Smart and Not Afraid: Fear Factor

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, 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, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 New Revised Standard Version)

When I was doing youth work during my first two years of seminary, I had a set of rules I gave the kids. Initially there were four. I told them if they would follow those four rules I wouldn’t have to make up any more. Yeah, they tested me and I did have to make up a few more. The new ones and three of the original four don’t matter for our purpose today but the last rule said, “God gave you a brain, please use it. If you think it might get you in trouble it probably will. Don’t do it.

Once upon a time NBC television show called Fear Factor? We never watched it much. The first time I saw it, I knew I wasn’t going to watch much. I knew they were in constant violation of Keith’s last rule. God gave you a brain please use it.

Contestants were challenged to do things that seemed more than just a little frightening. There were no snakes that first show but I knew it was coming. Too many of us have that fear.

I got no push back from Cindy. Her fear is heights. Christopher did give us some push back but that was to be a teenager giving his parents a hard time.

I wouldn’t have participated in the show. The prize money was $50,000 and that isn’t enough. Even without snakes, there were scorpions, bugs, maggots, and worms to name only a few.

I question the sanity of bee keepers allowing bees to cover his their face giving them a bee beard. I am not worried about getting stung by a bee. I have been stung before and probably will again. It isn’t pleasant But, to be stung by hundreds of bees. No.

They might had contestants dangle from a rope, attached to a helicopter 100 feet in the air if the scorpions, bugs, or snakes were not enough. After a few years they started running out of ideas and had contestants start eating and drinking things most of which were just plain disgusting. If you don’t know, trust me on this one. You DON’T want to know.

In 2017, MTV ran the show. The stunts became even more extreme, and more disgusting. In 2018 Fear Factor got cancelled for the final time. Eating bugs, carrying worms in their mouths, being covered in maggots all fall into that category of, what were you thinking, God gave you a brain, use it.

Last week we began a sermon series, “Smart and Not Afraid.” We talked about fear and how it isn’t a bad thing. Want to be tough and not afraid of anything. We talked about researchers reporting on benefits fear can bring to life and at the top of the list was, fear keeps you safe.

God gave us fear. Though my fear of snakes sits squarely in line with an irrational fear, Snakes can kill a person and they scare me. That isn’t the irrational part. Snakes on television or in a movie scaring me is. I won’t watch Snakes on a Plane or Anaconda those titles mean that movie is rated “K” for Keith stay out.

That’s where that youth group rule enters into Fear Factor. If I am irrationally afraid of snakes, that rule says, “God gave you a brain, please use it.” Don’t do something you fear, at least not without a plan it could bring harm to someone.

In Scripture, Jesus and others say, “Don’t be afraid.” At times, all of us are afraid. OK, not Jesus and probably not the angels, but the rest of us have fears. If you think your not afraid, you just haven’t found it. We are afraid of something.

Last week Paul said, to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” There are only a few times in Scripture where fear might be thought of as a good thing. In the Old Testament particularly, the words “fear God” or “Jacob feared God” are used. That fear is considered more respect and awe. But, make no mistake, there should be a little fear of God’s power there too.

Last week I said, every time I preach there are a butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I can go be a public speaker in front of a big crowd and not be bothered. My fear is not public speaking. When I stand here, there is a tinge of fear because I know I speak for God. When you speak for the creator of the universe, if there isn’t fear, go sit down. This isn’t your calling.

In today’s lesson, Paul asks, in the Keith paraphrased version, “If God is on our side, can anyone or anything stand against us?” Think about that. If God is for us can our greatest fears be against us? Paul continues “God did not keep Jesus on the bench, even knowing what awaited Jesus God gave him for us. If God would do that, if God loved us that much, is there anything God wouldn’t give us, the faithful? If God says we are acceptable , can anyone bring anything against us? No! Christ died, Christ was raised, and now Christ is at God’s right side, speaking for us. Isn’t that a kick. No matter what we have done, no matter what we have or not have, Jesus is sitting with God and talking us up. Can anything, Paul asks, separate us from the love of God in Christ? Can trouble, suffering, hard times, hunger, nakedness, danger, I am going adding fear, or even death?

 No, Paul says, we who run scared, we with irrational fears, are conquerors who win a sweeping victory by faith, by grace, because Jesus loves us.

Still in the Keith paraphrased version Paul goes on, NOTHING SEPARATES us from God’s love—not life, death, angels spirits, the present past, or future, not powers above or below, NOT EVEN OUR FEARS. Nothing, nothing in the universe can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ!

Ingrid Betancourt camaigned to be president of Colombia when she was kidnapped by guerrillas. They held her in the jungle for six years. With fear her companion, she learned to use it and grow. They carried her into the jungle. She thought they would kill her first she thought. The first night the guerrillas put an iron collar around her neck and bolted her to a tree, high enough that her toes barely touched the ground. There she stayed all night with one sadistic guard watching her. He tormented her all night, degrading her, and stirring up all her fear and emotion.

New days meant continued torment . Every night fear ruled her. She had panic attacks, tremors, and cold sweats. The more fear shown, the more her tormentor played on her worst feelings. One day she vowed to kill him. For weeks she plotted and looked for opportunities to execute the plan. One day she stopped. She said she wouldn’t allow herself to become one of them and began living in defiance. Things were difficult she wasn’t going to allow them to turn her into something she was not.

Not long after her moment they carried her further into the jungle. They built a concentration camp with twelve foot high walls topped with barbed wire and guard towers in each corner.

She overcame using many principles and lifted up three. The first was to be guided by her ideals. They wouldn’t turn her into something she wasn’t. fter arriving at the camp someone yelled for the captives to number off. When at her turn she yelled, “I am Ingrid Betancourt. I am not a number, I have a name. If you want to know I am here, call me by my name.” The guards went crazy but it was nothing compared to the hostages. They feared she would get them into trouble. But, she was living out of her ideals. She was human. The others were too. She wouldn’t give up anyone’s humanity.

Her second principle was, to build unity. The guards new their jobs and they did them well. They manipulated with fear, mistrust, whatever would tear them apart and make them feel alone and isolated. She worked repairing damage. Her first escape attempt was with Lucho. They tied themselves together. By day they hid. At night they got into water with alligators and piranha, allowing the current to carry them downstream. Lucho was diabetic. They slowed and when he became sick, and the guerrillas caught them. Because she stayed with Lucho unity grew among her and the captives. She couldn’t leave Lucho behind Her ideals wouldn’t allow it.

The third principal, develop faith. Ingrid said by this point she had a master’s degree in escape. One captive, a former police officer she called Pincho, was held the longest. He asked her to help him escape. She was surprised. He was more afraid than anyone. They first had to teach him to swim, not easy for a prisoner. One day he asked Ingrid, “Suppose I am in the jungle and wander in circles unable to find my way out. What do I do?” Sbe said, “Pincho, grab a phone. Call the man upstairs.” He said, “I don’t believe in God.” Her response was classic. “God doesn’t care, He’ll help you anyway.” A few days later, Pincho was gone. The guards said Pincho died, claiming finding his body half eaten by an anaconda. Seventeen days passed. Ingrid knew because she had counted each torturous day. On day 17, news exploded from the radio: Pincho was free and alive They heard him say, “My fellow hostages are listening. Ingrid, I did what you said. I called the man upstairs, and he sent a patrol that rescued me.”

Not long afterward, the Colombian army rescued all the hostages. It was six years for Ingrid. She learned the transformation power of the principles she learned, to live by her ideals, to foster unity, and develop faith. Ingrid always felt fear. It wasn’t about not having fear. It was about surviving. Without ideals she wouldn’t have fostered unity and without unity she wouldn’t have had the faith carrying her and others through.

I believe she also lived out my last rule. She used the brain God gave her to do all those things. To do otherwise, the person she had been wouldn’t survive. And, most importantly, she knew that NOTHING would separate her from the Love of God in Christ Jesus her Lord.

_____

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Give Thanks Everyday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Smart and not Afraid: Lessons from a Turtle

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18 and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18, New Revised Standard Version).

Giuseppe’s granddaughter and Bill’s mother was a four-years-old when the Great Depression began. One day in 1930 Giuseppe brought home a pair of box turtles for Bill’s mother. Giuseppe fenced in the yard to keep the turtles in. As was for most pets during the great profession, the turtles, ate whatever the family ate. They named the male Horace. Bill, the author of the story said he regrettably never asked why an Italian family would pick such a name for their pet turtle. His best guess was that there had been an Italian poet of some note named Horace.

Bill said he never knew the name of the female who, around 1950 escaped the fenced in backyard. They found the turtle at the neighbor’s home who refused to give it back. So then it was one box turtle, Horace, and Giuseppe reinforced the fence.

In 1990, Bill’s great-grandfather Giuseppe, was long deceased and his grandfather was recently deceased. His grandmother decided to sell her home and Horace’s habitat in New York and get a much smaller place near her sister in New Jersey. She called Bill and asked him to take over the now 60-year-old box turtle. He agreed and with a friend’s help and some books and articles about building an outdoor habitat for a box turtle, Bill did just that.

Over the next 25 years, Bill said he learned a lot about turtles. Horace is on a healthier diet these days. His people don’t feed him table scraps. He eats a balanced died of fruits and vegetables and worms and bugs. The article Bill wrote was published in 2012. About that time, Horace lost a leg to a predator. Bill’s daughter made a comment to Bills story about Horace in 2013 and said Bill came through his hibernation fine. I could find nothing new about Horace since 2013.

Until reading Horace’s story and doing some research for this sermon, I had no idea how long box turtles lived. They are right there with talking birds and us!!!

I learned box turtles don’t travel far from where they are born. If a human picks one up in the woods and carries it home to be a pet, the turtle has some kind of homing mechanism built in and will work itself quite literally to death trying to walk home. Turtles have no concept of glass and will beat itself up trying to get past the glass and go home.

I learned that turtles hibernate. As a reptile, they don’t handle the cold so they hibernate. I always thought turtles like we see around here were amphibians. I never thought about them as a reptile though that one doesn’t surprise me. Their periods of hibernation are vitally important to them and they can lose as much as a quarter of their body weight during hibernation.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the most vulnerable time in a turtle’s life is when they are young. After they are hatched, for several months their shells are not fully hardened. Some predators like alligators and crocodiles can, if they have unusually strong jaws, break the shell of an adult, any can break the shell of a hatchling. Only 20 percent of hatchlings live part their first year. But, if they make it past the first year, living to a very old age improves dramatically. It is not uncommon for turtle to live to be 100 years old.

When I started on this search for turtle data, I wasn’t really looking for much of what I have said this morning. I was focused on finding one thing. I remember as a kid, when me and my friends would play with a turtle, we knew as soon as we picked it up, we would startle the turtle and legs, feet, claws, tail, and head would all be pulled into the shell and that shell was closed and locked just about as good as a bank after closing time. Oh, that was something else I learned, not every turtle can pull itself into its shell. Only the box turtle can close itself up tight.

So I knew a turtle retreated into its shell when it was scared. I wanted to know the other times a turtle hid out in its shell. There were two I found and both are related. Neither was surprising. The first is to sleep. I guess I always assumed when looking at a turtle when I wa a kid that they were still fearful so they had not come back out. It is likely that at least some of that time they were asleep. The other is to hibernate. Since I didn’t know turtles hibernated, I also didn’t know they did that in their shells.

Turtles hide themselves well when they sleep. They bury down and hide themselves VERY well when they hibernate. Aside from their first year, hibernation and sleep are the two most dangerous times for a turtle. Sure, they have the protection of their shell but they are still very vulnerable.

I have give quite a bit of thought lately to the turtle’s hangout, its shell, its house. They are there to hibernate and fight off the cold of winter. They are there to sleep. And, they go there when they are afraid.

In those ways, we are a lot like a turtle only we don’t carry that house around with us. I think of the proverbial story of the tortoise and the hare, no wonder tortoise was slow. More than a quarter of its body weight is that house he or she carries around on their back.

We may not carry a shell around but we still find ourselves seeking the shelter of our homes. Just as the turtle needs the security of its shell to protect it from predators during its vulnerable times, we seek that same kind of security.

The turtle’s world is pretty scary. They have many different natural predators and when those vulnerable times come, they place themselves in the best possible position to survive. The box turtle pulls itself tightly into its shell and seals themselves in. When ready to sleep, the turtle may push itself into a hollowed log or up under leaves.

When we are at home and about ready to go to sleep we go around the house and make sure everything is closed up and locked. We want that additional level of security.

For the turtle, the desire is just like us. The turtle wants to make itself as secure as possible before it goes to sleep. First under leaves or plants or wood, pull in the head and the extremities, close up the shell and then sleep.

Hibernation is a bit different. Because the cold weather makes a difference, the heart rate slows, temperature changes, other things in their body changes. The place where turtles set up for winter may or may not be more secure than where they slept the night before but to bury itself or close the ends of that hollow log added make that place warmer and more comfortable for hibernating. In the cold, with all the physical changes for the turtle, they are at risk to the cold. The best line of defense from predators is to disappear. The best defense from the cold is to add layers of protection around the shell and then pull up inside the shell.

Of course, you and I don’t hibernate. That being said, when cold weather rolls around, we often do sleep longer. We spend more time inside because it is more comfortable. Much like a box turtle, when we head for our sleep time in winter, we do make sure the house is closed up and locked. We make sure that the household heating devises are operating appropriately, meaning off if that is what should happen, and throw an extra blanket or two on the bed. They keep us as warm and the weight gives us comfort. Our Loose Threads group understands that as they regularly sew weighted blankets for autism patients.

The third thing that sends a box turtle hiding in its shell is when something scares it. Fear, and knowing the comfort and safety of its shell will pull up inside.

Every living creature has fears and something they try to do to keep themselves sake. From the turtle’s shell to natural camouflage, to growls, rattles, hand hiding, animals try to protect themselves from whatever they fear.

The human animal is really no different. We all have fears. I know people who don’t name their fears but I am convinced after talking to them that they have fears but don’t want to let others know or want to take control of what scares them.

I have told you before, I hate snakes, but it is more than that. I am flat out afraid of snakes. Yet it is still even stronger than that. I have an irrational fear of snakes. Still pictures of snakes don’t bother me too much but if I see a snake in a movie or television, I hide my eyes until its gone. That snake on the screen can’t hurt me but I am still not looking.

Several years ago, back in the late 1990s, Cindy had a job working in a chiropractor. This guy loved to scare people with his life sized statue of a rattlesnake. He would set the snake on the floor just outside an examining room or office. Then he would hang back for the reaction when someone saw the snake. When it was my turn, I saw him set the snake on the floor. He came back in and we carried on a normal conversation like I knew nothing about the snake. When I left the room a few minutes later, I simply stepped over the snake, turned around and laughed at the good doctor. He said he loved to scare people and that getting scared was good for you.

Until just recently, I thought him to be joking. While preparing for this message I discovered, The Adventure Collection Blog said there are a number of benefits when you get scared.

Fear keeps you safe.
Fear helps you lose weight
Fear temporarily boosts your immune system
Feeling fear-in the right dose-can be fun and exciting
Fear gives you a natural high and a sense of empowerment
Fear helps you manage stress and relaxes you.
Fear helps you stay in the present moment and to focus
Fear socializes you and bonds you to other people
Fear allows you to live life to the fullest
Fear gives you clarity on what’s really important in life

All over the Bible we have people telling others Don’t be afraid. In the Emmaus story, Jesus tells the disciples in the boat, right before Peter walks on water,. “Don’t be afraid.” An angel tells the shepherds outside of Bethlehem.”

Then here, Paul says to, “Work out you own salvation with FEAR and TREMBLING. In other places in the Bible we find places that talk about the fear of God and living in the fear of God. I have long argued that the Fear of God is to be in awe and respect of God. We also know that God loves us. That alone should remove some of our fear.

The bottom line is, fear is not such a bad thing. The thing that makes fear bad is when we let fear take control. If I know there is a snake in the yard, no longer do I want go out in the yard. I seek the safety of my house. But, if I go look, I don’t see the snake. I am not staying in the house because I fear the snake. I am going outside because that is where I feel best. I will not let the snake control my life.

For the past two months we have been staying in. We have avoided just about all things out. I am more than ready to be out. This extrovert needs out of the house and back around people. This preacher is glad to be able to look into people’s eyes today instead of only looking at empty seats and a camera lens. Though I know God is with me, it is still a scary world. I know this, I am not going to let my fears be in charge. Just like a rattlesnake in my yard might keep me out of his way, the possibility of a rattlesnake in the yard tells me I need to keep my eyes open if I don’t want an unpleasant encounter but so can getting out of bed in the morning.

Friends the fear we feel is not a bad thing. I am glad gave it to us. Because of fears, in some settings it causes me to be alert and think about the best way to protect myself should the need arise.

I don’t stay home because I fear the virus. I don’t wash my hands just because it is good hygiene. I don’t wear a mask because I am going out on a robbery binge. I do all these things because there is something scary out there. Because God gave me a gift of respectful fear, wisdom says, I should do all I can to protect people around me and encourage others to do the same. In reality, if by being a bit afraid and use that fear to motivate me to protect myself and be an example for others, that’s what I should strive to do. It’s what we should all try to do.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Law of the Picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

What’s Wrong with Us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Prayer 101: Breakthrough Prayer for Me

Psalm 30:11-12
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
    you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul[b] may praise you and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever (Psalm 30:11-12, NRSV)

Rao was a Hindu yogi who devoted his life to prayer and holy thought. Through discipline, he did remarkable things, or so people thought.

Rao decided people should see faith in action. In 1966, he announced he would walk on water. Invitations went out to Bombay’s high society. The cost? $100 a ticket, a lot of money in 1966. Still, people came for the show, and the miracle.

They weren’t disappointed. Rao was a mystic picture. He stood with his beard flowing, robe hems at his feet. Lowering his head he prayed, and then lifted it.

He was ready to walk on water. He walked to the end of the pier. He stepped off on the pond, and sank. Was his prayer a breakthrough prayer? Probably not.

Our God, I understand, is not the god Hindus seek. If Rao sought God, in my experience God generally doesn’t seem too willing to break the laws of physics. It would take a breakthrough like we haven’t seen. Can God? Yes. Will God? Probably not.

Today is the last instalment of Prayer 101. I could say more. It could be a permanent topic. There is always more to say about prayer. In each of the last four posts, Rev. Sue Kibbey defined breakthrough prayer as asking God to break through in situations beyond human capabilities, doing what only God can.

We discussed breakthrough prayer in our cities/communities, churches, friends, and families.

Things are hard now. Money is tight. People can’t work. We haven’t attended church in weeks. We need a breakthrough. Know this and take it with you, God is good and when God breaks through, the future is bright. Let’s pray God will break through, and God will. Our expectations may find disappointment but God will break through if we pray for it.

Today we ask God to break through in us. I saved “us or me” for last. Theologically and individually, it should be. Think about the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for every. Amen.”

Here Jesus modeled prayer. It never says I, me, mine, etc. but our, us, and we. If Jesus’ prayer grouped individuals with others, we aren’t as important as we may think.

Psalm 30 is a song of joy. The psalmist looks at good and hard times, for God’s power breakthrough. He sees God’s hand and sings for joy.

I ‘m drawn to the last two verses. “You changed mourning to dancing. You dressed me in joy so my being might sing praises never stopping. LORD, God, I will thank to you forever.” (Paraphrased)

Have you had that kind of joy? To find joy, requires God. We won’t find joy ourselves. We won’t be satisfied. We’ll find some happiness but we still search.

We can’t find joy from friends or family. They fall too. They have good intentions that fall short and disappoint.

Churches are the same. People outside Church blame Church in hard times. The Church falls short. It’s an easy target. We know, the Church isn’t the building it’s people and people fail.

To find what’s missing look for a breakthrough. If you want joy we find like the psalmist, God has to make a breakthrough. Anything else will fail.

Years ago I knew a teenager who graduated high school and enlisted the Air Force. He signed his papers then got scared and ran. He turned to drugs and sunk the bottom. The Air Force released but he still went the wrong way.

His mother tried to get him home. He demanded she leave, permanently. She left. With no alternative, she left but never gave up. She prayed. She asked for a breakthrough for her son (my words).

She told friends hers and his. She shared with me, ask I pray. She was embarrassed but wasn’t going to quit asking or telling.

Her son didn’t like where he was but couldn’t ask for help. He grew up in church. Forgot prayer. Finally, he prayed. Several things happened, it was God, this prodigal found home. The last I heard he was off drugs and alcohol. He was working and back in church. God made a breakthrough.

Through God’s lifesaving, life-changing grace, God broke through and a life changed.

It happens with breakthrough prayer. If we ask God to breakthrough, God will. Maybe not on our timetable or our vision, but it will happen.

I know we pray but more than pray, focus on prayer. Be diligent. God will break through. Don’t be a person of prayer, be a person of breakthrough prayer.

Have a Great Day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved