Blessed… Lightening the Load

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have shown them to babies. Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness. “My Father has handed all things over to me. No one knows the Son except the Father. And nobody knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him. “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 11:25-30, Common English Bible).

The Pharisees, Saducees and the experts in the law had done a good job of taking what was already a difficult system and made it worse. We already have talked about fasting. The fasting requirement in the law was to fast one day a year, on the Day of Atonement, or as we more likely know it, Yom Kippur. Somehow the Pharisees and their cohorts had expanded the tradition form a day a year to a day a week.

Fasting is a good example of the legal system in Israel during Jesus’ earthly life. Many things were considerably more difficult because these experts in the law were all about enforcing the letter of the law that was completely impossible for anyone (other than Jesus himself, and he wasn’t interested) to follow.

Trying to live by the law was exhausting and it gave very little room for any kind of life. In our lesson today Jesus wasn’t really talking about the physical burden most people carried in his day. That wouldn’t change for most people. Whatever your job was, you still had to carry through with it in order to provide for your family.

Think about a Biblical era person like “The Woman at the Well.” She was understanding Jesus’ offer of “Living Water” to be physical water instead of a spiritual gift. She was tired of hauling water and who can blame her. I remember as a kid on Scout camp outs having to haul some water. It wasn’t as much and it certainly didn’t involve a daily task for my whole life, but it was enough that I have no trouble seeing that someone would want Jesus to lighten their load. Still, when all was said and done, if hauling water for the household was your task, even after meeting Jesus, even after accepting Jesus, in the end you would still finding yourself hauling water or going thirsty.

The physical load wouldn’t go away. Jesus was talking about the spiritual load that so many struggled under. The Pharisees, Sadducees and experts in the law burdened people with trying to do the impossible. And, as we know, they would never earn God’s favor because they would always fall short.

What they needed was something else and Jesus was offering it to them in today’s lesson. Jesus was saying, you don’t have to be burdened by trying to do the impossible. Come to me and I will give rest to your weary soul.

There is a word for that. The word is grace. Jesus was offering something the people didn’t deserve, couldn’t earn but was what they desperately needed. This easy yoke Jesus offered was grace.

Jesus offers the same thing to us today. We may get burdened in different ways. Still, we need rest for our souls. Jesus offers us rest and that is one of the places you and I can find grace, in the yoke of Jesus Christ. His easy burden lightens our heavy load.

How has Jesus offered you rest for your weary soul?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

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

Blessed… Don’t Take it For Granted

Then he began to scold the cities where he had done his greatest miracles because they didn’t change their hearts and lives. “How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin! How terrible it will be for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have changed their hearts and lives and put on funeral clothes and ashes a long time ago. But I say to you that Tyre and Sidon will be better off on Judgment Day than you. And you, Capernaum, will you be honored by being raised up to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to the place of the dead. After all, if the miracles that were done among you had been done in Sodom, it would still be here today.  But I say to you that it will be better for the land of Sodom on the Judgment Day than it will be for you” (Matthew 11:20-24, Common English Bible).

This is one of those places where Jesus has some tough words for his listeners. Jesus’ listeners would have very well known what became of Sodom and Gomorrah (if you are unfamiliar with the story read Genesis 19). And, here Jesus is saying it would be better for Sodom, a city entirely destroyed because of how terribly they sinned, than it would be for Capernaum at Judgement Day! Those are some scary words that at least to this point, seem to have little impact.

So what is the big deal? With all that Jesus was doing in and around Capernaum and Bethsaida, with all the miracles they saw performed, they just took the miracles for granted. They didn’t seem impressed by what they saw Jesus do. They were used to having Jesus around and doing things. To my way of thinking, what it really amounted to is: Yawn, “It’s no big deal. We’ve seen it before. There is more where that came from. Sure, Jesus brought a little girl back to life (see Matthew 9:18-26), but he did it once, he can do it again.

Is it really any different for us? In American society today, we take God’s provision for granted. So much of the time we take what God does and what God gives and think we did it ourselves. Even if the event is beyond our own capabilities, it was fate, we just lucked out. We might even say that God was looking out for us, but all too often it changes nothing about how we are living our lives.

I’ve often wondered, after Jesus’ little lecture here, if the folks in Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum changed their ways. There might have been a slight change but I tend to think that because of the human condition, there was little long-term change.

The same is often true for us. We know what Jesus has done. We know what the Holy Spirit does. When we really think about it, we are thankful but it doesn’t take too much time until we are slipping back into old habits.

Perhaps what we really need is another miracle, a miracle that will help us to remain faithful and thankful for what God has done for us.

How would you pray for God to help you to be more faithful?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Never Satisfied

“To what will I compare this generation? It is like a child sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others,  ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t mourn.’  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  Yet the Human One came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by her works” (Matthew 11:16-19, Common English Bible).

I heard this story not long ago and thought I would share it with you today.

A beggar was standing on a street huddled with a group of friends friends. “I really wish I had a hundred dollars. If I had a hundred dollars in my hand right now I would never complain again” A businessman walking down the street heard  beggar and stopped. “Excuse me,” the man said. “Did I just hear you right? I thought I heard you say if you had a hundred dollars, you would never complain again?” The beggar replied, “Yes Sir, that’s what I said mister.” With that, the man pulled out his wallet and handed the beggar a hundred dollars, and said, “I’m pleased I could have a part in your dream come true.” After the businessman walked away, the beggar turned to his friends and said, “I wish I had asked for two hundred!”

For so many of us, we never satisfied. We aren’t satisfied by what we have because the problem inside each of us.

As I read our lesson for today my mind went to an old joke that made its way around a lot of circles. Well, it made its way around preacher circles anyway. It said, in essence, a church was searching for a new pastor. They wanted a pastor who was 36 years old and who had 40 years of experience. He would only want $400 per week but would give $100 back to the church and both pastor and family were always well dressed in current styles. I don’t remember much of the rest, but you get the idea.

Our lesson today is a lot like that. John the Baptist came, Jesus said, neither eating or drinking and people said he was a demon. Jesus, on the other hand , came eating and drinking and the same people wanted to know why he ate with tax collectors and sinners. It seems many of us can never be satisfied.

Perhaps it is time, well, really past time, for us to take a few minutes to sit and think about what it is we really want. Like the beggar above, often we are never satisfied with what we want and/or have. We think we know what we want and crave. When we get it, we want something more.

At my church we are currently studying John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping. I think Ortberg would say we aren’t satisfied because we fail to take care of our souls. In the book Ortberg argues that the soul is very needy and all too often we neglect it.

As I have contemplated Ortberg’s book, the thought has occurred to me that we neglect the soul because we can’t meet the needs. We look for all kinds of ways to fulfill the needs of the soul, but they all fall short and we hunt yet again. The bad news here is, we will never succeed in giving the soul what it wants.

What the soul wants is not ours to give. The good news is, the one who has it to give, has it in infinite supply. God can and will meet the needs of the soul. Further, only God can meet the need anyway.

What are you using to meet the needs of your soul? I hope you know you will never be satisfied until you let God meet your needs.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

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

Blessed… Listen Up!

“I assure you that no one who has ever been born is greater than John the Baptist. Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is violently attacked as violent people seize it. All the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John came. If you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let the person who has ears, hear (Matthew 11:11-15, Common English Bible).

This is one of those lessons where Jesus seems to be pretty cryptic. No one born is greater than John the Baptist. Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. What I am reading into this is, while we are on earth, John the Baptist is greater than we. For all those faithful Old Testament characters, on the other hand, while they were not greater than John while living on Earth, as Jesus spoke, because they are in the kingdom of heaven, they are greater than John the Baptist.

What that means for you and I is, during this lifetime, we will not be greater than those in the kingdom of heaven. But, one day, we too will be there and we will also gain that great status.

Listen up! One day, we will be there too.

How well do you listen to what Jesus says?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Prepare the Way

When John’s disciples had gone, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John: “What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A stalk blowing in the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes? Look, those who wear refined clothes are in royal palaces. What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. He is the one of whom it is written: Look, I’m sending my messenger before you, who will prepare your way before you (Matthew 11:7-10, Common English Bible).

When I first read today’s lesson I kind of laughed a little at Jesus’ words. “What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes?” When one thinks about John the Baptist, the last thing we should think of is refined clothing. John the Baptist, arguably is best known for his outlandish attire. His cloak alone was made from matted (at least as I picture it), shaggy camel’s hair. I often tell people, we are not talking about a camel-hair sports coat here. I feel certain John the Baptist was quite a sight to see.

Here is the real deal. John’s clothing really didn’t make any difference. It wasn’t about John’s clothes, it was about John’s mission. John’s mission was to be Jesus’ Elijah. He was to go ahead of Jesus, announcing Jesus’ arrival and preparing the way for him.

To me, John was a trail blazer for Jesus. He was to make a road where there was no road. For most of us, when we put a lot of time and effort into something, we want the credit. Such was never the case for John. From the very beginning, John the Baptist knew his role in the world. He was the prophet who announced the arrival of the Messiah. It was never about him. It was always about making a way for the one who was to come, Jesus, the Christ.

In yesterday’s lesson, John was asking Jesus if he was the one to come. Jesus gave his answer by telling the things that were happening, the things Jesus was doing. John the Baptist had put a lot of time and effort into preparing the way for Jesus. He wanted to make sure he was leading the way for the right person. He was. In the end, John the Baptist had done the job God had placed before him.

Not all of us can serve in the forefront. Not all of us want to do so. Still, God has something for all of us to do. Like John the Baptist, we have to find our way. We have to live out the work God has for us to do. It seems to me, that while we don’t make the way for Jesus himself, what we do as disciples is, make the way for others to find their way to the Messiah we already know. That, is a great place for our work in the world.

What do you do to make a way for others to find Jesus?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Are You the One?

When Jesus finished teaching his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus responded, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them.  Happy are those who don’t stumble and fall because of me” (Matthew 11:1-6, Common English Bible).

Whenever we see things happen, we start to make assumptions. We try to put the things we see and putting together the events and then we start drawing conclusions about what we have seen.

John the Baptist knew something  about Jesus back when he baptized him in the Jordan River. Wait, what am I saying? When John the Baptist was still in his mother Elizabeth’s womb and Jesus was still in Mary’s womb, John knew there was something different about Jesus. He might not have known exactly what that meant, but he knew even before he was born that there was something about Jesus.

Just before John Baptized Jesus, he knew something was different. He knew Jesus should be baptizing him. He still didn’t know exactly what was different.

In our reading today, John has taken all he has seen and started putting it together to draw a conclusion. Everything that John has seen and heard lead him to the conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah. Today’s lesson is about confirmation and I don’t mean the class we send kids through in order to become church members. John had drawn a hypothesis and now he wanted to know if the conclusion he had drawn was indeed correct.

In typical form, Jesus doesn’t give a simple yes or no answer. Jesus responded, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them.” Jesus is pointing to the words the prophets had said regarding the Messiah. This was the proof. Now John had to draw his own conclusion.

If Jesus gave a simple yes or no answer, it would give John a head answer. What really makes a difference is a heart answer. Jesus, in essence, is telling John, “You have seen and you have heard. I am telling you what is happening. Now it is up to you to decide if you believe in your heart what you know in your head.

The same holds true for us. We have seen the Spirit of God at work in the world around us. We have heard the stories of how God has worked through the Bible and in the lives of people around us. The only logical conclusion is that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Now, will we believe in our hearts what we know in our heads. He is the One!!!

What has God done to show you God is the Hope of the World?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Water, Cool, Clear Water

“Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me. Those who receive a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Those who receive a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they are my disciples will certainly be rewarded” (Matthew 10:40-42, Common English Bible).

In yesterday’s post I talked some about the Lynn Anderson country cross-over song, “Rose Garden.” As I began working on today’s post, another old country song came to my mind. The song is titled, “Cool Water” and its most famous recording was by The Sons of the Pioneers. Here are the lyrics to the song:

All day I’ve faced the barren waste
Without the taste of water, cool water
Old Dan and I with throats burned dry
And souls that cry for water, cool, clear water
Keep a-movin’, Dan, don’t you listen to him, Dan
He’s a devil not a man
And he spreads the burning sand with water
Dan can you see that big green tree
Where the water’s runnin’ free
And it’s waiting there for you and me
The nights are cool and I’m a fool
Each star’s a pool of water, cool water
But with the dawn I’ll wake and yawn
And carry on to water, cool, clear, water
The shadows sway and seem to say
Tonight we pray for water, cool, water
And way up there He’ll hear our prayer
And show us where there’s water, cool, clear, water
Dan’s feet are sore he’s yearning for
Just one thing more than water, cool, water
Like me I guess he’d like to rest
Where there’s no quest for water, cool, clear, water.
While The Sons of the Pioneers did the most popular recording of the song, they were by no means alone. The likes of Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Burl Ives, Marty Robbins, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan and more. Though the lyrics are pretty different, I really enjoy the version done by the Muppets. You can see their video by clicking here.
The song is about a man and his mule named Dan walking in the dessert in search of water. Though the song is far more contemporary today than to the crowd around Jesus 2000 years ago, I feel certain they could easily identify with the words. We find several places where Jesus talks about drinking water.
In today’s lesson, Jesus reminds us that to be a servant it doesn’t take some great act. We don’t have to go to some foreign land. It can really be something pretty simple. A little thing like giving someone a cold drink of water can be a huge thing in the life of people around us to meet a physical need.
On a hot summer day, nothing can be as satisfying or taste as good as a cold drink of water. When we have water, we also have something to share with our neighbor. Love of neighbor can also be something as simple as a cold drink of water.
“Cool Water” also reminds us, our souls also crave “water, clear, cool water.” May we be faithful to drink and to share of that “water, clear, cool, water.”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved