Blessed… He Never Promised You a Rose Garden

“Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households. “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them. (Matthew 10:3-39, Common English Bible).

Since I was a kid I have enjoyed the old Lynn Anderson crossover hit “Rose Garden.” I think about the song, really just the chorus of the song, often when I look at Scriptures that talk about difficulty in life. Wednesday night at Bible Study we talked about just that. One of the other participants in the class quoted the song.

I thought about it again when I read today’s lesson. The whole I idea of picking up one’s cross and losing one’s life point to the difficulty that can come in living out the Christian life. Take a look at the lyrics to the song’s chorus:

I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain sometime
I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden

The words of our lesson are some tough words. “I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households.” These words are some tough stuff. Is Jesus actually saying here to fight with our family? Are we to fight with our parents and our siblings?

I think the key comes in the next line. “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me.” When we love the members of our family more than we love God, God is not primary or central. Jesus said that he came not to replace the old covenant but to fulfill it. One of the Ten Commandments says, “Honor your father and mother…” Dividing and battling with them is not honoring them. Still, to place them first, to place them central, is to make them the god of our lives.

When I look at the end of the lesson, “Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them,” I think of Peter’s denial of Jesus the night Jesus was arrested. That is far from picking up a cross.

Tradition holds that later, after The Ascension, Peter had a dream where he was under persecution. He ran away from Rome to escape the time of trial (again, not picking up a cross). He had an encounter with Jesus during his escape. Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus’ response was, “To Rome to be crucified again.” With that Peter did pick up his cross and never feared again. This is tradition, not Scripture. Tradition further holds, not only did Peter pick up his cross, he carried it to his crucifixion where he was crucified upside down because he was unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as Jesus.

The words of the lesson are tough words. Put Jesus first. Pick up our crosses. Lose our lives. But, if we do those things, we will find ourselves with even more life, life eternal with Jesus Christ our Lord.

What does it mean for you to pick up your cross?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Better Than I Know Myself

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:26-33, New Revised Standard).

It is difficult for me to imagine that God could tell me the exact number of hairs on my head. I could quietly pull a hair from my head and God would know it and would reduce my number.

I have a head full of hair. I have no immediate worries of becoming bald. Still, in the last few years, I have lost some hair. God knows about each one. The brush I use on my hair in the morning’s, it would be my guess God could tell me the numbers of the hairs in that brush too.

It is pretty cool that God could tell me how many hairs are on my head, it is kind of like the sideshow barker who says he can tell me how much I weigh, though God wouldn’t cheat the way the barker probably would.

While it would be a fun show to watch, I seriously doubt that is what this all about. As I read today’s lesson and I come down to that verse about our hair, I really think the meaning of this is, God knows us better than we know ourselves. I don’t know how many hairs are on my head. Even for those who are bald on top, they probably don’t know either. I just asked a friend who is bald on top. There is no question I have fewer hairs on my head than he. He confirmed for me, he doesn’t know how many hairs are on his head. And, for those of you who have shaved your heads and would say, “I know, zero.” I think God would then say God knows the number of hair follicles are on your head.

Here is the deal, God knows us inside and out. God knows the secret sins of our lives. God knows secret thoughts and our greatest desires. If God knows something about us that is as trivial and insignificant as our hair, there is nothing about you or me that God fails to know.

So we all need to give up and realize, God knows each of us, even better than we know ourselves.

What are you trying to hide from God? It won’t work. God already knows.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… You Aren’t Talking

“Look, I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. Watch out for people—because they will hand you over to councils and they will beat you in their synagogues. They will haul you in front of governors and even kings because of me so that you may give your testimony to them and to the Gentiles. Whenever they hand you over, don’t worry about how to speak or what you will say, because what you can say will be given to you at that moment. You aren’t doing the talking, but the Spirit of my Father is doing the talking through you. Brothers and sisters will hand each other over to be executed. A father will turn his child in. Children will defy their parents and have them executed. Everyone will hate you on account of my name. But whoever stands firm until the end will be saved. Whenever they harass you in one city, escape to the next, because I assure that you will not go through all the cities of Israel before the Human One comes. “Disciples aren’t greater than their teacher, and slaves aren’t greater than their master. It’s enough for disciples to be like their teacher and slaves like their master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, it’s certain that they will call the members of his household by even worse names (Matthew 10:16-25, Common English Bible).

As I read today’s Scripture passage, when I got to these words, “…don’t worry about how to speak or what you will say, because what you can say will be given to you at that moment. You aren’t doing the talking, but the Spirit of my Father is doing the talking through you” it was like the words were beyond bold print. It was like they were written in neon lights and flashing arrows pointing at them.

As someone who stands before a group of people every Sunday morning, I sure hope it is God speaking and not me. I really don’t think I have that much to say that is worth stopping and listening. God, on the other hand,  has a lot to say, and we all need to take the time to listen. Unfortunately, many of us don’t stop and listen at all.

Sometimes we think we are greater than we really are. We believe we are smarter than we really are. For many of us, at least at times, we believe God takes a back seat to us. We might acknowledge with our words that God is smarter and has a better handle on things than we, but our actions often reflect things our words don’t say.

Each Sunday, when I rise to preach, it is always my prayer that God speak through me. The words in this lesson seem to me like a promise. Even in those moments when I realize I am not as smart as I sometimes think, and I still have to stand in front of people with something to say, God will give me the words. Better still, God will use my voice to speak a message to a gathered crowd. Those words will make a better message than anything I could ever say on my own.

It is my prayer, “Lord, come and speak to these people. Let my words, be your words, that together we might share the Gospel of Christ. It is in His name we pray. Amen.”

May it be so today and always.

What do you allow God to speak through you?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Those Who Refuse to Listen

He called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to throw them out and to heal every disease and every sickness. Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, who is called Peter; and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee; and John his brother; Philip; and Bartholomew; Thomas; and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus; and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean; and Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city. Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment. Workers deserve to be fed, so don’t gather gold or silver or copper coins for your money belts to take on your trips. Don’t take a backpack for the road or two shirts or sandals or a walking stick. Whatever city or village you go into, find somebody in it who is worthy and stay there until you go on your way. When you go into a house, say, ‘Peace!’ If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if the house isn’t worthy, take back your blessing. If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or city. I assure you that it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than it will be for that city (Matthew 10:1-15, Common English Bible).

My dad was one of those kind of people who loved to give out advice. It really didn’t matter if you were asking for it or not, he was going to give it to you anyway. Well, he was going to give it to me anyway. My now, adult children would probably say I am the same way. Well, I come by it honestly.

When I was a kid and my dad wanted to give me some piece of unwanted advice, I didn’t put my fingers in my ears, that would not have been smart, but I did do my best to act like I was paying attention while at the same time trying not to listen to anything he was saying.

As it turned out, my Dad’s advice was sound, at least more often than not. There was that day on the river (I am sure he is laughing from above at the mention of that adventure) but I will save that story for another time. But, what I know now is, he did tend to know what he was talking about. And, at least some of the time, I wish he was still around to give me some of that advice, whether I want to hear it or not.

In today’s lesson, Jesus calls and commissions the disciples to go out into their world and do ministry in his name. A good chunk of that lesson is Jesus giving the disciples advice (and like my dad when I was a kid) and that advice was more like instructions they were expected to follow. And, Jesus had some special instructions for the disciples regarding those who wouldn’t listen. “Shake the dust off your feet and move on.”

My dad, though a deeply spiritual and committed man, was no Bible scholar. I am glad about that. Perhaps he didn’t know he was supposed to shake the dust off his feet where I am concerned. I am eternally grateful that my dad never gave up on me.

How do you respond?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Compassion

Jesus traveled among all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, announcing the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38, Common English Bible).

As I am writing this, I am a bit melancholy. Today (Saturday, March 18, 2017) my favorite all-time guitar player, Chuck Berry, passed away. I don’t want to say I am totally heart-broken or anything like that. I only knew the man through his music. I had never met him in person. As I work, I am listening to a compilation of Berry’s greatest hits.

When I read this passage I had something a bit different enter my mind. Perhaps it was because of Chuck Berry’s passing. I remember as a kid about so many rock stars, Elvis, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and so many more played before large crowds. Crowds followed them. When they would reach a concert site people would flock to the arena in hopes of getting a glimpse, or an autograph or an handshake. Crowds of fans would come hoping for something, hoping beyond hope that they might get something because they were present, even if they didn’t really know what they wanted.

As I picture events like today’s lesson, the events play out in my head with even bigger crowds for Jesus than some of these rock stars drew in their day. Jesus was the “rock star” of his day. And, as Jesus looked out on the crowds, he was filled with compassion for them. The lesson says that Jesus was filled with compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless. He hung out with these folks. He preached to them. He taught them. He healed them. The crowds might not have heard music but they saw quite a show. Miracles were very present with Jesus.

Jesus finished this lesson and the chapter with the famous line, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. When I read that in the context of the lesson I can’t help but think even Jesus was feeling pretty overwhelmed about that time with all there was to do. The Scriptures remind us that Jesus grew weary at times. The idea that here there was more to do than could be imagined isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

I think the same could hold true for us today. With the number of people outside the Church of Jesus Christ, the harvest is still plentiful and the workers grow fewer and fewer all the time. Perhaps the reason, all too often we lack compassion. Compassion is most evident when we are in the world showing the love of Jesus Christ. When we can have compassion on the crowds around us, it is then that we are most like Jesus.

What are you doing to show compassion to the masses?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessings… On Being Critical

As they were leaving, people brought to him a man who was demon-possessed and unable to speak. When Jesus had thrown out the demon, the man who couldn’t speak began to talk. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He throws out demons with the authority of the ruler of demons” (Matthew 9:32-34, Common English Bible)

We have been in chapter nine for several days and now we are bringing the chapter to a close. Tomorrow we will finish.

During the time we have been in chapter nine, there have been several stories of Jesus’ healing people. Six to be exact. There was a paralyzed man, followed by a deceased little girl and a woman with a chronic bleeding condition. Yesterday there two blind men and today we have a man who couldn’t speak because of the demons he had inside him.

As Jesus went through the healing process, he cast out a demon. Most of the folks who saw it were amazed. Though it isn’t too much of a stretch that such an idea would not hold water with the Pharisees. They were not amused. They sound like the person who is critical of everything. “Yes I know he gave me $1000 but what about the other day when he didn’t even say hello.”

Others are praising the work of Jesus. “He is amazing,” they would say. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”

The response from the Pharisees would be along the lines of, “Yeah, sure. He has authority, but not anything more from sinners than we already point to. “And sure, he has healed some people, but what about his casting out of demons? He does it like a real pro. But what about the demons he didn’t cast out. What about the people who still don’t believe.

There will always be nay-sayers. And, it really is easy for us to get caught up in things and take a journey to the negative. We make a difference when we don’t take a look at the motives of others and instead worry about how we can help manifest healing and wholeness in the world around us.

How can you help bring healing and wholeness.

Have a blessed day in the Lord?

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Do You Believe?

As Jesus departed, two blind men followed him, crying out, “Show us mercy, Son of David.” When he came into the house, the blind men approached him. Jesus said to them, “Do you believe I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “It will happen for you just as you have believed.” Their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly warned them, “Make sure nobody knows about this.” But they went out and spread the word about him throughout that whole region (Matthew 9:27-31, Common English Bible).

I find it interesting, as I read through the Gospels, when Jesus does something for others, before he does it, they must have faith that he can do what they ask him to do. The ruler, in yesterday’s reading, had to have faith. Also in yesterday’s reading, the woman with the chronic condition, had to have faith before she touched Jesus’ robe. In today’s lesson these two blind men had to have faith before Jesus would cure their blindness. I find that interesting.

This says a couple of things to me. Though Jesus is omnipotent, he doesn’t seem real willing to use divine power for people who don’t believe he has the power to start with. He could, if they said “no, I don’t believe,” say himself, “well, you don’t believe? I’ll show you.” But Jesus never was about things like that. Besides, if the two blind men didn’t think Jesus could heal them, why would they even ask?

The other thing this says to me is, when we have faith, good things can happen to us. That does not mean that when we have faith bad things will never happen to us. Such an idea is far from reality. It also doesn’t mean that good things never happen to unfaithful people. It just means we have God in our corner. And, as Paul put it, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” If God is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us.

There is one more thing I read here I believe to be important. It has little to do with faith. Jesus often tells those he heals not to tell anyone what he did, what happened in the healing (and they almost never listen and go out and tell the known world). That says to me, Jesus isn’t in it for the glory. Jesus wants to make a difference in the lives of people in need.

I think we can learn something from all this. First faith is important and second, even when we find ourselves out of the limelight, the things we do can and will make a difference in the world around us. Friends, it isn’t about us. It is always about showing others how they can see Jesus in the face of good and difficult times. In other words, it is about Jesus.

How is your faith? Will you show someone else to Jesus?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved