Sitting on the Premises

Welcome to another “My Song Saturdays.” I have a lot of fun with these posts. For now, on Saturday mornings I am sharing some of the lyrics I have written. When I run out of songs (if I run out) I may share some of the lyrics that have touched my heart or some of the poetry I’ve written that hasn’t worked into a song.

The past couple of weeks I have shared with you a story from several years ago, when, by complete accident, I found a news paper clipping. On it were ten songs and then something closer to us today but done in a way to bring humor. They are things like last week’s song, “We sing ‘O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,’ but we won’t praise God with the one we have.”

I took the quote, one of the four from the clipping I can remember, and because I don’t want to lose it and the quotes be gone forever, I put them into song lyrics. That one became, “I Love to Hear it in My Ears.” Two weeks ago the quoted song was “Let There be Showers of Blessing.” The quote was, “We sing let there be showers of blessing but we won’t go to church when it rains.” That turned into “So From the Showers We Flee.” I have one or two more like this I will share with you.

This week the hymn is “Standing on the Promises.” The quote was, “We sing ‘Standing on the Promises’ when we are really just sitting on the premises.” I hope you enjoy it.

Sitting on the Premises

Sitting on the premises, it’s my first time
When they stared at me, I thought I’d done a crime
I was in their seat, they thought of me as slime
Sitting on the premises at Church

Sitting, Sitting, sitting on the premises, and just do nothing,
Sitting, Sitting, I’m sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting on the premises its Holy Ground
The preacher tells us we should let our love abound
I show up on Sunday, more would just astound
Sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting, Sitting, sitting on the premises, and just do nothing,
Sitting, Sitting, I’m sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting on the premises of Christ’s own Church
For today’s lesson I will not go search
When it’s read aloud my lips will form a smirch
Sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting, Sitting, sitting on the premises, and just do nothing,
Sitting, Sitting, I’m sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting on the premises I know there’s more
Maybe what the preacher said can tell the score
I don’t want to live my life just like before,
Sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting, Sitting, sitting on the premises, and just do nothing,
Sitting, Sitting, I’m sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting on the premises grace comes to me
It’s a gift that God gives us all you see.
The gift is so that we can have eternity,
Sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting, Sitting, sitting on the premises, and just do nothing,
Sitting, Sitting, I’m sitting on the premises at Church.

Sitting on the premises from sin I’m free
Through the blood of Jesus, I have victory
AI tell all the world what God has done for me and
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing, Standing, standing on the promises, of Christ my savior
Standing, Standing, I’m standing on the promises at church.

I pray you have a blessed weekend – AT CHURCH!

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission is given for the non-commercial use of this post.

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Hear My Cry Lord (Psalm 11)

Psalm 11

For the director of music. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
    they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
    at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.
The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face. (Psalm 11:1-7, New International Version)

Here My Cry Lord

A poem based on Psalm 11

The bird finds a sturdy tree and, in its limbs, builds a nest.
Mighty grizzly bears find peace and rest in a cave.
I am tired and weary help me find peace and rest.
O Lord my God, I find rest and comfort in gifts you gave.

Enter the presence of God Most High.
Bow down low before the Holy throne.
Let me speak and pray, as you draw nigh.
Hear my cry Lord, my heart you’ve known.

My bones are tired and weary, Your shelter my soul needs
Send away those who work against you Father.
I am stuck with enemies all around, take the lead.
They wear me out, I survive because I love you.

Enter the presence of God Most High.
Bow down low before the Holy throne.
Let me speak and pray, as you draw nigh.
Hear my cry Lord, my heart you’ve known.

I stand in your loving presence Lord, in you I’m blessed.
My God, you love more than any other, know my heart.
To see your Holy face will give me strength on my quest.
In your strength I will serve you and I will do my part.

Enter the presence of God Most High.
Bow down low before the Holy throne.
Let me speak and pray, as you draw nigh.
Hear my cry Lord, my heart you’ve known.

May God hear the cry of your heart.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission is given for use in non-commercial purposes

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Flee as a Bird (Psalm 11)

As I said yesterday, I got confused and backed up to Psalm 10. I didn’t realize it until I already had the Psalm 10 post done and ask I said, I wrote it, I am going to post it. But, as promised, we are back on Psalm 11.

Psalm 11

Song of Trust in God

To the leader. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me,
    “Flee like a bird to the mountains;
for look, the wicked bend the bow,
    they have fitted their arrow to the string,
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
    His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
    and his soul hates the lover of violence.
On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur;
    a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
    the upright shall behold his face.

When I first sat down with this text yesterday, after confusing myself with Psalm 10 and 11, and I had myself back on track, verse 1 brought back some memories for me.

My wife is a pretty good amateur musician. Though she doesn’t do much singing these days, she plays the flute and has a fair knowledge of several other instruments. I haven’t been able to get her to really try the guitar but I have yet to give up.

For someone who has never taken a piano lesson of any kind, and also not someone who really plays by ear, Cindy does a pretty good job on the piano. She reads music well and understands the layout of the keyboard but she also has a pretty limited repertoire, she does have several songs she plays, some better than others.

I guess it was close to 30 years ago, when we would go to the church to work on something or some other reason, Cindy would usually make her way to the piano and start playing. I would usually sit down and listen for a while.

She often played one song I wasn’t familiar with. At first she didn’t sing it so I didn’t know the lyrics. The song came from the old Broadman Hymnal. As I understand it, The Broadman Hymnal is to Baptists and The Cokesbury Hymnal is to United Methodists.

She finally started singing the lyrics. I really liked the song’s tune. When she started singing the lyrics I was in love with the song. Take a look at these lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Flee as a bird to your mountain
Thou who art weary with sin
Go to the clear flowing fountain
Where you may wash and be clean

[Chorus 1]
Fly, for the avenger is near thee
Call and the Savior will hear thee
He on his bosom will bear thee
Thou who art weary of sin, oh
Thou who art weary of sin

[Verse 2]
He will protect thee forever
Wipe every falling tear
He will forsake thee, oh, never
Sheltered so tenderly there

[Chorus 2]
Haste now, the hours are flying
Spend not the moments in sighing
Cease from your sorrow and crying
The Savior will wipe every tear, oh
The Savior will wipe every tear

Many of the comments I read online were critical of the first two lines, “Flee as a bird to your mountain, thou who art weary of sin…” I actually see the lyrics are pretty faithful to Psalm 11, and that is a good thing since Psalm 11 was the inspiration for “Flee as a Bird.”

It seems to me, whether dealing with my own sin and the consequences that can result, from the sins of others around me. I feel the impact of those sins and any of us, at least some of the time I can quickly or eventually grow weary of the sin (my own included) that is around me. I want to run to a place of peace. I want to take a break to regroup, to pray before I step back into the trenches. We all need time to rest and recover. We need to flee to the mountain to find a way beyond our weariness of sin.

David is right about this one and as far as I am concerned, those who are critical of Carolyn Herring’s wonderful song, are perhaps weary of sin but not enough to think about it in their next seventh day because we all need rest.

I recently found the guitar chords for “Flee as a Bird.” I think it is time for me to learn that one too. Because I love this song it would only make sense for me to learn to play those chords and sing the lyrics.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission is granted to use these thoughts for non-commercial activities

[736]

I Don’t See You (Psalm 10)

OK, I got confused about where I was in the process and you are getting another post from Psalm 10 today. I wrote it, so I am posting it. Tomorrow you will again be back in Psalm 11. jkb

Psalm 10

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

Psalm 10 New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 10[a]

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
    who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
    he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
    in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
    your laws are rejected by[b] him;
    he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
    He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”

His mouth is full of lies and threats;
    trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.”

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    “He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
    call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
    that would not otherwise be found out.

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror. (Psalm 10:1-18, New International Version)

Though I did not plan it this way, after finishing the poem below, inspired by Psalm 10:1, I realized God gave me a poem very appropriate for Ash Wednesday and Lent. I pray you have a Holy Lent.

Why can’t I see you, Lord of my heart?
I can see people rushing around.
Strangers pull me, it tears me apart.
Your absence from my sight, it astounds.

Why can I not see you God?
Why don’t I hear the Holy?
The fragrance I smell is odd.
Let me taste bread and wine slowly.
Your touch on me, I am awed,
Come back, I seek you solely.

Why can I not hear your mighty voice?
The noise around us, do we fear sound?
When I hear you speak, I will rejoice.
Your absence from my ears, just astounds.

Why can I not see you God?
Why don’t I hear the Holy?
The fragrance I smell is odd.
Let me taste bread and wine slowly.
Your touch on me, I am awed,
Come back, I seek you solely.

A smell enters my nose, it isn’t you.
Thick air that smells, human work abounds.
When can I smell your morning due?
Your absence from my nose, it astounds.

Why can I not see you God?
Why don’t I hear the Holy?
The fragrance I smell is odd.
Let me taste bread and wine slowly.
Your touch on me, I am awed,
Come back, I seek you solely.

I do not taste you, in bread and wine.
I taste the dirt from unholy ground.
Now, at your table, I cannot dine.
Your absence from my mouth, it astounds.

Why can I not see you God?
Why don’t I hear the Holy?
The fragrance I smell is odd.
Let me taste bread and wine slowly.
Your touch on me, I am awed,
Come back, I seek you solely.

In times before your hand was on me.
The Holy touch pulls me heaven bound.
Your touch I could feel in gentle breeze.
That you I do not feel, it astounds.

Why can I not see you God?
Why don’t I hear the Holy?
The fragrance I smell is odd.
Let me taste bread and wine slowly.
Your touch on me, I am awed,
Come back, I seek you solely.

I know it is I who will wander.
I close off my senses, it astounds.
To not have you, my life I squander.
Holy love for sinful me, abounds.

I will soon see the Holy.
I will here your mighty voice.
Sweet blooms I will smell slowly.
You I will taste and rejoice.
You God, me, the lowly.
Back to you, will be my choice.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

In Search of the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission is granted to use for non-commercial purposes

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God Hates… (Psalm 11)

Psalm 11

For the music leader. Of David.

11 I have taken refuge in the Lord.
    So how can you say to me,
    “Flee to the hills like a bird
        because the wicked
        have already bent their bows;
        they’ve already strung their arrows;
        they are ready to secretly shoot
        those whose heart is right”?
When the very bottom of things falls out,
    what can a righteous person possibly accomplish?

But the Lord is in his holy temple.
    The Lord! His throne is in heaven.
His eyes see—
    his vision examines all of humanity.
The Lord examines
    both the righteous and the wicked;
    his very being hates anyone who loves violence.
God will rain fiery coals and sulfur on the wicked;
    their cups will be filled
    with nothing but a scorching hot wind
    because the Lord is righteous!
    He loves righteous deeds.
    Those whose heart is right will see God’s face. (Psalm 11:1-7, Common English Bible)

I had quite an education tonight. When I started looking for a picture to go with this post, I was absolutely amazed at all the things, mostly people, God hates. Here is a partial list:

“God Hates Boomers” – considering I am from that generation-I never knew
God hated me and my generation, go figure.
“God hates P.H.F.” – Whatever that is
“God hates figs: Mark 11:12-14” I’m pretty sure I know that story (and I do, I
went and checked), Jesus didn’t hate the figs.
He wanted to eat one. His issue was with the
tree!! We need to be sure of what God hates
before we go making rash statements.
“God hates facts” – Really?
“God hates me?” Don’t think so?
“God hates us all?” – “…God so loved the world…whoever believes in Him…”

I could go on, the list goes on, and on, and on, and on. They certainly did.

I think most all of us are aware of the hate speech that at least came out of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas. They have credited God will hating all kinds of things and people. If you know me at all, you know how wrong I think they are.

As I was looking around, I came across an August 25, 2011 Decision Magazine article written by Billy Graham. I am always hesitant to publicly disagree with a Christian of his stature but I think I will have to go there for this one. The article was “Things God Hates.” Here is that list:

A proud look
A lying tongue
Hands that shed innocent blood
A heart that devises evil imaginations
Feet that are swift in running to mischief
A man or woman who sows discord among brethren

I really struggle with this idea. I struggle with what the Old Testament often says. I struggle with what the psalmist says in this psalm. I am not saying this is a place where Scripture is wrong. I am saying, it is troublesome with an image of God that says God is love and we also know the Scriptures say as exactly that. “The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8). In Matthew’s Gospel we read this verse:

“If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11).

The way I read this verse, though ALL of us are evil, God will give good things to those who ask. If God hates those who are evil, and according to this verse, that is all of us (and in my search for that picture that was one of these things God hates, see above), why would God give us good things even if we did ask?

I did find a few quotes I do agree with from Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest California. Take a look at these:

“God hates loneliness, and community is God’s answer to loneliness. When we walk alongside other people, we find a community where we learn how to love.”

“So I would say God hates war, but God loves every soldier.”

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

I don’t have a problem here because with each Warren is not pointing at one of God’s children but the things God’s children might sometimes do. I didn’t always like the things my now adult children did while they were growing up. I didn’t quit loving them. I don’t sometimes agree with what they do as adults but I still love them despite their actions. If I, a finite being, can love my children in spite of what they do that I may not like, how much more does God, in infinite power and love, love all God’s children.

Does God like all the things I do? That one is an easy answer, absolutely not. Does God love me despite my actions? I would have to say that is a resounding “Yes.” That is good news for all of us.

Will God hold me responsible for the things I do that God does hate? I think that is the case, without repentance and confession. And, I also think that breaks God’s heart, because God loves me.

Those things Billy Graham said God hates? Let me rephrase them in a way I understand the love and grace of God.

Prideful actions
Lies
Bloodshed
Evil actions
Mischief
Discord in the Church

I don’t think God hates me. I don’t think God hates you. I do think there are things we do, that God doesn’t like at all.

I think sometimes our kids may do things that break our hearts. I believe our kids can and do things that can bring us to tears. But, I also know this, what I do can break my heavenly Father’s heart and I can bring God to tears by what I do.

I also know this, I am created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) so if God is love, that means I am made in the image of love. For that, I will always be grateful.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

In search of the genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission is given for the non-commercial use of this post.

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Where Do I Find You? (Psalm 10)

Psalm 10

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
    let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
    those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.
In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”;
    all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Their ways prosper at all times;
    your judgments are on high, out of their sight;
    as for their foes, they scoff at them.
They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.”

Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
    under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
They sit in ambush in the villages;
    in hiding places they murder the innocent.

Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
    they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
    they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.

10 They stoop, they crouch,
    and the helpless fall by their might.
11 They think in their heart, “God has forgotten,
    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
    do not forget the oppressed.
13 Why do the wicked renounce God,
    and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?

14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
    that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
    you have been the helper of the orphan.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
    seek out their wickedness until you find none.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
    the nations shall perish from his land.

17 O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
    you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
    so that those from earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:1-18, New Revised Standard Version)

Where Lord, where do I find you?
When they who refuse to hear,
On garbage do they chew.
Away from You, they do veer.

Where are you Father of all?
Why Lord do you stand far off?
Enemies love not your call,
Your faithful, they will castoff.

I search and I look for you.
Your children, for you they search.
You are distant, such seems new.
With you, hope is with your Church.

Do not stand far off from me,
I know O God, you are here.
I seek you, when far away,
I move from you holy seer.

Into your sight, bring me home.
Without You, my life will fail.
With you God, I shall overcome.
Against you Lord, all are frail.

I search for you, do not hide.
Your children, must hear your voice.
Why am I not at your side?
Restore me, I will rejoice.

I search. I still fail to see.
As I look, you have me learn,
My God always walks with me.
I moved. It is you I yearn.

Bring me home, don’t let me balk.
Do not Lord, let me wander,
Away, I know, I will walk
All you give, I will squander.

Call me to see your glory.
That I may be close to you,
Then I shall tell your story,
That all the world knows you too.

Do for me what I cannot.
Selfish gain, help me repress
Your servant, Your Son has bought.
Watch me, guide me, you will bless.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission to use this work for non-commercial purposes is granted.

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Mission Possible

17 As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”

18 Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19 You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.”

20 “Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.

23 Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!” 24 His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, “Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! 25 It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

26 They were shocked even more and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God.”

28 Peter said to him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you.”

29 Jesus said, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms because of me and because of the good news 30 will receive one hundred times as much now in this life—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and farms (with harassment)—and in the coming age, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first.” (Mark 10:17-31, Common English Bible)

Friends, before I really get started, I recognize we are repeating the Scripture we used last Sunday. As I was reading it to you, I was hearing that I write another sermon on this Scripture just emphasizing the idea of impossibility. So, writing this sermon was exactly what I did.

Sometimes a story comes around that is so inspiring that it makes you question just what you’re capable of accomplishing in your own life. This is one of those stories…

In 1984, Augusto and Michaela Odone took their six-year-old son to a doctor because he was stumbling, becoming bad-tempered and not feeling well. After a few tests’ doctors diagnosed their son, Lorenzo, with a rare disease called adrenoleukodystrophy.

There was no treatment for the disease. Doctors said little Lorenzo would continue losing his balance, go blind and deaf until eventually dying of aspiration. He wasn’t expected to live longer than two years after diagnosis.

Augusto and Michaela consulted several doctors and specialists about the disease, but everyone said the same thing: there’s no known cure. There is no treatment; it’s hopeless.

Most of us have at least heard of Michael Jordan. He was the Achilles heal for all the other teams in the National Basketball Association. He was arguably the best basketball player ever to lace up a pair of sneakers. He was so important to the Chicago Bulls in an eight year time period, the Bulls won the championship six times, three in a row, twice. What happened to the other two? Ending with the 1994 season, the Bulls had won three in a row with Jordan in the lineup. Following the 1994 season Jordan decided to retire. Without Jordan, the Bulls proceeded to not even make the finals for two years. The Rockets won those two titles. Two years later Jordan decided to impact the league all over again by making a comeback. With Jordan back on the team, they won three more.

There are two more things you should know about Michael Jordan. First, Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team when he was a sophomore in high school. He got sent down to the junior varsity that season. To think that the greatest (or even the second or third or tenth greatest) of all time was not one of the ten best players in his small high school at any point during his time there boggles the mind. He did make the varsity his junior year and never looked back. He went on to college at the University of North Carolina. Following college, he ended up with the Bulls and later the Wizards.

So, what was Jordan doing during those two years he decided to let the Rockets win their two championships? He decided to try to make a living as a professional baseball player. Jordan decided to retire from the Chicago Bulls to join the Chicago White Sox organization. He moved from being the premier player of basketball to being a minor league baseball player. He never rose above AA ball. After two seasons he left baseball and went back to greatness in basketball. He gave up.

It is difficult to think of examples of people who are famous enough to know and at the same time gave up on something they were doing. Yes, Jordan gave up but he gave up to go back the thing where he was really good.

Jonah tried everything he could think of to give up before he got to Nineveh. He tried to go to Tarshish, he jumped ship, and who knows what else he might have tried but didn’t make it into the Bible. The only reason Jonah didn’t give up was God would have none of it.

Moses didn’t want to go Pharaoh with God’s demands. Again, God wouldn’t take no for an answer. For every one of Moses’ excuses, God had an answer until God finally said in essence, “Quit with the excuses just go do it. Jacob cheated Esau and had to run away. Samson is so taken with Delilah he ends up giving her the secret to his strength.

Elijah had so many miraculous experiences, you’d think that he’d have unshakable faith. After all, he caused the rain to stop for more than three years, was fed by ravens, saw a limitless jar of flour and jug of oil, witnessed a widow’s son resurrected, even playing a critical role in the scene, and he beat the prophets of Baal by calling down fire from heaven.

But when the showdown with the Baal worshipers so angered King Ahab and his wife Jezebel that she vowed to see him dead, Elijah couldn’t take it. The pressure of being such a high-profile prophet of God had gotten to Elijah and he hightailed it into the wilderness. When God met him there, Elijah was undone, feeling like he was the only prophet left—confident that he was completely isolated and imperiled.

Being loud and impetuous was Peter’s calling card. Peter was the biggest personality in any room. It’s no wonder that he’d join James and John as one of Jesus closest friends and confidants. In fact, he was the only disciple willing to try walking on the water and was the first to call Jesus the Christ and son of God.

When Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him, Peter proudly rebuffs him. But that very night, after Jesus is arrested, someone confronts Peter in the courtyard of the Sanhedrin and accused Peter of being a follower of Christ. And, just as Jesus predicted, Peter denies him three times—the third time cursing his accusers. When he realizes what he’s done he breaks down and weeps bitterly. But, Peter found forgiveness and grace sitting on the shore. Peter, do you love me…

Did Peter’s failure exclude him from Christ’s plans? On the contrary, Peter is the first of the twelve that Jesus appears to! He restores Peter in a touching moment on the Sea of Galilee.

In the movie series, Mission Impossible, Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise and series before that, James “Jim” Phelps, played by Peter Graves went out on impossible missions, suicide missions if you will, and somehow, on their own, without divine help, turn the impossible into possible, every time they hear a recording saying, “Your mission, if you choose to accept it…” then at the end of the recording, “Good luck… this recording will self-destruct in 15 seconds.” There is something in there too about being caught and disavowed. Still, they ALWAYS accept the mission and they ALWAYS succeed in making the impossible, possible.

So, what do we make of all this? Peter went on to become the leader of the disciples and an early church father, preaching the first evangelical message after which more than 3,000 people came to a relationship with God. It was something of Mission Impossible moving to “Mission Possible.” “Peter, do you love me? Feed my lambs.” Those are words of pardon and grace.

Today’s lesson is another story of someone who just can’t leave his stuff behind. He wants admission to the Kingdom. But there is a price he must pay. He must divest himself of all his wealth and then become a disciple. I am reminded of a story about a wealthy man who over and over can’t seem to let go. In his nightly prayer time, the man continues to beg God. Finally, God tells the man its OK, but he can only bring one suitcase. Peter’s curiosity gas getting to him. As the man passes through the gates, Peter sees the suitcase and must ask, “What was so important you couldn’t leave it behind?” The man smiles and sets the suitcase down and opens it. It is filled with gold bars. He looks up and smiles at Peter who dropped his head and was shaking it side to side. He says, “That’s what you brought? Paving stones?”

That could easily be us. Let’s get back to our lesson. There’s a price he must pay to live in the Kingdom. Oh, wait a minute their preacher!! I thought salvation was a free gift from God, a gift offered without price. Now you are saying the rich young man must pay a price. Which is it?

Thank you for asking. I a so glad you asked. Jesus’ instruction was not about buying anything. The price the rich young man was to pay was a matter of his priorities. Jesus was asking the man to make a choice, God or your money. The rich young man, not being able to lose his money, chose it over God. That is a sad turn of events.

Once the rich young man left Jesus explains to the disciples abut how hard it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom. This is the part of the lesson last week that I believe God was telling me what to do, what to preach.

“It is easier,” Jesus says, “for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom. I can see why the disciples would have concerns. If rich people, with all their wealth and power couldn’t enter the Kingdom, what chance would they have? These guys were far from being wealthy.

Jesus’ answer, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom,” didn’t really give them any comfort. They just didn’t get it.

It doesn’t take a genius to know a camel can’t go through the eye of a needle. There are scholars who have a bit of a different understanding. Some argue that Jesus was not talking about a literal needle. Instead, they believe the term “The eye of the needle” is a metaphor. The “Eye of the Needle” has been claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. That would mean it was possible to enter the Kingdom, but it was not easy.

I think such an explanation is lacking. On our own, we cannot obtain the eternal gift of the Kingdom of God. WE NEED GRACE. And it isn’t that I can get grace by my own hard work. I cannot get grace by myself or with the help of my friends or my foes. I can’t get it without God because it takes grace and that is something, I can’t work for borrow or buy. It is the free gift that lets me pass through the eye of that needle into the Heavenly Kingdom of God.

In the television comedy, The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon and Penny are having an argument and Sheldon says, “Penny, when you understand the laws of physics anything is possible.” That really isn’t true. No matter what your understanding of physics might be you are not going to defy the law of gravity standing on earth. Unless of course, God has an intention of doing what is humanly impossible and defies the law of gravity for us. That, my friends, is possible because for God, nothing is impossible.

Being deaf since she was one and a half years old, Marlee Matlin made her credo a phrase: ‘The only thing I can’t do is hear.’ When she was a child, despite the doctors’ advice, her parents sent her to a public school (instead of a specialized one for the deaf), and with the help of special programs Marlee adapted after a while. It helped her to become the first and only deaf actress to receive an Academy Award. Marlee often says: ‘I work every day to help people understand, like my parents taught me, that deaf people not only deserve respect, they deserve to be heard.’

As a child the late Ray Charles began losing his sight, and before the age of 7 he went completely blind. When Ray was 15 years old, his mother died. The young man couldn’t sleep, eat, or speak for many days. He was sure that he would go mad. When he got out of his depression, he realized that, having gone through this tragedy, he would be able to handle anything. When he was 17, the musician started to record his first soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues singles. Nowadays, many people consider Ray Charles a legend: his works were even included in the Library of Congress. In 2004, after his death, Rolling Stone magazine named Ray Charles number 10 in the top 100 greatest artists of all time.

Those are two of the many stories of people who moved past what many of us would consider an impossible situation and still managed to move forward to find success. Could we move forward in much the same way? The answer to the question is “yes.” We may not be an Oscar or Grammy award winning performer, but we can, no matter what the limitations the world might see, use our God given gifts to make a difference in the world or make a difference in the lives of others. God’s gifts in your life matter and no matter what the stumbling blocks in our paths might be, we need to keep moving forward and let the world see God through us.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Naaman found in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a great general in the army of the king of Aram. Naaman contracted leprosy. He ended up before the prophet Elisha seeking a cure. Elisha, never leaving his house, sent Naaman to the Jordan River to wash seven times.

        To say Naaman was angry would be an understatement. He believed Elisha was insulting him by not even coming out of the house. He saw going and bathing in any river, much less this “body of water” that was often so dried up there would be no water for Naaman to bathe. Why couldn’t he use one of the far greater rivers, at least far bigger rivers he would cross on his way home.

        As I see the story play out in my mind, Naaman grudgingly goes to the Jordan, griping about the useless prophet all the way. I see Naaman getting into the river, still muttering complaints. He dips into the river once, twice, three times. Each time he looks at the sores on his body he sees no change. He talks about how this is a waste of time and he starts to leave the river saying, “I guess I will live out the remainder of my life in a leper colony.” His men convince him to get back into the water and finish Elisha’s instruction. He does and, in the end, God heals him.

         What would have happened if Naaman had left the river before completing Elisha’s instructions. Naaman was anything but a stupid man. You don’t become a general in anyone’s army by being stupid. Naaman knew Elisha’s instructions were stupid. He knew there was no way Elisha’s instructions should work. But, as Naaman would learn, God can do the impossible.

        So, what happened to Augusto and Lorenzo? There were failures in Augusto’s effort to find a cure for Lorenzo. But Augusto was a fighter who refused to accept such a terrible situation without expending every ounce of energy he had to overcome the seemingly impossible with the gift of grace and mercy.

Augusto worked to discover a cure on his own. He faced some huge obstacles.

  • Augusto only had a high school understanding in science and medicine.
  • He had to learn everything about the disease from scratch. That includes things like how degradative enzymes cross membranes and how long-chain fatty acids accumulate.
  • After learning about it, he had to discover a cure.
  • And do it all in less than two years so he can give it to Lorenzo.

When they told doctors and researchers about the plan, they heard the same thing:

“It’s impossible. It can’t be done.”

By day, Augusto worked as an economist at the World Bank. At night, he scoured research papers and medical journals from the National Institute of Health. He worked dauntlessly and put all his effort into figuring the disease out.

He finally got an insight from an unlikely source: the oils he used to make spaghetti carbonara. He reasoned that the oils might soak up the deadly acids before it hurt Lorenzo’s nervous system.

Medical researchers thought he was crazy. After all, it’s absolutely unheard of for complete amateurs in medicine to develop a cure to a complex neurological disease that professionals had been studying for decades.

But when they tested the oil on Lorenzo, it made a huge impact on his condition. While it didn’t cure him completely, it did halt the progress enough for Lorenzo to live an additional twenty years when he died from an accident – not the disease.

It took until 2005 for doctors to publish a study to finally prove the treatment actually works – which is now known as Lorenzo’s Oil (which is also the name of a movie about their accomplishment.). In that time, Augusto and Michaela had given it to hundreds of other people and saved lives all over the world.

It all sounds so impossible, doesn’t it?

Someone with only a high school understanding of science studying enough about a rare disease to find a treatment for it? And in less than two years?

We know it’s not impossible though. It happened.

I have to admit that if I had heard about Augusto and Michaela’s plan to find a cure to a disease with little to no knowledge about medicine, I would have assumed it was impossible too. It’s just so far outside of the norm that it’s too easy to dismiss it away.

But it should all give us pause to think about what we consider “impossible” in our own lives.

It seems so easy to define what’s possible and what isn’t. We tend to use our perceptions of things we’ve seen before to help guide us in what can actually be done.

But defining what’s impossible is not as clear as we’d like to think. Perceptions are largely based upon experience. That leaves a big gap of knowledge about experiences that haven’t been tested yet.

The Odones went into that unknown area of experience where no one had gone before. Because it had never been done before, people were ready to dismiss it away as “impossible”. But it’s important to test our perceptions and assumptions – many times they’re wrong.

If Augusto and Michaela had simply accepted their situation, Lorenzo would have died much earlier in his life. The only reason they found this cure was due to Augusto’s determination and willingness to fight.

Make no mistake about it. What Augusto and Michaela did was a long-shot – a huge long-shot. But that’s the strange and beautiful thing about life, sometimes the long-shots pay off. The Odones saw God make Mission Impossible, Mission Possible.

What would have happened to Naaman if he bathed six times and said it was impossible and left upset and angry? He would have missed seeing God turn “Mission Impossible” into “Mission Possible.”

Ethan Hunt and Jim Phelps of Mission Impossible fame might be able to turn the impossible into possible but that is because the writers said so. As for the rest of us, if something is truly impossible, the only way to reverse mission impossible is for God to intervene. When that happens, mission impossible quickly becomes mission possible.

What is God calling you to do that might seem impossible. Will you walk away and see it remain Mission Impossible? Or, will you remain obedient and see God make “Mission Impossible,” “Mission Possible?”

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