Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

the name — October 28, 2020

the name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church erupted!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

out of this world — October 14, 2020

out of this world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how do we manage in the meantime?

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

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

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

All references from the NET Bible ®

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