Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

an encounter with the Holy Spirit — November 20, 2019

an encounter with the Holy Spirit

I officiated at a wedding that took place in a spacious homey log cabin.  The place was packed including the huge loft area that overlooked the ceremony.  The decor included festive votive candles that were artfully placed throughout the house. 

During my biblical charge to the couple, someone in the loft accidentally kicked one of the candles.  It plummeted to the ground floor and landed squarely on a man’s head – burning wick, hot wax and all.  He survived it with a small bump.  

I felt badly for him, but I was encouraged about my preaching.  I mean how many other pastors can say that while they preached, tongues of fire descended from above and rested on each head.

Not only that, I think I heard the man grumbling in an unknown tongue just after he got hit!

Maybe I shouldn’t be so glib about one of the most earth-shaking sensational happenings in human history.  The day that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven to indwell His people was a watershed event.

In the Old Testament era, the Spirit was given on a temporary basis, to special people that they might perform a certain God ordained task.  

It was the Spirit of God that enabled Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41:38).  He infused creative ability into those who crafted the tabernacle (Exodus 31:3). The Spirit made wise Moses and the 70 Elders of Israel (Numbers 11:17). 

He breathed courage into whimpering Gideon (Judges 6:34) and fortified the spent muscles of Samson (Judges 14:6) and He imparted a host of savvy skills to young King David. (1 Samuel 16:13) I could use power like that. 

In some cases, God withdrew His Spirit as with king Saul because of his sin. (1 Samuel 16:14) Saul became like a deflated balloon, which may be why his successor David prayed, “Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me.” (Psalm 51:11)

When the Spirit came upon an Old Testament personality, it was front page news.  It rarely happened but when it did, there was always spectacular, God honoring events that followed.   Everyone else would watch and wonder and wish for just a small taste of that power in their own lives.

But then God changed the rules at Pentecost.  “Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.”  – Acts 2:2-4 NET Bible ®

At Pentecost, every believer – man and woman – received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and they were immediately filled with courage, power and new supernatural abilities.  Since then, every person that enters the Kingdom of God, has had the Spirit come to dwell.  (Romans 8:9) 

And He comes to stay for good.  We may impede His work in and through us (Ephesians 4:30) but He will never leave or forsake us. 

The Spirit was given, not simply as a badge of belonging, but as an energy source for service.  Like the men of old, the Spirit empowers us to serve God’s purposes.  Paul said, “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.”  (1 Corinthians 12:7)

So, what difference does the Spirit make?  It’s mostly about quality.  When we allow ourselves to be filled and controlled by His Spirit, it is manifested in the way we live and relate to others.  We will bear the fruits of the Spirit which are, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  – Galatians 5:22-23, NET Bible ®

Unfortunately, some of us have more in common with a porcupine.  If that’s you, take a moment to transfer control of your life to the Holy Spirit – once again. 

When you said “I do” to your spouse, you surrendered a lot.  Implicit in your vows was a commitment to honor and listen to the person that you wed.   Yield to the Spirit of God in that way, and He will fill you and use you and bless you. 

And I promise it won’t be as painful as getting clobbered with a votive candle.

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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