Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Greatest Tragedy of 9-11-2011

In the initial line of this post, let me make it clear that the loss of lives and the injuries that came as a result of Islamic terrorists attacking our great nation on our own soil cannot be reversed. Those were and are real people and the trauma to family and friends, though it may be soothed, can never be removed. Though I knew none of them personally, I prayed and continue to pray for them. I pray for the brotherhood of first responders whose lives have been forever changed. Nothing I will share today is intended in any way to diminish the loss, pain nor anguish that these individuals and families have experienced.

That said, I believe the greatest tragedy of 9-11-2001 was not the destruction of buildings, the loss of life and limb, nor the realization that America is venerable to attack within the homeland. Let me explain what I observed as a pastor in America during the two decades surrounding that fateful day.  In the years leading up to the 9-11 events, America in general has drifted away from the biblical precepts on which she was founded and which had made her great. Supreme Court rulings had changed our moral compass. No longer were the lives of innocent children valued as creations of Almighty God. No longer were biblical, nor even patriotic values seen as valuable to our educational process. Parental discipline was broadly limited and a "feel good" moral system crept into place. Participation in worship and other church related activities fell to an all time low and slowly America moved away from her dependence upon God's sovereign direction.

Then came the eventious day of destruction, injury and death. 9-11-2001, within minutes became etched on the annals of American history. We were all stunned. All of America fell into a state of fear and anger. Suddenly those who had no room for God in their lives, began to pray and flock to the churches within their communities. On Wednesday evening, 9-12-2001, our small church saw many turn out for our Wednesday evening prayer time who had not been present in years, or perhaps ever. On Sunday morning, 9-16-2001, our rural church was packed and overflowing. Chair had to be brought in and people were standing as I preached that morning. I was apparent that even through tragedy, God was at work call America back to Himself. I remember distinctly how several parents who had not been in church in months, came to me privately asking for counsel on how to biblically assist their children to understand how God could, or would, allow such things to take place. Without exception, every one of them pledged to return to an active role within the church and to raise up their children in the admonition of the Lord. On Sunday, 9-23-2001, our church was again packed, but no one was standing. There were enough chairs to support the crowd. The following Sunday, the third after 9-11, there were empty seats in our worship center and by the following Sunday our attendance was back to pre 9-ll numbers. Those parents who had come to me seeking counsel and pledging to become actively involved in Bible study and worship were no where to be seen. Their children quickly fell out of our children's and teem ministries and the vast majority of these families were never seen at our church again.

I believe this is the greatest tragedy of 9-11-2001. While God did not direct nor cause the events of 9-11, He did allow them to take place. I believe God saw an opportunity to call America back to himself and reestablish a biblical direction for our nation. We ran to God in our time of fear, but as soon as that initial fear had subsided, America again turned her back on Him. In the thirteen years that have ensued, we have moved even farther away from God and His precepts. We voted for "hope and change." We got the change, but we've lost our hope. We now have national leadership which has no regard for the Constitution  and a President who believes himself to be a monarch rather than the leader of a Republic. America's hope since 9-11-2001 has moved, not closer to God but to a leader whom she really doesn't even know.  Yes, this is the real tragedy of 9-11-2001: America failed to heed the warning of God and failed to return to him.

The hope for America, and for our individual lives is not in government nor in its political leaders. Our only real hope is in God. The Psalmist said it well, "Find rest O my soul, in God alone: any hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge."  (Psalm 62:5-7, NIV).