A few weeks ago it was the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. Anyone who was over the age of 10 probably remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard about what was going on that morning.
I was working at a department store and because it was pretty early in the morning, the store was almost empty except for me and my co-workers as we stocked shelves and arranged displays. Suddenly, one of the other men got a call on his cell phone, which was still a relatively rare thing back then. After listening for a few moments, he looked at all of us looking at him and explained that his wife was at home watching the news on TV, and the news was that “someone just crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York.”
We all froze for a moment and stared at him until he tried again, saying “no kidding, this is happening right now.”
That snapped all of us out of it and we moved as a group into the break room, turned on the big TV and saw it, along with millions of others all over the world. The Twin Towers were on fire and the commentators were explaining to viewers what they knew about what was going on, which at that point (maybe 45 minutes or so after the first plane hit) wasn’t much.
We watched in shocked silence as the Towers continued to burn and the commentators continued to comment. I don’t remember which channel we were watching, but I remember that the talk from the commentators, at some point, turned to the subject of what the Fire Department of New York would have to do to put the fires out. I remember they got a retired firefighter from Chicago on the line and he was explaining all the difficulties involved and the commentators were expressing their amazement. They kept talking about it for many minutes and then, as we all watched on Live TV, the part of the South Tower which was above the flames fell down into the fire, continuing on down and destroying the floors below until the entire 110-story structure was lying in (still burning) ruins on the ground.
That stopped the commentary cold for a while. It was the retired firefighter from Chicago who finally broke the silence after what seemed like a really long time but was probably less than 30 seconds, by almost sheepishly saying “I guess you won’t be needing me to tell you anything else about putting out those fires up there.”
Or it was something like that he said.
I hadn’t thought of that stuff for a long time but talking about the attacks on their anniversary dredged up a lot of memories and that was one of them. As the saying goes, history rarely repeats itself but sometimes it rhymes, and right now it feels like we’re in a moment which rhymes with that one.
Like the fire which was burning high up in the World Trade Center Towers on that horrible day 20 years ago, there is a metaphorical fire burning all over the world today. There’s social and political unrest everywhere you look, increasingly destructive natural disasters, economic turmoil and instability of every kind. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a huge problem but at the same time it has almost become background noise in the midst of all these other crises, which feed off and well as into each other.
Hanging above it all is the prospect of wars, large and small, between nations, tribes, governments, and within countries, including Israel, as the raging violent crime in this country’s Arab community threatens to escalate into something too big for the government to manage.
While all this is going on, there remain voices who just can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that this really is “it”. Like those commentators on 9-11, they keep talking about what can be done, to put the fire out. Very few people seem to have grasped the fact that the fire isn’t going to be put out. They don’t seem to grasp the fact that although the human race has passed through many difficult seasons in the past, there is to be a final season that doesn’t end until God Himself intervenes to stop it before it completely destroys the world He created and the people He placed there, as Matthew 24:22 says; “And if those days had not been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”
All my life I’ve been hearing leaders of the Body of Christ say that “we’re in the Last Days” and “time is short” etc. But as I glance around I hear many of those same pastors and ministry leaders talking about how relieved they are at the results of the recent elections in the US State of Virginia and/or the result of a trial in Wisconsin, etc. They also seem to talk a lot about the polls in the US which show that the Republicans seem poised to retake control of Congress in the midterm elections next November.
How many times does control of the US Congress have to change hands from one political party to the other and things still not get much better before we stop getting excited about it?
Brothers and sisters, please hear me.
This fire is NOT going to be put out by human efforts. Like the fire in the World Trade Center Towers on September 11th, 2001, the fire is going to continue to burn until this world so many of us are so attached to come crashing down.
When that finally happens (it could happen literally at any moment, including as you’re reading these very words of mine in this blog) I wonder if there’ll be any pastor or ministry leader who will sheepishly turn to his followers and say “well, I guess you don’t need me to try and tell you how to vote in the next election so we can put these fires out anymore.”
If there’s someone who does say that, will they continue by offering a better-late-than-never apology for having wasted so much time, money, effort and energy on such nonsense when they should have been devoting those resources to what the Bible very clearly and unambiguously tells us we should be doing with the time we’re given in this life, instead of looking on hopefully at this or that political poll?
My message to whoever is reading this, whether you’re a pastor, lay leader, or just an individual sitting in the pews, is that it’s time to stop crying about what’s passing away. It’s time to stop hoping that “things will turn around” etc. and get busy saving what can still be saved, like the eternal soul of our own children, neighbors, co-workers, etc.
Those are the things that can be saved from the fire, and that’s what we need to focus our efforts on now.