Today is the 13th anniversary of 9/11–the day that America was attacked on its own soil by terrorists. It was also the day Americans lost our sense of national security. Two years ago I wrote two blog posts regarding 9/11, and those posts are: “Eleven Years After,” written on September 11, 2012, the 11th anniversary of 9/11; and “What We Need,” written four days later on September 15, 2012, regarding the attack on our American Consulate in Benghazi in Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 (September 11, 2012) that resulted in the deaths of American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff.
On September 20, 2001, nine day after the 9/11 attack, in a speech to the joint sessions of Congress, President George W. Bush used the words “War on Terror” for the first time (transcript of the entire speech is available at this link). In his speech he made the following statement:
On September 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack (quote source here).
Terrorism has not abated since that day although it has not landed on our shores again on a national level, but it has landed elsewhere, most notably in Syria and Iraq at this present time. While the 9/11 attack was lead by a terrorist organization known as Al Qaeda, it has morphed into something even worse, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS/ISIL.
In a speech given by President Barack Obama last night regarding the ongoing fight with terrorists–this time with ISIS (ISIL) attacking in Iraq and Syria–he made the following statement (transcript of the entire speech is available at www.whitehouse.gov at this link; video is available at this link):
We will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven (quote source here).
In his speech last night President Obama made a clear statement on the differentiation we need to keep in mind regarding the religion of Islam and the ISIS/ISIL:
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists–Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East–including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our Intelligence Community believes that thousands of foreigners-–including Europeans and some Americans–-have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks (quote source here).
Terrorism is “violence that is committed by a person, group, or government in order to frighten people and achieve a political goal” (quote source here) and “a systematic use of terror as a means of coercion” (quote source here). Terrorism is not a religion though it may claim religious roots. Violence and terror have never been a part of true religion. True religion is defined as follows in James 1:27:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
The verses just prior to James 1:27 state how we should be living under true religion:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:19-27).
We live in a world that has become increasingly violent. That world was brought to our very shores at a national level on September 11, 2001, and it continues to spread its terror in other countries on our planet. At the core of terrorism is a political goal and domination, and it uses fear to control people.
In the Bible there are two types of fear mentioned. Those two types of fear are as follows (quote source from an article at GotQuestions?org):
The first type is beneficial and is to be encouraged. The second type is a detriment and is to be overcome. The first type of fear is fear of the Lord. This type of fear does not necessarily mean to be afraid of something. Rather, it is a reverential awe of God; a reverence for His power and glory. However, it is also a proper respect for His wrath and anger. In other words, the fear of the Lord is a total acknowledgement of all that God is, which comes through knowing Him and His attributes. . . .
However, the second type of fear mentioned in the Bible is not beneficial at all. This is the “spirit of fear” mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). A spirit of fearfulness and timidity does not come from God.
However, sometimes we are afraid, sometimes this “spirit of fear” overcomes us, and to overcome it we need to trust in and love God completely. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). No one is perfect, and God knows this. That is why He has liberally sprinkled encouragement against fear throughout the Bible. Beginning in the book of Genesis and continuing throughout the book of Revelation, God reminds us to “Fear not” (full article is available at this link).
One of the issues that has come up since the initial attack of 9/11 is the growing attitude of complacency on the part of the American public (I wrote about it two years ago in my blog post titled, “Eleven Years After”). After the initial shock had worn off from the 9/11 attack, it wasn’t long before we were back living normal lives in our own little world and letting down our guard towards terrorism, assuming that our government had it under control with the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security. And over time this complacency has increased and we have been lulled to sleep once again, only to be disturbed by the current crisis involving ISIS/ISIL. And that disturbance has brought back a sense of fear, yet not enough to drive us from our own complacency.
Last night I ran into an article written by Lloyd Pulley, pastor at Calvary Chapel Old Bridges, titled “We Will Never Forget 9/11,” (published in “MyCentralJersey” on September 10, 2014) in which he asked the question, “Has America grown complacent and apathetic 13 years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001?” The article is short and well worth reading, and it is available at this link. Here are a couple of paragraphs from his article:
Today we are a culture that builds back decks instead of community-gathering front porches. We have opted for our perceived privacy and our Facebook “friends” worldwide, instead of being a part of a local community and knowing our neighbors.
And with this preoccupation, do we have a false sense of security as we did prior to 9/11? After all, thankfully, we have enjoyed more than a decade, during which no other macro-level attacks have occurred. We catch glimpses of ISIS beheadings in Iraq and perhaps half listen to the warnings of their activities in Syria. Yet we cannot bring ourselves to face the reality that ISIS has well-prepared militants who have infiltrated our porous borders and are ready to act.
In President Obama’s speech last night he outlined how America would be involved in the current crisis with ISIS/ISIL. We need to remember to pray for him and our leaders and military personnel involved in this intervention on a regular basis. He ended his speech with the following words:
Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform–-pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service members who support our partners on the ground.
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said: “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety, our own security, depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation and uphold the values that we stand for–-timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America (quote source here).
This is not a time for the American public to remain complacent or myopic. For those of us who believe in the power of prayer, we need to remember to pray for everyone involved in this crisis including our leaders, our military, and the victims and the horrific crimes being committed against them. Terrorism knows no boundaries.
For those of us who call ourselves Christian, we need to remember who we are here to serve, and it’s not ourselves. I’m reminded of a time in Daniel’s life when God gave him the answer he needed to give to King Nebuchadnezzar concerning a dream the King had (the story is found in Daniel 2). Once the interpretation of the dream had been given to Daniel, he responded with these words in Daniel 2:19-23:
Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.
Let us never forget that our prayers have power behind them. Personally, I admit that I often forget to pray for our leaders, but even more now then ever we need to remember to pray for them that God will give them wisdom and guide the decisions they make especially in these times of increasing terrorism.
The fate of all nations is, ultimately, in God’s hands. Nations and empires have come and gone, but God’s mission has always been the same since the beginning of time, and that mission is found in 2 Peter 3:8-10:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
God’s desire is that everyone would come to repentance, and that repentance is only found in Jesus Christ:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).
As we commemorate this 13th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, let us humble ourselves before God, repenting of our self-centered ways and our complacency, and thanking him for all he has done for us. And let us pray for our leaders, our nation, and the victims of the horrific terrorism that is still so very rampant in our world today.
May we never forget . . . .
YouTube Video: “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” by Alan Jackson: