Is it the End of the World?

I won’t do it often, but tonight I ask you to indulge me. I enjoy writing about the focus of this blog, but tonight I go at it a different way. Although, perhaps it does fit after all as I think of it, since for some of us it is the end of this world.

Yesterday, I saw a notice online that Jimmy Harris died. He was 76. For many of you, this won’t mean anything, but to me it is everything. Harris was the quarterback at the University of Oklahoma in the ’50s, when the Sooners ran up a winning streak to 47 games. Harris came in during a game as a sophomore, when Gene Calame went down. He left three years later, and he left undefeated. “47 Straight” is still the crown of the nation’s winningest program of the past half-century.

For OU fans, of course, Harris will always be undefeated. Cocky, confident, and a natural leader, Jim “Jimmy” Harris is the legend of legends at a school with a treasure chest full of championship rings and too many All-Americans to count. Football royalty.

Every school has football fans; some wear ill-fitting jerseys long after they should. Some project more an air of sophistication. Some are poor. Some are rich. But all of us have sat by the radio on a Saturday afternoon, or reveled in the glory of Owen Field, when the red jerseys flit up and down the green field.

Harris was a man my quiet father talked about a great deal. Harris had been the football general at OU when Dad was in his prime. My, how he talked about those great teams! The fabled comeback against Colorado at Boulder, in the snow. The smashings of Nebraska, Texas, and Notre Dame.

Three years ago, I wrote a book about OU football, and I interviewed Jimmy Harris. He took the time to visit with me and answer the same questions he’d been asked for 50 years. He teared-up when talking about what a father figure Bud Wilkinson was; Harris had been fatherless.

Two years ago, with trepidation, I phoned each of OU’s national championship-winning quarterbacks. Claude Arnold (class of ’50!) was first and agreed to show up for a book signing in Norman.

I called Harris next and literally took a few deep breaths. “If Arnold is going to be there, I’ll be there,” he growled. Steve Davis said yes. Jamelle Holieway said yes. Josh Heupel said yes.

A few weeks later, the five appeared for a magical afternoon. Hundreds and hundreds of fans showed up and those five men signed for hours. I stood and talked to Harris, and he clearly was still in command of Oklahoma football, giving his views of the current staff (“top-quality”) and various players (“He was an SOB, but he was good!”).

You see, Harris was a rich man, having gotten into the oil business years before. He flew to Norman in his own plane and I picked him up and took him back to the airport. I thought then if Dad could see us, he wouldn’t believe it.

My father died 30 years ago and every autumn, I think about him on Saturday afternoons. Especially during Texas week and Nebraska week. In my memories and his, I close my eyes and see Jimmy Harris, without a facemask on his helmet, stiff-arming an army of TCU Horned Frogs on his way to the endzone. That was in 1954, and Dad had gone with a group of friends from a Catholic school in Oklahoma City—three nuns and a priest.

At the very instant Harris came ’round end and sprinted into the open field, Dad was overcome. He leaped to his feet and turned the air blue and shouted Harris home. A split-second later, astonished, he looked at his friends. Their faces were tight and lips pursed, save one who allowed an almost imperceptible smile to absolve Dad of his sin.

Forty seven years later, during OU’s drive to another national title, I sat in the same stadium with my own son, and I pointed out to him where his grandfather sat during the infamous Harris punt return of 1954. Jonathan smiled at me; I smiled back, and I smiled inside, too.

Jimmy Harris was a gracious gentleman to me, and even though I was a blip on the radar of his life, he will forever be much more than that in my life. He told me that only a decade before, he had run the 40-yard dash one more time, and had only lost a half-second in all those years. Wow! Jimmy Harris told me something great!

I have been very sad the last 24 hours, since learning he had succumbed to lung cancer.

I thought I was getting over it, until I saw Glen Campbell singing “Wichita Lineman” on PBS. Campbell recently announced a farewell tour; he has Alzheimer’s and has asked his fans to be understanding as he figures he’ll forget some lyrics. I am sad for him, too.

Time marches on. This tired old planet has seen too much death. I know that God will one day, in His own time, banish this final enemy and make everything right. I know that.

But for tonight, I think I want to sit in my sadness and think of the men who have meant the most to me—because no matter how old we get, there is always a whisper left of the little boy we used to be.

With each passing year now, I understand better why old folks have often told me they are ready to “go home.” There was a time when I couldn’t understand that insanity. Now I do. The world is losing its legends and there are no replacements. I hate it. Hate it!

Sleep well, Jimmy Harris. My memories of you, of Dad, of those great days in the sun—

I want you for all time.

With Jimmy Harris, 2007. I'm the shorter one.

Harris, missing teeth, with Tommy McDonald, in the glorious year of 1956

“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” (Revelation 16:12)

As I often like to say—I heard this from the peerless Bible teacher, Henry M. Morris—the book of Revelation isn’t hard to understand (as is often alleged); it’s hard to believe!

True, that. The weird imagery of dragons and beasts from the sea and vials poured out, “bowl judgments”…well, most people throw up their hands.

Within Christian circles, there are several schools of thought about Revelation. Some believe the prophecies were fulfilled in the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Some believe the book is symbolic or metaphorical, written to encourage persecuted believers during the period of Roman rule.

I believe a good bit of it is yet future, and “soon” future, to boot.

The other day I stumbled onto a mind-blowing bit of evidence that Revelation is meant for our time, and that Bible prophecy is true. It was a Facebook posting, and in this day of cyber-news, I knew it had to be checked out.

The story revealed that the great River Euphrates is…drying up. Now, things happen in our world and things come and go. But if you’ve read Revelation, you know that a strange prophecy involves the drying-up of this great river, which runs through Mesopotamia.

The reason given for the drying up of the Euphrates is so a vast army can come from the east and invade Israel. For a long time, the idea has seemed laughable to scholars. The liberal church has always considered Revelation to be problematic at best, an embarrassment at worst.

I wonder what they think of it now.

You see, no less an authority than the New York Times has reported that the Euphrates is drying up; the story ran with several stark, black-and-white photographs that record the scene.

The question then becomes, is this occurrence a coincidence? Or is it an indication that Bible prophecy is valid, relevant, and sitting on our world like King Kong?

For those who don’t have a bias against it, for whatever reason, the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in 2011 is dramatic and astonishing.

What do you think?

A few weeks ago, visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, I just wanted to cry. The place I consider the spiritual center of the universe is a 35-acre compound that today is holy to three faiths. It is also a flashpoint for unrest and controversy.

Dominating the eastern edge of Jerusalem’s Old City, sitting almost ominously over the Kidron Valley, the Temple Mount is the traditional site of Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac. It is the famous “threshing floor” purchased by David, and it is the place where his son, Solomon, built the first Jewish temple.

The Jews poignantly remember this day every year, which falls on the 9th of Av on their calendar. It was on this day that both Jewish temples were destroyed (first by the Babylonians and later by the Romans, 490 years apart). It is a day of fasting and is considered “the saddest day in Jewish history.”

In addition to the temple destruction, the Jews also remember the sin of the spies sent into Canaan by Moses; the savage destruction of the Holy City by the Romans in A.D. 70, and the final put-down of the Jewish rebellion (led by Bar Kokhba) in the second century.

Throughout history, the Jews have endured satanic hatred from various people and people groups, and for millennia, tears have flowed on this date.

I find it extraordinary that even today, in the modern Jewish state of Israel, the Jews still lament these events. In fact, a very moving Facebook post yesterday noted that people were sitting near the Western Wall (a retaining wall, the only thing left from the Roman destruction)—crying, singing, and asking God, “Where is out temple?”

There is of course a community of thought that says the Jews will one day rebuild the Temple, but with the Dome of the Rock dominating the landscape, politically as well, few can envision such a scenario. When members of Israel’s 66th Paratroop Brigade liberated the city in the Six Day War, many believed the Temple construction would commence immediately. Moshe Dayan, however, turned control of the Temple Mount back to the Arabs, wishing to avoid World War III. Many in Jerusalem and around the world still fervently believe for a rebuilt Temple.

I also visited Masada, the desolate, ruined summer palace of Herod, and the site of a ghastly scene of murder and suicide a couple years after Titus sacked Rome in A.D. 70 (an event predicted by Jesus; see Matthew 24). There, as the Romans were mounting a final attack, 1,000 Jewish men, women, and children chose suicide rather than life as Roman slaves.

Both sites were a reminder to me that while the Jews are reborn in their ancestral land—and event I consider so extraordinary that mere words fail—ancient hatreds still remain.

Yasser Arafat used to be fond of saying that no Jewish temples ever stood in Jerusalem. Grotesque excavations have taken place there in recent years (I saw the evidence everywhere, a stunning collection of piles of pillars, paving stones, and piles of dirt that no doubt contain precious artifacts from the Temple periods).

Only days ago, it was announced that artifacts had come to light after 2,000 years in a tunnel near the Temple Mount—a sword, oil lamps, pots and coins. The sword is assumed to have belonged to a Roman soldier garrisoned at the site. The historian Josephus described the destruction of Jerusalem, only 40 years after Jesus said it would be so; the savagery of the Romans is difficult to comprehend.

And so, even as we cloak ourselves in modernity and amazing technology, millions remember days from the past that are a blood-stain on humanity.

May the Lord of history bless the Jewish people immeasurably today, and dry their tears forever as we go forward to a destiny chosen by Him alone.

Temple model, Israel Museum

Artifacts from the Temple period, next to the Al-Aksa Mosque

In the book of Matthew, chapter 24, Jesus told the apostles (who had inquired) that among the signs of the end of the age would be “wars and rumors of wars.”

Well, it’s here.

Yahoo!News is reporting that the burger wars have erupted in San Francisco, with Super Duper supplanting Johnny Rocket’s.

Okay, that was my lame attempt at stand-up today. We have to inject some humor into our world today, don’t we? I mean, if we don’t laugh about it, we cry, right? I’d rather watch some Laurel and Hardy, or read a good joke-book rather than obsess about the difficulties in today’s world.

And yet there is a small lesson to be learned in my ham-handed attempts to sandwich some Bible teaching between today’s news. Okay, I’ll stop.

Although I feel that Bible prophecy is more relevant than it’s ever been—shockingly relevant—we still sometimes miss it. We point to certain signs as being “bullet-proof” evidence that certain prophecies are just right at the brink of breaking open.

The issue of wars is just such a problem. When we focus on one element of Bible prophecy (earthquakes, wars, etc.), we can sometimes be wrong about timing.

For example, there have always been wars, for the most part. Taken as a single issue, we would not be correct in stating emphatically that we are living in the last of the last days.

Taken collectively, though, various signs point to just such a scenario and outcome. Wars are indeed part of the last-days environment, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to read about my latest discovery that, ironically—deliciously—comes courtesy of the New York Times.

You’ll be amazed…