Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

will it be enough? — June 7, 2023

will it be enough?

I bought my car, thinking that I would drive it to the funeral home on the day I died.  The mileage was low, and it was a reliable car. 

It should have lasted, but then I became a Hospice Chaplain.  Now I use my car to travel all over East Texas, and the numbers on my odometer are rising faster than the national debt.   Now I wonder if I am going to have enough car left at the end of the year. 

I am guessing that this may be what the Jewish folk felt like when they trod the wilderness. 

They were famished and they let God know about it.  He provided in this way, “and in the morning a layer of dew was all around the camp. When the layer of dew had evaporated, there on the surface of the wilderness was a thin flaky substance, thin like frost on the earth.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” – Exodus 16:13-15

“What is it?”  My mom would have spanked me for insulting one of her meals like that.

Israel gave it a name. they called it, “manna” and it was delicious.  The text says, “it tasted like wafers with honey.” (16:31)

And with this manna they made all kinds of good things to eat like ba-manna bread and manna-cotti.   OK maybe not. 

An interesting tidbit – Jewish tradition suggests that manna adjusted to the culinary preferences of each individual who could, by wishing, taste in it anything he or she desired.  Why can’t bologna be like that!

Manna was nutritional and tasty, but its availability was perplexing.  God caused it to fall from heaven to the ground every morning.  By noon the manna dissipated.

Each person was instructed to gather an omer of it which was about 4 lbs. each day.  But God made sure, that regardless of how much they gathered, it always amounted to 1 omer.  (16:16-18)

So, suppose that Ezra and his family were starving.  And Ezra saw this food from heaven manna-fested on the ground.  He, therefore, gathered his daily share and maybe a little extra to store for the weeks ahead.  A wasted effort because God would deliberately reduce his gleanings to one omer.

Plan B: Eat less than an omer a day and save the excess for the future.  Unfortunately, God conspired with worms who would ruin the leftovers each night. (16:19-20)

There was but one exception.  They could gather excess on the 6th day to also cover for the Sabbath on the 7th. (16:22-23)

Silly Ezra went to gather on the 7th day as well, but God had withheld it, and there was nothing to gather. (16:27)

The Lord put His people in a peculiar situation.  He chose to provide for them strictly on a day-to-day basis.   They could not prepare for the future but were required to trust God for His daily provision.

When my fictitious friend Ezra went out to gather in the morning, he must have wondered, “Will this be enough?”  And yet, each day he found that it was – just enough, and continued to be for the forty years he lived in the wilderness. (35)

I guess I am too much like Ezra.  When I watch my odometer rack up the miles, I am gripped by the same kind of anxiety, “Will this car have enough life left in it to serve me into the future?”

I want to plan and provision my life to the nth degree.  I want to rely on my planning instead of my heavenly provider.

Perhaps Jesus was thinking about the manna when He taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”   Or in my case, “my daily miles.”

I suppose that this should become my prayer – maybe our prayer.

A PRAYER: Lord how silly we are to believe that our security rests in our self-made plans and provisions.  Help us to proceed each day by faith in You.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you

Scripture references are from the NETBible.org. ®

repelling — May 31, 2023


Repelling is not a sport, so put away your rope and carabiner.  It is an affect that some of us, like me, have on others.

When I first came to Christ, I was excited to tell people I became a Christian.  They would often respond with a pained look that said, “Oh that’s too bad.”  

It got worse when I went into the pastorate.  We bought a house, and my new neighbor and I were making our introductions.  He told me he was a bartender.  I told him I was a pastor – and he tensed up and broke into a cold sweat.

It’s even worse now!  When I meet someone new and tell them that I am a Hospice Chaplain, well – they check their pulse, turn pale and pass out. 

I’m not alone in my grief.  Lots of us seem to be a little repelling these days.  You see, it’s just not the thing anymore to be a Christian. 

In early 2023, the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix, AZ voted to sever their relationship with Arizona Christian University.  

Over the past 5 years, the college would send their education students to do their student teaching in that school district.   One school board member, Tamillia Valenzuela, did some digging and this is what she found,

         “My concerns, [is] when I go to Arizona Christian University’s website, [ they are] ‘committed to Jesus Christ, accomplishing His will and advancements on earth as in Heaven.’”

         “Part of their values is… [to] ‘transform the culture with truth by promoting the Biblically-informed values that are foundational to Western civilization, including the centrality of family, traditional sexual morality, and lifelong marriage between one man and one woman,'” she said.

         “I want to know how bringing [teachers] from an institution that is ingrained in their values so directly, brings impact to three of your board members who are a part of the LGBT community.”

There was no precipitating offense.  The lines of decorum were respected by every student, but because they believed the Scripture, the relationship was severed. 

Fortunately, just a few months later, the issue went to court and the University prevailed.

And yet, that board member was correct.  Our Christian values are contrary to those of the prevailing cultural trends in this country.  Therefore, these kinds of collisions will become more frequent in the future. 

Christians will very likely be dinged for what we believe.  Many today are being accused of being hateful when we talk about marriage from a biblical viewpoint, or Christ as the only way to the Father (John 14:6). 

We repel some folks. But that’s OK, Jesus predicted as much.  He said to His disciples, “Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” – John 15:20

I guess it’s just our turn now!  So, what do we do?  The apostle Peter had some appropriate words for us, He said,

         “But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.”  – 1 Peter 3:15-17

to briefly recap, He says to…

1 Make sure Christ is truly your Lord and that your life is submitted to Him

2 Be ready to discuss your faith and why you believe with your critics

3 Do it with courtesy and respect

4 and if you must suffer, let it be because you choose to do the will of God

There will always be some who, though initially repelled, will come to love, and serve Jesus because of the way we handled the heat. 

A PRAYER: Lord be with us and help us to be forbearing and faithful.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you

Scripture passages are from the NETBible.org ® 

don’t let it reign! — May 24, 2023

don’t let it reign!

The boys needed to earn their merit badge for camping.  So, Anthony, a devoted daddy and I, set out on a dreary December weekend to help them succeed.  The boys were in good hands though, because Anthony had earned the revered rank of Eagle Scout. 

Rain was predicted, so we opted for a screened-in shelter.  The weatherman was on the mark.  It was pouring outside the unit.  But life on the inside wasn’t much better.  We sat on an ice-cold concrete slab, with an arctic draft blowing through the screens – but at least we were dry.

Now as we cooked our dinner, the steam coming from a boiling pot seemed to warm things up just a bit.   So, we augmented the effort.  We set more water to boil in an electric skillet and in a second propane stove.

It was kinda getting cozy. In fact, we decided to play a card game while we relaxed. 

And then, a droplet fell on my cards and another on my head.  The other guys were getting wet as well.  It was raining in our cabin.   How in the world? 

We looked up to see the ceiling, thick with condensation from the steaming pots.   There it cooled and collected and then rained down in our shelter for the next several hours.   We created on our own little weather system.  I bet they didn’t teach that lesson in the Boy Scouts! 


These days my shelter from the storm has been the church.  The church is the assembly of those who profess faith and are loyal to Jesus.  It has always been a comfort for me to worship and serve with a community of people that love Jesus and are governed by His Word.

The Greek word for church is “ekklesia”.  It’s a compound word that literally means, “the ones who are called out.”  The Christian is called out of the sinful world to be a part of God’s holy community.  Though sin may reign in the world outside, righteousness should always be the hallmark inside of the church.

And yet, these days, sin seems to be raining within as well!   Churches are becoming comfortable with the sins that we once cried against.   Leaders are falling because of it.  Families are imploding due to it.  The church is losing its distinctive character as a result of it.

But what is the church but an assembly of individuals who daily make moral choices.  You can’t have holiness in the church unless the individuals who make up the church choose to pursue it.  The apostle Paul certainly understood this, which is why he penned Romans 6:12-13.  There he wrote,  

“Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.”  NETBible.com ®

Paul was incredibly direct.  He didn’t delve into the psychology of sin, or the victimization that might have led to it.  Sin was not a complicated issue to Paul.  He simply said, “Don’t do it!”  Do not let sin reign in your mortal body!  

At the same time, he was painfully aware that overcoming it was very hard. (Romans 7:21-25) It is actually impossible, apart from the empowerment that the Lord gives.  Which is why he also said, “present yourselves to God.”  

It seems to me that it is time to put the reign of sin back outside where it belongs.

A PRAYER: O Lord resensitize us to sin through reading Your Word and tuning our hearts to Your Spirit.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

a word to the wise — May 17, 2023

a word to the wise

My 7-year-old grandson had one life left to lose in his video game.  He was not going to get zapped again – but – then he did.  And without thinking he loudly blurted out, “Aw (bleep)!”  His opponent, who happened to be his dad, froze in stunned surprise. 

Dad properly reprimanded him and asked, “Where have you heard that word before?”   Without hesitation he said, “I heard Papaw say it!”  

What?  No fair!  I wasn’t even there to defend myself.  And he has never heard me say such a thing. 

However, to be fair, long before he was ever born, back in my pre-Christian days, most every sentence I said was spiced up with a foul word.  After I came to Jesus, my language was redeemed, but I did retain the bad habit of using sanctified expletives like, “Aw darn it.” 

BUT I plead “not guilty” to my grandson’s accusation. 

I was reminded that I have influence in the life of my grandson.   According to the dictionary – to have influence is, “to affect or change someone or something in an indirect but usually important way.” (Miriam-Webster)

Let me try to make this a little less abstract.  When I was a kid my parents both smoked.  So when I went out to play with my friends, I smelled of cigarettes.   When I became a teen, I also began to smoke.  It was not a command or even the desire of my parents, and yet I began to smoke.

They hugely affected my behavior by theirs.  That is influence!

My grandson learned from my example to respond to sudden disappointment with a rude exclamation.  Beyond that he assumed that my general behavior was the rule by which his should be measured.   He figured that if he could persuade his dad that Papaw cussed, then it was OK. 

Influence is something that you probably have as well – for better or for worse.  Those closest to you are especially impacted.  They watch and learn as you do life.   Other are impacted as well such as your coworkers, neighbors and your church family.  

Even a young person can have influence.  Timothy of the New Testament was a young man who was charged with managing the church at Ephesus.  It was a tough gig leading a crowd that exceeded him in age.  In fact, Paul wrote, “Let no one look down on you because you are young…” – 1 Tim. 4:12a  NETBible.com ®

He was young, but he had influence.  Paul went on to say, “but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.  – 1 Timothy 4:12b  

It was as if Paul knew that the folks there would have a hard time respecting authoritative words, but they could not resist the influence of a godly life.

The influence we have is far more potent than the words we say.

We can’t confuse influence with authority.  Authority forces a child to conform to a parent’s will.  Influence compels them, by the child’s choice, to follow their parent.  A person may have authority and yet lack influence.

So how do we develop this influence?    

1-Choose the influence of Jesus for yourself.

This world doesn’t need anymore alcoholics, drug addicts, or even mediocre church goers.  Live a life worth emulating.  Follow the example of Jesus.  Experience His resurrection life and you won’t go wrong.  (John 13:15)

2- Cultivate a warm relationship with those you wish to influence.

It is the people that we love and affirm and serve and encourage that are drawn to us and are most influenced by us.  Like a moth drawn to the light, they come. 

The converse is true of course.  When we fail to nurture relationships, those people drift farther away from us, and take little of us with them.

As for me, I hope that my grandson takes more away from me than my sanctified expletives.

A PRAYER: Lord help us to understand the power we possess to positively affect others.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you

don’t spoil your dinner      — May 10, 2023

don’t spoil your dinner     


When I was young, I might ask for a snack at 4 o’clock and my mom would say “No we are going to eat at 5, and you don’t want to spoil your dinner.”  And yet maybe I did want to spoil my dinner.  We might be having liver and onions that night. 

But what was she trying to communicate – that the roast would become toast if I ate a cookie?

That wasn’t it.  She just wanted to take my appetite and direct it towards dinner, rather than allow it to be fooled by a snack.  She was concerned with what I needed, not what I wanted.

Sometimes I wonder if God does not parent us in the same way. 

As we age, our bodies show the scars of time.  I can still see the discolored spot in the heel of my hand where I accidentally punctured it with a pencil in Junior High School. 

The physical aches and the pains from the breaks and the strains of the past catch up with us.  They become the eventual cause of knee and hip replacements.  Aleve can relieve some of it, but there is much left to courageously endure. 

The only time I feel really good these days is right after a colonoscopy.  That anesthetic is amazing. 

Our aches and pains create somewhat of an appetite – to be healed and pain free.  That becomes our pet prayer, doesn’t it?  “God I just want to sleep without that shoulder pain tonight, would you please help me?”  But God sometimes says, “I could give you a snack, but it will spoil your dinner.”  

He used the apostle Paul to explain.  In 2 Cor 5:1-3 Paul compared the human body to a tent that is breaking down.  He wrote, “For we know that if our earthly house, the tent we live in, is dismantled, we have a building from God, a house not built by human hands, that is eternal in the heavens.  For in this earthly house we groan, because we desire to put on our heavenly dwelling…”

Paul wanted us to know that it is standard operating procedure for the human body to break down over time.  We can thank Adam and Eve for that legacy. 

But he went on to argue that the sad state of our bodies, creates in us an appetite for an eternal home, not built by human hands.  He says, “we groan – with desire” for that time when we will be given glorified bodies in heaven – where we will be forever pain free.  

That’s what we really need, and our bodies desire it.  They groan for it. 

I’ll tell you – that hour between 4 and 5 was tough.  I had been playing all day, and my body had burned every calorie over twice.  I was in pain – hunger pain.  Didn’t my mom care about that? 

Sure, she did, but she also knew that the pain would be brief.   At 5 she would serve up a fantastic meal that would satisfy both my appetite and the nutritional needs of my body. 

But hey it’s OK to pray for healing too.  The apostle John wrote to those he loved and he said, “I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.” –  3 John 2

It isn’t inappropriate to ask for a snack.   But don’t let it ruin your appetite.

A PRAYER: O Lord give us the grace we need to suffer through the present and help us fix our hope on what is to come. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavnpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you 

Scripture references are from NETBible.org ®

direct my steps — May 3, 2023

direct my steps

Another cop left the force – but – it’s astonishing how it happened! 

Brent Brantley always thought that he would be a police officer.  But at age 31 he suffered a critical gunshot wound to the head in the line of duty.  He was not expected to survive.  If he did, it would be in a vegetative state.

In his darkness he reached out to the Lord, remembering Bible verses he had learned as a child.  He tried to say them out loud.  Over 18 months he miraculously regained his speech and a good measure of functionality.   Of greater value, he had come into a deep personal relationship with the Lord.

He was required to seek a new line of work. This just wasn’t in his plans for his life.  He was clueless about his future.  Eventually he went back to school with the intention of becoming a counselor.

He was near to graduation day when at the school library, he noticed a pamphlet about Bible translation.  He picked it up and began reading but was interrupted by a fellow student.  He put it back in the rack and visited with him.

As they walked out together Brent stepped on something which stuck to his shoe. It was the very same pamphlet. There was no trash can handy, so he stuck it in his pocket and went home.

That evening he found the paper in his pocket and began to curiously read it.  It told of the need for every person to have the Bible in their own tongue.  He understood.  After all, it was the Scripture that turned his life around. 

He sensed that this was all God’s doing, so Brent signed up with the Wycliffe Bible Translators and served his Savior as a missionary in the South Pacific among a stone age people.   

This story is quite amazing.  It is an illustration of a truth that Solomon penned in the book of Proverbs.  He wrote, “A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Prov 16:9

Brent had a plan for his life, but God was sovereignly managing his situation and directing his actual steps.

The variables are mind boggling.  Brent took brief notice of a pamphlet in the library.  He put it back to talk to a friend. 

Someone else thought that the floor of the library was a good place to leave a pamphlet.  And Brent followed a divinely planned path that caused him to step precisely on the pamphlet which adhered to his shoe for some reason.   Everyone else managed to avoid stepping on it – except for Brent.

He ripped it off and wanted to discard it but could not find a convenient trash can so it was still there where in the stillness of his home he could really read it.

And it changed the course of his life. 

How cool and comforting to know that our amazing God is at work in the specific circumstances of our lives to take us to a good, good place.

But don’t hurt yourself trying to understand it.  Solomon also wrote, “The steps of a person are ordained by the Lord – so how can anyone understand his own way?” – Proverbs 20:24

Honestly there are so many things that happen that are beyond our control: the company merger that eliminated your job; the prognosis from the doctor; the plunge in the economy; the loss of the college scholarship and even the new boss. 

But – we can keep moving forward through all the uncertainty knowing that our loving God is guiding us along whether we can sense it or not.   

PS: Brent Brantley is now a retired missionary but quite active with a pen.  He has written an excellent Christian suspense thriller: “You Cannot Grasp the River” A second is due out the summer of 2023 “Summer of the Waxman” (available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble)

A PRAYER: Lead on O King Eternal. Your plan for me is so much better than my own.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you

Scripture references are from the NETBible.org

the cover up — April 26, 2023

the cover up

There is a flashing light on my dashboard that is making me crazy.  It tells me that my tire is flat.  Hey, I could use one of those for my personality too.  But here’s the problem: my tire is not flat. 

Evidently the tire pressure sensor is malfunctioning.  The estimate to replace it is $293.28.   What? That’s about what I paid for the first three cars I ever owned at $100 each.

No way was I going to pay that!  So, what did I do?   I cut up a small piece of black duct tape and I covered up the light with it.  The tape blended in perfectly with the background.  Nice!  Now I can’t see the light and I don’t ever think about it – well except for now as I write this. 

Please do not mock me because you may have your own cover ups. 

Bill’s marriage is on the rocks, but he keeps telling himself.  Everyone has problems – we’ll be OK.” 

Milly prefers to pay the minimal amount on her credit card bill.   At this point it will take her 27 years to pay it off.  But she still uses her card like it’s a wad full of cash.

The doctor suggested hospice for him, but his daughter Anne tells herself, “Well it’s just till he gets better.”   

Most of us are pretty good at putting duct tape over the things that we cringe to confront.  This may be why David drafted Psalm 15.

In this Psalm David begins by asking “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill”  (15:1)  KJV David is essentially asking, “God what kind of person do you really enjoy?   What kind of character feels truly at home in your house? 

David answers that question with the remainder of the Psalm.  There is one phrase however, that gets me every time I read it.   Verse 2 says, “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.”   Psalm 15:2 KJV

That last piece is what concerns me, “he speaks the truth in his heart.”   

Some of us have trouble speaking truth with our lips while others do not.   But not many of us have mastered the art of speaking the truth to ourselves.

This kind of person is not afraid to look at their sad circumstances and assess them correctly.  This person can look at and judge their own actions and attitudes.  He/she is not afraid of the truth but confronts it head on. 

Hiding from the truth doesn’t make it go away.  My sensor is still broken whether I can see it or not.  And should I ever unknowingly have a flat and continue to drive on it, it will cost me close to $300 to replace that tire.    

Facing the truth gives us a chance to alter our course or ease our circumstances.  We help ourselves and those around us and David says, that we delight the Lord.

However, it takes a measure of courage, and a good dose of humility to do it.

Bill feels like a failure when he thinks about his marriage.  But it won’t improve until he faces the facts and asks his wife if she might go with him for counseling.

If Milly were honest with herself and make some changes, she could be debt free in three years.

Because Anne denies the fact that her daddy is dying, she is wasting the valuable together time they still had.

But how can we identify the truth, when we have made a habit of denying it?”  

Those who are closet to me are usually very aware of the lies that I tell myself.  Knowing this, I have occassionally taken them aside and bravely asked, “What do you see in my life that I can’t?”  It’s been super helpful to me.  

Hey, why don’t you rip off that duct tape and wrestle with the truth.  It’s time

A PRAYER: Lord it is time!  Help us to see what you see, and to respond to it with your strength

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

waking up is hard to do — April 18, 2023

waking up is hard to do

My mom was a big country music fan. As a teenager, I was not. Hence, she had a weapon to use against me.

Each weekday morning, mom, with a shrill voice, would cry. “Jimmy get up, time for school!”  I would shake it off and nod off again.  

So, one day, mom put a Tammy Wynette record on the turntable.  At 1,000 decibels Tammy began to wail in her Mississippi twang, “Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today.”  I jumped up, rushed out and with fierce intolerance I shut it down.  Kudos mom.  Mission accomplished!

Waking up is hard to do – but it is so important!  Peter would agree!

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.  There He would be betrayed, crucified and entombed.

What would His disciples think?  Would they stumble in their belief.  Would their faith grow as cold as the tomb in which Jesus would lay?  They needed to be prepared, so Jesus led Peter, James, and John up a mountain.  This is what took place there.

As he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became very bright, a brilliant white. Then two men, Moses and Elijah, began talking with him. They appeared in glorious splendor and spoke about his departure that he was about to carry out at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those with him were quite sleepy…” – Luke 9:29-32a

As Jesus prayed, His glory as God, began to emanate beyond His flesh.  It was dazzling and blindingly bright – something that could not be manufactured by a charlatan.  Profound evidence of His Deity. 

Yes, He had performed many miracles that required a divine touch, but great and godly men of the past had also performed healings and miracles.  Who was to say that Jesus was not just another of God’s hand-picked prophets?

And yes, He seemed comfortable with those few who actually perceived Him to be God.   But there are crazies today who also pretend to be God.

But when His glory was revealed on that mount, it was inarguable.  He was clearly Deity wrapped in human flesh.

The disciples, however, missed it.  They had a case of the nods. They had seen Jesus pray before and it did not enthrall them.  But they woke up.  The passage says, “Now Peter and those with him were quite sleepy, but as they became fully awake, they saw his glory.”  – Luke 9:32

I imagine Peter’s eyes were closed, but the brilliance of Christ’s glory lit up the inside of his eyelids.   He and the others were startled so they opened wide to see the dazzling display of Christ’s deity before them.  

This was far more effective than Tammy Wynette.

This physical waking became a metaphor for the spiritual awakening that also took place.  It was only when they were fully awake, that they saw His glory and understood what it meant – that Jesus was truly all mighty, all powerful and all together God.

Hooray for them, but what about us?  Could it be that some Christians today are still in their spiritual sleep number bed?  Like Peter we may have had some exposure to Jesus through His word, maybe even some experience with Him as He has answered our prayers. 

But there is so much more of Him to know and understand.  After many years of serving Jesus, Paul wrote, “My aim is to know him…” – Philippians 3:10

I can relate.  In spite of 7 years of formal Bible education, 32 years of service as a pastor, and 50 years in the faith. I am humbled at how little I know.

Fortunately, our Lord wants us to more fully know and understand Him.  That’s why He took the trio up the mountain.  Maybe if I ask, He’ll take me there too. 

A PRAYER: Lord we want to know more of You.  Overwhelm us with Your glory. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you

Scripture passages are from the NETBible®

egg hunt? why? — April 5, 2023

egg hunt? why?

I recently realized that the Easter Egg hunts of my youth, were truly about finding eggs – hard boiled chicken eggs. 

We were excited about the hunt, but I can’t remember why?  There were no plastic eggs filled with cheezy arcade quality toys or mini-Reese cups.  In fact, the gaily adorned Easter baskets looked more appetizing.

And what did I do with a basket full of 12 hardboiled eggs?  Add them to my sibling’s haul and we had 5 dozen.  That is a lot of egg salad, which I happen to despise.    

I was recently surprised to find that they had been doing hunts like that for a long time.

Early Christians connected with the idea of an egg.  The shell spoke of Christ’s tomb, and broken, it became a picture of the resurrection and new life.    

In the days of the knights, egg consumption was forbidden during Lent but they egg-citedly ate them on Easter Sunday in celebration. 

In 1290 A.D. King Edward of England, had 450 eggs colored and trimmed with gold and then distributed to his household

But what about the hunt?  It is believed that the fun dates to the 16th century when Martin Luther organized egg hunts for his congregation.  This was his way of honoring the resurrection story.

The practice was picked up by the German born- Duchess of Kent who put on a hunt for her little girl – the future Queen Victoria.   The succession of royals continued the tradition which eventually filtered down to the humble folk, which then crossed the ocean with the English colonists, until it reached my house in the 1950’s   

Its’ 65 years too late, but now I understand.  And now I wonder if the kid with the Ikea bag, scooping up plastic goodie filled eggs has any idea of the connection to Jesus. 

Much like Christmas, our culture has done a lobotomy with Easter.  The significance was surgically removed leaving only the fun.

So maybe we need a reminder.  Paul wrote, “For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.”  1 Cor 15:3-4 NETBible.com ®

Paul believed in the resurrection and so do I.  Here’s why.

-The Scripture is peerless.  

There is no written record that is more trustworthy, has been better authenticated or has greater level of integrity than the Scripture.   

Scores of Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ have been precisely fulfilled (Isaiah 53) And the unity of the Gospel accounts gives us confidence in the Bible.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John gave great detail about the resurrection.  If it were a hoax, then you would expect to find huge discrepancies.  Yet, each Gospel account agrees on the fine details.

– The disciples were fearless

If the resurrection was a hoax, it would have been a very, very big lie – in a very tiny part of the world.  To perpetrate a lie of that sort – would have required a coordinated conspiracy by Christ’s disciples.   

But people will not die for something that they know is a lie.  What we find instead are the disciples moving out to every corner of the inhabited earth and all but John were martyred for their message. 

– I experience His nearness.

Those who question the resurrection, question the existence of someone I personally know.   I met Him when I was 19.   He is as real to me as is my wife.  If I were to doubt her existence, she might slap me.   Answered prayers remind me that my Jesus lives

Our current Easter celebration is not all that it’s cracked up to be.  So this year make sure to include a genuine grade A egg in your hunt, and before the kids unwrap the candy, use it to explain the resurrection. 

A PRAYER: Jesus in the words of Thomas we are compelled to say to you, “My Lord and my God.” 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you

*Egg hunt background is from https://www.english-heritage.org.uk

makin’ it simple — April 3, 2023

makin’ it simple

It’s not often that I am thankful for speed limits.  Today I am – because they are simple and standardized.  I mean what if speed limits reflected regional values instead. 

The black and white sign in Texas may say, “Hold your horses, boy.” The speed posted in Pennsylvania Amish country might be, “Keep thine buggy under 15.” In Nevada it may say, “Roll the Dice.”

And what about the legislative loonies in New York?  They might regulate the speed to the decimal level.  “Speed Limit 27.26.”  Unless it’s open country – then it’s 36.79 which lowers one tenth a mph. every ¾ of a mile as it approaches a town. 

The variations and complexity of posted speeds could end up being enormous and impossible.   

What a fun time my wife and I would have as we made that drive. “Jim, you are going 2 one hundredths over the speed limit.  Just look at the speedometer.”    “Uh OK, could you hand me a magnifying glass?”  

Then a yellow sign says, “Men working-reduce your speed by 35%.”  “Uh, Siri what is 35% of 36.79?” 

And if I get pulled over?  “Sir do you know how fast you were going?  “No officer, I am bad with math.”

We need clarity and simplicity when it comes to what is expected of us.

I imagine that is why Jesus helped us out in Matthew 22.

He was being accosted by the religious experts of His day, who were trying to trip Him up with legal trivia.  That is when this happened, “And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  (22:35-36)

A fair question, long debated by the Jewish people.  The specific Old Testament laws that they received from God numbered 613.  How could anyone hope to understand and do them all? 

So, the “experts” conveniently divided them up into “heavy” laws which they deemed most important, and “light” laws which were not.  Folks were expected to obey the heavy ones and not worry about the light. 

If Jesus were to cite one specific law from among the 613, the experts would indict Him for being dismissive of the rest. 

So, He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  (22:37-38)

Brilliant!  He cited the “great Shema” of Israel, from Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  This statement of faith was recited daily by every orthodox Jew.  It was simple and comprehensive.  Love the Lord your God with everything you got.  One law that called for complete surrender and devotion to the Lord.    

But then He added something unexpected from Leviticus 19:18 – words that were not recited by the Jews every day.  He said, “The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  (22:39)   

The common denominator in both is the word “love.”  It calls for a heart obedience to the law.  To love God and to love those created in His image.  Both are necessary.  Even the apostle John echoed the same truth (1 John 4:20)

Jesus wrapped it up by saying, “All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  (22:40) This is to say that the entire 613 laws and the rest of the Old Testament are all more specific expressions of these two comprehensive commandments.

This two-part summary covers the ten commandments to be sure.  The first of the 3 relate to our duty to God and the last 7 to our fellow man. 

So, when we drive down the road of life, and we are not completely clear about the speed limit – we should default to love.  “How can I best demonstrate love for my Lord in this situation?”  and “How can I love the person beside me in a way that will bring the greatest benefit to them?”

A PRAYER: Thank’s Lord for such a sweet summary of your expectations for us.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

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