Law enforcement officials investigate a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Yesterday afternoon after church in my quiet Ohio house, I saw some ugly news flash across my iPad that cut straight to my soul.
The news of a Texas church shooting, a mass one, with nearly every member of the small church killed or injured devastated me. A mass shooting in a tiny town in the one place that should be sacred, and the loss of life so great, with twenty-six dead aged five to seventy-two—my brain can hardly take stock of the devastation. One single family, headed by Joe and Claryce Holcombe, lost eight members including some of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and unborn great-grandchild. That child’s mother Crystal Holcombe, and three of her other children were also killed. Her husband and two of her children survived.
The devastation, friends. This is a town of only about 700. Can you imagine the grief? You should be able to imagine and feel it, because, if you are a Christian, as I am, there were your brothers and sisters, too. Your family. My family.
People, I do not think it an accident that this vicious attack took place on the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. Whether the gunman knew what day it was or not, Satan knew. Spiritual warfare is real, and no matter the motive for the shooting, spiritual warfare just got REAL physical in a tiny white Baptist church full of unsuspecting worshippers on a regular Sunday morning. Shot where they stood, in God’s house. Where two or more had gathered in his name.
Make no mistake, the Texas church shooting at First Baptist Sutherland was persecution, here in America. And make no mistake, there will be more. The Bible has told us to expect it. The truth is, we’ve been battling evil in this world since Eve bit the forbidden fruit. And like her son Abel, the truth is, we will, until we reach heaven, experience the consequences of the acts of evil men and women.
1 John 3 says:
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers,[c] that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
Every day we need to put on the full armor of God and prepare for spiritual warfare. We are more likely to battle the devil himself as he tries to drive a wedge in our marriages, entice us to sin, and attempts to conquer our children’s hearts, than we are to encounter him with skin on and an assault rifle in hand at church on a Sunday morning.
That does not mean the physical danger is not real. It doesn’t mean the suffering in Sutherland is pervasive, devastating and all-encompassing. We MOURN with those brothers and sisters, as it is a time to mourn. It does not mean that I won’t need to take a few extra deep breaths before I walk my children into church next Sunday morning.
The physical danger is very real. But we cannot count on it, and we cannot let it keep us prisoner in our homes. We cannot let darkness snuff out the light that the world outside our doorstep so desperately needs.
The spiritual attacks, we can 100% bank on.
So put on your armor with me, Christians. Dive deep into God’s Word and be prepared. Pray your hearts out for God’s comfort and healing in Sutherland, Texas. Pray for Him to be GLORIFIED in this tragedy somehow. And pray that more will come to know Christ in the midst of this terrible tragedy.
And next Sunday, go to church prepared to worship, to battle, to give thanks in ALL things. Then be prepared to leave that place and love, love, love your neighbors like never before. Let us overpower the darkness. If we ask Him, He WILL equip us to shine bright.