Christ's ministry began on a note of urgency and need for action: "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" That sense of urgency continued in the ministry of Paul, John and others. This urgency to preach the Gospel continues especially in our time when we are much closer to the end of the age.
[Victor Kubik] I appreciated the message by Jerry Shallenberger yesterday talking to the teenagers, who was his primary focus, and the title of his message was, “Our Time Is Now.” He said we both have the same title. My title for the sermon is, “Our Time Is Now.”
But the messages talk about different aspects about what that time is and what it means. I appreciated the message that he spoke in giving credit to the commitment that many of our young people have, and I really do want to give thanks to all those who are here, to those who are making this their church, those who are committing themselves and their life to Jesus Christ. It is not something far away, but this is their church and this is where they intend to stay, and they will become part of the infrastructure as the United Church of God continues growing.
Spoke about service. I’m very thankful to you for the standard that has been set here in being a witness to the world, which I’ll be talking about in my sermon. Also Mr. Shallenberger, and I really, again appreciate his message. It’s the first time that I have heard him speak about the opportunities that we have in the church. We do need to revamp again the infrastructure of our church as our ministry is aging, as our ministry is retiring, as we need to replace people in various positions and roles in service in the church.
Many of us have served in the church for 40, 45, 50 years, and we’re not going to be able to go on too many more years after this. And we are looking very seriously and more closely, and listening to and preparing the leadership of the future, and we need you, and that is something which is very important, especially focused at this Winter Family Weekend, to you.
Also, mention was made about the many resources that the church has. He spoke about the various sermons that we can listen to. Do you realize that we have upwards of 18,000 sermons on our websites? You get a headache listening to that many sermons. But we have 18,000 sermons. We have ABC content, 60,000 pages of content with new searchable content being added daily. We are getting a reputation from those around who know the doctrines that are taught by the Churches of God. They say, “Go to United, because you can find it there.” The volume of information that we have is staggering.
I just wrote the blog this last week about why God allows suffering, and I thought, “Well, what do I offer? What kind of booklet should I have?” I thought, “Well, let’s just search. Let’s just do a search, and why suffering? Why does God allow suffering?” There were literally dozens of entries about articles, sermons that have to do with that subject. We have a tremendous resource.
The future of the United Church of God is bright. We not only talk about needing servant leaders, but we’re having them step forward as the need comes. We’re going to need teachers. We’re going to need writers. We have hired last year six ministerial trainees, and we’re going to hire another half a dozen or so ministerial trainees for this next year.
The theme for this particular Winter Family Weekend is an outgrowth of a theme that has developed for our public appearance campaigns. Beyond Today, Beyond Today media is in the midst of a public appearance campaign with the theme, “America: The Time Is Now!” nd we developed a program over this past summer going into the time of the Feast of Tabernacles that is a message to this nation. It is a message that approximates the mission of the church which I feel is better than we have ever done, which not only focuses on where we live and what is happening in the world, prophetic subjects, which are always popular, but also going beyond and talking about who we are and what we need to be doing.
We had a trio of public appearance campaigns in Texas in the month of October, and we have 10 more scheduled in Nashville, Indianapolis, Columbus, Chicago, a couple different ones, Cleveland, Dayton, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte for the next coming year. In our Good News articles, we have featured this theme, “America: The Time Is Now!” and also in the new Beyond Today magazine. In the Beyond Today television programs, a number of programs were focused directly on the subjects that we are speaking about, and also on our website.
This particular theme, Our Time is Now, Our Time is Now is again an outgrowth of “America: The Time Is Now!” This is the brochure that we sent to the membership in the churches that hold the Beyond Today “America: The Time Is Now!” public appearance campaigns, and we asked people to pass these on to a friend to explain a little bit more about what this program is about. I’d like to tell you a little bit about what that is, because it’ll give you a little bit of insight as to where we’re going with Our Time is Now. First of all, the program is divided into three sections. The first section is to see what God is doing in today’s world. Most popular program you can always develop is one that deals with prophecy and what’s happening and who’s the King of the North, King of the South. People like to come to those types of programs, but we wanted to put it into context with our personal responsibility in what we do.
