The Ultimate Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Journey Through Scripture – July

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

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

As we begin July, here are our readings:

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

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

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

The Dandelion Paradox

dandelions

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. 25 While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’

28 “‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered.

“The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’

29 “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. 30  Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvest time I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” ’”

36 Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 Jesus replied, “The one who plants the good seed is the Human One.[c]38  The field is the world. And the good seeds are the followers of the kingdom. But the weeds are the followers of the evil one. 39  The enemy who planted them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the present age. The harvesters are the angels. 40  Just as people gather weeds and burn them in the fire, so it will be at the end of the present age. 41  The Human One[d] will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that cause people to fall away and all people who sin.42  He will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. 43  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Those who have ears should hear.” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, Common English Bible).

Just the Readings

Scripture Readings for June 21: Esther 3-5; Acts 5:22-42

Scripture Readings for June 22: Esther 6-8; Acts 6

Scripture Readings for June 23: Esther 9-10; Acts 7:1-21

Scripture Readings for June 24: Job 1-2; Acts 7:22-43

This past week was an incredibly busy week and some things just had to wait. Unfortunately, the blog was the biggest victim of the week was the blog. I didn’t do the sermon I had planned either but it wasn’t because of the busy week. After wrestling with the planned sermon all week I set it aside in favor of something different (to be posted in a few minutes). I hope to have the blog back on track this week.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

What if the Killer Was Us?

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Esther 1-2; Acts 5:1-21

21 At that time, as Mordecai continued to work at the King’s Gate, two royal eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, became angry with King Ahasuerus. They were among the guards protecting the doorway to the king, but they secretly planned to kill him. 22 When Mordecai got wind of it, he reported it to Queen Esther. She spoke to the king about it, saying the information came from Mordecai. 23 The matter was investigated and found to be true, so the two men were impaled on pointed poles. A report about the event was written in the royal record with the king present. (Esther 2:21-23, Common English Bible).

Over the past month, I have said a great deal here, relatively, about the tragedy at Santa Fe High School. My heart is still heavy due to what happened there. Having been a pastor in that community, having baptized one of the victims and playing a part in his memorial service it hit very close to home. It was so tragic and so needless. I hope, I pray, that the young man responsible will one day come to repent of his senseless actions.

It is to bad that there was not a Mordecai present. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming anyone, or saying someone knew what was going to happen and did nothing to stop it. That is far from the case. I sincerely doubt any of the young man’s classmates had any indication of what would happen that Friday morning.

In truth, not many of us get the opportunity to be Mordecai. Not many of us know of the plans of a would-be killer before those plans get carried out. We never get the chance to report things to the Queen Esther around us so the plans might be thwarted before they ever actually happen.

But, what if the killer was us? “Oh, Pastor, I have never killed anyone. No, I haven’t. I wouldn’t.” I know you haven’t. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t. This is a hypothetical question. I haven’t killed anyone either. Or, have I?

If I am being honest with you, and even more so with myself, I can and sometimes do kill the spirit of someone around me when I say or when I do something that attacks their heart or attacks their soul. I can kill someone’s soul when I spread rumors about someone or, just as bad when I allow them to move through my little corner of the world unchecked.

I know, without a doubt, I have done just that. I know I have done it more than once. There was someone there, at least one someone, who could have, who should have,  played the role of Mordechai, to me, being the guards in the story. Let me repent of my actions as one of the guards.

Yes, I do repent of my being one or both of the guards in the lesson. I have faith, help my unfaithfulness. Help me repent of being a guard but more importantly help me to remember that I am called to serve, not to gossip. I am called to build up, not to be one who kills the spirit.

If you are honest,  with others and yourself, you probably have been one who kills others in the ways I have mentioned and in ways, I don’t even know. We aren’t authorized to use the spirit as a weapon. We aren’t authorized to share the heartache of someone else. We aren’t called to share with others what God has done in their lives. We all have a call.

What’s your call,

Have a great day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Call Me Barnabus

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Nehemiah 12-13; Acts 4:23-37

32 The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35 and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.

36 Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. 37 He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles. (Acts 4:32-37, Common English Bible).

Before someone reads this and storms my office this morning (or afternoon or evening), thinking I want them to sell their house and all their stuff and take the money and give it to the church, that isn’t my point and isn’t the point of the lesson. Unless, that is, what God is calling to you. And, I would submit to you, if you are coming storming into my office, it might just be, the passage bothers you because that is the very thing God is calling you to do. But I digress.

Jesus didn’t say to the rich young man, “Go sell all you have and bring the money to me.” He said, “Give the money to the poor and come and follow me.” Following Jesus is more important than what we give. But (you should know, by the very nature of what I have written thus far, a “but” was coming), Jesus also knows, if we have given ourselves fully to him, our money and our stuff will come with us.

For many years, I have found the meanings behind names interesting. My name, for example, comes from the American, Welsh, Scottish, or Irish. According to the American and Welsh, Keith means “From the woods.” But the Scottish and Irish say Keith means, “From the Battlefield.” There are some other meanings including wind and wood.

The name Joseph, coming from verse 36 is increase or addition. The name Joseph is among the most common in the Bible. Joseph is mentioned 200 times in the Old Testament, the most common of which is Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery in the book of Genesis. It is mentioned 35 times in the New Testament with Joseph the earthly father of Jesus is best known.

Might that be the reason the apostles started calling this particular Joseph, Barnabus? Luke does find it important to tell us the meaning behind the name Barnabus, “one who encourages.” I like that name, a lot. Well, I like the meaning behind it.

But, it seems to me, one could do worse than carry the name Barnabus. I don’t mind being “From the woods.” I am far less crazy about being “From the battlefield.” But what I really like the idea of is being “one who encourages.” Yes, I like that. And, the world could use a lot more of that whether our name is Barnabus or not.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Some Stuff Just Doesn’t Matter

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Nehemiah 10-11; Acts 4:1-22

13 The council was caught by surprise by the confidence with which Peter and John spoke. After all, they understood that these apostles were uneducated and inexperienced. They also recognized that they had been followers of Jesus. 14 However, since the healed man was standing with Peter and John before their own eyes, they had no rebuttal. 15 After ordering them to wait outside, the council members began to confer with each other. 16 “What should we do with these men? Everyone living in Jerusalem is aware of the sign performed through them. It’s obvious to everyone and we can’t deny it. 17 To keep it from spreading further among the people, we need to warn them not to speak to anyone in this name.” 18 When they called Peter and John back, they demanded that they stop all speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus.

19 Peter and John responded, “It’s up to you to determine whether it’s right before God to obey you rather than God. 20 As for us, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 They threatened them further, then released them. Because of public support for Peter and John, they couldn’t find a way to punish them. Everyone was praising God for what had happened, 22 because the man who had experienced this sign of healing was over 40 years old. (Acts 4:13-22, Common English Bible)

Sometimes, the thoughts and the logic of the human creature is just silly. Not everyone’s thoughts and logic. It doesn’t even happen all the time. But, when it does, it can absolutely make you do a double take, make you stop and say, “What was that?”

Today’s Acts lesson is just one of those times. Peter and John healed a man who, for that day and time was pretty elderly (and the thought of that makes me feel old since I am half-again that old), The people around them were amazed and praised God. That is the people minus the council members who were looking for a way to arrest the two. And, filled with the Holy Spirit, again, give them an answer about a man who had bee sick for years and Peter and John healed him.

As usual, the Pharisees couldn’t stop the movement of Christianity. They weren’t without their efforts but the debate brought them to their knees, as it were. They were really surprised. These two (with the help of the Holy Spirit) whipped the snot out of them in the debate and that shocked the Pharisees. Here were two uneducated, inexperienced, unsophisticated fishermen who come off as some kind of experts in rhetoric.

There really wasn’t much the council could do to Peter and John so they just told them to cease and desist. Once again Peter and John put them in their place essentially saying, “Do what ya gotta do and we will do what we gotta do.

For me, it all comes down to this. The council believed in an omnipotent God (allegedly). And yet, over and over again, they forget that God is in the miracle business.

How soon they forget, and so do we.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved