This week I am preaching in Gilchrist County, Florida, to a community that is hurting.
On Thursday about 3 p.m. a gunman walked into the Ace China restaurant in Trenton and fatally shot two Gilchrist County Sheriff’s deputies– Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey. He then went outside, got into his car and took his own life.
No motive is known for this despicable and cowardly act which has left this small town of just over 2,000 and a county of under 20,000 in mourning. Only questions linger. Why?
“We’re a going-to-church community. We’re all well-mannered. You never expect foolishness like this from anyone,” one resident said.
“Sgt. Ramirez and Deputy Lindsey were the best of the best,” said Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz. “They were men of integrity, men of loyalty. They were God-fearing, and they loved what they did, and we are very proud of them. I don’t have answers as to why this happened,”
Billy Rogers, an owner of B & J Auto Repair in Trenton, said Thursday’s shooting isn’t what you expect in a community of 2,000.
“This was kind of our safe space from what we felt like was going on in the rest of the world,” he said. “Now we know it’s not safe.”
Last night at our church service, Danny Allen, the Midway preacher shared a message he had seen on marques in both Trenton and Bell, where the funerals will be held today, that proclaimed our national motto: IN GOD WE TRUST.
Sometimes it is difficult to trust God during times of tragedy. Our hearts are heavy. Our spirits are downcast. We are hurting. And we wonder why two men of integrity had to die in such a senseless fashion.
It is good to remember in such situations, that God is not to blame. The Bible says that he is the giver of good gifts. He cannot be tempted by evil nor does he entice men to engage in evil acts (Jas 1:12-17).
Evil occurs in this world because of sin. “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). People with free will sometimes choose to violate the will of God. To hurt others. To commit crimes. To steal. And even to murder and maim. The Devil is called “the tempter” (Matt. 4:3). He enticed Eve to sin. And she did.
It is clear in the first two chapters of Job that God allowed the Devil to tempt Job. The evil that befell this righteous man was not his own fault. In fact, when you read the first chapter note that others raided his livestock and killed his servants.
God created a world where we can experience the greatest of divine emotions.
Love. Joy. Peace. Faith. Hope. But we also have the ability to make choices that produce hate. Unhappiness. Discord. Doubt. And despair.
Recently while sorting through some of our belongings we found a doll that belonged to our daughter. When you pull a string she says, “I love you.” But the doll had no choice. There is no real love. It is only a puppet on a string. God didn’t make us like that!
Our behavior can be good. Or bad. We have a choice. And our choices have a great deal to do with our circumstances and the situations in which we live. Of course, sometimes we suffer the consequences of other’s poor or evil choices. Like the Trenton murder.
Our challenge is to trust in God during both good times and bad times. To look to Him for strength, courage, and help in time of need. And to muster the fortitude to forge ahead in faith.
We extend our deepest condolences to this community. And join with them in this firm resolve–IN GOD WE TRUST.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman