Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

the 99 and 1 rule (reconciliation part 4) — November 10, 2021

the 99 and 1 rule (reconciliation part 4)

There is one question that a marriage counselor gets way more than any other, it’s this: “Would you fix my spouse?”

I guess we all tend to approach conflict in that way – we pin the donkey of blame on others rather than own it ourselves. 

The counsel of Jesus plays out differently.  He said, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while you yourself don’t see the beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Luke 6:41-42) NET Bible ®

Jesus the carpenter knew the difference between a speck of sawdust and a two-by-four, and He used it to expose our silliness!  

When someone hurts us, we really want them to squirm and to own it.  We forget that we have added our own fuel to the fire and that our donation is much bigger – board sized, says Jesus.

Why is it that the Lord regards my problem as being bigger?  Maybe because not only am I guilty of my own offenses, I also brazenly assume the mantle of self-righteousness and become the judge of others.

Jesus tells us quite clearly to take care of our own problems first.

In the last post we looked at the need to approach conflict as a doctor.  Before doing surgery, a surgeon washes his hands and his arms with an antiseptic solution and then gloves up.  

If he performs surgery without being sterile, he contaminates the procedure, which could prove fatal in the outcome.   In the same way, Jesus tells us that we must be clean before we try to remove the cancer of conflict.

So, what is the 99 and 1 rule? 

In my 32 plus years in the ministry I have never witnessed a conflict where one person is 100% wrong and the other is 100% right.  Never have.  Each person usually has some responsibility in the mire and mess.  If it were possible to quantify it, it might be 70/30, or 50/50 or maybe even 99/1.  There is almost always blame on both sides. 

So, this is how I prefer to apply Jesus’ words. I look to myself first to see what I contributed to the problem.  Let’s suppose for the sake of illustration that it only amounts to 1%.  (I wish!)   That 1% seems like a speck, but even a speck, when it’s on your eyeball, seems bigger than a house.

And though the other person may be 99% guilty, instead of waiting for them to apologize, I take the initiative.  I go to them and say, “Hey, I was wrong when I _________.”   Would you please forgive me for that? 

Almost always the person immediately says yes to my humble request.  Forgiveness is granted.  And almost always they turn around and take responsibility for their 99%.   Sometimes the apology comes later, but it usually comes.

The conflict is over, and the good feelings flow once again. 

Is it right to admit you were wrong?  Absolutely!  Is it embarrassing?  Somewhat!  Is the embarrassment proportionate to your level of responsibility?  Not really.  Embarrassment is embarrassment!

So why not get the ball rolling by taking responsibility for your 1% or your 50% or your 99% or whatever it is?  Do your part to put the conflict to rest and bring peace.

So, what if they don’t respond like you might hope?  Doesn’t matter!  Jesus says it’s our duty to examine ourselves and take responsibility for our own offenses, not those of others.  And being in harmony with the Lord is probably the most rewarding peace of all.

A PRAYER: Lord I seldom want to own even my 1%.  Help me to recognize my contributions to the problem and be brave enough to admit it. 

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

doctor or lawyer? (reconciliation part 3) — November 3, 2021

doctor or lawyer? (reconciliation part 3)

You are probably either a doctor or a lawyer based on the way that you approach conflict.

May I illustrate?  Suppose that I have a headache that just won’t quit, so I decide to seek some professional help. 

I find the office building where the professionals ply their trade and find a name on a door: Doctor Ichabod Smith.  I check in and finally get to see the doc.  Turns out his doctorate is in Law. 

Oh well!  I tell him about the headache, and he asks me where I work and if I handled hazardous materials.   Turns out I did!  So, he declares that we are going to sue my employer for 5 million dollars for exposing me to asbestos.

Three years later we have our day in court and Ichabod does a stellar job of pinning the blame for my cancer on the Acme company.  The judge decides in my favor and I am 5 million dollars richer.

But before I buy a Mercedes and a beach front cottage – I drop over dead.

Oops!  Maybe I should have looked for someone with a doctorate in medicine instead.  His questions would have been different:  Where does it hurt?  How long have you had this ache?  He would have quickly identified my cancer and would have removed it asap.

