Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

timekeeper — September 14, 2022

timekeeper

The timekeeper gave the go ahead to the Toledo Express train, to head east toward Cleveland.  But they had to hurry.  The train needed to pull off on a siding near Kipton, Ohio to allow a westbound mail train to pass. 

Due to the timekeeper’s faulty watch, the train left the station 4 minutes late.  This resulted in both trains violently meeting in a head-on collision.  Nine men died in that tragedy on April 18, 1891. 

The disaster became the catalyst to create watch standards.  The General Timepiece Standards Commission mandated that all standard watches had to keep time accurately with no gain or loss of more than 30 seconds a week.

Railroads also installed clock stations by which train crews would daily set their watches.  Train wrecks became rare as a result.   

Now it wasn’t too long after the Kipton calamity, that my Grandfather, Fred Lodge, was hired on as a timekeeper for the Penn Central line.  For decades he used his own finely tuned “standard pocket watch” to precisely manage the comings and goings of the trains.  There were no head-ons on his watch (which sounds like a pun but it’s not)

I was given his watch after he passed. (the one pictured above) Knowing the history of it, I have treasured it. 

_____

My Grandpa managed time so to speak, but God does a much better job of it.

Solomon penned these words in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth.” 

These are familiar words to many of us, but I wonder if we grasp the meaning?  Solomon tells us that everything that takes place, has a pre-determined time that governs when it starts, how long it lasts, and when it ends. 

Who is in charge?  God of course, who not only predetermines the timing of things, but makes sure the timing is appropriate. 

We might wonder, “Well what things?”  Solomon tells us in the verses that follow, but the standouts are the times of our birth and of our death.   Who could argue with that?  It is God who sovereignly predetermines these things.

My Grandpa kept trains from colliding whereas God keeps time itself from colliding.   He keeps the present from lagging into the past or bumping into the future.  He makes sure that spring always follows winter.  He set the sun in the sky as the standard bearer of time.  He is the timekeeper of the universe.

He said as much through the prophet Isaiah, “Remember what I accomplished in antiquity.  Truly I am God, I have no peer; I am God, and there is none like me, who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred; who says, ‘My plan will be realized, I will accomplish what I desire.”  – Isaiah 46:9-10 

And yet, we still struggle with the issues of time.

“Oh no, if I don’t get the rent together this week, I’ll be on the street.”   We worry that God will be late!   He won’t because He is the sovereign timekeeper.   He will provide what we need, precisely when we need it.  How could He do any less for the child He loves.

Oh, but sometimes God seems too early for us as in, “The boss wants me to take charge of the project, but I am not ready for it.”  God prearranged this challenge.  He knows what He is doing.  Maybe you aren’t fully ready, but you may need the challenge in order to get there.

And there are those times, we wonder if God has lost His watch.  “Lord, it’s been five weeks and I still haven’t heard from the realtor?”   He knows you need to sell your house.  It will happen when He deems it appropriate.

So I am thinking that we ought to trust God with time, to avoid a trainwreck of our own. 

A PRAYER: Lord forgive us for believing that we have control over time and help us to trust You with it.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheaven.press.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com

weighing in — September 7, 2022

weighing in

The couple were both receiving home health care.  The visiting nurse insisted they be weighed.   They lined up and he stepped on – one foot and then the other.  The nurse dutifully recorded his weight. 

His wife stepped on – one foot and then the other and another number went into the chart.  Then Bambi, their Chihuahua followed – one foot and then the other.    

______

Jehoshaphat like Bambi was looking for an example to follow.

He became King of Judah about 873 BC.  At 35 years of age, he needed a few pointers on being a king.  So, he looked for an example from the past.

He grew up watching his father Asa rule the nation.  Asa chased immorality and idolatry out of the land.  But in his older years he was afflicted with a diseased body that also diseased his faith.  He sought the help of doctors while ignoring the Lord.   

Jehoshaphat’s granddaddy was Abijah. He was mighty in battle but mediocre in his faith.   His epitaph is written in 1 Kings 15:3, “He followed all the sinful practices of his father before him. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been.”  Abijah followed the poor example of his daddy Rehoboam and paid dearly for it.   

As for Rehoboam, he was famous for carelessly splitting his Kingdom.  He fought off an Egyptian invasion but ignored the insurgence of paganism.  His epitaph was written in 2 Chronicles 12:14, “He did evil because he was not determined to follow the Lord.” 

His daddy was Solomon who was revered for his wisdom and yet was foolish enough to marry a stadium full of wives and serve their gods.  “Solomon did evil in the Lord’s sight; he did not remain loyal to the Lord, as his father David had.”  – 1 Kings 11:6

This brings us to the head of the dynasty – King David.  David followed the Lord with the deepest devotion and ruled the Kingdom by the truth of the Scripture. 

His reign was summed up in this way, “David had done what he (God) approved and had not disregarded any of his commandments his entire lifetime, except for the incident involving Uriah the Hittite.” – 1 King 15:5.

So, Jehoshaphat climbed up 5 generations of his family tree to find an example worthy of emulation   Of him it was said, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed in his ancestor David’s footsteps at the beginning of his reign. He did not seek the Baals, but instead sought the God of his ancestors and obeyed his commands, unlike the Israelites.  The Lord made his kingdom secure; all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he became very wealthy and greatly respected. He was committed to following the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 17:3-6)

Like David, Jehoshaphat tore down the idols and elevated the Lord.   As a result, “The Lord was with him.”  “The Lord made his kingdom secure” and “He became very wealthy and greatly respected.” 

Ironically, Jehoshaphat’s predecessors were indicted for ignoring David’s example?  Neither did they prosper as Jehoshaphat did. 

Jehoshaphat imitated David but he was smart enough to also learn from and avoid his mistakes.  There was no Bathsheba scandal to mar his reign.

Now to bring this home:  The apostle Paul was referring to the OT stories of Jehoshaphat and others when he wrote, “These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction…” – 1 Corinthians 10:11.

So…. basically, Jehoshaphat is an example of a man who followed the example of a man to teach us to find a man to be our example. (could be a woman though)

Think of life as Youtube and look for the how-to video that God posted.  Find an older person who did life God’s way.  What did they think and do, and what kind of results did they experience?   You might even ask him/her to mentor you. 

Watch and learn.  Make Bambi proud!

A PRAYER: Lord I am grateful for the folks that have taught me how to live.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

All Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

wiping off a kiss — September 6, 2022

wiping off a kiss

She gave her granddaughter a kiss on the cheek as she was about to leave, and it seemed to make the girl a little uncomfortable.  Grandma asked, “Are you wiping off my kiss?”  With a bit of guilt, she sheepishly replied, “No ma’am, I am just rubbing it in.”

She didn’t fully appreciate the blessing she had in her grandma.

It could be worse though.  Some fail to appreciate what they have in Jesus.  

When Jesus launched his ministry, it was from a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  It was called Capernaum.

I have visited the ruins of this place.  I made it a point to walk upon the same synagogue foundation on which Jesus stood and taught.  An amazing privilege. 

He spent 18 months of His public ministry in that city, which amounts to about half of his 3 ½ years.  It was called his, “own city” – Matthew 9:1. 

Why Capernaum?  It was a stop on the international road that reached from empire to empire.   If something happened in Capernaum, news of it would reach far and wide.  It was a perfect place from which to preach His message.

When Jesus first came on the scene, John the Baptist asked if He was the truly promised Messiah.  This is how Jesus answered, “Go tell John what you hear and see:  The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.” – Matthew 11:4-5

He quoted the prophet Isaiah who predicted that the coming Messiah would perform those specific miracles as evidence that He was the one sent from God.  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

So, guess what happened in Capernaum?   Jesus performed more miracles there than in any other one place.   It was there that He hugely fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. 

There in Capernaum he healed a lame man – a paralytic (Matthew 9:1); raised up from the dead the daughter of a synagogue official.  (Matthew 9:18-23)   He healed two blind men there (Matthew 9:27-29) and later restored a mute man. (Matthew 9:32)  Along with the miracles, He preached the good news in Capernaum. (Matthew 9:35)   

In that modest little city, He worked through Isaiah’s list of the miraculous to validate Himself as the Messiah.  The ancient prophecy was fulfilled in Capernaum.

All the proof needed was manifested there.  No other one place in Israel could say the same thing. 

AND YET, it wasn’t enough! The people of Capernaum were hardhearted.  In fact, Matthew 11:20 says, Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles because they did not repent.”

Among those cities, was Capernaum.  “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!” – Matthew 11:23-24

Capernaum saw Christ authenticated in every way, and yet failed to believe.  She saw a lot but responded with little.

May I say that Jesus is the real deal.  He lived and died and was raised from the grave.   He continues to provide ample evidence that He is true God, and He works His miraculous proof in the changed lives of people that you know.  They live down the street, or work with you or maybe even dwell in your home.

You have seen Him at work.  You have sensed His power.  You have longed for what He offers.  Maybe it’s time to respond to His call.

A PRAYER: Lord, gather us, your wandering sheep, to your side. 

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com

3Q BIBLE STUDY — September 5, 2022

3Q BIBLE STUDY

a simple but extremely meaningful way to read the Scripture

For my East Texas friends.  Sharie and I are starting a 3Q Bible Study in our home the first Thursday in October.   This is not nor will it ever be a church plant, just an effort to equip each participant with a simple but extremely meaningful way to read the Scripture.  We will meet in our new home in White Oak.  Read on for more details….

___________________

You have probably seen all the videos and worked through lots of book studies, but how often have you had a firsthand discovery experience in the Word of God?   

WHAT IS A 3Q STUDY?

The 3Q Study is a Bible study experience designed to equip each participant with a simple but extremely meaningful way to study the Scripture, and even to prepare them to lead a 3Q group of their own.  The 3Q represents 3 Questions that that should guide the study of Scripture.

1. What do I see?                      – Observation

2. What does it mean?               – Interpretation

3. What do I do with it?              – Application

HOW? – The class would begin with some basic instructions on how to study the Bible.  Students would then be emailed a weekly worksheet to help guide them through the Bible book that is studied.   When the class comes together, Jim will lead mostly by facilitating the discussion that the students generate through their own study.  

WHO IS LEADING?  – Jim Johnson is the primary facilitator.   Jim led Fellowship Bible Church of Longview for 32 years.  His ministry as a pastor is complete.  He has no ambition to plant a church or pastor one, but he does have an ongoing burden to equip the church. 

DOES IT HELP? 

Jim has brought this study to Fellowship Bible of Longview, Hillview Baptist church (Henderson) and White Oak Community Church (White Oak).  This is what the students have had to say, “Great way to dive into the Scriptures whether you are a beginner or lifelong Bible reader.”  “I highly recommend taking this class.”  “A must do if you are serious about your Scripture study.”  “It was fun and informative.”    “The 3Q approach to studying scripture has really enhanced my understanding of God’s word in such a powerful way. It has taught me to break down scripture verse by verse and word by word to get the who, why, where and when of what the Author is trying to convey. I’m 63 years old and have found this to be the most effective method for the comprehensive study of scripture that I have ever used.”   “This has the most rewarding time in God’s Word I have ever had and I attribute my growth in The Lord to now having a great learning tool at my disposal. I highly recommend this study.”

WHO IS WELCOME? – Everyone couples and singles!  No childcare however!

WHERE? – We will meet in the home of Jim and Sharie Johnson – 113 Wood Creek Court (In White Oak) 

WHEN? – Thursday evenings, 7 – 8:30 or so.   Our first meeting will be Thursday October 6th.

The class will run through the end of the school year 2023, and at that point we will disband.  Why so long?  Most classes are, “show them how to do it and expect them to do it on their own.”  This is a “Do it with them” experience.   By the time we are done with this class you should get it and carry it on. 

HOW MUCH?  – No charge!

WHAT IS EXPECTED OF EACH STUDENT?

            – To be committed to and involved in a local church.

            – To attend the 3Q study on a regular basis.

– To print off the worksheet each week and use it to explore the Scripture.

– To participate in the discussion. 

WHAT 3Q IS NOT?  This is not nor will it ever be a church plant, nor an effort to replace the local church.  This is a study with a terminal date, designed to equip you so that you go can and bless your local church with what you have learned.

SO HOW DO I SIGN UP?   Go to the contact tab on this web site.  Send me your name and email and let me know you’ll be coming.  I can also answer any questions you might have there.

shivering showers — August 24, 2022

shivering showers

When our son K.C. reached High School, he learned to appreciate a long, luxurious, hot shower. 

He would disappear into the steam for 30 minutes and eventually emerge with more wrinkles than a prune. 

We would knock and shout and coax and scold, but he was deaf to our pleas. 

His siblings were annoyed but the city water department was elated.  I was nominated for customer of the year. 

So…this is what I began to do.  After allowing him ten minutes to lather and rinse, I would slowly begin to close the valve on the hot water tank. 

Slow was the way to go, otherwise he would catch on.  Of course, the shower soon became cold, and he would hop out thinking that he had exhausted the hot water supply.

I shamefully admit that I did that several times – but – it was kinda fun – and with the money I saved I was able to help him go to college. 

___________

Could faith be like that?  We start off with a red-hot passion and eventually end up in a cold uncomfortable place – but we aren’t sure how we arrived.

There was a parable where Jesus compared the Word of God to seed and the various hearts that received it to soils. 

There was the seed that fell beside the road, which was snatched up and eaten by the birds, and then the seed that fell on the rocky soil which sprouted but died because it couldn’t develop roots. 

But the soil that concerns me is this one, “Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up with it and choked it.”  – Luke 8:7

The soil was close to being right and the seed sprouted and was doing well.  It was experiencing genuine growth.  But the plant had competition.

Jesus explained, “As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”  – Luke 8:14

Jesus suggested that the some of us are choked by worries.  About what?  I don’t know.  For what do you worry?  Is it the economy? Or perhaps you fret about your health.  Worry is the antithesis of faith.  Worry competes with faith and usually wins.

Then there are riches.  God and gold.  We want them both.  But it was Jesus who said, “You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

The third class of competitors are the pleasures of this life.  Like what?  Like sleeping in on Sunday and skipping church or like giving our worship and money to our hobbies and our leftovers to God.

So do these soils represent the saved or the unsaved?  The Lord really didn’t say, mostly because it is important for all of us to be receptive to the Word. 

But here’s the thing.  The condition of the soil of my backyard changes.  At this moment it has been hardened by a draught.   Then there are the fibrous roots of oak trees, that are making it impossible for the roots of my sod to penetrate and properly grow.  And of course, if I were to let my lawn go unmown for a few months it would become choked with weeds.

So if the soil in my yard can change over time, how much more so the soil of my heart?  

I, however, aspire to be the good soil.  Jesus said, “But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.” –  Luke 8:15

…and Lord, if I am not there at this moment, please send me a cold shower! 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

All Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

filled — August 17, 2022

filled

It was another blistering Texas day, and yet the lawn still cried for attention.  I filled the mower with gas and began to pursue the endless loop.  Soon after, I noticed that I had failed to screw down the cap to the tank on the mower. 

I found that 90% of the fuel had sloshed out and I was running low.  Now I may have to cash in my IRA to buy more gas.

So, I queried, “Why Lord?” and He said, “Because thou art a dummy!’  That’s what He should have said, but He had a lesson for me instead.

He said, “Do you remember back to when you first surrendered to Me?  I in turn filled you with my Holy Spirit so that you were empowered to accomplish great things for Me.  But you have made a few choices since then that have loosened your spiritual cap, and like your mower, you have been leaking.”

Goofy story – but good theology.

The Holy Spirit is that third person of the Trinity that we cannot do without.  At salvation, we are baptized in, indwelt by, and sealed with the Holy Spirit.   This is God’s unconditional provision for every believer.

To be filled with the Spirit is to submit to His gentle control.  To be filled is to be fruitful.  We manifest in our character qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22)  

When it comes to this filling, we determine to what degree we are filled by the measure of our willingness to submit.  In fact, Paul wrote as a command, “Be filled by the Spirit.”  – Ephesians 5:18

The verb “be filled” is a present imperative meaning, “be continually filled.”   It is something that should be repeated as frequently as needed. 

Why repeat it?  Because there really are circumstances that loosen our spiritual cap and result in leakage. 

In Ephesians 4:30 Paul said, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.”  The context of this passage relates to problems with sin.  Sin is rebellion which is the flip side of submission, and it grieves God.  The freedom of the Spirit to work in and through us is diminished by it.

Not hard to understand.  Tom prayed for patience with his boss. The Holy Spirit delivered when Tom held his tongue during staff meeting.  It was a wondrous spirit filled moment. 

Thirty minutes later his wife called and asked if he had taken out the trash.  He said, “I didn’t have time.”  But he lied.  He wronged his wife and grieved the Spirit.  

