God Relieves Suffering

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 40-42; Acts 27:1-26

42 Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
    my whole being craves you, God.
My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When will I come and see God’s face?
My tears have been my food both day and night,
    as people constantly questioned me,
    “Where’s your God now?”

But I remember these things as I bare my soul:
how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode,
to God’s own house,
with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs—
a huge crowd celebrating the festival!
Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed?
Why are you so upset inside?
Hope in God!
Because I will again give him thanks,
my saving presence and my God. (Psalm 42:1-5, Common English Bible)

 

As the Deer
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

You’re my friend
And You are my brother
Even though You are a King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything
I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye
One of the most loved and successful contemporary Christian songs of the 1990s was “As the Deer” by the Maranatha Singers. It is one of my favorite songs of the past 30 years. There are also those who call the song contemporary. A 27-year-old song is not contemporary. A friend once said to me, “Old contemporary is actually new traditional.”
I digress. It is said that the song has as it’s basis, Psalm 42. To a degree, that idea is true. The first verse of “As the Deer” has obvious parallels with Psalm 42. The deer wanting water to drink. The human thirsting for God. These are pretty obvious.
Looking at the remainder of the song, however, there are no real parallels. There isn’t a place where we can see “As the Deer” clearly coupled with Psalm 42.
The biggest reason for us to question the claim is the theme of the song as opposed to the type of psalm we find in Psalm 42. There are more psalms of lament than any other psalm type. In all these, the psalmist sees the difficulty around him, particularly the difficulty in his own life. In each of these psalms, the psalmist is praying in an effort to encourage God to relieve his suffering and instead to deliver his suffering to his enemies.
Difficulty comes to all of us. And, there is nothing wrong with asking God to relieve our suffering. Further, I believe God will relieve our suffering, but, perhaps it happens in ways other than we imagine. It is a sign that we must look to God and open our eyes to new possibilities.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
WIth Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith
Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Farm Faithfulness

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 37-39; Acts 26

37 Don’t get upset over evildoers;
    don’t be jealous of those who do wrong,
    because they will fade fast, like grass;
    they will wither like green vegetables.
Trust the Lord and do good;
    live in the land, and farm faithfulness.
Enjoy the Lord,
    and he will give what your heart asks.
Commit your way to the Lord!
    Trust him! He will act
    and will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
    your justice like high noon.
Be still before the Lord,
    and wait for him.
Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead—
    someone who invents evil schemes.

Let go of anger and leave rage behind!
    Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil.
Because evildoers will be eliminated,
    but those who hope in the Lord
    they will possess the land.
10 In just a little while the wicked won’t exist!
    If you go looking around their place,
    they won’t be there.
11 But the weak will inherit the land;
    they will enjoy a surplus of peace.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous,
    grinding their teeth at them.
13 But my Lord just laughs at them
    because he knows that their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw their swords and bend their bows
    to bring down the weak and the needy,
    to slaughter those whose way is right.
15 But the sword of the wicked will enter their own hearts!
    Their bows will be broken! (Psalm 37:1-15, Common English Bible)

Thus far in this year’s study, I don’t believe I have combined Scripture from the day’s Old Testament readings with the day’s New Testament readings. Today I will do just that.

In today’s reading from Acts (please read it if you have not) we find Paul still defending himself to King Agrippa as he was yesterday. In yesterday’s post, I talked about Paul being held on a technicality. He still is as, at the end of the chapter, King Agrippa and Festus both agree that had Paul not appealed to the Emperor, he could be released. So, he is still held in chains on that technicality.

As I was preparing for today’s post, the thought occurred to me, perhaps that is what Paul actually wanted. As Paul stood before first Felix (Acts 24), then Festus (Acts 25), and today Agrippa. Paul might have been a Roman citizen but he was also still a Jew. It seems to me that there is a good possibility that without being under arrest, he does not get to speak with these three powerful men. When he speaks to them, he tells his story.

In Psalm 37 David tells us to not get upset with evildoers and to farm faithfulness. Whenever a farmer plants a crop that farmer exhibits faith that the crop will make. In the days before crop insurance, such was, even more, the case. At times, a farmer might risk everything to make a crop.

Still, I don’t think that is what David means here. I think what David means is more like what Paul was doing. As Paul shared his story with the likes of Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, he was taking the faith that was in him, and he was sharing that faith not only with the three men of power but with anyone else who might be listening.

Over the last year or so, there have been a couple of memes on Facebook and other places that have said things like, “If you can be nothing else, be kind,” and “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” I believe David would say, “When we are kind, we are farming faithfulness.

While faithfulness and kindness are not the same things, they are from the same family. They are also part of our calling. So go out there and farm faithfulness. I think you will find that at the same time, kindness is always at work.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Held on a Technicality

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 35-36; Acts 25

13 After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea to welcome Festus. 14 Since they were staying there for many days, Festus discussed the case against Paul with the king. He said, “There is a man whom Felix left in prison. 15 When I was in Jerusalem, the Jewish chief priests and elders brought charges against him and requested a guilty verdict in his case. 16 I told them it is contrary to Roman practice to hand someone over before they have faced their accusers and had opportunity to offer a defense against the charges.17 When they came here, I didn’t put them off. The very next day I took my seat in the court and ordered that the man be brought before me.18 When the accusers took the floor, they didn’t charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they quibbled with him about their own religion and about some dead man named Jesus, who Paul claimed was alive. 20 Since I had no idea how to investigate these matters, I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial there on these issues. 21 However, Paul appealed that he be held in custody pending a decision from His Majesty the emperor, so I ordered that he be held until I could send him to Caesar.”

22 Agrippa said to Festus, “I want to hear the man myself.”

“Tomorrow,” Festus replied, “you will hear him.”

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great fanfare. They entered the auditorium with the military commanders and the city’s most prominent men. Festus then ordered that Paul be brought in.24 Festus said, “King Agrippa and everyone present with us: You see this man! The entire Jewish community, both here and in Jerusalem, has appealed to me concerning him. They’ve been calling for his immediate death. 25 I’ve found that he has done nothing deserving death. When he appealed to His Majesty, I decided to send him to Rome. 26 I have nothing definite to write to our lord emperor. Therefore, I’ve brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after this investigation, I might have something to write. 27 After all, it would be foolish to send a prisoner without specifying the charges against him.” (Acts 25:13-27, Common English Bible).

As most all of us know, because of the internet we get more news faster than had ever been possible before. Because of advances in DNA research, we are also able to learn more about ourselves and about one another than we ever knew before.

We don’t hear it too often, but just often enough to remind us it is possible. It is possible for someone, particularly someone accused before today’s DNA technology, who, by the current DNA technology is proven innocent. The evidence of hair or bodily fluids proves beyond anything approaching a reasonable doubt that this person could not have committed the crime.

What is particularly troublesome then is, on some kind of technicality, that person remains behind bars. They are innocent. They have always been innocent and yet they remain in jail because their case didn’t complete early enough in the day on Friday so they must spend the weekend in jail. And that technicality is a minor one.

For Paul, in our lesson, today, Festus, the imperial governor, is explaining to King Agrippa, “The entire Jewish community, both here and in Jerusalem, has appealed to me concerning him. They’ve been calling for his immediate death. I’ve found that he has done nothing deserving death. When he appealed to His Majesty, I decided to send him to Rome.”

But for Paul’s appeal to Rome, he might have quickly become a free man. All he had to do was go back to Jerusalem for trial before Festus who has already said he sees nothing of Paul deserving this treatment from the Jews. But, Paul appealed to the emperor and before the emperor he must stand.

But I think Paul was comfortable in this decision. He was comfortable because of his faith in Jesus Christ. That faith made him free in ways he would never know while depending solely on the judgment of Festus.

May we know that level of freedom too.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

In His Own Defense

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 33-34; Acts 24

10 The governor nodded at Paul, giving him permission to speak.

He responded, “I know that you have been judge over this nation for many years, so I gladly offer my own defense. 11 You can verify that I went up to worship in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago. 12 They didn’t find me arguing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd, whether in the synagogue or anywhere else in the city. 13 Nor can they prove to you the allegations they are now bringing against me. 14 I do admit this to you, that I am a follower of the Way, which they call a faction. Accordingly, I worship the God of our ancestors and believe everything set out in the Law and written in the Prophets. 15 The hope I have in God I also share with my accusers, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 On account of this, I have committed myself to maintaining a clear conscience before God and with all people. 17 After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring gifts for the poor of my nation and to offer sacrifices.18 When they found me in the temple, I was ritually pure. There was no crowd and no disturbance. 19 But there were some Jews from the province of Asia. They should be here making their accusations, if indeed they have something against me. 20 In their absence, have these people who are here declare what crime they found when I stood before the Jerusalem Council. 21 Perhaps it concerns this one statement that I blurted out when I was with them: ‘I am on trial before you today because of the resurrection of the dead.’” (Acts 24:10-21, Common English Bible).

“Jesus didn’t defend himself when he stood trial before both the Sanhedrin and before Pontius Pilate. Shouldn’t that be a clear indication to us we shouldn’t defend ourselves?”

Believe it or not, I have actually heard this argument several times since entering the ministry. If you don’t want to read further, such an assumption is incorrect and we see evidence that this hypothesis is wrong in our lesson today. Paul defended himself.

When Jesus stood before first, Caiaphas and later Pilate, he did not put up a defense because it would have gone against his entire life’s work and mission here on earth. Jesus had done no wrong but was taking on the sins of the world. If he had defended himself, Jesus may never have gone to the cross. If Jesus does not go to the cross, you and I do not see our sins forgiven.

As for Paul, his call was not to take on the world’s sins. Paul knew that had already been done. What God called Paul to do was to proclaim Jesus who died for his sins and for the sins of all around him. Paul was to let the world know of the grace of God through Jesus Christ. In order for Paul to continue to let the world know, Paul had to defend himself.

I believe God would say, even in matters of faith, we are to defend ourselves and to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

An Adventurer at Heart

12 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.”[a]

Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. The Canaanites lived in the land at that time. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I give this land to your descendants,” so Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. From there he traveled toward the mountains east of Bethel, and pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and worshipped in the Lord’s name. Then Abram set out toward the arid southern plain, making and breaking camp as he went. (Genesis 12:1-9, Common English Bible)

What Makes You Happy?

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 31-32; Acts 23:16-35

The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered over, is truly happy!
The one the Lord doesn’t consider guilty—
    in whose spirit there is no dishonesty—
    that one is truly happy!

When I kept quiet, my bones wore out;
    I was groaning all day long—
    every day, every night!—
because your hand was heavy upon me.
    My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought. 

Selah

So I admitted my sin to you;
    I didn’t conceal my guilt.
    “I’ll confess my sins to the Lord, ” is what I said.
    Then you removed the guilt of my sin. 

Selah

 

That’s why all the faithful should pray to you during troubled times,
    so that a great flood of water won’t reach them.
You are my secret hideout!
    You protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of rescue! 

Selah

A couple of weeks ago I found myself buying a new car (well, new to me). It wasn’t something I was very excited about doing. I liked my old car. I had it less than a year. For perhaps the first time in my life, I was buying a new car and wasn’t something I wanted to do.

For many of us, or at least for some of the people we know, happiness is something elusive because happiness doesn’t come from a relationship with God. Happiness isn’t even something that comes from within.

Instead, happiness is something that comes from the stuff we can accumulate. A new car will make me happy. It does make me happy, until it doesn’t. For many people, the things of life are the source of their happiness until the new wears off and they are no longer happy with what they have. They need something new to once again make them happy.

It is no secret to those who know me, I love my guitars. I have started collecting them and I do enjoy them. I will tell you a secret if you promise not to tell Cindy (just kidding, she does read this occasionally). My happiness doesn’t come from the guitars, it comes from the music I can make with the guitars, all most all of which is music that sings praises to God. Without God, there would be no music and no need for a guitar.

In today’s psalm, David is singing with joy, he is happy, not because he got him a new chariot or something. David is happy because of the work God does in his life! David knows that without God’s hand, nothing is forgiven and if you have read much of 2 Samuel at all, you know that David, a man after God’s own heart, needed forgiveness as much as any of us.

It seems to me, when I have wronged someone and they forgive me, that forgiveness makes me pretty happy. If I am happy when I get forgiveness from another person, how much greater does it make me feel to know God has forgiven me too.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Murder with Malice Aforethought

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 29-30; Acts 23:1-15

12 The next morning some Jewish leaders formulated a plot and solemnly promised that they wouldn’t eat or drink until they had killed Paul.13 More than forty people were involved in the conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have solemnly promised to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 You and the council must explain to the commander that you need Paul brought down to you. Pretend that you want to examine his case more closely. We’re prepared to kill him before he arrives.” (Acts 23:12-15, Common English Bible).

I have vague memories when I was a kid of a family friend having jury duty. I don’t really remember if it was the husband or the wife with jury duty but one of them did and after the trial was over, they told us about it.

I don’t remember now any of the details of the case but I do remember, there was never a question that the perpetrator had committed the crime. He was guilty of murder and I think he even admitted as much. What was at the root of the jury’s debate was, did the perpetrator commit murder with malice, any intentional murder that is willful and premeditated with malice aforethought. This would be any murder when you sat and thought about doing it. You planned what you would do. Then you went out and did it.

On the other hand, murder without malice aforethought is murder where someone has thought about but has not yet planned the specifics before the murder was actually carried out.

What made it a big deal was the differences in sentences. I don’t remember now what the difference was and the laws in Texas have changed since then. Now in Texas murder is murder, unless it is capital murder. It made a difference.

In today’s Acts readings, the lawyers might have to break out their law books to review what the law actually says.  The Jewish leaders formed a plot to kill Paul. If this were to happen today, you could throw a conspiracy in there as well. That would add even more years to an already long prison sentence.

Those plotting pledged that they would neither eat or drink until Paul was dead. There was malice aforethought and conspiracy too. I do believe it was a long wait for some food. Paul would die at the hands of the empire. It would take a while to happen, but eventually, it did come to pass.

Paul points out, and rightfully so, the Pharisees want him dead. Paul stresses to the group, which included some Pharisees, that he himself was Pharisee, Paul begs to be allowed to stand trial. He wanted a trial. He wanted to receive the same treatment as any other Pharisee received. Paul was still at work, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to everyone he possibly could reach. He wants each of us to have that Good News too. What more could we want?

And as for the Pharisees? what they were doingquite simply, was murder with malice aforethought.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved