From Pastor Johnny

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.

Trials...a Great Recipe for Good Marriages

Almost 11 years ago my dear bride and I went through the most difficult challenge of our 23 years of marriage.  During that time, where we lost an unborn child, we prayed together, hugged one another and cared for each other.  I watched her walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” with a peace that passes understanding.

            We held hands as we wept and as we faced a situation that we never thought we would have to endure.  It was an awful time that neither of us would ever desire to face again.  And…yet…God did something in our relationship during that trial that bound us even closer together than we were before. 

            There is something radically powerful about walking through the minefield with someone you love.  Maybe you have walked through tragedy with a spouse, friend, sibling, neighbor or loved one.  And, could it be, that because of that difficulty, your relationship was made stronger?

            Sometimes those trials bring disagreements to the forefront of our relationships and lead us into intense discussions (my bride and I call them “lively discussions”).  Some couples think that, when we periodically disagree, that it is a sign we are coming apart.  The reality is that, when we learn to discuss – and even argue – in a correct way, those resolutions are part of the glue as well as the trial.

            Too often, in this modern world, we view trial as a reason to come apart and back away rather than run together.  Some of the greatest marriages I know are great because the couples grew in love for Christ and for one another during the crucible.  These couples have so much invested in raising kids, battling illness, paying bills and surviving trials, that they are inextricably linked together.  And…these couples know that trials can be like super glue to those who allow God to walk them through it.

            James 1:2-4 explains, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  Many see these verses as referring to personal trial – and often they do.  However, let’s apply them to marriages.  If trials test us and produce patience, how much more when two walk through it together? 

            My friends, in these days of weak hearted believers, let’s view trials in our relationships as further strengthening our marriages rather than damaging them.  This is a pretty good recipe for a great marriage.

One Hope Beyond Great Tragedy

Kobe Bryant, his daughter & 7 other souls (three of those being a husband, wife and their daughter) ran suddenly and tragically into the side of a mountain in a helicopter and were killed on Sunday morning January 26, 2020. After the stunning news of this horrible tragedy, the first person I thought of was Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s wife of 18 years.

Bryant has three more daughters ages 16, 3 and 7 months.  It broke my heart to think of how their mother would have to walk through her own grief of losing her husband and daughter while still leading and supporting these young girls.  It is simply a horror and one of the worst nightmares of a wife and mother.

Is there anything that can possibly give comfort or help to someone in such a horrific time? 

Is there somewhere a person might look which might even begin to offer some level of relief from this grief?

This husband of almost two decades, and a 13-year-old daughter, are suddenly gone. The father and sister to the other three girls will no longer be there to laugh, play, talk and help.  A wife and mother in this situation will most likely have times where she feels very alone, because she normally would have confided in and worked through life with her husband and life partner.  The remaining daughters and sisters will sometimes feel alone, like they are missing a part of themselves.

Is there any help for someone whose heart is broken in a situation like this?  I would suggest that the only help that might begin to assuage the deeply broken heart of this wife and mother – as well as her daughters – is the thought that they might see their husband/father and daughter/sister again.  And, though it might be a long wait, the hope that we might see a person again does give some relief to the pain of missing their  presence.

I have pastored churches in three different military towns, and I have seen scores of military families face the long absence of a spouse and parent with the comfort of the day when they will be reunited.  This is a huge comfort when a loved one is gone.

But, what of this comfort when a loved one is gone from this world?  Especially when that leaving was done suddenly with no notice whatsoever?  Can this crushing loss find any help?

 The only thing, at this point, that could possibly bring hope is the opportunity to see them again.  Recently, I read an Instagram post from a person read, “You don’t know true heartache until you deeply desire to talk with someone who has passed from this world.” And yet, I want to strongly suggest to anyone reading this that there is hope.

In what is one of the single most important doctrines of the entire Christian faith – and of the Bible – the resurrection of Jesus Christ - provides this hope.  The resurrection of Christ is so important that, in 1Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul says that there is no Christian faith without it. 

The Apostle Paul also goes on to explain that, because Christ was resurrected every born-again believer in Christ will be resurrected as well.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” 1Corinthians 15:12-13 ESV

            For the follower of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus in the past, thus guaranteeing the resurrection of every believer in the future, offers the one bit of comfort to a grieving wife, mother, child or loved one – the hope that we will one day be able to see, hug, interact with and enjoy the company of the one who is gone.

            Yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the believer one day offers hope.  And while we still grieve over the loss of that immediate fellowship with the one who is gone, knowing we can be with them again someday surely offers just a bit of relief from the overwhelming emotional pain. 

            I do not know of the spiritual state of either Kobe Bryant or his daughter Gianna.  But I do know this, the horrible heartache his precious wife and daughters feel now has little hope of subsiding any time soon without some glimmer of light. 

            If it were my wife and kids, the glimmer would be because of the resurrection. Because of the resurrection guarantee, if I were taken suddenly from this world, they could have that hope of seeing me again.  I surely hope that is the case for Vanessa Bryant and her dear girls.  And, I also hope the truth of the resurrection is personally true for you.