Friday, August 26, 2011

Earthquakes, Cancer, Hurricanes and other Signs of the Apocalypse

It has been an interesting week to say the least.  On Tuesday, Virginia had it's largest earthquake in over a century.  It was felt from New York to the Carolinas.  Fortunately, except for those close to the epicenter, the damage was minimal, but it definitely got the attention of everyone on the east coast who thought that earthquakes were a west coast phenomena.  On Wednesday, I got a phone call to see if my wife could help out a friend who is a Vice-principal.  This friend has a husband who has cancer and the future is very unclear for them.  Even now as I write this, Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the east coast threatening fury like a woman scorned.  The news station in the coffee shop where I sit is listing all the states that are having mandatory evacuations of their coastlines.  The fear and concern of the residents interviewed is palpable.

What am I as a Christian to make of this?  Earthquakes happen all the time.  Hurricane season comes every summer.  Everybody knows somebody that has cancer, or they have fought it themselves.  But it seems everything is accelerating.  We live in a time where economic uncertainty has become a fact of life.  Revolutions are happening all over the Middle-East.  Just a few weeks ago there were riots in the streets of merry old London.  When I talk to people, worry is evident in their words.  Worry over the future.  Worry over what their children will face in their lives.  Worry over whether or not America has seen her last golden age.  And so I am left wondering what words of comfort I could possibly offer.  So I turn to God's Word to see what He has to say about this.

There is a curious passage in Luke 13 where some people upset about Pilate killing Galileans approach Jesus for an explanation.  Talk about a moment to see the shepherd comfort His sheep.  This is a golden opportunity to see how God answers the age-old 'why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people' question.  We lean forward, eager to hear what Jesus has to say.  But Jesus does not answer the way we would expect Him to, instead He says,
Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
 What?  No comfort from the lips of Jesus?  No reassuring promises that everything will be alright?  Instead, Jesus takes the opportunity to warn us, not once, but twice, that these events should remind us to get right with God.  Every generation has known trouble, some more than others.  But trouble should remind us of one thing:  get your relationship with God right before you worry about the other things of this world.

Now this seems to be a calloused approach by Jesus.  These men asking the question may have had a family member killed by Pilate.  Perhaps they knew the men killed in the tower collapse that Jesus references.  But Jesus wants to remind them of what is truly important.  The reality of our situation is this: we are only on earth for a brief period of time.  In the hourglass of eternity, 70-80 years is not even a grain of sand.  What Jesus is doing in this passage is reminding them, and us, that life is fragile, brief and if we want to enjoy eternity, then we better have the eternal matters right.

So, as you shake with the quakes, or prep for the storms, or cope with a disease, be reminded that there is a God who wants a relationship with you.  As you look ahead to uncertain times, make sure your eternity is certain by getting right with Jesus.  Invest in things that matter by spreading the good news of Jesus to all you meet, for their lives are brief too.  Once you do those things, then I invite you to pray with me, "Lord Jesus, come quickly."

Friday, August 12, 2011

MacArthur by Mitchell Yockelson

The history buff in me couldn't wait to get his hands on this book.  I wasn't disappointed.  Yockelson's prose is easy to read and made this biography of one of America's most iconic heroes an easy page-turner.  Yockelson starts with the childhood of Douglas MacArthur, detailing how he grew up as a military kid, moving from post to post whenever his father was transferred.  MacArthur grew up seeing the west while it was still wild in many ways and loved the military life.

Yockelson then describes MacArthur's West Point days, as well as his adventures in WWI during which he would earn 7 silver stars, two distinguished service crosses, a Purple Heart and be recommended (though denied) for the Medal of Honor twice.  From there MacArthur served as Chief of Staff under Hoover and FDR before being assigned to serve in the Philippines.  It was while he was there that the U.S. was drawn into WWII by Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Again, Yockelson tells of MacArthur's wartime exploits with enough detail to keep the story moving, but not so much to bog the reader down.  After WWII came MacArthur's time to serve Japan by rebuilding it's government.  Of all his accomplishments, it was his treatment of the Japanese people that I found most noble about this great general.  As they describe, he did not treat them as vanquished foes, but as allies in need of help.  YOckelson concludes with MacArthur's brilliance in the Korean War, his clashing with Truman and subsequent firing, and his final speeches to congress, and then a decade later to West Point.  Sprinkled throughout was the story of a man who tried to honor God the best way he knew how, by honoring his country.

I found the book informative, easy to read and fair.  Yockelson doesn't sugarcoat over some of the messier details of MacArthur's life (like the mistress he had while serving as Chief of Staff or his surly attitude towards Truman over Korea and China), but he does treat the life of MacArthur with the respect deserved of a man who gave so much for his country.  A must-read for any history fan out there.