Published Sept. 10, 2013

Paul's Epistle...

Tomorrow is September 11th – "9/11" – one dozen years after that infamous enemy attack on American soil with great loss of life. But today we appear to be on the brink of yet another war, struggling to understand why, especially since our sworn enemies have promised terrible retribution against the U.S. and Israel should there be any intervention in Syria. And, yes, they could do it. 9/11 proved that.

The week after the original 9/11, I wrote the following article for this newsletter. As I reviewed it today, I was stunned by how much has changed since then – and how much has remained the same. These are undoubtedly perilous times, and the question is more timely than ever: "Are you ready?"

- Paul

"Are You Ready?"
(First published September 18, 2001)

Our local newspaper had three words emblazoned across the entire width of its front page in a bold black headline on Sunday morning: "Bush: ‘Get Ready.'"

It was referring, of course, to President Bush's call for Americans to be ready for whatever happens in the near future as the nation strikes out against the terrorists who last week committed the most heinous series of coordinated acts of terrorism in American history.

But I think there is a much more urgent meaning here to the phrase, "Get ready!"

First, let me say that I am constantly amazed at how God can take such unspeakable evils as last week's and use them to bring glory to Himself.

Have you seen the outpouring of prayer and spiritual concerns in the mass media? I don't remember anything quite like it — ever. The other morning we saw Katie Couric on NBC's "Today" show interviewing Franklin Graham, who boldly and concisely outlined, not once but twice, the plan of Salvation. No one objected. And no one watching this national telecast could miss the plain truth of the Gospel. Then the nation watched or listened transfixed as the national Day of Prayer and Remembrance service was broadcast from the National Cathedral in Washington on Friday, complete with another bold sermon from Dr. Billy Graham, calling for spiritual revival. What's more, the national networks and local broadcasters across the land have been interviewing a seemingly unending procession of clergymen, seeking answers.

The Associated Press reported last week that Eddie Smith, a director of the evangelical Christian U. S. Prayer Center in Houston, had prayed earnestly for revival four years ago. Smith said he felt God spoke to him and promised that such a revival would come, but it would be "served to you on a platter of ruin." We have now seen the devastating fires of ruin; are we now also seeing a rekindling of the fires of revival?

On Sunday, churches in New York City and across the land reported larger-than-normal attendance. Some described attendance as "Christmas-like." People have had their spiritual awareness heightened - a key prelude to revival.

Revival, though, begins on a very personal level. As Dr. Billy Graham pointedly reminded us all in his special Friday sermon, "This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we, too, will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one of those people who got on those planes or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn't occur to them. And that's why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now."

On the radio last week at a station in Louisville, Kentucky, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was asked by a caller if those who perished in last week's sudden disasters would get a "second chance" to enter heaven. "With the Bible as our sole authority, the only hope we have in salvation is conscious faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ," Mohler answered. "There is no Biblical back door that is offered about how persons may come to God in faith except through Jesus Christ. Romans 1 says that we are all accountable, that there is no one who is going to be able to say before the throne of God, `I didn't know you, I didn't know of you and I did not know I was a sinner,' because that's revealed to all of us."

Death allows no "second chance" at salvation. And no one knows when death will strike. Jesus told the parable of the rich man who was doing so well he wanted to build bigger barns to hold his wealth. There's no indication he was sick. There's no indication he was attacked by vandals. But he died. The Bible says God told him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (Luke 12:20.) Do you know someone — a friend or perhaps a relative — who died totally unexpectedly? Chances are you do. It's not uncommon. Death doesn't always announce itself in advance.

Aside from the total uncertainty of when death may strike, the time of the Lord's promised return is likewise unknown. But it clearly is drawing near. As Dr. Mohler told his radio audience, "We do know this: Today is one day closer to when that will take place, and we need to live in the expectation that it could happen at any moment."

Southern Gospel songs have always had a clear message concerning the Lord's soon return. But have you noticed how many of them there have been recently? One of the clearest is the Gold City song with a very appropriate title: "Are You Ready?" Look at these lyrics:

The hour is approaching when the souls of man will hear
A mighty shout resounding in the sky
In power and great glory King Jesus will appear
And take His children home to paradise
It will be a celebration for the ones who chose His name
But total separation for the ones who turned away.
Are you ready for the trumpet?
Are you ready for the call?
Soon the angels will assemble to usher in the Son of God
Will He come and find you faithful?
Will He know your name at all?
Every moment brings us closer
Are you ready for the call?*

Are YOU ready? If today some unexpected tragedy were to strike you down, would you be ready? If today death overtakes you without warning, are you ready? If the Lord returned this very day, are you ready? Do you know Christ as your Savior and Lord? Have you surrendered your life to Him? If not, do it today. Right now! No one is too bad a sinner to qualify. Christ's shed blood covers it all. His forgiveness is freely offered. But you must ask for it.

For those of us who have already done so, recent events are sparking a burning urgency to be sure our families and our acquaintances are likewise ready. Let's help fan the flames of revival. Who do you know who isn't ready? Tell them today Who the only One is Who can bring certainty to an uncertain world.

"Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 24:44.)

*The song "Are You Ready" (©2001 Lonesome Bend Pub.) was written by Douglas W. Riley, the older son of Tim Riley of Gold City. Doug died quite suddenly and unexpectedly in an auto accident January 31, 2006.

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