Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

cell phone engagement — August 3, 2022

cell phone engagement

My friend was anticipating it – and seriously excited about it.  She loved the guy with all her heart.  The day finally came that he popped the question.  On bended knee, he presented a small box containing an expensive gift.   She opened it and found a brand-new sparkly cell phone.  He then asked her to marry him.  She said yes. 

The box contained an engagement ring of another kind.  But at least it came with unlimited data.  Hey, I bet it even helped with their communication skills.

Hmm?  At the wedding – after they did the vows – I wonder if they exchanged Otter Boxes!

Either way, I am happy to report that they have lived happily ever after. 


On the topic of marriage.  A couple is not truly married until vows are exchanged.  A cell phone is not necessary or even a wedding ring – but vows are.  The vows spiritually and legally bind a man and a woman together.

These days a couple may look like they are married and act like they are married and even think like they are married – but are not. 

And it may not make a difference to them until there is a death.  In my work as a hospice chaplain, I have seen it demonstrated several times.  A couple chooses to live together, sometimes for decades.   Then he dies, but the house was in his name, it goes to his kids, and she ends up homeless. – losing husband and home at the same time. 

That is probably not your worry, but yours may be similar.

Some of us were raised in church.  We did Sunday School, VBS, sat in the pew every Sunday, laughed at the preacher’s corny jokes.  We memorized the verses and could beat most anyone when it came to the Bible drills. 

We had church in us, around us, beneath and over us – so we have assumed all along that we are true believers.

But it’s possible that we are not – if we haven’t given ourselves to Jesus at some point.  Like the marriage vows, there needs to be a point of commitment to Christ. 

The apostle John put it this way, “But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children.”  John 1:12 NET Bible ®

The word “receive” is a verb – an action word.  It is something that a person does.   When they do it, God reciprocates by making them His children. 

But what does it mean to “receive?”   It is a hardworking verb in the New Testament.  It was used to describe the taking and grasping of something with your hand.   With salvation we take and grasp the message with our hearts. 

Elsewhere it was used to describe John who invited Mary into his home. (John 19:27).  With salvation we invite Christ into our lives.  

It also carries the idea of recognizing and responding to the authority of another.   This is precisely what we do when we receive Christ. 

My first job was doing fast food.  I did not like the manager much.  Consequently, I quit that same job five times, and was fired another four.  I was young and stupid for sure.  I failed to properly respond to his authority. 

Jesus told us that He had the authority to forgive our sins.  (Matthew 9:6) This is because He died for those sins and was raised again.  To receive Him, is to submit ourselves to Him and His authority.

Have you done that?  Have you ever stopped and made a conscious decision to receive Christ and the gift of forgiveness He died to provide for you?

If you haven’t, please do it now!  The blessings and benefits of truly knowing and belonging to Christ are superb. 

A PRAYER: Jesus thank you for allowing me the opportunity to receive you.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

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.

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