I realize we are past the 15th anniversary of 9/11/2001 and publishing this post may seem late. However, I beleive the timing is perfect for someone and I’m praying for the person(s) this is meant to encourage. For me, 9/11 it’s a constant reminder that I need a deep relationship with God. Last year I went to New York for the first time in my life and when I returned, I started this post. However, it has been sitting as a draft ever since. I knew when the timing was right, I would share. Here’s my experience and I hope you will come along with me.
Saint Paul’s Chapel was the only building that didn’t sustain damage on September 11, 2001. I recall hearing about this at the time but there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.
Prayers for those missing after the attacks.
Saint Paul’s Chapel
Inside Saint Paul’s Chapel
It was my first trip to New York and I was so happy to see the city with my precious step-daughter, Chelsea. She invited me to come along on a work trip so we took advantage of the opportunity and went early for the weekend to take in the sites and see a Broadway play.
The whole weekend was amazing! We started day one with a tour of New York City. It was a rainy and windy cold day. It was Fall which is something Texas doesn’t do well. Our tour consisted of bus and boat and it was fantastic! We saw many sites such as the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial site and much more. Our tour guide, Bernice, was great! You could tell she loved her job and the city.
She shared wonderful details about all the sites and when she talked about 9/11, her story became personal. Seems like everyone has a 9/11 story if you were alive that day. However, her story really resonated with me and I want to share it.
Bernice had a dream the night before 9/11 of planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. She was scheduled to give a tour of the World Trade Center to a bus load of people at promptly 9:00 am on September 11, 2001. She called in to work and told them that she needed to cancel the tour and would not make it to work that day.
I don’t have to tell you what happened because you know the rest of the story of that horrible day. Bernice praised God for saving her life and others.
Bernice has had other dreams and learned to pay attention to them long ago. On another occasion she dreamed of leaving her apartment and being mugged and badly beaten. When she woke and left her apartment the next day, she was mugged and badly beaten. Bernice has learned something that some of us might want to think about. I believe she listens to God and this is how God speaks to her. He speaks to all of us and often times we are not aware or we choose to ignore.
God spoke to me loud and clear to me following that dreadful September 11th day. You see I had a relationship with God for eternity, but not a relationship for the here and now. The bible tells us that Jesus came they we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The Common English Bible translation says “…so they could live life to the fullest”. I knew he wanted me to find a place to worship and grow in the knowledge of who he was, is, and is to come. That day was a turning point in my life and I sought God with all my heart. Looking back, I’m grateful for taking the next step toward God and can see why he was preparing me for a better life…a life with Him at the center of everything.
Nothing can shake the foundation set in place by the One who delivered me from sin and death. I’ve been able to endure grief, sorrow, pain, and loss because God is my strength. I’ve also been able to experience joy, grace, peace, love, and life because God is my strength.
I believe God gave us a strong message by the standing and unaffected Saint Paul’s Chapel during the 9/11 attacks. There’s no explanation for why that building is still standing as it is literally across the street from where the Twin Towers stood. God purposely preserved this chapel and for me, it’s a message of hope and eternity. Don’t wait another second to follow after God and may you respond to the call he has on your life.
Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel all that compassionate. I am on staff at Argyle UMC and part of my responsibilities under Congregational Care are to consider when it’s appropriate to help people with charity. When people come in to the church and need help (usually with financial assistance), I have to weigh the situation to see if it’s appropriate for the church to help. We have guidelines to help make the decision and sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I pray every day for God to help me discern what He wants me to do and I take being prudent with church resources very seriously. I have to admit there are times when I can relate to what God said when speaking of the Israelites, he told to Jeremiah in chapter 15, “I am tired of showing compassion”. Sometimes I tire of the requests because there can be many and have to be very intentional to keep my mind focused on the task God has given me. It’s not always easy, but when I fix my eyes on God it gives me endurance to show compassion.
I have a tendency to think there are times when all of us struggle to show compassion. Jesus tells us there are signs of the end of the age and in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.” I wonder if it’s possible that in the midst of so much terror and tragedy in our world today that we could become cold or numb. Honestly, it seems that daily we are waking up to another shooting or terror attack. It would almost make sense to put up a wall to protect ourselves of the daily violence happening in our world.
I don’t believe that we want to grow cold, but I could see us becoming numb and cold to the world around us simply as a way of coping. How do we keep that from happening when so much is going on around us?
How do we deal when another terror attack has occurred by those who hate Christians?
How do we keep our compassion for others and how do we honor what Jesus said when tells us to love our neighbor as our self when it seems our neighbor hates us?
Why is it important to be compassionate toward others?
What happens if we are no longer compassionate?
Well the good news is this…
Our God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15) and because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).
Could it be this is how we are set apart as believers in Jesus Christ? When we understand the compassion God had for us through sending his son Jesus, this motivates us to be compassionate toward others.
It’s no surprise that the Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” To be a compassionate disciple means you respond to the suffering and are motivated with a desire to help others.
Compassion always leads to action.
God took action showing compassion when He sent Jesus (John 3:16-17).
In the New Testament, we find Jesus exemplifying all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. Here are just a few examples:
Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35).
Jesus was moved with compassion for the suffering of others and went to all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35-36)
Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus had gone to a remote place by boat and when he came ashore, the people were waiting (a huge crowd). He felt compassion for them and healed them before he divided up the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000(Matthew 14:14).
Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). When He saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them, for they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he prayed for workers to send out into the harvest.
You see there are many people out there worn out and weary, they don’t know God and they are sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you are like the worker Jesus prayed for to send out into the harvest. People need to hear the good news that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who loves them.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, Then he added, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).
Love your God with all our heart, mind and strength means you have to spend time with God developing the same character of compassion as God. Seek God in asking what He wants you to do and realize that compassion has to be nurtured and practiced. Start by spending time in the scriptures and praying, being in church worship and community with other believers. If possible, seek one or two people to meet with on a regular basis and talk about the scriptures. You would decide before the meeting what book of the Bible to read before the meeting. Admit to each other where you have failed or sinned recently. Remind each other of God’s forgiveness and grace. Then ask each other some questions such as “where have you wasted time this week?” We are calling this DNA (Disciple, Nurture, Accountability) teams. John Wesley called them “Holy Clubs”.
What does the second commandment look like when it says to love your neighbor as yourself? Honestly, that is not all that hard unless you are not in a good place due to depression or anxiety. Most of us, love ourselves pretty well so when we think about loving someone else like our self, we should be able to imagine it.
In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asked, “who is my neighbor”. I think we ask this same question. Like God, who is my neighbor? Is it literally my neighbor, my coworker, my friend at school, the person I’m standing next to in line at Starbucks or the grocery store?
Jesus took that question “who is my neighbor” and told the parable of the Good Samaritan and how a man was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and how robbers stripped him and beat him up, left him half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. Then a Good Samaritan came along and had compassion on the man and took care of him, he bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal, took him to the hotel, then the next day, he gave money to the hotel clerk for the man to stay longer and said he would reimburse him for whatever the guy spent over what he gave. So who is our neighbor? Everyone?
God, who do you want me to love?
Those with a different lifestyle?
Different political views?
I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. John 13:34-35 NIV
So when we love everyone that means people who are different from us, different lifestyle, different color, different politics, different culture, different values.
Understanding how important it is to reach others and being intentional about showing God’s love should move us to be compassionate disciples.
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32
If you have not accepted the forgiveness of sin through Christ, then you are not going to understand how important it is to forgive others. I invite you to accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and start a new life with him.
Also, know that being compassionate may cost you something. It may cost you time which is a great commodity in the age in which we live. God may move you to a new place in serving or in mission. If you believe in what you are doing in following God’s call to compassion, you won’t mind giving up what’s necessary to follow Him.
Compassion always leads to action.
Imagine what our world would look like if we were all kind and compassionate toward others. We have to understand where people are that don’t know God, they are just doing the best they know how. I would like to challenge you to pray and ask God how you could show compassion to someone.
Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society was trying to inspire and move his students when he told them, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world!!”
We have a legacy left for us by Christians who have gone before us? Some of them, because of their words and ideas changed our world. What would the people who are in heaven say to us if they could communicate with us? What if we could see from their perspective on how to do life here?
I think they might say something like this to us…
Carpe diem brothers and sisters in Christ!
Seize the day and go live an extraordinary compassionate life in the Lord Jesus!!
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 (The Message)
When I consider the passage above, I am reminded that we are to die to our old self and live in the newness of Jesus Christ. This is a choice, even though the Holy Spirit guides us, because we can choose to grieve the Holy Spirit and live in the old self. I find that sometimes I want to put on the old self. Anyone else? Our nature is to satisfy self and live in our desires. This is how the world lives and we see it everywhere every day.
I love how the Message translation reads “so if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it”. So true….actions say a lot don’t they? Pursue the things over which Christ presides is a perfect way of telling us to pursue godly things. I don’t always feel like reaching for my bible first thing but when I do, I am the one who is blessed. I am the one who benefits from spending time with God. Then I find like the next verse that I am not self-absorbed when I do spend time with God. I think about others and I seek to help others just like God would do. I am able to be a vessel for Him and be used in ways that only God can use a person.
If I am dead to my old life and my new life is real, then Christ is my life. Of course, this is not referring to physical death it’s referring to spiritual death. However, I want to share something about physical death. In my position at the church, I am the Director of Congregational Care and Adult Discipleship. In the role of congregational care, I help to care for people who are sick and hurting and some of the sick die. Being with those who are believers when they die, those are holy moments. You feel an assurance and presence of God in those times. I was at the bedside of my mother when she went to be with God. It was beautiful and something I will always cherish. She had fought a long battle with cancer and it was time to go be with God.
On May 15, 2015, my husband and I were driving home from dinner and we took another route home instead of our usual. This two-lane road did not have shoulders and it is a road with a few hills. It’s a pretty drive and it was a nice evening, still daylight around 7:30 pm. We came over a small hill to see two cars in front of us and it was evident they had just collided. There was a car in front of us and we stopped. We jumped from our cars to see it was a horrible accident, a head-on collision. Pieces of the cars and items from the cars were strewn everywhere. One of the drivers was coming in and out of consciousness and the other was unresponsive. We could not get them out of the cars because the cars were too mangled. All we could do was call 911 and try to put out a small fire under the hood of one of the cars. You can imagine our relief when the fire trucks showed up to make sure this situation didn’t get worse. That accident didn’t end well for one of the victims and a 28 year old woman was pronounced dead at the scene. This has affected me and like most traumatic experiences and I am changed.
My perspective is fresh and my purpose is clear—we do not have time to waste. There are people out there who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus. I know that I cannot and do not save people, that is God’s job alone and I am not judging this young woman’s salvation because only God knows a person’s heart. But I will tell you that following the accident, I could not find evidence of God in her life when looking at social media and family comments. A memorial service was held at a Universalism Unitarian Church and this tells me there is confusion among her family regarding Jesus. All roads do not lead to heaven only the path through Jesus Christ. I am praying for her family as they grieve and for a real saving knowledge of how to receive eternal life.
So what are some ways we can share Jesus with people we barely know? May I suggest putting on Christ every day and living out the Christian life by putting on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another. Above all, the scriptures tell us to put on love—the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).
Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with others and God will give them to you. And if you chicken out at the time of opportunity, pray for another opportunity. I have found God to be faithful to give second chances and third chances and so on and so on.
Here’s a thought, next time you are at the store, notice the person who is at the register. Make time to have a one to two minute conversation about them. I have found that some are quiet and don’t want to talk but many are eager for someone to ask them something about them. They have to say things like, “did you find everything ok today?” and if you respond with a question about them such as “how’s your day going” or “how are you today”, I’m always amazed at how people want to share. We just don’t take the time in our busy all about me world to ask a simple question. So think about making yourself available at an inconvenient time to listen to someone else by acknowledging them. Nothing makes a person feel more valued that someone spending time with them and often times, it only takes a minute or two. This is just one small way to show God’s love to people and you never know the impact it could have on a person. You may just be the only person who seems to care that day.
So don’t shuffle around with your eyes to the ground
Absorbed with the things in front of you
Look up, be alert and make yourself found
Be the person God can use.
John 17:20-26 Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Jesus was betrayed and led to his death on the cross, but right before that happened he prayed for all believers. He prayed for unity among believers and complete unity with himself and God. He said if we have this unity, then the world will know that God sent Jesus and the world would understand God’s love.
I wonder if we have missed the mark and this saddens me. I don’t know if we are united as a group of believers. I don’t necessarily see us all working together for the kingdom as much as working to make our own churches or ministries successful. We get so hung up on our doctrine that we forget lives are on the line.
Last weekend, I attended a memorial service for my uncle who was a Jehovah Witness. It’s my understanding that he believed Jesus existed but didn’t believe he needed him as a Savior. He didn’t believe in hell and didn’t believe he needed “saving” from his sin. He “worked” hard to achieve in that faith and believed his “good works” would allow him to be resurrected when Jesus comes to establish his kingdom on earth. Until then, he will be asleep like being under anesthesia is how it was explained at his memorial service.
I loved my uncle, he was my mother’s brother. There were approximately 20 Christ believing followers at his service among approximately 100 Jehovah Witnesses. We were definitely outnumbered but all of us were praying for them while they were trying to convince us of their belief system. You see the power of God and God’s love can and will transform hearts under any circumstances. Unfortunately, it’s too late for my uncle but it’s never too late for those who are still drawing breath.
Will you unite with me and join me in praying for those who need to know God’s love and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Because when Christ does return, my hope is that we can say we did all we could.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:13
I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. Psalm 40:1
As I am anticipating the anniversary of my mother’s death, I am reminded that The Lord hears me and my cry for help. When I am a mess, He is not. When I am sad, He is not. When I am angry for a death that came too soon, He is not. When I am tired, He is not. When I am weak, He is not.
So I wait patiently for the LORD in many ways and areas in my life. When I wait for Him, God is doing a work in me and is always faithful. He turns to me like a parent to a child and says, I am here and I hear you. I see you and I hear you, I am here and will never leave you.
Last evening my church held a Service of Hope and Healing for those who are experiencing grief during this Christmas season. It was a small, quiet and very meaningful service. The Stephen Ministers served Holy Communion, assisted those in lighting a candle in remembrance of someone and were available to offer a prayer. Our Pastor anointed those with oil who needed a blessing and gave a beautiful message of hope through Christ who is our light in the darkness. It was beautiful and I hope those who came felt the presence of God deep within.
In ministry, I see a lot of hurting people for all kinds of reasons. But one thing I have noticed is that all need Jesus. Jesus truly is the bread of life and without him, we are lifeless. Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” Jesus not only wants to give you life for the hereafter, but also for the here and now. Only Jesus can do that for you and me. So if this holiday season is difficult, call out to Jesus. He sees you and hears you.
I close with this thought, in the first New Testament book of Matthew 1:23. The prophet Isaiah is quoted, “See the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel.” The name Immanuel means God with us. Glory to God, for He is with us. Know this dear brothers and sisters, God is with you.
Will you allow His presence to comfort you this season?