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

Prayer 101: Breakthrough Prayer for My Family

One time, after eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah got up and presented herself before the Lord. (Now Eli the priest was sitting in the chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple.) 10 Hannah was very upset and couldn’t stop crying as she prayed to the Lord. 11 Then she made this promise: “Lord of heavenly forces, just look at your servant’s pain and remember me! Don’t forget your servant! Give her a boy! Then I’ll give him to the Lord for his entire life. No razor will ever touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:9-11, Common English Bible).

Reverend Sue Nilson Kibbey defines breakthrough prayer as asking God to intervene in ways we cannot. She challenges people to pray for breakthrough. Her challenges ask Christians to imagine seeing God-sized breakthroughs in difficult situations.

Many have vivid imaginations. Still, no matter imagination, God breakthroughs impact lives. God’s power is greater than human imagination. God’s plans are greater than our imagination.

Betty owned a horse farm. She rescued wild mustangs having difficulty in the desert. She gentled them and put up for adoption. Horse ranching isn’t easy or cheap. Betty’s husband Chuck is a trucker and he subsidized the ranch. They had problems from early marriage.

One mustang, Harpo, had problems. He was a metaphor for Betty and Dave’s marital problems. Her voice steady but weak. Harpo bolted. Time for lunch. Chuck made breakfast. He worked all night and slept in that morning.

They met during Bible study. Chuck was a gentleman, unlike Betty’s experiences. Chuck seemed to like Betty for Betty while dating they talk constantly.

While she was out her ex committed suicide her home. Their children found him, leaving emotional scars. She adopted a lone wolf persona. She warned Chuck. He was patient. Their marriage went bad immediately. He didn’t like her parenting. She thought he spent too much money.

Betty hated Chuck’s road trips. They went for days. Her womanizing father and her mother were always on her mind. During trips, she investigated financial data, she found nothing but kept searching.

Betty still didn’t trust Chuck. He hated it. They argued constantly until talking stopped.

Chuck finished breakfast. Betty made lunch and went outside. Eating er sandwich as she watched Harpo. With other horses, by now she had a hand on the animal. It was over then. The horse trusted her. Not so with Harpo, he didn’t trust her. “Trust me,” Betty whispered.

She stopped cold. Reality time, she didn’t trust Chuck, never had. He didn’t love her, or so she thought. He had plenty of reasons to go but he was still here.

Their last phone call, she yelled, “Why don’t you leave? You want to.” He said, “We need help,” the call ended. Betty was scared. Had she given him an idea?

Betty never saw Chuck pray. Prayer matters in our families. Today’s lesson is a story about the prayers of one woman. Hannah was childless. A Biblical-era woman’s identity, person-hood was tied to her father, husband, and children. A blessed woman had sons. Hannah had neither. Her husband Elkinah had two wives, Hannah and Pinnenah. Pinnenah had children and sons. She taunted Hannah mercilessly.

Hannah was sad. She wanted children. She wanted God’s blessing. After eating she prayed at the tabernacle.

Eli watched Hannah pray. First, he thought her drunk but she wasn’t and asks God to answer her.

Hannah’s prayer asks for God’s blessing, a son. If God blesses her, she will give that son back to God. If she prayed for herself, she wouldn’t give him back to God? Hannah asks for “breakthrough prayer.” She wants change in her family. She wanted life-altering change. She needed divine intervention. She got it.  She got Samuel, eventually God got him back.

Breakthrough prayer happens. Ask God to break through for families will change lives.

Betty didn’t know Chuck had prayed for her. He prayed for breakthrough in Betty’s life. He knew he had faults, even in their relationship. He knew Betty needed to trust. Chuck wasn’t her father or her ex. He wasn’t leaving and needed Betty to know she could trust him. He prayed for years.

Breakthrough came in Betty’s corral. She saw Harpo. “Trust me,” she whispered looking into his eyes. She understood his fear. She was scared.

Betty feared Chuck didn’t love her and would leave. Mostly she feared giving God control. She thought God failed her, why trust now?

She stared at Harpo. She wondered about her misunderstanding. After 20 years, Chuck’s still here. He said they needed help… Could they fix this? What signs had she missed?

She and Harpo were alone, but she heard echoing of her words to Harpo, “Trust Me.” She repeated them to Harpo and stepped toward him. Again, again, until she had her hand on Harpo’s shoulder. He didn’t move. The beginning of trust.

Betty realized if she wanted her marriage to work, she had to trust. She and Chuck saw their pastor for help, then marriage counseling. They found Bible study. It wasn’t long before they were in different place. It all started with Chuck’s break through prayer.

Breakthrough prayer can happen for any of us, perhaps not immediately, but in God’s time. For Betty and Chuck, it took years, but it happened.

I don’t know your family situations that need a God-sized breakthrough. I don’t know the situations in my own family. But God knows. That’s what matters.

Have a Blessed Day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

#M.O.M.-Mother on a Mission

Matthew 15:21-28 21
21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” 24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” 25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” 26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” 28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Matthew 15:21-21, Common English Bible).

John 13:31-35 31
31 When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One[a] has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One[b] in himself and will glorify him immediately. 33 Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’ 34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:31-35, Common English Bible).

Many things about us from our mannerisms to our looks and other physical traits are ours because of who our birth parents happen to be. When we see a child, we might say the child has her mother’s eyes or his father’s hair. In Cindy’s family they talk about the “Oquinn Little Finger.” You can see the bend in pictures. It is slightly bent. 

What we inherit often goes beyond physical appearance. There are also hereditary medical conditions many people have. This is one of the primary reasons some who are adopted what or even need to locate their birth parents. 

Our oldest son Wayne has the misfortune of inheriting both his mom’s and his dad’s vision issues. Christopher was fortunate enough that he didn’t get much of either. He wears glasses now but that is mostly to help him reading. 

Cindy is VERY near-sighted. I have a disorder called hyperphoria. It is a five-dollar medical term that simply means one eye looks up and one eye looks down. For me it isn’t as pronounced as it is for many people, but it is there and it does present me with problems. Until I was in seminary and developed what my ophthalmologist called “grad school syndrome,” meaning I spent way too much time reading, I didn’t really need my glasses. 

I was often frustrated if I tried to do extensive reading and didn’t have my glasses. I would start reading on one line and when I got to the end I was reading the next line. The reading didn’t make much sense. It would also make me very sleepy. I would usually fall asleep after reading only a few pages. 

While a student at University of Houston I went to their optometry clinic. After several days of testing they found the problem. I had the condition all my life and it is 100 percent correctable with the right lenses. It made reading easier. 

About the time Wayne hit junior high, he started complaining about symptoms much like I had. He had already been wearing glasses for nearsightedness., but he was still had problems. 

As we listened to him, we knew he had hyperphoria. We made an appointment at University of Houston. They ran all the tests and found he had the same problem as me. He got the right lenses and we went on about our business. 

A year passes. Wayne’s eyes need to be examined again. Now we’re living in east Texas. Still we went to Houston to take advantage of U of H optometry clinic. They knew his eyes and we thought they would have his best interest in mind. 

The student examining Wayne said he outgrew his hyperphoria and no longer needed the correction. We questioned the student extensively and later his professor, both insisted the correction was no longer needed. 

Having little choice, we left. It was shortly before Thanksgiving. As we walked to the car Cindy said, “By Valentine’s day we will be back with Wayne showing the same symptoms.” 

Sure enough, February first, Wayne started complaining again about his eye issues. Cindy went off. If you have never seen a red- head ready to battle, if you do, get out of the way. 

She went on a campaign, determined her son wasn’t going to suffer with a correctable eye problem. She started calling people at the U of H. When she didn’t get satisfaction from one person she went to the next. By the time it was all said and done, Cindy talked with the dean of the optometry school. There were casualties in her wake. Cindy doesn’t go redhead often, but when she does, it’s not pretty. You don’t want to be in her line of fire. When we went to U of H again.

Wayne the examining wing, a space that could house 10 patients and the examining student optometrists, all to himself. The supervising professor would watch five students or more. Wayne was his only patient. Beyond that, this professor was the head of the binocular vision clinic, where I was diagnosed. After the exam, the original student and professor came in to learn from their mistake. At the end of the day Wayne left with new glasses, correcting his hyperphoria. 

Through this, Cindy became M.O.M., she coined an acronym, “Mother on a Mission.” 

During my years in ministry I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission, several times and more moms than my wife. I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission in hospitals, schools, and even twice in a courtroom. 

I feel certain if I could walk among you this morning and handed out a variety of difficult or threatening situations to you moms no doubt I would see MOM, mother on a mission. Most mothers tend to be that way. They protect their children. They will fight any fight to protect their child and the child’s needs. It makes them who they are. It’s makes our mothers special. 

Society, churches, and families we celebrate what mothers mean to us. We celebrate the love they bring to our lives. Most celebrations are also times for special memories. Most of us, remember times when our moms show us love in a special way. We remember times when our mothers turned into MOM, mother on a mission. I’m sure the moms watching this morning remember those occasions too. And, likely they would do it again. It is your child and mom’s love for her child sets you’re actions into motion. 

Today’s lesson shows MOM, Mother on a Mission. Please note, I do not fully understand this story. It has made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable with Jesus, in essence, calling the woman a dog. 

There are scholars who argue that Canaanite has the same root word as canine, so Canaanites would be “dog people.” First, that doesn’t really help. Second, Jesus likely spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. It was translated into Greek and then English. Not all words translate from language to language. There are two Greek words in the Bible for dog. One is a large cur dog. The other a small dog, a pet or puppy. Matthew had Jesus using the second word. It was more of a pet name. I still don’t understand or like it so I am not going to try to elaborate on what I don’t know. 

Some might ask, “Why would you preach a story you are uncomfortable with and don’t understand? That is a good question. This is a great story of M.O.M., mother on a mission. As the lesson begins, Jesus is in Canaanite country. The Jews didn’t like Gentiles in general and saw them as dogs. Canaanites were particularly loathed. This woman was in a hotbed of Canaanite activity when Jesus came by, she comes to him she asks healing for her daughter. At first Jesus ignores her. She was undeterred. Jesus’ non-answer wouldn’t be her answer. 

The disciples begged Jesus to send her away. She was determined to pressure Jesus, she was a total nuisance. 

Jesus gave an answer, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” So, Jesus said, “No, I won’t help you.” 

This isn’t what the Canaanite woman expected or wanted to hear. Jesus told her “no.” No less determined, she comes and kneels in front of him and begs him to help her daughter. Jesus tells her, “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 

I don’t think Jesus was being critical. He explained his mission and tested her faith to see how far she was willing to go. Still, people thought as a cut down MOM, mother on a mission, she wasn’t going quietly. “No” wasn’t her answer. She was determined to find healing for her child regardless of insult or cost. Her reply to Jesus was direct if nothing else. She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 

What a woman. A silent “no” on Jesus’ part be her answer. She wasn’t going to take a response of “it’s not my job,” and she wasn’t going to take a put down, if that is what Jesus was doing. This is a story of not only great determination; it is also a story of great faith. It is an example saying, “whether we know it or not, most all of us follow. We pray for those who are close to us, our children, our parents, our spouses, when they are faced with great problems, physical or otherwise. 

The woman’s faith was well founded. Jesus even told her, her faith healed her daughter and sent them on their way. It was a wonderful story of MOM, mother on a mission. 

When I read this story, I have no trouble seeing MOM, Mother on a Mission. Just as importantly, however, it isn’t just in these words of Scripture where I can see MOM. I have seen it in my own home. I have seen it in my mother. I see it on many of your faces and in your love. The love is great. The love is what makes you determined. It is wonderful to see that love in our mothers. We all need to have that kind of love in our lives. That kind of love makes us feel good. It makes us feel special. But, most importantly, that kind of love is a good example for us of the kind of love God asks us to share with others. 

In John’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of the importance of that too. The love of a mother for a child, while a good example, does not in show us either mother or child as a Christian. Mothers of other faiths love their children. Mothers of no faith at all love their children. But Jesus also says this, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

As people of faith loving our family is not our calling. That is the easy part even though it can be difficult and challenging at the various times. Our call is higher and for more difficult. Our call is to love one another, which includes but is not limited to our families. 

The truth of the matter is, while most of us have a special love in our mothers, it isn’t true for everyone. Some children have no mother in their life. Some children have a mother but might be better off without. For whatever reason, the mother is incapable of loving her child. Yet they need to feel love too. They need to feel they are important to someone and that they are important to God. 

It is because of these people all of us can join the MOM, mother on a mission brigade, even if we are not a MOM. This is where the new commandment comes into play. And, it is where we are people of faith entering the picture. People out in the world need to know our faith. They learn of our faith by seeing our love. 

As people of faith we are called to love, not just when and where it is easy, but to love everyone sharing our world, even the unlovable. No, it isn’t always the easy thing to do. People of faith struggle with that every day, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. God’s love needs to be seen at work in the world. 

M.O.M., mother on a mission is a great acronym. It is an even better example for us. Not everyone, however, has a mom or can be a mom. But we do all need to know about and experience and even give that special kind of love. So maybe a new acronym is called for, one that speaks to our need to be faithful in the mission God has given us, to be faithful in love. I think maybe F.O.A.M. fits the bill because it fits all of us as people of faith. May we all be, Faithful on a mission. 

Prayer 101: Breakthrough Prayer for My Friends

15 We who are powerful need to be patient with the weakness of those who don’t have power, and not please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up. Christ didn’t please himself, but, as it is written, The insults of those who insulted you fell on me.[a] Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures. May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice.

So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:1-7, 13 Common English Bible).

Author and LaSalle University professor, Grace Brame, says some of her students claim heaven is of no concern to them. Life is precious. This world matters, and it is all we have for sure. So why concern us with something for which we have no evidence?

How sad that so many in the world around us have little, if any faith. Dr. Brame goes on to say, “Every night one of my friends prays that he will die before morning. He fervently hopes there is no hereafter. Something in him says eternal life is a pie in the sky, a human concoction that became dogma when it was accepted by enough people. Considering his many disappointments with God, why should he trust the next life will be any better than this one? For we who believe, its sad when people have no hope. It is difficult for me to imagine living in such a state of mind literally having no hope.

A preacher friend of mine is the opposite, calling herself a “hope junkie.” She surrounds herself with signs of hope. I can’t understand a person having little hope. Still, it happens.

I knew a woman in college who was much like any older college student. She was married with four kids. She went through a lot. When you talked to her it was clear, life was bad, and she had no hope.

Younger students didn’t know the depth of her problems. We talked often and I knew more than most. Still, I didn’t recognize the depth of her issues until after Thanksgiving. She became suicidal. The director of the Wesley Foundation and I spent quite a bit of time individually and together, in prayer for her.

In the spring semester, she was better but had a long way to go. We convinced her to get counseling. I lost contact with her but on occasion, when I think about it, I still pray for her. She needed a breakthrough. She might still need one.

Today we continue Prayer 101 and breakthrough prayer. Today is Breakthrough prayer for my friends.  We all know people in need of intervention beyond our abilities. People have financial issues, health issues, relationship issues, work issues. Some people have lost hope.

As I read today’s lesson, Paul reminds the Romans, and us, of the importance of hope. Paul wants Jesus followers to be people of hope. It is easy to see why. Without hope, what is the point? And, if you spend time around a person who lacks hope, it gets hard fast. They seem miserable. And, if they seem miserable to us, imagine, if you can, what it must feel like to walk around with that baggage and no hope. Imagine your very worst day, a day where little, if anything, seems to go right, a day where you are miserable. Now, compound it with things continuing day after day.

It might be like that old movie from the 1980’s Groundhog Day where Bill Murray’s character seems to keep reliving the same bad experience every day.

Imagine Job’s experience. But for Job, something happened. God broke through. When God broke through everything changed. His life was restored. It all came back and more. But most of all, when God broke through for Job, Job found hope. Job’s hope was restored because God was there. Where God is, there is always hope.

We need to pray, asking God to break through in our communities. We need God to break through in our churches. We need to ask God to break through in the lives of our friends.

Each of us should pray for a break through for our friends. The greatest gift you could give someone is asking God to break through in their life. We all need to see God in powerful ways. That divine action can build hope.

Many around us lack hope. Pray God will break through to bring healing, wholeness, and hope for people who desperately need it. If they don’t have God, there isn’t much room for hope. But, where God is, there is always hope.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Prayer 101: Breakthrough Prayer in My Church

14 Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! 15 These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16 Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young will see visions.
    Your elders will dream dreams.
18     Even upon my servants, men and women,
        I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
        and they will prophesy.
19 I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed into darkness,
    and the moon will be changed into blood,
        before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene was a man whose credentials God proved to you through miracles, wonders, and signs, which God performed through him among you. You yourselves know this. 

38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.  (Acts 2:14-22, 38-41, Common English Bible).

In June of 1991 we moved to a church outside of Midway, Texas. It was culture shock. We were 9 miles from Midway. There was only one consumer business in town a convenience store closed at 6:00.

I loved Elwood. They taught me and loved my family. It was the best place to begin ministry.

It was a sad day in 2012. I had a Conference Trustees meeting. The agenda included selling property.

The first property hurt. We quickly voted to sell Elwood. Elwood wasn’t a church now. Over 150 years of ministry archived. I’d closed churches. This one was different.

I once took youth on a trip to the Hard Rock Cafe, Dallas. The Hard Rock’s home was odd, the former McKinney Avenue Baptist Church. It was a beautiful building but they replaced the original stained glass with Elvis, The Beatles, and others. The bar was, in the back of the former sanctuary. I wondered what happened.

Things don’t stay the same. The world changes. Things changed for Hard Rock. They moved to a former Mercedes dealership, the church is gone. A high-rise took its place.

Was anyone praying before the church’s demise? At Elwood ? Others? Equally important, besides members, did anyone notice they closed?

Years ago, Sue Kibbey spoke at Annual Conference. She talked about breakthrough prayer defining it as asking God to break through, working where we can’t.

Yesterday we talked of God breaking through in our communities. Today is about praying God will break through in our churches.

Our lesson saw the disciples praising God, for 3000 converts. This story is soaked in prayer. It had to be for that to happen. We must be people of praise and prayer! They praised God and God showed up!

They prayed and God responded with 3000 people saved in one day! Can you imagine if God broke through our communities?

We may believe there aren’t unchurched around us, statistics say differently. Some say “We like our churches like they are.” If we don’t grow, we die.

Jesus said make disciples. He didn’t add “If you like your church as is don’t worry about it.” We are in the disciple business, but not doing it well.

God wouldn’t have made the Pentecost breakthrough without praying. God will breakthrough when people pray. Peter quotes Joel saying, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.” Visions and dreams change lives.

Churches must be known in the community. I’ve discovered too many churches are secrets, sometimes even in plain sight.

Ask people to tell you where your church is located. Ask, “Could you tell me where I can find ABC church?” Don’t ask friends. They likely know. Ask strangers. For our churches to not be Elwood, they can’t be secrets.

Our congregations must be breakthrough prayer centers. We need to pray God will break through our churches .

Every Sunday, Walter opened the church. In cold weather, he lit the stove. If it was hot, he opened windows and put out cardboard fans.

He read the Scriptures and prayed. He prayed God would remember his church.

This story is unique. Each Walter worshiped alone. Why? Epworth was on property that reverted to the original owners if worship stopped

So? Let it go. That wasn’t an option for Walter. He had a vision. But Walter had to patient.

One Sunday a family visited. After meeting Walter they stayed for worship. They thought the church was special. They came back and the children brought friends.

Epworth is still small. Many have died or moved away, but the miracle Epworth is alive. On the first Sunday of August, people come to relive the story of Walter.

Families walk to the cemetery. Parents tell children the story of Walter.

Be Blessed,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Prayer 101: Breakthrough Prayer for My City

First of all, then, I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people. Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life in complete godliness and dignity. This is right and it pleases God our savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4, Common English Bible).

It started out as a prayer meeting some forty years before. This prayer meeting had detractors. Those who attended the prayer meeting were harassed and threatened . Still, Monday night after Monday night people came to the prayer meeting at the old church in the former East Germany.

The group started to grow and the police began to notice. One night following the service several attendees along with the leadership of the group encountered a group of police and were attacked. Still people kept coming and praying. They prayed for their nation, freedom, and peace.

Prayer wasn’t encouraged in East Germany and prayers for freedom and peace would have been banned.

The group continued to grow and then something happened. The government let people leave the country to immigrate to parts of Europe and the world. When immigrants left, their places were taken by people determined to work for change. They came back to church, drawing spiritual strength for their struggle.

The police continued their attacks on members of the prayer group. September 4, 1989 the pastor and a small group were attacked.

Instead of retaliation, the pastor started teaching the principles of nonviolent resistance made known by Gandhi and Martin Luther King and the group continued to grow and pray.

They picked up a name, becoming known as The New Form which would eventually become the opposition party.

They were a determined group who wouldn’t quit growing. The more they prayed, the more people came. On September 25, 1989 more than 6000 people packed the cathedral of St. Nickolas. There were another 25,000 waiting outside to join the protest march. Why pray in a nation living under an atheist ideology?

Why bother? Russia got this ideology thirty years. Nothing there changed. It seemed God abandoned them. There might even be some people arguing, “…can’t blame God for abandoning them? A century of history held two world wars and brought Hitler to power.

Most East Germans probably admit they don’t deserve help from God but, neither do we. We all sin.

The East German’s prayer was simple and they knew God had not left. They knew simple prayer had impact. Their prayers did. Their prayer was to change their nation. They prayed for freedom. Prayer changes things.

These folks prayed that God would change things. They prayed for the ability to make change. If I want to give up a bad habit I change. It may not be easy, but I can do it. It’s easier if God is helping me break that habit.

There are also things we can’t change. Only God can make a way. Only God can fix it.

The East German story uses breakthrough prayer for a nation or part of a nation. Perhaps I should have used the title “Breakthrough Prayer for the Government” but we all need to focus on our local communities.

In the year I have been here there has been a great deal of talk around town about the ways Diboll has changed and little of that discussion should be called good. I’m not sure it is really anyone’s fault. Things just happen.

The world changes whether we like it or not. Since Temple has sold people seem a more apprehensive about our collective futures. What happens of Georgia-Pacific were to decide to close up shop and head out of town? And that is just the first in a long list of questions. It seems to me, putting an answer to that question is more than any of us can do. It isn’t in our power to create a solution. I am not sure who the folks even are who would have the authority to make that decision. What I do know is One who has the power to overcome any setback we may face, individually, as a congregation or as a city, a community. But, for these things to happen we’ve got to talk about the whys and hows and even the issues themselves and I don’t mean with each other. We all need to be in prayer for our cities.

To be in prayer for our cities involves what Paul refers to as supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings to be made for everyone but specifically addresses leaders, kings and all who are in high positions. We have leaders in high positions. We have mayors, the city council, (the city managers), the police and fire chiefs and others who make decisions. We need to remember state and national leaders too.

When that small group of Christians started their prayer meetings in East Germany, would you have thought their prayers might would be answered in such a powerful way? Great things can happen when people pray.

Be Blessed,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved