Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

hydrated and thankful — November 24, 2020

hydrated and thankful

I recently wrote about my son who spent time in the prayer closet.  He was an antsy preschooler and it showed up during our prayer time.  I had to corral him between me and the sofa as we knelt and prayed. 

How ironic is it then, that he sired a sweet and passionate prayer warrior?   When her daddy asks, “Who wants to…?”  She has her hand up before he can say, “pray.” 

From three years old and on Lainey has led our family in the saying of grace.   And I would wish that my whole family could pray as she does; even the whole world would pray as she does.  Dang – if only I could pray as she does. 

She sweetly and personally speaks to the Lord.  When she prays, it’s as if she’s sitting on His lap – with their eyes meeting.  Multiple times she will say in the sincerest of voices, “and Jesus, I, I just love you.” 

But what is most striking is the profuse amount of thanksgiving that permeates her prayers.   While my mine are full of platitudes, hers overflow with gratitude and for the most unusual things.  

Her mother was a science major and filters life through that lens.   She once explained to her little Lainey the importance of drinking water throughout the day.  Since then, Lainey regularly thanks the Lord for keeping her hydwated.  

Her mother also explained the amazing law of gravity and Lainey now thanks the Lord that we don’t fly away up in the sky. 

Lainey is profoundly cute. She has an uncanny ability to look at everything that you and I take for granted and recognize it all as gifts from God. 

It’s as if God somehow impressed 1 Thessalonians 5:18 on her little heart, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  In every circumstance and for every circumstance we ought to be grateful. 

So tomorrow we give thanks!  Psalm 92:1 tells us that it is a, “good thing to give thanks to the Lord.”   

This is true according to the experts.  Gratitude activates the reward center of our brains so that we emotionally feel better.  A great way, by the way, to combat anxiety and depression.  Gratitude also has been proven to lower blood pressure and give us better sleep.*

Saying thanks is also a wonderful way to refresh and strengthen our relationships with others. 

It really is good to give thanks, not only because it does good things to and for us, but because God is a good God. (Psalm 107:1)

I am with Lainey – thankful for God’s good gifts of health and food and people that love me and a God who gave His life on a cross for me and a job that challenges me and for photosynthesis.  (Hey why can’t I be thankful for a scientific principle too?)  

Tomorrow our mouths will work hard at taking in Thanksgiving.  They also need to work hard at giving out thanksgiving.   Scripture says, “With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord.”  – Ps 109:30

After dinner we’ll turn on the game and scream ‘til we’re hoarse.  David said that we ought to give thanks in the same way, “with all our hearts.”  – Psalm 86:12

Some of us will get up and raid the refrigerator for a midnight snack.  Also, a good time to give thanks says the Psalmist, “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee…”  — Ps 119:62   KJV

2020 has been a tremendously tough year!   Amen?  All the more reason to gather the family on turkey day and have each person write out 5 things for which they were thankful this year.  Compare your answers.  Make note of the duplicates and the diversity and then offer a group prayer of Thanksgiving!

A PRAYER: Lord give me the eyes to perceive every blessing and the words to return proper thanks.

– All scripture references from the NET Bible ®

– * The Health Benefits of Giving Thanks; Community Health Network November 20, 2019; www.ecommunity.com/healthminute/2019/health-benefits-giving-thanks.

yes deer — November 18, 2020

yes deer

It is that time of year, once again, when men pause to lift their voices in thanksgiving to God!   Yes, it is deer season.   How do I know?  About half of our church was missing last Sunday and it wasn’t due to a virus.

I am not a hunter, but I am curious, so I hunted up some information on deer.

In the fragile balance of nature, I learned that deer can be a threat to us.   It was during rutting (mating) season that a big buck lowered his head and charged the car of a friend.  (maybe the car was an impala.)

It is more likely, however, that a deer will accidentally collide with a moving automobile.  There are about 1.5 million deer-related car accidents in the U.S. each year, costing over $1 billion dollars in vehicle damage.  Sadly, there are also 175-200 fatalities every year and 10,000 injuries.

This is why I purchased deer whistles and attached them to my front bumper.  As I drive, air passes through them and creates a high-pitched sound which scatters the deer away.  Although…I may have installed them backwards because the deer seem to gather on the road when I approach.

