Hope in the Heartbreak

police tape

For the second time in less than three years, violence has shaken our quiet little town of Lennox, SD. On Tuesday, police were called to a home on main street, where they found 3 dead, a man, woman, and 8 year old child.  The immediate report was a murder/suicide, and that the community was not in danger.  As I write, more details are being reported, but knowing the details won’t make this any easier.

In the fallout of this tragedy, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts to bring hope in this heartbreak.  Keep in mind, I spent most of today driving across Minnesota to get to our Presbytery meeting, so these are pretty unrefined.  Please bear with me.

There is no making sense of this.  Our tendency in the wake of something like this is to want all the details.  We watch the news, check social media, gather at the coffee shop, trying to get all the latest information (true, or otherwise) to satisfy our desire to be “in the know.”  The problem is, you cannot make sense of senseless violence.  We cannot know what went through the mind of the one who did this, and even if we did, there is no justification for it.

In the face of this, we rest in the grace that God gives to all of this fallen creation, a grace that keeps us from the worst of ourselves.  It is only by His grace that we are not touched by more violence, more evil, more disaster, every day.  God restrains the wickedness of man, and so we give Him thanks that we have been kept safe in his hand.

We Desperately Need the Gospel.  I cannot fathom the despair and hopelessness that would lead a person to kill their family take their own life.  Only the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ can lift someone from such desperation.

The Gospel sets us in reality, the reality of who we are, and of what God has done for us in Christ our Lord.  The Gospel begins with a recognition of our sinfulness, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But the reason the Gospel is good news is that in His love, God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who died in our place, taking the wrath and punishment for our sin, and was raised from the dead on the third day, so that all who believe in Him would be forgiven, saved, and born anew unto eternal life.  Christ Jesus is our hope and peace, so that we can face every trial, every loss, every sorrow of this world knowing that Christ, our living and victorious Lord has overcome this world.  And so we live in this Gospel truth, knowing that He who has saved us here and now, has also saved us for eternity, that we might live with Him forever.

Whatever grief you are carrying, whatever guilt lies heavy on your heart, whatever sin that weighs you down, know that Jesus has come to set you free, to give you hope, and to make you a new creation.  Find your peace, your hope, your joy in Him.

We Need the Fellowship of the Body of Christ.  Sin isolates, separates, and cuts us off from one another.  But the Gospel is meant to bring us together as one in the body of Jesus Christ.  We are to comfort one another with the comfort we’ve been given in Christ.  We are to pray for one another.  We are to welcome one another.  We are to love one another as Christ has loved us. This Gospel message isn’t just for your own assurance, it is also meant to be shared, to reach out into the community, to bring light to all those who dwell in darkness.

My prayer for our community, for all those touched by this tragedy, is that in the midst of heartbreak, the hope of the Gospel will bring us together.  I pray that the peace of Christ will reign in your hearts, and that you will be secure in the grip of His hand.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Ethan

“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come…”
(Psalm 71:3a)

Reading from the Psalms today I was reminded of playing tag when I was young.  There were all sorts of creative ways to play this simple game, from “Freeze Tag” to “Toilet Tag,” all with the basic premise: someone is “It,” and you don’t want them to “Tag” you.

solodistractionp1

Of course, playing tag usually always ended with an argument about who was actually “It,” who got tagged, and who was still in the game.  But nothing, NOTHING, induced more arguments than “Base.”  The premise of base is as simple as the game of Tag itself. Base is a safe place you can run to where you cannot be tagged.  The problem with base, though, was that it’s boundaries, or it’s very existence, was always in contention.  Still, if there was a “Base” in Tag, that’s where you wanted to be, and where you fought hard to return.

How did I get there from the Psalms?

In Psalm 71, the Psalmist is pleading with the Lord for a place of refuge.  We don’t know the particular details that led to the Psalm, but from a surface reading it is clear that it is the prayer of a follower of the Lord who is being persecuted by wicked, unjust, and cruel men (Psalm 71:4). But the psalmist isn’t seeking a fortress or base built by man – He is asking to take refuge in God himself.

We might ask, “how could God be his refuge?”  Maybe the better question would be, “what else could be his refuge?”  When the accusations come from those who would seek us harm, what can save?  When the doubts and fears rise to keep us from trusting and resting in the Lord, what do we need to hear?  Only God can deliver us from the enemy without and the enemy within.

Only God has defeated our accuser, Satan, who would heap our sin and shame upon our heads so that we would lose all hope of following in the ways of the Lord.  In his death upon the cross, Jesus has delivered us from the guilt and wrath of our sins, and has restored us to a righteous relationship with God, so that we are called the sons of God (1 John 3:1).  When those accusations rise, we are led to the rock that is higher than we are, we find Christ himself is our refuge and peace.

Only God is our refuge when doubts arise.  Struggling with doubt is like standing on the shore; with every crashing wave you sink deeper into the sand.

 sand

But when we stand firm in our faith in God, our feet are on solid ground.  His word is true and never changing.  He is more unmoving than Gibraltar, mightier than Everest, stronger than diamonds.

The psalmist prayer was that he would find his refuge in the Lord, and that he could continually return to him.  The first solution to every tech problem is to restart the computer – to return it to its starting point.  The goal of every player in baseball is to get back to home base.  The security of every believer is to keep coming back home.

You are never too far to return to the refuge of Jesus.  Turn, repent, come round again, until you find your resting place in him. Trust Him to be your salvation, to be the Rock of Ages upon which you stand!

SDG

P.S. As I wrote this today, I was listening to the Reformation Network Broadcast, and just I finished writing, this song came on the radio. Click on the link below for a treat. Enjoy!

My God is a Rock