We had a few days off. The phone rang in our little cabin in the woods. A family member called and said, "You need to turn on the news. A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." I had the news on for much of the next three days - trying to absorb a scene that I had no mental file folder for. I felt sickened. Vulnerable. And profoundly sad - beyond words.
Radio stations were calling, asking if I would do an interview the next day to talk about what had happened. How could I help thousands of listeners process this unprecedented trauma when I was still trying to sort out my own thoughts and feelings? Then I just bowed my head and prayed: "God, would You please help me see what's happening today through Your eyes? What are You seeing here?"
Suddenly, I wasn't seeing collapsing towers or a terrorist attack. This was about thousands of people unexpectedly rushing into eternity, at one place and one time. Ready or not.
Nothing can diminish the deep grief and horror of that defining September morning. But looming above those images and memories is a deeply personal question for each of us -
"Am I personally ready for eternity - whenever it comes, however it comes?"
That's why the Bible tells us to "prepare to meet your God" (Amos 4:12). I have an appointment with God that's long been scheduled in His calendar. But not in mine. It will come without warning. And only one thing will matter at that moment:
"God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12).
All that matters in a person's eternity moment is, "What did I do with Jesus?" Because it was only Jesus who did the dying that I deserve to do for the lifetime of wrong things I've done against God. If a religion could have taken care of my sin, there's no way Jesus would have let Himself be butchered on a cross. But He loves me too much to lose me. He loves you too much to lose you. So He died for you and me.
One of God's greatest blessings to us is the stunning discovery that we can actually be sure - right here and now - that we will go to heaven when we die. Never have to sweat that question again. Not because of how good we are, but because of how good God is. In the words of the Bible, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). From the moment you take the gift, it's yours. Forever.
Every day in America alone, it's like there are two September 11ths, at least in terms of lives lost. Six thousand Americans go into eternity each day - and 150,000 in our world. One final heartbeat. Then God. Ready or not. It's life-or-death stuff - making sure we're ready for eternity. Making sure the people we love are ready for eternity.