No Fear!

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 26-28; Acts 22

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation.
        Should I fear anyone?
    The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
        Should I be frightened of anything?
When evildoers come at me trying to eat me up—
    it’s they, my foes and my enemies,
    who stumble and fall!
If an army camps against me,
        my heart won’t be afraid.
    If war comes up against me,
        I will continue to trust in this:
    I have asked one thing from the Lord
    it’s all I seek:
        to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life,
        seeing the Lord’s beauty
        and constantly adoring his temple.
Because he will shelter me in his own dwelling
    during troubling times;
    he will hide me in a secret place in his own tent;
        he will set me up high, safe on a rock. (Psalm 27:1-5, Common English Bible)

Fifteen or so years ago, there were t-shirts that were the style. On the front was a logo for the shirt that would simply say, “NO FEAR!” Then, on the back would have some kind of quote on the back like, “A Life Lived in Fear is a Life Half-Lived – NO FEAR!”

About the same time, there was a reality television show on NBC (I think it was NBC). They would have contestants doing all kinds of things to show they were fearless. They called the show, “Fear Factor.”

I often wonder why we seem to gravitate toward things that are intended to motivate the fear in us. I have never been a fan of horror movies. Whey do I want to go and pay good money to see a movie that is intended to scare me. Watching the national news can do that for free.

God gave us fear for a reason. Fear keeps us from getting hurt. I freely admit I am afraid of snakes. I know it is an irrational fear. The snake on television cannot possibly hurt me, but I fear it anyway. I believe God gave some of us a fear of snakes as a way to protect us from snakes.

So, how do we reconcile the idea that is my belief, God gave us fear to protect us, with what David says in our lesson? Here is verse 1 again, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The Lord is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything?”

In truth, I can’t answer that question. I honestly don’t know how I should answer. Perhaps I shouldn’t feel afraid of snakes. I know I shouldn’t have my irrational fear of snakes. I guess my thought goes, “Does the fear prevent me from serving God, from doing what God asks me to do?” If it does, then I really have a problem.

To the best of my knowledge, my fear of snakes has not prevented me from fulfilling my call. I would say, I must be fortunate because the thing I fear most is not something that keeps me from fulfilling my call from God. Others are not so fortunate.

I have often wondered if those who say they fear nothing are actually telling the truth. I do have my fair share of fears. Maybe I have more than my fair share. However, what I do not fear is the future, both in this life and the next. I have reached a point in life where I know there are likely more birthdays behind me than there are ahead. I do not fear because I know the promise of God that with the faith I place in Jesus Christ, I will spend eternity with God. In that, I have no fear.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

My Cup is FULL!!! Stop Pouring!!!

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: v-25; Acts 21:18-40

The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.

You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.

Psalm 23:1-6, Common English Bible

“My cup is full!!! Stop Pouring!!!” Have you ever heard someone say those words? I have, well maybe not the exact words but something similar. I can remember telling my kids to stop before they overfilled the glass. I also can remember the mess when they didn’t heed my warning. That is what happens when our “…cup is so full it spills over.” We end up with a big mess. Who wants to end up with a mess on your hands? It is a pretty safe answer to say, none of us. Well, none of us, if we are talking about a literal cup overflowing and making a literal mess.

Have you ever heard someone say, in words dripping with sarcasm, “My cup runneth over.” I know I have. Wait, what am I saying there. I have actually used that line, with those sarcasm dripping words. This bad thing happen. The other thing wasn’t too good either. Oh and I just remembered I lost my wallet back in 1962. That wasn’t too cool. “My cup runneth over!” Once again, it is a mess.

But, if there were $100 bills overflowing a cup full of $100 bills, we might say, “My cup runneth over” and we really aren’t too upset about it. “Keep the cash coming” would likely be our response.

When we are talking about my cup running over from a spiritual perspective, that mess shouldn’t bother us either. In fact, as happy as we might be from the mess of overflowing $100 bills when we recognize the way our cup overflows with blessings from God, we should be even more excited. I do realize that such is not the case for many around us. Their thinking tends to go, “If I can’t touch it, it doesn’t matter.”

We need to remember, if I can touch it, one day it will not matter. When I am dead, in a box in the ground, anything physical isn’t going to matter, including the earthen vessel I said was me back when I was walking the earth. It is the things I can’t touch, quite possibly things I can’t see, or hear. These are the things that can only come from God. And, if God wants to keep sending me blessings? Well, that is alright by me. So, Lord, my cup may be full, but when it comes to things from you, make all the mess you want to make. I know I will be blessed by what you leave behind.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

The Noblest Act

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 20-22; Acts 21:1-17

I pray that the Lord answers you
        whenever you are in trouble.
    Let the name of Jacob’s God protect you.
Let God send help to you from the sanctuary
    and support you from Zion.
Let God recall your many grain offerings;
    let him savor your entirely burned offerings. Selah
Let God grant what is in your heart
    and fulfill all your plans.
Then we will rejoice that you’ve been helped.
    We will fly our flags in the name of our God.
    Let the Lord fulfill all your requests!

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed one;
    God answers his anointed one
        from his heavenly sanctuary,
    answering with mighty acts of salvation
        achieved by his strong hand.
Some people trust in chariots, others in horses;
    but we praise the Lord’s name.
They will collapse and fall,
    but we will stand up straight and strong.

Lord, save the king!
    Let him answer us when we cry out!

Psalm 20:1-9, Common English Bible

It has been said that the noblest thing a person can do for another person is to pray for them unselfishly. It is the kind of prayer David speaks of in today’s lesson. “I pray that the Lord answers you whenever you are in trouble. Let the name of Jacob’s God protect you. Let God send help to you from the sanctuary and support you from Zion.” Six times in two verses David is praying for the reader.

If we think about others the way David reminds us in Psalm 20, it should cause us to ask those around us, “How can I pray for you today?” Then, we should follow-up that question with real prayer for the real people who share our world. This isn’t or at least shouldn’t be, “Lord, help me win the lottery,” kind of prayer (I really don’t think God cares if we win the lottery). I don’t think we should pray for God to get us a new car or a new guitar (ouch, that one hurt). I am talking about praying for the real needs of real people who are around us.

Recently, I have changed my answer to prayer requests people ask me to do for them. I used to say, “Sure, I can do that for you,” or words to that effect. Then I would fall short. It isn’t that I didn’t want to pray for people, I did. I would just get busy with the rest of my day and I would forget about the prayer request. As a result, it would never happen. In the past year or so, when asked if I will pray for someone, I try to remember to stop what I am doing right then and say a prayer for the person in need. When I stop then to pray, I don’t forget. The prayer gets said at least once.

I hope you will join David in praying for the needs of those around you. I hope you will join me right then and stop what you are doing and pray not only for someone else but with them. I know it will make a difference.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Hiding in a Rock

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 18-19; Acts 20:17-38

He said: I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my solid rock,
    my fortress, my rescuer.
My God is my rock—
I take refuge in him!—
        he’s my shield,
        my salvation’s strength,
        my place of safety.
Because he is praiseworthy,
    I cried out to the Lord,
    and I was saved from my enemies.
Death’s cords were wrapped around me;
    rivers of wickedness terrified me.
The cords of the grave surrounded me;
    death’s traps held me tight.
In my distress I cried out to the Lord;
    I called to my God for help.
God heard my voice from his temple;
    I called to him for help,
    and my call reached his ears.

Psalm 18:1-6 Common English Bible

The hymnal of the Israelites, the Psalms. At one point in my life, when I heard someone say that the thing that went through my mind was, “How could anyone sing those lyrics?” What I didn’t know back then was, they lose something in translation.

I got to thinking about hymns that were inspired by the psalms yesterday. When I started working on today’s post I started thinking about how the Psalms in general and Psalm 18 in particular inspired hymns.  There are many. For Psalm 18 alone, according to the online hymn database Hymnary, here are 164 hymns and praise songs crediting Psalm 18 with some or all of that particular song or hymn’s lyrics. One song that inspired at least 164 more songs of faith.

According to the “instructions” at the beginning of the psalm (considered by most biblical scholars to be a later addition, not part of the original text), David is praising God for his delivery from the hands of Saul and other enemies. “The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, my Redeemer,” David says.

Reading that line brought to mind a particular hymn inspired by Psalm 18. The first verse of “Rock of Ages” reads,

 Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

The metaphors of the rock and the fortress show themselves here, though, in the case of the fortress, it is not in those specific words. Rock is used many times in Scripture as a descriptive word for God. It is also a metaphor and symbol for faith. The psalmist wants to hide in the fortress made of rock. In other words, David wants to hide in the fortress that is God.

My God is my rock—
I take refuge in him!—
        he’s my shield,
        my salvation’s strength,
        my place of safety.

David recognizes that without God, there is no place to hide from Saul and others who seek to destroy him. There is no place of protection, there is no strength, there is no safety. David knows, at least at this point in his life he knows, to be protected from all on earth that will destroy him, he needs God.

My prayer this day is, we have the same awareness to see that we too need protection from God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Time to Proceed with Care

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 16-17; Acts 20:1-16

You, Lord, are my portion, my cup;
    you control my destiny.
The property lines have fallen beautifully for me;
    yes, I have a lovely home.

I will bless the Lord who advises me;
    even at night I am instructed
    in the depths of my mind.
I always put the Lord in front of me;
    I will not stumble because he is on my right side.
That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous;
    yes, my whole body will rest in safety
10     because you won’t abandon my life to the grave;
    you won’t let your faithful follower see the pit.

11 You teach me the way of life.
    In your presence is total celebration.
Beautiful things are always in your right hand.

Psalm 16:5-11, Common English Bible

As I read Psalm 16, the thought occurred to me, we need to proceed with great care when we find ourselves in David’s position. Two thoughts occurred to me. First, the lesson David is saying to God that he is the only righteous person. Second, and probably more important, David himself admits, he has things good saying, “Yes I have a beautiful home.” If David had things worse, if he were, say, Job, would David be the only righteous person then? Based on what we know of David’s life, I tend to doubt it would be true.

As to David’s first claim, that he alone is righteous, prior to the death of King Saul, Saul’s son, and David’s closest friend shows himself righteous again and again. When King Saul would attempt to take David’s life, Jonathan comes to David’s aid and rescue more than once. When we look at David’s later life, the Prophet Nathan is the person who had the courage and the righteousness to stand and face a king who, in David, had lost his way and could no longer be, in any way considered righteous.

In the book of Job, God brags on Job at the beginning of the story saying, “My servant Job is righteous, nothing will pull him away from me.” Job loses his home, his family, and ultimately his health and though he questions why God would be angry with him and he struggles with his experience, he does remain faithful.

God didn’t make the same claim about David. Of course, we know David was far from righteous. He committed adultery. He was a murderer. In addition to all that, he wasn’t a very good parent either. It is enough to convince us that David wasn’t as righteous as he might want you and me to think.

For David, or for any of us, we step into real spiritual danger when we make ourselves better than everyone else. When David thinks of himself as being the world’s lone righteous person, he has become far from faithful.

The second danger David shows us we face is, having it all and that being evidence of God’s blessing. There are many in the world that have great physical wealth and are living, by their own admission, outside the faith. And, would we remain as faithful if all we have were somehow taken away?

I hope we would but in truth, I don’t know that we can truly answer that question. We still remain, however, living in the grace of God and in the end, that is all we need.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Dwelling on God’s Mountain

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 13-15; Acts 19:21-41

15 Who can live in your tent, Lord?
    Who can dwell on your holy mountain?
The person who
    lives free of blame,
    does what is right,
        and speaks the truth sincerely;
    who does no damage with their talk,
    does no harm to a friend,
    doesn’t insult a neighbor;
    someone who despises
        those who act wickedly,
        but who honors those
        who honor the Lord;
    someone who keeps their promise even when it hurts;
    someone who doesn’t lend money with interest,
    who won’t accept a bribe against any innocent person.
Whoever does these things will never stumble.

Psalm 15:1-5, Common English Bible

Who can dwell on God’s holy mountain? Who can live in God’s tent? Both are questions David asks in Psalm 15, part of today’s Journey Through Scripture readings. For Christians, the quick and easy answer is, “Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.” It is a reasonable assumption.

All too often, however, for Christians of the current era, we tend to read the Old Testament through the lens of Christian understanding and not in how it was written for a different group of people who lived centuries before Jesus was born.

Because the Jews of David’s era, didn’t have the one who is “the faith, the truth, and the life,” they needed another way to reach life with God, to live in God’s tent, to dwell on God’s holy mountain. David is telling them just what as necessary. David says, “The person who is blameless, does what is right, and speaks the truth sincerely.”

David’s words are hard to live by. We often say, “This person is a Godly person.” When we see such people, we see them as people who are blameless, who do what is right and who speak the truth.” But if we are speaking the truth, we also know that no one is truly blameless because we “all sin and fall short of the glory of God.”

We might be tempted to ask, “If such a person doesn’t receive eternity with God is there any hope for the rest of us?”  I am not sure how those of the Old Testament era like David would reconcile the sins existing in all their lives, (think David and Bathsheba), with being blameless.

That brings us back to the need for Jesus. For us, we know we are not blameless. We don’t always do what is right. We don’t always speak the truth. By David’s definition, we are unworthy of God’s mountain and/or God’s tent. And, because we are unworthy, we stand in need of God’s grace that comes through Jesus Christ.

Because we know David had a heart for God (that is, after all, the reason God picked David to be King) and yet we also know David, like any other human did sin. We know the story well. We do know David did live, does dwell on God’s mountain.

We receive the grace of God through Jesus Christ. David and others received grace in some other way. What we know beyond doubt, in David’s day and in ours, there is more grace in God than there is sin in us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

God Delivers on God’s Promises

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 10-12; Acts 19:1-20

12 Help, Lord, because the godly are all gone;
    the faithful have completely disappeared
    from the human race!
Everyone tells lies to everyone else;
    they talk with slick speech and divided hearts.
Let the Lord cut off all slick-talking lips
    and every tongue that brags and brags,
    that says, “We’re unbeatable with our tongues!
    Who could get the best of us with lips like ours?”

But the Lord says,
    “Because the poor are oppressed,
    because of the groans of the needy,
    I’m now standing up.
    I will provide the help they are gasping for.”
The Lord’s promises are pure,
    like silver that’s been refined in an oven,
    purified seven times over!

You, Lord, will keep us,
    protecting us from this generation forever.
The wicked roam all over the place,
    while depravity is praised by human beings.

Psalm 12:1-8, Common English Bible

We often hear talk these days that the ungodly have taken over our society. At times, we are at least a little bit right in our thinking. When we watch the evening news there is plenty of reason for us to think that is true. From those who want to remove the Ten Commandments from county courthouses all over the country to those who invade our schools and commit crimes that are so heinous we don’t even want to think about them, it is a short trip to think God isn’t around because the ungodly have taken over.

We can see from our lesson today that the thoughts of the ungodly being in control are nothing new. King David, who is credited with writing Psalm 12, is asking God for help because the godly are gone. Faithful people have disappeared. Everybody lies to everybody. Perhaps David was speaking to our time.

David does tell us of God’s good news. “But the Lord says, ‘Because the poor are oppressed, because of the groans of the needy, I’m now standing up. I will provide the help they are gasping for.’ The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver that’s been refined in an oven, purified seven times over!”

I can’t help but think David isn’t speaking of the literal poor and oppressed. If that were the case David himself would have been in trouble. David, as King of Israel, would have been one of the most wealthy in all the land. Could David be speaking of the poor in Spirit? Was David speaking those who are oppressed in Spirit? So much of the Bible uses these terms. And, yes, the Bible does speak of those who are monetarily poor and those who are politically oppressed. Still, it is difficult to imagine the King would feel this was him. But, David tells us God promises to bring help and that God’s promises are pure.

The good news of these words is as great today as they were in David’s day. How do we know? We can have faith that God will fulfill the promises made to us because we can look at history, from Scripture and at various times since, and see that God delivers on the things God promises. That seems to me to be pretty good news all by itself.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All RIghts Reserved