Worshiping Stella

Worshiping Stella

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’ (Matthew 7:21-23, New International Version).

“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that… That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives and our character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful, what we worship for what we are worshiping we are becoming.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, the guitar collection is up to 18 plus a baritone ukulele and an acoustic-electric bass. I have my eye on sweet number 21. It is an acoustic guitar made without any wood in the guitar’s skin. That’s right. It is an acoustic-electric made by Schecter Guitar Research that has no wood in the skin of the guitar. It is made out of carbon fiber. The only wood in the body is bracing. I have wanted a carbon fiber guitar for a while now.

A year ago, Cindy bought Annie for me for my birthday. All my guitars have names. Annie is an Ibanez Tallsman six-string acoustic-electric. I keep a “wish list” on Amazon and when we got home that day I opened my wish list so I could take that guitar off the list. When I finished, I found myself looking on all my favorite guitar pages trying to decide what I wanted to get next.

As I was stretched out on my recliner, laptop in hand, and looking through all the guitars on reverb.com and looked at what was there. Then I moved on to Sweetwater Music then Musician’s Friend, and somewhere in my the middle of Guitar Center’s web page I stopped. I thought to myself, “Keith you are being really dumb. You have a brand new guitar that you haven’t played a total of an hour yet and here you are already wanting something new.

Most of the time that is my problem. Before the new is even worn off, I want something new.

But I also have to careful. Stella is my favorite guitar. She feels good in my hands, she has a beautiful tone. She is pretty to look at. I have had a few people make me really good offers to sell her. She is my favorite and I can’t turn loose of her.

There is nothing wrong with having a favorite guitar or favorite of whatever your thing is, as long as you keep even that favorite thing in perspective.

Some years ago, back when I had two guitars, one with sound hook-ups and one without. It was a pretty blue Austin Guitar. When I walked into the office it was obvious someone had broken in. Not much was missing except that pretty blue Austin Guitar. I wasn’t devastated by it. Of course I would have preferred that they had left my guitar alone.

After I bought Stella and really started enjoying the play and feel of that guitar, I thought about that day a couple of years before when I had that pretty blue guitar stolen. Would I have been so calm about my loss had it been Stella and not the little blue stolen guitar.

I came to realize I had and continued to elevate Stella above the place any guitar or any other “thing” deserved? Was I worshiping her? No, but I did realize I needed to be very careful. That guitar, named or not, could become an object of worship if I wasn’t careful. I could not allow that to happen. Stella could not be the object of my worship. I couldn’t allow it to happen.

I am not sure if it was a Sunday school teacher of someone else but a number of years ago, someone told a group I was in, “It is amazing how someone can cut down a tree then carve the head of an idol on it. Then take the other half, set it on fire and come back later and cook dinner over it. How is that an omnipotent God?

Any of my guitars have something in common.The are all inanimate objects. On there own, they have no power. My guitar can do noting without me or someone else picking it up and playing it. It can be the source of beautiful music (if someone is playing it besides me) but only with someone moving the strings.

I do love to play Stella, but Stella is not and cannot be the object of my worship because I need a God who can move mountains. I need a God who can make the sea part. I need a God who can heal the sick. I need a God who can raise the dead. I need a God who can change my life, who can forgive my sin, who can set me on a journey for the rest of my earthly life that will lead me to the life everlasting. No guitar can do all that. That can only happen with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and David, the God who became a human, who lived as one who knew joys and sorrows, happiness and pain. A God who could be born a human birth and who would die a human death. That is the God I need.

I have Stella to satisfy my love of music and even that, doesn’t come without one of the many gifts God has given me.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church July 5, 2020

Sermon: Where in the World is Elwood?

12 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.”

Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. The Canaanites lived in the land at that time. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I give this land to your descendants,” so Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. From there he traveled toward the mountains east of Bethel, and pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and worshiped in the Lord’s name. Then Abram set out toward the arid southern plain, making and breaking camp as he went. (Genesis 12:1-9, Common English Bible)

Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church

Phone (936) 564-8427
Email info@perritteumc.org

Mailing Address

638A N University Dr # 255
Nacogdoches, TX 75961-4617

Physical Address

1025 Durst St
Nacogdoches, TX 75964-5063

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

Where in the World is Elwood?

12 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.”

Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. The Canaanites lived in the land at that time. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I give this land to your descendants,” so Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. From there he traveled toward the mountains east of Bethel, and pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and worshiped in the Lord’s name. Then Abram set out toward the arid southern plain, making and breaking camp as he went. (Genesis 12:1-9, Common English Bible).

It was almost lunchtime one day in May, 1991. I was in my office at Fondren and the Southwest Freeway in Houston. I was a programmer/analyst with the FDIC. I was working on some random computer code when my phone rang.

It wasn’t a call I got at work. My calls usually were about a program I had written and someone managed to find a way to break, doing something they weren’t supposed to do and the program wasn’t designed for.

Occasionally a Scout leader would call to talk about some activity. We were very involved in Scouting then. Our boys were young and very involved.

Cindy called to talk about kid stuff and if any of us had anything in the calendar that night. It might be what was on the dinner menu.

I wasn’t used to calls about church work. I was, after all, an employee of the Federal government. They wouldn’t have had much positive to say about church.

It was a surprise then when I heard, “Keith, this is Asbury Lennox.” The late Dr. Asbury Lennox was then the District Superintendent of the old Houston East District. I had anticipated a call, but I assumed it would come one night at home. I never thought he’d call during the day the workday.

Dr. Lennox said, “I have called to talk about an appointment. The cabinet met with Bishop Oliphant and we want to appoint you to Elwood.

Before I realized it, the words tumbled from my mouth, the title of this sermon, “Where in the world is Elwood? I hadn’t said it. I knew Texas pretty well, but have learned not as well as I thought. I hadn’t heard of Elwood and and many other places in the Lone Star State. While it is on some state maps, Elwood isn’t even a town! No wonder I hadn’t heard of it.

Elwood is a rural community about 12 miles northeast of Madisonville in rural Madison County. The closest real town, if you can call it that, is Midway, named that because it’s located about midway between Crockett and Madisonville. Midway’s population at the time was 333. Today it has declined to 229 as of the last census.

The only store closes at 6:00. The Walmart in Madisonville closed at 8:00. Our closest neighbors, other than cows were over half a mile away.

At one time, Elwood, then named French was a thriving town and the county seat for Madison County. That was before anyone thought about Madisonville.

Today Elwood consists of a few residences, ranch land, and the Baptist church. I am sorry to say, the Methodist church closed a few years ago. The building is there but belongs to the Elwood Cemetery Association today.

That was a culture shock for a city boy used to 24 hour Walmart stores and convenience stores that never closed, even on Christmas Day. Elwood took careful planning. To get something after 8:00 PM required driving an hour each way to Huntsville, or doing without. Only something important made that drive.

The title of today’s message, “Where in the World is Elwood?” is because of that phone call 30 years ago. I could just as easily titled it after a good number of the places like, “Where in the world is Lovelady, Kennard, Mt. Sylvan, Van or Grapeland. I thought I knew Grapeland but I was talking about Grapevine. I’ve heard it from many since then. “Where in the world is…” Groveton or Huntington. I did know where Prairie View is but it isn’t the same one.

I had heard of Canton, but I didn’t know where it was. I had to look for it on a road map in the days before most any of us had a GPS in the car.

I knew where to find were Tyler, Freeport and Diboll. I made trips to Tyler when I was younger. I went fishing a few times in Freeport. And, my mother’s family used to have a family reunion every year in a little community a little larger than Elwood, named Central, just north of Lufkin.

I could have titled the sermon, “Where in the world is Santa Fe?” and no, not New Mexico. This Santa Fe is in Galveston County, on the mainland. I hadn’t heard of it before a UM ARMY.

I couldn’t have titled the message, “Where in the World is Sweeny?” I knew where it was long ago. But I did hear the question many times when I would tell people I had been appointed there. Much like Tyler, nobody questioned me on. “Where in the world is Nacogdoches?” when I told people about this appointment.

The point of all this is to say, for all of us, there are places in the world we know little, if anything about. Yet often these are some of the very places where God calls us to go and most needs us to go.

Such was the case for one of the great heroes of the Bible, Abraham, or Abram as he was called in our lesson this morning. God spoke to this 75-year-old man and told him to pack up all his stuff and move, only God didn’t tell him to move to Elwood or Nacogdoches or Grapeland or some other named place you might find on a map or with your GPS. God told Abram to move to the land God would show him. Friends, God was asking Abram to take a great leap of faith.

But, God didn’t ask Abram to take a walk on the wild side. God made Abram some promises too. The biggest promise was, God would be there and that Abram would be blessed.

Abram went packing and God made another promise, Abram, descendants would inherit the land where he stood. Abram never saw that promise fulfilled, but he knew God would keep the promise.

If we continued on in Genesis we would see God’s faithfulness in those promises. God blessed Abram in virtually everything. God promised land to Abram’s descendants. God saw to it. In time, those descendants grew in number as promised. If you keep reading, in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, as promised, Abram’s descendants inherited the land God promised.

God gave a faithful man a task. The man did as instructed. God made promises and kept them, including a promise of blessings on a faithful man.

Blessing is a recurring theme throughout Genesis. Really it is a recurring theme throughout Scripture. When people remain faithful, they receive God’s blessing.

The same is true for us. God asks us to start a faith journey together. It is something that in many ways will be different. But, we don’t travel alone. We travel together as the people of God in this time and place. Further, we don’t just travel with each other, God travels with us.

Friends, if we are faithful to God’s call, we will be blessed.

Someone emailed me a little clip I thought I would share with you as I close the message.

At first I thought God was my observer, my judge, keeping track of my wrong doings to see if I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was sort of like the President. I knew the picture but I didn’t really know God.

Later, I recognized God, and life was like a bike ride, but a tandem bike, and God was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know when God suggested we switch but life hasn’t been the same since.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was boring but predictable. We took the shortest route. When God took over there were delightful long cuts, up mountains and rocky places and fast speeds! Sometimes I could barely hang on. I was scared sometimes, God reached back and touched my hand.

I met people with gifts I needed: gifts for my journey, our journey, God’s and mine. Then we were off again. Then God would say, “Give those gifts away, extra baggage, too much weight.” So I gave them to people we’d meet.

I learned then that in giving we receive. Our burden was light. I didn’t trust God at first, being in control of my life. “What if God wrecks it?” But God knows, “bike secrets,” how to make it bend in sharp corners or jump high rocks or to fly through scary passages.

I’m learning to shut up and pedal in strange places. Now I enjoy the cool breeze on my face, with my delightful companion. And when I’m sure I can’t do any more, God smiles and says,”Pedal.”

We have work to do. Let’s be faithful like Abraham. If we are, God will bless us to be a blessing. Oh, and don’t forget, pedal!.

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Right Thing to Do

Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. 10 So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.

11 Look at the large letters I’m making with my own handwriting! 12 Whoever wants to look good by human standards will try to get you to be circumcised, but only so they won’t be harassed for the cross of Christ. 13 Those who are circumcised don’t observe the Law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised, so they can boast about your physical body.

14 But as for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. 15 Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t mean anything. What matters is a new creation. 16 May peace and mercy be on whoever follows this rule and on God’s Israel. (Galatians 6:7-16, Common English Bible)

For this “Song Sounds Saturday,” as today is Independence Day I have gone back and forth as to what my post for today should be. If we have watched the news in recent days there has been a great deal of talk about our individual rights. The rights of the people are indeed one of the things that make the United States great and Indpendence Day is a great time to celebrate the rights of our free state, its people, and the philosophies that created them and allows us to live in a land of rights and freedoms.

At the same time, however, I fear we have begun to ignore or at the very least forgotten that what makes our rights work is to recognize that we are not the only ones with rights and sometimes one persons rights stands in opposition of the rights of another. When I always worry more about me and what is mine (i.e. MY rights) we may well be limiting the time we will have in the future to celebrate our rights. Why? I believe our rights will only stand when we recognize that my rights can only stand as I listen and accept the rights of others and we find ways to honor our rights, yours, and mine.

To that end, I decided I would address the importance of our rights with a poem addressing the idea that having the right to do something, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. I hope you find these words useful.

The Right Thing to Do

We fail to give, so all will be free,
The rights of all, we cannot agree.

This land is your land, this land is mine,
Our freedom stands and our rights a sign
Freedom and rights, our talk is trite,
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

Why is that man, wearing a mask
Masks do no good, he should ask
Leave your mask home so smiles shine bright
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

Why is that man, acting so dumb
That does no good, his brain must be numb
Throw that away, freedom shines bright
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

She screamed of the laws that people break
With her deed done, more than rude is at stake.
Rights of others, taken in flight,
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

You have your rights, I have mine too
Anger from each side, that’s nothing new
Feet stomp, fists clinch, let’s get on with the fight
To have the right, won’t make this thing right.

Those who know call masks good things
A piece of cloth good health could bring
A simple act, might win this fight,
To have the right, doesn’t make this thing right.

Life in freedom, can be a mess
Striving for love, and know God will bless
Both you and me, shine freedom’s light
We have the right, let’s go make this right.

This land is your land, this land is mine,
Our freedom stands, our rights a sign
Freedom and rights, as talk is trite,
To have the right, doesn’t make this thing right.

When we both give, people are free,
For rights of all, please can we agree.

A Reckoning Coming?

By Drew Weber

20 The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?”

21 Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away saddened, because he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

25 When his disciples heard this, they were stunned. “Then who can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.”

2Then Peter replied, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you. What will we have?”

28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you who have followed me that, when everything is made new, when the Human One sits on his magnificent throne, you also will sit on twelve thrones overseeing the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And all who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or farms because of my name will receive one hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first (Matthew 19:20-30, Common English Bible).

I have known Drew Weber since he began in ministry in 2008. The biggest reason I got to know him was, at that time my wife was on the administrative staff at Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church in Galveston, Texas. Drew went on staff there several months after Cindy did. Since that time Drew and I have had several long conversations, theological and otherwise. When I developed some health issues while serving at First United Methodist Church and Oyster Creek United Methodist Church in Freeport, Texas, Drew filled the pulpit for me a few times and always was outstanding.

When Drew left Moody he went to First United Methodist Church in Cameron, Texas followed by First United Methodist Church in Jasper, Texas. He now serves as the pastor at First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas.

The “Prosperity Gospel” or “Word of Faith” movement has thrived in the 21st Century despite its unbiblical theology. Purveyors of this type of preaching and teaching wrongly proclaim that God’s will for your life is financial and physical well-being. Teachers of prosperity theology claim that through faith in Christ, positive speech or “positive confessions” and financial donations to these ministries the result be financial blessings and physical well-being for you and your family. Hmmm….I seem to remember Jesus saying, “You cannot serve both God and money.” And Paul wrote to Timothy, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” There seems to be a great deal of money loving in this teology.

In today’s Scripture reading Jesus tells a man who is already prosperous to go make others prosperous right? You might think that if you heard some of the prosperity gospel preachers, but it is NOT what the Gospels say. It isn’t even what this story says. In it, Jesus says, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.” (1 Timothy 6:10) That sounds like the opposite of a prosperity gospel.

I am of the firm belief that prosperity theologians and preachers are leading people straight to hell! Well, Drew, come on now, that is a little bit harsh isn’t it? I mean, after all, God seems to be blessing their ministries and if it gets people to start thinking about faith then isn’t it a good thing? No, it’s not and I believe God has had enough. I predict that many of these large churches, famous ministries, and prominent figures in this false gospel campaign will start to fall from grace. I believe that over the next two years God will start to break the yoke of this demonic teaching as one after the other falls from their lofty perch.

Here’s why prosperity theology is awful.  It completely misses the entire point of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t come so we can all live our best lives now. If that’s the case then why did my Christian sister die of cancer at age 21? Prosperity teachers would say that she didn’t think positively, donate to their ministries, or have enough faith. Furthermore, I know a lot of faithful Christ followers who are struggling financially. Are they not making enough “positive confessions?” Oh, and what about the Christians who are getting their heads chopped off in the middle east? If they would only watch the right “preachers” and donated to them they could be alive and living their best life now. 

Friends, if you are watching any of these teachers and preachers you need to stop immediately. It is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ – it is something entirely different than anything found in Scripture. Jesus came so we can be forgiven for our sins, have a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and live with God forever in heaven. God’s purpose for your life is to be molded into the image of His Son and lead others down the path of truth and life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is the Gospel and Jesus said that there will be struggles along they way but He will never leave us nor forsake us. However, he never once talked about financial and physical well-being as the point of His coming to Earth. 

I urge you to pray for people to be rescued from this dangerous branch of “Christianity.” I urge you to pray that people will stop supporting these ministries. I urge you to pray for churches that stand on the Word of God to have pews filled on Sunday morning. The “Prosperity Gospel” is no longer just a nuisance, it’s a force of the Enemy and I believe God has had enough. Time will tell.

Today is the last day of this round of guest blog posts. It was great to hear from so many of my family and friends. I look forward to hearing from them again and others too. I hope to have another post soon. He had to have back surgery during this time and he really wanted to write a post. I will give him a day whenever he gets healed.

As usual for Saturday, we will have a music focus tomorrow. We will have a patriotic focus here on my blog post tomorrow. Check out the blog at revbroyles.me.

Peaceful Breath of Life

by Kay Brightwell

Reading: John 20:19-22 “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors closed for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” After this he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

I had not been pastor at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas before I learned the importance of Kay Brightwell to that congregation. I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted to insure the success of a program or activity, I needed to get Kay involved (not always easy an easy thing to do). Kay didn’t have to be in charge, just involved and things would happen. We have a slogan here in Texas for those who hate to see litter around, “Don’t Mess with Texas. Well, I learned a new version “Don’t mess with Kay or Kay’s Bible Study.” That wasn’t because of Kay, but the ladies in her Bible study. Kay loves each of them but just as importantly, they love Kay. As her pastor it was something I learned too. I am thankful for Kay and her ministry.

Kay is a retired school teacher. She keeps her hand in teaching Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. She not only taught her own Bible study group and wen I asked was always willing to serve as a substitute in my class. Kay is involved.

Kay is the also author of the Bright Reflections Blog. What you will see below is hers style. Each morning, Kay writes a blog that is a love letter to God. Each time I read her work, I am blessed.

Good morning Abba Father,

 Again, morning has dawned on a new and glorious day. I give you thanks for all the sunshine you are blessing me with this morning and for all the time I have to spend outside with you in your wonderful creation, earth. As I sit on the patio, waiting in anticipation of the rising of your glorious sunlight, I sit still and quiet, listening to the sounds of the morning. I am grateful for the time I now have to be able to do this.

As I listened to the birds cheerfully begin to sing their peaceful melodies, sounds announcing the coming of dawn, I began to concentrate on my own breathing, the breath that fills my soul and body to give me life. I thought about how important and wonderful this breath is to me. It is very comforting to be able to breath in your glorious peace deep into my soul and body. 

As I continued to read the scriptures about your first days after your resurrection, looking at what you did each day that was so important, I came across the scripture in John 20:19-22 that intrigued me. Your death and now resurrection were so important to mankind, giving us eternal life. You had a short time to be on earth before your ascension to heaven, and you did not fill your time with frivolous matters.

I know your actions and activities after your resurrection were of extreme importance to the disciples and your close friends. I had read that the first days after the resurrection were filled with telling others that you were alive. Now, on this evening of the first day of the week, you appeared to your beloved disciples and did several important things for them.

First, they were fearful, scared, and filled with sorrow. You came to them to renew their hope in everything you had told them the three years you had been with them. You said “Peace be with you.” This told them to not be fearful or filled with sorrow but to be filled with the Peace of the Father who loved them.

Next, you helped them recognize who you were because you showed them your hands and side where your body had been pierced. They finally realized that you were truly alive, and they were filled with joy!

The third thing you did for them was two-fold: First, you again said “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” This gave them a mission and purpose for their lives from this time on. But the most important thing you did for them was, you breathed on them your breath of life and filled them with the Holy Spirit! This act gave them all the courage and strength and life they would need to fulfill the ministry for which you called them. 

I thought about the first breath that was breathed on earth – your breath of life into mankind. In Genesis it is recorded how the earth was made from your speaking things into being, But in Genesis 2:7 it says “ Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Why was this so important? You did not fill any other created thing with your breath of life! The answer to this why is because you wanted companionship with man, me. You wanted me to walk with you each day, to talk to you constantly, and to share in your love and mercy and grace. In other words, to have the Peace that only you can give through fellowship and companionship with a Loving Father. This fellowship cannot be a one-way street. I have to participate in this fellowship also!

My world today has become so busy and full of activities that I myself know that I have strayed from a close relationship with you. I must choose to spend time with you. This is one reason I am so grateful to have the time, like this morning to be with you. I am not fearful and will not be fearful of anything like the disease plaguing society at the present time. I know Jesus, you are always with me. You care for me, protect me, and love to communicate with me. So, I will only focus on You, being filled with your Holy Spirit, and the life-giving breath of life you give me. I will treasure having the time to seek the Peace that You alone can give me. Thanks be to God for your love for me!

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

In His Service,
Kay 

Copyright, 2020, Kay Brightwell, All Rights Reserved

All Scripture References are from the New International Version

Called – Send Me

After that I will pour out my spirit upon everyone;
        your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
        your old men will dream dreams,
        and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days, I will also pour out my
    spirit on the male and female slaves.

30 I will give signs in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 32 But everyone who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be security, as the Lord has promised; and in Jerusalem, the Lord will summon those who survive. (Joel 2:28-32, Common English Bible)

Sam Cutrone currently serves as the pastor of Alexander Chapel United Methodist Church in Bryan, TX. He has a powerful testimony. Sam and I have worked as colleagues but I am proud to call him friend.

O let the Son of God enfold you
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have the things that hold you, And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole.
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs.

It was just a month ago that we, in liturgical congregations celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is the Sunday we celebrate God sending the Holy Spirit upon His Disciples in the upper room. The hymn above reminds us of this poignant powerful moment in which God fulfilled His promise to the Church. The account is a humbling reminder how the disciples had to remain open in order for the Spirit to be poured into them. This happened when the disciples let their lives be enfolded into the life and message of Christ. Secondly, they had to open their hearts in order for their souls to be fed. Finally as they gave Christ all their doubts, fears, and anxieties they were healed.

How have you felt enfolded into God’s love?

Since the age of 15 I knew I was called to ministry. However it took me 30 years to fulfill my calling. In 1990, I served a small church in Martindale, Texas. It was a small rural church with 15 congregants. They were a Godsend into my life. One Sunday I had to inform them I had been removed as a candidate for ministry by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry. Hence, I would be unable to remain at the church (appointment). It was a bitter pill to swallow. As I told them, about the decision, I found a strange peace deep within me. I felt a profound love touching my heart that morning. The people were shocked because we had been together for 2 years. But I reassured them the conference and district leaders knew what they were doing: the church had to trust the process. I must admit these were some dark moments for the church and for me as we grieved together. As we wept we found the Spirit leading us to a deeper understanding of Christ’s love we had for one another and a resilient strength to trust in what God was doing.

In those few precious moments we found consolation in Christ’s arms of grace. We discovered that through the years we had learned that God’s love bound us together and kept the cords of ministry strong. We found, in those moments, that Christ’s love was sufficient. While I may have been removed from ministry we were joined in the desire to serve Christ and the community. With hearts full, sorrows shared and remembering we were bound together by God’s love; we left the church that Sunday knowing the Holy Spirit was upon the church and us.

Later that night, I poured out my ardent prayer out before the Lord. I prayed for God’s spirit to comfort the church and my family. I shared with God my disappointments, fears and anxieties; I left everything at the foot of the cross. Later, the phone rang, I was surprised to hear Bishop Earnest Dixon on the other end of the line. He said, “Sam, I don’t know what you’ve done at the church in Martindale but they love you. I think it’s best if you continue ministry with the church. What do you think?” I said, “Well if you think that’s best. Then yes I’ll go.” I continued in ministry for 5 more years. It wasn’t until I moved in 1995 I realized how much they loved me and my family but more importantly how much they trusted God. Unbeknownst to me, the night the Bishop called me, the church had handed the charter of the church to the District Superintendent. They simply said, “if you remove Sam, then remove us! We see the Spirit moving in the Church and want to see what God will do with us.”

It’s a wondrous sight to behold when the Holy Spirit gets involved. Our moment of grace comes when we step aside and let the Holy Spirit fill us with God’s love. Then empty our lives from the fears, anxieties and uncertainties of the world. When we let our hearts be filled with the Spirit we find healing and the ability to trust and love God even more. We are called to the share this hope with others. Take a moment and lift your heart to the Lord, let God’s Holy Spirit fill you with God’s love. Then go into the world and pour God’s love into the lives of those who are thirsty, lost in the darkness, hurting or struggling. This is our purpose and call.

A Surprise Reaction

By Rev. Dr. Emma Richardson

For just about all of us, regardless of who we are, what we do, or how we get it done, God puts special people in all our lives who make a real impact on us. Emma was just such a person for me. Emma served in full-time ministry for many years before I knew her. Prior to my arrival in Sweeny, Emma settled into retirement. She made a point to do what needed to begin but at the same time to help whoever was appointed there. She succeeded at that. She was particularly important to my recent book, Average Joe: with an Extraordinary Story. She and Paul Woodworth inspired me with the idea of using the Biblical characters. I am grateful to both of them. Dr. Emma is an ordained deacon and a member of the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She most recently served at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa Oklahoma.

“ While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after
blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you;’ for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in my Father’s kingdom’.”
(Matthew 26: 26-30, New Revised Standard Version)

I had looked forward with great anticipation to this event and I was
disappointed!

Some background, I am a Deacon (Retired) in the United Methodist Church. For over 50 years the sacrament of Holy Communion has been very special to me. Whether I was assisting in serving or participating as a member of the congregation, the service of Holy Communion always was a high and holy moment for me. It is an instrument of God’s grace to be shared with other members of the Beloved Community. (I don’t mean to start a theological discussion about the meaning of the sacrament, just sharing an experience)

Now, back to my beginning declaration. Due to several health problems, I have not been able to attend worship services for several months. My local church celebrates Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month and on other special days such as Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday. I had missed both of those this time—first time I can remember missing both in succession.

The Pastor and the Worship chair had brought the sacrament to my home once during this time and I was very grateful. But I had missed 4 or 5 months at that time.

I was almost healthy enough to go to worship services then along came the
COVID 19 virus and my church, like almost all congregations were not going to meet in our church building. So, like many of you, Holy Communion was offered aspart of our virtual worship service on the first Sunday of the month.

The first time, my sister and brother-in-law joined me at my home and we took Communion together.

Then, the second time, I was alone. I had prepared an altar with a cross and a tray with bread and juice. At the appropriate time, I removed the white cloth from the tray, broke the bread and whispered “the body of our Lord, broken for me.” Then I took the juice, gave thanks and whispered “the blood of our Lord poured out for me and for many”. I replaced the cloth, said a brief prayer of thanksgiving and joined in the closing with the rest of our virtual congregation.

Then, it hit me! I did not feel renewed and refreshed in my soul as I usually did after receiving the Elements. I really felt sad. It was a strange feeling, all that afternoon, I would wonder “why?” The next day I realized this was the first time I had been alone, by myself, not another person near me. I missed my community of faith! I missed looking into the eyes of one as I served them or smiling at others as I returned to my seat. I missed seeing the looks of gratitude, of wonder, of knowing the blessing of these sacred moments I shared with other members of the Beloved Community.

I have reflected on this experience quite a bit and know the empty feeling comes from me and not from any lacking of the sacrament.

Since then I have observed Holy Communion again in my home and alone. Butmthe feeling was different. I was prepared for the absence of other believers and read again the names of the members who were participating with me that day (through the magic of Facebook).

I am very grateful for the times of worship I have experienced in this “closed down” time and look forward to the time we can be together as a congregation. Until then, I know with all of my heart and soul, the Church is not a building, the Church is the people of God and together or apart God is with us in all things.

Thanks be to God.

Be Blessed this Day.
Rev. Dr. Emma Richardson

The Owl

By Lisa Price

I introduced Lisa Price last week. I had asked her and her husband Rev. John Price to provide a post and they agreed. Well, John had cataract surgery about the same time I asked that the guest posts be in and he didn’t feel up to writing something so Lisa decided to send me two and I am grateful. I pray you enjoy Lisa’s story of an owl.

I cry out: “Violence!” but get no response;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
He has blocked my way so that I cannot pass through;
He has veiled my paths with darkness.
He has stripped me of my honor
and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side so that I am ruined.
He uproots my hope like a tree.
11 His anger burns against me,
and He regards me as one of His enemies.
12 His troops advance together;
they construct a ramp against me
and camp around my tent.

13 He has removed my brothers from me;
my acquaintances have abandoned me.
14 My relatives stop coming by,
and my close friends have forgotten me.
15 My house guests and female servants regard me as a stranger;
I am a foreigner in their sight.
16 I call for my servant, but he does not answer,
even if I beg him with my own mouth.
17 My breath is offensive to my wife,
and my own family finds me repulsive.
18 Even young boys scorn me.
When I stand up, they mock me.
19 All of my best friends despise me,
and those I love have turned against me.
20 My skin and my flesh cling to my bones;
I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

21 Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy,
for God’s hand has struck me.
22 Why do you persecute me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh? (Job 19:7-22, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. (John 8:3-11 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

From the back porch it looked like a large, crumpled sack or a mass of dried underbrush.  But it hadn’t been there before on the wide expanse of otherwise green lawn.  I thought perhaps the wind had blown something out of the nearby tree-line or from a neighbor’s trashcan.  As I continued to sip my first cup of coffee and rock in my old wooden rocker, the sun rose higher in the sky, and I noticed a slight movement where the mysterious lump was.  Again, I blamed the wind, and continued in my early-morning reverie.  But as my vision scanned across the empty lot once more, I realized that whatever it was, it was alive.

Not prone to much movement until after my second cup of coffee, I sat awhile longer until my curiosity got the best of me.  I walked gingerly on bare feet toward the thing, not wishing to startle it, whatever it was.  As I got closer, I realized it was some type of bird, and it didn’t fly away as I expected.  I took a few more careful, slow steps in its direction, and it eyed me cautiously, but held its ground.  Finally, as we stared eye-to-eye, I realized I was facing off with a brown barn owl who had seen better days.  His face looked wet, his feathers scraggly, and he peered at me through squinty eyes that were very un-owl-like.  The poor thing looked as if the last thing he wanted was a big human hovering over him, but he seemed powerless to fly away.  

After a few minutes of silent communing, I went back into the house to finish my morning routine.  Periodically, I looked out the back windows, and my new friend still sat right where he had been.  Awhile later, I returned to the porch and was startled to see several mockingbirds dive-bombing the poor owl.  They would fly back and forth over his head, swooping down time and again to peck at him and generally terrorize him.  Even the squirrels joined in, chattering loudly from their perch on a nearby limb.

I walked toward the scene of the hazing, hoping that the taunters would leave.  Thankfully, they did, and just my friend and I were left.  He looked at me warily, and I wondered if he expected me to mock him as the others had.  After a few moments, he flew several feet away from me toward the tree-line, barely clearing the tops of the weeds.  Thinking I was missing a good photo op, I went inside to get my camera.  When I returned, the owl was gone, and I feared that one of the other critters from the underbrush had carried him off.  But I sneaked a little closer and saw his owl eyes gazing out from about three feet above the ground in a small tree.  I hoped that my presence had somehow helped him gather up his strength to fly out of harm’s way.

Job had a problem just like my owl friend.  He was having more than just a bad day.  His possessions were taken from him, his family was gone, his health was a disaster.  And his so-called friends came to him under the guise of helping him see his sin.  Just like the mockingbirds swooping and pecking at the owl, Job’s friends came to him, not with compassion and love, but with accusations and blame.  

Those who are in distressing situations such as the jobless, the homeless, the depressed, the AIDs patient, the recently divorced—they are the Jobs of today.  Will we taunt them, shun them, or smugly give a token bit of help?  Will we kick them while they’re down?

When my owl friend was in trouble, all I did was come to his side and stand there in silence.  A quiet, compassionate presence is sometimes all a person needs in order to draw on the strength which the Lord provides.  The Gospel of John tells of a woman caught in the act of adultery.  Her accusers wanted Jesus to join with them in condemning the woman, but He refused to either condemn or defend her.  Instead, He provided a quiet, comforting presence until the accusers shamedly slipped away, and the woman was ready to come to Him for strength and redemption.

Today’s Challenge:  Look for the downtrodden, the forgotten, the grief-stricken, the hopeless.  Don’t worry about what to say; just being there will speak volumes.  Embody Christ’s loving  presence today! 

It’s About Grace

20 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion,[a] he sent them into his vineyard.

“Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.

“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’

“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.

“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’

13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16, New International Version).

A story is told about Fiorello La Guardia, who, as mayor of New York during the Great Depression and World War II, who many New Yorkers called “the Little Flower.” He stood five foot four and always wore a carnation. He was a colorful character who rode city fire trucks, raided speakeasies with the police, take orphanages to baseball games, and when New York newspapers were on strike, he went on radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One cold night in January of 1935, he turned up at the night court serving the poorest people in the city. La Guardia dismissed the judge took over the bench himself.

It wasn’t long before an old woman appeared, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told La Guardia her daughter’s husband had left, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. The shopkeeper refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood, your Honor.” The man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach people around there a lesson.”

La Guardia sighed, Turned to the woman saying, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail.” He wasn’t finished. He reached into his pocket and pulling out a bill, tossed it into his hat saying, “I remit the ten dollar fine; and furthermore I fine everyone here fifty cents for living in a town where a person steals bread to feed her grandchildren. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The following day the newspapers reported $47.50 was turned over to an old lady who stole bread to feed her grandchildren, fifty cents contributed by the grocery store owner, while seventy petty criminals, traffic offenders, and policemen, having paid fifty cents to do so, applauded the mayor.

Here is my question for you. Did the elderly lady in the story get what she deserved? Clearly the answer is, of course not. She had stolen a loaf of bread. Yes, she may have had good reason, but stealing is stealing and regardless of the reason, punishment would seem to be the order of the day.

There’s a word for what La Guardia did, grace. Grace is when one in power shows mercy to less powerful people. The mayor, rather than demanding punishment, paid the fine and helped her with the collection of the fifty-cent fines she received. It was more than she deserved. It was grace.

Our lesson is about that too. The lesson is the wonderful story of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired workers for his vineyard. Some he hired early, telling them that he would pay them the usual daily wage. He found more workers to hire, telling them he would pay them what was right.

At sunset it was time to pay the workers. He began with the last hired, paying the usual daily wage. Those working all day got really excited. Surely they would get more for all day.

The excitement didn’t last. Ill feelings arose when they got paid the same working all day as those only working an hour.

He heard grumbling and explained he was fair. He paid what was promised. Couldn’t he pay everyone whatever they wanted with his money?

The landowner didn’t live in our time. He also didn’t seem to know much about business. When he next hired help none would until the last hour.

The landowner did know grace. Workers at the end of the day didn’t get what they deserved they got mercy. That is grace.

In the parable the landowner is God, we are the workers, and the pay is the kingdom. Studying this parable, we see, it’s about grace.

First, the parable says grace is received, not deserved. We all should know we do not deserve grace. Nothing we do will leave us deserving grace. All we can do is receive the gift God offers.

David Seamands ends his book Healing Grace with this story. For more than 600 years the Hapsburgs exercised power in Europe. When Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria died in 1916, his was the last extravagant imperial funeral. Dignitaries escorted the casket, draped in the black and gold. A military band played dirges and by torches light, as the party descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna. At the bottom an iron door lead to the Hapsburg family crypt. There was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna.

An officer followed the ceremony. “Open!” he cried. “Who goes there?” responded the Cardinal. “We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria…” the officer listed the Emperor’s 37 titles.

“We know him not,” replied the Cardinal. “Who goes there?” The officer spoke again, this time using a less ostentatious title. “We know him not,” the Cardinal said again. “Who goes there?” The officer tried a third time, using the humblest title: “We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!” The doors swung open, and Franz-Josef was admitted.

Whoever we are, whatever our titles, how much we have, it can’t open God’s grace, given freely, left for us the undeserving.

Second, God’s grace is about mercy, not fairness. Fair would be to pay the later workers less than those working longer. That would be fair. Grace isn’t fair. It is merciful. God loves us and gives us more than we deserve.

Christian financial consultant Larry Burkett tells in Business by the Book about going the extra mile, beyond fairness. In 1984 he leased an office that was a nightmare. The foundation was faulty and was singing several inches a year. After more than three years of problems, including power failures and weeks without water, Burkett moved his business.

Soon the former landlord called demanding Burkett remodel and repaint his former office space. Burkett said no. He had already been more than fair with the landlord. The demands continued. Burkett got an attorney who agreed Burkett fulfilled his responsibility and need not do anything more.

Burkett saud his son offered him different counsel reminding Burkett of the landlord’s family, who had lost their only child a few years before. The still suffered. Burkett had commented he would wanted to help them. The son said this was an opportunity to do more than what was fair, but merciful. Burkett considered and agreed. He spent several thousand dollars to restoring a virtually unusable building. That goes past fair, to merciful. It is what grace is about.

Third, God’s grace is for the last and the first. It’s easy to say we deserve more. We’ve been faithful. God doesn’t work that way. God wants a relationship with all of us, those hired early and those who worked an hour. That is Grace.

A woman was abused by her father when she was a small child. She grew up, overcame the damage, became a Christian, then married. Years later, her children grown, she received a letter from her father saying he was a Christian and asked God for forgiveness. He realized he had sinned against her and wrote asking her to forgive.

Feelings surfaced. It wasn’t fair! He should pay. This was easy. Now he was part of God’s family! Her home church was killing the fatted calf and she was invited to the party! She was angry, hurt, resentful.

Then she had a dream. Her father stood on an empty stage. The hands of God held a white robe. She recognized it, she was wearing one. As the robe descended toward her father, she awoke crying , “It isn’t fair! What about me?”

She moved past it by realizing her earthly father was now like her, the same in God’s sight. Grace was his as it was hers. With that, she was able to forgive her father.

God’s grace is a free gift and available to all. It’s a free and more than we deserve. Grace is about mercy, not fairness. Grace is for the last and the first. Thankfully, it is about grace.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

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