When the Beeper Sounds

Casio bluetooth g-shock watchIn one of my churches during the announcements, a youngster was playing with his father’s watch. He accidently activated the built-in alarm which sounded just before the morning prayer. Ryan was bent double with laughter. Dad was frantically slapping at his wrist, and we all got a good chuckle out of it. I looked at his dad and jokingly informed him that the experience would one day be fodder for a sermon.

A number of us have those watches with the built-in alarms. Some of them automatically “beep” every fifteen or thirty minutes or on the hour. Sometimes, the alarms tell us to get up and move! Some have their watches set to sound the alarm at 11:00 or noon—perhaps to warn me that I’ve been preaching too long!

Most of us have alarm clocks that beep, buzz, ring, or turn on a radio to let us know when it’s time to get up. Students hasten to answer the warning sounds of school bells and buzzers. Oven timers tell us when our dinner is in danger of overcooking. Many in supervisory or on-call positions carry a “beeper” or phone to alert them when an emergency demands their presence at the hospital, office or plant. Some parents use beepers and phones to keep track of their kids.

Conditioned Reflex

When a beeper sounds or a phone rings, we jump. It’s what psychologists call a “conditioned reflex.”

The first year I was in ministry, I discovered  how conditioned I had become to the sound of a school bell. The Oshtemo church was located only a block from the elementary school. On the first day of school, the buses began to rumble to a stop in front of the church, waiting to turn left onto the street where the school was located. Every time I heard one of those giants groan to a stop, I felt myself start to rise from my desk and head for the door. The “little girl” inside my head was warning me I’d miss the bus if I didn’t hurry!

When the school bell sounded its warning, I was halfway out the office door before I realized what I was doing! Nineteen continual years of answering that ringing alarm had “conditioned” me to respond whenever I heard that strident clanging.

Our Conditioned “GOD” Reflex

Cell phone apps up close displayWe hear the sound of a bell or buzzer or beeper, and we tend to automatically begin to change what we’re doing, even if that alarm is being sounded for someone else. We’re visiting friends or having dinner in some restaurant when the phone rings. We jump (at least inwardly) to answer it. In a motel room or college dorm, we hear an alarm clock begin its insistent call in a neighboring room at 5:30 a.m. and half asleep, we catch ourselves getting up to turn it off, even when our own alarm is set of 7:00 a.m. A beeper sounds on someone else’s watch and we automatically look at our own, even if our watch doesn’t  have an alarm.

But do we respond as quickly, as automatically, when our God-given internal beeper sounds? Do we begin to change when the Spirit warns us that we are treading on the thin ice of disobedience? Are our spiritual ears as attuned to the “beeper” of God’s presence as our physical ears are to the bells of our daily existence?

The Call to Faith

Even as there are a number of warning bells, buzzes and beeps in our everyday life, so there are a number of alarms in our spiritual walk. One of the most insistent (and all too often ignored) beepers is the one which sounds when God calls us to be one of His own. The good news of the Gospel is presented. We hear—for the first, third, umpteenth time—that Jesus the Son of God was crucified on a cross for our forgiveness and that He rose from the dead for our redemption. The “beeper” sounds—Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.2

Yet, we try to put off making a decision about accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary in our place. We make or find a variety of reasons and excuses to turn off the beeper sounding in our spirits. “Later, Lord, I’ll turn my life over to you. I can make it on my own right now.” “I live a good, moral life. I’ve never killed anyone or stolen anything. I don’t need to be forgiven.” I’ve got plenty of time to become a Christian. I want to have some fun first.” Yet the beeper continues to sound the warning. Now…NOW…NOW!

The Call for Forgiveness

There are those who want to accept God’s forgiveness and love and yet have a hard time because of the guilt (real or imagined) that they carry. For them, there is a second beeper sounding. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.3 God’s forgiveness is available to us now—not just at some point in the future.

The Call to Right Living

After we’ve turned our lives over to God’s control, a different beeper is heard. The black and white issues of right and wrong are fairly easy to figure out. But the “gray areas” cause us confusion and unrest.

What is right? What is wrong? We know that murder is wrong, but what about criticism? Stealing is an abomination to God, yet what about the mismanagement of our financial resources, or the misuse of our time? We know that is isn’t right to put anyone or anything on a pedestal above the Lord, yet there is that certain young lady or young man whom we idolize as “Mr.” or “Ms. Right.”

Walking pathway along a fence line in the woodsAgain, the beeper within sounds a warning even as the prophet Isaiah promised Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, say “This is the way; walk in it.4

The Call to Courage

In times of trial and temptation, when frustration makes us anxious and uneasy, another beeper sounds to remind us of God’s Word. The prophet Isaiah assures us that we are not left to face the problems and difficulties of this life alone when he records these words of God: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.5

Jesus put it another way when His first century followers expressed their fear and anxiety at being left alone to face the angry and disbelieving Jewish leaders. Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.6

The Call to Witness

There are those times when we know that part of our responsibility as a follower of Jesus is to share with others what Christ has done for us. Yet, it is so easy to put it off until another day, another time, another place, or to abdicate that responsibility and hope that someone else will do our job. Yet there is no escaping the sounding of the beeper in our spirits. As the third chapter of Hebrews remind us, Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.7 Writing to the Corinthians, Paul reminded his fellow converts, NOW we are ambassadors for Christ.8

The Call to Turn From Sin

Other “beepers” sound warnings to us in our faith walk. When anger gets the better of us and we vow that we’ll “never forgive so-and-so for doing that,” the alarm written by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians begins to ring insistently: Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.9

The Call to Follow Jesus

When we are tempted to follow the crowd—to give in to the subtle lure to be a little more human and a little less Christ-like, the gong of some of the other writings of the Apostle Paul begins to reverberate through our spirits. Let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.10 And again, Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own. You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.11

The Call to Peace

In the frantic pace of today’s world, worry and anxiety seem to be part and parcel of our existence. Yet, when we find ourselves paralyzed by anxiety about the future, the beeper in our spirit sounds, and we hear the words of the Sermon on the Mount once again: Do not be anxious, saying “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all…Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”12

When the Beeper Sounds

Beeper-pager clip art "Beep! Beep!"We all react to the beeper’s sound. When the alarm sounds, we turn off—frequently with a groan. Because the timer alerts us, the biscuits get taken out of the oven. We call the office to find out what’s wrong and quickly evaluate where we are and where we should be. But when the spiritual beeper sounds, what do you do? Try to ignore it, hoping it will soon cease its insistent ringing? Shut it off by any number of rationales and excuses, hoping that when the inner bell is finally quiet you won’t feel too guilty?

When that still small voice within urges you to speak a healing word to one who is bruised and battered by the storms of life, do you turn your back, trusting that by doing so, you’ll no longer be able to hear its strident voice? Do you, perhaps, pray that someone else will come along—someone who is more “religious”, who expresses themselves better, who isn’t quite so nervous when speaking about spiritual things?

When the Holy Spirit within begins to protest your actions or thoughts or attitudes, do you pay attention? Or do you rationalize your behavior by pointing to others who act the very same way or think the very same things?

When the beeper sounds, are you embarrassed or irked at its noisy intrusion into your life? Do you try to overlook it, cover it up, pretend it doesn’t exist? Or do you take it as a warning that it’s time to make a change, either in your outlook or your motives or your actions or your attitude?

What Will You Do?

God has put His Spirit within us to act as a “beeper” in our lives—to alert us to when the time is right or necessary for a change. When the beeper sounds, God is trying to get our attention—to remind us that He is in control and that we are, indeed, no longer our own. The prophet Isiah heard God’s beeper in his own life and instantly was aware of those things in his life that needed changing. His response to the clanging of God’s alarm was two-fold: Woe is me..,and Here am I. Send me!1

Scriptures Used in Today’s Message

  1. Isaiah 6:1-8
  2. 2 Corinthians 6:2b
  3. Romans 8:1
  4. Isaiah 30:21
  5. Isaiah 41:10
  6. Matthew 28:20b
  7. Hebrews 3:13
  8. 2 Corinthians 5:20a
  9. Ephesians 4:26-27
  10. Philippians 1:27
  11. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
  12. Matthew 6:31-33

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March 2023

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