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

God of Jews Only???

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 54-56; Romans 3

21 But now God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, which is confirmed by the Law and the Prophets. 22 God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. 23 All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, 24 but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. 25 Through his faithfulness, God displayed Jesus as the place of sacrifice where mercy is found by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness in passing over sins that happened before, 26 during the time of God’s patient tolerance. He also did this to demonstrate that he is righteous in the present time, and to treat the one who has faith in Jesus as righteous.

27 What happens to our bragging? It’s thrown out. With which law? With what we have accomplished under the Law? 28 No, not at all, but through the law of faith. We consider that a person is treated as righteous by faith, apart from what is accomplished under the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Isn’t God the God of Gentiles also? Yes, God is also the God of Gentiles. 30 Since God is one, then the one who makes the circumcised righteous by faith will also make the one who isn’t circumcised righteous through faith. 31 Do we then cancel the Law through this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we confirm the Law. (Romans 3:21-31, Common English Bible)

Jose Altuve, second baseman of the Houston Astros, has already begun doing something that not that many years ago, I would have thought would be impossible. I truly didn’t think it would be possible for another person to replace Craig Biggio as the best second baseman in Astros history.

Craig Biggio was a great player. Make no mistake about that. Being the first Astro to enter the Hall of Fame as an Astro speaks volumes about his abilities and his career. But, as great a player as Biggio was, he never won a league Most Valuable Player award but Altuve has. Altuve also has won the Hank Aaron award for the best hitter in the league. Both have Gold Glove awards and Silver Slugger Awards though Biggio does have more, but he played longer. Altuve also owns a Babe Ruth Award given for the best post-season performance.

I could go on, but I won’t. Here is my question. Does baseball exist just for Jose Altuve? Of course not, that would totally throw away what players like Biggio have done. Again, there could be a long list of players. In fact, every player who has ever played the game, is currently playing, or ever will play can claim the game exists for them too. But, they are not all. The game exists for coaches, broadcasters, stadium employees, owners, trainers, and the fans. Baseball isn’t just for one player, no matter how good he might be. Baseball is for everyone.

Our lesson today rightly makes the same claim about God, just not in those words. Paul asks an important question of the Romans. Is God just the God of Jews? (v. 29) Paul answers his own question. He says that God is also the God of the Gentiles. I think Paul would agree, God is God for all people.

Here is the proof. Jesus told the disciples to, “…go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19, CEB). At that time, there were not Jews everywhere in the world, but that was Jesus’ instruction, go into ALL the world… If others in the world were only the God of the Jews, who would Jesus tell the disciples to go into all the world to make disciples?

In the end, God is the God of all people. God loves all of God’s people. And, it is God’s desire to have a relationship with all people. And, why not? God wanted a relationship with the likes of us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

And I Will Be Clean

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 51-53; Romans 2

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.
And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
    wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and celebration again;
    let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
Hide your face from my sins;
    wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
    put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
    please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
    and sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach wrongdoers your ways,
    and sinners will come back to you.

14 Deliver me from violence, God, God of my salvation,
    so that my tongue can sing of your righteousness.
15 Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
16 You don’t want sacrifices.
    If I gave an entirely burned offering,
    you wouldn’t be pleased.
17 A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God.
    You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.
18 Do good things for Zion by your favor.
    Rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.
19 Then you will again want sacrifices of righteousness—
    entirely burned offerings and complete offerings.
        Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar. (Psalm 51:1-19, Common English Bible)

Psalm 51 is the Psalter reading from the lectionary for Ash Wednesday. It is also one of my favorites in the Psalms. The imagery to me is extraordinarily vivid. The pain the psalmist feels, the pain of guilt should remind us of the pain our sins can bring to others and to ourselves.

When I was in seminary, the consensus opinion of the faculty at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology was, David, didn’t write this Psalm and even if he had it would not have been following the Uriah/Bathsheba fiasco. As I have told you before, most scholars believe those words that follow the “chapter” number are believed to be a later edition.

The psalmist’s words do point to a sin that occupies his heart and mind. “My sin is always right in front of me.” “…I was born in the guilt of sin.” “I’ve committed evil in your sight.” “I’ve sinned against you, you alone.” While the psalmist doesn’t confess specifics, it is clear he is laying it all out on the table.

As he clicks off his words of sin, it is clear the psalmist wants God to absolve his sin. He wants to be free of the guilt in his heart and in his soul. He wants to have joy again. He wants God to wash him whiter than snow.

It is good for the psalmist that God is in the forgiving business. If we take the credits for this Psalm, the sins of the psalmist, David, at least in his own eyes were severe. I also think, with 21st-century sensibilities, we would probably agree. At least at that moment the psalmist really wasn’t a very good guy.

The good news for us is, God is still in the forgiving business. Regardless of what we may have done, it may have even been the sins of David but it doesn’t have to be, God will forgive. John reminds us of that when he writes, “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”

I want that kind of forgiveness. I want God to wash me clean of my transgressions. I am convinced God did it for David. God will do it for me if I confess. If you confess, God will wash you clean. Thanks be to God.

Have a great day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

And Finally Beloved

Sunday, July 29, 2018, was my last day as pastor at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, TX. Below is the video from the sermon, titled, “And Finally Beloved.”

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.

10 I was very glad in the Lord because now at last you have shown concern for me again. (Of course you were always concerned but had no way to show it.) 11 I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. 12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:8-13, Common English Bible)