From Pastor Johnny

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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.

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.