May 25th, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Last week I was in Chicago, speaking at Moody Bible Institute’s Pastors’ Conference. Lots of fun.

I also had a free afternoon and I decided to take The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Cruise on the Chicago River.

Chicago, they say, began where the river meets Lake Michigan. Trade and industry flourished on its banks, and the city was born.

The river is memorialized on the flag of Chicago in the two horizontal blue stripes.

(Another noteworthy feature of the river is that it is dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Besides rehearsing for us the fascinating architectural history that lines the banks of the river, our cruise docent also mentioned that the river’s direction today is not what it was in the 19th century.

At that time, the Chicago River flowed into the Lake Michigan, the only source of the city’s potable water. With the growth of industry came pollution, often waste being dumped into the river that went into the lake. The river was known as “the stinking river” because of the massive quantities of sewage and industrial pollution that was dislodged into the river from Chicago’s booming economy. This, of course, was a major problem, primarily translating into typhoid fever, the scourge of those days.

To protect the lake waters and to reduce pollution, in 1900, the Chicago Sanitary District reversed the flow of the river. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was dug to connect the river’s south branch to the Des Plaines River, that flowed south to the Mississippi. This canal, being deeper than the river, caused the gravitational pull of lake water into it, thus turning around the flow of the Chicago River and keeping Lake Michigan clean.

In 1999, this system was decorated as a “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

What a turnaround!

That goes for more than rivers. Indeed, life can be turned around as well.

… you once were not a people,
but now you are the people of God;
you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:10

But, in the grace of God, as you believe in Jesus Christ, God incarnate, as your only God and Savior who paid the price of sin, you are now …

… a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,
so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him
who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9

Of course, this doesn’t mean total, comprehensive, immediate change in every facet of life.

A century after the reversal of the Chicago River, scientists discovered that in the wintertime, deep near the riverbed, the water actually flows west to east, towards the lake, unlike what happens on the surface where the water flows east to west. They think the culprit might be a “density current,” created by different densities of water deep and on the surface, creating a river under a river!

Life, too, is equally complex; there are enough tendencies deep in us to turn back the salutary effects of God’s work. And so, though believers have been moved from the kingdom of darkness to one of light, we are responsible to live, in the power of God, as citizens of this new kingdom.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to
the former lusts in your ignorance,
but like the Holy One who called you,
be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.
1 Peter 1:14–15

Turned around!




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