It’s God’s Fault

The Lord won’t always reject us 32 He causes a lot of suffering, but he also has pity because of his great love.
33 The Lord doesn’t enjoy sending grief or pain. (Lamentations 3:31-33, Contemporary English Version)

I am once again in a book of the Bible I have never preached from or really studied. There should little wonder about why, Lamentations is one of only a few books in the Bible. Lamentations is a book that is a downer. It is even in the name. Lamentations, meaning, it is a book of laments. A few months back, when we were working through the first part of Psalms, we talked about there being more psalms of lament than any other type. Here we have an entire book devoted to complaining to God about the way the world is treating the writer.

When I went through deacon (20 years ago United Methodist pastors were first ordained deacons and a few years later were ordained elders) ordination interviews I was asked a “what would you do if…” question. The question was this (I can remember just about the exact wording), you have been out all day doing the various things pastors do. When you returned home you found that there was a message on your answering machine that said one of the boys in your church was out riding his bicycle, was hit by a car, and killed. Being the good pastor you are, you immediately leave and drive to the family’s home.

When you get there, a neighbor is there and you hear them say, “You just have to accept this. It is the will of God. God needed your son and called him home.”

Before telling you my answer, I cringe at the thought of such statements. That being said, the writer of Lamentations understands the neighbor’s sentiment. Biblical writers from the Old Testament portray God differently than the writers of the New Testament. I think the writer of Lamentations would probably agree with the neighbor’s statement to the family in the question. I think other Old Testament writers might say the same thing.

As for New Testament writers, if they were to say this was the will of God, their understanding of God’s will would likely be different.

In his classic book, The Will of God, Leslie Weatherhead divides God’s will up into three categories. The intention wil of God, how God intended for the world to function. The circumstantial will of God. Because God allows us free will, the decisions and action we make can cause trouble and because of the gift of free will, what we do can clash with God’s intentional will. God’s will still ultimately will prevail through The Ultimate will of God which is a peaceful world of love and compassion.

Weatherhead would say it was not God’s will for this boy to die. To say that would make God out to be a killer. Circumstances in the situation interfered with God’s intentional will.

So, back to the question in my interview, I said this setting was not the place for theological debate or argument. I would first, work on getting the neighbor whose good intentions are doing more harm than good. Then I would sit down and tell them, this was not God’s will for their son. God gives us all free will. The decisions we make can and do impact the lives of those around us. Because you are hurting, God hurts with you. God grieves with you because of the love God has for both you and your son. And ultimately, God’s will, a world of love and compassion will win the day.

I am not sure that the writer of Lamentations would get that. He talks about God causing a lot of suffering and grief and pain. While God does have that ability, we cause enough of that. God doesn’t need to cause us grief and pain. Thankfully, God doesn’t love us that way. Yes, God can cause grief and pain but when we are talking about God’s children, Why would God want to do that?

I am thankful for the relationship we have or can have with God who wants to fill us with love that we might go into the world to share love and compassion.

I think we reach for the excuse, “It’s the will of God” sounds good. It sounds to our ear to be comforting. We mean well but what that person all too often hears, “It’s God’s Fault.” Such words can hurt their relationship with God at the time they need God most. We need to be careful because when all is said and done, we can’t fix this. We can’t heal a broken heart but God can do all of that and more.

Some of you have heard me talk about it before. Cindy has worked on staff for a few different churches in her working life. At one of them, on the back of her office door was a sign that had a picture of Patrick Stewart decked out in his Star Trek uniform. He has a finger pointing up. Under that picture there was another piece of paper with a letter “R” on it. In much smaller print it said, “It’s all about relationships.” Under Patrick Stewart was the word, “Engage.” In other words, Go build relationships.” We need to be at work building relationships with God and neighbor.

So, “ENGAGE!!!”

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Mess with Dinner

27 But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. 28 That’s why you must examine the way you eat and drink. 29 If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. 30 That’s why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died. 31 If we carefully judge ourselves, we won’t be punished. 32 But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Contemporary English Version)

Back in the mid-1990’s there was a commercial for Boston Market I loved. I looked around the internet trying unsuccessfully to find the commercial. So please, allow me to describe the scene to you. Perhaps you will remember the commercial too.

My favorite one from the campaign had a woman who Boston Market had to have cast as the perfect stay-at-home wife/mother. It is dinner time and the door bell rings. There is a trap door on the front porch. The salesman who rang the bell, of course was standing right on top of the trap door. When she answers she flips the lever on the trap door and the salesman falls through, finding himself nose-to-nose with a full-grown tiger. The camera flashes back to mom who, in a very sinister sounding voice says, “Don’t mess with dinner.”

I found one I liked from the same campaign. Let’s take a look.

It has always bothered me how many people mess with dinner and I am not talking about the evening meal for the family. I am talking about messing with the Lord’s Supper. That is the ultimate in messing with dinner.

How do they mess with it? Probably not in how you think.

The woman in the van with her young daughter wants everyone home for dinner so she sends the band director on a rocket ride so will see things her way. Her point is, if you aren’t there, or if you keep her kids late so they can’t sit together as a family, you are messing with dinner.

When we skip communion, we mess with dinner. Did you know that in some congregations communion Sunday is the lowest attendance Sunday of the month. When we aren’t there, we mess with the family dinner. We mess with family dinner because all the family members weren’t there.

“Well preacher, that scripture you put up there says, ‘But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn’t worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. ‘”

That scripture is more than just telling you that if you are unworthy don’t eat. Yes, that is what it says. But if you heart isn’t right with God and neighbor you shouldn’t take the meal. By the nature of the examination, it means that, after your self-examination and you find yourself coming up short, you need to go out and get things right with God.

God is good, all the time. God is waiting to forgive. Get your heart right then come to the table and DON’T MESS WITH DINNER.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Remembering a Sad Day

God is our mighty fortress, always ready to help in times of trouble.
And so, we won’t be afraid! Let the earth tremble and the mountains
tumble into the deepest sea.
Let the ocean roar and foam, and its raging waves shake the mountains.

(Psalm 46:1-3, Common English Bible)

I was sitting in the parsonage at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, TX. I don’t really remember what I was doing when the phone rang. I knew from caller id it was my good friend Mike Deaton. I answered in a cheery mood. It wasn’t five seconds later my mood became downcast. He told me there had been a shooting at Santa Fe High School.

For those of you who may not know, for a little over three years I was the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Santa Fe. I have a couple of friends on the faculty there. I sent a text message to them. I simply said I am sure you are very busy and overwhelmed. When you get a chance, please call or text me and let me know you are OK.

At that moment I didn’t think about any of the students. The high school kids I knew when I was pastor there, had long since graduated and moved on. The kids that had been in the lower grades were by then the high school but I still saw them as being in kindergarten. Because I hadn’t seen them in a few years, they all where, still the same age. Intellectually I knew they had grown but I still remember them being small.

The next day, 2 years ago today, I saw a list of those killed at school. One name jumped off the gate at me, Jared Conard, Black. I had baptized Jared when he was a preschooler. His brother Anthony was an older elementary student at the time. He was one of those who had already graduated. From time to time when they came into the church building Anthony would run up to me and cross his arms standing in front of me. He wanted me to reach out and grab him and I would lightly hold him against the wall. He could escape anytime he wanted but usually only made a token effort. Anthony was waiting for the next phase of our game.

Jared Conard Black

The next phase was Jared coming to Anthony’s rescue. He would run up in front of me and stop just outside of arms reach. I would grab at him and missed more often than not. Sometimes I just missed. Other times he had faster reactions than me. Because he hadn’t “rescued” Anthony (eventually I would let him), he would say, “I’m sorry Antny, (not a misspelling or a typo, I’m sorry, I tried, I tried.” Then he would run off, only to come back 15 seconds later and do it all over again. Occasionally I did grab Jared. When I did I always let Anthony go and would hold on to Jared. Jared would start in a half giggle, half screaming, if you can imagine a four or five year old, “Antny come help me! Antny come get me out of this. Help me Antny, Helm me.”

Anthony would turn around and wave at Jared and say, “Bye Jared. See you later) and then he would run off to whatever his age group activity was happening. I would put Jared on my shoulder and go into the fellowship hall where everyone had gathered. I would go around asking people, “I just caught this, what should I do with it?” People would give a variety of answers but eventually someone would say, “Just throw him in the trash.” This would go around the room for a while. Eventually, I made my way back to his mom and asked her the same question, she would say, “Oh, no! I will take him.” With that I would put him down, he would go run around and play, occasionally coming up close enough to grab him again but most of the time I would ignore him because I needed to go get ready for Bible study or something.

All those memories came flooding back when I saw Jared’s name on that list. It brought me to tears. I think it is the first time that someone I baptized, I was also involved in burying him. It was truly a sad day, one of the saddest of my time in ministry.

Every time I hear of a school shooting it upsets me. Most of them are so senseless. And death is so permanent. Sometimes I don’t think people think about that part before pulling the trigger. But this one was different. This one hit close to home. I knew people there. I had worshiped with them, was in fellowship with them, and served with them. And now one of them was gone. Someone I knew. It was all so senseless. My heart was broken.

Two years and a day later (I couldn’t make myself do this to be posted yesterday. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it is) I still pray for Jared’s mother, Pam. I pray too for his brothers. I pray for that church and that community regularly. Something happened there that should never happen anywhere. It was pointless. It was tragic. It was evil. And I still pray, something like this will ever happen again. So no parent will be in the position of my friend and Jared’s mom, Pam.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

On Planting a Spiritual Garden

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling… (Philippians 2:12, New International Version)

This morning I was reading a few of the blogs I enjoy. One of them is “Faith Bits” by a guy who just calls himself “Pastor Brian.” He reminded his readers that we do the majority of our panting in the spring regardless of whether we are growing vegetables or flowers.

Pastor Brian correctly states that in addition to any physical garden we might plant, we also need to be cognizant of the need for a spiritual garden as well. It seems to me that our spiritual garden could be an element of us working out our own salvation as Paul says in Philippians 2 and was part of my sermon this past Sunday. You can click video to watch or you can click here to read the manuscript.

So, let’s consider what should go in our spiritual garden:

Plant three rows of peas:           
Peace of mind;
Peace of heart;
Peace of soul

Plant four rows of squash:
            Squash gossip;
Squash indifference;
            Squash grumbling;
Squash selfishness.

Plant four rows of lettuce:
            Lettuce be faithful;
Lettuce be kind;
            Lettuce be happy;
Lettuce love one another

Plant at least three rows of turnips:
            Turn-up for service when needed;
            Turn-up to help one another;
            Turn-up the music and dance.

Also plant five rows of thyme:
            Thyme for fun;
Thyme for rest;
Thyme for yourself;
Thyme for your family;
Thyme for worship [even when it’s virtual worship].

Then, after you’ve finished planting, water freely with patience and cultivate with love. Remember that you reap what you sow, to plant lots of good seed, that there may be much fruit in your spiritual garden!

Now, go plant your garden.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

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

The Blame Game

16 These people are always grumbling and blaming others; they follow their own evil desires; they brag about themselves and flatter others in order to get their own way. 17 But remember, my friends, what you were told in the past by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “When the last days come, people will appear who will make fun of you, people who follow their own godless desires.” 19 These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, my friends, keep on building yourselves up on your most sacred faith. Pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and keep yourselves in the love of God, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy to give you eternal life. 22 Show mercy toward those who have doubts; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; and to others show mercy mixed with fear, but hate their very clothes, stained by their sinful lusts. (Jude 1:16-23, Good News Translation).

Jude’s letter speaks to 21st Century culture. When I read chapter 1 last night I knew where they blog was going today.

Regardless of your political views in society or even in the Church, the amount of finger pointing is staggering. And, for those of us who blame others but refuse to take any responsibility? Well, we are part of the problem. Republicans blame Democrats, liberals blame conservatives and never fear, the opposite is also true.

During the Covid-19 scare I came to realize just how bad the problem has become. I made the digital collage above. Over the past two months I have heard everything, every one up there be blamed for this pandemic. Might the bat or the mosquito hold an amount of responsibility? Could be. What about the tiger? The tiger is a victim at least as much as we.

How this got my attention was two men in the pictures, Greg Abbott and Andrew Cuomo. One is a Republican, one is a Democrat. One is on the east coast, the other, the southwestern Gulf Coast. The most common thing each shares is, they are both governors of large states which would give them some amount of power.

That each has had someone place responsibility on them for the Covid-19 pandemic is ludicrous. This is blaming and finger pointing just for the sake of blaming and finger-pointing. No wonder some blame the tiger.

Like most people, I have my political opinions. People who know me well know what many of those opinions are. Many of you would agree with me. Many others would not. And, in the circles of friends and family, I have done some finger-pointing myself. I am not proud of that.

What I am really trying to say is, we are in a crisis. Things are hard. Having the responsibility of leadership does not make them easier. Having the responsibility to make decisions that impact not just the millions in the United States but billions around the world should not be taken lightly regardless of the President or Congress, important decisions rest in their hands. On any level of government, important decisions rest in their hands.

It isn’t my intent to self-serve with the above Facebook meme. Someone shared it with me (outside Facebook). When they shared it with me I thought, “It is true that I have never pastored a church through a pandemic, it is equally true that the high school principal has never tried to lead a school and the teacher has never tried to teach through a pandemic either. Congress has never tried to legislate during a pandemic and its been a very long time and is a very different world since the last time a President tried to lead through a pandemic. In truth, none of us have tried to do anything through a global pandemic before.

If we try to live by Jude’s words in the lesson, we shouldn’t be pointing fingers any time, but, we also say we are people who live out the words of Scripture. We say we believe the Bible. If that is true, its time to stop blaming. An election is coming. Instead of blaming, go vote.

Jesus said, “By this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (My paraphrase).

I think it was my mother who taught me, when I point a finger at someone else (the blame game), there are three more pointing back at me. I may not make the mistakes I blame on others, but I make more than my fair share. Let’s take the lead and then perhaps our leaders can learn something from the followers that it’s time to stop playing the blame game.

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