American leaders had a "failure of imagination" leading to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They failed to "imagine" an attack of that nature. We can "imagine" our future and prepare for the coming Kingdom.
[Darris McNeely]: Well, I think as we all know, today is a very special day in America. It's 9/11. And it's the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. 20 years ago today. There are many stories of heroism that occurred on that day. There's one about a man who actually imagined the attack would happen, and he prepared for it. I'd like to tell you the story of that man here for a few moments here this afternoon. That man who imagined 9/11 could happen, such an event, and actually prepared his people for it was a man named Rick Rescorla. Rick Rescorla was from Cornwall in the United Kingdom. He had been kind of a mercenary. He had fought for the British in Crete, I believe, sometime in the early 1960s, and then he had found his way to Rhodesia, fighting down there and some of the wars of that period.
And then when all of that ended, he hadn't had enough fighting, and so he came to the United States of America with a friend of his named Dan Hall. Because America was anti-communist at the time and he wanted to fight the communists and so he joined the American army, and he wound up going to Vietnam in the mid-1960s. In fact, Rick Rescorla fought in the very first major engagement in Vietnam in what is called the Ia Drang Valley. The story of that two-day engagement was told in a movie made a few years ago by Mel Gibson called “Once We Were Soldiers.” And Rick Rescorla played a significant role in that battle, actually. And when it was over and his tour in Vietnam was over, he wound his way through a number of jobs and eventually found his employment as head of security for Morgan Stanley, a major brokerage company who had offices as main headquarters in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
But as Rick Rescorla was trained, and one of the things he learned in Vietnam, after that battle, the Ia Drang Valley was over, General Hal Moore, who commanding forces there, sent his men back across the field to sweep it, as they said, to make sure that there were no men still alive, and to bring the bodies back. And of course, that had great danger as well for the men and even after the battles there because enemies were still out undercover there. When Rick Rescorla went to work for Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center, he had a mind that began to look about safety. He was head of safety, corporate security for Morgan Stanley. He brought his friend Dan Hill to the World Trade Center and they looked it over. He said, “What could happen at this place? There could be an attack that could cause great damage and loss of life.” And his friend and he went into the parking garage under the World Trade Center and they looked around, in fact, they actually just walked into it. At that time there was no security. They walked right into the parking garage, walked around, and he noticed a major load-bearing column that was there, and Dan Hill said to his friend, Rick Rescorla, he said, “Somebody could drive a truckload of dynamite right into this building, park it right next to it, walk out, and ignite it, and it would go off.”
Well, that actually did happen. That actually did happen. In 1993, there was a truck bombing, some of you will remember, at the World Trade Center that was engineered by Muslim terrorists. A number of people were killed, it didn't bring the towers down, but it created some damage there. And it proved to be almost prophetically correct by what Dan Hill had said. And so from that point forward, Rick Rescorla began to rigorously train his Morgan Stanley employees how to evacuate the building. He would call a drill on a spur of the moment and demand everybody go down the staircase and leave the building. He would walk into an executive boardroom where they were meeting and even tell the executives, “You're going to leave too.” They didn't want to because they thought it was kind of something they didn't need to do. But he did that for years, training everybody what to do in the event of an emergency, another bombing, as they would have thought it. He knew something would happen. It was the World Trade Center, it was the center of American capitalism, and he knew that America was a target from its enemies.
And so on 9/11, Rick Rescorla was in his office in the South Tower when the first plane struck the North Tower. And he saw the smoke, and he immediately began to evacuate Morgan Stanley employees. He got his bullhorn and his whistle and his flashlight. They went down the staircase. He got virtually all of them out. In fact, he got 2700 employees of Morgan Stanley out that morning. And then, because he had remembered his lesson, from the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, he said, “I've gotta go back and make sure I got everyone.” He had to do a sweep. So, he went back up to make sure everybody in his part of the building was out. We never saw him again. The South Tower collapsed and they never found his body. Rick Rescorla saved 2700 Morgan Stanley employees that day. About six or seven did die for some reason - I'm not sure all the details there. But he saved the majority of his employees. He got everybody out, and when they were secure, he went back to make sure that he had not left anyone behind.
Rick Rescorla saw what could happen and he prepared his people for that. And he saved many, many people. It's an amazing story. It's just a story of courage and preparation. Months later after the United States had put together a Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate what happened and why with 9/11, you can find this on the internet, they issued a report. You don't need to read the whole thing. You can just read a few paragraphs down. And under the general findings of the 9/11 Commission report, you will read this. “What we can say...” - this is a quote - “What we can say with confidence is that none of the measures adopted by the U.S. government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress of the Al Qaeda plot. Across the government, there were failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management. The most important failure,” the report goes on, “was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat from the terrorists. The terrorist danger was not a major topic for policy debate among the public, the media, or in the Congress.” A failure of imagination. A failure to imagine that terrorists would hijack fully loaded jetliners and use them as guided missiles. Didn't even cross their mind.
Now, they knew there were terrorists out there and America had enemies. The U.S.S. Cole had been bombed just a year earlier at Harbor in Yemen with the loss of life of a number of American sailors. And other attacks had been launched. But no one imagined that they would do what they did that Tuesday morning in September of 2001. Had they done so, they could have walked it back possibly because they then traced what happened with those terrorists. They discovered that they had enrolled in pilot training school. But you know what? They didn't want, while they were being trained, to learn how to land a plane. Just to take off and fly a jetliner. Had someone imagined in the FBI or other security services, something like that, they could have possibly contacted flight schools, and then on the alert and quite possibly apprehended the terrorists in advance. But there was a failure of imagination, and as a result, steps were not taken to do that.
In fact, some of you maybe remember, I used to be a big fan of Tom Clancy novels. I read all the Tom Clancy novels in the 1980s, techno terrorist thrillers. One of his plotlines was a Japanese pilot commandeering a Japan airliner and flying it into the United States Congress building with all the Congress fully assembled and the President of the United States, and the cabinet and everybody and killing a lot of people. That's how the book ended. And this was in mid-1980s when he wrote that. Tom Clancy had an imagination and he concocted such an idea. But unfortunately, leaders and government, those tasked with the security of the country didn't see it.
Now, knowing the story of Rick Rescorla, knowing the failures that did take place and the failure of imagination, that's kind of come to my mind as the lead up to this 20th anniversary developed. And as I was thinking about it and recognizing a few things, there's a lot of lessons to learn from this story and from this event. For us, in God's Church, the lessons are spiritual in nature. And yet, I would like to take that thought of a failure of imagination and turn that to our need to use imagination and exercise imagination, which is really just another word for vision. You envision something. You have something in your mind's eye that you want to be, where you want to be, and you make efforts and your mission is to get to that vision. It takes imagination to think through a lot of aspects of life. And there's some important lessons for us spiritually here.
I'd like for you to turn over to 1 Thessalonians 5. When I heard Mr. Clore turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, I thought, “He's going to take my verses.” But God's in charge. He knows how all these things are going... He's working with us all. I'm going to read right up to where he began. So, we're going to fit hand in glove here today for both of our purposes. 1 Thessalonians 5, which is a well-known passage and familiar to us in terms of what Paul was led to write by God's Spirit, by Christ, to write to us about understanding the events of the future, the Day of the Lord. And I'd like to begin reading in verse 1, 1 Thessalonians 5 because our role is to see the future, and to prepare, and to do that now in a time of safety while we can. And to take instruction, admonition from the Word of God on all aspects of our life, but especially when it comes to the events of the day of the Lord. And I think that what we are here today and as 9/11 20 years later, the most important thing I think for us and God's Church to take can be some lessons from this passage here.
Let's begin in verse 1. Paul writes, “Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.” Now, times and seasons implied periods of time, more than just one day, more than a week. It can be more than a month, a time and a season. We all obviously, understand the seasons of spring, fall, summer, and winter, and many months and each of them. But a season can also extend beyond to...a time can be a period of several years of a time in which we may be in school, when we may be developing our lives and our career and our early years of our employment, or our times can be the later years of retirement and those of the mature years, as we like to call them and that period there. But times and seasons really apply to the long stretch of human history and how it can be divided up at various times. And certainly, Paul is projecting forward. But understanding our modern world, how and why it is, is an extremely important matter for us in 2021. To understand and to know how we got to this point. And the world, with the United States of America, with the issues and the challenges that we are working through as a nation that are rather staggering and can be certainly depressing when we think about them too much.
I want to always understand our times and our period. I've just shifted in recent times my own way of approaching it. We've finally cut the cable last December and I don't have cable news to, you know, watch for hours and hours and I haven't missed it a bit. We were in a hotel room in Missouri a couple of days ago and we turned on one night and there was Fox News. So, we watched a little bit of Fox News. And after about 10 minutes, I realized, “I don't miss this at all.” So, I turned it off. I watched a rerun of “Blue Bloods” on my laptop and was much happier as a result of that. The modern world that we are in had a source, a beginning. It came from events and ideas shaped over long periods of experience. When you look at 9/11 and what that did to the United States, America had had a period as they were talking about it that time, a holiday from history.
Now, here's what that means. Go back to 2001, we were about 10 years or so from the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the iron curtain that had divided Europe since the end of World War II. And we were about 9 years past the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 when that event took place. And when all of that happened in the 1989, 1982, the Cold War, in a sense, was supposed to be over. America won and democracy and freedom was on the march. It was a time of great, you know, joy and peace and, you know, was going to break out and security. And America kind of went to sleep in some ways and then 9/11 hit. We were attacked on our soil for the first time since Pearl Harbor. And the pundits were saying America had a wake-up call. We had had a holiday from history, history now came to our door once again, and the reality smacked us in the face by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Well, that's an interesting and kind of a narrow way to look at events and history. It can have its application and limited understanding, I think. But the point of what Paul is saying here, I think, to us in the church is to recognize that we have to develop what I call a biblical worldview that allows us a long view of history from a biblical perspective as we understand God's divine purpose and plan and what He is doing. And we understand what God is, what He is doing, the purpose of our human life, and the purpose of history and events and developments that take place. And we understand that. That understanding gives us confidence. And it does give us hope and a measure of understanding that should eliminate uncertainty and fear. It's not going to help us chart the path of the stock market so we can buy low and sell high and make a killing. But we understand truly that there is a long arc of history, and that biblical arc is the one we are to understand.
And Paul said, “I had no need to write to you about that.” And in one sense, as we look at these passages, we can appreciate the fact that a biblical worldview anchors us in security and understanding and wisdom of our world today and the world to come. We know how it ends. We know what God's plan and purpose is all about. He goes on in verse 2 and he says, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” Now, there's that phrase that Paul uses here. Peter uses it as well in 2 Peter. So, it's used twice, once by Paul, once by Peter in the New Testament. Christ even alluded to it with some of His statements about prophetic statements in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. He didn't use the exact phrase, although in John 10 He talks about a thief that breaks through and comes and deceives. But the idea can also be found through Christ's teaching as well. It's talking about events that come without warning like a thief in the night when no one expects it, when the villages and the community has quieted down, when people have gone to sleep. And it's an important illusion, and it understands.
There's a story from history that most don't know. But in 1962 when the first blocks of the Berlin Wall were put up in the city of Berlin in Germany at that time, the Soviet Union chose the time to do it precisely for a purpose. They chose very early on a Sunday morning in August to do it. Why? Because they knew the United States government would be asleep. Sunday morning. And if they weren't asleep in their homes, they were asleep at their beach cottages on a summer day in August on the weekend, and they would all be have been dispersed and away from communication centers of power and they could strike quickly and begin to put that wall up before they could even scramble to get back together and formulate a response. They did it, in a sense, like a thief in the night when they began to erect this wall in Berlin that cut the city in two and became an important feature in the Cold War and the story of Europe during that particular period of time. But it's talking about catching people unprepared, sleeping, off guard.
This warning given to us today as disciples in advance is meant to be by Paul, an admonition to prepare, to use imagination. To use imagination and be spiritually prepared for events that are going to come to us in our own life as well as some larger events that will take place. We have to be close to God. We have to be faithful. We have to be exercising diligent faith to be able to deal with a twist and a turn in life that can come to us as Mr. Clore's sermonette pointed us to. Things that will happen to us, a trial, the loss of a job, an injury, an illness. We have to be prepared then to deal with that and to recover from the initial shock. And, yes, the questioning and even the anger and bewilderment, but then to return quickly to a position of faith. We have to think that through at times, and we need to do that.
When it comes to the larger events, how many of us imagined COVID-19? I have to admit, I didn't. I'm not saying that to chide us, but COVID-19 caught us up into something we had never been a part of, a pandemic. And how we reacted to that, we know, God knows, individually and as a church. But to use imagination, to be spiritually prepared for events so that we are not caught off-guard is what Paul is talking about. In verse 3, he says, “For when they say peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman and they shall not escape.” It's like a snare, and to be caught in it, at times from certain events, there will be no way of escape. People will have to write it out, deal with it, and be impacted by that.
Recently, I was listening to a podcast and a thought was put out that helped me to understand this verse a little bit better. I've read this many times. When they say, “Peace and safety,” almost like that's a headline. And we may have been thinking, “Well, one day we'll...” It's like when Neville Chamberlain came back from meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1939, and he was waving a piece of paper he had in agreement that Hitler didn't want more of Europe. And Neville Chamberlain was saying, “We have peace in our time.” Well, just a few months, the World War II erupted. There was not peace in that time. And sometimes I've even imagined looking at this verse, we'll see a big headline. They'll be saying, “Peace and safety.” It's not necessarily like that. That's not exactly what this means. But there will be something to understand. And here's what I think is important to note.
Today's world is governed by an idea that human nature can be perfected. Human nature can be perfected. And believe me I grew up in the church of God. I learned at a very early age, human nature cannot be perfected. I had certain scriptures drilled into me about the nature of man and how corrupt it really is, and I learned that. And that is a biblical truth. Human nature can only be changed by and through the power of the Holy Spirit upon conversion. That's how human nature can be changed, and we will still fight that until we are transformed at the resurrection and become a part of the family of God. But human nature cannot be perfected, but that's been the ruling underlying thesis of Western liberal with a little L, republican with a little R, not capital R, and an elephant after it, governments for more than 200 years.
For more than 200 years, the Western world and its governments have had this enlightenment-derived idea that given enough time, given enough diplomacy, given enough talk, given enough education, given enough science, given enough of human reason, the nature of man can be changed, and peace and safety can be achieved by human effort. And that has been around for more than 200 years as an idea that has had starts and stops, but is still with us to this very day. It led to the creation of the League of Nations at the end of World War I, that Great War, and the idea that war couldn't happen again. It led, again, after the end of World War II, to the creation of the United Nations. That if nations could come together around a table and talk enough, they could stop conflict, they could stop war, and certainly nuclear war, which was the big scare after World War II.
And it's interesting that in recent years since the last 50 years or so, we've had so many conflicts. Even more than that, you have to go back to Korea. Undeclared wars. And yet thousands of people die. Vietnam was essentially an undeclared war. The 20-year war in Afghanistan that now is supposedly ended was an undeclared war, but thousands and thousands of Americans died and other soldiers. But it was an undeclared war. And perversely, in diplomatic speak, that is, in a sense, better than a World War and it is, in a sense, a step diplomatically toward the end of war. One of the greatest follies of the 20th century was in 1928 where the League of Nations passed what was called the Kellogg-Briand Pact. And it was actually an act of the League of Nations outlawing war. They said, “No more war.” Only three nations, Germany, France, and America signed it. Within 11 years from the signing of that pact, World War II began. It wasn't worth the ink and the energy that it took for diplomats to move their signature across the paper, much less the paper it was printed on. It didn't happen.
You cannot outlaw war as long as there are human beings. And yet this is the thinking. And so, there is this thought that, in a sense, we are moving through human reason to a time of greater peace and greater safety, and a global world can create that. This is the idea that is there and it is false. War will not be outlawed because of human nature and the existence of evil from its source, the prince of the power of the air, Satan, the devil. We keep the Day of Atonement each year to be reminded of this central tenet of the Bible that until Satan is bound by the angel with the key to the bottomless pit for 1000 years, as Revelation 20:1 Revelation 20:1And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
American King James Version×tells us, until that occurs, human nature will eventually lead mankind into conflict, battle, war, and loss of life. The world is a very dangerous place. Issues divide people more than ideology and even theology. The biggest issue is spiritual. It is spiritual problems. And it's traced all the way back to Genesis.
Human civilization is built on the foundation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's built on that foundation. And not until human culture grows from the tree of life will peace and safety be assured. And that's what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about, isn't it? We go to the feast to imagine a world at peace and safety. That's what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about, to get as, I began hearing when I was 12 years old and attended my first Feast of Tabernacles. We go there to get a foretaste of the world tomorrow. And that's why we go. We go to imagine a world that will be when Christ returns and that the government of God goes forth from Jerusalem and all nations begin to go up there to learn the ways of peace. That's when human nature will be changed because the source of evil will be cut off.
He goes on in verse 4, “But you brethren are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day.” Notice the emphasis in verses 4 and 5 on you. “You brethren.” “They will not overtake you.” “You are sons of light and sons of the day.” God's making a direct statement to each of us that we are not in darkness, but in light. We can see. We can understand. We can imagine. And we can see the future. We are not in darkness. Those of us that get to work in the building, we go by the paintings that David Teague has painted on each of the Holy Days. My favorite is the Day of Atonement. And he explained it to me one day, “When you look at that picture, you see that it's lighter at the bottom and people's eyes are open. And as you move up that picture, it's still a little darker and people's eyes are closed, picturing that it's gonna take a time to move from darkness to light and that people's eyes will be open.” That's on the Day of Atonement. But our eyes are not shut today if we are disciples of Jesus Christ. “We are sons of light,” he says, “and sons of the day, not of the night or the darkness.” We don't have to be caught unaware if we're able to imagine the future and to take the steps to prepare in advance.
The Holy Days of God, which we are now into these fall days with Trumpets on Tuesday and Atonement on Wednesday, and then off to the Feast, and then The Eighth Day, they outline God's divine purpose for mankind, each one of them having a special part of that story to tell. When we keep the Holy Days, we then understand the flow of prophetic history. We can know where we are in our day when it comes to the prophetic timeline that God has placed down. We can know where we are and understand. Yes, we can look at the world and it's got some very frightening things going on right now. And my answer when people ask me, “How close are we?” We're closer than we were. I can tell you a story. Just two nights ago I sat at a table with some family, all of whom used to be in the church. All of whom grew up in the church but have gone their ways. And one of them said, “Darris, you might disagree with me, but I think we might be pretty close to the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” And I about fell out of my chair. I said, “Well, I don't disagree with you.” I said, “We're closer than we were.” And I like to use the term, we're seeing I think maybe the trailing edges of that day of the Lord, those times ahead.
But when we keep the Holy Days, we have an understanding. We're in the light. Sons of the light. Sons of the day. A first fruit lives in the light of truth. And that truth gives hope and encouragement and true peace of mind. And it allows us to imagine beyond the bad news of today to the good news of the world to come and to see how all of these events where they will lead, but to not be upset, to not be mistaken, to not fall into the category of the sons of the dark and have need of enlightenment. We know what is happening. We can live with an expectant hope. In verse 6 he says, “Therefore let us not sleep as others do, but let us watch and be sober, for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. Let us watch and be sober,” he says in verse 6. Which reminds me of what Ezekiel 33 says, “For God said to the Prophet that I will set you as a watchman over Israel to warn when a sword comes upon the land.” And those verses in Ezekiel 33 lay out a timeless duty for the people of God, for the church of God.
That is the role of a first fruit today to be a part of that job in a collective sense of being a watchman. And when we lose sight of that truth, our light will dim. We will not be a sharp in our focus of who we are, what we are to do, what our mission should be as a church, nor the times in which we live. And if we go too long without that understanding, we can descend into darkness and we can go to sleep spiritually. You read that very carefully what God said to Ezekiel, “Warn them. And if they take heed and save themselves, you both will be saved. If they don't, they'll be responsible for what happens, but you have done your job. If you don't do your job,” God said to Ezekiel, “and the sword comes and takes them away, I'm going to hold you responsible.” I have heard that, again, for decades, in my time in the church. I believe that that has an application to us today. We have been a part of a long work of God, charged with a job of giving a warning message of a sword to come upon the land and of the world to come beyond that. And that is truth. I believe that is truth.
And we have to imagine and envision ourselves in that role at times and appreciate that. We are not called to be part of a social club. We socialize and we grow in fellowship and we love one another and spend time. Yes. But that's not the purpose of the church. That's another thing I learned very young. The church is not a social club, that we are called now in advance of all of those who will come up in the Great White Throne period. We are called now to do a work. And that work has a warning watchman element to it that is very important. That is truth. That is our truth. And if we don't see that, we don't believe it, to what degree we don't, we could be in danger of living in darkness and being asleep, and we need to heed that warning. We need to understand that.
Rick Rescorla. He saw a sword coming. He actually did in his own way, time and place. And he prepared his fellow employees and he saved lives. Can we do any less? Can we do any less in our role in understanding the depth of our calling and why we are called now to understand the truths of God to be a part of His church, in advance of the time when all the others of mankind will know that? We have to imagine and see ourselves in that role. In verse 8, he says, “Let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” Now, here's truly something we cannot afford to fail to imagine is what verse 8 says. We cannot afford failure on this point. Christ said that his disciples would be known by what? Love for one another. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love, one for another.” We are to put on a breastplate of faith and love here. The dark forces of the spirit realm are gathering for another attack.
This last one, COVID-19, I believe was meant to destroy the nations holding the Abrahamic blessings. It didn't happen, not completely at least. It was kind of like that truck bomb in 1998 that went into the World Trade Center and caused a shatter for them, but it didn't bring it down. We haven't been brought down yet. And you have to fall out from COVID-19, it's had a tremendous impact on the world and it's impacted the church as well. Events of recent years have divided the church of God physically and to many different groupings, and the spiritual battle to destroy each part of the Church of God if you want to put it that way. To destroy a spiritual... That battle gets stronger on a regular basis. The information glut of the internet age has scrambled people's minds, creating confusion. Too often we see that in our own midst. The first fruits of God need to be able to see and to imagine what can happen to cause us to lose our first love, that filial love. That's what is mentioned there in Revelation 2 to the church at Ephesus that lost their first love. It's the filial love, that of brotherly love. That's what is being talked about there.
If we find that we've lost a little bit of that, then we need to heed that message to the church at Ephesus and repent and do the first works and make sure that our love has not been hindered by the events of the last year and a half. Because there's more to come, and we're going to need to be together, spiritually, drawn together in love to help one another. Well, verse 9 has already been read here, but it's good to read it again. “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another just as you are also doing.” We have to be like Abraham and the others and be able to imagine the world to come.
Turn over to Hebrews 11. A sermon of this nature I realized it speaks to what we're told here in Hebrews 11. The faith chapter. The stories of those people who went out without having seen everything. Hebrews 11:8 Hebrews 11:8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
American King James Version×, “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went, out not knowing where he was going." But can we say that he had to use some imagination along with that obedience? I don't think it was just blind obedience that he did when he went as Genesis 12 tells us. I think that he thought it through and I think that he took a deliberate step of faith. He didn't know where he was going. “By faith,” he says, “he dwelt in the land of promises in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him with the same promise.” Verse 10, “For he waited for the city, which has foundations whose Builder and Maker is God.” Abraham began to see that city. This is what we're being told here. He imagined it. He imagined that city whose foundations and the builder maker was God.
It goes on verse in 11 and 12 to talk about Sarah. But let's pick it up in verse 13 again. As a pause is made here to describe all of those who died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them off far off, they imagined them. They had vision. Having seen them afar off, we're assured of them, embraced them, and confess they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. All of these men and women of faith in this chapter saw something afar off and were assured that it was going to happen. We have seen the kingdom of God a far off in our minds from scripture, from sermons, from teaching for decade after decade. We have seen that. We have been instructed. We go to the Feast, as I said, to get a foretaste of that world to come and to talk about it, to imagine it because we believe that it is going to come because we believe scripture. We confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth.
Verse 14, “For those who say such things declare plainly they seek a homeland. And truly, if they had called to mind that country from which they come out, they would have had opportunity to return.” We always have opportunity to go back to what we came from. I spent two days this week in my hometown to make a quick visit to see some family and it's a nice hometown. I was born in a small town, as the song goes. All right? It was a good place to grow up. It really was. Southeast Missouri. But I left it when I was 19, 20 years of age and I went to follow this calling. And I'd never lived there a day since. Visited many, many times. I'm glad that I went on to other things. I appreciate the formative years that I had there. But I've never wanted to go back to the life that I had there. I have always looked at that...that was one part of my life that kind of ended and a second part began, with college, marriage, and the ministry. You have chapters and phases of... We all have chapters and phases of our lives. I've never wanted to go back to the life that I had there other than to see family and church friends, church members, and the years have whittled those down in recent times. But just still a cause to go back. But I've never wanted to go back to what I had, in a sense, before the church and before this life that I've been called to.
In verse 16, he says, “But now they desire a better, that is a heavenly country, therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared a city for them.” This is the future that we are called to imagine and to see. And as we keep the Holy Days, and particularly the fall Holy Days, there is a great deal of the future to understand, and to have hope, and to grow in faith, and to be knit together in love with each other as we keep these holidays, these festivals before God in the places where He has chosen. And we go to rejoice before God and to learn to fear God, and to imagine that life every day. Not just every day during this period or during the feast, but every day of our life, we have to get up imagining the world to come, imagining our role to be in that kingdom, imagining our job as first fruits, and not being asleep, living in the light of God's calling and in this day, and moving relentlessly forward.
America has tragically forgotten the lessons of that day, 20 years ago, when it was attacked. Unfortunately, we are divided further than we've ever been before and we've declined further. Yeah, I think the day of the Lord is closer. Not the day after tomorrow, but it is closer. So, as children of light, let us exercise our imagination and see our future. Let us exercise love and faith and hope. We live under the shade of the tree of life. We confess that we are pilgrims on this earth and we look for that coming Kingdom of God. Let's live like we believe it. Let's exercise our imagination and prepare for that world to come.