No Seperation

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 70-71; Romans 8:22-39

31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?

33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. 34 Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us.

35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39, Common English Bible).

Romans 8 is my favorite chapter of the Bible and today’s lesson is my favorite portion of my favorite chapter. I like this lesson because it reminds us that, for we who believe, that God will never walk away from us. There is nothing we can do where God would turn away from us. That, friends, is a great promise.

Is there anything that can separate us from God? Well, in truth, yes. The only thing that can separate us from the love of God is us. No one, nothing can separate me from the love of God except me! For everything else, there is an answer:

In the face of death …
there is the Resurrection.
In the face of illness …
there is eternal healing.
In the face of danger …
there is the right arm of God.
In the face of adversity …
there is “blessed assurance.”
In the face of confrontation …
there is confidence.
In the face of the Serpent …
there is the gift of the Cross.
In the face of greed …
there is the abundant life.
In the face of pollution …
there is God’s redemption of
all creation.
In the face of hunger …
there is a legacy of loaves and
fishes.
In the face of homelessness …
there is compassion.
In the face of hardship …
there is the promise of goodness. *

Since none of these things can separate us for the love of God, why would we want to separate ourselves? I know there are those who would argue that once you are saved you are always saved. On the divine side, I would agree, God will never leave us. That being said, I can walk away from God.

“4 Because it’s impossible to restore people to changed hearts and lives who turn away once they have seen the light, tasted the heavenly gift, become partners with the Holy Spirit, and tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age. (Hebrews 6:4-5, Common English Bible).

“…Who turn away…” God will never walk away from us but we can walk away from God. Once when I made this argument someone said to me, “Pastor, it might be possible, but who would want to do that?” I couldn’t agree more.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

It’s Rooted in Selfishness

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 68-69; Romans 8:1-21

So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. God has done what was impossible for the Law, since it was weak because of selfishness. God condemned sin in the body by sending his own Son to deal with sin in the same body as humans, who are controlled by sin. He did this so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us. Now the way we live is based on the Spirit, not based on selfishness. People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit.The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace. So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.

But you aren’t self-centered. Instead you are in the Spirit, if in fact God’s Spirit lives in you. If anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, they don’t belong to him. 10 If Christ is in you, the Spirit is your life because of God’s righteousness, but the body is dead because of sin. 11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. 13 If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. 14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.  (Romans 8:1-17, Common English Bible)

When I read the early part of Romans I am reminded about everything I was ever told when I was a kid. “When you are selfish no one will like you.” “People who are selfish have bad things happen to them.” “When you are selfish, you make God sad.”

All of them are true, even if they sound a bit juvenile. And no, I am not saying Paul is juvenile. What I am saying is, when we act in ways that are selfish we make it difficult for the spirit of God to dwell in us.

Once a hunter walking through the wilderness picked up some pretty stones by a river. He took the stones and one by one, used them to shoot at the birds on the river with his slingshot. Whether he hit a bird or not, each stone dropped, and disappeared into the water, forever lost until finally only a single stone remained. He dropped it in his pocket.

Sometime later, the man was walking down the street in the city and wandering absentmindedly, tossing and catching the single stone he had left. The stone caught the eye of a local jeweler who marveled at the beauty of this precious gem. He immediately recognized the stone and offered to buy it for several thousand dollars. When the hunter recognized the value of his stone, he cried out: “How could I be so stupid! I carelessly shot gems into the river for a few minutes of useless joy. I could have not only become wealthy, I could have helped many people too. But thank God I have saved at least this one.”

Every day of our lives is like a precious stone. Each of us has most likely wasted countless days in selfish attempts to bring ourselves joy. Those gems are now lost in the depths of the past. May we all now see the value of the stones remaining, using them to acquire spiritual wealth we can share with others. If we use them in selfless ways, we use them to serve God. Selfishness then, is no longer part of our lives as we live with joy in our hearts.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Shout to the Lord

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 66-67; Romans 7

66 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth!
    Sing praises to the glory of God’s name!
        Make glorious his praise!
Say to God:
“How awesome are your works!

    Because of your great strength,
        your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth worships you,
    sings praises to you,
        sings praises to your name!” Selah

Come and see God’s deeds;
    his works for human beings are awesome:
He turned the sea into dry land
    so they could cross the river on foot.
        Right there we rejoiced in him!
God rules with power forever;
    keeps a good eye on the nations.
        So don’t let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

All you nations, bless our God!
    Let the sound of his praise be heard!
God preserved us among the living;
    he didn’t let our feet slip a bit. (Psalm 66:1-9, Common English Bible)

I tend to be pretty traditional when it comes to my personal preferences in worship music. I do enjoy some praise music but I tend to like it best outside the worship setting. One of my favorites is, “Shout to the Lord.”

WhenI read the “story behind the hymn.” Darlene Zschech (pronounced check) was battling a deep depression, at least in part due to a large tax liability. She saw no way out, short of divine intervention.

She never actually said if the divine intervention happened or if she overcame her tax liability. What she did say was, one night when the night seemed at its darkest, she sat down at her piano, not playing anything in particular. She realized she was playing the same tune over and over again. Then words started singing words, these words:

My Jesus, my Saviour
Lord there is none like You
All of my days I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love

My comfort, my shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

Shout to the Lord all the Earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name
I sing for joy at the work of Your hand
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand.

Darlene credits the words of Psalm 96 for the inspiration of her song. Who am I to argue the inspiration of a song with its composer and lyricist. When I think of “Shout to the Lord,” my mind goes to Psalm 66, today’s lesson.

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth! Sing praises to the glory of God’s name! Make glorious his praise!”

“Shout to the Lord all the Earth let us sing…”

I would ask, “Is it just me?” But that isn’t what is important here. In truth, it doesn’t really matter what inspired Darlene. It doesn’t matter at all what Scripture I think about when I hear the song. What matters is, that we shout and sing our praises to God at every opportunity. That is what the psalmists of both Psalm 66 and Psalm 96 (Who knows, both could be written by the same psalmist) could be saying. The words are similar. The praises of God’s people should be the same. (And yes, I did read Psalm 96. When it comes up in our readings I may regret having written this post – lol).

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

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

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 63-65; Romans 6

15 So what? Should we sin because we aren’t under Law but under grace? Absolutely not! 16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, that you are slaves of the one whom you obey? That’s true whether you serve as slaves of sin, which leads to death, or as slaves of the kind of obedience that leads to righteousness.17 But thank God that although you used to be slaves of sin, you gave wholehearted obedience to the teaching that was handed down to you, which provides a pattern. 18 Now that you have been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. 19 (I’m speaking with ordinary metaphors because of your limitations.) Once, you offered the parts of your body to be used as slaves to impurity and to lawless behavior that leads to still more lawless behavior. Now, you should present the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness, which makes your lives holy.20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What consequences did you get from doing things that you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have the consequence of a holy life, and the outcome is eternal life.23 The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 5:15-23, Common English Bible).

Few of us who were around in 1979 and like country music will ever forget the hit song by the Charlie Daniels Band, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The song tells the story of a young fiddle player who is challenged by the devil to a fiddling contest. If Johnny wins he gets the devil’s gold fiddle. If the devil wins, he gets Johnny’s soul. Johnny takes the challenge even though, “…its a sin” because Johnny’s the best there’s ever been. Of course, Johnny wins and all is right with the world.

I thought about that song when I read Paul’s words, “…you are slaves of the one whom you obey? That’s true whether you serve as slaves of sin, which leads to death, or as slaves of the kind of obedience that leads to righteousness” (v. 16).  Johnny was taking a chance on having to obey the devil, at least as the song went.

It seems to me, however, that even had Johnny lost the wager with the devil, he still could have been OK, provided he didn’t obey the devil but obeyed God instead. “Oh, but Keith, he made the bet with the devil, he was already being manipulated by the devil and fell into the devil’s trap.”

Some of us might think that but I don’t think God does. That is what grace is all about. Friends, that is something Paul talks about a couple of times in this chapter. That is something that all of us Johnnys in the world are pretty thankful God would do. And friend, you need to be thankful too because whether you know it or not, you are now or at least at some point in your life, you have been Johnny too.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Who’s Going to Lead

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 60-62; Romans 5

18 So now the righteous requirements necessary for life are met for everyone through the righteous act of one person, just as judgment fell on everyone through the failure of one person. 19 Many people were made righteous through the obedience of one person, just as many people were made sinners through the disobedience of one person.20 The Law stepped in to amplify the failure, but where sin increased, grace multiplied even more. 21 The result is that grace will rule through God’s righteousness, leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, just as sin ruled in death. (Romans 5:18-21, Common English Bible).

If we were going to dance, traditionally the guy leads. I’m not sure why. Perhaps we are too hard-headed to follow. Maybe we aren’t smart enough. The more traditional answer puts women lower than men. Men are the natural leaders, some would say. I personally don’t think either gender has the key and lock on the abilities of leadership.

When I was in the Navy I learned to “two-step.” The poor woman who taught me got stepped on and kicked many times during the lesson, mostly because kept I continued to try to lead even though I had no idea of what I was doing. I did finally learn despite my inability to get out of the way. In the end, it really didn’t matter as I haven’t danced more than a half-dozen times in the 40 years since.

In today’s lesson, Paul talks about those leading and who we will follow. He says there is one teaches us disobedience. When we choose to follow the one who leads us to disobedience, just as I couldn’t learn to two-step until I let my teacher lead, as long as we insist on taking the lead, as long as we follow the wrong leader, we can expect problems, difficulty, and worse in our lives.

Paul also tells us, however, that when we follow the right leader, Jesus Christ. Following Jesus, says Paul, will result in grace. Grace will lead us to righteousness. Following Jesus will lead us to life eternal. And, Jesus is infinitely patient with me. If I step on his toes or kick him in the shin (accidently of course), he just says, “It’s OK, let’s start again.” That is grace.

I also think the message of this passage can have additional meaning. Paul says to the Corinthians:

14 Don’t be tied up as equal partners with people who don’t believe. What does righteousness share with that which is outside the Law? What relationship does light have with darkness? 15 What harmony does Christ have with Satan? What does a believer have in common with someone who doesn’t believe? 16 What agreement can there be between God’s temple and idols? Because we are the temple of the living God. Just as God said, I live with them, and I will move among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 17 Therefore, come out from among them and be separated, says the Lord. Don’t touch what is unclean. Then I will welcome you. 18 I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Common English Bible).

When we tie ourselves to others outside the faith, when we allow them to lead us, we are walking on a destructive path. This does not mean Paul is advocating we not follow the Great Commission. It doesn’t mean Paul is saying we shouldn’t talk to or associate with people outside the Christian faith. It simply means, be aware of who you are following and keep following the one who gives you light and grace and life. Keep following Jesus.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Spirita Spiro Ministries

cropped-spirita-spiro-ministries.pngHi Friends, I hope you are having a great day.

My wife said something earlier today that I might want to say something about the name change for this blog. She is such a smart lady. So, here is the explanation.

As most of you know by now, as of today, I am officially no longer in full-time ministry. I will still preach part-time, as a pulpit-supply pastor but, my primary focus will be teaching government, economics, psychology (fall semester), and sociology (spring semester) to high school seniors.

Since pulpit ministry is no longer my primary focus and the two things I will most often do will be spiritual direction and formation, this blog, prayer ropes, and I am hoping to do an online live Bible study, I felt like I needed a different name an umbrella for my spiritual activities.

As I began thinking about what I might want to call this new ministry, my mind kept going to Ezekiel’s story of The Valley of Dry Bones. Ever since learning of it in seminary I have had a fascination with the Hebrew word ruach. The word means  “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” Ruach is sometimes even used to mean “soul.”

We don’t have an exact English word that is a literal translation for ruach. That is not an uncommon problem in translating something from one language to another. The word has a richer meaning than any English word we might use in translation.

The webpage “gotquestions.org” gives one of the best short answer meanings I have come across. Consider this:

“God’s Ruach is the source of life. The Ruach of God is the One who gives life to all creation. We could say that God’s Ruach has created every other (non-divine) ruach that exists. All living creatures owe the breath of life to the Creative Spirit of God.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-ruach.html)

After thinking on this for a while, I came up with the words, “Spirit’s Breath,” but I also wanted something that would show the close relationship both words have to “ruach.” So, I was playing around with Google Translate a few days ago. I had it translate “Spirit’s Breath” into every language Google has on that page. I finally landed on Esperanto (I find this language intriguing and may write a post on it at some point in the future). Esperanto translates “Spirit’s Breath” as “Spirita Spiro.” Those two words are close enough, at least to me, to convey the meaning of Ruach.

So, there you have it, Spirita Spiro, Spirit’s Breath.

Have a Blessed Day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Under Worked and Over Paid.

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 57-59; Romans 4

So what are we going to say? Are we going to find that Abraham is our ancestor on the basis of genealogy? Because if Abraham was made righteous because of his actions, he would have had a reason to brag, but not in front of God. What does the scripture say? Abraham had faith in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Workers’ salaries aren’t credited to them on the basis of an employer’s grace but rather on the basis of what they deserve. But faith is credited as righteousness to those who don’t work, because they have faith in God who makes the ungodly righteous. In the same way, Abraham also pronounces a blessing on the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from actions:

Happy are those whose actions outside the Law are forgiven,
        and whose sins are covered?
Happy are those whose sin isn’t counted against them by the Lord. (Romans 4:4-8, Common English Bible).

When I left active duty in the Navy I got a job just about as quick as my plane landed at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport. I didn’t stay there long. Within the first couple of months, I messed up and lost my job. Almost immediately I got another job working for an uncle. It quickly became obvious this wasn’t going to work, so I left to keep peace in my family.

This time it took me a little time to find another job. I went to work for a southwest Houston movie theater and went back to school. It was the only job I ever had where I could say I was underworked and overpaid (for what I did).  Once the film was run through the projector, the projector started by itself, stopped by itself, and wound up on the next platter. As long as my two screens were up and running, the theater managers would just leave me alone.

My work had little to do with staying busy. It was a great job for a student. You got paid relatively well, for very little work. What I was really paid for was, being able to do something about it when there was a problem. When the film breaks or a bulb blows up in the projector, you had to know what to do and get it done quickly. All in all, it was a great job for going to school.

I was paid, not because the theater just had good people in their management team, they were, but I was paid to be there. I was paid for the knowledge I had. It was accounted to me because I earned it (well sort of).

Paul talks in today’s lesson about how faith is accounted to us as righteousness. We cannot earn or buy God’s grace. We can’t work for it or trade for it or beg, borrow, or steal it. It is ours because God chooses to give that grace to us.

My paycheck every week when I worked for that movie theater, as much as my paycheck in more recent years as a preacher and the paychecks I will get this school year as a teacher are mine because I earned them. I performed a task (hopefully I did it well), and my employer gave me a paycheck, not because my employer was a nice person (and they may well be nice people, hopefully, they are nice people). I earned the paycheck.

God’s grace is a different story. It was never mine to start with. I did nothing to earn it. I will never do anything that will earn it. Yet I have it anyway because I have faith, the faith I have in Jesus Christ.

Think about it this way. If someone walks up to you, out of the blue and hands you a $100 bill. You give them a funny, questioning look. Then they say, “It is my gift to you.” You didn’t earn it but you still have it.

Though much more valuable, God’s grace is like that $100 bill and that person on the street is God. The real question becomes, will you accept the gift.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved