September 12, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,
      Nearly 65 years ago, the President of the United States gave a hastily-prepared address to the American people. It began this way: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941- a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack..." He summarized his comments with: "Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation..."
      Five years later, World War II was finished. Launched by two belligerent leaders - Hitler and Hirohito - the United States and its allies sacrificed and served to defend themselves and their values against common enemies. There was no question who the opponents were: both sides wore uniforms. Both sides were organized under sitting governments. Both sides demanded allegiance to their causes; both sides operated under common rules - the "Geneva Convention" - and, both sides agreed when it was over. A conventional command structure put someone "in charge" who could give orders to advance, or to surrender. Who would have guessed that the carnage that was World War II would ever become the "good old days."
      Good old days? Not for the people who lived - and died - through them. War is hell, even when it goes according to plan, fought within boundaries that define "civilized behavior." Good old days?
      Sixty five years ago, we knew who the bad guys were; today, they hide among innocent - but complicit - "civilians." Back then, governments called the shots; today, terrorist groups morph into "freedom fighters," according to the world media. Their leaders don't have to be elected; they lead through force and self-establishment. Common rules? You've got to be kidding. Demands are made for our side to respect the international standards... but it's a one-sided respect that is required. "Conventional command structure?" Osama has no control... and profound influence. He gives direction through Al Jazeera and CNN; produce a video in his cave studio with motivational messages for his savage subordinates... and he gets free prime-time broadcast time to get the word out.
      It's 9/11, plus five years. Now that it's been 1825 mornings since we watched the World Trade Center buildings collapse, what have we learned? Where are we, after sixty months of war-against-terror? Some are calling it apocalyptic; voices are saying "Armageddon." What's up, anyway? Wouldn't you love to ask Jesus?
      Some of his insiders asked him about that very thing, nearly 2000 years ago. Listen in to the private conversation: “‘...what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?' Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, "I am the Christ," and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains...’” (Matthew 24:3-8).
      What have we learned since 9/11? Essentially, it's the same thing we should have learned after December 7th, 1941... and after Good Friday, AD 30: Time - for all of us - is short. World events are a reminder that life is brief, and the things that really matter have eternal implications. What must each of us do to be ready to meet a holy God, face-to-face, at the end of this life?

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