As I write this, I have just gotten back from a trip to San Francisco with some of my family. This trip will figure in another blog or two in the coming weeks as well. You may begin to consider me to be like those people who force you to review vacation photo after vacation photo. Only mine will be mental images of the lessons I learned along the way. Hopefully, they won’t bore you.

As part of the trip, we took a ferry tour around Alcatraz. Known as “The Rock”, it broke many a man in its 29-year history as a federal penitentiary (1934 to 1963). The facility housed some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the "Birdman of Alcatraz"), George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and James "Whitey" Bulger. 

It is actually solid rock, rising out of the San Francisco Bay. There is vegetation on it now because it was specifically planted there, but they had to bring in the soil to plant things into because nothing could grow there on its own. From my vantage point on the ferry tour, it looked like a dreary and foreboding place. I cannot imagine living there as the families of the facility employees did, let alone in a small cell with the constant wetness created by the salt water that surrounds it. The erosion of the buildings due to this salt water was one of the reasons that it was shut down in 1963. 

Are you already thinking about Matthew 7:23-27? We are not going there yet, but we will eventually. Amazingly, God has quite a bit to say about rocks in scripture. So let’s discuss the lessons of the Rock.

Lesson 1: The Rock is Christ

You know God gave Israel water out of the rock. (See Numbers 20:6-11) 1 Corinthians 12:4 tells us that they drank of the Spiritual Rock – Christ – tying that event to the future Living Water. We must also drink from that Spiritual Rock in our daily lives. 

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, interpreted by Daniel in Daniel 2, a rock smashes the feet and toes of the statue Nebuchadnezzar saw and then grows into a mountain that fills the whole earth. (See Daniel 2:31-45) We know this is the Kingdom of God that Jesus will usher in when He returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Matthew 16:18 [NKJV] "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. The name Peter comes from a word that means a rock or stone. The Rock that God built the church upon was Jesus. The words used for Peter (rock or stone) and “rock” in the phrase “upon this rock” are not the same word. The rock that the church is built upon is petra – a rock, cliff or ledge, a large stone. Doesn’t this make you think of a place like Alcatraz? Or maybe you think of the Tetons or the Rockies. Jesus is no little stone. He is the foundation of the church – a foundation that will last for all eternity. Solid as a rock.

Lesson 2: You must be a rock or risk being replaced by one

In Matthew 3:9 [NIV] we see that John the Baptist has something to say about God and rocks:  And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. For the people of that time, the idea of raising children of Abraham from stones was no less appalling than the idea that children of Abraham would be made out of Greeks and Romans and all the other Gentile nations. In a sense, God did replace Israel, the physical nation, with a spiritual nation, of which any genetic Israelites could also be a part, but which now included all the “riff raff” like you and me – nothing by pebbles raised up to be His children.*

Luke 19:37-40 [NIV] When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." This Scripture says to me that if I do not do my job of praising Jesus with my words and deeds, stones could be used to do that job. I do not want to be replaced by a stone. Do you? No? Then, let’s rock on with the praises.

Lesson 3: Where you build matters

Now let’s look at Matthew 7:24-25 [NIV] "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Build your faith, dear sisters, build your hope, build your life on THE Rock, Jesus. No other foundation will steady you in shaky times. No other foundation lasts past the ravaging elements of this life and into eternity. 

The government didn’t close Alcatraz because the rock was faltering. No, that rock stood firm then and stands firm now, as it has for centuries. It is a testimony to the stability of that rock and a reminder of the stability of THE Rock, our Rock – Jesus.  

Lesson 4: What you build also matters

The structures of Alcatraz are all built on a rock. They seem to be made of cement and cinder block and steel – sturdy stuff.  They have withstood earthquakes and storms. Yet, they were still subject to erosion and corrosion due to the constant battery of the salty winds and waters. This constant onslaught weakened these structures and put them in danger of collapse. So, I have to ask,”Is building on The Rock all that matters? Or is it just step one in our spiritual building plans?”

I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 [NIV] For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved--even though only as one escaping through the flames.

We know that gold and silver are purified – made better – by fire. But wood, hay, and straw do not perform very well when put through the flames. This Scripture indicates to me that we can have the foundation of Jesus, but somehow build risky, wobbly structures on that Rock. Compared to sand, the foundation of rock is stable. You can take that to the bank. But, if I am not building a sturdy structure on top of that, my reward may be at risk (although not necessarily my salvation, for I am building on Christ Jesus). 

Many thoughts come to mind about what could be defined as wood, hay or straw as a building structure and what could be considered gold, silver and precious stones. I’ll offer just one of each and I’d like you to share your ideas with me as well. 

A sturdy building structure is love. A risky one is setting a date for Christ’s return. Now, please share your ideas.

We can be thankful, dear sisters, that our foundation is firmly laid upon The Rock and is even more sure and stable than the island of Alcatraz. Therefore, until the day when the stone made without hands, (the chief corner stone) returns to replace the governments of this world and expand over all thee earth, let’s look into the Bible and find the proper building materials for what we build upon that Rock. Let’s do our jobs of praising Him in words and deeds so that we don’t need to be replaced and drink the living waters that our Rock provides. 

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at

{* Credit for this paragraph goes to Vance Stinson and his sermon at CGI, Tyler on July 8, 2017}