World events are moving towards God’s fulfillment of this exciting purpose for humans, and we want to show people how God is directing them and how God’s Kingdom is coming to this earth, and we talk about how they will replace, how His Kingdom will replace failed governments of mankind. That’s what we want to focus on, the Kingdom of God coming to this earth to replace the governments of this world. Secondly, it’s to understand why your life matters. The first public appearance campaign was called “Why Were You Born?” and this section here in this three-part program deals with why were you born, explains the potential that you and I have. It is something that most people honestly just don’t get. They don’t understand it, and yet to us it’s so simple and basic and core to our beliefs, but so very few people really understand who we are.
The Bible reveals about your life, we say here, more than you have thought. Ist is unbelievably astounding, and this dimension of understanding opens up a world that we have not heard before, and that is that we are to become part of the very family of God. There’s a God the Father, God the son, and we are His children. We are the same genre, the same makeup, the same spirit as God, and that’s what we’re headed for, eternal life as being those have been created in the image of God, and we want people to find purpose in his life with that understanding. So few people understand that.
And the third part, which we feel is extremely important, is to know what you must do. The New Testament church began with a message of repentance when Jesus Christ said, “Repent and believe the gospel.” The New Testament church, which was founded on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, Peter, when he was asked by the crowd, who was stunned by his message about them being responsible for the death of Christ, says, “What shall we do?” and Peter said, “Repent and be baptized.”
And so we’re putting on, to those who come to listen about world events and about their purpose in life, definitive steps of where to go next, what you must do, which is repentance. But this year’s theme is Our Time is Now, and we want to discuss this further. Some people says, “What do you mean, our time is now? What does that mean?” Well, it’s not an Internet dating service for elderly people. Some people maybe have thought that. That’s not what this seminar, that’s not what this weekend is about.
But when you connect time and now, what do you get? We’re talking about time and we’re talking about now. You get urgency. You get a sense of urgency that I feel is extremely important for us to capture and perhaps even recapture in the Church of God. We want to continue this sense of urgency in our message to the world, because always the Church of God has had the responsibility to cry aloud, to show my people their sins.
We have been talking about being those who warn of coming events. “God will do nothing except He reveals it to his prophets,” and we’re the ones who are responsible to be able to tell the world what it is that God is revealing. We are telling the world an urgent message of understanding and repentance. I feel that this message is extremely important to continue to perhaps fan the flames of, because in one of our area conferences this past summer, with the ministerial conference, we talked about trends in the church, and one of the ministers brought out the fact that he feels his opinion in talking to people, and especially younger people, there isn’t that feeling that we live in the times of the end. We felt that more in the days of nuclear bomb shelters, but some young people don’t really believe or really think or plan or have a contingency plan for the fact that we do live in the times of the end.
Jesus Christ began His ministry with “our time is now,” “the time is now” message, with the message of urgency. In Mark chapter 1 in verse 15, I alluded to this passage, in Mark 1:15 Mark 1:15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
American King James Version×, Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand.” The time is fulfilled. That is synonymous with “the time is now.” He begin His message knowing that H had three and a half years to deliver it, with a sense of urgency right from the very, very start. The time is now and the kingdom of God is available.
He continued with “repent” as a message of urgency. You can’t be just what you are. You need to change. Then He says, “Believe in the gospel,” or live the gospel. There’s a lot said there right at the very beginning, but Jesus Christ’s ministry began with the time is now, and the same message that we are going to be telling America through the Beyond Today media, “America, the time is now.” We wanted that message to come down to this weekend to where we talk about this is that our time is now, and we wanted to go further into even the General Conference of Elders when we have our conference next May to have messages delivered about the urgency about our time is now. Urgency is one of the drivers for what we are doing now.
Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×, Matthew chapter 24 and verse 14, Jesus Christ, at the end of His 3-1/2-year period, this is 3 1/2 years after what He said in Mark 1, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The end will come. That’s pretty dramatic. What does it mean to preach the gospel as a witness, the gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness?
A witness is one who brings proof, facts, testimony into a court room that is considered to be credible. In that way, we are to be witnesses. Sometimes that word get a little bit cloudy in this meaning of, what exactly do you mean to be witnesses? All of us should be witnesses of God’s way of life, and that is a very important part of preaching the gospel. Of course, Christ said this in the context of apocalyptic events that He had just spoken of minutes or a short time before that, about deception, war, famine, pestilence, heavenly signs. Then He talked further about tribulation that were to take place.
So there is a warning to announce to the world, and our overall plan in doing that has not changed from the time that we spoke of us being the work of Ezekiel, a watchman, of showing the world what is to come. That has not changed. The time is now to witness and to warn. This is the work of God.
Now, I’d like to talk to you a little bit about an interesting article that I found a short time back. I was looking for material about warning and the psychology of warning. In 1980, Mount St. Helens, the volcano, was the largest geologic hazard of our time, in fact the biggest event in 4,500 years on the North American continent. It ripped apart what’s called America’s Mount Fuji because it was shaped so perfectly, Mount St. Helens in 1980.
I found a report about warning and response to the Mount St. Helens eruption, and in reading it I found some very, very interesting parallels to warning in our time, and I have this whole report here. I tweeted it on my Twitter feed if you wanted to see the whole thing. There’s a PDF. It’s an eight-page document, but it’s very, very interesting. I’d like to just read a few small things from it. And it is found on the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction website, and they found this to be interesting and helpful. The author writes, “The amount of foreknowledge and warning for Mount St. Helens was probably greater than for any previous geologic hazard in the United States. The public and/or responsible officials had a series of warnings as information on this volcano passed through successive stages from routine research, publication, and finally the potential hazard notification and the hazard watch. These warnings, and the regulations that developed as a result of them, did probably cut down the death toll of the eruption (which was 60, but it could have been a whole lot worse). However, many people remained unwarned or unconvinced of the danger (even after they were clearly told, the people there in the area of the danger), in spite of the great amount of information disseminated to the public through government channels as well as intensive media coverage.
A document, a booklet was produced. It was called The Blue Book, and it started like this. “‘Mount St. Helens has been more active (and this was a book for distribution to the people in the area) has been more active and more explosive than any other volcano in the United States.’ In this publication, the past behavior and future probabilities of volcanic eruptions are succinctly outlined and areas likely to be affected with clearly marked maps” It showed exactly where the lava would flow. It showed exactly what would happen when this volcano would blow.
The one thing they didn’t know is when it would blow. And to me this is very, very similar to the state and the work that we have to do. We have many things to talk about. We have many paths to explain to people of what you need to be doing with your life, but we don’t know when the volcano will go off. “The bulletin,” this Blue Book, “included step-by-step instructions for identifying the warning signs of an eruption, monitoring the premonitory agencies, events and actions which should be taken to inform both governmental agencies and private companies.”
“On December 20th, 1978,” this is a year and half before Mount St. Helens went off, “a letter was sent to local officials of the potential hazard. The governor’s representative misinterpreted the notification, thinking the eruption was imminent.” The governor’s office received this report that Mount St. Helens is going to be exploding imminently. “A special meeting involving representatives of many State of Washington government departments was called in January ‘79 to clarify the situation,” and they let the word be out that the explosion of Mount St. Helens is imminent. Well, it didn’t happen, and “although at the time this was regarded as an overreaction, the meeting might in retrospect be seen as useful in alerting state officials to the potential problem.
On the other hand, the USGS, the Geologic Survey, sprinkling of cold water on the initial reaction may have tempered the later reaction to the Mount St. Helens eruption.” In other words, saying that the cry that it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. It didn’t happen, and so then when there was further discussion and further rumblings of the mountain, people didn’t pay that much attention, because people in authority said something was going to happen and it didn’t.
On March 20th, these were the false starts. “On March 20th, 1980, the first of a series of moderate earthquakes measuring 4 on the Richter scale,” which isn’t that much, was rumbling on the mountain, and now the government said it’s a time to produce a hazard watch, and since that time volcanic activity was very, very stimulated, and the news became national news. I remember so well, I was pastor in Paducah, Kentucky, and there was so much talk, every day, news about the rumblings and the earthquakes on Mount St. Helens. Daily news conferences were called and news spread far and wide, answering all kinds of questions, but also what happened is that a lot of rumors developed. A lot of rumors developed about what was actually happening on the mountain that was outside what the Geologic Survey had to offer.
They tried to keep these down to a minimum. Isn’t it interesting that when we talk and when we preach about what God is going to be doing that there are people who develop new ideas and create rumors and things that really aren’t true? And we have sometimes people who have doctrines and explanations in numerology and so forth that is of their own making, and usually these people are the Joe the plumber and Larry the cable man type. They’re not the scholars. They’re people who just like to study into these things.
Some of the rumors were that there were going to be watermelon-size chunks of rock flying across to different cities, and while the bulge on Mount St. Helens was to the north, some were saying there’s a bulge in the South as well and scaring people and confusing people about what was happening. The Mount finally blew on Sunday, May 18th, 1980, and those of you who can find that PDF through my Twitter feed can read about the story about how it blew. It was truly fantastic. The ash went 60,000 feet straight up, almost twice as high as airplanes fly, going into the top of the stratosphere or atmosphere.
It was interesting that just before the mountain went off, big parts of it were closed off. Big parts of the mountains were close off to the public. They wanted to keep the public out, but they couldn’t keep the public out. People were continually trying to run roadblocks and trying to get around and trying to get to the top, even though when the government was warning them to stay out. The warning message was to stay out, save your lives, but there were these voyeurs that wanted to get right up there to the volcano. And actually they said unless they did the job that they did with the closing off the roads, and still a lot of people got around them, the death toll would have been much higher if it wasn’t a Sunday that the volcano went off. They would have been through the week, when there was a lumber mill working and other people were there, it would have been a much higher death toll in the area.
There are people who hear these messages and even hear what we have to say who I call spiritual tourists. They just like to hear about it, they just like to know what’s happening. They want to know the details. These are the people who every time that something big in the world happens, write in again for the Middle East in Prophecy booklet, and then when things settle down we don’t hear from them. This is part of the psychology of warning. People want to know what’s happening, just like at Mount St. Helens, but they weren’t using the information to shield themselves and to protect themselves.
The author writes that this little Blue Book that was sent out to everyone helped people to understand more of what was in the mountain. Those who got it were more likely to make some adjustments in what they had done. There are people further away from the volcano as well that were warned in Eastern Washington, but those people didn’t pay attention much to a distant volcano in the Cascades. When the volcano blew, tons of ash moved across Eastern Washington and was dumped, and destroyed a lot of machinery and a lot of vehicles. People could have saved that, but they thought that was far away and weren’t interested in doing much about that. In fact, when the first plume of dust came over Eastern Washington, the Washingtonians felt that that was just a thundercloud. They didn’t even believe that it was a volcanic cloud.
I thought that those were very, very interesting observations about warning, that you can warn but will people listen? Will people hear the right thing about what you are trying to tell them, which is to turn around, to change, to save yourself, or is it to find other reasons for doing it, or if they are warned not to believe it? Probably the most famous person on the mountain, or just a mile north of the mountain, was a person by the name of Harry R. Truman, same name as the president. He owned Spirit Lake Lodge, and he just absolutely disregarded every warning of that mountain and didn’t believe it would happen.
