Blessed… Welcoming a Nobody

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me (Matthew 18:1-5, Common English Bible).

As I was looking for the picture to go with today’s post, I felt myself being drawn, again and again to the picture of the little girl above. She is an anonymous child from some place pictured as part of a YouTube video for a song titled “Nobody’s Child.” I think the reason I kept coming back to this picture is, I could see Jesus calling her over to sit among the disciples.

As I read today’s lesson there are two interpretations that come to my mind. I will talk about one today and one tomorrow. The first idea that came to my mind was really driven by the line, “Those who humble themselves…” In Jesus’ day a child was quite simply the product of his/her father. There identity came far more often than not, from their father.

As a boy grew, he gained more and more of his own identity as he accomplished more. When he learned a trade, most often after apprenticing with his father, he became known by his trade. If he gained notoriety, good or bad, it enhanced his identity, also for good or bad.

For little girls nothing usually changed much. She gained her identity from her relationship with her father until she married. Once married her identity was tied to her relationship with her husband. It was only when she had children, particularly male children that she gained any self-identity. If she never produced that male child, she never really gained an identity of her own. When her husband passed away she went to the home of her eldest male child. And, once again, her identity was usually tied to her relationship with another man, this time, her son.

The idea that we become like a little child is, in and of itself, a humbling experience. When we become a child, we don’t know quite as much. Things are simpler. But for today, we lose our identity. We are humbled because we are no longer our own. We gain our identity from our relationship with God. That is, quite simply, things are no longer about us, they are about God. We humble ourselves before God. Everything is about God.

It is a humbling idea. If we are to have a relationship with God, it is a relationship where we are servants. It is a relationship where we trust. It is a relationship where we accept life in very simple terms.

How do you demonstrate your humility toward God?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Go Catch a Fish

When they came to Capernaum, the people who collected the half-shekel temple tax came to Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. But when they came into the house, Jesus spoke to Peter first.“What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly kings collect taxes, from their children or from strangers?” “From strangers,” he said. Jesus said to him, “Then the children don’t have to pay.  But just so we don’t offend them, go to the lake, throw out a fishing line and hook, and take the first fish you catch. When you open its mouth, you will find a shekel coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us” (Matthew 17:24-27, Common English Bible).

I have always loved to go fishing. That being said, when I was a kid, if I didn’t catch anything very quickly, I would get bored and be ready to do something else. Fishing is one of the few things I will get out of bed early just to go. I’m not crazy about it even for fishing, but I will do it. I would rather go out and fish all night! Now, if someone were to tell me that there were fish out there that had money in their mouths??? I think I would be good on the boredom and the early morning scale for a while!

For the life of me I can’t figure out why Jesus would need to send Peter out to catch a fish and find a coin in its mouth in order to pay the temple tax. I understand what Jesus was saying about paying the tax. Though he didn’t think he had to pay it, and of course he was right, he wanted it paid so the people wouldn’t be offended. Some translations say “upset” or “stumble.” Regardless of which, Jesus was paying the tax so people wouldn’t have issue with him.

That reminds me of Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 8 when Paul discusses eating meat sacrificed to false gods. He devotes the who chapter to this subject. He says, in essence, it isn’t a big deal. Since the god isn’t God, it really wasn’t sacrificed (or at least that is the way I read the chapter). But, Paul finishes off the chapter saying this: “This is why, if food causes the downfall of my brother or sister, I won’t eat meat ever again, or else I may cause my brother or sister to fall.”

I think this is what Jesus was saying as well. We will pay the tax so we don’t cause problems for people who just don’t understand.

So I get that part. I don’t get the need for fishing part. I understand too that the coin had to come from somewhere. But did Peter really need to see another miracle? Hadn’t he, by this point, seen enough to believe. After all, Peter is the guy that said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

What it did do I think is give Peter another story of his experience with Jesus. It was a story he would be able to share with people at the right time. Think about it. If there were someone who provided for his family with hook and line, such a story could make a real connection in pointing such a person toward Jesus.

It seems to me that we have those stories too. At times they may make us wonder “Why?” But, in the end, we have something someone might need in order to see Jesus.

What is your story with Jesus?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… And They Were Heartbroken

When the disciples came together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Human One is about to be delivered over into human hands.  They will kill him. But he will be raised on the third day.” And they were heartbroken (Matthew 17:22-23, Common English Bible).

Have you ever been heartbroken? I feel pretty safe in saying that just about all of us have faced that at some point in our lives. Even if it was the loss of a junior high crush, we have felt that pain of loss. If you haven’t, there is a really strong possibility that it will come your way in the future. If it doesn’t, you may have the most broken of all hearts because there is no love there.

Today’s very short lesson, only two verses, has the twelve feeling heartbroken. Some might ask, “Jesus is still with them, why would they feel heartbroken? Would that not come when Jesus would actually die?” It might be that, for you, you have never had a person in your life that received a terminal diagnosis and you had to live out the last days with them. The words are enough to rip your heart out and yet you know you have to stay strong for this person you love.

I think that is what the twelve were feeling. But, I think it might have been even worse. Jesus had already told the twelve that he was going to die. It was in just the last chapter when Jesus made his first prediction of his death. One of them, Peter, tried to correct Jesus. He caught some grief for that effort. It may well have been that the first time none of the twelve really believed it was true.

It would have been a subject none of the twelve wanted to talk about or think about. After the first time, perhaps they thought, “Well that’s behind us now. Enough of the death nonsense. Let’s get back to the business at hand.”

If I have learned nothing else in my 26 years in ministry, I have learned that death is anything but nonsense and you can’t just put it behind you. It is real and it touches the lives of real people, bringing them a great deal of pain. And, if you have experienced it, you also know, for the person who died, the pain is gone. For those who remain behind the pain and the heartbreak only increase.

Jesus tried to bring some good news with the bad. Yes, he was going to die, but three days later he would rise. But I don’t think the 12 were ready to hear that yet. For them, the first time might have seemed to be idle talk. For Jesus to bring it up again so soon, they knew there was nothing idle this time. And, like for us many times, all they could see was a tragic end to a story of which they loved being a part.

While we often may feel sad about the death of Jesus, we feel sad about what he had to endure for us. We also know the truth of the good news in Jesus’ words to the twelve that day. He would and he did rise. Thanks be to God.

What are the times in life that have brought you real heartbreak?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Give Me Faith

When they came to the crowd, a man met Jesus. He knelt before him, saying, “Lord, show mercy to my son. He is epileptic and suffers terribly, for he often falls into the fire or the water.  I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and crooked generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Then Jesus spoke harshly to the demon. And it came out of the child, who was healed from that time on. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and said, “Why couldn’t we throw the demon out?” “Because you have little faith,” he said. “I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will go. There will be nothing that you can’t do” (Matthew 17:14-20, Common English Bible).

At one of the churches I served we had a southern gospel quartet who came and performed. We served them lunch following the concert. I was able to share the meal time with one of the group. As we talked I told him, “If I could do whatever I wanted, I would sing bass in a quartet.”

I am a preacher. And, while I am fortunate enough to sing bass with a barbershop chorus, I am not a gifted singer. I am fortunate that I have a career, a calling in something I love doing.

I really like to think that more often than not, my sermons are something from which people can grow in their faith. But, I also realize that it isn’t because of my skills, but God who is at work in me.

When I first started in the ministry, the idea if having to prepare a sermon every week scared me death. I knew I didn’t have that much to say. I have never been afraid to talk but I knew I was going to need something to say for about 20 minutes every week. It was able to happen, again not because of me but in spite of me. I am also convinced it happened because I prayed, “Lord, give me the faith I need to do this job.” It wasn’t always about the preaching or sermon preparation. That first hospital visit was also pretty frightening.

In our lesson today Jesus heals a young man the disciples had been unable to heal. Jesus said the reason was a lack of faith. He tells us if we have faith the size of a mustard seed there is nothing we can’t do.

So what does that say about my dream of singing bass in a quartet? Well, I do know this, singing bass isn’t my calling. And, God has given me all I need and continues to give me what I need to fulfill my calling in life. As for the singing bass part? I have a gift from God there too. When I came to Sweeny God lead me to the Coastalaires. To sing with them lets me have some of that experience that for me is beyond anywhere I ever thought I might be. All I can say is, “Lord give me faith. Faith to preach and faith to sing.” I am blessed.

What do you want to do? What are you called to do? Do you pray for God to give you faith?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again

By Request: I am going to start posting the manuscript of my sermon. It will not be exactly as I preached it as I do not use the manuscript when I preach, only an outline. While I am going back and proof-reading for mistakes, I am not going to promise this will be error free.

The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’” The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves. During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?!” And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”

The Lord God made the man and his wife leather clothes and dressed them. The Lord God said, “The human being[e] has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Now, so he doesn’t stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever, the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken. He drove out the human. To the east of the garden of Eden, he stationed winged creatures wielding flaming swords to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:1-13, 21-24, Common English Bible

 

Baseball hall of famer, the late Yogi Berra was famous for his quotes that quite possibly made sense to very few people beyond himself. Berra was famous for saying things like “If you find a fork in the road, take it.” On another occasion he said, “Baseball is about 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” Yet another time he said, “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.” And, “I usually take a two hour nap from one to four.” I will pause for a second and allow that one to soak in.

Berra was also not afraid to tell on himself. Once, when speaking to an audience he commented about his looks saying, “So I’m ugly. I’ve never seen anyone hit with his face.” When getting ready to eat pizza after a game it is reported he said, “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” When speaking about effort on the field Berra said, “You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn’t enough, in the second half, you have to give what is left.” Berra wasn’t always known to speak the truth but he also said, “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”

Two more before I move on. One of my personal favorites is a quote about switch hitters. Berra said, “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” And, the last one maybe Berra’s most famous and it lends itself to the sermon today as the title, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

A little over a week ago I thought about that last Yogi Berra quote. Had last Sunday not been Mother’s Day you probably would have heard this sermon at that time. Anyway, a little over a week ago, I had The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on the television. While I am not crazy about everything Colbert does on the show, for the most part I like it and that is particularly true of some of his guests. Anyway, back on May 8, I had the show on but wasn’t paying that much attention to it, as I was working on my blog, when Colbert started talking about a musical guest on the show that night. His name was Roger Waters and I don’t think I had ever heard of the man. But, as Colbert continued talking he said that Waters was formerly a guitar player and lead singer from the rock group Pink Floyd. I made a quick decision that I wouldn’t be watching that. I have never been a fan of hard rock in general and Pink Floyd in particular. Back in my movie operator days if I was the first operator to run a movie I had to watch it, whether I wanted to do so or not. When Pink Floyd’s movie The Wall came out, I was the first operator to run the movie so I had to watch it. It was quite possibly the weirdest movie I had ever seen. I really wasn’t interested in Mr. Waters or his music. I had to watch the movie. I did not have to watch the TV show.

Anyway, as the show continued. I still wasn’t paying all that much attention when I heard Colbert say something to the effect of “Here to play the single “Déjà vu” from his new album, Roger Waters.” Simultaneously I looked up from my laptop at the television, grabbed the remote from the end table, and thought of Yogi Berra saying “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

I was about to turn the TV off but as I was looking on the screen, but there was not an electric guitar anywhere in sight. Waters and those backing him up in the band were all playing acoustic guitars. That is a pretty good indication there won’t be much hard rocking going on. Beyond all that, Waters was also backed up by a large string orchestra. That got my attention and caused me to rethink turning the TV off.

While I am glad I kept the television turned on, it wasn’t because I heard something profound that made for some really good theological insight. Quite the contrary. I am glad I kept it on because I heard something I considered to be frightening that I probably would not have otherwise heard.

While I am not going to quote the whole song for you, I do want to share with you the words of the first verse:

If I had been God
I would have rearranged the veins in the face
To make them more resistant to alcohol and less prone to aging
If I had been God
I would have sired many sons
I would not have suffered the Romans to kill even one of them
If I had been God
With my staff and my rod
If I had been given the nod
I believe I could have done a better job

I don’t know about you, but I for one, am glad that Roger Waters is not God. I say that because I believe he could not have done a better job. Just the thought of ANY of us doing God’s job, much less thinking we could do it better is beyond frightening to me and I hope to you.

Pretty much, from the beginning of time, people have thought much the same as Mr. Waters, that they could do a better job of running the universe that the deity who made it and all that exists within it. The world, throughout history, has been ripe with people who thought they could do it better than God or who actually thought they were God.

The internet has many examples but I wanted to share just one with you, an atheist named Jon Webster who calls himself “The Thinker.” Webster has written a book he titled 10 Decisions I Could Have Made Better Than God (I am unsure how an atheist could do a better job at anything than a God he doesn’t think exists). He has a list of the ten things online with a brief explanation of each. He covers things from a very negative perspective like biblical creation, the flood, the virgin birth, the need for the crucifixion and more. He uses very basic logic to try to refute Christian understanding, Scripture and tradition.

Throughout history there have also been those who have thought they could do a better job than God. The Pharaoh’s thought they were a god. By definition that would mean they thought they could do better than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. Others believing they are or were gods, Roman emperors, Dalai Lamas, Inca emperors, Homer – author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Buddha, Alexander the Great, Simon Magus, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, Wayne Bent, Brian David Mitchell and Charles Manson and that is the short list. There were many, many more, some you may have heard of many others you probably have not heard of both in history and today in the world.

These are the people on the extremes. We might well call those people “wackos” or some other such derogatory term. After all, they really are the extremists. But truly, while not on the extremes, we are a great deal more like them than perhaps we want to admit.

How often do we break divine law and attempt to rationalize it away? How often do we go against what we know to be the will of God because it doesn’t fit in with what we want out of life? How often do we think we understand the ways of the world better than God and try to live out our own answers?

If we are completely honest with ourselves, the answer is far more often than we should ever want to admit. Do we live a Prodigal Son lifestyle on Friday and Saturday nights only to come to church on Sunday morning seeking forgiveness? Or, we tend to ignore the needs of others in an attempt to benefit ourselves. This list could go on all afternoon.

David Callahan begins his book The Cheating Culture with an episode of dishonesty during a time of great national tragedy. When total chaos gripped Manhattan after September 11th, some members of a New York credit union discovered that, because of a computer software glitch, they could withdraw unlimited amounts from cash machines.

Did the credit union rush to cut off their members? No, it trusted its members to use their ATM cards responsibly. But this trust proved to be costly. Over a period of about two months, as many as 4,000, otherwise honest members, overdrew their accounts — some by as much as $10,000. Some of the money was returned, but $15 million remained missing. Finally, the credit union called in the authorities to make arrests.

Our lesson this morning, commonly called “The Fall,” finds Adam and Eve still living in the Garden. All was right, no, better yet, perfect in their world. They have everything they could want in life, all within easy reach, thanks to God’s grace and providence.

But the snake, you can call the snake the devil, Satan, powerful forces of evil or some other such term that makes you really think about how bad temptation can be when it enters our lives. The snake approaches Eve and asks if it is true that she and Adam can’t eat of the trees in the garden. She tells him no, they can eat of any tree in the garden except the tree in the center of the garden or they will die. Satan tells her that they won’t die but instead they will be like God, knowing good from evil. They eat and their eyes were open. They know the evil around them, they can see it all right in front of them and they are ashamed.

There are several lessons in this passage. We are going to save most of them for another time. What we are going to focus on here is, “You will be like God.” Think about it for a moment. Just a little bite and you will be like God.

It seems to me that Adam and Eve wanted to be like God or there would have been no temptation at all. When we are tempted to do something we know is wrong, we want to be like God. We, all too often, think we really know things better than God. The thinking might go something like this, “God is up there in heaven looking down on all of us, but God really isn’t involved. If God were really involved and knew what we were up against, God would place those restrictions on us. So, since we know how hard things are and we know God wouldn’t want to make things more difficult for us, I can just go ahead and do what I want. God won’t mind. Then, when we think like that, we are saying we know better than God.

When we read through the pages of Scripture, Moses kills a man, an Egyptian soldier for the way he was treating a Hebrew Slave. His actions force him to leave town. Thinking back to Adam and Eve, and others, It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Move ahead years later. David has gone against God and had an affair, committing adultery. He tries to play things off on the woman’s husband. When that doesn’t work David has the man killed. Two commandments broken. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Absalom wants the power his father David holds. He stages a coup, dishonoring his father, in order to assume his father’s throne. He violated one of the Ten Commandments. Clearly his actions were falling outside the realm of God’s will. It doesn’t sound like there is much honor for his father. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Herod lusts after a girl who dances for him. He is willing to do anything to have the girl so he makes an outrageous promise. He will give her whatever she wants. She asks for the head of John the Baptist, which Herod gives the girl. Again, he is living outside the will of God. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Judas doesn’t like what he sees Jesus becoming. Jesus isn’t the kind of Messiah Judas and others thinks Israel needs. So he sells out for 40 pieces of silver. Clearly he thinks he could out do Jesus. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Peter is scared and worried over being known as a disciple. He forgets what Jesus taught him and the others about worry. He denies he even knows Jesus. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

In history, Joan of Arc, after saving France, is burned at the stake because some feared she was a witch. It’s like deja vu allover again.

In Salem Massachusetts, the number one test to determine if one was a witch was something called bound submersion. There was no good outcome for this test. The hands a feet were bound and attached to a large rock. The accused “witch” was then thrown into the water. If they managed to float it was confirmed they were a witch and would be executed in another way. If they drowned they were innocent. The end result? 100 percent of those accused and “tested” this way died. It’s like deja vu all over again.

Adolf Hitler sees the Jews in Germany as representing everything that is wrong in Germany and pours out propaganda for his cause. The Jews were imprisoned and many, as we know were executed, to the tune of 6,000,0000 dead. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Osama Bin Laden recruited martyrs, or at least that’s what he called them, to fly airplanes into two skyscrapers, the Pentagon and probably the capitol or White House to kill everyone on the planes and everyone inside the buildings. Where are the commandments? Where is the love? It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Someone drinks and gets behind the wheel of a car or dangerously speeds down the road, or texts while driving or otherwise acting in a manner that denies responsibility. It puts people’s lives at risk. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Someone cheats on their taxes in an effort to save money. They never even think about it as cheating their fellow citizens. They never see it as stealing. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

By giving in to the temptation, Adam and Eve are essentially claiming that God isn’t good. They’re giving in to the deception that good is possible apart from God, the source of all good. The Scriptures call this being separated from “the life of God.” When these first people eat the fruit, it isn’t about the fruit; it’s about their dissatisfaction with the world God has places them in. Creation isn’t good enough for them (Bell, Rob Sex God).

It seems to me, when we strive to do everything on our own, when we try to find the goodness in life outside of a relationship with God, we too are making a claim that God isn’t good or at least that God isn’t good enough. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

In the blog Red Letter Christian author and teacher Tony Campolo wrote a post titled “What Do You Mean by Sin.” He wrote:

From time to time, I have been asked in the academic classrooms where I have taught to define what I mean by sin. I always respond by saying, “Sin is what diminishes the humanity of another person and of the self.”

When I lie or cheat or commit adultery, I am diminishing the humanity of the other person and I am diminishing my own humanity. … Anything that makes homo sapiens less human is contrary to the will of God. Sin is more than just breaking some rules; it is more than just violating a verse of Scripture here or there. It is what hurts the humanity of another….

To this day, when I am questioned about what I mean by sin, I answer the question as posed, but I do not leave it there. I continue on to the great work of the Spirit of God inside each of us. Sin does not have the last word! The Spirit renews us and moves us into a relationship with the resurrected Christ!

I love Campolo’s words. When I sin I diminish the humanity of the other person. That is a powerful concept. When I put my focus first on myself, I diminish God and I diminish neighbor. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

But, if I can manage to put God and others ahead of myself then I might be able to quote Isaiah instead of Yogi Berra. “See, I’m doing a new thing.” If I am doing a new thing, it certainly won’t be like déjà vu all over again.

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain.  He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.  Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!”  Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.” The disciples asked, “Then why do the legal experts say that Elijah must first come?” Jesus responded, “Elijah does come first and will restore all things.  In fact, I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they didn’t know him. But they did to him whatever they wanted. In the same way the Human One[b] is also going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples realized he was telling them about John the Baptist (Matthew 17:1-13, Common English Bible).

Just about all of us have had those moments when you just don’t know what to say in a given situation. It might be that someone has shocked us with some news that has left us speechless. It might be that someone does something unbelievable and we are dumbfounded. It might even be that we are just out of things to say.

Peter, James and John found themselves in the situation where someone did something unbelievable. In this case it was Jesus. First of all, his clothes became dazzling white. Do you remember the commercials for various bleach products who talk about how white they make your laundry? Yeah, they only wish. The Scripture says it was brighter than any bleach could make them.

That was followed up by another amazing event, two guys showed up that had been dead for centuries, Moses and Elijah. I am not sure how James, John and Peter knew who these two were. After all, the digital camera was still many centuries away! However they knew it, they did know.

Imagine yourself in the place of these three. If we are living the story, it would probably be a speechless moment. How do you explain something that can’t be explainable? Some of us are a lot like Peter in this story. We might not know what to say, but we would give it a shot.

Peter’s answer to “what to say when you don’t know what to say” was, “Lord it is a good thing we are here. Let us build to shrines (shelters, tabernacles, memorials, dwellings, booths, places), one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

For his part, Jesus doesn’t respond to Peter’s idea. After God instructs the three that Jesus is His beloved Son and that they should listen to him, Jesus took them down from the mountain.

Jesus’ lack of a response gives me an idea of what we should say when we don’t know what to say and I am one who really needs to learn from that. I find that I am far too much like Peter. I want to say something, even when I don’t know what to say.

I have learned in the past few years that silence is important. We need the time and the quiet if we want to hear the voice of God. That just might mean, when we don’t know what to say, it could be a clue to say nothing at all.

What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Take Up Your Cross

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.   All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.   Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? For the Human One is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done.  I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see the Human One coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28, Common English Bible).

“Now that I’m a Christian my life will be so much easier.” Another said, “Preacher, now that I am a Christian, why isn’t my life easier? Doesn’t God love me?”

I have heard all that many times over the years. In light of our lesson today, how could we ever think that life as a Christian would be easy? Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Anyone who would see the cross as easy really needs to give some thought to what easy really looks like.

To carry this a step further, Jesus also says, “All who want to save their lives will lose it. But all those who lose their lives because of me will gain it.” Again, I can’t speak for you, but nothing about that sounds easy to me.

As people of faith we can become targets for people outside the faith. Further, even if we are not targets, we are not going to become exempt from the problems of life. Christians lose loved ones. Christians get audited by the IRS. Christians are involved in car accidents. The list can go on and on. Being a Christian does not exempt us from the difficulties of life.

What being a Christian does do is give us fulfillment in life. For some at least, before being a Christian, life may have been easier but satisfaction in life was elusive. When we quit chasing the things of the world and start chasing after the things of God, how we look at life and approach life make a real change within us. It doesn’t mean things will always be easy. It just means we will have satisfaction. And then, maybe, just maybe in that satisfaction we may find real joy.

Where do you look for your satisfaction and joy?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved