Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

an easy way to say, “I love you!” — February 12, 2020

an easy way to say, “I love you!”

Valentine’s Day is near.  Time to get romantic.  I’ll try but I’ve had too many misses with my Mrs. Consider the following of which every word is true. 

One year I decided to book a B&B for my babe.  That would surely speak love to her.  Being a frugal guy, however, I found the best bargain in town. 

We arrived expecting to see a classy mansion, but what we got was sorta like a barn with several barn-ettes tacked on. We found our room around back and stepped onto a porch made of landscape timbers.  This concerned me.

We walked through the door and were startled by a loud belch.  No, it was not me!  It came from an animated rubber fish that hung on the wall, which then looked right at me and said, “Ooops, I must have eaten a bad worm.”  My dismay was turning into terror

The room was tiny.  The shower, toilet, and sink were in an uncapped cubicle which stood in the bedroom.  It had saloon doors, but they did supply a can of air freshener. 

The room was decorated in a Cowboy/Cajun theme.  Spurs sat next to a big rubber crawfish and a picture of John Wayne was draped in Mardi Gras beads. Every inch of wall and countertop was covered with crazy junk and a layer of dust. There wasn’t room to set your toothbrush down. (and you didn’t want to anyway)

The ceiling was made of corrugated steel which had glow-in-the-dark stars duct taped to it.  

Breakfast was self-serve in your room.  They provided little bottles of milk and some cereal that had a history and a bowl of bruised fruit.  The trash can was full and there were old grounds in the coffee maker.  

When we settled down for bed that first night, we found that the fish on the wall spontaneously spoke to us – until I took care of it. 

To top it off – outside the room stood a tree where dozens of vultures were gathered.  They were waiting for us to die.   Which I did once I remembered what I paid for this experience. 

And that was how I showed my love to my wife.  After several years of marriage counseling, we are now in a good place (just kidding about this) 

This sounds like a Yelp review doesn’t it? Actually, I wish I would have used Yelp before I used the B&B!

Oh, but Valentine’s is the time of year when random ridiculous assumptions are often made – especially by men.  “I need to get the wife a gift. I bet she would like one of those pajamagrams or a box of pears.” 

May I suggest that the best was to say I love you, is to ask, “How can I best love you?”   We all have our own unique “love language” and most of us are not multilingual – so we should ask.   

Love is something that is taught.  According to Paul, the older women are to teach the younger women how to, “love their husbands.”  Titus 2:4 KJV

It’s a teachable skill that we can learn from one another. So today, while you still have the time, look your valentine in the eye and ask, “Tell me dear, how I can best love you on Valentine’s Day?”    

He/she will feel deeply loved, simply because you were sensitive enough to ask (which would be a bargain for a frugal guy like me.)

If they waffle, nudge them again, “What is the most loving thing I can do for you on Valentine’s Day?” 

The answer may surprise you.  “Could you change the lightbulb in the closet.” or “Send the kids to mom’s and let’s just spend a quiet evening alone at the house.” or “I would love it if you would make that dinner you used to make.”   

And if she asks for a box of pears, Amazon delivers in one day.

Make a mental note so the next time you give a gift, it will be even more special because it will be spot on and because you cared enough to remember. 

Hey even a B&B may be nice but beware of rubber fish.

the dentist and my date — February 6, 2020

the dentist and my date

One summer afternoon, this high school student, clocked out at work, jumped in my car and picked up my girlfriend for an evening of food and frivolity.

I, however, worked in fast food.  I needed to shower and scrape the grease from my face.  So first, to the house, for a face lift.

But my mom caught me and said, “Not so fast – you have a dentist appointment?” 

So, my date and I delayed our dinner plans and headed to the dentist. 

”Oh oh,” I thought.  He plans to fill a cavity which means he will numb my mouth.  Not good!  The effect of the Novocain will last for hours.  It will kill our date.

Our dinner conversation will be interesting. “Well Jim how was your day?”  With my lame tongue I’ll say, “bery schlwell shlank you.”

And it will be hard for her to look into my eyes when there’s drool on my chin.  Oh, and forget about a goodnight kiss.  Yuck!!! 

My self-esteem required an alternative plan.  So, I asked the dentist, “Is it possible to do this without an anesthetic?”   “Sure,” he said, with a subtle smirk.”

He cranked up his drill, plunged it into my naïve mouth, and began to bear down.  It took me a millisecond to realize – I had made a huge mistake.   The pain was 100 times beyond excruciating. 

The nurse tried to hold me down, but my voice would not be stilled.  I screamed like a baby while my date sat nearby. 

Several years later he finished.  I walked out of his office with silver in my mouth and egg on my face.   As for our date.  Awkward!  Not a lot of conversation and forget the good night kiss.  My mouth was a crime scene as far as she was concerned. 

All because of my pride!

It seems to me like the more we protect our pride, the more humiliating it gets.   

This is a truth, in fact, rooted in Scripture.  “After pride came, disgrace followed.” – Proverbs 11:2 (NETBible ®)

Why is this?  James tells that God is responsible. “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6. NET Bible ® 

A scary thought.  God opposes the proud person.  The passage doesn’t specify whether the person is a Christian or not.  He doesn’t discriminate in His war against pride. 

So why single out this sin?  Because nothing has cheated God and taken more away from Him.

Lucifer was His prized angel, but pride turned him into a dark vicious adversary.   Adam and Eve were the pinnacle of all creation – made in His image.  And the pride that grabbed the fruit, ripped apart the heart of God.

Pride creates ugly barriers between God and the children He loves and most of us are unaware.  Oswald Sanders wrote, “Pride is a sin of whose presence its victim is least conscious.”  (Spiritual Leadership)

And yet the more we protect our pride, the more humiliating it gets.

She lied to cover a mistake because it is embarrassing to fail.  Her lie, however, was eventually uncovered.  It is humiliating to be outed as a liar.  

His fellow alumni made him feel insecure, so he salvaged his pride by allowing them to think that he was wealthy.  But they saw him leave the party in a well-used Kia.  He probably won’t attend the next reunion. 

He forgot to follow through on his assignment at church.  He protected his ego by blaming it on his wife.  She is now wounded and hasn’t spoken to him for 6 days.  The church folk have noticed.  Humiliating!

We protect our pride at our own peril.

I recently sat down with a friend.  Our relationship was somewhat strained.  He had said some things that he shouldn’t have and he eventually came to recognize that he was wrong.  

He could have preserved his pride and kept it to himself – but he didn’t.  He sat across from me at breakfast, told me what he had learned and asked me to forgive him.  Which I gladly did. 

Did I lose respect for him?  Absolutely NOT.  I esteem him far more now than I did before.  It’s ironic I know – but that’s just the way it works with pride and humility. 

So, here’s a take away from all this:  Be honest when you fall short and drop the pride.  AND don’t ever pass up a dental anesthetic.

the day I saved Jesus — January 28, 2020

the day I saved Jesus

I was once an altar boy.  During Mass, my job was to fetch, to pray in Latin, to ring bells and to look reasonably pious.

It was a fashionable job.  I wore a cassock, which was a floor length black garment.  It was topped off with a snow-white surplice which is a poofy kind of shirt.  Grandma said I looked like an angel except I wasn’t.   Me and my buddies would sometimes finish off the communion wine.  (Please don’t tell Father Holzafel)  

I had one important job.  During communion, the congregation would kneel at the rail, and the priest would stop at each person, take the consecrated host and say the words, “This is the body of Christ.”   He then would carefully place the wafer on their extended tongue. 

I was taught that when the priest said the words over the wafers – they became the body of Christ.   So, they had to be handled with great respect.  We weren’t permitted to touch or even to chew them.  

Which was tricky because the wafer had the consistency of Styrofoam.  Sometimes it would get stuck to the roof of your mouth, and then you spent the rest of the service working your tongue to get it off.  

The altar boy would follow the priest and place a paten under the chin of the receiver.  A paten is sort of like a frying pan without the sides (or the lard)

If the priest should fumble with the host, then it was the job of the altar boy to catch it. 

Well one sleepy 6 a.m. Mass, I was working the paten.  Suddenly it happened – a rowdy tongue knocked the wafer from the fingers of the priest, and it fluttered to the ground.

This was a tragedy in the making because it was the body of Christ – BUT with lightning speed, I snatched the wafer from doom.

I expected the priest to high five me, but he took the host to the altar instead, prayed a five-minute prayer, then ate it himself. 

But wow did I feel good because that was the day I saved Jesus!

Sort of ridiculous isn’t it?  To think that I was necessary.  To think that I saved the Savior from harm?

The apostle Paul once stood and addressed the philosophers of his day saying, “The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone.”   – Acts 17:24-25 (NETBible ®)

That pretty much sums it up.  Though we work, He is not actually served by human hands because He needs nothing (or no one).  He is the giver of life and breath to all who exist.  He doesn’t need us to save Him. 

But oh, how we think that we do!   

“My kid is waffling with his faith, if I don’t force the issue, Jesus will be lost to him.” 

“I must go on this mission trip or people will die and go to hell.  Jesus needs me.”  

I would like to be honest about my depression, but if I do, people will doubt the Lord, so for His sake, I will suffer in silence.” 

Really?  It’s an honor that He has chosen to include and use us – but He sure doesn’t need us.  He can direct a great fish to do His bidding, or use the oration of a donkey, or cause the rocks to cry out His praise. 

He doesn’t need us to save Him – and what a relief!

Your son is waffling with his faith.  Give him room to think.  Lose the panic in your voice when you discuss the issue.  Jesus is big enough to draw Him to Himself as He once drew you.

Those whom He has prepared will get the Gospel whether you go do the mission trip or not.   Jesus used a vision to reach the apostle Paul.  He miraculously transported Philip to evangelize the Ethiopian Eunuch.  God is resourceful and up to the challenge. 

Will your friends reject Christ because you are honest about your depression?  No, they will understand that being a Christian doesn’t mean you are perfect, just forgiven and growing.  They will warm up to a Savior that doesn’t expect us to be perfect. 

It’s not about you – it’s all about Him.  So relax!  Take to heart Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 (NETBible ®)  Stop trying to save Him and let Him do the saving.

doofus gets a moonroof — January 22, 2020

doofus gets a moonroof

This may be a cart-before-the-horse kind of thing, but my wife and I bought a nice, but used RV to go camping with grand kids.  Great except that my pick-up truck is underpowered and has a manual transmission which my wife can’t operate, and it seats only 3.  Where would we stuff the grand kids? 

Since I bought the cart, I needed a bigger, stronger “horse” to pull it.  We found a used Toyota Sequoia with enough life in it to last the life we have left in us. (hopefully)

It’s packed with every option ever to come out of Detroit (or Tokyo).  Heated leather seats, separate temperature controls and best of all – a moon roof.  Golly gee, we have never had a moon roof before.  So, one balmy December eve, we opened the moon roof and went out for some pizza.

The next day my wife Sharie discovered that we (and I emphasize we – don’t listen to her) – we, forgot to close the moon roof.  And of course, an overnight rain storm left us with a serene reflecting pool in the console of the SUV. 

Unpleasant things seem to happen when we fail to use the protections we have been given. 

If I forgo my gloves when I clean the gutters, I slice my hands.  If I skip my vitamin regimen for a few days, I get a cold.  When I fail to seal the moonroof, I get a moon river. 

This carries over into the spiritual realm as well.  We have been given protective measures from God to keep us from spiritual calamity.   When we fail to employ them, temptation prevails, and our faith fails.  Spirits darken, marriages are wounded, addictions grab hold, and God’s mercy to us takes the form of His painful discipline.

His Word is a crucial protection. Paul likens it to a sword that slays our spiritual adversaries.  (Ephesians 6:17) The old King James asks, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:9).  

I read my Bible each evening.  If I fall into a pattern where I skip it or I read the words without really chewing on them, my attitude starts to look like the pre-Christian me, rather than the Christ-empowered me.  My family senses it (and would like to knock some sense into me)

Another essential protection is the Holy Spirit.  He alerts us when we get too close to sin – like a smoke alarm only not as obnoxious.  Some of us have silenced that blessed alarm.  (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Change your batteries. Confess your sin and get a fresh start (1 John 1:8) 

Jesus instructed us to specifically ask God to, “Deliver us from evil.”  (Matthew 6:13) Evidently, we need His frequent divine intervention and lots of it, but it is something that comes in response to our prayers, says Jesus.  

And what about the fellowship of the saints?  Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception.”  NET Bible ®   

I am frightened when I hear people say, “I am a Christian, but I don’t do church.”  This passage and many others tell us that we need our fellow believers.  Without their voices, we become hardened to sin.  Hey, I know that churches are imperfect – but so are you. 

It’s all there – everything we need to protect ourselves from the influences that threaten to ruin our interiors.  So, seal up your soul!   Don’t be a doofus with a moonroof.

how to squash a bash! — January 15, 2020

how to squash a bash!

It was shaping up to be a long ugly summer.  Several nights a week, a gang of teenage boys settled in at the church picnic pavilion with a case of beer.  They partied right below our second story bedroom window.

After tipping a few, the boys became obnoxiously loud, vulgar and destructive.  For hours they would do this while my wife and I attempted to sleep.  They would eventually leave behind a sea of amber shards and a vandalized facility. 

I so badly wanted to stop it.  I lay on my bed each night and conspired.  Maybe I could tie a skunk to the picnic table before they arrive or dress up in a scary sheet and become the ghost of parties past, or maybe I should just give them a piece of my sleep starved mind. 

I hesitated because I knew what would happen. (I had once been one of those drunken fools.)  I could chase them away, but they would be back later to knife the tires of my car.

One evening I read Jesus’ words in Matthew with fresh insight.  He said, “You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.”  – Matt 5:14-16 NETBible ®

Ah yes, I knew what I needed to do. 

It was Friday about dusk when they showed up again.  I grabbed my Bible and walked over.  They were sprawled out on a picnic table.  I sat down at the other end of the pavilion. 

I opened my Bible and began reading without a word being said.  My presence was about as welcome there as a porcupine at a nudist colony.  They were annoyed, but I kept my head down and read. 

Eventually one called over and asked, “Hey man, what are you doin’?”   I said, “I’m reading.”  “Oh,” he said.  Several minutes later another voice called out of the twilight. “What are you reading?”  “The Bible!” “Oh” he said. 

Five more minutes passed till he asked, “Why are you reading the Bible?”  I walked over and told them. I even shared the Gospel, but they were already filled and not with the Holy Spirit.

They did, however, apologize for being rowdy and destructive.  I thanked them and returned to my corner and resumed my reading, although it was pitch dark by then.

Then, suddenly they all arose and began to tidy up the place with the urgency of a Nascar pit crew.  They picked up the trash, rearranged the furniture, put their empties back in the case and quietly carried it to the car – and left. 

– – What happened? 

Sin revels in the shadows.  It is most comfortable where light is absent.  So, I simply took my light into their dark rowdy room.  My presence there caused them to be curious and uncomfortable.   It created in them a sense of shame and remorse and I hardly had to say a word.  Their sin just wasn’t fun anymore, so they left (and the party never returned)

That’s what happens when we turn on a light – the darkness disappears. 

A work place can be a messy place.  Lots of vulgarity and an absence of ethics.  If we were to play on the company softball team it might bring some light to that darkness. 

The neighbors aren’t so neighborly.  They like to snipe at each other.  What if we did a block party one evening and let our lives be the light?

Light illuminates the way forward, but not until it first exposes the need.  May you and I be used by God to bring that kind of influence to our world. 

the worst hospice chaplain ever — January 3, 2020

the worst hospice chaplain ever

My family wanted to do something special for my hospice clients for Christmas.  So, my wife gathered the grandkids and a dozen different finger snacks, coated them with sugar (the snacks not the grandkids) and then bagged them up (the snacks not the grandkids)  I assured my clients the kids were sanitized first.

My daughter and her husband also donated wild and crazy socks for each patient. (from www.wehelptwo.com).  I delivered the gifts as I made my rounds and my hospice friends loved them.

BUT that evening I got a text from one of our nurses who asked, “Did you really give Mr. So and So a pair of socks?”

OK why would she should ask that?  Oh no!  Maybe because Mr. So and So is a diabetic who has had both of his legs amputated.  I can’t believe I forgot that!  

I think that’s what they call a faux pas which the dictionary defines as, “an embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.”  The online dictionary people called and asked if they could post my picture with the definition. 

So, I contritely admitted to her that, “Yes, I gave him those socks.  But he said, “thank you!” 

Oh well at least the nurse didn’t see the bag of sweets that I left my diabetic friend.

I guess that sometimes a good thing may not be so good.

The apostle Paul understood this which is why he penned Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – New American Standard Updated ®

He warns us to watch our mouths – to make sure that nothing unwholesome emerges.  That word “unwholesome” is translated from the Greek word “scubala” which was used to describe the garbage back in Jesus’ day.  “Honey did you take out the scubala?”

Don’t be a garbage mouth says Paul.  We need to speak edifying words – words that build up and strengthen and encourage others. 

But even that isn’t enough says Paul.  Those edifying words, need to be “according to the need of the moment.”  – appropriate for the time and place and circumstances. 

I might tell my wife that her hair looks nice.  If we were on a date, she might blush in appreciation BUT if we happened to be in the middle of an argument instead, she might be red with rage.  The compliment would feel to her more like a distraction, or that I wasn’t listening, or that I wanted to change the subject or whatever. 

Paul says not only do we need to do and say good things, we need to make sure that they fit the context.  He tells us that when we do, “it gives grace to those who hear.”   People are encouraged and empowered and strengthened when we consider them in this way. 

A TEST: Suppose a friend has just dropped his cell phone in the toilet.  Which response would give grace to him? 

1) Riotous laughter (tempting but no)

2) You could say “It’s a good thing that God loves clumsy people.” (affirming and yet demeaning – no)

3) You might say, “Some people were not meant to have a cell phone.” (pretty much scubala)

4) Or how about this, “You don’t need to play FreeCell in the bathroom” (he needs grace not a lecture.) 

5) OK what if you said, “I’m sorry.  Can I help you fish that out?”

That last option is very much “according to the need of the moment.”   It is full of empathy and withholds judgment.   It puts you beside him and not behind a lectern and the offer to help rescue the phone is priceless.  You might want to add, “uh, where do you keep the rubber gloves?” 

I blew it with my hospice friend.  But we talked and laughed about it and he gave me permission to share it so that you are better able to speak to the “need of the moment.”    

PS: He also told me that he was wearing his socks! 

harmonicalist — December 31, 2019

harmonicalist

I know it’s dumb to text while you drive, but how about playing the harmonica?  Yes, that is my guilty vice! 

I am a harmonicalist. (Is that even a thing?)  Most people enjoy my harmonica playing (at least that’s what they tell me to my face). 

Harmonicas are expensive and somewhat fragile.  It’s easy to bend a reed, causing a note to sour. 

But I extend the usefulness of a wounded instrument by storing it in my car to use for practice – when I drive.  While other cars vibrate with an earth-shaking hip hop bass line, mine skips along to O Susanna. 

It was a pleasant summer day as I cruised the city streets – left hand on the wheel and right hand moving my mouth harp to and fro.

I had to make a rolling right turn.  Both hands were necessary, so I left the harmonica between my lips.  I abruptly jerked my head to the left to check for oncoming traffic and as I did the harmonica launched from my mouth, out the window and onto the street. 

Now I am a frugal man – my wife says “cheap.”  I had to get that mouth harp back, so I pulled over and went to retrieve it.   But alas another car had come along and run over my harmonica reducing it to a metallic pancake.

This is a sad but absolutely true story – and yet a story with a moral: “Don’t ever take a harmonica with a bad note for granted, or the whole thing might go flat.” 

Speaking of launching things – we are ready to greet a new year.  How shall we proceed? 

The apostle Paul had this to say, “Therefore consider carefully how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”   Eph 5:16-17 NET Bible ®

This year we need to live carefully.  We can’t take anything for granted To care, is to give something serious thought.  Webster says, “painstaking or watchful attention.” 

This may be a good time to look at way we spend our money and how our time is allotted.   Is that enormous mortgage on your gigantic house worth the money and slavish time spent to maintain it?  Couldn’t you do something more significant with your money?   Wouldn’t you enjoy life more by downsizing and simplifying?   

Maybe we should think about the relationships we pursued and the ones we neglected?   Don’t your kids deserve more time than your fishing buddies?   Does Jesus wait in vain each Sunday to see you come through the church door?

Once the inventory is done, we need to act.  Paul called it “taking advantage of every opportunity.”   I prefer the way the sages of old put it in the King James, “redeeming the time.”

Hey, we don’t have forever.  As a Hospice chaplain I am acutely aware of this.  Our days are numbered, and we have only so much time to get it right. 

A few months ago, I happened to glance at my fingers and noticed they were wrinkled.  I was genuinely shocked to see this unwelcome sign of aging.   Oh, I have had white hair since I was 40 and the arthritis pain in my neck complains, but it was my fingers, ever before me that just seemed to scream out my age.

I was prompted to ask, “What do I really want to do with the time I have left?”  I have worked an average of 55-60 hours a week since I was 18.  My sweet wife has never whimpered the first complaint.  My kids were amazingly patient and still love me for some reason.

But I think it’s time to redeem the time.  This year I have decided to work less and do family more.  Thanks to my parents who were also frugal, my siblings and I were left with a modest inheritance.  I took that money and bought a used camper and SUV to pull it.  My wife and I and the grand kids are going camping this year – a lot.

As for you, ”Do not take this new year for granted or the whole thing might go flat.”

_____________

Hey, I went to Israel with this guy – Buddy Green.  He is a harmonica genius (unlike me). You must check out his youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoauBe465qQ  

Cindy Klaus? Could Santa be a female? — December 24, 2019

Cindy Klaus? Could Santa be a female?

Psst: Be sure to check out the link to CAMEL BELLS at the end of the Blog) 

Some believe that he is really a she.  Why?  If Santa was really a man, the reindeer would not be pulling the sled, they would be field dressed and strapped to it.  And Santa delivers gifts on Christmas Eve, whereas, most men don’t start their shopping until then.  Unlike Santa, most men can’t pack a bag.  Plus, men don’t read or answer their mail.  Maybe the burly – Ho, Ho, Ho is actually a girly – Hee, Hee, Hee!

But who cares about Santa – what I want to know is, “Was Jesus really a man?” 

The answer is yes and no.  Christ is God incarnate – One person with two distinct natures one divine the other very human, forever fused into one awesomely unique individual.   The Scripture clearly portrays Jesus as being fully God and yet also as being fully man. 

Can we explain it?  Not really, but that’s OK!  To try to explain God would be to presume to fully understand Him.  If we were to fully understand Him, He would not be much of a God, certainly not worthy of our worship.

I have shared several good reasons already why the Incarnation of Christ was necessary, but this may be the most important one.

According to God’s reckoning, all of us are sinners, and sin carries the death penalty.   (Romans 3:32)   And “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)    Bad news for sure.  But our Lord volunteered Himself to stand in and bear the consequences of our sin.

Excellent because redemption required a perfect sacrifice of eternal value – great enough to cleanse the sins of billions of people who have spanned thousands of years.   And the value of the sacrifice must endure throughout the ages.  Such a sacrifice could only be made by God. 

But here is the catch – eternal God cannot die!

What was needed was a unique God/man – one person – a fusion of perfect humanity with undiminished deity to become a suitable sacrifice for us.  Jesus became a man that He might die.

There is no other person who qualifies to stand in for us except Christ because he was perfect humanity.  He had never compromised or sinned. And because He was and is eternal God, His sacrifice carried eternal merit. 

One theologian put it this way, “Both natures are necessary for redemption.   As a man, Christ could represent man and die for man; as God the death of Christ could have infinite value sufficient to provide redemption for the sins of the world.”  (Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, pg. 228)

Once He did the job, it was done forever.   Hebrews 1:3a says, “The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word…”  Clearly, the author speaks of the deity of Christ here and then goes on to say.

“…and so, when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”   (Hebrews 1:3b) When Christ had paid the price for sin.  His offering was more than enough.  So much so, He could sit down.  His work was complete. 

How great that Christ became incarnate for us. 

I have a road atlas that aggravates me.  It has one small segment on each page.  When a road runs into the margin on page 19, I must go to page 34 to pick it up again unless I am headed west on the road and then I go to page 3.  Sometimes I get lost and end up on page 81.  What I prefer is one page with the whole map on it.

That’s what we get with Jesus.  Before Him, what we knew of God was segmented and limited.  Jesus, however, gave us a fullest most wonderful picture of God. 

Celebrate Him well this Season

_______________________

How About Some Christmas Fun?   Check out this YouTube that my wife and I put together.  It’s a fun look at the camels of the magi.  A whole bunch of people love this – You will too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFktK6UpZMM

All Bible references from the NET Bible ®

better than a youtube — December 18, 2019

better than a youtube

james ray johnson

Do you prefer to learn by reading the instructions or by having someone demonstrate? 

Well it’s that dreaded time of year when naïve men and a few daring women will spend a frantic Christmas eve assembling toys for their kids.   

Diary of a dad: “Kids are down, time to get the Barbie and Friends Deep Space Probe and Spa from the closet.  But wait!  There’s no instruction manual!  What?  I have to download it?  Where are the instructions on how to do that?  2 hours and 1.5 gigabytes later- finally got the digital how to.

But it was written by the Chinese manufacturer in Chinglish.  It says, “The product design is used is succinct and the technique that the line is easy and smooth and possess the beautiful to look at and fine elegant featute.  Prodruct is completely as a result of 2,000 volts of highhanded shocks, no leakage of electricity, and ensure safety.”  Seriously? 

Oh wait, I just found some instructions in the box. They were stuffed into the warp drive hot tub (NOTE: instructions needed on where to find the instructions.) 

This English is better, but just can’t seem to get a hold of the Barbie-sized assembly tools that were included.   

Done!  But there’s a pile of parts left over and a pedal whomper that won’t whomp.   Hours wasted over a failure.    

Fortunately, found a youtube done by an attention starved man, who demonstrated with excruciating detail how to assemble it.”  

Putting a toy together is tough but putting a life together is even tougher. 

How do we deal with an angry person or live a moral life in a cesspool world, or persevere when under fire?  Not many step-by-step videos for these.

We have a manual for sure.  The Bible is replete with sound wisdom that speaks to such things.  But sometimes it almost reads like Chinglish to our dull senses. Oh, for a youtube.

God did better.  He sent Jesus to show us how to do life.

When God took on flesh in the person of Jesus, He had to live as a human being according to the same conditions and rules that we are subject to.  He did it successfully and He has left countless examples for us.

Are you proud of your humility?  Maybe you need help.  Watch Jesus!   He took a towel and a wash basin and stooped to wash the filthy dusty feet of at least a dozen disciples.  Then He said, “For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you.”  (John 13:15)

Are you mired in immorality?  Watch Jesus.  “The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:6).  Read the Gospels and learn from the master.   (Note: Walking refers to His manner of life.   Don’t try this on water.)

This is a third (in this series) and surely a significant reason why Jesus became God Incarnate.  It was God’s kind way of showing us how to do life. 

There was a time when I suffered unjustly (at least from my perspective.)   My humanity wanted to lash out and accuse and gather sympathizers who would come to my rescue. 

But I was arrested by the words I found in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly.”

I let the example of Christ seep into my broken soul and I found a path forward.  Jesus gave me company and His example kept me from destroying my reputation and the well-being of others.

Better than a You tube.

May your Christmas Eve be painless!

Enjoy the guitar Carol below: One of my favorites: What Child Is This?

What Child Is This: Guitar arrangement by Jim Johnson

All Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

the devil and december 7th — December 10, 2019

the devil and december 7th

Just last week the U.S. paused to remember Pearl Harbor Day.  On December 7th, 1941 Japan mounted an unprovoked attacked on U.S. naval and air forces in Hawaii.  The nation picked itself up and went to war. 

American forces began to work their way through the South Pacific snapping off each tentacle of Japanese domination, but the battle would not be won.  Japan was a fanatical, formidable and determined foe, willing to sacrifice everything to forestall defeat.

The war would not be won until it was taken to their home, the very island of Japan.  Only then was victory attained.  Only then did the flag of surrender fly over Japan. 

We all have our own war to wage.  The Scripture refers to Satan as our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).   At the beginning of time, he entered our air space, and inflicted a crippling surprise attack on Adam and Eve and the human race they sired.

The battle between man and menace raged for many worn torn years.  But the war would not be won until it was taken to his home.  Earth, the throne of his dominion – his place of power – must be invaded if there was to be victory. 

So, Jesus came. 

The apostle John wrote, “For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil.”  (1 John 3:8)

Christ was God clothed in flesh.  He chose to don that not so gay apparel, in order to meet the devil on his own turf and bring the battle to his stronghold.

The first skirmish took place in the thirsty Judean wilderness where Jesus resisted the relentless voice of the devil who tried to badger Him to compromise.  From there Jesus rolled through the promised land liberating the demon possessed and alleviating the diseases they inflicted. 

Satan’s simpering minions cowered when Jesus appeared. “They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have you come here to torment us before the time?”  (Matthew 8:29)

However, Satan dealt a knockout blow when his mole betrayed Christ into the hands of the bloodthirsty leaving Him on a cross until He had bled the last drop.

Three days later, Christ unexpectedly but decisively won the battle and the war when He triumphantly emerged from the dead.   

Japan surrendered September 2nd, 1945.  Soon after they released their prisoners of war. Among them were 14,473 emaciated but grateful Americans.  

Paul spoke of the devil as holding people captive to do his will. (2 Tim 2:26) and when Jesus invaded his domain, Jesus also set the captives free. (Ephesians 4:8)

Jesus has defanged the devil and one day will return to this earth to put him away forever. 

So a second and most important purpose in the Incarnation of Christ was to defeat the devil. 

Now you may be thinking, “Christmas is about the incarnation, and this devil stuff is out of place.  If it were part of the Christmas story, we would be singing about it – right?”  

Well maybe we should.  Forget “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and let’s sing (with Munchkin like voices) “Ding Dong the devil’s dead.”  

Or maybe we could amend a few carols to include the theme.  For instance “Away in the manger no crib for a bed, but He died on a cross now the devil is dead.”  Or how about “Silent night, Holy night, the devil ran away in fright.”

Too much? 

I hear you.  But the theme actually is implicit in a few our Christmas Carols like O Come, O Come Emmanuel.   The verse goes, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel; that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.” 

The song captures the pathos of our situation with a haunting melody and minor dissonant chords.  It colors the human condition with sadness, thanks to the evil one who once held us captive.

Fortunately, we also have carols like Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.  The verse goes, “Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free.”   Jesus – God who chose to be born as man in order to invade and defeat the devil on his own turf – He has set us free.

Hey why settle for a verse when you can hear the whole song!   Relish His victory as you listen to the link below: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Fernando Ortega https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dmO8UPlWoo

PS: What did the sheep in the manger scene say?

“Fleece Navidad.” 

All Bible references from the NET Bible ®

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