As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
- – Mark 13:1-13
Jesus says that wars and rumors of wars must happen. Yet, they are not the end, just a sign that the end is ‘still to come.’ The concept of the ‘rumors of wars’ has bothered me. What is a rumor of war? Was Vietnam a rumor of war, since it was a ‘police action’ and not declared as a war? Was the US liberation of Grenada a rumor of war – fast action that was over quickly? No, Jesus could care less if the US Congress declared something a war or if they did not. God is sovereign over all nations. The prophecy above mentions nations and kingdoms, but never names a single one.
Or how about mass shootings? I was thinking about a post entitled ‘another shooting’ when the Thousand Oaks shooting was aired on the News, but then I remembered something after the shooting at the synagogue near my home, another shooting in Tallahassee, Florida. It made the News until a bigger one happened in California. I could not remember the details of the Florida shooting, so I typed ‘recent mass shootings’ into a search engine. So far, and the year is not over, the Thousand Oaks mass shooting is the 307th in the USA this year. These are minor compared to the basic one-on-one shootings. They just get more news coverage.
In some cases, the shooter is gunned down. In some cases, the shooter gives up, but in many cases the shooter takes his own life instead of facing trial.
When the Thousand Oaks shooting occurred, now nearly forgotten in many circles as the death toll from the wild fires in California increase, I was praying and started asking why anyone would do such a thing? A thought came to my mind.
My thoughts went in this manner – ‘You have an emptiness in your heart. You feel insignificant and totally incapable of fixing what is broken. You fixate on others who seem, outwardly, to have it all put together. Somehow, you blame them for your sorrows. You think ‘if only I could even the playing field…’ You start shooting.’ Then my thoughts focused on a single question. ‘At what point do you realize that your action of shooting is not filling the void in your life?’ For those in that situation, is that when they turn the gun on themselves? Do any of these gunmen see the carnage and become repulsed? One of the first responders in Pittsburgh was asked to describe what he saw in the synagogue. He broke down on camera and said he had never seen anything like it. Did the gunman notice at any point that this was not a first-person shooter game? These people who have fallen are not disappearing – the score in the corner of the screen never appears.
I am not a psychologist, but when God revealed to me that something was missing in my life – during the year from realizing I was missing something and finally accepting Jesus, I studied the Bible. But I also read Mein Kampf. I do not need to repeat that story, but both sides in the immortal struggle were sending their ammunition in my direction during my year of turmoil.
I am not espousing an argument toward duality where there is a good wolf and a bad wolf inside us and the one that wins is the one that we feed. I am saying that when the Holy Spirit brings us face-to-face with our sin and our separation from God, Satan is giving us temptations to look elsewhere. God is sovereign, and for some strange reason, God loves me. He chose me and made His argument compelling, more powerful than anything Satan could do. Everything that Satan tempted me with during that period was nothing more than stage props – looking nice on the exterior, but emptiness beyond the crispy outer shell.
I wrote after the synagogue shooting that gun control is not the answer. Coming to Jesus is the answer, but the US is an independent nation – not in holding to their freedom, but in a rebellious tenacity to not be told what to do, whoever is in charge. Those that want to find guns to shoot people will find them.
When England starting hearing rumblings of revolution in the New World about 300-400 years ago, they outlawed steel making in the US. (At one point in my career, I taught a course on the history of steel making.) The English thought that with no raw steel, there would not be a means of arming revolutionaries. So, the colonists shifted their furnaces further into the woods where prying English eyes would not see as the gunsmiths took the raw steel being produced by illegal means, and they armed the militia. Owning guns was not illegal. People had to hunt for food, but England felt prohibiting steel making was the means on gun control. It was against the law of the land, but the Revolutionary War might have never been won if it weren’t for renegade steel workers doing something illegal. Don’t think Pittsburgh here, more like western Massachusetts, not that Pittsburgh was sleeping on the job. Then again, Pittsburgh was the center of the Whiskey Rebellion, the first major test of the George Washington administration. Yes, we are a rebellious lot. I could search on a search engine for “What percentage of Americans drive the speed limit,” but I don’t really want to know.
Maybe this post is just a lament, but maybe not. Think about the thought process as I put myself in the role of a shooter. Does the shooting accomplish anything other than raise the fear of everyone affected by it? Can any amount of killing fill the void that only God can fill? (Yes, the shooter may not believe in God, but not believing in food does not eliminate how food could fill a physical void.) And at what point does the combination of the smell of cordite and of death and the sight of blood and dead bodies around you make you second guess your decision?
Dear Lord, forgive us, for we know not what we are doing. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.