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,

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,

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,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Buried Treasure


“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44, Common English Bible).

To the modern ear the parable of the treasure in the field sounds a bit strange. In this time when mineral rights are often retained by sellers or sold outside the property itself this story would actually happening would be highly unlikely. Additionally, there would be ethical concerns as well. Finding someone else’s treasure and buying the field to have it for yourself instead of telling the owner? Questionable at best.

Things were different in the Biblical era. It was not uncommon for people to bury their treasure, particularly during times of war. Then, as sometimes happens, even today, the person might have been killed or taken prisoner and made a slave. It was not uncommon to find people searching among the ruins after a battle, searching for treasure. If they found something, they were quick to stake a claim, much like someone might have done during the gold rush days.

The whole point of the parable is, that the kingdom is like the treasure itself. When we find the treasure, we should be willing to sacrifice all we have, all we are, in order to have the treasure of the Kingdom of God.

When I think about this parable I look at it in light of Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22). This is exactly what Jesus was telling the rich young man. First, when the young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ response, live by the law. The young man said he had done this since he was a boy. Jesus then tells him to go sell all he has, give the money to the poor and come and follow him. The rich young man went away sad as he was unwilling to part with his stuff in order to have the treasure of the Kingdom of God.

The same was as true today as it was back then. How many of us would be willing to sell all we have in order to have the Kingdom of God? I fear the number is small. For way too many in our society, the idea is to accumulate more, not to give away what we already have. In our society, we have no answer to the question, “How much is enough?” When the focus is on more for me instead of helping the poor, we miss the boat.

We have much. The treasure is available. The question for each of us is, are we willing to sell it to buy the treasure?

What are you willing to give up, to get the the Kingdom of God?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Let the Dough Rise

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough” (Matthew 13:33, Common English Bible).

My friend Paul makes a lot of bread. No, he isn’t a baker, he just makes a lot of homemade bread that is very delicious. I enjoy eating it very much.

In these days of convenience we live in, Paul and others like him, don’t make bread in the ways our mothers and even more their mothers and grandmothers did during previous generations. This isn’t a complaint, it is a statement of the facts. Paul, as well as most others I know who make bread, throw all the ingredients in a bread machine, turn it on and let the machine do its thing. About three and a half hours later, out comes a hot loaf of homemade bread.

While I love that we have homemade bread far more regularly due to this modern technology, I miss the times from my childhood (though they didn’t happen often) when I would see bread made. It fascinated me that after the kneading was done, the dough was left in a covered bowl. It would rise to twice the original size. It was then punched down, kneaded again, divided and placed in loaf pans where it was allowed to rise again to twice its original size.

The growing dough was interesting. Yeast was placed in the dough and it was worked until it permeated all the dough, causing it to rise.

Through out most of Scripture, leavening is a metaphor for evil and how, once in, it can destroy. Here Jesus takes a different angle. He uses the leavening to illustrate the growth of the Kingdom. Much like my fascination with how the leavening changed the bread when I was a kid, this is a pretty interesting comparison as well.

I think Jesus, here, is talking about the growth of the community of faith. When faith is introduced to the community, and we keep working the community, the community grows just as when a baker works the yeast into bread dough, the dough grows. As the community grows, both in number and faithfulness, the result becomes more growth still.

I think we can also find a secondary meaning in this parable. None of us, not the first Christians and not the Christians of our time come to the faith knowing everything there is to know about being a Christian. It is a process. It is a process that takes time, really the rest of our lives, for us to know and come to some level of understanding. We grow as individual Christians. The leavening of the Gospel continues to grow within us, it continues to work on us, growing our lives and our faith.

When we grow in our faith, the faith community grows too. We become closer to God and closer to each other. In the end, that leavening does a good thing.

How does the leavening work in your life?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… A Little Goes A Long Way

He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field.  It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32, Common English Bible).

Every once in a while I catch the television magazine show, Texas Country Reporter. I really enjoy the show and wish I could watch it more often than it seems I can see it. Something else often gets in the way.

This past Saturday, as it turns out, was a day I was able to watch the show. I saw a feature on a jewelry designer named Marcie Finney Ditto of Ft. Worth. In recent years, her jewelry she designs has featured mustard seeds. Though she did not say this, I thought, “from something small comes something that thrives.” Without question Marcie is not the biggest jewelry manufacturer in the world. She isn’t even the biggest in Texas, nor does she want to be. She is, however building something faithful for the future for both herself and her family, from mustard seeds.

Jesus compares the mustard seed to the Kingdom of Heaven. The seed is small but from it grows a great tree, big enough that birds can build nests.

Our faith is like that. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to see great results. Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. It absolutely can change lives.

I think most of us have heard stories of people checking into hotel rooms whose lives are in shambles, some even have plans of suicide. They pick up the Gideon Bible in the room and begin reading and it changes everything for them. The Gideons placed the Bible in the room in hopes that it might change someone’s life. They planted a mustard seed. It grew and made a difference.

For years now, when someone comes into my church seeking help, they, more often than not get help. They also leave with a Bible. What good is meeting the physical need if the spiritual life remains undernourished. I can’t solve every problem, but I can at least address that problem.

For Marcie Finney Ditto, the mustard seed goes beyond being part of her jewelry. It is something she takes very seriously. Every piece of jewelry goes to the customer in a velvet bag. Inside the bag is a card along with what Marcie calls seed money. She places two one dollar bills inside the bag with the instructions to use the money to perform a random act of kindness. It might be to buy someone a bottle of cold water or help that person who is just a little short of a needed gasoline purchase. The what isn’t as important as the action. What Marci is doing is taking mustard seeds, two one dollar bills, and planting them in the hands of her customers who in turn plant them in the world. I think it might just be turning into something very special and far bigger than a simple seed.

How are you planting mustard seeds, seeds of faith in the world?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… The Dandelion Paradox

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared. “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’ “‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered, “The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’ “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvest time I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn” ’”

 Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” Jesus replied, “The one who plants the good seed is the Human One.  The field is the world. And the good seeds are the followers of the kingdom. But the weeds are the followers of the evil one.  The enemy who planted them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the present age. The harvesters are the angels.  Just as people gather weeds and burn them in the fire, so it will be at the end of the present age.  The Human One will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that cause people to fall away and all people who sin.  He will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Those who have ears should hear” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, Common English Bible).

Yesterday we looked a bit a weeds and I told you about a former church member who told me, “A weed is a plant no one loved.” It is something that has stuck with me in the years since.

I can attest to that from my own life experience. I am sure that I, much like my kids, brought my mother (I honestly don’t remember if I did or not, but I do remember my kids doing so), a flower I picked out of the yard. My kids would pick it and then with pride come in and give it to Cindy and say, “Mama, I picked this for you!” And of course she made a big deal out of the gift of a “flower” that most of us, when in our yards, would call weeds.

As I think back on that, I remember that some of those “flowers” were dandelion blooms. That brought back to my memory the dandelions that grew in the yard, a plant we didn’t want growing in our yard when I was a kid. They were “weeds” and we would spend a significant amount of time attempting to eradicate these weeds from the lawn.

So now, between children and adults we have a paradox. Is the dandelion a weed? Or, is it a flower? Such could be difficult enough to solve but the dilemma gets worse. Imagine my shock when, in later years, as an adult, I found out that some people say those dandelions are greens and they eat them! How could they do that? How could someone eat weeds? But, what I found out was some people love them. That means, the dandelion, is it a weed, is it a flower or is it a vegetable. That doesn’t even begin to mention people who make dandelion tea or dandelion wine.

Since I made this discovery, I have also discovered that I really like pesto. Most often pesto is made from basil leaves. One day I found out you could make pesto from spinach leaves and I tried it and found out I like spinach pesto pretty well, Much more recently a church member gave me Swiss chard and I found out Swiss chard pesto is pretty good. I haven’t tried dandelion pesto yet but I would certainly be willing to try.

In this paradox, I am more and more coming down on the side of a vegetable. But, here is the deal. Just as the farmer said the workers might pull up the wheat while trying to pull the weeds because they couldn’t tell the difference, regardless of what you might think, those dandelions aren’t just a weed to some folks. They are something the really care about. In other words, we might not be able to tell the difference.

What looks like a weed, what looks like a flower and what looks like a vegetable to you?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved