When the Past, the Present and the Future Come Together

When I was convalescing in the hospital following surgery recently, I could not help but be caught up in the 24/7 news cycle. The barrage of reporting on unfolding events in our country and around the world became something of a diversion from my surgery. This was not necessarily therapeutic for me, but offered some sense of diversion from the confines of my hospital room.

As I viewed the news one day, I saw what I think was a moment when the past, the present and the future came together. The retiring of the manned spacecraft Endeavor is a treasure representing the days when our nation had a priority of exploring space in this history-making fashion. The Endeavor looked weary from the wear and tear of 123 million miles in space travel. She is now going to a museum to be seen by coming generations seeking to understand our times.

People of my generation have vivid recollections of legends like Neil Armstrong who was the first man to walk on the Moon. His famous words about “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” echo through history as some of the most important words to be uttered in the 20th century. The Endeavor is one relic of this exciting time in history, the spacecraft having made its last trip.

The recent unrest in the Middle East is an unnerving reminder that we presently live in a volatile world where even the most civilized and committed diplomats, like a U.S. ambassador, can be murdered in the line of duty. The protests in various countries which erupted during this time seemed to underscore the fact that the Middle East continues to be a place where there are high level security concerns for people representing our nation and the Western world in general.

Granted, one can make the case the Middle East has always been a place of intense conflict. In fact, the relatively small ancient city of Jerusalem is considered to be home to Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The region is steeped in wars and coups overthrowing governments. The region is also a breeding ground for terrorism. However, in the present, with the growing reality of Iran becoming a nation with nuclear weapons, our world is on the threshold of an outbreak of armed conflict between Israel and Iran, and possibly other nations.

That same day, the news cycle showed the giddy smiles of people purchasing the iPhone 5. They came out of the stores with a throng of other individuals patting each other on the back and cheering as they proudly went home with the latest cell phone toy. I was amazed to see the spectacle. It seemed to be a crowd of people celebrating like they had won the national championship personally. Yet, all they really did was buy a new cell phone.

Of all the innovative gadgetry coming our way in the recent past, the cell phone may be the most revolutionary. Everywhere you look people, younger and older, are using the smart phone. It has become a necessity with all kinds of luxuries. Sometime ago, I heard one of my cousins tell me that his friend had an older car and it was stolen. Regrettably, the man left his cell in the car. He called his own number and, when the thief answered, the fellow said, “Hey, you can have my car, but bring me back my cell phone.”

That absurd but realistic illustration tells the story of just how dependent we have become on this new and ever improving technology. The Endeavor can retire and end an age of manned space travel for the U.S., and the Middle East can appear to be on the brink of yet another war, but the future seems to be in the hands of cell phone users, who will always celebrate the new and improved.

Well, I told you I had been in the hospital and my thoughts were admittedly not as clear as they should have been, but, for me, these three images seemed form a convergence of the past, the present and the future coming together. Transitions occur in warp speed, and retiring the Endeavor reflects that reality. The Middle East is a cauldron of volatility of unimagined proportions and the continuing innovation of the cell phone serves to remind us that, despite the past and the present, the future forces itself upon us.

For Christians, who believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and forever, we know we serve a God who is not bound by time for He is timeless! In the past, we can see His guiding presence. In the present, we can trust that He is with us. As for the future, He is already there waiting for us. This is our Hope! This is our past, present and future coming together to sing His praises. Therefore, we stand on the promises of God, knowing there is no other place to stand.

Executive Director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

State Missionary Rick Lance was elected in June of 1998 to serve as executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rick leads state missions efforts and facilitates Great Commission Ministries for the Convention's 3,200+ churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists.

Rick and his wife, Pam, are members at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. They have two daughters.

Any requests for Rick Lance to speak in or visit your church should be directed to Billie Davis at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 253 or (334) 613-2253, [email protected]

For questions about Dr. Lance's Facebook and Twitter accounts or his blog site, you may contact his social media assistant, Keith Hinson, at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 289 or (334) 613-2289, [email protected]