Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

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!” 

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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 ®

making a dent — January 27, 2021

making a dent

It’s a good thing to make a dent – if you are a peach tree. 

In my reading, I discovered some really interesting information about the reproduction process of a fruit tree.  (sounds kind of nerdish doesn’t it?)

My source is Dr. Paul Brand who tended orchards as a hobby and was also a surgeon (but not of the tree variety) 

I already knew about the method where man and animals whisk away ripe fruit and leave the seeds far and wide. But I did not know about the dent method of reproduction. 

This is how I understand it.  When the fruit, say a peach, is ripe to the eye, the seed within is also fully developed. 

The tree, if left to itself, kindly releases the peach.  Each heavy piece drops to the ground where it impacts the soil with a small dent.  This dent is of a strategic design.  It essentially creates a small bowl in which the new tree is birthed.

The peach sits in the dent and decomposes around the seed allowing its organic nutrients to seep into the soil.  The dent retains it providing the fruit with a fertile place to grow.

When it rains, the water puddles up and remains in that dent, thus providing for that need.  And the movement of the water also carries soil which again collects in the dent and buries the seed under a protective blanket.

Eventually there’s a sprout, that become a sapling and before you know it – a mature peach tree capable a reproducing itself. 

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Brilliant!  God gave us the dent method of reproduction for fruit trees – and for Christians as well. 

So, here’s the deal.  We Christians are planted in the soil of a hard and often hostile world.  It sometimes feels like the Gospel we embrace is on the retreat rather than advancing. 

There continues to be a desperate need for us to make a dent in this world.  How?

By dropping our fruit. 

The apostle Paul argued that we were saved from our sins, “in order that we might bear fruit for God.”  – Rom 7:4.

This fruit is measured by the kind of character we develop.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

I knew a fellow that took great delight in attacking me and what I believe.  When we met, it was a one-way tirade designed to strip me of my convictions.  I knew it was dumb to argue, so I listened instead as God enabled me with the fruits of patience, kindness and gentleness.

These days my friend seeks to be with me and is warmly receptive to what I have to say. 

It seems that my fruit made a dent.

Paul also says that fruit is measured by the good deeds that we do.  “So that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed…”   Colossians 1:10

Good deeds!  A theme that Jesus also addressed in Matthew 5:15, “Let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.” 

I have a number of friends – a physician, an accountant, and an engineer who have been involved for many years with the local homeless mission.  They have served these displaced folks in the boardroom and in the dining room. 

They are motivated by their faith in Jesus, and their compassion for the downtrodden and their reward is in seeing many of these homeless folks come to faith in Jesus each year and becoming productive people again.

It appears that their fruit is making a dent.

So, is your tree bearing fruit?  Are you making a dent?  Is your Christlike character opening the eyes of the lost around you?   Are your good works attracting the attention of this old calloused world? 

You don’t have to go to Katmandu to do this.  Like the peach tree, our primary area of impact will be nearby – with those with whom we often relate.   Think of your neighbors, fellow workers, your grandkids, or even the wait staff at your favorite restaurant – and determine to make a dent. 

A PRAYER: Lord help me make a dent in my world. 

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

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