In 1987, about seven years after the mountain exploded, the volcano, I had a chance, we were driving up Interstate 5, and we stopped in the town that’s right next to Mount St. Helens. There were helicopter rides that were available there. We hadn’t planned to do that, but it was easy to do it. We were with another couple, and Bev and I went on the helicopter, the four of us, and went right into the crater of Mount St. Helens. That was a fascinating, fascinating trip. We hovered just above the instruments inside the crater, but then we went and saw all the devastation that had taken place. Square miles and square miles of destroyed land, trees flattened. The area’s coming back, but the devastation was great, one of the greatest stories of devastation around.
But our time right now is now, and doing a warning work where some of those same reactions and some of that same psychology is there in how people react to a warning message. And yet we are told to be there and to preach this warning message. It was the work of the prophets. It was the work of Noah. It was the work of Jesus Christ Himself who talked about destruction coming to Jerusalem. The apostle Paul, the apostle John spoke about the fact that we have to do the work of God. We have to do a warning work as well. Our time is to wake up and to be aware of where we are in the world, who we are, and what we should be doing. That is so important for the Church of God to re-energize itself with that mission. That proclamation of the gospel is important in that three-part stage of what is coming, who we are, and what we must do. That is so very, very important, and our time for that is right now.
Matthew 24:36 Matthew 24:36But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
American King James Version×, He’s speaking about what’s going to happen in the last days, which Christ was asked in the very beginning of that chapter by His disciples, Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version×, but in verse 36 He says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,” because obviously the disciples around Him were asking the question, “What’s going to happen?” But nobody, He says, not even the angels know, just like the officials did not know exactly when Mount St. Helens would blow, and even made a false prediction a year and a half earlier. “But My Father only.” The Father does know when that day will be, but it appears that no one else does. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will be this coming of the Son of Man, for as the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” They were partying. Perhaps they even knew that something was up, but they didn’t want to worry about it, they didn’t want to think of the devastation, and maybe they heard the sermons that Noah was giving on the mountainside. They worked six days, and I’m sure on the Sabbath day they had messages about what this was all about, and they just partied some more.
We live in a time right now where pleasure, games, seeing Star Wars for the 15th time is just overwhelming people. People aren’t thinking about what is to come and what is to be. “Until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” I think this is so, so important for us to really give thought to. Are we partying in our minds? Are we taking seriously the times in which we live? I’m not talking about living in absolute fear that it’s going to happen tomorrow, but being prepared. We need to be prepared.
We need to understand the days in which we live. We need to get the right information, we need to get the little Blue Book out the government had given to the residents on Mount St. Helens that explained the maps, the road, the escape routes, where the lava would flow. Do we know what is required by God? What does God require of us? Or could we be so deadened to us that we want to have pleasures that just take away the pain or knowledge and just party like they did before the flood came?
When we did our public appearance campaign in Dallas, a little over 150 people came, and we were happy. We were happy that about 56 or so of them were brand new people, but that is such a small, small number. That same week or two, either before or after, Taylor Swift was there just down the road. She had 60,000 adoring fans that came to hear her. Only 56 people came to hear Darris McNeely and Steve Myers and Gary Petty. Maybe they don’t have it like Taylor Swift, but people aren’t interested.
I do believe that we will continue our message just the way Noah continued his message, and for 100 years he spoke about a huge disaster, a huge natural disaster, the flooding of the entire world and all mankind being wiped off and God beginning all over again. Frankly, I don’t know how this is going to work out. Personally, I have optimism that as we do more of the public appearance campaigns that the word will get out. It’ll be under the name Beyond Today, it’ll be on television, it’ll be through our Beyond Today magazine, which is just days away from arriving to your home. I do feel that God will bless us with some response that is more than what we’ve had, even though I am happy with those people who have come to listen. And you know something? The people who came to listen…I sat backstage in the public appearance campaigns, and I could see the eyes of the people looking at our presenters, and they were transfixed. They were enraptured by what was being said. The ones who came there really listened carefully.
I do believe that God is doing something in their lives, but as I saw the way we had developed this program with a prophetic part, with why-were-you-born part, and a repentance part, that this is the formula for going forward. Our time is to do this right now. In Matthew 24:45 Matthew 24:45Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
American King James Version×, next verse, 45, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant whom his master made ruler over his household to give him food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Assuredly I say to you that he will make him ruler over his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming (“Oh I don’t when it’s going to be”) and instead begins to beat his fellow servants (or act in a very, very untoward way towards his fellow human beings) and to eat and drink with the drunkards (like that party spirit just mentioned in the verses before), the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, at an hour that he is not aware of. He will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
We need to buck up from a spirit of not paying attention, of pleasure, of deadening ourselves to the teachings that God has. Of course we can have fun, of course we can have weekends like this, but let’s not forget who we are as a Church and what mission it is that we are taking to the world and what we’re expecting from ourselves, repentance, and the warning message that we will be continuing to teach the world. We first were warned, and then as a result of being warned, we take on the work of warning the world. Our time is now.
Romans chapter 13, verse 11, I believe that Mr. Shallenberger used this passage. Romans 13:11 Romans 13:11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
American King James Version×. “Besides this, you know the time that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep, for salvation is nearer to us now than when we had first believed.” This is Paul writing as a New Testament minister, and he’s talking about the fact that the end – the transition between this world and salvation, which is eternal life – is nearer than we had once believed. We cannot be thinking in terms that it’s down the road a long ways, and push it down and push it down. I believe that even Mr. Shallenberger mentioned that in his sermon yesterday.
Romans 9:28 Romans 9:28For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make on the earth.
American King James Version×. “For the Lord will carry out His sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” One common thing that I see in all these statements from Paul, from Jesus Christ Himself, there may just appear to be a respite to where we’re just going on and on, and then maybe that we’ll have a little inkling so that we can repent quickly and make quick changes. I don’t know how much time is left, a month, 2, 5 years, 10 years. If you knew that it was 10 years, a lot of people wouldn’t do anything for a long time. Why bother? Let’s live it up. But we don’t know the day or the hour that He will come.
We don’t know when these things will happen, and Paul says that day is coming soon, is closer than we think. And just like with the people living in Noah’s time – they had a hundred years to prepare. A hundred years. They had family, generations grow up, and then when the waters came they were clamoring, trying to get in, and they couldn’t. It was too late. We can’t be spiritual tourists that just like to hear about these things and just, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to study into just what prophetic things are there and ask a lot of questions and discussion?” without realizing what the purpose of this warning is.
Revelation chapter 1 and verse 3, Revelation 1:3 Revelation 1:3Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
American King James Version×. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” It says the time is now. The book of Revelation was a book of great urgency written by John. The time is now.
Then also John, the same author, in the 9th chapter of John writes the following. John chapter 9 and verse 4, John 9:4 John 9:4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.
American King James Version×. “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.” He says our time is now; we have to do the work. Jesus Christ said He had to do the work right then because the time is now, because there will come a time when it won’t be possible to do the work.
It’s daylight. And you know something, brethren? Right now we live in daylight. We live in tremendous daylight economically, as far as having national security. I know the world stinks. It’s terrible. It’s awful out there, but we still have freedom, we still have an economy, we still have the opportunity, we still have the technology, and we’re asking God to help us to do that work. We shouldn’t in any way say, “Well, what’s the use?” or “Others are saying it.” We need to do the work with our whole heart and being and do the mission that God is expecting us to do.
A famine of the Word was promised, was prophesied in Amos chapter 8 verse 11. It was what Jesus Christ was alluding to here in John chapter 9, which I just read, but Amos 8:11 Amos 8:11Behold, the days come, said the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
American King James Version×. “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine on the land. Not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of the hearing of the Words of the Lord.” It’s going to shut down some day. These are words from Amos. These are words from Jesus Christ. There will come a time when there will no longer be the opportunity to be able to preach the Word as we have it right now.