It is also possible to “quench” the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:19) The context has to do with resistance to doing our service to the Lord.   God gave His Spirit, in part, to empower us to do ministry.  When we resist, we throw cold water on the promptings of the Spirit.

In both instances, choices were made that resisted the work of the Holy Spirit.  Once filled, then deflated. 

It’s ironic.  The Holy Spirt as God is omnipresent and fills everything, and yet we human beings make it so that we can be less than filled.  A mystery for sure.   


We are never commanded to pray for this filling.  It has already been provided.  To enjoy it we need to confess any sin and invite the Lord to reassume His gracious control.

I am glad that my cell phone indicates to what degree my phone battery is charged.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have that feature in our walk with God? – something to tell us, to what degree we are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. 

Maybe the next best thing, would be to start each day with the assumption we need to be filled again.  

We might reflect it in a prayer.   “Lord, my will is to do your will.  I empty myself of my personal ambitions and ego indulgences and I welcome You to guide me through this day.  Please tenderize my heart to the nudging of your Holy Spirit. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ®

backstage — August 10, 2022

backstage

A while back, I had a friend who was the pastor to the mother of Michael W. Smith.  Not only did he score me tickets to a concert – I was also given backstage passes. 

The passes were impressive!  They were embossed with the concert info and a VIP stamp in big letters.  It dangled from an official concert lanyard (neck cord)

My family was excited.  In fact, I even invited my daughter’s boyfriend to go with us.  (What was I thinking?) 

The outdoor concert was spectacular – but we were mostly thinking about our soon-to-come personal and private meeting with Smitty. May I call him Smitty?

He finally delivered his encore song.  The crowd surged toward the exits while we nudged our way forward.  Proudly waving our badges – we breezed passed a burly security guy.

We were ushered into the tent where Michael would be – only – we were not alone.  With us were a couple hundred people who were also marked with backstage passes.  We were squeezed into the very rear of the tent.  

Smith breezed past us on the way to the front – and that was as personal as it got for us.   So, we then turned back, hung our heads in disappointment and found the exit.

Forget being V.I.P.s – we felt like D.I.P.s.   Big Dips!

One of hundreds – that’s who I was that day.  No more important than a sardine in a tin of sardines. 

Can you relate?

Have you ever called about your electric bill, and the computer took you through 10 different layers of options?   After 20 minutes you longed to talk to a real person (even one with a foreign accent)   

Does it ever bother you that your identity has little to do with your face, or your name and everything to do with your social security number?

Does your boss even know your name?  

Oh, and at church they ask, “Is this your first Sunday with us?”   “Uh no, I have worshipped here for 8 years.” 

It makes me wonder at times, “Do we really matter?” 

Well – we do – to God!

Jesus assured His followers that God treasured each one of them.  He said, “In fact, even the hairs on your head are all numbered.”  – Luke 12:7. (NET Bible ®) What an astounding statement.  God cares so much for us and knows us so intimately that He monitors every hair on each of our heads.

No small feat.  The experts say that a person has between 80,000 to 120,000 hairs on their scalp.   My skeptical wife might like to sit me down and count them just to check.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Probably impossible. 

In terms of hair density, we have between 800-1,290 hairs per square inch.  Some heads are less dense than others of course  

And keep in mind that our hair count is not stable.  The experts say that the average person loses between 50 and 100 hairs each day.  Some follicles are replaced by new hair while others are not.

There’s no possible way I could ever track my own hair count – but God does.  His personal interest in me is astounding.  And yet, He also tracks every follicle of every one of the other 8 billion people that inhabit this planet.  That’s a lotta hair.

But why the ado about one’s do?  This is just God’s way of saying to us – that we matter to Him, every health concern that we have, every problem that we face, every victory that we savor, every hair that we gain or lose.  We matter to God. 

So, when you shower tomorrow – do not despair that the drain is being clogged with your tresses.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you matter to God.

A PRAYER: Lord when I comb my hair each day, I will remember your hair care.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

cell phone engagement — August 3, 2022

cell phone engagement

My friend was anticipating it – and seriously excited about it.  She loved the guy with all her heart.  The day finally came that he popped the question.  On bended knee, he presented a small box containing an expensive gift.   She opened it and found a brand-new sparkly cell phone.  He then asked her to marry him.  She said yes. 

The box contained an engagement ring of another kind.  But at least it came with unlimited data.  Hey, I bet it even helped with their communication skills.

Hmm?  At the wedding – after they did the vows – I wonder if they exchanged Otter Boxes!

Either way, I am happy to report that they have lived happily ever after. 

______________

On the topic of marriage.  A couple is not truly married until vows are exchanged.  A cell phone is not necessary or even a wedding ring – but vows are.  The vows spiritually and legally bind a man and a woman together.

These days a couple may look like they are married and act like they are married and even think like they are married – but are not. 

And it may not make a difference to them until there is a death.  In my work as a hospice chaplain, I have seen it demonstrated several times.  A couple chooses to live together, sometimes for decades.   Then he dies, but the house was in his name, it goes to his kids, and she ends up homeless. – losing husband and home at the same time. 

That is probably not your worry, but yours may be similar.

Some of us were raised in church.  We did Sunday School, VBS, sat in the pew every Sunday, laughed at the preacher’s corny jokes.  We memorized the verses and could beat most anyone when it came to the Bible drills. 

We had church in us, around us, beneath and over us – so we have assumed all along that we are true believers.

But it’s possible that we are not – if we haven’t given ourselves to Jesus at some point.  Like the marriage vows, there needs to be a point of commitment to Christ. 

The apostle John put it this way, “But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children.”  John 1:12 NET Bible ®

The word “receive” is a verb – an action word.  It is something that a person does.   When they do it, God reciprocates by making them His children. 

But what does it mean to “receive?”   It is a hardworking verb in the New Testament.  It was used to describe the taking and grasping of something with your hand.   With salvation we take and grasp the message with our hearts. 

Elsewhere it was used to describe John who invited Mary into his home. (John 19:27).  With salvation we invite Christ into our lives.  

It also carries the idea of recognizing and responding to the authority of another.   This is precisely what we do when we receive Christ. 

My first job was doing fast food.  I did not like the manager much.  Consequently, I quit that same job five times, and was fired another four.  I was young and stupid for sure.  I failed to properly respond to his authority. 

Jesus told us that He had the authority to forgive our sins.  (Matthew 9:6) This is because He died for those sins and was raised again.  To receive Him, is to submit ourselves to Him and His authority.

Have you done that?  Have you ever stopped and made a conscious decision to receive Christ and the gift of forgiveness He died to provide for you?

If you haven’t, please do it now!  The blessings and benefits of truly knowing and belonging to Christ are superb. 

A PRAYER: Jesus thank you for allowing me the opportunity to receive you.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

goat of God? — July 27, 2022

goat of God?

I was at the garden shop, lifting a bag of potting soil to place in my cart.  A couple in their fifties happened by.  She stopped and said with urgency, “Oh can I help you with that?”     

Well, I hope that kind lady didn’t see the outrage and humiliation on my face.   “Hey, I ain’t that old yet!   Maybe your husband and I should arm wrestle.  I’ll show you who needs help.” 

That was embarrassing!  Do you know what else would be embarrassing?  If Jesus had been known as the “goat of God.”

It was a possibility!

When John the Baptist first looked upon Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River, this is what he said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  – John 1:29

John spoke metaphorically of Christ and quite literally of what He would take away.

John knew the sacrificial system of Israel quite well.  He understood that it was designed to pre-shadow the actual work of redemption that Jesus would one day bring.  The sacrificial blood of a lamb was a type of the blood of Christ which would be shed for us on the cross.

But here’s the thing.  There were multiple kinds of animals that were perfectly suitable as a sacrifice for sin.  A young bull would work according to Leviticus 4:3. A male goat would also an acceptable option (Leviticus 4:25) and of course a lamb would also suffice.

So, was there a reason then, why Jesus was known as the Lamb of God and not the goat or bull of God?  I can think of at least one possibility. 

Obviously, a bull would be most costly, the goat less and the lamb the least.  The value of the animal that was offered had to do with a person’s social rank and economic standing.

The high priest was required to offer a bull.  A ruler had to offer a goat.  Those guys were well-to-do relatively speaking.

But suppose you were just a regular Joe – a paycheck-to-paycheck kind of person.   How could you ever be able to afford to buy a bull and then surrender him to the flames of the altar? 

God, in His goodness, thought of this guy in Leviticus 4:27-28.  There it says, “‘If an ordinary individual sins by straying unintentionally when he violates one of the Lord’s commandments which must not be violated, and he pleads guilty, or his sin that he committed is made known to him, he must bring a flawless female goat.”

An ordinary individual!  I can relate.  Other translations use synonymous phrases like commoner or common people.   

So, this everyday guy could offer a goat if he wished, but if that were not possible then the passage goes on to say, “‘But if he brings a sheep as his offering, for a sin offering…”  Leviticus 4:32   A sheep could be substituted.

So, because Jesus was the Lamb of God, and not the bull or the goat, the message to us is this: Jesus’ sacrifice is for all of us – including the commoner. 

You don’t have to be the cream of society to be saved.  The balance in your bank account does not matter to God.  Your social standing is irrelevant to God. 

Jesus’ blood is also for the common person – the truckdriver, the mother, the garbage collector, the accountant, the teacher and on it goes.

Hey, scour the Gospels and you will find that it was the common folk that most quickly responded to the ministry of Christ. 

I am the son of a truckdriver.  I worked in the warehouse and often loaded my dad’s truck.  My roots are not with the elite of this world.  So, I am thrilled that the grace of God reaches out to people like me – and you.   

A PRAYER: God you are so omnipotent, and I am so ordinary. Thank you for reaching out to me

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ®

a lover’s leap — July 20, 2022

a lover’s leap

When my future wife Sharie, first saw me, I was a musician with thick, kinky, red hair that went down to the middle of my back and a beard that made me look like I had the mange.  She was not interested. 

Months later I had been groomed.  Then she was interested, but I was not.  I thought she might be attracted to a musician instead of me.

In the meantime, I had vainly dated several girls and we clashed.

One day, I thought, “The ancient Jewish culture had an advantage. Parents assisted in match making and they were equipped with an objective perspective of their kids.”

God had blessed me with a Christian couple, Les and Jacquie Zartman, who had been like parents to me – and knew me well.  Through the years, they only had but one comment to make about my dating life.  They told me I should get to know Sharie Scott. 

Oh my!  Sharie?  We happened to work at the same place.  So even though I didn’t feel it at the time, by faith, I asked her out.

We had dinner, then played board games with friends.  I was pleased with evening.

That Monday, work was slow, so the boss happened to assign just Sharie and me to remodel the break trailer. 

I was done playing the dating game, so I gave her the third degree, while we worked.

By Friday, my former indifference had morphed into a passionate desire to make her my wife.  She was the one I knew that I needed to marry.

God taught me a lot about love through this experience.

– Love is a decision

It was the counsel of friends that caused me to do a 180 with Sharie.  Love begins with a decision.  That’s why Jesus could say “Love your enemies.”  (Luke 6:27) He treated love as if it were a function of the will.  

Love is sustained by choices as well.   Every day and through every season of life – we must choose again to love that person to whom we are pledged.

– Love is a verb

Past experiences taught me that what I got out of a relationship was proportionate to what I put into it.  I had been putting next to nothing in – so the relationships were lame.

With Sharie, I engaged.  I took her to dinner and shared her company with my friends.  We talked non-stop for a week (a big stretch for me) I bought her a crock pot. (seriously).  I found ways to serve her, though my heart had not yet caught up.  (That took a whole week!)

In Luke 6:27, Jesus continued, “Do good (even) to those who hate you.”  Whether we feel it or not – we need to do the work of love.

– Love is a skill that needs to be learned

Paul instructed older women to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children. (Titus 2:4)

Love is a skill that needs to be learned.  As a 20 something, I knew I was ignorant, so I read my Bible and I watched my mentors and learned. 

– The feelings of love are the fruit of the work of love. 

I had decided to pursue Sharie and actively invest in and love her.  The emotions followed.  The feelings of love became the fruit of the work of love.

We married 6 months after that first date.  And recently celebrated 45 years together.  She is my best friend and the love of my life and there is no one I would rather be with.

Love is a decision.  Is there someone that you need to choose to love today?   Or maybe rechoose to love?   Love is a verb:  No time for coasting – reengage and serve that one you love. Love is a skill that needs to be learned.  Read a book.  Find a mentor.  Through every era of life, new skills will need to be learned.

A PRAYER: Lord continue to teach us how to love as You love.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 

Bible references from the NETBible ®

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