Publication: Pastoral Letter, October 2001
Dear Friend in Christ:
Shortly after completing my regular October Pastoral letter to you, the United States was attacked by terrorists on September 11. In seeking the Lord, I felt I should address this issue immediately, and so, even as crews continue to make rescue attempts at both the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, I am writing from my heart. We do not know today what may transpire between the time I am writing and the time you receive this letter, but I pray you will find this letter encouraging. Of course, looking at the present circumstances, the news is horrific, and impossible to absorb. I turned on the television September 11, just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center. It was surreal. I heard the cries of anguish and disbelief. I listened as reporters and witnesses exhausted their vocabularies, and watched in stony silence.
I continued to watch and listen for a couple of hours, stunned by the unimaginable horror of people falling from burning towers and finally watching the towers implode. After a while, I turned to the newspaper, simply to relieve my overloaded senses.
As I thumbed through the paper, I realized that the morning newspaper might as well have been a year old. It was news from yesterday – another era. Throughout the day there was no trivia, no Condit stories, no comedy, no sports, and no “survival” shows. Now, survival was not a game.
Terrorism is aptly named; it is an act designed to produce a paralyzing fear. And this time, the continental U.S. was the victim of terrorism on an unimaginable scale. Calculating, efficient, and Satan-inspired terrorists had successfully struck three great symbols of the United States: power, pride, and financial strength. And Americans were fleeing in real and justified fear. Millions more felt the contagion of it.
Now the virus of fear and terror is loose in the land, and will affect much of what we do when we board a plane, buy a stock, or think about the Middle East. For the foreseeable future, our lives will be affected. No one thinks that this is the end; instead, it is the beginning of a new and very serious season. We have just had this generation’s Pearl Harbor.
Once again, we have underestimated our enemy and misplaced our trust. And once again, we have been shocked by evil. “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” will certainly emerge, and all kinds of “experts,” including religious ones, will be numerous. I expect a flurry of new books by “end-time profiteers” to soon be available.
Blame and theorizing will not solve the issue at hand. Speculation about how it all fits into the plan of history will not solve our problem. Action is not academic. Terrorists believe that we are decadent, fearful, and incapable of commitment. Theirs is a psychological war as well as a physical one. They relish our doubts, delays, discussions, and diffused responses that they believe stem from our fears.
Fear is the intent, and fear is the foe. Fear paralyzes, delays, flowers into doubt, and mutes the cry for action. The future requires wise action.
Victor Kiam said, “If you are going to do anything, do it as well as you can. Be committed to it. Have a rifle approach in life rather than a shotgun approach.”
General Douglas MacArthur said, “The history of war can be summed up in two words, ‘Too late.’”
Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, once said, “As doubts have thickened, resolution and purpose have eroded.”
Fear and courage are at the heart of our present situation. If the enemy cannot produce paralyzing fear, then the enemy has failed. If doubt and fear give way to courage and action, the enemy is defeated.
We see the importance of courage in Scripture and throughout history:
- God said it to Abraham, Moses, and Joshua.
- Moses and Joshua said it to Israel.
- David understood it and was undaunted before the giant, Goliath.
- Jesus often said it to His disciples, and from heaven He said it to Paul.
- And throughout history, the fathers said it to the Church, “Fear not!”
Is God saying that to us today? Yes, without a doubt! Why is this message for us? The United States is far from perfect. We have fallen into a bad state. But there are many here who walk in His ways. We hold in our history, and many hold in their hearts, pearls of great price: truth, justice, love, honor, mercy, liberty, and law. And, we are heirs of grace.
We have among us another great gift, faith. Faith is the opposite of fear, as love is the opposite of hate. In addition, we have life – the life flow of God’s breath. His Holy Spirit is among us.
Fear motivates people to run away from problems. But faith calls us to face them. Faith comes from God; fear from Satan. Faith faces heaven, fear finds itself in hell (see Revelation 21:8).
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Wise words.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Courage is the greatest of all virtues, because it makes all other virtues possible.”
Without the courage of our fathers, we would have fallen under the boot of a world of tyranny. Now tyranny strikes again. What will we do now?
“Be of good courage,” the Lord told Joshua. “Do not be terrorized!” (see Joshua 1). Israel had wandered in the wilderness for forty years, because a generation lacked the will to war (see Exodus 13:17). But a new generation understood the value of courage and knew that they would have to fight for their inheritance.
The word “courage” comes from a French word, which means to have heart. It is facing difficulty without fear or depression (Webster Dictionary, 1828 Edition). It is what firemen, policemen, and soldiers exhibit when they walk into danger to protect us. It is what Israel has repeatedly shown in the face of the same enemies that have sought to terrorize us now.
Words may inspire action, but are never a substitute for it. Where can we find the courage to exercise our faith?
Rush Limbaugh raised two issues on September 12, by saying that it is time for America to ask itself, “How committed are we to what we believe, and what do we believe?” The latter question must be foremost. What do we love and believe in?
Do we love God, family, truth, justice, freedom, and righteousness? Are our convictions born of the love of principles beyond self and pleasure? It is faith in those virtues that brought blessing to our nation, but some of these virtues have seemingly been so neglected of late. But there is good news: true faith and courage will more than match fear, hatred and cowardly acts.
Primarily, we must pray before we act. Here are some ways to pray:
- For American to humble itself; to seek God and His will.
- For American to humble itself; to seek God and His will.
- For wisdom for our leaders.
- For those who have suffered great loss to be healed.
- For justice to rain down on those who intimidate, enslave, and violate others.
- And yes, we should even pray for our enemies – that may be difficult.
- For the Church to get involved in preaching the Gospel to those deceived by hatred and wrong notions of God, as well as Americans who do not know Christ.
- And for ourselves to exhibit faith and courage in the face of danger.
PERSONAL CLOSING THOUGHTS
This weekend at the airport, I will again walk through security and down the concourse to the plane, and then fly to West Virginia for ministry. And, three days later, I will fly to Costa Rica to be with our son-in-law, Enrique, and daughter, Charlyn, who recently gave birth to their first child and our second granddaughter, Mabel Ann. I will help them deal with the obstacles involved in adopting and helping needy children; a ministry they have had for quite some time.
One of our “adopted” granddaughters is Susanna, who is eight years old…she has an amazing story. Recently, concerning an upcoming soccer match, she said, “When Costa Rica plays the United States, I will have to cheer for the United States, because I don’t want to hurt Grandpa’s feelings.” She lived with Enrique and Charlyn for one year, and also came to be our “granddaughter.”
Then, six weeks ago, thanks to bureaucratic wrangling, the government took Susanna from Charlyn’s home and put her in a government-run orphanage. Shortly after, another child hit her with a board and injured her; we haven’t seen her since. We have a family in Costa Rica that wants to permanently adopt her. We need faith and courage to help her and many others.
As I think about our precious little Susanna today, I also think of the many thousands of children who are now suddenly fatherless and motherless because of terror and fear. I think of many innocent children who even lost their lives in this tragedy. For all of them, let us have courage to fight against evil.
In Christ, Who said, “Let the Children come unto Me,”
Scripture Reference: Revelation, Joshua,