This is Not a Test

On October 4, 2023, at 11:20 AM PST the United States sounded an alarm. Several federal, regional, and local entities performed a nationwide emergency alert test. All televisions, radios, cell phones, and other cellular devices would receive the loud, alarming, test message. My children came home from school the week before talking about it. How everyone across the whole country was going to be hearing the same thing at the same time. They thought it was very cool and newsworthy. It got their imaginations going; how loud would it be, how long would it last, would their friends who were hiding their cell phones at school get caught? The excitement continued to build until the day, and the moment finally arrived.

I was in a meeting with colleagues on the other side of the country in Massachusetts when the alarms sounded. My cell phone, their phones, the radio, the television, everything started screaming at once. The same sound we get during monsoon season from the national weather service, or when there is an Amber alert, or evacuation instructions from a forest fire, we all heard it, we all took note of it. Then after a few seconds it was over and we went on about our regularly scheduled programming.

My kids came home that day, somewhat disappointed. To be honest, I had to actually ask them about it, it was so anticlimactic that once it was done they forgot about it completely. “I thought it would be louder.” my daughter said. “I thought it would last longer and there would be something like sirens or something.” was my son’s statement. A week’s worth of build up, a few seconds of distraction, then the world moved on.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)

The world is on a collision course with a true emergency alert. Except, this one is not warning of imminent danger, it is the onset. Once you hear this sound, there will be no time to take refuge, or find shelter. There will be no safe place to hide for those who have chosen to ignore all the warning signs that were sounded beforehand. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42-44)

I am not an expert in end time theology. I will never claim to be so. I am the preacher declaring that we need to be prepared at all times, not just when we know danger is coming. We are called to live each day, and approach each conversation as if it is our last. Jesus warns us in many parables to be prepared, the Ten Virgins is one of my favorites. “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord.’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”” (Matthew 25:10-13 emphasis added)

We are told by Jesus and throughout scripture that we will not know the day the Lord has chosen to return. We won’t have advanced warning systems, we won’t have a moment to change our hearts or minds. The moment he arrives is THE moment, and if we are not ready, if our hearts are not prepared and turned toward him, the door will be closed.

As of the writing of this article, Russia is still at war with Ukraine, China and North Korea are apparently teaming up with Russia, and Israel just declared war on Hamas (Palestine). Within our own country there is more infighting and division than I have witnessed…ever. What needs to be happening in the world before people take notice? “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

There are those who will read things and think it’s inflammatory, provocative, extreme, overly dramatic, or just plain wrong. Bad things happen in the world every day, perhaps I’m being an alarmist, taking things too seriously, or too far? Or, perhaps, people think that because they don’t want to believe they need to make a change in their own lives. They like the way living for themselves feels. They want to brush off what’s happening in the world so that they don’t have to worry about tomorrow. Because, if they actually believed that Jesus is coming back, they would need to turn their lives over, give up their wants and desires, and care for others above themselves. That’s just too much to do on a Sunday afternoon.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

This is, hopefully, where you can decide if the things of this world are worth sacrificing your eternity. My dear friends, make no mistake, there will come a day when it will be too late for you to repent and turn to God. People’s disbelief doesn’t affect God. He is not Santa Clause who ceases to exist because fewer and fewer people believe in Him. He is constant, he is not dependent upon us, He is real, He is coming, and the clock is ticking. 

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11, Romans 14, Isaiah 43:23)

Every knee, every tongue, not just those who believe and will praise his coming, but the knees and tongues of those who did not. Realizing their lack of acceptance has cost them their eternity.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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