Blessed… Stay Salty

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet (Matthew 5:13, Common English Bible).

Chemically, it is almost impossible for salt to lose it’s saltiness. Sodium Chloride, common table salt, is an extraordinarily stable mineral. This mineral, itself tastes salty. Combined with other things, makes them taste more or less salty, depending on how much salt you place on other things.

About the only way for salt to lose its saltiness is for it to be absorbed by something else. Even then, if the salt is absorbed by say water, the water would itself become salty. If the water were left in the sun to evaporate, the residue left behind would be salt. For salt to lose it’s saltiness in water would require significantly more water than salt. Even then, when the water evaporated away, there would probably be some salt left.

So, what did Jesus mean when he talked about salt losing its saltiness? In Jesus’ day, salt’s most common use was in preserving meat. Meat would be heavily salted in an effort to slow natural decay. Salt was usually obtained from salt marshes. The salt would contain many impurities. Often because of these impurities, the salt was not usable in its primary function, preserving meat. Therefore, this unsalty, salt was worthless. It was thrown out into the street and trampled under foot.

The metaphor doesn’t work the same today. Our salt comes from salt mines and is pure salt. There aren’t usually any impurities present. That wasn’t so for the ancients.

Jesus’ implication, however, is as true today as it was in the first century. There are impurities in the world around us. There are things that can contaminate us and make us difficult at best to use. We become the salt that has lost it’s saltiness.

Think about it this way. If a person is an accountant and volunteers to help a church with its finances and he then embezzles church funds, would he be trusted again to use his knowledge of money to help the church with its bookkeeping? It wouldn’t happen in my congregation. This is a person who has lost his saltiness.

This is just one example. In recent years, well known Christians have been caught in lies that have brought down their ministries. Losing the truth is like losing our saltiness.

For most of us these are extreme examples but the same thing could be said for the person who spends Saturday night drinking and Sunday morning repenting. Or, what about the person who talks about love and then commits some form of abuse against others?

The list of possibilities is endless. When we live out these “ways of life” we, in effect, lose our saltiness. We lose it because we have probably lost the way God gave us to make a difference in the world. And, once we have lost it, it is difficult to impossible to ever bring it back again.

You and I, we need to be constantly aware of the impurities around us. They might make us lose our saltiness.

In what ways are you in danger of losing your saltiness?

Have a blessed day in the Lord and Stay Salty!

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… The Persecuted

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12, New Revised Standard Version).

In the past month I have heard three people talk about how persecuted Christians are in the United States. In every case the person claiming persecution was talking about how Christian business owners were being “persecuted” because they did not want to do something that went against their Christian beliefs. In one case it was providing birth control to employees. In another it was providing medical benefits to a gay person’s unmarried partner. I didn’t hear all of the third situation but I do know it was an issue involving Christian social values. In each case the Christian stood alone against the world.

Also in each case, the person making the argument said the person involved was “being persecuted” (please note, I am not saying the person who actually had the problem was claiming persecution). Persecution? Really? Give me a break and give it a rest. This IS NOT persecution. If you want to argue discrimination on the grounds of religious freedoms, I can agree, but not persecution.

When Christians are literally losing their heads to people of non-Christian faiths in other parts of the world, what Christians face in the United States today is mild by comparison. I am not saying it is right, I am saying it is mild. It could even be that there are cases of religious persecution in the United States. Anything is possible. What I am saying is, cases like those I outlined above and cases that have been front and center in the news in the past few years are not cases of persecution. I believe discrimination is present and the government has not only turned a blind eye to those who are experiencing the discrimination, they have been party to it.

When we claim persecution in these relatively trivial matters, we make light of what people who are truly persecuted experience. When people experience brutal torture and even death for their faith, that is persecution. When a parent has to watch a child die because the parent claimed Christ, that is persecution. Our experience is rarely, if ever their experience.

The world Jesus walked in, the world Jesus preached to in the Sermon on the Mount was a world where people of faith was a world of persecution. Jesus experienced persecution. For generations after the death and resurrection of Jesus, that world experienced persecution. To place our troubles in the same thoughts as these people, many of the martyrs for the faith, shows many of us truly have no idea what it means to experience persecution.

We live in a world that is decidedly not Christian. Scripture makes it clear, we will experience times where the world will go against us. For many in the world, it will mean persecution. For most of us in the west it is really discrimination. We shouldn’t be surprised by it. Christianity at its most basic has been a counter-cultural movement. The culture will always be at odds to some degree with matters of faith. We are called to live by faith anyway.

Perhaps people are quick to claim persecution because of the promise made to the persecuted, “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We want to inherit the kingdom of heaven. We needn’t worry. Acceptance to the kingdom is not based on being persecuted. It isn’t based on discrimination. It is really based on one simple thing, faith in Jesus Christ. For that, we can all be thankful. Though it may mean discrimination and for some even persecution. We keep living the faith. That is what matters.

How can you continue living out the faith in ways that show the world what really matters?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Let There Be Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, New Revised Standard Version).

I know I have spent a great deal of time on the political climate on these pages in the past few days. The truth is, as much as I wish it were otherwise, this really isn’t anything new. My memory goes back to the 1960’s and war protests as well as anger misdirected at soldiers who were doing their jobs.

Then there was Watergate. Once again there was a lot of anger. People were choosing sides. No one seemed to have much nice to say about those who were on the opposite side. They were evil people, or so many of us thought.

In more recent days, regardless of whoever occupies the White House, we would rather fight and blame those on the other side than to work together to benefit our country and our society and to live together in peace.

As we look back over this history, it is also evident that this isn’t a contemporary phenomenon. It is also not going away any time soon. We will continue to watch as we continue to bicker and fight. Where is the peace?

We do see  those who are breaths of fresh air. It is easy to see in people like Mother Teresa. But, I think when we look through all our friends on Facebook or more importantly, all our friends who are part of our real life in the non-digital world, I think all of us can find them, we just need to look, and listen.

I know I am not always one of the peacemakers. I know I fall short at times when I get short with people around me, both those I know and love as well as those I don’t know but should love anyway. God help me. I want to be a peacemaker. I want to be called a child of God.

May it be so for all of us.

What can you do today to be a peacemaker in the world, to be called a child of God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… 99 44/100% Pure

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8, New Revised Standard Version).

It’s been their claim to fame for more than 100 years, “99 and 44/100% pure.” Ivory Soap is coming up on its 200th anniversary, first around in 1840 and sold under the name “Ivorine” and later sold to Proctor and Gamble who began selling the soap under a new name, “Ivory.” The slogan itself began after Harley Proctor hired an independent laboratory to analyze the soap in 1895.

As marketing campaigns go, the slogan sounds really good. To be honest, it does make me wonder what the 56/100% is that is not “pure.” Whatever that small portion is might keep some of us from ever wanting to use Ivory again.

We often think that a product like Ivory is great. It is so close to being pure and yet there is something there that isn’t quite right. Several years ago there was an urban legend floating around that McDonald’s used beef products in their “100% beef patties.” While not at all true, it did cause some folks to shy away from the world’s most popular hamburger.

The bottom line is, if it’s not 100 percent pure, do we really want to eat it? Most of us would say no. A scene from the movie/book, The Help featuring brownies with a special ingredient comes to mind.

So, if I am 99 and 44/100% pure in heart, is that good enough for me to see God as the Beatitude above suggests? Well, the answer isn’t as simple as the question might make it seem. That is because Matthew doesn’t say to us anything about being 100 percent pure or what fraction of purity is actually acceptable for us to see God.

Some 30 or more years ago I worked with a woman who believed she was a good person, and I would say in general she was and that she would be acceptable to God. I would answer that she is, but not because of herself. Pure in heart, at least the way I read it, is pure in heart. Mostly pure, just like those brownies in The Help isn’t good enough. Being pure isn’t even Ivory Soap good. We need more. So no, in and of ourselves, we aren’t good enough to see God because none of us are truly pure in heart.

That is the bad news. But, there is also good news. God loves us and wants a relationship with us enough to give us more than we deserve. For we who desire a real relationship with God, there is the free gift of grace. God takes whatever part of us isn’t pure and through grace makes us fully pure. Then, because we are truly pure in heart, we can see God. I can’t think of better news for any of us than that.

What is keeping you from being pure in heart and would prevent you from seeing God? Accept the free gift of grace. God offers it to each of us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Blessed… I Need Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7, New Revised Standard Version).

Let there be no mistake. I need help! I know I often lack patience with people. I know I can be quick to judge situations where, at best, I have limited information. I am a sinner. I always have been a sinner and I always will be a sinner. And, while I need help, of that let there be no question, I do not deserve help.

I am not alone in my plight. While you may not lack patience with others or you may not judge situations, the rest of that paragraph is true. You need help. You are a sinner. You always have been a sinner and you always will be a sinner. And no, you don’t deserve the help you need anymore than I.

I am a reasonably good guy. I obey all the laws, well most of them anyway. Yes, I drive too fast sometimes but hey, who doesn’t? It doesn’t make me a bad guy. I tithe to my church and even give a little more at times. I also give financial support to a few worthy causes. But that guy who stands on the street corner holding a cardboard sign saying, “Hungry” I can drive right by without giving him a second thought.

Still, I am a good guy. I don’t throw kittens in the river or beat on little puppies. I have mowed my neighbor’s yard before, even as an adult when I didn’t get paid for it. I try to do things for others. I try to be kind but the truth is, there are just sometimes when I fall short of the mark.

There are also those times when I fail to keep the law, God’s law but the law of the land too. I might not be a Charles Manson, but I am also not able to stand before God without blemish. In truth, sometimes I don’t really like the person I see in the mirror. I fail to show mercy to others. I have it on pretty good authority the same probably applies to you too.

Our verse for today reminds me about that. “Blessed are the merciful because they shall receive mercy.” As I read those words it seems pretty clear to me that the converse might also be true. Cursed are the unmerciful because they won’t receive mercy. If that is true, I am in real trouble. All of us are in real trouble.

All of us are in real trouble because all of us fall short of that very lofty goal sometimes. It could be argued that we become unacceptable to God because we show no mercy. In other words, we get what we deserve.

I do think, however, that there is more to this or we would all be doomed. The more is, as people of faith we have love in our hearts for God and neighbor. Yes, because of our human limitations and nearsightedness (metaphorically speaking), we will never be all we should be or want to be. We are going to fall short. That is the bad news. But, there is good news. Even though it is more than we deserve, God makes us worthy of God’s presence through grace. But, we will save that for a future post.

For now, suffice it to say, we have love in our hearts. God put it there. Let the world see the love in your heart in the merciful acts you bestow on others. When we do, despite our shortcomings, we are blessed. We are blessed because we receive mercy.

How do you show mercy to those in the world around you?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Boy Am I Hungry 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 6:6, New Revised Standard Version).

I yearn for a time when we treat each other with dignity and respect. I hunger for a time when our citizens and our leaders support each other. We see glimpses of it but it always seems to happen in times of tragedy. In the days immediately following the Oklahoma City Bombing, most people on both sides of the culture wars came together. The same can be said in the days following 9/11 and the Columbia explosion. It doesn’t take long before the support we share with one another in those times of tragedy turn to finger pointing and blame. I thirst for a time that we can come together and it not be in a moment of tragedy.

I am not trying to sound naive. Like so many, I have my political views too. I have tried to keep them off these posts but have not been as hesitant to share them in other places. I still have my opinions. Some of them may be right and others may be wrong. I know many of my friends (and family too) see my opinions as right while others believe I am absolutely wrong. And, in all honesty, I feel the same way about many of their opinions too.

These relationships, however, seem to have a real difference from what is central in the culture wars in American society today. We lack love, we lack tolerance. Again and again, in posts on social media I see some on the right making comments that are attacks against those on the left. But, for you folks on the liberal side of the spectrum, the attacks coming from that said are just as bad. What is happening today in our society is not helpful to us moving forward together.

Our scripture today says “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” We cannot claim that we seek righteousness, that we hunger for righteousness or thirst for righteousness when cannot reach out to each other in love. We love to claim we are a Christian nation but the way we treat one another flies in the face of what we say we believe.

I can be tolerant of my friends on the other side. I can sit down and have reasonable conversations with them, even in places where we don’t agree. We can sit down, have a serious discussion and end the conversation walking away as friends. I find that a great deal more difficult to do with those I wouldn’t think of as friends. Yet those are some of the very people Jesus calls on me to love. Perhaps those are the very people Jesus calls on me to love first, perhaps even to love most. No one ever said this was going to be easy.

If I want to be blessed, if I want my life to be filled, I have to seek righteousness, not only with those where I happen to have agreement. If I want my life filled, I have to hunger for righteousness among a far greater number of people than those I have in my close circles, people with whom I have built relationships. If I want to be filled, I have to thirst for righteousness even with those people whose views can push my buttons and perhaps even sometimes make me angry, because God calls me to love them too.

I hunger and thirst for righteousness. What I really need to do is let that show in more aspects of my life than just among my friends and family. I need to let it show in the love for all God’s children.

What are you doing to show you hunger and thirst for righteousness?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

 

Blessed… The Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, New Revised Standard Version).

Well folks, I am back. The hand is coming along nicely. Thank you for your prayers. The doctor said everything looks good. I no longer am sporting the big bandage which makes things like typing a great deal easier.

If anyone has ever accused me of being meek, I can’t remember it. I guess I won’t be inheriting the earth any time soon.

I wasn’t exactly sure what the word meant so I went out on “dictionary.com” and looked it up. Here is what I found: “1. humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others. 2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame. 3. Obsolete. gentle; kind.”

Just in a quick look I think we can assume Jesus did not mean number 2. I don’t think we are called to be “spiritless.” While we are to be submissive to God, compliant to God, I also don’t think these are on mark because we could always be overly submissive or compliant to the world. I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind.

That leaves definitions 1 and 3. Humbly patient I think fits but not docile and definitely under provocation from others. Though “dictionary.com” says it is obsolete, I really think definition number three is on the mark. I do believe we are called to be gentle and kind.

These days we live in a world that is, to use a more modern phrase, “in your face.” We live in a world that has a great deal of fear. When people are afraid (even of they won’t admit it) they often react in ways that are far from kind. The result has become, a great deal of anger and a shortage of kindness. Without question there is also a lack of humility and patience.

I find it interesting that we claim to be a “Christian Nation,” yet we are a nation that seems to have lost its way on some pretty basic Christian values. We are far from patient with each other. We lack gentleness. Kindness is in very short supply. What seems to me to be obsolete is not gentleness and kindness from the definition of the word meek. What is obsolete is humility and patience. I put myself right in the middle of this one. I tend to lack patience all too much of the time. I am all too often far from gentle and not very kind. I am decidedly not a very humble person. I guess that would mean all those people who have never said I was meek, well, they seem to be right on target.

What I also think it means is that there is a lack of love. How can we claim to love our neighbor when we lack humility, patience, gentleness and kindness. We really need to be more than that. I really need to be more than that.

The simple truth is, if I don’t learn to humbly patient, gentle and kind, I can’t really expect to inherit the earth.

How do you show your meekness to the world? I pray you do it better than I.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved