September 12, 2004
Pastor Brian Shimer
"Three Years After 9-11"
- How many of you remember where you were on September 11, 1996? No one? OK, then...
Who remembers where you were and what you were doing on 9-11, 2001 when you heard the news? That's pretty much everyone here. (Take a moment and tell someone next to you)
Three years ago that day within 3 hours of the departures of 4 airliners nearly three thousand people died, the World Trade Center towers and a portion of the Pentagon collapsed, all flights in this nation were grounded by the FAA for the first time in history, and all incoming international flights were diverted to Canada.
I was at prayer in the living room at the House of Prayer when Karen walked in and said, "Skip just called and America is under attack." It was an impossible statement. America had not come "under attack" since Pearl Harbor - and then it happened far from the mainland. I came home and stood before the fuzzy reception on the TV watching in horror as they replayed the footage of planes flying into the World Trade Center.
I went from watching the broadcast to the pastor's prayer meeting in Forest Grove where not one pastor was missing. We prayed. We sought God on how to respond. We made plans out of which birthed our two prayer gatherings we had here.
At those services I remember a couple who were firefighters, weeping for their fallen comrades and in the evening service writing name after name of those we knew who were impacted by the attack. On Sunday evening some of us joined nearly 3,000 people at the Hillsboro Stadium for a memorial service.
Who remembers how our government responded? Did we nuke nations? We didn't, did we? Yet, today people paint our president as if he is some gun-toting cowboy just loving a fight.
Actually we showed incredible restraint in our response to 9-11. President Bush gave the Taliban a three month opportunity to take action against known terrorist cells that they helped support, and when they refused, we went in and dismantled that government.
Tony Parsons of the Daily Globe, a very liberal newspaper in London, said the same of our response.
He wrote: "Remember, remember and realize that America has never retaliated for 9/11 in anything like the way it could have…. AMERICA could have turned a large chunk of the world into a parking lot. That it didn't is a sign of strength... (remember) One of the greatest atrocities in human history was committed against America. No, do more than remember. Never forget." (Tony Parsons, Daily Mirror, 9/11/02)
The attack became a war on terror which has overflowed into the war in Iraq. It is all the same war against extremist Islamic groups intent on destroying the "great satan".
Some say, we should not be fighting a war at all. We ought to have just "turned the other cheek"
But we could not have done that in righteousness. Jesus asks us to so deal with our enemies personally, but nationally we are told in scripture the Government carries the sword to bring justice upon the evildoer. And 9-11 was a blow dealt by evildoers.
There is such a thing as a just war, and we are in one.
Theologian Richard Neuhaus notes that a just war "is not itself an evil; nor is it even, as is commonly said today, a necessary evil. It is, if just, a positive duty, the doing of which, while it may entail much suffering, is to be counted as a good" (Jim Heidinger III in his editorial in GoodNews Jan/Feb 2002, p. 9).
Jesus said there will be wars and rumors of them until the end. We are still marching that direction. And war brings suffering and pain! The nightly displays of the pictures of those killed in Iraq is heart wrenching and becomes our prayer list for the grieving families around us.
So did America cause 9-11? No.
Certainly no one can look at our nation and say we are sinless. We export an unhealthy share of the world's filth by way of street drugs, pornography, lewd entertainment, pure wickedness. Indeed if God wanted to have brought justice to us, it would have taken more than this event. No, we did not cause it, but we deserved far worse.
- It was a crisis that revealed our hearts. It brought us to our knees, but not in surrender to this invisible enemy but in surrender to the all powerful God. Suddenly the motto on our money became a reality. There was no place to turn, so we placed our trust in God.
The 11th Psalm begins with a conversation. David writes "In the Lord I take refuge, how then can you say to me: 'Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?'"
We don't know who David was writing to here, but it is clear this was a time of crisis. Someone is telling him to flee. It is a time when the wicked are shooting from the shadows. A time when some were saying the "foundations are being destroyed." They were not talking buildings here but the foundations of life.
Doesn't that phrase remind you of what 9-11 felt like - like the foundations were being destroyed? People were shooting at us from the shadows. It was an attack by an unseen enemy.
- Like David we at that time made the Lord our refuge. We trusted. Churches were filled, people in NYC became very helpful and giving and Ground Zero became Ground Hero. But since then many have moved from such a trust. God has ceased to be as mighty and instead of refuge and trust in God Almighty, they have begun to trust in a political party, in themselves, in their ideas, in the news broadcaster's opinions, and begun to act like the wicked described here who "shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart." But that is not what God wants nor is it trust that will sustain us. Look at the God in whom David finds refuge.
A. David says The LORD is Sovereign -- look at v 4.
He is in his holy temple - he is the focus of worship.
He is on his heavenly throne - he is the Ruling authority in the universe.
This is not a puny God who cannot handle a crisis. This is a God who is big enough both to allow a storm and to be in it to assist us to get through it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 still applies: "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
It is good news that God was Sovereign over 9-11. It was allowed because of all kinds of reasons we cannot see, but God was Sovereign. The crisis did not take Him by surprise. Indeed God worked behind the scenes causing one man to oversleep, another to miss a flight, another woman to be late, etc. You remember the statistics. Normally at that hour, more than 50,000 people could have been in those towers. I find that an impossible number. Undeserved favor, Unmerited mercy. God is Sovereign.
God is Sovereign in your storms too.
Is there anything impacting the soil of your life today that is shaking you to your foundations? Make the Lord your refuge. Make Him the object of your worship, Make Him the ruler in your day. Give him reign over your tongue, invite God into your thoughts, let God have your worries, abandon to God your fears.
B. Not only does David say that the Lord is Sovereign, but also that The Lord is JUST. The last three verses point to the fact that the wicked will pay for their wickedness. "those who love violence, his soul hates."
Proverbs 21:27 says: "God loathes the sacrifice of an evil person, especially when it is brought with ulterior motives."
Galatians 6:7 reminds us: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."
The end of Psalm 11 reads similarly: He watches everything closely, examining everyone on earth. The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates everyone who loves violence. He rains down blazing coals on the wicked, punishing them with burning sulfur and scorching winds. For the LORD is righteous, and he loves justice. Those who do what is right will see his face."
I read these words and think: "Leave room for God's wrath." God will avenge. It is not my job.
Proverbs 24:19-20 puts it this way:
"Do not fret because of evil men, or be envious of the wicked;
For the evil man has no future hope; and the lamp of the wicked shall be snuffed out."
Is God your refuge - and is it God like David describes God? Find your refuge in this God today.