He Holds the Future
September 11th, 2001 may prove to be the most defining moment in this new millennium. That day the United States came under an attack that exceeds anything previous, including Pearl Harbor. Again and again the media are echoing the refrain of “America’s New War” and indeed it is. Already we are reeling from the impact of fear and uncertainty as the American Stock Market lost 1.5 trillion dollars in the first week after re-opening. In the aftermath, 100,000 have lost their jobs in the airline industry alone. This has created a staggering ripple effect into the hotel, car rental and restaurant businesses as well. And the shock waves continue.
Now we are witnessing the punishing reprisals as the Americans and other allied forces launch their counter attacks against the terrorist camps and supporting governments.
If ever there was a time for serious prayer, it is now!
We have all been deeply wounded and affected by the events of these last few weeks. Our hearts go out in deep sympathy to the families of those lost in the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and the downed airliners. Weeks later we are still reeling in shock. No one could ever imagine such a hideous and devastating terrorist attack.
Will there be other attacks? Will the President’s war on these terrorists hold them at bay? Did terror achieve its goal to frighten and cower America and the West into economic recession and decline? Time alone will give us these answers. One thing is for sure; these events have managed to start a war in one of the most troubled regions on earth. The potential for escalation is extremely high, the most serious scenario since World War II.
If ever there was a time for serious prayer, it is now! I was so pleased to see that President Bush has asked many to join him in prayer for himself and his team that God would grant them wisdom and success. (See www.presidentialprayerteam.org) So far, three million have signed up to pray for the President, the Cabinet and the Nation on a daily basis.
It is very sad to read the beliefs of these terrorists who were so devastatingly deceived. They believed they were doing the will of God and that in the losing of their own lives they would go straight to paradise. Imagine their shock when in the afterlife they discovered that God is a God of love and not hate and that they have been weighed in the balances and found seriously wanting. Did anyone ever tell them that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”?
Apparently they never heard that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”(Acts 4:12) Jesus, the only Son of God alone will rescue men from their evil ways and give them the gift of eternal life. In His own words He declares (John 14:6 NKJV) “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
This is a war against fear.
I am struck with the stark contrast between the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who came teaching love, forgiveness and good news, versus Osama bin Laden who teaches his disciples to steal, kill and hate, all in the name of God.
OUR GREATEST ENEMIES, OUR GREATEST HOPE
Surely though, fear and uncertainty have become our enemies. Getting the balance right between not reacting at all and over reacting in fear will be our greatest challenge. There is no question that this is a war against fear. Terrorism trades on fear. But perfect love casts out fear.
How should we as Christians interpret these events? Is this is the beginning of the apocalyptic judgements? Surely we are in the last days. The state of Israel, the greatest prophetic sign in the Word of God, has been a fulfilled reality for 53 years. But are these ‘the last’ of the last days? Only time will tell. We are surely in a time of grave danger where we need to prepare our hearts to be on fire with love for Christ. Yet it is also a time of great opportunity when we can win friends and families into the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Our greatest gift is the hope that lies within us. As Christians, we have a future because we know Who holds the future. We have hope because we know that our God is never limited by circumstances. In our hearts are exceeding great and precious promises that offer us life in the here and now and as well life forever. These are the trials of life that allow our Christian faith to shine and prove its worth. Jesus gives peace in the midst of the storm. Most of us have grown up and lived our lives during relative peace at home. In North America we have never experienced mass death and destruction. As we face it now, our faith in Christ is tested. That faith must be something that really works and carries you through this life and into the one to come.
LOVING OUR ENEMIES
What then should be our attitude toward Islam, the acclaimed faith of the terrorists? We need to realize that many peace-loving Muslims are ashamed and embarrassed about what has happened. These terrorist hijackers hijacked their religion as well, attempting to bundle all of them together. This now becomes an opportunity for those of us who know the love of God to reach out to them in love, remembering that “Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8) I am praying for many Muslims and their leaders to open their hearts to experience the love of God for them through Jesus Christ. He is calling them now, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
What should be our attitude toward war in this situation? Our governments cannot allow the terrorist murder of about 7,000 innocent people in the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and the airliners to go unchallenged and unpunished. Terrorism and anarchy cannot be allowed to overtake a just and free society that exists to insure the peace of its citizens. Nations do have the right to protect and defend themselves against those who refuse peace. God may call some Christians to be among those who defend the peace.
Our focus is not merely to be upon an earthly kingdom but on a heavenly kingdom that will never pass away.
Jesus told us in Matthew 25 and Luke 21 to expect that there would be wars and rumors of wars until the end, but that we should not be troubled or fearful.
Scripture tells us, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18 NKJV)
Whether we have war or peace, we should all be “watching and waiting” for the soon return of the Son of Man. Wars and rumors of wars will come, but we have Emanuel, God’s actual presence with us. Now more than ever, we need to experience His love. His is a personal presence that you can feel that actually does bring peace in the midst of the storm. Our focus is not merely to be upon an earthly kingdom but on a heavenly kingdom that will never pass away.
THIS RIVER BRINGS HIS PEACE
This wonderful River of God’s presence which has continually been poured out upon us for eight years now is surely more relevant than ever before. When the presence of God is with you in a present reality, you are much more aware of His power and ability to protect and deliver you. The realities of His kingdom are close at hand. Love, joy and peace are not mere theological precepts, but desperately needed realities that strengthen and heal the inner man. His presence brings us His eternal kingdom as the temporal becomes obviously insignificant.
Now, more than ever before we can focus on the Great Commandment and then the Great Commission. As we see the temporal kingdoms fading in significance, we can see more and more clearly the importance of the eternal kingdom. This is not a time to be lukewarm and seriously distracted with the cares of this life. This is a time to be on fire for God and in love with Him heart and soul. (Matthew 22:37)
It is also an unprecedented season of harvest and opportunity for the Great Commission. To go into all the world and declare the good news of God’s kingdom of love through Jesus Christ. Always in times of uncertainty, people are more open to talk about eternity. May every “in love” and “on fire” Christian become a flaming witness of the good news. It is time to lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near. (Luke 21:28)