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My-Close-Shaves-with-Earthquakes

My Close Shaves with Earthquakes

Written By Joey Choo, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

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Before and After the earthquake in 2011, ChristChurch Cathedral Left photo taken by: Joey Choo

Recently, the news has been abuzz with reports of earthquakes. Just this morning, I stumbled on news about two earthquakes—one striking New Zealand and the other Japan. Already, my heart was gripped by news of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand one week ago.

Although Malaysia (where I’m from) is a disaster-free country, I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) of experiencing several strong earthquakes during my time in other countries. Hence, hearing earthquake-related news always evokes many memories.

The first time I experienced an earthquake was when I was attending university in Taiwan in 1999. I had just arrived for a week when 921 Earthquake—as it was locally known—struck. The tragedy in Nantou County resulted in 2,415 deaths, more than 11,000 people injured, and 29 others missing. More than 50,000 houses collapsed and another 53,000 were damaged. Although I was situated in Taipei, far from the epicenter, I had a taste of the destructive nature of the earthquake. I was in my school dormitory at the time when the power supply was suddenly cut off. All the doors, windows and chairs started rattling and I almost got thrown off my seat.

When I watched the news the next day, I saw images of the devastation: buildings had collapsed and bodies had been buried under the rumble. As a result of the quake, many people lost their homes and loved ones. How helpless and small we human beings are when faced with the force of nature! It made me realize how fragile life is, regardless of who we are and what we’ve achieved. All that we have accumulated can be easily wiped out in one swift disaster. The Bible is spot on when it says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Indeed, it’s not worth exchanging our precious lives with the temporal things of this world.

That was just one episode. During my five years in Taiwan, disasters happened almost every year. In addition to earthquakes, there were also typhoons and the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (also known as SARS) epidemic. One of my most harrowing experiences was when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Hualien on 31 March, 2002. The effects of the quake were even felt at one of its most iconic landmarks in Taipei—where the skyscraper Taipei 101 is situated.

Then, the skyscraper was still under construction and the strong tremors sent a large crane on the 56th floor crashing down to ground level, crushing many cars and killing people in the process. Standing a few hundred meters away, I saw the surrounding buildings swaying and witnessed that horrific episode with my own eyes; it was a scene I would never forget.

Years later, I had another close shave with an earthquake. It was 4 September 2010 and I was on a working holiday in New Zealand’s South Island. Then, I was living in a small town close to Christchurch and planned to move downtown to look for a job.  A friend of mine from Nelson (more than 400km north of Christchurch) came to visit me out of the blue and invited me to look for a job in the north where she lived. I was clueless as to what to do. As I prayed, God impressed on me to leave Christchurch and follow my friend. That’s how I got away unscathed once again—this time from a devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch two weeks later.

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ChristChurch Cathedral the day after the February 2011 earthquake collapsed its spire. Photo taken from: Wikipedia

 

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After the earthquake in Christ Church City Center. Photo By: Joey Choo

 

It was truly God’s miraculous protection and guidance that saved me each time and I can say confidently that our God is true and trustworthy. Just as Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” These close brushes have deeply impressed on me the need to trust and depend on God, because He alone is the true creator and holds our lives in His hands.

Whenever earthquakes or natural disasters occur, I am also reminded that the end times are near. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:8). As such, I need to be watchful, pray, and to preach the gospel because the Lord’s return is near. I pray that every child of God will learn to worship Him reverently, and give all glory and honor to the Lord Almighty.

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ODJ: More than Walking on Water

While doing research for a sermon, I stumbled upon a curious creature—the “Jesus Christ lizard”. That’s another name for the common basilisk, a small lizard from South America that’s able to run on its rear legs on the surface of water. This might seem like a miracle, but the basilisk is able to accomplish this feat because of the skin between its toes, allowing it to float on the water for the briefest of moments. Without those flaps of skin, the common basilisk would be, well, common!

Jesus’ walking on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 14 was definitely not common. His miracle wasn’t about biological design, nor was it some kind of trick. When Jesus “came towards [the disciples], walking on the water” (Matthew 14:25), it revealed His authority over the natural world.

For example, in Luke 5:3-10, He provided a miraculous catch of fish for Simon Peter. And in Matthew 8:23-27, as the disciples quivered in a boat being tossed by waves, He said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” He then rebuked the waves and “there was a great calm”. Jesus wasn’t simply showing that He could do amazing things; He was demonstrating His power over creation itself. His ability was derived from His identity.

We can develop an incomplete view of Jesus when we focus solely on His miraculous powers. In this way, He becomes a kind of superhero who merely did impressive things that normal human beings can’t do. But this passage reminds us that Jesus’ ability to do miracles was derived from His authority over all things. In other words, He can do all because He’s Lord over all. Today, let’s praise Him, not just for what He can do, but for who He is!

—Peter Chin

365-day plan: John 11:1-36

August 18, 2016 

READ: Matthew 14:22-33  


Then the disciples worshipped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed (v.33). 

While doing research for a sermon, I stumbled upon a curious creature—the “Jesus Christ lizard”. That’s another name for the common basilisk, a small lizard from South America that’s able to run on its rear legs on the surface of water. This might seem like a miracle, but the basilisk is able to accomplish this feat because of the skin between its toes, allowing it to float on the water for the briefest of moments. Without those flaps of skin, the common basilisk would be, well, common!

Jesus’ walking on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 14 was definitely not common. His miracle wasn’t about biological design, nor was it some kind of trick. When Jesus “came towards [the disciples], walking on the water” (Matthew 14:25), it revealed His authority over the natural world.

For example, in Luke 5:3-10, He provided a miraculous catch of fish for Simon Peter. And in Matthew 8:23-27, as the disciples quivered in a boat being tossed by waves, He said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” He then rebuked the waves and “there was a great calm”. Jesus wasn’t simply showing that He could do amazing things; He was demonstrating His power over creation itself. His ability was derived from His identity.

We can develop an incomplete view of Jesus when we focus solely on His miraculous powers. In this way, He becomes a kind of superhero who merely did impressive things that normal human beings can’t do. But this passage reminds us that Jesus’ ability to do miracles was derived from His authority over all things. In other words, He can do all because He’s Lord over all. Today, let’s praise Him, not just for what He can do, but for who He is!

—Peter Chin

365-day plan: John 11:1-36

MORE
Read John 21:6 to once again see Jesus’ authority over nature. 
NEXT
Do you ever find yourself focusing more on what God can do than on who He is? Why can this be harmful? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

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ODJ: an angry prayer

The 1965 movie Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson, an authoritarian father of seven who farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Set during Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as the American Civil War, the film explores themes of war, family, and restoration.

One day Charlie offers a “prayer” that reveals his lingering anger toward God:

Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest; it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.

Charlie gets high marks for his work ethic, but he overlooks some vital considerations. Who created the fertile valley where his crops grow? Who sends the rain and the sunshine? Who designed us with the capacity to choose what we believe about God?

Charlie’s anger was rooted in the death of his wife. In the Bible, we meet another man with cause to be angry. Known for his patience, Job still had some caustic observations about God and his fellow humans. “My complaint is with God, not with people. I have good reason to be so impatient,” he said. Then he asked, “Why do the wicked prosper?” (Job 21:4,7). Having lost 10 children, he lamented as he said of the wicked, “They live to see their children grow up and settle down” (v.8). This led him to observe bitterly: “They think their prosperity is of their own doing” (v.16).

Both Job and Charlie acknowledged God. Yet Job clung to a dependence on Him regardless of circumstances. God permits the hard questions of life so that we will face our own insufficiency and turn to Him and His sovereign ways.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day-plan: Exodus 6:1-13

February 5, 2016 

READ: Job 21:4-16 


He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). 

The 1965 movie Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson, an authoritarian father of seven who farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Set during Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as the American Civil War, the film explores themes of war, family, and restoration.

One day Charlie offers a “prayer” that reveals his lingering anger toward God:

Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest; it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.

Charlie gets high marks for his work ethic, but he overlooks some vital considerations. Who created the fertile valley where his crops grow? Who sends the rain and the sunshine? Who designed us with the capacity to choose what we believe about God?

Charlie’s anger was rooted in the death of his wife. In the Bible, we meet another man with cause to be angry. Known for his patience, Job still had some caustic observations about God and his fellow humans. “My complaint is with God, not with people. I have good reason to be so impatient,” he said. Then he asked, “Why do the wicked prosper?” (Job 21:4,7). Having lost 10 children, he lamented as he said of the wicked, “They live to see their children grow up and settle down” (v.8). This led him to observe bitterly: “They think their prosperity is of their own doing” (v.16).

Both Job and Charlie acknowledged God. Yet Job clung to a dependence on Him regardless of circumstances. God permits the hard questions of life so that we will face our own insufficiency and turn to Him and His sovereign ways.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day-plan: Exodus 6:1-13

MORE
Psalm 73 echoes Job’s question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” What do verses 17 to 28 reveal about God and His plans? 
NEXT
What injustices do you see and sense in the world? How do God’s power and sovereignty encourage you to press on for good? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

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ODJ: the right question

I sat riveted to the screen as my alma mater completed a stunning comeback in a big football game. Just after scoring in the waning seconds, a player knelt and offered a prayer. No grandstanding; no look-at-me celebratory theatrics. Just a quick, humble prayer of gratitude to God before his overjoyed teammates swarmed him.

I knew there were dedicated Christians on the other team. Surely they had prayed to do their best that day. So does God take sides in football?

Let’s expand that question. Dare we ask: What about wars? Whose side is God on? It’s a dicey topic, but it’s also the wrong question. Look at Joshua. You’d think that God would be on his side. The Lord had told him, “Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you” (Joshua 1:3).

Yet as the people of Israel stood poised to take the land, Joshua met a man with a sword in his hand. Joshua’s warrior reflexes took over, and he challenged him, “Are you friend or foe?” (5:13).

“Neither one,” the man replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” Immediately, Joshua fell to the ground and asked the right question: “What do you want your servant to do?” (v.14).

As we acknowledge God’s sovereignty and His authority to do what He knows is best, we can find peace in His perfect will. And as we pray for participants in athletic events or for the outcomes of wars, we know He hears us. We also know that He’s pleased and glorified as we grow in our trust in and relationship with Him.

The example of Joshua the military commander shows us that the real question isn’t “Is God on our side?” Rather, it’s “What do you want us to do?” Our victories and setbacks are fleeting. God’s plans are eternal.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day-plan: 2 Timothy 3:1-17

December 14, 2015 

READ: Joshua 5:13–6:5 


“I am the commander of the Lord ’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. . . . “What do you want your servant to do?” (v.14). 

I sat riveted to the screen as my alma mater completed a stunning comeback in a big football game. Just after scoring in the waning seconds, a player knelt and offered a prayer. No grandstanding; no look-at-me celebratory theatrics. Just a quick, humble prayer of gratitude to God before his overjoyed teammates swarmed him.

I knew there were dedicated Christians on the other team. Surely they had prayed to do their best that day. So does God take sides in football?

Let’s expand that question. Dare we ask: What about wars? Whose side is God on? It’s a dicey topic, but it’s also the wrong question. Look at Joshua. You’d think that God would be on his side. The Lord had told him, “Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you” (Joshua 1:3).

Yet as the people of Israel stood poised to take the land, Joshua met a man with a sword in his hand. Joshua’s warrior reflexes took over, and he challenged him, “Are you friend or foe?” (5:13).

“Neither one,” the man replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” Immediately, Joshua fell to the ground and asked the right question: “What do you want your servant to do?” (v.14).

As we acknowledge God’s sovereignty and His authority to do what He knows is best, we can find peace in His perfect will. And as we pray for participants in athletic events or for the outcomes of wars, we know He hears us. We also know that He’s pleased and glorified as we grow in our trust in and relationship with Him.

The example of Joshua the military commander shows us that the real question isn’t “Is God on our side?” Rather, it’s “What do you want us to do?” Our victories and setbacks are fleeting. God’s plans are eternal.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day-plan: 2 Timothy 3:1-17

MORE
Read Romans 8:31-39 and see what Paul says about God being for those who trust in Him. 
NEXT
What has God revealed that He wants you to do? How can you rest in God’s power as you seek to stand for Him? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)