Hunters are, of course, the biggest threat to deer.   On average, more than 6 million deer are killed by hunters in the United States per year, while approximately 10 million Americans hunt them (which means there are 4 million unhappy hunters each year).

And there is a good reason why churches are deserted on the opening weekend.   If you don’t bag a buck then, you may be up a creek. 

Using GPS trackers, experts have learned that deer respond to hunting pressure within the first three days of the season.   They change their patterns, they move less, hide more and when they do move, it is to where the hunters are not.  They know when they are being hunted and they flee.

The prophet Habakkuk understood deer habits and he also had a good grasp of the nature of God.  He wrote of Him, “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.“  KJV – Habakkuk 3:19

The prophet was a citizen of Judah, a nation that had raced to embrace sin and had left God in the dust.  People like Habakkuk were on the most wanted list.  His message of repentance was repulsive to the masses and needed to be censored.

And then God had declared judgment upon them.  He promised to open the nation’s gates to the marauding Babylonians who would level the land and take her people into exile. 

There was little hope for his nation, but lots for him.  He considered God to be His strength – His wherewithal with which to meet the opposition and the devastation.

He also compared himself to a hind – a female deer.   God became to him a refuge during the hunting season.  It was as if he were fleeing the forest for the high places – far from his predators.  And like the surefooted hind, he would not stumble there, but walk securely because of the Lord.   The higher a deer ascends, the less accessible he is to hunters.

I must confess, at times I wonder if the hunt is on.  I am increasingly finding my Christian values out of sync with a predatory culture. 

How is it that believing the ancient words of Scripture is now considered a hate crime?   Why have the pandemic meeting restrictions been so much more severe on the churches than on casinos and bars?   When did it become so heinous for a Supreme Court nominee to be a person of faith?  

There was once a time when people of opposing values could respectfully disagree.  These days, opposing values have become imposing values.   When I am unwilling to concede certain biblical truths, I seem to be regarded as an enemy of social truth.  

Hunting season is underway so maybe you and I should join Habakkuk and find our refuge with the Lord on high. The air is clear up there.  The elevated view puts everything in perspective and our hearts will rest securely with Him. 

A PRAYER:  Lord help me find that place of peace above the fray.

trapped — November 11, 2020

trapped

He was as wriggly as a nightcrawler about to be hooked!   

Each night we read the Bible with our preschoolers and ended our time in prayer, on our knees at the sofa.   While my wife and daughter and I focused minds and hearts on our prayers, my boy was sitting, standing, rolling, sighing, twiddling – and every other “ing” but kneeling.  

I warned him that if he kept it up, I would put him in the “prayer closet.”  Which is what? you may ask.  It is a private place where a person can devote themselves to prayer (think the movie War Room).  It is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:5-6. 

But that wasn’t the prayer closet I had in mind. 

He continued with his antics.  Of course, he did.  We didn’t learn until he was in 4th grade that he had ADD / HD and maybe XYZ too.  He couldn’t help himself.   

But we didn’t know that back then, so one evening I followed through and pulled him into the prayer closet.   To do this, I placed him in a kneeling prayer posture, between the sofa and me with my arms on either side of him and my body hovering over his – as in nesting prayer partners.

He was trapped – trapped by my religion.

—————————–

There are other ways to trap a person with religion. 

The Pharisees in Jesus day were masters at it.  They went far beyond the principles in the Word of God to create a host of nit-picky rules that they compelled their flock to follow  

They decided that a righteous person could never eat with a sinner (Mt. 9:11); that one could not be holy unless they fasted (Mt. 9:14); that a person who feeds themselves on the Lord’s Day is a sinner (Mt. 12:2); that there are only certain days when it is appropriate to help others (Mt. 12:14); and that the person who does not wash before eating is a pretty much a heathen (Mt. 15:1)

They reduced faith to a punishing dribble of todos and were more excited about arguing the law than keeping it.  (Mt. 23:2) They drew others into the same empty pit into which they themselves had fallen.    

The urge to trap others with our religion is called legalism and it is contagious.  In fact, many of us have occasionally been guilty of putting others into a straight-jacket for Jesus.  

-Sam told Andrew that a true Christian could only vote for one particular candidate.

-Amber is teaching the girls in her Bible study that God wants them to eat vegan.

-Molly corrected Shirley for not wearing a dress to church

-Bill blasted his boy for cheating God – said he needed to give 10 cents out of every dollar

-The pastor counseled the man to boycott the movie theater, and yet the pastor was streaming smut at home. 

Oh my – why do we do such things?   Choose the excuse that best fits you…

– to create a ladder to holiness I think I can manage

– to make sure others share in my misery

– to validate my own convictions

– to deflect attention from my own sorry manner of life 

– to exercise power over others

Legalism is a trap.  For those of us who struggle with it, here are some suggestions.

– Escape the trap.  Those that impose legalism on others usually have the same noose around their own necks.  Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”  – Galatians 5:1. Study the book of Galatians if you need assistance.

– Focus on what is clearly articulated in the Word of God.  There truly are standards to which God calls us but be careful because it is too easy for us to tack on extras. 

– Allow the Lord to be the Master.  Paul wrote in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”  

The Lord allows us a great degree of latitude with issues that are not clearly defined in the Word.  He says we need to be convinced in our own mind.   (Romans 14:5)   Let’s allow one another that same latitude. 

Not long ago, I threatened to put my boy back in the prayer closet.  He laughed!  He is now in his forties and a good 7 inches taller than I am.   

Fortunately, he is also standing tall in the faith.  He escaped the trap.  May you be as fortunate. 

A PRAYER: Lord relieve me of the obsession to straight jacket myself and others with peripherals.  

All Scripture references from the NET Bible®

end of the line — November 4, 2020

end of the line

Her assignment was to write a brief essay.  Being the involved parents that we were, we attended the open house and located her masterpiece in the jam-packed array on the walls of her third-grade classroom. 

Her teacher had highlighted one section that caught our attention.  At the end of a line, our daughter wrote, “I was very happy.”  At the beginning of the next line she wrote, “When I found out I was very happy.”

Hmm?  “I was very happy when I found out I was very happy!”   That’s wonderful – I guess. 

Obviously, she got to the end of the first line, lost her train of thought, and then tried to pick it up again without looking back.

A funny foible BUT also a reminder that there is a risk in forgetting what has already been written! 

In the days of Gideon, these words were recorded in Scripture, “And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side.” – Judges 8:34 (KJV)

Those Israelites had found themselves at a crossroads in their history. 

Their grandparents had made the Exodus from Egypt to Canaan.  They experienced God when the Red Sea parted and the manna rained down, and they knew that they were on the right road. 

Then their parents took possession of the promised land.   They watched the walls of Jericho crumble.  Once again, they experienced the power of God on their behalf.   The nation was on a blessed trajectory.

But that third generation, Gideon’s generation, they had forgotten the Lord and what He had done for His people in the past.  They lost their train of thought and started a new line that led them into the bowels of sin and idolatry.

It is the better part of wisdom to look back and remember the past as we wrestle to set the direction for the future.

My wife did that recently as we drove through the heart of Alabama to see the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement.  We traveled the streets of Montgomery where Rosa Parks courageously refused to give up her seat on the bus. 

We walked around the Dexter St. Baptist Church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached while he patiently labored to dismantle the barriers that kept African Americans from voting.

From there we glanced up the steps of the nearby State House, where a blockade of state troopers had heartlessly turned away the petitioners. 

Then onto Selma where 600 men, women and children had gathered to walk the 56 miles to the state capital.  We drove across the notorious Edmund Pettus bridge where those genuinely peaceful protestors were brutally gassed and beaten by the state police.

As a kid in the mid 60’s, I remember watching this history unfold on the evening news.  It was awful.   

But – then I also remember that a little over 40 years later, our predominantly Anglo nation gave evidence that our character had meaningfully matured.  This country elected our first African American president.  

A person of color, once barred from voting, was voted into office – the highest office in the land.  Even those who voted for the other guy agreed that the election of President Barak Obama was a watershed – an extraordinarily proud moment for the USA. 

Wow!  God’s grace has carried us forward in some thrilling and significant ways. 

We have come so very far since Selma, but it’s not been a flawless journey.  There remains plenty of injustices to correct.  

As we face these challenges, we can’t forget what has already been written.

With the courage of Dr. King, Rosa Parks and so many other civil rights heroes, may we continue to vigorously protest and correct racial injustice and with the patience and wisdom of those same heroes and heroines may we do it with civility.  

A PRAYER: Lord please – please, continue to refine our flawed nation for our good and your glory

the name — October 28, 2020

the name

The pastor was both excited and stressed about officiating at his first wedding.  So, he took a Pastoral Ministry class at the Bible College to learn how to do it.  The prof even shared a sample ceremony that he could use. 

The couple were both new Christians.  Each of them had lived with the pastor and his wife for a time, to be mentored in the faith.  Both were as precious to him as his own children.

The church was packed.  Everyone loved Jack and Dean – his beautiful bride to be.   Dean was the boy named Sue, except in this case the girl named Dean.

The music began and the bridal party processed.  Then Dean debuted.  She was a bit of a tomboy who was transformed into a radiant bride.  The pastor and the groom waited for them at the altar.  One of the two was trembling and it wasn’t Jack.

He was thinking, “Everyone knows what happens at a wedding.  They can probably recite the words.  There is no wingin’ it here.”  He had a specific script to follow and he was concerned about blowing it.

There at the altar, he welcomed the guests and thanked them for being present to witness the marriage of Tom and Susan.   The congregation snickered.  Evidently the stress of the moment caused him to forget their names.

But he didn’t catch it – didn’t even hear the laughter.  He carried on.  A minute later, he again referred to them as Tom and Susan.   More laughter – still no response on his part.

Finally, he started in with the vows.  He was about to marry Tom and Susan when his wife stood up and shouted from mid-congregation, “Their names are Jack and Dean.” 

The church erupted!

He had been using the sample ceremony his prof had given him, complete with the fictitious filler names of Tom and Susan.   He was just too stressed to realize it.

Stress can do that!  It may be happening to you at the moment.

Psalm 119 is the longest of the Psalms in the Bible.  Forget a three-point sermon.  This Psalmist has 22 points to his message – all alliterated according to the Hebrew alphabet.

The Psalmist longed to be a righteous man amid the complexities of life.  He longed for a nation that honored God and was governed by His Word. 

Instead, he experienced arrogant people who scoffed at him and the values that he represented (vs 51).  Wickedness was overrunning the nation and it enraged the author. (vs 53)    

He was a songwriter.  What could he do about it except sing the blues?  Possibly but instead he wrote, “I remember your name during the night, O Lord.” (vs 55) NET Bible ®

Yes, He was stressed, but He did not forget that all important name – His name.  He remembered it in the night.  Did he have the darkness of his circumstances in mind, or the nights he lay on his bed stressing about life – or both? 

Either way, he chose to think on the name of the Lord. 

So, what does this mean?  It’s been a perpetual custom over time, in most cultures to give a person a name that befits them.  The child was a fuzz ball.  He was given the name Esau which meant hairy.

Jacob was born hanging on to his twin brother’s heel.   He was out to overtake him from the start.  He was named Jacob which meant to unseat someone. 

So, God, being God, named Himself.  He told Moses that His name was Yahweh – four Hebrew consonants that form the phrase, “I am.”  God said, “My name is, “I am.”  

The name He chose communicated that He was, is and ever will be – a rock that never rolls.

Half of us are going to be very upset by the results of this election.  The day after, we will need to remember that, “He is.” 

He will endure even if our political ambitions should not.  He will continue to save, even if things should appear to be hopeless.   He will sovereignly manage this world and our nation even if it all appears to us to be spinning out of control.

“He is.”  This is the name that needs to be remembered in the night. 

A PRAYER: Lord, even as we grope in the darkness, remind us that “You are”

Jesus, Shepherd of Sheep — October 24, 2020
words in the night — October 21, 2020

words in the night

My wife and I were awakened by the hushed voices outside our open bedroom window.  I slipped over to eavesdrop in the night.  It sounded like teens, both boys and girls, and they had just stolen a toolbox from the bed of a pickup.  They had it but didn’t know what to do with it. 

They sat against the outside of the apartment wall.  We were less than inches apart with only curtains and a screen between us. 

One kid wanted to sell the box; another wanted to leave it with a friend; one of the girls seemed to be having second thoughts.  They argued back and forth.  

I wanted so badly to interject my opinion.  But what could I say?  My mind raced through what I knew from the book of Proverbs about speech. 

I could seize control by quickly blurting out something.  Not a good idea according to Proverbs 29:20, “You have seen someone who is hasty in his words there is more hope for a fool than for him.”   Been there – done that!  I understand.     

Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.  It wasn’t my toolbox and doesn’t Proverbs 17:28 say, “…the one who holds his tongue is deemed discerning.” 

On the other hand, there is also this counsel, “Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak…” (Proverbs 31:8)  Someone had to speak up for the guy who had to go to work the next day, without his tools.

OK then maybe I should blast them with righteous indignation.  Probably not a good idea.  “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”   (Proverbs 15:1)  If I were to blast them, they would have their revenge.  I didn’t need that. 

Plus, my goal was to nudge them toward a good decision.  “The one who is wise in heart is called discerning, and kind speech increases persuasiveness.”  (Proverbs 16:21) That’s what I wanted to do – persuade them to do the right thing.

But how could I speak kind words, when my attitude was angry and judgmental.  Proverbs 25:15 is a reminder that one’s attitude is important.  “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a soft tongue can break a bone.”   Soft!  A soft attitude speaking soft words.  That’s what I needed if I were to nudge them to do the right thing.

And it had to be the right words.  It would probably not sit well with them if I were to have called them thieves.  Again, Proverbs informed me, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.”  (Proverbs 25:11) I had to be sensitive to the situation and the moment.

And the timing, oh yes, the timing had to be just right.  If I interrupted too soon, it could be offensive.  If I waited too long, their decision might be already cast.  Proverbs 15:23 “A person has joy in giving an appropriate answer, and a word at the right time—how good it is!”

I was busy thinking through my lengthy speech when I remembered, “When words abound, transgression is inevitable, but the one who restrains his words is wise.”  (Proverbs 10:19)  Got it.  I need to say as little as possible and yet get the job done.

OK so what should I say and when should I say it? 

The debate outside was stalled.  One boy said, “I just don’t know, what should we do with this thing?”   That was my cue.  Hidden by the curtains I spoke up.  In a natural and easy voice, I said, “If I were you, I’d put it back.” 

There was silence on the other side.  They were caught and they knew it.  One of the boys said, “Oh man look what we’ve done.  We woke these people up.” (like it was the worst thing they did all night.) 

Another kid said, “Come on, let’s take it back.”  All agreed. 

And as far as I know, the man with the toolbox, the teens and me and my wife lived happily ever after. 

A PRAYER: Father my mouth gets me in trouble much too often, help me rein it in by the principles in your Word. 

All Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

out of this world — October 14, 2020

out of this world

The ceremony was about to begin. The groom had more than the normal weddings jitters. He was a Chinese national with a name that only his mother could pronounce. He graciously took on the name Frank for us tongue tied Americans.

He and his lovely Texas bred fiancé met in China while they were advancing the cause of Christ among the Chinese. He moved to Texas in preparation for their life together.

I was asked to unite them in marriage. Premarital counseling had been interesting. I had to explain the concepts of Christian marriage and sometimes even define the words for Frank. He was learning how to live with his wife and her culture in an understanding way.

So, there we stood, just he and I ready to make our entrance. Every seat was filled, and his family would be watching from an ocean away via the net. And as they say in Texas, he was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rockers.

So, I thought I might have some fun with him I asked Frank if he had his song ready. He gave me a dirty look and asked, “Song – what song?” I said, “You know – the wedding song.” He growled the words, “What wedding song?” I said, “Frank, I thought you knew about the American custom where the groom sings to his bride during the ceremony.”

The two of us ended up on the floor! He nearly fainted and I laughed myself silly.

Frank was an alien – a man who was not a citizen of the country in which he was living. Though I was born in the US, I too am feeling increasingly like an alien.

The history that has defined our nation is being erased. Many of the values that forged our character now seem to be upended and the goodness that was once almost synonymous with America is evaporating.

But I will survive, because I too am, in fact, an alien. My passport comes from another place.

The apostle Paul put it this way, “But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 3:20

Those who belong to Christ are citizens of heaven and aliens on the earth. We have a different culture, hold to unique values, cherish different aspirations and ultimately answer to a higher authority. We are ruled by a King who is all together truthful, wise, compassionate and just.

Those who govern on earth often do so to feather their own bed. But Jesus, who had no place to even lay His head, got on His knees and washed the soiled feet of his disciples and not just those of his loyal constituency – Judas got a foot washing too.

Down here the agenda of the left, dukes it out with the agenda of the right. In Christ’s Kingdom truth is the only agenda.

Here money and airtime tend to determine an election, whereas it was Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross earned Him the right to rule.

And fear not, for Paul says that our King is coming back to expand His Kingdom to this earth – so that one day His values sweep the world and His benevolent rule will be universal.

But how do we manage in the meantime?

  • Don’t throw in the towel yet. God turned around the blood thirsty and vicious nation of Assyria. From the king down, they repented and cried out to God. He can surely do it again.
  • In the meantime – expect people here to think and act differently. Our values do not fit anymore. Be ready to pay the price for being different.
  • Don’t be surprised if things continue to decline. Paul wrote about the days that would precede Christ’s second coming. “But understand this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, opposed to what is good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God.” 2 Timothy 3:2-4.
  • Do as Paul encouraged us to do, “eagerly” await the return of the Lord Jesus.

It will be a great day when we are finally united with our King. Who knows Frank may even sing Him a song!

A PRAYER: Lord help me to stand upon You the rock, as the soil beneath us crumbles and – PS: Come Quickly Lord Jesus.

All references from the NET Bible ®

automotive distancing — October 7, 2020

automotive distancing

I believe in automotive distancing as in, “Hey buddy, I can do without the tailgating.”  

Twas, on a Saturday night in Dallas that it became a problem.  The evening started well.  The leader of the singles group led us in study of Psalm 139. 

I was new to the faith, but I had a voracious appetite for God’s Word.  David the author tried in his small way to explain God’s great way. He wrote, “O Lord, you examine me and know me.”  (verse 1) That’s powerful!  I’m not even sure I know myself much of the time. 

He explained, “You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives.  You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do.   “Certainly my tongue does not frame a word without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it.”   (139:2-4)

Such things can only be said of a God who is all the time everywhere; awesome in power and is all knowing.  Theologians call this His omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience. 

Then David said in verse 5 “You squeeze me in from behind and in front; you place your hand on me.”   He spoke as if God used a Star Trek like force field, that preceded and followed him.  So, God surrounds us to protect us.  I was genuinely awed as I mulled this over.

I drove a borrowed car that night – a bright new yellow Camaro convertible.  Hey, it was a singles fellowship – I wanted to impress the girls. 

On the way home, I pulled up beside a mobile beer bash.  The light changed and I moved on, but they didn’t.  The driver waited until I was about 30 yards ahead.  He stomped the gas pedal until he was inches from my bumper and then screeched to a stop.

I was confused and stunned, but then he did it again and a third time.  His next move was to pull in front of me and slow down.  We were almost bumper to bumper when he locked his brakes again.

He was trying to scare me and it was working.  But I was angry too. If I had been in my $100 clunker of a car, we might have met, in an automotive kind of way.   Did I mention that I was a new Christian? 

He was behind me again and ready to make another run.  And do you know what was going through my mind?  “God how far before and behind me do you go, and does it include the length of this car?” 

In those days I tended to literally interpret the Bible – I still do, mostly because God literally fulfills what He has written, including His promise of protection.

I did a mission trip in Mexico and during that one week God kept my team and me through an earthquake, a volcanic eruption and a street gang.  At another time, our team barely escaped some angry Haitians who were waiting in the dark to stone us. 

His protective care is not always so sensational and yet still appreciated. 

I think of a friend who had met his deductible on his health insurance – so on a whim he decided to have a battery of health tests done.

