Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

a hope with a date attached  — November 30, 2022

a hope with a date attached 

I decided to clean up the contact list on my phone.  I was sad to find that I needed to delete over three dozen friends and family members who had died.

Delete sounds awful, doesn’t it?  But it kind of feels that way when someone passes.  It causes us grief, which is certainly appropriate.  But grief can sometimes grab onto us and never let us go. 

Is there anything we can do about it? 

My wife desperately loves our kids.  She was a stay-at-home mom who wanted stay-at-home kids.

But alas, our son graduated from high school and immediately entered the Air Force.  His first duty assignment was in England – a transatlantic stretch of his mother’s love. 

She grieved the loss of his presence.  Her joy was marginal and her fretting miserable.  It felt to her like the end of the relationship.  Our gracious church foot the bill to send us there to visit.  He needed it.  She needed it more. 

A friend eventually came to the rescue.  She also had children who lived afar.  She told Sharie that she could manage the absence if she and her kids agreed on when they would be together again.  It was a hope with a date attached. 

So, Sharie began to do the same when our kids left the nest.  When a date was set, she found that she could endure the in-between.  A departure began to feel only like a brief interruption.

King David handled his grief in a similar way.  He had a newborn son who had become very ill.  He fasted and prayed as he grieved the potential loss of his baby boy.  Then the child died. 

He reacted, “So David got up from the ground, bathed, put on oil, and changed his clothes. He went to the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then, when he entered his palace, he requested that food be brought to him, and he ate.”  – 2 Samuel 12:20.

His attendants thought that he had lost his mind.  So, he explained, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Perhaps the Lord will show pity and the child will live.’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back at this point?”  (v. 22-23b)

Good point David, but is there anything else?  Yes!  – He said, “I will go to him…!”  (v.23b)

David, who anticipated dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, also planned on doing it with his baby boy.  He had a hope with a date attached.

Now this is what Paul had to say to us about grief.

“…we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

He spoke of Christians who had died, as being “asleep.”   Hmm! I’m pretty sure that my wife doesn’t cry and grieve when I take a nap.  Because – I’m still alive – just unavailable at the moment. 

Paul wants us to know that when a believer dies, there is no reason to despair because a day is coming when, “We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (4:15-17) – Together – again!

If you grieve the loss of a loved one – take heart for we have a hope with a date attached. 

A PRAYER: God thank you for such a hope   

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com

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

too close — October 9, 2019

too close

james ray johnson

My cousins and my siblings and I were playing hide and seek in the small basement of our home.   Hiding places for the slew of us were as scarce as hen’s teeth, but my little brother Doug improvised. 

He searched the back room and found that the furnace had a hood which extended downward to within 3 feet of the floor.  He was able to stand under it with his head in it.  A perfect fit.  Never mind that only his head and shoulders were hidden. 

Believe it or not, he was the first to be caught.  Game over.  In fact, we were done for the day.  Up the stairs and through the door and into the kitchen we went, where my aunt sat and nursed a cup of coffee. 

She sniffed the air and asked in a disgusted tone, “What is that horrible stench?” 

Well – it was my brother and the unmistakable scent of burning hair.  His crew cut had been scorched by the heat in the furnace hood.  His hair was reduced to ashy, crispy nubs.  Actually, he would look quite stylish today.

As I recall we all got a spanking for that.  Thanks Doug!

My brother did not incinerate – but he could have, because the person that gets too close to the flame often does.

That’s what happened to King David.  He was taking a stroll around his palatial penthouse, when he happened to look down upon another rooftop where a beauty was bathing.  Instead of moving away from the flame, he lingered and watched (and his hair began to smoke.)  Like my brother, he thought that he was hidden and could beat the game.

David used his kingly authority to make a royal mistake –adultery, which led to conspiracy, and then murder.  His example poisoned his children and his Kingdom was crippled.  It all began when he made the choice to stand too close to the flame. (2 Samuel 11)

Joseph on the other hand, was aggressively pursued by the wife of his boss.  He consistently resisted her and when she finally forced the issue, he left his toga in her hands and ran for cover. (Genesis 39)

Paul put it succinctly in 1 Cor 6:18, “Flee immorality.”  We just can’t stand in the flame or be anywhere near it.  We gotta run from it, fast, as soon as we sense the heat.  We need to put distance between ourselves and temptation.  

We were taught to pray about temptation in the Lord’s Prayer. Can we really ask Him to deliver us from evil if we are content to dabble in it?

So, what do we do about the flame?  How do we distance ourselves? 

We could get a filtering app for the phone to block the questionable stuff on the net.  And it would probably be wise to quit lingering at the Keurig with that hottie at work.  And if there really is power in suggestion, then maybe we should be a little more discerning about what streams onto our flat screens.

Years ago, I discovered an effective way to douse the flame.   Temptation likes to hide.  It lurks in the recesses of the mind and is potent as long as it stays in the dark. In fact, it grows there like a black mold. 

To disarm it, temptation needs to be dragged from out of the dark and into the light.  So, when I am tempted, I interrupt it, by verbally saying, out loud, “No!”  Using my lips to say it, and my ears to hear it, exposes the threat.  It gives temptation a cold shower.

As a pastor/counselor I have passed this secret on to many, (mostly men) who have also found it to be really helpful.

Well my brother was a hard core hide and seek player!  He stood there in the heat while his head was being charred.   Believe it or not, he is still with us and enjoying his 6th decade and he has a good-looking head of hair with more color than I do.  But he also has somewhat of a nervous tic.  He jumps every time the furnace kicks on.

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