It’s God’s Fault

The Lord won’t always reject us 32 He causes a lot of suffering, but he also has pity because of his great love.
33 The Lord doesn’t enjoy sending grief or pain. (Lamentations 3:31-33, Contemporary English Version)

I am once again in a book of the Bible I have never preached from or really studied. There should little wonder about why, Lamentations is one of only a few books in the Bible. Lamentations is a book that is a downer. It is even in the name. Lamentations, meaning, it is a book of laments. A few months back, when we were working through the first part of Psalms, we talked about there being more psalms of lament than any other type. Here we have an entire book devoted to complaining to God about the way the world is treating the writer.

When I went through deacon (20 years ago United Methodist pastors were first ordained deacons and a few years later were ordained elders) ordination interviews I was asked a “what would you do if…” question. The question was this (I can remember just about the exact wording), you have been out all day doing the various things pastors do. When you returned home you found that there was a message on your answering machine that said one of the boys in your church was out riding his bicycle, was hit by a car, and killed. Being the good pastor you are, you immediately leave and drive to the family’s home.

When you get there, a neighbor is there and you hear them say, “You just have to accept this. It is the will of God. God needed your son and called him home.”

Before telling you my answer, I cringe at the thought of such statements. That being said, the writer of Lamentations understands the neighbor’s sentiment. Biblical writers from the Old Testament portray God differently than the writers of the New Testament. I think the writer of Lamentations would probably agree with the neighbor’s statement to the family in the question. I think other Old Testament writers might say the same thing.

As for New Testament writers, if they were to say this was the will of God, their understanding of God’s will would likely be different.

In his classic book, The Will of God, Leslie Weatherhead divides God’s will up into three categories. The intention wil of God, how God intended for the world to function. The circumstantial will of God. Because God allows us free will, the decisions and action we make can cause trouble and because of the gift of free will, what we do can clash with God’s intentional will. God’s will still ultimately will prevail through The Ultimate will of God which is a peaceful world of love and compassion.

Weatherhead would say it was not God’s will for this boy to die. To say that would make God out to be a killer. Circumstances in the situation interfered with God’s intentional will.

So, back to the question in my interview, I said this setting was not the place for theological debate or argument. I would first, work on getting the neighbor whose good intentions are doing more harm than good. Then I would sit down and tell them, this was not God’s will for their son. God gives us all free will. The decisions we make can and do impact the lives of those around us. Because you are hurting, God hurts with you. God grieves with you because of the love God has for both you and your son. And ultimately, God’s will, a world of love and compassion will win the day.

I am not sure that the writer of Lamentations would get that. He talks about God causing a lot of suffering and grief and pain. While God does have that ability, we cause enough of that. God doesn’t need to cause us grief and pain. Thankfully, God doesn’t love us that way. Yes, God can cause grief and pain but when we are talking about God’s children, Why would God want to do that?

I am thankful for the relationship we have or can have with God who wants to fill us with love that we might go into the world to share love and compassion.

I think we reach for the excuse, “It’s the will of God” sounds good. It sounds to our ear to be comforting. We mean well but what that person all too often hears, “It’s God’s Fault.” Such words can hurt their relationship with God at the time they need God most. We need to be careful because when all is said and done, we can’t fix this. We can’t heal a broken heart but God can do all of that and more.

Some of you have heard me talk about it before. Cindy has worked on staff for a few different churches in her working life. At one of them, on the back of her office door was a sign that had a picture of Patrick Stewart decked out in his Star Trek uniform. He has a finger pointing up. Under that picture there was another piece of paper with a letter “R” on it. In much smaller print it said, “It’s all about relationships.” Under Patrick Stewart was the word, “Engage.” In other words, Go build relationships.” We need to be at work building relationships with God and neighbor.

So, “ENGAGE!!!”

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Mess with Dinner

27 But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. 28 That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. 29 If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. 30 That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. 31 If we carefully judge ourselves, we won’t be punished. 32 But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Contemporary English Version)

Back in the mid-1990’s there was a commercial for Boston Market I loved. I looked around the internet trying unsuccessfully to find the commercial. So please, allow me to describe the scene to you. Perhaps you will remember the commercial too.

My favorite one from the campaign had a woman who Boston Market had to have cast as the perfect stay-at-home wife/mother. It is dinner time and the door bell rings. There is a trap door on the front porch. The salesman who rang the bell, of course was standing right on top of the trap door. When she answers she flips the lever on the trap door and the salesman falls through, finding himself nose-to-nose with a full-grown tiger. The camera flashes back to mom who, in a very sinister sounding voice says, “Don’t mess with dinner.”

I found one I liked from the same campaign. Let’s take a look.

It has always bothered me how many people mess with dinner and I am not talking about the evening meal for the family. I am talking about messing with the Lord’s Supper. That is the ultimate in messing with dinner.

How do they mess with it? Probably not in how you think.

The woman in the van with her young daughter wants everyone home for dinner so she sends the band director on a rocket ride so will see things her way. Her point is, if you aren’t there, or if you keep her kids late so they can’t sit together as a family, you are messing with dinner.

When we skip communion, we mess with dinner. Did you know that in some congregations communion Sunday is the lowest attendance Sunday of the month. When we aren’t there, we mess with the family dinner. We mess with family dinner because all the family members weren’t there.

“Well preacher, that scripture you put up there says, ‘But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. ‘”

That scripture is more than just telling you that if you are unworthy don’t eat. Yes, that is what it says. But if you heart isn’t right with God and neighbor you shouldn’t take the meal. By the nature of the examination, it means that, after your self-examination and you find yourself coming up short, you need to go out and get things right with God.

God is good, all the time. God is waiting to forgive. Get your heart right then come to the table and DON’T MESS WITH DINNER.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Remembering a Sad Day

God is our mighty fortress, always ready to help in times of trouble.
And so, we won’t be afraid! Let the earth tremble and the mountains
tumble into the deepest sea.
Let the ocean roar and foam, and its raging waves shake the mountains.

(Psalm 46:1-3, Common English Bible)

I was sitting in the parsonage at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, TX. I don’t really remember what I was doing when the phone rang. I knew from caller id it was my good friend Mike Deaton. I answered in a cheery mood. It wasn’t five seconds later my mood became downcast. He told me there had been a shooting at Santa Fe High School.

For those of you who may not know, for a little over three years I was the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Santa Fe. I have a couple of friends on the faculty there. I sent a text message to them. I simply said I am sure you are very busy and overwhelmed. When you get a chance, please call or text me and let me know you are OK.

At that moment I didn’t think about any of the students. The high school kids I knew when I was pastor there, had long since graduated and moved on. The kids that had been in the lower grades were by then the high school but I still saw them as being in kindergarten. Because I hadn’t seen them in a few years, they all where, still the same age. Intellectually I knew they had grown but I still remember them being small.

The next day, 2 years ago today, I saw a list of those killed at school. One name jumped off the gate at me, Jared Conard, Black. I had baptized Jared when he was a preschooler. His brother Anthony was an older elementary student at the time. He was one of those who had already graduated. From time to time when they came into the church building Anthony would run up to me and cross his arms standing in front of me. He wanted me to reach out and grab him and I would lightly hold him against the wall. He could escape anytime he wanted but usually only made a token effort. Anthony was waiting for the next phase of our game.

Jared Conard Black

The next phase was Jared coming to Anthony’s rescue. He would run up in front of me and stop just outside of arms reach. I would grab at him and missed more often than not. Sometimes I just missed. Other times he had faster reactions than me. Because he hadn’t “rescued” Anthony (eventually I would let him), he would say, “I’m sorry Antny, (not a misspelling or a typo, I’m sorry, I tried, I tried.” Then he would run off, only to come back 15 seconds later and do it all over again. Occasionally I did grab Jared. When I did I always let Anthony go and would hold on to Jared. Jared would start in a half giggle, half screaming, if you can imagine a four or five year old, “Antny come help me! Antny come get me out of this. Help me Antny, Helm me.”

Anthony would turn around and wave at Jared and say, “Bye Jared. See you later) and then he would run off to whatever his age group activity was happening. I would put Jared on my shoulder and go into the fellowship hall where everyone had gathered. I would go around asking people, “I just caught this, what should I do with it?” People would give a variety of answers but eventually someone would say, “Just throw him in the trash.” This would go around the room for a while. Eventually, I made my way back to his mom and asked her the same question, she would say, “Oh, no! I will take him.” With that I would put him down, he would go run around and play, occasionally coming up close enough to grab him again but most of the time I would ignore him because I needed to go get ready for Bible study or something.

All those memories came flooding back when I saw Jared’s name on that list. It brought me to tears. I think it is the first time that someone I baptized, I was also involved in burying him. It was truly a sad day, one of the saddest of my time in ministry.

Every time I hear of a school shooting it upsets me. Most of them are so senseless. And death is so permanent. Sometimes I don’t think people think about that part before pulling the trigger. But this one was different. This one hit close to home. I knew people there. I had worshiped with them, was in fellowship with them, and served with them. And now one of them was gone. Someone I knew. It was all so senseless. My heart was broken.

Two years and a day later (I couldn’t make myself do this to be posted yesterday. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it is) I still pray for Jared’s mother, Pam. I pray too for his brothers. I pray for that church and that community regularly. Something happened there that should never happen anywhere. It was pointless. It was tragic. It was evil. And I still pray, something like this will ever happen again. So no parent will be in the position of my friend and Jared’s mom, Pam.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

On Planting a Spiritual Garden

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling… (Philippians 2:12, New International Version)

This morning I was reading a few of the blogs I enjoy. One of them is “Faith Bits” by a guy who just calls himself “Pastor Brian.” He reminded his readers that we do the majority of our panting in the spring regardless of whether we are growing vegetables or flowers.

Pastor Brian correctly states that in addition to any physical garden we might plant, we also need to be cognizant of the need for a spiritual garden as well. It seems to me that our spiritual garden could be an element of us working out our own salvation as Paul says in Philippians 2 and was part of my sermon this past Sunday. You can click video to watch or you can click here to read the manuscript.

So, let’s consider what should go in our spiritual garden:

Plant three rows of peas:           
Peace of mind;
Peace of heart;
Peace of soul

Plant four rows of squash:
            Squash gossip;
Squash indifference;
            Squash grumbling;
Squash selfishness.

Plant four rows of lettuce:
            Lettuce be faithful;
Lettuce be kind;
            Lettuce be happy;
Lettuce love one another

Plant at least three rows of turnips:
            Turn-up for service when needed;
            Turn-up to help one another;
            Turn-up the music and dance.

Also plant five rows of thyme:
            Thyme for fun;
Thyme for rest;
Thyme for yourself;
Thyme for your family;
Thyme for worship [even when it’s virtual worship].

Then, after you’ve finished planting, water freely with patience and cultivate with love. Remember that you reap what you sow, to plant lots of good seed, that there may be much fruit in your spiritual garden!

Now, go plant your garden.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Give Thanks Everyday

18 “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, New Revised Standard Version)

While surfing around the internet last night, I ran across a blog post intended for pastors to read. It really wasn’t a long post. The title is 8 Easy Blog Post Ideas for Pastors by Amanda Lanche who owns AGL Creative. The post is on Concordia Technology Solutions (a division of Concordia Publishing). They produce church management software including Shepherd’s Staff and Church 360 degrees.

I hadn’t really started thinking about this post yet. So, I thought I would take a look. I saw that some of them, without prompting from Amanda I was already doing sometimes. But there was one that I saw on her list that not only had I not done a post like it, I had never even heard of it. She called it “The Verse of the Day.” By that, today is May 18 so the verse would come from some book of the Bible, chapter five, verse 18. So, I decided to take up the challenge. I looked at every book if it had at least five chapters and if the fifth chapter had at least 18 verses. There were quite a few to choose from but I finally settled on the verse above, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

In some ways, talking about giving thanks seems to be a cop-out. I do talk about it quite a bit. But, many of us still think the only time it’s necessary to give thanks is on “Thanksgiving Day.” I know we all have more for which we should be thankful and we shouldn’t be waiting for Thanksgiving Day. That is still six months away.

