Thursday, November 4, 2010

Storm Warning

You may be poor and young. But if you are wise, you are better off than a foolish old king who won't listen to advice.

- Ecclesiastes 4:13

It’s considered one of the worst natural disasters in United States history, leaving up to 12,000 people dead in its wake. And if not for the repeated warnings of one brave civil servant, the toll could have been even higher.

The infamous Hurricane of 1900 struck Galveston, Texas on September 8 with estimated winds approaching 140 miles per hour and a storm surge of nearly 16 feet. Dr. Isaac Cline, Galveston’s weather bureau manager, knew that the hurricane had crossed Cuba. And storm warnings were already issued for several southeastern states. But although he lacked our modern satellite weather forecasting tools and was uncertain about the approaching calamity, Dr. Cline soon became suspicious of the signs he saw in the sky and the waters. A day before the storm, he decided to raise the official storm warning flags on Galveston’s Weather Bureau building. And for the next several hours, he personally warned people on the beach to seek higher ground. Dr. Cline’s last telegraphed message to reach the outside world was, "Gulf rising rapidly; half the city now under water."

There’s no way to know how many Galveston citizens lived because they heeded Dr. Cline’s warnings. But we can see in hindsight that the signs for catastrophe were there. And that’s often the way it is with history-changing events…and even for events a bit closer to home. So let’s consider the warning signs in our own lives.

Is God trying to alert you about a storm on your own personal horizon?

Maybe it’s about your marriage, your kids, your job…or even that risky investment you’ve been considering. But whatever it is, it’s likely that His warnings aren’t a complete surprise. The problem is that we have a strong tendency to put off what’s unpleasant until the very last minute. Or sometimes not until it’s too late. And by then, the damage – often permanent – is done.

Our excuses are remarkably consistent. We’re either too busy or we don’t think the issue is a big deal. We also like to play God by pretending that we already have a handle on the situation, such as with drugs, gambling or drinking. But your family, friends – and most importantly, God – know otherwise.

How should we respond when God sends us a warning? The best answer is the simplest one: face up to it NOW and deny the natural tendency to wait until later.

The people of Galveston found out the hard way. After suffering damages exceeding $700 million in today’s money, they decided to plan for future hurricanes by constructing a massive sea wall and raising the grade of the entire island by several feet. Likewise, we should also be prepared for the storms of life by looking out for God’s warning signs. A little discomfort and inconvenience today can save us from a lifetime of hurt tomorrow.

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