse.

It’s a good thing God called Ezra rather than me to rebuild Israel’s world. I’m not sure my little metal safe would have been much help.

  1. Has life as you know it ever ended?
  2. What did you do?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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As Simple As Ringing A Bell

Martina Maturana is a hero. You may not recognize her name and you may never hear about her again, but the 12 year old girl is definitely a hero.

When the 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile last week, thousands of people were left homeless. But off the coast of Chile, on nearby islands like Robinson Crusoe Island, the people faced a different danger.

Minutes following the earthquake, Martina stood on the second floor of her home. Here’s how she explained it to CNN news:

“At first I didn’t want to look out the window to see what happened. When I did, I saw big waves getting close. I yelled at my dad. He grabbed my little sister and we left the house. He told me “Go! Go! And I went to ring the bell.”

By ringing the bell, Martina alerted neighbors about the incoming tsunami. By the time the waves had subsided, Martina saved the lives of hundreds of neighbors who lived in the low-lying areas of Robinson Crusoe Island.

Did you know that ringing a bell can be an act of worship?

Join me in today’s reading and learn how!

To see the CNN interview with Martina, click here.


Numbers 4:1-5:31
Mark 12:18-37
Psalm 48:1-14
Proverbs 10:26


Numbers 4. Some scholars believe the use of the color blue in verses 4-13 was intended to remind the priests of heaven.

Numbers 5:11-31. God issued some very stern commands regarding extramarital sex. In previous readings we learned that God prohibited temple prostitution, which was quite common at the time. In this passage, we read about the consequences of adultery. Throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and now Numbers, we see that God seeks to protect the family. In any culture, the family is the bedrock of society. As the family crumbles or flourishes, so goes the nation. For this reason, God provided some very severe deterrents.

Similarly, the sexual relationship between a wife and husband points to the much deeper relationship between Christ and his church. The apostle Paul wrote:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

The bottom line is this: marriage is not an afterthought. At a minimum, God sanctioned marriage as a means of holding society together—and at its pinnacle, it points us to the day when we will be reunited with Christ in heaven.

Mark 12:18-37. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, which explains why they brought up this “trick” question to Jesus. To argue their point, they called upon the custom of levirate marriage, which Moses addressed in Deuteronomy 25:5-6. The purpose of giving a widow to her deceased husband’s brother was to ensure that she and her children had the means to live. Remember, welfare didn’t exist at that time. The Sadducees were trying to disprove the validity of the resurrection—by asking, “Who would be the woman’s husband at the resurrection?”

Jesus, however, turned the argument around by punching holes in their question—which bears great relevance today.

At the resurrection, Jesus said, no one is married. To explain: marriage is one of numerous covenants mentioned in Scripture—although mentioned in negative terms, Malachi 2:14 is one example. As is true of all covenants, they last only as long as the parties involved are alive. Once one of the parties dies, the covenant is rendered obsolete.
For this reason, marriage lasts only as long as the husband and wife are alive. Romantic songs extolling love—or marriage—that lasts forever are sadly misguided. In heaven, the only person we’ll be attached to forever is Jesus—because we’re the bride of Christ.

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Today’s reading from Numbers and Mark reinforces one of my most deeply held beliefs, which also operates as a core belief of the church I co-pastor.

In Numbers 5:6, God told Moses, “When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed.”

Did you see it? When we sin against someone, we’re being unfaithful to God. This brings me back to Jesus’ words in Mark 12—which we read today as well. A teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus answered the man’s request for the most important commandment by giving him two: Our vertical relationships intersect with our horizontal relationships.

The way I love my wife is the way I love God…

The way I love my kids is the way I love God…

The way I love my neighbor who gets on my nerves is the way I love God…

The way I love my arrogant boss  is the way I love God (I’m speaking metaphorically—so please resist the temptation of reading between the lines)…

The list goes on and on.

For this reason, my co-pastor Eugene Scott and I constantly tell our congregation that relationships are sacred.

But we can also flip this over and restate this in positive terms:

The way to love God is to love my wife…

The way to love God is to love my kids…

The way to love God is to love my neighbor who gets on my nerves…

The way to love God is to love my arrogant boss…

This brings us back to yesterday’s post. God wants to be at the center of our lives. And one of the best ways to place him at the center is to love the people around us—because he loves them, too.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does Scripture’s emphasis on the importance of marital fidelity tell us about God? What does it tell you about God?
  3. How could ringing a bell–like Martina Maturana did–be an act of worship?
  4. Why do you think God equates loving our neighbor with loving him?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Universal Cry Of Desperation

“God, I can’t do this anymore!”

Frustrated with my life, I jumped into my car for a drive. Living in a dorm of 400 men my junior year of college, I had nowhere else I could vent. So I drove around the city yelling at God. No—make that screaming at God.

“God, I hate my life. I hate who I am. I’m so angry at you.” I was pounding on my steering wheel at a stoplight. Another car pulled beside me, but I didn’t care who witnessed my tirade.

“God, I need you so much. I can’t make it without you.”

The realization of my profound need for God broke through my wall of anger. Pulling my car into an empty parking lot, I sobbed so deeply I could hardly breathe. I can’t make it without him, I thought to myself.

Have you ever cried out to God in desperation? That’s the focus of today’s study.


Genesis 31:17-32:12
Matthew 10:24-11:6
Psalm 13:1-6
Proverbs 3:16-18


Genesis 31:22-55. Apart from the back-and-forth manipulations between Laban and Jacob, put your self in Laban’s shoes. If Jacob moves away, there’s a good chance he’ll never see his daughters and grandchildren again. I can understand why Laban would work so hard to keep Jacob nearby.

Genesis 31:39. The New Bible Commentary comments, “Normally shepherds did not have to foot the bill for loss from their flocks when it was caused by wild animals (Exodus 22:13), but Jacob had. Laban had enjoyed much better service from Jacob than would normally have been expected.”

Genesis 31:42, 53. Commentators aren’t certain what “the fear of Isaac” means. Some think it’s a reference to ancestor worship (which I doubt). I think it’s a reference to God: “the God of Abraham and the God whom Isaac feared.”

Genesis 32:3-5. The Bible Background Commentary explains the reason why Jacob let his brother know that he was coming through town: “Jacob’s communication to Esau is intended to make several points. First, he has not been in hiding or sneaking around the land behind Esau’s back. Second, and more importantly…by describing his success and wealth, he insinuates that he has not returned because he is broke and looking to demand what is due him.”

Matthew 10:32-38. Meditating on Jesus’ call to follow him, it seems to me that if fearing God means taking God seriously, then following Jesus means taking Jesus seriously.

Matthew 10:42. The New Bible Commentary explains, “To give a cup of cold water is basic eastern hospitality and needs no reward; but God’s grace goes beyond our deserving.”


With the Haiti tragedy looming in the background, I struggled focusing on today’s reading. But then a theme began to emerge.

Reading Jacob’s prayer made me laugh. Finally, Jacob’s manipulative past caught up with him. Learning that Esau was heading his direction with 400 men prompted Jacob to make things right with God. I can hear his desperate sobs:

God, I’m so sorry for what I did to my brother. I promise I’ll never do it again. Just save me! Save my family! God, remember your promise to bless me and give me more descendents than I could ever count. God, HELP ME!

You get the idea.

Author Anne Lamott says there are only two kinds of prayers: “Thank you, thank you, thank you” and “HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!” This is definitely a “HELP ME!” prayer.

Then, in Psalm 13, we see a prayer Jacob could have prayed as he waited for Esau. If you notice, this psalm begins as a prayer of desperation and ends as a prayer of assurance. David begins by asking God, “How long will I have to wait for you to intervene? Have you forgotten me?” yet he concludes by saying, “My heart rejoices in your salvation…because you have been good to me.”

I don’t think we cry out to God enough. I sure don’t. But God can handle it and at some point in our yelling, we often get a sense of assurance. Sometimes my fears and anxieties pile up inside me, and voicing them to God releases them. But by releasing them to God, I’m communicating my need for him. Getting our fears and anxieties out of our system creates space for God to fill us with his reassuring love.

And in response, we echo David’s words: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

So what does this have to do with Haiti? Right now, millions of people are crying out in desperation. They’re helpless, homeless, grief-stricken. In their cries of desperation, let’s ask God to overwhelm them with the assurance of his love, comfort and salvation.


    1. How did today’s reading to speak to you?
    2. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus encouraged people to be peacemakers. But in Matthew 10:24, he says he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. How do you reconcile the two?
    3. Describe a time when you cried out in desperation to God. What if anything changed inside you?


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      Was The Earthquake In Haiti An Act Of God?

      After putting the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog, tragedy struck in Haiti. An earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter Scale flattened Port-au-Prince, the capital city, and other surrounding villages. At least a third of Haiti’s population—3 million people—were affected.

      The timing of yesterday’s blog post about God’s judgment and Hurricane Katrina—coinciding with the earthquake—takes my breath away.

      Time and time again, it seems as if Haiti has a spiritual “kick me” sign posted on their backs. I’d be foolish to speculate that their tragedy is the result of God’s judgment. But I do wonder if their voodoo practices attract tragedy.

      Please join me in today’s conversation.


      Genesis 30:1-31:16
      Matthew 10:1-23
      Psalm 12:1-8
      Proverbs 3:13-15


      Genesis 29:31-30:24. Leah was blessed with children, but really what she wanted was Jacob’s love (notice the meaning of her children’s names in Genesis 29:31-35). Rachel, on the other hand, was blessed with Jacob’s love, but she desperately wanted children (Genesis 30:1).

      Genesis 30:14. A mandrake is a dark green plant from the potato family that bears a yellowish berry, approximately the size of a small tomato, which can be eaten. Other surrounding cultures viewed it as an aphrodisiac as well.

      Genesis 30:37-43. No clear evidence exists that the tree branches mentioned here actually cause sheep to mate. It’s probably an old wives tale. The real reason why the sheep mated in this episode is because the females were in heat.

      Matthew 10:1. “Jesus gave his disciples authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” The disciples became an extension of Jesus.


      Did God vent his fury on Haiti two days ago?

      Absolutely not. I might be overlooking something, but I can’t find evidence in the New Testament that God destroyed nations for their sin.

      But here’s what I’d like to do today. Rather than explore our reading more in-depth in this section, I’d like to call all of you—our Daily Bible Conversation community—to be part of the answer to the tragedy in Haiti.

      Here’s what we can do:

      1. Pray. Let’s pray that people around the world will give generously toward supplying the needs of the Haitian people. Let’s also pray that people will be rescued from the rubble, lives will be rebuilt, the spiritual “kick me” sign will be removed, and that this tragedy will serve as a turning point in this poor nation’s spiritual history. Please join me in asking God to root out the voodoo and corruption that have paralyzed this country.
      2. Give. In the past, I’ve worked with an extremely reputable organization called World Relief. If you’re interesting in making a difference in Haiti,  click here.  Also, my very good friend Dave Mansfield is leaving tomorrow to help with the relief effort in Haiti through RescueNet, a faith-based, nonprofit international emergency disaster response team. If you’d like to donate toward their efforts, click here and make sure to include “RescueNet” in the memo.

      Yesterday, we read in Psalm 11:2, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do​?”

      This is what they do.


      1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
      2. If you’re his disciple, then you’re an extension of Jesus (like  Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 10). Does it give you more confidence or less?
      3. Where was God in the January 12 tragedy in Haiti?


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