My family and I were still living in Venezuela on that date, and I was actually at a local garage having my car serviced. The workers there were asking me all about what was happening in New York. I had no idea. I had heard nothing. They were the ones who began to tell me of the planes crashing into the towers of New York.
It was a watershed moment in our history. It was the day when Americans began to feel less safe. It was the day that for the first time that many in our country began to understand the level of hatred that some people of the world have for the United States. It was a day that marked the decline of the land in which most of us were raised.
But most importantly of all, it was a day when God reached his hand out to us to help, but we turned away from him.
It at first did not seem that way. At first it seemed like many people who had not paid any mind to God before the attacks, afterwards were suddenly looking to the Lord for direction. I remember in particular the words of one of the news anchors of a major television broadcast networks saying, “I think even the atheists among us must be looking to God during these days.”
But that sentiment soon changed. After the immediate shock of what had happened wore off, instead of continuing to look to God, we began looking to what we saw as the might and resolve of America. We believed that the “greatest military in the history of the world” could solved the problem.
And now, after twenty years of giving our sons and daughters to fight for a purpose that was never clearly understood, and after spending billions of dollars in equipment that has only ended up arming the very ones who would do us harm, many Americans are asking why. What happened? What was the meaning of the past twenty years?
Why does it seem that nothing that our nation begins ends up with a good outcome? Why do we see that the blessings of living in this land are on the decline, while the disasters, the arguing and even outright hostilities among our own fellow citizens steadily increasing?
On 9/11, twenty years ago, the state of the soul of our nation was revealed. In that time of great testing, God extended his hand to help. For a moment it looked as if we were going to reach out our hand to take his, but after a few moments, we withdrew it. We turned instead to what we saw as our own greatness. We forgot that our greatness as a nation did not come about because of our own inherent goodness or because of our own might, but only because of the goodness and grace of God.
We would do well to remember the words that Moses told the Israelites about their nation:
Be careful not to forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His commandments and ordinances and statutes… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses in which to dwell, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud, and you will forget the LORD your God …
You might say in your heart, “The power and strength of my hands have made this wealth for me.”
But remember that it is the LORD your God who gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers even to this day.
If you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods to worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD has destroyed before you, so you will perish if you do not obey the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 8:11-19 BSB)
The prophet Isaiah has written words about his own nation of his day that also apply to our nation in our day. Isaiah wrote:
You have forgotten the God of your salvation and failed to remember the Rock of your refuge. Therefore, though you cultivate delightful plots and set out cuttings from exotic vines—though on the day you plant you make them grow, and on that morning you help your seed sprout—yet the harvest will vanish on the day of disease and incurable pain. (Isaiah 17:10-11 BSB)
The examples that we have from history are multiple. We should understand that there is nothing sacred about the United States as a nation. Should we continue on the path that we are on, we will certainly see its demise.
But it is not my purpose today to speak on the decline of our nation, even though I have to say that in these days it is becoming more and more difficult for me to avoid making political observations in my messages in church. Nevertheless, I am going to continue to resist to do so, because the future and destiny of our nation is not my main concern. My concern is for your future. What is important to me is your destiny.
Certainly I love the freedoms and the life that this nation has given us and I believe that the original ideals of the United States are worth defending. Nevertheless, in all honesty, this nation has never been destined to endure forever. You however, are. Your soul is destined to endure into eternity, either to eternal blessing or to eternal punishment.
A few Sundays ago I referenced the story told by Jesus telling of the King coming in a demonstration of his glory and separating the righteous people, from the unrighteous. To the righteous he said, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
But to the unrighteous he said, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:34, 41).
In the past weeks, we have been studying the book of Revelation telling of the last days. It is of those days that the Apostle Paul says, “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable. And we will be changed. For the perishable must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).
Our souls have been created to last for an eternity. Nations will one days cease to exist, even mighty nations like the United States. But you will not cease to exist. Your concern for today, and my concern for you, is what will be the state of that existence. Will it be in “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” or will it be in “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
These are the graphic words of Jesus.
We have all seen that since the outbreak of the pandemic, many people are wondering if we are living in the very last days as is written in the book of Revelation. It is for this reason that in these Sundays I decided to speak on the prophecies of the end times, including a study of Revelation.
Certainly there are many indicators that we see today that are similar to what Revelation says will be in the last days, but there has also been indicators of this at various times in history. Some Sundays ago I mentioned that the person of Adolph Hitler at the time looked very much like he was the antichrist. People of that time were suddenly discovering “proofs” from the Bible that it was indeed him. There were also others in history that in their time were accused of being the antichrist, such as the Russian Czar, Peter the Great during the 1600s, and Joseph Stalin of the last century.
Indeed, there have been many individuals of history who have had “the spirit of the antichrist,” as the Apostle John puts it (1 John 4:3) and that “many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18), but it is in the last days that the true antichrist will appear. Each person in which we see the spirit of the antichrist today should be a reminder of how history will unfold in the final days of the earth. Each should remind us how we need to remain watchful.
We also are seeing calamities in our days unlike any that we have ever seen. Fires in the west, hurricanes in the south, flooding in the east, and earthquakes in various places. So far, we in the north have been spared the worst of it, but it does not mean that we are immune from disasters. We know that winters in northern Wisconsin can be brutal.
Do all of these disasters mean that we are living in the end times? A couple of weeks ago I spoke of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who bring many disasters in the last days. But as I said, there have been periods of disasters in the past. In our own day we are seeing many weather and natural disaster records broken, but several current extremes are only the worst we have seen in many decades. They have happened before.
The disasters that we are seeing in our own day do not necessarily mean that we are approaching the last days upon the earth. Nevertheless, each should remind us that those last days will eventually be upon us.
Remember that another illustration used both by Jesus and by Paul concerning the last days is that of labor pains of a woman who is about to give birth to a baby (Matthew 24:6-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). The pains begin and subside—begin and subside. The first labor pain does not mean that the baby is about to be born, but it does mean that the mother should begin to be watchful. As the time of birth nears, the pains become more severe and more frequent.
It is the same concerning these signs for the end of the age. Throughout history there have been indicators that the kingdom of this world will pass away so that the new kingdom, the Kingdom of God will appear. But we are like first-time mothers. We do not know well how to read the signs and we do not know which of these sets of labor pains means that we are very near.
But at the same time, there are some things about our own day that are unique. For the first time, we are living with conditions that before have not been seen and which also can serve to bring in a world-wide leader, such as the antichrist will be.
As some examples, today the world is digitally interconnected like never before. Privacy of personal information is a thing of the past. Everyone’s life, including everyone’s financial information, our health and family information—it is all up on the web. Anyone sufficiently trained in IT can find it.
Using cash as a currency is also quickly becoming a thing of the past as purchases are made digitally. Cryptocurrency is becoming more widely accepted, where there is nothing at all of a physical nature involved. It is all connected digitally all over the world.
Also in our days there is an increasing drive to erase national boundaries and to make local decisions based not only on what is beneficial locally, but what appears “fair” to the rest of the world. The current pandemic has demonstrated that the people of the world are by in large ready to follow any marching orders based not upon what the conditions are in their local area, but what they are told to do by a central government who will decide for them. Both national and local governments are also feeling empowered to impose lockdowns or any other type of restrictions that they see as necessary.
These are all things that should cause us to be watchful. It is the reason that in these days we are studying the prophecies concerning the end times in our church. It does not mean that I believe we are living in the final days of the earth. It only means that I want you to be informed and watchful.
But being watchful of events is not even the most important aspect of living today. Even more important than being informed is that we all begin to take our walk with Christ more seriously. Speaking of the disasters that will take place in the last days, Peter writes that “since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to conduct yourselves in holiness and godliness as you anticipate and hasten the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12 BSB)
This is also my concern for you. I have to say that from the very beginning of my time here at the Log Church, I have been concerned for you. I have seen people treat their Christianity as one of the less important aspects of their lives, allowing anything at all to take precedence over coming to church.
I am not saying that it is a law that you be in church every Sunday, but I do wonder when some are gone for weeks and even months on end. Some have even left the church because they say that they have been “hurt” by something someone said.
We make mistakes as people, and all of us are still learning to walk in the grace of God. We must learn both how to speak with grace and how to listen with grace. Paul tells us, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, as it were” (Colossians 4:6).
He also says, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
This is important advice.
I have been saddened by the fact that the walk of some seem to be only a tradition that they can pick up or lay down, depending upon their mood at the moment. It is right for me to feel this way about you. It is the job that you have given me. If I did not care about your spiritual lives, I should not be your pastor.
This is especially important if we are indeed living in the final days, for Scripture says, “Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25 BSB).
Whether we are truly approaching the last days upon the earth or not, life is difficult enough. We must learn to help one another. We must learn to encourage one another.
Therefore I urge you, brothers, because of the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as living and holy sacrifices, pleasing to God. This is your spiritual service of worship.
Do not be conformed to this world. Rather, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. In this way you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another. (Romans 12:1-5 BSB)
Please, use this moment of time to renew your lives with Christ. If you have never before dedicated your lives to put all of your trust in Him for this time and for eternity, please do so now.
The Apostle Paul speaks for me when he says, “As an ambassador for Christ, it is as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: ‘Be reconciled to God!’ God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
With all that is presently happening in the world and with all that we see deteriorating even in our own country, no one can accurately predict what the future may hold.
In the same way as did Paul, I also implore you, “Be reconciled to God!”
 I could not find the exact quote, but this comment was made was made by Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour a day or two after the terrorist attack of 9/11/2001