Friday, September 9, 2011

What if you "can't" remember?

This Sunday, September 11, 2011 the world will observe the 10 year anniversary of the most devastating  terrorist attack on the United States. On that date in 2001 our country was permanently altered. We now commonly refer to events in our country as "post 9/11" or "pre 9/11".
We watch old movies (90's is old now) that have scenes in airports that show very lax security and we think, "Yeah I remember when you didn't have to take off half your clothes to get on a plane". When the first Spider-Man movie came out in 2002, they had to cut some scenes  because they had Spider-Man swinging from the World trade center towers. September 11, 2001 became a demarcation point  in the timeline of our lives.

We all remember what we were doing when the towers fell. As for me, I was dropping off my son David at his friend Derrik's house before school because they would walk to Bussey Middle school together. The radio had announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We had no clue it was an attack at this point. As I let David out of the car I told him to tell Derrek and his family to turn the TV on to the news to see what was happening. They did not....they were kids, news is boring. As I was driving on to work, they announced that a second plane had hit the other tower. All of the sudden, a switch flipped in my head. I had no idea at the time, but I had just entered the post 9/11 era in my life, and in the life of this nation.
I listened transfixed to the radio until I arrived to work and all day long everyone sat in their cubicles watching CNN on their computers. Not one bit of work was done that day. The rest, as they say, is history... literally.

As I thought about how to observe  this tragic milestone with the students at Valley View Baptist Church it occurred to me that when this happened, the students in our youth group were between 2 and 5 years old... Wow.. they are really a post 9/11 generation. I want to ask them on Sunday, if they have ANY actual memories of that day. 9/11 is a BIG deal in the lives of us old enough to remember. But I think that to those too young to remember, it is "our event" not theirs. To us it is a scar, or even an open wound for some. But to the young, it is history. That is okay. We should not try to make our wounds, their wounds. But we must teach them the lessons that we learned.

What, if any, are the lessons of 9/11 for our youth and children?
Do we use the events of September 11th to teach them to hate Muslims?
Do we teach them to be on guard and watch for enemy attacks?
Do we teach them that if we take enough precautions, and sacrifice enough liberties, that we can remain "safe" as a country?

I don't think so.

The lesson that I want to teach my students is... God's Got This.

Life is out of our control
  • Life is uncertain. It can turn on a dime, or end with your next breath. 
  • Tragedy is not the end of the world, even if it feels like it. 
  • Recovery is possible, and life can go on for those that are living. 
  • Catastrophe, is not reserved for God's enemies. It is a part of life. 

How appropriate is it then, that at VVSM we are in the middle of a study of the Book of Job.

Job's 9/11
Job was God's man. So much so, that God held Job up as an example of a righteous man. Maybe the most righteous in all the earth at that time. Because of this he had been the recipient of God's blessings. He was the wealthiest and most successful man in the region (they did not really have nations back then). After a difference of opinion on why Job was so faithful and righteous, God allowed Satan to rip those blessings from Job's life, in one day.
You could call it Job's 9/11. He lost his children (all 10 grown children dead in a building collapse) his business, his employees, and all of his assets were stolen, burned, or killed.  He found out about all of it in the span of a "breaking news flash". Later, even Job's health was taken from him. Does this sound familiar?
So much for a "health and wealth" gospel.

Job remained faithful to God.

As we will discover over the coming weeks in our study, Job's wife, and his friends had some ideas as to why these things happened, and what Job should do, but none of them were right. God showed up to set everybody straight as to who He is and who we're not.
God even had a few  choice words for Job (way more than a few actually), who even though he never cursed God, which is what Satan said he would do, did partake in a pity-party and some complaining (can you blame him?)

So what lessons can we take away from Job, that can help us, as we observe the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

God Owns You
God is the source of every blessing in our life. He is the source of your life, your very existence was his choosing.
Job famously says about his loss;"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)
Instead of trying to figure out why God does things or allows things to happen, our place is to trust that He is in control, and that He is good. Our finite brains will never understand the ways of an infinite and all mighty God. I read somewhere recently that the book of Job is not about why God's people suffer, but how God's people are to handle suffering. I think that this is true.

God Doesn't Owe You Anything
Well that's not quite true. There is something that we do deserve from God... to be separated from Him forever, the due punishment for our sin. It is only God's Grace and Mercy that are interjected into our situation that restores us to God's ultimate blessing. His ultimate blessing is more that goats and wealth, it is reconciliation and eternal life with the God that chose to give us life to begin with. I like this distinction;
Mercy is not getting what you do deserve ~ Grace is getting what you don't deserve.
But let's be clear. God does not owe you a fancy house, a high paying job, and body builder physique. When life goes bad we often view it as God's punishment. This is not true or biblical. It is equally wrong to think that when life goes good and things are going your way that it means that God approves of your actions.
"He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous". Matt 5:45 (NIV)

It Is Not About You (but sometimes it can be)
Like a single thread in a tapestry, God weaves a single event with an infinite number of purposes and an infinite ripple effect of intended outcomes. The events of Job had individual lessons for Job, Job's wife, Job's friends, and even Satan. But we can glean the wisdom and revelation that this story provides for us in our lives.
  • God is ALL powerful. 
  • He is the creator, sustainer, and destiny of EVERYTHING that is not Himself. 
  • Satan, although a self-made enemy of God, is still on God's leash.
  • God is very much aware of us, and actively involved with us as individuals
  • God's plan for us is for our good.
  • We still do not know why God does what He does.

God Chose To Lavish His Love On You

Ultimately, God restored Job's prosperity to ten times what he previously had. But I doubt that Job considered it a reward.
What God knew about Job, and what Job learned, is what the Devil can't understand. Satan did not have the ability to get at Job's true riches. Job's deepest treasure was God Himself. from what many scholars believe to be the oldest book in the Bible, Job, to the words of Jesus himself, the Bible is consistent: 
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matt 6:19-21 (NIV)

And it is through Jesus that God has lavished His love on us:
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure"1 John 3:1-3 (NIV)

So as we discuss 9/11 with those not old enough to remember it, and we try to get them to understand the enormity of the impact, not on a building, but on a nation. Make sure we remember the lesson of Job. Terrorists, and planes and economic crisis can not destroy the true riches of this nation or of any nation. It is true for Job and it is true for us. Our true riches lie in the faith of God's people and we need to rise up and proclaim that the Name of the LORD is to be praised!
It is our faithfulness to God and our trust in Him that will sustain us when the bottom drops out.
That is what we must remember.

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