I Know, I Can Explain It!

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Numbers 17-19; Mark 6:30-56

i-can-explain-it-all-oversize-t-shirt-white-etre-cecile-600x76830 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. 31 Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” 32 They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place.

33 Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

35 Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. 36 Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

37 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay[a] and give it to them to eat?”

38 He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate until they were full. 43 They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. 44 About five thousand had eaten. (Mark 6:30-44, Common English Bible).

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned today’s lesson (one of the few stories outside of the Resurrection mentioned in all four Gospels). I sure was glad I removed that paragraph when I saw my blogging choices from today’s Journey Through Scripture readings.

Five Thousand people eating off of one little boy’s lunch, five loaves and two fish. I have, more than once heard various explanations of how this could possibly have happened. The idea of a miracle was no place to be seen.

Some years back I read a sermon that attempted to explain away Jesus feeding 5000 people. In reality, it was more likely upward for 15000 when you count women and children. Think about it this way, could a little boy carry five loaves of bread and two fish large enough to feed more than 5000 people, not to mention more than 15000?

The pastor/writer proposed that those who received the meal only were given a tiny morsel and were satisfied because they were included. There are two issues with that line of thought (well, at least two). First, five loaves and two fish cannot possibly be divided by more than 5000. I just don’t see that there is a way to make the math work. I may not be a math scholar but I don’t think one is required. Second, the Scripture says there were twelve baskets of leftovers. That means Jesus had more leftover than he had to start with. I guess that pastor skipped over verse 43.

In case that thesis was debunked, the pastor/writer then said, Jesus highlighted the little boy’s, generous heart, and inspired the otherwise selfish people to pull out the food they were hiding, and shared the food with those around them. Let me see if I’ve got this straight. The author doesn’t believe Jesus could do a miracle but does believe Jesus could get 5000 selfish people to share? I think the second argument defeats the first. It would take a miracle to get 5000 selfish people to share. Well, that is my thought anyway.

I except the miracle here at face value. There are, after all, many more miracles that cannot be explained away. And, is I said yesterday, God can do whatever God wants to do. If God is omnipotent, if God is all-powerful, God can do miracles far bigger and far greater than we mere humans can ever understand.

Feeding 5000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread? I think God might say, “My child, you’ve not seen anything yet.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

A No Miracle Zone

I know it is a late post. I was without internet access until about 2:00 yesterday afternoon until about 5:30 this evening. Hopefully, I will be back on a regular schedule tomorrow.

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Feb 27: Numbers 15-16; Mark 6:1-29

MZTVLogoJesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief (Mark 6:1-6, Common English Bible). 

This past Sunday, I preached the parallel to this text, Matthew 13:53-58 (See Why Jesus: Who Is This Man?). After church Sunday, Cindy said, “I was thinking about the Scripture from today. Because the Scripture says Jesus was unable to do any miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief, does that mean Jesus actually needs something from us?”

It is an interesting question. Today’s lesson actually says he did heal a few sick people. Was Jesus able to heal them despite the unbelief of the people around him? Was he able to heal even those who didn’t believe? Or, could it be that the people who didn’t believe, attributed the miracles to something or someone other than Jesus? These folks might be thinking, “Awe, it’s just a coincidence.”

Well, if I had the answers to these and many other questions of Scripture, I would have a writing contract with some great publisher that would have my retirement set for life. I don’t have a book (not yet anyway) and I don’t have all those answers (nor do I expect to ever be blessed with them this side of eternity).  I can, however, say what I think.

God can do whatever God wants to do. That is what being omnipotent means, and God is omnipotent. God has the power to do anything from healing the sick, to walking on water and having a mere mortal walk on water and/or feeding baseball stadium full of people a dinner of fish and bread that came from one boy’s sack lunch. I could go on, about water into wine and more but I will probably write on those eventually so I will save what I have to say on those for later.

I could be wrong about this, it wouldn’t be the first time and God’s ways are not our ways, but I can’t help but wonder, “Why would Jesus want to do miracles in the presence of those whose lack of faith he found appalling? Would we be willing to do miracles for a bunch of people who didn’t believe we could do them? Or, would we do them for people who didn’t believe in miracles to start with?

Well, I know I wouldn’t and it would be my guess that most of you wouldn’t do them either. But, would Jesus do them? Grace happens. Grace happens even when we don’t deserve it. Grace happens even before we believe grace to be a reality. John Wesley called that prevenient grace, grace that God gives us before we ever know God exists.

It seems to me, today’s lesson could easily be a case of prevenient grace. Jesus only did a few miracles, healing people.-Jesus liked healing people. He loves people, always has. And maybe, just maybe when someone might learn a thing or two about Jesus and grace along the way. After all, he is Jesus (and yes, I meant is), and he is (meant it here too) all about love and grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With joy and thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles
All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Miracle on the Way to a Miracle

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Numbers 12-14; Mark 5:21-43

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21 Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. 25 A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. 27 Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. 28 She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. 29 Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

30 At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it.

33 The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34 He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking with her, messengers came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher any longer?”

36 But Jesus overheard their report and said to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting.” 37 He didn’t allow anyone to follow him except Peter, James, and John, James’ brother. 38 They came to the synagogue leader’s house, and he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” 40 They laughed at him, but he threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with him, he went to the room where the child was. 41 Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.” 42 Suddenly the young woman got up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old. They were shocked! 43 He gave them strict orders that no one should know what had happened. Then he told them to give her something to eat (Mark 5:21-43, Common English Bible).

Over the past two weeks I have spent some of my evenings watching the Olympics.  It seems like at least once every four years since 1980, the television coverage shows the ending of the USA vs. USSR hockey game. It was the iconic moment of those Olympic games. I think just about all of us can hear the Al Michael’s line, “Do you believe in miracles?” From that magical time.

It is one of those times many people can tell you where they were. I can tell you I didn’t even see it. My ship was somewhere between Ft. Lauderdale FL and Guantanamo Bay Cuba. We were going down for sea trials. I missed “The Miracle on Ice.”

I can answer Al Michael’s question. Yes, yes I do believe in miracles. In 2010, when a drunk driver ran a red light and broadsided our car, and both Cindy (she was driving and the accident was directly into the driver’s side door) and I both survived the accident, I experienced a miracle. First responders told us as much at the scene. Yes, I believe in miracles.

Today’s Mark lesson has picked up the name, “A Miracle on the Way to a Miracle.” Jesus is confronted by a man whose daughter was dying. Jesus leaves with the man but as they traveled to his home something interrupts their trip.

A woman who had been sick for years has so much faith, she thinks, and correctly so, that if she can just touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, she would be well. Friends, that is a lot of faith.

When Jesus felt power leave from his body, he wants to know who touched him. Eventually the woman comes forward and tells the truth and what she expected as a result. Jesus is impressed by her faith and tells her she is healed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (so to speak), Jairus is waiting, probably impatiently, for Jesus to get moving back to his home before his daughter died and Jesus is dragging his feet. He had to want to get back. Who of us wouldn’t be much the same? But, before they got back on the road, word reaches them that Jairus’ daughter is dead.

Great mourning is going on when they arrive at the house. Jesus tells them the girl isn’t dead and they laugh at him. But Jesus, much to the shock of the crowd, brings the girl back to life. Who could blame the crowd. This was the first time Jesus had raised someone from the dead, but it wouldn’t be the last.

God can still work miracles. Some of those miracles happen because God will sometimes reward faith. And, sometimes they happen to demonstrate God’s power. The think we should all carry away from this is, God still does miracles. Just take a look around. You will see.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Why Jesus: Who Is This Man?

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Sermon from February 25, 2018 at First United Methodist Church, Sweeny TX.

NOTE: The opening of this sermon borrows from a sermon of the same title by Rev. Michael Slaughter.

53 When Jesus finished these parables, he departed. 54 When he came to his hometown, he taught the people in their synagogue. They were surprised and said, “Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles? 55 Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? 56 And his sisters, aren’t they here with us? Where did this man get all this?” 57 They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns and in their own households.” 58 He was unable to do many miracles there because of their disbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58, Common English Bible).

 

When the Messiah comes, he will kick out the Romans. We won’t have to deal with the likes of them anymore. Just wait and see. The day is coming soon. God will send someone to lead us and Israel will once again be on top of the world.” And, 2000 years later, the Jews still wait for the Messiah to come because what they seek is so very different from what God had in mind for the Messiah.

They got it wrong. The man who would come to save them wasn’t the mighty warrior they expected. The man who came was loving and gentle and at the same time powerful, not in a war sort of way, but powerful that he could heal the sick with nothing but a gentle touch. He could restore relationships and show the love of God to even the worst sinner.

Yes, the Jews got it wrong. They were looking at the Messiah and they got it wrong. They thought they knew how the Messiah would walk and talk and act. Jesus didn’t fit their mold.

Calling ourselves Christians doesn’t mean that we follow the real Christ but instead follow a version of the Christ we have contrived in our own minds. All too often we create our own version of Christ and what it means to be Christian.

This morning we are beginning a new sermon series, “Why Jesus?” During this series, we are going to talk about what it means to have Jesus in our lives and why it is important. This morning we start by asking the question, “Who is this man?”

Have you seen the “Rooms to Go Kids commercial on television? The commercial shows kids who have accumulated lots of stuff and the stuff is taking over. We adults are not any different. There is an old adage that says, “You can tell the men from the boys by the price of their toys.” But, ladies, you aren’t really any better. We all “really, really like all of my stuff.”

We live in an age where we actually can have as much of it all as our wallet will allow. And, at least for most of us, that can mean a whole lot of stuff. We love it so much we might even have to go out and buy furniture (more stuff) capable of storing it all.

Might Jesus say to us, “Take all your stuff, sell it, give the money to the poor and come and follow me.”

We live in an age where there are plenty of choices on how to spend time with God, no matter how we might view that God. Take a look at this. Here are a number of leaders, none are really Christian though a couple of them might claim to be. Confucius, Moses, L. Ron Hubbard, Jim Jones, Joseph Smith, Shiva (one of many Hindu gods), Buddha, Muhammed and David Koresh. And this doesn’t even begin to count any number of American Idols, false gods we worship while still claiming ourselves as Christ followers.

While most of us look at these versions of faith and start saying things like, “False Gods.” But, don’t think that who we are and what or who we worship is limited to those who are part of non-Christian faiths. We too have things we worship.

So, for the remainder of Lent we are going to take a look at the one we are called to worship and praise. We are called to be about worshipping Jesus Christ. Why Jesus? Well, that is what I hope we will address through Lent.

In our lesson this morning, Jesus came into Nazareth and began teaching. They started asking each other about him. Isn’t this that carpenter’s son? Where did his wisdom come from? The more they talked the more offended they became. He said, in essence that he and other religious leaders don’t find respect in their hometowns. There is good reason bishops don’t appoint pastors to their home churches. The lesson says in conclusion that Jesus didn’t perform many miracles there because of the town lacked faith.

So, what makes Jesus unique? What makes Jesus the one worthy of our worship? We can begin by saying, and I don’t think you will get much of an argument is that Jesus is a real historical person. Even many non-believers do believe Jesus was a real live walking, talking, breathing human being.

It is also surprising how many other religions incorporate Jesus into their religion histories. The Koran actually talks about Jesus and the virgin birth. It also says Jesus never died and he ascended into Heaven. Knowledgeable Muslims would tell you, you can’t be a good Muslim and not believe in Jesus. Jesus is one of God’s 25 prophets.

If we believe Jesus is credible then what he taught is also credible. The core of Jesus’ teaching was about himself. He said things we don’t hear other religious leaders saying. He said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” That is pretty radical. He said things like, “to see me is to see God. To know me is to know God. To deny me is to deny God.”

We have the witnesses of the first Christian Community, the early Christian Community. In the 4th chapter of Acts we read this: “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved.”

Some will say, “Well Jesus was a good moral teacher.” Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t believe Jesus is God but I do believe Jesus was a good moral teacher.”

British writer and lay theologian, C. S. Lewis said, “You can’t say Jesus was just a good moral teacher. If Jesus was just a good moral teacher he lied about his most important teaching, his identity, and who he claimed to be. So, Jesus was either a liar, which means he isn’t a good moral teacher if he wasn’t who he said to be, or he is crazy.”

When I was in boot camp I had to stand watch a few times in the special assignment division, the Navy’s version of a psychiatric ward. There were people there who were crazy, not all of them. Some, like Corporal Klinger on the old TV show MASH were just trying to get a psychiatric discharge. But some were really crazy. There were people who believed they were Jesus.

So, Jesus could be crazy. Or, as C.S. Lewis said, there is only one other option, he was who he said he was, the Risen Lord of the Universe. You only have those three choices: liar, lunatic or Lord.

So, who is this man Jesus? If we were to read Matthew 16, we would see that Jesus asked the disciples that question. First, who do people say I am?” And then, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered the question. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

For a lot of people, when they start trying to wrap their head around who Jesus is, their minds go to the healing events. When you read through the Gospels it seems like every other page Jesus is healing somebody. There were healings of blind people, people without use of their legs, a person whose buddies lowered him through a hole in the roof. The Bible doesn’t say what was wrong, only that he was healed. Hey, Jesus even healed two people who were already dead.

All those healing events can be summed up with one word, miracle. Jesus was a miracle man. There were other miracles too. Jesus’ first miracle happened at a wedding when they ran out of wine. At his mother’s request he, though it would appear reluctantly turned six stone water jars, each holding twenty or thirty gallons of water, into the best wine around. Lest we should forget, Jesus also commanded a storm to cease and had Peter walking on water.

Many people do not know, there are other books of religious writings from around the time of the Biblical era beyond the 66 books we are familiar with. There are 14 books commonly known as the Apocrypha. These are books that in a timeline would fall into the period between the Old and New Testaments. While unlike our Roman Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters, we do not consider these books Holy Scripture, they are books that can provide us valuable insight into the history of the period as well as other information to Christians. There are a number of other books as well. Some are called the New Testament Apocrypha and others are called the pseudepigrapha. There are both Old and New Testament pseudepigraphs. The word pseudo, meaning false, and the word epigraphs, meaning teachings.

One of the books of the New Testament pseudepigrapha is “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas.” This book is actually quoted in the Koran. It tells the story of Jesus’ childhood. There are stories of miracles of the young boy Jesus, including killing a few people, which could explain why it is in the pseudepigrapha and not in the New Testament.

One of the stories I will share with you is about the boy Jesus. He picked up a handful of clay and he worked the clay, forming it into the shape of a bird. Then he gently blew into his cupped hands that held the bird, the bird came alive and Jesus opened his hands and the bird flew away.

Jesus was a man of miracles.

When I attempt to think of who Jesus is, my mind goes first to the story of washing the disciples’ feet. The washing of feet was a common practice in the Biblical era. Everyone walked either in sandals or bare feet. It was a dirty and dusty environment and when someone entered the home, their feet were usually covered in dirt. There were water jars by the entrance to homes, especially those of people who were of means. The purpose of the jars was to wash the feet of guests when they entered.

Because Jesus was the host of the Passover meal, it was considered his home. But the homeowner, the host was not the one to wash the feet of the guests. This was the job of the lowest servant, often the youngest as well. Accordingly, tradition holds that the youngest disciples would have been either John or Thaddeus depending on the research you read. That would mean this menial job would have fallen to one of them.

The word “leader” was completely understood as “servant” by Archbishop William Temple. On the last night of the Archbishop’s mission to Oxford University during World War II, a crowded congregation of students swelled St. Mary’s Church with the sound of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Dr. Temple stopped the singing before the last verse and said, “I want you to read over this verse before you sing it. They are tremendous words. If you don’t mean them at all, keep silent. If you mean them even a little, and want them to mean more, sing them very softly.”

“Were the whole realm of nature mine That were an Offering far too small, Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

A few years ago, I was in a retreat setting with a number of pastors that included my friend John Black. John, until January 1st was the pastor at First United Methodist Church in Angleton. Now he is pastor at A. Frank Smith United Methodist Church in Alto, TX. Some of you heard John preach at one of our Holy Week lunches last year.

We were asked, in this retreat setting to talk about our favorite verses of Scripture. I said mine was Romans 8:38, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John said his was the most forgotten verse of Scripture in the Bible. We all looked at John with puzzled looks on our faces. No matter what group you are in, John is almost always the class clown.

John, knowing his own reputation, said, “No, I am serious. John 3:16 is arguably the most quoted verse of Scripture in the Bible.” Well, I had no argument there. I don’t have any statistics on it but I think it a reasonable assumption. John continued, “But more often than not, we stop there when we need to read the next verse. ‘God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son.’” John continued, “He didn’t come into this world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved.” John stopped right there. That the world might be saved.

Savior is the last element of who this man Jesus is I am going to talk about today. There are many, many others and if I tried to talk about them all we would be here a good long while. But, Savior is the most important answer to the question of the day, “Who is this man?” We could live, so to speak, if Jesus didn’t perform miracles. The world probably wouldn’t come to an end if Jesus wasn’t a servant. But, if you take away Savior, now we are talking about a real problem. Without Jesus as Savior, there is no hope for the now and there is no hope for the future.

The long and short and everything in between all this is, we don’t need a miracle man or a servant. Miracles are nice to see and even nicer when we play a role. We really don’t need a servant either. I think we all know, we should really be a servant to Jesus rather than Jesus be a servant to us. He deserves a servant, we do not.

What we do need, and it is the reason Jesus was in the miracle business. It is the reason Jesus is a servant. They both demonstrate in a way words never could, Jesus came here and is here for us. Without the miracles and without the service, how much are we likely to pay attention at all? Without Jesus’ ongoing activity in the world we would probably just chalk up the stories in the Bible as ancient fables and myths.

But, when we see Jesus’ activity in the world today, we take notice and we come to know that if Jesus can do this now, then he probably did all the Bible says he did 2000 years ago. And, if we can accept that at face value, then we can also accept verses like John 3:17 are true as well. The world can be saved through him. He is, after all, the savior of the world.

In his book, The Testament, John Grisham writes: “The young man [in the pulpit] was praying, his eyes clenched tightly, his arms waving gently upward. Nate [the alcoholic attorney] closed his eyes too, and called God’s name. God was waiting.

With both hands, he clenched the back of the pew in front of him. He repeated the list, mumbling softly every weakness and flaw and affliction and evil that plagued him. He confessed them all. In one long glorious acknowledgment of failure, he laid himself bare before God. He held nothing back. He unloaded enough burdens to crush any three men, and when he finally finished Nate had tears in his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to God. “Please help me.”

As quickly as the fever had left his body, he felt the baggage leave his soul. With one gentle brush of the hand, his slate had been wiped clean. He breathed a massive sigh of relief, but his pulse was racing.

He heard the guitar again. He opened his eyes and wiped his cheeks. Instead of seeing the young man in the pulpit, Nate saw the face of Christ, in agony and pain, dying on the cross. Dying for him.

Who is this man Jesus? He is the one that did miracles. He is the one who lived as a servant and called others to do so as well. But, most importantly, he is the one who, when we confess our sins, will be faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Who is this man Jesus? He is the one, that when we have humbly poured ourselves out, confessing it all, that if we look up, we too will see his face, dying for us, that we might have life.

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Following the Call

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Reading
Numbers 9-11; Mark 5:1-20

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18 While he was climbing into the boat, the one who had been demon-possessed pleaded with Jesus to let him come along as one of his disciples. 19 But Jesus wouldn’t allow it. “Go home to your own people,” Jesus said, “and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy.” 20 The man went away and began to proclaim in the Ten Cities all that Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed (Mark 5:18-20, Common English Bible).

Martin Luther was one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s. Earlier, before leading the Reformation, Luther was a college student, following his father’s wishes to become a lawyer.

Luther was traveling by horseback, back to school from his family home. During the journey, Luther encountered a fierce storm. It was a storm so fierce, it scared Luther to his core. He was so frightened he made the kind of promise to God many make under similar circumstances. Luther prayed to God, “If you get me out of this storm alive, I will become a priest.” When Luther did indeed survive, he took it as a sign that God wanted him to become a priest. Much to his father’s dismay, Luther dropped out of law school to enter seminary. The rest, as they say is history.

In today’s lesson, Jesus has evicted a bunch of evil spirits from a “possessed” man and sends them to the pigs and they run off a cliff. When the man, now freed of the evil spirits that controlled his life (some argue the spirits in the man was actually a form of mental illness.

The man is so relieved, when Jesus leaves the crowds and get into a boat, the man wants to become one of his disciples (who can blame him for wanting the ongoing contact with Jesus?. Jesus then says no.  The man would have to serve in another way.

It could make us wonder why Jesus would say no to this man. I think it wasn’t so much that Jesus didn’t want the man to be a disciple, he didn’t want the man to be one of the twelve. Jesus needed him to be a disciple where he was. Think about it. Everyone knew what this man was like. Now Jesus healed him and that changed everything. Jesus needed this man to stay and share how Jesus changed his life with as many people as possible.

This man had a very real story to tell and its greatest impact wouldn’t come from this guy traveling around as one of the twelve. People needed to hear his story and how it pointed back to Jesus.

I feel certain the man was disappointed. I am sure he thought Jesus was making a mistake. I don’t think it would be very long before this man realized what Jesus did and its impact on his hometown.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

The Lamp in My Closet

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Numbers 7-8; Mark 4:21-41

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21 Jesus said to them, “Does anyone bring in a lamp in order to put it under a basket or a bed? Shouldn’t it be placed on a lampstand? 22  Everything hidden will be revealed, and everything secret will come out into the open. 23  Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention” (Mark 4:21-23, Common English Bible).

I have a pair of  lamps in my bedroom at the parsonage. They look much like the lamp above. When I read the opening verses of today’s Journey Through Scripture Reading I thought about those verses. When Jesus asked about if anyone put a lamp under a basket or a bed when it belongs on a lampstand, my thoughts went to those lamps.

Prior to my move to Sweeny, those lamps were sitting in a closet. Cindy and I didn’t need them at our place in Lufkin. Our bed has lamps built in. But, we knew the day would come when I would be moving somewhere else. Well, at least we were pretty sure I would be moving again.

The truth is, those lamps, by sitting in the closet were of no use to anyone. They weren’t even plugged in. When I was in the Navy we would have called something like the lamps, “a boat anchor.” In its current status the lamps were more useful as a boat anchor than they were as lamps when they were sitting somewhere impossible for them to fulfill their mission.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that we are the light of the world and compares us to a lamp on a lampstand. Read His words:

14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16, Common English Bible).

Scripture also reminds us that God is light. Check this out: This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin (1 John 1:5-7, Common English Bible).

God’s light is in the world and it is reflected to the world by the children of God. If we hide our faith (the light) away, we are as useless as the lamps I had sitting in my closet. They were capable of light, but they opened the world to no one. It was nothing but darkness. If we fail to reflect God’s light to the world, we fail in showing the world the thing we possess that the world so desperately needs.

May we all be shining lamps of God’s love to a hurting world.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Green Thumbs Have I None…

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Numbers 5-6; Mark 4:1-20

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Jesus began to teach beside the lake again. Such a large crowd gathered that he climbed into a boat there on the lake. He sat in the boat while the whole crowd was nearby on the shore. He said many things to them in parables. While teaching them, he said, “Listen to this! A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it scorched the plants; and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one.” He said, “Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention!”

There used to be a Boy Scout camp outside of San Marcos Texas. It was called El Rancho Cima. When I was a kid I went there many times. Some of the patches and pictures of the place had a lone hill with a single tree on top of the hill. They used those pictures for advertising. The hill is called “Sentinel Peak.” Some years back, the tree died.

They had all their advertising built around those pictures of the peak with the single tree on top. Now they had a peak with a dead tree on top. They decided to remove the dead tree and plant a new one. That might have been a good thing to do if the peak were made of all dirt, but the Texas Hill Country has a lot of rock, limestone. It isn’t really something very easy to dig through. I don’t know if they were ever successful in planting the tree and the Scouts don’t own the camp anymore.

What I do know is, I would never have tried to plant a new tree there at all. I am far from being a botanist and I have no green thumbs. I do know enough about trying to grow plants in different types of soil to know what Jesus is talking about. It is a great deal easier to get a tree to grow in the black dirt of the Texas Gulf coast or in the red dirt of the East Texas piney woods than it would be to get the same tree (any kind of tree) to grow on the granite of Enchanted Rock. The first is fertile soil that water can easily penetrate. The other, well granite is not going to absorb much water and the tree is going to have a much more difficulty time.

 

The tree probably isn’t going to have a great deal of success having its roots penetrate the rock. It may penetrate a crack in the rock but it is looking for soil easier to penetrate. The roots may look spread out on the ground, growing out and trying to find soil. There just isn’t much in the granite of use to the tree.

We all go through difficult times in life, the hard times that leave us wanting for something more. Look for the good dirt. The good dirt is where we will find the nourishment and the water we need to see us through. It isn’t always easy to find that dirt but just as God can get a tree to grow on rock, God can get us through the rocky times in our lives. We might even grow on the rock and we are much stronger and more prepared when we make it to fertile soil.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved