Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

does God ever cause us pain? — November 9, 2022

does God ever cause us pain?

Does God ever cause us pain?   Well, to be sure most pain in this life comes from elsewhere.   Disease and death afflict us simply because we belong to a fallen human race.   As Paul said in Romans 5:12, “So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.”

Some suffering comes to us by the deliberate hands of ornery people.  Paul reported in 2 Timothy 4:14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm.”   

Some of it isn’t quite so deliberate, like the way I hurt my wife’s feelings yesterday.  I attribute that to being a hapless victim of the fallen human race (but I still apologized).

There is a pain that comes because of our own foolish choices.  Solomon asked, “Can a man walk on hot coals without scorching his feet?” – Proverbs 6:28.

And some suffering comes to us directly from the bowels of hell.  Paul wrote, “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.” –   2 Cor 12:7 KJV.

These things tend to harm us.

But what about God?  Does God ever cause us pain? 

I gained insight into this question when my youngest was about three.  He complained of a painful earache.  My wife took him to our family physician – a kind and considerate man.   The doc took an instrument and gently probed his ear.

The boy cried and jerked himself away.  He then looked the doc in the eye and in his little toddler voice he asked, “Why you hurt me?” 

The doctor indeed was causing the boy pain.  But it was a necessary pain – the first step on the way to eliminating a greater pain.  If the condition had gone untreated, there would have been sad and irreparable consequences.  This pain wasn’t intended to harm, but to heal.

I see the same loving approach by our Father in heaven.  The author of Hebrews wrote, “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” Hebrews 12:5-6

This discipline is not punitive, it is concerned with training.  Picture God as a devoted parent or even an effective athletic coach.  

With that in mind let me quote the next 2 verses of Hebrews 12, from the Message Bible,

“God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children.” Hebrews 12:7-8

But is it painful?  You bet!  Verse 11 says, “Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.”

Coach Guido caused me an immense amount of pain during football practice, but when I excelled in the game, I was grateful for the pain in the preparation.  

It’s a lot to grasp.  We have a Father in heaven who knows us well and has a personal plan for each of us – to shore up our weaknesses, heal our imperfections and to develop and strengthen us.  In fact, He sovereignly uses any and every pain that comes to us to that end.

“Why you hurt me,” my son asked.  The doc was stunned and didn’t know what to say, but he pulled my son’s little head to his chest to give him a gentle hug.  He was genuinely sad that pain had to be a part of the healing.

I am thinking that God feels the same way about our pain – necessary but sad. 

So, the next time pain brings a tear to your eye, know that there may be one in the eye of the Father as well.   

A PRAYER: Lord help discern the ways in which you are personally training us.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com 

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

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com unless otherwise noted.

potato slurry — November 2, 2022

potato slurry

Fresh out of Seminary, I was seeking a ministry position.  There was a church in Longview, TX looking for a youth pastor.  It seemed promising.

The leadership wanted to take a magnifying glass to my life, so we gathered at a steakhouse for the meeting.  I grabbed a tray and left my order with the cashier.  She gave me a Texas sized glass – 32 ounces of iced tea.  From there I headed to the salad bar to load up on the greens.    

But when I reached for the lettuce, I bumped and dumped my glass of tea.  The entire 32 ounces poured into a serving bowl of potato salad.   I slyly removed the glass from the bowl and made sure no one saw what happened.

Then I slipped away intending to report the salad bar slip-up to the manager.  “Uh sir, there seems to be a strange salad at your bar!” 

When I returned to the scene of the crime, I watched in horror as the senior pastor’s wife was filling her plate with a big ladle of strangely colored, watery potato salad.  I wanted to laugh – and cry!  

Did I warn her?  You know, I can’t remember.  I must have blacked out. 

________

I prefer pure potato salad.  In fact, most of us prefer pure.  We want our water to be uncontaminated and our honey to be unadulterated.  We want our air to be particulate free and we don’t want stir fry with E. coli.

However, we aren’t so particular when it comes to truth.  Sometimes we are OK with a half-truth   – just enough truth to make me feel like I am OK with God, with just enough non-truth to free me to do what I want. 

Some run from the truth, others reject it all together, but most are quite comfortable with tainted truth. 

The Apostle Peter had a directive for us.  He wrote, “Yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation.” – 1 Peter 2:2 NETBible.com

He wants us to emulate a newborn who frantically roots around at his mother’s breast for a meal.  Peter compared that milk to the pure milk of the Word of God.   

Recently a baby formula manufacturer was shut down by the FDA because their formula was tainted with bacteria.  There hasn’t been a recall on a nursing mother yet.  The milk is dispensed 100% pure.  Likewise, Scripture is an untainted source of spiritual truth. 

An infant doesn’t question the reliability of his mother’s milk.  He/she is eager to partake.  Nor do we need to question the integrity and reliability of Scripture.  It was originally delivered to us without error and has been maintained in that condition ever since.   

Did you know that an infant grows about 6 inches and gains about 16 lbs. during their first six months?  And yet all they take in is their mother’s milk.  The milk has everything that a child needs to flourish and grow. 

So it is with the word of God.  It is more than sufficient to grow us up into our salvation so that we think and act like the person God saved us to be. 

Peter tells us to cultivate an appetite for the pure Word of God.  When I snack on junk food in the afternoon, I have no appetite for the nutritious dinner that my wife has prepared.   

I am guessing the same applies to spiritual longings.  If we satiate ourselves with other stuff, it will stunt our appetite for the truth. 

Hey – I would encourage you to grab your Bible and drink from it as often as you can.  You can trust it implicitly – but beware of tea-stained potato salad.

A PRAYER: Lord may we think of that eager infant when we pick up our Bibles.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

logging into heaven — October 26, 2022

logging into heaven

I was present to see the birth of the digital password.  It was so easy back then.  The password I created for my first PC was, “password.” 

Not so easy now.  To log on I need to supply a username and a password with at least 8 characters, using upper and lower case letters, a number, a symbol and maybe a rude exclamation or two!

They are so complicated that I type in my password from my cheat sheet and still get it wrong.   I pretty much hate cusswords, I mean passwords.

So, I had a terrible thought the other day – What if heaven is password protected?

Suppose I am out mowing the lawn when the big one hits.  (I should have listened to my wife and gotten a riding lawnmower.)  Instantaneously I find myself standing outside the gate of heaven at a kiosk with a digital device. 

I was in a cloud needing to access the cloud.

“Oh, OK I guess I need to log in.  Let’s see um: User name?  Jimj worked for me on earth, but wait.  Revelation 2:17 says that we will get a new name in heaven.   Oh no!  Well – what is it?  I guess I’ll just try Jimj@paradise.com.

Password?   What? – I need a password to get in?  Wow – Maybe it’s that special word the soldiers of Ephraim used to cross the Jordan in Judges 12.  What was it?  ‘Shibboleth.'” or “Sibboleth?

Oh no – what if this is one of those deals where the password has got to be changed every 3 months – for eternity?  How many is that?

OK let me hit enter.  Click: ACCESS DENIED.  I’ll change the lower to an upper case: ACCESS DENIED.  Let me add the chapter and verse reference from Judges: ACCESS DENIED.  What if I throw in a pound sign?  ACCESS DENIED.” 

After 4 attempts, a terrifying, heart stopping, message flashes across the screen.  ‘Account is locked.’  And I begin to uncontrollably sob until I am told that there is no crying in heaven.”

Back to reality:  There actually is a password that we need to get into heaven.  It isn’t Baptist or Catholic or Methodist and it can’t be Presbyterian cause it has more than 8 characters.  It isn’t goodguy or churchman, or altarboy or piouspal.

It’s Jesus.  Just Jesus with a capital J and Jesus alone.   Nothing added – nothing taken away. 

Peter understood this.  He had been involved in the healing of a lame man and was therefore called on the carpet by the same crew that had crucified Jesus a couple of months earlier.  They demanded, “By what name did you do this?”

Peter answered,  “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man—by what means this man was healed—  let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy.”  Oh, Jesus is responsible you say!

Peter went on, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”   – Acts 4:7-12 NETBible.com

His name is Jesus and there is no other by which we can be saved.

Jesus is the name that opens the doors of heaven for we who have placed our faith in Him.  We acknowledge Him as the Son of God whose death on the cross, covered our debt of sin and gave us peace with God. 

It is Jesus, and it’s OK to share this password with others!

A PRAYER: Thank you Father for making the entry to heaven so simple – just Jesus. 

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

an IV insertion  — October 19, 2022

an IV insertion 

For Jackie the IV was worse than the surgery! 

She gripped my hand, her pastor’s hand, while the beads of sweat rolled off her brow.  For nearly ten minutes the sweet nurse had tried to puncture Jackie’s rolling veins, hoping to insert the IV. 

But it wasn’t happening.  Now Jackie could stand up to an angry bear, but she cowered before the needle and the bag.  She was in pain, and her arm was starting to look like Swiss Cheese.

The nurse eventually excused herself and went to find some help.  At least that’s what we hoped. 

Jackie and I decided to convene a prayer meeting. Together we passionately pounded on the door of heaven asking God to guide the nurse’s needle.

Eight minutes later she returned and geared up for another stab at it. (oops that may be a pun).  Praise be to God – she found her target on the first try and all three of us breathed a huge sigh of relief. 

I thought I should tell the nurse that while she was away, Jackie and I prayed for her.  She replied, “Well I just came from the bathroom where I was also desperately praying!”

She fumbled with failure until she sought the Lord for success. 

I was reminded of the words that Paul penned in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Paul was relating to the church how he was able to get along financially.  Whether his account had plenty or was a pittance – he was able to manage because Christ strengthened him.

But he did use the word “all.”  My Seminary professor taught me that, “All means all, and that’s all that all means.”   So, Paul took that strengthening concept and applied it broadly to all of life – even to the insertion of an IV needle. 

The word “strengthen” is worth exploring.  The New Testament was written in Greek, and the word for strengthen is, “endunamao.” 

It is a compound word.   “En” is much like our English word “in.”   This tells us that the power that we get is poured “into” us from outside of us.

“Dunamao,” of course means, “to strengthen.”  Look closely and you can see the root of our English word “dyna-mite.” 

So, this is kind of like God inserting into us a spiritual IV line to empower us to do what we cannot do on our own. 

That’s good because there are so many things that we cannot adequately do. 

An essential part of my job as a hospice chaplain is to help a person prepare to die.  Oh, how I need the wisdom and strength of God as I sit with them and have those conversations. 

I watch my daughter as she juggles her duties as a wife and mother and co-manager of a thriving startup business.  She makes it a point to go to the Lord often seeking sanity and strength to help her cope. 

I pray often for my son who is a minister to teens.  He daily faces the adversity of the devil and the apathy of the culture.  He needs more than his natural gifting to reach those kids.   

Then there is my son the CEO.  He regularly faces tremendous challenges.  But the job has caused him to see that he can’t succeed without the Lord. 

As for my wife – she has to put up with me.  What more can I say?

As I have aged, I have come to realize that I must have misplaced my physical strength.  Maybe I left it with my bell bottoms!  I now need Him to put power in my muscles and bones.   He does that every time I mow the lawn.  

Well, there is a point to my IV story.  (oops another pun) 

We need God’s strength for success

A PRAYER: Lord, please fill our weakness with Your strength.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

five-star Savior — October 18, 2022

five-star Savior

The most elusive endeavor: to find an item on a web retailer’s site, with solid five-star reviews. 

Looking for a guitar?  One person will give it a 5 because it’s pretty while another dings it cause it doesn’t have a cupholder.

There may be 69,000 great reviews but there is always a couple of 1- bombs that stops you from hitting the “add to your cart” button.

Where does one find consistent 5-stars?  Jesus!  He made that clear at Cana where He was a wedding guest.  Back then, wedding festivities lasted a week, so it was no surprise that they ran short of wine.

He spied 6 stone waterpots that would have held about 25 gallons each.  He asked that they be filled with water and then a sample taken to the boss.  The headwaiter was dumbfounded. 

He said to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the cheaper wine when the guests are drunk. You have kept the good wine until now!” – John 2:10 NETBible.com

So typical!  The host of the party wants to impress so they serve the high dollar wine first.  When the senses of the guests had been dulled, he would dilute the wine to make it last for the duration of the feast. 

But the bridegroom, was praised for hiding the deluxe $200 a bottle stuff until the last.  Of course, they didn’t know that Jesus was responsible.

