Opening Prayer: Father, our country was devastated by the events of September 11. How could anything good come from this tragedy? Open our hearts and minds to understand YOUR heart, we pray.
September 11: Where was God?"And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
On September 11, 2001, the devil openly attacked the United States of America.
Today, as I write this, it has been a week since the hijacked airliners were flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Life will never be the same on planet Earth.
All of us were affected. Many of us lost family, friends and co-workers. Millions more of us were stranded, unable to return home. We all felt a crushing sense of grief and loss.
God obviously permitted these events to happen. The question of "Why?" cannot be readily answered. Instead, let's ask: "How was God preparing to help us survive this tragedy?"
Stuck in Chicago
This writer was attending a conference in Chicago. Except for a few local participants, all of us were far from home -- and destined to STAY that way until public transportation could be resumed.
The conference continued, but we all were devastated. In the exhibit hall, some vendors brought in portable televisions, so we could watch events unfold.
A Missing Bible
The grief and shock were crushing. So I returned to my hotel room and sought comfort in prayer and Scripture. But when I opened my briefcase, I discovered that my tiny travel Bible was missing.
This was no ordinary Bible. I bought it in February 1966 after attending a weekend retreat at Arrowhead Springs, California. (The program featured a young preacher named Hal Lindsey, speaking on the Book of Revelation and last-days' prophecy.) The Bible contained the complete Old and New Testaments, and the leather cover was cracked and worn from years of use. The pages were covered with highlighter markings, underlines, tiny notes and memories.
My little Bible had traveled the world with me, and now it was gone, too -- a small loss in view of the circumstances.
The Long Ride Home
Getting home was a challenge. My scheduled Thursday flight to Denver (to visit my new granddaughter) was canceled. So I took an Amtrak train to Denver, a 21-hour voyage in a very full train.
By God's grace, my sister and brother-in-law had driven out to Denver earlier in the week as part of a scheduled vacation. They graciously offered to drive me back to California, and I cheerfully accepted. Finally reached home Sunday night.
Bible in Boston
There was a very unusual e-mail waiting for me at home. All it said was:Please email me and let me know if this is John Sears (2-22-66). I have information regarding the Boston and the World Trade Center hi-jacking.
Somebody had found my Bible -- the "2-22-66" date was when I had purchased the Bible at a bookstore near UCLA. Then I remembered that my Monday flight to Chicago continued on to Boston. Somebody in Boston must have found the Bible and turned it in.
I replied with an explanation of how I'd bought the Bible in college and how I'd read it on many cross-country trips. Included my mailing address and an offer to reimburse the shipping and handling costs.
The response, from a gate attendant at Boston's Logan Airport, took my breath away:Hello, John:
I no longer have your Bible. I had to turn it over to the State Police and FBI.
Your bible must have come into Boston Monday night and been turned in by someone from that plane.
Tuesday morning, when we found out what was happening in New York we evacuated our terminal and I was left alone to bring in a plane that arrived after the crashes.
When I got to Gate 19 I pulled up the flight info concerning my inbound aircraft, and was still trying to figure out which of our trips was the one hijacked. When I tried to pull up flight 175, I realized it had been pulled from the system. At that point I realized that was the plane that struck the second tower. Unfortunately I also had to realize that it was the plane my two best friends were on.
My wife, 3-year-old daughter and I were supposed to be on that plane, too. It's only because my daughter's school date got pushed up that we decided last Saturday to cancel our plans.
My friends, J---- and M-------- came to see me right before Flight 175's departure. They were magnificent people. J---- had just spent the last year caring for his mother, who died of cancer in April. M------- went through a similar experience with her father, as I did also 2 years ago.
In my grief I began to sob, and as I put my hand down it landed on your Bible. You can imagine -- I thought it had to belong to one of the passengers. It was obvious it had been used often, and when I picked it up I immediately opened it to the Gospel of John. I don't remember reading anything specific except the first verses and I felt comforted. I then put it in my pocket and kept it with me all day as events unfolded.
Needless to say, your Bible was most definitely never lost and I thank you for its comfort.
God's Elaborate Relief Plan
That e-mail struck me like a lightning bolt. God had carefully taken my favorite Bible out of my hands and put it in Boston, directly under the hand of a man who needed comfort at that exact instant.
I don't think so.
God knew that man would be grieving, and knew exactly where his hand would fall.
At the end of the day, as Massachussetts State Police and FBI were questioning airport employees about any unusual articles found abandoned in the terminal, my correspondent turned in the Bible. But not before writing down the name, date and e-mail address written inside the cover.
Emergency Medical Assistance
Far from Boston, and many months ago, a medical doctor in California made a difficult decision. He had a personal health issue that troubled him. After much prayer, he decided to take a leave of absence from his practice and spend the rest of the year traveling to see professional baseball games and recover his health. So he bought a motorhome and headed East, visiting every major league baseball stadium he could.
On Monday, September 10, this doctor arrived in New York City -- much stronger and healthier than when he left.
On Tuesday, September 11, rescue officials in New York City put out a call for all available health professionals to help with rescue and recovery efforts. The doctor from California immediately volunteered, and continued to volunteer his time all through the week that followed.
I don't think so.
God knew this man would be needed in New York and carefully arranged to put him there, with no other demands on his time.
"But teacher, what can God do to help me? I lost family in New York."
First of all, understand that God takes a very personal interest in you and has a plan for your life. Jesus tells us, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10:29 "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. 30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 "Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
To reinforce your confidence in God's love for you, please read the short lesson, Does Jesus Care?
Second, understand that God's plan for your life calls for growth. It might sound harsh, but God is using the terrible events of September 11 to give you greater reserves of strength and courage. Please click here to review the lesson on Growing Through Distress.
Third, recognize that we -- the people of the United States -- have received a wake-up call of unprecedented magnitude. God is calling the entire nation to grow up and realize that our time is short.
If you're reading this, you still have the opportunity to make a quality decision and become the man or woman that God wants you to be. Unfortunately, thousands of men, women and children had their opportunities end on September 11. The Lord has blessed you with an opportunity to make that quality decision.
The Lord can use you to share His comfort and His truth with those around you. Many of you have already sought the Lord, and have been greatly used by God to comfort others. Others of you are willing to be used by God, but aren't sure what to do next.
The Next Step
Maybe you've been a Christian for many years, but know you need to grow in your faith. Maybe this all sounds very strange to you, and you don't know where you will spend eternity. Either way, my recommendation is that you read through the Transformed Life series of lessons. These will explain the essential Bible principles, to be sure you haven't skipped any steps. You can read through all the key lessons in less than an hour, and be sure of your future forever.
If you have questions or comments, please to send me an e-mail. I will send you a personal reply as soon as I can, assuming the first rapture event hasn't happened yet.
If you have a story of how the Lord has touched you or your family since the September 11 events, please to send me the facts.
May the Lord open your heart and mind to all the blessings He has in store for you this day.
Closing Prayer: Lord, my personal problems seem small and insignificant compared to those of the hijacking victims, but I confess that I need Your help to resolve them. I need Your strength and comfort to get me through. Give me courage and integrity to make the right decisions and minister to my family and friends, I pray. Amen.