Reformation Day

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, in order to shut every mouth and make it so the whole world has to answer to God. 20 It follows that no human being will be treated as righteous in his presence by doing what the Law says, because the knowledge of sin comes through the Law.

21 But now God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, which is confirmed by the Law and the Prophets. 22 God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. 23 All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, 24 but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. 25 Through his faithfulness, God displayed Jesus as the place of sacrifice where mercy is found by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness in passing over sins that happened before, 26 during the time of God’s patient tolerance. He also did this to demonstrate that he is righteous in the present time, and to treat the one who has faith in Jesus as righteous.

27 What happens to our bragging? It’s thrown out. With which law? With what we have accomplished under the Law? 28 No, not at all, but through the law of faith. We consider that a person is treated as righteous by faith, apart from what is accomplished under the Law (Romans 3:19-28, Common English Bible).

Today is “Reformation Day.” It is a day that we Protestants (including United Methodists) remember and celebrate the work of Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation. Additionally, today is not just any Reformation Day, it is the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s work.

Reformation Day is the day Church tradition holds that Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, and professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. The actual date of the nailing of the theses is open to debate. What we do know is, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther sent these theses in a letter to Albert of Brandenberg, Arch Bishop of Mainz, bringing about the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

The 95 Theses (the full text, the full 95 theses is listed below), covered a number of issues where Luther had issues with the Roman Catholic Church. As far as the nailing the theses to the church door, it was a common practice when someone wished to debate the issues of the day. Luther did not set out to create a protest movement that eventually would create a new path for a significant portion of the Christian faith.

Luther had objections to many things listed in the theses. Among these was the sale of indulgences. In the Roman Catholic understanding of his time, when someone died they went to purgatory for a significant period of time. While it was not hell, purgatory was not exactly a fun place to be. You could buy these indulgences from the Church for yourself or for a loved one. And, if you and others bought enough of these indulgences, it could significantly reduce the amount of time they would spend in purgatory. The funds raised from these indulgences was sent to Rome for the construction of St. Peters.

Based on the Scripture passage above, particularly verse 28 (as well as other passages), Luther believed we were saved only by faith and indulgences would make no difference for the living or the dead.

For his trouble, Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1521. The Roman Catholic Church not only considered Luther a heretic, he was also considered a criminal and an enemy of the Pope.

Within Germany, following Luther’s excommunication, what is today the Lutheran Church came into being. It wasn’t Luther’s initial purpose, but it became the end result.

For many Protestant Christians, Luther set the path they would follow over the coming years.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

OCTOBER 31, 1517

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept ( Matthew 13:25 ).

12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.

17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.

18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.

19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words “plenary remission of all penalties,” does not actually mean “all penalties,” but only those imposed by himself.

21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.

24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.

26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them — at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.

46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

55. It is certainly the pope’s sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.

57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the pope’s power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last ( Matthew 20:16 ).

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.

72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel,spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ).

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.

82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

83. Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”

88. Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”

89. “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! ( Jeremiah 6:14 )

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace ( Acts 14:22 ).

 

Free For the Taking

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of (Ephesians 2:8-9, Common English Bible).

I love Reverend Fun cartoons. They are always so really spot on with their theology but at the same time, they do it with humor. I try to check in on Reverend Fun whenever I can because I usually walk away with both a good laugh and something to think about all rolled up in a quick, easy to read comic that again, is very thought-provoking.

When I was looking for a picture to use with today’s verse, I ran across this one. It was done more than 10 years ago, but most of Reverend Fun’s cartoons are timeless. This still points to the great truth that Jesus is God’s gift to the world and that evil will try to convince all of us that such is not the case.

But, when we believe, when we start to study the Scriptures, we come to realize the importance of grace. We begin to know that it isn’t about us. I ran across another cartoon while I was searching. Take a look at this one.

For so many of us, at least in the beginning, we think we can get right with God by the things we do, by living right, by showing up at church not only for worship but for work. We are going to justify our salvation by working hard. Working hard may make your boss happy. I know I am always happy with a hard working subordinate. It will not, however, make your God happy, at least no if your works are an attempt to buy your way in. You can’t earn it.

You can’t earn it, but you do have to believe it. Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16, Keith’s Paraphrased Version). That belief is faith and because of your faith, God gives you grace.

That guy on the left has no chance. You can work yourself to death. Without faith, it will get you nowhere. But when you believe, when you have faith, you have gotten God’s attention.

Because of your faith, faith in Jesus Christ (or as the devil in the Reverend Fun cartoon put it, “God’s gift to the world”), God gives you the free gift of grace.

But, get this, you didn’t really do anything for your faith except taking another free gift from God. Paul lists the gift of faith as one of the “Gifts of the Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12. That means nothing comes from us.

To use an analogy, here is how it works. Let’s say I have a $100 bill. I come up to you and offer you the money. You are skeptical of my motivations but I tell you it is a free gift from me to you. You did nothing to earn the money. What is left for you is, to accept or reject the gift I offer to you.

The same thing applies to the gifts of faith and grace. God offers them to us. It is up to us to decide if we will accept these gifts from God.

Take the gift. God really wants to give it to you. Plus, no matter what you do, you will never earn it. So take the gift and then thank God for giving you something so special.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Disappointment and Joy

 

Weeping may stay all night, but by morning, joy (Psalm 40:5b, Common English Bible).

I am an Astros fan. I always have been an Astros fan. Short of some stunt like the Oilers pulled several years ago when they moved to Tennessee, I can’t imagine that there will be a day that I am not an Astros fan. The Astros were an expansion team in 1962. I was four years old. Though I don’t remember it, my parents told me I had been to a game at the old Colt Stadium before the Astrodome was built.

Over the years I have seen good teams and bad teams. I have seen some wins along the way as well as some losses. In 2005 I was ecstatic when the Astros went to their first World Series after 43 years. I was very disappointed after they were swept by the White Sox.

This year brought new excitement when the Astros returned to the World Series. Last night was another bout with disappointment. Leading the series 2-1, the Astros fell in the late innings and lost 6-2. I am not surprised. There are really good reasons both teams are here. Of course, I wanted the Astros to win. I always want the Astros to win. Even when the Astros aren’t in the game, I want the Astros to win. And, in the Houston metro area, after so many years of futility, it is wonderful to see our team this close.

It also makes every loss even more disappointing for fans. I have to remind myself every so often that it is just a game. My life will not change, win or lose. Yes, I want them to win. But in the end, it is just a game.

After watching the game I sat down to write this post. Having a few days between blog series, I was thinking about what I wanted to say. It occurred to me that we all, whether we are Astros fans or not, face disappointment in life. But, when it is all said and done, what do I have to be disappointed about? It is just a game.

I have a great family and awesome friends. I am regularly surrounded by people who care about me. I have a career I enjoy (well there are a few things every once in a while). I am able to spend time doing many other things that bring joy to my life, wood carving, working with paracord, strumming my guitar, writing music (well, more lyrics than the actual music but I have done both), writing in other ways. My list could get pretty long.

I also live at a time in history where I can watch my favorite teams, baseball, and others, as well as many other things I enjoy. When Major League Baseball began 141 years ago, not only could I not watch a game on television, I couldn’t have even listened to it on the radio. And, while I sat through a disappointing game tonight, I also got to watch two games where I was really happy with the result.

As I think about it tonight, I can take that verse fragment from Psalms very literally. “Weeping may stay all night, but by morning, joy!” Yes, I am disappointed tonight. But tomorrow morning, it is the Lord’s Day. It is Sunday and I get the privilege of preaching to God’s people. As a preacher, I can’t think of many things that bring me more joy. Yes, there is sadness tonight, but joy will come in the morning.

For all of us, there is a reason to celebrate, there is a reason for joy. Remember the words of the psalmist, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24, New Revised Standard Version).

So, despite the disappointment, even when our team losses (it is only a game), we have a reason for joy. So, we live out Paul’s words to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4, New Revised Standard Version).

Have a blessed (and joyful) day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Return to Me… The Lord of Heavenly Forces

Look, the day is coming, burning like an oven. All the arrogant ones and all those doing evil will become straw. The coming day will burn them, says the Lord of heavenly forces, leaving them neither root nor branch.
But the sun of righteousness will rise on those revering my name; healing will be in its wings so that you will go forth and jump about like calves in the stall.
You will crush the wicked; they will be like dust beneath the soles of your feet on the day that I am preparing, says the Lord of heavenly forces.
Remember the Instruction from Moses, my servant, to whom I gave Instruction and rules for all Israel at Horeb.
Look, I am sending Elijah the prophet to you,  before the great and terrifying day of the Lord arrives.
Turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to their parents. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse (Malachi 4:1-6).

Malachi uses the term, “The Lord of heavenly forces” quite a bit throughout the entire book. While I use the Common English Bible most often, I do look at other versions. The Message uses the term, “God of the angel armies.” The New Revised Standard Version uses “The Lord of Hosts,” (had I used this version throughout, I probably would not be writing this post).  The New International Version says, “The Lord Almighty,” (just as with the NRSV, if I had used this one….). And, just as with the NRSV, the King James Version uses “The Lord of Hosts.

I decided on this particular post because of the term, “The Lord of Heavenly Forces,” bothers me, though not as much as “The Lord of heavenly (or angel) armies. I will also confess, the term “prayer warrior” bothers me. I understand the concept that we are in a spiritual battle. Yeah, I get it. But personally, I also have trouble reconciling the concept opposed to being a servant of the “Prince of Peace.”

Paul, in Romans 15 and 16, Philippians 4, and 1 Thessalonians 5 uses the term, “God of Peace.” The writer of Hebrews says the same. In 1 Corinthians 14:33 Paul says, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” I would argue that war is the ultimate confusion (I actually went searching for this verse thinking it said, “God is not the author of war.” I was wrong).

“OK, Keith, assuming you are correct, you are correct, all the verses you quote are New Testament passages. God is portrayed differently in the Old Testament than in the New. In the Old Testament God is much harsher and far more like the God of Heavenly Armies.”

Thank you. I am so glad you brought that up. Isaiah 9:6 says, “A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (emphasis mine). As a United Methodist, I am a Trinitarian, one God, three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Isaiah is prophesying the coming of the Messiah whom we understand to be God the Son. Additionally, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ (God the Son) is the same yesterday, today and forever!”

That says to me, God (because of God the Son) is and always has been the Prince of Peace.

I thank you for your patience as I worked through my thoughts on this. It may be the first time I have written it all down. Additionally, I don’t expect (and know for certain) that many of you will not agree with me. That is OK. The differences in our understandings probably bother us a great deal more than they bother God (I remember that line from something I read sometime in the past, but I can’t remember who wrote it).

The one thing I know that we can agree on, for we who believe, God is a God of mercy and grace. That mercy and grace are ours as we are justified by faith.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Return to Me… Mercy and Grace

16 Then those revering the Lordeach and every one, spoke among themselves. The Lord paid attention and listened to them. Then a scroll of remembrance was written before the Lord about those revering the Lord, the ones meditating on his name.
17 On the day that I am preparing, says the Lord of heavenly forces, they will be my special possession. I will spare them just as parents spare a child who serves them.
18  You will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between those serving God and those not serving him (Malachi 3:16-18, Common English Bible).

When I read the lesson for today my mind goes to a few other lessons. Verse 16, “Then those revering the Lordeach and every one, spoke among themselves. The Lord paid attention and listened to them. Then a scroll of remembrance was written before the Lord about those revering the Lordthe ones meditating on his name,” made me think of 2 Chronicles 7:14, “… if my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” I do realize this isn’t quite the same the same thing. Still, the people are humbling themselves before God and the scroll of remembrance, at least to me, could be a written prayer on their part. I also think that when we “meditate on His name,” we are in prayer. As we read through the remainder of the lesson we can see evidence of mercy and grace, “I will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

When I read verse 17, “On the day that I am preparing, says the Lord of heavenly forces, they will be my special possession. I will spare them just as parents spare a child who serves them,” I thought about a passage that is the exact opposite from this verse. I thought about Genesis 18:23-33. This passage is Abraham begging God to not wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction that followed in chapter 19 when God couldn’t find ten righteous people. Mercy and grace are part of God’s nature, even though none deserve it. But, mercy and grace do not remove the consequences of unrighteous behavior. But, if we choose the path of God, God will may us God’s “special possession” in spite of how we may have lived before. That is the very definition of mercy and grace.

Then there is verse 18, “You will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between those serving God and those not serving him.” The words “distinguish between,” make me think of The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats,” Matthew 25:31-46. In that passage, God separates (distinguishes) those who are righteous, those who serve God by serving others, from the unrighteous, those who fail to serve God and others, most likely because their focus is on themselves. The righteous receive mercy and grace, while the unrighteous receive eternal punishment.

The lesson makes the identity or the righteous, those who revere God and meditate on His name, very clear. For them, there will be an eternal reward.

I want to be among the righteous. Lord, have mercy.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Return to Me… Finding Blessing Through Giving

Ever since the time of your ancestors, you have deviated from my laws and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of heavenly forces. But you say, “How should we return?”
Should a person deceive God? Yet you deceive me. But you say, “How have we deceived you?” With your tenth-part gifts and offerings.
You are being cursed with a curse, and you, the entire nation, are robbing me.
10 Bring the whole tenth-part to the storage house so there might be food in my house. Please test me in this, says the Lord of heavenly forces. See whether I do not open all the windows of the heavens for you and empty out a blessing until there is enough.
11 I will threaten the one who wants to devour you so that it doesn’t spoil the fruit of your fertile land, and so that the vine doesn’t abort its fruit in your field,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
12 All the nations will consider you fortunate, for you will be a desirable land, says the Lord of heavenly forces.

13 You have spoken harshly about me, says the Lordbut you say, “What have we spoken about you?”
14 You said, “Serving God is useless. What do we gain by keeping his obligation or by walking around as mourners before the Lord of heavenly forces?
15 So now we consider the arrogant fortunate. Moreover, those doing evil are built up; they test God and escape.” (Malachi 3:7-15, Common English Bible).

Throughout my years in ministry I have heard many people say, “When you give the way you are supposed to, when you tithe, you get more back than you ever gave,” or words to that effect. I have also had a number of people who have heard those words and imagine it something like an interest bearing account. You give your money to some ministry and God will give you money back in return, perhaps many times over.

In my experience that isn’t what that means at all. Yes, sometimes after people give generously God gives to them generously in a financial way. I would not put a limit on what God can and will do by telling you God won’t bless you financially. God has and God will. For most of us, however, we give and when we see what happens with what we have given, when we see how lives are changed by what we give, we feel a real blessing because our generosity made a real difference.

In today’s lesson God throws out a challenge to the reader. I love verse 10. “Bring the whole tenth-part to the storage house so there might be food in my house. Please test me in this, says the Lord of heavenly forces. See whether I do not open all the windows of the heavens for you and empty out a blessing until there is enough.”

God is saying, “Do it and then sit back and wait and see what I will do.” The truth is, none of us know what God will do when we are generous and faithful in what we give. It is a privilege to be able to watch to see what God will do next.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved