Blessed… Don’t Be Deterred

As Jesus and his disciples were going out of Jericho a large crowd followed him. When two blind men sitting along the road heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Now the crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet. But they shouted even louder, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stopped in his tracks and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord, we want to see,” they replied.  Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they were able to see, and they followed him (Matthew 20:29-34, Common English Bible).

Jesus was walking through town and there were two blind men who asked for Jesus to have mercy on them. At least to me, this idea of having mercy on them is a bit strange. The two are blind. Instead of asking for mercy, why did they not immediately come out asking Jesus to heal them?

The two must have been stirring up quite a ruckus and making a scene. They were making enough noise that the people around them are wanting them to be quiet. We aren’t sure why the two, in their efforts to get Jesus’ attention, were bothering others in the crowd so much. Some speculate that they were attempting to get the two not to bother Jesus. Others believe that they were afraid that, with all the noise these two were making, Jesus might notice the two blind men and completely miss seeing them. Therefore they might miss the chance of having Jesus giving mercy to them. Regardless of the reasons, the two stirred up those around them.

What I enjoy about this story and that these two were not going to be deterred.  If anything, when the crowd is attempting to get the two to settle down, the two, if anything, turned the volume up. They wanted to a moment with Jesus. To be more precise, they wanted to see Jesus.

As the two continue to make noise and stir things up in order to gain Jesus’ attention, their efforts come to a successful moment when Jesus comes to them and asks what they want. Their response? “We want to see.” Jesus meets them where they are and takes them where they want to go.

The point for today is simply this. When we have a dream, when we have a wish, when we have something only God can do for us, never, ever be deterred by the nay sayers around you. I believe God puts these dreams into our heads. I also believe there are many things we cannot do ourselves. WE NEED GOD!

In his book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, Mark Batterson says that God is not offended by your big dreams. God is offended by anything less. Further, Batterson believes that it is offensive to God for us to pray for things we can do. What we truly need to pray for are the things we are unable to do, things we need God to do for us.

In the lesson, the two blind men were unable to restore their own sight. When I pray for my adult son who travels all over the world, to have safe travels, that is something I cannot do for them. I need God’s hand to be at work. And, when someone says to me, “Accidents are relatively rare. You don’t need to waste your time praying about that.” I cannot be deterred. I can protect my child in no other way than through prayer.

Whatever it is you need, if you can do it for yourself, do it. If you cannot do it for yourself, the place best to begin is prayer.

What are you trying to do that you cannot allow the world to deter you?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Blessed… Hush and Be Satisfied

As Jesus and his disciples were going out of Jericho a large crowd followed him. When two blind men sitting along the road heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Now the crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet. But they shouted even louder, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stopped in his tracks and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord, we want to see,” they replied.  Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they were able to see, and they followed him (Matthew 20:29-34, Common English Bible).

We live in a world where people search for meaning. The people around us search for significance. We want to have meaning. We want to have purpose. A common buzz word for the significance people search for is “truth.” And, for many, it continues to be an exercise in futility because these same people seem to spend their time looking in all the wrong places.

It seems to me, many of these people are as blind spiritually as the two men in the lesson were blind physically. They spend their day waiting and hoping, hoping that people will show mercy on them. In Jesus’ day, this was the only way for a blind person to support themselves, to go out and beg.

When the two men in our lesson heard Jesus was coming, they wanted to make that connection. They shouted for Jesus to have mercy on them. Those around them told them, in essence, “Shut up. Be satisfied with your ability to beg. You shouldn’t bother Jesus with your foolishness.”

I fear that this, all too often is the role the Church plays in the lives of the spiritually blind. We know about the One who has the power to change lives, to REALLY change lives and we all too often tend to treat it like it is an issue of the highest national security. We act as though we don’t know what the power of Jesus can do and refuse to share it with a hurting world.

I have heard it said, “The Church, at its best is a place where one hobo can tell another hobo where to find bread.” That is what we should be, for starters. But, we should be something even more. We should be the place that feeds a hungry world. But we should also be the place where the world learns about real significance. We should be the place where people hear the Good News that God loves them. The Church should be the place where real, hurting people find significance, purpose and truth. It is a place where people can quickly learn that they have found the right place for all those things.

The Church and Christians should, not in the Biblical era, not in any time past, the present or in the future be a place where the spiritual hurting of the world hear, “Be quiet.”

Where else should people go to find significance and meaning for their lives?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Have Mercy

 As Jesus and his disciples were going out of Jericho a large crowd followed him. When two blind men sitting along the road heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Now the crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet. But they shouted even louder, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stopped in his tracks and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord, we want to see,” they replied.  Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they were able to see, and they followed him (Matthew 20:29-34, Common English Bible).

I have always found it interesting that when these two guys saw Jesus coming, Their first response was to as that Jesus show them mercy. They are blind. They can’t see a thing. And, for these two men, it seems pretty obvious what they really want and I don’t think I would attach the word mercy to it. I would have come right out and told Jesus what I wanted him to do. But that is not what these two did. “Lord, show us mercy.”

It caused me to pause for a minute and look the word up in an online dictionary. Mercy means, “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” Would Jesus have brought harm to the two men? I think if you were to ask the man who had a girl possessed by a demon.

They didn’t care about the girl or to see her healed. In fact the opposite was true. They were making money off the girl’s plight. When Jesus healed her, they lost their easy living. They cared nothing about the girl, their only interest was in putting the girl out for public show so they could make money.

If Jesus healed the two men, if he gave them back their sight, it might have changed things for them in perhaps some not so good ways too., There would be no more begging. In fact the opposite was true. Now it would be time to go out and work and make a living for themselves and their families.

Still, these two did not ask Jesus to heal them. They asked for mercy. While I was researching today’s post I ran across a Facebook meme that speaks to some of this.

A Handful of sand,
Thrown into the sea,
is what sinning is
especially when compared to
God’s providence and mercy.
St. Isaac the Syrian

God is always given us more than we deserve. We deserve punishment. God gives us healing and grace. That is mercy. May we all know it, receive it, and share it. It is part of that free gift to you.

May we all find mercy in the arms of our Loving God. It is more than we deserve yet God gives it to us anyway.

How has God shown mercy in your life? Are you sharing that mercy with others?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… And “THAT” Parent Asked…

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus along with her sons. Bowing before him, she asked a favor of him. “What do you want?” he asked. She responded, “Say that these two sons of mine will sit, one on your right hand and one on your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Can you drink from the cup that I’m about to drink from?” They said to him, “We can.” He said to them, “You will drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left hand isn’t mine to give. It belongs to those for whom my Father prepared it.” Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave—just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people” (Matthew 20:20-28, Common English Bible).

When my oldest son Wayne was in high school he was a basketball player. He ended up on the bench and rarely played. It was a bit frustrating because the season before Wayne had been a bench player but he played all the time. He was one of the first in the game off the bench. The next season he rarely played.

I spoke with the coach before a game one night. He made an assumption that really wasn’t correct. I just wanted to ask him what parts of Wayne’s game he needed to improve to be able to get some playing time. I wasn’t blaming the coach. I was not at all trying to be “THAT” parent. “THAT” parent was exactly what the coach assumed I was trying to be. The meeting didn’t go well. I didn’t make that mistake again. I fear I made things even worse for Wayne. Should you read this son, I am sorry.

My mind went back to that night with the coach when I read the lesson for today. I can’t help but wonder of the mother of the sons of Zebedee was trying to be “THAT” parent. We all want what is best for our kids. The now adult Wayne works for a company repairing electronics. I would love to see him become a manager with that or another company (though I have no intention of going and talking with his bosses). Christopher, my younger son is a teacher and coach in northeast Texas. His football teams have been to the playoffs several times. I think it would be so great for him to be a head coach or a principal one day (I also have no intention of inserting myself into his situation either).

I feel certain that James and John’s mother was quite proud. They were in Jesus’ inner circle of disciples. They were learning the true meaning of being a servant. Still, it would seem that they still, as yet, did not understand. It also seems quite evident that the other ten didn’t get it either. Further, if the twelve didn’t get it, we shouldn’t be too hard on James and John’s mother. She wasn’t there all the time. If the twelve didn’t get it, neither did she.

She wanted the same thing most any parent wants for their child, the best life has to offer. She knew they would never be number one, that was Jesus’ spot. But she wanted to see them as Jesus’ top level managers. Though she probably didn’t understand exactly what that meant, who can blame her for seeking the best for her boys. With the events that were about to unfold, I can’t help but believe the wife of Zebedee might have rethought her request.

I still want the best for my boys, for their wives and for my grandkids. If I thought there were someway to insert myself to truly help, I would consider it. But, I realize I don’t want to be “THAT” parent again. And, for now, I realize there isn’t anything I can do. The truth probably is, I have already done everything I can for my boys except for one thing. I can pray. And, I know I can and I always want to be, “THAT” parent, a praying parent.

How have you inserted yourself for those you love?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Average Joe – The Widow’s Son

The sermon from First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas and Columbia United Methodist Church in West Columbia Texas on June 11, 2017. This is the beginning sermon in a series titled “Average Joes with an Extraordinary Story.” This sermon series are first-person narrative messages. The sermon title is “The Widow’s Son.”

TheWidowsSon - Big

The Lord’s word came to Elijah: Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to take care of you. Elijah left and went to Zarephath. As he came to the town gate, he saw a widow collecting sticks. He called out to her, “Please get a little water for me in this cup so I can drink.” She went to get some water. He then said to her, “Please get me a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any food; only a handful of flour in a jar and a bit of oil in a bottle. Look at me. I’m collecting two sticks so that I can make some food for myself and my son. We’ll eat the last of the food and then die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go and do what you said. Only make a little loaf of bread for me first. Then bring it to me. You can make something for yourself and your son after that. This is what Israel’s God, the Lord, says: The jar of flour won’t decrease and the bottle of oil won’t run out until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” The widow went and did what Elijah said. So the widow, Elijah, and the widow’s household ate for many days. The jar of flour didn’t decrease nor did the bottle of oil run out, just as the Lord spoke through Elijah.

After these things, the son of the widow, who was the matriarch of the household, became ill. His sickness got steadily worse until he wasn’t breathing anymore. She said to Elijah, “What’s gone wrong between us, man of God? Have you come to me to call attention to my sin and kill my son?”

Elijah replied, “Give your son to me.” He took her son from her and carried him to the upper room where he was staying. Elijah laid him on his bed. Elijah cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, why is it that you have brought such evil upon the widow that I am staying with by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself over the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, please give this boy’s life back to him.” The Lord listened to Elijah’s voice and gave the boy his life back. And he lived. Elijah brought the boy down from the upper room of the house and gave him to his mother. Elijah said, “Look, your son is alive!”

“Now I know that you really are a man of God,” the woman said to Elijah, “and that the Lord’s word is truly in your mouth” (1 Kings 17:8-24, Common English Bible).

The man just seemed weird to me. I am Obedasher and I live in the town of Zeraphath. My mom called the stranger, “Man of God.” His real name was Elijah and he was a prophet. First he asks my mother to make him a pancake. And, to top that all off, she was to make his pancake before she could make food for her or me. I might not have known much, I was after all, just a kid, but I knew selfish when I saw it. OK, I get that part. He was hungry. Well who wasn’t? It hadn’t rained in Israel for months. The crops were either already dead or were dying on the vine. Everywhere you looked there were dead crops, but it didn’t really matter. Mother and I didn’t have money to buy food anyway. All we had was a little bit of flour and a little bit of oil and no hope of getting more.

My dad had died a few months before. It was just me and mom at that point. Back when it all happened I wasn’t really old enough to do much to help her. And, had there been rain the crops might have made and my mom could have gone out and gleaned someone’s field. You know, gleaning? I know you don’t hear much of it in your day, but it was a common practice in Israel during Bible times. The owner of the field would intentionally leave some food around the edges of the field so widows and the poor could come in after the harvest was done and glean, pick what was left. It was a good system to take care of the needs of people like me and my mom. The only problem was if there were no crops to pick, there were also no crops to glean.

This time of no available food was made even more difficult when it was a woman or a child involved. In those days women weren’t allowed to own property and they weren’t allowed to do business. If a woman had no husband or adult sons she would often go back to her father’s house. But, my grandfather had died many years before. I never knew him. So that was not an option either.

When the man came to my mother asking for food she told him that she was going to use the last of her flour and oil to make a small meal of bread for her and me and then, because we had no more food and no prospects of getting more, we were going to lay down and die.

Elijah told my mom that it was OK and that she should go ahead with her plan but first to make a small loaf of bread for him! Can you believe the nerve this guy had? Here mom and I are, about to eat the last of the food we had to our name and he wanted us to give some of it to him. Like I said, I was young back then. I was perhaps eight years old. But, I was old enough to know you didn’t ask people to give up the last of their food! I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was fuming. I am pretty sure there was steam coming out of my ears. I was thinking, “I just can’t believe how selfish some people are. We are about to die of starvation and he wants the last of our food. It just wasn’t right.

Then he told my mom some craziness about if she did as he asked the oil and flour would not run out until the rain returned and there was enough food for everyone to eat. I couldn’t believe the ridiculous story this guy was telling my mother. I knew it was impossible for the jars to refill themselves. It was all crazy and weird.

What was really hard for me to believe was, my mother was buying the whole bit. She sat and listened to what Elijah had to say and she swallowed that whole mess hook, line and sinker. It really was hard to believe.

Later Mom told me that it wasn’t so much that she believed everything Elijah had to say but instead she thought, “What is there to lose? If I use all the flour and oil to make bread for me and Obedasher we will die soon. The little bit for the man of God won’t really matter in the long run. What do we have to lose?” She decided to risk a little to be able to not only eat another day, she was hoping it would be true and last until the rains came again.

After that she also taught me something I didn’t know. She taught me that God had told our people the importance of hospitality and that you always shared what you had when a stranger came to your door. She said the rest of our story proved God’s faithfulness.

Because my mother took a risk for Elijah, the Man of God, God blessed us. Elijah promised that the flour and oil wouldn’t run out. And, much to my surprise, they did not. Every day my mother would use what looked to be the last of the flour and oil to make our food for the day. It wasn’t a king’s feast. It was really just very simple bread. But that bread kept us going and we didn’t starve. Mother always believed it was because we honored God by following His instructions. Back then I wasn’t so sure but today, I believe too.

Then, as if we needed more convincing of God’s power, I got sick. I got really sick. As each day passed, I got weaker and I got sicker. I was confined to my bed and slept a great deal. My mother managed to find what she needed to make broth for me. I never did know where she found it, but there was broth for me just about any time I was awake.

One afternoon after I finished my lunch of bread and broth, I rolled over, went to sleep. I did not wake up. I was dead. From what I am told, my mother was crushed by what had happened and she was angry with God, but even more than that, she was angry with Elijah, the Man of God. She picked me up and carried me downstairs to Elijah. She questioned if the whole reason he had come to our home was it point out my mother’s sins and to take me away? I am very familiar with the details. We discussed it over dinner quite often. Mother loved to retell this part of the story.

Elijah took my body from Mother, then scooped me up in his arms and carried me back upstairs. He sent mother out of the room and closed the door. She stood right outside, wanting to know everything going on inside. She says she was crying throughout the whole experience. At first she was crying out of sadness for me dying. But then she was crying out of great desire to be in the room to see what Elijah was about to do. She said she knew there should be no way he could bring me back to life. Yet at the same time, Mother also knew that this man seemed to have a special relationship with God. After watching the flour and oil never running out over the past few weeks, she confessed she knew anything was possible.

As for what was going on inside the room, Elijah later told me, he laid me down on his bed. He then stretched himself out over me. Mother said he then prayed but it was more of a cry than a prayer. Elijah cried out in a very loud voice. He cried out from some place deep within him. “Lord my God, please give this boy’s life back to him.”  Elijah cried out, almost screamed his prayer. Then he stood up. I was still dead. He lay back on my body, and prayed again. When I was still dead, he did the same a third time. When he was still laying on me the third time and praying, I woke up. The Lordlistened to Elijah and gave me my life back. The only thing was, I didn’t really know I was dead, at least not until they assured me I had been.

When I woke up, I was startled to find Elijah lying on top of me. “What are you doing?” I screamed at him. When my mother heard this, she busted into the room. I don’t think anything was going to keep her out at that point. She had to come back into the room. First, I had been dead. She was hearing my voice again. But, the way I sounded to her was not at all what she expected. She said she could hear fear in my voice. I’m not sure the whole fear business was true, I’ve never been afraid of anything. Still, she insisted I was afraid. I didn’t agree, but knew not to argue with her.

When I woke up and saw Elijah’s face so close to mine, I was startled. Who wouldn’t be? I could also see the tears in his eyes. He quickly got up from lying on top of me. I asked him why he was crying. He said it was because I had died and after the first time he prayed he feared God wasn’t going to answer his prayer to give me my life back. There were still more tears, from both he and my mom when they realized God truly had answered Elijah’s prayer. I had actually died but now, now I was alive again. That could only be God.

They kept telling me I had been dead. I really didn’t believe them at first. I thought they were pulling some kind of a joke on me to get me to quit sleeping so much or something.

I had felt so bad. And, I am always so tired. I’m really not sure what finally allowed me to believe what my mother and Elijah told me. It was all so strange. I had known a few people who had died in my life, including my dad. I knew there were people who had prayed for them. Not one of them had ever come back to life, not a single one. Yet here I was, living proof that God has that power. I had been dead. Then I was alive again.

After I woke up, I started feeling better. I was still very weak. But, Mother and Elijah thought I that I was spending far too much time in bed at this point. But, I wasn’t strong enough to walk on my own, at least not yet. My weakness was no problem for the Man of God. He scooped me up and carried me downstairs. From the next few days, Elijah would come up to my room and scoop me up first thing in the morning and carry me down stairs where I would have breakfast and sit for a period of time. After lunch Elijah would carry me back upstairs again and I would nap for an hour or so. Then it was back downstairs before dinner. Each night at bed time he would carry me up one more time.

The recovery was really just me taking a few steps at a time. That was followed by a few more followed by still a few more after that. Before long I was able to get up and move around the house pretty well on my own. After that I would walk outside and sit, feeling the healing rays of the sun on my skin and the fresh breeze blowing through my hair. Though I was young at the time, I knew, without question, that God had done something powerful and special both with me and for me. There should never be a question, I was blessed.

The rains did finally come. That was a blessing for everyone in the region. Crops were again planted and in due course we were able to have food again. With that Elijah said it was time for him to move on. Mother and I were sad to see him go. The man might have been weird but he definitely made life interesting and exciting at our house. It absolutely was never dull.

Before he left he asked me to walk with him. We walked out to the village well. It was just a pleasant conversation, a man talking to a boy, giving him advice for life. He told me he would remember to pray for mother and me. He said he knew that God had plans for me. When we got to the well he lowered the bucket and brought it back up and we had a cool drink of water.

Then he continued. “God has given you a great blessing during the time I was here. Even more, God has given you an extraordinary story to share with people you meet. Share the story of how the flour and oil never ran out until the day came when you could once again glean the fields. Tell them about how you died and the Lordbrought you back to life again. There will be more things happen in your life. You will look around and both see and recognize the hand of the Lord at work. Those times too are part of your story. The times may be less dramatic but they are no less important to the person God made you to be. Obedasher, you are a person with a unique story to tell. Don’t let that story go untold. The world needs to know.”

With that, we walked back home. The next morning Elijah ate breakfast and then left. My mother and I haven’t seen the man of God since.

That was fifteen years ago. Not long after, my mother told me I needed a trade, a way to make a living and support a family. My father had been a sheep shearer. Because of his work my mother knew many others in the trade so she arranged for me to be an apprentice. I worked hard and learned the lessons well. Even after my time as an apprentice was over, I continued to work hard. I built a reputation as someone who came and got the job done, didn’t overcharge people and that I was someone with an interesting story. Every time I work for a new sheep owner or with new shepherds, I tell them my story. Sometimes I spend the night out in the field with the shepherds. We all sit around the fire sharing food and share stories in the quiet of the evening. They would always want to hear about the flour and oil jars never being empty and how Elijah brought me back to life. I like to think I have gotten pretty good at telling the story.

About two years ago Mother became quite ill and died. She said she knew it was her time and she was excited about seeing God. After all the two of us had been through it was a hard time for me. Though by this time I was married with two children of my own, a boy and a girl, because of our experiences I still felt very close to Mother and my grief was intense. I am comforted, however, by the time we had together and that we shared these wonderful experiences of God’s mighty power in our lives I know Mother left this world in the full knowledge of God’s power and grace. I know she loved the Lord. The last thing she said to me before she died was, “I am blessed by you, O Man of God.” To call me the same thing she called Elijah was a very real blessing to me. I still treasure her words.

I am just a regular ordinary guy who makes his living shearing sheep. Ordinary though I may be, God gave me an extraordinary story to share and I do my best to tell my story. Sometimes people believe my story. Sometimes they do not. It isn’t up to me whether people believe the words I have to say. Making the people I meet believe is not my job. I have four jobs. To be a good husband, to be a good father, to do good, honest work shearing people’s sheep and to tell a story, my story. And that is just what I do. Then, when my job is complete and I head home for my other responsibilities, I leave the rest in the hands of the Lord. I move on to the next flock to shear and the next opportunity to share what God did for both me and my mother. I tell how God made a difference for us and continues to make a difference for me and my family.

You too may be a plain-old ordinary average Joe or plain Jane. But, God has given you a unique story. You have an extraordinary story and it is your story to share with the people God brings into your life. Your story might just be what someone; some child of God needs to hear in order for them to see the hand of the Lord in their own lives. It might be just what they need to hear, to see and understand their own extraordinary story and then go out and share that story with the world. And, when it comes to sharing the stories of God’s great work in the world, the world needs to hear more of that.

As I take my leave I have one more thing to share with you. It is something Moses said to our people a few generations back. I feel certain you have heard these words before. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Hoping in the World

 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve aside by themselves on the road. He told them, “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Human One will be handed over to the chief priests and legal experts. They will condemn him to death.  They will hand him over to the Gentiles to be ridiculed, tortured, and crucified. But he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 20:187-19, Common English Bible).

This is the third time Jesus predicts his death and resurrection in Matthew’s gospel. I have thought some about this particular passage. I found it puzzling that Jesus found it necessary to tell the disciples three times that he would be arrested, tried and executed and then on the third day he would rise again.

I have reached a couple of conclusions. First, as New Testament era Jews, the disciples were continually focused on the world of the present. They anticipated Jesus to be a Messiah of their present day, not a Messiah of a world to come. Even when they spoke of, “When you come into your kingdom,” their thinking was for a kingdom of their day, not a kingdom they wouldn’t be seeing for years to come.

The second reason was, these guys needed reminders. Jesus first started talking about this several chapters back and Peter chose to chastise Jesus. For his trouble he, at least on the surface, seemed to have Jesus call him Satan. Additionally, because the disciples were so focused on the present, Jesus had to say, in essence, now is the time. The first two times were more about, “the day is coming…” Jesus’ words now were about, “We are headed into Jerusalem and this is what is going to happen….”

It seems to me that we are a lot like the disciples. We too are focused on the present rather than the life that is to come. Sure, a good bit of who we are and what we do should be focused on the here and now but our focus should be on making the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. What we tend to be more focused on is having a good time now because that is what life is all about. Or, at least that is what we think.

It’s not about us. We need the reminder too. We don’t need the reminder that Jesus was about to suffer and die and would rise on the third day. The reminder we need is that Jesus not only did suffer and die, he suffered and died for you and I. Further he did rise on the third day and because he lives we can have life too. But, we should always remember, that isn’t because of us, because it isn’t about us. We are offered the gift of grace because Jesus did suffer, die and rose again. Thanks be to God.

Where do you find your reminders that Jesus died and rose again for you and me?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

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

 

Blessed… Whoever Said Grace was Fair?

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion he sent them into his vineyard. “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing.  He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’  And they went. “Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing.  Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’ “‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied. “He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’ “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion?  Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’  So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:1-16, Common English Bible).

There is a joke I heard a few years back. I don’t know who should get the credit for it. I just know it isn’t me.

There was once a preacher and a New York City cab driver who died and went to heaven. St. Peter greeted them at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter ushered both through and was showing them around. They came up on a grand mansion. It was a beautiful home. They gazed on the huge house and St. Peter said to the cab driver, “This, is your new home.” The cab driver was ecstatic. He ran inside and started going through the house looking at every room.

Meanwhile, back outside, St. Peter and the preacher started making their way further into the tour. Eventually they came up on a nice but small cottage. St. Peter told the preacher that this was his new home. The preacher then said to St. Peter, “I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. I am thankful to be here, I really am. But that guy, that cab driver gets a mansion and after all the work I did for the Kingdom, I get this small cottage? That just doesn’t seem right. It is nice, but still….”

St. Peter then replied, “Well Preacher, we work on results around here. Yes, you did a lot for the Kingdom. You preached every week. But the thing is, when you preached people slept. When he drove, people prayed!”

Thankfully, our lesson for today lets us in on the truth. We all receive the same reward whether we are a preacher or a cab driver or anything else. If we receive Jesus Christ, no matter what we do and no matter when we come to the faith, our reward will be the same.

Is it right that the thief on the cross gets the same eternal reward as one of the heroes of the Bible like Simon Peter, James, John or one of the other disciples? What about the same as Mary the Mother of Jesus or Mary Magdalene? What about the Apostle Paul getting the same reward as some of the Christians he himself admitted he persecuted?

Does the person who made a death-bed confession of faith in Jesus Christ deserve the same reward as the person who has been a faithful, church-attending Christian all their life?

That is the real point in the lesson today. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is that we all enter the vineyard at different times in life. But, regardless of the time we entered, we all get the same reward.

It may not sound very fair and perhaps it isn’t to our human understandings. The thing is, however, none of us deserve what we get from God. We all get that reward because of grace. Grace is the gift of God’s unmerited favor. There is nothing that we can do to deserve God’s grace no matter when we showed up to work. If we came early in the morning, we get the free gift of grace. If we came at the midday point of our lives, we get grace. If we came at the end of the day, we get grace. For all, it is undeserved. For all who believe it is a treasured gift from God.

So the person who says, with faith in their hearts, I believe, will get the same reward  as those who have spent all our days following Jesus Christ by faith. And grace belongs to God. God is free to dispense that grace in any way God pleases. I am just thankful that “by faith we are saved through faith.”

What time did you report to work?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved