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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 11, 2011
Responding to 9/11 – Ten Years Later
Remembering September 11, 2001
I am going to delay the message I was preparing on Daniel 5 until next week. As I was preparing for my sermon this week it just kept coming to mind that I should say something in regards to today marking ten years since radical Muslims attacked the Pentagon and destroyed the World Trade Center. One reason I was thinking this way is the political correctness that has taken over so much of the discussion. Mayor Bloomberg’s 9/11 tenth anniversary commemoration service at Ground Zero is a case in point. Perhaps there is wisdom in restricting it to immediate family members of those who perished, but then why invite Congressmen and exclude the first responders who were there? I commend him for not letting it become another warm-fuzzy ecumenical service in which fundamental Islamic theology will yet again be excused, but no clergy, no chaplains, no religious leaders? Political correctness in action again to avoid offending anyone except God and Christians.
Then on Wednesday afternoon I saw a brief news article that mentioned that “less than half the states clearly identify the 9/11 attacks in their standards for social studies.”Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom commented about two reasons for this. On a pragmatic level, States and school districts may not have integrated that period of time into their history classes. However, he added, “I think the main reason is trying to avoid controversy.” He explained, “What we see in public schools in particular is they tend to just ignore any issue that could be volatile because they don’t want to get into constant conflict.” After reading that I knew I needed to devote a sermon to this topic.
Perhaps those acts of war of a decade ago do not have as much meaning in other parts of the country, but here where so many in our community commute to New York City, it is an extremely important event and remains vivid in our memories. Some of you were down there that day and experienced the attacks first hand. If you were not, you probably know someone that was there. They saw the flames, heard the explosions, felt the earth shake as the towers collapsed and smelled the smoke and dust as it engulfed them.
Most of us can tell you where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. My family had just finished family devotions that morning when Melanie Colon called and said we should turn on the news because a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center Towers. Small planes have flown into tall buildings in the past and I thought this was another tragedy of that nature until I turned on the TV and saw the smoke from the burning North Tower. It was only a few minutes later while I was still watching the news that the second 767 hit the South Tower. The word to describe the news after that was confusion. This was obviously something done on purpose, but by whom and for what purpose? The word to describe the emotions of everyone at that time was shock followed by being overwhelmed as the events of the next hour and a half unfolded. Thirty-four minutes later Flight 77, a 757, crashed into the Pentagon. Twenty-two minutes later the South Tower collapsed. Four minutes later Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside due to passengers fighting the hijackers instead of letting them fly the 757 into another target. Twelve minutes later the Pentagon’s E-Ring collapsed and the North Tower collapsed thirteen minutes after that. In just over two hours about 3,000 people died in these attacks. Many more would die in the following days, weeks, months and years due to injuries and diseases caused by the attacks, rescue operations and cleanup. Chronic lung problems are common for those who were caught in the pulverized debris of the fallen towers. Emotional scars still run deep for many survivors as well as friends and family of those who died.
The Immediate Response
The response in the days, weeks and months following were a mixture of anger, fear, patriotism and resolve. The nation would identify and seek out those responsible and hold them accountable. Fear resulted in all sorts of security and anti-terrorism measures. Fear also resulted in a religious awakening. People flocked to churches to pray and try to make some spiritual sense of what had happened.
Anger resulted in a few unjust attacks on innocent Muslims or those who looked like the terrorists, but mostly it fueled a patriotic surge in military recruitment as men and women resolved to do something personally to defend our nation.
Patriotism resulted in not only flags waving everywhere, but also a sharp rise in people volunteering to help their community in everything from blood donations to serving in political office. Both parties in Congress even worked together in a non-partisan fashion.
Resolve resulted in military build up and action in two hot wars – Afghanistan and Iraq – as well as rebuilding our intelligence networks which had been dismantled in the previous years.
The Current Response
Where are things at ten years later?
Fear is still around. It is not necessarily seen on the faces of people as it was then. People are resilient and learn to go on with life adapting to the changed circumstances and making the most of them. We have become used to going through security checks in public buildings. We dutifully take off our hats, coats and shoes and pass everything through x-ray machines while we walk through metal detectors or body scanners. We plan on getting to the airport an hour earlier than we used to in order to get through security. Those things may seem normal now, but all of them are done because of fear that someone among us may turn out to be a terrorist. In that sense, the 9-11 attacks were a success far beyond the physical and economic destruction that occurred that day.
The greater tragedy is that all these security measures are compromised by the folly of political correctness which treats Presbyterian grandmothers with knitting needles as being as great a threat as nervous single Muslim men with one way tickets. A couple of years ago Homeland Security even issued a report warning about the high threat posed by Christians and military veterans. I am still waiting for any report about Baptists, Methodists or Episcopalians carrying out or even planning to blow themselves up on a plane, train, bus or in a shopping mall in order to advance their cause.
Patriotism is a shadow of what it was. In some quarters of the media it has even become a negative term since those who attend patriotic events such as 4th of July parades tend to be conservative Republicans, or even worse, those in the Tea Party movement. Congress is as or more partisan now than it has ever been. Too many politicians will say whatever it takes to get elected. Slander of opponents, twisting the facts and lying about intentions has become normal in the effort to gain the upper hand in the polls and win.
The spiritual awakening was short lived. Attendance started dropping within a few months and within two years it had fallen to pre 9-11 levels. Part of the reason for this is that so many churches have abandoned a Biblical worldview and the gospel of Jesus Christ that they had no answers for those people that came through
their doors. They soon went searching for meaning in life and coping mechanisms in other places. Many of them are still angry with God and blame him for their sorrow. They do not understand the cause of this evil nor do they see God’s hands of mercy in His providence that this occurred on a day and at a time when fewer people were in the towers and the buildings held their integrity long enough for thousands to flee.
Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue with an extra one in Libya thrown in by the President at his whim. President Bush warned that these would be long wars because we were fighting an ideology and not just terrorist organizations. That has been forgotten and from the beginning the ideology was not sufficiently identified resulting in our current war of attrition of will. We win the military aspects of the war but fail to address the ideological causes of it. Our current leaders will not even identify it as a war against terrorism. The result is that it drags on with our enemies resolve remaining strong while our will to carry on the fight continues to diminish.
Political correctness has overwhelmed the fear against Muslims replacing it with not just great tolerance, but a nearly favorable view. It has been repeated over and over that Islam means peace and is a religion of peace. No. Islam means submission and a Muslim is one that submits. The submission is to Allah and his will as revealed through the sayings and life of Mohammed. There can only be peace when Islam wins and rules the entire world.
The Nature of Islam
The vast majority of Muslims around the world are peaceful and follow Islam as a cultural tradition in much the same way as cultural Christians. They want to live a quiet and peaceful life optimistic that their good deeds will earn them their god’s favor and a place in heaven. They are ignorant of or give little thought to following what the Quran actually says about spreading Islam by force nor do they follow the more violent aspects of Mohammed’s legacy. However, there is a small percentage, which translates into multiple millions, that are true believers in the Quaran, hadith and establishing Shariah worldwide. These are those that believe deception, violence and terrorism are acceptable or even required for the spread of Islam in its quest to control the world for the glory of their god. They believe that the only guarantee of Allah accepting them into heaven along with the men gaining 70 virgins for themselves, is to die in jihad. That is why they willingly blow themselves up to kill their enemies. While the vast majority of Muslims may not pursue these things themselves, they are favorable and supportive of those that do.
How can such an ideology be fought? By removing the incentives and beliefs that underlie them. If those who believe dying in violent jihad will guarantee them heaven were instead guaranteed eternal damnation then the suicidal attacks would stop. Telling them their remains will be scraped up and desecrated by burial with pig meat would probably help with that.
If the idea that Islam must eventually rule the world is negated, then the fighting would stop. That is the ideological war we are in, and whether we like it or not, it is a religious war for it is a religious ideology that fuels it and only another religious belief can negate it. This country cannot win this war nor defend itself until that is understood. At present our soldiers are given all sorts of commands concerning how to treat a Quran they find, while at the same time Bibles sent to a soldier in Afghanistan were disposed of as trash. Such a double standard shows we are working against ourselves.
The Long War
It is commonly believed that 9-11 changed our nation. In many ways it has, but only because it brought the reality of war onto our soil in a manner that could no longer be ignored. Islam has been in war against non-Islamic nations since its founding in the 7th Century. Again this is an ideological war that becomes hot at times and then quiets down as preparations are made for the next phase. This nation’s first major encounter in this war was during the Adam’s administration when our shipping was attacked by the pirates of the Barbary coast. After Jefferson became President, he purchased a Koran so he could understand our enemy. We attacked back under Jefferson’s administration and subdued them.
We tend to forget that the U.S. had many conflicts with violent Islam in the 20th Century, though our losses were minor compared to those of other nations and especial Israel. Perhaps some of you remember some of these more publicized attacks against U.S. targets in the two decades before 9-11. 4/18/1983 – Car bombing of U.S. Embassy in Lebanon – 63 killed. 10/23/1983 – Truck bombing of Marine Baracks, Lebanon – 299 killed. 10/7-10/1984 – Achille Lauro hijacked – Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old wheelchair-using Jewish American citizen, is shot dead and thrown overboard. 12/28/1988 – bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland – 270 killed. 2/28/1989 firebombing of the Riverdale Press by Muslim terrorists for publishing Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. 2/26/1993 – truck bombing of the World Trade Center kills 6 and injures over 1,000. 2/24/1997 – Ali Abu Kamal opens fire on tourists on a observation deck atop the Empire State Building. Kills 1, wounds many. 10/12/2000 – U.S. Cole attacked in port, Aden, Yemen – 17 killed, 39 injured.
While no terrorist attack directly on the United States has reached the magnitude of 9-11, there have been at least 25 failed or thwarted attacks and many attacks of lower magnitude that have resulted in death or injury. Counting only religiously motivated attacks in the U.S. since 9/11/2001, there have been 22 attacks in which 35 have been murdered and 58 injured. The most well know of these are:7/4/2002 – Los Angels, Muslim gunman kills 2 at the El Al counter at LAX. Between 10/2 – 22/2002 in the MD/VA/DC area, Muslim snipers kill 10. 3/3/2006 – Chapel Hill, NC – Calling it the will of Allah, an Iranian immigrant plows his SUV into a crowd of students as ‘retribution’ for foreign policy overseas – 9 injured. 6/25/2006 – Denver, CO – saying that it was ‘Allah’s choice’, a Muslim shoots four of his co-workers and a police officer – 1 dead, five injured. 11/5/2009 – Ft. Hood, TX – A Muslim psychiatrist yelling ‘Allah Akbar’ murders thirteen unarmed U.S. soldiers and injures 31 on their base in Texas. 12/4/2009 – Binghamton, NY – a Muslim grad student in revenge for ‘persecuted’ Muslims stabs to death a non-Muslim Islamic studies professor. (Other incidents are listed at the end of the notes).
During that same time period in the U.S. there have been 11 murdered and 4 injured in “honor” killings in 6 incidents, 5 of which have occurred since 2008. World-wide, there have been more than 17,716 Islamic terrorist attacks reported. At least 48 have died in such attacks in the last week. Many attacks occur in places where they are not reported or the religious motivations are obscured. (See: www.thereligionofpeace.com)
I mention all of this to make the point that we live in an evil and dangerous world. Satan uses every means available to work against God and those who follow Him. False religions such as Islam are just one of them, but those following Islam’s teachings on the use of deception and violence to conquer have become one of the most dangerous to life and limb as well as liberty. How do we respond to living in such a world? The same way followers of God have always responded. Let me list out some of them.
Responding to Evil
Fear God, not Man. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear
those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jesus also said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. 26 “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
There is more to living than life. The vast majority of humans in the world have life, but they are not living. They are dead in their trespasses and sin and bound for an eternity separated from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). They will be judged according to their sinful deeds and cast into eternal Hell (Revelation 20:12-15). The only hope man has of avoiding this is faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ who paid the sin price for us on Calvary and offers eternal life to all who will place their trust in Him and His promises.
While it is natural to fear what may cause you harm, the Christian can put this in the proper perspective. We value eternity over the temporal. We value living in heaven more than having security on this planet. We value our souls and brining glory to our Creator more than gaining the things of this world.
Live in Faith. That does not mean believing that God will keep you from all harm. That is a false belief that has become common among professing Christians because they have heard and believed a perverted Gospel. Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when [men] cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Paul summarized this simply in 2 Timothy 3:12, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The reality of this is demonstrated in the persecution, sometimes severe even to the point of martyrdom, of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. More believers died in persecution in the 20th Century than the previous 19 centuries combined. Serious persecution continues at a fast pace and especially so in Communist, and Islamic nations.
We also have to deal with the reality that we will suffer in this life because we live among sinful people in a cursed world. Neither people nor the things in this world function according to God’s original design. Christians are not exempt from suffering due to crime, war, disease or disaster. We can be victims of thieves and thugs for reasons other than living godly lives. Believers get shot, shelled and bombed during war like anyone else. Christian lifestyle reduces risk of many diseases, but they can still fall victim anyway. Many are the Christians who have gotten AIDS from blood transfusions or unknowingly from an unfaithful spouse. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis strike everyone in their path, Christians included.
Having faith in God does not exclude you from being a victim and suffering. Having faith in God means believing that He is with you and He is in control. It is founded on the truth that your life here on this earth is about glorifying your Creator and not gaining wealth and pleasure. The Lord knows what He is doing and will go with you through anything that comes upon you in life whatever that may be for He Himself said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Having faith in God means putting into practice Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” I may plan my path, but He is the one that directs my steps (Proverbs 16:9), so that I go where He wants me to go. If it is through the path of suffering, then I can only respond as did the apostles in rejoicing that I am counted worthy to join in His fellowship of suffering (Philippians 3:8; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13). I can also rejoice knowing that He will use the troubles and trials of this life to mature me into what He wants me to be (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
I am well aware that in preaching the word of God as I do, that I am a target for those that hate God, and frankly, your proximity to me puts you at risk of being collateral damage. And if you also live according to what the Scriptures teach, then you will also become such a target yourself. But how much better it is to live in such as way for God’s eternal glory than to avoid the possibility of brief suffering in this life (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 1:6f) and lose in eternity.
Be Courageous, not Foolhardy. Trusting God means we make our plans and leave the results in God’s hands. James 4:13-15 address this reality saying that we are to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” We use wisdom to set goals, make plans and then go forward trusting in His providence for the outcome in all our endeavors. However, none of this means ignoring danger. We are to take proper measures of caution. While we are to trust the Lord for whatever the final outcome may be, we are to use wisdom in preparing ourselves and avoiding unnecessary risks. Let me stress that this is avoiding unnecessary risks, not avoiding risk.
Jesus gave lessons in planning in Luke 14:28f as He explained what it would cost to be His disciple. He explained that someone who was going to build a tower would sit down and calculate the cost before starting construction to make sure he could complete the job. He further explained that a king facing a battle with an enemy would take counsel first about his ability to win before engaging the enemy. If he did not believe he could win, then he would strive to negotiate a peace settlement instead. In other words, as we plan we assess our ability and the risks involved. If we do not have the ability or the risks are beyond what should be taken, then we plan a different course of action.
Ability is a personal assessment. The level of faith will vary among people and with maturity. Increasing maturity brings greater ability. Risk is also a personal assessment. It factors in one’s own ability and the ability of those who must be trusted in the situation as well as an evaluation of the ability of enemies to carry out their plans.
Courage is the stepping forward to face and do what others are too fearful to do. Being courageous does not mean that you are without fear, but it does mean that the fear does not control you. Courage rises with ability and faith. A person who is courageous recognizes the dangers, assesses them and wisely decides a course of action that minimizes danger if possible, but will still go forward if the potential gain outweighs the potential loss.
Someone who is foolhardy is bold and daring in a foolish way. They are rash and reckless. In ignorance they do not recognize what they should fear or in bravado they unwisely cast aside that fear. Foolhardiness rises with an over assessment of ability and / or misplaced faith. For these reasons the foolhardy place themselves at unnecessary risk to achieve things that may even be of limited value.
Courage is a godly characteristic. Foolhardiness is not. Christians can and should be courageous in carrying out God’s commands regardless of the consequences that we may face as a result. We have already seen that in our study of Daniel and the example of his three friends, Hananiah, Meshael, and Azariah. Christians should be more cautious in placing themselves at risk to gain something that not in keeping with what God clearly commands. Let me give you some quick examples.
Courageously witnessing to all people including Muslims. You do risk their anger and violent response, but God commands us to pr
oclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. We reduce our risk by making sure we are speaking the truth in love, remaining calm even if they become angry, and speaking in such settings in which it would be harder for them to attack such as in public settings.
Courageously living even when under threat. The goal of terrorism is to control you through fear. While increasing security measures, you continue on as normal as possible with work, home life, ministries and community involvement. You take public transportation as needed – planes, trains, etc. – though you may be more alert to suspicious fellow passages. You take your worries and anxieties and give them to the Lord in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).
Avoid antagonizing others just for the sake of speaking your mind or seeking to assert your rights. Avoid responding in anger (James 1:20). Avoid unnecessarily placing yourself in places of known high danger. For example, today there is an extreme threat of terrorist actions. Go on with your planned activities, but not as one oblivious to the danger. Check the news of any specific threats. Listen to the news for any actual terrorist actions and respond appropriately.
Be Prayerful. 1 Peter 5:6 tells us to cast all your anxiety upon the Lord because He cares for you. We do that by prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul commands, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Prayer reminds us that God is in control and we can leave our troubles in His hands. When we do that we can experience His peace regardless of our circumstances. The prophet Isaiah explained, “The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace , Because he trusts in Thee. 4 “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, [we have] an everlasting Rock (Isaiah 26:3-4).
Your level of peace and remaining calm in a sinful and dangerous world is directly related to your trust of the Lord and therefore your understanding of God. If you know and understand His multiple attributes such as being eternal, all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, sovereign, righteous, just, loving, merciful, etc., then He will be an everlasting Rock to you. You will trust His promise in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.” You be confident that there is absolutely nothing that shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39).
If your view of God is small, then you will be anxious for there is nothing you can really trust. A small god is incapable and you are left vulnerable. Your level of anxiety will be the indicator of how much more you need to learn the truth about the God who created you.
Pray not only for yourself and your loved ones, but also those who are on the front lines of battle seeking to protect us. That includes not only the men and women in our armed forces, but also those serving here in the U.S. in police, fire, rescue and emergency services. They also place life and limb at risk for others.
Finally, we are to be prayerful because our enemies need salvation. They may want to control, exploit or even kill us. We in turn want their souls. We want to see them saved, converted and going to heaven as part of the redeemed. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44 to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous.” Revenge belongs to God and we are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).
So be prayerful and in that way you will be able to respond in a godly manner to whatever situation may come upon you.
Listing of addition attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11/01.
3/19/2002 – Tucson, AZ – 60 year old man killed on golf course by Muslim sniper. 5/27/2002 – Denton, TX – Muslim sniper kills man as he works in his yard.. 09/21/2002 – Montgomery, AL – Muslim sniper kills one woman and injures another.. 8/6/2003 – Houston, TX – After undergoing a religious revival, a Saudi college student slashes the throat of a Jewish student with a 4″ butterfly knife, nearly decapitating the young man. 4/15/2004 – Scottsville, NY – Muslim man “Honor” murders wife and attacks two daughters. 6/10/2004 – Atlanta, GA – A man on a commuter train mutters Qur’anic verses then attacks injuring 4. 6/16/2006 – Baltimore, MD – A 62-year-old Jewish moviegoer is shot to death by a Muslim gunman in an unprovoked terror attack. 7/28/2006 – Seattle, WA – An ‘angry’ Muslim-American uses a young girl as hostage to enter a local Jewish center, where he shoots six women, one of whom dies. 2/2/2007 – Nashville, TN – Muslim man runs over and injures a Christian after arguing about religion. 1/1/2008 – Irving, TX – A Muslim immigrant shoots his two daughters to death on concerns about their ‘Western’ lifestyle. 7/6/2008 – Atlanta, GA – A devout Muslim strangles his 25-year-old daughter in an honor killing. 2/12/2009 -Buffalo, NY – The founder of a Muslim TV station beheads his wife in the hallway for seeking a divorce. 6/1/2009 – Little Rock, AR – A Muslim with ‘religious motives’ murders 1 and injures 1 in a drive-by attack. 11/2/2009 – Glendale, AZ – 1 dead, 1 injured in “Honor” killing by Muslim father. 4/14/2010 – Marquette Park, IL – After quarrelling with his wife over Islamic dress, a Muslim convert shoots his family members to ‘take them back to Allah’ and out of the ‘world of sinners’ – 5 dead, 2 injured. 4/30/11 – Warren, MI – 20 year old woman murdered by step-father for not adhering to Islamic practices.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about 9-11 and how to respond to evil in the world
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What do you remember about 9/11/2001? What do remember about the immediate response to the terrorist attacks? How has America changed since then? What changes are good? What changes are bad? What are some of the beliefs in Islamic theology that incites violence both non-Muslims? How can an ideological war be won? What are some of the acts of war / terrorism carried out by those claiming Islamic reasoning before 9-11? Since 9-11? How does fearing God instead of man change our response to 9-11? What does it mean to live by faith in Christ? Does being a Christian exclude you from suffering? Why or why not? What is courage and how is it demonstrated. What is foolhardiness and how is it demonstrated? How can we live life courageously and avoid being foolhardy? What is the importance of prayer? What should be pray for?
Sermon Notes – September 11, 2011
Remembering 9-11 Ten Years
Remembering September 11, 2001
The Immediate Response
The Current Response
The Nature of Islam
The Long War
Responding to Evil
Fear God, not Man
Live in Faith.
Be Courageous, not Foolhardy
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