The Flat Jesus Project

The Flat Jesus Project So Far

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:10-11, New Living Translation)

On the Sunday before I officially became the pastor at Perritte Memorial, Cindy and I attended worship there. One of the announcements talked about Vacation Bible School for this summer.

Like just about every church in the country, many of the ministry programs, including Vacation BIble School, Perritte was having to rethink the approach to VBS and many of their ministry programs. How could we have VBS when we have to worry about social distancing, keeping things clean constantly, and keeping masks on kids? Trying to do VBS fully online wasn’t really an answer either. Too many kids don’t have internet access. Any church wouldn’t want to leave other kids behind.

That Sunday I heard a new idea. I had not heard of “The Flat Jesus Project” until that day. We got a sheet with three copies of, “Flat Jesus.” The instructions were to color the flat Jesus and cut him out. Then we had a calendar with different assignments each day. July 7th assignment was seven. Find a way for Flat Jesus to communicate seven. On the fourth of July the assignment was “patriotic.”

With the assignment set up, we are to use a cell phone to take a picture and send that picture to our education chair. She in turn is putting them on the church Facebook page.

I got to thinking about it and decided I needed to participate in VBS. I colored three flat Jesus (Yes, I colored them) and started doing the daily assignments. My pictures are above.

As I thought about it, something kept gnawing at me. I kept thinking there was something else I needed to do. My mind went to “Bible” in Vacation Bible School. I decided to start including a Bible verse with the picture of the day.

I write this to recommend “The Flat Jesus Project” to any who are still looking for an approach to Vacation Bible School or other children’s ministry. Today, as much as anytime before, finding ways to demonstrate Jesus to the children of the Church and all the children of God need us all to think creatively during these difficult times.

Whether you use “The Flat Jesus Project” or not is up to you. How each of us go about doing God’s work in the world today is up to each of us to use the gifts God has entrusted to us to serve all of God’s people that we can help them on their journey with God.

For years I have had a good time in my various congregations with the children of the church. One time I had orange hair and another time pink hair by the time it was over. Yet another time, I had no hair and not even a beard. I might have liked that back in May when I was really wanting a haircut.

The thing is, for now at least, I can’t have that kind of fun with the kids like I have with VBS for years. Now I need to find ways to make a difference in the life of the kids in my community. I think I can do that with “The Flat Jesus Project.” Do you want to join us?

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

A Eucharistic Prayer for the Global Pandemic

A Eucharistic Prayer for the Global Pandemic

We are on Facebook Live at  https://www.facebook.com/perritteumc/

6:00PM     Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Pastor Rev. J. Keith Broyles, D. Min.

1025 Durst St (18.71 mi)
Nacogdoches, Texas 75964

936-422-4362

Introductory Words from Pastor

Tonight, we are experiencing Communion in a new way. Though we may be apart, we are still together as family by our baptism. We, members of God’s family join together as people of one heart and mind, though physically we have miles between us. Our presence Together is marked by sharing in praise and prayer, our shared hearing and affirming of God’s word, and now our shared eating.

As we share in the Great Thanksgiving, you will see, “The family:” Please respond with the words that follow.

The Great Thanksgiving

The Pastor: The peace and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us.

So, we lift up our hearts. And the family says, “We lift them up to God.”

The Family: “We lift them up to God!”

The Pastor: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God, because it is the right thing to do, not only now, but always – day after day after day.

The Family: “Day after day after day.”

The Pastor: We thank you, God, that you made us in your image, and breathed into us the breath of life. When we turned away, our love failing, and our bodies diseased, you reached out to us again and again, providing healing, wholeness, and new life.

When the flood came, you provided an ark. When the plagues came you provided safety. When evening came, you provided a pillar of fire. When exile came, you provided a new song. Day after day, your love remained steadfast. And the family says: Day after day after day.

The Family: “Day after day after day.”

The Pastor: And so, with your people on earth, and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn.

The Family: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! God of power and might!”

The Pastor: Heaven and Earth are full of your glory.

The Family: “Heaven and Earth are full of your glory.”

The Pastor: Hosanna in the Highest!

The Family: “Hosanna in the Highest!”

The Pastor: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our God.

The Pastor: Blessed is your Son who came to preach the good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, freed the oppressed, and announced that the time had come when you would save your people. He healed the sick.

The Family: “He healed the sick.”

The Pastor: He is healing the sick now.

The Family: “He is healing the sick now.”

The Pastor: He will heal the sick, day after day after day.

The Family: “Day after day after day.”

The Pastor: On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Let us be a community of healers and hope givers, as together we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died.

The Family: “Christ has died.”

The Pastor: Christ is risen.

The Family: “Christ is risen.”

The Pastor: Christ will come again.

The Family: “Christ will come again.”

The Pastor: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Let them be for us the body and blood of Christ, so that we may be for the world the body of Christ, made whole by his witness, passion, and life. In this season of social distancing, may you remind us that we are never spiritually distant from You? We belong to your body.

The Family: “We belong to your body.”

The Pastor: May the Spirit use us to heal and reconcile in Jesus name,

The Family: “We will heal and reconcile in Jesus name.”

The Pastor: And now Holy Spirit make us one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.

The Family: “Amen!”

The Lord’s Prayer

The Breaking of the Bread

The Pastor: This bread reminds us that any life, no matter how broken, or sick, or distorted it may become, can be made whole again.

The Pouring of the Cup

The Pastor: The cup reminds us that any life, no matter how empty, or lonely, or isolated it may become, can be filled again. These are the gifts of God, for the family of God.”

The Family: “Thanks be to God.”

Invitation

The Pastor: I invite you to prayerfully partake in Holy Communion by whatever means you have.

Prayer After Receiving

The Pastor: Day after day after day you give yourself to us: in two or three gathered in your name, in connection across the miles, and in bread and wine. As we go from this gathering around your table, may we feel restored to your body, companioned by your people, and sustained by the power of your Spirit as we witness to your healing and reconciling work. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Worshiping Stella

Worshiping Stella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

My Heart Grieves

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39, New International Version)

As I write this it is Sunday afternoon. After a joyful first Sunday at Perritte Memorial UMC, I was talking with a few people in my new congregation and Cindy’s telephone rang. It was my niece. By hearing Cindy’s end of the conversation I knew something was wrong.

What I thought I was hearing proved to be correct. My brother-in-law had suddenly passed away. We are never ready for these kind of things but they happen. They happen to all of us.

Victor Campbell was one of the good guys. It hadn’t always been that way. Victor would be the first to tell you he was a recovering alcoholic whose misdeeds while drinking had put him in prison. But he got it together and became a man of great faith.

He was an astute student of the Bible. He studied regularly and in depth. He and I had several theological and Scriptural discussions over the years. We might not always agree but we did always respect one another’s perspective.

Vic was a man of prayer. If there was a special prayer need, I could call Vic or my sister and ask for prayer. I knew there were a couple of people in central Texas praying for whatever the need might be.

When Vic married Brenda, the two were both strong in faith and prayer. Their’s was a great relationship with God and each other.

Victor also understood that he needed a life partner who was a woman of faith. He found that in my sister. Brenda’s faith has always been strong. She has always been a strong person of faith. Vic saw that in her too.

I was honored to officiated their wedding. Last week Cindy and I were talking. She asked me if I remembered how long Brenda and Vic had been married. I said, “I don’t know, 10 years or so.” I was wrong. They were married 18 years. It doesn’t seem that long ago.

He was a man who helped however he could for the people around him. When she has needed it, my Mom was able to call on him for help since we lost my dad a few years back. Living hours away, I have always been thankful he was there.

No matter how well, or how long we know someone, at times like this we learn something new about them. Before I started writing this I went out on my sister’s Facebook page searching for a picture of Victor to use here. I found the one above. I never knew Vic played the guitar until I saw that picture. During the midst of the quarantine he led his family in an Easter Sunrise service, including leading the music himself.

Victor was also a business man. He started his own dry-wall business before he and Brenda married. He worked hard at being fair to his customers and provide them with good service. Vic didn’t do the day to day dry wall work anymore. He had crews for that, but he knew his business and bid the jobs so his crews made money and so did he. Sometimes strong honest business men are hard to find. There is one less today.

The Scripture above is my favorite in all the Bible. “What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?” To paraphrase Paul, not a blessed thing. I don’t know if my sister will read this or not. She has much more on her mind than what her brother puts on his blog right now. Still, nothing will separate Victor from the Love of God in Christ Jesus, not even death itself. Nothing will separate Brenda from the Love of God in Christ Jesus, not even Victor’s death. As she walks through the days ahead she has her family to walk with her but most importantly the Holy Spirit walks with her, God walks with her. She can lean on us, but she needs to remember that she can lean on God too.

When any of us face losses like my family faces this weekend with Victor’s death, we need to remember that nothing separates us from the love of God. We have our families to lean on. We have people of faith to lean on. We have God who is ready to hold us tight and walk us through this dark valley.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church July 5, 2020

Sermon: Where in the World is Elwood?

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

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

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

Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church

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

Mailing Address

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

Physical Address

1025 Durst St
Nacogdoches, TX 75964-5063

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

Where in the World is Elwood?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

A Reckoning Coming?

By Drew Weber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peaceful Breath of Life

by Kay Brightwell

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning Abba Father,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In His Service,
Kay 

Copyright, 2020, Kay Brightwell, All Rights Reserved

All Scripture References are from the New International Version

Called – Send Me

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

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

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

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

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

How have you felt enfolded into God’s love?

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

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

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

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

A Surprise Reaction

By Rev. Dr. Emma Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

Be Blessed this Day.
Rev. Dr. Emma Richardson