Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

hearing loss — July 13, 2022

hearing loss

As we age, I am finding that my wife and I are wearing out the word, “What?”  (as in “what did you say?”)   We need either hearing aids or speaking aids.  Not sure where the fault lies.

This reminds me, however, of an event that took place recently.

A group was gathered near Zilker park at a Thai food truck.  It was a cool clear Austin evening – a great time to share a relaxing meal together after a grueling week of school.

The tranquility was shattered by an ear-splitting car collision in the intersection nearby.   The offending pick-up caused the sedan to careen off towards the food truck.   Some ran for safety -others did not.

Eleven diners were mowed down.  Two sustained life-threatening injuries.  But why didn’t they all react and move out of the path of the car?  

Sadly, it was because among them were students at the nearby school for the deaf.  They just didn’t hear it. 

———

Bad things can happen when we fail to hear!

Back in 30 AD or so, the nation of Israel was a mess.  Politically: it was enslaved and ruled by the iron fist of the Roman Empire.  Economically: Rome drained the wealth of the nation.   Spiritually it was a heartless, cheerless cesspool of legalism.  The nation desperately prayed for better days. 

God answered!   He sent them Jesus, who was to redeem them from their sin and then restore the nation and righteously rule the Kingdom from the throne that David once occupied.

He came preaching this message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!”  – Matthew 4:17

Everything the nation had ever hoped for – prayed for – hinged on their repentance.  They were exhorted to turn away from their self-indulgent sin and turn to Jesus the Messiah

But they had a hearing problem.  After a long season of preaching His message of repentance Jesus said, “For the heart of this people has become dull; they are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” –   Matthew 13:15

He would have healed the nation in every way but they were deliberately deaf to His message.

At a later time, Jesus was trudging downhill from the Mount of Olives, He was headed to Jerusalem which was sprawled out before Him. 

There on that dirt road, surrounded by a throng of followers – Jesus wept. 

Luke 19:41-44 reads, “Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. They will demolish you—you and your children within your walls—and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”  

He wept because He knew that Rome would soon level the city and intensify the suffering of the Israeli people and their children.  This was because the nation had rejected Him and His offer to intervene and bring healing. 

Rome eventually leveled the land just as Jesus had predicted.  Was it His fault?  No, He tried to intervene.  He wanted better things for them.  It was the nation’s choice to make. 

I am thinking that decades ago, Jesus possibly looked upon the USA and wept once again.  Because the nation of which it was said, “God shed His grace on thee” – that nation had become deaf to His message.   

And every day the people and the children of our nation are suffering the terrible aftermath of it. 

Jesus, I weep with you

A PRAYER: Jesus I weep with You

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you and this nation as well.

Scripture references are from the NET Bible®

a teetering trust — July 6, 2022

a teetering trust

If I were Amish, I would be afraid to water ski.  My horse might drown! 

David, on the other hand, feared nothing.   He proved it in the Valley of Elah! 

This valley was the site in Israel where David defied Goliath.  It is a pleasant verdant vale when there wasn’t a war going on. 

Who doesn’t know and cherish the story of the boy with audacious courage?  He confronted the giant saying “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied! This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand. I will strike you down and cut off your head.” – 1 Samuel 17:45-46

With a sling and stone, he succeeded.  This victory became the subject of song and celebration for many years to come in the nation of Israel.  Surely, he never forgot that day – and yet it seems that he did.

Fifteen years later David was being pursued by murderous King Saul.  David had attracted a band of discontents who were loyal to him.  They were a threat that Saul wanted to eliminate.   

But the band of fugitives, managed to keep one step ahead of Saul and his army.  They finally found refuge in a place known as the Cave of Adullam. 

This cave is essentially a big hill, towering about 500 feet over a very flat plain.  It is a limestone formation that was eroded over time so that it had become a honeycomb of caves – one of which could contain 300 people at one time.   A perfect hiding place for David’s band.

But why were they there? 

David was evidently afraid!  Saul had tried to use him as a pin cushion with a spear and had led his army on a seek-and-destroy mission against him (1 Samuel 19:1).  David had been on the run for some time. And so we read, “David left there and escaped to the cave of Adullam.”  – 1 Samuel 22:1

But how ironic!

In the valley of Elah David ran to the battle – at Adullam he hid from it.  At Elah he removed the protective armor that the King had given him – at Adullam he covered himself with a rock fortress.  At Elah his only weapon was a sling, but at Adullam he was armed with the sword of defeat once wielded by Goliath. 

The valiant crusader had become a fearful fugitive.  It was a crisis of faith.

But, the story takes an even darker turn.  The cave of Adullam sat on the rim of the valley of Elah.   From that elevated perch David would have had an unobstructed view of the brook from where he took the 5 smooth stones. 

He could see the very place where he stood toe-to-toe against Goliath.  He could look upon the meadow where the ginormous Philistine lay dead. 

David could see all of this from the murky cave in which he hid from King Saul. 

Insanely courageous and full of faith at one moment and blinded by fear in the next.  A reminder to us that living by faith is a daily challenge.  Faith is not a one time proposition.  It will be repeatedly tested and must be renewed daily.

Hey these are fearful days.  Are they not?  Will we meet the challenge as did the fearless boy, or the feckless man? 

May David forgive me for using his own words to challenge him and us as well.  “Throw your burden upon the Lord,  and he will sustain you. He will never allow the godly to be shaken….but as for me, I trust in You.”  – Psalm 55:22-23

A PRAYER: Lord my faith needs a daily infusion.  I will look to You to supply it? 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scriptures passages are from the NET Bible ®

Picture by David bena at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47491712

is God a bass or a tenor? — June 29, 2022

is God a bass or a tenor?

We were not expecting to be expecting, but God had other ideas.  I was still working on my husband skills having been married only 7 months.  But we were still very excited about being parents.

I could not wait to meet my little girl.  During the pregnancy, I would put my head close to my wife’s tummy and softly sing to my baby so that she could hear and even feel the vibrations.  I sang to her – I sang for her – I sang over her – because I loved her.

Ironically, long before she could talk, she would stand up in her crib in the morning and return the song – singing her baby syllables with all her heart.

________

I have learned that God is just as excited about His children.  He too sings over them.  (I know! Isn’t that a crazy thought?) 

The evidence is in Zephaniah 3:17. Now since you have probably never read the book of Zephaniah, let me give you a thumbnail sketch. 

God used Zephaniah as a messenger to the nation of Judah.  He prophesied that the nation would be judged because of their idolatry, immorality, and spiritual apathy.  

But, in the third and final chapter of the book, Zephaniah predicted that God would send His Messiah in the last days and all Israel would turn their hearts toward Him.  The distance between God and His people will be bridged. 

This is where we find Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” – KJV

On that day God will joyfully celebrate by singing love songs over His children.

It is not a misprint.  Most other translations of the Bible render it this way as well.

God joyfully sings over His people much as I sang over my little girl. 

I have so many questions?  Is God a tenor or a bass?   Would a female hear Him as an alto or a soprano?   Does this mean He has perfect pitch?  Do the angels snicker when He sings? Isn’t He embarrassed?

No way!  He is not ashamed to sing of His love for His children.  He is a Father who is hopelessly devoted to His little ones. 

I have a friend who feels the need to return the song.   When Steve Bradley sings during a church service, he is louder than my grandpa’s Sunday tie.

He out-sings us all including the crew on the platform with the microphones.  He belts out the hymns with gusto and the contemporary worship songs with just as much energy.  He loves to sing to his Redeemer, and the rest of us are inspired to hear him.   

It seems that a heart full of love just spills out in song. 

So, may I put us on the spot?  If our love for the Lord were gauged by the way we sing on Sunday morning, would we move the needle at all? 

Hey if we ain’t feelin’ it, I don’t think we ought to fake it.  But maybe we should be alarmed that we ain’t feelin’ it!

This next Sunday morning, grab a cup of coffee and your Bible, and mull over Romans 8:28-39 where Paul provides a thrilling description of God’s love for you.   

Then, with your heart warmed, head for church and stun the worship leader by enthusiastically singing of your love for the Lord.

A PRAYER: Lord singing is easy for me – but please help those who don’t find it as easy?

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

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

poured out — June 15, 2022

poured out

I recently saw a video clip on the news, that I wish I could forget.  It took place in Kingsland, Arkansas, population 300.   It so happens that the late country crooner, Johnny Cash was from that little town.  They honored him by putting his silhouette high up on town’s sole water tower.

But a sharpshooter, with a wry sense of humor, put a bullet right through Johnny’s groin area, which punctured the tank and produced a steady stream of water arcing to the ground.   

And now, poor Mr. Cash relieves himself of about 30,000 gallons a day.  Hmm – I know how he feels. 

Now I bet you are wondering what in the world kind of spiritual point is Jim Johnson gonna make with this story.   Well, I got one! 

_________

The apostle Paul had a leak of another kind!   

He was nearing the end of his ministry – soon to move on to glory.  But he shared these parting words with Timothy.  He said, “For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand.”  – 2 Timothy 4:6

The apostle referenced the sacrificial system of Israel.

The purpose of the Old Testament sacrifices was to bridge the distance between God and man.   There were several kinds of offerings, but they could be summed up by grouping them into 2 categories. 

There were those that addressed the sin of man (such as the burnt offering). These sacrifices foreshadowed the work of Christ who covered our sins at the cross. 

There were also those offerings that symbolized man’s grateful response to God (such as the drink offering). 

The burnt offering was the most frequent and important.  It was presented to atone for the unclean condition of humanity.  It was offered night and day – a perpetual cycle of sacrifice offered for God’s sinful people.  (Lev.6:13).  

It was the blood of this animal sacrifice that was sprinkled on the altar as a reminder that there is no remission for sin except by the shedding of blood. 

Jesus, of course, became the ultimate expression of a burnt offering – His blood sprinkled on the altar, night and day bridging the once impassable gulf between man and God.  Sin was and is covered by His sacrifice and an intimacy with God is enjoyed for those who have received His gift.

OK but what about Paul’s poured offering?

He was referencing the “drink offering” which involved a cup of good quality wine, ranging in volume from 1.5 to 3 quarts.   It was never offered alone but was given in tandem with the burnt offerings.  The priest would pour out the wine around the altar where the fire had consumed the lamb of sacrifice. 

Like the burnt offering, it was completely expended.  There was nothing left afterwards.  

So, Paul compared himself to a drink offering as if to say: “Jesus, the burnt offering for my sins, has given me peace with God.  I, therefore, become a drink offering to accompany His sacrifice.  Out of gratitude I sacrificially pour myself out, all of me, in service for God’s glory and for the good of others who need to be redeemed.”

Paul went on to tell Timothy, “I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally, the crown of righteousness is reserved for me.”  – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

So powerful.  Paul told the young man that he had done it.  Paul had poured himself out – a living sacrifice throughout his years of ministry.  He had withheld nothing.  Jesus got it all. 

I am awed that Paul could say such things, and that it would be recorded in the eternal Word of God for us to read today. 

Makes me wonder what I may be withholding!

A PRAYER: Lord help me find the cork in my life that keeps me from being fully poured out.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

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

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ®

destress — June 8, 2022

destress

Famed news commentator, Paul Harvey, once reported about a man in India who was 120 years old.  Over the years the guy accumulated 23 wives, but he could remember the names of only 16 of them. 

And I thought my life was stressful!

What about yours?  At the end of the day, do you feel like there is more to do, but less of you to do it? 

Jesus wrestled with the same tension but seemed to be able to successfully manage it.  He offered to teach us to do it too.

He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me…”  Matthew 11:28-29   Here’s a few things He passed on.

– Jesus rested.

         A storm overwhelmed the disciples and threatened to swamp the boat.  The services of Jesus seemed to be desperately needed and yet we read, “He was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.”  (Mark 4:38)

Jesus slept when He needed to sleep regardless of what was going on.  A good sleep each night and a day off from work every week will refresh us too.   

– Jesus dined

         The Pharisees accused Him of being a glutton. (Luke 7:34) An exaggerated charge to be sure, but it tells us that Jesus enjoyed food.   A car without gas won’t be going far.  Get something to eat.

– Jesus charged His batteries.

He had just healed a man on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ critics “were filled with mindless rage and began debating with one another what they would do to Jesus.”  (Luke 6:11)   

This is how He responded, “Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God.”  (6:12) As His troubles got bigger, Jesus went deeper.  He prayed. 

– Jesus identified His priorities.

         Some of us are torn in a hundred directions but Jesus knew what his mission was, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) That was the magnetic north that gave Him direction

                  We would be wise to identity our priorities.  Your spouse and children are primary.  Your job and your service to the Lord are too.  Cover them well.   If you want to, and have the time and energy left- feel free to take on more.

– Jesus said no when needed

He had put in a 16-hour day of ministry in Capernaum.  He then withdrew for a night of prayer.  In the morning, the town’s people found Him and pressed Him to return and resume His healing.  He replied “Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so that I can preach there too. For that is what I came out here to do.”  (Mark 1:38)

                  He said, “No” to them.  He would not allow His preaching to be swallowed up by His healing ministry.   Once we have identified our priorities, we then have the freedom to lovingly say no to those things that are not.

– Jesus asked for help.  – Matt. 26:36-38

         At Gethsemane, Jesus asked Peter, James and John to remain awake and pray with Him as He approached the time of His betrayal.  He asked for help.  Sometimes, we are stressed because we have chosen to go it alone.  Those that do forfeit the support and wisdom and companionship that others bring.

I grew up where the streets were often coated in white in the winter.  When stuck in a rut, my teenage impulse was to put the pedal to the metal.  My wheels were spinning but I wasn’t moving.  Then I got smarter, I learned to accelerate slowly.  The tires found traction and I was set free.    

You may be stuck in a spiral of stress.  If so, accelerate a little more slowly.  Take time to rest and eat and pray and reflect on your priorities and even ask for help!  You’ll reduce the stress and find the traction you need.

A PRAYER: Thank you for the lesson, Lord.  Help me to live it.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com   

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

Scripture from the NETBible ®

mortarfied — June 1, 2022

mortarfied

Have you ever taken on more than you can handle?  I sure have! 

I ran into the lumber store to get a small bag of mortar.  They don’t come in small bags, so I grabbed a 60 lb. behemoth.  A shopping cart would have been helpful, but I was in a hurry.

I got in line to check out.  The guy in front of me had two pushcarts full of lumber.  Meanwhile, my load kept trying to find the floor.

8 grueling minutes later I made it to the register.  With one arm, I somehow slipped my wallet and charge card out and signed my name on the device. The arm with the mortar went numb.

The cashier then asked if there would be anything else.  I said, “Well could you put this in one of those plastic bags for me?   She looked at me in disbelief and sadly nodded “no.”

I should have gotten a cart – I know, but I have always been a stubborn do-it-all-yourself kind of guy.  I don’t need a person or a buggy to lighten my load.  I’m all that I need.

This goofiness even slips into my relationship with God at times.  When a tough problem comes, I YouTube it to death and then work harder and longer until it’s resolved. 

I could have cited the apostle Paul as my example.  He admitted in 2 Thessalonians 3:8, “In toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you.”

He sowed Gospel seeds during the day and sewed tents by night.  His night gig produced income so that he could be financially self-sufficient as a minister.  Paul seems like the poster child for people like me. 

BUT, I did a concordance search on that phrase “night and day” and I found that Paul was also busy doing something else.  He wrote to Timothy, “I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.”  – 2 Timothy 1:3

It was his habit to pray night and day, reaching out to God, realizing that his strenuous and best efforts in ministry were less than sufficient to get the job done.

After all, it was Jesus who said, “Apart from me, you can accomplish nothing.” – John 15:5

OK, but how does our effort interface with the power of God our behalf?

Consider this.  I was a sophomore in high school trying out for the varsity football team.   The coach had us doing a drill where one blocker, had to fend off one tackler, and do it well enough to let a running back get by. 

It was my turn, and I trembled as I faced an all-city senior.  My 165 lbs. wasn’t going to be enough to block his 260.  

The coach said “go” and I exploded into my opponent – which turned out to be a dud.  He stood me up and stopped me flat. 

The running back, however, did not hesitate.  He got behind me, put his head in my back and added his strength to mine without missing a step.  He blasted us both out of the way and I had succeeded.  The guy had been blocked.

I could not have done it without that auxiliary power that was added to mine.  And yet I was also crucial to the plan.  If I had not been doing my part, the back would have gotten nailed. 

So it is with God.  We have our responsibilities in this life, and we need to give them our very best effort while at the same time we reach out to the Lord.  We seek His infusion of strength and wisdom and at times His direct intervention for success.

The mortar to this story – – I mean – – moral to this story is this.  “Work hard – pray hard.”  Day and night if you must.

A PRAYER: Lord open my eyes to those times when I am straining to do what you want to do for me. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com.

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

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

mortified

Have you ever taken on more than you can handle?  I sure have! 

I ran into the lumber store to get a small bag of mortar.  They don’t come in small bags, so I grabbed a 60 lb. behemoth.  A shopping cart would have been helpful, but I was in a hurry.

I got in line to check out.  The guy in front of me had two pushcarts full of lumber.  Meanwhile, my load kept trying to find the floor.

8 grueling minutes later I made it to the register.  With one arm, I somehow slipped my wallet and charge card out and signed my name on the device. The arm with the mortar went numb.

The cashier then asked if there would be anything else.  I said, “Well could you put this in one of those plastic bags for me?   She looked at me in disbelief and sadly nodded “no.”

I should have gotten a cart – I know, but I have always been a stubborn do-it-all-yourself kind of guy.  I don’t need a person or a buggy to lighten my load.  I’m all that I need.

This goofiness even slips into my relationship with God at times.  When a tough problem comes, I YouTube it to death and then work harder and longer until it’s resolved. 

I could have cited the apostle Paul as my example.  He admitted in 2 Thessalonians 3:8, “In toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you.”

He sowed Gospel seeds during the day and sewed tents by night.  His night gig produced income so that he could be financially self-sufficient as a minister.  Paul seems like the poster child for people like me. 

BUT, I did a concordance search on that phrase “night and day” and I found that Paul was also busy doing something else.  He wrote to Timothy, “I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.”  – 2 Timothy 1:3

It was his habit to pray night and day, reaching out to God, realizing that his strenuous and best efforts in ministry were less than sufficient to get the job done.

After all, it was Jesus who said, “Apart from me, you can accomplish nothing.” – John 15:5

OK, but how does our effort interface with the power of God our behalf?

Consider this.  I was a sophomore in high school trying out for the varsity football team.   The coach had us doing a drill where one blocker, had to fend off one tackler, and do it well enough to let a running back get by. 

It was my turn, and I trembled as I faced an all-city senior.  My 165 lbs. wasn’t going to be enough to block his 260.  

The coach said “go” and I exploded into my opponent – which turned out to be a dud.  He stood me up and stopped me flat. 

The running back, however, did not hesitate.  He got behind me, put his head in my back and added his strength to mine without missing a step.  He blasted us both out of the way and I had succeeded.  The guy had been blocked.

I could not have done it without that auxiliary power that was added to mine.  And yet I was also crucial to the plan.  If I had not been doing my part, the back would have gotten nailed. 

So it is with God.  We have our responsibilities in this life, and we need to give them our very best effort while at the same time we reach out to the Lord.  We seek His infusion of strength and wisdom and at times His direct intervention for success.

The mortar to this story – – I mean – – moral to this story is this.  “Work hard – pray hard.”  Day and night if you must.

A PRAYER: Lord open my eyes to those times when I am straining to do what you want to do for me. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com.

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

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

don’t love the messenger — May 27, 2022

don’t love the messenger

I would never leave my wife – because I love her and because no one else would ever have me.  When I was a teen, I came to believe that my middle name was “homely.”   But there was one moment, in my teenage drama that still shines in my memory. 

There was a beauty about.  We’ll call her Bonnie.  My friend Barry was attracted to her.  But because of his fragile ego, he appointed me as his go-between to speak on his behalf.

So, I found her and began to talk with her.  “Oh no boyfriend huh?”  I relayed the intel to Barry, and he was pleased.  He sent me back for more. 

I asked about her hobbies and family and school and of course I told her all about Barry.  He was so delighted with my report that he sent me back with more questions.


And on it went.  Several conversations later, it was clear that Bonnie was smitten.  Not with Barry – but with homely old me. 

She had fallen for the messenger.

_________

Does that ever happen at church?

It does!   Paul and Barnabas were preaching in the town of Lystra.  There they healed a man who had never walked a day in his life. 

The pagan populace was astounded so they said, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” They began to call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of the temple of Zeus, located just outside the city, brought bulls and garlands to the city gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifices to them.”  –  Acts 14:11-13 

The Lystrians were misguided.  They fell for the messenger rather than the Lord of the message.   

And isn’t that we sometimes do with Christian leaders? 

Pastors, teachers, evangelists are all part of God’s good provision for us.   But we can become more attached to them than we are the Lord.

Have you ever heard comments like these?  “I skip church now because I listen to the celebrity preacher on the internet.” “I don’t read my Bible much cause I listen to that woman’s podcast.”  “This new pastor – isn’t like the old one.  I’m out of here.”

Or what about this, “My pastor can do no wrong.”  Really?  It’s this kind of assumption that makes it possible for a megachurch pastor to be a sexual predator or an embezzler and yet have the board and congregation beg to keep him in the pulpit.   This happens a lot.

Or maybe the opposite takes place.  The pastor errs and the faith of his congregants is eroded.  They pitch out Jesus with the preacher.  Bad things happen when we confuse the messenger with the Lord of the message. 

So, Paul responded to the folks of Lystra, “Men, why are you doing these things? We too are men, with human natures just like you! “– Acts 14:15a

Our leaders are flesh and blood just as we are.  They need accountability not worship. 

Then Paul said, “We are proclaiming the good news to you, so that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God.” Acts 14:15b Paul argued that he was only a messenger with a mission.

In the same way, the task of those who lead us is to direct our hearts to God and not to themselves. Don’t give your heart to the messenger and beware of any messenger who may try to take it.

It was my honor to serve as a pastor.  When I finally left that one church after 32 years of service, I left the hearts of my congregation behind.  I loved them and most of them loved me.  But their hearts were not mine to keep.  They belonged to Jesus.  They still do.

Listen to the messenger but give your heart to Jesus.

A PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for the many faithful folks who lead your flock, may they always lead them to You.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com   

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

Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

forty dollar tears — May 25, 2022

forty dollar tears

Many media outlets released a story on 5/18/22 about a young woman in New York who consulted her physician about a health issue.   It was a rare problem with few solutions, so, in her hopelessness she began to weep in that office. 

Her doctor was sensitive and did not interrupt her sorrow, BUT she was later billed for the outburst.  It appeared on the statement as BRIEF EMOTIONAL / BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT – $40.00.

There were no questions asked, no counselor summoned, no consolation offered, no screening to speak of.  Just a bill for emoting in the doc’s office. 

This is so crazy it makes me want to laugh, but I am afraid I might get billed for it!

_______

$40 bucks is a lot for a few tears, but the cost of stuffing our sorrow is far greater.

In an article from the HARVARD HEALTH BLOG (3/1/2021), Leo Newhouse gives a few clinical reasons why we should let the waterworks flow.

– Crying is an emotional pressure release.

Studies indicate that those who repress their tears have a less effective immune system, more cardiovascular disease, hypertension.  It also breeds mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

– Crying builds bridges.

When we cry, we encourage closeness, empathy, and support from friends and family.  Who can’t do with a lot more of that? 

– Crying flushes our system

Tears cleanse stress hormones and other toxins out of our system.

– Crying makes us feel better.

It releases endorphins in our systems. These pain relievers help ease both physical and emotional discomfort.   Most of us would agree, there is nothing like a good cry to make us feel better.

“No way!” you say.  “I am a Christian and crying exposes a weakness in my faith.”

Not true!  To cry is a privilege.  It is part of what it means to be created in the image of God.  Here is a biblical theology of tears: 

Crying is natural:  Solomon wrote “there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  – Ecclesiastes 3:4. Weeping is perfectly appropriate at times.

– Crying is encouraged: Jesus urged the women of Jerusalem to weep for themselves. (Luke 23:28)

– Crying is not just for women and children:  Peter wept after denying Jesus.  (Matthew 14:72) Paul evidently cried often in the course of his ministry (Acts 20:19 & 31)  I was surprised to read in the Harvard article that, “on average, American women cry 3.5 times each month, while American men cry about 1.9 times each month.”

– Crying is commanded:  Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15.

– Those who cry are blessed:  Didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are you who weep?” (Luke 6:21)

– Crying was practiced by Jesus Himself.   In Luke19:41 He wept over the soon to come destruction of Jerusalem.   He also stood beside Mary of Bethany and grieved her brother’s death, “Jesus wept.”  (Luke 11:35)   He came to show us how to live and included, were a few lessons on how to cry.

As I have gotten older, I have found (as many men have) that it has become easier to shed a tear.   This is due in part to the receding tide of testosterone and a lifetime that has tenderized me and helped me analyze less and feel more. 

And yet, there is still that macho mechanism in me that tries to stifle the occasional sniffle. 

I am pretty sure all of us would be better off to recognize that God created us with the capacity to cry and we need to use it as needed.  To do less is to jeopardize our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical stability.  

And my, my!  There is so much today that merits a tear.

A PRAYER: Lord I want to be like You in every way. Free me to weep as you wept!

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

shoeless — May 18, 2022

shoeless

Talaya Crawford was poised to run a 200-meter sprint. (5/9/2022) The gun sounded, and she exploded down the track – BUT she left her shoe on the starting block.  Race over, right?  No, she doubled back, forced the shoe on and then ran.

She started 6 seconds later than the rest of the field in a race that typically lasts 30 seconds.  But she ran like a tornado and won it by a wide margin.   

In this Cinderella story, the glass slipper was a sweaty sneaker. 

Amazing!  Most would have picked up the shoe and gone home.  But she wanted to win, and knew she had to have her shoes on to do it.

________

Christians need their shoes too!  

Paul once described the spiritual armor of the Christian.  He pictured us in a battle with our adversary the devil.  God supplies the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the Scripture which is the sword of the Spirit – and He didn’t forget our feet.  

Paul wrote, “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” – Eph 6:15 KJV

It tells us that a Christian needs to be prepared to share the Good News with others.

The word preparation means to prepare – duh!  We do that by putting on Gospel shoes.

– What is this Gospel of peace?

Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, “…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”    

Those without Jesus are at odds with God (Romans 5:10) having rejected Him and His righteous ways.  When they receive the gift of God, their sins are buried beneath Jesus’ blood.  And God the frightening foe becomes God the faithful friend.   Peace is brokered between God and man. 

– But what does this have to do with shoes?

The prophet Isaiah predicted the day when Jesus the Messiah would come.  There would be those who would herald His glorious arrival.   Of them the prophet said, “How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains the feet of a messenger who announces peace, a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  (Isaiah 52:7) 

The Lord brought deliverance.  It is good news which translates as “Gospel.”  It is the message of peace with God and the feet of those who bring it are beautiful. 

Personally, my feet are not so attractive, but to see a pair of feet cresting a hill with the sweet message of peace with God – well that’s a beautiful sight.

– But how does this fit with the Christian’s armor? 

The entire collection of armor was modeled after that of a Roman legionnaire.  He wore “caliga” on his feet.  This was an open-toed half-boot tied to the ankles and shins with straps.  The most interesting feature of the boot was its sole which was studded with nails.  Think of the cleats they wear in sports. 

These boots were made for standing.  The nail-studded soles gave the soldier stability as he braced his shield and wielded his sword in the fray.   

In the same way, the Gospel is foundational – it is the unchanging message on which we stand.  Without the Gospel – the ideologies of this world will overwhelm us and others will never hear the life-giving message.

Unfortunately, some of us are not prepared to speak the Gospel.  We serve others by rebuilding homes after a disaster, and feeding the hungry, and protecting the innocent – all worthy and wonderful things.  But too often the Gospel of peace with God goes unspoken.  Without it there is no eternal hope for those that we have served.

If you are missing that Gospel shoe – run back and get it and get back in the race. 

A PRAYER: Lord, I am prepared to share the Gospel, but I don’t.  Help me change this.    

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

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

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ®

sort of… — May 11, 2022

sort of…

My wife and I went thrifting while on vacation.  I browsed the books looking for a treasured tome.  

The store had gone to the trouble of sorting the books.  But they were sorted, not by author, nor were they alphabetized.  They were not arranged according to genre nor were the hardbacks separated from the paperbacks.   They were arranged according to color. 

The blues were bunched, and the greens were grouped and so on.  BUT – who buys a book by its color?

Do the envious look for green books?  Do those in debt seek the red ones? Do the cowardly search for the yellow and the loyal look for true blue books?  Do singles seek little black books? 

This was a dilemma for me for multiple reasons.  I am somewhat color blind.

It made me wonder though.  Does God have a sifting method for humanity?  We do.  Too often we rudely catalog people according to race, sex, ethnic origin and so on.

But if God were to ever sort us all out – how might we be classified?

Would He sort us by height?  No!  He gave the key to the Kingdom of Israel to tall Saul and the key to the Kingdom of God to short Zacchaeus.  Height didn’t make a difference to God. 

Would He favor the popular?  No way! Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek…” – Matthew 6:5

Certainly, the strong would stand out in God’s sorting system!  But no.  In fact, Paul argued that God prefers to work through a person’s weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

What about our girth.  Is that a weighty matter to God?  It can’t be – He saved me!

Okay but what about appearance?  Kids often cruelly categorize others based on appearance.  Will God do that as well?

If He did Jesus would be at the end of line because the prophet Isaiah described Him as having “no special appearance” – Isaiah 53:2.   This is good because I grew up thinking my middle name was “homely.”

And you can forget about race, ethnic origin, economic status, and sex.  God won’t be discriminating based on any of those factors.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  – Galatians 3:28

There is only one factor that God will use when He one day is required to sort out humanity.   

Jesus said, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16   In the end there will be only two bins of people – those who have believed in Jesus and looked to Him to wash them from their sin.  And there will be those who haven’t.

The future for one is eternal life, the other is to perish.

Jesus continued, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. (17)

This tells me that God is not willing that any should perish.  He sent Jesus not to scorch us, but to save us. 

We tend to sort out people according to factors over which they have no control.  God will sort them based on the choice they make. 

It’s either one or the other.  Your religion is immaterial.  Your denomination is irrelevant.  You might even choose to punt and maintain that there is no God – which doesn’t really matter if indeed God truly exists. 

What will matter in the end is what you do with Jesus.

So – what will you do with Jesus? 

A prayer:  Lord I wasted the first 19 years of my life without You.  Please don’t let others wait that long. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

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

Scripture passages are from the NETBible ®

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