As we focus on the meaning of the tragedy in Brookfield, Wisconsin last March 12, when several of our beloved Milwaukee brethren were shot and killed, it is important to realize that we do not have complete understanding of the mind of God. It is easy to "play God" and assign one or two reasons for such tragedies. But, as I have said in a number of letters and "updates" to the Church since then, God often has many reasons why He may allow seemingly terrible events to happen. For He is omniscient. He knows everything. We do not.
Nevertheless, as the months go by, we should never forget that awful tragedy. We should keep on praying for the survivors—and for others, in and out of God's Church, who may still be mourning and "hurting." I vividly remember that after the death of my first wife, Margie, I continued to "hurt" for more than a year. At first, I was in a sort of daze. Gradually, the full realization set in that she was really "gone"—never again would I see her in this life!
We should realize that some of these feelings no doubt continue in the minds of the survivors of this recent tragedy. So we should beseech God to help and comfort these people, and to help all of us better understand and be able to move ahead in His service. As Herbert W. Armstrong used to say: "God often turns lemons into lemonade!"
How will we Church members view this incident 30 years from now, when, I hope, most of us will be spirit beings in God's Kingdom? It is helpful to meditate on this. We will probably look back on this with the realization that although our heavenly Father did not cause this tragic event, He allowed it to happen to teach all of us many lessons. I hope we will look back and realize that, after this tragedy, most of God's people became even more humble and even more focused—and even more aware of the fragility of human life, and of how precious is the life of every human being! For we are all made in the image of God, with wonderful and awesome potential.
From this tragedy, dear brethren, we should all understand more fully the inspired words: "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). With that realization, each day should become more special: another day to serve God and fellow man, another day to love one another, another day to grow in "reflecting Jesus Christ in everything we think, say and do."
Yet, a special reason for God calling us now is to have us do our part in preparing for the Kingdom of God. I would like to share with you part of an especially encouraging letter from Mr. Stuart Wachowicz, our elder in Edmonton, Canada. He writes:
"Only in the past two weeks I have had several calls from people in 'other' groups, who have told me that after reading Living's literature or hearing sermons on the web, or listening to the program on television, they recognized you are teaching the truth of the Bible, just as it was in the days of Mr. Armstrong. Many here are now seriously considering when they will make the switch to where God is really working. Some have also admitted to me that the defaming of yourself by some ministry in other groups had held them back, but now they are increasingly seeing through that deception.
The Living Church of God is preaching the Gospel, it is growing in all areas—it is doing the Work and God is blessing it. These are facts on the ground that the attackers carefully avoid in their comments. No wonder Satan is so desperate and brings these repeated attacks.
Please be assured that the brethren here, and I am sure around the world, are solidly behind you and the administration of God's Church. We are very grateful for your courage and leadership, as well as the loyal and zealous leadership of those around you, and the fine leadership and encouragement we have been receiving from Mr. Weston here in Canada.
We do pray for you regularly. There will undoubtedly be difficult times ahead. Despite the challenges and inevitable attempts by Satan to thwart the Work, please know that with God's help we in God's Church will echo through our actions the words of Winston Churchill, spoken in an hour of great danger and trial, when no one gave England a chance:
'We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down.'"
So let us be encouraged by these thoughts, dear brethren, and move ahead to do everything we can to prepare for Jesus' return as King of kings. We know that time is short. We know that Satan is enraged that we are now on the verge of having greater impact in the Work of God than we have ever had before—for his time is short. As God's Word tells us: "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (Revelation 12:12).
We must always be aware that we are in a "spiritual war." The unseen forces of Satan and his demons will certainly try to hurl themselves against the true people of God—especially those who are actively preparing for the government that will soon replace Satan's government! So we, as God's little children, must fervently cry out to God for the help and deliverance that can only come from Him. Remember the example of our Savior, Jesus, "who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:7–8).
As the promised trials and tests come our way, we must always try to see the "Big Picture" and realize who we are and why Satan may be especially enraged against us. Yet, in all of this, we must not be vain or haughty. For that would absolutely be our undoing! As God's Word tells us: "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:11–12).
Yes, it is a fine line to walk. We must have the understanding and faith to realize that God is using us, will use us as we continue to yield to Him, and will bless us immeasurably if we serve faithfully to the end. Yet all the credit and all the glory belong to Him! So we must maintain that perspective and realize how weak we are and how great He is—and not ever become "great" or "exalted" in our own eyes. We must constantly help one another with this, pray for one another and "walk with God" every moment of every day. Then, with Christ at our side, we can confidently walk right over into the Kingdom of God with Him! As the Apostle John wrote: "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28).
Dear brethren, as events impact more and more upon us, and upon the world around us, we realize that the world desperately needs what we have to give! Life is certainly fleeting. However, not because of our goodness, but through God's mercy, we have the Truth. We must preach that Truth persistently and boldly to the entire world as a "witness." We must never be ashamed. We must never give up and quit through fear, frustration or simple human selfishness. We must always hold up the "banner" of Jesus Christ and the Truth that has been given us through Him and through His inspired word. That is the only answer to the complete confusion and frustration more and more besetting this mixed-up world.
God grant each of you this vision of the future, and the understanding, faith and courage to move ahead and honor the God who has given life and breath to all of us— and has specially called us into His service now!