Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

shortcuts — August 19, 2020


I both love and dread teaching the Bible.  My main complaint is this: God often takes the topic I plan to teach and allows me to experience it in a fresh way.  Why?  So, my message rings with authenticity – I guess.

If I plan to teach on patience – I end up standing in two feet of water with a plumbing issue that refuses to be fixed.   If I plan to speak on parenting, I hear from a frustrated teacher about one of my kids. This is why I have avoided preaching from the book of Job. 

One time, I planned to preach about our adversary the devil.  What was I thinking?  I was reviewing my notes just before the service, but I also needed to visit the men’s room.  I did both at the same time (back to the patience issue) 

I am pretty sure it was the devil who took the notes from my hands and dropped them in the toilet.  They were quickly saturated with sickly water.   Unfortunately, word processors weren’t invented yet.  So, I frantically worked to rescue them with a hairdryer.  After I had delivered my message someone told me it stunk.  I believed them.

Recently I’ve been preparing to teach on the temptation of Christ.  It was the devil’s plan to derail Jesus’ mission of redemption.  His third attempt is found in Matthew 4:8-9

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.”  NET Bible ®

They stood high atop Mount Hermon.  From there they could see many of the nations of the world of that day.  The devil said, “Worship me and this will be yours.” 

And they were His to give.  When Adam and Eve fell, dominion was ceded to the devil.  Christ called him the “ruler of this world.”  (John 12:31; 16:11) 

Jesus was promised this same inheritance by the Father.  But to gain it, He would have to endure 3 years of ridicule and rejection and then be nailed to a brutal cross and die.

The devil offered Him a shortcut – an easy path to power – no ridicule – no cross.  But, had He taken that shortcut; He would have forfeited everything.  Had he stepped out of the will of God; we would still be lost in our sins.  He said no!

The devil uses the same devices on us.  He wants to cheat out of what is rightfully ours, by tempting us to obtain it by shortcut.

The guy didn’t finish college but awarded himself a degree on his resume.  It worked fine until HR found out.  Now he’s looking for another job and finishing out his course work.

Her daddy told her to save up for a car, but she was impatient.  She took what little she had and bought as much car as she could get.   It ran for 7 months until engine locked up.  Now she has no car and no money.

As a young Christian I gave when the basket was passed – just a couple dollar bills to give an appearance.  I had an excuse – my income was insufficient to cover my bills.   

My pastor taught me to be a responsible giver.   So, my wife and I made a commitment to return at least 10% of our income back to the Lord.  From that time to this, we have consistently had enough to cover our expenses.   The shortcut hurt us until I obeyed.  It was then that God saw that our needs were met. 

So, my Wednesday lesson was going to be on shortcuts.  But I needed to trim our trees before then.  One branch was beyond my reach and I didn’t want to get down and move the ladder.  So, I stretched and stretched until I lost my balance and dropped 6 feet, landing flat on my face in the dirt.  Which is often par for a shortcut.

On the positive side: It gave me a good illustration for my teaching.  The negative: I ached for a couple of days and the doctor may have said that I have amnesia, but I can’t’ remember.

As I close let me rescue my point.  The devil is a tricky sort.  He offers us shortcuts to the things we desire.  He did it to Jesus and he does it to us.  Tell him no and do it God’s way.

A PRAYER: Lord your way is not always the quickest, but always the best.  Help me stay the course. 

toilet training — February 6, 2019

toilet training

There are some prayers that I wish the Lord would not answer!  I was removing the toilet in the master bath because the drain was clogged with roots.  At the same time my wife was in the living room thinking, “Lord I would really like to have one of those newer taller models.  It might help me with the pain in my hips.”  

Meanwhile, I lugged the toilet out to the garage and just as I arrived, the Lord answered her prayer.  The bowl slipped from my hands and shattered on the concrete.  Oh well, if I had been a better husband I would have bought her a new toilet anyway.

I am glad that God says yes to my prayers.  My prayer journal is filled, cover to cover with the evidence of God’s positive response to my pleas.  But sometimes he says no. 

The apostle Paul had some kind of difficulty.  He called it his “thorn in the flesh.”   He wrote, “I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10; the NET Bible)

Paul asked God over three different seasons of time to remove that thorn.  God said no!   “You need the thorn to remind you that you need Me and my power as you live your life.”   

How infinite is this wisdom that sees what is and what could be.  And how gracious of God to say no when to say yes would limit or hurt us. 

My wife thought she might be in labor with our first born.  It was 4 a.m. and there was a foot of freshly fallen snow on the ground.  I didn’t want to make that drive to the hospital unless I knew for sure it was time, so I prayed, “Lord, if it’s time, would you cause her water to break?”  The intervals between her mild contractions were growing shorter – but still no water.  

The doctor said he thought it was a false alarm, but that we should go to the hospital anyway.   We literally snowplowed our way there with snow higher than our VW running boards. 

They examined my wife and found that she was dilated 90% of the way.  But they also discovered that the baby was breech and the cord was between her and the exit.  (you know what I mean!)   The doctor broke out into a cold sweat and did a C-section in record time.   

Had God answered my prayer back at the house, my beautiful baby girl would have suffocated in the womb.  

Thank You, Lord for saying yes so often to us, but thank You as well for saying no to our short-sighted self-centered prayers.

PS: Here is a song by my beautiful baby girl. Enjoy!

The Love of God. Vocals: Bethany Bergman

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