“Light to Dispel Darkness” by George Grant

Time after time mankind is driven against the rocks of the horrid reality of a fallen creation.  And time after time mankind must learn the hard lessons of history—the lessons that for some dangerous and awful reason we cant seem to keep in our collective memory.” Hilaire Belloc

Day dawned on March 27th in Middle Tennessee with the redbuds blooming, the songbirds trilling, and the gentle breeze blowing under crystalline springtime skies. There was little portent of what the unfolding of the day might bring. Several committees had gathered and were diligently working on preparations for the upcoming stated meeting of the Nashville Presbytery. The senior pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Chad Scruggs, was in one room, and several of his elders were in the next room over.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, our deliberations were interrupted by a flurry of calls and texts: there was an active shooter at Covenant’s school facility. We emptied into the hallway, stricken, eyes clouded with unbelief, horror, and grief. Spontaneous cries of supplication and intercession went up. The Covenant men hurried on their way back to the church. The rest of us began frenzied monitoring of the news while contacting our own flocks and families to mobilize prayer.

Our worst fears were realized. A disturbed young woman armed with assault weapons and seething hate shot her way into the well-secured building and proceeded to take the lives of three 9-year-old students and three adults before the Nashville Metro Police were forced to stop the assailant with lethal force. One of the victims was the daughter of Pastor Scruggs.

Grief gripped the entire Nashville community. In shock, as pundits and politicians attempted to make sense of the senseless, across our presbytery men and women gathered in their homes, schools, and churches to pray. We did not need to ask, “Why did this have to happen? Why did this have to happen to us?” We know why. It was for precisely this sort of calamity that Jesus came in the first place. He came to deliver us from our sin and the corruption of this valley of tears. Moreover, He comforts us in our pain and sorrow.

Just hours after the shooting, Pastor Scruggs spoke of his beloved daughter Hallie, expressing both the hope and the comfort of the Gospel, “Through tears we trust that she is in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again.”

As the Heidelberg Catechism so beautifully declares, this is indeed our “only comfort in life and death.” It is simply that, “I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”

And so, we are able to affirm with the Apostle Paul, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

We need not lean on platitudes or empty phrases. For ours is the sure and certain promise that He will turn “our mourning into dancing,” He will “loose our sackcloth and clothe us with gladness” (Psalm 30:11-12). Ours is the promise of light and life dispelling darkness and death.

All of us in the Gospel Reformation Network are heartsick over the horror our brothers and sisters at Covenant and throughout Middle Tennessee are enduring. All of us are praying for comforts and consolation that can only come from the treasure house of God’s grace. All of us find ourselves laying hold of the “very great and precious promises” of the Gospel, for them and for ourselves. And so, together, we repeat the refrain of Psalmist,

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! Let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1,4, 29).

Respond To Every Impulse…

Prairie Flower, let me encourage you with something. This encouragement is both pastoral and biblical in nature. Here’s your encouragement: This next week, respond to every impulse to pray and to serve. If the Spirit of God leads you to pray for someone, do it! Pray for them and then text them: “Hey, I just prayed for you. Hope you’re doing well. Love you!” Pray to encourage. Encourage by praying. Also, if the Spirit of God leads you to serve someone, do it! Bake that pie. Write that card. Go over with a shovel and clear out their driveway. Serve to encourage. Encourage by serving.

Prairie Flower, let’s not simply play church on Sunday, let’s be the church in the Monday-Saturday of our real lives. Let’s pray and serve others with joy-filled gladness. As we do, we will love one another well. As Jesus stated, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And get this…Love isn’t merely a sentimental feeling, its practical action demonstrated towards others as we pray for them and serve them.

Prairie Flower, respond to every impulse to pray and to serve. This is good. This is right. This is biblical. And as the Mandalorian would say, “This is the way.” So…Go, and do likewise.

The Life You Want VS The Life You’ve Been Given…

Is your life perfectly on track? Are you currently where you envisioned yourself 10 years ago? I have yet to meet anyone in this life whose life is perfectly on point with their original plan. Indeed, it seems that a big part of growing up in this life is accepting the life you’ve been given, not enjoying the life you want. Does that make sense? I think if you’re over the age of 12, you get this – you feel this – you truly understand this.

You know, it seems to me that far too many people envision a life for themselves with very little sorrow, pain, or grief. They enter into a new relationship with absolutely no budget for forgiving the person they’ve entered into a relationship with…As if this person will never sin against them! They start off a workout program with absolutely no thought of sickness or injury…As if any workout program ever goes according to plan! They begin a new job with absolutely no strategy for how to overcome the inevitable frustrations of the new job…As if this will be the perfect job with zero struggles!

So, they run. They run from the new relationship, labeling the other person “deficient”. They quit their new workout program, offering excuses for why they can’t adapt and overcome. They resign from their new job, convincing themselves that they deserve so much better.

May I cut it to you straight? This life will not go according to your plans. This life isn’t interested in your plans. This life will eat your plans for lunch. The reality is, you will experience more sorrow, more pain, and more grief than you think you are capable of handling. You will often find yourself overwhelmed, overstressed, and overtired. Can I get a witness? Yes, this life has true beauty and joy in it, but it will often not operate according to your wishes and desires.

Projects cost more and take more time than you initially envisioned. Cars break down at the most inconvenient of times. Toilets overflow. Loved ones get sick – sometimes very sick. Tires go flat. Children become rebellious. Friends leave us. And the list goes on and on and on.

So, what do we do when we finally wake up to the reality that our lives aren’t what we initially envisioned? What do we do when we stare at our reflection in the mirror and realize that we are far behind all of our hopes and dreams?

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Yes, we trust the One who knows us, loves us, and truly has a better plan for our lives than we have for our lives. And His plan always includes a healthy dose of sorrow, pain, and grief. Indeed, perhaps the thing that we are fighting so hard against, and praying that the Lord will take from us, will be used by the Lord to bring us to where we need to be, but cannot be, without the uncomfortable grace of sorrow, pain, and grief in our lives.

In the end, choose to trust the Lord with your not-according-to-the-plan life. As you do, He will straighten your path in life, not according to your grand design, but for your good and His glory. Indeed, remember that this life is not all there is, there is an eternity that awaits us…

Hebrews 11:16, “But as it is, they [those who live by faith, trusting in the Lord] desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

Genesis From 30,000 Feet…

We are currently in a sermon series through the book of Genesis. This marvelous book teaches us many things about man, sin, and a faithful God who overwhelms us with His grace and mercy. But in teaching through this book (chapter by chapter and verse by verse) sometimes we can mistake the trees for the forest. The video below gives to us a 30,000-foot overview of the entire book of Genesis, helping us to appreciate the grandeur of the Genesis forest…Enjoy!