On Sunday, November 5, 2017, I awoke early to spend time in prayer over our church services and then prepare breakfast for my family. Soon, I began waking my sleepy-eyed children for “church day.” We all scattered to get dressed after breakfast and then scrambled to get out of the house and into the car on time. As we finally pulled into the parking lot, my husband and I were both reminding our boys to retuck their shirts, wipe crumbs from their faces, smooth their hair down, and make sure they remembered their Bibles while they happily ran into the “church house.”
Most all mothers who take their children to church can relate to this Sunday morning circus. I feel certain the mothers who attended First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas had a chaotic morning strikingly similar to mine as they dressed their children and themselves. I would imagine they were also racing through the church a few minutes late telling their children to mind their Sunday School teachers as they walked them to the door of their classrooms. Like me, they probably took their children to the bathroom before service and then cheerfully greeted the members of their church family as they settled into their familiar pew. Once the service began, I have no doubt they, too, instructed their children to “be quiet,” “pass the offering plate,” “be still,” and during those few occasions when everyone is expected to rise to their feet, I’m sure they looked at their precious children and said, “stand.”
Sadly, their service was interrupted and though our initial church experience probably began the same, the conclusion of our services was vastly different. While I sat calmly in church with my children, those mothers endured a time of terror when gunshots rang the ears of those who had peacefully come to hear the Word of God.
As a country, we mourn as we learned of this massacre. We are unable to comprehend the magnitude of its effects on those families, First Baptist Church, and the small community. We are grieved for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we also realize it could have been any church, anywhere. It could have just as easily been our church and our very own families.
It’s evident that times are changing. Sundays have always been set aside in America for our families to gather and worship freely with open doors. Now we must lock our doors and consider armed security. Sunday is the one day of the week we let our guard down and enjoy a day of rest with other believers. Now we will be tense and tempted to let fear fill our minds as we sit through our services. Our church buildings have always been safe havens, but now the reality is that we are “soft targets.”
As Americans, Christians, adults, fathers and mothers, we can’t possibly begin to understand this form of evil. We can’t wrap our heads around the motive and how anyone could do such a thing and neither can our children. They will ask questions. They will want to know what happened and why. They will want to know who did it and what are we supposed to do. Many questions I can’t answer, but one thing I know for certain - we must be diligent to instruct them to stand just as we do in church when the time comes.
Our guide to answer their questions and our own regarding this situation is found in Ephesians 6:10-12:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Our enemy is not Devin Kelley or the weapon he used. Our enemy is Satan himself. Now more than ever, we must be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. We must be alert and in constant prayer. We have no other choice in these days of evil but to suit up in the full armor of God and stand on truth! For if we have done all these things to stand and yet we still fall into the arms of Jesus like the saints of Sutherland Springs, we can rest assured we have finished the race set before us in victory.
On October 29, 2017 Pastor Frank Pomeroy addressed his church with the last Sunday morning message most of them would ever hear from him. I don’t believe it is coincidence that he preached this message about trusting in the Lord with all your heart and leaning not on your own understanding the week prior to the trial that would put their feet to the fire, their faith to the test, and for most it would be the trial that would usher them into glory to meet their heavenly Father.
In his message, he used the illustration of riding his motorcycle, trusting in the centrifugal forces to keep him from crashing, and leaning into the curves in the road just as we are to trust in God and lean on Him through curves of life. He said, “When we are in that turn or bend in life- I’m not focused on the moment, the bend, the potholes, I’m focused on the destination. I’m going to get through this because that’s where my God has trophies for me out there. That’s my goal. Not the valleys. I’m not focusing on this valley of the shadow of death, I’m looking through it because my God who watches over me will anoint me before my enemies. He’s going prepare a table for me. That’s my goal, not the valley of the shadow of death. My goal is trusting Jesus and getting to my Heavenly home one day.”
I believe God was preparing his heart, along with the congregation, for this tragic November day. I also believe God’s providence spared this shepherd so that he could return and lead the remainder of his flock – even though he is walking though the valley of the shadow of death with them as he grieves the loss of his own daughter.
I pray that this man of God will rise from the ashes and use what the Devil meant for evil, for good in the kingdom of Heaven. The Lord is certainly not finished with him and there is still work to be done in that community. As the world watches, my prayer is that Bro. Pomeroy would continue to focus on his destination and stand firm through the testing of his faith. I have no doubt he will get through this because God is watching over him, as he said in his sermon.
As our hearts break for the Lord’s people, my request unto our faithful Father is that Christians all over our great country will boldly stand alongside Pastor Pomeroy in being alert, firm in the Christian faith, strong, and courageous (1 Corinthians 16:13).
It is obvious the Lord’s church is under attack, whether it be in the form of persecution in other countries or cowardly acts of violence here on our own soil. But regardless where it is and what form it takes, our answer is never to live in fear or forsake our calling. We must continue to train our children in truth, encourage them to stand, and live in victory not vulnerability. Through the storms in life and the fire that threatens to consume us, we can stand and carry on because our victory will always be in Jesus!
One of the last songs this congregation sang together contained these lyrics:
From the rising to the setting sun,
His love endures forever.
And by the grace of God we will carry on,
His love endures forever.
Sing Praise, Sing Praise
Forever You are faithful,
Forever You are strong.
Forever You are with us,
Forever and ever, forever.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.