Be Kind!

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 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ (Ephesians 4:29-32, Common English Bible).

I am concerned. I am concerned with the way we seem to be treating each other. It isn’t so much the way we treat each other in public, though there are some pretty obvious signs that our public interactions in recent times could use some help. Still, our public presence is exponentially better than the way we treat each other in social media.

I have also started taking notice that I am not alone in this concern. Over the weekend my wife and I were watching The Big Bang Theory” at home on DVD. One of the episodes we watched watched was “The Troll Manifestation” from season 8. In this episode Leonard has one of those light-bulb moments when he has an idea for something that could turn out to be big in the world of physics. They write a paper and post it on the internet for comments from other scientists. Most of the comments are good but there is one person who is far from being kind. You can see the scene here.

Raj says, “I am so sick of people being mean on the internet.” To that Howard responds, “I think the anonymity think they can say things they would never say to your face.” Sheldon then says, “Interesting…” and it is.

I started looking around for a more accurate explanation than a fictional television show. I found an article earlier tonight on the website “How Stuff Works – Science” (to read the article, click here) which asked the question, “Is there a psychological reason for people being mean on the Internet?” That got my attention. They pretty much blamed it on the written word not being a total form of communication. We can’t read tone of voice into things. Nor can we see body language, etc. which are all parts of communication. As I read this, I thought they were making apologies for misunderstood people. But, the problem with that is, the article opened by telling the story of British Olympic diver Tom Daily who, during the 2012 London Olympics missed out on bringing home a medal. Most of us might think it sad, but not a terribly big deal. After all, simply making the Olympics is a huge honor.

There were, however, a few of Daly’s countrymen who would not agree. Daly said he got a lot of very hateful email including one person who sent him a message saying, “You let your father down.” Daly’s father had died of brain cancer just a couple of weeks before the Olympics. I cannot think of any way to frame such a statement where one could blame it on the limited form of communications of the written word. This is nothing but  a person acting like a jerk.

The article went on to say we are wired that way and that it goes back to the prehistoric fight or flight. While I am not going to quote the whole article, I will include the article saying that our meanness on the internet (and I would presume in other settings too) could be bad from our health. You can read the article and decide for yourself.

It bothers me that not only does this behavior exist on the internet, I see it often from Christians as well. Far too often I have seen Christians attack others because of disagreements on anything from support of particular political candidates to Biblical interpretation even to how to rear a child and whether a parent should use cloth or disposable diapers.

Folks when we are mean on the internet, when we say things that are untrue or we really don’t know to be true, we hurt our credibility and our witness. We lose our integrity (see my post from last week on this subject). We really need to give this Facebook meme some attention and consideration.

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In the verses above Paul is telling the Ephesians (and us) to build up community with the things we say. We need to set aside our negative emotions and be kind, compassionate and forgiving as God forgives each of us. To do that is to live out the faith.

I really like the Facebook meme at the top of the page, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” That is my goal. Will you join me?

Have a blessed day in the Lord and be kind!

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

A Special Birthday

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As for husbands, love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25, Common English Bible).

Today is a special day to me. It is a special day because it is the birthday of the most important person in my life, my wife Cindy. I know many would say their children are the most important people in their lives. Since my children are now grown adults, others might argue their grandchildren.

As is probably obvious already, I do not agree. Without Cindy, there would be no children and no grandchildren. She really is the most important person to me.

As many of you know, several years ago, Cindy and I were in a very bad car accident. It was the scariest night of my life because I thought I had lost her. She was unresponsive and I was scared. Other than a broken hip (I am not trying to down play the hip, it was bad enough) she was fine, as was I. Still, it made me start thinking about what my life would be like without this wonderful lady in it.

Other than salvation and grace, Cindy is the greatest gift God has given me. I thank God everyday for the gift of this special lady. We have had our ups and downs over the years. Together we have raised two fine young men (one who shares a birthday with his mother, Happy Birthday Christopher) and the other has a birthday in just over a week (Happy Birthday Wayne). Those two boys and their wives have give us five wonderful grandkids all of whom we enjoy. All of these are also gifts from God that God used Cindy to give to us and many others who are touched by my family.

Cindy and I got married young. Many said it wouldn’t last a year. That was 39 years ago. I would say we exceeded their expectations. I am thankful for it all, and would not trade it for anything. Cindy puts up with a lot from me and because of me. She is quick to tell anyone who asks, she didn’t marry a preacher, she married a sailor. Big difference. She still puts up with a lot because of my work. There are the weeknight meetings, trips out of town, late night phone calls and more. She accepts it all with grace and constantly tells me and reminds me of her love.

In the verse above we husbands are instructed to love our wives. This might be the divine instruction I find the easiest to follow.

So, I want to say, “Happy Birthday, Sweets. I love you and pray God gives us many more years together.”

And, I pray all of you have a blessed day from the God who blesses us all with the gifts of the people we love.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

Labor Day

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Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly (2 Timothy 2:15, Common English Bible).

Over the past few days I have been giving some thought to Labor Day. As I have thought about it, my brain went to a weird idea. I don’t really think it is an original idea because it seems like I heard it somewhere before. “We celebrate a day about working, by not working!”

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a holiday as much as anyone. It is just that I find the contradiction interesting. Saturday, while visiting with a friend, I actually found myself calling Labor Day, “Oxymoron Day.” That is probably a bit of a stretch, but the contradiction is worth thinking about.

Still, to think of labor as a gift from God is not a stretch and that is where the majority of my thoughts have been on this subject. I know it sounds strange to think of “work” as a gift, perhaps it would be better to say, the ability to work is a gift. And, where would we be without work and the ability to work?

A couple of days ago I wrote on integrity. Our work is an opportunity to live out that integrity. Paul reminds us of that in the verse above, “…present yourself to God as a tried and true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed…” If we go about our work as if we are working for God, we will never have reason to be ashamed.

Beyond that, we are all called to work for God. The work we do for God may not be the way we make our living. When I first became a candidate for ministry in the United Methodist Church, there was a book, The Christian as Minister, that was required reading. The last I knew it was still in use but several revisions have happened since my candidacy days.

I think that is too bad. They removed my favorite part of the book! I am not sure exactly when, but I lost my original book some time back. So, I will share it with you as I remember it.

Our vocation is not necessarily the way we make our living but it is our work. To find our vocation one must find the intersection of what brings us the most joy with what God most needs done in the world. The unnamed author gave an example. If you are an ad-writer and you really get a kick out of your work, but you spend your days writing television deodorant commercials, you might meet number one, what gives you joy, but you are probably missing the boat on number two, what God most needs done in the world. On the other hand, if you are a doctor working in a leper colony but you find your work distasteful and depressing, you may meet number two, what God most needs done in the world, but not only do you not meet number one, the thing that brings you joy, you probably are not doing your patients much good either. We have to find balance in our work lives between our own joy and what God most needs done in the world. That is where we find our vocation.

I think that is the biggest celebration of labor we can have today or any day. We celebrate because when we are living out our vocation as our labor, we are living with a true gift from God. That alone will bring us joy. If there is joy in our work, we will be able to present ourselves to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed.”

Have a great Labor Day holiday and thank God for the ability to work and for your vocation.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

Give it Up!

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“In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple” (Luke 14:33, Common English Bible).

Here is a question for you to consider this morning. Why do we trust God with everything but our money?

We in the church love to say we trust God. We will even go into great detail of all the ways we trust God or show our trust in God. But, our giving and our commitment to giving show something entirely different.

As a pastor I often hear people say, “I give by giving my time.” And, in many, if not most cases it comes from people who do give their time. That, however, is only part of the equation.

I also know many who will give freely of their money but are very protective of their time. In other words, they are willing to throw money at the problem but they aren’t willing to give of themselves.

We talk a lot in the church about tithing and how “it is the Biblical standard” for giving. That really isn’t true. It is more accurate to say tithing is the minimum Biblical standard. If we are truly giving, this should be the bottom line of our gifts. I have heard it said, until we are tithing, we are not really giving.

Additionally, in the verse above and in the story of the Rich Young Man, Jesus is saying something more, we have to give up all our possessions in order to be a disciple. If we read that literally, and many say that is the way they read Scripture, we own nothing and really we should have nothing. To my way of thinking, such would include both our money and our time.

I actually think this isn’t something intended literally but as a condition of our hearts. In our hearts, everything we have, when we enter the faith, should belong to God. The deed to the house may have our name on it, but we know it really belongs to God. The title to the car may have our name on it, but it really belongs to God. God allows us to use them. God allows us to be stewards over them. But in reality, they are not ours, they are Gods.

Then, when it becomes time to place money in the offering plate or when it comes time to be involved in a ministry requiring our time, we give from glad and generous hearts because all we have isn’t ours to begin with. If I see everything I have as belonging to God, it is easy to give because it wasn’t mine to begin with.

In reality, if we don’t trust God with our money (all our possessions for that matter) and our time, we don’t trust God at all.

Have a blessed day in the Lord – oh, and go to church and worship – and give of your time and money.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

First Follow the Directions

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” Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water,’ and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,’ and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine” (John 2:7-9a, Common English Bible).

Yes, I am one of THOSE guys. I am probably not as bad as some, in fact I feel pretty certain of that. I will usually pull the instructions out, glance at the pictures and if it appears to be something I THINK I can do without reading them or even looking at them further, they are thrown off to the side and not referred to again until indeed, I can’t quite get it to work. Then and only then it becomes the old adage, “When all else fails, read the directions.”

It is probably a good thing most adult Bibles don’t come with pictures. If they did, I probably wouldn’t attempt to follow those instructions very well either until I had messed up my life to the point that all else had obviously failed and I was forced to go back and read the instructions.

The lesson above was Jesus’ first known miracle, turning water into wine at “The Wedding at Cana.” There is a lot we could talk about in that story. We could start with the weird things that happen at weddings that leave all the guests with conversation starters for years to come. We could talk about the nature of miracles. We could talk about what appears to be a temptation on Jesus’ part to ignore the instructions of his mother. Well ignore probably isn’t the right word but you know what I mean. We could also talk about the way Jesus was so extravagant in both quality and quantity of the wine he provided.

We are going to set all that aside for today and focus on the poor lowly servant that Jesus told to take the water that had turned to wine to the headwaiter. What you first have to know is, servants, throughout history, as a group were not and still in many ways are not treated very well. Those over the servants were often abusive. Can you imagine being to poor guy who Jesus tells to dip out some water, oops, I mean wine, out of these jars, knowing at least in your mind you were about to take the boss water and try to pass it off as wine.

The servant would appear is in a no-win situation. He had just been told by this woman, who it would seem, we can imply she has something to do with the bride’s family. Why else would she bother to get involved. And then there was her son who talked in a pretty stern way to his mother and he is now telling you to take the wine to the headwaiter. And speaking of the headwaiter, that is his, “on the other hand.” He knows in his mind this isn’t wine and the headwaiter will become angry and since our poor servant is the one standing in front of him… He probably didn’t think he could say, “Please don’t shoot the messenger.”

If ever there was a guy who didn’t want to follow the directions, it was probably this servant. And remember, he didn’t have the Bible to tell him who Jesus was. He didn’t know from having studied Scripture the miracles Jesus could and would do. He was living the scene out, unlike us, who know or at least can read the stories of Jesus in our Bibles. And, to his credit, our young man followed the directions.

There is a lesson in that for us. For so many of us, even though we have the directions, we often fail to follow them. We don’t read our Bibles and in this failure, way too much of the time we fail to know what God is telling us to do. If we don’t know what the directions are, how in the world are we going to follow them?

We need to take a lesson from the servant. We may not know where God’s path will take us. As people of faith, what we do know is, God is for us. God loves us. God will see us through.

Just remember this, all else will probably fail, if we fail to read the directions.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

On Integrity

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…though I have enough confidence in Christ to command you to do the right thing, I would rather appeal to you through love (Philemon 8b-9a, Common English Bible)

There are many definitions floating around for a good number of the words in our dictionary. Integrity is no different. Dictionary.com gives three definitions for the word. I am going to start by mentioning the two I am not going to talk about. “The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” You might use integrity here to say, “I want to preserve the integrity of the empire” (dictionary.com’s sentence). The other says, “a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.” To use this in a sentence we might say, “The crew inspected the ship’s hull to insure its integrity.”

There is another definition of integrity used by Dictionary.com. It says, “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” This is the kind of integrity that jumped into my mind when I read Philemon this morning, this week’s Epistle Lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary.

I found another definition on Vocabulary.com. I found it to be both accurate and entertaining. “Integrity is a personal quality of fairness that we all aspire to — unless you’re a dishonest, immoral scoundrel, of course.”

All this talk of definitions got me to looking around a bit and I found three quotes, that at least to me are more definition really than just a quote. C.S. Lewis said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.” Tony Dungee said, “Integrity, the choice between what is convenient and what is right.” The comic strip writer Tonya Masse has said, “Integrity: Choosing your thoughts words and actions based on what’s right rather than what’s in it for you.”

Both Dungee and Masse mention doing “what’s right.” That is why when I read Paul’s words to Philemon yesterday when Paul starts talking about Philemon doing what is right. Paul said he could command Philemon to do what is right, but he doesn’t want to do that. You see, even if we assume Paul is correct and he could order Philemon to “do what is right,” that wouldn’t allow Philemon to live out his integrity. Philemon wouldn’t be following through because he wanted to or even because he thought it the right thing to do. He would have been doing so because Paul ordered him to do so.

Paul wanted Philemon to exercise his free will and do “what is right.” It is evident to me that Paul had learned to the importance of free will for God. Paul wanted the slave Onesimus freed, but he wanted even more than Onesimus was freed because his master, Philemon choose to do so. That, is integrity on Paul’s part. And if Philemon frees Onesimus, that would be integrity on Philemon’s part.

You and I are faced with situations fairly frequently where we are caught in a position to “do the right thing” or to do something different. That different might be to make money at the expense of others. It might be to take the fast or easy way out. It might be just to seek our own pleasure. It comes down to, will we do what is right?

Former football coach turned analyst Lou Holtz has said something that I think is helpful here. “I follow three rules. Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” That sounds to me like another pretty good definition of integrity. It seems to me if we can follow Holtz’s three rules, we will be on our way.

I think of all the quotes I have read today on integrity, the one I think most important for we parents to live by is from author H. Jackson Brown Jr. saying, “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.”

For we who call ourselves Christian, integrity must be at the forefront of what we show the world. Our integrity is a vital part of our witness. It is essential to who we are. After all, in the words of Alan Simpson, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

Thankful for Fleas

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…always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… (Ephesians 5:20, Common English Bible).

Back in our younger days, Cindy and I had a dog that got infested with fleas. She was a semi-inside dog. She lived in a room in the back of the house. To access the backyard you had to walk through this back room. This was before the days of the current, give the dog a pill and your flea problems are gone forever. We tried everything, flea shampoo, flea powder, flea collars and nothing worked. And, when you walked through this room, you were attacked by fleas. We finally solved the problem but I don’t really remember how.

Those flea attacks came back to my mind this week as I was listening to an audio book while driving. The past couple of weeks I have been listening to a couple of books by Eric Metaxas. The first was Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness and the other is Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness. The books are biographical profiles of seven men and seven women. I highly recommend both books.

Tuesday I was listening to Metaxas’ essay on Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place. If you haven’t read The Hiding Place or some other biography of Ten Boom such as the book by Metaxas, Ten Boom and her family were at work in Nazi occupied Holland during World War II. They organized a network where they hid Jews and others the Nazis tried to exterminate until they were turned in to the Gestapo. The entire family was arrested. Corrie and her sister Becky managed to stay together until Becky died shortly before the end of the war. Both were women of great faith but Becky is the one who showed Corrie the way. One day they were having a discussion in their flea infested barracks and they began talking about giving thanks in all circumstances. Corrie just couldn’t bring herself to be thankful for fleas so she as Betsy prayed thanking God for the fleas, Corrie just prayed that God would listen to Betsy’s prayer.

Several days later Betsy came rushing to Corrie. She knew why they should be thankful for the fleas. Betsy discovered that because of the fleas the guards wouldn’t come into the barracks, giving the women, not just the Ten Booms, but all the women in the barracks a measure of privacy and freedom they would otherwise not be afforded. It was a lesson Corrie said she would never forget and that in every circumstance there was some reason to give thanks.

I thought about that flea infested dog and room in the back of our house. I thought about how miserable it felt to be attacked by the fleas when you just walked through the room. As I listened to Metaxas’ words about Corrie and her sister I started thinking, what reason did I have to be thankful for the fleas in my house. My conclusion came to the dog. Without the dog I wouldn’t have had the fleas, but I also wouldn’t have had the dog our family loved and enjoyed.

Sometimes you may have to look hard to find it, but I guess there is always a reason to give thanks.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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