A Reckoning Coming?

By Drew Weber

20 The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?”

21 Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away saddened, because he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

25 When his disciples heard this, they were stunned. “Then who can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.”

2Then Peter replied, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you. What will we have?”

28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you who have followed me that, when everything is made new, when the Human One sits on his magnificent throne, you also will sit on twelve thrones overseeing the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And all who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or farms because of my name will receive one hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first (Matthew 19:20-30, Common English Bible).

I have known Drew Weber since he began in ministry in 2008. The biggest reason I got to know him was, at that time my wife was on the administrative staff at Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church in Galveston, Texas. Drew went on staff there several months after Cindy did. Since that time Drew and I have had several long conversations, theological and otherwise. When I developed some health issues while serving at First United Methodist Church and Oyster Creek United Methodist Church in Freeport, Texas, Drew filled the pulpit for me a few times and always was outstanding.

When Drew left Moody he went to First United Methodist Church in Cameron, Texas followed by First United Methodist Church in Jasper, Texas. He now serves as the pastor at First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas.

The “Prosperity Gospel” or “Word of Faith” movement has thrived in the 21st Century despite its unbiblical theology. Purveyors of this type of preaching and teaching wrongly proclaim that God’s will for your life is financial and physical well-being. Teachers of prosperity theology claim that through faith in Christ, positive speech or “positive confessions” and financial donations to these ministries the result be financial blessings and physical well-being for you and your family. Hmmm….I seem to remember Jesus saying, “You cannot serve both God and money.” And Paul wrote to Timothy, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” There seems to be a great deal of money loving in this teology.

In today’s Scripture reading Jesus tells a man who is already prosperous to go make others prosperous right? You might think that if you heard some of the prosperity gospel preachers, but it is NOT what the Gospels say. It isn’t even what this story says. In it, Jesus says, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.” (1 Timothy 6:10) That sounds like the opposite of a prosperity gospel.

I am of the firm belief that prosperity theologians and preachers are leading people straight to hell! Well, Drew, come on now, that is a little bit harsh isn’t it? I mean, after all, God seems to be blessing their ministries and if it gets people to start thinking about faith then isn’t it a good thing? No, it’s not and I believe God has had enough. I predict that many of these large churches, famous ministries, and prominent figures in this false gospel campaign will start to fall from grace. I believe that over the next two years God will start to break the yoke of this demonic teaching as one after the other falls from their lofty perch.

Here’s why prosperity theology is awful.  It completely misses the entire point of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t come so we can all live our best lives now. If that’s the case then why did my Christian sister die of cancer at age 21? Prosperity teachers would say that she didn’t think positively, donate to their ministries, or have enough faith. Furthermore, I know a lot of faithful Christ followers who are struggling financially. Are they not making enough “positive confessions?” Oh, and what about the Christians who are getting their heads chopped off in the middle east? If they would only watch the right “preachers” and donated to them they could be alive and living their best life now. 

Friends, if you are watching any of these teachers and preachers you need to stop immediately. It is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ – it is something entirely different than anything found in Scripture. Jesus came so we can be forgiven for our sins, have a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and live with God forever in heaven. God’s purpose for your life is to be molded into the image of His Son and lead others down the path of truth and life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is the Gospel and Jesus said that there will be struggles along they way but He will never leave us nor forsake us. However, he never once talked about financial and physical well-being as the point of His coming to Earth. 

I urge you to pray for people to be rescued from this dangerous branch of “Christianity.” I urge you to pray that people will stop supporting these ministries. I urge you to pray for churches that stand on the Word of God to have pews filled on Sunday morning. The “Prosperity Gospel” is no longer just a nuisance, it’s a force of the Enemy and I believe God has had enough. Time will tell.

Today is the last day of this round of guest blog posts. It was great to hear from so many of my family and friends. I look forward to hearing from them again and others too. I hope to have another post soon. He had to have back surgery during this time and he really wanted to write a post. I will give him a day whenever he gets healed.

As usual for Saturday, we will have a music focus tomorrow. We will have a patriotic focus here on my blog post tomorrow. Check out the blog at revbroyles.me.

Peaceful Breath of Life

by Kay Brightwell

Reading: John 20:19-22 “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors closed for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” After this he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

I had not been pastor at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas before I learned the importance of Kay Brightwell to that congregation. I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted to insure the success of a program or activity, I needed to get Kay involved (not always easy an easy thing to do). Kay didn’t have to be in charge, just involved and things would happen. We have a slogan here in Texas for those who hate to see litter around, “Don’t Mess with Texas. Well, I learned a new version “Don’t mess with Kay or Kay’s Bible Study.” That wasn’t because of Kay, but the ladies in her Bible study. Kay loves each of them but just as importantly, they love Kay. As her pastor it was something I learned too. I am thankful for Kay and her ministry.

Kay is a retired school teacher. She keeps her hand in teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. She not only taught her own Bible study group and wen I asked was always willing to serve as a substitute in my class. Kay is involved.

Kay is the also author of the Bright Reflections Blog. What you will see below is hers style. Each morning, Kay writes a blog that is a love letter to God. Each time I read her work, I am blessed.

Good morning Abba Father,

 Again, morning has dawned on a new and glorious day. I give you thanks for all the sunshine you are blessing me with this morning and for all the time I have to spend outside with you in your wonderful creation, earth. As I sit on the patio, waiting in anticipation of the rising of your glorious sunlight, I sit still and quiet, listening to the sounds of the morning. I am grateful for the time I now have to be able to do this.

As I listened to the birds cheerfully begin to sing their peaceful melodies, sounds announcing the coming of dawn, I began to concentrate on my own breathing, the breath that fills my soul and body to give me life. I thought about how important and wonderful this breath is to me. It is very comforting to be able to breath in your glorious peace deep into my soul and body. 

As I continued to read the scriptures about your first days after your resurrection, looking at what you did each day that was so important, I came across the scripture in John 20:19-22 that intrigued me. Your death and now resurrection were so important to mankind, giving us eternal life. You had a short time to be on earth before your ascension to heaven, and you did not fill your time with frivolous matters.

I know your actions and activities after your resurrection were of extreme importance to the disciples and your close friends. I had read that the first days after the resurrection were filled with telling others that you were alive. Now, on this evening of the first day of the week, you appeared to your beloved disciples and did several important things for them.

First, they were fearful, scared, and filled with sorrow. You came to them to renew their hope in everything you had told them the three years you had been with them. You said “Peace be with you.” This told them to not be fearful or filled with sorrow but to be filled with the Peace of the Father who loved them.

Next, you helped them recognize who you were because you showed them your hands and side where your body had been pierced. They finally realized that you were truly alive, and they were filled with joy!

The third thing you did for them was two-fold: First, you again said “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” This gave them a mission and purpose for their lives from this time on. But the most important thing you did for them was, you breathed on them your breath of life and filled them with the Holy Spirit! This act gave them all the courage and strength and life they would need to fulfill the ministry for which you called them. 

I thought about the first breath that was breathed on earth – your breath of life into mankind. In Genesis it is recorded how the earth was made from your speaking things into being, But in Genesis 2:7 it says “ Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Why was this so important? You did not fill any other created thing with your breath of life! The answer to this why is because you wanted companionship with man, me. You wanted me to walk with you each day, to talk to you constantly, and to share in your love and mercy and grace. In other words, to have the Peace that only you can give through fellowship and companionship with a Loving Father. This fellowship cannot be a one-way street. I have to participate in this fellowship also!

My world today has become so busy and full of activities that I myself know that I have strayed from a close relationship with you. I must choose to spend time with you. This is one reason I am so grateful to have the time, like this morning to be with you. I am not fearful and will not be fearful of anything like the disease plaguing society at the present time. I know Jesus, you are always with me. You care for me, protect me, and love to communicate with me. So, I will only focus on You, being filled with your Holy Spirit, and the life-giving breath of life you give me. I will treasure having the time to seek the Peace that You alone can give me. Thanks be to God for your love for me!

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

In His Service,
Kay 

Copyright, 2020, Kay Brightwell, All Rights Reserved

All Scripture References are from the New International Version

Called – Send Me

After that I will pour out my spirit upon everyone;
        your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
        your old men will dream dreams,
        and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days, I will also pour out my
    spirit on the male and female slaves.

30 I will give signs in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 32 But everyone who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be security, as the Lord has promised; and in Jerusalem, the Lord will summon those who survive. (Joel 2:28-32, Common English Bible)

Sam Cutrone currently serves as the pastor of Alexander Chapel United Methodist Church in Bryan, TX. He has a powerful testimony. Sam and I have worked as colleagues but I am proud to call him friend.

O let the Son of God enfold you
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have the things that hold you, And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole.
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs.

It was just a month ago that we, in liturgical congregations celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is the Sunday we celebrate God sending the Holy Spirit upon His Disciples in the upper room. The hymn above reminds us of this poignant powerful moment in which God fulfilled His promise to the Church. The account is a humbling reminder how the disciples had to remain open in order for the Spirit to be poured into them. This happened when the disciples let their lives be enfolded into the life and message of Christ. Secondly, they had to open their hearts in order for their souls to be fed. Finally as they gave Christ all their doubts, fears, and anxieties they were healed.

How have you felt enfolded into God’s love?

Since the age of 15 I knew I was called to ministry. However it took me 30 years to fulfill my calling. In 1990, I served a small church in Martindale, Texas. It was a small rural church with 15 congregants. They were a Godsend into my life. One Sunday I had to inform them I had been removed as a candidate for ministry by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry. Hence, I would be unable to remain at the church (appointment). It was a bitter pill to swallow. As I told them, about the decision, I found a strange peace deep within me. I felt a profound love touching my heart that morning. The people were shocked because we had been together for 2 years. But I reassured them the conference and district leaders knew what they were doing: the church had to trust the process. I must admit these were some dark moments for the church and for me as we grieved together. As we wept we found the Spirit leading us to a deeper understanding of Christ’s love we had for one another and a resilient strength to trust in what God was doing.

In those few precious moments we found consolation in Christ’s arms of grace. We discovered that through the years we had learned that God’s love bound us together and kept the cords of ministry strong. We found, in those moments, that Christ’s love was sufficient. While I may have been removed from ministry we were joined in the desire to serve Christ and the community. With hearts full, sorrows shared and remembering we were bound together by God’s love; we left the church that Sunday knowing the Holy Spirit was upon the church and us.

Later that night, I poured out my ardent prayer out before the Lord. I prayed for God’s spirit to comfort the church and my family. I shared with God my disappointments, fears and anxieties; I left everything at the foot of the cross. Later, the phone rang, I was surprised to hear Bishop Earnest Dixon on the other end of the line. He said, “Sam, I don’t know what you’ve done at the church in Martindale but they love you. I think it’s best if you continue ministry with the church. What do you think?” I said, “Well if you think that’s best. Then yes I’ll go.” I continued in ministry for 5 more years. It wasn’t until I moved in 1995 I realized how much they loved me and my family but more importantly how much they trusted God. Unbeknownst to me, the night the Bishop called me, the church had handed the charter of the church to the District Superintendent. They simply said, “if you remove Sam, then remove us! We see the Spirit moving in the Church and want to see what God will do with us.”

It’s a wondrous sight to behold when the Holy Spirit gets involved. Our moment of grace comes when we step aside and let the Holy Spirit fill us with God’s love. Then empty our lives from the fears, anxieties and uncertainties of the world. When we let our hearts be filled with the Spirit we find healing and the ability to trust and love God even more. We are called to the share this hope with others. Take a moment and lift your heart to the Lord, let God’s Holy Spirit fill you with God’s love. Then go into the world and pour God’s love into the lives of those who are thirsty, lost in the darkness, hurting or struggling. This is our purpose and call.

A Surprise Reaction

By Rev. Dr. Emma Richardson

For just about all of us, regardless of who we are, what we do, or how we get it done, God puts special people in all our lives who make a real impact on us. Emma was just such a person for me. Emma served in full-time ministry for many years before I knew her. Prior to my arrival in Sweeny, Emma settled into retirement. She made a point to do what needed to begin but at the same time to help whoever was appointed there. She succeeded at that. She was particularly important to my recent book, Average Joe: with an Extraordinary Story. She and Paul Woodworth inspired me with the idea of using the Biblical characters. I am grateful to both of them. Dr. Emma is an ordained deacon and a member of the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She most recently served at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa Oklahoma.

“ While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after
blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you;’ for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in my Father’s kingdom’.”
(Matthew 26: 26-30, New Revised Standard Version)

I had looked forward with great anticipation to this event and I was
disappointed!

Some background, I am a Deacon (Retired) in the United Methodist Church. For over 50 years the sacrament of Holy Communion has been very special to me. Whether I was assisting in serving or participating as a member of the congregation, the service of Holy Communion always was a high and holy moment for me. It is an instrument of God’s grace to be shared with other members of the Beloved Community. (I don’t mean to start a theological discussion about the meaning of the sacrament, just sharing an experience)

Now, back to my beginning declaration. Due to several health problems, I have not been able to attend worship services for several months. My local church celebrates Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month and on other special days such as Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday. I had missed both of those this time—first time I can remember missing both in succession.

The Pastor and the Worship chair had brought the sacrament to my home once during this time and I was very grateful. But I had missed 4 or 5 months at that time.

I was almost healthy enough to go to worship services then along came the
COVID 19 virus and my church, like almost all congregations were not going to meet in our church building. So, like many of you, Holy Communion was offered aspart of our virtual worship service on the first Sunday of the month.

The first time, my sister and brother-in-law joined me at my home and we took Communion together.

Then, the second time, I was alone. I had prepared an altar with a cross and a tray with bread and juice. At the appropriate time, I removed the white cloth from the tray, broke the bread and whispered “the body of our Lord, broken for me.” Then I took the juice, gave thanks and whispered “the blood of our Lord poured out for me and for many”. I replaced the cloth, said a brief prayer of thanksgiving and joined in the closing with the rest of our virtual congregation.

Then, it hit me! I did not feel renewed and refreshed in my soul as I usually did after receiving the Elements. I really felt sad. It was a strange feeling, all that afternoon, I would wonder “why?” The next day I realized this was the first time I had been alone, by myself, not another person near me. I missed my community of faith! I missed looking into the eyes of one as I served them or smiling at others as I returned to my seat. I missed seeing the looks of gratitude, of wonder, of knowing the blessing of these sacred moments I shared with other members of the Beloved Community.

I have reflected on this experience quite a bit and know the empty feeling comes from me and not from any lacking of the sacrament.

Since then I have observed Holy Communion again in my home and alone. Butmthe feeling was different. I was prepared for the absence of other believers and read again the names of the members who were participating with me that day (through the magic of Facebook).

I am very grateful for the times of worship I have experienced in this “closed down” time and look forward to the time we can be together as a congregation. Until then, I know with all of my heart and soul, the Church is not a building, the Church is the people of God and together or apart God is with us in all things.

Thanks be to God.

Be Blessed this Day.
Rev. Dr. Emma Richardson

The Owl

By Lisa Price

I introduced Lisa Price last week. I had asked her and her husband Rev. John Price to provide a post and they agreed. Well, John had cataract surgery about the same time I asked that the guest posts be in and he didn’t feel up to writing something so Lisa decided to send me two and I am grateful. I pray you enjoy Lisa’s story of an owl.

I cry out: “Violence!” but get no response;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
He has blocked my way so that I cannot pass through;
He has veiled my paths with darkness.
He has stripped me of my honor
and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side so that I am ruined.
He uproots my hope like a tree.
11 His anger burns against me,
and He regards me as one of His enemies.
12 His troops advance together;
they construct a ramp against me
and camp around my tent.

13 He has removed my brothers from me;
my acquaintances have abandoned me.
14 My relatives stop coming by,
and my close friends have forgotten me.
15 My house guests and female servants regard me as a stranger;
I am a foreigner in their sight.
16 I call for my servant, but he does not answer,
even if I beg him with my own mouth.
17 My breath is offensive to my wife,
and my own family finds me repulsive.
18 Even young boys scorn me.
When I stand up, they mock me.
19 All of my best friends despise me,
and those I love have turned against me.
20 My skin and my flesh cling to my bones;
I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

21 Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy,
for God’s hand has struck me.
22 Why do you persecute me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh? (Job 19:7-22, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. (John 8:3-11 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

From the back porch it looked like a large, crumpled sack or a mass of dried underbrush.  But it hadn’t been there before on the wide expanse of otherwise green lawn.  I thought perhaps the wind had blown something out of the nearby tree-line or from a neighbor’s trashcan.  As I continued to sip my first cup of coffee and rock in my old wooden rocker, the sun rose higher in the sky, and I noticed a slight movement where the mysterious lump was.  Again, I blamed the wind, and continued in my early-morning reverie.  But as my vision scanned across the empty lot once more, I realized that whatever it was, it was alive.

Not prone to much movement until after my second cup of coffee, I sat awhile longer until my curiosity got the best of me.  I walked gingerly on bare feet toward the thing, not wishing to startle it, whatever it was.  As I got closer, I realized it was some type of bird, and it didn’t fly away as I expected.  I took a few more careful, slow steps in its direction, and it eyed me cautiously, but held its ground.  Finally, as we stared eye-to-eye, I realized I was facing off with a brown barn owl who had seen better days.  His face looked wet, his feathers scraggly, and he peered at me through squinty eyes that were very un-owl-like.  The poor thing looked as if the last thing he wanted was a big human hovering over him, but he seemed powerless to fly away.  

After a few minutes of silent communing, I went back into the house to finish my morning routine.  Periodically, I looked out the back windows, and my new friend still sat right where he had been.  Awhile later, I returned to the porch and was startled to see several mockingbirds dive-bombing the poor owl.  They would fly back and forth over his head, swooping down time and again to peck at him and generally terrorize him.  Even the squirrels joined in, chattering loudly from their perch on a nearby limb.

I walked toward the scene of the hazing, hoping that the taunters would leave.  Thankfully, they did, and just my friend and I were left.  He looked at me warily, and I wondered if he expected me to mock him as the others had.  After a few moments, he flew several feet away from me toward the tree-line, barely clearing the tops of the weeds.  Thinking I was missing a good photo op, I went inside to get my camera.  When I returned, the owl was gone, and I feared that one of the other critters from the underbrush had carried him off.  But I sneaked a little closer and saw his owl eyes gazing out from about three feet above the ground in a small tree.  I hoped that my presence had somehow helped him gather up his strength to fly out of harm’s way.

Job had a problem just like my owl friend.  He was having more than just a bad day.  His possessions were taken from him, his family was gone, his health was a disaster.  And his so-called friends came to him under the guise of helping him see his sin.  Just like the mockingbirds swooping and pecking at the owl, Job’s friends came to him, not with compassion and love, but with accusations and blame.  

Those who are in distressing situations such as the jobless, the homeless, the depressed, the AIDs patient, the recently divorced—they are the Jobs of today.  Will we taunt them, shun them, or smugly give a token bit of help?  Will we kick them while they’re down?

When my owl friend was in trouble, all I did was come to his side and stand there in silence.  A quiet, compassionate presence is sometimes all a person needs in order to draw on the strength which the Lord provides.  The Gospel of John tells of a woman caught in the act of adultery.  Her accusers wanted Jesus to join with them in condemning the woman, but He refused to either condemn or defend her.  Instead, He provided a quiet, comforting presence until the accusers shamedly slipped away, and the woman was ready to come to Him for strength and redemption.

Today’s Challenge:  Look for the downtrodden, the forgotten, the grief-stricken, the hopeless.  Don’t worry about what to say; just being there will speak volumes.  Embody Christ’s loving  presence today! 

It’s About Grace

20 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion,[a] he sent them into his vineyard.

“Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.

“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’

“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.

“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’

13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16, New International Version).

A story is told about Fiorello La Guardia, who, as mayor of New York during the Great Depression and World War II, who many New Yorkers called “the Little Flower.” He stood five foot four and always wore a carnation. He was a colorful character who rode city fire trucks, raided speakeasies with the police, take orphanages to baseball games, and when New York newspapers were on strike, he went on radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One cold night in January of 1935, he turned up at the night court serving the poorest people in the city. La Guardia dismissed the judge took over the bench himself.

It wasn’t long before an old woman appeared, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told La Guardia her daughter’s husband had left, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. The shopkeeper refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood, your Honor.” The man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach people around there a lesson.”

La Guardia sighed, Turned to the woman saying, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail.” He wasn’t finished. He reached into his pocket and pulling out a bill, tossed it into his hat saying, “I remit the ten dollar fine; and furthermore I fine everyone here fifty cents for living in a town where a person steals bread to feed her grandchildren. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The following day the newspapers reported $47.50 was turned over to an old lady who stole bread to feed her grandchildren, fifty cents contributed by the grocery store owner, while seventy petty criminals, traffic offenders, and policemen, having paid fifty cents to do so, applauded the mayor.

Here is my question for you. Did the elderly lady in the story get what she deserved? Clearly the answer is, of course not. She had stolen a loaf of bread. Yes, she may have had good reason, but stealing is stealing and regardless of the reason, punishment would seem to be the order of the day.

There’s a word for what La Guardia did, grace. Grace is when one in power shows mercy to less powerful people. The mayor, rather than demanding punishment, paid the fine and helped her with the collection of the fifty-cent fines she received. It was more than she deserved. It was grace.

Our lesson is about that too. The lesson is the wonderful story of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired workers for his vineyard. Some he hired early, telling them that he would pay them the usual daily wage. He found more workers to hire, telling them he would pay them what was right.

At sunset it was time to pay the workers. He began with the last hired, paying the usual daily wage. Those working all day got really excited. Surely they would get more for all day.

The excitement didn’t last. Ill feelings arose when they got paid the same working all day as those only working an hour.

He heard grumbling and explained he was fair. He paid what was promised. Couldn’t he pay everyone whatever they wanted with his money?

The landowner didn’t live in our time. He also didn’t seem to know much about business. When he next hired help none would until the last hour.

The landowner did know grace. Workers at the end of the day didn’t get what they deserved they got mercy. That is grace.

In the parable the landowner is God, we are the workers, and the pay is the kingdom. Studying this parable, we see, it’s about grace.

First, the parable says grace is received, not deserved. We all should know we do not deserve grace. Nothing we do will leave us deserving grace. All we can do is receive the gift God offers.

David Seamands ends his book Healing Grace with this story. For more than 600 years the Hapsburgs exercised power in Europe. When Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria died in 1916, his was the last extravagant imperial funeral. Dignitaries escorted the casket, draped in the black and gold. A military band played dirges and by torches light, as the party descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna. At the bottom an iron door lead to the Hapsburg family crypt. There was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna.

An officer followed the ceremony. “Open!” he cried. “Who goes there?” responded the Cardinal. “We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria…” the officer listed the Emperor’s 37 titles.

“We know him not,” replied the Cardinal. “Who goes there?” The officer spoke again, this time using a less ostentatious title. “We know him not,” the Cardinal said again. “Who goes there?” The officer tried a third time, using the humblest title: “We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!” The doors swung open, and Franz-Josef was admitted.

Whoever we are, whatever our titles, how much we have, it can’t open God’s grace, given freely, left for us the undeserving.

Second, God’s grace is about mercy, not fairness. Fair would be to pay the later workers less than those working longer. That would be fair. Grace isn’t fair. It is merciful. God loves us and gives us more than we deserve.

Christian financial consultant Larry Burkett tells in Business by the Book about going the extra mile, beyond fairness. In 1984 he leased an office that was a nightmare. The foundation was faulty and was singing several inches a year. After more than three years of problems, including power failures and weeks without water, Burkett moved his business.

Soon the former landlord called demanding Burkett remodel and repaint his former office space. Burkett said no. He had already been more than fair with the landlord. The demands continued. Burkett got an attorney who agreed Burkett fulfilled his responsibility and need not do anything more.

Burkett saud his son offered him different counsel reminding Burkett of the landlord’s family, who had lost their only child a few years before. The still suffered. Burkett had commented he would wanted to help them. The son said this was an opportunity to do more than what was fair, but merciful. Burkett considered and agreed. He spent several thousand dollars to restoring a virtually unusable building. That goes past fair, to merciful. It is what grace is about.

Third, God’s grace is for the last and the first. It’s easy to say we deserve more. We’ve been faithful. God doesn’t work that way. God wants a relationship with all of us, those hired early and those who worked an hour. That is Grace.

A woman was abused by her father when she was a small child. She grew up, overcame the damage, became a Christian, then married. Years later, her children grown, she received a letter from her father saying he was a Christian and asked God for forgiveness. He realized he had sinned against her and wrote asking her to forgive.

Feelings surfaced. It wasn’t fair! He should pay. This was easy. Now he was part of God’s family! Her home church was killing the fatted calf and she was invited to the party! She was angry, hurt, resentful.

Then she had a dream. Her father stood on an empty stage. The hands of God held a white robe. She recognized it, she was wearing one. As the robe descended toward her father, she awoke crying , “It isn’t fair! What about me?”

She moved past it by realizing her earthly father was now like her, the same in God’s sight. Grace was his as it was hers. With that, she was able to forgive her father.

God’s grace is a free gift and available to all. It’s a free and more than we deserve. Grace is about mercy, not fairness. Grace is for the last and the first. Thankfully, it is about grace.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Opening Blind Eyes

by Keith Broyles

From time to time I get on writing.com. You can find different things to help with writing,com, including writing prompts and writing challenges and contests. But I always feel challenged there. Writing from the tags for the Though I have never won’t any of the few I seen there, I still enjoy doing it.

Today’s poem and future song lyrics began as a writing challenge on

Blind eyes fail to see creation’s slow death.
The stench of the air, leaves us without breath
Empty ears ignore the earth’s groans and cries
Still, God who made us, wipes tears from blind eyes

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

God creates humans for more than we know.
Fun with no joy pulls us from where we grow.
Our hearts are empty, no strength from above
Empty hearts lack peace, Lord send us a dove.

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

Empty hearts can’t see, God’s blessings for me
Empty souls cry out, yearning to be free.
The soul may be empty, the spirit dry,
God still loves us, let love show in our eyes.

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

Let love’s light shine, in this dark world.
Let my blind eyes, be blind no more.
My eyes can see, the world alive.
In grace and love, God’s call with thrive.

No blind eyes mean loving hearts
loving hearts mean loving souls
loving souls mean loving lives
loving lives mean, love for You.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Complaining to a Good God….

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6, New International Version)

Rev. Alan Van Hooser has had an impact on my life that he may not even realized. I attended a pastor’s retreat, it had to have been at least ten years ago. Alan led a workshop on prayer beads. It wasn’t something I had ever done or really given much thought. Alan led a great session and it wasn’t long before I was making strings of beads and looking for more. My more was spiritual directors’ training and prayer ropes. I am pretty sure, if it was not for Alan Van Hooser I would not have those things and they have become important parts of my ministry and I am grateful to him for his work and ministry. I am also grateful that when I came to him again, Alan again agreed to help my ministry again as a guest post but you can also follow Alan’s own blog at thethoughtfulpastor.com Alan has served as pastor in several places including Cheatham Memorial UMC, in Edgewood, Texas. He currently serves as pastor at Friendship United Methodist in Porter, Texas.

God has been good to me.  There have been rough places made both of my own choices and things beyond my doing.  BUT, a faithful and loving God, who holds me in the name of Jesus Christ and lives in and through me with the Holy Spirit has used them all to my growth in faith. Yes, I have whined and that has not been fruitful.  There must be a more spirit led way to share my pain and disappointment with God.  Maybe you are there too.

We are in a crisis that has challenged the faith of many.  The rough places of isolation, loss and uncertainty have created a crisis of faith much larger than the threat of physical illness.  Yes, yes “All things work together for good” but what do we do in the meantime. Can we complain to God in our  anger, doubt and fear?  The short answer is yes.  The Bible is full of faithful whining called prayers of lament

Scripture has famous laments from the Psalmist, the Prophets and even Jesus.  (My God, why hast thou forsaken me!) Our God of grace has big shoulders and allows us to speak of negative things.  How does this work?  

Below is a teaching/learning element, a “formula” for a lament created in your own words.  This guideline is a help, a starter that forges faith from the depths of our pain and  grows our relationship with Christ.  How are you praying from your pain?  Try writing a prayer like this.

  1. Sit quietly and write your deepest pains. Just or unjust.  Put them in words and write a prayer in this way
  2. Address God in a personal way. (Example: Almighty, Father, Faithful God-whatever has meaning for you)
  1. Thank God for ALL things.  (Example: Lord you gave given me good, bad and ugly. Thank you for being able so see me through them all)
  2. Complain! (Example: I am all alone, my job is uncertain and I am losing hope)
  3. Confess your own sin ( I confess things done, undone, attitudes and letting fatigue look like doubt )
  4. Pray for HELP! ( I don’t know how to pray-HELP ME LORD. Pray Psalm 13 or other scripture with YOUR NAME in place of the “I’s” and “me’s”)
  5. Trust God. ( God, I am wounded-but even so I will trust you.  (Psalm 51:8)
  6. Finally, offer this lament as a praise (Psalm 51:8. “Let me be happy and joyful! You crushed my bones, now let them celebrate” )

Write this on a card, carry it, revise it, pray it until the “formula” is simply your honest response from your pain to our God. Watch your relationship bloom through the negative things in your day!

Lament and be healed, pray and be strengthened.  Let others  see your witness of faith in the rough places. By being stronger in your relationship with God, you create a healthier community. 

Peace be unto you! God is near.  (Many thanks to Smith and Schoenfeld in “Growing through Disaster” for the outline)

Seared Into My Memory

By Jerome Brimmage

I went to seminary with Jerome Brimmage. Jerome was a year ahead of me but we did have opportunities for conversation and fellowship. I can’t remember the churches in Jerome’s early career but in the more recent years he has served in Mineola Texas and Cypress Texas. He currently is pastor at First United Methodist Church in Lufkin, Texas. Yes, we are neighbors these days.

It was the summer leading into my senior year of high school.  One of my good friends called and asked me to meet him in the park as he needed to talk. We had gotten to know each other over the previous six years. We had played baseball together, coached a little league team, and gone to school together. He took one of his college days to ride with me to Stephen F. Austin State University. He had no plans to go off to college, but he wanted out of school and he was willing to go with me to see what the future could hold. 

It was late at night on that hot summer night. I did not think twice about driving to the park in our small town. My friend and I pulled up in different cars and parked near a picnic table. We got out and sat on the bench and began to talk. To this day, I do not remember the conversation topic. What I do remember is the police officer that pulled up. He got out of his vehicle and began to aggressively interrogate my friend. He asked for his driver’s license; what was his purpose of being in the park so late; and more. I tried to explain that we were simply talking. The police officer did not want to hear from me and never asked me a question. 

I was nervous and not sure what to do or how to respond. I was taught to respect police officers and do as asked. When the officer discovered nothing out of the normal gab session was happening, he got in his police cruiser and departed. 

I looked at my friend and explained my nervousness. I said something about the way my friend was the one being interrogated. My friend said, “Jerome, this happens all the time in our world. We get stopped and questioned about stuff all the time.” 

You see, my friend was Hispanic. He and his family were U.S. citizens of Hispanic background. 

My friend says, “this happens all the time.” As if he was profiled. We were teens, and he knew racism and discrimination in ways that I didn’t know then and, frankly, have not experienced in my lifetime. 

If  (when) I get pulled over, it’s because I was speeding or something, I know I have done. I have not experienced interrogation for any reason or no reason at all. 

As the news came out about a police officer putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck until he died, I had a flashback to that hot summer night. How can it be? It has been nearly 40 years, and this seared memory of my friend in the park rises again. 

My friend was interrogated and not murdered. Yet, systemic racism is alive. That breaks my heart and I am sure it breaks the heart of God. 

As a pastor, at each baptism, I ask the Methodist liturgical questions: 

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your own sin?

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Each person at their baptism or confirmation responds: “I do” to these questions. 

In the safety of the church, surrounded by the body of Christ that is there to support you, it is easy to say, “I do.” Yet, when the time comes, and we see again or perhaps for the first time the racism, do we recognize it as a spiritual force of wickedness? An evil power of this world?

God gives us the freedom and power to resist this evil, injustice, and oppression. The question is: will we exercise that power? 

Please note I do not believe all police officers are racist. I do not believe that all white people are racist. 

I do believe systemic racism is real and alive. This is not of God and not why Jesus was sent to redeem the people of this world.  

We are all children of God. Paul says it like this: 

26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now, if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29

As people who are baptized in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, I have the privilege to be made in the image of God. Paul says, “Now if you belong to Christ,… then indeed you are heirs of the promise.” This means we belong to one another. 

I will not lose hope! I believe God is still writing the story of faith and hope in this world. 

I will repent for my silence when I should have spoken up.

I will ask for forgiveness for no action when action was needed.

I will seek the face of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit to help be the light of Christ in a dark and hurting world.

I believe, with God’s help, there are better days ahead. 

Come Holy Spirit Come!

Eating Together

 8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. (1 Peter 4:9-9, The Living Bible)

Family and friends sitting at a dining table

A Guest Post by Rev. Greg Oberg

I first got to know Greg when we served together on a “Walk to Emmaus” around 2006 in the Houston Bay Area Emmaus community. We were serving in the same district. Greg was the associate pastor at Bay Harbor United Methodist Church in League City, Texas. I was serving at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in nearby Santa Fe, Texas. Greg moved on to Brazoria UMC in Brazoria, Texas. Around the same time (I don’t remember who moved first) I went to Freeport Texas. If my memory is right Greg was in Brazoria for four years and moved on to serve as campus minister at my alma mater, Sam Houston State University at Huntsville, Texas where he has done a great job for eight years. In my opinion, campus ministry is the most important ministry around.

One of the many things we have all sacrificed is the ability eat together with others beyond our immediate families. I really miss eating together with others. One of the many projects that I have been doing to stay busy is to sort through 17,000  pictures we have collected for the past 8 years of our campus ministry. I have been purging lots of redundancy, like instead of having 10 Halloween Group pictures, we’re just going to keep the best one and call it good. 

Something I have seen a lot of is us eating together well over the years. We have eaten well as a Wesley Foundation: Welcome Week food, Finals Food, Christmas ham, Super Bowl party burgers and hotdogs, Thanksgiving pot luck, going to Olive Garden for our End of Year Event, Board Game Nights at the parsonage, eating Chicken Express trays for Halloween party, and all the Wednesday night meals donated by churches and Sunday Schools. We have done a lot of eating together and that is beautiful. And we will have more of that starting August 19. One powerful element of our ministry has been eating together. 

Did you know that before Coronavirus hit, this was becoming tougher in our culture and our churches? Research has been showing us that families spend less time eating together than in previous decades. How well is your family eating together these days? Maybe better, maybe not. I have to admit, my family still doesn’t eat together every night and that’s OK, as long as there are nights in which we do. I have noticed that before Coronavirus hit, it was becoming more and more rare for people to invite others for dinner in their own homes. I have noticed a significant difference in churches that eat together and those that don’t. Do you know that most of our Methodist churches never actually eat together? Think about that. Several I have known do potlucks well. One church we connect with, Onalaska UMC, during the academic year they will eat together every week. Others will do it once a month. Others will do it on the 5th Sunday. And many never eat together at all. That’s another reason small churches love it when we do our baked potato fundraisers with them, we are helping them to eat together and feel closer together, and they didn’t have to make the meal that time. Everybody wins!

There’s something Biblical about eating together, and how that brings people together in intimate ways, no matter what the culture is, what the language is, what century they live in. There’s a lot of Bible verses about this. Eating together is all over the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here are just a handful of examples: 

Isaiah 25:6   6 In Jerusalem, the LORD Almighty will spread a wonderful feast for everyone around the world. It will be a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef. 

Luke 5:29-31  29 Soon Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests were there.  30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”  31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor– sick people do. 

Luke 22:19-20  19 Then he took a loaf of bread; and when he had thanked God for it, he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you– an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you. 

Romans 12:13   13 When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.

1 Peter 4:8-9   8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. 

Acts 2:46   46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity– 

I look forward to eating together with our students again. When we come roaring back in August, you can bet that food will play a key role at the very beginning, and continue playing a key role throughout our many more months and years of ministry.

I believe Jesus loves being present with us at our meals. After all, the Last Supper had more than Welch’s Grape Juice and Hawaiian sweet bread. It was a full meal. Yet, he used that moment to create an even greater kind of intimate moment, Holy Communion. That is something else I miss and look forward to experiencing again someday. 

May God bless your times with your families. I pray that your meals that you share with them would be beautiful, intimate moments, where Jesus is present at your kitchen table, you feel the love and warmth of each other, and that feeds your soul well as your tummies are also being fed well too. 

I pray that God would continue to do the same for our Wesley and our churches when we gather again to share our meals with great joy and generosity in different months of 2020. 

God is still God, God is still good, and we this epidemic lifestyle will be behind us in due time. Onward and upward my friends!