Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

the proposal — April 28, 2021

the proposal

We had been married less than a month but were serious about succeeding so we went to away to a weekend seminar.  We lodged in the basement of some friends, on the floor, in sleeping bags.  

In the middle of the night I began to stir.  I was laying on my back at the time.  So, I opened my eyes, and was startled to find my new bride’s face a ½ inch away from mine – nose to nose. 

I jumped up with my heart hammering away.  I asked, “What in the world are you doing?” She said “I was afraid that you died, and I was checking to see if you were still breathing.   

___________

I guess she didn’t want to lose a good thing!   And marriage is a good thing.  It provides mutual blessing for a couple, and a wondrous pathway towards understanding God.

Did you know that Jesus presented Himself as a bridegroom multiple times in the Scripture?  (Matthew 9:14-17, 22:1-14; 25:1-12; John 3:29)

The collective church is even referred to as His bride and our future with Him in heaven is described as a marriage.  For instance, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” – Revelation 19:7

Thinking of our relationship with the Lord in this way has helped me work through some difficult theological issues such as, “What does it mean to receive Christ as Savior?”

John 1:12 says, “But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children.”  These two words “believe” and “receive” tell us how to become God’s child.  They are synonymous and yet distinctly different. 

To believe in His name is to accept as fact that Jesus is the divine Son of God who ably bore the penalty on the cross for our sin, and then rose again.  

OK but what does it mean, “to receive Him?”  It seems like it should read, “to receive the gift He offered” but it is focused on receiving “Him” instead. 

Let’s process that question through a proposal grid.

When I decided to invite Sharie to be my wife.   I took her on an outing to a local park.   She thought me weird because I was wearing a big overcoat on a warm spring day.  This was to conceal the box that held a beautiful engagement ring – the most expensive gift I had ever purchased.  

I was excited and had every intention of giving it to her that day.  I did not expect her to pay me for it or make a pledge to never hurt me in the future, or to commit herself to at least 30 years of marriage to merit it. 

But I did have expectations.  I hoped she would say, “Yes I will marry you!”   And in that yes, would be an implied commitment to be with me, and to dwell with me and to do life together.  Basically, I wanted her to receive me – to accept and embrace and commit herself to me. 

But what if I should offer the ring, only for her to say, “Thanks!  I’ll take the ring but forget about a mushy commitment.  See ya!”

Fortunately, she wanted my ring and the me that went along with it! 

I think of Jesus’ invitation in a similar way.  When it comes to salvation, He doesn’t expect us to merit it or to earn it or to qualify through a commitment to be perfect.  He knows how feeble we are.

But He does expect to hear us say, “Yes, Jesus I will be yours.  I will go with you and dwell with you and be with you.”   In other words, “I want the ring and I am committing myself to the mushy relationship that goes with it.” 

There most certainly is a commitment involved – not to an ideal, or a moral code or an organized religious body but to the marvelous person of Jesus. 

So, think of Jesus as being on one knee before you, cradling in his hands a jewelry box containing the gift of heaven, while on His lips are the words, “Will you receive Me?”  

So – will you? 

A PRAYER: Lord I long for more than dry religion.  Give me a relationship with You. 

Scripture references are from the NET Bible®

Jesus, Shepherd of Sheep — October 24, 2020
a wacky wedding — May 6, 2020

a wacky wedding

I have some dear friends who think they were married to each other – but they weren’t totally sure.

They met with their minister well in advance to plan out the wedding service.   It was decided that they would compose their own wedding vows.  Then with doe-eyed affection, they would recite them by memory to each other during the ceremony. 

That was the plan, but wedding prep can be hectic, and the vows didn’t get written.  So, they punted and opted for the minister to do the traditional, “Billy Bob, dost thou take Sally Jean as thine wedded wife?…” 

Well….they are not sure who dropped the ball.  They didn’t realize it until they were cutting the cake, that they had gone through the entire ceremony without exchanging vows of any kind.

Being in a church, at the altar, amid the flowers, amid maidens in pastel, does not make a couple married.  It’s the commitment they make to each other that seals it.   

The same can be said of being a Christian.  I sometimes encounter folks who identify as Christians.  Perhaps someone was raised in church.   But as an adult, he has no association with a church, he knows little about the Bible, and he prays only when the Cowboys are down in the fourth quarter.

He identifies as a Christian because that’s what he knows best, but having been associated with a church does not necessarily make him a Christian.  In fact, his limited association may even work against him. 

Researchers are looking for a vaccine at this time that will protect us against Covid-19.  This vaccine will be made of a small bit of the virus which they will inoculate us with.  The vaccine will essentially trick our immune systems into perceiving that we have had the disease already, so that we will not get the full-blown package. 

I meet people all the time who have been inoculated by their past church experiences.  They got just enough of Christianity to keep them from getting the whole thing.  This was certainly true of me at one time.

What is lacking is the commitment.

Now you may argue that the Bible says salvation is a gift.  And it does.  Paul wrote, “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.  NET Bible ®   

The Gospel is about receiving God’s gift of salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve it.   But what does the word “receive” imply?

Suppose a guy gets down on one knee before his girl and opens a jewelry box with a beautiful diamond engagement ring.  Then he says, “It’s yours for 3 easy payments of $29.99 and if you act now, I’ll double the offer and pitch in a wedding band – just pay for shipping.”  

Ridiculous.  An engagement ring is a gift – a priceless, pure and simple gift with no obligation -except for one.  He expects to hear her say, “I love you and I will change the course of my life to merge with yours.  I want to be with you.  Yes, I will marry you.”   

And in a similar way, when we “receive” the gift that Christ offers, He expects to have our hearts.  He expects that we will want to be with Him. 

Suppose that girl said to her suitor, “The ring is beautiful. I think I’ll keep it.  But no, your nose is crooked, I don’t want be with you.” 

The ring box is snapped shut and into his pocket it goes.   He dusts himself off and moves on. 

Yeah, I don’t imagine a girl would ever do that, but it is a frequent occurrence with Jesus.  “Yes Jesus, I’ll take your gift of salvation, but I don’t really want to do life with you.” 

When that happens, I am pretty sure that the box goes back in His pocket and He dusts himself off and moves on. 

This is your opportunity now to do it right – to say to Jesus, “Yes I will receive the gift you offer.  I will change the course of my life to merge with yours because I want to be with you.”

Please don’t wait until you are cutting the cake to realize that this was a commitment that was never made.

bound to set free — April 10, 2019

bound to set free

Jim Johnson – 654 words

The word “helpless” fits.  We were at the nursing home visiting my grandmother.  Our kids said an obligatory hello to her and then went to wait in the lobby.  There is only so much cheek-pinching a kid can take. 

Time to check on them.  From a distance I saw the boys teasing the caged dove that sat on the coffee table.  I was about to rescue the bird and reprimand my boys, when one of the aged residents shuffled up behind my ten-year-old son K.C. 

He froze, thinking it was my hand on his shoulder – thought he got caught.   But then she uttered words that brought an even greater dread, “I got to go to the pot!”

She grabbed his hand and began to drag him off to the women’s bathroom as she frantically and loudly repeated, “I got to go to the pot.”  “I got to go to the pot.”   She mistook him for an aide.  Her frantic became his, times ten.

I watched from the distance with shock and amusement.  He looked back and saw me as she pulled him forward.  The angst on his face pleaded with me to intervene.   I just couldn’t. It was too, too rich.  (OK so I am not the most compassionate dad.)  Fortunately, she ended up dragging him over to the office where they came to her (and his) rescue. 

Helpless!  That’s what he was feeling.

I wonder if Jesus felt that way?  He was led away to a worse situation.  I was reading again of His last few hours and came across this, “Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to Caiaphas the high priest.”  (John 18:24) -NET Bible®

Jesus was being shuttled to the high priest to face a kangaroo court.  He was escorted by soldiers and His hands were tightly bound with rope to keep Him from grabbing a sword and breaking free.  He wasn’t going to make bail. 

So ridiculous and unnecessary!   He had freely surrendered to the authorities at Gethsemane. And yet His hands were bound. 

Those hands had such a history.  His newborn hands once rested in the soft sheltering hands of His mother.  They were later calloused by the work of a carpenter.  Those hands touched and healed the untouchable skin of a leper.  They were laid on a coffin to bring life to the dead boy within.  Mothers brought their children to be touched by Him and even at Gethsemane He picked up a severed ear from the dirt and restored it to His foe.

But – those hands were now bound up and out of business.

The hands of the priests “slapped Him.”   The hands of Pontius Pilate were washed as if his guilt could be dissolved, but Jesus’ hands were bound. 

We typically use our eyes to look, before we use our hands to grab.  The eyes help a person to see the immediate future and prepare for it.  Now psychologists have found that when our hands are tied, our eyes are also tied.  When we cannot use our hands, our eyes cease to look ahead.   Not true of Jesus.  His hands were bound but His eyes were on the objective before Him.

He chose to ascend Calvary hill.  He then laid down on a rough-hewn beam and stretched out His hands to be pierced with cold steel.  By those hands He was suspended in agony until He finally uttered, “It is finished!” And He died.  

BUT He was not helpless.  This was all according to His plan.  This was a “must” for Him (Matt 16:21-22) and a must for us as well, for it is by His suffering, that we are healed.    

Once raised again, He offered His pierced hands as proof that He was the Son of God and that His redemptive work was complete.

What some might regard as helplessness, He meant as help-for-us.  He was bound to set us free.  

______

I enjoy playing hymns on the classical guitar.  Here is a recording of one of my favorites.  O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus.  Enjoy!

O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus. Guitar: Jim Johnson

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