The high speed train races on and I am swept away by the beauty that is the Italian countryside outside of Florence to Rome. Quaint orange terrazzo-topped buildings, hundreds of white, sheared sheep (it is October), and yellowing deciduous trees…people walking well-worn paths between villages…hills with lovely stone villas perched atop them…double lane roads leading down to the little valleys below where there are well-designated planting grounds. There are neat rows of grapevines on the gently sloping hillsides. img_0317

I wonder how long these boundary lines have been established for these farmers.

It looks dry and my imagination runs wild thinking about how very lush the area must be in spring and summer. After all, it is the Mediterranean.

Occasionally there is a crumbling stuccoed building representing a family—a life—long gone, being torn down by vines and vegetation. What meant so much, what human hands once built, has been torn down by nature and disuse. No one is there to put the plaster on the walls, fix the roof, or pull off the sprouting vegetation climbing up the walls.

Where did they go? Perhaps they were pushed out in the name of “progress” and the latest technology by larger farming cooperations.

Buon Giorno…Bigliette?…Grazie…the blue-blazered, well-coiffed conductor is coming through in his soft singsong voice checking tickets; this distracts me for a moment.

In a blur, we pass a portion of what looks like a Roman aqueduct; there are large stones piled at the base of the arches. Surely it was at once impressive as well as comforting for Roman citizens as it stretched across the entire country, symbolic of the Roman Empire’s power to tame nature and bring water to dry places.

There are fields of solar power panels amid the vineries and on top of terrazzo, exploiting yet another of Italy’s resources…the sun. New progress in Italian power will bring clean electricity to its people.

It’s funny to see the old juxtaposed with new, but I ought to expect that by now here in Tuscany.

Roman Forum Complex, Colosseum in background, 2017

Taking a bite of sandwich—brie, arugula, prosciutto, red bell pepper, black truffle and bread (oh, the bread!)—chewing thoughtfully, I think back to the ruins of Rome…the Forum Complex.

The area of the actual Forum you see when you go there now, where the common people settled in the valley, continues to be excavated but was once under tons of debris and dirt. Even the greatest civilizations get forgotten or blotted out in the name of “progress” as the next generation tears down and builds its foundations upon the rubble. (Click HERE for more information about Underground Rome.)

What does this all mean? Where is Jesus in this?

What do we lose in the name of progressive thinking and knowledge? Will we be swept away? What greatness do we give up, what kingdom will come tumbling down in ruins, if we’re not careful to guard what has been entrusted to us?

Hear my heart on this.

Not all progress or knowledge is bad. However, we cannot neglect the foundational or the biblical in favor of the innovational. They can go hand in hand, but we owe it to ourselves and to God’s Kingdom to think critically and ask questions, searching His Word and His will in godly counsel and prayer.

If we live in the “Cult of Me” and build monuments to ourselves, I wonder how long that can last. As in Rome, those moments are torn down as soon as the next generation or empire rises.

The Arch of Severus Septimus, on right, built right before the Fall of the Roman Empire. Mamertime Prison, where Paul and Peter were both imprisoned before execution, is underneath the orange building on the far left.

One of the things Paul writes as he closes one of the letters to his “son in the faith” is this:

“Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21

I think about our testimony in Christ. We are called to guard this with everything—it’s by our testimony and the blood of Jesus that we overcome the enemy. (Revelation 12:11) We are also called to guard our hearts, our words, our eyes, our paths, and our minds in Christ Jesus. (Proverbs 4:23-27)

What happens if we don’t? We wander from the faith. Walls start to crumble. Sin enters and takes root. Pretty soon the roof that covered our heads is caving and letting the rain fall directly in our beds, on our children—all over our life.

Verses for consideration: 

Psalm 141:3  “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD…”

Philippians 4:6-7  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 Where have you seen the foundational crumble for the sake of progress? Comment below.

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