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 ®

all chipped up — September 25, 2019

all chipped up

james ray johnson

Why is it that some people read the Bible and can understand it, while others are confused?  How can two people read the same passage and end up with 2 conflicting interpretations?    

It has a lot to do with the missing ingredient.  Sorta like my car key! 

The keys in my pocket were heavy and pokey and would sometimes stab me just for fun.  So, I tried to reduce the glob.  A couple of the car keys had thick plastic decorative jackets on them. I took a knife and removed said jackets. 

What a difference it made!  The jingly tumor on my leg disappeared, plus, I no longer leaned to the right when I walked. 

The next day I went to use my new streamlined key, but the engine whimpered.  It wouldn’t start – which caused me to anxiously wonder, “Could there be an electronic chip buried in the jacket of that key.” 

Google confirmed my suspicion.  It was implanted to – thwart theft!  (try saying that five times fast).  Without the embedded chip, the car was a 6-cylinder paperweight.

Oh great!  I sifted through my garbage looking for that mutilated rubbery thing.  I found it and only hoped that the chip was still chipper.  I held it next to the ignition switch while I turned the key and – the car roared to life. 

Now, think of your Bible as a key and the Holy Spirit as the mysterious chip.  When we come to faith in Christ, the Spirit comes to indwell the Christian much like that chip was embedded.  When we want to correctly understand the words of God, we need both.   He opens our minds to understand what God has already spoken.   

The apostle Paul explained the dynamic in 1 Corinthians 2:12*, “Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God.”   The work of the Holy Spirit is to help us correctly interpret what God has communicated in words. 

And that’s important because words are not always enough.  When I was a kid, my friends and I saw a restored ’56 Chevy and we called it a “bad” car.   What we meant was, “It was an impressive car.”  My mom, however, wanted to wash my mouth out with a bar of soap. (Do mom’s use squirt bottles today or is this kind of thing finally illegal?)   Mom needed a teenager to help her understand what we were really saying.

Which brings me back to the Holy Spirit.  He knows the heart and mind and intention of God because He is God.  As we read the Word, we have the author within us to give us spiritual insight and discernment.  

For example, some read Ephesians 5:22 and are offended by it because they understand the words, but only the words, “wives be subject to your own husbands.”   It appears to regard a wife as a subservient person – less valued than her husband.  That really is offensive. 

However, in verse 25, husbands are commanded to “love their wives as Christ loved the church.”  This is seldom considered by the critics of Scripture.  However, both passages, coupled with insight from the Spirit, help us to understand the intention of God.  His plan for marriage is a relationship that is equally and mutually a blessing to each partner.

It involves a husband who sacrifices himself for his wife – in all things, and a wife who responds to his tender leadership with respect.  

What wife would resist the considerate care of such a husband, and what husband would trivialize or marginalize a wife who honors and respects him in such a wonderful way. 

When husband and wife are fulfilling their responsibilities to each other, they create a rich warm partnership where they forge their direction together, in mutual respect.

That’s the understanding we get when the Spirit of God takes the black and white words of Scripture and broadcasts them in color.

If we all had the Spirit to tutor us, then there would be far less quibbling about Scripture.

Is your mental engine failing to start when you sit down to read the Bible? Take a moment to pray before you read.  Invite the Spirit of God to open your mind and give you insight as to how to put it to work in your life.   

__________

A great hymn on the illumination work of the Holy Spirit, expertly sung to one of my favorite melodies – by the Heralds.  Click and listen:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfUlCof-aM8

*Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®

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