Further, we Christians should not be the only people saying thank you but in our society today, we receive from others and all too often we don’t say thank you for them either. No matter what our faith or if we are one who says they are “none of the above,” we have someone or something for which we are thankful.

This morning, the congregation I serve as pastor, Huntington United Methodist Church in Huntington, Texas, had our first face-to-face worship service in more than two months because of the Corona virus. After worship today, before I even ran across Amanda’s blog post I was thinking about how thankful I am to all the people who made that first service back possible. I certainly didn’t do it alone. There was Jamie, Cindy, Dianne, Janet and Byre and I haven’t even begun to think hard on the subject. I am so grateful to them, not only for their part in making this all possible, I am thankful for all they do to keep our church running and assist me in the tasks of ministry. Though they are the ones who were central today, there are many others who play vitally important roles in our church.

Over the past few weeks I have come to realize just how thankful I am for my barber. My hair is getting pretty shaggy and while I am completely comfortable going to church, I am not ready to go back to the barber. Still, I am thankful for my barber.

There are so many things for which we should be thankful to someone, if not God, a person or group of people. We are not islands unto ourselves. None of us can say we made it totally on our own. There were parents, teachers, spouses, friends, and so many more.

Recently I encountered a book that makes a pretty bold claim, expressing gratitude by giving you positive emotions. Shouldn’t it be that having gratitude should make the person on the receiving end have positive emotions? Of course they will likely feel positive emotions when they receive your thanks. Still, the book makes the claim that we will feel better because of our act of thankfulness.

The book is title A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. He said his life was pretty messed up. He had an Epiphany while hiking on New Year’s Day. He said he would write one thank you note every day. That is 365 thank you notes in a year. Were there that many things for which he could say thank you? He discovered there were reasons for thankfulness right under his nose.

Keep in mind, we don’t write the notes for the feeling we receive. John says we write them because it’s the right thing to do. I would say, we write the notes because we are thankful and we (well I do for sure) need to act that out for a hurting world.

Since that time he has both written and received thousands of thank you notes. It has all been enough for him to say, “Gratitude presses outwards and that creates good feelings in the universe. A lot of that comes back to you eventually.”

So, I want to challenge you to be thankful. That doesn’t mean copying John’s idea of a thank you note a day though it is a good way to exercise thankfulness. Find a tangible way to state your thankfulness. If each of us can do that, we will be well on our way to giving, “…thanks in all circumstances…” and making the world a better place.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Law of the Picture

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:1-5, New Revised Standard Version)…

Basketball Hall-of-Famer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has spoken many times of his college coach, John Wooden. Jabbar remembered of Wooden he never left the locker room a mess. Wooden stayed and picked up trash. Jabbar said, “Some thought it funny seeing the winning-est coach in basketball picking up trash from the wet floor, especially after a road victory. I found it moving, not just because he was conscientious enough to leave the room as clean as we’d found it, but because he didn’t think it beneath him to do it himself.”

My two favorite leadership authors Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, Leaders Eat Last, The Infinite Game, and recently released Find Your Why. The second author is John Maxwell, author of Failing Forward, Intentional Living, and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. There are many more. I’m not sure if Maxwell knows how many he’s written.

In both Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last, Sinek tells of a Marine Corp tradition. The higher your rank, the later you eat. The lowest private eats first. The highest ranking officer eats last. The example shows importance to every member of the team. The lowest member knows the highest member sees value in the team. The example shines for all to see.

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, rule 13 is, “The Law of the Picture,” defined as, “people do what they see.” Fred Rogers was a master at setting an example, people could do what they saw. He knew what was right and lived it. The episode he had a refreshing dip of the feet in a child’s pool. When the postman, an African-American, comes by, Mr. Rogers invites him to join in. It was shocking, unheard of, at the time. He left the audience knowing that, regardless of who it was, nothing would have been different. He gave the children permission to do what they saw.

Paul understood too. “Put others ahead of yourself.” I \hear him saying, “Be a leader, eat last.” He encourages readers to be of one mind with Jesus. And, Jesus said, he didn’t come to be served but to serve.

Over the course of my career I have learned leadership a little at a time. I doubt I will learn the lesson as well as Russell. Russell was a youth in a church I served. He was a great kid.

The youth had a pancake breakfast one day. Russell was making pancakes. He was so proud of his pancakes. You would be hard-pressed to find someone more proud of his pancakes than Russell.

If you asked about a career he said he was going be a farmer like his Dad.

Russell was also a leader at school. Though he played a position lacking glamour, Russell was a captain on the football team. He had the respect of the players around him. They wanted to play with Russell.

One October afternoon the sky started getting cloudy. The rain started. Lightening filled the sky. Coach called the players into the locker room. Russell helped some of his teammates. When he was running toward the locker room lightening struck and killed Russell.

Every player had a story to tell, what Russell did for them. I think Russell understood that leaders eat last.

Our time has too many leaders not eating last. They fail to set an example, making their leadership questionable at best. Perhaps they don’t understand or they don’t care that people do what the see. It impacts society, on a variety of level. We do what we see and have disregard for the well-being of others. We have forgotten, never knew, or don’t care to put others ahead of ourselves.

We are better than that. We need to give love and compassion. Until we can rediscover love and compassion we will never be all we can be or all God calls us to be.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

What’s Wrong with Us?

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8-10, New Revised Standard Version).

WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? Though I read quite a bit of news, somehow I missed the story of the security guard at a Target store beaten by two brothers because he, I feel certain, followed the instructions of management, told the brothers if they wouldn’t wear a mask please leave the store? I ask again, WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? HAVE WE LOST OUR MINDS?

While I am not tired of the Constitution or individual rights, or the Bible, I am VERY tired of people believing their rights outweigh the rights of others or the social good. Acting as though my rights are superior misses the idea of Freedom.

If I go to Target, I have the right and reasonable expectation for a safe shopping experience. If the security guard was cut instead of a broken arm, there would be an expectation for Target to clean up the blood for public safety. Would anyone say we have a right to play in the blood? Yes, it is a disgusting comparison but thinking the rights of some outweigh other’s rights or public health concerns is disgusting itself.

In other stories, people protesting and blocking a store’s entrance over the same issue. Does a merchant not have the right, refusing service to an individual who won’t comply with the merchant’s right to protect him or herself, customers, and employees. Then there was a woman who reportedly was assaulted and called diseased because of her mask. Again, if you have the right to not wear a mask, doesn’t she have the right to wear one if she chooses?

How would we feel if we had surgery and somehow discovered the surgeon not wearing a mask during surgery? While I know something like that probably would never happen, I wasn’t wearing a mask during the operation? Refusing to wear a mask a mask during surgery, individual right or not, is unhealthy and irresponsible. Not wearing a mask in public is equally bad.

The question has lost some popularity the last two decades, but it is still valid. “What would Jesus do?” is not in style. The answer seems to simple. What would Jesus do? He would likely wear a mask.

The greatest commandment was, “Love God” and “Love neighbor.” I refer to that a lot. When I look at society, our unwillingness to stay home (and I am not talking about going to work), or maintain social distancing, or wear a mask all say we probably don’t love for neighbor as much as we claim. Our lack of love for neighbor is only a short walk to lack of love for God.

Accepting that wearing a mask is an individual right doesn’t mean we should exercise that right. We all share in the responsibility for public health. And, we should hold one another accountable.

If we claim ourselves as a Christian, we generally claim ourselves as people of the Word too. Many of us claim belief in a word-for-word literal acceptance of Scripture yet somehow, we manage to ignore Scriptures about loving neighbor. Is some Scripture more important than another passage? I find no evidence of that. For whatever it’s worth I believe, that even in a society that places such importance on individual rights, it is not always about us.

We also should never lose sight of this, when I wear a mask, I don’t just wear it to protect me, I also wear it to protect you. As fellow citizens on a planet in crisis, I owe you that. To do otherwise would be selfish of me.

Paul says in Romans 13. “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law… Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” That last verse is direct and hard-hitting than any we have read for today’s post. Love does no wrong to a neighbor.

Paul says that so much better than I, so I think I will stop.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved