From Pastor Johnny


“What could God possibly teach us or offer us as a lesson in the COVID-19 ‘shelter-at-home’ pandemic experience?”

            I have heard this question many, many times in the last two months phrased in a variety of ways.  I have also heard some decent answers. I cannot fully answer this question, but God will – maybe not now - but some day.  I would pose an opportunity for each of you who feel left behind, lonely, or dismissed during the COVID-19 pandemic shelter-at-home experience.

            This is an opportunity recommended to you straight from the experience of one of the great heroes and great stories of the Old Testament.  David defeating Goliath might teach us a lot about opportunities during the pandemic.

           In 1Samuel 17, David the shepherd stepped into Goliath’s arena in the Valley of Elah.  From all outward perspectives, David’s chances of defeating Goliath appeared quite slim.  Yet, David knew that God had built him for “such a time as this” (to borrow from Mordecai in Esther). 

         Years prior to the Goliath fight…

        When many may have thought that God had left David in the backside of nowhere tending sheep, David practiced his sling.

        When many may have felt hurt and offended that they were left by themselves to tend sheep, David killed bears with his growing expertise with his sling and stone.

        When many may have viewed their poor state as a sheep herder as being disrespected by their father, David learned to kill lions with the precision and power of his sling.

        When many would have sulked and complained at the lack of respect and opportunity in the lonely fields with sheep, David used his time to develop a level and skill with the sling that would allow him to possess unparalleled abilities. 

        David spent years honing his craft with a sling in the pastures and forests where he watched over the sheep. Not only could David sling a stone with great velocity and accuracy, he could do it well under pressure (after all, when a bear is attacking one’s sheep, there is little time to panic or miss). 

        While many thought David was going on a suicide mission against Goliath in the Valley of Elah, it was the event for which the shepherd boy was built. Almighty God had given David the opportunity, equipment, skill, and motivation to become a preeminent marksman with a sling.  If there had been a National Israeli Professional Sling League, David would have most likely been a perennial all-star and a future hall of famer. 

        David would have been the Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Usain Bolt of the stone slinging world of the Old Testament age.  Only the sovereign God could have the power, foresight, and perfection to prepare a young man so well for a feat that seemed impossible.

        While others saw David stepping into the valley of his death, David knew he was climbing to the peak of his greatest victory!

        As David moved into the valley to face Goliath, we read in 1Samuel 17:45-46, “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,”

             David had been prepared by God in his skill and in his spirit.  God had put David in a place that seemed forgotten that his skill might rise to a level to destroy a giant.  And, while in that forgotten field with those “few sheep”, David also came to know his God in a way that made him a man after God’s own heart.

            I cannot know what God is doing to prepare you during this seemingly disheartening pandemic. Yet, in Christ, the sovereign God of the universe can take a “shelter at home” and make it a victory in the Valley of Elah for you. 

            Most likely, when the great victory over Goliath was complete, David could thank God for smelly sheep, green meadows, big bears, ferocious lions, hours of lonely solitude, and plenty of practicing stones.

NOTE:  More ideas like this insight on David and Goliath can be considered from Malcolm Gladwell's book "David and Goliath".


Constructive Destruction: God's Great Work Through our Trials

             Some years ago, someone completely and thoroughly damaged and destroyed the outside of the church sanctuary that I pastored!

            They ripped up the pavement.  They knocked down coverings over sidewalks.  They ripped up the concrete walkways.  They even ripped out pews, ripped up carpet, tore down lights, ripped sheetrock off the ceiling, pulled insulation out of the ceiling, and tore off a couple of the front doors.

            You may be asking, “Shouldn’t you have called the police, the sheriff, the FBI, or at least the local security guard employment agency?”  That might be true any other time, but this was different.  The culprits of all that destruction on that church’s campus were concrete companies, electricians, demolition experts, and builders.  You see, after eighteen months, in the place of all that destruction, a beautiful new church sanctuary and campus front emerged.  And yet, for a while, it was a mess!

            I guess I am a little surprised at just how much destruction must take place for beautiful construction to result.  All the beauty of that new sanctuary and campus at that church would never have happened if we were not first willing to endure the mess and ugliness of demolition and destruction.

            Is that not how God works?  So much of what God does in our lives for His glory and our good happens from some of the most destructive experiences.    Once upon a time there was a church in its infancy all gathering in a city called Jerusalem.  God’s power was evident, and thousands of people were joining.

            The church grew and additional administrators had to be chosen in order to handle ministry tasks and funds.  Seven men were chosen, and one of those men was named Stephen.  He was a powerful preacher, and leader in the church.  Some of the religious leaders of the time hated Stephen so much that they decided to stone him to death.  It was an awful sight as Stephen – being pelted with large rocks and stones – called upon God and died a horrible, brutal death out in the street.

            As Stephen died, the Bible makes a footnote about a young man named Saul, as he held the coats of the stone throwers.  Saul also launched a persecution against Christians that was concentrated in Jerusalem.  Up to that point, the Christians had been primarily positioned in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem the church gathered regularly.  Fellowship was so sweet in this new church that most of these Christians had no intent of going outside of Jerusalem.  After all, why would they leave when things were so good in Jerusalem?

            Jesus had guaranteed that the Gospel would be carried into the world – outside of Jerusalem.  If Christians stayed in Jerusalem, how would the message of Christ be spread?  This is where Stephen’s death, and the persecution came in.  Because persecution was so heavy, many Christians ran out of Jerusalem and scattered like seed.  In part, the persecution was how God began carrying the message of salvation into the world beyond Jerusalem.

            So…as it was then…it is now.  God may bring what seems to be destruction in order to construct someone for His will.  That thing that appears destructive – job loss, loss of loved one, COVID-19 crisis, or financial crisis – may be an avenue for God’s work in your life.

I have a question for you:  What destruction is happening in your life right now that God may be using to bring you to Himself?  What destructive construction may be going on in your life right now? 

Look up child of God! God’s work will never be wasted!

Breaking Off Weeds Above The Ground

          In the mid 1990’s a new disturbing trend began occurring that continues even into the current era.  It is simply referred to as school shootings.  Some of the city names we became familiar with in this realm are:  Springfield, Oregon; Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Littleton, Colorado; Pearl, Mississippi; Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, just to name a few.  When these shootings happen, major media outlets generally invite the experts to find out why. 

            I recall, one suggestion an expert shared with a reporter after the Jonesboro, Arkansas shooting.  She claimed that the south was more open to guns, and that young boys were taught to use guns at an early age.  She insinuated that this may have helped cultivate a desire to shoot innocent people.  This assertion was proven false by the fact that the crime rate in both Paducah and Jonesboro was significantly lower than most of the country.  If the “gun culture” theory is true, how does one explain the fact that young boys have been using guns for the first 200 hundred years of this nation and have not gone around shooting classmates.  Doesn't it seem odd that the "gun culture" of the south has been around for centuries, yet school shootings have only been common in the last decade? 

            For 200 years this nation experienced many ups and downs, but violence among children was never a major news item.  Today this is a regular headline.  Many civic leaders, politicians, and educators are asking why.

            One theory (which, by the way, is my theory) can be explained as much by horticulture as psychology.  You see, when I want to eliminate unwanted things from my front yard – like weeds – I pull them up out of the ground.  If I break these weeds off above the surface, then they will simply continue to grow back again.  If I deal with them at the root, then they never return.  The problem with violence must not be dealt with at the behavioral level.  The horrors of violent behavior must be addressed at the heart level. 

            In Genesis 6:5 the Holy Scriptures say, "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil."  Such was the state of the world shortly before God flooded the earth.  Notice that the problems did not lie with weapons, organizations, special interest groups, or political and governmental parties.  Scripture claims that the primary problem with the state of the world at that time was within the heart of man.  Men did evil things, not because they had evil toys, but because they had evil hearts.   The inward attitude and heart of the human being will produce actions that reflect it. 

Many of the politicians, reporters, and experts want to ban guns and secure schools.  They want to deal with the manifestation of the problem rather than the root of it.  This method is much like trying to weed your flower bed by clipping off the weeds above ground.  It does not work, because the weeds always grow back stronger and more numerous.

            However, there is good news.  God's method of dealing with evil behavior wipes out the evil heart by forgiveness and salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.  There is only one remedy for a heart inclined toward evil, and that is a cleansing of that heart through Jesus Christ.  God runs past the evil behavior and exchanges the evil heart for a righteous one.  A man who has a righteous heart produces righteous behavior.  Ladies and gentlemen, there is no human tool to stop evil behavior, unless we see the need to allow Jesus Christ to change an evil heart.  When a heart is changed, the root is transformed into something new.  Otherwise, we are just breaking off weeds above ground.