So From the Showers We Flee

And we have reached Saturday once again. I am sending you another of my song lyrics or poems. I hope you enjoy it.

Several years ago, early in my ministry I was in a used book store and bought a book I have long sense forgotten. When I got home with the book I did what I usually do with books I buy, at least for a while, it went on the shelf. When my next trip came along, I pulled the book out to take with me. Sometime between the shelf and my briefcase a piece of paper fell out. I picked it up and it was a newspaper clipping. It had about 10 hymn quotes, but they weren’t too much about the lyrics. I have no idea where the book went. I probably gave it away to another new preacher starting out. I have even less of an idea what happened to the newspaper clipping. I guess it got lost in one of my moves in the past.

Anyway, not wanting to forget any more than I already have, I decided to write some song lyrics for the hymn lines I can remember. These are intended to be funny but also get a little more serious at the end. I hope you enjoy.

In honor of all the rain we have had in East Texas in the recent past (when I walk the dog I sink in the mud), “We sing, ‘There Shall be Showers of Blessing’ and then won’t go to church in the rain.” Obviously, the tune for this song is, “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.”

[Verse 1]
There shall be showers of blessing
From God a promise we gain,
We hear the blessings on roof-tops
It sounds a whole lot like rain;

[Chorus 1]
Showers of blessing,
Blessings God knows that we need
We think we’ll melt just like sugar,.
So, from the showers we flee.

[Verse 2]
There shall be showers of blessing,
Today rain will keep me in bed.
More sleep I’ll find it relaxing,
Skip church, read a novel instead…

[Chorus 1]

[Verse 3]
There shall be showers of blessing,
Raincoats may keep our clothes dry.
Wet is my head as the rain falls,
Lost that umbrella of mine…

[Chorus 1]

[Verse 4]
There shall be showers of blessing,
I pray the waters soon peak.
Blessings on blessings around me,
Rain hasn’t stopped here all week…

[Chorus 1]

[Verse 5]
There shall be showers of blessing,
The dog tries to shake his fur dry.
He raised his head to the heavens,
Barks at the rain in the sky…

[Chorus 1]

[Verse 6]
There shall be showers of blessing,
Today I stayed home on a lark.
Blessings are gone its just water,
I think I will build me an ark…

[Chorus 1]

[Verse 7]
There shall be showers of blessing,
Thunder won’t run me away.
We need some rain for a harvest.
Thank God I’m in Church today…

[Chorus 2]
Showers of blessing,
Rain will not keep us away.
We will not melt we’re not sugar.
Through showers we’ll worship today.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

In Search of the genuine,
Keith

(723)

Seeing God's Majesty (Psalm 8)

Seeing God's Majesty (Psalm 8)
Boundary Waters USA/Quitico Provencial Park Canada

Psalm 8

For the music leader. According to the Gittith. A psalm of David.

8 Lord, our Lord, how majestic
    is your name throughout the earth!
    You made your glory higher than heaven![b]
From the mouths of nursing babies
    you have laid a strong foundation
    because of your foes,
    in order to stop vengeful enemies.
When I look up at your skies,
    at what your fingers made—
    the moon and the stars
    that you set firmly in place—
        what are human beings
            that you think about them;
        what are human beings
            that you pay attention to them?
You’ve made them only slightly less than divine,
    crowning them with glory and grandeur.
You’ve let them rule over your handiwork,
    putting everything under their feet—
        all sheep and all cattle,
        the wild animals too,
        the birds in the sky,
        the fish of the ocean,
        everything that travels the pathways of the sea.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth (Psalm 8:1-8, Common English Bible)!

We have reached Psalm 8. I love this psalm. It is one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite. I remember the first time I led a Disciple Bible Study class, one of the early assignments was to memorize Psalm 8. For those who are skeptical about the purpose of memorizing any scripture, think of it this way, the only Bible that is truly yours is the Bible you carry in your heart and in your head. Any Bible made of ink and paper can be taken from you. The Scripture you know you can lean on is the Scripture within. Anyway, that isn’t really what I wanted to talk about today.

Where have you seen the hand of God? I have seen the hand of God many places. As we celebrate the majesty of God, the majestic name of the Lord as David puts it in this psalm, I started to compile a list of what I think are the most beautiful works of God I have seen. A couple of things I would say up front, this is by no means a complete list. I think any of us could write a book of what and where we have seen the hand of God. Also, your list (which I home you will take the time to write, will likely be different than mine. I have seen things you have not. Likewise, you have seen things I have not.

I am going to share the place, a picture why it is on my list. In true David Letterman style, I will begin with number 10.

10. A calm as glass sea.

A Glassy Sea

The water is almost never completely smooth. When it does get very calm, it is so beautiful though at night the feeling can be pretty eerie. My experience with the perfectly calm sea was returning from Europe we caught the jet stream. We had perfect weather all the way home. It was beautiful and was easy to see God’s Hand.

9. Pike’s Peak Colorado

Pike’s Peak from The Garden of the Gods

Colorado and Wyoming are so beautiful and it is difficult to pick just one. I found this picture of Pike’s Peak taken from the Garden of the Gods. One of my favorite memories is seeing Pike’s Peak from my Uncle’s living room in Colorado Spring. At Christmas when I was 14 I could see the ski slope on that peak. I think its name was Broadmore. Hey, its been almost 50 years ago. I really remember the beauty of Pike’s Peak.

8. The night sky at sea.

The Night Sky at Sea

The picture doesn’t do it justice. At sea, hundreds of miles from a coast, on a cloudless night and no light pollution from coastal (or if inland cities there) cities, it is an amazing sight. It lets us know how hard God was working with the creation of the heavens. The stars at sea must be seen to know their beauty and to see God’s majesty.

7. Dolphins Playing with the Ship

Dolphins and a NOAA Ship taken from the deck of a US Navy Ship

The dolphins would have great fun with the ship. They would come up from behind and race the ship. When they would pass they would settle back into the water, let the ship pass them, and then race them all over again. They would do this for an hour or two at a time. They are beautiful creatures and again, God’s hand is clear.

6. Whales and Eagles – San Juan Islands, Washington

Whales Taken in San Juan Islands – Washington
Bald Eagle at San Juan Islands – Washington

n 2007 I went on a mission trip working with the Nook Sak Indians in Washington State, North of Seattle. After we finished our work, before heading home we had an opportunity to see whales and bald eagles during the same excursion. They are both truly majestic creatures.

5. The Grand Canyon – Arizona

Grand Canyon – Arizona

The Grand Canyon is one of the great wonders of the planet. It is amazing how God used wind and water to create this from what was flat ground. On my most recent trip here (I have been twice), my parents joined Cindy and I on the trip. We talked about what a shock it would have been for the first settlers moving west to be on relatively flat ground and then encounter this giant hole. To see the sunset over the canyon (first trip) is magnificent. The way God colors the sky has to be seen to understand.

4. Waterfalls – Yosemite National Park – California

Waterfalls – Yosemite National Park, California

Most people I have known who have visited Yosemite, the thing they remember and want to talk about is El Capitan, a vertical formation of rocks more than 7500 feet above sea level and 3600 feet above the Yosemite valley. While El Capitan is impressive, make no mistake about that, these waterfalls were the first I had seen in person. I was fascinated. The beauty of God’s work is truly amazing.

3. The Fjords of Norway

The Fjords of Norway

I saw a lot during my time in the Navy. I have already talked about a glass ocean, dolphins, and the night sky, all at sea. And, while I saw many beautiful things, they were mostly, at best, humans having a hand in God’s work. Copenhagen Denmark is a beautiful city, but it is human work. God may have played a role, but clearly there was human work playing a major role. I could have used 40′ seas in the North Sea (This post is about God’s work and majesty. I will save God’s power for another time.) The Fjords of Norway are a great example. When my ship entered the Fjords, it was night. We were unable to see the magnificence. We sat in a small bay at anchor for a week. It was dreary and foggy most of that week. We couldn’t see the beauty. The day we weighed anchor and left the sun came out. You would see these cliffs rising out of the water more than 2000 feet. Working on the ship’s bridge, I also knew how deep the water was from which these cliffs were rising. It also was as much as 3000 feet deep. The Fjords of Norway are awe inspiring.

2. Crater Lake – Oregon

Crater Lake – Oregon

Because of this beautiful place, when I was a 12-15 year old kid, I wanted to move to Oregon. This lake inside a dormant volcano, with another dormant volcano inside the lake (Wizard Island), is much like the calm sea, like looking at a sheet of glass. Most of the time the wind cannot get to the water because of the sides of the outer volcano. Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Again, I know it gets redundant, God’s creation brings us beauty we otherwise would never know.

1. Lake Silence – Boundary Waters, Minnesota/Quitico Provincial Park, Ontario

Lake Agness – Boundry Waters, Minnesota/Quitico Provincial Park, Ontario

After all the others this one might seem anti-climactic. Lake Silence to me (The picture is of Lake Agnes. Silence is much smaller and closer to the US border. On this trip I did spend time on Agnes and I could not find a pic of Silence). We were on Silence the day before we would be crossing the border back into the US after 10 days and more than 100 miles. I am not going into a lot of detail here. I will just say, after completing my evening duties, I pushed out in a canoe and paddled to the middle of the lake and sat and watched the sunset. As I watched the lake lived up to its name. In the distance I could hear our camp if I paid attention but mostly it was quiet. As the sunset for the first time I felt God reach out and touch me. It was not something like my profession of faith or my call to ministry. It was, for the first time, a very real feeling that God was there.

Well, those are my ten majestic scenes, ten things where I see the majesty of God. What are your ten. Where do you see God’s majesty at work. You don’t have to go into detail but I would love to see your list in the comments.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth (Psalm 8:9).

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

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

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Your Hand to Us Display (Psalm 7)

I take refuge in you, Lord, my God.
    Save me from all who chase me!
    Rescue me!
Otherwise, they will rip me apart,
    dragging me off with no chance of rescue.
Lord, my God, if I have done this—
        if my hands have done anything wrong,
        if I have repaid a friend with evil
        or oppressed a foe for no reason—
    then let my enemy
        not only chase but catch me,
        trampling my life into the ground,
        laying my reputation in the dirt. Selah
Get up, Lord; get angry!
    Stand up against the fury of my foes!
Wake up, my God;[b]
    you command that justice be done!
Let the assembled peoples surround you.
    Rule them from on high![c]
The Lord will judge the peoples.
    Establish justice for me, Lord,
    according to my righteousness
    and according to my integrity.
Please let the evil of the wicked be over,
    but set the righteous firmly in place
    because you, the righteous God,
    are the one who examines hearts and minds.

10 God is my shield;
    he saves those whose heart is right.
11 God is a righteous judge,
    a God who is angry at evil[d] every single day.
12 If someone doesn’t change their ways,
    God will sharpen his sword,
    will bend his bow,
    will string an arrow.
13 God has deadly weapons in store
    for those who won’t change;
    he gets his flaming arrows ready!

14 But look how the wicked hatch evil,
    conceive trouble, give birth to lies!
15 They make a pit, dig it all out,
    and then fall right into the hole that they’ve made!
16 The trouble they cause
        will come back on their own heads;
    the violence they commit
        will come down on their own skulls.
17 But I will thank the Lord
        for his righteousness;
    I will sing praises
        to the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7, Common English Bible)

Your Hand to Us Display

A poem based on Psalm 7 by Keith Broyles

Lord, what did I do wrong?
Those who accuse me lie.
They believe they stand strong.
You and truth, they defy.

Scream and shout, blame, blame, blame,
Their fingers point to me.
Lord you know me, my name.
You are truth, help me see.

O God, you know my heart.
You know me, your servant.
You have blessed from my start.
Blameless, I am fervent.

Show my accusers their err.
Teach them truth, show them love.
I am wronged, I shall be fair.
I will show and rise above.

May they see their error.
Let the ground not collapse.
Allow not hands of terror.
Bring no pit in earth’s gaps.

May we show love to you.
From faithful hearts today.
Joy, grace, and praise be true.
Your hand, to us, display.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Permission is given to use this material for non-commercial purposes.

(720)

On Falling Into a Pit (Psalm 7)

Psalm 7

A shiggayon of David, which he sang to the Lord about Cush, a Benjaminite.

7 I take refuge in you, Lord, my God. Save me from all who chase me!
    Rescue me!
Otherwise, they will rip me apart, dragging me off with no chance of rescue.
Lord, my God, if I have done this—if my hands have done anything wrong,
4 if I have repaid a friend with evil or oppressed a foe for no reason—
5 then let my enemy not only chase but catch me, trampling my life into the ground, laying my reputation in the dirt. Selah
Get up, Lord; get angry! Stand up against the fury of my foes!
Wake up, my God; you command that justice be done!
Let the assembled peoples surround you. Rule them from on high!
The Lord will judge the peoples. Establish justice for me, Lord according to my righteousness and according to my integrity.
Please let the evil of the wicked be over, but set the righteous firmly in place because you, the righteous God, are the one who examines hearts and minds.

10 God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right.
11 God is a righteous judge, a God who is angry at evil every single day.
12 If someone doesn’t change their ways, God will sharpen his sword,
    will bend his bow, will string an arrow.
13 God has deadly weapons in store for those who won’t change; he gets his flaming arrows ready!

14 But look how the wicked hatch evil, conceive trouble, give birth to lies!
15 They make a pit, dig it all out, and then fall right into the hole that they’ve made!
16 The trouble they cause will come back on their own heads; the violence they commit will come down on their own skulls.
17 But I will thank the Lord for his righteousness; I will sing praises to the name of the Lord Most High (Psalm 7:1-17, Common English Bible).

A few days ago, I was wandering the internet. Because most days I read a sermon someone else wrote, I am always scrounging around on sermon/preacher websites in an effort to find someone’s work I had not read before. The particular day in question I did not find a new sermon source to read. What I did find was a story, a parable, if you will. I had seen it before but I needed to see it again to refresh my memory. I present it below. I hope it speaks to you as it has many times to me.

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.
A SUBJECTIVE person came along and said: “I FEEL for you, down there.”
An OBJECTIVE person came along and said:” It’s logical that someone would fall, down there.”
A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST came along: “You only THINK that you are in a pit.”
A PHARISEE said: “Only BAD people fall into a pit.”
A MATHEMATICIAN calculated HOW he fell into the pit.
A NEWS REPORTER wanted the exclusive story on his pit.
A FUNDAMENTALIST said: “You DESERVE your pit.”
CONFUCIUS said; “If you would have listened to me, you would not be in that pit.”
BUDDHA
said: “Your pit is only a state of mind.”
A REALIST said: “That’s a PIT.”
A SCIENTIST calculated the pressure necessary (lbs./sq.in.) to get him out of the pit.
A GEOLOGIST told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.
The COUNTY INSPECTOR asked if he had a permit to dig a pit.
The COUNTY TAX ASSESSOR came along and figured the taxes he owed on the pit.
A PROFESSOR gave him a lecture on: “The Elementary Principles of the Pit.”
 A HEALTH AND WEALTH PREACHER said: “Just CONFESS that you’re not in a pit.”
An OPTIMIST said: “Things COULD be worse.”
A PESSIMIST said: “Things WILL get worse!!”


JESUS, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT of the pit.

Falling and unable to get up is a scary thing to deal with, whoever you are. Several years back, Cindy and I were going to get more exercise so we bought a couple of bicycles. The next day we rode our new bikes. The ride wasn’t long, less than a mile. When we got back home, I rode my bike into the grass. My thighs were killing me. When I go off the bike, my legs collapsed in the front yard and I went down.

I wasn’t hurt. OK, I guess my pride was hurt a bit. But it got worse. I couldn’t get up. It took about 30 minutes for me to be rested enough to actually get back to my feet. I went from angry with myself for not maintaining my footing and staying up. Then I was even more upset with myself for allowing myself o get so out of shape to begin with. Truth to tell, I was probably more upset because of my lack of self-discipline and the poor physical condition I was in that day. By the time I was able to get back on my feet I laughing at myself.

For many people, me included, falling is a very real concern. When you have a chronic ear issue, your balance and staying on your feet become real issues for you. I have always managed to get back up but there are those, who when they fall, have really difficult time.

David would have known about falling into the pit pretty well. He would have known the story of Joseph’s (Joseph in Genesis 37, not Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father from Matthew’s gospel) brothers capturing him, then taking him and throwing him in a pit from which he couldn’t escape, followed up closely by being sold into slavery. All of which, as told by Joseph himself, God intended for good.

Still, who really wants to go through something like that. I think if we could interview Joseph about what happened, and he is honest about it, laying in the bottom of the pit, he was probably frightened. He probably did some praying while he was down there too. The one thing he knew was, he wasn’t getting out of that pit without some help of some kind.

For his part, David doesn’t see himself falling into a pit dug by his own hand. He doesn’t see himself as the one who falls into the pit at all. He knows the ones in the bottom of the pit will be his enemies.

David had a clear but unique understanding that, if you make trouble for long enough, that trouble is going to come back to haunt you. If you continue reading from Genesis 37 and following, we can quickly see that is what happened to Joseph’s brothers. Famine struck and Joseph’s brothers and their families were in real danger of losing everything. Coming to see David, they didn’t know who he was.

Joseph did recognize them. After he put them through some trouble along the way, Joseph saves his family, including the brothers that treated him badly. God saw Joseph out of the pit. His brothers didn’t suffer at this hand though they had to wonder at times. Real vengeance was not something Joseph intended to do.

There is a word for that. That word is grace. God poured grace out on Joseph, even when he had fallen into a pit (don’t forget, he isn’t exactly innocent in all this) God rescued him. Even when he was in the service of Potifer, God saved him. From prison, God saved him.

It was grace, upon grace, upon grace. We will all find ourselves in the pit at times. Praise be to God that there is grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Permission is granted to use this material for non-commercial purposes with proper citation.

(719)

A Shiggaion (Psalm 7)

Psalm 7

A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord about Cush, a Benjaminite.

7 I take refuge in you, Lord, my God.
Save me from all who chase me!
Rescue me!
Otherwise, they will rip me apart,
dragging me off with no chance of rescue.
Lord, my God, if I have done this—
if my hands have done anything wrong,
if I have repaid a friend with evil
or oppressed a foe for no reason—
then let my enemy
not only chase but catch me,
trampling my life into the ground,
laying my reputation in the dirt. Selah
Get up, Lord; get angry!
Stand up against the fury of my foes!
Wake up, my God;
you command that justice be done!
Let the assembled peoples surround you.
Rule them from on high!

The Lord will judge the peoples.
Establish justice for me, Lord,
according to my righteousness
and according to my integrity.
Please let the evil of the wicked be over,
but set the righteous firmly in place
because you, the righteous God,
are the one who examines hearts and minds.

God is my shield;
he saves those whose heart is right.
God is a righteous judge,
a God who is angry at evil[d] every single day.
If someone doesn’t change their ways,
God will sharpen his sword,
will bend his bow,
will string an arrow.
God has deadly weapons in store
for those who won’t change;
he gets his flaming arrows ready!

But look how the wicked hatch evil,
conceive trouble, give birth to lies!
They make a pit, dig it all out,
and then fall right into the hole that they’ve made!
The trouble they caus
will come back on their own heads
the violence they commit
will come down on their own skulls.
But I will thank the Lord
for his righteousness;
I will sing praises
to the name of the Lord Most High (Psalm 7:1-17)

One day last school year, I had finished the lesson in government class for that day. I gave the students an assignment. I went to my desk to do some other work. I don’t remember what I was doing but lesson plans or grading papers would be a good assumption.

Tonya (not her real name) came to my desk and asked me, “What does bicameral mean?” I pointed to a corner of my desk. There was a dictionary laying there so I said, “Get the dictionary and look it up.”

“Dr. B. please just tell me,” she asked.

“No, Tonya,” I replied. “You need to learn how to do these things yourself.

“I don’t want to know that bad,” she said. She then started going back to her seat.

“No Tonya. Come back and look it up,” I told her. She then did a stereotypical pout and stomp back to my desk and jerked the book up and started looking the word up. “You can get an attitude if you want, but you are going to learn the meaning of that work and if you find it, especially now, you will always remember it.”

She goes through the dictionary. She is in the right general place. She frustrated and then looks back at me and says, “Bi-camel isn’t in this dictionary.” She has a huge smile on her face. She thought she had gotten the best of me.

“Tonya, the word is bicameral, not by bi-camel. You need to look up the correct word.”

She finally found it. I asked her what it meant. “Two houses,” she replied.

“And what does that have to do with government? I asked her. I

“I don’t know.”

Then I made her pull one of the government text books from the shelf and look it up in that book. There she learned it meant a two house legislative body.

I can’t say that Tonya would remember what the term means today but I do know that she remembered it for her next test and more importantly, she remembered for the final exam.

So, what does Shiggaion mean? I wish I could tell you. I didn’t really expect that Mr. Webster would be able to tell me, but I had a dictionary handy so I looked it up. This time, Tonya would have been right. It wasn’t in there.

Still, I didn’t find it particularly surprising when it wasn’t there. It is a Hebrew word, not in English. I was thinking this might be cone of those times when it is difficult to translate a work because we have no English word that actually mean the same thing. So, there is no way to perfectly translate it.

I went on to my one volume Bible dictionary to a multi-volume Bible dictionary and, while I found the word, I also found that there is no clear consensus to the word’s meaning.

Some scholars believe it to be some kind of prayer service. Something with prayer was most common. Others believe it to be some kind of worship. One person even said, it was a multi-headed monster sent by God to attack David. Another agreed with the monster theory but God wasn’t sending the monster after David, God was sending the monster after Cush, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, also mentioned in that heading.

I would agree with those who believed Shiggaion to be some kind of act of worship. I base that on a little logic. The psalm itself is an act of worship. The heading says, “A Shiggaion of David…” These headings are an instruction to the meaning of the psalm itself or instructions to the leader. The word is obviously a form of explanation of the psalm.

It does seem clear to me, that there will always be things we don’t understand. We do our best to research and find an answer but we also need to be honest with ourselves. We will never know all the meanings or everything we read or encounter, so I believe we do the best we can, then we move on. There is little else we can do. Some things are not meant for we finite humans to know and understand. I believe this might be one.

By the way, the meaning of the word, is not clear. This word is mentioned one time in all the Bible, right here. What scholars believed to be the plural of the word gets a mention in Habakkuk 3:4, “shigionoth.” And, what does Habakkuk 3:4 say?

I hope you have had a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

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

(719)

The Well is Deep

               So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)[ 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[b] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,[c] the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,[d] can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[e] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”  (John, 4:5-42, New Revised Standard Version)

               On March 19, 2014, a rather famous person passed away. You may or may not remember Phelps.  It may help some to say, he was the head of what the BBC called, “The Most Hated Family in America.” On that date, in March 2014, Fred Phelps, former pastor of Westboro Baptist Church passed away at the age of 84.

               In the almost six years since, few people have lost sleep over his demise. To say he was almost universally disliked would be like saying elephants are big. Not only did his actions and the actions of his congregation spew a message on numerous occasions with messages against homosexuality at the funerals of fallen soldiers and others, as well as at other occasions that might gain his church, and I use the term church very loosely, a few headlines. I never have quite understood the connections between homosexuality and the funerals of fallen soldiers, except perhaps for the shock value.

               To be clear, I was never a fan of Phelps or his church. I found their actions to be both despicable and distasteful. On more than one occasion I preached about the message of hate spewing from his congregation as they celebrated their most famous quote, still on the church’s webpage, “God hates fags.” The basic context of my sermon on those occasions was, God, who the Bible says is love, does not hate anybody and to say otherwise is not only bad theology, it is bad Bible.

               I would not have been surprised if the world would have ignored Phelps death and just moved on. The world does that regularly. I remember thinking, following the death of a close friend, “Hey people, slow down a minute. Don’t you realize Bob is dead? But, the world didn’t even know Bob.

               The world did know Fred Phelps, but the world wasn’t better off because of that knowledge. Knowing how most people felt, I figured most people would say something like, “Good riddance,” and then go on.

               I was surprised by the hatred that went out from so many people on social media. The hatred went not only to Phelps but also to members of his family that had been estranged from Phelps for years. I read comments like, “Burn in hell!” and that was one of the nicer comments. There was little in the way of condolences for members of the family, including Nathan Phelps, who along with his sister are the most famous of the Phelps runaways. Nathan posted online that his father passed away and few made even surface attempts to offer comfort to a man who had lost his father. Instead there were those proclaiming that the largest protest ever be done at the funeral of Fred Phelps.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was a forgotten sentiment. “Do unto others as they have already done to you” was far more popular. That sentence is both sad and at the same time, shining a bright light at the state of the human condition.

               The human condition, we want to stay angry. We don’t want reconciliation. We would prefer to hate. We don’t want to forgive. We refuse to believe there is grace out there for people like Fred Phelps.

               I wish I could stand here this morning and honestly tell you, all this was done by non-Christians but the truth is, when it comes to someone we love to hate, Christians are no different from the rest of the world. We may sing, “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love,” but that love only goes so far and it is reserved for the right people.

               We tend to believe there is a special place in human suffering for the despicable human beings like Fred Phelps. But, be warned. If such a place exists for Fred Phelps, it is likely the place where we too will find ourselves for eternity.  Why? Because unrepentant sin is sin not forgiven. Stealing a $.25 pack of gum is the same sin as robbing a bank at gunpoint. Stealing is stealing. As crimes, yes, they are different but as sins, they are exactly the same.

               We see other sins just like that too. We see Westboro Baptist Church out there spewing their vile message of hatred and we think, that is terrible, and someone wants him to stop. The thing is, we are so concerned about the splinter in the eye of the Westboro leadership that we miss the log in our own. We forget about the lie we told our neighbor. We forget about the little piece of gossip we passed on after hearing it. We forget about the treatment we gave the store clerk or the waitress in the restaurant. None of those things are as bad as what Phelps and others do in the name of God.

               To my way of thinking, with only a few exceptions, God sees sin, as sin. There are no rankings in the world of sin.

               In today’s lesson, Jesus and the disciples are making their way back to Galilee, but to get there they traveled through Samaria. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews. They were seen as half-breed, Jews who married foreigners and therefore, and therefore, less than pure and purity and cleanliness were of upmost importance. So, any good Jew wanted as little to do with Samaritans as possible.

               Jesus and the disciples come to the Samaritan town of Sychar. Once there, Jesus remains at the well outside of town while the disciples go into town in search of food and supplies. It is about noon when a woman comes out of town to retrieve water. While the scene wouldn’t be unusual, women came from town to the well to retrieve water on a regular basis, the timing of this woman’s trip made things more than a bit odd. It was the hottest part of the day. Most of the women and hauling water in the Biblical era was considered “women’s work,” came early in the morning or closer to sunset in the evenings. They came at the time of day when it wasn’t quite so hot. This woman came out at noon. She came at one of the hottest times of the day. Many of us would be more than curious about why.

               For his part, Jesus doesn’t ask about that. We soon learn he didn’t need to do so because he already knew the answer. All Jesus does is ask for a drink of water. Now the woman is curious. She recognizes Jesus, not as the Messiah, but as a Jew and she knows the score. She also knows the questions, why Jesus, a Jew would ask anything of her, a woman of Samaria. Jesus tells her if she knew who he was, he would give her living water. It is clear she doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. She wants to know how he is going to draw water; he has no bucket and the well is deep. Then he tells her, those who drink the water from the well will thirst again but those who drink his living water will never get thirsty. Now he has her attention. Her mind immediately goes to the idea of no more trips to the well in the noon day sun. She still doesn’t get it.

               Jesus doesn’t press the matter. He changes the subject, telling her to go get her husband. She replies she has no husband. In my mind I can see Jesus smile just a bit. “You are right,” he replies, but then the other shoe drops, “You have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband. Jesus exposes her sin for what it is. She asks if Jesus is a prophet. Jesus tells her in a round-about way he isn’t a prophet, he is the Messiah. The woman then goes into town and tells everyone she meets, “Come and meet the man who knows everything I ever did.” Apparently, it was a lot.

               As I see the story play out in my mind the thought occurred to me, what the woman found at the well was more than water. Jesus’ offer of Living Water was an offer of grace. The lesson never says, Jesus forgave her sins, but it seems clear to me that Jesus did forgive those sins and probably more. We can see she received grace, she received forgiveness. How do I know? Her willingness to tell her story, warts and all. Who would go and tell such a story if they hadn’t first experienced divine forgiveness? That is, in a word, grace.

               As Christians we love this story. We love this story because we all want the forgiveness the woman received. We love this story because we all want the grace Jesus gave this woman.

               As I have thought about this story over the past few days, an image came to me from something the woman said, “The well is deep.” Of course, she was right, the well was literally very deep. Most wells are. But I also got to thinking, the well of God’s grace is also deep and that is good news. It is good news for you and me. We can receive the Living Water of God’s grace. We can receive forgiveness for our sin.

               There is more. It isn’t in our lesson, but it is in the Bible. If we are going to receive grace, we must be willing to give grace. If we are to receive forgiveness, we must be willing to give forgiveness. Jesus says in Luke 6, “forgive and you will be forgiven.” In other words, we are asking God to forgive us in the same way we are willing to forgive those who have wronged us. It seems like I heard a group of people say really like that about 15 minutes ago.

               What also falls hand-in-hand with this is repenting, asking forgiveness from those we have wronged. Sometime back, I started feeling guilty about the way I treated a high school classmate some many years ago. I really treated this classmate badly and I wanted to apologize and ask for forgiveness. It took me a while to find and contact this person but when I did, I asked for forgiveness. The classmate readily gave me the forgiveness I sought. I also know, by faith, God has forgiven me too.

                So, what is the point of all this? As I worked on this message, I saw that many of my sermons don’t lead to any specific action beyond right afterward, standing up and saying what we believe in the form of the Apostles’ Creed. So, here is the real point in this. What action are you taking to lead people to action that can result in grace and forgiveness?

               And, this is what I want you to do. We have all wronged someone as I did with my classmate. Ask that person for forgiveness. It may take effort to track them down but do it. It may even be that they have disappeared from the place you last knew them to be, and no one you know has an idea of where to look. Perhaps they have passed from this life to the next. If you can’t find them, take a page from 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and write them a letter asking for their forgiveness. You won’t hear them say you are forgiven. But even if you find them, they may not forgive you. Do you know what? Then it becomes their problem, not yours. You humbled yourself and asked for forgiveness. That is about all you can do.

               Another thing be ready. If someone comes to you and asks your forgiveness, be ready to give it as my classmate gave it to me.

               Whatever you do, in any of these circumstances, you will feel better for the effort. I know God will bless you for the effort by lowering a bucket deep into the well of grace and pour that grace upon you. You will drink the living water.

               I can’t say whether Fred Phelps ever felt the grace poured out on him or not. I feel certain that were he hear today, he would say yes, he had. I don’t know but it also isn’t for me to know. What I do know is this. The well is deep, even for someone like Fred Phelps. God makes the decisions about who drinks the Living Water. We just know, the well is deep. The well is deep, and it is full. It is full of the Living Water; it is full of forgiveness and grace from God. If Fred Phelps entered eternity with a repentant heart, he would drink the living water because God loves and forgives him and the well is deep.

               I also know this, as people of faith, we need to find it within ourselves to forgive him. We don’t forgive so much for his sake, he is dead, and our forgiveness is meaningless to him at this point. Instead, we forgive for our own sake and we can drink the living water because the well is deep. We forgive for peace in our own hearts as we drink the living water, water we can drink because the well is deep. We forgive because God asks us to do so and it isn’t always an easy thing to do, but we can do it, because the well is deep. No one ever said a life in faith would be easy but we can overcome because the well is deep. So we work at it and we forgive because such is what God calls us to do, and the well is deep.

               We forgive because each time we do, we dip back into the well of grace, we drink the living water and we know, the well is deep.

Have a blessed day in the Lord

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

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

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The Girl with Pretty Red Hair

Cindy with Jenna on the day I baptized Jenna

To the extent I have them, I thought I would use Saturdays to post the song lyrics I write. I actually started last week with “Hello Little Girl” that I wrote for that sweet new granddaughter Cindy and I have. By the way, since I have added music to it, there have been some changes in those lyrics since I finished them a week ago.

I have worked on songs for Jenna and Natalie this past week. I will post them at some point in the future as they are not yet finished.

Today’s song is one I wrote almost three years ago for the anniversary of Cindy putting up with me for 40 years. I don’t think I posted it back then but even if I did, when I pulled out out in the last couple of weeks to submit to a site where I can have it dated and a bit better protected, I had forgotten a good bit of it. Plus, with Valentine’s Day coming, I thought I should blow the dust off it. This is one of the few songs I have that both the lyrics and the music (not shown here) are both original.

The picture is of Cindy with our oldest granddaughter Jenna, when Jenna was the only granddaughter. The title of the song is, “The Girl with Pretty Red Hair,” and I guess the title at least fits Jenna too. Morgan’s latest post about Sydney indicates that Sydney just may be a girl with pretty red hair too. Natalie doesn’t have red hair but it is still pretty and so is she. Hey, I am Gramps, what do you expect me to say? Besides that, I’m right!!!

The Girl with Pretty Red Hair

I first saw you, we never spoke.
The girl had class, I was a joke.
I didn’t see, I didn’t care,
About the girl, with pretty red hair.

Opened my eyes, took a fresh look,
I saw you there, with opened book,
Saw what I’d missed, I Saw your flair,
Flair from the girl, with pretty red hair.

Back then most folks, gave us no chance,
But with each year, our love enhanced,
We’ve had great fun, and love we share,
Me and the girl, with pretty red hair.

I look at you, Lord I can see,
Each day you give, your love to me,
Today with me, we’re quite the pair,
Me and the girl, with pretty red hair,

I do look back, I look ahead,
Approaching days, I have no dread,
You touched my heart, blessings we share,
Me and the girl, with pretty red hair.

Me and the girl, with pretty red hair.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

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

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