"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart,
and ye that hope in the Lord."
and ye that hope in the Lord."
On September 11, 2001 I woke up about 5:00 am and could not go back to sleep. I turned on the TV to watch the local news program just in time to see the planes crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I was stunned. As I watched all of the sights and sounds of our nation’s attack, the personal testimonies and the pictures of suffering families were overwhelming. Yet, the Lord was so real and such and encouragement to me during the week that followed. As I saw the first scenes unfold on TV, the Holy Spirit began bringing Scripture to my mind. The words of King David, whose life was surrounded by chaos and danger, brought to my mind that God is my stability and rock in the midst of chaos. This passage encouraged me to trust God's stability in seemingly unstable situations, "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my 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. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." Psalm 62:5-8.
The morning after the attack I woke up with a praise song running through my head. It was a powerful song about Christ's return. Then I turned on the TV and I saw a mother from California sharing how her son, Mark had called her from the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. He told her he knew they were going to die no matter what they did so they were going to try to take control of the plane back so no one on the ground would die. He told her calmly he loved her and then 12 minutes later he died. She looks at his call as a beautiful gift, proud that he would give his life to save others.
As I left to walk and pray for her, I was reminded of Christ going to the Garden of Gethsemane to talk to His Father about His imminent death. I wondered if the mother and son shared the same emotions as Christ shared with His Father that dark night long ago. As Christ intensely prayed, God whose very nature is love had to ache, knowing what Christ would endure. Yet, just as the mother expressed comfort she had in her son's sacrifice, our heavenly Father and Christ were comforted by the joy of people being redeemed and reconciled to God. As I contemplated the cross, the song I had woken up thinking about came flooding back unto my head. The first words of the chorus are, "Behold He Comes, riding on the clouds!" When I checked my email, I found some German friends had written of their concern for us. They ended their letter with a praise that Christ is coming back! Both the song and the sentiment our friends expressed are reflective of Revelation 14:14 and Revelation 19:11-16. "And I looked and, behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat, like the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle…And I saw heaven opened and, behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but He himself. And He was clothed with vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies that were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations, and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords."
Out of New York's tragedy I learned I live too much in the shadow of the cross. Even though we are brought back to the cross every time we confess and repent of sin or take communion, we need to also embrace the truth that Christ has been resurrected and He is coming back. When we focus on the truth that we serve a living God who is victorious over both sin and death we are free to live in a way that honors God. While the cross is a beautiful picture of His outrageous love, our strength comes in remembering His power displayed in the resurrection. If we live in light of the truth that He is coming back, we will be comforted by knowing when He returns He will rule and reign in all of His glory and justice will be carried out perfectly. By remembering the descriptions found in Revelation we are able to live courageously in the face of these hard events that ordinarily paralyze us. We are able to love people who are not easy to love, able to say no to nagging temptations, and be able to grieve losses as people who have full confidence in God's faithfulness.
May I ask you of you are living in the light of His promise to return? Does that truth purify your heart and give you the courage to love boldly and courageously? Do you long for His return?
Prayer: Father, the 9-11 tragedy is still hard to comprehend. Please continue to be with families who lost loved ones that day. Help us trust in Christ's power during all tragedy’s we face. Draw our minds to the fact that Christ is coming back with his glory fully manifested for He is Faithful and True, King of Kings and Lord of Lords and will reign in love and perfect righteousness. Amen.