Please note that the emphasis here is that Jesus turned water into 5-star wine.  He had miraculously created about 2,400 servings of fresh and vibrant wine of the highest quality.

Jesus does not do average work.  He produces the highest quality.  But today He does it in the lives of those who trust Him. 

For instance, Jesus produces quality politicians.  Alabama Governor George Wallace was known as a bigoted, narrow-minded politician.  In 1963 he proclaimed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”   In 1983 Billy Graham shared a verse with the man. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul.”  Wallace gave his life to Christ shortly thereafter.  And in 1994 Mr. Wallace said to the world, “I was wrong.  I’m sorry!”

Jesus produces quality parents: Pastor Warren Wiersbe told the story of a drunken coal miner who was converted and began to share his new-found faith. A friend tried to trap him by asking, “Do you really believe that Jesus turned the water into wine?”  He said, “Yes I do.”  But He has done even greater miracles than that.  In my home he has turned the wine into furniture and decent clothes and food for my children.” 

Jesus produces quality professionals.  A friend told me, that when he began his law practice, he was not a pleasant person.  But he later allowed Jesus to take control of that part of his life, and he became one of the most sought after and well-loved people in his profession.

Jesus produces quality entertainers.  Comedian Jeff Foxworthy had his TV show canceled.  It caused him to rediscover his faith in Christ.  He said, “Money and success did not make me happy, but since I have decided to walk with God, it has changed my entire life.” 

Jesus produces quality athletes.  Mike Vinatieri was a kicker for the Patriots.  Ask him what he has on his mind when there’s six seconds in a tied game, and it’s up to him to make the winning field goal.  He says, “Trusting the Lord gives me a sound state of mind in those types of situations.” 

When water was offered, it was returned as wine.  When our lives are offered to Him, He infuses them with quality from heaven. 

His work has been reviewed by hundreds of millions of people for over 2,000 years.  He still gets 5-stars.

A PRAYER: God thanks for taking the water of my life and making it something special.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

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

the hidden well — October 12, 2022

the hidden well

Psst!  I have some dirt to share!  It’s in a big pile in the land of Israel.

It is what remains of a once thriving town called Meggido.  It was a hugely important place in OT history because of its strategic location.  If an invader possessed Meggido, they could control all Israel. 

However, the city was extremely easy to defend.  It towered over the plain, and the sides leading up to the city were smoothed stone so that a soldier couldn’t get a foothold.  It was topped off with formidable walls – a nightmare to an invading force. 

The primary way to take Meggido was through siege.  An invading force would surround the town and seal it off.  Eventually the residents would have to either surrender or die from the lack of water.

Megiddo was blessed with a bountiful spring, but unfortunately it was located outside of the city walls.   This was a boon to the invaders, but the bane of the invadees who could not access it during battle.

So, the shrewd citizens carved an enormous tunnel down, through solid rock with an entry point within the city.  It went down 120 feet, then out 250 feet more to get to the source of the spring. 

They finished by piling tons of rock over the outside access to the well, thus hiding it and denying it’s life-giving flow to their enemies.  Meggido had a hidden, yet inexhaustible source of water to sustain them through the battle. 

—–

There was a woman in the New Testament who was also under siege.  She attempted to slake her thirst by turning to a man – a guy who would love away her emptiness.

She married mister right but found him to be mighty wrong.  Her second marriage promised to be better, but it also went down in flames. 

Then there was a third and fourth and even a fifth.  Each marriage lured her with the façade of happiness but failed to deliver.  She became the woman that everyone seemed to want, but no one wanted to keep.  

She was living with a sixth man when she encountered Jesus.   He found her drawing water from the well that Jacob the patriarch had once unearthed.

Jesus pointed it out and said, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again.”  – John 4:13.   His words had a sickly reverberation to them. “Thirsty again,” He said.  Six times she had swallowed the fickle affections of men, but she was still parched.  

Jesus went on, “But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” – John 4:14 

Jesus looked her in the eye and promised to satisfy her in such a way that she would never thirst again.  He presented Himself as a Megiddo of sorts – a spiritual life source hidden within her from which she could draw continually.  His was a water that would satisfy and see her through the sieges of life.   It would sustain her for eternity.

She believed Him!  She believed in Him!  She gave Him her faith, and He filled her emptiness and profoundly satisfied her thirst. 

It was about 50 years ago that I took that drink.  I have found Jesus to be true to His Word.  He filled my emptiness with His love.  He gave me a solid purpose and a comforting sense of security. 

Every year, its more of the same.  He became in me a spiritual life source, that continues to nourish and water my soul.  He is my hidden well of Megiddo that sustains me in the battle. 

I can truly say that I am satisfied.  What about you?

A PRAYER: Water of Life, I thank you!

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com

tornado shelter — October 5, 2022

tornado shelter

Richard and Angela were fast asleep when a roar shattered the silence.  A twister was outside the door.  Before they could crawl into the closet, the windows exploded, and deadly debris was peppering the room like a machine gun. 

Richard held onto the closet door with adrenalin infused strength while the chaos continued.  When the roar was finally reduced to a whimper, they left the closet to survey the damage.  Half of their old farmhouse was destroyed. 

The massive oak just outside their door was leveled, but it wasn’t the only tree lost.  They had 25 acres of mature timber which was completely knocked down and destroyed by the awful wind.  Several out-buildings were plowed over as well.   The evidence of the ferocity of the storm was the 2 x 6 that had been driven through the house.

The destruction all around them was thorough, but the house, though severely battered and bruised was still standing.  Why?

The massive oak tree outside their house, dropped in such a way that the branches fell over and covered up the house.  The house was held down and in place by the immense canopy of the tree. 

Richard and Angela love Jesus and they believe that the Lord protected them.  I believe it too. 

In Psalm 139:4-5, the Psalmist described the Lord saying, “Thou hast beset me behind and before and laid thine hand upon me.”

He understood God as one who fully understood him and cared for him – a God who extended His mighty hand and covered him up with it, to protect him from the assaults of life.  

I visualize God’s hand in the canopy of that tree, covering and protecting the couple.

In Exodus 33:20-22, God intended to protect Moses from exposure to His own holiness and greatness.  What interests me is in how the Lord accomplished it. 

He said to Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” The Lord said, “Here is a place by me; you will station yourself on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and will cover you with my hand.”  – NETBible.com

The Lord directed Moses to stand in a cavity in the rock.  God would then pass by, while using His hand to shield Moses so that he would not be slain by God’s glorious but terrifying holiness.

Again, God’s hand was extended to provide protection.  And again, I can see that hand reaching down from heaven and covering that little East Texas farmhouse, in the form of that tree canopy. 

Their story excites me and reminds me that our God is an active participant in our lives.  He uses His hand to shelter us from that which would destroy us. 

OK I know that He doesn’t shelter us from everything.  I worked hard to protect my own children from danger, but I also allowed them to occassionally face difficult challenges in order to strengthen and mature them.  God does no less for us.

And of course, there are those who do not survive tornados.  How do we explain this?  Well – I do not pretend to fully understand God and I tremble to try to explain Him. 

But I also know that what we regard as tragedy, God regards as blessing.  The Psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” – Psalm 116:15  

The Lord is eager to shower the joys and blessings of heaven on His children.  It is precious to Him to see them come home. 

But for now, we can be comforted knowing that God is at work, sheltering us from dangers of which we are not even aware.

A PRAYER: Lord, how good it is to know that Your hand is big enough to cover us. 

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

getting used to nice — September 28, 2022

getting used to nice

I have trouble enjoying nice.  Weird right?

I grew up in a home where we were not poor, but we were the next-door neighbors.   So, I trained myself to lower my expectations of life.  I never anticipated having stylish clothes, or a new bike, or to feast on a steak dinner, or to enjoy a family vacation in the mountains.   It just wasn’t in the budget.

Even as an adult I have seldom allowed myself to enjoy the best.  I have never owned a brand new car.  My wife has cut my hair for the last 46 years (at least once a year whether I need it or not)  She and I shop at thrift stores for furniture, clothing and lots more.  Vacations have usually had a camping component – cause tents are cheaper than hotels. 

But, recently I was invited to buy a house that was way out of my league, but still within my frugal budget.  It is a really, really nice house – nicer than any we have ever owned.  It would have been foolish to pass on it.

We have enjoyed it for sure – but I sometimes find myself torn, “This is too much.  It’s too nice for me. I don’t deserve this!” 

I know, I probably need counseling, but that’s just the way I have learned to process life. 

One day, as I wrestled with my guilt, the Lord dropped a thought.  “Jim one day you will be experiencing much more than nice.”   

I began to process what I knew about heaven. 

Paul wrote, “But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”  – 1 Corinthians 2:9

Paul also spoke of being transported to heaven either in his body or by vision.   He said that “he was caught up into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak.” – 2 Corinthians 12:3-4

I thought through the book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, where heaven is described by using the extreme best in terms of human comforts and experiences.   For instance, in heaven, there is nothing to make you sad – sweet and pleasant all the time.  It’s a place of utterly perfect health and life without end.  

The spaciousness of my current house boggles my mind and yet heaven is described as being vast – and it’s a great neighborhood too.  No bad guys there.

The materials we deem precious here – they abound in heaven.  Things like jasper; sapphire; emeralds; pearls, gold and tons more.  The water is pure and crystal clear and there is a fruit tree that bears 12 varieties of fruit all year long.  Eden version 2.0.

It’s a place where the residents have perfect and unbroken peace with God and one another.  There is also round-the-clock live music and feast-worthy food in heaven.  (Revelation 19:9)

Now, if I should enter heaven with my current menial mentality, I may move into the shed instead of the mansion that Jesus has prepared for me.  I might look for the alley to trod behind the streets of gold.  I may even pass up the marriage feast of the Lamb and Google the nearest McDonalds.  By habit, I would probably choose to live more like an impoverished outcast rather than a welcome guest. 

So, God why did you give me this nice house this side of heaven?    Maybe to stretch my thinking that I might be able to enjoy the wonderful things ahead.  Nice for eternity. 

The Lord is so good to us!  We haven’t done anything to deserve it.  His kindness certainly hasn’t been earned – but it is ours to enjoy because of God’s lavish mercy and grace. 

So, enjoy your blessings here today, and let them prime you for the amazing things that lie ahead!  

A PRAYER: Oh God stretch our minds so that we might truly appreciate what you have for us in the future.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

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

Scriptures references are from the NETBible.com

timekeeper — September 14, 2022

timekeeper

The timekeeper gave the go ahead to the Toledo Express train, to head east toward Cleveland.  But they had to hurry.  The train needed to pull off on a siding near Kipton, Ohio to allow a westbound mail train to pass. 

Due to the timekeeper’s faulty watch, the train left the station 4 minutes late.  This resulted in both trains violently meeting in a head-on collision.  Nine men died in that tragedy on April 18, 1891. 

The disaster became the catalyst to create watch standards.  The General Timepiece Standards Commission mandated that all standard watches had to keep time accurately with no gain or loss of more than 30 seconds a week.

Railroads also installed clock stations by which train crews would daily set their watches.  Train wrecks became rare as a result.   

Now it wasn’t too long after the Kipton calamity, that my Grandfather, Fred Lodge, was hired on as a timekeeper for the Penn Central line.  For decades he used his own finely tuned “standard pocket watch” to precisely manage the comings and goings of the trains.  There were no head-ons on his watch (which sounds like a pun but it’s not)

I was given his watch after he passed. (the one pictured above) Knowing the history of it, I have treasured it. 

_____

My Grandpa managed time so to speak, but God does a much better job of it.

Solomon penned these words in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth.” 

These are familiar words to many of us, but I wonder if we grasp the meaning?  Solomon tells us that everything that takes place, has a pre-determined time that governs when it starts, how long it lasts, and when it ends. 

Who is in charge?  God of course, who not only predetermines the timing of things, but makes sure the timing is appropriate. 

We might wonder, “Well what things?”  Solomon tells us in the verses that follow, but the standouts are the times of our birth and of our death.   Who could argue with that?  It is God who sovereignly predetermines these things.

My Grandpa kept trains from colliding whereas God keeps time itself from colliding.   He keeps the present from lagging into the past or bumping into the future.  He makes sure that spring always follows winter.  He set the sun in the sky as the standard bearer of time.  He is the timekeeper of the universe.

He said as much through the prophet Isaiah, “Remember what I accomplished in antiquity.  Truly I am God, I have no peer; I am God, and there is none like me, who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred; who says, ‘My plan will be realized, I will accomplish what I desire.”  – Isaiah 46:9-10 

And yet, we still struggle with the issues of time.

“Oh no, if I don’t get the rent together this week, I’ll be on the street.”   We worry that God will be late!   He won’t because He is the sovereign timekeeper.   He will provide what we need, precisely when we need it.  How could He do any less for the child He loves.

Oh, but sometimes God seems too early for us as in, “The boss wants me to take charge of the project, but I am not ready for it.”  God prearranged this challenge.  He knows what He is doing.  Maybe you aren’t fully ready, but you may need the challenge in order to get there.

And there are those times, we wonder if God has lost His watch.  “Lord, it’s been five weeks and I still haven’t heard from the realtor?”   He knows you need to sell your house.  It will happen when He deems it appropriate.

So I am thinking that we ought to trust God with time, to avoid a trainwreck of our own. 

A PRAYER: Lord forgive us for believing that we have control over time and help us to trust You with it.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheaven.press.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com

weighing in — September 7, 2022

weighing in

The couple were both receiving home health care.  The visiting nurse insisted they be weighed.   They lined up and he stepped on – one foot and then the other.  The nurse dutifully recorded his weight. 

His wife stepped on – one foot and then the other and another number went into the chart.  Then Bambi, their Chihuahua followed – one foot and then the other.    

______

Jehoshaphat like Bambi was looking for an example to follow.

He became King of Judah about 873 BC.  At 35 years of age, he needed a few pointers on being a king.  So, he looked for an example from the past.

He grew up watching his father Asa rule the nation.  Asa chased immorality and idolatry out of the land.  But in his older years he was afflicted with a diseased body that also diseased his faith.  He sought the help of doctors while ignoring the Lord.   

Jehoshaphat’s granddaddy was Abijah. He was mighty in battle but mediocre in his faith.   His epitaph is written in 1 Kings 15:3, “He followed all the sinful practices of his father before him. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been.”  Abijah followed the poor example of his daddy Rehoboam and paid dearly for it.   

As for Rehoboam, he was famous for carelessly splitting his Kingdom.  He fought off an Egyptian invasion but ignored the insurgence of paganism.  His epitaph was written in 2 Chronicles 12:14, “He did evil because he was not determined to follow the Lord.” 

His daddy was Solomon who was revered for his wisdom and yet was foolish enough to marry a stadium full of wives and serve their gods.  “Solomon did evil in the Lord’s sight; he did not remain loyal to the Lord, as his father David had.”  – 1 Kings 11:6

This brings us to the head of the dynasty – King David.  David followed the Lord with the deepest devotion and ruled the Kingdom by the truth of the Scripture. 

His reign was summed up in this way, “David had done what he (God) approved and had not disregarded any of his commandments his entire lifetime, except for the incident involving Uriah the Hittite.” – 1 King 15:5.

So, Jehoshaphat climbed up 5 generations of his family tree to find an example worthy of emulation   Of him it was said, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed in his ancestor David’s footsteps at the beginning of his reign. He did not seek the Baals, but instead sought the God of his ancestors and obeyed his commands, unlike the Israelites.  The Lord made his kingdom secure; all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he became very wealthy and greatly respected. He was committed to following the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 17:3-6)

Like David, Jehoshaphat tore down the idols and elevated the Lord.   As a result, “The Lord was with him.”  “The Lord made his kingdom secure” and “He became very wealthy and greatly respected.” 

Ironically, Jehoshaphat’s predecessors were indicted for ignoring David’s example?  Neither did they prosper as Jehoshaphat did. 

Jehoshaphat imitated David but he was smart enough to also learn from and avoid his mistakes.  There was no Bathsheba scandal to mar his reign.

Now to bring this home:  The apostle Paul was referring to the OT stories of Jehoshaphat and others when he wrote, “These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction…” – 1 Corinthians 10:11.

So…. basically, Jehoshaphat is an example of a man who followed the example of a man to teach us to find a man to be our example. (could be a woman though)

Think of life as Youtube and look for the how-to video that God posted.  Find an older person who did life God’s way.  What did they think and do, and what kind of results did they experience?   You might even ask him/her to mentor you. 

Watch and learn.  Make Bambi proud!

A PRAYER: Lord I am grateful for the folks that have taught me how to live.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

All Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

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