Blessed… Get Out of the Boat

Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed. Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.” Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” When they got into the boat, the wind settled down. Then those in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!” (Matthew 14:22-33, Common English Bible)

I love book titles. I don’t always read the book, but often, I love the title. There is Jim Moore’s book Yes, Lord I Have Sinned But Have Several Excellent Excuses (I love many of his titles and have read many of his books, but this one is my favorite). Another favorite is, Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?: ‘Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV by  Karen Spears Zacharias. I have tried to read this book several times but find I get easily distracted and end up setting it down for long periods of time. Yet another is, If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg. I have the book but have never even tried to read it. I have read other books by Ortberg but I have not read this one.

I find it amazing how right Ortberg is in the title of this book. We might ask Jesus to call us out onto the water, but we are all too often afraid to leave the relative comfort of the boat!

Today’s story is the classic, Peter (I always say Peter as the miracle wasn’t Jesus walking on the water, it was Peter doing so) walking on the water. After a long day that was supposed to be a day to rest, alone time, the crowds followed Jesus and the disciples to a more secluded place where Jesus had compassion and healed their sick and, the disciples fed more than 5000 people a miraculous fish dinner.

Now, in today’s lesson, Jesus sends the disciples ahead in the boat while he does spend some alone time in prayer. As the disciples move across the Sea of Galilee a storm comes up on them and it is a pretty frightening experience. Suddenly they see something they know to be impossible and yet it is happening anyway. They see a man walking on the water. When they realize it is Jesus Peter tells Jesus, if it is really him, Peter wants Jesus to call him out on the water too. Jesus does.

All too often, that is where we stop. We often give Peter a bad rap because his faith wavered while doing the impossible. Before we point fingers we might should take a look in the mirror. At least Peter got out of the boat. All too often it is where we want to stay.

For our purposes, the Church is the boat. We experience growth to prepare us to go out and serve the world in the name of Christ, but we want to remain on the boat. It is safe there. Our faith isn’t tested there. We think we are happy there. Yet Jesus calls us to leave the boat and walk on the water!

What keeps you on the boat?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… This Will Never Work, But it Did

When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick. That evening his disciples came and said to him, “This is an isolated place and it’s getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.” He said, “Bring them here to me.” He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them and broke the loaves apart and gave them to his disciples. Then the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate until they were full, and they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. About five thousand men plus women and children had eaten (Matthew 14:13-21, Common English Bible).

The favorite all-time television show at my house is M*A*S*H. I like the show, Cindy loves it. At one time we recorded every episode back when the Houston CBS affiliate (KHOU) ran it after the ten o’clock news.

As I was thinking about our lesson the last few days and as we revisit it one last time before moving on, an old episode of M*A*S*H titled “They Call the Wind Korea.” In this episode a Manchurian windstorm is coming to the 4077. Despite the storm Major Winchester convinces Klinger to drive him to Seoul. They come across a transport truck that is overturned and has injured men on board. One has a collapsed lung. Winchester laments his lack of proper equipment and insists he can’t be expected to do this without being in a proper operating room with all the right equipment but he continues to work. He needs to re-inflate the lung. He takes a syringe and other things and works to accomplish the needed task saying over and over again, “This will never work.” In the end, of course, it does work and the Greek soldier lives.

I can’t help but wonder when the disciples brought the little boy’s lunch (John’s version of this story) to Jesus, who separates it into portions and tells the twelve to take it out to the people (Remember from yesterday’s post that we are actually talking about considerably more than 5000. It was 5000 men plus women and children. An estimate of 20,000 people would not be unreasonable) if the disciples were saying, “This will never work.”

It could easily be something they would say. Forget the women and children for a moment and think about trying to feed 5000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish. We would probably be saying, “This will never work.” Now, further complicate the matter by adding in all the women and children (whatever number that may have been). Again, for at least one disciple to say “This will never work” is not an unreasonable assumption. Lots of people without lots of food. “This will never work.”

But, as we know, from having read the story above, it did work. It worked amazingly well. Jesus gave each of the disciples a basket of food and the disciples worked their way through the crowd, giving people their fill of food as they went. Everyone had plenty. The baskets never ran out of food. And, in the end, there were twelve baskets of leftovers. In other words, THEY HAD MORE FOOD LEFT WHEN THEY FINISHED THAN THEY HAD WHEN THEY STARTED.

That is really something. Even when the impossible seems to be present, God can show up and do exceedingly more than anyone believes possible. “It will never work” are four words that, when used together, well, let’s just say God doesn’t use those words together.

It will never work. That is, it will never work until God says it will.

Where have you seen something you thought would never work, actually work because God touched and blessed the event?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… So Many Mouths, So Little Food

When Jesus heard about John, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick. That evening his disciples came and said to him, “This is an isolated place and it’s getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.” He said, “Bring them here to me.” He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them and broke the loaves apart and gave them to his disciples. Then the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate until they were full, and they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. About five thousand men plus women and children had eaten (Matthew 14:13-21, Common English Bible).

 It has always seemed odd to me that we call this story the feeding of the 5000. It is probably because adult men were the only people who truly counted in the Biblical era. Children were nobodies as were women. When a male child was fully grown, he would have been included in the count. The others, never would be.

In reality, Jesus and the disciples fed far more people than 5000 in this story. The Scriptures tell us it was “5000 men plus women and children.” While that number is a high number of people considering they were trying to feed them all with two fish and five loaves of bread, in reality it was much, much higher.

I did a little research in preparation for this post. I discovered there are 4.2 children in an average Jewish home. If we calculate that out figuring in a woman and 4 children per household we are talking about 31000 people who were there that day. And, while I am sure there were men there who were not married, what if we take 11,000, we are still left with 20,000 people  to feed with a young man’s lunch.

Imagine, if you can, what it would be like to watch and see this story unfold. You have followed Jesus over from across the sea. Now the day is coming to an end. You are hungry. Then you see something going on, something with Jesus and his disciples. He holds up the fish and breaks them apart. He then holds up the bread and breaks it apart and the disciples make their way out into the crowds.

Your hungry. You would really like some of the food but there are so many people here. You can’t possibly expect to receive any of the food. There are just too many people. But, you are wrong. Here comes Thaddeus, he comes to the group of people where you are sitting and he hands you both bread and fish. The serving you receive looks to be as large as the five loaves and two fish Jesus had at the very beginning. What is more, as the basket passes around your group, it never looks like anything is taken from it. Thaddeus says, “Don’t be shy. Take what you want. Eat your fill. There is plenty here.”

In the end, not only do you eat your fill, everyone else around you does too. Word spreads quickly as people talk about what they are experiencing. Everyone, all 20,000+ people have eaten their fill off of five loaves of bread and two fish. You have just been part of something amazing.

There is food for all and even some left over. In the end, you recognize you have seen a miracle take place right in front of your eyes. What an event to experience.

How does Jesus allow you to have your fill?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… For Some Time Alone (Part 2)

When Jesus heard about John, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick (Matthew 14:13-14, Common English Bible).

One of the hardest things to do sometimes is to find that time to be alone. I have learned over time that I cannot realistically believe I will find quality alone time in my study. When I strive to be alone in my study, almost without fail, the telephone rings or someone stops by needing to talk.

I am not complaining about that. It is what it is. When I was in the United Methodist Church’s seminary program called “Course of Study School,” I had a professor that said, “Your ministry begins with the ringing of the telephone or the person who walks through your door. In other words, your ministry begins with the interruption to your day.” While true specifically for pastors, if we are all the ministers we are called to be, the same holds true whether for clergy or laity.

We all do need that alone time to refuel, to decompress, to recover. But, the real work of ministry can interrupt those things. And further, they happen whether we like it or perhaps even when we don’t.

The lesson we are looking at yesterday and today falls in between the death of John the Baptist and the Feeding of the 5000. Jesus wanted to take the disciples away from the crowds and away from the demands. He wanted to give the twelve the time to re-energize.

Then it happened. The crowds somehow figured out where Jesus was going and set out to follow. When you are a rock star, and Jesus was a rock star of his age and more, I guess crowds become unavoidable. Today’s celebrities talk about trying to get away from the paparazzi who invade their privacy in order to obtain candid photographs.

In Jesus’ day it wasn’t the paparazzi, but often times normal people who, like the paparazzi would often go to crazy extents in order to have Jesus meet their need. Somehow I doubt the owner of the house was thrilled when some people removed part of the roof in order to lower their friend down in front of Jesus (Mark 2:1-5).

People would go to extreme lengths to reach Jesus. Traveling to the far side of the lake would be an easy thing to do if you really wanted something from Jesus.

The important thing here is, the lesson reminds us that though Jesus was seeking quiet time, alone time, “He had compassion on them and healed those who were sick.” Jesus gave up his alone time to do the work of ministry!

For me this lesson serves as a reminder that I am in ministry and that means interruptions to my day. So, if I want uninterrupted alone time, I better find a time when people are less likely to call. For some people I know, that quiet time comes when they rise at say 4:30 in the morning. That one doesn’t work for me. Instead, being a night owl, I find my quiet between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM.

Your when doesn’t matter as much as finding that time allowing you to have quiet, alone time with God and still having the ability to be in ministry to those in need around us. Find your time.

When do you find time alone with God?

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… For Some Time Alone (Part 1)

When Jesus heard about John, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick (Matthew 14:13-14, Common English Bible).

When I started thinking about these two verses my mind started to runaway a bit. I started thinking about the Southwest Airline ad campaign where the woman is snooping in her friend’s medicine cabinet and everything comes crashing down followed by a voice saying, “Wanna get away?” Or there is the ad from the same campaign where the person is staring bored at their computer screen when an email comes in about a “new job” and “click here.” A computer virus is then launched throughout the company. Again, it is followed up by the voice saying, “Wanna get away?”

At some point in my life I heard introverts and extroverts being defined by where you get your energy. If you get your energy from being alone and being around people drains you, you are an introvert. On the other hand, if you gain energy from the time you spend with others and being alone tends to drain you, you are an introvert.

I am the quintessential extrovert. I need time around people. For most of my years in ministry my day off has been Friday. At times at least, it isn’t uncommon for me to spend most if not all my time on Friday alone. Sometimes, Cindy would come in from work and ask, “What do you want to do tonight?” My response was always, “I don’t care as long as its around people.”

Still, even though I love to be around people and I need that in my life, I also do need time alone. We all do. And, by time alone, I mean quiet time when there are no distractions like smart phones or television. We all need the quiet and the stillness. It is in such a setting that we are most likely to hear God speak.

For so many in American society, we walk in the house and the first thing we do is turn on the television. There is a good chance we aren’t really paying attention to it. When I have asked some of these people why, the response I always seemed to get is, “I want the noise.” What is it that we are afraid to hear in the silence?

In the verses making up our lesson today, Jesus and the disciples had just learned about the fate of John the Baptist. John was Jesus’ cousin. He was important to Jesus in other ways too and, for all intents and purposes, he had just been murdered because of some slick dance moves and a coward who watched them.

Jesus wanted time alone to grieve. This might be the most important alone time any of us could ever have. Jesus craved that time. He sought that time. It was something important for his soul, and he was unable to find it. As soon as the crowds figured out what Jesus was doing, they were after him.

We will talk about that more tomorrow. For today, remember, you need time alone, just you and God.

When and where do you find your alone time?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… To the Forefront

At that time Herod the ruler heard the news about Jesus. He said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He’s been raised from the dead. This is why these miraculous powers are at work through him.” Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. That’s because John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry her.” Although Herod wanted to kill him, he feared the crowd because they thought John was a prophet. But at Herod’s birthday party Herodias’ daughter danced in front of the guests and thrilled Herod. Then he swore to give her anything she asked. At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a plate.” Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests he commanded that they give it to her. Then he had John beheaded in prison. They brought his head on a plate and gave it to the young woman, and she brought it to her mother. But John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened (Matthew 14:1-12. Common English Bible).

Early on in my ministry I had the opportunity to sit down for a long conversation with an elderly African-American United Methodist pastor. Some of the things he had to say made an impression on me that has stuck with me throughout the past 26 years.

We spent a great deal of time on the subject of funerals. He explained that in the black church, funerals were incredibly important. He said that throughout American history African-Americans have often been in the background and that it was only at their death that many moved to the forefront. Because of that the black church has always place great importance on the funeral.

That idea has stuck with me. While I will not say the average white American has experienced the same things as the average black American, for most of us, we are not famous. We have our small circles where we exist and are known but the average person, regardless of race is far from being well-known. We go through our lives and when we die most of the world doesn’t notice.

I have stood before in a cemetery that was fronted by a highway. People went speeding up and down the road, paying little, if any attention to those who grieve in the cemetery. I have even wanted to scream, “Hey world, pay attention. Someone important died.” At the same time, however, I realize to the world, they weren’t important at all.

John the Baptist was a background player too. History, of course, remembers John the Baptist. After all, while he was still in the womb, he recognized Jesus. He baptized Jesus. He knew Jesus to be the Messiah. For all that faithfulness, John the Baptist will always have a place in the historical record. He was important.

Still, throughout his life, John the Baptist was a background player. He was always someone who people saw but perhaps they didn’t really see. He baptized Jesus. He announced Jesus. But, in all these events, Jesus was the central character. John the Baptist was important, though even compared to the disciples, he was in the background. He was important because of his faithfulness. When he died, Jesus noticed. When he died God noticed.

When a person of faith passes from this life to the next, it is something important. It is not something that should remain in the background. Someone who is important in the eyes of God has left this life and moved on to the next. This person moves from the background to the forefront. And, we should never forget. We should take notice. When that person of faith died, Jesus noticed. When that person of faith died, God noticed.

We may not know the person whose funeral procession passes us on the way to the cemetery. We may not know the person who we see being buried as we drive past a cemetery. But, God did notice, and we should too. Perhaps, at times like these, when a person moves from the background to the forefront, we should say a quick prayer of Thanksgiving for that person’s life and a prayer of comfort for those who loved that person who for us may remain in the background, but on that day is in the forefront.

How can we honor the faithful who have moved to the forefront?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Old Home Week

When Jesus finished these parables, he departed. When he came to his hometown, he taught the people in their synagogue. They were surprised and said, “Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles?  Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? And his sisters, aren’t they here with us? Where did this man get all this?”  They were repulsed by him and fell into sin. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns and in their own households.”  He was unable to do many miracles there because of their disbelief (Matthew 13:53-58, Common English Bible).

It’s been several years ago but, before he retired my friend, Dr. Royce Measures invited me to preach in the church where I was a member as a high school kid and then again shortly after leaving the Navy. The church was Golden Acres Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas. Though I am a Methodist now, this church had an impact on my life and has, throughout my adult life and ministry, been a part of me. I am very thankful for the experience and knowledge I gained from being part of that congregation.

Dr. Measures invited me to preach a couple of times at Golden Acres. The first was for a Sunday evening service. I must have done alright because he later invited me again for a Sunday morning service. The opportunities were wonderful because, at the tine my parents were members of that church, as were Cindy’s parents (her mother still is). Both of my grandmothers were still living and lived in Pasadena so they were able to attend as well. For me at least, it was a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Still, as great as the experience was, there is no way I would even consider going back and being the pastor of that church. It has nothing to do with them per se. They are great people. First of all, I wouldn’t go back because it is a Baptist church and as I said, these days I am a United Methodist and don’t plan to ever go back.

Second, and even more important, I wouldn’t go back because I know there would be at least a few folks who wouldn’t accept me as their pastor, not because I am a Methodist (that undoubtedly would bother a few), but because they remember me as a teenage kid, “You know, the kid that married the Oquinn girl” Or, “You know, Johnnie and Janice Broyles’ son (that could also translate over to “Mearl and Juan Oquinn’s son-in-law as they were and are longer time fixtures in that congregation). I might even hear, “You know, Brenda Broyles’ brother.” My sister was an active member and really came into her own there while I was away in the Navy.

Though I may be 60 years old on my next birthday, some folks will always see me as a teenager. And, truth to tell, I don’t really want to relive some of those days.

Knowing that reality exists helps me understand a little of what Jesus experienced in Nazareth in our lesson for today. He traveled home and no one could see him for who he was, what he was there to be or even see him as a teacher. He was Mary and Joseph’s son. He was a brother. He was a kid. And, “Where in the world did he come up with this stuff?” I am sure was said by someone in the crowd.

I think it was easier for me to go back to Golden Acres.  Being one from their past, it was probably a fun experience for at least some people. My parents certainly got the chance to be proud. But, both visits, I was there for a day and then I was back in my church again. I don’t think things would remain quite the same if I were to go back as a permanent fixture.

Still, me going back is not really important. Though Dr. Measures retired a few years back, Golden Acres has a pastor who is leading them in positive directions.

For Jesus, things really weren’t the same. The lesson reminds us that the people of Nazareth fell into sin because they were repulsed by Jesus. I certainly hope that hasn’t happened at any place where I have preached.

The old saying “You can’t go home again” does contain some truth. I know I can always go to the old home for a visit. But, the place I call home now, is the place God needs me to be.

Where does God need you?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Old-New

 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. They said to him, “Yes.” Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest” (Matthew 13:51-52, Common English Bible).

I have many Bibles. I really don’t even know how many I have. I have two, however, that I really enjoy using these days (and yes, I have an electronic like the one in the pic above, but it isn’t one I use all that often). One is a pretty old King James Bible. The other is a very new Common English Study Bible.

I like both, but for very different reasons. The new Bible, The Common English Study Bible, I like because this new translation is easy to understand. Because it is a study Bible it also has many different study aids in its pages. When I am involved with a Bible study, it is my go-to Bible. I don’t use it for preaching because, being a study Bible, it is big and bulky. I have others I use for that. But sitting in my study, far more often than not, this is the Bible I use to study.

That old Bible, is a regular King James Bible. There are no study aids. It’s one advantage is, it has large print (another reason I don’t use my Common English Study Bible for preaching). When I am reading during worship I love having the large print.

I am not generally a big fan of King James but I do realize that many people love to hear its words and beyond that there are passages that when read, people want to hear from King James. Whenever I am going to preach the birth story from Luke 2 or Psalm 23, as well as a few others, this Bible is my go-to Bible.

Those aren’t the biggest reason I like that old King James Bible. I love this particular Bible because it once belonged to my great-grandmother. Though she never knew me as a preacher, I feel pretty sure that it would please her that I use her old Bible in worship from time to time.

In the lesson today Jesus asks the disciples if they understood what he was teaching. They responded that they did. And then I think Jesus is giving them an instruction to be ready with both the old and the new. While the Scriptures themselves and the meanings behind them do not change, sometimes we need to change the way we present them.

These Bibles are a good example. For a long time, King James was the English Bible. To some people, it still is. I am not one of those people. We don’t speak in the same ways today that people did in 1611 when the King James Bible was first published. I encounter many people on a daily basis who find the King James version very difficult to understand. They want something they can truly understand.

The point is, there are times and places for both the old and the new. I do read most weeks from a Common English Bible, just not that new study Bible. Sometimes I read from New Revised Standard or New International. Sometimes I think my best approach is to break out my great-grandmother’s King James Bible.

It is the same Bible. It is just presented in different ways. If we are to faithfully live out our calling to make disciples, we need to be prepared to use both the old and the new to shine light on the eternal truths of Holy Scripture.

Can you find truth in the old and the new?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… You’ve Got to Throw Some Back

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away. That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth” (Matthew 13:47-50, Common English Bible).

I love to fish. I really don’t get much opportunity to do so, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy going when I get the chance. I enjoy fishing as sport but I enjoy eating the catch at least as much.

Still, I learned early as a child, you don’t keep everything you catch. I have fished in both fresh water and salt water. The same ideas apply to both. If a fish is too small, you throw it back. My dad would tell me, “Let’s throw him back. Let him grow up and we will catch him again next time.” My dad and I didn’t fish all that often but I can still hear him saying that.

I don’t really ever remember this as a kid, but at least these days, with some types of fish, if they are bigger than a certain size you have to throw them back as well. For example, a red drum has to be at least 20 inches long but no more than 28 inches long to keep it. Further, you can’t keep more than three per day. Well, at least those are the rules in Texas.

Another thing I remember is, you don’t keep every fish you catch because some just aren’t that good to eat. There was a fish my dad called a “hard head” (I think he called me that a few times too) that we never kept. We also caught a few small sharks. We didn’t keep them either. Some fish had a stronger taste. They always went back. Some fish had more bones. They got to keep swimming too.

Today’s lesson, “The Parable of the Nets,” reminds me of fishing for several reasons. First, of course, is the obvious reason. Though I never fished with a net, Jesus was still talking about fishing. And, Jesus also talked about separating the fish. It is basically what I did with my dad only over a longer period, as we caught fish.

What is different, however, Jesus wasn’t really talking about fishing. The Kingdom of Heaven is like the fish in the nets. When the catch is retrieved, the angels will separate the good from the bad. Perhaps some don’t measure up. Perhaps others just aren’t very good. Regardless of the reason, the lesson says, the good will enter the Kingdom while those who don’t measure up will be thrown away.

I know many people who ignore this parable. They believe in universal salvation, that in the end, God’s love will redeem everyone. I am not prepared to do that. I take what Scripture says here seriously, at least for me personally. I know that I need to live the kind of life in faith that will keep me in the net. If those who believe in universal salvation are right, I lose nothing. If, on the other hand, we should be living in a way that shows we belong in the net, and I don’t live that way, all is lost. Such an idea says to me, I need to strive to live in the will of God in the present so I know with confidence that my faith is well founded and I will stay in the net, entering the Kingdom of God.

What are you doing to stay in the net?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… To Buy a Pearl

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46, Common English Bible).

I read somewhere years ago about the process an oyster uses to make a pearl. It happens when a grain of sand makes its way into the shell of the oyster and becomes lodged in the muscle of the oyster. Unlike we humans, the oyster has no hands to remove the irritation so it stays there. In order to deal with the irritation the oyster secretes a fluid that hardens around that grain of sand. That now hardened fluid is a pearl.

It is interesting that we place high value on another creatures irritation and suffering. When most of the time we would go out of our way to relieve suffering in an animal, in the case of an oyster, it would seem we might even want to encourage it just so we could harvest something we value.

Of course this parable isn’t really about that. A merchant makes a discovery. As a merchant this is a person who would recognize something of great value. To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t know a valuable pearl from a total fake. But, I am not a merchant who deals in these things.

When the merchant sees the pearl, Jesus says, he went out and sold all he had in order to possess this rare and beautiful pearl. Much like yesterday’s lesson. On a surface level this parable doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Think about it. Would you sell the roof over your head, the food you eat, the support for your family all to own something you could carry around in your pants pocket. And, while I realize this is a different parable, just like the woman who lost the coin (Luke 15:8-10) searched until she found the coin, if we read this parable in a literal way, we would be selling all our stuff in order to buy more valuable stuff.

One might also read this parable as to say the Kingdom of Heaven is up for sale. Jesus says here that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant who finds a pearl. The pearl alludes to the Kingdom of Heaven. The merchant sold everything in order to buy the pearl. Therefore, one could conclude, the Kingdom is for sale.

That is a terrible way to interpret this parable. Just as with the parable of the treasure in the field yesterday, today’s lesson is about one thing, sacrificing all you have in order to possess the greatest treasure, the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is more valuable than any treasure we might find in a field. It is more valuable than any pearl a merchant might find. And, because of its great value, we should be willing to sacrifice whatever we have in order to possess the Kingdom for ourselves. It is not that we can buy the Kingdom, it is that we sacrifice in order to have it.

What is it you would sacrifice in order to have the Kingdom of Heaven?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved