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”

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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