Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

the name — October 28, 2020

the name

The pastor was both excited and stressed about officiating at his first wedding.  So, he took a Pastoral Ministry class at the Bible College to learn how to do it.  The prof even shared a sample ceremony that he could use. 

The couple were both new Christians.  Each of them had lived with the pastor and his wife for a time, to be mentored in the faith.  Both were as precious to him as his own children.

The church was packed.  Everyone loved Jack and Dean – his beautiful bride to be.   Dean was the boy named Sue, except in this case the girl named Dean.

The music began and the bridal party processed.  Then Dean debuted.  She was a bit of a tomboy who was transformed into a radiant bride.  The pastor and the groom waited for them at the altar.  One of the two was trembling and it wasn’t Jack.

He was thinking, “Everyone knows what happens at a wedding.  They can probably recite the words.  There is no wingin’ it here.”  He had a specific script to follow and he was concerned about blowing it.

There at the altar, he welcomed the guests and thanked them for being present to witness the marriage of Tom and Susan.   The congregation snickered.  Evidently the stress of the moment caused him to forget their names.

But he didn’t catch it – didn’t even hear the laughter.  He carried on.  A minute later, he again referred to them as Tom and Susan.   More laughter – still no response on his part.

Finally, he started in with the vows.  He was about to marry Tom and Susan when his wife stood up and shouted from mid-congregation, “Their names are Jack and Dean.” 

The church erupted!

He had been using the sample ceremony his prof had given him, complete with the fictitious filler names of Tom and Susan.   He was just too stressed to realize it.

Stress can do that!  It may be happening to you at the moment.

Psalm 119 is the longest of the Psalms in the Bible.  Forget a three-point sermon.  This Psalmist has 22 points to his message – all alliterated according to the Hebrew alphabet.

The Psalmist longed to be a righteous man amid the complexities of life.  He longed for a nation that honored God and was governed by His Word. 

Instead, he experienced arrogant people who scoffed at him and the values that he represented (vs 51).  Wickedness was overrunning the nation and it enraged the author. (vs 53)    

He was a songwriter.  What could he do about it except sing the blues?  Possibly but instead he wrote, “I remember your name during the night, O Lord.” (vs 55) NET Bible ®

Yes, He was stressed, but He did not forget that all important name – His name.  He remembered it in the night.  Did he have the darkness of his circumstances in mind, or the nights he lay on his bed stressing about life – or both? 

Either way, he chose to think on the name of the Lord. 

So, what does this mean?  It’s been a perpetual custom over time, in most cultures to give a person a name that befits them.  The child was a fuzz ball.  He was given the name Esau which meant hairy.

Jacob was born hanging on to his twin brother’s heel.   He was out to overtake him from the start.  He was named Jacob which meant to unseat someone. 

So, God, being God, named Himself.  He told Moses that His name was Yahweh – four Hebrew consonants that form the phrase, “I am.”  God said, “My name is, “I am.”  

The name He chose communicated that He was, is and ever will be – a rock that never rolls.

Half of us are going to be very upset by the results of this election.  The day after, we will need to remember that, “He is.” 

He will endure even if our political ambitions should not.  He will continue to save, even if things should appear to be hopeless.   He will sovereignly manage this world and our nation even if it all appears to us to be spinning out of control.

“He is.”  This is the name that needs to be remembered in the night. 

A PRAYER: Lord, even as we grope in the darkness, remind us that “You are”

He knows my worn out name — May 16, 2019

He knows my worn out name

James Ray Johnson

The coach sometimes calls the little leaguers by their numbers.   “Way to go 10.”  “Good eye 32.”  “Grip the other end of the bat 18.”  It seems like a science fiction baseball team: the Cy Young Cyborgs.

A name is important.  When someone remembers and uses our name it tells us that we matter to them.  But we rub elbows with hundreds of people every day who don’t know us.  Some should – like my boss.  Does he really think calling me “bub” will do?   And why does my wife sometimes slip and call me Sam?  Hey, wait didn’t she used to date a Sam? 

When I served as a pastor, I made it a point to try to remember names. Some made us their church home only because I remembered their name from their first visit.

My name is ridiculously common: James Ray Johnson.  Take my last name for instance.  There are over 2 million of us.  It ranks second only to Smith.  My first/last name combo ranks #10. 

I, therefore, prefer to use my full name.  But the Dallas phone book once listed 27 James Ray Johnsons.  (NOTE: a phone book is like a paper contact list). 

Two of us lived in the same apartment complex with the same street number. I got a nasty note from a collection agency that was intended for him.  I told them, “That’s not me – my social security number is….”   Hey-maybe the coach was on to something. 

Add to those 27 listings, variations like James R.; J.R.; J. Ray; Jim; Jimmy Ray: Jim R.; etc. and you have thousands of people in Dallas alone who could be me.  The commonality can be a problem.   When I go through customs I occasionally get detained because one of us has robbed a bank somewhere.

But it has its advantages too.  When I send a friend request on Facebook, even to a total stranger, it is almost always accepted because everyone knows someone named James Johnson.  Plus – it might be coming from the one who plays for the Miami Heat.

Another advantage – no one is interested in stealing my boring identity. 

Some have tried to improve on my name.  I preached at a crusade in Haiti just after their president was violently ousted.  We arrived to find leaflets and banners plastered everywhere with my name and picture: Predikate’ Jim Johnson Bush.  (see picture above) The Haitian who organized the event chose to make me a member of the family of then president George W. Bush.  He hoped it would keep the nasties away.  It worked.  I probably ought to give old Bubba a call and thank him.   

My name worries me a little.  When the roll is called up yonder and they say, “James Johnson,” how will that work?  Will all 2 million of us rush the podium in a frantic panic to get in?  “Master is it I?” 

Without a doubt, the most important thing about my name is that Jesus knows it.  John 10:3 says, “The sheep hear His voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” NET Bible®. 

Back in Jesus day, shepherds named their sheep even as we name our pets, based on their appearance or personality or circumstances at their birth. 

In the morning the shepherd would go to the communal sheepfold and gather his particular sheep for a day of grazing.  He would summon them by name, “Come on fluffball and chipper. Let’s go stormy.” 

As names were called, heads would lift, and happy feet would move toward the shepherd who led them out of the filthy, cramped, barren fold into lush green meadows.

How sweet and utterly personal.  My shepherd knew my name before I ever entered His flock and He used it, my very name – to call me to Himself.  The person that matters most – knows my name.  It is recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20) and He is smart enough to know which James Johnson is which. (2 Timothy 2:19).

He knows your name as well.  Have you heard Him and followed? If you want to discuss it, go to the contact page on this blog and shoot me an email.  I promise to respond.  – Yours truly, James Ray Johnson.

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Treat yourself to this classic Maranatha tune, “He Knows My Name.” 

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