It is the Word of the Lord that endures


“Let’s celebrate the anniversary!”

A National Office employee pitched an idea to me. Twenty-five years ago the leaders of The Alliance moved our headquarters from New York to Colorado. My teammate suggested that we shouldn’t let the opportunity pass: “We can invite back former employees, have a special chapel service, take a picture and enjoy some cake together. We could even open the time capsule.”

Encased in concrete, a robust structure in front of our building is capped with a plaque that simply reads “Centennial Time Capsule.” As I came into the office each morning, I often wondered what was in it.

I’m not sure of the proper code of conduct for opening time capsules. Is 25 years long enough to wait? We decided it was. Permission was granted to the facilities team to break into it, with the assurance that they would keep the contents secret until the public service.

The day came, and the chapel crowd gathered with joyful energy. It was good to see old friends. Photos of the move west and the construction of the building gave us opportunity for memories and laughter.

Then came the moment to unveil the contents of the time capsule. Two tables, covered by cloths, waited before us. I pulled back the cloth of the first table. Before us sat a full array of material The Alliance had published around the time of the move, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of The Alliance. The collection represented the best our denomination had to offer from the 1980s: brochures, magazines, books and videos—every single one damaged by water. Mold blackened many of the pieces. Everything smelled like a damp basement.

While our previous leaders did an outstanding job of choosing a property and building a facility that has served us very well for these 25 years, they weren’t as savvy in the rare trade of time-capsule construction. The facilities team described the horrible condition they found upon its opening. Inches of dank water made our capsule look more like a place to breed mosquitoes than to preserve our history.

Happily, we do have a place where our heritage is conserved—the Alliance Archives. Our archivists have been careful to collect and protect samples from every decade of our Alliance history. So, while “Table One” contained a mildewed mess, “Table Two” carried materials—clean and fresh—from the same era. But the irony of our time capsule collection lying before us in a state of odorous ruin couldn’t be missed.

Then another piece of Alliance history was shared. The first Alliance “time capsule” was within the cornerstone of Simpson’s original Gospel Tabernacle in New York City. Decades ago, when the property was sold, the cornerstone was removed and stored. Within it, preserved in a tin box, was a single copy of the Bible. Were our founders saying something to us by this simple act?

At the National Office we continue to produce many materials. The magazine you hold in your hands is one of them. We’re careful to steward well the time and money allotted to us, but every year we continue to produce an array of brochures, publications and videos. They have their purpose. They help tell the Alliance story, engage prayer, raise funds, bring encouragement, strengthen discipleship and, most importantly, bring glory to God. However, as good as they are, they are temporal. Everything we make will end up on Table One someday.

As I stood before the assembled staff, the unveiling of the time-capsule contents seemed like the moment to celebrate something much greater than 25 years in Colorado.

The word of the Lord stands forever (1 Peter 1:25). The Holy Scriptures, inspired by God and carefully preserved by scribes and saints through the centuries, has stood and will stand the test of time. Church history informs us that the violent Roman emperor Diocletian demanded that all copies of the Scripture be burned. Yet, within a few years of his death, copies of the texts were brought out of hiding.

Diocletian was not the only world leader to try to silence the Word. A firepot provided warmth for King Jehoiakim as he sat comfortably in his winter palace in Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s written sermons were read to the king. After a few columns of the scroll were read, the king took a knife, cut off the section and tossed the strip into the burning pot. God-fearing attendants pled with him to not violate the Word of the Lord in this way. Ignoring them, time after time he continued his “slash and burn” method until the complete scroll was destroyed. Warm in body, but cold in heart, the king thought he had the last word.

However, God is not so easily silenced. “After the king burned the scroll . . . the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll . . .’ So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire” (Jer. 36:27, 32).

I have to smile as I read the final sentence of the story: “And many similar words were added to them.” God gets the last word and adds more for good measure.

We started the chapel service by celebrating 25 years in Colorado. We closed by celebrating something much more significant. We love our National Office and all the work it represents, but we’re grateful for something much greater: Our work, our message, our lives are built on the enduring, eternal, inspired Word of God.

Without the need for a time capsule, truly, the Word of the Lord endures forever.

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