The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hands Off God's Land!

President Barack Obama has announced his support for limiting Israel to the pre-1967 war borders. He said Jerusalem is up for “negotiations.” If God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel, where does that leave this President? Where does that leave the US of A who elected this president and whom this president represents? Maybe we should run for cover.

There were some other things that President Obama said that are supportive of Israel. He discouraged a unilateral attempt by Palestinians to establish their statehood. He discouraged tactics that would isolate Israel. He affirmed this nation’s military support of Israel. But any good mentioned by President Obama is overshadowed by the presumptuous declaration about land swapping and Holy City swapping to form a Palestinian state. This is the height of folly. It is based on an ignorance of the true borders of the land. It is based on an atheistic world philosophy and historical perspective.

The Promised Land according to scripture stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates River (Gen. 15:18; Num. 34:1-15). Rather than decreasing Israel’s borders we should be talking about increasing them. With all the commotion over the very existence of Israel, can you imagine what would happen if a discussion was brought up about giving Israel that body of land that truly belongs to her? Talk about a war! The thought of the international problems that would arise from giving Israel her Land tempts people to ignore God’s originally promised boundaries of land. When politicians for political expediency, talk about forcing Israel to give up land, (even land for peace; indeed, especially land for peace), they are making a huge mistake. Let me tell you why?

First of all, the Land doesn’t belong to Israel. What? Wait a minute, I thought you were pro Israel and this was a pro Israel article. I am supportive of Israel. Hear me out. The Land doesn’t belong to Israel. It doesn’t belong to any other nation either. All land belongs to God! In His Word God says, “The land is Mine” (Lev. 25:23). And God loves His land. Scripture tells us He cares for the land and, “the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it” (Deut. 11:12). It all belongs to the Lord! “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).

Israel was given the Land by God but there were limitations on what they could do with the Land. They were never allowed to permanently sell the Land. Israel was to oversee the Land, live in the Land, cultivate and defend the Land, but they were still to have a sojourners attitude (Lev. 25:23). God gave them a Land here, and it’s a blessed Land, but His greater purpose was that they and we look forward to an Eternal Land (Heb. 11:13-16).

Second, the Owner is able to give the land to whoever He wants to. God did not give the Land to the Palestinians or any other Middle Eastern group ancient or contemporary. He did not give the Land to the Egyptians, Saudis, Iranians or the descendents of Ishmael (Gen. 17:18-19; Heb. 11:18). He didn’t give the Land to the United States, the Russians, the Chinese, the French, the Germans, or any other Gentile nation or group. God has given the plot of Land from the Nile to the Euphrates to the descendents of Abraham (Gen. 12:7, 15:18). He gave the Land to Isaac and his descendents not to Ishmael and his descendents (Gen. 25:5-6; 26:3). He gave the Land to Jacob and his descendents not to Esau and his descendents (Gen. 25:23; 28:13-15; 35:11-12; Rom. 9:10-13). And when God gave this Land to Abraham and his descendents he gave it to them “forever” (Gen. 13:15). That is God’s prerogative alone.

Third, God gave the land to Israel regardless of their obedience or cooperation. He gave the Land to Abraham and his descendents, to Israel, as an “everlasting possession” (Gen. 14:7-8). God is omniscient. He knows all things all the time. The eventual and repeated sinfulness of Abraham’s descendents did not surprise God. In His foreknowledge God knew very well what the history of Israel would entail (Lev. 26:40-45; Deut. 30:3-5; Jer. 31:10; Amos 9:14-15). He knew this and He still committed the Land to Israel forever. This is because the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents which gave them the land depended and depends on God’s faithfulness, not Israel’s. Read what it says in Psalm 89 in this regard:

“If his sons forsake My law And do not walk in My judgments, 31 If they break My statutes And do not keep My commandments, 32 Then I will punish their transgression with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail. 34 My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. 35 Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: 36 His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; 37 It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” Selah (Psalm 89:30-37).

Sin has a consequence and God disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12). Israel was removed from the Land for 70 years as a consequence of their sin (Jer. 25). But God also restored the people to the Land He had given them. Again in 70 AD the people were removed from the Land. But again on May 14th, 1948 God restored them miraculously to the Land. And in 1967 He even gave them Jerusalem! In light of such miracles how can anyone dare to blaspheme God by bartering His Land or His holy City? Atrocious!

The point here is that the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents giving them a certain Land is based on and is a testament to God’s faithfulness and character. That Israel is back in the Land God gave them should be a rich encouragement to us all because it testifies to the faithfulness and true character of God. It is a testimony to God’s love for the small and the oppressed (Deut. 7:7-9). Because God’s giving of the Land to Israel depends on His faithfulness, it is as certain as the order of the universe (Jer. 31:35-37).

Fourth, God has gone out of His way to make sure that Abraham’s descendents are in the land He ordained for them. In Genesis 46 there is an account of a severe famine. Jacob takes his entire family and brings them to Egypt. As he is contemplating this decision God speaks to him and tells him not to fear assuring him that, “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again . . .” (Gen. 46:4). Later while in Egypt Jacob shares the words he received from God with his son Joseph saying God told him, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendents after you as an everlasting possession” (Gen. 48:4). God multiplied Israel and God brought them back into the Promised Land (Joshua 3).

When Abraham’s descendents came under the oppression of Pharaoh Scripture records God heard their groans. He then delivered them from that oppression and set them on a journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 2:24; 3:8, 15-17; 6:4). The hope of oppressed Israel was God’s promise to bring them into the Land He had set aside for them, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 13:11). Once delivered and on their way Moses even wrote a song for the people to sing which said in part, “You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O LORD, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands have established. ‘The LORD shall reign forever and ever.’” (Exodus 15:17-18). There’s something special about that Land. It is a place where God has his eye and a place where he makes His presence known. Anyone who has been there can testify to that. And God has given that Land to Israel to oversee (Deut. 1:8).

Lastly, the only way Israel will ever find peace in all the Land God has ordained for them is through Messiah Jesus. God put Israel in the Land and told them to rid it of the wicked (Deut. 9:3-5). That has never completely or enduringly happened. Israel has always been plagued by various pagan peoples. It isn’t any different today. It’s only going to get worse.

A day is coming when the entire world will come against Israel. That day is soon approaching, (if not already here given President Obama’s words.) Things will go from bad to worse and become apparently hopeless for Israel. But when all seems lost, Jesus will break through the clouds in glory and descend to the Mount of Olives and destroy the enemies of God who have gathered against Israel (Zech 14). Jesus is the only true and eternal hope for Israel. When Jesus returns to the earth, God promises to pour out His Spirit on Israel saying:

Zechariah 12:10 - “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

It’s at this time that all the pieces of the prophetic puzzle will fall into place for Israel. It’s at this time that the most hardened resister to Jesus as Messiah will grieve over their hardheartedness, repent, and turn to Jesus as Savior. Paul spoke prophetically of this time proclaiming, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Oh what a day that will be! God will have demonstrated and revealed Himself in an incredibly holy unique way. And God will pour out His Spirit on Israel (Ezek. 39:25-29). When the Spirit is poured out He convicts people of their sin and saves their soul (John 16:8-11; John 3; Titus 3:5). It’s at this time that Jesus, God in the flesh, Messiah, will dwell in Jerusalem amongst all His people and the Land, the Promised Land, will be His dwelling place in an incredible way.

All land belongs to the Lord. He gives it to whomever He pleases. He has given the Promised Land from the Nile to the Euphrates to Israel. It would be best for those who casually barter a land they do not own, to let the Owner apportion the Land as He sees fit. It’s God’s land. He has given it to Israel. Hands off! Hands off Mr. President!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Listen to His Voice

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. – Romans 8:14

I’m a pastor and usually try to take Mondays off. It’s a day when I try to not even check my emails. It’s a time to catch up with things around the house. It’s a time to recharge the batteries. For some reason I broke protocol this day and checked my emails. Alex, a friend who attends our Brothers of Calvary men’s group, sent me an email about another friend John (who also attends the group) who had been admitted to a local hospital because of gallbladder pain. I tried to call John but couldn’t get through. I called his wife Dorothy and she said he was scheduled for surgery the next day. She said he didn’t have his phone but she was going to bring it to him later in the day. I said I’d call John later and put him on the prayer chain. I also sent out an email to the Brothers of Calvary group with the information about John.

This particular Monday I had some painting to do around the house. Once that was done I could just relax. My wife Dee had a date with her friend Debbie in the evening. When they left I’d have the house to myself. Debbie came and after some catching up chit-chat the girls went out. Usually when someone comes over to see Dee, she takes the van and drives. This night Debbie drove and that was part of God’s plan.

The painting turned out to be a little more involved than I expected. It was tiring. But when I was done I was pleased with the outcome. I was looking forward to taking it easy once the girls went out. They left and I got to thinking, Okay Lord, what should I do? Stay home? If I stay home I’m going to be tempted to just eat and veg out in front of the TV. Read? Maybe, but what else can I do? I’ve got the van. Why don’t I go workout? Yes, that’s what I’ll do. So I changed and went and worked out. I had a great workout and felt refreshed.

As I drove home the Lord started talking to me. Go visit John in the hospital. I responded, But Lord, it’s kind of late. The Lord impressed on me again, Go see John. I responded further, Lord, it is my day off. I’ll go tomorrow. The Lord persisted, Go see John. This went on a bit until I got home and then said to the Lord, Okay Lord, its 8 o’clock, if I go I have to shower and be out the door by 8:15 otherwise John will probably be sleeping. Funny thing about how when the Lord is in something He gets you where you need to be when you need to be there. By 8:13 pm I was in my van backing out of the driveway.

I made my way to the hospital. On the way I noticed, Wow Lord, I never make this traffic light. I’m making all the lights. Wow Lord, this is great. Maybe you want me to get there, visit and get home quick so I can rest. I got to the hospital in record time (without speeding!). When I got there I found a parking spot, parked and made my way into the hospital and up to John’s room. When I reached John’s room the door was ajar with the curtain drawn. Oh no, is he sleeping? I knocked and poked my head in. “John are you here?” I said. “Yes. Pastor Claude. Oh I’m so glad you came!” John then informed me that instead of doing the surgery the next day they were taking him in for surgery that night; in a few minutes. We agreed this was a divine appointment. I told John how the Lord had told me to come and visit him. The Lord had got me there in time to visit with John and pray with him. I prayed when I first got there and I prayed again when I left. I prayed for God’s grace to be upon John and for God to give the doctors wisdom and the ability to do the surgery. I prayed for God’s protection for John. Having your gallbladder removed is not the biggest or what we would normally consider serious surgery, but the Lord wanted me there to pray with John. I was glad to be there and encourage my brother with some fellowship and prayer. As I left the hospital the Lord reminded me to contact Cathy who oversees the church prayer chain to add John to the requests. He wanted people praying for John. And so, prayers were offered for John.

The next day I didn’t hear from John’s wife Dorothy and I got caught up in the activities of the day and didn’t call her. That night at the Brothers of Calvary group we prayed for John. Wednesday morning Dorothy called. She told me, “Boy pastor did God use you.” What do you mean Dorothy?” She said when she saw the doctor after John’s surgery s noticed he took a sigh of relief but didn’t he tell her anything extraordinary had happened. She suspected there had been some kind of complication but since the doctor didn’t say anything she didn’t know what it was. But later when the doctor met with John to discuss the surgery he sat next to John on his bed and took his hand. That was unusual. The doctor then told John that his gallbladder was gang greenish and that if he hadn’t gone into surgery that night he wouldn’t have survived the next day. The surgery saved his life! John was overcome with this news. Immediately he gave glory to God for getting him through the unforeseen danger. He saw right away the real reason why the Lord had got me to John when He did to pray with him. Dorothy said John is a changed man because of this. She said he wept with tears of joy. “He’s got a testimony he’s sharing with all his friends” she said. Praise Him!

What’s the meaning of this story? Listen to the Lord. Listen to His voice. It would have been easy to simply put off that visit to the next day. I had every reason to do so. But if I had done that, I would have missed out on the blessing of being used by the Lord. It feels good to be used by the Lord. And the Lord worked the details out for His plan to be accomplished. He provided the transportation, the willingness of the vessel and the incredible timing to perform His will. Sons of God are led by the Spirit of God. Don’t ever turn a deaf ear to the Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). Cultivate a spirit of readiness, a sensitivity and alertness to the voice of the Spirit.

Also, the Lord wanted John covered in prayer. Prayer is important. This time the Lord didn’t give me a particular scripture to share. He just wanted me to pray. Everyone can pray. We may not completely understand the workings of prayer, but God has ordained it and we need to avail ourselves of it. God works through prayer. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). The effectual fervent prayers of righteous people avail much. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit is described as “the Spirit of grace and supplication” (Zech. 12:10). When He leads us it is often to direct us to where prayer is needed. God works through prayer. God answers prayer. Watch for opportunities to pray. Pray.

So listen to His voice. Be ready to pray when and where He wants you to pray. And then get ready for God to work. Thank You Lord. To You be the glory. God bless you as you pray.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jephthah's Vow

And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” –Judges 11:30-31

The judge Jephthah (Judges 11) made a vow that if God gave him victory over the Ammonites, the first person to come out of his doors to meet him, he would offer as a burnt offering to the Lord (v. 29-31). Upon returning home from victory his daughter, (his only child) greeted him (v.32-34) . When informed of his vow, his daughter requested two months to bewail her virginity (v. 35-38). When she returned Jephthah carried out his vow.

A burnt offering was an offering of total consecration and surrender. It symbolized this with burning since that which is burned cannot be unburned. That which is given to God could not be taken back. It wasn’t that Jephthah literally offered up his daughter as this sacrifice. It was that she was permanently given to the service of the Lord – “shall surely be the LORD’s” (v. 31). This was painful for both Jephthah and his daughter. For him since this was his only child that he was offering to the Lord. For her because evidently it meant she would not marry but remain a virgin. It can be painful to give to the LORD the people you love most. But both Jephthah and his daughter followed through on the vow of total dedication to the LORD. This demonstrated their faith and integrity before God. Is there someone or something that you need to give to God? Have you given yourself to the LORD in full surrender?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Adversaries are not Obstacles but Opportunities

Some see hardship and opposition as indications that they are off course from God’s will. That is not always the case. In fact, there is evidence that opposition from the unsaved is an indication that you are right on course. Paul wrote the Corinthians the following words:

1 Corinthians 16:9 - For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Notice the conjunction “and” and how it links “a great and effective door has opened to me” with “and there are many adversaries.” Paul didn’t see adversaries as mere obstacles to ministry but as opportunities for ministry. We should be willing to address opposition speaking truth in love (Eph. 4:15) as we contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3-4). Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Part of taking up our cross and following Him involves this same mentality (Mat. 16:24). It is the love of Christ which compels us to not shy away from opposition but to love our enemies and overcome evil with good (2 Cor. 5:14-21; Mat. 5:55; Luke 6:27, 35; Rom. 12:21). Indeed God’s promise to those who persist is:

1 Corinthians 15:58 - Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Galatians 6:9 - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Persistence is an ingredient which will bring others into the Perfect Life and help us to experience it in a deeper way.

At the onset of WWII England soon found itself the last bastion of hope against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. At one point when Germany had overrun Europe and England stood alone Winston Churchill the Prime Minister of England summoned his countrymen to endure and press on in the fight at all costs. These were some of his words:

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say; It is to wage war, by sea, by land and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

The Bible says we are in a war of even more momentous proportions than the one Churchill and England faced. It is a battle against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark age; a demon hoard (Ephesians 6:12). Quitting is not an option. If we quit the demons of hell will ravish us and smear the name of the Almighty. That is unacceptable. We are called to persist and we must persist in the power of the Lord.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Godly Response to the Death of an Enemy

There was a lot of celebration over the death of Osama Bin Laden recently. I must admit I was also glad to see him go. I imagine the families of those murdered on 9/11 and those who have lost loved ones in subsequent related actions were also glad to have some closure. But there’s an uneasiness that comes to me when there is celebration over the death of a human being. Don’t get me wrong, I am no pacifist. I believe there is such a thing as a just war. But I’ve had a couple of people come to me and express remorse or sadness over Bin Laden’s death. They don’t sympathize at all with this terrorist’s evil works. They just have some unexplained and unexpected sadness with this situation. Why is that? What is the right response to the death of an enemy?

The Bible says of governments, “for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4). The Bible also says the LORD loves justice (Psalm 33:5; 37:28; 99:4; Isaiah 61:8). Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:4). He works to bring justice (Psalm 111:7; 146:7). If God loves justice so should we (Psalm 100:1). God’s justice can have a reviving impact on us (Psalm 119:149). He expects His people to act in just ways (Psalm 119:121). In His word God says, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3). Truly, “It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity” (Prov. 21:15). Bin Laden got justice and there is a solemn joy that should be a part of our response.

But Jesus also said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mat. 5:44; cf. also Luke 6:27-36). Why did Jesus say we should do that? A loving response to our enemies is diametrically opposed to our natural instincts. Jesus said the reason to love our enemies was, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. . .” (Mat. 5:45a). In other words, be different than the unsaved world in your perspective; even toward your enemies. Be a son of your Father in heaven and imitate Him. Be godly.

Jesus went on to explain, “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mat. 5:45-47). We are to be different than the unsaved. As sons of God we must factor God’s love into life’s circumstances. God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who indwells the genuinely saved person (Rom. 5:5). That love is different than the world’s “love.” And we need to show that God-brand of love; in all situations. By doing so we bring glory to God (Mat. 5:13-16).

There is evidence that to gloat and jump for joy when an enemy falls is rotten fruit of the sinful nature. Indeed, how many of us were appalled and enraged by the celebration of America’s enemies in the streets of Middle Eastern cities when they heard of what had happened on 9/11? Some of that celebration for 9/11 is reported to have taken place even on American soil. Disgusting! But really, think about it, how is our gleeful response to Bin Laden’s death any different than that of unbelievers to the death of their enemy? Jesus calls us to be different, to be a disciple and learn from Him.

God, through Ezekiel said, “’For I have no pleasure in the death of the one who dies’ says the LORD . . . . “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’” (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11). In Proverbs it states, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him” (Prov. 24:17-18). A godly response to the death of our enemy is one that doesn’t take pleasure in that death or rejoices over that death, but one which solemnly considers the eternal repercussions for that enemy.

We are duty bound and righteous to support in prayer and when God directs, by personal involvement in God’s justly prescribed avenues (e.g. military; police), to end the reign of those who are evil and unjust in this world. But we are to go about that business with the heart of the LORD. God takes no pleasure in those who through persistent sinful rebellion against Him and His just and true ways, stoke and fuel the fires of hell. Indeed God has a heart for the lost no matter how close to the bottom of the barrel they are. God loves the world (John 3:16). He desires that none perish (2 Pet. 3:9). I’m not advocating a prayer for the devil theology here; I’m simply saying we should prayerfully reflect on a godly response to the fall of our enemies.

God demonstrated His own love toward us in that He sent Jesus to atone for our sin on the cross while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Before we came to God through faith in Christ, we were HIS enemies! (Rom. 8:7; James 4:4). And yet He loved us. He pities and grieves over those who persist in their sin and enter hell. Is this your heart toward your enemy? We are called to, “be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2). We are Ambassadors of Christ and scripture tells us God’s mission for us is to serve as His representatives, “. . . as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). That is our mission, even to our enemies. And that commission is what helps us to have a godly response to the death of our enemies.

Am I a Soldier of the Cross?

Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His Name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord.
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar, By faith they bring it nigh.
When that illustrious day shall rise, And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through skies, The glory shall be Thine.
--Isaac Watts

Monday, May 2, 2011

Got Him!

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the
9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.
And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.
I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.