Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

poured out — June 15, 2022

poured out

I recently saw a video clip on the news, that I wish I could forget.  It took place in Kingsland, Arkansas, population 300.   It so happens that the late country crooner, Johnny Cash was from that little town.  They honored him by putting his silhouette high up on town’s sole water tower.

But a sharpshooter, with a wry sense of humor, put a bullet right through Johnny’s groin area, which punctured the tank and produced a steady stream of water arcing to the ground.   

And now, poor Mr. Cash relieves himself of about 30,000 gallons a day.  Hmm – I know how he feels. 

Now I bet you are wondering what in the world kind of spiritual point is Jim Johnson gonna make with this story.   Well, I got one! 

_________

The apostle Paul had a leak of another kind!   

He was nearing the end of his ministry – soon to move on to glory.  But he shared these parting words with Timothy.  He said, “For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand.”  – 2 Timothy 4:6

The apostle referenced the sacrificial system of Israel.

The purpose of the Old Testament sacrifices was to bridge the distance between God and man.   There were several kinds of offerings, but they could be summed up by grouping them into 2 categories. 

There were those that addressed the sin of man (such as the burnt offering). These sacrifices foreshadowed the work of Christ who covered our sins at the cross. 

There were also those offerings that symbolized man’s grateful response to God (such as the drink offering). 

The burnt offering was the most frequent and important.  It was presented to atone for the unclean condition of humanity.  It was offered night and day – a perpetual cycle of sacrifice offered for God’s sinful people.  (Lev.6:13).  

It was the blood of this animal sacrifice that was sprinkled on the altar as a reminder that there is no remission for sin except by the shedding of blood. 

Jesus, of course, became the ultimate expression of a burnt offering – His blood sprinkled on the altar, night and day bridging the once impassable gulf between man and God.  Sin was and is covered by His sacrifice and an intimacy with God is enjoyed for those who have received His gift.

OK but what about Paul’s poured offering?

He was referencing the “drink offering” which involved a cup of good quality wine, ranging in volume from 1.5 to 3 quarts.   It was never offered alone but was given in tandem with the burnt offerings.  The priest would pour out the wine around the altar where the fire had consumed the lamb of sacrifice. 

Like the burnt offering, it was completely expended.  There was nothing left afterwards.  

So, Paul compared himself to a drink offering as if to say: “Jesus, the burnt offering for my sins, has given me peace with God.  I, therefore, become a drink offering to accompany His sacrifice.  Out of gratitude I sacrificially pour myself out, all of me, in service for God’s glory and for the good of others who need to be redeemed.”

Paul went on to tell Timothy, “I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally, the crown of righteousness is reserved for me.”  – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

So powerful.  Paul told the young man that he had done it.  Paul had poured himself out – a living sacrifice throughout his years of ministry.  He had withheld nothing.  Jesus got it all. 

I am awed that Paul could say such things, and that it would be recorded in the eternal Word of God for us to read today. 

Makes me wonder what I may be withholding!

A PRAYER: Lord help me find the cork in my life that keeps me from being fully poured out.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ®

destress — June 8, 2022

destress

Famed news commentator, Paul Harvey, once reported about a man in India who was 120 years old.  Over the years the guy accumulated 23 wives, but he could remember the names of only 16 of them. 

And I thought my life was stressful!

What about yours?  At the end of the day, do you feel like there is more to do, but less of you to do it? 

Jesus wrestled with the same tension but seemed to be able to successfully manage it.  He offered to teach us to do it too.

He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me…”  Matthew 11:28-29   Here’s a few things He passed on.

– Jesus rested.

         A storm overwhelmed the disciples and threatened to swamp the boat.  The services of Jesus seemed to be desperately needed and yet we read, “He was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.”  (Mark 4:38)

Jesus slept when He needed to sleep regardless of what was going on.  A good sleep each night and a day off from work every week will refresh us too.   

– Jesus dined

         The Pharisees accused Him of being a glutton. (Luke 7:34) An exaggerated charge to be sure, but it tells us that Jesus enjoyed food.   A car without gas won’t be going far.  Get something to eat.

– Jesus charged His batteries.

He had just healed a man on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ critics “were filled with mindless rage and began debating with one another what they would do to Jesus.”  (Luke 6:11)   

This is how He responded, “Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God.”  (6:12) As His troubles got bigger, Jesus went deeper.  He prayed. 

– Jesus identified His priorities.

         Some of us are torn in a hundred directions but Jesus knew what his mission was, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) That was the magnetic north that gave Him direction

                  We would be wise to identity our priorities.  Your spouse and children are primary.  Your job and your service to the Lord are too.  Cover them well.   If you want to, and have the time and energy left- feel free to take on more.

– Jesus said no when needed

He had put in a 16-hour day of ministry in Capernaum.  He then withdrew for a night of prayer.  In the morning, the town’s people found Him and pressed Him to return and resume His healing.  He replied “Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so that I can preach there too. For that is what I came out here to do.”  (Mark 1:38)

                  He said, “No” to them.  He would not allow His preaching to be swallowed up by His healing ministry.   Once we have identified our priorities, we then have the freedom to lovingly say no to those things that are not.

– Jesus asked for help.  – Matt. 26:36-38

         At Gethsemane, Jesus asked Peter, James and John to remain awake and pray with Him as He approached the time of His betrayal.  He asked for help.  Sometimes, we are stressed because we have chosen to go it alone.  Those that do forfeit the support and wisdom and companionship that others bring.

I grew up where the streets were often coated in white in the winter.  When stuck in a rut, my teenage impulse was to put the pedal to the metal.  My wheels were spinning but I wasn’t moving.  Then I got smarter, I learned to accelerate slowly.  The tires found traction and I was set free.    

You may be stuck in a spiral of stress.  If so, accelerate a little more slowly.  Take time to rest and eat and pray and reflect on your priorities and even ask for help!  You’ll reduce the stress and find the traction you need.

A PRAYER: Thank you for the lesson, Lord.  Help me to live it.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com   

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

Scripture from the NETBible ®

mortarfied — June 1, 2022

mortarfied

Have you ever taken on more than you can handle?  I sure have! 

I ran into the lumber store to get a small bag of mortar.  They don’t come in small bags, so I grabbed a 60 lb. behemoth.  A shopping cart would have been helpful, but I was in a hurry.

I got in line to check out.  The guy in front of me had two pushcarts full of lumber.  Meanwhile, my load kept trying to find the floor.

8 grueling minutes later I made it to the register.  With one arm, I somehow slipped my wallet and charge card out and signed my name on the device. The arm with the mortar went numb.

The cashier then asked if there would be anything else.  I said, “Well could you put this in one of those plastic bags for me?   She looked at me in disbelief and sadly nodded “no.”

I should have gotten a cart – I know, but I have always been a stubborn do-it-all-yourself kind of guy.  I don’t need a person or a buggy to lighten my load.  I’m all that I need.

This goofiness even slips into my relationship with God at times.  When a tough problem comes, I YouTube it to death and then work harder and longer until it’s resolved. 

I could have cited the apostle Paul as my example.  He admitted in 2 Thessalonians 3:8, “In toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you.”

He sowed Gospel seeds during the day and sewed tents by night.  His night gig produced income so that he could be financially self-sufficient as a minister.  Paul seems like the poster child for people like me. 

BUT, I did a concordance search on that phrase “night and day” and I found that Paul was also busy doing something else.  He wrote to Timothy, “I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.”  – 2 Timothy 1:3

It was his habit to pray night and day, reaching out to God, realizing that his strenuous and best efforts in ministry were less than sufficient to get the job done.

After all, it was Jesus who said, “Apart from me, you can accomplish nothing.” – John 15:5

OK, but how does our effort interface with the power of God our behalf?

Consider this.  I was a sophomore in high school trying out for the varsity football team.   The coach had us doing a drill where one blocker, had to fend off one tackler, and do it well enough to let a running back get by. 

It was my turn, and I trembled as I faced an all-city senior.  My 165 lbs. wasn’t going to be enough to block his 260.  

The coach said “go” and I exploded into my opponent – which turned out to be a dud.  He stood me up and stopped me flat. 

The running back, however, did not hesitate.  He got behind me, put his head in my back and added his strength to mine without missing a step.  He blasted us both out of the way and I had succeeded.  The guy had been blocked.

I could not have done it without that auxiliary power that was added to mine.  And yet I was also crucial to the plan.  If I had not been doing my part, the back would have gotten nailed. 

So it is with God.  We have our responsibilities in this life, and we need to give them our very best effort while at the same time we reach out to the Lord.  We seek His infusion of strength and wisdom and at times His direct intervention for success.

The mortar to this story – – I mean – – moral to this story is this.  “Work hard – pray hard.”  Day and night if you must.

A PRAYER: Lord open my eyes to those times when I am straining to do what you want to do for me. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com.

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

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

mortified

Have you ever taken on more than you can handle?  I sure have! 

I ran into the lumber store to get a small bag of mortar.  They don’t come in small bags, so I grabbed a 60 lb. behemoth.  A shopping cart would have been helpful, but I was in a hurry.

I got in line to check out.  The guy in front of me had two pushcarts full of lumber.  Meanwhile, my load kept trying to find the floor.

8 grueling minutes later I made it to the register.  With one arm, I somehow slipped my wallet and charge card out and signed my name on the device. The arm with the mortar went numb.

The cashier then asked if there would be anything else.  I said, “Well could you put this in one of those plastic bags for me?   She looked at me in disbelief and sadly nodded “no.”

I should have gotten a cart – I know, but I have always been a stubborn do-it-all-yourself kind of guy.  I don’t need a person or a buggy to lighten my load.  I’m all that I need.

This goofiness even slips into my relationship with God at times.  When a tough problem comes, I YouTube it to death and then work harder and longer until it’s resolved. 

I could have cited the apostle Paul as my example.  He admitted in 2 Thessalonians 3:8, “In toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you.”

He sowed Gospel seeds during the day and sewed tents by night.  His night gig produced income so that he could be financially self-sufficient as a minister.  Paul seems like the poster child for people like me. 

BUT, I did a concordance search on that phrase “night and day” and I found that Paul was also busy doing something else.  He wrote to Timothy, “I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.”  – 2 Timothy 1:3

It was his habit to pray night and day, reaching out to God, realizing that his strenuous and best efforts in ministry were less than sufficient to get the job done.

After all, it was Jesus who said, “Apart from me, you can accomplish nothing.” – John 15:5

OK, but how does our effort interface with the power of God our behalf?

Consider this.  I was a sophomore in high school trying out for the varsity football team.   The coach had us doing a drill where one blocker, had to fend off one tackler, and do it well enough to let a running back get by. 

It was my turn, and I trembled as I faced an all-city senior.  My 165 lbs. wasn’t going to be enough to block his 260.  

The coach said “go” and I exploded into my opponent – which turned out to be a dud.  He stood me up and stopped me flat. 

The running back, however, did not hesitate.  He got behind me, put his head in my back and added his strength to mine without missing a step.  He blasted us both out of the way and I had succeeded.  The guy had been blocked.

I could not have done it without that auxiliary power that was added to mine.  And yet I was also crucial to the plan.  If I had not been doing my part, the back would have gotten nailed. 

So it is with God.  We have our responsibilities in this life, and we need to give them our very best effort while at the same time we reach out to the Lord.  We seek His infusion of strength and wisdom and at times His direct intervention for success.

The mortar to this story – – I mean – – moral to this story is this.  “Work hard – pray hard.”  Day and night if you must.

A PRAYER: Lord open my eyes to those times when I am straining to do what you want to do for me. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com.

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

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

forty dollar tears — May 25, 2022

forty dollar tears

Many media outlets released a story on 5/18/22 about a young woman in New York who consulted her physician about a health issue.   It was a rare problem with few solutions, so, in her hopelessness she began to weep in that office. 

Her doctor was sensitive and did not interrupt her sorrow, BUT she was later billed for the outburst.  It appeared on the statement as BRIEF EMOTIONAL / BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT – $40.00.

There were no questions asked, no counselor summoned, no consolation offered, no screening to speak of.  Just a bill for emoting in the doc’s office. 

This is so crazy it makes me want to laugh, but I am afraid I might get billed for it!

_______

$40 bucks is a lot for a few tears, but the cost of stuffing our sorrow is far greater.

In an article from the HARVARD HEALTH BLOG (3/1/2021), Leo Newhouse gives a few clinical reasons why we should let the waterworks flow.

– Crying is an emotional pressure release.

Studies indicate that those who repress their tears have a less effective immune system, more cardiovascular disease, hypertension.  It also breeds mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

– Crying builds bridges.

When we cry, we encourage closeness, empathy, and support from friends and family.  Who can’t do with a lot more of that? 

– Crying flushes our system

Tears cleanse stress hormones and other toxins out of our system.

– Crying makes us feel better.

It releases endorphins in our systems. These pain relievers help ease both physical and emotional discomfort.   Most of us would agree, there is nothing like a good cry to make us feel better.

“No way!” you say.  “I am a Christian and crying exposes a weakness in my faith.”

Not true!  To cry is a privilege.  It is part of what it means to be created in the image of God.  Here is a biblical theology of tears: 

Crying is natural:  Solomon wrote “there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  – Ecclesiastes 3:4. Weeping is perfectly appropriate at times.

– Crying is encouraged: Jesus urged the women of Jerusalem to weep for themselves. (Luke 23:28)

– Crying is not just for women and children:  Peter wept after denying Jesus.  (Matthew 14:72) Paul evidently cried often in the course of his ministry (Acts 20:19 & 31)  I was surprised to read in the Harvard article that, “on average, American women cry 3.5 times each month, while American men cry about 1.9 times each month.”

– Crying is commanded:  Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15.

– Those who cry are blessed:  Didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are you who weep?” (Luke 6:21)

– Crying was practiced by Jesus Himself.   In Luke19:41 He wept over the soon to come destruction of Jerusalem.   He also stood beside Mary of Bethany and grieved her brother’s death, “Jesus wept.”  (Luke 11:35)   He came to show us how to live and included, were a few lessons on how to cry.

As I have gotten older, I have found (as many men have) that it has become easier to shed a tear.   This is due in part to the receding tide of testosterone and a lifetime that has tenderized me and helped me analyze less and feel more. 

And yet, there is still that macho mechanism in me that tries to stifle the occasional sniffle. 

I am pretty sure all of us would be better off to recognize that God created us with the capacity to cry and we need to use it as needed.  To do less is to jeopardize our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical stability.  

And my, my!  There is so much today that merits a tear.

A PRAYER: Lord I want to be like You in every way. Free me to weep as you wept!

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

shoeless — May 18, 2022

shoeless

Talaya Crawford was poised to run a 200-meter sprint. (5/9/2022) The gun sounded, and she exploded down the track – BUT she left her shoe on the starting block.  Race over, right?  No, she doubled back, forced the shoe on and then ran.

She started 6 seconds later than the rest of the field in a race that typically lasts 30 seconds.  But she ran like a tornado and won it by a wide margin.   

In this Cinderella story, the glass slipper was a sweaty sneaker. 

Amazing!  Most would have picked up the shoe and gone home.  But she wanted to win, and knew she had to have her shoes on to do it.

________

Christians need their shoes too!  

Paul once described the spiritual armor of the Christian.  He pictured us in a battle with our adversary the devil.  God supplies the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the Scripture which is the sword of the Spirit – and He didn’t forget our feet.  

Paul wrote, “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” – Eph 6:15 KJV

It tells us that a Christian needs to be prepared to share the Good News with others.

The word preparation means to prepare – duh!  We do that by putting on Gospel shoes.

– What is this Gospel of peace?

Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, “…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”    

Those without Jesus are at odds with God (Romans 5:10) having rejected Him and His righteous ways.  When they receive the gift of God, their sins are buried beneath Jesus’ blood.  And God the frightening foe becomes God the faithful friend.   Peace is brokered between God and man. 

– But what does this have to do with shoes?

The prophet Isaiah predicted the day when Jesus the Messiah would come.  There would be those who would herald His glorious arrival.   Of them the prophet said, “How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains the feet of a messenger who announces peace, a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  (Isaiah 52:7) 

The Lord brought deliverance.  It is good news which translates as “Gospel.”  It is the message of peace with God and the feet of those who bring it are beautiful. 

Personally, my feet are not so attractive, but to see a pair of feet cresting a hill with the sweet message of peace with God – well that’s a beautiful sight.

– But how does this fit with the Christian’s armor? 

The entire collection of armor was modeled after that of a Roman legionnaire.  He wore “caliga” on his feet.  This was an open-toed half-boot tied to the ankles and shins with straps.  The most interesting feature of the boot was its sole which was studded with nails.  Think of the cleats they wear in sports. 

These boots were made for standing.  The nail-studded soles gave the soldier stability as he braced his shield and wielded his sword in the fray.   

In the same way, the Gospel is foundational – it is the unchanging message on which we stand.  Without the Gospel – the ideologies of this world will overwhelm us and others will never hear the life-giving message.

Unfortunately, some of us are not prepared to speak the Gospel.  We serve others by rebuilding homes after a disaster, and feeding the hungry, and protecting the innocent – all worthy and wonderful things.  But too often the Gospel of peace with God goes unspoken.  Without it there is no eternal hope for those that we have served.

If you are missing that Gospel shoe – run back and get it and get back in the race. 

A PRAYER: Lord, I am prepared to share the Gospel, but I don’t.  Help me change this.    

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 ®

sort of… — May 11, 2022

sort of…

My wife and I went thrifting while on vacation.  I browsed the books looking for a treasured tome.  

The store had gone to the trouble of sorting the books.  But they were sorted, not by author, nor were they alphabetized.  They were not arranged according to genre nor were the hardbacks separated from the paperbacks.   They were arranged according to color. 

The blues were bunched, and the greens were grouped and so on.  BUT – who buys a book by its color?

Do the envious look for green books?  Do those in debt seek the red ones? Do the cowardly search for the yellow and the loyal look for true blue books?  Do singles seek little black books? 

This was a dilemma for me for multiple reasons.  I am somewhat color blind.

It made me wonder though.  Does God have a sifting method for humanity?  We do.  Too often we rudely catalog people according to race, sex, ethnic origin and so on.

But if God were to ever sort us all out – how might we be classified?

Would He sort us by height?  No!  He gave the key to the Kingdom of Israel to tall Saul and the key to the Kingdom of God to short Zacchaeus.  Height didn’t make a difference to God. 

Would He favor the popular?  No way! Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek…” – Matthew 6:5

Certainly, the strong would stand out in God’s sorting system!  But no.  In fact, Paul argued that God prefers to work through a person’s weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

What about our girth.  Is that a weighty matter to God?  It can’t be – He saved me!

Okay but what about appearance?  Kids often cruelly categorize others based on appearance.  Will God do that as well?

If He did Jesus would be at the end of line because the prophet Isaiah described Him as having “no special appearance” – Isaiah 53:2.   This is good because I grew up thinking my middle name was “homely.”

And you can forget about race, ethnic origin, economic status, and sex.  God won’t be discriminating based on any of those factors.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  – Galatians 3:28

There is only one factor that God will use when He one day is required to sort out humanity.   

Jesus said, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16   In the end there will be only two bins of people – those who have believed in Jesus and looked to Him to wash them from their sin.  And there will be those who haven’t.

The future for one is eternal life, the other is to perish.

Jesus continued, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. (17)

This tells me that God is not willing that any should perish.  He sent Jesus not to scorch us, but to save us. 

We tend to sort out people according to factors over which they have no control.  God will sort them based on the choice they make. 

It’s either one or the other.  Your religion is immaterial.  Your denomination is irrelevant.  You might even choose to punt and maintain that there is no God – which doesn’t really matter if indeed God truly exists. 

What will matter in the end is what you do with Jesus.

So – what will you do with Jesus? 

A prayer:  Lord I wasted the first 19 years of my life without You.  Please don’t let others wait that long. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

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

Scripture passages are from the NETBible ®

taking a (music) stand — May 6, 2022

taking a (music) stand

I might buy anything of value that I find in a second-hand store (except maybe a toothbrush) 

I was recently sifting through the discards amidst the musty mess when I found the bottom-half of a music stand.  It was priced at $1.99.  I was interested, but it was only half of the item, so I let it be.  A minute later I found the upper half, but I was surprised to see that it was priced at $3.99.

They obviously belonged with each other, so I took them to the cashier and asked her which price she would ask?  She told me they had to be sold separately.  The total was $5.98.

Surely, she was confused.  I explained that I was a musician and had vast experience with music stands and I have always found that the top without the bottom was useless and vice versa.  They needed to be sold as one. 

Well, I guess she thought it was Custer’s last (music) stand, cause she wouldn’t budge.  So, I passed. 

_____________

One without the other doesn’t work!  This is also true of grace and truth. 

Truth refers to the objective standard of behavior to which God calls all people.   Grace refers to the help that God gives to enable us to meet that standard.

He has always been a God of both.  Think back to the top of mount Sinai where Moses heard these words, “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”  – Exodus 34:6- KJV

Here the words “gracious” and “truth” are descriptive of God. 

Of course, it was at Sinai that God gave us the Ten Commandments to guide our hearts and deeds.  But people back then found it difficult to live by the Law.  In their frustration they assumed that God was full of heartless and hopeless demands.

The Pharisees of the first century, exaggerated this misunderstanding.  They presented a God that nobody liked, and everyone feared.   

But then Jesus came along.  John 1:14 says, “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth…”  NET Bible ®

The Son of God took on flesh to correct those misperceptions.  Grace and truth were packaged in Him and found in perfect balance.

Think back to that day in the temple when Jesus looked upon the woman caught in adultery.  (John 8) He invited her critics to stone her, at least the ones who were without sin.  That was the true consequence of adultery.  But her accusers all walked away leaving the woman unscathed, and to her Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”  That was His grace.

Only Jesus could condemn sin based on truth, and then pay the penalty of that sin Himself out of His grace.  

Without truth, we have no way of understanding what God expects of us.  Without His grace we have no way of meeting His expectations.    

A world of grace without truth – would be a meaningless mush – permissive chaos and a ticket to hell.  A world of truth without grace would be unforgiving and hostile and repulsive.

Some of us are all about truth at the expense of grace.  We use truth to steamroll those that disagree with us and to control and often exacerbate our kids.  We use it as a tool with which to judge and condemn others. 

Some of us are all about grace at the expense of truth.  We tend to be accommodating people pleasers.  We easily compromise because it doesn’t matter to us.  We might use grace as an excuse to allow our kids to go undisciplined.

Some things like grace and truth have got to be packaged together.  And don’t let the cashier at the thrift store tell you any different. 

A PRAYER: Jesus, help me to mirror the balance of grace and truth that you have

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

two-by-four trouble — May 4, 2022

two-by-four trouble

Read carefully to avoid a DYI catastrophe!

When I start a building project, I make elaborate plans.  But because of my ineptitude, my plans must be revised each time I fasten one board to another. Two-by-four boards contribute to my frustration.

Suppose I want to build a deck in the backyard.  It needs to be 8 feet wide.  So, I visit the lumber store and buy 24 standard two-by-four pieces of lumber – the exact amount needed to cover the deck. 

However, when I run out of lumber, I still have a gap almost a foot wide in my deck. (hope the grandkids don’t fall in the hole.)

So how did this happen?  It’s because a standard two-by-four IS NOT actually 2 inches by 4 inches.   It is 1 ½ by 3 ½.

So, what gives?  The lumber mill starts with a rough board that is actually two-by-four.  But once it is smoothed down to where it is useful, it has become the reduced version.  AND YET they still list it as a 2 x 4.

________

There can be a difference between what something is called, and what it truly is.

– The sign says “tolerance” but it means “acceptance for the politically correct.”

– The sign says, “more buying power” but it means “more access to credit and to debt.”

– The sign says “pro-choice” but it means “freedom to choose for a mom but helpless doom for a baby.”

So how do we wade through such confusion?

When I shop for lumber, I ignore the signs and put a tape measure to a board before I buy it.   

The Bible is our cultural tape measure.  It was given to us as an objective, truthful means of evaluating the shifting values of the world in which we live. 

Psalm 119:160 put it this way, “The sum of Your word is truth.” (NASU)

I like the word “sum.”  It tells us that every bit of the Bible is true.  “Sum” suggests that we may not pick and choose what we want to believe and practice.  We should know and operate based on the whole thing. 

The Bible, however, is a neglected book.  The American Bible Society issued their annual “State of the Bible” report for 2022.  They found that only 10% of U.S. adults use the Bible daily, while 16% consult it at least once a week and 7% read it once a month.

This is sad knowing that the regular practice of reading Scripture, shapes our worldview, helping us sort truth from error and enabling us to see what things really are, regardless of what they might be called. 

We don’t need the opinion shows on CNN or FOX news to tell us how and what we should think.  We need the truth of the Word of God with which to evaluate the news and put it into perspective.

OK let’s get practical.  Lately there seems to be a throng of ads on TV that want us to improve our credit rating.  Being in debt, therefore must be a good thing – right? 

Start with a question: “What does the Bible say about money and debt?”   Read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs.  Zero in on and consider the many verses that speak about money.  See if you can’t come up with a biblical answer to that question. 

There can be holes in a backyard deck and holes in our thinking too.  Use a reliable tape measure and you’ll never end up with either. 

A PRAYER: Lord sometimes we are in too much of a hurry to measure. Help us to be more diligent

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you

how long can you fake it?  — April 20, 2022

how long can you fake it? 

He was gifted with a gorgeous voice that could melt a stone.  When coupled with his warm and charismatic personality – he was a highly sought entertainer.  And it didn’t hurt that his mother had named him, “Star.” 

It was in the late 60’s when he was recruited to sing for our troops, touring the USO clubs in Europe.  One small snag, however. There was only enough room for one and Star didn’t play an instrument. 

So, he recruited a friend in Nashville to record some simple guitar tracks on a compact reel-to-reel tape recorder. 

He then bought an acoustic guitar and cut out a panel in its back.  He attached hinges and made it into a trap door.

He then mounted the tape recorder inside the guitar.  He took the microphone and stretched the cord out along the back of guitar neck so that the mic was hidden behind the tuning pegs. 

There was a switch on the mic that enabled him to start and stop the tape player. 

Then Star took his altered guitar and went on tour.  He took his place on the stage each night, pretended to tune up the guitar, when in fact, he flipped on the switch to the recorder. 

The prerecorded music projected from the sound hole, as he used his hands to simulate a guitar player.   

People were so engrossed with him and his singing, they didn’t catch on to his ruse – until that one time in Germany.  He was performing on stage when the batteries in his recorder died.  Oops.

Hey, I am not making this up.  Star was my friend – a friend who faked it until his batteries ran low. 

He found a creative way to meet a practical need, but the rest of us fake it for other reasons.

“Hey how are you doing?”  “Oh, I’m fine.”  Really?  Are you fine, or just too self-conscious to talk about it? 

What about that nagging addiction?  It is eating your lunch, but you carry on at work and church like things are great.  Even your family is in the dark.

Your kids seem to demand more than you can deliver.  But you put on the supermom persona until 9:00 pm each night – when you finally crash. 

So how long can you fake it? 

The apostle Paul was in a tough spot, beset by what he called a “thorn in the flesh.”  This metaphorical thorn caused him pain and hindered him from doing the things he needed to do. 

So, he prayed and prayed that the Lord would remove the problem. 

The Lord answered in this way, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”   – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10   NETBible ®

There are two things that we fakers need to glean from this: 

1) Paul was transparent about his problems.  He revealed to the Corinthians then, and to us for the last 2,000 years – that he was a weakened man.  The powerful apostle was in fact pitifully weak. 

2) He chose, therefore, to rely on the Lord and His power reserves in order to carry on.  And the Lord stepped in.  Paul lived 11 more years after writing 2 Corinthians, and they were active, productive and fruitful years in spite of the thorn.

But here’s the thing – you can’t have one without the other.  When we pretend to have it all together, the Lord stands by with his arms crossed and says, “Oh really – show me.” 

But, when we are honest with ourselves and God about our insufficiency – then He says, “OK let me help.”

It’s time to get real.  Do it before your batteries run out!

A PRAYER: Lord, we need you – every hour we need you!

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.

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

whistler’s clutter — April 13, 2022

whistler’s clutter

How do marching bands stay in step with each other?   Most are synchronized to the music.  They pivot and turn based on specific notes in the song.  

There are some bands, however, that are directed solely by the whistle of the drum major.   They scoot when they hear the toot.  Texas A&M University has such a band. 

They met on the gridiron to play Rice University that day.  Rice is a school long on scholars and short on skills.  They were accustomed to losing and compensated by messing with their opponents. 

The Rice band stood on the sideline at halftime to watch the Aggie band do their drill.  They soon pulled out their own whistles and with devious glee they randomly blew them hoping to confuse the Aggie marchers. 

It worked!   The band was twisting and turning and going every which way.  Tubas and trumpets clashed, and flutes were flattened. 

An airplane took pictures from above.  The band looked like someone had stepped on their anthill.

How funny!  But did you know that a similar scenario is at work in the church today?

2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

Peter tells us that Scripture originated with God.  It isn’t the result of some imaginative con man, or an impulsive attention getter.   It came from God and was entrusted to men who recorded it under the sovereign direction of the Holy Spirit. 

Scripture is the drum major’s whistle – the one that the Christian must heed.  It is true and trustworthy.  It is the means by which we experience freedom.  The truth sets us free from spiritual bondage for sure.  But it also creates freedom in our finances and our interpersonal relationships and brings blessing to most every area of life to which it is applied.

But there are rascals out there who stand on the sidelines with competing whistles..  Peter described them saying,  “…false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves.  And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.  And in their greed, they will exploit you with deceptive words.”    (2 Peter 2:2-3)

Peter wrote his letter in 67 A.D. but it seems like he had today in mind.  He predicted that the future would bring false teachers who will be motivated to confuse and deceive us.  They will infiltrate our circles and we will become comfortable with them.  They will be known by their weaknesses for sex and money.

But the most significant telltale trait has to do with Jesus.  They will “deny the Master that bought them” says Peter.  They will minimize the significance of Jesus and the value of His work on the cross.

Probe Ministries conducted a survey of 3,000 people in 2020.  They discovered that more than 60% of those between 18 and 39, who identify as born-again Christians believe that Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad are all equal as Saviors.  (https://probe.org/probe-religious-views-study-2020-do-christians-believe-in-christ-as-the-only-savior-of-the-world/)

They see Jesus as no different than any other religious figure.  And yet Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  – John 14:6

How could this misunderstanding happen?  Because only 5% of that same born-again group has a biblical worldview according to the survey.

The Scripture holds little authority for them.  They are not tuned in to the whistle of the drum major and are therefore easily misled by the random whistles of others.

Peter used the word “destructive” twice, emphasizing what will become of the church, or the family or the person that moves to those kinds of whistles. 

What about you?  Are you in formation or wandering about on the ant hill?

A PRAYER: Lord help me to know Your Word well enough to instantly apply it to every life situation.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com. 

May the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

%d bloggers like this: