Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

death where is thy fang — April 8, 2020

death where is thy fang

It was Vacation Bible School.  Our theme for the week was Bible Barnyard.  We took animals that were referenced in the Bible, brought them to the church and then used them as object lessons. 

We cast our pearls before a guest swine who had the manners of a pig.  There was a sheep that strayed by to teach us how to follow our shepherd.  Then there was the snow-white dove that dropped in to remind us to be gentle as we make our way through this world. 

The wolves were already booked elsewhere – a wedding I think – but we did have a serpent make a guest appearance.  It belonged to a member of the church.  He did a great job of teaching us to be shrewd as we interact with our world. 

The kids loved the him. They reached their hands into his glass enclosure and let him thread himself through their fingers.  We became a snake handling church for the day!  He seemed safe enough.

As the session came to an end, the snake’s owner told me that the serpent was due to be fed.  She asked if the kids might like to see it.  I said “Sure.” 

So, she dropped a little grey mouse into the cage.  The kids crowded around.  They connected with the cute little fuzz ball that was skittering about.  They oohed and giggled until – with lightning speed – the snake inhaled the mouse. 

Half the kids were awed by it.  The other half – not so much.  There was a scream explosion.  Not just one kid – at least a half a dozen – and it was catching.  They whimpered and blubbered and sobbed and they were loud. I was ready to line up some grief counselors. 

The cute, fuzzy, innocent, little mouse was swallowed whole by the cold-blooded, villainous reptile. I wanted to cry too.

The drama prompts me to think back to Calvary.  Jesus was not as cute, but many were deeply attached to Him.  He had healed the broken and ambulated the lame.  He brought the sparkle back into blinded eyes and the sound of laughter to empty ears. 

He touched the diseased, welcomed the outcast and courageously defended the downtrodden.  He was admired, esteemed and cherished. 

And then He was abruptly inhaled by death – and all creation screamed. 

The sun was obscured by a sheer veil of darkness.  The earth trembled and shook with sorrow as her rocks shattered.  The cavernous temple was filled with the harsh sound of tearing as the massive partition curtain was rent.  A river of tears flowed down the hill of Calvary from the faithful that were huddled there.

The cross was not the way His story should have ended.  But that’s the way it was – and all creation screamed in protest. 

Unlike our little mouse, however, it was His choice! -a decision that was all about us. 

“Christ also loved us and gave himself for us.”  – Ephesians 5:2

“Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”  – Ephesians 5:25

“the Son of God…loved me and gave himself for me.” –  Galatians 2:20

Oh, how amazing it would have been, if that little fuzz ball of a mouse could have backed out of the jaws of the serpent.  The bitter would have become better for our distraught kids. 

Jesus, on the other hand, backed out of His tomb – having been truly and fully dead for 3 days.  His glorious resurrection was also all about us.  Paul wrote, “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.”  – Romans 6:4

Do you believe it?  It is important that you do says Paul, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

What does that mean “You will be saved?” It means, little mouse, that the python of death will never be able to swallow the one who belongs to Jesus. 

It is the Easter season – a perfect time to confess Jesus with your mouth and believe in Jesus in your heart.

All biblical references from the NET Bible ®

Jesus not cheeses — October 16, 2019

Jesus not cheeses

james ray johnson

After years in the delicacy doldrums, I buried my teeth in the most savory, sensational pizza ever to grace a plate. And I was invited to take home a load of leftovers.  Ah, but with what?

Let me backtrack.  My roots are Irish, but I went to a school where most were of Italian heritage.  I became enculturated.  I learned a few Italian phrases (some of which I was disciplined for repeating) and I was enamored with the cuisine. 

Italian mothers staffed the cafeteria, thereby filling the halls with daily, heavenly, Roma aromas.  Friday was the exception – that was stinky fish stick day.

But I, was made to take my lunch – always and forever.  I could expect one of 3 sandwiches in my Howdy Doody lunch box: peanut butter and pickle, bologna, or Braunschweiger.  The last one I could not pronounce or digest.   

But I got a break in 8th grade.  Our little garage band was invited to perform at the school banquet.  The cafeteria ladies served up the finest, spiciest, most wonderful pizza.  Heavenly stuff!

The band followed dinner and dinner followed the band – or at least this member.  I had a tough time singing I was so stuffed. 

I learned there was a mountain of leftovers.  They offered it to me, and I wanted it – all of it, every beautiful old-world pepperoni disc and stringy piece of mozzarella – BUT – I had nothing to carry it in. 

SO, I did what I had to do.  I removed my guitar and lined the empty case with pizza.  I carefully layered in each piece with the skill of a stone mason so that no space went to waste and then I latched it shut. 

It was a solid pizza guitar – 5” thick – and really heavy to carry.  I would have assigned it to a groupie except we didn’t have any. 

I got it home, gathered my family, put the case on the kitchen table and then dramatically opened my treasure chest to the astonished crowd.  They dug in and I had a couple more myself.   

Now you may be wondering one of two things: “Why do I bother reading a blog written by such a doofus?” or “What could the point of this story possibly be?”

In answer to the second question – it’s all about Jesus. (not cheeses)

May I compare my Jesus to pizza?  Why not?  He compared Himself to bread in John 6.

there is an enticing aroma to Jesus.  

Paul wrote, “Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”  (Eph. 5:2)   He compared Jesus’ work on the cross to the sweet incense offerings of the Old Testament.   The news that someone died so that others could live – that’s unsettling – its humbling – its enticing.

An aroma directs our noses to the source of joy.   This aroma may be wafting around your work place.  That girl at the other desk is different.  She is patient when challenged and she helps others when she could be advancing herself.  She endured her chemo treatments with courage from above.  She has been changed by the grace of the Lord.  She smells a lot like Jesus.

But how miserable to smell, and yet not be permitted to partake.  Not a problem.

we are invited to taste

The Psalmist wrote, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  (Psalm 34:8). David invites us all to experience the Lord – to feast on His mercy and grace – to personally know and enjoy Him.  Not a simple sample, but a banquet of His goodness. 

Last night my wife and I went to say our evening prayers.  I asked how I might pray for her.  She thought about it and said, “I really don’t have any concerns at the moment”.  Neither did I.  The Lord has been so ridiculously good to us.  We could think of nothing but to use our prayer to thank Him.  We have tasted and found the Lord to be extremely good.

And while Jesus completely satisfies, we will nevertheless long for more.  As the author of the hymn wrote, “More, more about Jesus; More of His saving fullness see, More of His love who died for me.”  When we have truly connected with Jesus, we never tire of Him.  

So, dig in and enjoy!

But remember, others are still suffering from the Braunschweiger blahs while Jesus offers so much more.  He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life and may have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

If you are fortunate enough to know Jesus, open that guitar case to your friends and family.

Bible citations from NET Bible ®

%d bloggers like this: