In God’s Shelter I Will Trust (Psalm 2)

Why do the nations rant?
    Why do the peoples rave uselessly?
The earth’s rulers take their stand;
    the leaders scheme together
    against the Lord and
    against his anointed one.
        “Come!” they say.
        “We will tear off their ropes
        and throw off their chains!”
The one who rules in heaven laughs;
    my Lord makes fun of them.
But then God speaks to them angrily;
    then he terrifies them with his fury:
        “I hereby appoint my king on Zion,
        my holy mountain!”

I will announce the Lord’s decision:
    He said to me, “You are my son,
        today I have become your father.
Just ask me,
    and I will make the nations your possession;
    the far corners of the earth will be your property.
You will smash them with an iron rod;
    you will shatter them like a pottery jar.”

10 So kings, wise up!
    Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
11 Serve the Lord reverently—
    trembling, 12 kiss his feet
        or else he will become angry,
        and your way will be destroyed
    because his anger ignites in an instant.

But all who take refuge in the Lord are truly happy! (Psalm 2, Common English Bible)

We fall short, we miss God’s mark
Our sin moves us to tremble
The One who has the power
Power to condemn or embrace

God calls us to serve, respond
Serve God and serve your neighbor
Serve not from duty, serve from love
Approach God’s throne with reverence

Where do God’s children find joy?
We don’t find joy in the world
The worldly leaves us lacking
We find joy in our creator

We seek refuge and shelter
We place trust in humanity
Refuge is not in our hands
Shelter is in the Lord’s hand

Human shelter is lacking
In it there is no joy found
In the Divine One is joy
Come near, bow down, trust the Lord

My life, it comes from God’s hand
The One who created my life
It is God, and I will trust
In God’s shelter will I trust.

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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Bear Fruit (Psalm 1)

When I began this series, my intention was, we would spend a year in Psalms. It dawned on me that to do that, It would be necessary to have a minimum of two posts for each psalm. So, with that in mind, I am backing up to Psalm 1 and adding a second post. My goal with the second post, as much as possible, I want to write a poem. That is what I have done today for Psalm 1.

The truly happy person
    doesn’t follow wicked advice,
    doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,
    and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.
Instead of doing those things,
    these persons love the Lord’s Instruction,
    and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!
They are like a tree replanted by streams of water,
    which bears fruit at just the right time
    and whose leaves don’t fade.
        Whatever they do succeeds.

That’s not true for the wicked!
    They are like dust that the wind blows away.
And that’s why the wicked will have no standing in the court of justice—
    neither will sinners
    in the assembly of the righteous.
The Lord is intimately acquainted
    with the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked is destroyed
(Psalm 1, Common English Bible)

Our loving God, teach us your ways.
Help us to see your will.
Your commands keep evil away.
Pour love, our hearts to fill.

We seek your voice, speak to us Lord.
Your voice is sweet to hear.
Move us forward, in one accord,
Lord speak into our ears.

We follow you in faithfulness
Praise we sing as a flute
Your Word we live, the world we show
We trust, we might bear fruit.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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Prayers for a Precious Child of God

Sydney Jayne Broyles

21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all.

His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.”

24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.”

25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”

26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.”

27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.”

28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed.

29 Jesus moved on from there along the shore of the Galilee Sea. He went up a mountain and sat down. 30 Large crowds came to him, including those who were paralyzed, blind, injured, and unable to speak, and many others. They laid them at his feet, and he healed them. 31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those who had been unable to speak talking, and the paralyzed cured, and the injured walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:21-31, Common English Bible).

Isn’t it interesting how a child can so quickly grab our hearts? Such is the case with Sydney Jayne Broyles, my new granddaughter. She is my third granddaughter and sixth grandchild over all. God delivered her to us last Friday, January 24, 2020 at about 4:30 in the afternoon. She was seven lbs, seven oz. or at least that is what I think Morgan, my daughter-in-law said. Cindy and I drove the two hours (short Texas ride) to Tyler to meet this new precious child. Both mom and daughter were doing fine.

On Sunday, Sydney wasn’t eating. Over night Morgan decided something wasn’t right and she was taking her to the pediatrician Monday morning and she did. They checked our little girl’s blood sugar and it wouldn’t even register. As a diabetic I know how I feel when my blood sugar falls into the 50s. I can’t begin to comprehend what that little girl was feeling.

The pediatrician’s office building also housed an emergency room in it. They rushed her over. While they were putting in an IV she started seizing. As soon as they could stabilize her they flew both Morgan and Sydney to Dallas where they have been since.

