Friday, February 24, 2006

The World Is Coming to an End

The world as we know it is coming to an end. Planet Earth is literally going to go up in smoke – perhaps in the near future.

Here are some of the startling predictions: No place on earth will be safe; every nation of the world will be involved to some degree. Entire islands and mountains will be blown off the map. The great metropolitan areas will be obliterated as fire falls like rain. At least one third of the world’s population will be annihilated, and things will be so bad for the survivors many will wish desperately that they were dead.

I am no prophet and these predictions are not my own. Neither do they come from an anti-nuke fanatic, a right wing fundamentalist, or the imagination of some Hollywood producer. These prophecies were made in ancient days by men with Hebrew names such as Ezekiel, Isaiah and Zechariah – all of them seers with an uncanny tract record for accuracy.

Did these prophets of old foretell the awful effects of atomic warfare at the end of the age? Will the long dreaded battle of Armageddon be a nuclear holocaust? One cannot say for certain, but for a person speaking in their time, it is difficult to imagine what better expression could have been used to describe nuclear warfare.

Here are Isaiah’s words: “Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left … The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut.”

Ezekiel gives the Word of God: “Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel, so the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, and beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall quake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground … I will rain down … an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone.”

Zachariah gives a description which could either be of the effects of an atomic explosion, the resulting nuclear fallout, or both. “And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.”

Certainly, much of the description quoted is in pictorial language. Not everyone agrees upon the interpretation. Still, there can be no doubt that the prophets speak of a horrible destruction to come, whether by war or supernatural forces.

The Bible makes it clear that the fulfillment of these prophecies will be followed immediately by the coming of Israel’s Messiah. To the Christian believer, He is Jesus. First He came as the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. Now we look for Him to return as King of kings and Lord of lords. Jew and Christian alike know Him as the Prince of Peace.

And therein lies the Good News in an otherwise gloomy world forecast. Lasting peace is just around the corner. Written on the cornerstone of the United Nations building in New York is a quotation from Isaiah: “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:4.

Since the dawn of time man has talked of peace; but his chief legacy has been war. Lasting peace will not come from the United Nations. Neither shall it come from a strong defense system, nor from disarmament. Genuine peace only comes from the Prince of Peace. He shall rule and reign in a new earth with peace, equality, and justice.

To find this “peace that passes all understanding,” one need not wait for Armageddon. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Monday, February 13, 2006

Faith Vs. Wishful Thinking

When Rick graduated from West Point Academy he was assigned to Ft. Gordon, Georgia. It was his first Sunday in Augusta when I met him.

He was a sharp young lieutenant, bright, eager, and excited about the promising career that awaited him. As we chatted following the morning service at the church I was pastoring I asked, “Do you have a wife?”

Without hesitation he responded, “Yes, Sir, I do.”

And where is she now?” I continued.

“I’m not sure about that, Sir,” Rick answered. “I haven’t met her yet.”

Noting my puzzled expression Rick explained. “I’ve been praying for a good wife, and God has given me the assurance He has one all picked out for me. I’m just waiting to meet her.”

It was only a few weeks later on another Sunday morning that Rick and I were talking again in the church lobby.

Enter Edie.

The charming Southern belle from Savannah was a recent university graduate who had just arrived in Augusta to continue her education at the Medical College of Georgia. I introduced myself to her as the pastor, and then introduced her to Rick.

The chemistry between them seemed just right. Rick and Edie’s immediate attraction for each other soon resulted in friendship and within weeks the two became a couple. Before the year was out friendship turned to love, and they asked me to officiate at their wedding. Today they are in process of living happily ever after.

Rick’s faith perfectly illustrates the Biblical definition: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.

Contrast Rick with another young man I’ll call Ralph. In his late twenties Ralph had a good job, was musically talented and was a faithful church member. He was also bashful.

Ralph used to stop by my office from time to time. On several occasions he asked me to pray for him to find a wife. I did – but Ralph never even had a date.

One afternoon I suggested to Ralph that he consider Jesus’ words: “Ask and it will be given you; see and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7.

“It’s not enough to just ask God for a wife,” I explained. “You’ve got to do some seeking; you’ve got to go knock on some girl’s door.”

His response was a long monologue about why he never had an opportunity to meet anyone. Having heard enough excuses I offered to help him compose a classified ad for the newspaper. It went something like this: “SWM, 28, Christian, shy, enjoys music and outdoor activities, seeks SWF for friendship.”

The ad appeared a few days later and in two weeks I saw Ralph again. “did you get any response to your ad?” I asked.

Ralph said he had received about five letters.

“Have you met any of them yet?” I was anxious to know. “Are there any good prospects?’

Ralph told me he had not called any of the women who had answered his ad and he didn’t intend to do so. “I got to thinking it over,” he said, “and I don’t believe I’d be interested in anyone who would respond to a lonely hearts ad in the newspaper.”

Unless a very aggressive woman targets him, Ralph could die a lonely old man. Faith works. But what Ralph calls faith is really only wishful thinking.