|September 10, 2011|
Part 1 of 1 | September 11, 2011
You remember where you were ten years ago. You remember exactly where you were and exactly what you were doing when you first heard about the attacks. So do I. Until that day, my generation didn’t have a Pearl Harbor. The United States had not been attacked on our soil during my lifetime. Ten years ago, that all changed.At 8:46 am on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower in New York City. At 9:03 am, United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower.At 9:37 am, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Washington DC.And then a fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 am. Thanks to some incredibly heroic passengers, it was the only one of the four planes that didn’t reach its intended target, which was probably either the Capitol Building or the White House.When the first plane crashed into the tower, we all thought it was a tragic accident. But then, less than 20 minutes later, we realized that this was no accident. We had been attacked. That day and the days that followed were unprecedented. I had never seen such uncertainty in my life. I had never seen such fear and apprehension in our country.Airliners had been used as missiles. That had never happened before. In the following days, all flights were grounded. Anthrax was sent through the mail. Our military was on high alert. For the first time since 1941, America had been attacked on our own soil. And the days that followed felt a lot like these verses from Psalm 55. “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger.
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” (Psalm 55:1-5, NIV)
In October of 2001, CNN anchor Aaron Brown opened a newscast with some very honest thoughts. He said, “Will anthrax be replaced by something else? I don’t know if more buildings will be attacked. I don’t know if the terrorists have some other plans, something worse—I don’t know if the administration will make sense or create confusion. I don’t know…and what’s worse, I’ve come to believe that this is the way life is going to be. Not knowing is the new normal.”
That’s the way we all felt. September 11 and the days that followed reminded us all of something that we had forgotten: we are vulnerable.
We had been lulled into a false sense of security. We knew that wars were raging in other parts of the world, but there were huge oceans between us and them. Plus, we’re the United States of America. The only superpower on the planet. It gave us a false sense of invincibility. But in one day, invincibility gave way to vulnerability.
Our vulnerability showed when 19 terrorists managed to kill almost 3,000 people in one day.
Ten years have now passed. And today, we honor their memory. We honor the memory of innocent civilians who were at work, earning a living to support their families. We honor the firefighters, police officers, and medics who died trying to save others. While people were scrambling out of the buildings, they were rushing in. We honor our military men and women who fought for our country before and after September 11. They are the reason that we are free. They are why we can gather here today to worship without fear.
If you are a first responder or a military veteran, would you please stand? God bless you. And thank you.
As we recognize the vets and the first responders that are here today, we remember those who sacrificed their lives for others. Their sacrifice is worthy of our honor and our gratitude.
The death of 3,000 people showed us just how vulnerable we are. Our vulnerability also showed when the two World Trade Center towers came crashing to the ground. The symbol of America’s financial strength was now a pile of rubble.
Our vulnerability showed in the gaping hole that was now in the Pentagon. The center of America’s military might was in flames.
Our security had been shattered and our vulnerability had been exposed. We were now living in fear, and we were asking questions that no one was able to answer.
A few days after the attacks, I remember watching a prayer vigil on TV. And one of the people there was holding a sign that said, “9/11 – The Day God Slept In.”
People were asking questions like, “Where was God on 9/11? Why did He allow this happen? Couldn’t He have stopped this?”
George Barna conducted a national survey in which he asked a scientifically selected group of adults, “If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask?” The number one answer to the survey: I would ask God, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”
It’s a valid question. In fact, it’s a Biblical question. In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, the prophet Habakkuk asked the same thing.
“How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4, NIV)
Even the authors of the Bible struggled with this question. Why does God allow bad things to happen?
It seems thoroughly inconsistent. If God is good, why do things like 9/11 happen? If God is all-powerful, couldn’t He have stopped it? Evil exists, which must mean that God either can’t or won’t eradicate it.
These are the questions that were swirling around after 9/11, and there are the same questions that are still being asked today.
I’m not going to pretend that I can give you an answer that will perfectly satisfy you, because I’ve never heard an answer that perfectly satisfied me. But there are some basic truths that we have to understand.
God created this world in absolute perfection, but when sin entered the world, that perfection was ruined. Our world started spiraling downward in the Garden of Eden and it hasn’t stopped since. It hasn’t stopped because man has been given freewill choice.
In his book, The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel interviewed Dr. Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College. When Strobel, who was an atheist at the time, interviewed Dr. Kreeft about this problem of pain and suffering, Dr. Kreeft gave this answer.
“The source of evil is not God’s power but mankind’s freedom. Even an all-powerful God could not have created a world in which people had genuine freedom and yet there was no potentiality for sin, because our freedom includes the possibility of sin within its own meaning. It’s a self-contradiction—a meaningless nothing—to have a world where there’s real choice while at the same time no possibility of choosing evil. To ask why God didn’t create such a world is like asking why God didn’t create colorless color or round squares.” (Strobel, Lee. The Case for Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000, p. 50.)
Evil does exist. People can choose to do evil things. It’s part of the freedom that God has given us. We are free to choose Him or reject Him. And we are free to choose good or choose evil. And on September 11, 2001, 19 terrorist highjackers chose evil.
This world is not even close to the one that God originally designed. Sin’s destructive force can’t be measured. Evil is a reality in our world, and it will always be a reality in our world until God’s final judgment. But as God’s people, we can hang onto this hope. One day, God will set everything right again.
In Psalm 92, the Bible says, “How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts! Senseless people do not know, fools do not understand, that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever.
But you, LORD, are forever exalted. For surely your enemies, LORD, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.” (Psalm 92:5-9, NIV)
One day, God will destroy evil and vindicate His people. I know it doesn’t feel like it at times, but we always have to remember that evil will not have the last word. Jesus is coming back, and He will set everything right again.
But in the meantime, we will continue to live in an evil, fallen, sin-stained world. We live in a dangerous, uncertain world. We live in a world where we have been and we will be attacked.
But it doesn’t mean that God has left us alone.
Ten years ago, I was an associate pastor at a church in rural Adams County. On September 11, I was late to work because I couldn’t tear myself away from the news coverage on TV.
When I finally got to work, the phone was ringing off the hook. I was the only staff member in the office that day, and most of what I did all day was simply answer the phone.
It amazed me how many people wanted to call their church. I even received calls from people in the community who had never been to our church. People I had never met. But something about that day caused a lot of people to pick up a phone and make contact with the church.
When everything seems out of control, we are hungry for something that is stable and certain. And that is what the church is. The church was born in Acts 2 and the church will be here until Jesus comes back. No terrorist can destroy it. No power of hell can dismantle it. And on that day, people were hungry for a connection to something that stable and certain. The people I talked to were starving for words of encouragement and certainty, like the ones in Psalm 27.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:1-5, NIV)
In this Psalm, David realizes that attacks are coming. He had been attacked. He would be attacked again. But his confidence and courage were not shaken because He knew that God was his security.
That’s why he said this in verse 4. “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, NIV)
David said that the only thing he would seek was God. Everything else was unsure and unstable and uncertain. He would seek God alone.
We’ve got to become a nation that seeks the Lord again. Our nation has a spiritual heritage. There is so much revisionist history out there that we tend to forget that our nation has a vibrant Christian heritage.
We tend to forget that President Andrew Jackson declared that the Bible “is the rock on which our Republic rests.”
Abraham Lincoln declared that the Bible “is the best gift God has given to men … But for it, we could not know right from wrong.”
We forget that President William McKinley said, “Our faith teaches us that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, Who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and Who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.”
President Harry S. Truman told a group touring Washington, DC, “You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation was established by men who believed in God. … You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith on every hand.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that, “Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life.”
We could go on and on, but the point is that faith in God has been central throughout our nation’s history. And we’ve got to return to our spiritual roots. But that return to our roots doesn’t start in Washington. It doesn’t start in the White House. It starts in your house. It starts in my house. It doesn’t start in the halls of Congress. It starts in the church. It starts with the people of God
Days like September 11 remind us that we are not safe. In fact, we are vulnerable. Our world is evil. Attacks will come. But God is still God and God is still good. Our nation needs to remember that, but it will only start when the people in the church start remembering that.
We need to remember that because attacks are still coming. But the attack doesn’t have to involve al-Qaeda. It doesn’t have to involve radical Islam. It doesn’t have to involve terrorists and extremists. You and I will be attacked because we have an enemy much greater than Osama bin Laden. An enemy that Seal Team 6 can’t take out.
In 1 Peter, the Bible says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:8-11, NIV)
Go back and walk through that passage step by step. In verse 8, Peter tells us to, “Be alert and of sober mind.” This is not game. We have an enemy who is like a lion looking for someone to devour.
Satan is not playing games. He wants to take you down. He wants to destroy your family. He wants to decimate our church. He doesn’t want to hurt us. He wants to destroy us.
There are two extremes that we can fall into when it comes to Satan. One is to fear him, which is ridiculous. Our God is infinitely more powerful than our enemy. We have no reason to fear him.
But the other extreme is to make light of him. To belittle him and his power. I’ve seen people wearing shirts that say things like, “Satan is a nerd” and things like that. I understand the sentiment, but I also see how this really makes light of a spiritual being that is a lot more powerful than we are.
Satan is real. He is powerful. And he is not messing around with us. He wants to destroy us. That’s why Peter said to be alert and be of sober mind. In other words, take the threat seriously.
He will attack you. He will attack your family. He will attack our church. He will attack us because we are a threat to His mission. But we’re not alone in that.
In verse 9, Peter says that, “you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
We are not alone. Satan is attacking God’s people all over the world. That’s why we need each other. You need the church because you need to be around other people who have been attacked. People who have been where you are. People who know what it’s like to be targets.
And that’s what we are. If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are also a target of Satan. You will be attacked. Some of you are under attack right now. You and your family are under the gun right now. Our enemy is real. And He really does want to take us down.
But in verse 10, Peter reminds us that the “God of all grace” is with us in our struggles in our hardships, in our pain. He is with us when we’re attacked. He makes us “strong, firm, and steadfast.”
You will be attacked. I will be attacked. We have an enemy that wants nothing but our absolute destruction.
Some of you drug yourself in here today because you are war weary. The attacks against you and your family have been relentless. You need to own these words from Romans 8.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39, NIV)
There is nothing that can separate you from God’s love. There is nothing that can derail the purpose that God has for your life. And there is no attack that can destroy His plans for your life.
In fact, God has launched a counteroffensive against our enemy. In 1 John 3, the Bible says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8b, NIV)
The reason Jesus came was to destroy the devil’s work. Jesus didn’t come to hamper the devil’s work. He didn’t come to hinder the devil’s work. He came to obliterate…absolutely destroy…the devil’s work.
When Jesus died on the cross, Satan thought he had landed a knockout punch. But it ended up being his ultimate defeat. Jesus’ death ended up being the very vehicle that God used to save His people. And His resurrection defeated death, which was Satan’s ultimate weapon. We have new life in Christ. We have eternal life in the presence of God. And Satan has been defeated. He is defeated now. He will be defeated in eternity. And the people of God need to live like this is true.
In John 16, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)
Jesus sets up a choice for us. He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” But He also said, “In me you may have peace.”
We get to choose. And today we’re inviting you to choose peace. We’re inviting you to choose victory. We’re inviting you to choose Jesus.
There is nothing going on in your life that surprises Him. There is nothing going on in your life that surpasses Him. There is no attack in your life that He can’t handle.
He promised us that this world will give us trouble. We will experience hurt and pain and disappointment. We will be attacked. But in some of the most hopeful words in the entire Bible, Jesus said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Every trial, every struggle, every attack in your life is temporary. It will not last forever. Our enemy has been defeated. Our God is victorious. And our God will never leave us.
If you’ve been fighting through life alone, you can stop now. You can admit that it’s not working. You can admit that you can’t do it on your own, because you don’t have to. God wants to walk through it with you. He wants to fight for you. All He asks is that you surrender to Him and His will for your life.
|< Prev||Next >|