Personal conflict is like a cancer.  Some approach it like a lawyer whose essential job is to pin the blame for the problem on someone else.  Their goal is to prove that their client is right even if they are wrong. 

This person may win the argument but then find that the relationship dies as a result.  If you want to see ugly, take a seat in divorce court and watch as the lawyers alternatingly devastate the wounded spouses.  No one wins in divorce court. 

Instead of looking for someone else to blame, we need to approach the conflict like a doctor. A doctor isn’t concerned about blame.  The doc focuses on the problem.  The enemy is not the other person but the source of conflict.  That is what needs to be addressed.

I have a Master of Theology degree.   I know the Bible well, but for the life of me, I don’t recall a Scripture which says, “When you have been wronged, make every effort to prove yourself to be right.” 

On the other hand, there are lots of passages that tell us to pursue peace with each other.  “Pursue peace with everyone…”  (Hebrew 12:14); “Be at peace among yourselves.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:13); “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” (Romans 12:18); “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  (Colossians 3:15) 

Over and over the Scripture calls us to seek peace in place of conflict. 

Removing cancer isn’t painless or easy.  There is the surgery and chemo and radiation.  It involves temporary discomfort and pain, but in the end a life is often saved, or in this case – a relationship!      

So, your wife criticized you for that last financial decision.  Should you go to court, or sit down with her to find out what’s really bugging her?   

Your boss got up on the wrong side of the bed.  He isn’t happy with you or anyone else today.  Is it time to get a subpoena or should you sincerely ask, “Hey how are things with you today?” 

Your son forgot your birthday.  Do you file a lawsuit or call him to say, “I was thinking about you and just wanted to say hi.”

Your husband was wrong in what he said.  He knows it but will not admit it.  How long will you argue your case until he agrees?  Maybe you could win him without a word by giving him respect even when it is undeserved. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Honestly: If you had cancer and had to choose between being right or being well, which would you choose?   Exactly!   Should you approach that rocky relationship in your life any differently? 

A PRAYER: Lord, help me be aware of me, and the ways in which I relate to others.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

rekindle (reconciliation part 1) — October 20, 2021

rekindle (reconciliation part 1)

Who seems to be bent on making you miserable?  Your neighbor?  Your brother-in-law?  Your boss?  Your ex?  And why are they so unjustifiably hateful toward you?  When did they decide that you were the enemy?  Is there anything you can do about it! 

Solomon the wise says “Yes” in Proverbs 25:21-22.  He wrote, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”   NET Bible ®

He pictures a raging battle with two adversaries – launching arrows and throwing spears at each other.  They won’t rest until the other falls on the field of battle. 

The way to prevail in this battle is to throw a picnic for your enemy.  War is exhausting.  No doubt they are famished, so feed them.  They must be thirsty, so give them to drink. 

One would wonder at this point if Solomon was truly wise.  If we nourish our enemies, would this not strengthen them and give them the advantage in the battle?

Ah yes, but then Solomon adds that gory part.  If we should nourish the enemy, it will crown them with a fiery fedora! – burning coals heaped upon their head.  Ah!  So that is how the battle is won.  But it doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

May I explain?  In those days fire was essential.  It cooked your food and warmed your body.  But where did it come from?  A spark from striking flint with iron would do it.  But listen, I was a junior pyromaniac as a kid, and try as I might, I never succeeded in creating a fire this way. 

It’s hard to do.  So, once you had a fire, you maintained it.  At night you would take coals from the pit, put it in a ventilated clay pot that allowed just enough air to sustain the coals without letting them burn up.

The next day, you would sprinkle kindling on your coals and create an instant fire. 

But – what if your coals should happen to burn out over night? 

Then you would take your clay pot to your neighbor’s house and ask for a few of his coals.  You would then take your pot and load it on to your head (which is how they still carry things in the third world) take it home and restart your fire. 

And this is how we understand the Proverb.  People who are hateful, have had their home fire go cold.  The embers have burned out and the fire pit is desolate. 

Treat them with kindness – unexpected kindness – kindness that they do not deserve.  Do that and it helps to rekindle their home fire.

If Jesus would have written this blog He simply would have said, “Love your enemies.”  (Matthew 5:44)

So how do we get that fire rekindled in our foe?  Give them food and drink – maybe a cup of coffee and a scone and leave it on their desk.

Compliment her on her outfit, or him on the quality of his work.  Tell them you appreciate their perspective and ask their advice.  

You might also say, “Hey I am concerned that I may have offended you. Is that the case?”   Honor them with a humble apology.

This is the way to go.  I have done this a lot and have seen it as the beginning of many relational turnarounds.  I plan to share one story in my next blog. 

Solomon passed on a Proverb, a principle on how life typically works – but it is not a guarantee.  A rare adversary will fail to warm.  And yet we are told that the Lord will nevertheless reward us for being so exceptionally kind.   Nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

A PRAYER: Ooh this is tough Lord, we need your empowerment to make it happen. Help us!

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

clog remover (reconciliation part 2) — October 19, 2021

clog remover (reconciliation part 2)

I figured out why bagpipers are always walking when they play?   They are trying to get away from the noise.   Most of us prefer peace to pipes – especially in our relationships with one another. 

But we are messy human beings and relational conflict is an unpleasant byproduct.  And when conflict comes, we are tempted to find peace by walking away. 

But Scripture points us in a different direction.  In Hebrews 12:14 we read, “Pursue peace with everyone.”  When we are at odds with someone, we need to engage them in ways that lead to peace – to the putting away of the hostilities.

This is how this looked in my life. 

I was working as a maintenance man for an apartment complex.   A tenant called our old landline.  It was a single elderly lady with the last name Knight. 

Her drain was clogged, and she demanded that it be fixed asap for she was cooking for a male friend that evening.  My wife told her that I wasn’t at home but would be there as soon I arrived, which I did. 

I knocked.  She appeared with a scowl.  I was too late! Her friend had come.  She slammed the door.

The next day I went over and tried to fix it again.  She opened the door as far as the chain would allow – and told me to leave.

She called the owner and demanded my termination – said she was afraid of me because of my long hair.  This was after I had cut off 2 feet of it.  

This was so wrong.  My redheaded temper was at a boil.

However, I understood my obligation to “Pursue peace with everyone.”  I was aware that the way I handled life caused others to move to or away from Jesus.  Plus, this lady was still my responsibility as a tenant.

So, I tried to apologize.  I knocked on her door – she opened it and slammed it.  I called her on the phone, “Mrs. Knight this is Jim….click.”   I endured 2 weeks of this hostility and it was eating me alive.

So I decided to write her a letter – something she couldn’t hang up on or slam in my face.  I wrote, “I am very sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me.  I came as soon as I was aware.  I also understand that you are afraid of me because I have long hair.  I am a Christian and my impact on others is important to me, so I am getting my hair cut today.  I hope I have the opportunity to serve you in the future.” 

My hair was cut, and the note sent.  No doubt she received it and saw me walking around the complex with my new buzz job. 

Two weeks later we got a second call from Mrs. Knight.  She said, “I learned today that I have diabetes and unfortunately I have a freezer of food that I can’t eat anymore.  Would you all like to have it?”

We went to her apartment and watched her cram several bags with food.  We then followed her up the stairs, until she suddenly stopped, turned and spoke.  “I will give you this – on one condition.”   “Yes maam, what’s that?”  She said, “That you forgive me for being such an old bag?” We did.

How wonderful it was that evening, to know that the conflict was over.  The churning in my gut was gone.  My enemy had become a friend – a good friend.  She took my wife and I out for steak dinners on 2 different occasions.   

This all took place when I was 23.  It was a watershed experience for me.  I have used this approach countless times since to rebuild broken bridges with people.  

Pursue peace with everyone.”  When we are in conflict with someone, we need to engage them in ways that lead to peace. 

Are you walking away from a key relationship because of conflict?  Turn around and with God’s grace, pursue peace. 

A PRAYER: Lord we are all different, help us understand what steps we need to take in the pursuit of peace. 

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

the snare of an airbnb — October 13, 2021

the snare of an airbnb

She wanted to visit Israel with her family – a whole month viewing the various historic sites.  So, she looked for an Airbnb.  She found an entire house in the town of Bethlehem at a ridiculously low price.

But just before she clicked the purchase button, she realized that Bethlehem was located in the Gaza strip – a place that often exchanges rockets with Israel and where you might find that the neighbor next door drives a truck bomb for a living.  But – you can get a killer deal on an Airbnb.

Where we settle matters!

Psalm 1 is in agreement. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”  (1:1) KJV

To be “blessed” is to be happy.  I am thinking we all want to be happy.  To get that, we are advised to be careful where we settle.

The Psalmist illustrates with an example of a man who has the habit of strolling along with the wrong kind of folks.  This together time begins to reshape his values. 

He once thought that the sanctity of marriage was a given, but the video he streams treats extramarital sex as common place.  Even his friends do it.  Over time, his moral compass began to skew.

His walking gave way to standing – in the path of sinners.   Not only is he comfortable with things that he once regarded as sin, he now takes a stand in their defense.   He finds reasons to justify extramarital sex (if only to justify himself.)   

First walking, then standing, then comes sitting – with the scornful. 

We sometimes use the phrase “to sit in judgment.”  This verse suggests that he too was sitting in judgment – mocking those who held to the moral truths that he once embraced.  He had mutated into the person, about whom he was forewarned.

He settled in a neighborhood more dangerous than the Gaza strip. 

He walked, he stood, he sat – but his journey was not over. 

The Psalmist goes on to say, “The ungodly….are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.  Therefore, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment….”   (1:4-5)

This person will be driven away, like wheat chaff in the wind – no undergirding values to keep him rooted.  And though he once stood in the path of sinners, he will not be able to stand up to God’s eventual judgment.

Not a lot of happiness there.  The happy part is in verse 2.  “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

In contrast – the happy person delights not in the company of the wicked, but in the Word of God.  He makes it a daily priority.

This person also walks – but with God.  He stands as well – but upon the things God has revealed.  Rather than sitting in judgment on the truth, this person allows the truth to – to be the judge of his own attitudes and behavior. 

Unlike the scornful, “…he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”  (1:3)

Well-watered, fruitful, evergreen and prosperous!  Those are the benefits that come to those who delight in the Word of God. 

So, I just open the Bible, read a chapter and my world will instantly shift?  Not quite. 

It takes 40 or so years to go from an acorn to a mature oak.  Forty years of daily drawing water and nutrients from the soil and rays from the sun.   A healthy tree, however, can endure and bear acorns for hundreds of years. 

And so it is with the Word of God.  We must draw from its resources daily.  The health that is produced and the growth that comes won’t be immediately perceptible – but like an oak, we will surely grow strong and stand tall.

So be careful where you settle.  Find an easy chair and open your Bible.  

A PRAYER: Lord, my life is ridiculously busy, so help me to carve out 15 minutes each day for Your Word.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

talk-to-text — October 6, 2021

talk-to-text

I am frequently misunderstood by my I-phone.  I have tried in vain to use the talk-to-text feature.   I have spoken slowly and precisely, annunciating every word, but after the phone has processed my message, it looks like a monkey had keyed it in.  I have offended many by sending before proofing. 

It must have something to do with the pitch of my voice.   I have learned that if I dictate my message in a – high-pitched Mickey Mouse kind of voice – it captures my speech perfectly. 

But those who might be with me, and hear me do this, well they laugh and think I’m goofy – and not the Mickey Mouse variety. 

____________________

According to Scripture we human beings are just as handicapped as my phone.  God has spoken to us in the past, but we haven’t always understood Him correctly.

There is an episode from the life of Israel that helps us to understand why.  They had just left Egypt and were camped at the base of Mount Sinai.  Exodus 20:18 says this…

“All the people were seeing the thundering and the lightning, and heard the sound of the horn, and saw the mountain smoking—and when the people saw it, they trembled with fear and kept their distance.”   The people were gathered there to meet with and hear from God, but there was a problem according to verse 19. 

“They said to Moses, “You speak to us and we will listen, but do not let God speak with us, lest we die.”   They didn’t want to hear God’s voice.   No wonder!   God was surrounded by a pyrotechnic display of thunder, lightning, and a smoking mountain.  They were terrified.    Think of the quartet from the Wizard of Oz standing before the huge intimidating image of the wizard. 

Their shaking legs deafened their ears.   So, they asked Moses to be a go-between – to hear God and then interpret His words for them.   Moses was an approachable human being whereas God was not.   

So, Moses received the Law from God and then faithfully passed it on.  Here is an irony.  It was called the “Law of God” only 9 times in the Bible but the “Law of Moses 22 times.”  The Law became more associated with the publisher than the author.

Nevertheless, God left His people a clear message.  Yet, through the ages it was misconstrued and misunderstood.  Jesus challenged the Jewish leadership saying, “Aren’t you deceived for this reason because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God?”  –  Mark 12:24   The scholars failed to understand God’s words.

This was a problem.  It required more than a Mickey Mouse solution.  So,  according to Hebrews 1:1-3, He sent Jesus!

“After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word…”

God said to Himself, “If I really want to get through to my people, I will need to look like them, and speak like them and experience life as they do.”   They need to mingle with God in the flesh.”

To interact with Jesus was to have known and seen God (John 14:7) and to have heard the words of Jesus was to have heard God speak.  (John 12:50)  

The people cowered in fear before the God of the OT, but when Jesus was near, even the children cuddled up to Him.  He clarified theological mysteries by His warm presence and His simple to understand words. 

I do love the Old Testament, but I get the fullest and sweetest understanding of God when I follow Jesus through the Gospels.   I am currently reading through Matthew, and it’s astounding how fresh it is – once again. 

If God is sounding to you like a garbled text, join me as I read through Matthew.

A PRAYER: Lord in the words of the hymn writer teach me “More, More about Jesus.” 

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

Scripture references from the NET Bible ®

questions of heaven — September 29, 2021

questions of heaven

My wife loves the find-a-friend app on her phone.  It utilizes GPS to help us pinpoint each other’s location.   This means I can no longer sneak off to the Dairy Queen for a Blizzard without her knowing it. 

This is a little annoying, but there are benefits.

If I have my phone with me when I die, I will still be able to track how often she goes to Wal-Mart AND she will be the first to know the exact location of heaven!

_________________

– So, do we actually know where heaven is?

Scripture speaks of it as being up.  Jesus ascended to heaven. (Eph. 4:10) When He returns Paul says, “the Lord himself will come down from heaven…” (1 Thess. 4:16) The Bible actually speaks of three heavens.  The first is the atmosphere, the second is the space habitat of the planets and stars and according to Paul, if you could go beyond that you’d find the heaven of God.  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Location is but one of many questions we have about heaven.  Another one…

– Are there animals in heaven? 

Yes.  At least one.  When Jesus returns for us, He will be riding on a white horse.  Revelation 19:11 says, “Then I saw heaven opened and there came a white horse!”

– Do the people there know what’s happening down here? 

Possibly!  According to Hebrews 12, those saints who have died, such as Abraham, David and Grandma are watching from heaven as the rest of us run our race.   We can’t speak with them nor they with us – but it appears they are aware and are rooting us on.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

– Will we recognize one another? 

Probably so.  When Moses and Elijah left heaven to meet with Jesus at His transfiguration, they could be distinguished from each other.  (Luke 8:28-30)

– Can you leave once you get there? 

You wouldn’t want to.  Again, there was that unusual time when the Father sent Moses and Elijah from heaven to rendezvous with Jesus on the earth at His transfiguration.   If that had been me, and I had been away for a while, I would have headed for Pizza King for a pepperoni and mushroom.   

But the record indicates that they wanted to get back to heaven as soon as possible. (Luke 8:33 & 36)  You probably would too.  After all the Scripture says, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”  (2 Corinthians 2:9)

We have a plethora of questions about heaven, but none is more important than this…

– Can I be sure that I am going?

Yes! The Apostle John passed on these words, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” – 1 John 5:13

John wrote to those who believed in the name of the Son of God.  To believe in Jesus is to understand that He is the divine, eternal Son of God who took flesh upon Himself so that He would be capable of suffering an execution on the cross that was due to you and me.  He paid our debt of sin that we might be debt free.  His resurrection is the proof that the debt was satisfied.

To believe is to commit ourselves to Him.   When we’ve done that – we can be positively sure that heaven is ours. It’s a solemn promise from God.

Once we are born, we become eternal entities – never to cease to exist.  We can choose however, where and how we will spend eternity.  Just two options according to John 3:16, God gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” One more question about heaven.

– Why not choose it for yourself?

A PRAYER: Lord, please hear the prayer of those who are ready to commit themselves to You.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com.  If you’d like to discuss this, please contact me.  And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible®

stop it already! — September 22, 2021

stop it already!

Life is wearing on me like that crazy day at the State Fair.  My daughter wanted to ride Pharaoh’s Fury.  This carnival favorite features a giant ship, that rocks on a pendulum creating a sense of weightlessness.

She asked me to go with her.  No way! I get dizzy in a rocking chair.  But she pleaded so my reluctant daddy heart walked the plank with her.

The boat got to rockin’ and my stomach got to heavin.’ Back and forth – forever it seemed.  As I groaned for relief, the ride finally began to slow.

But the operator saw no one else in line.  So he yelled out, “Do you all want to go again?”  I whimpered “no,” but the cheers prevailed.  So, I suffered a second plague with the Pharaoh.

Once it stopped, I wobbled over to a bench and took the next 30 minutes to find my stomach. 

________________

Well, its déjà vu all over again. 

The world has suffered through a horrendous year of the virus, until the morbid ride finally began to slow.  But it has revved up again and we are all thoroughly sick of it.

We are used to having smart people who quickly and decisively solve our problems.  But this ride just won’t end.

As to the who or the how it got started, I won’t venture to say.  BUT I am certain I know who can stop it.

In the past, the Lord has stepped in and halted plague and pestilence.  2 Samuel 24:25 says, “And the Lord accepted prayers for the land, and the plague was removed from Israel.”

Prayer was the key then, but our prayers seem to go unanswered today.  Why is that?

The apostle Paul was beset by what he called a “thorn in the flesh.”   This thorn was a metaphor for a seriously painful situation in Paul’s life – something that he could barely endure. 

We don’t know for sure what it was. Some conjecture that it was a problem with his eyesight.  Others suggest that it referred to a tenacious persecutor.

According to 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul spent a season in prayer asking God to remove the thorn.  God was silent. The thorn dug in, so he spent a second season in prayer. God was silent.  The wound was getting infected, so he spent a third season in prayer.   He pleaded with God to hit the kill switch to the wretched ride. 

God said no to His faithful servant – the amazing apostle Paul, but He did tell him why.  He said, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (v. 10)

Paul was an accomplished person.  He even boasted about the things he achieved prior to his conversion.  (Philippians 3:2-6).   No doubt, he was sometimes tempted to bring his do-it-yourself mentality to the work of the ministry. 

So, God allowed the thorn to remain, to remind Paul that his intelligence, and strength and ingenuity may be great, but it was insufficient.   It was only in a state of weakness and affliction that Paul could sense his need and fully experience God’s strength. 

Me too!  I intellectually know that I need the Lord, but it often takes difficulty to remind me of it.  And though it’s crazy, many who live on this planet don’t believe they need God at all.

God has the might to remove our plague, but He doesn’t seem to have the motivation.

When I was a kid, I wanted to get rich, so I signed-on with a mail-order company to sell personalized Christmas cards.  But I had to sell in the summer months to allow time to process the orders.

Do you know how many people buy Christmas cards in July?   No – even less than that.  I didn’t even make enough money to pay what I owed for the sample book.   My dad quickly sized up the situation and knew that I needed to be bailed out – but he waited. 

For weeks – he waited – until I finally realized my mistake and that I needed my dad and the help he could bring.

I wonder if that’s what God may be waiting on?

A PRAYER: God, this ride is just too much for us.  Please tell us what we need to know.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture references are from the NET Bible®

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. 

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