They indicated that he was already dead or at least close.  His arteries were almost completely occluded.  There should have been great pain to warn him, but there wasn’t, but because of the tests he was able to have surgery before the widow maker hit.  That was God at work.

Now I know that we are not going to live forever in these bodies.  But God will keep us temporally secure until the day He chooses to eternally secure us in heaven.

In the meantime, if you belong to Him – then go with God.  Relax a little as He takes the point AND brings up the rear. 

Oh, and as to my distancing problem – at the very time I prayed, I came upon a well-lit convenience store with a pay phone in front of it.  (a pay phone – now that’s a miracle) 

I whipped the car in, did some brake stomping of my own and grabbed the phone – and they fled the scene.  Thank You Lord!

A PRAYER: Lord I am not courageous enough to face life alone.  Please go before and behind me and open my eyes to see the ways in which You are protecting me

All Scripture is quoted from the NET Bible ®

the lady with the doily on top — September 30, 2020

the lady with the doily on top

We were dodging coal trucks on the winding mountain roads of West Virginia.  I was invited to preach at the evening service of a remote little country church.  Sharie and I had to lug our two little ones and a guitar, across a swollen creek, over a sketchy rope bridge and then find the building nestled in a holler.  I believe the name was End of Earth Baptist Church (or it should have been).

The house was full, and the service was bustling with activity.  The people were sweet mountain folk but there was one lady who stood out to me.  She had a doily secured with a bobby pin to her hair.

A doily!  I kinda wanted to get my Grandma’s knick knack and set it on her doily. 

She was evidently trying her best to follow the words of 1 Corinthians 11.  A head covering was a physical sign that she honored the authorities that God had placed in her life.

I was wondering if she might have been at odds with the Deacons.  She was the only woman in that congregation of about 100 with a head covering. 

That was also the night I was introduced to what they called, “family prayer.”   When the pastor said, “Let’s pray!” everyone, with robust voices, prayed in English, out loud and all at the same time.

The man to my right was asking for revival; the woman behind me wanted healing; the boy to my left asked God to help him with his grades.  It was planned chaos – more noisy than the snake handling church farther up the creek.

The way it ended was quite interesting.  After 3 minutes or so, folks concluded their prayers – one-by-one and the din would ebb until all were silent – except – the lady with doily on top.

With great fervor she prayed on, for every need on that mountain with special mention of the pastor and the deacons.  It took her another 2 minutes to finish.  Whatever happened to unspoken requests? 

The pastor led us in 3 different family prayer sessions and every time the lady with the doily – would pray on until she decided it was finally time for her to say Amen.

It was clear me who was in control of that meeting.   I guess there is more than one way to defy and dishonor those who are over us.

Then again, most of us have mixed feelings about those in authority over us.

And yet Paul wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”  – Romans 13:1

He argued that God has established the authorities around us.  You don’t like your teacher?  Talk to God about it.  Dislike your mayor?  Your beef is with God. 

He gave us authorities to create order and promote the general welfare.  Without authority we have anarchy – whether it be at church, work, school or in government.   God expects us to comply with those authorities.

We Christians are appalled, “Oh my, that person has abused their authority.”   And “Oh that other person, well, he is denigrating the authorities.”  Well OK – we should be appalled. 

But here’s the thing, we may be the one wearing the doily.

Our first obligation to authority is to pray.  Paul wrote, “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2 even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”   – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

We are to pray for “all who are in authority” (not just the ones we like) says Paul.  Pray when we meet for worship, when we say our prayers at night, and when we gather for the purpose of prayer. 

They need wisdom and compassion and to be guided by justice. They must have strength, resources and moral centeredness.  They need the Lord’s help.

Paul says that when we pray in this way, it produces a society that provides for a “peaceful and quiet life.”   I am certainly ready for a lot more of that.

We Christians believe in prayer and in the authority of the Word of God – and yet this kind of prayer sometimes, but seldom happens today.

Hmm, time to take the doily from our heads and get to praying.

A PRAYER: Lord, help me to honor the authorities in my life – by honoring the authority of your Word – and doing some serious praying for them.

Scripture references from the NET Bible ®

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