Be Ready to Move

Today’s Journey Through Scripture readings: Job 17-19; Acts 10:1-23

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion in the Italian Company. He and his whole household were pious, Gentile God-worshippers. He gave generously to those in need among the Jewish people and prayed to God constantly. One day at nearly three o’clock in the afternoon, he clearly saw an angel from God in a vision. The angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Startled, he stared at the angel and replied, “What is it, Lord?”

The angel said, “Your prayers and your compassionate acts are like a memorial offering to God. Send messengers to Joppa at once and summon a certain Simon, the one known as Peter. He is a guest of Simon the tanner, whose house is near the seacoast.” When the angel who was speaking to him had gone, Cornelius summoned two of his household servants along with a pious soldier from his personal staff. He explained everything to them, then sent them to Joppa. (Acts 10:1-8, Common English Bible).

I can’t help it. I believe God still speaks to us. I know there are others like me. I know there are those who carry this idea even further than I, though I will never deny God can and quite possibly does speak to us in individual and clear ways. If God is omnipotent and omnipresent, God is all around us and God can speak to us in any way God might choose to speak to the likes of us.

The bigger question, to my way of thinking, is when God speaks, particularly when we know God is speaking to us, how do we respond? Do you remember when Jesus encountered this guy with lots of stuff?  This guy knows who Jesus is. He acknowledges as much when he asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to obey the law and he says he already does that. You can almost hear him, “What else do I need to do Jesus? What? What? What?”

Jesus’ response? “Dude, take all you have, go and sell it, give the money to the poor and come and follow me.” The guy doesn’t respond even with God speaking to him and telling him what he needs to do, he is actually going to do the exact opposite. That is what happened, he went away sad because he had so many possessions.

Of course, this blog is not about our possessions. Well, at least it isn’t about that today. The blog is about how we respond when God speaks to us. In the lesson, Cornelius recognizes that God is speaking through the angel, wanting the groundwork done for a meeting between Cornelius and Peter. And, Cornelius responded. As soon as the angel was gone Cornelius sent to servants and a soldier.

“Well, preacher, the lesson says Cornelius was a pious man. It is easier for someone pious to know an angel when they see one or to know when God is speaking to them.”

That may be true but I don’t think so. Part of the call for you and I is to be awake and alert to the voice of God, which can come to us in many different ways. Then, when we hear God speak, to be ready with our response.

God loves us and God does for us. The things God does for us are not something we can buy, but free gifts. Therefore that response, it isn’t paying for services rendered (by God), it is a response we give as a thanks offering to God for the blessings God has shared with us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Idea That Will Not Go Away

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Job 14-16; Acts 9:22-43

31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. God strengthened the church, and its life was marked by reverence for the Lord. Encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the church continued to grow in numbers. (Acts 9:31, Common English Bible).

I was once again, this week, reminded of the theological line people will not leave alone. “When is the end going to come? It has to be soon. The world is falling apart. Look at how humans are treating each other. Look how we are ignoring God. It has to happen soon. Right?”

Though it isn’t part of today’s readings, ALWAYS remember Jesus’ words, “No one knows the day or the hour but the Father” (Matthew 24:36). The way I read that, trying to predict the end is a waste of time and energy. To me, it says, “If one of us was the proverbial blind squirrel that found the acorn, God would have to change the time and date because someone besides the Father knew the time and day.”

Today’s lesson tells us the Church enjoyed a time of peace. Much of what happens in the world happens in cycles. The world goes through cycles of war. The world goes through cycles of crazy thought (think back to your history lessons of the Salem Witch Trials or more recently the Holocaust. We g through periods of sinful behavior and times we are looser in our understandings of acceptable behavior. The moral condition of the world is not really proof of Christ’s imminent return. God’s time is the only meter and us humans don’t have a read on that one.

Cindy was sharing with me not long ago something she read or heard somewhere. Most of us recognize Sir. Isaac Newton as someone who, particularly for his day was brilliant. It would seem we have that part right. Isaac Newton was brilliant regardless of when he lived. bigthink.com ranked Newton as the second smartest person who ever lived, only taking a back seat to Leonardo Da Vinci. BigThink says Newton had an estimated IQ of 193 (the “normal” IQ range is between 85 and 115).

That Newton was smart and he was a scientist is something few of us would deny. Principles credited to Newton heavily influenced science for more than 300 years. What many didn’t know, however, is that Newton wrote a great deal more about theology than he did about science. Newton believed that faith and science were not in opposition to each other but helped explain each other. And Newton, a devout Christian, studied the prophets and wrote on the end time. Newton, however, did not do what many making predictions today attempts to do, arrive at an exact date. For Newton, it was enough to pick just a year and even then he would not be completely nailed down. Newton said the end would not happen before the year 2060. Considering that I will be 102 in 2060 it is doubtful (though not impossible) that yours truly will be here to see if Newton’s prediction comes through. But then again, I believe my seat for that show will be far better than anywhere on earth!

Think about it this way. The second smartest man in the history of the world (OK, I know, it is subjective) said it wouldn’t happen before 2060. We accept almost everything else Newton said and wrote at face value. Why not that. Well, the truth is, I know why. If we don’t trust God in telling us that none of us know, whey would we believe Newton?

When everything is all said and done, isn’t that the only thing that really matters? I also know I have seen a moral decline in the world. Perhaps I will see a moral upswing happen again. I really don’t know.

Here is what I do know. If Newton is correct, I would be at least 102 when the world can see the result of Newton’s prediction. In 2060, the earliest Newton said it could happen, I will be 102. I may not be Isaac Newton (though genealogical research says we are kin) but I do know I probably won’t make 102. That does not, however, mean I will not see the end. I will see the end for me. And focusing on living the life God would have me live now in order to be prepared for the end that will come (either globally or personally) takes more time and is infinitely more important than to focus on something God said I would never know. Yet somehow I know, this will still be the idea that will not go away.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Why Wasn’t He Stress Eating?

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Job 11-13; Acts 9:1-21

Meanwhile, Saul was still spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest, seeking letters to the synagogues in Damascus. If he found persons who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, these letters would authorize him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?”

Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. “Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.”

Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything. (Acts 9:1-9, Common English Bible)

I don’t know about you, but for me and many of the people I know, when we find ourselves in a stressful situation we counter the stress with eating. That is the particular eating disorder (for a lack of anything better to call it) name, “Stress Eating.” When I get stressed I want to eat. It isn’t necessarily any particular food. Anything will do, as long as there is plenty of it. Really, it is nothing. Well, nothing that a ten-pound ham, a twelve-pound turkey, a couple of pizzas, three burgers, a boneless buffalo chicken salad from Chili’s (You have to have something healthy in there), three hotdogs, a banana cream pie and you can’t have anything like this without a few cookies (I love cookies) to top it all off. And, that is only lunch. What’s for dinner.

For Saul (within a few chapters he will be Paul), it is exactly the opposite. Is he stressed? I don’t see how he couldn’t be. First, he starts hearing voices. Then he knows the voice is God’s voice. After that, he learns more specifically that the voice is Jesus who he has been running around disrespecting to just about anyone who would listen and making those who were Christ followers lives a living nightmare. Then to top it all off, he then finds himself blind. Yeah, I do believe Saul/Paul had plenty of reason for stress and to stress-eat. And yet, he neither eats or drinks anything for three days. He must have had one dry mouth. I don’t live in a dry environment and after about 20 minutes I am looking for something to drink. My mouth gets so dry!

God then gives even more reason to stress, and not just to Saul. He sends Saul to find a disciple named Ananias. For his part, Ananias is less than thrilled with the prospect of the well-known trouble-maker. The stress levels of both had to be through the roof and yet they kept on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening around them.

I think the key is, whether stressed or not, remain faithful and God will remain faithful to you. That is just what Paul and Ananias learned. We can learn the same.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

I Don’t Get It, Please Explain

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Job 8-10; Acts 8:26-40

30 Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?”

31 The man replied, “Without someone to guide me, how could I?” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him. 32 This was the passage of scripture he was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent
    so he didn’t open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was taken away from him.
    Who can tell the story of his descendants
        because his life was taken from the earth?

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Is he talking about himself or someone else?” 35 Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. 36 As they went down the road, they came to some water.

The eunuch said, “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?” 38 He ordered that the carriage halt. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, where Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Lord’s Spirit suddenly took Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip found himself in Azotus. He traveled through that area, preaching the good news in all the cities until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:30-40, Common English Bible).

I am pretty sure I have told you before, I know I have told some of you before, I was never a good math student. On more than one occasion I made my way to the teacher’s desk and said, “I don’t understand, please explain.” Sometimes it helped. Sometimes it didn’t. And then sometimes, I would have been better off if I had just stayed at my desk and tried to figure it out for myself. I was even more lost after the teacher explained than I was when I walked to the desk.

Before I attended seminary I had to have a philosophy class. It was a requirement to enter seminary. If you didn’t take the class as part of your undergraduate degree, you would take something similar once you arrived on the SMU campus. I am not sure how I passed that class. I have no clue what I read at all. I needed someone to explain it to me.

Before entering the ministry, Cindy and I taught the junior high Sunday school class at our church. We were studying Genesis. One of the girls asked a question, I don’t remember what now (hey, its been like 30 years ago. Give me a break). When neither Cindy or I knew the answer, I told her I would talk to our pastor and get an answer. I did. He told me to tell my young student, “Somethings aren’t meant for us to understand.” I did tell her just that. Praise God she accepted that at face value and we moved on.

The Ethiopian eunuch was trying to read the Scriptures, most likely without retaining much because he didn’t understand much. I think it might be kind of like being a kid like that girl in my Sunday school class so many years ago. Think about being a 15-year-old and trying to understand as you read the King James Version of the Bible. Some may understand, but most would be scratching their heads. They wouldn’t understand.

That is why Cindy and I were in that classroom. We were to teach what those kids didn’t know and when we didn’t know, we were supposed to look for the answer. That is also why the eunuch had Phillip. And, it is pretty easy to see that when Phillip explained the eunuch understood.

It may take prayer. It may take asking a Christian who knows more than you, but we all need to remember the eunuch’s answer to Phillip’s question, “Do you understand what you are reading.” The eunuch replied, “How can I without someone to guide me?”

In a moment like that, perhaps God is calling on you to be a guide and to explain.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Harsh Words, and then, Grace

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:  Job 5-7; Acts8:1-25

Before Philip’s arrival, a certain man named Simon had practiced sorcery in that city and baffled the people of Samaria. He claimed to be a great person. 10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, gave him their undivided attention and referred to him as “the power of God called Great.” 11 He had their attention because he had baffled them with sorcery for a long time. 12 After they came to believe Philip, who preached the good news about God’s kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Even Simon himself came to believe and was baptized. Afterward, he became one of Philip’s supporters. As he saw firsthand the signs and great miracles that were happening, he was astonished.

14 When word reached the apostles in Jerusalem that Samaria had accepted God’s word, they commissioned Peter and John to go to Samaria. 15 Peter and John went down to Samaria where they prayed that the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit. (16 This was because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon perceived that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money. 19 He said, “Give me this authority too so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money! 21 You can have no part or share in God’s word because your heart isn’t right with God. 22 Therefore, change your heart and life! Turn from your wickedness! Plead with the Lord in the hope that your wicked intent can be forgiven, 23 for I see that your bitterness has poisoned you and evil has you in chains.”

24 Simon replied, “All of you, please, plead to the Lord for me so that nothing of what you have said will happen to me!” 25 After the apostles had testified and proclaimed the Lord’s word, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the good news to many Samaritan villages along the way. (Acts 8:9-25, Common English Bible)

As I was reading the above passage, when I got to verse 20 I had to stop and reread the verse. “Peter responded, “May your money be condemned to hell along with you because you believed you could buy God’s gift with money!” Boy, that sounds pretty harsh. This guy Simon was a new convert to the faith. He had just seen some pretty powerful stuff going on right before his eyes, stuff that made the sorcery from his former life seem pretty tame. He also saw how it was changing people’s lives and he wanted to be part of all that.

Living in an era of history when almost everything has a price tag and anything free is considered to be worth exactly what you paid for it, it seems natural to us that we would have to pay to learn what Peter and John were doing. I am still paying for four years of seminary!

Of course, we all know we can’t buy grace. It is a free gift from God. But exactly when did we learn that? I am not even sure. I am sure that at some point in my life I might have understood the whole idea of grace differently. I might have looked at things differently when it came to putting a price tag on what I now know is a free gift I cannot beg, borrow, steal, or buy. It only comes to me because it is a free gift from God.

Peter just comes across harsh to me in this passage. But, without question, he got Simon’s attention. And, in the end, Simon does find grace. He repents and as far as today’s lesson goes he wants to be part of the Church in that time and place.

For Simon, and for all of us, could we ever ask for anything greater than the free gift of God’s grace?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Ultimate Forgiveness

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Job 3-4; Acts 7:44-60

51 “You stubborn people! In your thoughts and hearing, you are like those who have had no part in God’s covenant! You continuously set yourself against the Holy Spirit, just like your ancestors did. 52 Was there a single prophet your ancestors didn’t harass? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the righteous one, and you’ve betrayed and murdered him! 53 You received the Law given by angels, but you haven’t kept it.”

54 Once the council members heard these words, they were enraged and began to grind their teeth at Stephen. 55 But Stephen, enabled by the Holy Spirit, stared into heaven and saw God’s majesty and Jesus standing at God’s right side. 56 He exclaimed, “Look! I can see heaven on display and the Human One standing at God’s right side!” 57 At this, they shrieked and covered their ears. Together, they charged at him, 58 threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses placed their coats in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 As they battered him with stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, accept my life!” 60 Falling to his knees, he shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” Then he died. (Acts 7:51-60, Common English Bible)

I preface this by saying, I know by our sins we all killed Jesus. I have blogged about that more than once. When I say here that the Jews and Romans killed Jesus I am speaking of the literal event, not of theology.

It has gone on many times in history. We have seen it happen in our own day. It happened to John the Baptist at the hands of the Romans. Jesus was killed by the Jews and the Romans. In our lesson, Stephen is killed, by the Jews. The Book of Acts also lists James, the son of Zebedee as one martyred for the faith.

If we keep following the steps of history there were others. There were many, many others. There was James, the brother of Jesus according to the early historian Josephus. Tradition also claims Peter, Paul, Mark, Phillip, Andrew, Jude, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Simon the Zealot.

As time passed, Christians started martyring other Christians. We can see that in King Edward the Martyr, Thomas Beckett, John Huss, and Joan of Arc. The sad tradition still exists. In 2016, Father Jacques Hamel, a French Roman Catholic priest was martyred at the hands of men pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq. Father Hamel was celebrating the Mass when he was martyred in his church in Normandy.

Stephen falls into the earliest period of Christian martyrs. He was drug from the city and stoned to death. People have said there is no worse way to die than crucifixion. People have said there is no worse way to die than by stoning. We can safely say, these are without question two of the worst ways the human creature has devised to take the life of another person. I would guess burning at the stake would fit into the same category.

Stephen was truly amazing. Knowing he is about to face death in such a terrible way, looks up at heaven and sees the glory of God, asks for God to accept him (somehow I don’t think that one would be a problem), then, in the same way the Lord did while hanging on the cross, Stephen asks for Divine forgiveness for those who are killing him.

To me, Stephen is the symbol of a man we can look to emulate. Yes, Jesus said the same thing. But when many of us find it difficult to emulate one who lived a perfect life, Stephen was a sinful person just like us, and yet he not only forgave, he asked God to forgive as well.

At times in my life, I have found it difficult to forgive and these people weren’t killing me. When I need to forgive, I think we can probably find just such a person in most any of the martyrs. I know we can find that strength in Stephen. May God strengthen us all with a better ability to forgive.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Journey Through Scripture – July

As July begins, we just crossed the half-way turn. We got started on this Journey beginning January 1st. If you have missed some along the way, at this point I would recommend you start where we are and at the end of December, start from the beginning and read until you reach your starting point. You can find the daily passages in the archives of my posts.

So far this year we have read the Old Testament books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Just before the end of the month, we began Job. As for the New Testament, while we don’t read as much we have a great deal more to read! We have finished the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We have now begun the Acts of the Apostles.

As we begin July, here are our readings:

  • July 1: Job 20-21; Acts 10:24-48
  • July 2: Job 22-24; Acts 11
  • July 3: Job 25-27; Acts 12
  • July 4: Job 28-29; Acts 13:1-25
  • July 5: Job 30-31; Acts 13:26-52
  • July 6: Job 32-33; Acts 14
  • July 7: Job 34-35; Acts 15:1-21
  • July 8: Job 36-37; Acts 15:22-41
  • July 9: Job 38-40; Acts 16:1-21
  • July 10: Job 41-42; Acts 16:22-40
  • July 11: Psalm 1-3; Acts 17:1-15
  • July 12: Psalm 4-6; Acts 17:16-34
  • July 13: Psalm 7-9; Acts 18
  • July 14: Psalm 10-12; Acts 19:1-20
  • July 15: Psalm 13-15; Acts 19:21-41
  • July 16: Psalm 16-17; Acts 20:1-16
  • July 17: Psalm 18-19; Acts 20:17-38
  • July 18: Psalm 20-22; Acts 21:1-17
  • July 19: Psalm 23-25; Acts 21:18-40
  • July 20: Psalm 26-28; Acts 22
  • July 21: Psalm 29-30; Acts 23:1-15
  • July 22: Psalm 31-32; Acts 23:16-35
  • July 23: Psalm 33-34; Acts 24
  • July 24: Psalm 35-36; Acts 25
  • July 25: Psalm 37-39; Acts 26
  • July 26: Psalm 40-42; Acts 27:1-26
  • July 27: Psalm 43-45; Acts 27:27-44
  • July 28: Psalm 46-48; Acts 28
  • July 29: Psalm 49-50; Romans 1
  • July 30: Psalm 51-53; Romans 2
  • July 31: Psalm 54-56; Romans 3

Good reading. I hope you enjoy. And as I have almost all of this year, I will continue to write my daily post from at least part of one of the daily passages. I did go off the passages once and I have missed a few days, but hey, I try. I will continue to give it my best effort.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith