Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

does Jesus believe in you? — February 1, 2023

does Jesus believe in you?

My friend is an airline pilot who works for one of the major carriers.  He told me that he prays before every flight.  I replied, “What a coincidence – so do I!”   Do I trust pilots?  Well, not to the same degree that I trust the Lord. 

But there is a passage of Scripture that causes me to wonder if Jesus trusts me.  John 2:23 says this, “Now while Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover, many people believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs he was doing.”

He was in Jerusalem performing the miracles that validated Him as the divine Messiah sent from the Father.  Consequently, the many who witnessed these things came to “believe in His name.

Fantastic.  That was exactly what Jesus wanted to see happen – people placing their faith in Him.   It was a great success – but there is a “but” that follows. 

“But Jesus would not entrust himself to them – John 2:24a.  

This is disturbing!   The New Testament was recorded in Greek and the Greek word for “believe” in verse 23 is from the word “pisteuo” – “they believed in His name.”   Ironically, the very same word was used in verse 24, “Jesus would not entrust (pisteuo) Himself to them.” 

They came to believe in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in them.  This means that He did not fully open Himself to them or be vulnerable with them or share confidential things with them.     

Why?  John answered, “…because he knew all people. He did not need anyone to testify about man, for he knew what was in man.”  – John 2:24b-25.  Ouch – that hurts!  

You see there was a twofold strategy to the ministry of Jesus.  First: do miracles to validate the message and then deliver the message.   The miracles were easy for people to swallow – the message – not so much. 

Jesus presented Himself as more than a carpenter’s son.  He claimed that He came down from heaven.  (John 6:41).  Once the multitude heard this, “many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer.” – John 6:66

He knew what was in all men, and found it hard to trust them.

It’s true, that Jesus entrusted Himself to some more than others.  He did not trust the Pharisees at all (Matthew 16:6); He was wary of the believing multitude (John 6:14-15).

But He did let His disciples into His life; and then there was Peter, James and John who composed His inner circle who exclusively saw Jesus in the glory of His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9) and the grief of Gethsemane.  (Matthew 26:3-7)

So why some and not others? 

Jesus was disappointed with the multitude that had deserted him, so He turned to the few that He had entrusted Himself to – His disciples, and He said, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” (John 6:67)  

Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”  – John 6:68-69

We understand what it means to marry someone for their money. That seems to be what many did with Jesus.  But Peter and his comrades, they followed Jesus because they understood and accepted the person that He was.  Jesus was pleased to let in people like that.   

What about you?  Are you latched onto Jesus for the perks – or because you understand that He is the Holy One of God – your Sovereign Lord and author of eternal life? 

Does Jesus believe in you?  

A PRAYER: Lord, remind me when I selfishly begin to use you, and feel free to use me instead.

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

wiping off a kiss — September 6, 2022

wiping off a kiss

She gave her granddaughter a kiss on the cheek as she was about to leave, and it seemed to make the girl a little uncomfortable.  Grandma asked, “Are you wiping off my kiss?”  With a bit of guilt, she sheepishly replied, “No ma’am, I am just rubbing it in.”

She didn’t fully appreciate the blessing she had in her grandma.

It could be worse though.  Some fail to appreciate what they have in Jesus.  

When Jesus launched his ministry, it was from a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  It was called Capernaum.

I have visited the ruins of this place.  I made it a point to walk upon the same synagogue foundation on which Jesus stood and taught.  An amazing privilege. 

He spent 18 months of His public ministry in that city, which amounts to about half of his 3 ½ years.  It was called his, “own city” – Matthew 9:1. 

Why Capernaum?  It was a stop on the international road that reached from empire to empire.   If something happened in Capernaum, news of it would reach far and wide.  It was a perfect place from which to preach His message.

When Jesus first came on the scene, John the Baptist asked if He was the truly promised Messiah.  This is how Jesus answered, “Go tell John what you hear and see:  The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.” – Matthew 11:4-5

He quoted the prophet Isaiah who predicted that the coming Messiah would perform those specific miracles as evidence that He was the one sent from God.  (Isaiah 35:5-6)

So, guess what happened in Capernaum?   Jesus performed more miracles there than in any other one place.   It was there that He hugely fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. 

There in Capernaum he healed a lame man – a paralytic (Matthew 9:1); raised up from the dead the daughter of a synagogue official.  (Matthew 9:18-23)   He healed two blind men there (Matthew 9:27-29) and later restored a mute man. (Matthew 9:32)  Along with the miracles, He preached the good news in Capernaum. (Matthew 9:35)   

In that modest little city, He worked through Isaiah’s list of the miraculous to validate Himself as the Messiah.  The ancient prophecy was fulfilled in Capernaum.

All the proof needed was manifested there.  No other one place in Israel could say the same thing. 

AND YET, it wasn’t enough! The people of Capernaum were hardhearted.  In fact, Matthew 11:20 says, Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles because they did not repent.”

Among those cities, was Capernaum.  “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!” – Matthew 11:23-24

Capernaum saw Christ authenticated in every way, and yet failed to believe.  She saw a lot but responded with little.

May I say that Jesus is the real deal.  He lived and died and was raised from the grave.   He continues to provide ample evidence that He is true God, and He works His miraculous proof in the changed lives of people that you know.  They live down the street, or work with you or maybe even dwell in your home.

You have seen Him at work.  You have sensed His power.  You have longed for what He offers.  Maybe it’s time to respond to His call.

A PRAYER: Lord, gather us, your wandering sheep, to your side. 

This has been Jim Johnson with 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

the tollbooth — April 14, 2021

the tollbooth

I loved to hear my mother laugh.  And there was one story that would always cause her to giggle.

She and dad had been visiting in Georgia.  He was impatient and wanted to drive back to their home in Florida even though it was pouring rain. 

So, they departed that stormy night.  Soon after, he lost his way and was a little flustered.  Ahh, but the entrance to the tollway was just ahead.   Dad pulled up to the booth and handed a dollar to the uniformed man.  But the guy responded by saying, “Uh sir – this is an army base!” 


Dad attempted to enter a place where he was not welcome and which required more than a dollar.  Some of us may have a similar experience one day – but it won’t be as funny. 

As someone who ministers to the dying, I have often found that they are usually confident that heaven awaits them, regardless of how they have lived or whether they are religious or not. 

According to Jesus, this may be a fatal presumption.

He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me…” – Matt 7:21-23

Shocking words and yet spoken by the Prince of love – because of His love for us.  He wants to awaken us from the blind presumption that heaven is a universal entitlement. 

The problem is that we want to hand the sentry a dollar to get by when something else is needed.  

Paul tells us what.  “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

Heaven comes to us as a gift from God.  It is not a privilege that we earn, but rather receive.  It was purchased for us by Christ who bore the penalty for our sin.   We are given a pass to heaven the moment we look to God through Christ, in faith and say, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!”  – Luke 18:13

But how can we know that our faith is genuine?   After all, the Scripture says, “Even the demons believe…and tremble with fear.” – James 2:19 

The fruit of saving faith is the proof of saving faith. 

Jesus said, “a tree is known by its fruit.” – Matthew 12:33. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit that proves your repentance.”  – Matthew 3:8

In other words, the way we live, the values we embrace, the faith we practice, the Lord we serve tend to trace the validity of our faith.

We are saved by our faith in Jesus, but there should be evidence to follow.  Saul’s heart and behavior were radically changed after his Damascus Road experience, whereas, the thief on the cross experienced not much more than a changed heart.   But, both were produced out of a saving faith.

Now if this blog causes you concern, then it is likely because your heart already belongs to Jesus.  Why would you even worry about this issue if it didn’t?   Unless – you have never trusted the Lord, then your concern is drawing you to Jesus.   If that’s the case you probably need to whisper that prayer, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!”

When you and I stand at the toll booth in the sky, may we offer not a dollar, but evidence of a faith in Christ that has changed us!

PS: Social media is for sharing.  So share this. 

A PRAYER: Lord thank You for truth that will keep me from tragedy at the gates of heaven.

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

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