We have had the enormous privilege of traveling in Alaska a number of times. Alaska is a state with incredible natural beauty. Between the mountains and the sea are beautiful lakes and rivers that compliment the youthful topography of an area that not too many years ago was covered with huge sheets of ice. One beautiful part of Alaska is its wildlife. From the stately moose to the field mouse, Alaska overflows with living things. For those of us that enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors, this can be a problem.
Anyone hiking or camping in just about anyplace in Alaska has to be aware of the dangers wildlife poses to humans. Bears, wolverines, and wolves are all opportunists-always looking for a free easy meal. Storing food just about anywhere is an invitation to be raided. In the older days people would put food and other supplies in caches (the little house on stilts) similar to the one shown on our cover this month. By putting the food high in the air and as tightly sealed as possible, it was hoped that bears, wolves, and wolverines would find it too hard to get into and leave it alone.
How well did it work? Not very well. I have talked to numerous long term residents of Alaska and have heard some incredible stories about how animals got into caches. Bears would frequently batter the cache until they knocked it over. One gentleman told me of watching a bear hammer a cache for two solid days taking occasional breaks to lay down and rest until he finally knocked it over, pulling the legs out of the ground. One gentleman told of a wolverine gnawing through the legs of a cache and then tipping it over. Another man told of sinking the cache legs in deep concrete and putting sheet metal on the legs only to have eagles tear into the cache.
The lesson of the cache is that there is no complete security in anything that is man-made. Sooner or later, the critters will get in and cause you problems no matter what you do. The same is true of faiths. No man-made faith, structure, or religion is secure. All human efforts to provide security ultimately fails. If religion is defined as man's attempt to find God, then all religion is a sham. One of the unique things about the Christian system is that man is not told to use his wisdom and intellect to invent a system that will bring him to God. The Christian system says that God reaches out to man to bring security, peace, and well being. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (Revelation 3:20) is the Christian concept--God seeking man. The Shepherd and His sheep is a much different concept than man trying to achieve a goal based upon his own capacity and ability.
When Jesus talked about coming to bring life and to bring it more abundantly, he was dealing with this concept. "The peace that passeth understanding" (Philippians 4:7) is the security and confidence that commitment to Christ brings. The futility of the cache brings to mind the admonition "lay not up for yourself."
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