September 11, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God for this is your true and proper worship [or your proper service to God.] Do not, therefore, conform to the pattern [of thinking] of this world but be transformed [into the pattern of the Kingdom of God] by the renewing of your mind. It is then that you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; that is, what is His good, pleasing and perfect will for us all.” (Romans 12.1-2)
I was struck this morning as I sat down to read devotionals and scripture and seek God’s Word for the day with the date on the lower right-hand corner of the monitor- 9/11. I hadn’t heard one word on the media leading up to this day nor have I read, yet, anyone offering reminders of this day. But, as Americans, and as world citizens, we dare not not keep learning from that day in 2001. I am keenly aware of patterns in the world of God and man. They more often than not have lessons to teach at the intersections they create in life. Some will call them coincidences. I prefer to identify them as “Christ-incidences.” All things happen for a reason by neglect, by choice or by the lack of choosing. There are no true accidents or “oops” in life. So, it speaks to me significantly today that in this new series of posts on a new webpage http://www.mightymenihs.com this is post number 99 (9 x 11). The topic of the last several reflections are derived from Romans 12.1-2 urging us to “be living sacrifices.” It was not intentional on my part to move these two or three “facts” [Romans 12.1-2; 99; 9/11] into proximity. I trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit to teach me what is needed in my thinking and doing each day. I remain obedient to the directing of posting these reflections since 2006 for the purpose of lifting up the need and the means of being God’s people in the modern world according to His Word which is “new every day.” God sees the needs in the lives of others and uses a variety of ways and means to minister to them. I pray that I will continue to be His faithful servant in being chosen as one of them for others from time to time and for myself continually.
Today, then, brings to my mind, heart, soul and spirit a vivid image of those who were presented as living sacrifices or made themselves living sacrifices as well as (as I suggested on Friday in reframing the work of the Temple leadership especially as it related to Jesus and Israel) “dead sacrifices.” Without you having to go back and capture Friday’s reflection, let me summarize from Friday the consideration which said that a “dead sacrifice” was one which served only the will of people over people. It did not and does not serve the will of God. The continuing desire for the legalism of bad religion, as we saw practiced by the Temple leadership up to the day of the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., stood against the very command and declaration of God who said hundreds of years prior “I have no desire for your sacrifices because your heart is far from Me.” Yet, they continued to do so. They knew the Word but refused obedience. They refused obedience because the cost of it would prove to be too great for their “ways in the world.” They had become a part of the very world they had been anointed to influence for the good of all people to stay away from and enter into the glory of God. It is as if they laid aside their anointing to be covered over and immersed in “dead waters.” They set aside repentance and heaped their own legalisms on the people so they would be servant to the leadership instead of servants to God Almighty. There is little wonder why they hated, loathed and conspired against Jesus who spoke the very truth that would liberate even them from the tyranny of the Enemy of God. It would be too easy to blame the “fall of the Temple” on external sources. Doing so “seemingly” kept them from being accountable and culpable for the occurrence. But, as in the days of the prophets, the fall of the Temple as a structure was always preceded by the fall of the “temple within.”
It even highlights the very dialogue between that leadership and Jesus as He taught “Tear down this building and I will build it back up in three days.” The leadership perceived Jesus was talking about the literal building of the Temple itself as others marveled at its sterling appearance rivaling other wonders in the world. They scoffed at Jesus saying “three days when it took us 40 years.” But, we know, of course, that Jesus was speaking of the Church who would succeed the Temple as God’s primary source of liberation, freedom and protection from the greatest evil to terrorize humanity: sin and its promotion by the “father of Lies.” Yes, we know the promise that “God can work all things together for good in and through those who are called by His Name and who call upon His Name.” That would include such horrible events as the Holocaust and 9/11 among a myriad of other disasters and tragedies. And do not think I am saying “God is responsible for those events.” Rather, I am saying that God can and has responded to those events with the opportunities for mercy, grace, reconciliation, restoration, rebirth, reformation and the promotion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only “way, truth and life” which leads us through those valleys of the shadow of death to rise up to the eternal dwelling place being prepared for us by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus “calling out” of the Temple leadership that day was not merely a “prediction” of His resurrection by God’s mercy and grace. It was a statement of spiritual truth that the “body of Christ” would be “born again” in spirit and in truth to lead, guide and direct the human community toward fulfilling its purpose in the world. Of course, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then His life would have been a “dead sacrifice.” But, He presented Himself as a living sacrifice and allowed God’s Word and Will to be done in Him and through Him to all future generations. Jesus was raised from the dead just as He said that the Word said that God said. Further, because of the resurrection the remembrance and celebration of Pentecost would be revised and reinstituted as the “rebuilding of the Kingdom of God on earth” through those who would believe in Him and on Him as the Word of Life that would never fail because the Holy Spirit “fell on them.”
Sure, the Church has often fallen in line with the ways and means of the ancient Temple community of faith. It has demonstrated its times and places where the failure to learn from past mistakes creates consequences inhibiting the promotion of the gospel intended for all people. There are those who have become “Christian” pharisees and teachers of the Law. But, the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through those who humbly call on the name of the Lord as they have been called to be equally yoked in the name of the Lord. God’s voice is still being presented as the singular hope for the world in spite of the cacophony of voices to the contrary.
We, as believers in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, must heed that voice and speak in that voice. We cannot allow the gospel to fall on pages that have long since been turned and forgotten in the world. We must be reminded and reminders of that litany of faithful individuals from all walks of life who presented themselves as “living sacrifices” such as those men and women responding to the call to do good in those morning hours following the flights of 9/11 meant for evil. Their sacrifice must not be in vain. Equally so, that sacrifice of innocent life must not be remembered only with earthly truths and vows of attending. Those events which caused the “tearing down of buildings” were perpetrated by those who were led by lies and deceived into believing the buildings were edifices of evil themselves. And, that consideration calls for serious reflection to determine our own true intentions and purposes of economics, politics and military presence. Not one of us is without fault or self-serving intention. That is why we are called within the body of Christ to work together to maintain our focus and our aim on reflecting the image of Christ and to grow in full measure and stature to that which is Christ in spirit and in truth. The Church is intended to stand on the frontlines of the battle against that which tears a “people” down. We dare not let that “so great a cloud of witnesses” become “dead sacrifices.” We must become “living sacrifices” and show the “no greater love is there than this” to the world. In doing so, we demonstrate the “right and true worship/service to, for and with God” in the world to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus gave His life to reestablish the “living faith” community on earth so that people could live in the world and not become a part of it. Their purpose to cultivate, maintain and harvest the Word of God broadcast across all the soils of humankind is the true calling of each person. There is no hope in “to thine own self be true” unless the self is true to God the creator and sustainer and redeemer of life. We dare not fall into the trap of building edifices that will simply be misinterpreted and brought down again because they stand more for humanity than for God. We, as the Church, are the living stones placed one upon and next to each other built up to stand against that which is wrong in the world. The Church, by its faith in God first, only and always, has been given the keys of the Kingdom against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail. The gates of Hell are being opened and the evil is being released more now than ever. It is time for the “watchmen” to stand alert, on guard and full-voiced. If we do not, then the next attack will so far overshadow that of 9/11 that it will be the end of the world as we have ever known it. Present yourselves, therefore, as living sacrifices and keep the truth that sets people free pressing forward until we pass through the valley of the shadow of death and we rise up to our eternal dwelling place with God prepared by Jesus Himself for those who are “living sacrifices.”
Father, as we remember all that has happened, we do not lose sight of the cross which points us in the right and true direction for the lives of every person. We ask that You use us for the furtherance of Your Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Bless those who lost loved ones in the tragedy of 9/11 as well as those before and after whom the enemy sought to separate from Your loving grasp. Let their memory remind us of what is ahead and our place in bringing the truth to bear- Jesus is Lord. AMEN.