Thanksgiving in July?

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 12:1-5, New Revised Standard Version).

No, I have not lost my mind. The Church has done Christmas in July for decades. When I served in Grapeland, we had a week of Bible school one year when our theme was Christmas in July (I had never seen so many Chrismons in one building before). So why not, Thanksgiving in early July.

I know some of my students from last school year would jump at the chance. Several told me, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love all the food!” As I said, they would jump at the chance. One of the young ladies in the class, Miss Carter, described her grandmother’s cornbread dressing to me in vivid detail. I wasn’t impressed by her recall or her ability to paint a mental picture. I am one of the five people in the world that thinks cornbread dressing is a waste of perfectly good cornbread. Regardless of what I think, Miss Carter would love to have at least one more day of Thanksgiving.

Truth to tell, while I don’t care about cornbread dressing, I do care about the other foods around a Thanksgiving table, particularly pecan pie. It is evident when you look at me that I have rarely encountered a meal where I didn’t find something good to eat. I have no trouble finding something else and leaving the dressing for those I love, who, for some reason like ruined cornbread. Besides, who wouldn’t want more football?

While I would love to have more than one Thanksgiving, my reasoning has nothing to do with food or football. I believe there is always something for which we should thank God.

Michael Schaffer, a few years ago, wrote in The New Republic that Thanksgiving is our all-American holiday. Regardless of our beliefs, whether we are Christain or atheist, whether we are Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or United Methodist (or any other believing or unbelieving group) there is ALWAYS something for which we should give thanks.

“There is always something for which we should give thanks?” Does that mean we should give thanks when we are sick? I don’t think that means giving thanks for being sick, but what about being thankful for God creating doctors and putting the needed knowledge into their head? What about giving thanks for the researchers who work diligently to find cures for the things that ails us?

“So does that mean we should be thankful for the person who steals from us?” Of course not, but we can be thankful for that neighbor who got a good look at the burglar and described this person to the police. Oh, and there is that other neighbor who got the license plate number and the police now have an excellent place to start in their search to restore your property and bring justice for the crimes.

“Should I be thankful, my uncle passed away last year?” No, but you should be thankful that your uncle is no longer in pain. Even more, you should be grateful for the gift of salvation. Because of that gift, your uncle just may have heard those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

There is always a reason for Thanksgiving. God is with us. God is around us. God is active in our lives and in the lives of those we love. And where God is, there is always a reason for Thanksgiving.

Without question, there may be times in our lives when we feel that God isn’t there. But our God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and always present (omnipresent). We may, at times, have to spend much of our time looking for God’s presence. That does not mean God is far away. And, I am convinced, even when we fail to see God’s presence, if we look back on those hard times, we will not only see God’s presence, we will see God was at work in ways we would never have dreamed. God is always present, and where God is, there is still a reason for Thanksgiving.

Yes, I want Thanksgiving in July, but that is just the start, and it has nothing to do with food or football. And, I don’t wish to have Thanksgiving on its traditional day in late November. I don’t even want to see us increase the opportunities for thanksgiving from just November, to November and July. That is because with all God does in our lives and that God is always present and working in our lives, today and every day we have reason to give thanks. When we recognize what God does for us, every day is a good day; all days are good days to be Thanksgiving Day. Don’t wait until November. Thank God today.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,

Keith

Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved



Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, Spirit’s Breath Ministries, All Rights Reserved

Be sure and click on the follow button email updates when I write a new post.



Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Be sure and click on the follow button email updates when I write a new post.

Why Do We Expect Easy?

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 12:18-28, New International Version).

The Supreme Court makes a decision that the court house can no longer display the Ten Commandments. Christians across the country cry out at the loss of their rights. They do little beyond crying out about the loss

The Supreme Court makes a decision that bans prayer at high school football games. The Church rallies in support of prayer. School boards across the country search for ways to keep constituents happy and abide by the Supreme Court at the same time.

A group of people want the national motto, “In God We Trust, “removed from our money and get up in arms when it seems to happen. It wasn’t removed but simply moved from the face of the coin to the outside edge.

Still another group would take the words, “Under God” and remove them from the Pledge of Allegiance. They are quick to point out that the words were never a part of the Pledge until 1954. While that might be true, the majority of Americans have never known a time when “Under God,” was not part of the Pledge. That would mean, as far as they were concerned, it had always been there because during their lives there had never been a time when it was not a part of the Pledge of Allegiance.

I have not even begun to address things that seem to have little to do with the government. Football players sitting on the bench or on a knee during the National Anthem or flag burning are sure to grab the anger of most Americans.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. There are those who would remove the words “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and from our money. A friend who is a Baptist preacher has said, “Some people want to take “Freedom of Religion” and are attempting readers to turn it into “Freedom from religion.” I learned recently that there is a foundation and removal of God from everything in the public sector is their mission. They call themselves “The Freedom From Religion Foundation.” This same Baptist preacher friend told me that the president of the foundation is a former Baptist preacher, turned atheist.

Here is a question for you. What did we expect?

The rise of nationalism in the 1950’s came as a result of the spread of communism in eastern Europe. Because communism was, and still is, atheistic, the rise of Christianity was part of that defense. However, as often happens, that rise in matters of faith, gave way to a decline of the same. It is a decline we still feel today.

Opinion polls show most Americans still claim themselves as Christians. But in truth, most are secular Christians at best. They make claims to faith but live their lives without giving much more than a passing nod to faith and the Church.

In his book, To Spread the Power: Church Growth in the Wesleyan Spirit, George G. Hunter III says that we have become people who live as we want during the course of the week, then go to Church on Sunday to get our booster shot. The problem, according to Hunter is, such thinking has left us immune to a full dose.

Secularism is the trend today. The Church has less and less influence in people’s lives. The Church has given way to either individualism or other institutions (sports activities, shopping, etc.) as the prime influence. This can be seen, at least in part, in church’s changing their worship time because the football game kicks off at noon.

Then we have places where the government seems to enter the realm of faith. In the Supreme Court decision Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the majority of the court voted to strike down laws and rules allowing prayer on school property at school activities. In his opposing opinion, the Late Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a scathing response to the majority. He wrote that the majority opinion, “bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life”. 

Once again, what did we expect? When we read Scripture, there are many stories told of the persecution of faithful people in both the Old and New Testaments. Noah was ridiculed for building an ark. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the furnace because of faith. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for the same reason. Stephen was stoned for his faith in Jesus. Jesus himself was persecuted and killed as a matter of faith.

That names only a few instances in Scripture. Then we can look at Church history and see the persecution of many.

The point is, we should expect these persecutions. The prophecies of Scripture tell us they will happen. Paul reminds the early Church and us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When the world seems to crash-in around us, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When yet another law protecting matters of faith is struck down, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When a Bible or the Ten Commandments are forcibly removed, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Further, if the overwhelming majority of Christians in the U.S. believe you have been persecuted for faith, we have no idea what persecution really is. Even today, Christians in other parts of the world are beaten and killed for nothing more than being a person of faith.

Does this mean we should remain quiet and let the world run over the Church? Of course it does not. And, we should speak out about the wrongs of the world. What it does mean is, we should know it is coming. It should not be surprise to us when it does happen. The Bible tells us it will happen. When it does, and it has happened and will happen again, our voices should speak but they should speak in love, not in anger.

What is first, last, and always, there are two things, well really just one, that are of central importance. Love God, love each other. Those are the two things. We are called in all things to love, that is the one. If we can respond in ways that demonstrate love, we might not win the battle, but with the Spirit’s help, we will win the war.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With a Thankful Heart

Keith

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Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, Spirit’s Breath Ministries, All Rights Reserved

Be sure and click on the follow button email updates when I write a new post.



And if I Can’t Forget?

I am the Lord, your Holy One,   the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise (Isaiah 43:15-21, New Revised Standard Version).

There are some things we can’t manage to forget, even when we want to do so. I spent a good bit of my day yesterday trying to figure out how to use WordPress (for those that don’t know, WordPress is a Google-owned company that hosts this blog) again. Several things that happened during the day that kept me frustrated. When the blog post was supposed to have posted early yesterday morning, it didn’t. Truthfully, it was supposed to have posted early in the morning day before yesterday. It didn’t post then either.

I finally got it to post manually this morning only to find that before I set it aside a year ago, it always posted the most recent blog on the top of the stack and if you want to type in “revbroyles.me” it would put you with the most recent post first. Today if that is all the address you type in, it will still take you the blog, but the post you will see is from July 31st of last year!

Then I discovered that, for whatever the reason, the post was not going automatically to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn. At least for Google+, there is a good reason. Google shut Google+ down six months ago. The problem with Facebook is, well, its Facebook.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. It reminded me of my pet peeve with computer companies. They like to fix things that aren’t broken and leaving broken things that began that way. In my almost year away from regularly being on all things internet, I had pretty well forgotten the problem.

In today’s lesson, God says, we shouldn’t remember the things of days past and instead focus on what God is doing in the present, seeing that “new thing” Isaiah tells us God is doing. I think most people would probably agree with me. There are just some people who insist on making it difficult for us to forget “the former things.”

I don’t think God is telling Isaiah to forget everything and worry about the future. It seems clear to me that God wasn’t telling Isaiah to focus on the future at all. What God was saying was, live in the present.

This past Sunday, Cindy and I worshiped at Bethlehem United Methodist Church near Hudson, Texas, not far at all from our home in Lufkin. It is the church where Cindy has her church membership and where we will attend once I “hang up my stole, as it were.” Because we are usually in worship wherever I happen to be serving as a pastor, it is rare for us to go to Bethlehem. The current pastor at Bethlehem is Rev. Cindy Doran. In her sermon, she talked about this particular idea (as well as a few other things) that stuck with me. She pointed out that most of us spend time worrying about the past or we are bogged down in what we might see coming. She also said how interesting it was that when we spend all this time focused on the what is over our shoulder, we are worried about what can’t be changed. Even more thought-provoking, if we spend our time focused on the future, much of the time what we expected and planned for never came to be.

And we fail to live in the present moment. We are unable to tear ourselves free from the past. Many of us live opposite of such ideas too. We are so busy planning we miss the presence of God.

Instead, we need to focus on the new thing. I don’t think it so much means for us to forget the past. We learn from the past. Nor should we neglect to look forward and planning. When we fail to plan, we will likely fail to act. Instead, taking what we have learned, and with the plans we make, I would submit that we live and work in the current moment, striving to make God’s Kingdom, at that moment, as God’s Kingdom is in heaven, making disciples for the transformation of the world.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With a Thankful Heart,
Keith

Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

A Year? Really? How About Something New?

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

2Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:21-31, New Revised Standard Version).

It’s really hard for me to believe, but has been almost a full year, just over eleven months since I last wrote a post for this blog. My last post was on July 31, 2018. I had wanted to resume this blog yesterday. It seemed like a good time to get started, the beginning of the month and all. I think I heard something once about the road to someplace being paved with good intentions. I enjoy writing this blog, but then life happens, and it seems to put an unplanned end to what I was doing.

This time last year, I did not know quite yet that there was a change afoot for me in both location and profession. I don’t remember the date. I could probably figure it out, but why? It isn’t that important. When the call did come, offering me the opportunity to teach government and economics (I found out later I would be teaching psychology and sociology too) I jumped. Some might argue that I jumped too quickly. In less than a month I had left Sweeny and was back in Lufkin, living with Cindy again.

Less than two weeks later, I was sitting in my first faculty meeting at Center High School. Just a few days after that, I made a discovery. I had teachers and others who knew their way around a school tell me how hard teachers worked. I never had reason to doubt that. I had no clue. If you don’t think teachers work hard, walk in their shoes for a week or two. I have never worked so hard in my life. I was overwhelmed. If school work were water, I would have drowned. At times I was frustrated. At times, I came to understand why teachers keep doing what they do.

Not long after I moved back to Lufkin, the district superintendent called me and asked if I would be the “supply” pastor at Groveton UMC and Prairie View UMC (this was not Prairie View, the town west of Houston. This was Prairie View, in a rural community, not far from Groveton, called Nogalus Praire). A “supply” pastor is filling a pulpit temporarily. In the Methodist Church, an interim pastor is a pastor who sees to the needs of the church during periods the pastor cannot be present for an extended time. I knew when I accepted this appointment that I would likely be there only until the end of June. That is the way things usually happen. My last Sunday was June 23rd.

As time went along through the school year, it became evident that I was not going to return to Center High School next school year. I was so overwhelmed with the work; I had not completed my required work for certification. There was always more to work on than hours in a day. And, without certification you cannot teach in the State of Texas. When I left school on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I had a pretty good idea that was the end of my teaching career.

So, I no longer have Groveton and Prairie View. I no longer have my school job, what am I going to do? Well, yesterday, I officially became the new pastor at Huntington UMC. It is only a part-time position, but I still did not want to move for Lufkin.

As for something more long-term, permanent (well, at least as permanent as United Methodist Appointments get). As for something more full-time? Surprisingly, I am not worried about it. I have told some of you who have been with me for a very long time; I am by my very nature a worrier. I worry about many things. But with this, I am at peace. Isaiah asks, “Have you not seen? Do you not know?”

I continue to look for a new job, and at times, it is discouraging. Still, I feel like God is leading me to some new things. I am in the process of doing the first edit on my first book, Average Joes. Many of you, particularly those who were in Sweeny two years ago, and preached on all these characters. I’ve been saying since completing the series and getting it ready for more official editing.

I also have been accepted in one of the national freelance writing groups. Doing freelance writing, I think it would be exciting and new. I also have one other idea I am working on, but I will tell you all about them when as soon as I know a bit more down the road.

God is at work. I know God is here with me. I know God is here with us. Scripture promises us that. Scripture also tells us that we will be friends long after we are dead. It is a promise from God.

God is here if only we will pay attention. As I have been thinking about what I was going to write on today, I not only thought of myself and all the new in my life. I started thinking of my kids at school. All of them are about to start something new. Perhaps they are beginning a job babysitting when her parents are out of town. Expand her services and hire a few kids at school.

For others, it might be college, or technical, or electronics. Still others, it is time for (what we said in seminary), got a real job so I’ve got to go get started.

I don’t have an explanation for everything and certainly not all this. I do know wherever we are going and whatever we will there too. God is very present. And where God is, here is no reason to be afraid. Where God is, there is always something new. Where God there is always there is always a reason for hope. Where God i there is always love and grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,

Blessed, Forgiven, and Thankful,

Keith



Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, Spirit’s Breath Ministries, All Rights Reserved

Be sure and click on the follow button email updates when I write a new post.



Just the Readings

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 87-88; Romans 13
Journey Through Scripture Readings for 8/14: Psalm 89-90; Romans 14
Journey Through Scripture Readings for 8/15: Psalm 91-93; Romans 15:1-13
Journey Through Scripture Readings for 8/16: Psalm 94-96; Romans 15:14-33
Journey Through Scripture Readings for 8/17: Psalm 97-99; Romans 16
Journey Through Scripture Readings for 8/18: Psalm 100-102; 1 Corinthians 1
Journey Through Scripture Readings for 8/19: Psalm 103-104; 1 Corinthians 2

 

Friends I am sorry to have to do this but in getting ready for school to start I am overwhelmed. I have to have six-weeks of lesson plans complete by Friday. I am also starting an interim pastor (that isn’t what the official term is, but that is what it amounts to) this Sunday. Something has to give for time. The blog needs to be it. So, for the next week or so, I have to take a break. The readings for the rest of the week are posted above.

Good, Pleasing, Perfect

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 84-86; Romans 12

12 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. 20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good. (Romans 12:1-8, 18-21, Common English Bible)

Dottie was my encourager. There have been others who have filled that role too. She was part of my life during a particularly difficult period of time. For two years, it was a rare day that Dottie didn’t find a way to communicate with me, oftentimes just to see how I was doing.

Mary had a gift of service. When I pastored a particularly mission-minded congregation, rarely did a mission team, particularly a medical mission team leave our parking lot that Mary (a nurse by training) was not part of the group.

Carol led our confirmation class in one congregation. The class lasted a full year. She met with them every Sunday. She loved every kid that was a part of her classes. She even took them on a week-long retreat to a place in Arkansas where the kids could get a small taste of how many people in the world have to live.

I have known many over the years who not only gave, they did so quietly, without fanfare and for each of them, there were no strings attached. There have even been a few like Hazel I knew I could call on when there was a real need in the congregation, either for the church or for particular people, and they would open their checkbook and simply ask, “Pastor, how much do you need.”

I truly believe all these people were living sacrifices. They are or were people pleasing to the Lord. They lived out their service to God, to others, and to the world, and they were, without question, transformed to God’s will. They were, in the words of other translations, “…good and acceptable, and perfect.” They were not only a living example for me, they were each a blessing in my life. I know they were for all who knew them. Many of you fill that role as well. Don’t stop serving. Don’t stop being a blessing. Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat the evil of this world with the good that God has placed in you.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

So Very Tired

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 81-83; Romans 11:19-36

23 When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A huge storm arose on the lake so that waves were sloshing over the boat. But Jesus was asleep. 25 They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.

27 The people were amazed and said, “What kind of person is this? Even the winds and the lake obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27, Common English Bible)

I am tired. My first week working as a teacher (during in service) has been tiring. I knew it would be. Still, I am at least a bit surprised by just how tired I am. I was actually concerned about my drive home but it was actually just fine. And, I still have more than four weeks of lesson plans to finish this weekend! That is something I have to get used to doing. Never having to do them before, it is pretty difficult.

I decided to by-pass the Journey Through Scripture passages again today. I really wasn’t hearing anything from them anyway. I probably wasn’t hearing anything from them because of just how tired I am tonight (As I write this it is Friday night).

We all get tired. While this isn’t the most tired I have ever been but it has been a long time. Four very early mornings and one early morning have taken their toll. I also feel pretty sure you know what I mean. You have probably been there too. There aren’t many people I know who haven’t felt like they were just trying to go through the motions because they were so tired.

Jesus knew what I am talking about it. In our lesson, Jesus is sleeping on a boat while riding out a storm. We sometimes don’t think about Jesus getting tired, but when we read today’s lesson, he obviously did. We don’t think about him getting tired because Jesus was fully divine. We tend to forget Jesus was also fully human and even if the divine didn’t get tired, the human certainly did. But, don’t forget, on the seventh day (of the creation) God rested. If God rested, it must be that God also got tired.

So next time you are tired, remember, Jesus knows what you are feeling. He got tired too.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved