Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

food for the ages — February 15, 2023

food for the ages

What joy does every earthling share that we will continue to enjoy in heaven?  Eating! 

I did a study on heaven and was shocked to find that food will be a major part of our heavenly experience.  Seriously!

Jesus was astounded by a gentile centurion’s faith which prompted Him to say, “I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  – Matthew 8:11. The faithful will dine with the patriarchs of Israel in the Kingdom of Heaven.  

It was at the last Supper that Jesus, “…took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  – Luke 22:17-18.  Jesus made it clear that He would enjoy wine again in His resurrected glorified body.   

But dining is not a one-time deal.  Jesus also said to His disciples, “I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Luke 22:29-30.  Jesus promised to reward their faithfulness by including them at His heavenly dining table.

Of course, there is also the marriage feast of the Lamb.  Revelation 19:9 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!”   

So what will we eat?

We probably should cross off devil’s food cake.   Actually, Isaiah tells us that the food will be amazing.  He wrote, “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will hold a banquet for all the nations on this mountain.   At this banquet there will be plenty of meat and aged wine – tender meat and choicest wine.” – Isaiah 25:6   He looks to the onset of eternity in the Millennial Kingdom.  At that time God will make sure that His people have plenty of choice, tender meat and aged wine on which to sup.   

Where will it come from?

Jesus transformed water into wine at Cana, so it won’t be a problem for Him to cater a heavenly banquet.

Who will prepare this food?

Jesus is familiar with cooking. After His resurrection, He met with the disciples at the Sea of Galilee and prepared a breakfast of fish for them.  He said, “Come, have breakfast” – John 21:12.  I assume that He ate with them as well.  (I may pass on the fish for breakfast and put in an order of bacon and eggs.) 

My wife thoroughly enjoys cooking.  This is good because I thoroughly enjoy eating.  I am pretty sure she would be delighted to help prepare meals for the Lord and His people.  I am certain that meaningful work will be a part of our heavenly experience – and that would be hers.  

I know it’s hard to comprehend, isn’t it?  In heaven we will have glorified bodies.  Like the resurrected Jesus, we will be able to pass through walls.  (John 20:26)  This creates a few hard to answer questions like; How does a glorified body eat and drink?   

And how does a glorified body process what we eat?  Will the roast ever be burned?  Are there calories in heavenly food?   Will we like everything on the menu?  Don’t know? 

Will they do Chinese and Greek foods?  I assume that the Chinese and Greek believers would appreciate that.  Will we need Weight Watchers in heaven?  I’m pretty sure that’s a no. 

But listen – what is of ultimate importance here is to understand that Jesus so loves us that He prepared a place for us – with a kitchen – so that the joys of earth become the amplified joys of heaven.   He makes it possible for us to eat and drink and fellowship with Him and one another at His table forever.

A PRAYER: God I am excited to see what’s on the menu.  Thank you for your kindness.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavepress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture passages are from the NETBible.com

I just knowd it! — February 8, 2023

I just knowd it!

I recently had a guy ask me a perplexing question: “Hey are you from Louisiana?”  “What!”  I asked, “Why you say dat?”

I concede that my accent is hard to figure.  I am an Ohioan who has lived in Texas for 40 years.  When I return to Ohio, and they get all rankled when I refer to them as, “ya’ll” and they wag their heads when I say “I knowd he et my “chicken fried steak.”   And they are relieved when I get in the car and say, “I’m fixin’ to go to the house.”

But when a Texan hears me speak, he says, “Where you from boy?”   When I ask for a bottle of pop – he wants to pop me. 

My accent may defy description – but Louisiana?  Makes me madder than a crawfish without a bayou!

Oh well, ultimately, it’s not where you are from that matters, but where you are going!

Where are we going?   Time moves forward whether we like it or not, and it sweeps us along with it.  So, what is our destination?  

Do we ever get in the car and say, “I don’t know where I’m going!”  OK sometimes I say that but that’s because I am old.  But, generally speaking, we don’t turn the key without having a destination in mind. 

The apostle John provided a helpful map for one particular spot.

He was writing to his spiritual “children” – those people that he had mentored and loved. In his letter, he taught them about Jesus and the faith, and how to love one another, and other themes that help a Christian understand how to live.

As he wound down his letter, he added this amazing gem of truth.  He wrote, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  – 1 John 5:13

Now let’s make sure we get this.  He started with “I have written these things….”  What things?  All the spiritually affirming truths in chapters 1 through 5.

It was directed to “…you who believe in the name of the Son of God….”  He was addressing those who had placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior.   They were not relying on their own efforts or merit.  Their confidence wasn’t based on their church membership or attendance.  They relied solely on what Jesus had accomplished for them at the cross. 

His purpose was revealed in the last phrase, “…that you may know that you have eternal life.”  It isn’t always that you find the words “know” and “eternal life” in the same sentence.  And yet John says that the one who had put their hope in Christ has eternal life, and they can know and be assured of it in this life. 

Some might say, “Well, No one knows what know means.”

I get you.  Someone may say, “I know Fred.”  But in reality, Fred is more of an acquaintance to that person.  They don’t really and truly know him.  There is a word for that kind of knowing in the Greek New Testament.  It is “ginosko.” 

But John uses a very different word in his letter.  It is “oida” which refers to a deep, full, true understanding of a person or an issue.  This is a convinced kind of knowing. 

So, John tells us that the person who has trusted Christ should have a deep down, in the pit of their stomach, sure as shootin’ assurance that heaven is in their future.

Ultimately, it’s not where you are from that matters, but where you are going!  If you have trusted Jesus – you are going to heaven!  I just knowd it.

A PRAYER: Thank you God for helping me truly and deeply know that I will be with you when this life has been exhausted.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

travel trauma — November 16, 2022

travel trauma

Like you’ve never been late!

My wife and I were sipping coffee on a sleepy Friday morning.  Our plan for the day was to pack for our three-week mission trip.  The next day we were headed to several African nations to visit various missionaries that had been sent out from our church. 

At 8 a.m. I happened to glance at our itinerary.  I was stunned when I realized that we were scheduled to depart at noon on that same day, TODAY!  My blood pressure could have inflated a tire. 

Planes within Africa fly their routes once or twice a week.  If we missed the first leg of the journey, the whole trip would be lost along with a fortune in airfare. 

I said to my wife, “Uh Sharie, um I just found out we are leaving today.”   She ignored me, “just another dumb Jim joke.”  With more assertiveness I said, “Honey we are leaving today.”  She said, “no.”  I said, “yes.”  She said, “no.” I said, “yes.”  “Let me see that,” she said.  She looked at it and then lost it.

We had 4 hours to shower, pack, make the 2-hour drive to Dallas, park the car, check in, wade through security and board the plane.  No way!

But we tried!  We showered faster than a couple of preteens.  She had postponed doing the laundry, which meant most of our clothes were dirty.  But she wadded them up and jammed them in the suitcase anyway.  What would the TSA think?

Toothbrushes, deodorant, hair gel were flying into the luggage.

We made it to the airport, but the south parking lot was full. We drove the full length of DFW to find that the north lot was also full, so we parked the car in short term parking.  It might be cheaper just to leave it there when we got back. 

We slipped into the plane just before they closed the door. Our collective adrenaline was pumping for the first 3 hours of our transatlantic flight. 

And then there were the typical airliner annoyances: cramped seating; crying babies; inconsiderate fellow passengers (my wife being the exception) and a bathroom that always seemed to say, “in use.”    

The journey was brutal – but arriving was breathtaking. 

We were greeted and treated like royalty by our missionaries.  There were tears and hugs and joy abounding.  We ate what they ate, saw what they saw, and joined them in their service to the Lord.  We had a superb time. 

As a bonus – we met exotic animals, saw dazzling displays, encountered curious cultures and experienced the wonder of God like never before. 

If we had to do over again, including the plane pain, we would do it.

Now, as a hospice chaplain, I counsel people who are on a difficult journey.  Some battle cancer, others COPD.  Some are disabled by stroke while others lose their memories to dementia. Some are whittled away by diabetes and others tremble with Parkinsons.

They look to me to help them make sense of it all.  So, I tell them about my traumatic and troublesome trip to Africa. 

But then I tell them about heaven, and I say, “The journey is sometimes brutal – but arriving is breathtaking.” 

Death is the portal to the glories that lie beyond.  But what lies beyond makes the journey worth it all.  The Psalmist put it this way, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11 KJV

How does the old song go? “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ; One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase; So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

The journey is sometimes brutal – but arriving is breathtaking. 

A PRAYER: Lord please help us be brave until then. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

logging into heaven — October 26, 2022

logging into heaven

I was present to see the birth of the digital password.  It was so easy back then.  The password I created for my first PC was, “password.” 

Not so easy now.  To log on I need to supply a username and a password with at least 8 characters, using upper and lower case letters, a number, a symbol and maybe a rude exclamation or two!

They are so complicated that I type in my password from my cheat sheet and still get it wrong.   I pretty much hate cusswords, I mean passwords.

So, I had a terrible thought the other day – What if heaven is password protected?

Suppose I am out mowing the lawn when the big one hits.  (I should have listened to my wife and gotten a riding lawnmower.)  Instantaneously I find myself standing outside the gate of heaven at a kiosk with a digital device. 

I was in a cloud needing to access the cloud.

“Oh, OK I guess I need to log in.  Let’s see um: User name?  Jimj worked for me on earth, but wait.  Revelation 2:17 says that we will get a new name in heaven.   Oh no!  Well – what is it?  I guess I’ll just try Jimj@paradise.com.

Password?   What? – I need a password to get in?  Wow – Maybe it’s that special word the soldiers of Ephraim used to cross the Jordan in Judges 12.  What was it?  ‘Shibboleth.'” or “Sibboleth?

Oh no – what if this is one of those deals where the password has got to be changed every 3 months – for eternity?  How many is that?

OK let me hit enter.  Click: ACCESS DENIED.  I’ll change the lower to an upper case: ACCESS DENIED.  Let me add the chapter and verse reference from Judges: ACCESS DENIED.  What if I throw in a pound sign?  ACCESS DENIED.” 

After 4 attempts, a terrifying, heart stopping, message flashes across the screen.  ‘Account is locked.’  And I begin to uncontrollably sob until I am told that there is no crying in heaven.”

Back to reality:  There actually is a password that we need to get into heaven.  It isn’t Baptist or Catholic or Methodist and it can’t be Presbyterian cause it has more than 8 characters.  It isn’t goodguy or churchman, or altarboy or piouspal.

It’s Jesus.  Just Jesus with a capital J and Jesus alone.   Nothing added – nothing taken away. 

Peter understood this.  He had been involved in the healing of a lame man and was therefore called on the carpet by the same crew that had crucified Jesus a couple of months earlier.  They demanded, “By what name did you do this?”

Peter answered,  “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man—by what means this man was healed—  let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy.”  Oh, Jesus is responsible you say!

Peter went on, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”   – Acts 4:7-12 NETBible.com

His name is Jesus and there is no other by which we can be saved.

Jesus is the name that opens the doors of heaven for we who have placed our faith in Him.  We acknowledge Him as the Son of God whose death on the cross, covered our debt of sin and gave us peace with God. 

It is Jesus, and it’s OK to share this password with others!

A PRAYER: Thank you Father for making the entry to heaven so simple – just Jesus. 

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 

getting used to nice — September 28, 2022

getting used to nice

I have trouble enjoying nice.  Weird right?

I grew up in a home where we were not poor, but we were the next-door neighbors.   So, I trained myself to lower my expectations of life.  I never anticipated having stylish clothes, or a new bike, or to feast on a steak dinner, or to enjoy a family vacation in the mountains.   It just wasn’t in the budget.

Even as an adult I have seldom allowed myself to enjoy the best.  I have never owned a brand new car.  My wife has cut my hair for the last 46 years (at least once a year whether I need it or not)  She and I shop at thrift stores for furniture, clothing and lots more.  Vacations have usually had a camping component – cause tents are cheaper than hotels. 

But, recently I was invited to buy a house that was way out of my league, but still within my frugal budget.  It is a really, really nice house – nicer than any we have ever owned.  It would have been foolish to pass on it.

We have enjoyed it for sure – but I sometimes find myself torn, “This is too much.  It’s too nice for me. I don’t deserve this!” 

I know, I probably need counseling, but that’s just the way I have learned to process life. 

One day, as I wrestled with my guilt, the Lord dropped a thought.  “Jim one day you will be experiencing much more than nice.”   

I began to process what I knew about heaven. 

Paul wrote, “But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”  – 1 Corinthians 2:9

Paul also spoke of being transported to heaven either in his body or by vision.   He said that “he was caught up into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak.” – 2 Corinthians 12:3-4

I thought through the book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, where heaven is described by using the extreme best in terms of human comforts and experiences.   For instance, in heaven, there is nothing to make you sad – sweet and pleasant all the time.  It’s a place of utterly perfect health and life without end.  

The spaciousness of my current house boggles my mind and yet heaven is described as being vast – and it’s a great neighborhood too.  No bad guys there.

The materials we deem precious here – they abound in heaven.  Things like jasper; sapphire; emeralds; pearls, gold and tons more.  The water is pure and crystal clear and there is a fruit tree that bears 12 varieties of fruit all year long.  Eden version 2.0.

It’s a place where the residents have perfect and unbroken peace with God and one another.  There is also round-the-clock live music and feast-worthy food in heaven.  (Revelation 19:9)

Now, if I should enter heaven with my current menial mentality, I may move into the shed instead of the mansion that Jesus has prepared for me.  I might look for the alley to trod behind the streets of gold.  I may even pass up the marriage feast of the Lamb and Google the nearest McDonalds.  By habit, I would probably choose to live more like an impoverished outcast rather than a welcome guest. 

So, God why did you give me this nice house this side of heaven?    Maybe to stretch my thinking that I might be able to enjoy the wonderful things ahead.  Nice for eternity. 

The Lord is so good to us!  We haven’t done anything to deserve it.  His kindness certainly hasn’t been earned – but it is ours to enjoy because of God’s lavish mercy and grace. 

So, enjoy your blessings here today, and let them prime you for the amazing things that lie ahead!  

A PRAYER: Oh God stretch our minds so that we might truly appreciate what you have for us in the future.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Scriptures references are from the NETBible.com

housing authority — January 26, 2022

housing authority

My daughter met her true love in South Korea.  They were both working at International schools there – each one subsisting on a modest educator’s income. 

He felt it was important that he get to know the parents of his future bride.  We met him at the airport on a cold December night and made the drive to our home.

We lived in a modest ranch style house of about 1,400 square feet – but he didn’t know that.   So, when we turned down the street with the illuminated million-dollar mansion on the corner, I pointed to it and said to my wife, “Oh honey did you leave those lights on again?” 

Boy did he perk up!  He thought he was marrying into money until we drove on and pulled up to our little bungalow.  

He wed our little girl anyway, and we are glad he did. 


So, what kind of house would you like?  May I tell you what you are promised?  

Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”  John 14:2 KJV

These are familiar words with a foreign meaning.  How can a house contain mansions? 

Jesus was reaching back into the culture of His day.  When a young Jewish couple was engaged, the young man would prepare for his bride by building a one-room house that would become their home. 

It would be erected on his father’s property and adjacent to his father’s house.  As each of the father’s sons married, they would do the same, so that over time – there would be multiple homes, built around a common courtyard. 

The whole complex, even the courtyard, was considered to be the father’s house.  

According to John 14:2, heaven is our Heavenly Father’s House.  Jesus called it a “place.”   It was a specific destination – a workplace where He would prepare eternal homes for each of His people. 

He underscored and italicized His words by saying, “If it were not so, I would have told you.”  

Heaven is a wonderful literal place.

Jesus went on to say, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” – John 14:3 KJV

Once that Jewish young man had finished building his house, he would return to his bride, formalize the marriage and escort her back to move into their cozy home.

In the same way Jesus promised to return for those He loved.  We will accompany Him back to the Father’s house to move into that special place He has prepared for those who belong to Him.  This is how Paul described the event in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17,

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.” – NET Bible ®

I love this!  It says to me that Jesus longs to be with us, even more than we long to be with Him. 

And yes, heaven is a place, but most importantly, heaven is a person.   The essence of heaven is just being with – united with Jesus.   

Hmm – Looks like we have married into something way more valuable than money.

A PRAYER: Lord, when I get caught up in the grind of this life, help me contemplate the great things to come.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ truly be with you.

questions of heaven — September 29, 2021

questions of heaven

My wife loves the find-a-friend app on her phone.  It utilizes GPS to help us pinpoint each other’s location.   This means I can no longer sneak off to the Dairy Queen for a Blizzard without her knowing it. 

This is a little annoying, but there are benefits.

If I have my phone with me when I die, I will still be able to track how often she goes to Wal-Mart AND she will be the first to know the exact location of heaven!


– So, do we actually know where heaven is?

Scripture speaks of it as being up.  Jesus ascended to heaven. (Eph. 4:10) When He returns Paul says, “the Lord himself will come down from heaven…” (1 Thess. 4:16) The Bible actually speaks of three heavens.  The first is the atmosphere, the second is the space habitat of the planets and stars and according to Paul, if you could go beyond that you’d find the heaven of God.  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Location is but one of many questions we have about heaven.  Another one…

– Are there animals in heaven? 

Yes.  At least one.  When Jesus returns for us, He will be riding on a white horse.  Revelation 19:11 says, “Then I saw heaven opened and there came a white horse!”

– Do the people there know what’s happening down here? 

Possibly!  According to Hebrews 12, those saints who have died, such as Abraham, David and Grandma are watching from heaven as the rest of us run our race.   We can’t speak with them nor they with us – but it appears they are aware and are rooting us on.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

– Will we recognize one another? 

Probably so.  When Moses and Elijah left heaven to meet with Jesus at His transfiguration, they could be distinguished from each other.  (Luke 8:28-30)

– Can you leave once you get there? 

You wouldn’t want to.  Again, there was that unusual time when the Father sent Moses and Elijah from heaven to rendezvous with Jesus on the earth at His transfiguration.   If that had been me, and I had been away for a while, I would have headed for Pizza King for a pepperoni and mushroom.   

But the record indicates that they wanted to get back to heaven as soon as possible. (Luke 8:33 & 36)  You probably would too.  After all the Scripture says, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”  (2 Corinthians 2:9)

We have a plethora of questions about heaven, but none is more important than this…

– Can I be sure that I am going?

Yes! The Apostle John passed on these words, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” – 1 John 5:13

John wrote to those who believed in the name of the Son of God.  To believe in Jesus is to understand that He is the divine, eternal Son of God who took flesh upon Himself so that He would be capable of suffering an execution on the cross that was due to you and me.  He paid our debt of sin that we might be debt free.  His resurrection is the proof that the debt was satisfied.

To believe is to commit ourselves to Him.   When we’ve done that – we can be positively sure that heaven is ours. It’s a solemn promise from God.

Once we are born, we become eternal entities – never to cease to exist.  We can choose however, where and how we will spend eternity.  Just two options according to John 3:16, God gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” One more question about heaven.

– Why not choose it for yourself?

A PRAYER: Lord, please hear the prayer of those who are ready to commit themselves to You.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com.  If you’d like to discuss this, please contact me.  And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible®

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 ®

breaking camp — June 24, 2020

breaking camp

It is summer and a great time to go camping, unless you live in Texas, where the heat can approach the outer limits of hell. 

Summer camping elsewhere is usually fun.  My wife and I just returned from an outing, where a fresh cool breeze wafted through our camper each night.  We had lots of relaxing time with the Lord and each other.  (that’s what happens when you leave the grandkids behind) 

Of course, some trips are not so relaxing.  My extended family did a big outing once.   Pretty memorable.  It started with a rampage of ground hornets who had been aggravated by a lawnmower.  My grandson sustained several stings. 

Later that evening my granddaughter spied a night intruder.  In a trembly voice she cried, “a snake!”   My son ground the baby copperhead to pieces.  But nature got him back the next day, when a squirrel in a tree relieved himself on my boy’s head.   The next morning, there was a loud ominous crack in a tree which dropped a massive limb barely behind us.

Then there were the honeybees that sought out my sweet daughter, and there was the earsplitting industrial hum that came from the power plant across the lake.  Actually, it was better for sleeping than white noise.  All that in one outing.  Fun!

I love to camp but I must admit that my favorite part is going home.  Roughing it is great for a time – a short time.  A human burrito sleeping bag is OK for a night and a charred hot dog is good once a year.  But there is nothing like packing up and going home.  

I suspect that is why Paul used a camping word to capture the way we go to heaven.  In Philippians 1 we find him conflicted wanting to continue his work on earth while longing for the comforts of his heavenly home. 

He wrote, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: 23 I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, 24 but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.”  NET Bible ®

Did he really say that – “dying is gain?”   

He believed that dying is a departure from this life and a move on to heaven.  The word depart (verse 23) was actually a camping term in Paul’s day.  It was used to describe an army that was breaking down their tents and moving out. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 Paul reminds us that our bodies are like tents – designed for a temporary stay – flimsy, tattered, and insufficient for the long haul.   Paul was ready to pack up his ratty tent and trade it in for the eternal home that Jesus had prepared for him.  (John 14:1-3)

The word depart was exceptionally colorful. Not only was it used of camping, it was also a nautical word descriptive of a ship that was being loosed from her moorings.  

In a similar way, we are moored to the pier of a place that is not our home.  It feels somewhat secure to be tied here, but the longer we remain, the longer we postpone the joys of being where we really belong. Death is the process of casting off the restraining ropes and sailing home.

Depart was also a legal term used to describe the release of someone from prison.  I think of some of the folks I care for as hospice chaplain.  Their health has declined and has imprisoned them in bodies to where they can’t even escape their bed.  For them death, becomes a benevolent liberator.

The word was also used with livestock.  It described the process of unyoking oxen.  They say a team of 2 oxen can pull about 12,000-13,000 pounds of weight.  That’s incredible. 

After a hard days work, I bet those beasts were relieved to have that heavy yoke removed.  Death does the same for us.  It relieves us of the backbreaking responsibilities of this life. 

All of us will face the prospect of death eventually.  When we belong to Christ, death can be regarded as more of a friend than a foe. 

It enables us to trade in our temporal tent for an eternal home.  It loosens the ropes that bind us to the dock of this life.  It releases us from the circumstances that imprison us and it relieves us of our burdensome yoke to give us rest. 

Paul makes a great argument for breaking camp.  I am looking forward to it.

green stamp hope — August 7, 2019

green stamp hope

james ray johnson

Mom had her hope set on a plastic plant that was rooted in Styrofoam, surrounded by 8 cedar planks and bound by brass bands.  Back in the 50’s this was considered to be attractive! 

My dad worked awfully hard, often 2 jobs, but money always seemed to be tight.  We were not poor, but we were the next thing to it.  We couldn’t afford such an item, but mom had a plan. 

Each week, the grocer gave her S&H Green Stamps in proportion to what she spent on groceries.  With 5 kids to feed, that was a lot of brown paper bags full.  One day she gathered her stamps and drafted us kids to fill her redemption books.  We licked ourselves silly.

Then all 7 of us jumped into our 56 Chevy wagon and headed to the redemption center where mom traded her green stamps for her heart’s desire – one cedar planter. 

She was happy!  She finally had some “nice” in the midst of the drab.  She proudly placed it in the living room for all to see and she really enjoyed it – for most of one day.  

See we were a wrestling bunch.  We kids liked to mix it up with dad on the floor.   Well he flipped one of us the wrong direction and crash went the planter.  It was flatter than mom’s expression when she saw it.   

She held her tongue while dad got out the tool box, with which he was known to do wondrous things.  He once took a bicycle kickstand and refashioned it into a car gear shifter.  So he used his screws and glues and the planter was restored.  Sure, there was a chipped board and a dangling leaf, but it was still sorta nice.

Days later, another kid planted themselves on the planter.   Dad worked his magic again, but it looked – well – it was looking more like the décor of the Frankenstein household.   Mom was a saint.  She said nothing. 

The cataclysmic cycle was repeated yet again.  Mom was living the sequel to the movie Groundhog Day.

And then – a fourth crash.  But this time, mom got to the wreckage before dad and she stomped it into cedar splinters and plastic plant pulp.  She wasn’t going to leave anything that dad could possibly resurrect. 

Her hope of having something nice died with that last crash.  She could hope no more.

Hope sometimes dies!

He hoped to get promoted at work.  He gave it his best, but 5 years later he was still lodged in the same cramped cubicle.  He quit trying and settled into 8 hours a day of apathy.

She was a writer who hoped to get her novel published.  It wasn’t!  After 56 letters of rejection, she threw her manuscript in the burn pile.

A young man hoped for years that his inattentive wife might change.  She wouldn’t!  He eventually stomped on that hope when he left her for another. 

Oh, for a hope that will not disappoint!   

Oh, but there is such a hope!

Titus 1:2 speaks of the “hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before time began.”   NET Bible®   Eternal life is a never ending, blissfully, sweet existence in the company of Jesus and all our friends and family who have ever loved Him. 

According to the verse, God promised this eternal life before time began.  And since God is all knowing and all powerful and because He cannot lie, then we can count on it.

This hope will never disappoint. It is possessed only by those who have trusted Christ to remove their sins.

It’s ironic that the cedar wood in mom’s planter is valued for its ability to resist rot and insect damage.  Yet, it can’t begin to compare to the durability of our eternal hope.

Mom gave up on her prized planter, but she has held fast to the hope of eternal life.  She has passed on and is now enjoying that hope that will never be broken or even lamely patched.

My dad is trying his best to join her.  Any day now, he too will enter that place of sweet eternal hope.  But for mom’s sake, I hope he leaves his tool box behind.  

%d bloggers like this: