As we observe the 10th anniversary of 9/11, most of us can remember that day so clearly. We can visualize where we were and recall what we were doing when we stopped to watch our televisions. In stunned silence, we witnessed the first, and then the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse in a heap of rubble.
In the forefront of our minds was the shock of "Is this really happening?" but in the background was the disquiet of "What does this mean for the future?" The realization that our borders were not impenetrable, our defenses were not impregnable, and our nation was not invulnerable, was an eye-opening experience for many of us.
I visited what was being called "ground zero" only days after this horrific and senseless attack. I stood in absolute amazement at the spot where the mighty twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood and watched the smoke billow from the mass of destruction. It was all so surreal and incredibly sad.
On September 11, 2001, God allowed in the life of a nation what He so often allows in the lives of individuals: tragedy. I wish I could tell you that tragedy only strikes in the life of the godless, but we know the godly also suffer. Why does God allow tragedy?
Of course, there are no easy answers to this question. But I do believe that one reason is because suffering peels away the veneer of self-sufficiency in our lives. It melts away the pretense that we don't need help. It reminds us that we need God. C.S. Lewis wrote "Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul."
It may come as a surprise to some people that the Bible does not promise a life that is free from suffering. But it does promise the presence of God for the person who believes. The Bible promises that God will help us through that suffering if we allow Him to.
Thinking back to the events of 9/11, and the days that followed, we were barely beginning to understand that a whole new kind of battle had begun. It was at that time that the phrase "War on Terror" was coined. More than a military conflict, though it includes that, the war we now face is a war of ideas, a war of beliefs.
Don't get me wrong. I am all for strengthening our nation's defenses, for tracking down and removing known terrorists, for uniting as a nation to physically protect innocent people from wicked individuals and their warped ideology. I don't even mind the excessive regulations at the airport (well, unless I'm running late). But I recognize that these things, in and of themselves, do not hold the answer to the War on Terror.
This battle ultimately will not be won with M-16s; it will be won with John 3:16, which tells us that God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
"Homeland security" will never be achieved until we secure a new homeland -- a heavenly citizenship -- which can only be obtained through placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
You see, the teeth of terrorism is fear. The fear of suffering, the fear of death, the fear of losing what we think is ours -- all of these dissipate when we turn our focus to God. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear, and that God is this perfect love. God removed the sting of death and gained victory over the terror of the grave more than 2,000 years ago, when He sent His Son to die on the cross.
Most Americans believe in God and a surprisingly high number identify themselves as "born-again Christians." But many go through life as practical atheists, having no real relationship with God to speak of. I believe we need to turn to God and put our faith in Him in these uncertain times in which we live.
That is why, on the day before the 10th anniversary of one of the darkest days in America's history, thousands of us will gather at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for what we are calling "An Evening of Hope".
Let me direct your attention to another "911" that our country can turn to in times of urgency: Psalm 91:1. "Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty" (NLT). The next verse goes on to say, "He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him." May we, as a nation find safety and refuge in the shelter of the Almighty as we trust in Him.
And let's not forget to pray for the comfort of those who lost loved ones ten years ago.