Wow! Have you caught your breath this week? Is it not amazing how our thinking has changed? So many things that were enormous and of incredible importance to our lives on Monday, September 10 became insignificant and petty after Tuesday, September 11. If you are like me, your mind staggers and reels as it attempts to grasp the significance of September 11. We realize something major happened, but we struggle to understand what it means. We realize our nation is unlikely to ever be the same, but we struggle to grasp how it will be different.

Allow me one example to illustrate the change. If on Monday, September 10, we made an application for a permit for a prayer assembly on the capitol building steps, what reception do you think that request would have received? If on Monday, September 10, we suggested through proper channels that our congress make plans that week to sing a prayer for our country [God Bless America] on the capitol steps, what reception do you think that suggestion likely would have received? If on Monday, September 10, we recommended all living American presidents and a host of dignitaries assemble in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for prayers for our nation and our world, would anyone have seriously considered the request? If on Monday, September 10, we seriously suggested that President Bush declare within that week a national day of prayer, what reception do you think that suggestion would have received?

I think the only honest answer to all of those questions is a negative answer. Yet, all that happened. In less than twenty-four hours after Monday, September 10, the unthinkable became the desirable. A society that was virtually anti-religious instantly became a praying society. An invincible society suddenly felt weak. A society who was the master of its own destiny suddenly became vulnerable. A society that strongly believed in self and its abilities suddenly knew they were pathetically inadequate. A society that was convinced it had fashioned an indestructible nation by becoming the earth's only superpower suddenly realized it could be destroyed by an incredibly small group of invisible enemies.

  1. This is the strangest moment in American history.
    1. We have declared war on an enemy who devastatingly attacked us in unbelievable, impossible ways.
      1. We have declared war, yet we have not fired one shot because we do not know where to shoot.
      2. We have declared war, and we have placed our powerful military on high alert, but for days we did not deploy our military to a specific front.
      3. We have declared war, and we have the world's largest navy and air force, but for days our navy and air force's primary function was to protect this nation instead of attacking an enemy.
      4. We have declared war, and we are not absolutely certain who our actual enemy is or where that enemy is located.
      5. We have declared war, and our greatest initial weapon is prayer.
    2. So you are praying, are you using your prayers to help fight our war?
      1. What do you want?
      2. If through your prayers anything could happen that you want to happen, what would happen?
        1. Would some people die?
        2. Would over 6000 bodies be found so grieving family members could "find closure?"
        3. Would grieving people find comfort?
        4. Would our lives and our American lifestyle "return to normal?"
      3. What is it you would have God do? What would you like?

  2. In his earthly ministry, Jesus lived in a very religious, very prayerful society.
    1. In Matthew 6:5-15 Jesus told a praying people there were some basic lessons they needed to learn and understand about prayer.
      1. He said that if they were sincere in their desire to talk to God, they needed to understand some realities.
        1. First, he said when you pray, you pray for God's ears not for people's ears.
          1. If you pray to impress other people, those people may be impressed, but God does not even listen.
          2. When you pray, talk to God.
        2. Second, he said (speaking of personal prayers) pray your private prayers all alone.
          1. With many religious people then that was not the situation.
          2. Privacy was much harder to find and was not a typical part of life.
          3. Some seemingly felt that if people did not hear your prayers that God could not hear your prayers.
          4. Jesus said people do not have to hear your prayers in order for God to hear your prayers.
        3. Third, he said you cannot influence God by "wearing God down."
          1. Many children use the tactic of "wearing their parents down" by endlessly making the same request over and over.
          2. Jesus said that is the way that people who do not know God pray.
          3. He said it is not repetition that moves God to action.
          4. Repeated, earnest requests are good, but attempts to use whining manipulation is bad.
    2. Then Jesus gave these praying people an example of how to pray to God.
      1. In his example, Jesus included this very simple statement in verse 10: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
      2. Is that what you want? Do you want God's will to be done right here and now in the same manner that it is done where God's presence is centered?
        1. If I had a one-on-one religious conversation with you three weeks ago and we discussed the moral, spiritual, and religious decay in this nation, could you, three weeks ago, illustrate America's decay?
        2. If three weeks ago we discussed things that were spiritually hurtful in our nation, could you, three weeks ago, illustrate spiritual failures?
        3. Since September 11 has this nation become morally or spiritually healthy?
        4. Has anything changed besides our anger, our fear, and our awareness of our need?

  3. I absolutely do not wish to be misunderstood.
    1. To me, the patriotism, the courage, the bravery, and the national unity we have seen for almost two weeks is wonderful.
      1. I have deep gratitude for the incredible examples of sacrifice and caring we have seen for days from New York.
        1. With genuine apologies to the residents of New York and Washington D.C., I do not think most religious people in this nation would have looked to those two cities for spiritual or patriotic inspiration.
        2. I honestly doubt that any place in America could have surpassed them in heart, attitude, or courage in the face of an unthinkable crisis.
      2. My personal love for this nation grew powerfully in the early 1970s when Joyce and I did mission work.
        1. Until that experience, I had no idea of how blessed Americans are.
        2. I have visited in several nations in capacities other than a tourist.
        3. No one lives as do we.
        4. No one has the extensive freedoms we have.
        5. No one has the opportunities we have.
      3. One of the great gifts God has given me is American citizenship.
        1. It is an unspeakable privilege to live in this country.
        2. Far too few American truly understand the privileges they have and commonly take for granted.
    2. I wonder in the past week and a half, how many times Americans have sung "God bless America" sincerely with heart?
      1. I wonder in the past week and a half how may times Americans have earnestly prayed for God to bless America.
      2. Have you?
      3. If so, what are you asking? What do you want?
      4. May I ask you to think about something I find absolutely fascinating.
        1. The first week in September you and I could have discussed all the reasons for God perhaps not blessing America.
        2. Few, if any, of the things we could have talked about have disappeared.
        3. Could we have a discussion today of reasons for God blessing America?
    3. I love my country.
      1. I do not even wish to try to imagine life without the freedoms and opportunities this nation provides me.
      2. But as much as I love America, there is something I love more.
        1. I love God's kingdom even more than I love this nation.
        2. I would love to see God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
        3. Above everything else, I would love for God's kingdom to prosper.
      3. If God can bless America and His kingdom simultaneously, may it be.
      4. Nothing would bless this nation and this world more than for God's will to be done here and now as it is in heaven.

  4. Two thousand years ago Luke 13 tells us about a tower in Jerusalem that fell and killed eighteen people.
    1. It is possible that the tower in Siloam was a part of Jerusalem's defense system that was intended to help protect the holy city and the temple.
      1. It was unthinkable that a tower whose purpose was to help protect God's city and God's temple could fall on some of God's people.
      2. With their view of God and their concept of God's people, what happened to those people simply did not make sense.
      3. There was only one answer that made sense to them: the people who were killed when the tower fell must have been really evil people, and God was punishing them.
    2. Jesus said they reached the wrong conclusion.
      1. He did not explain why the tower fell on those people; in fact, he did not even discuss the deaths.
      2. Instead, he talked to his living audience.
        1. He said if their conclusion was that those people died because they were evil and they were lived because they were good, they reached the wrong conclusion.
        2. The tower falling on those people had nothing to do with their being evil, and the fact that his listeners were alive had nothing to do with them being good people.
      3. Then Jesus made this simple but profound statement: "...Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5).
        1. "The fact that they died violently in an incredible accident is not proof that they desperately needed to turn their lives around."
        2. "The fact that you are alive does not prove you do not need to turn your lives around."
        3. "You need to redirect your lives as much as they did."

  5. Our nation is in great crisis, probably greater than any of us yet realize.
    1. That automatically means each of us is in great crisis.
      1. The truth is that we all face a crisis we do not wish to face.
      2. So we sing and pray, "God Bless America."
      3. What do we want from God?
        1. Are we singing and praying, "God get us out of this mess."
        2. Or are we singing and praying, "God help us turn our lives around."
    2. America's greatest crisis is not terrorism.
      1. That is the shocking, devastating crisis that captured our attention.
      2. That is the unbelievable crisis that mystifies us.
    3. America's greatest crisis is the same crisis we faced when the month of September began.
      1. We need to redirect our lives. Have you redirected your life? Have you placed God in charge of the direction?
      2. Allowing God to redirect our lives is a crisis that we each can handle.

None of us are invincible. We never have been. We just deceived ourselves into believing we were. September 11 sobered us. September 11 made us stop lying to ourselves.

Since September 11, what has happened to your spiritual health? Do you need to redirect your life? Do you want to redirect your life? Do you realize all that God has done in Jesus Christ to give you opportunity to redirect your life?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 September 2001

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