You might have heard of another recent shooting at a religious center. This time a lone gunman took what was described as an "AR-type assault weapon" into a synagogue in San Diego, firing seven times, killing one and wounding at least three others before fleeing the scene and turning himself in to the police. According to a CNN article, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore confirmed the primary suspect as nineteen-year-old California State University San Marcos student John Earnest. The self-acclaimed religious antagonist allegedly posted an open letter prior to the attack. In the letter allegedly written by Earnest, the student shows evidence of religious hatred, verbally assaulting both Jews and Muslims, and pointing to his "reasoning" for attacking the synagogue.
In other news, CNN reported a shooting in Baltimore that occurred during a Sunday night cookout in the West Baltimore area of Edmondson Avenue. In this case, the police don't know either the shooter or all of the victims because the public, to include those targeted, is not cooperating. Police know there were multiple shots fired by possibly multiple gunmen based on locations of casings. While they have identified seven injured, the only fatality they know positively is of one man who tried escaping, but collapsed and died behind a church. The church was not involved in the shooting, in this case.
Hours after his selection by the National Football League's New York football Giants, Corey Ballentine was shot and injured in an off-campus shooting in Topeka, KS.
Seven people were found in two crime scenes in Tennessee where a man, Michael Cummings, is accused of a multiple-homicide crime spree.
Reading through these headlines from one recent weekend, one might start agreeing with Freshman Socialist-Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who is on the record as saying, "What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don't even keep the pews safe?" Her full-context Tweet:
At 1st I thought of saying, "Imagine being told your house of faith isn't safe anymore." But I couldn't say "imagine." Because of Charleston. Pittsburgh. Sutherland Springs. What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don't even keep the pews safe?
At this point you may be asking yourself why I chose such a somber note to write about. Sure, every weekend in these United States crimes occur and people are killed in violent acts, but why highlight them in a post about God's love? What is the point?
Christian, the point is that Jesus warned us the enemy would attack our faith and what better way to do it than in our most vulnerable of places? As Rep. Ocasio-Cortez so eloquently opined, we aren't even safe in God's house! But then, why would we assume that God's people would be safe in God's house when God himself wasn't safe among his disciples (Luke 22:47-48)? And what was Jesus' response? He healed the servant of the high priest before willingly accepting God's plan of the Cross.
We recently saw another house of worship targeted. But we also saw the love of those in that synagogue for each other. According to the articles, the congregation supported each other and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who claimed, "We are a Jewish nation that will stand tall. We will not let anyone or anything take us down. Terrorism like this will not take us down."
Every time one of these events occurs, people point fingers and non-believers challenge our faith. But the Bible is replete with warnings about struggles we will face, even telling us that some of these trials are meant to build up the Church and make her stronger. James and Romans tell us trials are coming to every Christian, and that withstanding those trials will produce a faith strong enough to outlast the Liar. In these days of moral relativity and rampant immorality, we need a strong faith.
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4, NKJV)
"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Rom 5:3-5, NKJV)
Isaiah is clear about why God refines His Church through the fires of trials. Because His Church is worthy of His name!
"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another." (Isa 48:10-11, NKJV)
Make no mistake, Christian. Our God is a loving God. But our God is a Holy God. While He does not cause all trials, He brings us through trials that befall us for the betterment of His Church. Matthew chapter 13 teaches of the sower of seeds and that even God's word must be cultivated (v.8, good ground) before a child can grow. But once God has brought us through those trials, once we have been refined, not even Satan himself will quench our love for one another.
"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.'" (Matt 16:15-18, NKJV)
So, Christian, the point of this rather long-winded post is this. When we face a long week of trials, after the church bells have rung and the sermons have been preached, stand fast in the fear and wisdom of God. Pray for the Ocasio-Cortez's of the world who do not know God. Pray for the John Earnests of the world who choose hate over love. And pray for the Lori Kayes of the world, who love enough to give their own lives for another. Pray – because prayer still works.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13, NKJV)
– Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.