The News Isn’t Always Good

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 39-40, Matthew 11

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He asked the officers of Pharaoh who were under arrest with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so distressed today?”

They answered, “We’ve both had dreams, but there’s no one to interpret them.”

Joseph said to them, “Don’t interpretations belong to God? Describe your dreams to me.”

The chief wine steward described his dream to Joseph: “In my dream there was a vine right in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. When it budded, its blossoms appeared, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, so I took the grapes, crushed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and put the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

12 Joseph said to him, “This is the dream’s interpretation: The three branches are three days. 13 After three days, Pharaoh will give you an audience and return you to your position. You will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just the way things were before when you were his wine steward. 14 But please, remember me when you are doing well and be loyal to me. Put in a good word for me to Pharaoh, so he sets me free from this prison. 15 I was stolen from the land of the Hebrews, and here too I’ve done nothing to be thrown into this dungeon.”

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “It was the same for me. In my dream, there were three baskets of white bread[a] on my head. 17 In the basket on top there were baked goods for Pharaoh’s food, but birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”

18 Joseph responded, “This is the dream’s interpretation: The three baskets are three days. 19 After three days, Pharaoh will give you an audience and will hang you from a tree where birds will peck your flesh from you.”

20 The third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a party for all of his servants. Before all of his servants, he gave an audience to the chief wine steward and the chief baker. 21 He returned the chief wine steward to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But the chief baker he hanged, just as Joseph had said would happen when he interpreted their dreams for them. 23 But the chief wine steward didn’t remember Joseph; he forgot all about him (Genesis 40:7-23, Common English Bible).

Joseph, it would seem, lives a good news, bad news sort of life. Still, he seems to be around an awfully lot of bad news for him anyway. Good news? Dad gave him everything. Bad news? Dad gave him everything so his brothers want to kill him. Good news? He can be an obnoxious jerk and get away with it. Bad news? His brothers sell him into slavery. Good News? Potiphar buys Joseph and is really good to him. Bad news? Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph and he is sent to prison. Good news? The baker and the wine steward have dreams and Joseph interprets them. Bad news? Pharaoh has the baker executed as Joseph’s prophecy warned. Good news? The wine steward is freed and returns to his position. Bad news? He forgets the promise he made to Joseph to speak well of him to Pharaoh.

When it came to the interpretation of dreams it was a good news/bad news thing for the baker and the wine steward. The wine steward would be freed from jail and restored to his position. Good news for the wine steward. For the baker? Not so much. Joseph said, in essence, “You gonna die.”

As we go through this life we watch the news. We live news. Some of the news is good. Some news is bad. And, we are told that some news is fake. We encounter it all and we may or may not be happy about it but at times we are going to feel pretty good and at times we are going to feel pretty bad.

Yesterday I talked about Joseph being a spoiled brat. I still stand by that judgment though you may not agree. It won’t be the first time someone has disagreed with me. I feel pretty certain it won’t be the last either. Though Joseph might be a spoiled child in chapter 37, now in chapter 40 it becomes very easy to see that God is with Joseph. Every time the world crashes in on Joseph, God is there and where God is, there is always hope. And. Joseph never loses hope.

The news may not always be good for us. Things happen in life that shows the world is not always kind to us no matter how good we might be. But, we can rest in the assurance that God is always with us. And, just as Joseph had hope in the Lord, we too can hope in God and our hope is not misplaced.

The news is not always good, but we can and should have hope. God is with us and where God is there is always hope. Friends, that is good news that should stay with us always.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Whose to Blame

Today’s Readings
Genesis 36-38, Matthew 10:21-42

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37 Jacob lived in the land of Canaan where his father was an immigrant. This is the account of Jacob’s descendants. Joseph was 17 years old and tended the flock with his brothers. While he was helping the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, Joseph told their father unflattering things about them. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was born when Jacob was old. Jacob had made for him a long[a] robe. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him and couldn’t even talk nicely to him.

Joseph had a dream and told it to his brothers, which made them hate him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had. When we were binding stalks of grain in the field, my stalk got up and stood upright, while your stalks gathered around it and bowed down to my stalk.”

His brothers said to him, “Will you really be our king and rule over us?” So they hated him even more because of the dreams he told them.

Then Joseph had another dream and described it to his brothers: “I’ve just dreamed again, and this time the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

10 When he described it to his father and brothers, his father scolded him and said to him, “What kind of dreams have you dreamed? Am I and your mother and your brothers supposed to come and bow down to the ground in front of you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father took careful note of the matter.

Call it a lack of maturity on his brother’s part. Call it a problem of a spoiled child for Jacob and Rachel. Call it arrogance on Joseph’s part. When I read the story of Joseph which will unfold over the next several chapters, my mind goes to all these things and more. I know when many read the story of Joseph they see someone who loves God. And, while that is true, I see a spoiled rotten, arrogant, immature brat who in the end finds redemption. That is grace.

I think we have all known a Joseph in our lives. Hey, we might even be a Joseph. We might have even a Joseph and never known it. Such things often are easier to see in the lives of others than they are in our own.

That being said, there is blame that surely can go to Jacob and Rachel, particularly Jacob. Though in today’s story, it is more difficult to see, if we read the Joseph story in its entirety, we can easily see the blame. A special coat, tailor-made, just for him, getting to stay home while the remaining brothers were tending the sheep in the fields, the list could go on and on. Jacob gave special privilege to Joseph the rest of his boys never would get.

Then there are the brothers. Scripture says they hated Joseph. Nothing good comes from hate, ever. Scripture says they were jealous of home. Not much good is going to come from that either.

Make no mistake, the brothers are the ones holding the responsibility for what would happen to Joseph. At the same time, the others also held some measure of responsibility fell down on their responsibility too.

Today might be a good day for some soul-searching. Are we like Joseph? Are we with one of our children much the same as Jacob was with Joseph? Are we like the brothers, instead of trying to work things out, we attempt to throw away a human life out of pride and jealousy.

Yes, the blame that day rests on the shoulder of Joseph’s brothers, but there is room there for some blame to go all around.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Bread, Bath and Beyond: The Bath

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:

The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.[a]

John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.

People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”

13 At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. 14 John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”

15 Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”

So John agreed to baptize Jesus. 16 When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him.17 A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.” (Matthew 3:1-17, Common English Bible).

 

 

T.G.I.F. – Thank God It’s Friday

People have offered this secular prayer of thanksgiving for years, and the phrase has become so popular that it’s attached to a restaurant chain, “T.G.I. Friday’s. “Give me more Fridays” is the way they have defined the acronym TGIF.

The phrase is based on the popular belief that people are happier on Friday, the end of the work week. Would you respond enthusiastically to a restaurant that tried to lure you in with the words, “Give me more Mondays?”

Probably not. People talk about the “Monday morning blues,” and hum the old Carpenter’s tune “Rainy days and Mondays” or even John Conlee’s “The Backside of Thirty” though that one is really more about a dislike of life in general. Mondays are supposed to bring you down.

But what would you say if I told you, that just isn’t true? They really don’t bring most of us down.

According to some recent research, people aren’t much happier on Friday than they are on Monday or any other day of the week. They really aren’t. The fact is, our moods don’t change very dramatically over the course of a week. But we remember Fridays as happy days because of the meaning and emotions we attach to Friday.

Think about it this way. When I have worked at a job I hated, every day of the week was drudgery and I had to make myself get up and go to work. When I have worked in a job I love going to work is a real joy. The day really doesn’t matter.

But, we think about Friday in a more positive way because Friday is when we are liberated from the chores of the work week. It’s when we turn from business to pleasure. It’s when the door to the weekends is thrown wide open.

These are the meanings and emotions we attach to Friday. Friday has suggestive and emotional significance and it affects and shapes our memory of how we actually felt on a particular Friday. Because we believe Fridays are happy days, we remember them as happy days.

Take a moment to think about this, meaning shapes memory. A bride says her wedding day was the happiest day of her life. In fact, it was incredibly stressful, but the meaning of marriage turns it into a happy memory.

A man says the birth of his child was a joy. The truth is, it was absolute misery to watch his wife suffer through labor, but the meaning of childbirth makes the memory positive.

A teenager says that her rejection by a boyfriend was the most crushing blow of her life. In fact, she felt a bit relieved and bounced back quickly. But the meaning of the romance makes the breakup a very painful memory.

An adult convert to Christianity says his baptism was wonderful. The reality is, it was wet, cold and uncomfortable, but the meaning makes the event deeply moving.

Meaning shapes memory. “In short, Mondays aren’t actually blue,” says Professor Charles Areni in The Washington Post,” but people persist in the belief that they are.”

This insight can help us to better understand the significance of what happened to Jesus at the Jordan River. Our lesson this morning gives us an opportunity to remember this event and reflect on its impact. It’s an example of how meaning shapes memory.

So what do you remember about the day? John the Baptist appears in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism for the repentance and forgiveness of sin. People from the city of Jerusalem and all Judea flock to him and are baptized in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. After years of living with a filthy buildup of sin and unrighteousness, the people of the region are believed to be washed clean and made right with God.

This feels very good to them. John’s providing a much-needed spiritual service and you wouldn’t be surprised to hear the people saying, TGFJ – Than God for John. But then John switches gears and reveals he’s not simply in the purification business. He proclaims, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me… I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Perla Martinez-Goody remarks on this text: “At this point, looking at it from a cultural point of view, here’s John the Baptist, not so neat, not so clean, with a wild appearance, demonstrating the spirit of inclusiveness to all the sinners coming to him. It’s a twist on today’s world. Some people might look at John and call him a hippie. Others might say he is grunge or some other such term. John might find himself today as one standing on the outside looking on at the great event welcoming everyone but him. But in this story, here is this wild-looking guy God chooses to baptize his Son. John is included and doing something wonderful. What a gift to the sinners looking on! I can imagine them saying, “Hey, he’s one of us, look at what he’s doing, maybe there is hope for us too.”

When we look at the actual event that occurred at the Jordan, we see a variety of emotions. There’s gratitude for the gift of forgiveness. There is surprise and shock at the identity of the powerful one who’s coming after John. The actual experience of John is a jumble of emotions, not a carefully crafted stained-glass picture, because meaning effects memory, Matthew tells us Jesus comes from Nazareth and is baptized by John in the Jordan, and just as he is coming out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends on him, and a voice from Heaven says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

This is the meaning of baptism: Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved. The mix of feelings to this point – gratitude, surprise, and confusion are pushed aside. In their place is a new emotion: joy. When Jesus is baptized, we are filled with a feeling of joy. God has revealed his Son, announced his love and proclaimed how pleased he is with Jesus.

This morning we are continuing the series we began a week ago, “Bread, Bath and Beyond.” This morning we are talking about “The Bath.” We began last week by talking about “The Bread” as a symbol of Holy Communion, one of the two sacraments we celebrate in the United Methodist Church. We talked about when we come to the table, as United Methodists we believe it isn’t our table, it is not a United Methodist table, it is God’s table, Jesus’ table and all who seek to follow him are welcome at this table. We also talked about being consubstantiationists, we believe the physical bread and juice don’t change but through God’s grace, something changes within us.

Today we move to the second of our two sacraments. These two sacraments are sacred moments when God’s grace is offered to in a communal way. These sacraments are sacred moments in time when God’s grace is offered to us to celebrate God’s work in the one receiving the Holy meal or the waters of baptism. They are means of Grace. In Baptism we all join together to celebrate God’s work in the one being baptized and it draws our memory back to the significance of our own baptism. And, much as the bread and wine of Holy Communion doesn’t change, the waters of baptism don’t change in a physical way either. It is still common H2O. What changes in baptism is us and our relationship with God?

The meaning of baptism is, God accepts Jesus as his Son, and the happiness we feel over this acceptance shapes our memory of baptism. Gone is the mix of emotions that were felt by people at the Jordan River, replaced by the deep joy that Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved. Jesus is for us, the Word of God in human form… the Way, the Truth and the Life… God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. After witnessing His baptism, we don’t have to wonder about who Jesus is. We know his true identity.

The same is true for us, as we remember our identity as the baptized. In this sacrament, we are connected to the body of Christ – the universal community of Christians that’s nothing less than the flesh and blood physical presence of Jesus in the world today. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” asks Paul. “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:3-5). In this sacrament we become children of God, no less loved and accepted than Jesus Christ himself.

This is the meaning of baptism: Baptism connects us to the body of Christ. It enables us to die and rise with Jesus. It makes us dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). It gives us new and everlasting life and a freshly minted identity as children of a loving Lord. It’s an experience that shapes our memory forever.

But, we make a mistake if we believe baptism is always the beginning of a lifetime of bliss. Think about what happens immediately after the baptism of Jesus. Matthew tells us the Spirit leads Jesus “into the wilderness,” where he is tempted by Satan for 40 days. In Mark’s telling of the story, Jesus’ Galilean ministry begins, and he comes face to face with a man who had an unclean spirit, a woman with a fever and a steady stream of people who are sick or is possessed by demons. So there is no rest for the baptized.

Pastor Joy McDonald Colvet discovered this when she led a group of youth on an immersion trip to Mexico. A number of times during the first days there, different youth came to her confessing how overwhelmed they felt. One girl said, “Pastor Joy, I feel like I’m drowning.”

This girl experienced the flood of the world’s pain. That’s not a bad thing. That’s why it’s called an immersion trip. Colvet says that it’s when we feel like were’ drowning.” – overwhelmed by the flood of the world’s pain and loss – that “we are reminded Jesus is the resurrection and the life.” We realize “baptism is daily dying and raised to new life.” Then we discover we are “raised up, gasping for air, and the breath of God fills our hearts and minds.”

When we feel like we’re drowning in the world’s pain, we are raised up and the breath of God fills us. It’s not just our memory of baptism, it is a memory shaped by meaning.

As United Methodists, we observe infant baptism. There are several stories in the Bible where the writer says, this person and his entire household were baptized. Through the centuries tradition has held, surely in at least some of those households, there were very young children. And, if we are to believe the words of Scripture when the writer says, “his entire household,” then these children were baptized as well. Following up on that, in the Old Testament, the principal sign of the covenant was male circumcision and the rite accompanying the event, the child was eight days old. At least for me, that is a sign that the faith was for everyone, from the youngest children to the oldest adults.

Baptism has meaning for all of us, whether we were baptized as an infant or a believer. Whether we were baptized by sprinking, immersion or pouring. We Methodists do them all. The point is, baptism has meaning. Thomas H. Schattauer explains, “In my home, my preschool-age children cheer for Sunday because it’s the day they get to see all their friends. My three-year-old daughter was one of those kids who stood on stage and cried during her first dance recital. After it was over, she told us she was sad and that she didn’t like crying on stage. A few days later, she plays “dance recital” with her little sister as if it were the best thing to ever happen to her.

Like birth, baptism means life. It is done once, yet it is for all our life. Paul writes, “One Lord, One faith, one baptism.: This verse gives emphasis and credence to our United Methodist understanding of being baptized only once. Additionally, we believe God to be the primary actor in the baptism. John the Baptist might have been the one to lower Jesus into the water but God was the one who did the baptizing. I or some other preacher may be the one to lower the person into the water, to sprinkle water on their head or pour water over them, but God is the one doing the baptism. To baptize more than once is tantamount to saying, “God you didn’t do this right the first time so now we need to do it again.” God does not make mistakes.

If I say, “I was married,” you likely assume my wife has died or I am divorced. But if I say, “I am married,” your assumption changes. You then assume I have a wife and that on a certain date I was married and, I still am. Although it’s true and essential to say, “I was baptized,” it also is necessary to assert, “I am baptized.”

More than anything else, baptism marks our birth as Christians and marks us as a child of God. It involves a process that is every bit as wet and messy as a physical birth, bringing us into the world, but it is also every bit as permanent. Through baptism, we are identified as children of God who are both loved and lovable, chosen by God to be His people in the world. “The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now,” wrote the Dutch priest and theologian Henri Nouwen, “is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace.”

In a few minutes, we will have the opportunity to reaffirm our baptisms. Throughout my ministry, I have, on occasion, given people the opportunity to reaffirm our baptisms. In more recent years I have begun doing this each year. This is not baptism. It is not rebaptism. It is a reaffirmation of our baptism and a renewal of our covenant with God made at our baptism and confirmed during the confirmation process or by our actions when we joined the Church. It is an opportunity to remember that we are baptized and be thankful.

You are, I am, a chosen child of God. This isn’t just for Jesus. It is for each one of us. It is an opportunity to remember, we are precious. We are beloved. We are safe, in the everlasting embrace of Almighty God. That is our true identity, my brothers, and sisters. You are a beloved child of God.

Make this, your memory of baptism.

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

On Forgiveness

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33-35, Matthew 10:1-20

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10 Jacob said, “No, please, do me the kindness of accepting my gift. Seeing your face is like seeing God’s face, since you’ve accepted me so warmly. 11 Take this present that I’ve brought because God has been generous to me, and I have everything I need.” So Jacob persuaded him, and he took it.

12 Esau said, “Let’s break camp and set out, and I’ll go with you.”

13 But Jacob said to him, “My master knows that the children aren’t strong and that I am responsible for the nursing flocks and cattle. If I push them hard for even one day, all of the flocks will die. 14 My master, go on ahead of your servant, but I’ve got to take it easy, going only as fast as the animals in front of me and the children are able to go, until I meet you in Seir.”

15 Esau said, “Let me leave some of my people with you.”

But Jacob said, “Why should you do this since my master has already been so kind to me?” 16 That day Esau returned on the road to Seir,17 but Jacob traveled to Succoth. He built a house for himself but made temporary shelters for his animals; therefore, he named the place Succoth (Genesis 33:10-17, Common English Bible).

“I can’t forgive him. I just can’t do it, not after what he did to me.”

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have heard those words. The exact words may vary. The situation may vary from one person to another, but the meaning is much the same. “I have so much anger toward this person I just cannot let it go.”

In the television show, The Big Bang Theory, the character Sheldon Cooper has a list of “mortal enemies.” These are people who have committed some perceived wrong. In reality, these “mortal enemies” have no clue what they did or even who Sheldon Cooper might be. And, Sheldon is never prepared to forgive easily.

When we last saw Esau, we saw a man who was just about as angry with his brother Jacob as one human can get with another. Though, as we said a few days ago, the sale of Esau’s birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew, was of Esau’s own doing. Still, Esau was angry with his brother over the transaction. Then, Jacob, with the assistance of his mother Rebekah, cheated Esau out of his birthright. Esau did have an issue here.

Time has passed. Jacob was away from Esau for more than 20 years. The old saying of, “Time heals all wounds” probably applies here. Esau seems to forgive and we can only assume that the two brothers lived out their lives in peace. Had Esau not forgiven, there is a good chance that there would be no peace.

The same can be true for us. We get angry with someone and there is no peace. There may be peace on the outside but within us, there will be turmoil and in the end, no one will win.

Over the years of Facebook, there have been many memes with great messages. I may not get the quote exactly right but it says something like this: “You forgive, not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace.”

Esau found peace.

Have a great day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Wrestling with God

Today’s Readings
Genesis 31-32, Matthew 9:18-38

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22 Jacob got up during the night, took his two wives, his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the Jabbok River’s shallow water. 23 He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. 24 But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.”

But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”

27 He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.”

29 Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.”

But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.” 31 The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh. 32 Therefore, Israelites don’t eat the tendon attached to the thigh muscle to this day, because he grabbed Jacob’s thigh muscle at the tendon (Genesis 32:22-32, Common English Bible).

When my boys were younger they loved to watch professional wrestling. When they did, because this form of entertainment can be a walk on the wild side, I usually tried to watch it with them.

I remember one particular bout (I used the term very loosely as professional wrestling is long on entertainment and very short on sport) was between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Kevin Nash. Mysterio stands 5′ 6″ and weighs about 175 lbs. Kevin Nash, particularly by comparison is 6′ 10″ and weighs 328 lbs. In this particular (the two faced each other several times) case Mysterio won. If this event had actually been a real fight, it would have been a real “David and Goliath” event and once again, David had won.

In the David and Goliath Bible story, it was not a requirement of David that he get within reach of Goliath. The same cannot be said, the same would not be true in wrestling. The same cannot be said of wrestling. Despite the size difference, weight difference and reach difference, Mysterio won the match. In reality, once the much larger Nash grabbed Mysterio, something he did more than once, the fight would be all but over.

All this is to say, Mysterio, in a real wrestling match, would have a slightly better possibility of beating Kevin Nash as Jacob had to beat God in today’s highlighted lesson. If God is omnipotent, and God is, Jacob never had a chance. As I read the story, God is really toying with Jacob. It is a fight Jacob couldn’t win.

In other stories of Scripture, we can see characters who wrestle with God. They always lose. One such character was Jonah. God wanted Jonah to go one way and Jonah wanted to go another. Jonah had thought he might win, but he became fish food and still ended up where God wanted him to begin with.

What is true in the Bible is equally true today. When God calls on us, when God has an idea for us to do, to wrestle with God is a fight we can’t win. God has all the power. God holds all the cards. In the end, we most likely will do what God calls us to do. It just might be a good idea to start out following divine instructions.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Cheater Gets Cheated

Today’s Readings
Genesis 29-30
Matthew 9:1-17

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20 Jacob worked for Rachel for seven years, but it seemed like a few days because he loved her. 21 Jacob said to Laban, “The time has come. Give me my wife so that I may sleep with her.” 22 So Laban invited all the people of that place and prepared a banquet. 23 However, in the evening, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 Laban had given his servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her servant. 25 In the morning, there she was—Leah! Jacob said to Laban, “What have you done to me? Didn’t I work for you to have Rachel? Why did you betray me?”

26 Laban said, “Where we live, we don’t give the younger woman before the oldest. 27 Complete the celebratory week with this woman. Then I will give[c] you this other woman too for your work, if you work for me seven more years.” 28 So that is what Jacob did. He completed the celebratory week with this woman, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29 Laban had given his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her servant. 30 Jacob slept with Rachel, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He worked for Laban seven more years.

In our reading on Wednesday, Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. It was a very shortsighted exchange on Esau’s part. Before all was said and done (part of yesterday’s reading), Esau believed Jacob cheated him out of his birthright. At least as we read it, Jacob, in my opinion, did not cheat Esau. At least not in this part of their story.

While I don’t believe Jacob cheated Esau out of his birthright, there is no doubt that Jacob was a primary player in cheating Esau out of his blessing. Without question, his mother Rebekah played a major role in it, but Esau could have said no. He cheated his brother and for his trouble, he had to run for his life. All this happened in part of yesterday’s Genesis reading I didn’t focus on for yesterday’s post.

Rebekah sends Jacob running for cover, back to her family. Once there, he discovers the love of his life, Rachel. In the end, it results in more trouble for Jacob as the cheater is about to meet his match in Rachel’s father Laban.

Laban has Jacob work for him for seven years to get Rachel’s hand. Jacob does but when wedding bells rang, he finds he has not married Rachel, but her older sister Leah. After that, Laban makes Jacob work for him another seven years to marry his real love, Rachel.

There is something within most of us that wants to see the cheater get caught.  When I was in college there was a student who was well known as a cheater by other students on campus. Once it became clear the kind of person he was, most of us wanted nothing to do with him. He was a nice guy but his ethics left a great deal to be desired. As far as I know, he was never caught by a professor. I have often wondered if he has had the same lack of ethics in his working career as he had in his academic career.

Most of us have known someone who has cheated to pass a class or cheated to succeed in business or cheated someone out of something. I can’t help but believe, these events are sad not only to those of us who observe, but they are sad to God as well.

But, grace is also there. As we will see, through the marriage Jacob waited so long to have, God would save the family and ultimately the nation.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Dream and the Covenant

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 27-28
Matthew 8:18-34

lucid-dreaming

10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and set out for Haran. 11 He reached a certain place and spent the night there. When the sun had set, he took one of the stones at that place and put it near his head. Then he lay down there. 12 He dreamed and saw a raised staircase, its foundation on earth and its top touching the sky, and God’s messengers were ascending and descending on it. 13 Suddenly the Lord was standing on it and saying, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.14 Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. 15 I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it. 17 He was terrified and thought, This sacred place is awesome. It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven. 18 After Jacob got up early in the morning, he took the stone that he had put near his head, set it up as a sacred pillar, and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He named that sacred place Bethel, though Luz was the city’s original name. 20 Jacob made a solemn promise: “If God is with me and protects me on this trip I’m taking, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, 21 and I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone that I’ve set up as a sacred pillar will be God’s house, and of everything you give me I will give a tenth back to you” (Genesis 28:10-22, Common English Bible).

How does God speak to us? There are many ways. We can hear the voice of God when we read Scripture or hear a sermon. We can hear the voice of God when we listen to others speak to us, children or adults. We can hear God speak through the wind blowing or the sound of rain coming down on our roof. We can hear God through many other sounds in nature.

The way we can hear God I want to focus on today is, we can hear God speak in our dreams. I know, I know. There are plenty of skeptics out there who would say God working through our dreams is impossible. But I believe, those same people would probably declare any form of divine speech to be invalid.

Of course, they are wrong. Most of us who believe, accept the stories, like today’s lesson, where God speaks through dreams with little if any question. We also might just be a person with whom God has spoken through a dream.

Some years ago, early in my ministry, I awoke in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, after a particularly vivid dream. I had written my sermon much earlier in the week. I was ready to go. I woke up following that dream knowing God was speaking to me through that dream that I was supposed to preach something different. Later that morning I went over to my study at the church. I sat down and started writing. In 45 minutes I walked out of the church, sermon in hand. It is still the fastest I have ever written a sermon.

In our lesson today Jacob has a dream. It a dream where God speaks to him about a covenant God is making with Jacob. Thankfully, Jacob recognized his dream for what it was before it was too late.

Has God spoken to you before, in a dream?

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved