Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

one letter — August 21, 2019

one letter

james ray johnson

Have you seen that list of church bulletin bloopers and wondered, “Did they just make that stuff up?”   Well, I was a pastor and I have an authentic collection of my own.

My sermon notes were supposed to say, “the Most High God.”  But this is what came out – “Jesus was the Son of the Moist High God.”  Evidently there is a humidity problem in heaven.

I cited a Miranda Lambert song in a message, “You’re Running with the Fastest Girl in Town.” My spell checker rendered it this way, “You’re running with the fattest girl in town.”   Oops.

One of my most embarrassing typos happened when I was still preparing for the ministry.  During that time, I was also a printer, serving the needs of the Bible college and the community. 

One day Linda dropped by.  She was opening a new pizzeria in town and wanted me to create menus that she could distribute door-to-door.

It was a fun job.  I did the typesetting and used a font with flourish. Black and red ink gave it an Italian pop.   And at the top of that 11 x 17 sheet was the name: Linda’s Pizza Pantry.    She gushed over the finished product and I was proud of my work.

She then gathered her troops and delivered one to every household in our hamlet of 5,000.  At the end of the day, however, she returned with the leftovers to point out a typo. 

It was at the top, in a brazen, 42-point, bright red font: “Linda’s Pizza Panty.”   Panty???  Oh no!  Did it really say Panty?  It did, and Linda’s face was as red as the ink on the page.   She and her pizzeria became the talk of the town. 

One letter can make a huge difference!

The resurrected Jesus stood before Thomas and told him to put his finger through the gaping holes in his hand.  This was evidence that Jesus had died, but the voice speaking to Thomas was evidence He was alive. 

His faith took a giant leap forward.  He said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”   (John 20:28)   He was stunned as he recognized and then affirmed the Deity of Jesus.  Thomas essentially said, “Wow, You are God for sure.” 

His words became one of the foremost confessions of faith in the New Testament.

BUT one errant letter could have wrecked it all.  The word for God in the original language of the New Testament is “Theos.”   So, what if John had been sloppy when he recorded his Gospel?  What if he had accidentally added a letter to “Theos” to get ”Theros” instead? 

“Theros” is the word for summer.   So, Thomas would have gone on record as saying, “My Lord and my summer.” 

Ah but it didn’t happen.  It couldn’t happen.  Why?  Because the words that John wrote were precisely those that God wanted to have written.  According to 2 Timothy 3:16. “Every scripture is inspired by God.” -NET Bible®.    

The word inspired literally means “God breathed.”  Which is to say that God penetrated the hearts and minds of those who recorded the Scripture with His precise words.  They were put to ink exactly as they were given.  The passage says it applies to every Scripture. 

Once the Scripture had been revealed, it was faithfully preserved.  The Pharisees tried to argue away the truth, but Jesus said, “The scripture cannot be broken.” – John 10:35 -NET Bible®.    He didn’t allow the critics to side-step the words of Scripture simply because they retained the authority of having been God breathed.

Today we have Bibles, which continue to preserve the original and exact words that God first gave to Moses, David, Matthew, Paul and so on.  People who according to Peter, were carried along by the Holy Spirit when they spoke the very words of God. (2 Peter 1:21)

I recently scoured the net looking for Linda’s Pizza Pantry.  Alas, it appears she may have closed her doors.  (I hope that wasn’t my fault!)  Not a problem with the Scripture. It will be around for eternity.  (Isaiah 40:8)   

So, forget that pizza you are thinking about right now, and taste the truth of the Scripture instead.  It has directed mankind in the past and will carry us into the future.

the day God came to be — March 6, 2019

the day God came to be

I remember the day that God was born – in my experience that is.  He had always been more of a dusty theoretical concept to me until He opened my eyes to His hidden, spiritual, eternal reality.

I remember being stunned to find that God was truly alive and that He interacted with me, on my turf, on a minute-to-minute basis.  He answered my super specific prayers and spoke to me by directing me to a perfectly appropriate passage of Scripture.  I was mystified by the way He loved me by providing just the right car at just the right price.

I found significance in the details of life because the God I came to know was all powerful and all knowing – everywhere all at the same time.  I wondered at the way He ordered every aspect of life according to His gracious and sovereign plan and I was grateful to be a part of it.

I will admit, though, I sometimes took it too far.  I remember closing my eyes and running my finger over the pages of my Bible.  When I stopped roving and opened my eyes, I expected God to give me a personalized message.  Today I wonder what would have happened if my finger had landed on Job 19:17, “My breath is repulsive to my wife” -NET Bible®

When I dressed for the day, I would sometimes ask God to help me pick out a shirt.  Now I just ask my wife (although God was nicer about it.)

Yes, sometimes my wide-eyed wonder was a little excessive.  The dog was exhibit A. I shared a home back then with 2 others who were also new to and awed by God.   A dog had been given to us.  He was a big mangy dirty-white cur, but we knew that God was in the details and that He must have wanted us to have the beast.

The dog was nameless so one of us suggested that we ask God to show us the name He had in mind for the dog.  We circled up and prayed a prayer that ended in this way, “and Lord we thank you for the dog – Amen.”    We opened our eyes and dropped our jaws because we knew that God had just answered our prayer.  “Amen.”  The dog’s name was to be Amen! 

Contrary to his name, he turned out to be the dog from hell.    The word Amen is used in the Bible as an affirmation of what had just been said.  It means “So be it.”  At our house it meant, “So eat it.”   The dog was a bottomless pit.  And when he had finished his dog chow, he would chow down on our shoes.   

Eventually we had to go our separate ways and none of us could take the dog with us (at least that’s what we said.)  So, we gave him to a priest who seemed to be thankful to have a dog with a sanctified name (although I hope he sprinkled him with some holy water too!)  

He later told us that the dog had escaped from the rectory.  The priest canvased the neighborhood looking for him crying, “Amen!  Amen!”  He nearly started a revival.  An African American woman opened her front door and shouted, “Praise the Lord.”  (Hey, I am not making this up!)

Well, I am a lot older now and unfortunately that sense of awe I had for God has become as dulled as my other five senses.   I wonder what happened? 

What I initially believed about God has not been undermined or contradicted by anything that I have experienced with God since.  He has been the same yesterday, today and forever – the same, ever, awesome God. 

So, what can I do to recapture that wonder?  When I take time to marinate my mind with a passage of Scripture, I do hear His voice – and it stirs me.  When I review my prayer journal and I see the multitude of specific answers to my prayers, I am moved.  God shows up in new and fresh ways whenever I step out in faith and do a mission trip – and that is awesome.  Or maybe I need to write about Him – like in a blog.  Yep even as I think about and type these God thoughts, my heart is moved to worship.

Go and do likewise and may the Lord be with you, Amen.  (not the dog)

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I recently watched this clip and the Lord stirred me.  One of my most favorites songs of worship: Knowing You.  Watch it without tearing up.  Can’t be done!

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