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.”
27 Then 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 inCameron, 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.
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.
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.
From time to time I get on writing.com. You can find different things to help with writing,com, including writing prompts and writing challenges and contests. But I always feel challenged there. Writing from the tags for the Though I have never won’t any of the few I seen there, I still enjoy doing it.
Today’s poem and future song lyrics began as a writing challenge on
Blind eyes fail to see creation’s slow death. The stench of the air, leaves us without breath Empty ears ignore the earth’s groans and cries Still, God who made us, wipes tears from blind eyes
A Guest Blog Post by Rev. Paul and Mrs. Margie Woodworth
I have said it before and I feel pretty sure I will say it again, Rev. Paul Woodworth is my oldest friend in ministry and you can take that any way you want. While that part is a joke, Paul and his wife Margiewere the first people I met after he and I both assumed the pulpit at our respective congregations. Paul went to Bremond and Calvert, just about as far west as you can get and still be in the Texas Annual Conference. I went to Elwood, as far east as you can go and still be in the old Bryan district. Since that time, we have followed each other around the conference. Now Paul and Margie and Cindy and I all live in Lufkin. Margie made her living in the property title business. Before entering ministry Paul was in the grocery business. Since entering the ministry Paul has served, Bremond, Calvert, First UMC Madisonville (Associate Pastor), First UMC Groveton, Prairie View UMC Groveton, First UMC Brownsboro, New Hope UMC Brownsboro, Ben Wheeler UMC, Burke UMC, and First UMC Sweeny (Pastor Emeritus). Today Paul and Margie are enjoying their retirement as much as one can enjoy being quarantined in a senior living center for over three months now. That is Keith saying that, not Paul and Margie. Paul is probably the finest pastor I have known. He cares about people in a way few people I have known care. I am thankful for my friendship. I pray you enjoy their words today.
I was very glad in the Lord because now at last you have shown concern for me again. (Of course, you were always concerned but had no way to show it.) 11 I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. 12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13, Common English Bible)
We have all been making adjustments during the time of quarantine. After our Easter Sunday Service on April 10, 2020, as we finished singing “Victory in Jesus”, we were told that we had to go to our room in our Assisted Living facility and not come out until further notice! We were all stunned. However, we did as we were told since there was no one to ask “Why?”
The next day we were advised that it because of the Corona Virus and the fear that we might catch it. For the next few weeks we (28 of us) we stayed in our rooms, ate in our rooms, read, watched TV, played on our computers if we had one
Then we were given a list of times (20 minutes) intervals to walk in the hall or out in the Courtyard as long as we wore our masks. During the first few days of “a little freedom”, we noticed that some of us would take advantage of this freedom and others would not. Some residents appeared to be sad and depressed. We were two of them. It occurred to us that if you used to see family and friends, you would naturally be missing them. Missing their hugs, their visits, the treats they would bring.
Next, they decided to let family and friends come to your window and see you for a short time. This helped those who had family that came frequently. Unfortunately, our family is unable to come.
We are happy for those folks who can see their loved ones and friends, but we have become sad because we have no family to come to visit us.
The Apostle Paul went from one town to the other and he didn’t have a Hilton Inn and Suites to stay in or a wonderful buffet to eat.
Our son, Ryan chose Philippians 4:13 as his favorite scripture: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We have adopted this scripture to help us during this difficult time. We have a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, and last but certainly not least, our Bibles to read and sermons to listen to on our phones. Praise God for all of the blessings he gives us! When we feel low, we sing all of the songs we can find that we know out of the hymnals we have to enjoy. Call a family member and friends who are alone.
We are all struggling, but we are all blessed by the love of God! Remember, “I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my (our) hand.”
I first met Lisa Price in 2016. She is the music director at First Baptist Church in Sweeny, Texas. She is also the wife of John who is the pastor at First Baptist. We weren’t just colleagues, we were also neighbors. When I moved to Sweeny, there were about 3 lots, one with a house on it between John and Lisa’s house and the Methodist parsonage.
From the First Baptist Church Sweeny website, “Lisa has been on staff at First Baptist Church since 1989. She is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lisa has also worked as a school choir director in the past and has a great passion for music. Some of Lisa’s hobbies include reading, watching Jeopardy and other game shows, and playing with the grand kids.”
Lisa is an outstanding musician. I even got her to help me out with a piece of music or two. I was thrilled when she agreed to do a guest post on my blog.
16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17, Holman Standard Bible)
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43, Holman Standard Bible)
“That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.” The proprietor of a rental car business in Cozumel, Mexico, was anxious to tell his story. In order to better enjoy all that the beautiful beaches had to offer, we had stopped in to get a vehicle for our vacation. There was business to attend to, but the manager had other things on his mind. We began by sharing his woes about the month-long lack of tourists to the island due to the swine flu scare. He explained that because the cruise ships were on “drive-by” and flights from America were scarce, the locals were really hurting for income. The tourist-driven economy was floundering and families were getting desperate.
As the conversation continued, our new friend, “Panda,” began to think back to an even worse time in the island’s history. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, decimated the area.
Panda described his terror as he tried to keep his family safe. As the head of a household which included his wife, two young children, and his mother (who had recently had surgery), he felt the tremendous weight of his responsibility. Wading in waist-deep water inside his home, Panda kept his family members atop tables and other furniture during three long days of torrential rains and Category 5 winds.
With the windows and doors boarded shut, they must have felt like Noah and his family, not knowing or seeing what exactly was happening. He and his wife quietly worried that they had only about one day’s worth of drinking water left and very little food.
With tears starting to form in his eyes at the memory, Panda described to us how fervently he prayed as the winds and rain pounded their house and the water continued to rise. As he went on, he shared how the Lord answered his prayers, and his family emerged from the storm unharmed.
We commented on how resilient the islanders were as they weathered the storms, both physical and economic, but kept right on working hard to make a good life. Having regained his composure, Panda shrugged and said, “That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.”
That one short sentence was stamped on my memory as if it were embossed. I considered Panda’s use of the word paradise. Surely, if there were a contest for places that meet the criteria of an earthly paradise, Cozumel would be in the running. The sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees make a delightful place to visit. But as our friend had reminded us, those who live there are still subject to the many cares and woes of this world.
We who know Christ will live in heaven for eternity: no more sickness, no more tears, no more money worries, and no more flood waters threatening to overcome. Just as Panda protected his family by putting them on a higher place, our Savior has provided a higher plane for us. He paid the ultimate price by giving His life for us, and we can live with Him forever. Now that’s Paradise!
6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
10 I rejoice[c] in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:6-13, New Revised Standard Version).
A little girl and her mother sat in church one Sunday. The preacher was about 10 minutes into the sermon when he said it, “And finally…” and he kept right on preaching. About five minutes later he said again, “And finally…” and the sermon continued. About five minutes later, he said for the third time, “And finally…” then the little girl turned to her mother and asked, “Mama what does that mean?” her mother whispered to her quietly, “Absolutely nothing.”
this morning I am going to use those words several times throughout the sermon. When I do, don’t think that because I say, “And finally,” or “And finally beloved,” the sermon is about to end. You may be pretty disappointed.
I use the words today because those words, “Finally beloved” are the words Paul often used to close his letters. Those words coupled by certain themes at the ends of the letters dealt with matters of Supreme importance for Paul. Many of Paul’s most important priorities are in those last few words at the close of his letters.
This morning, as we close our time together, that we would share some of those thoughts, and also a few thoughts of my own. We will refer to several of Paul’s letters today as we think and reflect a bit on these things that were important to Paul.
“And finally beloved, rejoice in the Lord.” in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” A christian’s life should be characterized by happiness. We are people who know the answer period we are people who have the answer period we know that we live by faith in Jesus Christ. That is the answer to a whole lot an complete life. And, when you have the answer to life’s primary, most important question, there is always reason to rejoice. The christian’s life should be characterized and marked by happiness , by joy. As people of faith we should radiate with optimism when we go through life looking and feeling as if our life is spent down in the pits. What does that say about our faith? What does it say about our answer for this life and the life to come?
Life can be hard. Bad things can happen in our lives. We don’t have to do anything more than watch the Evening News to see just how hard life can be. It’s been pretty hard these last few months with the corona-virus and all the issues surrounding it. Social distancing, the debate over wearing masks, whether or not businesses and other places we gather should be allowed to reopen, vaccines and cures, and on and on. There are economic problems as well as civil rights issues, civil disobedience issues, and general unrest. But, as people of faith we have the assurance that God is greater than our problems and the problems in the world. Life can be hard at times, but God is good all the time and all the time, God is good. We can celebrate and rejoice in God’s goodness. Remember too, the scriptures don’t say we should rejoice in difficulty or rejoice in pain or rejoice in problems or rejoice in tragedy. The scriptures say, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!”
David Suna and John Tu sold 80 percent of their tech company, Kingston Technology Corp. They made mostly computer memory products. For that 80 percent, Suna and Tu decided they would share their good fortune with their employees. The average bonus check was $75,000. Suna and Tu said the joy was not in the money. Joy came from two places. To know that all who contributed to the success was sharing in the rewards, everyone from the custodian to the CEO was awarded.
On its most basic level, being a Christian means being a person of joy. If we are truly filled with this joy, it should be on the brink of bubbling and gurgling out of us each day. A father asked a child why she liked her Sunday school teacher so much. She answered, “Because her eyes twinkle like she’s laughing inside all the time.” Jesus as our joy keeps the corners of our mouths perpetually turning up. Keep smiling!
What is it that gives you joy? What is out there that you can do to make your eyes sparkle. I always think of our Loose Threads group. The joy we share needs to be a joy everywhere for eve
For me it is working on a song. Sometimes that means guitar or piano and practice. Or, it might be writing something new or giving something old a make-over.
Beloved, rejoice in the Lord.
Finally, beloved, be strong in the Lord. Paul is sharing with the Ephesians. He knew they would face opposition from the secular world. As the Christian faith grew stronger, the pressure Christians faced from the Roman Empire grew more and more difficult. Life wasn’t easy for those to whom Paul wrote. There were many challenges in life during the biblical era. Some were physical. Others were spiritual. So, Paul wrote these words, “be strong in the Lord,” to encourage Christians of the day.
Being a Christian has never been easy. In recent years we have seen challenges to our faith. Today the church continues to face greater and greater opposition from secular society. There are challenges again and again to matters of faith. If something even smells of faith it can face immediate and fierce opposition. To stand firm in the faith means to be strong in the Lord.
I recently found a platform for writers and bloggers I had not previously known called Medium and no, it isn’t about connections to the spirit world, palm reading, or any of that kind of thing. It is a vast number of writers, sharing thoughts on a wide variety of topics.
One of the first pieces I read was written by a lady named BeBe Nicholson. She titled her piece “Hostility Toward Christianity is Growing.” In the article Ms. Nicholson addresses some argument’s used by those who have left the church. Being hurt by the church, Christianity being most responsible for most of the wars in history and therefore responsible for huge numbers of deaths, Christians are judgmental, and Christians are intolerant. The Church is far from perfect. I am pretty sure we can all agree on that. After all, the Church isn’t the building, it’s the people and because people in general tend to be judgmental about various things, we can be intolerant. But what some see as intolerance can also be understood as living under the tenants of faith.
Nicholson uses the example of a Supreme Court case as an illustration about the hostility faced by the Church.
Atheists objected to a cross erected over 100 years ago as a memorial to soldiers killed during the first World War. Wanting the memorial removed the group fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court who ruled that there was no Constitutional violation.
A group of atheists launched a billboard campaign in parts of the country last Christmas with the slogan, “Just skip church; it’s all fake news.” Why do unbelievers care if Christians go to church?
Most ironic of the information surrounding the article was the ferocity of the comments made about the article. Those who accuse Christians of judging were judging themselves.
In responding to my comments, she wrote, “Well said Rev. Broyles! Thanks for weighing in with your thoughtful and thought-provoking statements in what turned out to be an unexpectedly controversial post. Even I, who wrote the essay, wasn’t aware of the level of hostility that is actually out there until I read the responses to my article.
Friends we must maintain our focus and our spiritual strength. Beloved be strong in the Lord.
Finally, beloved, pray for us. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gives them this instruction. It is important period probably the greatest thing one Christian can do for another is to pray. Intercession is one of the finest acts the Christian performs. Our prayer life should be of central importance to our whole life. When we are in prayer we are truly a servant a servant of God and a servant to neighbor we are called to be people of prayer.
A few years ago, I had an epiphany. I came to the realization that I was not the man of prayer many people believed me to be. People would ask me to pray. I would tell them I would do so and then, many times, I never did. I wasn’t really lying to people or at least that wasn’t my intention. I always intended to pray for the people needing prayer and then life happened. I got busy with fifteen other things and that request I had committed to? Yeah, it was gone.
So, I started doing two things and I want to challenge you to make them part of your prayer routine too. First, when someone asks me to pray, I try very hard to stop what I am doing right then and pray with that person. If it is a request online, email or the church’s prayer page, I try to type a prayer in right then, when I see it. Again, at times I put it off and forget all together. When that happens, I am reminded of the importance of praying right then. And, if someone calls me on the phone asking for prayer, we take the time to stop and pray. I want to ask you to not just remember but since I started doing that, I have seen the difference it makes for the person asking for prayer. Before, they hoped I and others were praying for them, with this practice, they know we are praying.
Beloved, pray for us. Pray for each other period pray for the world around us. We are called to pray.
Finally beloved, “…What things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, think on these things.” If we are to live the kind of lives God calls us to live, all of the things on that list or must. Our hearts must be on the things of God. We must have high ideals and deep convictions in our personal lives. We must decide on clean speech, pure motives, and the highest integrity that is beyond question.
Joseph Parker, a former pastor in London, wrote that on one occasion the great concert pianist Ignace Paderewski came to London to give a concert. Parker, quite an accomplished pianist himself, went to hear the concert. The pastor was so moved by what he heard he did a very strange thing when he came home he stood by his piano, called to his wife, and said, “bring me an axe! Today I heard great music for the first time ever. By comparison what I can do amounts to nothing at all. I feel like chopping my piano to pieces.”
Parker could never be Paderewski simply by following his example period to do so, he would need Paderewski’s hands and mind and heart and yes, even his soul.
It is much the same in the Christian life. We can never live up to the life of Jesus. And, his example could lead us to great desperation. Or, we can use his example. His life, that is in each of us to inspire us on to greater things, to a greater life, to the high ideals and motives and integrity that should be part of every Christian’s faith walk. In Jesus we find our strength, power, and motivation.
Beloved what things are true honest just pure of good report think on these things.
Finally, beloved, farewell. Be perfect. These were Paul’s words that closed his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. As people of faith we know being perfect does not mean being sinless. What I think it does mean is to live as a complete child of God. It means to be everything God calls us to be. It means to live whole, well rounded Christian lives. It means we are called to live in perfect love.
A goat wanted more than anything in the world to be a lion. He didn’t want to be like a lion, he wanted to be a lion. He told himself if he could learn to walk like a lion, talk like a lion, and go where Lions go, he’d be a lion. So, he crouched down and practiced stalking through the jungle. He tried to switch his stubby little tail majestically as Lions do. Then he worked on how to turn his pitiful little bleat into the deep awesome roar of the King of beasts. He worked and he worked, and he worked. Finally, he convinced himself, he really looked and sounded like a lion. “Now,” he said, “all I have left to do to be a lion is to go where Lions go.” So, he marched into lion territory one day about lunchtime. You can imagine what happened. It was a total disaster.
To be perfect we can’t just think we are Christians. We have to act like it. We have to look like it. We have to be it. Try as much as he wanted the goat couldn’t look like a lion by the same token, we can’t look like Christians if we’re not actually Christian. We may be able to fool some people sometimes, but we will never fool the King. We cannot be perfect if we are not who God created us and calls us to be.
To be Christian, to be perfect, shows in our joy. It shows in our prayer life. It shows in our priorities. It shows, not because of what we do, but because of what God does in us . It shows because our strength comes from God.
Beloved farewell. Be perfect.
So, I close by saying just a few more final words, and these are my words, not Paul’s. And finally, beloved, I take my leave with the hope and prayer that you will always stand firm in your faith. May your days be filled with joy and your life filled with God’s grace and strength. Follow only the things that come from God. Live a full and whole Christian life. Cindy and I covet your prayers as I begin new work in Nacogdoches and we want you to know, our prayers are with you. we bid you Farewell, with his grace and peace. We will love you always.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2:14-17, New Revised Standard Version)
Today’s submission is from Mike Derricott.
Mike was in fifth grade when it happened. He lived in Alberta Canada where they have real winter. The day was a cold, snowy but regular day in the morning. At lunch it became a different matter. For whatever the reason (Mike said he didn’t remember why) a classmate named Jeremy, decided Wednesday was a good day to rearrange my face. good beating (I honestly have no recollection of what had caused the discord). Both boys were about the same size so Nick wasn’t concerned. Mike found out Jeremy’s “HUGE” cousin, as he slammed Jeremy into a locker.
The rest of the day flew by for Mike as he dreaded the afternoon bell. He decided when school was out he was just going to head straight for the bus but when he got to the door, those who sought to see him dead were already there so he turned around and went back and made his way to his locker to retrieve his coat hat and mittens.
As Mike made his way back to the bus and his date with destiny and death as he would now have to face both David and Goliath. As he walked he ran into one of his good friends who knew something wasn’t right. After Mike told the story, his friend wanted to help. He came up with the idea of the two swapping coats and hats. His friend was the fasted kid in school. When they reached the door he would take off at a dead run, pulling them away and giving Mike a chance to get to the bus.
Mike didn’t think the plan would work, but it did. The friend hit the door running and Marshall and his cousin were after him. Mike got on the bus and watched the chase. Mike’s friend made a quick turn, causing the cousin to slip and fall. Jeremy kept up the chase but not for long and Mike’s friend made it safely home and Mike sat safely on the bus.
Mike was amazed by the courage his friend showed though his friend never saw the same danger that was Mike’s perception. And, Mike knows now that his life was never really in danger. But he also knows it was a risk his friend didn’t have to take. Now, years later, the two are still best friends. This was his lollipop moment.
Lollipop moments, those times when someone gives another person a life-changing, life-altering blessing.
I heard about the lollipop-moment a couple of days ago while watching TED talks. It originated with a man named Drew Dudley. He didn’t even remember the event that was the lollipop moment for a young woman who was attending college. When he heard the story, it inspired him so deeply he has made lollipop moments his mission (you can hear more from him in this short TED Talk).
Graffiti Church, in the East Village of New York City started out their existence doing a unique lollipop ministry. They went into businesses and cleaned their bathrooms. The proprietor, a man from the Middle East with poor English skills was brought to tears by what the church did. He became a Christian and a part of that congregation.
Lollipop moments are moments of leadership but they can also be evangelism moments. God can be at work. You and I need to watch to figure out ways we can create opportunities for others in our Lollipop Moments.
To get ourselves into the habit of watching what people are doing, until we can save our own lists/criteria, perhaps this list from Drew Dudley might be helpful. This is, at least in part how he evaluates his day.
What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership? (To operationalize impact)
What have I done today to make it more likely I will learn something? (To operationalize continuous improvement)
What have I done today to make it more likely someone else will learn something? (To operationalize mentorship)
What positive thing have I said about someone to her or his face today? (To operationalize empowerment)
What positive thing have I said about someone who isn’t even in the room? (Also to operationalize recognition)
What have I done today to be good to myself? (To operationalize self-respect)
In the end, Lollipop Moments can have significant impact on us. More importantly, Lollipop Moments impact and often profoundly change the lives of those around us. As a Christian leader, making a difference in people’s lives is exactly what I want to do.
Seeking the Genuine, Keith
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord,30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34, Common English Bible)
Yesterday we talked about Drew Dudley, a guy giving away lollipops to people during college registration. While jokingly playing “matchmaker” with his supply of lollipops, he was just out having some fun. He had no idea they would take him seriously. The girl found Dudley on campus four years later. She tells Dudley that she and the guy started dating and had kept dating all four years of school. She tells Dudley he had made a difference for at least one student, her. That day, she was ready to give up before she ever started. Drew and that lollipop made a huge difference for her. And the biggest part of the story? Drew Dudley could not remember the encounter with the girl and her now boyfriend?
About six years ago, every Wednesday I went to the local elementary school and listened to kids read all day. Most of them were behind grade level and the teacher thought reading to me might get them move closer to grade level.
When Julius’ teacher came in, she said she was going to send him to me. He was three grade levels behind in reading. For the whole school year, I listened to Julius read. We would talk and he told me he was afraid he would be taken from his family. He and his six siblings lived with grandma. His mom was in jail. No one knew who his dad was. The two of us just talked.
One day after I had finished listening his teacher came in to take Julius came in to take Julius back to class. She sent the boy back to class, She said, “I want you to know how much you have helped him.” She reminded me that at the beginning of the year, he was three grade levels behind. At the end of the year he was back on grade level. I told the teacher that Julius’ improvement had more to do with her than with me. She was with him five days a week. I was with him for an hour.
She said he also went from being a behavioral problem to a model student. She was convinced it was because he had a positive male role model. That was something new to his life.
I knew what I was doing mattered. If it didn’t I would have found something different to do with my Wednesdays.
Steve was a student in my government and economics classes. I also had him in my psychology and sociology classes. Steve said he wanted to be a psychologist when he finished school.
He was the first student I met at that school. Once school started I saw some problems in his writing. It wasn’t a huge deal but he and others struggled with their writing. Because of that struggle, I had them write more than I might have otherwise. One day, write after I had given them a writing assignment, Steve asked, “Have you ever thought about being an English teacher and writing coach?”
Steve and I talked one day this week. Steve is the only one of my former students that I talk with. I wanted to see how he felt about his first year of college went. He said it was great. He was particularly thankful that I had pushed him in both of my classes. He said, “Whether you know it or not, you have made a difference for me.
Lollipop moments are those times when we make a difference with those around us. I am thrilled to hear someone say I made a difference. That is what I do. That is how we do it. I love talking about how these kids have touched my life. I pray the mark I leave behind is a changed life. Changed lives are my goal in life.
So, what can we do to impact lives and change lives to figure out ways we can go out, and with God’s help have lollipop moments.
Volunteer to tutor math or reading at your local school
Clean up a park
Buy a meal and give it to a homeless person
Give a homeless person get clothes from a thrift shop. Help twice.
Sew blankets for kids in the foster-care system
Smile at someone who is obviously having a bad day
Work with an elementary school teacher to have a class birthday party during school one day and celebrate everyone’s birthday.
Go to the local nursing home and do something directly with residents
Go to the local nursing home sometime that isn’t Christmas
Teach someone something.
I have barely scratched the surface of what these moments might look like. You can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be big it just needs to show you care.
Seeking the Genuine, Keith
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
13 Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13, Common English Bible).
I enjoy Texas Barbecue. I know, some of you don’t think Texas has a real barbecue. You’re wrong. I have had your barbecue too. What you have is good, You can call it barbecue (like I could stop you). Something is missing. It isn’t the meat. I think the meat is generally prepared the same (If I am wrong, don’t beat me up over it. I am trying to give you credit).
That leaves the sauce. There are differences in the sauce. I am not sure what all the differences are, but there are four basic categories. There are vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, and tomato-based. There are different sauces within each category.
Texas sauce is tomato-based. So, for me, the others may taste good, they are a nice change of pace, but without that tomato base, something is missing.
One night Cindy picked up ribs or some other meat we Texans cook on a fire and pour our barbecue sauce on. I got the pit ready and make some homemade sauce. No bottled sauce from the grocery store was going on these ribs.
I was right. That sauce was outstanding. I loved it. It was good. You folks who want other sauces, you missed out that night.
Fast forward a month or so. Cindy brought barbecue meat home again. I got excited. I was going to make that great sauce again. After I got the meat on the fire I went to the kitchen to make the sauce. I had a problem. I didn’t think I would it but I did. I didn’t write anything down. I pulled out the ingredients. I thought I put the same amount of the same ingredients into the pan, heated them up, and tried it. It wasn’t right. It was off. I added some of this or that. Tasted it again and it still wasn’t right. I kept trying and I couldn’t get it right. It was like one of those other sauces. It wasn’t what it should be.
Life can be like that. Our society values the idea of personal independence, the idea of rugged individualism. We want to say, “I did this on my own. I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps. I don’t need anyone or anything.” We push people away thinking I am an island unto myself.
We are wrong. None of us are islands unto ourselves. None of us do it by ourselves. There are teachers, coaches, friends, spouses, parents, bosses, coworkers, and more. Would the concert pianist be that without a teacher? What about parents taking the student to lessons?
We also miss out spiritually. We think about happy lives, but we are missing something. When people walk away from faith because of wrongs seen in others (and there is plenty of mistakes to see in us as we are human) but we miss the things of God giving life real meaning.
When we give up on those things and try to make our way alone, we look for ways to fill the holes in our lives. We try to fill it with other things. Drugs and alcohol, self-medicating and when we fail, double down with more of the same. It doesn’t work. To quote an old Johnny Lee, song, we’re “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.”
What is missing is on us. We miss relationships. We miss connections. We isolate ourselves from others and from God.
Our lesson tells us about three important needs, faith, hope, and love. Paul says the most important of the three is love. Without having relationships we miss the mark. We need friends and family supporting us but also will tell us we are wrong. These are people bringing love to our lives.
What we really need most is God. Why? Because Scripture tells us God is love. Without love, particularly divine love, faith is impossible and real hope, a hope that says I have no reason to fear, is equally out of reach.
I don’t understand how someone can live life without God’s presence in them. Without God in us, there is no faith. Without God, hope is small, but where God is, there is always hope.
This isn’t barbecue sauce. Barbecue sauce may taste OK without a key ingredient but there is something important, a missing ingredient that keeps it from being as great as it should be.
Paul says, “Faith, hope, and love abide these three…” When one is missing, we may think life is good. But it is a feeling that won’t last. Without any of the three, especially love life won’t be all it could or should be.
Open your heart to accept the faith, hope and love God offers. You needn’t have any missing ingredients. They are all available to each of us.
Seeking the Genuine, Keith
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved