Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

the last thing remembered — May 12, 2021

the last thing remembered

Old age is a sorter of memories and it’s interesting what gets sifted out.  I interviewed a sweet new friend recently.  Though he is over 90, he is possibly sharper than I am. 

But he struggled some with memory issues.  He could tell me about his children, and his grandkids and his devoted wife who had passed. 

But then I asked him what he had done for a living.  He stopped and pondered – and eventually said, “Well I don’t know.” 

So odd.  Why did time sift out that huge chunk of his memory?

My dad was also stumped when I asked the same question.  He was in his eighties – also struggling with memory issues.   He had spent most of his working his life as a truck driver and did some mechanic work on the side.

6 days and 60 to 70 hours a week he gave to his work.  And he did it well.  He was highly regarded by his bosses and admired by his fellow employees.  He put not everything, but an awful lot into it.  I have many memories of watching him leave us to go to work. 

But at age 87, he could not remember what he did for all those years.  He could still remember his family – but not the Keebler Biscuit Company.  

Why is that? 

Don’t know, but I can guess. 

The job gave him callused hands and a paycheck.  Sustenance!  Certainly, necessary for the care and feeding of his brood, but in the end – it was just a job. 

The family gave him more. Significance!  He married an auburn-haired beauty who forsook all to take up life with him.  She admired him and believed in him and stood by him through thick and thin.   She touched his soul.   They spent over 60 memory packed years together

He gave life to 5 kids who idolized him and took every opportunity to wrestle him to the floor.   They made him laugh and cry!  His values shaped theirs and it was with immense pride that he launched each one.  Their success or failure became the barometer reading of his heart.  

And then there were the grandkids and the greats.  What’s not to love and cherish?

Work had its memories to be sure – 60-70 weekly hours of boring routine occasionally interrupted with grumbling over the boss or the union dues. 

His memories of the family, on the other hand, were so much richer and multifaceted and rewarding and emotionally engaging and they touched every area of his existence. 

So why did he and why do I and most every other adult I know allow that which will be forgotten to crowd out that which will be remembered? 

In the book of Proverbs old Solomon wrote, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.”

Prov 18:22   I have scoured the Scripture and have failed to find a particular job that was acclaimed in this way.

As far as kids, the Psalmist said, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.”  Psalm 127:3   A job is a responsibility – kids are a reward. 

He went on to say, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”  (127:4) In other words, an older person is protected and sustained by the children he sired in his youth. 

He caps it off by saying, “How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”  Ps 127:5. The man with many children is blessed.  The man with many jobs is not.  He may be overworked and wealthy, but he is not blessed.

I am semi-retired but still working.  Yet, I have determined that from now on my family will get my best.  If work gets in the way, then work will go.  Too little too late – I know.    

You, however, may be able to adjust your priorities sooner.  Do it!   Give the best of your heart to your family instead of your work.  The reward is far greater and the memories longer lasting. 

A PRAYER: Lord a commitment like this is hard to keep.  Help me guard it with my life.

All Scripture references from the New American Standard Updated

ken and barbie — May 5, 2021

ken and barbie

Being their pastor, I was asked to officiate at the wedding of Ken and Barbie, except I knew them as Daniel and Rachel.  They really were the ideal couple, both very physically attractive and emotionally healthy.  Both were solid Christians and highly committed to each other.

In our premarital counseling I gave them a standardized temperament test to assess their compatibility.   They tested better than Adam and Eve before the fall.

In the months that followed the wedding, I watched them with great satisfaction as the sage preparation I had provided worked it magic. 

I understand that they ended each day in their cozy bedroom, side by side.  As Daniel contentedly slipped off to sleep, Rachel would pray for him, “God I can’t stand it anymore, would you just take this man home?  I won’t disobey you and divorce him, but you could solve my problem with a car accident or something?” (I am not kidding-here!)

Hmm – Problems in paradise!

So, what happened?  I decided to call and ask them. (Yes, they are still married!) 

She says she had unrealistic expectations.  She thought she was marrying Prince Charming but then married life revealed glimmers of Conan the Barbarian. 

He says he was stressed with excessive schoolwork and a fulltime job.  He didn’t handle it well plus, she fell near the bottom of his priority list.  As long as the clothes were washed, meals were cooked, and house cleaned – he was happy.  He described himself as a “jerk.” 

They refused to utter the word divorce even though both were desperately unhappy.  They understood that marriage is for keeps.  It was God’s idea in the beginning, and He takes an active role in bringing two people together.  Many ceremonies conclude with the words, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6) KJV (Jesus words by the way)

They exchanged vows – a sacred and unbreakable commitment to each other with God as witness.  Yes, the Lord reluctantly allows divorce, but for a very limited number of reasons.  (Matthew 19:9)   

Daniel and Rachel were stuck.  They were bound by their vows.  

On the other hand – they pretty much knew what needed to happen with their marriage.  They had counseling, read the marriage books, and came from healthy families.  They knew!  Daniel says that they just finally committed to do it. 

They quit pointing the finger at one another and turned it back to themselves. 

She realized her own selfishness and self-righteousness, which doesn’t work well in any kind of relationship.  She determined to honor and respect Daniel even when he didn’t deserve it.

He told me that Rachel had become a mirror of his own behavior.  He saw the ugly impact he had on her and he didn’t like what he saw.  He bumped her up, just beneath God, on his priority list and began to practice servant-leadership in his home. 

They both came to realize that more was needed in their marriage than what they had the ability to give.  They humbled themselves before the Lord and sought His path and His power. 

On the MAIN thing, they both agreed.  The main thing was that they were committed to work it out – to address the problems head on and trust God to help them through.  There was no easy-out through a divorce.   

It took two years of hard, difficult, often lonely work, but number three became a honeymoon of a year for them.

They now have 5 kids and are expecting a sixth.  And Rachel still prays for Daniel at night. “Lord don’t ever let this guy die, I need his help with the kids – but more than that – I really, deeply love him.”  

A PRAYER: Lord help me be steadfast and immovable in the commitments I make, especially the one to my spouse. 

PS: I have their permission and their encouragement to share this!

the proposal — April 28, 2021

the proposal

We had been married less than a month but were serious about succeeding so we went to away to a weekend seminar.  We lodged in the basement of some friends, on the floor, in sleeping bags.  

In the middle of the night I began to stir.  I was laying on my back at the time.  So, I opened my eyes, and was startled to find my new bride’s face a ½ inch away from mine – nose to nose. 

I jumped up with my heart hammering away.  I asked, “What in the world are you doing?” She said “I was afraid that you died, and I was checking to see if you were still breathing.   

___________

I guess she didn’t want to lose a good thing!   And marriage is a good thing.  It provides mutual blessing for a couple, and a wondrous pathway towards understanding God.

Did you know that Jesus presented Himself as a bridegroom multiple times in the Scripture?  (Matthew 9:14-17, 22:1-14; 25:1-12; John 3:29)

The collective church is even referred to as His bride and our future with Him in heaven is described as a marriage.  For instance, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” – Revelation 19:7

Thinking of our relationship with the Lord in this way has helped me work through some difficult theological issues such as, “What does it mean to receive Christ as Savior?”

John 1:12 says, “But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children.”  These two words “believe” and “receive” tell us how to become God’s child.  They are synonymous and yet distinctly different. 

To believe in His name is to accept as fact that Jesus is the divine Son of God who ably bore the penalty on the cross for our sin, and then rose again.  

OK but what does it mean, “to receive Him?”  It seems like it should read, “to receive the gift He offered” but it is focused on receiving “Him” instead. 

Let’s process that question through a proposal grid.

When I decided to invite Sharie to be my wife.   I took her on an outing to a local park.   She thought me weird because I was wearing a big overcoat on a warm spring day.  This was to conceal the box that held a beautiful engagement ring – the most expensive gift I had ever purchased.  

I was excited and had every intention of giving it to her that day.  I did not expect her to pay me for it or make a pledge to never hurt me in the future, or to commit herself to at least 30 years of marriage to merit it. 

But I did have expectations.  I hoped she would say, “Yes I will marry you!”   And in that yes, would be an implied commitment to be with me, and to dwell with me and to do life together.  Basically, I wanted her to receive me – to accept and embrace and commit herself to me. 

But what if I should offer the ring, only for her to say, “Thanks!  I’ll take the ring but forget about a mushy commitment.  See ya!”

Fortunately, she wanted my ring and the me that went along with it! 

I think of Jesus’ invitation in a similar way.  When it comes to salvation, He doesn’t expect us to merit it or to earn it or to qualify through a commitment to be perfect.  He knows how feeble we are.

But He does expect to hear us say, “Yes, Jesus I will be yours.  I will go with you and dwell with you and be with you.”   In other words, “I want the ring and I am committing myself to the mushy relationship that goes with it.” 

There most certainly is a commitment involved – not to an ideal, or a moral code or an organized religious body but to the marvelous person of Jesus. 

So, think of Jesus as being on one knee before you, cradling in his hands a jewelry box containing the gift of heaven, while on His lips are the words, “Will you receive Me?”  

So – will you? 

A PRAYER: Lord I long for more than dry religion.  Give me a relationship with You. 

Scripture references are from the NET Bible®

first — April 21, 2021

first

If my dad taught me anything it was this, “If someone else is capable of doing it – you can do it too.”   I found this to generally be true, but there was the time I attempted to rebuild the rear brake cylinders on my car. 

Let me explain these brake cylinders to those of you who may be less mechanically inclined than me (which might include maybe 2 or 3 of you.)

In each wheel is a cylinder filled with brake fluid.  When you step on the brakes, it transmits that pressure to the fluid through the brake line, which pushes on a piston in the cylinder, which then pushes out on the brake shoe and against the wheel, thus slowing it down

I had rebuilt both cylinders and I wanted to see if they worked.  So, I stepped on the brake pedal.   I learned later that you should NOT do this until the brake shoes are reinstalled – BUT Youtube DIYs didn’t exist then.

Sooo – I stepped on the brakes, heard a loud popping noise, and then sadly watched as the insides of my cylinders flew across the street. 

Maybe my dad was wrong!

___________________

It all fell apart.  It’s embarrassing and even painful when things fall apart. 

Like a family!  The fighting and bickering.  Doesn’t feel like a family anymore.

Sometimes marriages crumble.  Criticism displaces the cuddles.

Ooh and I hate it when my financial plans fall apart – when my outgo exceeds my income. 

Pressure can cause most anything to fall apart – churches, friendships, partnerships, our sanity and on it goes.

The question is – what do we need to hold it all together?

The Apostle Paul wrote this of Jesus, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,  for all things in heaven and on earth were created in him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him.”  – Colossians 1:15-16

Profound words that could summed up in one word, “First.”  Christ was first over all creation.  The term firstborn refers not to birth order (Christ is eternal God) but rather to His rank in creation.   For instance.  Esau was Isaac’s firstborn, but God called Jacob the firstborn because he came to outrank Esau. (Exod. 4:22) 

Christ outranks all of creation because it all came into being through Him.  He was the glue so to speak.

Most importantly, Paul tells us that because Christ is first, He currently holds all things together.  “He himself is before all things, and all things are held together in him.” – Colossians 1:17.

Science tells us that matter (like the chair on which you sit) is made up of more space than substance.  It consists of rapidly moving electrical particles that move within defined parameters. 

That sounds like my life at times – more space than substance and rapidly changing circumstances. 

Yet, somehow the physical universe is stable and firmly held together.  Scientists can’t explain why, but Paul can, “all things are held together in him.” 

But can Christ hold our lives together as well?

Paul would say absolutely…if we allow Him to be first.  To bend our will to His, to seek His honor more than our own and to allow His truth to permeate all we do and say.

If Christ had the first place in our marriages – then husbands would love their wives like Christ loves the church, and wives would respond to that warm loving leadership – a sweet harmony.

If Christ had first place in our churches, then we would support rather than compete against each other. 

If we were to honor Christ first with our finances, He would see to it that we would still have more than enough for ourselves and plenty to share with others.  (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)

Putting Jesus first brings unity and peace and balance and a wholeness to our relationships, finances, even our mental, physical, and emotional health.

So, first things first.  Jesus!

A PRAYER: Lord take the throne of my life, gather the strewn pieces, and pull them together. 

Scripture references from the NET Bible ®

the tollbooth — April 14, 2021

the tollbooth

I loved to hear my mother laugh.  And there was one story that would always cause her to giggle.

She and dad had been visiting in Georgia.  He was impatient and wanted to drive back to their home in Florida even though it was pouring rain. 

So, they departed that stormy night.  Soon after, he lost his way and was a little flustered.  Ahh, but the entrance to the tollway was just ahead.   Dad pulled up to the booth and handed a dollar to the uniformed man.  But the guy responded by saying, “Uh sir – this is an army base!” 

___________

Dad attempted to enter a place where he was not welcome and which required more than a dollar.  Some of us may have a similar experience one day – but it won’t be as funny. 

As someone who ministers to the dying, I have often found that they are usually confident that heaven awaits them, regardless of how they have lived or whether they are religious or not. 

According to Jesus, this may be a fatal presumption.

He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me…” – Matt 7:21-23

Shocking words and yet spoken by the Prince of love – because of His love for us.  He wants to awaken us from the blind presumption that heaven is a universal entitlement. 

The problem is that we want to hand the sentry a dollar to get by when something else is needed.  

Paul tells us what.  “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

Heaven comes to us as a gift from God.  It is not a privilege that we earn, but rather receive.  It was purchased for us by Christ who bore the penalty for our sin.   We are given a pass to heaven the moment we look to God through Christ, in faith and say, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!”  – Luke 18:13

But how can we know that our faith is genuine?   After all, the Scripture says, “Even the demons believe…and tremble with fear.” – James 2:19 

The fruit of saving faith is the proof of saving faith. 

Jesus said, “a tree is known by its fruit.” – Matthew 12:33. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit that proves your repentance.”  – Matthew 3:8

In other words, the way we live, the values we embrace, the faith we practice, the Lord we serve tend to trace the validity of our faith.

We are saved by our faith in Jesus, but there should be evidence to follow.  Saul’s heart and behavior were radically changed after his Damascus Road experience, whereas, the thief on the cross experienced not much more than a changed heart.   But, both were produced out of a saving faith.

Now if this blog causes you concern, then it is likely because your heart already belongs to Jesus.  Why would you even worry about this issue if it didn’t?   Unless – you have never trusted the Lord, then your concern is drawing you to Jesus.   If that’s the case you probably need to whisper that prayer, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!”

When you and I stand at the toll booth in the sky, may we offer not a dollar, but evidence of a faith in Christ that has changed us!

PS: Social media is for sharing.  So share this. 

A PRAYER: Lord thank You for truth that will keep me from tragedy at the gates of heaven.

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

thorns — March 31, 2021

thorns

We once had thorny Pyracantha bushes ascending the walls on the front of our home.  The berries were a beautiful bright red, partly due to the blood I left in pruning them.

Why did God give us thorns?  They grab our legs when we hike through the woods.  They draw blood when we weed the garden.  They make the beauty of a rose unapproachable.    What was God thinking when He gave us thorns? 

I guess we should concede that thorns were not a part of His original design.  God created man and woman and placed them in paradise – a perfect, self-managed garden teaming with fruit and vegetables from which they happily dined.   

But Adam and Eve fell from grace by rejecting God’s plan for their lives.  So, God imposed some painful consequences. 

He said to Adam, “Because you obeyed your wife  and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’  the ground is cursed because of you;  in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat the grain of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat food   until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;  for you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-18 NET Bible®

Adam was made to become a farmer and his nemesis would be thorns and thistles.  God imposed them on Adam and Eve and all of us so that every time we prick our fingers or stab our foot with a thorn, we would think of our sin and its great cost. 

Thorns can get buried in your skin. They also burrowed themselves into the biblical story.    

Moses was chasing his sheep through the Sinai wilderness when he encountered God who appeared to him in a burning bush.  Guess what!  It was also a thorny bush!  Luke wrote this for us in Acts 7:30, “And after forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush.” – NASB

It was from a burning thorn bush that the Lord met Moses and called him to be the leader and liberator of God’s people.  So why did God choose a thorn bush as His platform? 

It was through Moses that God gave the us the law including the Ten Commandments.   This law became a measuring stick to remind us that we fall short of God’s standards.  And that was God’s intention according to Romans 3:20, “through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”  NET Bible ®   

Its kind of crazy.  God imposed the penalty of thorns, and then later appeared amid them as if to say, “Sin is still a big problem.”

Fortunately, thorns continue to creep through the biblical story. 

The prophet Isaiah described Jesus in this way.   “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Isa 53:6  KJV

The Father laid on Him the cost of sin – the iniquity of us all – which was symbolized by the crown that was laid on His head.

“The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe. They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly in the face.John 19:2-3 NET Bible®

The Roman soldiers mocked His claim to be King by weaving a clownish crown and forcing it into His head. 

And of course, it was a crown of thorns.   The original Greek word for this thorny wreath is “kanthai,” which seems to be the root word of the Pyrocantha plant that grew on my walls.  Ironic I know!

Those sick soldiers didn’t realize it, but in crowning Christ with thorns, they would shout a Gospel message through the ages to come. 

The curse of the thorns in Genesis 3, was placed on Jesus who removed it by His death on the cross for us, “and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Think on that when you weed your garden this Easter Season. 

A PRAYER: Thank You Lord for bearing our thorns in your flesh.

dis-concert-ed — March 24, 2021

dis-concert-ed

I was in the home of a friend who was approaching the end of his life.  It was my privilege to be with him, and to encourage, and read Scripture, and pray and sing for him. 

So, we were sitting in the kitchen facing each other, while I serenaded him with my voice and guitar.  

As I sang, I happened to spy a Texas sized roach as he scrambled forth.  This guy was brazenly bold.   It was a brightly lit inhabited room.  No scampering in the dark for this guy.

He stopped under the chair of my friend.  He then cocked his head upward and focused his attention on me as if he was listening to the concert. 

I didn’t know whether he was flattering me or needed to be flattened by me

As I launched my second song, he scampered off.  Simon Cowell could not have been more cruel.

____________

Music has always been a blessing to me, so I have tried to use it to bless others. 

And the Lord has given me a few ego inflating opportunities.  I have sung before a couple thousand at one time, had a song that I wrote recorded in Nashville, and I preached and sang in Haiti and had it broadcast by radio to the whole nation.  Those were the kind of opportunities I lived for – until I met Christ. 

Once I met Jesus, I took my guitar and laid it at His feet and told Him it was His to do with as He pleased.  He seemed to say “Go ahead and pick it up and use it for me.  Tell folks what I have done for you and what I can do for them.  And when it is all said and done, I won’t be interested in the far-flung places that you sang, or the large crowds at your concerts.  I will only want to know if you had been faithful – faithful with every opportunity – big or small.” 

At least that’s what I heard when I read Luke 16:10, “The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.’”  NET Bible®

I, therefore, have tried to ever be faithful especially with the little.  These days I do several concerts each week for crowds of one – individuals who are facing their last days and need encouragement from sweet old hymns like “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” and “When We All Get to Heaven” 

My friend in the kitchen lost the use of his eyes long ago.  And he didn’t get started with Jesus till, as he says, “It was too late.”  So, he doesn’t have a storehouse of truth to rely on.  But he savors the truth filled hymns.  He ponders the words after each is sung. 

As for me, I get more pleasure from that, than from singing to a sea of unknown faces. 

In conclusion…If my friend had gotten up and exited the kitchen, leaving the roach behind to listen, I suppose I would have continued to sing.  Maybe he needed the encouragement too. 

On the other hand, I hope there aren’t any roaches in heaven. 

So, what is your “little” and what are you doing with it? 

A PRAYER: Lord I really desire to hear you say to me, “Well done Thou good and faithful servant.”  May it be so.

creamed — March 17, 2021

creamed

Our God is at war today – and you and me may be His targets!  I speak from experience. 

Many moons ago I was finishing up my bachelors in preparation for ministry.  I was confident that God would open the doors to a position in a church. 

After all, I had a GPA of 3.96 and I had planted and served in the leadership of a church.  I possessed endorsement letters from a couple of published seminary professors, and I could play a pretty mean guitar.  From my perspective, I was a great candidate for that perfect job. 

I was contacted by a large church in Austin.  A friend with national influence recommended me for a position as a youth pastor.   

They flew us down to Austin and housed us in the home of a staff member (so they could keep an eye on us).  We toured the church facilities and were impressed with the size and quality. 

They wanted me to meet with the Elders, but there were too many to gather at once – so they staggered the meetings. 

The first took place on an early Friday morning for breakfast.  There were 6 of us.  They were dressed in jackets and ties and ready to zip down the freeway to their law firms and banks downtown.

The waitress delivered our coffee.  Quickly the men began to pepper me with questions.  “What is your philosophy of ministry?”  How would you approach a teen with a smoking problem?” 

In the meantime, I was trying to treat my coffee.  The liquid creamer was packaged in a goofy little triangular bag.  It was designed so that you tear off the corner and squeeze. 

Did it – but no cream.  More questions.  Sweat on my brow.  Tear a little more – squeeze a little more – but no cream.   

More questions.  Knees are starting shake.  Tear still more and squeeze but no cream. 

Squeeze a little harder and finally there was cream – but not where I wanted it.  The back of the packet blew open and showered the jackets and ties of the 3 Elders on my right. 

Oh my!  They were angry with me, but in a pleasant Christian way. 

And so, my unemployment was prolonged.  They didn’t want me in Austin. 

As I pondered my experience, I asked the Lord, “Was that necessary?  The waitress could have brought that dry nasty powdered creamer.”

He directed my mind to His answer, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6

Oops – – I get it Lord.  I was resting on my resume rather than You, so Ya let me taste a hefty dose of humility.  All my credentials didn’t seem to matter much after I drenched my potential bosses with a milk product.

The verse is disturbing but it is a concept that is repeated multiple times in the Old and New Testament.  I can only assume that pride is a pervasive problem with us ornery human beings and that God takes great offense at it. 

In fact, the Greek word for “opposed” was used elsewhere to describe an army that went to do battle.   The implication is – God goes to war with the proud.  The passage does not limit the target to those who do not believe.  It includes any who might be proud. 

So God goes on the warpath against pride and He has lots of bogies.

Arrogance often cloaks our political leaders.  I hear their boasts and I cringe, and wait for God to eventually say, “OK that’s enough.  You need a big serving of humble pie.” 

I worry about pastors and their empires.  Success is subtle as it poisons the ego.  This last year, in our town of 80,000 we have seen several of the pastors of our largest churches go down in the flames.   Could it be that pride was the cause? 

I am praying for a once happy family that is now conflicted and angry with each other.  The battle has gone on for months now.  Each party is waiting for the other to say, “I was wrong and I’m sorry” but pride has pasted their mouths shut.

But forget about them.  I need to worry about me. 

I need to boast a little more – more like Paul, who said, “I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

My abilities are liabilities when I fail to recognize that it is God who is at work in me (Phil 2:13)

A PRAYER: Sometimes I am even proud about being humble.  Lord search me and know my heart.

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

McChurch! — March 10, 2021

McChurch!

My youngest son had just started his very first wage-paying job.  He came home from work each night smelling like a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.  

When he started the job, he requested Wednesday evenings off so that he could continue with his youth group Bible study.  But the boss, whose name may have been Ronald, just ignored him.

The next week my son wrote out a schedule of the hours he could work, and omitted Wednesday – and yet, again his appeal was cast asunder.

He didn’t want to forfeit the study so he asked the group to pray that the manager would respect his request.

The next time he reported to work, the boss approached him and said, “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t accommodated your Wednesday request. I will fix it in the future.” 

The boy exclaimed, “Wow that was fast!” 

I have to say that I was one excited dad.  My son prayed and saw God answer in a spectacular and expeditious way.  He experienced God.  Awesome!

But I was just as excited that he made his church involvement a priority. He was willing to sacrifice the job (along with his McNugget discount) to continue meeting with his brothers and sisters in Christ.

________________

You don’t see much of that kind of commitment much anymore.

Covid has cleaned the church pews faster than sanitizer. But the attrition started long before that.   The church is being drained by weekend sports tournaments, work schedules, late night Saturdays and that lazy paralysis us that grips us on Sunday morning.

They must have faced similar issues in the first century, because the book of Hebrews says, “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” – Heb 10:24-25

Believers were abandoning the time they met together as a church.  It was a habit, meaning they did it on a regular basis.  The Scripture says, “Don’t do it!”

Yes, but church attendance doesn’t open the doors to heaven to us.  We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.  So why do church? 

– It is something that we give to God! 

In the Old Testament, the people of God were required by law to attend the worship gatherings of Israel.  Track the journeys of Jesus and you will find that He was consistent in his participation.  Evidently it is extremely important to God that His people gather for the purpose of worship.  Why He would want my voluntary wimpy worship? I have no clue – but He does.

– It is also something that He gives to us.

A worship service is like standing on a mountaintop and taking in a breath of God.  The lyrics of the songs awaken us to the awesomeness of His being and warm us with reminders of His love and mercy.

Biblical preaching spiritually comforts, educates and provokes us.  It equips us as spouses, parents, laborers and neighbors that we might succeed.   

And then there is the benefit that we get from doing life with one another. 

The Hebrews passage tells us that we need to gather to spur each other on – to encourage each other to love and to do good works.  

Love feels like it has entered the ice age these days.  Hard heart disease is sweeping the culture.  We vaccinate ourselves from that kind of crass hardness by meeting with and being with each other in church.  (but it takes more than 2 shots)

It’s like soothing aloe after a day in the windswept, sunbaked Rockies.  Red, chapped, cracked skin is restored and made soft again. 

The passage says we also gather because the “day is drawing near.”  He was speaking of the day of Christ’s return.  

Who isn’t wondering if the turbulent times we face are fig tree signs of Christ’s return?   They may or may not be, but we take on the times with courage and support when we do it together.   That’s why we do church! 

So maybe it’s time we abandon the abandoning – and get reinvolved!

A PRAYER: Lord clear my schedule and my heart that I can be with you and your people next Sunday

All Scripture references from NETBible®

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