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     A most earnest and serious question needs to be presented to each of us: "ARE YOU PREPARED?"
     All around the world, violent and sudden catastrophes are occurring with startling frequency.  Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, tornados, and other windy storms bringing rain, floods, ice, hail, and snow, are increasing in ferocity spewing forth their turbulent destruction.  Droughts, famine, fires, earthquakes, and volcanos are escalating.  Wars, conflicts, violent crimes, as well as unexpected accidents by sea, land, and air, are multiplying the list of the dead.  And what do all these things loudly proclaim to each of us?  That the crisis is upon us, and our God is coming soon!  ARE YOU PREPARED?
     Eleven nations of Europe (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain) now share a common currency.  People are proclaiming: "The national border is over" (CNN Interactive, Specials Section, p 4, December 31, 1998).  While others are proclaiming: "The United States of Europe"; the sign of a "New World" (CBS, December 31, 1998, 6:30 P.M.).  World newspapers are proclaiming: "For the first time since the Roman Empire, a large portion of Europe now shares a common currency" (CNN Interactive, World Section, p 1, December 31, 1998).  What do these things loudly proclaim to each of us?  That the crisis is upon us, and our God is coming soon!  ARE YOU PREPARED?
     The Pope sent an Apostolic Letter to the various Nations and peoples of the world admonishing and encouraging them to honor and respect Sunday as a sacred worship day.  The Pope even urged fellow Catholics to "strive to insure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy," and that "the State must guarantee" Sunday rest (Dies Domini, July 7, 1998).  A short while later a high Catholic official declared that anyone who disregards the sacredness of Sunday, should be punished as a heretic!  Not only this, but the Catholic Church has been strengthening its Office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is just a modern name for what was historically known as the Sacred Inquisition.  What do these things loudly proclaim to each of us?  That the crisis is upon us, and our God is coming soon!  ARE YOU PREPARED?
     An International Criminal Court has recently been born in Rome.  There has already been established an International Court of Justice, or World Court.  Various International Treaties, such as the Genocide Treaty, have been endorsed by most every Nation of the world--including America.  The House of Representatives recently passed legislation (HR #2431) setting up an Office to monitor every Religion, and to punish individuals, including Nations, who deviate from "accepted" religious belief and practice!  And what do all these Courts, Treaties, and other laws ultimately mean to individuals who believe and preach the present truth?  The use of civil power on a world-wide basis to force us from practicing the truth of the Bible and from preaching the three angels' messages!  What do these events loudly proclaim to each of us?  That the crisis is upon us, and our God is coming soon!  ARE YOU PREPARED?
     Yet, many are being lulled into a fatal security of peace and prosperity through many and varied means, and the above realities pass by with little or no notice as to their extreme significance as signs of our Lord's soon coming.  And sad to say, this is the case with many of God's professed people who believe the present truth!
     "Ministers and people are unprepared for the time in which we live, and nearly all who profess to believe present truth are unprepared to understand the work of preparation for this time....They think they are all right when they are all wrong." Testimonies, vol 1, p 466.

     "The people of God are not ready for the fearful, trying scenes before us, not ready to stand pure from evil and lust amid the perils and corruptions of this degenerate age.  They have not on the armor of righteousness, and are unprepared to war against the prevailing sin and iniquity around them.  Many are not obeying the commandments of God; yet they profess so to do." Review and Herald, September 7, 1886.

     The people, above all others, who should be first and foremost to rise to the occasion and sound the trumpet notes of alarm, are asleep.  Many are as unprepared for the crisis and their Lord's return as are those who know not the Lord!  How many of us are prepared to stand when our Lord comes and not find ourselves running from Him and calling for the rocks and mountains to hide us from His glory and brightness?  It is a shame that some among us are even leaning their hopes upon the excuse that since they are not yet ready, then God will delay the final crisis and put off His coming until they are ready.  But is this a safe excuse to hide behind?
     "God desires His people to prepare for the soon-coming crisis.  Prepared or unprepared, they must all meet it; and those only who have brought their lives into conformity to the divine standard, will stand firm at that time of test and trial." Acts of Apostles, p 431-32.

     Brethren, we need not look any further into the future for the time of crisis to occur, because it has already begun!
     "The Lord is coming very soon, and we are entering into scenes of calamity.  We need not say: The perils of the last days are soon to come upon us.  Already they are come....We are in the shaking time, the time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken." Faith I Live By, p 336.

     So ready or not, the crisis is here!  Ready or not, our Lord is coming!  We can not put off till tomorrow what we can do to prepare today.  Tomorrow is not the day of our salvation.  To-day is the time.  Tomorrow may be too late!
     "...Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts..." Hebrews 3:15.

     "...behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2.

     How many of us are prepared for the judgment and our names coming up in review before God?  How many of us would be saved if our probation closed today?  How many of us are prepared for the winds of strife to be let loose?  How many of us are prepared for the time of trouble that has never yet been seen since there was a nation?  Are you prepared for God to change the way He has dealt with this world of iniquity?
     "There will soon be a sudden change in God's dealings.  The world in its perversity is being visited by casualties,--by floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, famines, wars, and bloodshed.  The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power; yet He will not at all acquit the wicked.  `The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.'  O that men might understand the patience and longsuffering of God!  He is putting under restraint His own attributes.  His omnipotent power is under the control of Omnipotence.  O that men would understand that God refuses to be wearied out with the world's perversity, and still holds out the hope of forgiveness even to the most undeserving!  But His forbearance will not always continue.  Who is prepared for the sudden change that will take place in God's dealing with sinful men?  Who will be prepared to escape the punishment that will certainly fall upon transgressors?" Fundamentals of Christian Education, p 356-57.

     Reality loudly speaks in trumpet tones that many of us are completely unprepared to even abide the glorious appearance of a single heavenly angel, not to mention the greater glory at the coming of the Lord!
     "Jesus is coming!...[But] If one angel from heaven caused the Roman guard to fall as dead men, how can those who are unprepared, unholy, bear the sight and live, of seeing Jesus in the glory of His Father and ten thousand angels accompanying Him.  O how can sinners bear this sight!  They will cry for rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb." Lift Him Up, p 379.

     Brethren, it is indeed time to "prepare to meet thy God" (Amos 4:12).  It has only been out of the infinite mercy and compassion of our Father that many of us still have time to prepare!  But how?  What can we do to be prepared for the greater crises ahead, and especially for our Lord's return?
     "A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.  To seek this should be our first work." Selected Messages, book 1, p 121.

     "If you live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, you will not be found unprepared." Maranatha, p 253.

     "Those who do not make strong efforts now to exercise persevering faith, will be wholly unprepared to exercise that faith which will enable them to stand in the day of trouble." Spirit of Prophecy, vol 2, p 124-25.

     "A religious experience is gained only through conflict, through disappointment, through severe discipline of self, through earnest prayer.  The steps to heaven must be taken one at a time, and every advance step gives strength for the next." Councils to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p 100.

     So to be prepared for the time of trouble and for our Lord's coming, we need to pray earnestly and exercise strong persevering faith in disciplining self to live by every word and command of God which will enable us to exhibit the character of Christ in our lives.  As you can see, this is a step by step process needing a varying amount of time to accomplish depending on the individual!  No one can achieve this overnight, nor can anyone jump ahead skipping any of the steps.  A fitness for heaven is only accomplished one advancing step at a time.  Thus if we do not start now, but wait for tomorrow or tomorrow's tomorrow to begin in earnest, then we will not be fully prepared, and thus lack the experience necessary to successfully make it through.  And Jesus, along with heaven, will be forever lost to us!
     "Those professed christians who come up to the time of trouble unprepared, will, in their despair, confess their sins in words of burning anguish, while the wicked exult over their distress.  The case of all such is hopeless....[For] there will be no atoning blood to cleanse from sin and pollution." Spiritual Gifts, book 3, p 134.

     May we fully realize that "salvation is far from the wicked" (Psalms 119:155) because they do not do God's will nor keep His commandments and thus they continue to commit sin (1 John 3:3-10).  Let us instead make sure that we prepare ourselves now for our Saviour's return so that His coming does not "overtake" or catch any of us unprepared as "a thief in the night" and we be lost.
     "Our only safety is in constant distrust of self, and dependence on Christ.  Man's great danger is in being self-deceived, indulging self-sufficiency, and thus separating from God, the source of his strength....We need now the sword of the Lord to cut to the very soul and marrow of fleshly lusts, appetites, and passions." Faith I Live By, p 336.

     May we be the "children of the day" (1 Thessalonians 5:5) who confess and forsake their sins (Proverbs 28:13); those who walk in the light of Christ; those who "fear God and keep his commandments" (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and who "hold fast [to Christ] and repent" (Revelation 3:3).  May we be diligent to make our "calling and election sure" (2 Peter 3:18), knowing that God will not allow any of His people to suffer "above that ye are able" (1 Corinthians 10:13).  May we realize that "all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12), and that it is only through patiently enduring these "fiery darts" (Ephesians 6:10-17) and "the fiery trial" (1 Peter 4:12-14) and persecution that our faith or gold is being "tried in the fire" (Revelation 3:18).  And if we are proven true, standing "fast in the faith" (1 Corinthians 16:13) and being found faithful to the end, then we will "obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" and will "live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10) forever in "the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10).
     "And 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.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.  Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Romans 13:11-14.

      "O brother be faithful, soon Jesus will come, for whom we have waited so long!"