[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #195 ---- 9/24/01

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From: "Bob Tolliver" <lifeunlimited@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2001 23:35:47 -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 #195 ---- 9/24/01

TITLE:  "The Heart of God For Us"



My Dear friend and partner in extraordinary kingdom work:

I cannot remember a time when I have been more overwhelmed . . . . .

Overwhelmed by the horror of tragedy and hatred and sin . . . . overwhelmed by American patriotism . . . . . overwhelmed by the uniqueness of true freedom and democracy . . . . . overwhelmed by the caring and generous hearts of people around the world . . . . . overwhelmed by the confusing manifestations of the Church's heart . . . . . overwhelmed by the compassionate heart of God toward all who were involved in any way with the tragedies of September 11th.

That is what I want to encourage you with today as I write.

Before doing that, though, let me share some tidbits with you which I have received from various sources.



INCREDIBLE SITES:

You have probably received volumes of pictures, graphics and articles as a result of this tragedy.  Rather than try to attach them and take up more space, and especially in light of the problem with viruses just now, I'm simply going to list some I found to be profoundly inspiring.  Take a look:
    www.doubtlessdesigns.net
    www.time.com  (several incredible photo essays worth seeing)
    www.reata.org/interview.html 



A GOOD QUESTION:

Robert Snyder wrote on Sunday, September 16, 2001 1:08 PM 

NOW that the PRESIDENT has called us to PRAYER..... NOW that CONGRESS has called us to PRAYER..... NOW that our GOVERNOR has called us to PRAYER.... NOW that the city MAYOR has called us to PRAYER.... NOW that the "LIBERAL" MEDIA & most other branches of our American society have called us to PRAYER..... AND NOW that our CHURCHES are assembling in special PRAYER.... "Honorable" Justices of the Supreme Court, I have only one question.. "Would it be O.K. to PRAY in our schools........?? " 
An American Citizen & Christian



A NEW LIFE IN DEATH:

We've heard of the heroics of several men on the Pennsylvania plane who almost certainly gave their lives in order that hundreds more might live.  Here is another story.  Bernard Holmes is a retired professor at the University near where Jo Ann and I live.  Sunday I received this thrilling report:

A pastor was traveling on a plane and was sitting close to the galley.  One of the stewardesses was having a problem breaking up some ice and was really attacking the problem.  The pastor said something like "be careful."  She said,"Who cares?"  The Pastor replied. "I care." and he gave her a gospel tract  which he had written.  

About ten minutes later she came up to him and said, "What's going on, this is the sixth tract I have received this week!."  He pointed her to the Lord.

Six days later she entered glory by way of a hijacked plane which crashed in Pennsylvania.



DELIVERANCE IN LIFE:

I picked this story out of last week's Bob Hall's "Friday Fax" newsletter.  

Tuesday 11 September 2001 began as a day like any other for Stanley Praimnath, deacon at an Assemblies of God church and employee of the Fuji Bank in New York. Stanley's office was on the 81st floor of the second tower. "For some reason, I prayed 'Lord, protect me and all my loved ones with your blood' that morning. I don't know why, but I repeated the sentence over and over. 

"While on the telephone at work, I suddenly  saw the fire in One World Trade, the neighboring tower. I tried to call people there, but there was no connection, so I left the building, along with many others. A security guard stopped us on the way out, asking where we were going, and sent us back to our offices, saying 'Oh, that was just an accident. Two World Trade is safe.' That was deadly advice, because besides myself, only Delise, a temporary worker who I sent home, survived.

"Back in my office, a caller from Chicago asked me if everything was OK.  I said yes, looked up - and saw the second aircraft (UA 175) flying directly towards me in slow motion. I prayed 'Lord, help me now', sprang under my desk and curled up. Then the aircraft hit the building. I was up to my shoulders in debris, but I believe that God gave me enough strength to shake everything off. In that moment, I felt like the strongest man alive. 

"I somehow managed to climb out, praying 'Lord, help me, I want to get home'. Suddenly, I noticed a flashlight, and thought to myself 'my guardian angel, the Lord has sent someone to help me'. The guardian angel was another employee standing on the other side of a wall separating us from the stairwell. I could hardly breathe, but shouted 'Listen, I just want to know one thing: do you know Jesus?' 'I go to church every Sunday,' he replied. Then we prayed together, praying to be able to break through the wall. 

"I stood up and felt a special strength come over me; with Goosebumps all over and my body trembling, I said to the wall 'you will not be able to resist my God and me'. Somehow I managed to get through a hole in the wall. Brian, the man on the other side, hugged and kissed me and said 'from today, you are my brother for life!'

"Then we stumbled down the stairs. When we reached the bottom, the firemen screamed 'run for your lives!'. But where to? There was fire everywhere. Brian and I stood under the sprinklers before running through the wall of fire. Around two blocks away, we reached the Trinity Church. I wanted to thank God, reached for the door handle - and at that moment, the WTC-2 building which we had just left collapsed. 'See you in heaven, if not before,' I said to Brian. 

"Hours later, covered with cuts and blood, I held my wife Jennifer and daughters Stephanie (8) and Caitlin (4) in my arms. We cried and thanked God for his protection. No matter what purely rational-thinking people say: for some reason, I know that God's hand diverted the aircraft at the last moment. It was flying directly towards me. When it hit, it was only 6 or 7 meters away - but I survived. I know that Jesus my Lord is greater than all things, and yes, his finger can push an aircraft away!" Source: Stanley Praimnath via Dan Van Veen, Assemblies of God News Service





REVEALING GOD'S HEART:

Now to what is really on my heart.  Probably like you, I'm having waves of emotions come over me . . . . from anger and a demand for justice to deep sorrow to feelings of being overwhelmed by what has happened and what may happen.  One thing, however, really comes to mind.  It happened shortly after I wrote last week's letter dealing with those haunting questions as to what brought us to this state, why do people hate us so, how did they miscalculate us, and what will we do next, particularly as the Body of Christ.

Just as I finished writing this note, it occurred to me that I am finally grieving over this tragedy.  Up to now I have been unable to.  I've been angry, compassionate, contemplative, and a bunch of other things . . . . . but I've been unable to grieve until now.  Finally, I find myself living at the point of tears almost constantly.  It is becoming a hard burden to bear.  I believe it is because, as I wrote the following to you, the Holy Spirit graciously let me catch a small glimpse of God's heart.  I hope you will see the same.

That's what I wanted for you, and that's what God has mercifully allowed me to see as well.

I've thought long and hard about what should be in our hearts regarding all of this.  Interestingly, though, what concerns me more is knowing what's in God's heart regarding it all.  It seems to me we perhaps should give that pretty serious consideration.

I've heard and read lots of varying comments regarding what God thinks about all this that has happened.  How does He feel about it?  And, some of those comments have made me feel some things that I really don't care to divulge.  Not to imply that any of those thoughts are false, but I would just like to dig a little deeper than man's opinions to see if I can feel the heart of God in this matter.  I'm really tired of hearing the politicians, news media, military strategists, and religious so called theologs speak as if they had all the answers and had somehow slipped in on some conversation between God and His angels about what their strategy might be.

It seems to me we'd be far better off, our emotions would be quieted, and our zeal put to better use, if we could simply take a few minutes to try to figure out what God really thinks about all this.  This can be done fairly simply; ---- take time to get alone, quiet yourself, open His sacred Word, and then listen for the voice of the Spirit to tell us what God thinks.

I certainly don't claim to have any special insight into God's attitude or feelings, but, based on what little I do know about Him, I think He's probably experiencing a mixed bag, just like you and I.  In trying to glean some insight into His heart, I've had to consider Him in some of His various roles.  For example, . . . .

1.  As Creator of everything, God's heart probably reveals an enormous pride and purpose in what He created.  Because He created mankind from a strain and in a form totally unique from all other elements of creation, He chose to create us in His image, after His likeness, and then gave us the responsibility and  power to administer the rest of His creation as His stewards, possessing everything we need but owning nothing.

A potter takes pride in his finished work . . . . . and loves it because He created it.  The same with a painter, a sculptor, a musician.  So it is with God.  

He loves us first because He created us.  We are His pride and joy . . . . the apple of His eye . . . . the pulse of His heartbeat.   Whenever you create something, you take pride in what you've made.  There is a love caused by ownership, carried on the wings of satisfaction with the work done and pleasure in knowing the purpose of what you've made.  That's why Genesis records that, of all His creation, we're the only thing to which He responded, "It's Very Good."

2.  As Observer and Overseer of all He created, His heart reveals brokenness and heartache, watching His most prized creation deceived by the god of this age into choosing independence from and rebellion toward Him.  I'm convinced His heart has been broken more than any other from what happened recently in Washington and New York City.  What He saw in Eden when man rebelled against Him broke His heart then.  September 11th, His heart was broken all over again.

Can you understand that?  Imagine how you would feel if something special you had made was suddenly and savagely destroyed.  What a loss!  Your heart would break over its destruction, while perhaps burn in anger at the destroyers.  So it is with God.  That is a love and compassion that comes from Lordship, knowing His subjects suffer.

3.  As Redeemer of all He created, His heart reveals compassionate love beyond comprehension and without measure and demonstrated in the ultimate sacrifice of giving Himself in Christ to buy back that which He had once owned.  

Can you feel His pulse race as the offer of redemption is made . . . . . the offer of forgiveness is extended?  No matter that He is all knowing; just think of His anticipation toward all who will receive the redeeming price, and yet His deepening grief as others refuse.  

As He watched the Towers, the Pentagon, and the plane go up in explosion and flames, I know He rejoiced that some were coming home.  And yet, I believe again His heart was ripped from its place as He watched hundreds and perhaps thousands slip into eternity without Him, never to be recovered.  It's one thing to realize most bodies will never be recovered; it's quite another to know that lost souls will never be recovered . . . . ever.  That is the love and compassion of ultimate sacrifice.  "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."  That's what Jesus did.

4.  As Rejected Suitor, God's heart is broken as surely as any young man's might be if the one he loved turned so viciously on him as America has done on God.  If you want to get a sense of God's grief over America, read the books of Hosea and the Song of Solomon.  He has been calling out to those He loves, but many walked away.

Several sent me the following, which I found to be profound.  It really reveals the ignorance of the secular press to spiritual realities.  Billy Graham's daughter Anne was interviewed on the Early Show by Jane Clayson who asked her, "how could God let something like this happen?" (That's always the world's condemning question of accusation.  Or, perhaps it was Ms. Clayson's genuine craving for reassuring truth.)

Anne's answer was profound.   "I believe that God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are.   But for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives; and being the gentle Father that He is, I believe that He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and his protection if we demand He leave us alone?" 

As a rejected suitor, I believe God is heart broken over America's sin and grieved to the very core over America's necessary suffering.

He has also been calling out to His Bride . . . . but she has, like Hosea's wife, gone whoring after the world.  Imagine the heartache of having your bride caught in adultery before your very eyes.  Yet, His love is everlasting and mercy never ceasing as He calls again . . . . and again . . . . and again.  That's a love and compassion coming from a heart broken and betrayed by those He longs to be His own.

Maybe this time His Bride will return.

5.  As Healer He is extravagantly appealing and faithfully hopeful that America will accept His anxious willingness to heal and restore.  That's what He's all about.  That's why He sent His Son, Jesus.  Isaiah the prophet declared it, and Jesus repeated it.  Then He demonstrated it.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have been the person who invented a vaccine that would totally cure cancer?  What excitement you would feel.  How thrilled you would be.  Boldness would course through your very being as you announced the cure . . . . and then offered it free of charge to every person in the world who had cancer.

But imagine how you might react in disbelief when you saw thousands either ignore or reject your offer.

I think that's what God feels today for America and the other countries that have been so adversely affected by this terrible scheme of murder.

There is healing in His wings, but so few know.  And, many who know will reject the offer.  Most tragically, though, is knowing that many who have already experienced His healing touch are so wrapped up in themselves that they haven't even thought about telling others.

How heartbreaking it must be to be a healer who is rejected by one who needs to be healed.  That is a love born in the unselfish heart that is certain of the cure.

6.  As Perfect Judge I believe we can see something of God's righteous anger, tempered yet with sadness.  He knows exactly what was done, who did it, why they did it, and what their sentence will be.  He also knows the sentence already carried out on those who have died.  He further knows the sentence that must be carried out on all of us sometime in the future.

What a mixture of emotions must go through His being as He assumes His regal role as Perfect Judge on the one hand, and a compassionate creator and redeemer on the other.  Can you imagine what it must be like for God?  Oh, I know . . . . as God we assume He is above emotions and feelings because, after all, He is God.

But, can we be so sure?  If you study Scripture at all, you know that there are clear elements of feelings and emotions attributed to both the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  God is seen as being angry, as being filled with compassion, as hating sin, as loving man unconditionally.  As Perfect Judge, consider Him to fill His role of justice while at the same time longing to act in His role as Healer and Redeemer.  This is perhaps the most agonizing love and compassion of all ---- knowing forgiveness is available, but that judgment is inevitable on all who reject that forgiveness.

7.  As Coming King I sense a different mix of emotions from God's heart.  There is a sense of joy and relief in my heart as I recognize He is one day coming to receive His own and rule over all that is rightfully His.  In that setting, I believe His heart is resolute, purposeful, and bold as He marches through time toward the final events of human history.  All nature will sing, all enemies will be forever vanquished, all justice will have been served, all recompense will have been rewarded . . . . . and God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, we shall behold Him and know Him, we will bow before Him in homage and submission.  We will rejoice and sing.  We will shout and praise.  We will dance.  We will celebrate.

But most of all, we will worship Him around His throne.

All evil will have been conquered, all scores settled, and all the world will acknowledge Him as Lord of all.

As God views the recent tragedies, I believe this knowledge is what reveals His patient and purposed response to the events of September 11th.

And yet . . . . . at the same time I believe His heart continues to beat with compassion, knowing that when that Day arrives, many will face it with terror on their faces and despair in their hearts because they were not ready.

Because God is swift in His justice, He will have already served it up appropriately to all who caused this travesty.  Therefore, we don't have to wonder about just recompense.

Because He is swift to forgive, He will have also already shown mercy on those who repent.  Therefore, we don't have to judge the merits or motives of those who come to Him.

Because He is swift to restore, He will have already comforted those who have mourned, bound up the broken hearted, restored those who have lost, and declared the Good News to those who would listen.  Therefore, we don't have to be fearful of doing whatever we can do in His Name because we know He will have made up for our own lack.

This is a love and compassion borne on the regal wings of authority, power, and victory . . . . as the King enters His palace to receive His crown and His kingdom.

And His subjects cheer.



WHAT'S YOUR HEART?

I guess, then, if this is the heart of God toward the victims, their families, America, the Church, and the terrorists, then what is yours and mine?  We certainly are neither Creator, Redeemer, Judge, or coming King and Savior, but we do need the heart of God in these matters.  I believe in full justice and retribution for these acts.  I am broken hearted over what has happened.

However, my greatest concerns are two:

1.  How about our hearts?

2.  How will the church react over the long haul.

If I were to tell you all that I have heard and read regarding the future, it could put fear in your heart.  I believe the worst is yet to come.  I believe more attacks will come to American soil.  I believe we must be prepared to forfeit some of our freedoms, because I feel they will be taken, although perhaps temporarily.  I believe dangers will increase.

I believe the Church is facing a great sifting and purging where the dividing line between the "play" church and the "real" will widen.  I believe our economy will get worse.  I believe war is eminent, and could easily escalate into another World War.  No matter what course America and her allies take, there will be severe retribution against us.  We are living in a new era with totally new technology and weapons at the fingertips of our unseen and often undetected enemy.

However!  I believe Jesus will be victorious.  I also believe it is possible for the Church to rise to the occasion.  The present reveals unparalleled harvest fields already ripe for the harvest.  Never in recent years has there been such a ground swell of interest . . . . . no, Hunger! . . . . . for spiritual reality.  Opportunities of ministry will overwhelm us.  Those who are willing can easily and quickly enter into exhaustion because of open doors.

This is what happened to the churches in Croatia during that conflict.  One of my dearest friends bore witness to that reality back in January of 1995 when Jo Ann and I interviewed him in his office.

Persecution and attacks will also increase, both from within the Church and from without.  Many things now important to us are going to seem trivial.

The greatest thing I anticipate, however, is the openness to the Gospel as never before.  I was talking with my father last week about World War II.  He reminded me of my boyhood memories of seeing that little church in Granite City, Illinois packed on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights with young and old alike.  He reminded me that during those days more than 60 young men and women went off to war, most to never return again.  He reminded me of the youth who used to sit on the floor in our home singing choruses and praying.  He reminded me of the scores who came to Christ through the ministry and witness of that little congregation.  He reminded me of all the young people who went from that church into ministry.  It was a time of great evangelistic harvest.

It can be the same again.

However, the Church is going to have to recover courage, compassion, and care.  

God's heart for the situation must again become the heart of the Church.  And right now, it isn't.  I believe the Church wants it to be, but it isn't . . . . at least not on a broad scale.

The Church for the most part is still angry over what happened, but not broken hearted.  It is still playing the game, trying to maintain all its programs and activities, using them as a means of appealing to people to come . . . . . when, in matter of fact, it would be wise to consider shutting down those programs and activities, falling on our faces before God in repentance, crying out to Him in travailing intercession for the people, and then expend ourselves in compassionate ministry and fervent evangelizing while there is still time left.

I recently read the account of how the Times Square Church where the famed David Wilkerson pastors literally shut down every program of the church several weeks before the tragedy, and went into prolonged prayer.  God has forewarned them of an impending disaster, and they went on their faces before God, interceding for their city and their nation.

They discovered God's heart, and now they are ministering in exhausting measure and circumstances.

That's what God wants from us all.  He is calling us to Himself; He wants to talk to us; He wants to heal us; He wants to rearrange our values and priorities;  He wants to fix us so He can use us.  All across America people have been gathering in unprecedented numbers to pray.  That trend must not diminish, but must intensify.  

Oh, friend!  We are positioned right now to possibly experience the greatest outpouring of God's presence and power ever experienced on this Continent and perhaps in the world.  We cannot hinder the work of the Spirit, and we must not neglect our duty to expedite it by coming before Him in massive, corporate praying.  That is the neglected discipline of the Church which He is anxious to restore to us.

Just as it is now a new day, filled with apprehension and uncertainty in America, it can be a new day in the Church, filled with holiness, boldness, power, and victorious opportunity.

But we're going to have to find God's heart first.

We'll do that when we come before Him with humble spirit, contrite heart, and surrendered wills and agendas.  The days of ordered services and orchestrated programs is over.  It's time to meet with God.  So, we might as well stop playing the game. . . . . The game is over.

The fires of war are burning.  It's time to leave the mansion and head to the front line.  That's where our Captain is, and He has something to say to us.

Let's move out.

In His Bond, By His Grace, and For His Glory,

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

Life Unlimited Ministries
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