It was an absolute honor and so much fun to preach a sermon by G Campbell Morgan on the @revived__thoughts Podcast! The Episode is LIVE today! Give it a listen. If you are looking for a great podcast that will encourage you and educate you about church history and some of its memorable sermons check out the show Revived Thoughts. Thanks again Troy Frasier for letting me be a part of this resource!
Fight the good fight and stay strong in the Lord as you face various trials and tribulations. The Christian life is filled with suffering, but you can suffer well.
More at https://jnwheels.com
From A Series Called “Bring Me Back” – Thoughts About Prodigal Things.
It may seem an odd thing to rejoice in the return of a wayward more than in rejoicing over those who have seemingly always walked the straight and narrow road, but that is what redemption is about. It is about lifting the fallen and re-setting the broken bones. Bones that were never broken need not a cast, but those whose bones have been healed or restored, know that the restored limb is now stronger than ever before. The scars and the scar tissue are reminders of their folly, but they are also testimonies of the new life or second chance given by the hands of the healer or rescuer. Experienced grace creates grateful hearts. Grateful hearts tell their stories to others and other wanderers come home and find their own healing.
It brings me to this next prodigal tale. What things, precious to you, if they had become lost, would you do anything to find?
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”Luke 15:8-10
What, to you and I, is a soul worth? This woman had lost what might be to us, like losing an entire paycheck. But is this story about your paycheck? Its about much more than that. Its about her entire savings. She had worked so hard to save it – all of it, so all of it had become precious to her. So it is with the souls of Gods elect. They are, every single one of them, precious in His sight. He intends to lose none of them. If we wander, He turns over the tables, seeks through the mountain sides, sweeps every floor, until, at last he finds you where you are, even though you had become lost, and He places you back with the others. With Him. Lost no more.
Do we care for souls the way that Our Father does? Who is worthy and who is not worthy of our care and seeking and love? That is not for us to decide. As He seeks and saves those lost or wandering, so we too should pray for the rebel, the lost, those who have become burdens or eye sores, until they are brought back into the blessing of the beautiful life and light of eternity that we so enjoy.
The older I get, the more Gods love in me and through me is tested. It is so easy to be selective with the love I have to offer, want to offer. When I was younger, my enemies were few or nil. And now that I am aging, so are the relationships in my life. Old friends and companions have now become oppressors or those who stand in opposition. Some who I used to fellowship with, now fellowship with no one, not even with God. Some have walked away from the faith and now seek to discourage and divide. Do we have love for these? Do we, like Christ, seek to love our enemies? Do we recognize that we were the lost coin? We were the lost sheep. We were the enemies of God, and we can still become the backsliders. Does God still have love for us? I know that He does. He is seeking and saving and loving and redeeming, day and night, those who we would have counted as down for the count, but still he pursues for His name sake and for His glory. Why? Because God so loves the world. We must enjoy that love and not squander it to ourselves but allow God’s love to be a transformative love that is extended to the least, the last and the lost. We need to love the unlovable and seek their good. It is what God has done for us, may we do the same for others. Found people finding love for all, that more might be found until all the coins have been brought back to the treasure chest of eternity. Together, we who were lost are together found in Him. Every single one of us. Praise be to God!
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From A Series Called “Bring Me Back” – Thoughts About Prodigal Things.
We have been invited. To us, the call has been made – to sit with the Savior. The amazing thing is that He has chosen to sit with us. The Savior pursues sinners. He sits with us, eats with us, teaches us and welcomes us to learn from Him. If Christ does not receive sinners, than none of us shall be received.
“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
It has almost always been this way for us as humans. We have always found ourselves found and pursued by God. First as the magnum opus (the master-work) of created things – the wonder and fascination of the angels, and then as the paragon (the prize) of Christ as our savior. You see, we once enjoyed unbroken and unstained fellowship with God – no sin involved. We walked and talked, dined and learned from the omniscient one. It was His joy and His choice to include us in His love and awesome presence. We were created by Him and made to enjoy being with Him. Later, we chose to be apart from Him, and as a result we suffered. With Him, as we were designed to be, we thrived. Apart, we suffered in so many ways. In order to be restored to that place of togetherness and intimacy, He had to once again choose us to be united together with Himself. Sin broke us, salvation restores us. He must pursue, or we will never be found.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you..”
Thats what I mean when I say that we went from magnum opus to paragon. We were fine, and then we were fined. Sin broke us and we had no currency worthy to pay the debt for our sin. We owed a debt that could not be paid. Who can pay such a ransom? How to you fix something that is fundamentally and physiologically broken. How do you fix a broken soul when no man can manufacture such a remedy? Sin broke us, and broken things don’t fix themselves. It must come by the masters own hands. He made this battle His own and paid the price through Christ Jesus on the cross. Pure and holy blood to cover polluted and sinful hearts. His blood, purified impure hearts. He won. He gets the prize. Because He chose to do so.
Thats what makes passages like this one found in Luke 15 and John 15 so awesome. It doesn’t say that the sinners ate with Jesus, it says that Jesus ate with them – with tax collectors and sinners. He chose where to dine, and who to dine with. To the religious and wise, these people were the scum of the earth, and yet to Jesus, they were the prize – the trophy Christ had come to win. God gets what God wants, and if He wants you, then He has you. Welcome to the table – His table.
To Him it is a victory, to us it is a battle. We flail, but He fights, and when He fights, He wins. Some of us need to hear this today. He fights for you. He loves His kids – His creation and prize. We wander, and when sheep wander, they get lost. Lost people hurt themselves. Jesus finds lost sheep, and when He finds them, He heals them and welcomes them back with rejoicing. To Him, this love for you is natural – it is who He is for you and toward you. Listen:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
So if others think that you have failed, that you are unworthy or if satan and your own mind have made you think that you suck. You may have done sucky things, but that is not what Christ hangs over your head. The banner over your head is Christ and His victory over your sin. Satan calls you worthless and unworthy – a tax collector and sinner! But God … He called and calls you “Saint!”, not sinner. To your Father in heaven, you are the lost one, pursued and found by Jesus Christ – purposefully.
Are you hurt or hurting? Are you lost?
What sin have you wandered into?
How far are you from where you want to be?
Maybe your not where you should be or how you should be?
How do we get back to where we belong?
Look! There He is. He is coming! With joy on His lips and singing in His heart to pour over you as He lifts you up from that place of refuse, and places you on His shoulders. He has come to bring you back, oh wanderer!
It is never too late to come back to God, in Christ!
Sin called you lost, but repentance sets you free.
Sin will keep you far from Him, repentance will place you on His shoulders, and He will nurse you back to health and bring you safely back into fellowship with the Father and His holy people, now and forever.
Can you say it? “Bring me back to You!”
The consequences of our sin have been felt and that road is rough, but the healer can make us whole again. We have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. His blood is a river that covers all sin and never runs out. Deep deep blood, it covers all your sin… all…your … sin.
It is always ok to come back.
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From the Sermon: Remembering His Great Love – a survey of Gods Love through the book of John
Text (BLOG) Below:
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
“16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
The purpose of this exhortation this morning is simple. It is to encourage our hearts in the love of God.
Often times, we question whether we are loved by God or others. And, sometimes, we cannot find it in ourselves to love others or even ourselves, and so the question’s arise within ourselves from time to time, “Are we loved?” “How are we loved?” “Does God Love Me?” “Can I love myself and others?”
These questions do indeed come with answers if we listen to the right sources. If you want the answer – need the answer, go to the source. The source of Love has spoken and given the answers that comfort even the most distraught and hurting hearts. When we are broken or doubting in the area and need for love, it is comfort that we are in need of. It is really a deep question and enquiry of purpose and belonging.
What is my purpose if love is not some part of it? To be loved and to give love. We all want it. We all need it. And sometimes we need to be reminded of it. To be comforted by it, by the source itself. To be comforted by the love of God for us as His creatures and kids.
How are we comforted by God? We are comforted by his great love.
He gives it, He shows it, and He promises it eternally.
The comfort He gives is an eternal comfort and good hope, freely given – through His generous grace.
I want to answer a couple of questions this morning about the love of God toward us and for us.
1. Does God love us?
(take a moment and allow several scriptures to remind you of Gods love)
“39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should
lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up
on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that
everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him
should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the
The will of God is to bring all who look upon Him and believe into eternal life with Jesus – receiving the same reward: eternal life.
God has compelled Himself in love to save the otherwise un-savable.
Does God love us? The answer is a simple yet resounding YES! Because He willingly decided to act upon His love for us by saving those who believe in Him.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only
Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life.”
The Simple answer to this question is yes.
God loves us and has set His desire to save us and glorify His Son and Himself by doing so.
Amazing isn’t it!?
Its incredible that being the object and recipient of Gods love can, in and of itself bring Glory to God, and in doing so give our lives and our love meaning and purpose.
But, how can this be? How does this happen?
21 “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
To love someone is to set your affections upon that person, and to be full of good-will toward that person.
The closest relationship I can think of, to give as an example of this sort of love, is that love between a parent toward a child.
It a pure love, wishing only good upon its recipient. No evil is wished upon the other, only good things and pleasant thoughts are extended toward your child.
The Love is reciprocated. It is received, recognized and aimed back at its originator. We call this Love, and it becomes worship for those who believe. As a result of receiving this love, we want to obey and respond in kind. We want to be like God was and is toward us – loving and lovely.
How is it that love exists in our hearts and in this world?
1 John 4:18-19
19 “We love because he first loved us.”
It exists because God, among many other attributes, is a loving God who loves us as His own.
This is the agape love of the father extended to us – now made his children through faith, because of His reconciling us to Himself through Jesus, His son.
And so, does God love us?
2. How has God loved us? (How has He comforted us?) (How has He given us Hope?)
He has loved us by sending His Son into the world, specifically to fulfill the will of the Father in saving us and giving us eternal life with His beloved son.
The eternal curse of sin was deservedly upon us as trespassers and law breakers. And yet the penalty of that curse was undeservedly placed upon Himself in the flesh upon the cross.
Gods righteous judgement declared all sin to be punishable by death. It (sin) did not belong. Not with God, not in His presence and not in eternity.
Who could settle and satisfy Gods wrath and righteous judgement?
What propitiation could be made, allowing us to escape the wrath of God to come upon the sins of the world?
A solution to the problem did not exist. It does not exist outside of the One who can accomplish the impossible.
Unless God acts within Himself to remove our sins, they cannot be removed. Within our lives as unforgiven sinners, we were missing the best of Love… Gods love, and so we were missing the best of life… eternal life.
He could not simply remove the punishment.
That would not make Him just.
Simply, justice would not be served.
He also, could not declare righteous what had been tainted by sin.
That would not be right.
Justice had to be imposed.
But how could sin be removed and punished at the same time?
The penalty was death.
How do you cure death?
God took it upon Himself… (selah)
The Father of all creation, compelled by His own love toward those who would believe, made Himself to become the sacrifice that would appease His own wrath.
Rather than letting us face the eternal consequence of our own sin, He became sin for us and stood in our place before the Judgement seat of God, as the Son, paying the price for our sin, dying, though He had been eternal life Himself, and there, feeling the pain that should have been ours, allowed Himself to be tortured and executed as a slaughtered lamb at the hands of those whom He created, and who were corrupted by sin, and He was nailed, hands and feet to a splintery wood cross, and there the eternal wrath of God was thrust upon Jesus Christ, once and for all satisfying Gods wrath and delivering justice on the offenders who would look to Christ Jesus for salvation.
He did what could not be done by anyone else. He took our sin’s upon Himself – all of them, and then rose in victory – sin could not keep Him in the grave because it was not His sin that caused His death, it was ours!
What was impossible for man, was made possible by God Himself.
1 John 3:1:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
We could not inherit the eternal spiritual life because in our sin we had become spirituality dead, and yet God in His love moved Himself to act on our behalf, sending us the promised rescuer, Himself, in Christ as Savior.
Does God Love you? You tell me…
1 Corinthians 15:50-55
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
How has God loved us?
He has loved us by sending us His Son as Savior and by doing for us what only He could do – dying in our place and sharing with us His eternal reward – eternal life.
3. How has and does He show us His love? (What does Gods Love look like/Act Like?)
In John 1
Verse 38-39, 42
Jesus invites us to follow him, and receive a new identity in him. Like Peter, to go from a man led by the impulses of his flesh, to become a man led by and standing firm in Faith, proclaiming the truth that changes our hearts and minds and saves us for heaven, by the grace of God through Christ.
In John 2
Jesus defends and preserves His house, His presence, and His church and a place to meet and talk with God. In love, by grace we are invited as His children, to pray with Him. He preserves His house as a house of prayer, casting out those who would stand in the way of you and the Father. Christ has brought us to the Father, now and forever.
In John 3
Jesus reasons with us, offering us His salvation and the new life, causing us to be “born again” into an eternal spiritual life, and declares Gods love: “for God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
In John 4
Jesus speaks with the outcasts and marginalized – sitting down with and drinking water from the cup of the samaritan woman – an adulterous woman rejected by the jews, yet accepted and pursued by God, here at a well, found by her Savior. She had been looking for peace, but not until Jesus found her did she know it. Here, with love extended by God in the flesh, her life was now made whole.
Gods love shows itself in His love for those hurting and the outcast, as He healed many who were hurt, lame, diseased, blind, poor and even the demon possessed.
In John 6
With great compassion for those hungry, who followed Him, He twice, miraculously fed them with fish and bread, to satisfy their physical hunger, simply because He cares for them and He cares for you. It may just be that simple, that God takes care of you because He Loves you. He Loves you now and into eternity.
Do you trust Him? Do you trust that He Loves you?
26 “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor
gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by
being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the
lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not
arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass
of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into
the oven, will he not much more clothe you…?”
And not only does He satisfy us with physical bread for our bodily hunger, but He becomes our very sustenance and life, being “the bread of Life”:
35″ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever
comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me
shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me
and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will
come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will
but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him
who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has
given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will
of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and
believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him
up on the last day.”
He is also the Living Water (John 7:37), providing not only for our physical hunger, but satisfying our spiritual thirst eternally. He has given us His Spirit – inside us, to give us life and keep us for God eternally.
In John 8
God comes to the defense of a women caught in the very act of adultery, and forgives her of her sins. He is not ashamed to humble Himself in coming to our rescue. The woman would have been stoned otherwise, if Jesus had not intervened.
What sin is so big or so condemning in your life, that Jesus would not stoop to the ground and lift you up from your mess?
Just as He did for the Women caught in the very act of adultery, He has done for you. He has and will come to your rescue.
38 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor
rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will
be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus
No sin is too great, no one has become so backslidden or gone too far into the darkness that Christ cannot redeem or rescue you by shining His very light of forgiveness into your life to bring you back into His glory and grace. For that is His mission – Gods mission – a rescue mission.
In John 8
He is the light of the world and whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but will have the very light of life.
Do you need to walk into the light? He loves you, for that is why He came, and comes to your rescue.
In John 10
God reassures His love for and eternal protection over His sheep, even laying down His very life to win you back to Himself – dying to protect you from the enemy of your soul.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came
that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the
good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for
the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd,
who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and
leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and
scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and
cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I
know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father
knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for
the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So
there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the
Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take
it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of
my own accord.
In what other ways has God and does God express His Love for us?
In John 11
Jesus weeps with those who have lost a loved one (Lazarus). Not only does he weep over our lack of and lapses of faith, but he takes it upon Himself to increase our faith through miraculous acts of His grace upon our life. Here, He raises a dead man, Lazarus, not only restoring life, but increasing our faith.
He walks on water and calms storms, He makes wine for celebrations, He washes the feet of His followers, He defends His disciples against the attack of the legalistic pharisees, He promises His Spirit as the keeper and sustainer of our salvation, bringing us home to heaven. He fulfills His promise to us, by laying down his life for us on the cross, and pleasing His Father, and finishing His mission.
He forgives those who persecuted Him, and He forgives and restores Peter, who betrays Him 3 times. . .
Does God Love You?
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
Does He Love you? Are you loved?
The answer is a resounding YES! Y.E.S!
Look at what great lengths He has gone to, to show you His great love for you, and in doing so, Jesus has completed and satisfied the will of His Father, giving God glory.
And finally, in Love, He redeems our praise and brings us into worship. Our Response is to Love as He has loved us. To forgive others. To be instruments of His Love, Mercy and Grace.
6 “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give Him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me,
“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Be reminded now, and make no mistake, that you are eternally loved, oh child of God, and blessed forever.
By Jeremiah Wheelersburg (J.N.Wheels)
Listen to Jeremiah and Special Guests on “The Minister The Ministry and Me Show” on iTunes and several podcast platforms. Also known as The 3M Podcast.
“…So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”
“I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.”
So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent…”
1 Kings 18
Here is the test of our faith.
Here is the awesome display and testimony of God.
Here is the challenge and examination of our ability to believe.
This is God, burning from heaven the doubts and disbelief of the majority. The popular crowd popularly believes not. I mean, “how un-cool to believe in God!” and yet God cares not about “cool” or popularity or politically correct but He is burning hot with faith and belief in Himself needing no one to believe. He IS whether we want to believe it or not.
And here is one man, Elijah, who has heard the Word of God and believes it. But He doesn’t just sit on it like most do. He acts upon it. He is moved by it and He is moving others and challenging them. The truth has become like a burning fire, wasting away doubt and spewing over in great fullness, the faith that is always present when the word of God is personally activated through belief. One grows weary of holding it in like that prophet Jeremiah. He challenges all the false prophets to see and prove who the real God is. And when His turn comes to cry out to His God, Elijah does so with great convincing faith and authority.
He asks with boldness and confidence.
He asks for the seemingly impossible.
He asks for a request that to most would seem ridiculous.
He calls down fire from heaven!
Because the word of God had come to this man, and he had welcomed it. The Word of God had become in him, a burning fire! God had asked of a man to call down fire – to display the power and amazing strength of the only Lord. God wanted to get the glory. God wants to display His power – to gain the victory, but where are the Elijah’s?
Where are those who believe that God can, when none else could?
Where are those who are willing to be outnumbered, yet on God’s side?
No man stands alone when he stands with God! Why can’t more of us believe this?
What would happen if the seeker-friendly, comfort-ease, western culture, have-everything-but-everything-is-still-not-enough Christians would throw off their comfort-guards and embrace in humility, the beauty of holiness – standing out for the Lord? Being separate from “worldliness,” yet involved in God glorifying works.
Where are those who are willing to embrace the truth of His Word, and suffer a little for the sake of eternal gain. What if we threw out our timid, afraid-to-trust-His-promises prayer lives and instead entered boldly before His throne-room of grace?
What if we asked because He has told us to ask?
What if we seek because He tells us – seek!
What if we came desperately, steadfastly, and unwaveringly knocking? Pounding! Desperate to see Gods glory revealed!?
What if we started to ask God for what seems impossible?
Will we ask Him to burn up the false idols?!
Will we be willing to lay our idols down?
To restore the nation!?
To breath life into this “lazy-boy” church!
To pour the water of His Spirit upon our lives and churches – drenching us until we drown!
Let us come… Being filled and overcome by His presence until we beg, “No More!” Until we glimpse so much glory that it scares us! Until we are gasping for breath. Flooded by His presence!
There, we shall lay, with no response except that of being prostrate on our belly, face full of carpet and heart full of His radiant light and life.
We must not back down or be intimidated until His fire falls from heaven! Until His glory is revealed! Praying and agonizing until revival comes to ourselves and to those stumbling in the shadows! God is waiting for a desperate people – sick of doing things their own way, in their own strength, He wants us to cry out to Him with prayers like that of Elijah:
“O Lord, God… let it be known… that you are God…Answer me, o Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
The following is my brothers Account of what happened…
My brother is in town until Tuesday the 24th. I wanted to spend Thursday night with him and his wife; because there are a lot of ministry responsibilities I have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. A movie would give us time to chill together, and meet up with friends he hadn’t seen for awhile. At about 10:30 I tried to order my ticket online to the midnight (12:01) showing of Dark Knight Rising. Something kept going wrong with my phone-I kept getting an error notice, so I hoped tickets would still be available at the counter. When we arrived I asked the guy at the counter if I could still get a ticket for the 12:01 showing. “It’s sold out,” he told me. “Aww man” I sighed. “Do you have a group waiting for you?” he asked, “yes” “you know what, I can sell you a ticket” he told me. “Sweet!” so we made our way to theater 8 and found our group middle center. We were early, and the previews hadn’t even started and so we talked and laughed and joked. My brother caught up with friends and chatted with Pastor Daryl Wilmoth who recently planted Front Range Calvary. When the movie started we could not have known what to expect-the villain was being introduced. Then Bruce Wayne. Then, I don’t even remember how, a gun scene broke out on the screen. Guns were firing, and then I heard loud pops and gun sounds in my right ear. I thought maybe they had surround sound effects. That’s when we noticed down to our right that someone was holding their face and people were looking down and starting to stand. People began running and checking exit’s and then running back in and shouting to not exit that way, “there is a guy with a gun.” we didn’t know what to do, or where to go. Do we leave? Are we better off staying here? Is this for real?! My brother’s wife Lindsay began to panic as we tried to process what was happening and what we were going to do. People began filtering out the upper exit of the theater. We decided to make our way up as well. When we exited people were still wondering what was going on. We looked over the edge of the “bridge” and saw everyone running and screaming, police running and calling commands with their large guns in hand. We knew we needed to get out. We had no idea where the gunman was or how many there were. Was this gang related? Who was he? Where was he? Was he in the lobby? We needed to run through the lobby to get out. We needed to move now. That was probably one of the scariest points, running through the lobby not knowing if a gunman was causing all this chaos in that area. Are bullets going to fly by? Am I going to get hit? Has anyone been hit?! That question was answered when we exited the building and saw the police cars and rescue vehicles and heard the officer shouting “we need every available ambulance here on scene NOW!” my thought was “is it really that serious?” but looking around I could begin to see that yes it was. People were being carried from the theater bloodied and in shock. People were carrying their injured friends to safety. People, who moments ago had been strangers, had now in an instant become family. They were crying and helping one another look for missing loved ones. We made our way to the sidewalk at the end of the lot. We took a role call of who was with our group of friends. Everyone was there. We knew people in theater 9 and so we began making calls and checking if they had made it out ok. Around us lights were flashing. I’d never seen so many police or paramedics. What could we do? How could we help? Some of our friends were carrying people to ambulances other were standing in shock. We called a prayer meeting. “Let’s pray” we wrapped our arms around each other and began praying for wisdom and direction from the Lord to these men and woman serving the people. As we prayed two young ladies ran to our group crying, “our dad is not responding, our dad isn’t responding!” we hugged them and prayed for them right away. We prayed with others and followed the direction of the police as they tried to put the pieces together and process what was going on. We were all questioned and asked to share about what we had seen and heard and then at 3:00 we were allowed to leave. My wife knew nothing of what had happened up until this point. I didn’t feel it was necessary to put her into a panic. She text me while we were driving out and asked how the movie was. I replied to her text, “it was action packed, I’ll tell you about it when we get home.” When we got home we shared with her what had happened and tried to rest a bit. I had text my pastor what had happened and around 4:00am he called and asked me what had happened. While telling him, I began processing the morning in a different way. It had been easy to tell my wife what had happened, but this time I couldn’t do it without tears. Pastor Ed said, ” I’m going to go down there and see how we can serve. You don’t have to come, unless you want to.” I said, “I’ll come.” he picked me up and I tried to share some more. Again, the tears flowed. The families had lost loved ones. People were still uncertain of the condition of their friends. I needed time to process. We went through the Starbucks drive through and sat in the parking lot for a bit. “Joel, you need to let it out. You’re still running on adrenaline.” he was right. I talked through it some more and then we made our way to the Aurora Medical Center. Teams from the pastoral and leadership team were already showing up at each of the local hospitals. There were so many families to pray for and minister to. We comforted friends who had loved ones in surgery and recovering from gun shot wounds to the head and chest. After we left we made our way to Gateway High School. There I was reunited with the two young girls who had been separated from their father. They had just received confirmation that their father had passed away. I sat with them for a long time. What could I say? I asked questions, both to them and to the counselors. Before I left, they let me pray for them and I gave them my number in case they needed anything. Pastor Ed, my brother Jeremiah and I decide to broadcast live on 89.7 Grace FM (Our church’s Denver based Christian radio station) to see if the Lord might use the airwaves to provide some sort of comfort and encouragement to our city. Little by little the Lord used it. People called in and shared what they were going through. We prayed that the Lord would cause us to remain sensitive to His voice and direction. At 4 pm we went live again- talking through our experience and comforting others that shared theirs. At 6pm the community gathered at Calvary Aurora and healing (though only the beginning) was taking place through prayer, tears and hugs. It’s a long road we’ll be walking down, but we won’t be alone-Jesus is with us. He will be with us, and as a people and Church, we are committed to serving and loving this city for the long haul.
This is an un-edited, un-finished, rough draft of my experience of the tragedy that took place at Century 16 theaters here in my hometown in Aurora, Colorado at the Midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. This is tragic. I hate that this happened, but I felt an urgency to share my experience in detail. I am so sorry for the families that have lost loved ones. I am praying for you.
My wife and I were also interviewed in Westward magazine here: https://www.westword.com/news/aurora-theater-shooting-couple-who-escaped-century-16-having-their-first-child-5855360
Hope is often found where hope is fully lost. Turn To Jesus, He IS Hope.
I was there, at the shooting. I felt the shrapnel. I heard the shots. I witnessed the confusion. I smelt the smoke and saw the sparks. My eyes burned and my throat choked on the gas. Confusion was in the air making friends with panic. Chaos was born in an instant and as reality struggled to set in, there, hope was lost.
I’m on vacation-or so I thought. I came to relax and rejuvenate-to vegg out. I wanted to relax. I planned to leave my small troubles behind for a week. I flew into Denver Wednesday morning. I was visiting from Lake Tahoe California. I was excited and blessed to be visiting my friends and family here in my hometown – Aurora, Colorado. One highlight of this trip was sure to be the opening of the new Batman movie.
I must confess that I am a huge batman fan – I even drink my coffee out of a batman mug at home. So on the second night of my vacation to get away from “life,” you can imagine that I was excited to see many of my friends at the midnight premier of the new “Dark Knight” movie. Excitement was in the air as well as anticipation. Anticipation for seeing the new movie and for seeing many of my friends who were waiting ahead of my wife, brother and I inside theater Eight.
The theater was packed as we expected it to be. Especially at this particular theater. Century 16 is a beautiful theater with huge screens and small ticket prices. At $6.50 per ticket, this was the place to be with all your friends for a carefree fun night of popcorn and excitement.
We dropped my brother off at the entrance so he could buy himself a ticket. We parked the car in the back of the far right parking lot, as the parking lot was packed. The darkness of the corner lot was the only place left to find an open spot. Lindsay and I ran through the parking-lot toward the theater as we jested about not wanting to spend much time outside, after all “we don’t want to be shot” we said to one another. Only God could have known that less than an hour later we would be hand-in-hand running out of the theater, praying to God that he might spare our lives.
We entered the theater and met up with my brother Joel. He said that he was just sold the last ticket to the 12:01 movie. At first they told him that theater 8 was sold out and yet at the look of disappointment on my brothers face, the ticket-seller asked if he was meeting a group inside? “Yes” was his reply and the worker said, “You know what, ill sell you one.” So with relief we passed the ticket counter and enter the lobby and concession area together. I soaked in the impressive theater as I had not been here in a long time and I was excited to be home, soaking in these old familiar places. From the Ticket counter on the right you turn to enter the very large two story lobby filled with concession stands, coffee counter and candy bins. You can look upstairs toward a large balcony with a staircase on each end. The staircases sandwich the popcorn and candy counters and at the top (second-floor), you can enter your theater from above the audience, level with the projector.
We bought our candy on the lower level, used the Restroom and then entered theater 8 below the balcony from the ground level entrance. Lindsay and I had not been home for a while and some of these friends we were meeting, we had not seen in a year. We looked up toward the crowd as we entered, one of my best friends Ian, quickly spotted us, waved, I waved my candy back at him, and we quickly made our way to the three seats he had been saving for us. We shuffled in, shaking hands with the two rows of friends from church. I was very excited to see and catch up with one of my old friends and Pastors, Darrel. Darrel joked about being the oldest person there and then offered the remainder of his popcorn to us as he had already eaten half a tub and a candy item as they waited for the movie to begin. We took it and shortly after, the Dark Night began.
The movie started and the excitement began to build. The movie was heavy and dark as was to be expected; yet it was inviting. It was fantasy. It was a moment to sit back, relax and be entertained with people you love. I held my wife’s hand tight as the movie began. No one expected that this Dark Knight was about to turn into an incredibly Dark Night. It was about 25-35 minutes into the film when the first major action-gun sequence began, and as the sound of on-screen gun-fire filled the air and our ears, a much louder popping-crackling sound spliced through the movie-noise. Everyone looked to his or her right, searching for the noise, all assuming that this was some sort of live special effect noise set up by the theater (we hoped for the best). Most everyone did their best to continue watching the movie. It was loud and exciting and we were not going to allow anyone or anything to ruin our experience and this much anticipated film, yet I could not take my attention away from the right middle entrance. Suddenly more cracks in rapid-succession rang out, this time accompanied with sparks, smoke and a dusting of some sort of shrapnel. At this point I was completely annoyed, believing that someone had thrown a crackle-bomb into the air or some other firework as some sort of prank, yet as anyone would be, I became uneasy and on guard. I stared to the right of the theater, about 3 or 4 rows beneath me as a small group of people were looking down, fixed on something. At this point, some people were whispering, as some were still trying to watch the movie. Everything was unclear at this time as communication was impossible because the movie was still playing, the lights were still off, and the guns were still firing on the movie screen. Some people to the right ran out the bottom exit toward the lobby and entrance to the theater. Little by little, the group below and to the right began to exit quickly. At this point, they had everyone’s interest and attention. I became concerned and we all started to stand up, looking around, waiting for answers. Soon, the same group who had just left, quickly ran back into the theater, in the dark while the movie was still blaring and shouted over the chaos on the screen, “nobody leave out the front! There is somebody out there shooting people!” We all hoped that this was still a prank! We hoped for the best even though this sounded like the worst. The group ran out the left front side of the theater next to the movie screen and then some of them quickly ran back in. I looked at my wife, grabbed her hand, and looked around toward every exit. My wife looked very worried at this point, then the fire alarm began to go off, flashing lights on both ends while the movie was still playing. The alarm was loud, the movie was loud, thick panic was in the air, and the theater was still dark. At this point my precious wife began to look increasingly fear-filled. She wanted to make for the exit. I grabbed her hand and told her that we had to keep our cool and stay put for the moment. “We cant just run out there, what if someone is out there waiting to shoot us as we run? We need to trust God and wait a minute.” People began to shout,” Turn off the movie!” we could not hear the message coming over the loud speaker because gunfire was still coming from the movie. I finally focused hard, trying to hear the loudspeaker message. “An emergency has taken place inside of the theater, please exit the building.” We looked at one another, I looked at Pastor Darrel, one row below me, and we knew we had to get out of there. I looked at Lindsay, held her hand and said, “let’s get out of here.” Joel, Lindsay, and I quickly made our way up the stairs to our left, opposite the screen, toward the upper theater 8 entrance that led to the balcony above the lobby and main entrance.
We quickly reached the exit and there we were, atop the balcony, I stared around the wall looking down at the lobby as crowds were running around in panic. Police were flocking into the lobby with rifles and shotguns. Behind me people were running out of theater 8 and 9. Reality was soaking in as the movie came to life. People were leaving the theater 9 door covered in blood! My wife was in hysterics, saying, “I don’t want to be here, I want to go!” It was a war zone. I grabbed my wife and looked intently into her eyes and yelled, “Look at me! Don’t panic!” I reminded her that she had a God in heaven who loved her. “Don’t act like you don’t have a God.” I reminded her and myself that there was still a loving God who even in this chaos can create order. We stared down into the chaotic lobby below as we choked on the tear gas filling the air as it flowed out of theater 9. To the right, flocks of innocent people were running down the staircase, pausing at the bottom, taking shelter behind the railing, hoping for direction and then running for the front door toward the parking lot. We all assumed that a gunman might be in the lobby shooting people. I looked around for my brother. At the moment all I cared about was staying close to my brother and Lindsay. All I wanted was for these two people who I loved more than my own life, to make it out of here alive. “Joel!” I shouted. He was standing nearby. Together we looked below, looked at the staircases, looked behind us. More blood. It looked as though some people were running back up the staircase to the left. “We need to go!” So made our way quickly down the right staircase as you look out toward the parking lot. This all felt like a horrible scene from a movie that we had somehow become a part of. We were living the movie out and we could not escape this reality. We stayed low as we hurried down the stairs. The Columbine shooting flashed through my mind. When we neared the bottom of the stairs, we paused to take cover before we tried to prepare to run the short distance toward the glass entrance doors. As we paused to look around for the gunman, I pictured one of us being shot as we ran for the door. I quickly prayed, “please Jesus, let my wife and my brother get out of here safe!” I knew Joel was behind me, but I wasn’t sure where he was. We looked one more time through the lobby as people and police filled the scene. People in panic ran out as Police ran in. It seemed as if this lasted forever, though I’m sure it was but a moment. We finally ran for our lives, holding hands! Thank God, my wife was outside! We stood on the nearest median. Again I reassured her that we were together. I told her to pray and to quote scripture to herself. My next thought was for my brother. I never saw him exit the theater! Where was he? I looked back at the entrance scanning the chaos. I couldn’t find him! I was desperate to find him so I started yelling “JOEL!” It was panic. I knew it was no use yelling so I took my phone out and looked for his number. He answered his phone right away as he was looking for us. I told him where we were, he met us and we decide to make our way toward the back of the parking lot. We were hoping for safety. More and more police officers were flooding the parking lot and heading toward the theater entrance. We were looking for our large group of friends and we quickly found them as Ian flagged us down. “Is everyone ok?” “Is this everybody?” we asked one another. We decide to move back to the outside of the parking lot. As everyone gathered, I began to soak in the scene as if we were moving in slow motion. I couldn’t believe this was happening and that we were a part of it. The gravity of the situation began to set in as I could not help but hear an officer next to me yelling into his radio “I NEED EVERY ABULANCE IN THE CITY HERE RIGHT NOW!” “I need every available ambulance here right now!!” He yelled this three times as he made his way closer to the theater to help. Pastor Joel (my brother) and Pastor Ian gathered our friends in a circle; they held hands and began to pray. They prayed for the crowds, the medical care teams and the police. They prayed for the hurt and hurting. I prayed with my eyes open as I looked around.
Many were still running out of the theater. The parking lot was full or cars and people. I noticed the blood. So many were bleeding or had blood on themselves. I saw Pastor Darrel Carrying a young woman in his arms as he ran toward the ambulances. I wanted desperately to help. I prayed as I walked back toward the theater trying to see if there were anymore injured who needed help. I cried out to God, “God, please use me, please help these people!” As I walked through the lot, I saw four people carrying a bleeding girl between themselves. Two of them had her arms around their shoulders while the other two were carrying her legs. I rushed closer to them, and as I looked for the girls’ eyes, I noticed that she was still alive! “Thank you Jesus!” I thought. As they passed me, I prayed for her safety and recovery. I turned briefly to watch them run toward the Paramedics. Just then, I noticed another man heading as fast as he could run in the same direction. Close to his chest he held a little girl. She was covered in blood and looked lifeless. My heart was sinking and breaking for the scene that lied before me. Again as if in slow motion I stared around the lot as I made my way closer to the entrance. The eyes of the people looked drained, empty, and hopeless. I prayed for hope and I found hope in knowing that my friends were gathered just a short distance away, praying to our loving God who is the God of Hope and healing.
…To be continued… this is too hard to finish right now…
Please continue praying for the families involved and for those who have lost loved ones. If you have been affected by this shooting and need help or prayer, please contact Calvary Chapel Aurora at http://www.calvaryaurora.org.