September 15, 2004
Grace Amid Terror
Five years ago today began as a fairly typical Wednesday night at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. It was just before 7:00. The choir prepared to rehearse for Sunday’s worship, church members gathered for a prayer meeting, and a crowd of hyperactive youth assembled for a rally in the auditorium.
Meanwhile, after parking in a handicapped parking space and arming himself with a pipe bomb and two semiautomatic pistols, a lone figure entered the church foyer and immediately wounded a seminary student and killed a young high school teacher snarling, “Is this where that religious meeting is going on?” He proceeded down the hallway wounding another adult, entered the worship center, and continued shooting. The gunman killed seven and wounded seven others before taking his own life.
The Only Safe Place
The world we live in is a violent place. Senseless tragedies frequently top the morning headlines. Throughout the ages, our archenemy Satan has attempted to disrupt God’s redemptive plan by sabotaging individuals, churches, and ministries.
The only place of complete safety, security, and confidence is not a physical one. It’s a spiritual location. It’s a place of trust—trusting Father to graciously replace your heart with new one and trusting that the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ satisfied the punishment sin. With this spiritual rebirth comes the added privilege of being an heir to all that God has, namely the hope of eternal life. (See Titus 3:3-7.)
What good has come out of this?
Dan Crawford, in his book Night of Tragedy Dawning of Light wrote, “Reports have indicated that already hundred, perhaps thousands of people have placed their faith in Jesus Christ because of the martyrdom of these seven believers. As measured by the kingdom of God, their deaths have not been in vain.” A Christian in the second century named Tertullian wrote that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. That explains why Wedgwood Baptist Church has experienced such a deep change and spiritual growth over the last five years. Although this event has been tremendously painful for the church and especially the families and friends of the victims, pastor Al Meredith said that it has provided Wedgwood a platform to show “grace amid terror.”
Please pray for the families of these seven victims. Old wounds will be reopened on this anniversary. Grief is not a one-time event. It raises its head throughout life, demanding our attention.
God hasn’t promised to steer us clear of tragedies in life. But our hope is that there is more to this life than what we can see, touch, hear, smell, and feel. Because each of the seven victims had a personal relationship with God through Christ, their life did not end on September 15, 1999 but was merely extended into a different location. The source of our hope, especially in the face of massive upheavals, is our position and location in Christ.