Why Snakes?

 

who-what-when-where-how-and-why-pic

Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, Common English Bible).

I know, late in the day and I am just now getting something posted. Well, sometimes there is just more to do than I have time to get done. Today is one of those days.

I hate snakes. I mean, I really hate snakes. Well, more accurately, I am afraid of snakes. When I was a kid I got bit and since then, I hate snakes and even worse, I have a great fear of them. I am so afraid of snakes I get scared when I see them on television. I know it is an irrational fear but I can’t help it. When a snake comes on television, I hide my eyes until it is gone.

Some time ago a devotion by one of my favorite Christian spiritual minds, Father Richard Rohr. Though I don’t read his devotions every day, I do read his work at least from time to time. I haven’t read much from him of late, but often what he has to say sticks with me.

I can’t remember the first time I heard someone say, “That is a question I will have for God when I get there.” I guess I have heard the question in some form or another most of my life. Further, I have actually made the statement myself, more than once. Probably my favorite of my own questions is, “God, why snakes?” It is a question I tend to ask when I have just seen a snakes. It shows my hatred and my fear of these awful animals.

I know, the snake question is pretty trivial. Still, others are not. Probably the most common question I have heard and I am sure I have asked it many times is some variation of the “Why God?” question. It is a question with many forms. “God, why do children die?” or “God, why is there suffering in the world?” or “God, why do I need to go to church?” or even, “God, why do I need to pray?” There are many, many more forms of the question and none are as trivial as my question about snakes or other people’s question about “Why bees?” or “why bugs.” etc. etc.

I have always believed it was OK to ask God questions, even the “Why?” questions. At the same time, however, there has also always been a small lingering doubt in the back of my mind. God made us inquisitive creatures. If we are made that way, surely God expects us to ask questions. Yet, there is still a bit of doubt, who am I to question God?

Then I read that devotion from Richard Rohr. Rohr really wasn’t writing about questioning God. It was about creation and being co-creators with God. I will share some of my thoughts on that in another post at a later time. What Rohr wrote, as always was good and insightful. But there were eleven words that really jumped off the screen at me, “I can’t wait to ask God why this seems to be…”

If a learned scholar like Richard Rohr would propose a question for God like, “I cannot wait to ask God why this seems to be…” It seems to me that it is probably OK for us to ask these questions of God too. I don’t think it necessarily means  we will get an answer, not now or even later, but we can ask questions of God.

When we do, we do so remember Paul’s words above, “…then I will know completely…” When we reach eternity with God, all our questions will have answers. Then we shall know. We might even get to know the answer to the trivial question, “God, why snakes?”

Have a blessed day (well, at this hour probably a blessed night) in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

I Press On!

i-press-on-fb

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, New International Version).

Yesterday Cindy and I went to worship at the church she grew up in, the church where we were married. Golden Acres Baptist Church celebrated their 80th anniversary yesterday and it was great to renew old friendships and see people we had not seen in some time. We both had a good time.

Pastor Brannon Revel preached from Philippians 3 in the service. He talked about not resting on the past but pressing on to the future and the heavenly call in Christ Jesus. It was a good sermon.

As I was listening to the sermon I started thinking some of my own ideas about the text. I got to thinking about the things that have been part of my life, both good and bad. I, like all of us, have sinned. That is true. I, like many others, have also done some good things, things that have benefited people and things that have benefited Christ and His Church.

Through the early part of Philippians 3 Paul talks about his own history. He was a Jew from the Tribe of Benjamin. He was a Pharisee. He persecuted Christians. But in the end, he says forgetting what lies behind, looking forward to what is ahead, he presses on…

In the normal course of life I don’t think we can forget it all. I have clear memories about things I have done in my life, things I am proud of as well as other things, well not so much. And truly, I don’t think God expects of us to forget, otherwise why give us a memory. What I do think God expects of us is to use what is in our memory to help us move forward, to help us press on toward the heavenly call.

Brother Brannon was right, what is behind us is not as important as what is in front of us. Whether our personal history is eight years or eighty years, we experience, we learn and we press on. What is behind us is not as important as pressing on.

It seems to me, as people of faith we are called to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead as we keep pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (paraphrased).

Have a blessed day in the Lord,

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Housecleaning

housecleaning

Jacob said to his household and to everyone who was with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you. Clean yourselves and change your clothes” (Genesis 35:2, Common English Bible).

I spent a good deal of time today cleaning house. Before Cindy reads this and really calls me out on it, I don’t mean that I cleaned the house. First of all, it didn’t really need to be cleaned. Considering I am usually the only one here, the majority of the house doesn’t get that bad. But then again, because I am usually the only one here and I hate cleaning house almost as much as I hate yard work, it often only gets done when I absolutely have to, which is usually on a Friday afternoon before Cindy gets here that night. I know I should be better about it but considering how long I have avoided house cleaning in my life, that probably isn’t going to happen.

No, what I spent my time doing today was cleaning house on this and another blog. I went in and looked over all the old posts and I thought, you know, if something were to ever happen at Blog Spot and I lost all these posts I might be at least a little disappointed. So, I copied almost all the blog posts here and on Blogger. I took many of them off the site to clear up some space. It was out with the old to make room for the new.

I think one of the reasons I am not a big fan of house cleaning is, all too often, it is hard for me to get rid of some of those old things. My parents have been visiting me all week this week (another reason the house has stayed clean). My Dad was asking me about disposal of some of his old scout memorabilia. I told him I didn’t want him to get rid of it, instead I wanted to put it in a shadow box that we might later share with my kids and grandkids. Still, it is more stuff and I don’t want to get rid of it. And that, I can promise you, I will be keeping for a while.

The thing is, as much as I dislike cleaning house, it is something important. If we don’t clean house at least from time to time, the stuff will eventually take over.

As I was cleaning up the blog sites I got to thinking about how the same ideas apply to our spiritual lives. Knowingly or unknowingly, we collect stuff in our spiritual lives we don’t need, things we shouldn’t want and if left on their own will eventually take over.

In our lesson today, Jacob is returning home to meet Esau. He instructs the members of his household, because of the Scripture says everyone, we can presume both family members and household servants, to clean house, to get rid of their foreign gods and to clean themselves and change their clothes. “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you. Clean yourselves….” In other words, do some spiritual housecleaning.

It is something we need to do to. Today is the beginning of a new week. It is the day we go to worship. I can’t think of a much better time than today to clean our spiritual houses. We need to get rid of the stuff so we can build a better relationship with God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Dual Citizenship

dual-citizenship

 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him (Romans 8:14-17, Common English Bible).

There has been quite a lot in the news over the last decade or so about Presidential candidates citizenship status, where they were born and whether or not they could hold the office according to the Constitution.

First it was about President Obama, particularly during the election in his first term, but there have been rumblings of it over his entire time in office. Many people believed he was born in Africa and therefore couldn’t be President because he was not a natural-born citizen.

More recently it was in relationship to Ted Cruz and his run for the White House. In his case, people were arguing that he was born in Canada so he couldn’t be President either.

I knew at the time, with both, the assumptions were wrong. You can be President if you were either born in the United States or one of your parents is a United States citizen. People didn’t believe me. So, for this post I went and found some documentation. According to Harvard Law Review, “The Supreme Court has long recognized that two particularly useful sources in understanding constitutional terms are British common law  and enactments of the First Congress. Both confirm that the original meaning of the phrase “natural born Citizen” includes persons born abroad who are citizens from birth based on the citizenship of a parent.”

No, this is not a political post. That isn’t my intent, not even close. Unlike the argument about the citizenship status of Presidential candidates, there is no argument about my citizenship and that of at least most of my followers.

I have a dual citizenship, and I don’t mean my status as a citizen of the United States. Because I am the child of earthly parents, I am a citizen of this world. At the same time, however, Paul informs us in Romans 8 above, that we have another parent and therefore, by the interpretations of “citizenship” by the Supreme Court, we can reach the logical assumption that we are also citizens of another land (I use that term very loosely). Paul says, “All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters.” And, “With this Spirit, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children.”

Here, in a short passage, we see two explanations, that we are God’s children. There are other passages in Scripture that tell us the same. Most of us wouldn’t argue about our earthly parents. We might not see ourselves as a citizen of the world, but we would easily see ourselves as a citizen of a country, and there is a pretty good chance we would see it based on our parents’ citizenship.

Here, Paul is saying we have another parent, God, the Father. And, though we may have been born in this world, by God’s heavenly citizenship, we too are citizens of heaven. So yes, we hold dual citizenship. We are citizens of this world and we are citizens of the world to come.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Invitation

invitation etiquette

 Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, Common English Bible).”

A few days ago the passage above was part of my daily devotion. Sort of like my post “Bury the Junk” this passage and one thing the author of my devotion said, just won’t leave me alone.

My devotion said, “This verse is an invitation. We can come to Christ as we are, weary and burdened, and He promises to give us rest. What a gift!” (One: A Daily Devotional, Barbour Books: Uhrichsville Ohio, 2015, p. 17).

I don’t know who the person was who wrote this little devotion, but this author is dead on. It is a gift to us. Think on that for a little bit. No matter how tired we happen to be, no matter how worn out, no matter how beat up we feel and no matter how unworthy we might feel, Jesus still invites us to rest in Him.

I also don’t care who you are, we all need rest and we especially need Divine rest. I really don’t see this a physical rest, this is a spiritual rest. But, I do believe we can draw a parallel from the physical body.

When I was in the Navy I went for a week on about one hour of sleep per day. It wasn’t by choice. When we were steaming in a task force, visual communications got busy. If we were by ourselves at sea we didn’t have much to do. If you can’t see other ships at see, visual communications will do no good. But, in this case we were in a task force and my ship was the flag ship. We were very busy and as a result, I was working from lunch to dinner and from midnight to breakfast. But to further complicate matters, if the ship goes to general quarters (battle stations), everyone is working. For about five days, every time I was off work, we went to general quarters. By the end of five days I was seeing things out on the horizon that weren’t really there. I was in a total daze. While I was at breakfast, I broke out in a cold sweat and blacked out. I am told I got up from the table. Took my food tray to the scullery, went to my berthing compartment, undressed and went to bed. I remember none of that. I don’t remember anything until the crew that was at work came down to wake us up for the afternoon watch.

All of that is to say, my physical body went without rest for a significant period of time. The result was, I hit a wall and my body shut down. We may not shut down quite that way when we become spiritually exhausted but the result  is much the same. We move in slow motion. We lose interest in many things. we feel just as tired as if it were physical and we feel physically beat up. It is a mental and emotional drain and that leads to a physical drain that matches. In that way, to be spiritually exhausted is even worse than being physically exhausted. I can be happy, I can be joyful even when I am physically wiped out. It is incredibly difficult to do that when we are spiritually drained.

And yet, Jesus says to us, “Come to me.” I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty incredible. And, when I come to Him, I really do find my rest. Thanks be to God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,

Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Bury the Junk

trowel

You shall have a designated area outside the camp to which you shall go. With your utensils you shall have a trowel; when you relieve yourself outside, you shall dig a hole with it and then cover up your excrement. Because the Lord your God travels along with your camp, to save you and to hand over your enemies to you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you (Deuteronomy 23:12-14, New Revised Standard Version).

I admit, it is a strange passage, but I am not the one to put it into my brain. Last week, while driving back to Sweeny from Lakeview Methodist Conference CenterI was listening to a book titled, Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say by Rev. Adam Hamilton and it has been bouncing around in my head ever since. I believe Hamilton brought this verse up during chapter 4, “God Said, I Believe It, That Settles It.”

Because I have read the Bible all the way through, I know I have read this passage at least a few times but honestly, I don’t remember it. It left no impression on me at all. I read it and moved on and nothing about it stuck with me, until I was driving home last Thursday. Hearing what Hamilton wrote, I have thought and rethought these three verses several times.

In the book, Hamilton said, “You most likely have never heard a sermon on this passage (I am paraphrasing here). I would say, he was right. Not only do I not believe I ever heard a sermon on this passage, I am positive I have never written or preached one.

Hamilton went on to say it easily could have been very different in the mid to late 19th century. Indoor plumbing was coming into its own. Homes were starting to get this convenience and many people thought the churches should get the convenience as well. After all, during New England winters or Texas summers, going to the outhouse was probably pretty brutal. Hamilton explained that this passage was often used by pastors as justification for not installing indoor plumbing. It is said the preachers would say the passage was proof that God didn’t want indoor plumbing in churches, that God intended everyone to go outside. After all, they were to “…designate an area OUTSIDE the camp…” I can’t help but think this might have carried a literal reading of the scriptures a bit too far. I, for one, am thankful for indoor plumbing.

Hamilton’s use of this passage did get me to thinking. I have thought a great deal about it since hearing that chapter. For a while I was thinking that perhaps I was supposed to preach a sermon on the passage, but I decided against it. I really don’t want to explain excrement to young ears that might be present. The more I thought about it the more I thought, a blog post might be the better way to go. At least to me, it just made more sense.

No, I am not going to write about burying something in a whole in the ground. I am not going to write about going outside the camp to take care of things. No, my thoughts haven’t been about anything quite so literal.

Here is the thing, the passage talks about going outside the camp because God lived and moved in the camp, making the camp holy. So, I got to thinking about where God lives today. Where is that holy place today. Some might make the argument that God lives in the Church. And, at least to a degree that would be true. After all, God is omnipresent so God is everywhere, including our churches (Lord I pray that is true).

I think our comparison would need to be something closer to home. I can’t help but think of Revelation 3:20, “Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me (Common English Bible).” God’s home, God’s residence is within us.

So, what is within our “camp,” within us that God would call indecent? Remember, the passage says, “…your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you…”

I started compiling a list in my head. On that list would have to be “sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.” OK, I know, it really isn’t my list, its Paul’s. Paul wrote these words in Galatians 5:19-21 (Common English Bible). And, I seriously doubt it is an all-inclusive list.

These are things all of us need to put behind us. We need to bury these things in the past and move forward with God dwelling inside us. And, if we bury them in the past and leave them there, God won’t see “…anything indecent among [us]” or I would submit, within us. Without all that mess in our lives we will be living holy and keeping our camp holy.

Sometimes I think God can and does use the unusual to speak to us, even a Scripture passage about literal stuff we need to leave behind so we might leave some of the things behind that block the Spirit within us from leading us in the holy direction God wants us to go.

So, take your trowel, did a hole, and leave the junk behind in favor of a stronger, better relationship with God.

I pray you have a blessed day with the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Life Happened!

keep-calm-cause-life-happens

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place. Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things. Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.” He replied, “You give them something to eat. But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?” He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.” After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.” He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. Everyone ate until they were full. They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. About five thousand had eaten. (Mark 6:30-44, Common English Bible).

I know, I wrote for just over a week and then immediately missed a week. Hence the title, “Life Happened.” Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I was at Lakeview Methodist Conference Center, our camp near Palestine Texas for a clergy conference. I wrote a post on Tuesday night but when I came back to my room on Wednesday evening, I wasn’t feeling well, went to bed early (it was before 9:00 and for me that is REALLY early), fell asleep and slept until the next morning. Thursday was filled with the last day of the conference and then driving back to Sweeny and Patriot Choir/Coastalaires rehearsal. I could go on for the days since, but lets just say life happened.

The story above is one of our favorites. I don’t know of any Christian who doesn’t like at least one of the Gospel versions of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. I am a fan of it too. In light of “life happening” the past week, I started thinking about this story in that light. It is something I have not considered before.

Jesus and the disciples had a long few days teaching and tending to people. It went on to the point they didn’t have time to eat. One could argue that life happened right at that point, but for me that life happening event was still to come. Jesus tells the disciples, “Let’s get away for awhile.” They got in a boat and made their way to an isolated place to rest. The crowds, however, followed along on foot. They wanted more of Jesus. In other words, life happened.

But, life continued to happen. Jesus tended and taught once again until it was late in the day. People needed to eat. Jesus tells the disciples to give them something to eat. Yet all the disciples had was five loaves of bread and two fish (a young boy’s lunch according to John. That lunch I heard my friend Matt Neely called a cold catfish sandwich in a wonderful sermon one time). Boy, was life happening. Five thousand people to feed on a small lunch. That is a tough circumstance for the disciples to wade through. It would be a tough circumstance for any of us to wade through.

It might be tough for the disciples or us, but not for Jesus. Jesus tells them to bring him the food, to divide them into groups and serve them banquet style. When they were finished eating, everyone was full and there were twelve baskets of food leftover. It has always amazed me that Jesus not only met the need and exceeded it, he did it extravagantly. Jesus had more food left than the food with which he started.

As I was thinking about my days over the past week and the lessons this story provides, it seems to me, we are called to do the best we can with what we have. With God’s blessings, often that is enough. But sometimes, what we can do just isn’t enough. We, like the disciples, need Jesus’ help.

We can never do everything with our own power, even when life happens. We need God. At the same time, just because we need God doesn’t mean we can stand on the sidelines waiting for God to work. Remember, Jesus didn’t act until after the disciples did. We are the same. Sometimes, God expects us to do what we can, to give things our best shot and when life happens, we let God do the rest.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved.