A Fork in the Road

right way

If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7, Common English Bible)

Baseball great Yogi Berra, famous for his quotes that make you scratch your head in wonder, once said, “If you find a fork in the road, take it.” Many of us find humor in “Yogi-isms” even if they don’t seem to make a great deal of sense.

In truth, when we do come to a fork in the road, if we are going to get anywhere and we are going to continue to move forward, we can’t just take the fork in the road, we have to make a decision on which branch of the fork we will take. It could be that the branches get us to the same place regardless of which we choose, but I think more often than not, we can end up in very different places. It also might be that taking one branch of the fork could bring us difficulty, toil and trouble while the other fork brings us to a destination with far less difficulty. And, that difficult branch may just be the way we should go to reach our desired destination.

We can have forks in the spiritual road of life too. The same rules can apply. We can choose to go one way that leads us away from God and the things of God. Yet if we choose the other, we can find ourselves basking in the glow of God’s presence.

Our Bible verse for today comes from one of the oldest stories of Scripture, the story of Cain and Able. Both brothers had just presented their gifts to God. God was pleased with Able’s gift but wasn’t so thrilled with Cain’s sacrifice. Cain was angry and resentful. The verse is God speaking to Cain. God, in essence, presents Cain with a fork in the road. If Cain chooses the right way, he and his gift would be accepted. He chooses the wrong branch of the fork, not only will his gift not be acceptable, sin will be sitting there waiting.

Most all of us know Cain selected the wrong path. Instead of going back and making an acceptable sacrifice, Cain decided to murder his brother. He definitely found the sin that was waiting down the wrong path.

We are definitely not immune to selecting the wrong path. We are faced with decisions of right and wrong every day. We can decide to follow the path God wants us to take or we can go our own way. It may even be that sometimes following God’s path is to follow the difficult side of the fork. But, when we select God’s way, the one thing we can always take comfort in is this, God is down the correct branch of the fork. Whether it be easy or whether it be difficult, we are acceptable to God and God will see us through.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,

Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Faithful in Little, Faithful in Much

tithing-a-tenth

“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much. If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11, Common English Bible)

I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week. — John D. Rockefeller, Sr

Several years ago there was a story that actually made the local news. This athlete was giving a tithe of his multi-million dollar salary. His salary was well known and the surprised news media made sure everyone knew the amount of the donation. It was a tithe. I must give credit to this athlete. He did as God instructed in the Scriptures.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times over the years I have heard people say, “Preacher, when I win the lottery I will give a tithe to the church.” I don’t really say much of anything since the odds of being struck by lightening are greater than of winning the lottery. I also understand what John D. Rockefeller Sr. was saying. It becomes really hard to give that large amount of money when you haven’t been doing it all along.

My pastor when I began candidacy for ministry told the story of a man who had always been a tither but after a series of pay increases, he went to his pastor and said, “I’m not sure I can continue tithing. A tithe of my salary is a lot of money.”

The preacher nodded his head in agreement and said, “I can see your point. That is a whole lot of money. Let’s go to the altar and kneel for prayer.”

“Why are we going to do that?” the man asked.

The preacher said, “We are going to pray for you to start making less money.”

All too often that is the way we are. We think everything about more money sounds great, until we start thinking of that percentage off the top for a tithe. Then it is another matter entirely.

Sometimes we think, “When I get a raise I will start to tithe.” Or, “When I win the lottery I will start to tithe.” When I… When I… When I…

My response to that is, if you aren’t willing to tithe now, on what you make, if you can’t do the thing God calls all of us to do, what makes you think God is going to trust you with even more? Our lesson reminds us, “Whoever is faithful with little, is also faithful with much.” If God can’t trust us with the little things, how in the world can God ever trust us with larger things.

I would suggest that you rethink playing the lottery regardless of your faithfulness. I am not at all convinced of God’s favor when it comes to gambling.

As people of faith we are called to do what is right with what God entrusts to us. I don’t think we should expect God to give us more until we are faithful with what we have.

I should say, just because you start to tithe, don’t necessarily think you are going to see a salary increase. Still, we are called to be faithful with what we have and live out the commands of Scripture. We are called to tithe.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Rich Man, Poor Man

6360000212585491921468955299_eatingpasta_istock5807703

Each of you goes ahead and eats a private meal. One person goes hungry while another is drunk. Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you look down on God’s churches and humiliate those who have nothing? What can I say to you? Will I praise you? No, I don’t praise you in this (1 Corinthians 11:21-22, Common English Bible).

You’re rich if you’ve had a meal today – Billy Graham.

As I write tonight, it is with a heavy heart as my father passed away earlier this evening. I am trying to be faithful in my writing and I don’t know what the days ahead will bring so I am moving forward with a post for today. I probably will write a post about my dad but I think I need that to be a few days from now.

Thanks a lot Billy Graham. While I have never really considered myself a poor man but at the same time, I know I am FAR from being rich. My bank account will never be confused with that of Bill Gates, Donald Trump or one of the Rockefeller clan.

For much of my life I have gone happily along with my solid middle class lifestyle. Then I went to college and I had a professor who said, “If you have a car in your driveway, by world standards you are rich. Most people in the world, even people who are fairly well-off do not own a car.” As I thought about that, and thought about how much money it was costing to raise two kids and pay for school on a first-year preacher’s salary, and at one point (toward the end of my bachelor’s degree) I saw three cars in the driveway (Wayne, our oldest wasn’t far from starting to drive), I thought, “Professor Abcxyz, has absolutely lost his mind! This whole yard could be full of cars. I’m not rich, standards of the world or not.

Well, to listen to Billy Graham, I was right and Professor Abcxyz was wrong. Having cars in the driveway doesn’t make me rich, having something to eat once a day is what does the trick. WHAT???? I ate three times today, I must be a multi-millionaire. Just took a look at the checking account and there are nowhere near enough zeros for me to classified as anything other than a thousandaire (I know, I invented a new word, no not really Howard on The Big Bang Theory used the word).

Truly, however, I do get Billy Graham’s point. Because I always have food to eat, I am wealthier than a whole lot of people in the world. Because I have food to eat, I am wealthier than many of the people in my own country. Because I have food to eat, and always have had food to eat, I have never known what it feels like to truly be hungry. A fact that is not true for so many citizens of the world.

The truth is, God has blessed me with everything I need. Where the problem is, I am not so good in my faithfulness in how I allocate the funds God has entrusted to me. I need to be more faithful.

What is true with what I have that I fail to share with the world is equally true about my faithfulness (many of our faithfulness) in what we share with the Church. I actually found two quotes I really liked for this post. The first was the Billy Graham quote. I picked it first because I have a few readers who read my blog because I write it, though they are far from being a person of faith. Sharing with the world isn’t just a Christian problem, it is a world problem and though Rev. Graham is obviously a spiritual man, that quote goes beyond the spiritual to address something that should move us all.

The second quote comes from inspirational speaker Dr. Brian Kluth. He said, “No church ever has a money problem, only a faithfulness problem.” It kind of reminds me of an old joke where a preacher says to his congregation, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have all the money we need to complete our building project. The bad news is, it’s still in your wallets.”

Brian Kluth is right. We seem to trust God with much of our lives, but not with control over our wallets or checkbooks. When it comes to our money, God is less than trustworthy, no matter how much God promises to care for us throughout the Bible.

I want to issue you a challenge. For one year, when your income, be it sales commissions, salaries, social security, pension, however you get your money, take the first ten percent and give it to God before you do anything else. Call it first fruits. In the earliest days of Scripture the first fruits were an offering to God. Give God your first fruits, your first ten percent. Preferably pay a tithe to your church. If you don’t have a church give it to a charity. Invest in God. Invest beyond yourself. Share what you have.

Next, take another ten percent from what God has given you and pay yourself. In other words, take ten percent and stick it in the bank. You know, save it for a rainy day. Save it for retirement. Invest with it for the future.

Now that you have given your first fruits and paid yourself, live on the remaining 80 percent. Use it to pay your bills. Use it to buy your food. Use it to provide yourself entertainment. Whatever you want to do, do it with the 80.

At the end of a year, take a look and see where you are compared to where you are right now. I truly believe that if we can overcome our faithfulness problem by sharing what we have, God will bless us beyond anything we can imagine. Don’t be stingy like the Corinthians Paul wrote about.

Remember, if we are faithful, God will bless us.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

Do I Need… or Do I Want…

51wtxl89wwl-_sl1024_

God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. As it is written, He scattered everywhere; he gave to the needy; his righteousness remains forever. The one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply your seed and will increase your crop, which is righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. (2 Corinthians 9:8-11, Common English Bible)

When God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living. Raise your standard of giving – Mark Batterson

I always want a new guitar. Never mind that I can only play one at a time. I always want another. At the moment I have three classical guitars (one in my office at the church, one at the parsonage and one at the condo Cindy and I own). There are three so no matter where I am, there is a classical (classical guitars are my favorite) I can pick up and play.

I also own three other guitars right now. I own a steel string dreadnought acoustic (my oldest guitar), an acoustic-electric bass I almost never play (I don’t know much about playing bass) and an electric. Each of these guitars see even less playing time than any of the three classical guitars. The one at the parsonage sees more playing time than the other five combined.

Still, I keep finding myself wanting additional guitars. I want a steel string dreadnought acoustic electric that the sound hole is a triquetra (a Christian symbol for the Trinity). I tell myself that I need a steel string I can plug into a sound system. Never mind that I hardly ever play the steel string I already have. I tell myself I need a 12-string acoustic (I would go ahead and spring for the little bit more and get an acoustic-electric). I try to convince myself that I need a hollow body electric and a semi-hollow body electric because the sound is different for all of these guitars.

The one I keep telling myself I just have to have is a classical electric. The truth is, they are hard to find. And, as electric guitars go, it would get a great deal more playing time that probably most any guitar I own other than Stella, my favorite (all my guitars have names, hey if it is good enough for B.B. King…). She is the guitar that gets probably 90 percent of my playing time.

I try to justify these guitars because each produces a different sound. Sometimes the sound is distinctly different and sometimes it is quite subtle. But, there are differences and I want those differences in my guitar arsenal. I love my guitars and I love the sounds they all make.

I substitute teach on occasion. I start to think about how, if I work five or six or ten or whatever days as a substitute I can afford one of those guitars. So far I have totally avoided making the purchase. One of the conversations I have in my mind is the idea of need versus want. Notice above I said “I try to convince myself I need…” This actually started innocent enough. I had one guitar. I enjoyed playing it but I couldn’t plug it into a sound system, so I bought an acoustic-electric. I wanted to play bass because we didn’t have a bass player in our praise team, so I needed a base. Then the acoustic-electric was stolen so I needed to replace it and I bought the electric… and on it goes.

At least as a guitar player, I started doing the very thing Mark Batterson reminds us not to do above. To take that increase in income, however big or small it might be and use it on something really only benefits ourselves. Might others enjoy the sounds that come from a guitar I bought and played? Sure, that is a possibility. Will they enjoy them any more than what comes from one of the guitars I already own? Probably not.

I could also justify that new guitar by convincing myself that I could better honor God with my music by having a different kind of guitar. Again, the sound might be better, but would it really be any better than playing what I already have? Somehow I doubt God would think so.

Our lesson for today reminds me, God already provides me with all I need. The rest boils down to wants. And what I really need to do, when I do have that extra, is to find ways to use it to help meet real needs in the lives of real people around me. And Batterson’s quote serves as a reminder of that reality. If I have more than I need, my real responsibility is to raise my standard of giving.

Will I ever by another guitar again? Probably. Will I buy all those guitars I think I need but really don’t. I highly doubt it. While I often joke with my wife Cindy that a guy can’t have too many guitars, the truth is, I also know there are much better and much more productive ways to spend my surplus than just to use it to buy guitars.

For me it is guitars. What is it for you? What is it where you spend your surplus instead of raising your standard of giving?

God gives to us all. God also calls us to give back. Each of us needs to take a look at our life and our stuff. How are we doing?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Let My Generosity Flow Like Honey

honeyThe Lord is my shepherd I lack nothing. He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps me alive. He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they protect me. You set a table for me right in front of my enemies. You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over! Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live (Psalm 23, Common English Bible).

Givers can be divided into three types: the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. Some givers are like a piece of flint – to get anything out of it you must hammer it, and even then you only get chips and sparks. Other are like a sponge – to get anything out of a sponge you must squeeze it and squeeze it hard, because the more you squeeze a sponge, the more you get. But others are like a honeycomb – which just overflows with its own sweetness. That is how God gives to us, and it is how we should give in turn  – Anonymous.

I would love to meet the person who first shared today’s quote. Generosity, the writer says givers, can be divided into three types. The first is like a piece of flint. Even after hammering all you get is chips and sparks. Perhaps that is the origin of the term skinflint. This is a person who doesn’t give anymore than absolutely necessary. It is all about them and what they have.

The second example giver from the anonymous writer is the sponge. A sponge can hold a lot of fluid. Sometimes some will drip out, but if you want to get the majority from it, you are going to have to do some squeezing. If you want all of it, you better squeeze really, really hard. Some will come easy but all of it? It takes some squeezing.

Then is the last kind, the kind that perhaps the writer of Psalm 23 had in mind when he write, “my cup overflows.” The honeycomb is much like that. As the bees produce more and more honey, the comb starts to overflow. It pours out its sweetness to any who would take it.

At one church I served in the past, we had a bee hive in its bell tower. The bottom of the bell tower served as the church’s entrance. One day we noticed honey dripping down the brick walls. Within a couple of weeks, if you walked through the doors it felt like you were being lightly sprinkled with honey when you walked into the building.

We finally had to call a bee keeper to remove the hive. Beyond the honey shower, some of the bees at the door started to become aggressive. But here is the thing, the bees honey overflowed from them, giving their sweetness.

What a great example for us. We need to be like the bees. No, not the aggressive ones, but to be a people who work hard to not only fill our cup, but to make it overflow so it not only meets our needs, it can meet the needs of people all around. May our generosity flow from us to a hungry world.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Cardiac Treasure

treasureheart

Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21, Common English Bible).

Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others. St. Augustine of Hippo.

I had never heard this Augustine quote until I ran across it a few days ago. I really like it. Out of all God has given you, take only what you need so there is some left for others.

When I read it, my mind went immediately to two things. I’m not sure which I thought of first. One was the Scripture above from Matthew. The idea to stop  collecting for my own benefit seems to be a foreign idea in our capitalistic society. We live in a work where enough is never enough. It is a world where people who already have millions keep it to themselves and try to collect even more for themselves. We just can’t seem to stop trying to gather more money and more stuff.

It is important, however, to realize this passage is not against the idea of saving. The Augustine quote is not against saving. Quite the contrary. To keep some of what you have because you are saving for the future is totally acceptable. It is the responsible thing to do. If we only keep enough for immediate need what happens to us when we reach a point in life when we can no longer work? What happens when the unexpected happens and we have nothing left? No, saving is taking a portion of what you have and saving it.

That brings me to the other thing that came to mind when I read Augustine’s quote. It is a quote by John Wesley, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. And, give all you can.” Wesley is saying to us that we need to be about more than just earning and giving. Saving is an important element as well. To be responsible stewards of what God has entrusted to us, saving must be part as well.

“Well, how are we supposed to know how much to save in order to know how much to give?” It is a good question. A few years back, I had someone tell me about something he called “The Rule of 80.” Take what you earn. Take ten percent off the top. That is the part to give. Take another ten percent. That is the part to save. We should live on the remaining 80 percent or less. If we have more than we need still, we have more to give away so we, “give all we can.”

I know of one preacher who says his goal is to flip the Rule of 80. He wants to reach a point where he is saving 10 percent, living on 10 percent and giving away 80 percent. Wow! What a goal!

In the end, people who are giving and share the treasure God has blessed them with are both healthier and happier. But the real thing is, if we are generous with what God has entrusted to us, God will bless our efforts.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

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

Share Those Gifts

1pet4-10.jpg

And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts (1 Peter 4:10, Common English Bible).

If God was the owner, I was the manager. I needed to adopt a steward’s mentality toward the assets He had entrusted – not given – to me. A steward manages assets for the owner’s benefit. The steward carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he manages. It’s his job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets, then carry out his will. – Randy Alcorn

“God didn’t give me any gifts.” Said a woman sitting beside the bed of a comatose dying friend. “I can’t play the piano, or any other instrument. I have a horrible singing voice. I can’t draw beyond stick figures. The thought of standing on a stage and doing public speaking scares me to death. I don’t have any gifts. God forgot about me with that one.”

I had known the woman for some time. She was an excellent cook. She was a great mom and grandmother. It was also not the first time I had come to visit a church member in that kind of situation. Far more often than not, she was there when I got their and stayed their after I left.

I continued the conversation. “I think you are wrong. I see many gifts in you.” I went on to outline what I’ve written above.

“Oh, that? Those aren’t gifts. That’s just something you do. I’m talking about real gifts. You know what I mean, you sing some and you play the guitar.”

“I like to play the guitar. I am really not that good, but this isn’t about me. The gifts you have are important. I can take you to two dozen people I know who would have loved to have grown up with a mom like you, including one in this church. The one in this congregation had a mom at home but she drank heavily and left her kids to raise themselves. It wasn’t a great place to grow up. There were times there was nothing to eat because the mom had spent all their money buying alcohol. Being a great mom is a gift. Having compassion and sharing that with the world is a gift. Don’t ever deny your gifts. What you have is important.”

What I said then applies to all of us. Don’t deny the gifts God gives to you. God gave them to you for a reason, to share with the world. And, just because you don’t think it is a gift does not mean it isn’t a gift. If there is something you can do, from cooking to music, to sitting beside the bed of a dying friend, all those things are important. God has touched you. You are called to take what God has given to you and use it to give blessing to others.

Could that mean I need to practice my guitar more, so I get better, so I could share that gift with more people. It is a possibility. Whatever God’s gift(s) is for you, hone the skill and share it with the world. What good is a gift if we fail to use it to bring glory to God.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved