The Towers Have Fallen – But We Missed the Message!

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the
World Trade Center in New York City were destroyed. Five days later, as I
was
preparing this message, I looked out the window of my study in our
30th-floor apartment. Huge clouds of smoke were still smoldering from
the
ruins. They rose from the rubble and drifted out over the Hudson River,
passing above the Statue of Liberty.
The following Sunday, just before I preached this message
at
Times Square Church, I wept at the sight of the utter devastation. I
pleaded with God for mercy: mercy for the grieving families who lost
loved
ones. Mercy for the workers still digging through the rubble, hoping to
locate survivors, but finding only corpses and severed body parts.
Mercy for
all the police officers, fire fighters and volunteers, who wept openly
over
the indescribable horrors they saw.
Our church was allowed to set up a relief tent at ground
zero of
the disaster. Ministry leaders and volunteers from our congregation
worked
tirelessly around the clock, helping to feed and encourage the weary
workers.
Six weeks prior to the disaster, the Holy Spirit forewarned
our
pastoral staff that a calamity was coming. We had scheduled several
major
events for the weeks ahead, including our Missions Conference and Youth
Convention. But God’s Spirit prompted us to cancel them all. Instead,
we
felt stirred to call our congregation to prayer.
We decided to hold prayer meetings four nights a week. From the very
beginning, each meeting was marked by an awesome stillness that settled
over
the congregation. We sat quietly in the Lord’s presence, often without
a
sound, for up to an hour, followed by soft weeping and heartrending
repentance. In one meeting, I had to steady my knees with my hands, to
keep
them from trembling in God’s awesome presence.
During this visitation from the Lord, the Holy Ghost revealed there was
a
reason for the weeping in our hearts. We were being so moved because a
tragedy was coming. A severe calamity was coming to the nation. And
even
though we didn’t know what it was, our hearts were stirred to intercede
concerning it.
Then suddenly, the calamity struck. And it hit not only our city, but
the
nation’s capital. One network anchor declared, “Think of it, our two
symbols of power and prosperity have been smitten in one hour.” Little
did
he know, he was quoting Revelation 18:10: “Alas that great city
Babylon,
that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come.”
As a policeman from our church helped out at ground zero, his fellow
officers kept asking him, “What’s this all about? What’s happening?”
Meanwhile, the whole nation has been asking, “Where is God in all
this?”
We’re right to ask this question. We need to understand where God is
in
this calamity. And to do that, we have to trust his holy Word alone.
We’ve
heard hundreds of opinions from media experts and politicians. But all
their rhetoric has begun to sound the same. There’s no real
understanding
about the meaning of this sudden destruction.
There is one thing I can assure you of: God wasn’t taken by surprise.
He
knows the thoughts of all human beings, including every ruler, despot
and
terrorist. The Lord monitors the movements of every person in the
entire
mass of humankind. He knows when we sit down or stand up. And I can
tell
you, this one thing is sure: God has everything under control. Nothing
on
the face of the earth takes place without his knowledge of it, his
permission for it, and, at times, his doing behind it.
If You’re a Christian, You Know God Has Delivered a
Message to America and the World Through This Disaster.
Ministers and theologians everywhere are saying, “God had
nothing to do with these disasters. He wouldn’t allow such awful
things to
happen.” Yet nothing could be further from the truth. This kind of
thinking is causing our nation to rapidly miss the message God wants to
speak to us through the tragedy.
The fact is, we have to have a word from God. Like many
pastors, I’ve wept and grieved over this awful calamity. I’ve sought
the
Lord in prayer and through his Word. And I want to tell you, I’ve
experienced a grief that’s even deeper than the mourning for innocent
people
dying. It’s a grief that says if we miss God’s message, if we turn a
deaf
ear to what he’s loudly proclaiming, then much worse is in store for
us.
The prophet Isaiah speaks directly to what we’ve just
experienced. (If you object to using the Old Testament for examples,
consider Paul’s words on the subject: “All these things happened unto
them
for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the
ends
of the world are come” [1 Corinthians 10:11]. Paul makes it clear: the
examples of the Old Testament reveal just how God moves in times like
ours.)
At the time that Isaiah prophesied, God had been dealing
patiently with Israel for about 250 years. The Lord had sent “light
afflictions” upon his people, calling them to repentance. He was
trying to
woo them out of their brazen idolatry and back into his blessing and
favor.
All of the prophets throughout the years had spoken to Israel the same
essential word: “Humble yourselves.” Scripture says, “They served
idols.yet
the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the
prophets,
and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my
commandments and my statutes” (2 Kings 17:12-13).
But God’s chosen nation rejected his call to repentance. “They would
not
hear, but hardened their necks” (17:14). These people mocked the
prophets
who called them to humility. And, instead, they “followed vanity, and
became vain.and they left all the commandments of the Lord their
God.and
sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord.therefore the Lord
was
very angry with Israel” (17:15-18).
God Sent Wake-Up Calls to Israel.
The Lord’s first wake-up call to Israel came in an invasion
by
Assyria. This arch enemy attacked two Israelite provinces, Zebulun and
Naphtali. Fortunately, the attacks were limited to these two points,
and
the damage was minimal. Yet God was clearly speaking to his people.
The
Lord’s chosen nation lost their sense of security. Yet they still
missed
the message God was speaking.
Israel then received a second wake-up call. This one was
very
severe. Two nations whom Scripture calls the “enemies of Israel” – the
Syrians and the Philistines – combined forces for a sudden attack.
According to Isaiah, this attack came from both “before, and.behind”
(Isaiah
9:12). This means the invaders came from the east and the west,
surrounding
Israel. And their sudden attack was totally devastating.
Now we come to the heart of my message, and to the question
most
Americans are asking: Where was God in this sudden invasion of his
chosen
land? What were his people to make of the disaster that had come upon
them?
Isaiah tells us God was faithful to speak to his people: “The Lord sent
a
word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel” (Isaiah 9:8). God
spoke a
clear word. And he sent the message to the whole nation.
Beloved, this verse tells us something very important at
our own
time of devastation. It says simply, “God always sends his word.”
Never in
history has the Lord left his people clueless in a time of calamity.
He has
never abandoned us and forced us to figure out things on our own. He
always
provides a word of understanding.
Even now the Lord is raising up godly watchmen to speak for
him
in these times. These shepherds are grieving, weeping and repenting as
they
seek God’s face. And I believe they’re hearing and understanding the
Lord’s
message behind the present events. Moreover, they’re not afraid to
proclaim
dire warnings, because they know they’ve heard from God. They’re
compelled
to speak of his purposes behind our calamities.
I Have to Speak a Word None of Us Wants to Hear.
Many readers won’t receive the word I’m about to deliver.
They’
ll think it’s heartless, cruel, unkind in a time of grieving. But, I
tell
you, if we don’t hear God’s truth and face it, our nation is doomed.
Here
is the word I hear the Lord speaking to us right now: “The Lord shall
set up
the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together.for
the
people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the
Lord
of hosts” (Isaiah 9:11, 13).
The Bible makes it crystal clear: God used enemy nations to
chasten his people. The Lord wielded these enemies as an instrument of
warning to Israel, calling the nation to repent. “O Assyrian, the rod
of
mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will
send
him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath
will
I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to
tread
them down like the mire of the streets” (10:5-6).
God charged this coalition of Israel’s enemies to chasten
his
chosen people. The Lord was trying to warn Israel, “You’ve lifted
yourself
up with pride. Now I’m about to bring you down. I’m going to allow
you to
be destroyed by your enemies.”
The enemy coalition launched their massive attack. And,
suddenly, the Israelites watched in horror as their buildings began to
collapse. Fires raged throughout the cities, burning down stately
structures. In a short time, Israel was in flames. And God’s people
began
to wail, “The bricks are fallen down.the sycamores are cut down”
(9:10).
After witnessing the recent disasters in New York and
Washington, we can begin to imagine the emotions of the ancient
Israelites.
Yet, did Israel repent after this horrifying attack? Was there a
nationwide
acknowledgment that God was sending them a warning? Did the rulers
hear God
speaking through the awful calamity? No. Israel’s reaction was just
the
opposite. The people’s initial fear quickly gave way to a flood tide
of
national pride. “All the people.say in the pride and stoutness of
heart”
(9:9).
The Hebrew word for stoutness in this verse signifies a sense of
greatness.
In other words, once the attack died down, the Israelites regained
their
confidence. They declared, “The bricks are fallen down, but we will
build
with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them
into
cedars” (9:10). They were saying, in other words, “These calamities
aren’t
from our Lord. They’re simple fate, unfortunate disasters that can’t
be
explained.
“We’re a great and mighty nation. We’re made up of a proud, unbending
people. And we’re going to let the world know we’re coming back.
We’ll
build everything back bigger and better. Where we used bricks before,
we’ll
use stone. And where we once built with cheap construction, we’ll use
better materials. We’re a God-blessed nation. And we’re going to come
through this disaster stronger than ever.”
Doesn’t this all sound very familiar? The Lord himself used an evil
enemy
to send a warning of chastisement to his people. He wanted to wake
them up
to their compromise, bring them back to himself, pour out his blessings
on
them, and surround them with his protection. Yet, throughout their
days of
grief and horror, God’s people never once acknowledged his hand in it
all.
No one asked, “What is the Lord saying through all this? Is he trying
to
speak to us?” No one thought for a moment that such a proud, great
nation
could be humbled and chastised. On the contrary, the people used the
occasion to defy any such thought. They refused to hear God’s warning
to
them.
I ask you: does Israel’s example hit home with you, after everything
we’ve
witnessed in recent weeks? Please don’t misunderstand me. I thank God
we
have a moral President leading our country. I thank the Lord for all
the
devout Christians who serve in high office. Our church prays
diligently for
our nation’s leaders. And we’re grateful for the temporary outpouring
of
prayer nationwide. It’s encouraging to see people sobering up and
beginning
to rethink their lifestyles.
Yet, even so, we risk missing God’s message to us. Think about it:
when our
public assemblies call for a moment of silence, we think it’s true
repentance. When we see politicians singing “God Bless America,” we
think
our nation has turned back to God. When we see sporting events observe
a
silent minute at halftime, we think it’s a spiritual experience.
But is this all that’s going to come out of our recent disaster? Will
people in sports stadiums stand in silence for a minute, then go back
to
painting their bodies in wild colors, chug beer after beer, and scream
maniacally for their favorite team?
Like most Americans, I wept as I saw Senators and Congressional leaders
standing on the steps of the Capitol, singing, “God bless America.stand
beside us, and guide us.” Yet, as I was crying, the Lord reminded me,
“Many
of the leaders you see singing have worked to rule me out of American
society. They are even determined to remove my name from American
history
books. And they’ve allowed the murder of millions of babies through
abortion.”
Suddenly, I was struck by the absolute hypocrisy of it all. We give
lip
service to God, but we continue our slide into the mire of immorality.
When a Nation Is Under Divine Correction,
It Will React in One of Two Ways.
A nation under chastisement may humble itself and repent,
as
Nineveh did. Or, it may give lip service to God, but then turn inward
to
its own strength to rise above the correction. There will be a
rallying
cry, stating, “We have the strength to endure any disaster. And we
have the
ability and resolve to overcome any problem. We’re truly a great
nation.”
I’m as patriotic as any American. And I’m as thrilled as
anyone
at the unity our nation is experiencing. I thank God for the heroic
efforts
and incredible sacrifices we’ve seen in the wake of the terrorist
attacks.
The whole world is in awe of the fortitude and love displayed by the
people
of New York, Washington, D.C. and America in general.
But we face the same danger Israel did. In our fiery
patriotism, we could easily miss God’s message to our nation. And
right
now, we’re standing at the very same crossroads where Israel stood.
I wonder: if we had lived in Isaiah’s day, would we have
listened to his prophetic warnings? Or would we have turned a deaf ear
to
him? Both Jerusalem and the nation of Judah refused to believe they
could
be brought low. Yet Isaiah prophesied, “Shall I not, as I have done
unto
Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?” (Isaiah
10:11).
God was saying, in essence, “I’ve judged other nations for the very
idolatry
you’re practicing. Why wouldn’t I judge you? What makes you exempt
from my
law?”
All across America, people are holding meetings for “prayer
and
remembrance.” It’s right and honorable (and totally scriptural) to
remember
those who have died. But why are we so afraid to also call for
meetings of
“prayer and repentance”? Right now, most Americans are focused on
remembrance and revenge. Yet, where is the call in America to turn
back to
God?
As for the punishment of terrorists, Isaiah addresses this
issue
as well. He declares, “When the Lord hath performed his whole work
upon
mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart
of
the king of Assyria” (Isaiah 10:12). Indeed, when God was finished
using
Assyria as “the rod of mine anger,” he destroyed them. Likewise, God
will
bring down any terrorists who attack and murder innocent people. It
won’t
be long before they meet their eternal destiny in hell.
Here Is the Message I Believe God is Trumpeting
in Our Calamities.
Deep in my spirit, I hear the Lord saying, “I’ve prospered
you
above all nations. Yet, for years you’ve persisted in worshipping
idols of
gold and silver. I’ve endured your shameless sensuality, your mockery
of
holy things, your shedding of innocent blood, your tireless efforts to
remove me from your society. Now time is running out for you.
“I’ve sent you prophet after prophet, watchman after watchman. You’ve
been
warned again and again. Yet still you won’t open your eyes to your
wicked
ways. Now I’ve stricken you, in hopes of saving you. I want to heal
your
land, to destroy your enemies, to bring you back into my blessing. But
you
don’t have eyes to see it.”
If God wouldn’t spare other nations that have outlawed him, why would
he
spare America? He’ll judge us even as he judged Sodom, Rome, Greece
and
every other culture that has turned its back on him.
Consider what God spoke through Ezekiel: “Cast away from you all your
transgressions.and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will
ye
die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him
that
dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye”
(Ezekiel
18:31-32).
For anyone who doubts that God feels pain, here is proof positive of
his
great compassion. He too feels grief and sorrow over death. He’s
telling
us in this passage, “I take no pleasure in seeing you suffer and die.
That’
s why I’m pleading with you now: turn from your sin and live.”
God weeps especially over those calamities that befall innocents. In
these
past weeks, you can be sure Jesus has been weeping over the victims of
the
terrorist attacks. He is said to “bottle the tears of his saints.”
Indeed,
I believe many of the tears shed by Christians are God’s own tears,
prompted
by his Spirit in us.
Yet, at times, God’s justice and righteousness cause him to restrain
his
pity. And he’s forced to carry out his righteous judgments as a last
resort. The greatest example of this is the sacrifice of his Son,
Jesus.
Justice demanded that the sins of the whole world be laid on an
innocent
man, and that this man would be condemned to die for all. Tell me, who
could be more innocent than God’s own Son? Yet Christ willingly gave
himself as a sacrifice, to offer deliverance and salvation to all of
humankind.
What Will Happen to America If We Miss God’s Message?
What will be our nation’s fate if we reject God’s call to turn wholly
to
him? What will happen if abortions continue and fetuses are used for
research.if we keep erasing our Savior’s name from American history.if
we
rebuild all things bigger and better, only to enrich ourselves more.if
we
rely on our armed might rather than on God for power?
Isaiah describes what happens to every nation that rejects God and
boasts of
its own greatness: “Wickedness burneth as the fire..they shall mount up
like
the lifting up of smoke. Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the
land
darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall
spare his brother. And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be
hungry.they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm” (Isaiah
9:18-20).
Devouring fires will rise to the heavens. Darkness will cover the
land.
The economy will be hit with a staggering blow. And there will be
disunity
in the nation, in communities, in neighborhoods, in families. People
will
look out only for themselves, in a desperate fight to survive. And God
help
you if you come near them.
I was given a prophetic message nine years ago, and I delivered it at
Times
Square Church on September 7, 1992. Let me share it with you now:
“This warning is not meant to scare you. It’s meant only
for
you to take to the Lord and pray. This is what I believe God has shown
me:
“Thirty days of chastisement will fall on New York City
such as
the world has never seen. God is going to let down the walls. There
will
be unimaginable violence and looting. The violence will be so
ferocious, it
will shock the whole world. Our streets will be lined not just with
the
National Guard but with militia.
“A thousand fires will burn at the same time throughout the city. The
Los
Angeles fires were confined to a few sections of that city, but New
York
will be ablaze in all its boroughs. Times Square will be ablaze, and
the
flames will ascend into heaven and be seen for miles. Fire trucks will
not
be able to handle it all.
“Trains and buses will be shut down. Billions of dollars will be lost.
Broadway shows will stop completely. Businesses will flee the city in
an
unstoppable hemorrhage. Such things are expected in Third World
countries,
but not in a civilized nation like the United States. Yet, in not too
long
a time afterward, New York City will go completely bankrupt. The Queen
City
will be cast into the dirt, becoming a city of poverty.
“You may ask, when will all this happen? All I can say is, I believe I
will
be here when it happens. Yet, when it does, God’s people are not to
panic
or fear.”
Calls and messages have flooded our ministry offices, asking, “Was the
terrorist attack on September 11 the calamity you were prophesying back
in
1992?” No, not at all. What I saw coming will be much more severe.
Indeed, if America rejects God’s call to turn back to him, we’ll face
the
same judgments Israel faced. And they will hit not only New York but
every
region in the country. Even the heartland won’t be spared. The
nation’s
economy will collapse, and violence will erupt. Fires will consume our
cities, and tanks will rumble through the streets.
Perhaps you wonder, as I have, “Can any of this be
avoided?”
Yes, absolutely. I believe we’ll be given a reprieve if our President
proves to be a Josiah. You may well remember Josiah as the king who
sought
the Lord with all his heart. We all should pray that God would give
our
President the same spirit that Josiah had, to tremble at his Word. The
Lord
spoke the following to Josiah:
“Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the
inhabitants thereof.because they have forsaken me, and have
(worshipped)
other gods.But [say] to the king of Judah which sent you to enquire of
the
Lord.Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself
before
the Lord, and thou heardest what I spake against this place, and
against the
inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse.I
also
have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold therefore.thine eyes shall not
see
all the evil which I will bring upon this place” (2 Kings 22:15-20).
God told the king, in essence, “As long as you’re in power,
trembling at my Word and relying on me, you won’t see the judgments to
come.
They won’t happen during your reign.”
I believe our window of opportunity to respond to God’s
call is
brief. We all should pray that our nation repents and turns back to
the
Lord. But our most intense prayers should be for our own hearts:
“Lord, let
me tremble not at the disasters, but at your Word. I want to hear your
voice in all of this. Cause me to turn wholly to you.”
From:TimesSquareChurch

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