They continue to have difficulty stabilizing her blood sugar. But about 9:45 tonight (Tuesday) I got a text from Christopher (my son). He said the doctors had just been in. Though Sydney had seizures throughout the night and morning, she had not had a seizure since noon today. If she remains seizure free overnight they may take her off the EEG tomorrow. Her blood sugar remains unregulated but they are continuing to work on that.

We are all very thankful for this good news but also realize there is still a ways to go. She remains sedated and as I said, she still has blood sugar issues and remains in NICU. But, this is a HUGE step forward.

Needless to say, Christopher and Morgan are beyond stressed and exhausted. Sydney’s two older sisters, Jenna and Natalie are feeling the impact too. Jenna has some understanding of what is happening but is such a tenderhearted little girl it surely has upset her. Natalie isn’t old enough to understand yet but she is a mama’s girl and clearly understands that mama isn’t around right now.

Cindy and I are both upset of course. Today I found myself stressed to the point I had no focus. My normal Tuesday activity, sermon preparation, didn’t happen. But, it isn’t Sunday, yet.

I chose the text above because Jesus heals quite a few people, with many different maladies. I see it much like where Sydney is right now. There are a lot of kids at Children’s Hospital in Dallas. They are dealing with many different conditions and just as Jesus was there for all those people, God is present and at work for all those children, including our Sydney.

I also picked the text because, when I read about the Canaanite woman whose daughter was in need of Jesus’ healing power, this was a Mother on a Mission. She was determined to get her daughter the help she needed. I see that in my daughter-in-law. Don’t get in the way of that mama when it comes to the help any of her three daughters need. In Christopher’s defense, I know he would move heaven and earth to see to the needs of those little girls. I shouldn’t neglect him.

I have no doubt, God’s hand is sitting with Sydney right now. I am thankful.

I know that we just started our look at Psalms a few days ago and I am already out of it. At this point, though the news is better right now, I will not make any promises that I am going to get anything written in the next few days. I had quite a bit on my plate this week before all this occurred. As of now, most of it is still on my calendar. Just know, I am committed to Psalms but, when things happen, I will always put the plan on the back burner. Sometimes it might even happen because I feel God leading me to something different for a day or two. I will return to the Psalm work before too much longer. I hope you understand.

Please keep Sydney, Morgan, Christopher, Jenna, and Natalie in your prayers. They are all in special need right now. Thank you in advance for what you do to support us.

In search of the genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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Shielded (Psalm 5)

Psalm 5

For the music leader. For the flutes. A psalm of David.

5 Hear my words, Lord!
    Consider my groans!
    Pay attention to the sound of my cries, my king and my God,
        because I am praying to you!
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice.
    In the morning I lay it all out before you.
    Then I wait expectantly.
Because you aren’t a God
    who enjoys wickedness;
    evil doesn’t live with you.
Arrogant people won’t last long
in your sight;
    you hate all evildoers;
    you destroy liars.
    The Lord despises people who are violent and dishonest.

But me? I will enter your house
    because of your abundant, faithful love;
    I will bow down at your holy temple,
        honoring you.
Lord, because of many enemies,
    please lead me in your righteousness.
    Make your way clear,
        right in front of me.
Because there’s no truth in my enemies’ mouths,
    all they have inside them is destruction.
    Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues slick with talk.
10 Condemn them, God!
    Let them fail by their own plans.
Throw them out for their many sins
    because they’ve rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you celebrate.
    Let them sing out loud forever!
Protect them
    so that all who love your name
    can rejoice in you.
12 Because you, Lord, bless the righteous.
    You cover them with favor like a shield (Psalm 5:1-12, Common English Bible)

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of David and Goliath. There are many reasons for that. We all have times when we must face a giant or perhaps even several. One of my all-time favorite book titles (though I confess I haven’t read the whole book) is Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio. When I was in Course of Study School at Perkins School of Theology, SMU (Course of Study School is a curriculum for United Methodist Pastors who are older, second career pastors for whom the cost of seminary doesn’t make sense) I had the opportunity one night to go to a Christian theater in the DFW area and saw a play with the title David and Goliath in Cow-town. It was a hilarious look at the famous story with a few changes, for example, instead of five smooth stones, David had five smooth horseshoes.

When I read the story (and yes, I will get to Psalm 5) one of the things I found interesting some years ago, the David and Goliath story is the only place in the Bible where the writer mentions shield-bearers, and in that story we find them twice.

Shield-bearers were important in the Biblical era. The standard shield was so large a soldier could hide behind it. Much of the time, when we think of a shield we think of a small, probably round item one would use in battle, holding it with one arm, having a sword in the other. With the shield the fighter might wart off arrows but certainly could use it to block sword strikes.

But that only words with a circle with a radius of perhaps 18 to 24 inches. Anything else would weigh a sword fighter down and would probably be too heavy to use for such fighting.

If one is going to use a large shield and fight, one would need someone else to carry the shield, leaving the soldier free to fight. Take a look at the picture above. The group of soldiers, with these large shields had a nice, safe place to avoid the enemy.

When I read Psalm 5:12, my mind first went to that shield bearer from 1 Samuel 17. I started looking around on the internet for a picture that could enlighten all of us with the size of the shields and the need for a shield bearer. I never found a picture of one soldier but I actually think the picture at the top of the page is even better. We can see the size of the shields and we can see one of the ways early soldiers used those shields as a battle tactic to protect themselves.

Of course, the psalmist of Psalm 5 isn’t talking about literal shields, but something more figurative, representing the righteousness of God. If God covers us with righteousness as the Psalmist suggests, our soul finds protection even greater than a platoon of soldiers using shields to protect their bodies.

You and I need that dose of righteousness. We need God to cover us. We need God as our shield bearer, not because the shield bearer is something less than the soldier, but quite the opposite. The shield bearer protects the soldier and God protects God’s children.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

(707)

I Wait (Psalm 5)

A poem based on selected verses from Psalm 5

Hear my words, Lord!
    Consider my groans!
    Pay attention to the sound of my cries, my king and my God,
        because I am praying to you!
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice.
    In the morning I lay it all out before you.
    Then I wait expectantly.
Because you aren’t a God
    who enjoys wickedness;
    evil doesn’t live with you.
Arrogant people won’t last long
in your sight;
    you hate all evildoers;
    you destroy liars.
    The Lord despises people who are violent and dishonest.

But me? I will enter your house
    because of your abundant, faithful love;
    I will bow down at your holy temple,
        honoring you.
Lord, because of many enemies,
    please lead me in your righteousness.
    Make your way clear,
        right in front of me.
Because there’s no truth in my enemies’ mouths,
    all they have inside them is destruction.
    Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues slick with talk.
10 Condemn them, God!
    Let them fail by their own plans.
Throw them out for their many sins
    because they’ve rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you celebrate.
    Let them sing out loud forever!
Protect them
    so that all who love your name
    can rejoice in you.
12 Because you, Lord, bless the righteous.
    You cover them with favor like a shield. (Psalm 5:1-12, Common English Bible)

Inspiration struck last night and I began a poem based on Psalm 5 verses 3, 7, and 11-12.

I can remember, not too many years ago, I did not care for poetry at all. In the last few years, for some reason it has started to grow on me. I think it might be because I was interested in writing some original lyrics and in some cases, original songs. Most of the poems I have written became songs before long. I would not be surprised if this one is put to music before long.

In the morning, I fall to my knees and pray,
I tell you all my problems and woes,
I praise your holy name for; blessings each day
You speak and your will is disclosed.

I wait. For you O Lord, I wait.
Your protection this day I seek
I bow before you, let me hear
I wait, your voice to hear, I wait.

I come to you, for your voice I must hear
Before your house I stand, Lord, let me see
We see your love & know, your Spirit, to us is near
From you O Lord, I will not flee.

I wait. For you O Lord, I wait.
Your protection this day I seek
I bow before you, let me hear
I wait, your voice to hear, I wait.

I sing out loud. Keep me singing to proclaim your name.
I sing of your refuge, keep me whole
I sing of your love for me, my place in you I claim
I sing to you, from my deep soul.

I wait. For you O Lord, I wait.
Your protection this day I seek
I bow before you, let me hear
I wait, your voice to hear, I wait.

May I be righteous before you O Lord, without blame,
This day I celebrate in you
Your shield protects me, your love, it sustains me my God
I seek your will, your word is true.

I wait. For you O Lord, I wait.
Your protection this day I seek
I bow before you, let me hear
I wait, your voice to hear, I wait.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

(706)

Fish Stories

Sermon for 1/26/2020

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. 10 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” 11 As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus (Luke 5:1-11, Common English Bible).

I love fish stories. I have always thought it was fun to hear the tall tales people tell about the fish they have caught or the one that got away. Most all of us have heard fish stories of some kind or another during our lifetime. Some of them are very believable and others, well, let’s just say the exaggeration the storyteller shares is the best part of the story.

This morning, I am going to share a fish story with you. You may think this story, like so many other fish stories, is more rooted in the exaggeration than the truth. But I promise you it is true.

When I was a teenager, I had a friend named Mike. We worked together in what was the first real job of our lives. We worked for the National Forest Service in the Sam Houston National Forest at a national recreation area called Double Lake. The park is near Cold Springs. We were part of a program the government had in the ‘70s called Youth Conservation Corp. It was a great job and I still tell people it was the best job I ever had, my all-time favorite during my working life. We lived in barracks style housing all week and went home on weekends. During the day we worked on several projects in and around Double Lake.

At night, after work, on occasion we would go over to Lake Livingston and for an evening of fishing. Going out there was always fun and most of the time we caught at least a few fish. When we had the most fun  was when my friend when Mike came with us. It was fun because Mike had a fish call. When I call this a fish call, I don’t mean something he stuck down in the water to attract fish. No, Mike stood at the edge of the lake; held his hands together like some people do when they whistle. He was there on the bank, acting like he was going to whistle and then he would emit this strange noise. About the closest sound I could compare it to is the horn on a diesel truck, but it wasn’t quite that either.

I know it sounds funny and you might think it wouldn’t work, but it did. When Mike came with us and used his fish call, we caught fish. We caught some most of the time, but when Mike came and used his fish call, we really caught fish. The biggest fish I ever caught was one night at Lake Livingston when Mike was their using that fish call. I caught a thirteen-pound catfish. Yes, I know, it was small compared to what others have caught in more recent years. It was nowhere near the state record or anything, but I was proud of it. Somewhere in all my stuff between here and Lufkin I have a picture nice picture of me and my fish.

Some of you are sitting there thinking to yourself that this is the lamest fish story you’ve ever heard. Some may even think it isn’t true, but you would be wrong. The story is quite true.

You can’t live in east Texas or on the Gulf coast without having heard at least a few fish stories. If you have not, you have lived a very sheltered life. You need to get out more. I would guess all of us have heard some and most of us have one or two stuck in our back pockets of our memory we can pull out and share on just about a moment’s notice.

And, fish stories aren’t really anything new. The disciples had a whopper of a fish story to tell. There story was a true story, but just as some of you, I am sure, have your doubts about the authenticity of my story. I would guess many people in their day doubted the truth of what Peter, Andrew, James and John were telling when they first heard our lesson.

Jesus comes to the lake, and as usual, a crowd gathered. So, he gets into Peter’s boat and tells Peter to put out just a little from shore. Jesus uses the boat as a pulpit of sorts and begins teaching the crowd. When he finishes teaching, he tells Peter to put out to sea a little bit and lower his nets on the other side of the boat from where Jesus was teaching. Peter puts up a short protest saying, “We’ve been out here fishing all night and haven’t caught a blessed thing. We have come back in, cleaned our nets and now you want us to lower them again? Oh well, you want us to put out the nets, we’ll put out the nets.” That telling of the story, by the way, is from the Keith Paraphrased Version of the Bible.

Peter goes about putting out the nets as Jesus said. The lesson doesn’t tell us what Peter was thinking as he put the nets into the water. I wouldn’t be surprised if his thoughts were grumbling thoughts. Perhaps he was thinking, “Here I am a professional fisherman. I know how to catch fish, I’ve been doing it most of my life. I have worked all night haven’t caught anything. And now, this itinerant carpenter/preacher comes along and presumes to tell me how to fish. I’m going to do this but when I bring the nets back up and they are empty I am going to tell him, ‘You stick to the woodwork and the preaching and I will take care of the fishing and everything will be just fine.'” He may or may not have actually said it, but it certainly would have been within Peter’s character to have thought it.

In spite of whatever Peter may or may not have been thinking, Jesus had a huge surprise in store for him. Peter lowered the nets into the water and when he started bringing them back up he couldn’t handle it. The nets were so full of fish Peter had to have help and more help than just Andrew. Se he called to James and John in the other boat and they came and helped haul the nets in. The nets were filled with fish, more than any of them had ever seen.

The haul for Peter and Andrew and the sons of Zebedee was a haul worth bragging about. Can’t you just hear them telling this fish story? “The nets were so full of fish it took all of us to haul them in. The nets were at the point of tearing. You have never seen so many fish at one time.”

The response would be predictable. “Oh yeah, right. Sure you caught two boat loads of fish. What did you do with them?” All Peter could say was, they walked away because Jesus said if they would walk away and come follow him, they would fish for people. And, that is what they did. They went out and got new fish stories, different fish stories. These stories weren’t about fish but about a subject of far greater importance than fish. These stories were about people. And, as the disciples gathered these stories they told them over and over again.

Let’s think about how this story applies to our lives. Andrew, Peter (I know, he was still Simon at this point), James and John bring in the biggest catch they ever saw and yet they walked away. A net load of fish like that would have been worth a great deal of money, probably more money than any of them had seen before and they walked away. They walked away from something of great material value and instead followed Jesus.

Are we willing to do what those first disciples did? If we were suddenly given more material wealth than we ever had, would we be willing to turn our backs on this good fortune? Unfortunately, most of us wouldn’t be so inclined. That is the way society is. It is the way of human nature. It is a tough thing to answer what Jesus was calling the four to do, but they did it. They traded fish for fish stories, well actually they traded for people stories.

It didn’t stop there. Ever since the days of the disciples, people have shared their fish stories. The disciples went out and shared their faith stories. It grew from there. People have told others what God has done in their lives ever since. They have told their fish stories.

And friends, God has done some mighty and powerful things in the lives of His children. God has done powerful and miraculous work in the lives of people just like you and me and then people like us have gone out into the world to tell others about what God has done for them.

It should be clear, I don’t know all your fish stories yet. To tell the truth about the only ones I do know are mine and Cindy’s. Despite that, I feel certain that at some point someone shared a fish story with you. And, this time, I don’t mean a story about a creature with scales, gills and a flat tail. It isn’t a fish story about some silly fish call or some story about a fish caught or almost caught out of the bay or some lake somewhere. I am pretty sure that someone, at some point in time, shared a faith story with you. Maybe it was a preacher saying something during a particularly meaningful sermon. Or maybe, it was your Sunday school teacher who gave you a different way of looking at things. Perhaps it was a parent or your best friend. It could have been someone like your version of Miss Helen, the wise matriarch of the church. Everyone listened to Miss Hattie because we all knew she had a special relationship with God. Or, maybe it was someone standing on a street corner asking if you knew about Jesus and then took the time to share their faith. I don’t know who it was or what their story was, but someone took the time to share their faith with you. Perhaps it was more than one someone.

From that time and even before, until now, you have gathered your own fish story. We, like the disciples, have a story to tell a world that desperately needs to know about the love of God and the lifesaving actions of Jesus Christ. God has done things in our lives and others need to know about them.

Friends, folks around us may never know about the love of God if we fail to share our fish stories or faith stories. The disciples shared their stories. What is holding us back from sharing ours?

“Oh, but preacher, I am much too busy.” We all lead busy lives, that is why we all have to work together if we are to accomplish God’s work. Or, “oh but preacher, I don’t know the Bible very well.” First, we won’t know the Bible if we don’t start studying it. Second, I didn’t say anything about going out and telling people about the Bible, I said tell them your fish story and nobody knows your fish story better than you. Go tell them how God has been at work in your life. Or, “Oh but preacher, I am afraid.” You don’t think the disciples were afraid? Sure, they were. They walked away from what they knew. They had to trust.

One of my friends, a former seminary roommate, Mike Lindstrom who is now associate pastor of First United Methodist Conroe once shared a story that really made me think.

He said a several years ago he went out fishing in the Gulf with a long-time friend. Mike said they had been fishing for a while and hadn’t caught much of anything when they decided to take their small boat out to one of the oil platforms a few miles offshore. When they made it out there, Mike said the fish were boiling. The fish were so active they had a hard time putting a hook in the water without bringing up a fish. It was a fisherman’s dream. They let the time get away from them and soon it was getting dark. The boat had no lights on it so they had to navigate back with a flashlight that would shine out about 10 feet. It was pitch black, no moon. Mike said his friend knew the way back, but it was a long way and they had to move very slowly from one buoy to the next. They would see a light on the water, and it would look very small and they had to wonder if it was a big light a long way away or if a small light was attached to something very close by. Eventually they made it back and Mike lived to share this story. But he said as he reflected back on the event, he realized he had really put his trust in his friend. Without his friend’s knowledge of the Gulf, they might never have made it safely back to shore.

The disciples walked away from the biggest catch they had ever seen. It was a gigantic haul making it a hard thing to do, but they did just that, they walked away. They trusted Jesus to guide them in the days ahead. We might be afraid of going and sharing our fish stories, but we need to remember God is with us. We need to share. Will you tell your fish stories?

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

(705)

Enter the House (Psalm 5)

Psalm 5

For the music leader. For the flutes. A psalm of David.

5 Hear my words, Lord!
    Consider my groans!
    Pay attention to the sound of my cries, my king and my God,
        because I am praying to you!
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice.
    In the morning I lay it all out before you.
    Then I wait expectantly.
Because you aren’t a God
    who enjoys wickedness;
    evil doesn’t live with you.
Arrogant people won’t last long
in your sight;
    you hate all evildoers;
    you destroy liars.
    The Lord despises people who are violent and dishonest.

But me? I will enter your house
    because of your abundant, faithful love;
    I will bow down at your holy temple,
        honoring you.
Lord, because of many enemies,
    please lead me in your righteousness.
    Make your way clear,
        right in front of me.
Because there’s no truth in my enemies’ mouths,
    all they have inside them is destruction.
    Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues slick with talk.
10 Condemn them, God!
    Let them fail by their own plans.
Throw them out for their many sins
    because they’ve rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you celebrate.
    Let them sing out loud forever!
Protect them
    so that all who love your name
    can rejoice in you.
12 Because you, Lord, bless the righteous.
    You cover them with favor like a shield (Psalm 5:1-12, Common English Bible)

Feeling isolated is not something uncommon. I think at times we all feel that way. The psalmist felt that way too, a lot. The psalms contain five different types of psalms. There are wisdom psalms, enthronement (that is the term I learned in seminary but have since learned, some call them royal psalms) psalms, praise psalms, psalms of thanksgiving, and psalms of lament. Psalms of lament are by far the most common.

Consider the opening verses of today’s psalm, “Hear my words, Lord! Consider my groans! Pay attention to the sound of my cries, my king and my God, because I am praying to you (Psalm 5:1-2)!

In today’s reading, the psalmist wastes no time getting to what is at the forefront of his mind. It seems to me, with the very first words of this psalm, “Hear my words, Lord!” the psalmist has at least some fear that God is not going to listen.

Where the psalmist has no fear is understanding that God has great love, faithful love for all God’s people. It is because of that love that the psalmist is convinced beyond all question, all doubt, that he will enter into God’s house. He knows he will bow down before God in God’s holy temple. He seeks to honor God.

When the psalmist speaks of those who are enemies, they are those who don’t seek after God. They are those who are arrogant, evil, and rebellious to name only a few. They are those he is sure will not be entering God’s house because, the Lord, “…despises people who are violent and dishonest.”

But for those who seek God, there will be celebration. As I read it, for those who enter God’s house, there will be celebration.

Evangelism writer, Tony Campolo wrote a book back in the early 1990s. The book was OK but I have loved the title since the first time I saw it. The Kingdom of God is a Party. I can’t help but think that the psalmist, upon entering God’s house would see that celebration in exactly the same way as Tony Campolo.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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Sleep in Peace (Psalm 4)

Psalm 4

For the music leader. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

4 Answer me when I cry out, my righteous God!
    Set me free from my troubles!
        Have mercy on me!
        Listen to my prayer!

How long, you people,
    will my reputation be insulted?
How long will you continue
    to love what is worthless
    and go after lies? Selah
Know this: the Lord takes
    personal care of the faithful.
The Lord will hear me
    when I cry out to him.
So be afraid, and don’t sin!
    Think hard about it in your bed
    and weep over it! Selah
Bring righteous offerings,
    and trust the Lord!

Many people say,
    “We can’t find goodness anywhere.
    The light of your face has left us, Lord!”[a]
But you have filled my heart with more joy
    than when their wheat and wine are everywhere!
I will lie down and fall asleep in peace
    because you alone, Lord, let me live in safety (Psalm 4:1-8, Common English Bible).

I am a person who has difficulty going to sleep. The difficulty has always been part of my nights (or days when I worked the graveyard shift). I can lay in bed, for long periods each night and stare at the ceiling. Sometimes I will get up and go do something else for a while. Sometimes I will read a book. As often as not, however, I just lay there, hoping to fall asleep.

The problem? Sometimes I’m just not tired. At other times it is something more. Even if I am tired, I still don’t sleep. The problem is, in my estimation, I can’t shut down my brain. No matter what I try, I am thinking about my sermon for Sunday, I am thinking about how I can best put together an event for which I am responsible. When I was teaching full-time it was lesson plans or grades were due or even what the next day’s lesson would be and how to best accomplish the goal of the lesson. It really doesn’t matter if I have already done the world. I am still thinking about it and how I can make it better.

The psalmist is talking about many things in today’s reading that would have caused many sleepless hours for me. The troubles of life and my reputation can keep me awake.

The psalmist also makes me laugh. He says, “Be afraid…Think hard about it in your bed…” Hey, that is the problem except I don’t have to be afraid. Just about anything can be the source of a sleepless night.

In the last couple of years my sleeplessness has gotten better (except when it decides at times other than the hours of sleep). In the past I would lay awake and think. Now, even if I am thinking, sleep can come on quickly. And, most of the time, I am thankful for that.

The psalmist closes these thoughts saying, “I will lie down and fall asleep in peace because you alone, Lord, let me live in safety.” Those are words for me and all you who are like me. God is with us. We need not worry. And, if we do our part, do our work, the rest will likely take care of itself.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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Refuge in God, the Church (Psalm 2)

Why do the nations rant? Why do the peoples rave uselessly?
The earth’s rulers take their stand; the leaders scheme together
    against the Lord and against his anointed one.
        “Come!” they say. “We will tear off their ropes
        and throw off their chains!”
The one who rules in heaven laughs; my Lord makes fun of them.
But then God speaks to them angrily; then he terrifies them with his fury:
        “I hereby appoint my king on Zion,
my holy mountain!”

I will announce the Lord’s decision: He said to me, “You are my son,
        today I have become your father.
Just ask me, and I will make the nations your possession;
    the far corners of the earth will be your property.
You will smash them with an iron rod;

you will shatter them like a pottery jar.”

10 So kings, wise up! Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
11 Serve the Lord reverently—trembling, 12 kiss his feet
        or else he will become angry, and your way will be destroyed
    because his anger ignites in an instant.

But all who take refuge in the Lord are truly happy! (Psalm 2:1-12, Common English Bible)

I thought I would share a story (actually more of an idea) with you I ran across in Homiletics Online, an online magazine used by many preachers. I have subscribed since 1998. Other than Homiletics I have no idea who to credit. The writer isn’t named.

“Maybe it’s time for a remake of Frank Capra’s beloved 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life — only this time, with the main character being not a banker, but a minister. Clarence, the clumsy but well-meaning angel, would escort the Rev. George Bailey not to an imaginary Bedford Falls bereft of a savings-and-loan, but one without a single church.

“What would it be like to live in such a community? Would there be the same levels of volunteerism, of civility, of simple human kindness?

What would happen to the teenager who’s been finding refuge from his abusive family in the church’s youth group? Or the divorced single mother who discovered that her volunteer experience as a Sunday School teacher helped her find employment as a teacher’s aide in the local school? Or the potential suicide whose life was changed after sitting down with the pastor in Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a heart-to-heart chat?

Our churches are worth more than we could ever imagine. What we have is more than a building. Of course, the Church is not a building at all. But, that said, even our buildings are worth more than we might think. Sure a dollar figure can be given to a building. A building costs so much to build. A building costs another amount to insure.

Our buildings are worth more than money because for many, they are a refuge from the storms of the world. The church is a place to escape, even if for a short time, the difficulties of life. For a period, we can find refuge from whatever it is that brings weight upon our shoulders. It is a place to learn. It is a place to find peace. It is a place for experience. It is a place with ears to listen.

The question has been asked, “If this church were to close its doors today, would anyone notice.” I would hope so. I would hope so for all he reasons I just said.

But, here is the thing, the building is not what makes the real difference. And in truth, the only refuge a building can offer is physical protection. It can keep the rain off our heads, it might give us refuge from the dark. We can find refuge in the building but it is all about the physical.

The psalmist speaks of refuge in God and how that refuge brings us to a place of joy. The building might be a place to escape, but we really escape to God, and that escape, that protection is of the spirit and it lasts longer than an hour on Sunday morning. Yes, we can feel weight lifted, but it is God who lifts the weight, not a building. Yes, the church building can be a place where we learn, but it is God who is the real teacher. Yes, we gain experience but God leads us in the way of light and life, and in God is where we gain experience. The Church is a place of listening ears. But, while people may listen, God never fails to hear. We always pray the Church might be a place of peace, but we pray because we know that God is the origin of peace.

When we take our refuge in anything of this world, even the Church building, we must remember, the refuge is temporary. We always find real and lasting refuge in the arms of Almighty God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Searching for the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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Restored By God (Psalm 3)

Psalm 3

A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.

3 Lord, I have so many enemies!
    So many are standing against me.
So many are talking about me:
    “Even God won’t help him.” Selah
But you, Lord, are my shield!
    You are my glory!
    You are the one who restores me.
I cry out loud to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain. Selah
I lie down, sleep, and wake up
    because the Lord helps me.
I won’t be afraid of thousands of people
    surrounding me on all sides.

Stand up, Lord!
    Save me, my God!
In fact, hit all my enemies on the jaw;
    shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Rescue comes from the Lord!
    May your blessing be on your people! Selah

I wish I had thought to take a picture of the acoustic guitar I am working to restore as a before picture. It isn’t finished yet but it looks better than when I began. Considering the state it was in when I got it, just to put new strings would have been an improvement. It was completely unplayable when I got it. When it is finished in will be a loaner guitar for Guitars 4 Vets.

Guitars 4 Vets is an organization I ran across a few months ago that uses music to help veterans suffering from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Being a vet myself, the son of a vet, and the father of a vet, I am very thankful that those issues impacted us personally. I was in the Navy during peace-time and such was a non-issue for me. For my dad, he served on a fleet tanker and was in and out of war zones on a regular basis during the Korean War refueling he fleet. As for my son Wayne, he was on the ground in Iraq when Iraqi Freedom began. I could name others in our family as well. Unlike many during so many conflicts, our family is fortunate. I am grateful.

To look at the Fender Telecaster above, gives me happy feelings. The person who restored this once beautiful guitar, bringing it back to its original beauty did a wonderful job.

The psalmist knows the feeling that goes with restoring something special. That something was a someone and it was him. We don’t know of any particular malady from which the psalmist suffered other than, he apparently had a lot of enemies. Feeling alone and under attack constantly can eventually make one feel like we need restoration.

The psalmist recognizes all God is in his life. God is a protector, a listener, one who answers, a savior, and a rescuer. I am sure we could all name several more things God does. The psalmist names one more too, God is a restorer.

God is in the restoration business. We call it healing. It seems to me, that when we go before God, requesting God heal us, we are asking God to restore our life back to what it was before something tore us down. But, it is important to remember, what God is most interested in restoring is not the body, but the condition of heart, soul, and spirit.

There are more programs out there than just Guitars 4 Vets. I have a cousin who works with wounded vets teaching scuba-diving. There are others too, “X-Sports 4 Vets” seeks to get vets past their troubles by using involvement in extreme sports. “The Sierra Club” has a military outdoors program that works to get vets outside to find healing in nature. “Veteran Expeditions” seeks to aid vets and their families with travel and adventure. “Pets 4 Vets” pairs shelter dogs specially selected to match the personality of the vet. “Heal Our Vets” provides many programs and retreats for veterans with PTSD. “Project Healing Waters” uses fly fishing to help these veterans in need. I haven’t even mentioned programs like the “Wounded Warrior Project,” “Fisher House,” “Disabled American Veterans (DAV),” “Hire Heroes,” and “Project Homefront.” They too work to make the lives of these vets better.

None of us can support all of these but I believe each is a place, a tool God can use to restore the lives of these vets. There are other people in need of restoration. There are probably programs out there that can be God’s tools to do just that.

Perhaps you are a person who needs to know God’s power to restore your life. Do not suffer alone. Reach out to someone. Ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You have already shown your strength, you have nothing left to prove. Let the people who surround you, let the people who love you, let the people who have worked to find a way to use the gifts God has given them to help you, that God might restore you through them.

I am not the greatest guitar player around, but I love guitars and I love vets and I am thankful for what they have given to all of us. I am also thankful I can combine those two loves to make a difference. Find what gifts you have that God can use to make a difference in the lives of these great men and women.

I have chosen Guitars 4 Vets. I would ask you to keep that program and me in your prayers. The closest chapter of Guitars 4 Vets to Lufkin TX where I live, is in Houston. It is 2 1/2 hours away. The program tries to establish chapters where there are VA medical facilities. We have a VA out-patient facility here. I have applied to start a chapter in our community and I will interview for that later this week. I ask that you help me this way, to help the vets of this community.

The most important thing, however, is, open yourself to be an instrument of God to restore people around us. God can and will make a difference. God is giving you the opportunity to be part of God’s restoring grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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