Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

aroma — September 15, 2021

aroma

Seven young grandkids were gathered around my wife to celebrate her birthday.  She was honored with crayon and construction paper cards and gifts of pipe cleaners and macaroni. 

There was one gift that was especially unique.  She gently pulled the tape and paper from the box.  It was an ALTOID tin.  Oh great – another grandkid who lacked tact. 

She shook the tin, but it did not answer.  She lifted the lid with anticipation, but the box was empty – completely vacant.  Not even a mint!

She looked at the face of her little giver for a clue.  He was beaming with pride and joy.  So, she tactfully asked, “Well – what is it?”   He said, “Smell it.”  She lifted it to her nose and detected the fragrant scent of a perfumed oil. 

Hmm – what was percolating in his little mind?  He must have smelled that oil at one point and it so delightfully filled his senses that he thought he should capture and share it.

Now whenever his grandma needs something sweet to smell, she’ll have it in her purse. 

__________

Maybe we all need something sweet to smell because the news these days – well it stinks. 

Yesterday (9/10/21) I watched a news clip of an African American man who is a conservative political candidate in California.  He was assaulted by a woman who was wearing an ape mask and hurling racial insults and eggs at him.  How vile!

On the same day I read of a report in Long Beach California.  A 12-year boy was riding the city bus with his grandmother when a 40-year-old man boarded.   He sat down next to the boy, and without cause or warning began to pummel the boy’s face with his fists.   

He threw him across the bus and then busted the boy some more, while not one of the many passengers or the driver tried to stop it.   The man took the boy’s bag and then got off the bus. 

A culture with a stench!   I was sickened as I took in the news.  Jesus spoke of a day when, “most people’s love will grow cold.”  (Matt 24:12.)  Feels like we’ve arrived.

Our world could use more fragrance and less ferocity, and this is the Lord’s plan on how to do that.   

Paul revealed it in 2 Cor 2:14-15.  He wrote, “…thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…” NET Bible ®

The apostle says that God’s people are that fragrance.  We carry with us a sweet aroma of Christ both to the saved and the unsaved. 

The message we proclaim of God’s unmerited grace, and His rich mercy and forgiveness toward sinners.  That’s a breath of fresh air especially in this day of “cancel culture.”     

Couple that message with selfless deeds of kindness and service to others, and a sweet fragrance begins to dispel the stench that the evil has imposed on us.

My friend Kathy lives in Galveston and she recently took a picture of a telephone pole in the alley near her home.  There is a homemade box tacked to it about 5 feet up the pole.  It holds three ice-cold bottles of water.  They were left there for the men who pick up the trash.  This kind person puts them out every trash day.

Can you smell it? – so fragrant so sweet!

These days evil and righteousness are competing for air space.  In all honesty our world sorta smells like a bathroom after someone has tried to hide the odor with a can of Glade – an uncomfortable  mixture of smells. 

But Jesus said that the gates of hell will not overpower His church.  (Matthew 16:18) Not even the smell of hell. 

So, with the Lord’s promise and His power let’s be fervent to live and to speak the Gospel.  Let’s refresh the air

A PRAYER: Lord this sometimes seems to be a hopeless ambition, but we know it is not.  Help us to be faithful in our work and our witness.    

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

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

unstained — September 8, 2021

unstained

My dad was a DIY kind of guy.  He cut our hair, pulled our teeth and treated our diseases.  His solution for a cold-fueled cough was a spoonful of Vicks Vapo-Rub – that slimy, translucent gel that reeks of Eucalyptus.   

It worked!  We would stop coughing – until mom administered CPR.    The company must have heard about dad because they eventually put a warning on the label of each jar: “Not to be taken internally.”     

__________________

There are other things that should not be taken internally – like the amoral values that shape our culture. 

They are pumped through the entertainment industry, water cooler conversations, schools with agendas, internet interactions, politically correct employers, advertisements and so on.   

It’s an intrusive and oppressive problem and yet the Scripture tells us, “to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27) NETBible®  

Interesting!  When you paint something, you put a coat on the exterior.  It can easily be sanded down to the bare wood again.  But when you stain something, the thin liquid soaks much deeper into the wood.  It’s sorta like the paint is on the wood while the stain becomes part of the wood.  To try to sand it off is next to impossible.

James understood that the values of this world, work on us as a stain does.  They become insinuated and buried deep into our thinking and character. 

So, what can we do to create stain resistant conditions for ourselves and our children? 

– drink deeply from the truth. 

When a board has been already stained with a dark rich stain, any added stain does not make a difference.  We need to be stained not by the world, but by the eternal, unchanging life-giving truth of the Word of God.  Read it daily, drink from it deeply and pray it into your life. 

– evaluate the media

It’s tough to live today without being bombarded by the media, but we can choose wise, safe sources for our news and entertainment and we can critically evaluate whatever is broadcast.

– physically meet with the saints

To believe the Scripture, is counter cultural today.  We who trust it are made to feel like the odd man out.  We need to be frequently reminded that there are many like us who cherish the truth and we need to be with them and interact with them and find courage and support from them. 

Personal involvement in a local Bible believing church will do this for us.  Our kids will learn that there are other families who treat cell phones and net access with the same level of scrutiny as you do. 

But you watch church on Facebook every Sunday!  Sorry that ain’t gonna do it for you or your kids.   You need face-to-face interaction with the people of God. 

– build interpersonal relationships with the likeminded

When we were kids, we often succumbed to peer pressure.  What we needed then and now, are a few good friends that share the same healthy biblical values.     

– keep an eye on your school

There is no perfect educational solution for our kids.  Each option has its assets and liabilities.  Regardless of your school choice – stay involved and evaluate and attend parent teacher meetings and ask questions.   Make sure that your values are supported by the teacher who monopolizes your child’s time.    And be extra wise about the university you send your kids to

– affirm what you believe

Start a family dinner ritual dinner and call it “This is what we believe and why!”  Consider one point each night and be sure to discuss it.  If your kids, ask questions or even challenge what you say – that’s a good thing.  It means they are searching for what is true.   

So, 2 things to remember – One: Beware of a culture that threatens to stain our souls and Two: Vicks Vapo-Rub is for external use only. 

A PRAYER: Lord keep us unstained and sand away that which may already be there. 

This has been Jim Johnson from pickleheavenpress.com.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 

wheelbarrow economics — September 1, 2021

wheelbarrow economics

My grandson is impressed with Texas A&M University.  He is familiar with their logo featuring a big T in the center with the A&M as bookends in a smaller font.   I would copy it here, but I might get gigged by the university.

He loves the logo but isn’t reading it correctly.  He recently declared that when he grows up, he is going to attend ATM university.  

Hmm? ATM?  A money dispenser could be handy when he goes to pay for his education! 

_____________________

A college education is pricey? But then again, what isn’t?  Where will we ever get the money to finance it all?   Could the answer be, “Give it away?”

I was converted when I was 19 years old, but my wallet was not.  It was still steeped in its heathen self-centered ways.  But my first pastor, Rev. Peter Courlas, helped me along.  He taught on money from 2 Corinthians.  It was all new to me and oh so uncomfortable. 

In chapter 9 money was compared to seed.  I learned that the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly and the one who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. (9:6)  Evidently, God gives to us based on the same measure that we give to others. 

This concept has been abused by some.

I had a friend who received a form letter from a prominent TV evangelist.  He asked for a “seed gift” of $10.   The letter promised that God would return that amount 100 times – a $1,000 divine rebate to the giver.

My friend wrote back suggesting that it would be wiser if the evangelist gave him $10, so that God would multiply it back to the evangelist.  The preacher did not reply. 

It doesn’t quite work that way.  Paul explains in verses 10-11 “Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God.” NET Bible®

God provides the seed (money) to the sower (giver) not to enrich us but to enable us to give to others.   He doesn’t give to us and expect it to remain with us.  He expects us to be a pipeline of blessing.  

Maybe this will help.  The concrete truck pours the concrete into your wheelbarrow, so that you can wheel it to the backyard and dump it where you are building the patio.   But, if you return with the wheelbarrow still full of concrete, the truck is not able to fill it again.

If we are slow to pour, God is slow to refill.   Sow sparingly, reap sparingly.   God is not so concerned with the money but with what we do with it.

Well, the pastor poked me in the eye.  My new bride and I had to make some adjustments.  We decided to give a minimum of 10% of whatever we received.  We chose 10% not out of a lawful obligation but because we are math impaired, and we could figure 10%  

Our income was small back then and 10% of small was even smaller – but we were faithful.  Soon after that decision, we headed off to many years of private biblical education – almost every tuition dollar came from our pockets.  We did not take out a loan. 

During those years we still gave away our seed, and God was faithful to supply what we had committed to give and so much more.  We graduated debt free. 

Today we continue to invest the value of that biblical education in the lives of others.

Have we ever felt financially secure?  No way!  We do, however, possess a sense of security that transcends our bank account.   It comes from years of watching God provide for us in unexpected ways.   

If money or the lack thereof is an issue for you, you might want to chew on 2 Corinthians 9. 

A PRAYER: Lord I am still sometimes challenged to let go of what You have given.  Help me to pass it on!

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  

need a rest — August 18, 2021

need a rest

We had completed the first workday of our mission trip.   It was grueling labor there under the scorching Nicaraguan sun.  Each of us gratefully grabbed a plate of food and took our places at the table.

One of us sat down and then suddenly vanished.  No – it was not the rapture.  All 4 of the flimsy legs of his green molded plastic chair snapped and he instantly dropped beneath the table.  We laughed and teased the guy once we found out that he was OK.

But then another person disappeared.  By the end of the week I believe we lost 4 team members that way.  It was a real-life game of whack-a-mole.

The work was exhausting and the chairs were frustrating – denying us physical and even emotional rest.  We worried every time we sat down, “Is it my turn to become the butt of the jokes?” (pun intended)  

______________

Isn’t that a lot like life?   As they say in Texas, “Some of us look like we been rode hard and put away wet.”  We want some – we need some rest.

She says, “Being the caregiver for my mom is wearing on me.”  The teacher frets about how much her kids are learning online.   He says, “The boss hired a guy to assist me but managing the guy has doubled my stress.”  “The new believer struggles to live the way the Lord wants her to live.”  “The news these days is just too much for me to bear.”

Rest!  We really need it – but where do we find it?  Jesus said, “Come to me!” 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”   “OK Lord that’s me for sure – weary and burdened – but how are you going to give me rest?”   (Matthew 11:28)

He went on, “Take my yoke on you and learn from me because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (11:29)

He spoke of a yoke – the kind that harnessed a team of oxen.  When an ox became of working age, the farmer would take the younger smaller beast and yoke him with a veteran.  Together they would plow the fields, but it was the older beast that actually bore the brunt of it all. 

He did the heavy pulling, while the younger simply walked along – learning the proper gait and how to respond to the farmers commands and so on.   When the younger was yoked with the older, it was very easy work for him.   Which is why Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”  (11:30)

There is an irony here, however.  We think of rest strictly as inactivity, but Jesus tells us that we rest when we are at work – doing what He would have us to do and in tandem with Jesus.

I am thinking that we need that kind of rest.  How do we find it? 

Jesus says, “Come to me!  Spend some time with me.  Listen to more of my words and less of your newscast.  Forget your peers and consider life from my perspective. Allow my strength to fill you.  Try more peace and fewer pills.  Just spend some time with me.” 

A musician will sometimes use a “rest” in his song.  This is an interval when the instruments are silenced while he continues to sing.  The rest provides clarity and emphasis to the words.

It seems like a good idea to build that kind of break into our days.   A time of inactivity and reflection– so that we can more clearly hear the voice of the shepherd. 

This kind of advice also comes to us from the Psalms.

“Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still.” KJV – Psalm 4:4. “Be still, and know that I am God.”  KJV  – Psalm 46:10

We need to stop and rest a while with Jesus each day to find that kind of deeper rest we need. 

Well – you will be glad to know that our mission team gave our Nicaraguan hosts a parting gift.  We replaced all the flimsy chairs with sturdy ones.  And now every scale-tipping American can settle down and rest easy when they visit there.  And that’s the “rest” of the story.

A PRAYER: Lord – I know how to work hard, but find it tough to rest well.  Help me to learn from You.”

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ® unless otherwise noted.

suffering and string trimmers — August 11, 2021

suffering and string trimmers

I have a string trimmer to tidy up my lawn.  It taunts me!  When it was new, it was ridiculously stingy in feeding out the line.  Frequently the line would break off so that I had to manually take the trimmer apart and pull out more.

Recently it has felt the need to atone for its sins.  It now feeds out the line with insane generosity – 3 times more than what I need.  Now it gets all tangled and I must frequently stop and stuff it all back in.   

When I get to heaven, I may need to apologize for the things I have said about person who engineered that thing.

Now before you start a GoFundMe page for poor Jim, please know that I have sufficient funds to replace it. I’m just cheap.

But I will say this.  Most every time I trim, I begin with a prayer, “Lord please let this be the day this thing bites the dust so that I’m forced to buy a new one.”

______________________

Sadly, I have a few friends that pray that same type of prayer. 

Their bodies are old and frail and their minds sluggish.  Some endure diseases they can’t pronounce.  Most feel useless – a burden to their families. 

In their beds, they lay and pray, “Lord take me home. Take this old body and give me a new one.”  They understand heaven and are frustrated that they must suffer and wait.

Because I am a chaplain, they sometimes ask, “Why does God keep me here?”  I tell them, “It may not be about you.”  

Your kids need an example: 

When you were younger, they watched you and learned how to work hard, and manage their money and how to treat their mate.  By example you taught them how to live well. 

Now they need to be taught how to die well.  They need to understand how your faith sustains you though your body is failing.  It was Paul that said, “Show yourself to be an example of good works in every way.”  (Titus 1:7)

The unconvinced need proof: 

The unsaved in your circle of friends and family need to see the divine spark in your faith.  I think of the thief, who watched Jesus on the cross.  The man began the episode as a mocker but was quickly gripped by the way that Jesus suffered. 

Peter described Jesus in this way, “When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly.”   (1 Peter 2:23.)  The thief was divinely drawn to this person who handled His suffering with such grace.  You have prayed for your family and friends for years.  It may be the way you handle your final days that finally wins them to Jesus.

Through suffering we draw nearer to Jesus: 

Paul coveted something he called “the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.”  He wrote in Philippians 3:10, “My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death.”  

Shared experiences, especially difficult ones, bind people together.  To suffer is to join Jesus’ unique fraternity of faith.  It is there that we find Jesus to be sweeter and more precious than ever before. 

You kids need to grow up: 

A good parent teaches their kids to take responsibility – for their room, their car, their job and so on.  It’s time that they learn to take responsibility for an aging parent.   The Lord was clear on this matter.  1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if someone does not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”   It’s true.  As we age, we certainly do become burdens – but burdens that God expects our children to shoulder.

BUT are you useless?  Far from it!  God is using you and your circumstances to accomplish rich things in the lives of others. 

“Why is God keeping you around?”  It’s not about you.  So, trust Him as you have in the past and endure with patience and grace until He calls you home.  

A PRAYER: Lord help me to suffer with grace and use me to extend grace to others who suffer.

Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

makin’ it count — August 4, 2021

makin’ it count

It’s a universal experience.   We key in a critical document only to find out later that it did not get saved – don’t know why!

Wasted effort; striving in vain; pointless labor.  There are few things that frustrate me more.  

At times I have been tempted to pray, “Lord I don’t know what happened to that resume, but I need it.  Could you do a divine undo and restore it to the hard drive?”

So far, He has ignored that request, but I wonder if God ever redeems a wasted effort.

She has prayed that God would save her alcoholic of a husband – she feels like she is wasting her breath.   He prepares diligently each week to provide a good class for the junior highers at church.  They could care less.   She has to correct her children on the same things over and over.  She’s convinced that they will never get it.   

________________

My wife and I were invited to participate in Gospel Sing hosted by a local church in southern Ohio.  We said yes but came to rue the decision.  The event took place on a bitter cold January night. 

We found the little country church perched high on an icy hill about a 30-yard climb.  We hauled a guitar, a 3-year-old and 4-month-old.  Oh fun!

We reached the peak after much slipping and sliding, entered the building and were surprised to find that it was a one room affair.  It was even serviced by an outhouse which was an icehouse that night.  This did not sit well with my wife.  (if you know what I mean)

KC was an infant that had to be continually jostled or he would wail.  So, while other groups were singing, I would jostle my son.   Just before our turn, I handed KC to a friend and gave him jostling lessons.  Someone needed to do it while we sang.  

Sharie and I began to perform our collection of original songs.  Soon after, KC began to scream.  My friend had failed his jostling exam.  The wailing reverberated off the walls of that small church building.  (and the congregation snickered.)

The boy’s howling was louder than our singing.  We needed to reduce the distraction so Sharie reclaimed him and resumed the proper jostling technique while she sang.  It gave her voice a new level of vibrato.  (And the congregation laughed.)

At this point our 3- year-old felt left out.  So, she climbed up the platform and began to cling to and circle us while we sang.  She passed through our legs and occasionally stopped to face her fans and pick her nose (and the congregation roared) 

We finished our set and sat – sure that had been the biggest wasted effort ever.  There were so many things that distracted from our musical message. 

However, months later, the pastor of that church found me and expressed his gratitude for our ministry.  On that icy night, we had taught the church a song that we had written based on Philippians 4:13. He told me that the church had sung that song nearly every Sunday since. 

Wow!  What we had regarded as a massive waste, turned out to be a meaningful investment in the Kingdom of God. 

The apostle Paul put it in perspective for us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”   NETBible ®

“Stick it out” he said.  “Keep praying and singing and teaching and parenting “knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”    God has an amazing ability to somehow take our waste and turn it to gold. 

I had a friend in high school who was studying Mandarin.  I was perplexed and asked him why.   He said he wanted to be a missionary to China.  At that time there were zero missionaries in China.  It was isolated and all westerners were unwelcome. 

“A wasted effort” I thought.  But several years later we met again at the very time he was leaving for China.   The nation had finally opened up to outsiders and he was already equipped with Mandarin.   Isn’t God’ amazing!

SO, “Be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 

A PRAYER: Lord help me stick it out when I’m tempted to sit it out.

on the march — August 2, 2021

on the march

In our family, “marching” was a season.  Each of our kids were part of the school marching band that entertained us at the football games.   From the oldest to the youngest, we spent about ten consecutive years in the stands watching them gyrate back and forth and weave in and out with precision.  It was fun but sometimes tedious.   A few of the routines were rehashed all 10 seasons. 

Theirs was a military style band which required them to wear enormous hats with a brim that came down over their eyes.  Add a trumpet or sax to their lip and you could never be sure who it was.   In fact, we have a lengthy VHS video of a kid marching that we thought was ours but wasn’t. 

Our son K.C. continued to march out of the high school band and into the U.S. Air Force.

My wife and I were present when he graduated from basic training.  When his unit entered the parade grounds, we were proud to see him marching in the very first row of the unit.   We thought two things, “Wow, we can see his face!” and “I wonder what he did to merit that?” 

We later learned the answer was simply – he grew tall. He is 6’ 5”.  He and every other towering airman were deliberately placed at the head of the marching unit. 

He told us that this was a tradition that dated back to the Romans.  They did it for psychological intimidation.  By placing the biggest, meanest, broadest men at the head the column, it gave the impression to the enemy that the entire army were all bruisers.   This also helped to obstruct the view of the soldiers behind them so that the enemy had no idea of their number.

__________________

The apostle Paul tells us that God ordered His ranks in a similar way.  In Colossians 1:15-16 he wrote 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.”  

Christ was called the “firstborn!”   Firstborn refers not to a birth order but to the preeminent rank that belongs to one who was first born. 

For instance, David was called the “firstborn” though we know he was the youngest of his brothers.  (Psalm 28:20 & 27) Jacob was called the “firstborn” though we know that Esau preceded him.  (Exodus 4:22) The title has nothing to do with actual birth order and everything to do with the rights, privileges, honor and authority that were given to the first born. 

Paul tells us Christ is the firstborn, in that He was prior to, distinct from and highly exalted above every other creature.  He stands at the head of God’s marching column.

Paul continued in verse 18. “He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.”

Jesus bears the title firstborn again – firstborn from the dead.  This reminds us that He was the first and most important in rank to ever be raised and have His body transformed with immortality.

Because of His saving work on the cross, many more of us will one day be raised from the dead, but none more important than Jesus who faced the devil at the cross and prevailed at the empty tomb. 

Take comfort my brethren.  Jesus marches at the head of our ranks.  He towers over all others.  He even hides us from the view of the enemy.   He shields us with the power of His might and leads us onto certain victory.  Praise His name!

A PRAYER: Lord, thank you for leading us and shielding us from our foes.

Scripture references are from the NETBible®

for the birds — July 27, 2021

for the birds

There was chaos in the children’s church!  Was a pigtail pulled? A flannelgraph mishap? 

I was delivering a scintillating sermon when parents began to walk out on me to locate the chorus of sobbing preschoolers.

The kids had been making birdfeeders by dabbing peanut butter on a pinecone and then sprinkling it with birdseed. 

Aha!  A parent discovered that the seed was laced with cayenne pepper to repel squirrels. 

The little ones handled the seed and then rubbed their eyes – hence, the blood curdling screams. 

___________

I guess some things are harmless unless we touch them. 

Sin is a lot like that.  It burns, but only if we touch it.

Of course, temptation abounds today.   It shouts to us like a carnival barker who uses every trick to draw us in. 

There’s little we can do to insulate ourselves from temptation.  In fact, James argued that the inclination to sin is already within us.  He said, “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.”  (James 1:14)

My nature is to be a people pleaser – that’s my desire.  Which is why I am sometimes tempted to compromise to keep people happy.  I am a man – like any other man – who is tempted to browse in all the wrong places.  I like things and am occasionally tempted to twist my ethics to get what I want.

The devil’s mission is to identify these inclinations and to tease them out – to turn my thoughts into evil deeds.  James went on to say, “Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.” (1:15)

It is when we touch sin that we suffer.  It gives birth to death.  For the Christian this results in a profound deadness in our relationship with God – a relational black hole that persists until we face it and confess it as sin.  As always, He is faithful and just to forgive us.  (1 John 1:9) 

But unfortunately, we are unaware that there is heat in the seed.  Like the preschoolers we unknowingly touch and feel pain.   Therefore, James ended with the words, “Do not be led astray…” (1:16)

Temptation is beyond our control, but we can choose – we can choose – whether to touch it to not.  Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

So how do we do this?   Two words – NO and GO. 

Joseph was a virile young man whose ego had been crushed beneath the feet of his 10 vile brothers who had sold him into slavery.   Despite his anger and wounded self-esteem, he became a successful estate manager in the home of Potiphar. 

However, the man’s wife was drawn to him.   Genesis says, “His master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me.” (39:7)

His bruised ego must have surged.  The slave with little control over his life, was offered the driver’s seat.  How intoxicating it was to be wanted.   She may have been as purty as a toad, and bigger than a house, but I bet she looked appealing to Joseph. 

But he saidNO!  “How could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” (39:10)

Well she kept it up, day after day, until “NO” had to become “GO.” Genesis says, “One day he went into the house to do his work when none of the household servants were there.  She grabbed him by his outer garment, saying, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his outer garment in her hand and ran outside.”  (39:11-12)

There was no one else in the house.  If he were to take the bait, this would be the right time.  The pressure was intense, so, he knew he had to run.

NO and GO.  It’s as simple as that. 

When temptation comes, “Just say NO.”  I often have said it out loud which chokes the temptation immediately.  And if it’s possible, GO.  Leave the situation.  The temptation will abate as soon as you get through the door.   

When Satan tempted Eve in the garden, she responded, “God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’”   She understood. Don’t even touch it – and yet she did.  May we be wiser.

A PRAYER: “Lord my prayer is the one that you taught me to pray, “Deliver me from evil.” 

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ®

giftless — July 21, 2021

giftless

It was Father’s Day and my grandchildren honored me with handmade cards and gifts.  My little grandson wanted to join in, but he wasn’t prepared, so he slipped away and used a king-sized marker to scratch out a sweetly illustrated card. 

He even enclosed a five-dollar bill.  When I opened it, I was amazed, but his brother was angry – because it was his money that was given.   I handed the five back to brother over the protests of my precious gift giver.  Then the sad little guy wrapped himself up and cried because he had nothing to give his granddad. 

His tears broke my heart and also alerted me to my own condition.  For there is a day coming when I will eagerly want to give a gift to someone that I love.  Let me explain if I may.

When we enter the Kingdom of God, we do so only by the merit of Jesus. Paul said, “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…“  (Ephesians 2:8-9)We cannot work to be saved.

But, once we have been saved, we are expected to work.  Paul went on to say that we have “been created in Christ Jesus for good works….” (v. 10)

God expects the saved to work – to love Jesus and to practice His teachings.

A worker is usually compensated with a paycheck, and the Christian is rewarded in a similar way.  Scripture speaks of “crowns” that can be earned.   

There is the crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19) which consists of the people we have led to Christ.  The crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4) is given to those who have labored to care for and disciple other Christians.  The crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:6-8) will be given to those who love Christ and live in the light of His return.   The crown of life is given to those who lose their life for the cause of Christ (Revelation. 2:10)                         

Jesus will one day review the life of each Christian and award these crowns accordingly.  Some of us will be receive one or more; the less faithful will be denied a crown.  (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10)

In Jesus’ day, a crown represented authority.  It is thought that those with crowns will be awarded responsibility in ruling along side Jesus in His Kingdom.  (Revelation 2:26)

Now fast forward to heaven where this scene takes place.  “Seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads.”  (Revelation 4:4)  

The white robes of redemption suggest that the Elders represent us, the church of the redeemed with their heads adorned by the crowns they had earned.

But then something unexpected happens as they prepare to worship. “The twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne…”    (Revelation 4:10-11)

They wanted something to give to Jesus who had given everything for them, so they took the only thing of value that they possessed – the crowns that they had earned in this life.   

You and I will be among that group someday, there in the presence of Jesus, awed by his majesty and overwhelmed with gratitude for what He had done for us.

We will fumble around, searching the pockets of our white robes looking for a gift to give. Nothing there, however, but righteous lint. 

But what about the crowns?  Those could be offered.  Some of us will reach up, find the gift, and then gladly lay it as His feet.

Others will reach up and find only air.

I wonder if they will wrap themselves up and cry because they had nothing to give to the one they love?

A PRAYER: Lord help me to serve you well this day, so that I have something to offer You then.

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

what the devil? — July 7, 2021

what the devil?

I took a course called Angelogy, which is the study of good and bad angels (also known as demons).  It was a requirement for those headed for the ministry. 

The angel portion was awesome and comforting.  The demon portion was eerie and disturbing.

One dreary night I needed to borrow a book for my research project.  So, I ambled over to the school library, which was housed in an old converted home.  The building was locked and empty except for a fellow classmate who I hoped would let me in.

I knocked and then watched for him through the window.  He didn’t show.  So, I tried hitting the doorbell in machine gun fashion.  The chime was one of those that had 3 gong-like tubes that sounded like something from the Adams Family.  

He heard me this time.  I watched him cautiously creep into the hall, but he wasn’t looking toward the door where I stood.  His tense face was nervously searching for the source of the sound. 

Now this amused me greatly – so I did the machine gun with the doorbell again.  And he jumped like a snake had bit him on the heel.  He then pointed down the hall with a trembling hand and screamed, “Satan, I bind you in the name of Jesus Christ.” 

Thank goodness he cast the demon out of that doorbell!  

________

Some people suspect there’s a demon behind every tree, while others have banished such notions to the myth pile.  Are demons real and if so, what do we do about them?

Real they are!  Jesus interacted with or spoke of demonic entities over a dozen times in the Gospel of Matthew.   His adversaries are as real as Jesus Himself.  They aggressively opposed the agenda of God then, and still do today. 

In Haiti, where demons are celebrated, their presence is overt and eerie and scary.  In my neighborhood, however, their subtle presence is mostly experienced as they tease that broken part of us, until it gives birth to sin. (James 1:15)

So how do we protect ourselves?

– Deny them your attention!

A band of misdirected angels arrogantly coveted the place of God.   They rebelled and God cast them to earth in judgment as demons.  But they still crave attention.  Some of us are happy to offer it to them.  We go demon hunting and often give them more credit than they deserve. 

In truth, Satan and his minions are like dogs.  They sense our fear and will use it to their advantage.  Treat them like the bullies they are and just ignore them and they will look elsewhere for the attention they crave.

– Draw closer to Jesus! 

When Jesus encountered demons, they responded in fear.”  Luke 4:33-34 says, “Now in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! Leave us alone, Jesus the Nazarene! Have you come to destroy us?”  

          That demon wanted nothing to do with Jesus.  The same was true of the demon in Luke 8:28. He said, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I beg you, do not torment me!”  Demons are not comfortable in the presence of Jesus.  They would rather be elsewhere. 

          Fortunately, Christ indwells the believer and the apostle John said, “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4) Christ within us, is far greater in power than the evil ones around us.

And His powerful presence still repels the demons.   So, dig deep, and cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus and you’ll do well. 

Scripture tells us to “flee immorality” but never the devil.  James on the other hand wrote, “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) He and his disabled diabolical forces are toothless and pose no threat to the person who is “strong in the strength of the Lord’s might (Ephesians 6:10)

Beware, however, of pranksters with doorbells!

A PRAYER: Lord help us to strike a balance in this area of spiritual warfare.

Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

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