I, like many of you, am overwhelmed. What's
particularly overwhelming for me, in the midst of a devastating crisis like
this one, is having to stand publicly and offer hope and comfort. Like many of
you, I've turned to God and said, "God, you know what we need right now?
We need you to speak."
At some level we all say, "Is there a word
from God?" I've come today to tell you there is. My fear is that I will
appear glib or trite, but the only reason I can stand here today is by the
power of God and the prayers of his people.
intended to harm me, but God intended it for good . . ." (Genesis 50:20)
Listen to the next verse in light of the tragedy
of this past Tuesday. Genesis 50:20 says, "You intended to harm me, but
God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of
On Tuesday morning at Columbine High School the
forces of evil converged to unleash a violent and bloody spring holocaust on
teens and their teachers. Two suicides followed thirteen homicides. A morning
of mayhem led to a horrific afternoon and evening of waiting. We have parents
sitting here today who were part of that waiting. Riveting reunions between
parents and kids brought tearful relief to hundreds throughout that dark day.
Sadly some parents left Leawood Elementary School without a reunion. Many
reunions took place in hospitals and funeral homes across our community.
John and Doreen Tomlin were one of the first
couples to see their son in a funeral home. On Friday, John and Doreen had a
memorial service for their 16 son, John Robert Tomlin.
On April 20, 1999, Satan had a plan for Littleton.
We know it was Satan who had a grip on those two boys because he left his
calling , destruction, and dread. Make no mistake; Tuesday's
atrocity is not simply about black trench coats, purported parental failure,
anemic gun laws, inattentive teachers, or Marilyn Manson. Ultimately, what we
saw on Tuesday came from Satan's home pit of hell.
In fact, I believe I smelled hell. On Tuesday I
believe I got as close as you can get on earth to smelling there at
the corner of Pierce and Bowles.
Pastor Boone and I were out together for a
morning of meetings, and we were coming home on C470 when we first heard the
sirens. Within ten minutes between 15 and 20 emergency vehicles raced past us.
We were well aware something huge was going on. We got off C470, came down
Bowles, and headed in the direction of the sirens. Cars continued to pass us
with emergency lights flashing. We drove to the corner of Pierce and Bowles,
and pulled into the parking lot across the street. One student who was
they were scattered , "There's someone with a
gun inside, and he's shooting everybody."
We got out of the car, walked across the street,
and joined hundreds of others who were arriving at the scene. Huge groups of
kids made their way up toward the public library, which became a command post.
It was utter chaos.
We began talking to the kids and asking them
what happened. Many needed to call
their parents, and I had my cell phone. I saw a teacher who attends our church
and prayed with him. I saw another person I knew and prayed with him. There was
terror on every face.
had a plan for Littleton.
I smelled the presence of Satan in that place.
You could see it, smell it, taste it. On Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Satan had a
plan for Littleton.
First, Satan wanted fear. Some of you have had
trouble sleeping. Some of your kids are having nightmares. Some of you wake up
in the middle of the night because you've been dreaming about shootings and
killings. I have. And every time I've been jolted by fear, I'm drawn to 2
Timothy 1:7, which says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear."
If God has not given us a spirit of fear, then
where is it coming from? It's coming from Satan. Satan's plan is that this
community will be consumed by fear. He wants us to be afraid to go to bed at
One night I looked out my front window because I
had heard something. I saw a man sitting in his car with his lights on. As I
watched from the window, suddenly I was overwhelmed by fear, and I wanted to
know why that person was out there. If you haven't felt it yet, you probably
will. And I know where it comes from. It comes from the pit of hell. That was
part of Satan's plan for Littleton on Tuesday.
Satan has another plan for our community: he'd
love to see us filled with hate. Today I prayed for the families of the two
boys who are responsible for this mayhem. That might have been hard for some of
you. I'm not an expert on grief, but I know anger is a normal part of the
process. If you've felt angry, I'm not surprised. It's predictable. I've had my
share. Satan wants us to stay there. He wants us to live with anger.
Perhaps some of you watched the special edition
of "Nightline" on Thursday. They were in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where
13 months ago a similar tragedy occurred. Interestingly, the title was
"Lessons Learned." I don't think the evening went the way they had
planned. I think they hoped the people from Jonesboro would say, "Here's
how we learned to walk through this, Littleton. Let us comfort and encourage
you." But that message did not come through.
Thirteen months after the tragedy, there is
still incredible hostility between those who were victimized and the families
of the victimizers. The mom of one of the victimizers, Mitchell Johnson, was at
the community meeting that was being taped. Many in the room did not know she
was there. One man who lost his wife was nearly out of control with his rage.
I'm not critiquing his response or hers. I'm
just saying this: I know what Satan wants Littleton to look like in 13 months.
He wants us to be hateful and spiteful. He wants us to see people wearing black
trench coats and unleash our anger against them. He wants evil to be repaid by
evil. He wants hatred to be repaid by hatred.
Satan had a plan for Littleton, and his plan was
that we would be overcome by fear, hatred, and finally, inconsolable grief.
Inconsolable grief can ruin your life. That's not to say there's not a place
for grieving. Five days after this episode we are all still shocked and
Everyone handles their grief differently. Some
people laugh and giggle. Some people can't stop crying. Some like to make silly
little jokes. Some get irritable. Some get so tired they can't stay awake. Some
stare at the wall and become immobilized. Some become angry and call talk
shows, screaming out their solutions.
We are a community in grief. But Satan wants us
to hang onto our grief.
Jerry Shimmel, a part of our church family,
survived the 1989 United 232 plane crash in Sioux City, Iowa. On Wednesday
night Jerry had some incredible words for us. One thing he said was
"You're never going to get over this." Secondly, he told us there are
some from that particular tragedy who are in mental health facilities. Ten
years after the crash, they still aren't able to process their grief.
Satan loves that we retain horrible memories. He
loves that Tuesday's tragic scenes replay in our minds like video
and over again. He loves that I vividly remember law
enforcement officers drawing their weapons on a possible suspect and yelling at
us to "Get down! Get down!" I still remember the horrible feelings,
as many of you do. Satan wants us to relive continually those horrible
Satan had plans for Littleton on April 20, 1999.
plan didn't work, because God also had a plan.
Satan had a plan on Tuesday, but I don't think
it worked. Why? Because God also had a plan.
Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in
a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Genesis 50,
the story of Joseph, reminds us that what Joseph's brothers intended for evil,
what they intended for harm, what they intended for hate, God intended for
good. I love those words "but God."
Someone gave me a plaque two or three years ago.
It's on the wall in my study. Every time I glance toward the door I see it. It
says, Bill, I have everything under
God has plans for Littleton. What is God's plan
for Littleton? 2 Timothy 1:7: "God has not given us a spirit of fear but a
spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind."
Satan's plan for Littleton was fear, hate, and
inconsolable grief. God's plan, which went into action immediately, is for
power, love, and sound thinking.
As I said earlier, I don't want to appear glib
or preachy today, but if we're going to turn to God in this crisis, we have to
turn to God believing that God is able to do abundantly above and beyond
anything we can ask or think. I want to be one voice in this community saying,
"God is still in control; God is good; and God has amazing plans for us
until Jesus Christ returns to this earth."
wants the people of Littleton and the world to see and experience his power.
God wants people of Littleton and the world to
see and experience his power. I want to tell you, God's power was evident in
the middle of this bloodbath.
All of us have read about Cassie Bernall. She
was a strong Christian just a kid that went to church. I believe
Rachel Scott wanted to be a missionary. John Tomlin had been on missionary
trips. These kids were on fire for God.
Would you ever have imagined that a precious
17 girl would be asked, "Do you believe in God?" while a gun
was pointed at her? Perhaps she thought, If
I say no, they might spare me. I don't know that, but what I do know is
that she, according to the eye witness, said yes. In an instant, she was in the
presence of the Lord.
This past Wednesday night friends of John Tomlin
were having a meeting. One of his friends, Brandon, had been witnessed to by
John. Brandon had not yet accepted Christ as his Savior. But on Wednesday night
when the man leading the meeting said, "Would anyone like to receive
Christ?" Brandon said, "I want to."
The man said, "I want you to be sure. I
don't want this to be an emotional decision. I know you're all stirred up by
all of this."
Brandon said, "John has been talking to me
about this. I know exactly what the gospel is. I'm going to receive Christ
On Friday morning, John and Doreen said to me,
"We want John Robert Tomlin's service to be an evangelistic service. We
want you to give an invitation to receive Christ. We know that won't erase the
pain of the loss of our son. But please present the gospel."
What an incredible opportunity to stand and say,
"The Lord Jesus Christ is first, and was first, in John's life. And if
you'd like to put your faith in him and receive him as your Savior, I want you
to raise your hand right now." Across the room, five hands went into the
Some of you are probably thinking, Bill, we're still grieving. How can you be
so loud and positive about what's going on? This is a horrible tragedy.
I know. I think I feel it as deeply as anyone
who didn't have someone in the school can feel it. We had kids from this church
in that school. There's a mom and dad in the front row who know exactly what
I'm talking about.
However, what I want to say to you is God has a
plan, and his plan is to turn evil into good.
John's and Doreen's abiding faith in the Lord
has amazed me. The father of Rachel Scott has also amazed me. I asked him,
"Do you have any anger towards the boys or their families that have done
He said, "I don't, and I probably should.
But I feel like I'm blanketed by a covering of God's grace."
I saw the parents of Cassie Bernall in an
interview, and they amazed me also. They've been bold in saying, "We
believe the Lord can use this for his glory."
None of us in this room would ever have chosen
what happened on Tuesday to happen. That was Satan's plan. But in the midst of
this horrendous tragedy, God also has a plan. God's light is bringing people to
the truth, and God's power is real. Before we leave today, I'm going to ask you
if you've put your faith in him. If you haven't, then maybe you've been moved
to a place where you've decided, "Today is the day for me. I need Jesus in
wants Littleton to be a place where his love is displayed.
God wants Littleton to be a place where his
power is displayed for the whole world. Secondly, he wants this to be a place
where his love is displayed. God's plan is not fear, hate, and inconsolable
grief. It's power and love.
Can you feel the love in this community? I've
lived in this community for 16 years, and I've never sensed this type of love.
It's palpable; it's in the air.
How can a precious family sit in this row on
Friday morning and after the memorial service be interviewed by both local and
national media and say, "We're praying for the families who have lost
their kids and for the families of the boys who were responsible for
I hate what happened on Tuesday, but I love
what's happened since then. God's love is in this room. I don't think I've been
hugged as much in the past five years as I have in the last five days. It feels
fantastic. I've had people come up to me and say, "We're praying for you.
We just want you to know." The love is tangible.
If that love continues, what do you think this
community is going to look like in 13 months?
God's plan for Littleton was that we would see
his power and love. Also, he wants us to have a sound mind. That means clear
thinking. Do you know who seems to have the clearest thinking right now? The
kids who went through the tragedy or who have friends who went through it seem
to be thinking most clearly.
The verse about the little children leading the
people is true in our community. Our community is being led by the kids. Why do
I say we're being led by them? Let me ask you where they're going. Are they
going to the malls? No way. Are they talking about designer labels? Are they
obsessing over mtv or computers?
No. Are they turning to keg parties? Are they going to sports events? Are they
trying to find places where they can be involved in sexual immorality or drugs?
Men and women, open your eyes. City of Denver,
open your eyes. State of Colorado, open your eyes. World, open your eyes. The
kids are turning to God! They're going to churches! They're saying, "We
went to one service, and we quickly looked to find another." Why are they
going to church? They know they need God.
I pray that out of this devastating and evil
tragedy the eyes of the world will be opened, and we will begin to think with
sound minds and get our priorities right. What matters now? What you wear?
Where you live? What you drive? What you earn? No. God and God alone matters.
I know I'm under the influence of something good
right now. I am not diminishing this tragedy one bit, and I'm not saying,
"I'm glad that happened on Tuesday." But there is evil in this world,
and the evil flows out of the pit of hell. And there will continue to be evil
until Satan is cast into the lake of fire. In the midst of it all, let us look
to the plan God has. He wants us to be known for his power, love, clear
thinking, and glory. That's what we want to see, that's where we want to turn,
and that's where we want to the true and living God.
I don't know about you, but I will never be the
same. I don't think I have any choice. We are being shaped by a tragedy that
will mark us for the rest of our lives. Only time will tell whether the city of
Littleton will be known for God's power, God's love, and God's clear thinking.
When we choose that, we choose God's plan and God's glory over the plans of his
Bill Oudemolen is pastor of Foothills Bible Church in Littleton, Colorado.