We need to do all we can within our means to get this message to the world, and I believe that God has blessed us with a formula. God has blessed us with peace in the church. He’s blessed us with the resources to be able to do this work, and we simply must go ahead and do it. Right now we have so much access to so much information through the Internet. If I need to find a verse that I’m not too sure exactly what it is, I go right to Google and the main URL line, just type in something that sounds familiar. Boom, there it is right there. Takes me to BibleHub or Bible Gateway, and I can find that verse.
Through YouVersion we all have access to Bibles for free. Gutenberg would just be absolutely astounded as to what has happened with the proliferation of the Word of God, when only very few could have it or it could only be kept in a Church or there was only one Bible for a whole city. Now it’s so proliferated that you probably have dozens of copies of the Bible, if not in print, available on the Internet. I certainly do. The time is now.
The gospel was to witness, the gospel was to teach a message of repentance. The Bible gospel message is a message of warning. Jesus Christ makes this statement here in Luke chapter 13, Luke chapter 13 and verse 1. Because ultimately what the Word of God and the warning message should lead to is not juicy knowledge and spiritual voyeurism, but to repentance. In Luke 13:1 Luke 13:1There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
American King James Version×, “Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices in the Temple,” and He brings up this question to those around Him. “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee,” Jesus asked. Is that why they suffered? “Not at all, and you will perish to unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.”
That is the primary message, that’s where we want people to get to. That is preparing a people of caring for those whom God has laid upon their minds and hearts to change their lives. “What about the 18 people who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them?” This was an accident. Suddenly 18 construction workers, or whatever it was, fell. “Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent you will perish too.” Brethren, we need to realize that there is a very, very important message, a vitally important message that we really have to get to people from the bottom of our heart and that everything that we do is to bring people to a state of repentance and commitment.
I do believe that the crowd here, we have made that commitment, and those of you who are teenagers and even younger do love God, do understand that there’s something here that is broader and bigger than what’s out there in the world, that what’s out there in the world is not good, that the values that are taught here are the ones that we want to bring inside. Down deep you know that. You know that, and you can make a commitment to that, and it’s a wonderful commitment because it’s a commitment that brings goodness and liberty and release from what’s out there in the world. Our church, we as a Church need to step up, step out, and speak out on these things. What are we putting off?
I’d like to conclude with just a few bullet points here in summary of what do we learn, and what are some of the takeaways from Our Time Is Now? Our Time Is Now. First of all, our job of the Church always has been and will be, as we see from the earliest days in the Old Testament, from Noah through Ezekiel, through the prophets, through Jesus, through Paul and John, is to warn, cry aloud, spare not, and watch. And watching is not just to be able to make little nice prophetic charts about who and what is going to happen when, because how things will work out is not the way that you think they will.
First, we are being warned to come to repentance, and then we do our work of warning. Our time is now. There’s a purpose for the knowledge that we have come to understand, because it brings us to repentance. It’s not just information just to titillate our senses and just so that we could know more. It’s not a message to create spiritual tourists, voyeurs, but it’s to bring people to repentance, baptism, and transformation, a change of lives. There’s a Book that gives us the information that we need, not from some imaginations of individuals. It’s the blue book for Mount St. Helens, but for us it’s the Bible that gives God’s plan and shows the way of escape, the way out, the way to the future, to eternal life. The Blue Book on Mount St. Helens showed logging trails, escape routes, where the lava would flow, but the Bible is a book that shows us the way to live, a way of life and relationships.
Be careful about listening to rumors and speculation and fantasy. A lot of those people on Mount St. Helens who created the rumors just heard little bits and pieces on police car radio frequencies. They would hear this and that, and then they would pass out a lot of misinformation. Be careful who you hear it from and what is said. Seek the wiser voices in the Church, a balanced approach.
And just because it seems like certain aspects of apocalypse are far away doesn’t mean that it won’t affect you or what’s happening in the world. We live in a very, very dangerous world. An event occurring in Somalia, in India, in the Indian Ocean, in South America can trigger anything anywhere in the world. And people are saying, “Well, Ukraine and Russia may trigger World War III.” Well, yes, maybe, I don’t know, but also something between China and Japan or North Korea. There are so many trigger points right now to watch that could trigger horrible things that may come.
Sometimes we overreact and state things too dogmatically as far as our preaching is concerned, just like the State of Washington that issued that a warning a year and half prematurely saying the explosion, the volcano of Mount St. Helens, is imminent. Be careful about predictions. Talk about generalities, that this could happen. Be prepared whichever way.
And also realize that the Word that we preach, the heart that’s put into preaching the Word on television with Darris, Steve, Gary, while they put their whole heart into it, it’s not taken seriously by too many people, and it is not convincing them, but we should be prepared to continue doing that work as Noah did.
Our time is now to change, to make those resolutions, to follow God and to obey him, and overcome our sins. I take a look at my life. I’ll just share a few small things about my life and the commitments that I had made. I did not grow up in the Church. I heard the radio program The World Tomorrow, but I knew that there was something there that was far greater that I have ever heard, that made more sense than anything, because I was very devout in the church that I was in, but I found that to be the truth, the truth about the laws of God, the nature of God, what life and death meant and what salvation was.
I made a commitment that this is the way I wanted to go. I wasn’t just thinking, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe I should think about this some more.” I did think about it for about a year, but I did make a commitment. I was about 17 years old. Then I went to Ambassador College, and I was baptized when I was 19. I made a commitment, an eternal commitment, at that point.
Also, when I started in the ministry, I recall at a ministerial conference I was a ministerial trainee for just a month or two. And the speaker from Pasadena came out and spoke to us young ministers – I was 22 years old – and talked about, “Commit your life to the ministry of Jesus Christ. After my presentation go back to your hotel room and pray to God to make you an instrument in His hands.” I was just like this, “Oh yeah, sure,” and I did. After that presentation, I went, followed him exactly as he said. I made another commitment. I’ve made other commitments all along through life. We don’t have to make just one commitment. We can commit ourselves over and over again.
Those of you who are older, been in the church for 30, 40 years, there’s maybe a time to make yet another commitment. Maybe call the re-commitment, but just another commitment, “This is what I want to do.” I recall myself thinking, “I don’t want to be the way I am. I want to do better in the way I think about people, in the way I relate to people, in the words I speak and how I treat others.” I said, “God help me make that change.”
Repentance is a lifelong process, and baptism is only one of those stepping stones. It’s symbolic of your committing your life to Jesus Christ and burying your life and coming up out of the water a new person in Christ, but that’s not “once saved, always saved.” There’s a continuation of doing that over and over again. So I’m just so pleased, frankly brethren, to see the spirit of so many in the Church, so many of our young people that go to summer camps, and we have been to Northwest Camp last year. I was just very,very pleased as to the seriousness that our young people have when we talk them in serious ways. We want you. We want you to be here, not because we need members, but because we want you to have the happiest experience for all eternity.
That’s why I say for all of us in the Church to set the highest standard and example, because you are a witness to our young people that this way works, that our time is now. I truly hope, brethren, that God will bless us. I am very confident that He will. I feel like the best days of the United Church of God are ahead of us.
I see us at a very critical point, critical not meaning disastrous or anything of that sort, but a point of transition where ministers in their 70’s are coming to a point where they cannot continue, and we have to bring in new people, and we have to bring in a new infrastructure. I find too that when there’s that need, when we have to bring people up, because it’s not a nice thing to do just to give people responsibilities, but we need you to do things in the Church, to serve in a church locally in organization, in music, in speaking, in song leading, all those areas. It’s not a matter of just giving you opportunities, because older people will not be there forever, and we’re having quite a group now that’s moving into another zone, and we need to have the young people.
Our time is now. So what time is it? Let’s all together say, “Our time is now.” May the God of grace and peace be with you.