[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #194 ---- 9/17/01

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <lifeunlimited@...>
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 22:15:54 -0700
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As We
Fight the Good Fight of Faith

A personal letter of encouragement to you, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down".

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SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #194 ---- 9/17/01

TITLE:  "It Will Take More Than Prayer"



My Dear Friend and Partner in Kingdom Work:

Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Strong Tower Who cannot be shaken.  Today I am taking the liberty of sending this letter not only to my regular subscriber list, but to others as well.  I just feel I want to share my heart with as many as possible.  To "new" people, let me explain that "Shoulder To Shoulder" is a weekly letter of encouragement I have been writing since December of 1997.  Feel free to subscribe if you like, pass it on to whomever you desire.  It is doubtful I will send you another without your request.

As you can imagine, my mind is still in a fog much of the time as I try to assimilate all that has happened since the heartless evil murders by religious fanatics last Tuesday.  More than 5,000 innocent people lost their lives in one of the most diabolical acts of savagery every committed.  My Inbox has been filled probably like yours with multitudes of letters of encouragement as well as pictures of the atrocities and articles regarding all the "why's and wherefore's" of such despicable actions.  I am taking the liberty of adding a little of what I got at the very end of my letter.

Just a few hours following the attack I talked with a relative who indicated a customer quoted his son who lives in Europe, saying, "Dad, it's worse than you think."  In doing some research of my own and watching some reports on television, I am inclined to agree.  One thing is certain . . . . . none of us will ever be the same again.  Not to minimize terrorist acts of the past, last Tuesday the entire world entered a new era.  For the first time in its history apart from the 1993 bombing of the "twin towers" the United States as an independent nation was attacked on its continental shores.  Striking at major organs of both our economic and military life, these demonic monsters did their work.

One letter I received included the Wall Street Journal article by Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson, entitled "Terrorism On Trial" and written May 31 just as the verdict was rendered on   Included in it were the following paragraphs:

"The court evidence shows how Al-Qaeda is an umbrella organization that includes a wide range of Islamist groups, including Hezbollah (Lebanon), Islamic Jihad (Egypt), the Armed Islamic Group (Algeria), as well as a raft of Iraqis, Sudanese, Pakistanis, Afghans and Jordanians. Each of its constituent groups has the capability to carry out its own independent recruiting and operations. 
"The groups coordinate through Al-Qaeda's "Shura Council," a kind of board of directors that includes representatives from the many groups. The groups meet on a regular basis in Afghanistan to review and approve proposed operations. Most of them have maintained close relationships with each other since the end of the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets. They know each other well and work together efficiently. 

"We learned from the trial that when operations in one place are shutdown, the rest of the network soldiers on, virtually unaffected. Even if bin Ladin himself were to be killed, this Islamist network would survive and continue to expand, sustained by its ideological adhesion. Islamism is the glue that keeps these groups together, and fired up. The court documents also revealed that although bin Laden has had a leading role in formulating and paying for Al-Qaeda, the organization did rely heavily on state sponsorship as well. For example, Sudanese President Omar Bashir himself authorized Al-Qaeda activities in his country and gave it special authority to avoid paying taxes or import duties. More remarkably, he exempted the organization from local law enforcement. Officials of the Iranian government helped arrange advanced weapons and explosives training for Al-Qaeda personnel in Lebanon where they learned, for example, how to destroy large buildings." 


Also in that Wall Street Journal article as well as other research reports I've just read and/or watched within the past forty eight hours, the United States really let its guard down through an attitude of complacency and "we're too big to be hit" attitude.  The facts reveal that not only are there terrorist cells in over 60 countries around the world, but that terrorists have been infiltrating into America for nearly twenty years, and particularly so since the Gulf War.  It is my understanding that there are at least 100 or more "sleeper" terrorists living in this country as I write, quietly waiting for an assignment.

If what I am reading is true, and I see no reason to think it is not, I anticipate a long and bloody battle ahead, both on foreign soil and on our own.  I pray to God that I am wrong.

The fundamental purpose of my weekly letters to you is to bring you encouragement, coming along side you in my heart to urge you on.  However, I beg your indulgence as, while still trying to do the same, I take this occasion to address the situation we now face . . . . . not just those of us living in the United States, but also virtually every nation around the world.  For, you see, like it or not, by virtue of its size, strength, and resources, whatever happens of significance in America has its impact on every continent.

Therefore ---- this event has generated scores of impressions and questions in my mind, not the least of which is "why did they do this?"  Out of that one question, I have been trying to systematize in my mind four primary thoughts from which I seemingly cannot remove myself.

I cannot describe to you the heaviness I have in my spirit right now for what I believe we will face.  The heaviness is not one of fear or worry, but simply that of anticipating the suffering that many people of all races and cultures will have to endure.  I believe horrendous days are ahead . . . . . unless God somehow intervenes.



WHAT SET US UP FOR THIS?

This question was one of the first to enter my mind.  How did we get where we are that we are so hated?  What have we perhaps done to bring us to this place?

We can spiritualize all we want on the one hand or analyze all we can on the other.  However, I feel strongly that we must consider the following as being at least a partial answer to that question.

1.  We allowed our spiritual fiber to be compromised.  While it is hard to pin down a specific starting point, it seems at least in modern history that our spiritual make up began to change shortly following the Great Depression when we moved from a cash society to a credit society, clearly in violation of God's Word.

Following that there came into play the revisionist movement where little by little the names, acts, and principles of God and His Word were quietly deleted from our school books.  In later years then attacks were made on our great heroes as exposé's were created via the news media and the entertainment industry, undercutting the heroism and character of many of our great leaders.  By the 1950's, with the help of an incredibly liberal Supreme Court, almost all reference to God, Jesus, the Bible, and religious influence had been eliminated from our history and science books.

The next step was logical . . . . . eliminate or restrict public prayer, the reading of the Bible, and the pledge of allegiance to our flag from our public schools, based on a so called non existent "separation clause" of the Constitution.  That set the stage, then, for lowering the moral standard to where adultery and fornication were acceptable, abortion was a welcomed alternative to pregnancy, and homosexuality was an approved lifestyle.

All of this, fed by a cynical liberal media manned primarily by students who graduated from schools like UCLA and others during the turbulent "demonstration" years of the late 1960's and 1970's, gave rise to news reporting that was more editorial than it was factual.  Becoming increasingly ridiculed and castigated for their beliefs and convictions by the secular press, the Christian community shut its mouth, withdrew into itself, and abdicated the task of being salt and light in society.  Hunkering down in its respective bunkers called church buildings, our voice and influence were essential muffled.  Once we did begin to rise up again, we weren't really prepared for the battle, and we really were unable to set forth our case on the same level as our critics.

2.  We allowed our political system to become corrupted.  While our spiritual fiber was being compromised, the obvious also began to happen . . . . . for when the salt and light cease to be, darkness follows soon thereafter.  It is true we've always had some degree of corruption in politics ---- after all, the system is made up of people.

However, beginning first with the judicial system through a series of secularists and humanists in the Supreme Court, it further infiltrated into the governing bodies and the administrative branch of government.  This compromise manifested itself in things such as abortion legislation, the Watergate scandal, the Clinton fiasco and other corrupted  actions that basically left the country with an ever increasing level of distrust and cynicism.

3.  We allowed our protective mechanism to be cheated.  As a consequence of the above factors, pork barrel tactics and political correctness led the government to make significant funding reductions in vital areas of security and strength, thus rendering us penetrable from the outside world by those who see us as an enemy.  Virtually every security agency of our government is both under funded and under manned.  Previous governmental budget cuts left us weak and porously vulnerable to such actions as were taken.

4.  We failed to think the way other cultures think.  Jo Ann and I have seen this for several years as we traveled to eastern Europe.  There is a vast difference in the way the eastern mind thinks, both in the Middle East and the Far East.  There is a vast difference in terms of values, absolutes, and beliefs.  Many of the things our government faced were seen purely from a western perspective.  As a result, we find ourselves blind sided and now facing probably the most critical time in our history since the Civil War.

And, when all that happened, we left ourselves wide open for such attack and such hatred.  Frankly, we did exactly what the Roman Empire did, what the Greek Empire did, . . . . what Israel of the Old Testament repeated time and again.  

You'd think we, a nation built of Christian principles, would have known better.



WHY DO SOME PEOPLE HATE US SO?

I'm grateful that not everyone hates us.  I have received letters from numerous countries expressing their sorrow and assuring us of their love and their prayer.  Just last night I received a letter from a friend in the Ukraine.  In fact, I know that most people don't hate us.  The outpouring of compassion and sympathy from so many countries is proof of that.  But . . . . why do these particular people hate us so?  

Personally, I'm convinced some of it is because of our own mistakes, usually made out of misinformation, misunderstanding, miscalculation, or ignorance.  We have sometimes used our own interests as the driving motive to action, whether military or political or economic, rather than the needs of others.  Two simple examples of that are the Viet Nam and the Gulf Wars.  Our withdrawal from Viet Nam left thousands of innocent civilians stranded and destined to certain death.  The Gulf War, in the eyes of many of the Arab countries, was primarily about oil and our need for it.  We may or may not agree with that assessment, but this is what the terrorists see.

In addition, they see our military occupation as a raping invasion of their lands.  So, with continued American military presence in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, Kuwait and other Arab countries, along with our continued air presence over Iraq, the Arab terrorists are furious and filled with ever increasing vile hatred for us.

It is my sense that a significant reason we are hated so by people such as these who came to our shores and murdered thousands is because we have some things they don't have and they either want them or want us to lose them.

1.  The United States, first of all, has the purest form of democracy on the face of the earth.  While it is certainly not perfect, it's the best thing going at the moment.  While many of these people come from places ruled by dictatorship, military rule, anarchy, or cronyism, we as a republic operate as a democracy where every citizen has an opportunity to participate freely in the governing process.

2.  Then we also have freedom.  We have freedom to assemble, to carry arms, to speak freely, to worship as we please.  We indeed have the mechanism whereby every citizen in the United States can vigorously enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  
We indeed are probably the most free nation in the modern world.  We elect our officials; we are never ruled by dictators or a dominating controlling body which we cannot replace.

3.  We also have open borders.  One of the most intriguing elements of this whole experience is that they would attack a nation that has welcomed their own people from every Islamic nation with open arms.  Isn't it tragic that the one nation in the world that is more tolerant toward human differences and has borders that welcome people from nearly every nation in the world is the very nation these fanatics attack.

4.  We have religious liberty that gives room for everyone, even though we are primarily a nation originating from and built on Christian principles.  Even the Muslim, so tragically represented in these fanatics from the extremist wing of their religion, are welcome here.  No person will ever be jailed or put to death because of his religious beliefs.  They don't 
have that.

Whereas we have virtually every form of religion imaginable in the United States, most Arab states are Islamic, and all other religions our outlawed and punishable by prison or even death.  This reality is being seem more graphically every day in places like Indonesia, Sudan, Nigeria, and other countries where Christians are this very day being beaten, robbed, and even butchered for their faith ---- all in the name of Allah.  Here in the United States, we tolerate all, and give everyone their right to choose whom and how to worship, or not worship at all.

5.  Finally I believe that America's long standing relationship to Israel as an ally and one of the first countries to recognize it when it declared itself a sovereign nation some fifty plus years ago is a further cause of such hatred.  These religious fanatics turned terrorists hate Israel with a venomous hatred.  And they hate everyone who is a friend to Israel.




HOW COULD THEY SO MISCALCULATE US?

1.  They misunderstand our optimism to be arrogance.  As Jo Ann and I have traveled into parts of three continents, people have often talked about how arrogant Americans are.  This is even true in some western European countries where America enjoys good friendship.  You've probably seen athletes interviewed where they came across as being arrogant, proud, and boastful, when in fact they were not.  They were simply very confident in who they were and optimistic about what they felt they could do.  I believe we have been seen in that light by these terrorists . . . . . to the point of taking revenge against us.

2.  They misunderstand our prosperity to be selfishness.  There is no doubt that to many people around the world, America appears to be rich and selfish.  They don't realize that most Americans are neither rich nor selfish.  A quick look at the outpouring of help and aid to Turkey and her earthquakes, Guatemala and Honduras and their floods, New York and Washington during this travesty, and it becomes obvious that we are willing to give both out of our prosperity and our poverty when the need is genuinely there.  Multiplied tons of food and other commodities went to Somalia and other African nations during times of famine and starvation.  The same is true in our aid to the Kurds a few years back.

I am constantly reminded of Psalm 67:7 . . . . "God blesses us that all the nations of the earth may fear Him."  I believe that's the main reason God has prospered America.  Surely we have failed miserably at times to be obedient to that reality.  Just don't call us selfish.

3.  They misunderstand our freedom to be softness.  People who do not experience freedom seldom understand it.  They don't realize that with freedom comes responsibility and accountability.  Being responsible and accountable is not carried out by people who are soft and undisciplined.  True we often take our freedom for granted, but when occasions such as last week arise, we are quickly reminded that indeed "freedom isn't free".  It takes strength of character and will to be free.  And the greater the freedom, the greater the demand for strength of character.

4.  They misunderstand our diversity to be fragmentation.  As I noted earlier the United States is indeed a melting pot of the world . . . . perhaps the greatest melting pot in the world.  And, New York City is a microcosm of America.  As Mayor Rudolf Juliani noted last week, there are more than 150 different ethnic enclaves and communities in New York City.  And yet, regardless of our ethnic roots, we are above all, Americans first.

There is not one single citizen of the United States apart from the Native Americans who can call themselves true natives to this land.  Every one of us traces his roots back to some other country.  All are welcome here.

Why do you think people want to come here in the first place?  It is a place of opportunity, of freedom, of acceptance, . . . . of a new start.  Virtually every trip Jo Ann and I take to Bosnia, we find some Bosnian Muslim, Serbian, Kosovar, Albanian, or Macedonian who wants to come to America.  Why?

Because our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.  That's the very reason, in fact, why some of these terrorists can even live here in America in spite of their diabolical schemes.

5.  They misunderstand our youthfulness to be immaturity.  By all standards, the United States is the youngest of all larger nations, less than 300 years old as an established country.  Apart from our Native American brothers and sisters, this land has been occupied less than 400 years while most of these haters of America live where roads, towns, and villages are sometimes counted by millenniums rather than by centuries.

However, just because our nation is young does not mean we are weak, reckless, or immature.  Maturity does not come only through age, but through experience.  And the experience of true democracy is a great teacher.



WHAT WILL AMERICA'S RESPONSE BE?

Of all the questions I've been asking myself these past few days, this is the one that concerns me the most.  What will we do?  Now that we have been invaded and raped, what will our response be?

Like you, I've received many graphic photos, articles, and artists renderings via e-mail these past few days.  One of the most poignant was the proud head of our national emblem, the bald eagle, overlooking the smoking twin towers of the World Trade Center, with a single tear falling from its eye.  Moving as it is, a question still floods my consciousness . . . . . "Will America do more than weep?"

The writer of Ecclesiastes appropriately reminds us that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing.  This is certainly not the time for national rejoicing.  It is clearly a time for weeping and grieving, not only for the loss of thousands of lives and the destruction of billions of dollars of properties and possessions, but also a time for weeping over the loss of safety and national youthfulness.  We are now, overnight, an old country . . . . old children whose childhood has been stolen.

However, because of the resolve and strength of her people, America is also rising up.  There is an unbelievable new wave of patriotism akin to that which bore the nation to victory and prosperity during and following World War II.  So, our response is also to rise up.

And, there is also the will to mete out recompense and justice for those responsible for the murder of over 5,000 of America's finest men and women.  However, that steeling of the shoulder and setting of the jaw must not demonstrate itself with a heart of hatred and revenge.  If we do, we have become like them.

These, however, are not the responses I seek.

Perhaps you were able, as Jo Ann and I were, to watch the entirety of the special service at the National Cathedral in Washington which President Bush had requested when he declared Friday to be a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance.  While I'm really not into highly liturgical and formal religious pomp, I must say that the service was one of the most moving I've seen in recent years.  And, you could not have asked for a clearer presentation of the love and mercy of God, and the Gospel message.  Even the scriptures from the representatives from the Muslim and Jewish religions were packed with power.

The great sage of American Christendom Billy Graham had, in my opinion, his finest hour.  As I listened, I was thrilled by his courage and the content of what he said.  As I watched, I felt like I was beholding one of the world's greatest Christians; I felt as I might have felt if I were to see the beloved John leaning on a crutch in Ephesus exhorting his children to love one another . . . . or maybe Joshua declaring near the end of his days, "choose you this day whom you will serve; but as for me and my house, . . . . we will serve the Lord!"

Then President Bush's remarks were absolutely riveting.  If anyone ever had any doubt about his love for and commitment to God and to his country, they should have been removed at that moment.  Integrity, honesty, deliberateness, and deep compassion were clearly evident.  I have never admired any president more . . . . and I've lived under the leadership of ten going all the way back to Franklin D. Roosevelt.  (That's a very scary thought!)

I'm especially glad President Bush had the sensitivity to call our nation to prayer.  That is our greatest need, and must be our first response.  It was the beginning of a very long healing process.

However, another question has come to mind . . . . . "Will America do more than pray?"  

Saturday as I began writing to you, a thought thrust itself deep into my heart.  It felt almost like the impact I saw when the second plane shot almost unstoppable into the very core of the second tower and debris shot out the other side. . . . . "Praying is not enough!"

It took me several hours to discern what I was thinking.  

Why is praying not enough?  

If praying is not enough, then what else is there to do?

Then it finally dawned on me ---- II Chronicles 7:14 . . . . . a passage so familiar that to many it has lost its significance.

"If My people . . . . "

"Humble themselves . . . . "  While we have been humiliated by this event, I'm not sure we've yet been humbled.  I find it interesting that James tells us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift us up.  If we do not humble ourselves, then God must do it.  And, He often does it at the hands of others by allowing us to be humiliated.  And, I do believe America has been humiliated by this terrible act.

The question, then, is, "what will we do with that?"

Some will become very angry . . . . or terrified . . . . or hard and calloused.

But God tells us to humble ourselves.  While I see many in America beginning to bend over and starting to think about bowing before God in humility, it has not yet happened . . . . . even in the Church.  There are still too many who are arrogant and angry, crying for vengeance instead of revival, demanding justice instead of awakening.

More than anytime I can remember, we must humble ourselves.  Tragically, the church is far too often the most resistant to that need.  That's one reason why we fill our calendars with so many programs and focus our attention on so many other things . . . . so we can busy ourselves with other "good Christian things" and not have to think of our greatest need.  We don't want to think about that . . . . . just like the New Yorkers busy themselves even with volunteer work so they don't have to think about the tragedy.

Humble ourselves.

"And pray . . . . "  This, perhaps like never since World War II, we have begun to do.  And, it is wonderful.  Frankly, I believe that's where it really begins.  We cannot humble ourselves outside the presence of God.  The presence of God is entered into through prayer.  When we come to Him in absolute helplessness and desperation, we will come humbly.  When we recognize we have no solution and He alone does, we will come humbly.

Prayer is the starting place.

"And seek My Face . . . . "  It's easy to seek answers, power, patience, boldness, or other things.  However, God calls on us to seek His face.  We want to seek His blessings, His protection, or His mercy, but we still don't want to seek His face.

But we must.  If we are going to get through this, we must seek His face.  I remember as a very small child falling and cutting my knee.  Although there were other children and parents around, I found no solace or security in anyone else except the face of my Dad.  I recall another occasion when I was lost in a great department store in St. Louis.  Though there were many caring customers and sales people who tried to reach out to help me, I found no consolation in any of them.  But then I saw the face of my mother . . . . and I was comforted . . . . and secure.  Another occasion I was in a great zoo when I heard the roar of a lion for the first time.  My terror was not diminished until I saw the face of my father.

So it is with God.  We have heard the roar of the lion.  We find ourselves lost.  We find ourselves wounded.  We find ourselves in great need.  Only the face of the Father will calm our fears, relieve our lostness, and heal our wounds.

"And turn from their wicked ways . . . . "  If we have a problem at this point, it is because we have not done the first three commands.  When we humble ourselves, pray, and seek the face of the Father, we can think of no other choice but to turn from our wickedness . . . . . our evil thoughts, our sinful conduct, our entertainment of compromise and complacency.  The primary reason far too many Christians never turn away from their sinful habits and lifestyles is simply because they've never been in the presence of their Holy God.

The reason they've never been in the presence of God is because they've never genuinely humbled themselves and sought His face through desperate prayer.  How can you expect a person to turn from his wicked attitudes, words, and actions without having first seen the Lord in His holiness and righteousness?  Further, how can any person want to live in sin after being in the presence of the God who loves him and wants to forgive him and restore him?

Oh, my friend!  We must weep, but do more than weep.  We must pray, but do more than pray!  

We must repent; we must seek the face of God; we must turn away from our sinful attitudes and actions.

If we don't, the road that is ahead of us is going to be unbearable.



THEN WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

So . . . . what should we do next?  We have all kinds of people in our churches.  Some are true believers, others are simply joiners on their way to an eternity without Christ.  Even among the genuine Christians you have the carnal, the complacent, the spectators, with very few willing to pay the price.

Where, then, does that leave us as believers . . . . . or as a nation?

On our faces before God in prayer.

You can get caught up in the "if", the "how" and the "when" of inevitable retaliation, you can thrust yourself into the many forthcoming political and theological debates if you wish, and you can jump on the latest band wagon of eschatology or issues.

Or . . . . .

You can pray.

You see, friend, it is in the prayer closet that the proud will humble himself.  The public arena only intensifies his pride, because he has an opportunity to be heard and seen by man.  In the prayer chamber, there is no such audience . . . . only God.  If you go in proud, and you stay long enough,  . . . . you'll surely come out humbled.

And that sets the stage for what is to come.  For, it is only when we are humbled that we are willing to seek His face.  And, once we seek His face, He has promised He will be found by us.

And, when we do find Him, nothing less than turning from our wicked ways will ever satisfy us.  The glamour and glitz of the world will become nothing but black suet in our eyes.  The temptations of human accolades will roll off us like dead skin.  The testings and trials we face will become medals we wear with honor and gratitude.

So . . . . that brings us to the bottom line, my friend.  It really doesn't matter why some hate us as they do.  It's really immaterial how they miscalculated the strength and resolve of a great nation made of great people who deep down inside genuinely do care.

What matters is what America does next . . . . not militarily, for such action is virtually certain . . . . but what America does before God.  It had better go beyond patriotic rallies, candle light vigils and prayer rallies.

We'd better meet with God.

And . . . . . the nation is waiting for the church to take the lead and set the example.

Are we humbled enough to do that?

Do we care enough to do that?

In His Bond and for His glory,

Bob Tolliver -- Rom 1:11-12
Copyright September, 2001

Life Unlimited Ministries
lifeunlimited@...
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