My son interviewed me for his history class yesterday.
His assignment was to talk to someone who had lived through September 11, 2001…the day that the veil was pulled back and we all saw a glimpse of hell.
It was hard to put myself back into that horrible day; the day that had dawned so bright and beautiful with no hint of the darkness that was about to descend.
A phone call from my friend Ida Mae at 8:50 a.m. that morning forever pierced my illusion of safety in this world. A quick flick of the remote control filled my cozy family room with the ghastly and gruesome images that I never thought I would see on American soil.
When the initial thought that this must have been a terrible mistake was proven false by the second plane slamming unmercifully into the second tower, the tears flowed and I felt as if all the breath had been knocked out of me.
I ran to check on my kids, who were at the time only 4 and 5 years old. They were happily playing, oblivious to the world gone mad around them.
I just wanted to drink in their sweet, innocent faces and keep them safe forever.
That day passed both quickly and in agonizing slow motion. At one point, it seemed as if the bad news would never stop coming, as we saw planes crash into both the Pentagon and a remote field in Pennsylvania. Nobody knew what fresh horror would appear next. Phone lines buzzed with both rumors and fact. Formerly reticent family and friends were quick to offer “I love you’s”. Tomorrow was no longer certain, as all those souls who entered eternity that day could attest.
I never remember feeling so vulnerable, so scared, so small. When my husband came home, I hugged him as if I would never let go.
This world didn’t feel like home anymore to me. Of course, it was never supposed to.
A new ladies fall Bible study was to begin that evening at my church. The woman in charge decided not to cancel the event. She called me to say that she wanted to open her home to anyone who wanted to come, feeling that we all needed to be together.
It turned out to be the best decision.
We all arrived that evening at 7:00, in a rather shell-shocked state. Some tears were still fresh, some had dried. All hearts were heavy.
Together, His daughters took our prayers and heartache to the Throne of Grace…the ONLY true shelter in any storm.
How beautiful it is that because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we have a place to go with our fears and heartaches. As terrifying events unfold here on earth, we know deep down that they do not have the final say. There is a greater, more beautiful Reality than anything we can see.
Our God reigns.
You, O Lord, are enthroned forever. —Ps. 102:12
God reigns over the nations; God sits upon His holy throne.—Ps. 47:8
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice…clouds and darkness are round about Him…righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about. His lightnings illumine the world; the earth sees and trembles. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness and all the peoples see His glory. —Ps. 97:1-6
Our God sees.
His eyes are on the ways of man and He sees all his steps. —Job 34:21
Our God comes.
Our God comes and does not keep silent; a fire devours before Him and round about Him a mighty tempest rages. —Ps. 50:3
Our God avenges.
The Lord is a jealous God…the Lord avenges and is full of wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries and reserves wrath for His enemies.—Nahum 1:2
Upon the wicked He will rain quick burning coals or snares: fire, brimstone, and a dreadful, scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. —Ps. 11:6
(No, those hijackers were NOT greeted by virgins in paradise as they had been led to believe. They were greeted by the risen Christ in all His terrifying wrath because they had refused His sacrificial death for their sins).
Most of all, our God loves and our God saves.
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes (trusts in, clings to, relies on Him) shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost), but have eternal (everlasting) life.—John 3:16
Later on that fateful day, I heard a most wonderful story. As people rushed down the stairs of the towers, not knowing if they would live to see the exit, there was one man who began to yell out the Gospel message to all who would listen.
“Believe on the Name of Jesus and be saved!” He yelled, bringing the very words of LIFE into death and fear and terror.
That is what I love about the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel message. It is so simple that a child can understand it but so rich and deep that we will spend an eternity learning of its wonders.
Those people in that stairwell did not have to see a priest. They did not have to perform penance or do good works. They did not have to undergo elaborate religious rituals, empty of meaning.
They had to do one thing: believe that Jesus was God in human form. That He had come to this earth to live a perfect life in order to die the perfect death for sinners who had no way to get to a holy and righteous God. That He paid the penalty we owed so that we could be forever free.
The thief who was crucified next to Jesus illustrates the sheer power and this wondrous simplicity of the Gospel.
He had nothing to recommend him.
He was a vile criminal, dying a horrific death for crimes that he had committed.
He was helpless to save himself from impending death…both physical and spiritual.
Yet he looked upon Christ and believed.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? …We are receiving the reward due our deeds but this Man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” —Luke 23:39-43.
The sheer grace of this moment takes my breath away.
It is the sheer grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ that still saves today.
And it is because of that salvation, that grace, that we can know a better Day is coming. This world is not our home. All that is wrong will be made right. Jesus will come again. Evil will not triumph. It will be dealt with in perfect justice and eradicated forever. Our magnificent God is in the process of making all things new.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and former earth had passed away and there no longer existed any sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, all arrayed like a bride beautified and adorned for her husband.
Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne..saying, “See! The abode of God is with men and He will live among them and they shall be His people and God shall personally be with them and be their God.
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more; neither shall there be anguish, sorrow, and mourning, nor grief, nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.
And He who is seated on the throne said, “See! I am making all things new.” —Revelation 21:1-5