How Do You Know?

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.(Matthew 16:13-20, New Revised Standard Version)

Have you ever had a doctor say you needed to do everything you never wanted to do? I am talking about one of those kind of doctors who have their own version of the Ten Commandments, saying things like “thou shalt not eat salt” and “thou shalt lose weight.” I’m talking about a Doctor you could have a conversation with, telling them you know and have studied the Bible and there is nothing in there saying anything about those two commandments and yet the doctor just doesn’t seem to care. He or she wants you to follow those instructions anyway. We can talk. We can argue and yet that wonderful doctor just keeps saying the same thing. We can even go so far as to call them “an old stick in the mud that wants to be take all the flavor out of food” or, even worse, wants us to completely remove our favorite foods from our mouths. I have actually heard one doctor say though not to me, “if it tastes good, spit it out!”

I don’t know about you, but I have had doctors tell me I need to lose some weight, an instruction I obviously have not fully followed. At least my efforts weren’t the way my doctors intended. But, I do work on it.

I think no matter what I, or any of the rest of us do or say, most of our doctors will keep telling us to lose weight or stop eating salt or get more exercise, or stop drinking coffee or whatever else might fall into their personal version of the Ten Commandments.

Why is it, do you think, our doctors push us, their patients lose weight? Sometimes I think he or she just wants to see skinny people walking around town. Could that possibly be true? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

Maybe these doctors own stock in a clothing manufacturing company or clothing retail store chain and is trying turn a profit? That could be the case but then that same doctor would be telling skinny people to gain weight so they would have to go out and buy new clothes as well. Besides, how many times have you heard about a doctor telling anyone to gain weight? It does happen, most recently the doctor told my son and daughter-in-law that Sydney needed to gain weight. But people hear the need to lose weight a great deal more than needing to gain weight.

It could be that our doctors think if those of us who are overweight would lose a few pounds we would look better. I know for me it would take more than just a few pounds.

Any of those things could be true, but I think there is probably a different answer resting in the fact that the person giving us these instructions is a medical doctor. Do you think that, maybe, just maybe, our physician knows that those of us who are overweight would be feeling better and living healthier if we lost all the extra pounds? That, my friends, is probably the case. But, how do our doctors know that to be true. If one of them were here this morning I might ask them the same question directly. To tell the truth, I really wouldn’t need an answer.

I think I know the answer. I think most of us do.  Losing a few pounds or having something else that could cause that doctor to give us some kind of special instructions. Any of us might and all of us should, regardless of our weight, or who are doctor might be, listen, at least a little bit to what they say. First of all, we pay them our hard-earned money for their advice. But more importantly, they are the ones with the education. They are the ones who have read the research. How does the doctor know? His or her education, training, research, experience, and study tell them so.

I read an article by Dr. John Eagan on the Protestant work ethic. Dr. Eagan said everyone is a person of faith. He went on to make a point that though every person is a person of faith, he did not say in what people placed their faith. He only said that we all do have faith.

For instance, I have faith that when I put my clothes in the washing machine, do all the voodoo  with all the settings, and all the stuff with the cleaning agents, my clothes will come out clean. How do I know? Because I know what the various products I use in doing the laundry are supposed to get done. If they don’t work, then I know my faith was misguided and I need to take another look at my laundry methods, cleaning products, equipment or all of the above.

When it’s August in Texas and the weatherman tells me, it’s going to be hot, I have the faith that what he says is true. It should be noted, however, that having faith in the weather forecast is not always faith well founded. But, how do I know that August in Texas means hot? My experience of living almost all my life in Texas, including a whole lot of Augustus tell me that it is almost always hot when those two conditions are present, no matter what the weatherman has to say when I watch the 10:00 o’clock news.

When I go to the doctor, I have faith that he or she gives me is best for my overall health. And we should listen to what they say if for no other reason than we have enough faith in the medical opinion to give them money so we can hear that opinion.

It is easy for us to say I have faith in something. It’s something very different to know why we have faith in something. Do you have faith that if we flip on a light switch the lights will come on? You do? How do you know?

In our lesson, we are looking at Jesus’ response to Peter first Jesus asks who do you say I am?” Jesus begins by asking a simple faith question, the question that laid the groundwork, if you will, is who do people say I am?” That’s a far easier question to answer when you’re talking about someone else, someone other than yourself. The response, “some say Moses, some say Elijah, or one of the prophets.” What other people are saying, is almost always an easier answer to give than to answer Jesus’ real question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Peter quickly gives the answer. Surprisingly, usually when Peter answers quickly, he’s wrong. But this time, Peter says, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” That is a faith answer to a faith question. Peter says, I know you are the Messiah.” For me, what is really at stake is, how did Peter know?

If given the opportunity, I think Peter probably could have answered the question for himself. This time, he didn’t because Jesus responded first. “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but instead my father in heaven.” Peter says, “You are the Christ,” and that is true but how does he know? He knows because God revealed it to him.

All of us face the same faith question. It asks where our faith lies. Here we aren’t talking about our faith in doctors or the weather reporter or household appliances or light fixtures. We may have faith in at least some of these things. But what we’re talking about is faith that is deeper and more significant than anything we have talked about.

That is because they can falter, they can let us down and our faith is misguided. This faith question asks, “Who do you say he is?” If I asked each of us to answer in a quick poll of the congregation, I think I most, if not all of us, would answer, “He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the savior, the Redeemer,” or another title that would be equally appropriate.

That is not to say if we were to poll everyone in the country or even here in Huntington that we would get the same answer. We would probably get some very different answers from our own, depending on who we asked. But for this morning’s message, those questions are not our concern. Should we be concerned about their faith and their Salvation? Sure, we should, but we will save that concern for another time.

My focus is on us. My concern is for those who give the expected answer to Jesus question, “Who do you say I am?” for we who know Jesus to be the Messiah, the Christ, I have another question for you and perhaps it’s the most important question we have asked this morning.

You say Jesus is the Christ or some similar term, answer me this, how do you know? How do you know Jesus is the Christ? In many ways Jesus’s question to Peter is a confession of faith. When we confess our faith, we are saying we know Jesus is the Messiah?

The summer I was seven years old, toward the end of vacation Bible school, the pastor of our church asked me, “Keith, when are you going to come forward and let me baptize you?” Then he asked me if I believed in Jesus. I answered I did. Though I really don’t think I understood what that meant. Within a few weeks I was baptized and in my seven-year-old way I confessed Jesus to be the Christ, but how did I know? I knew because the preacher had told me. And maybe for a seven-year-old kid, probably for any kid, that’s good enough. But for a more mature faith, it isn’t good enough.

How do you know Jesus is the Christ? Is it because I or some other preacher told you who Jesus is? I’m glad you listened and got that message, but that’s not good enough.

Do you know because some past Sunday school teacher told you who Jesus was? Again, I’m really glad you got that message, but knowing because a Sunday school teacher told you isn’t good enough.

Do you know because you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? It touches my heart to know that you read the Bible? Personal time and scripture is important and I am really glad to know you have taken the time to read Scripture. Keep it up. But just reading the Bible to say you know Jesus to be the Messiah, well, sorry, that isn’t good enough.

Do you know because your mom or dad taught it to you? Once again that’s important. It’s vitally important that we raise our children in the faith. It is important that we teach them matters of faith at home. But as much as I hate to say it, it still isn’t good enough all these things are important they are vitally important for our children. But you can’t inherit mom or dad’s faith.

Do you know it because you got it from your grandma or grandpa. Both of my grandmothers told me a lot about Jesus over the years. My maternal grandmother came by it honestly. She was a strict Baptist’s preacher’s kid. That wasn’t good enough.

As the Church, when we baptize children and adults, we make a promise to uphold and teach and demonstrate living the faith. And friends, at every opportunity you have to teach the faith, to demonstrate the faith, and to support those arounds us in church and beyond, thank you. But, as hard as you work to do that, I am sure God smiles, but it isn’t good enough.

Yes they are important period all of them are important and I would never tell you otherwise. But none of these things are good enough for the mature person of faith because all these things are head knowledge. We expect head knowledge from the doctor or the mechanic or from the other people we do business with. But with matters of faith, we all need something more.

John Wesley talked about his heartwarming experience. Wesley knew in his head all there was to know about Jesus, yet something was missing, something important. He knew what he had wasn’t good enough. He went on a search for what more he needed. His search sent him as a missionary to Georgia. His search led him to active participation in the Holy Club at Oxford. He desperately wanted to know what it was to know Jesus to be the Messiah, not just in his head but in his heart. He wanted more than to know Jesus to be the Messiah, he wanted to feel Jesus was the Messiah.

Then one day, as he was at a preaching house on Aldersgate Street in London. He listened to a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to Paul’s letter to the Romans. The Holy Spirit came mightily upon Wesley and he said he felt his heart strangely warmed. He said he knew Jesus died, even for him!

That’s what we need. We don’t just need head knowledge; we need heart knowledge. Matters of faith are matters of the heart. Here in the church we depend a great deal on head knowledge. We need it to do business. But more importantly, I think it is difficult, not impossible, but difficult for us to arrive at heart knowledge without first having head knowledge. We need to hear Christ proclaimed in worship, Sunday school, in the words of scripture, and in many other places so we can come to a knowledge and understanding about God’s work in our lives. But head knowledge alone is not good enough.

We need something more. We need a lot more. Where shall we turn? There is good news. In our lesson Jesus says to Peter, “blessed are you son of Simon son of Jonah for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my father in heaven.”

I think what Jesus is saying here is, flesh and blood work in our heads, God works in our hearts.

____________________

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

Prayer 101: FLASH

58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:58-60, New Revised Standard Version).

When I think of the word “Flash” I think of my Navy days. Being a communications guy, a signalman, meant knowing the priorities used for messages. The classifications are routine (the lowest), priority, immediate, and flash (the highest priority).

To see a message with “FLASH” on it was rare on the signal bridge. When we saw it, it was always important.

Flash prayers are important as were yesterday’s breath prayers. For some people, a flash prayer and a breath prayer are one in the same. I disagree.

Today’s lesson has Stephen, as stones are flying at him and he is dying, saying flash prayers for others. He paraphrased Jesus’ flash prayer on the cross. Stephen says, as he is about to die, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

As I see it (others may define them differently), but yesterday we said, a breath prayer is often used for centering or settling. I see breath prayers as prayers we say primarily for ourselves. These short prayers us carryout Paul’s instruction to “Pray without ceasing.” When we see something, we stop and pray.

A flash prayer is generally prayed for others. When I drive down the road and see an ambulance with lights and sirens going, I will pray, “Lord be with them.” I am praying for the patient and paramedics. The same holds true for law enforcement and fire fighters. What they do is important. What they do is also dangerous. If I see a man or woman in a military uniform, I try to pray with them. If that isn’t possible, it is time for a flash prayer.

The term “Flash Prayer” is an allusion to a camera’s flash. Missionary Frank Laubach gets credit for the term Flash Prayer. These are quick prayers for guidance, strength, protection, etc. such as “O God, help me to tell the truth,” or “God, help me not to lose my temper.” In 1952 Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking. Laubach believed that power came in prayer. One of his methods was walking the street and “shoot” prayers at people. He called this “flash prayers.” He “bombarded” people with prayers of goodwill and love. He said people passing him “shot” prayers at them often turned around and looked at him. https://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/

I happened on a story from Guideposts I want to share with you today in closing.

Lenore Else was worried about her son Eric who was driving 150 miles home in a terrible storm. Like many mothers, she worried about all her children but she especially Eric since he was a sales red and drove a lot of miles. She also liked knowing others prayed for Eric too and everyone in the family did, even 15-month-old Parker.

The phone rang. It was Eric, sounding rattled, he said, “My car’s been hit by lightening.”

“Are you alright?” asked Lenore asked.

Lenore and her husband Bob found the hospital where they took Eric. He seemed alert and fine. “Lightening flashed across the windshield and hood. The hair stood up on my arms. I felt an electrical surge go through me. With a boom of thunder the engine and power steering died. I skidded off the highway. When I came to a stop, electrical sparks bounced over the hood…”

“He is fortunate,” the doctor said. “Someone is looking out for him.”

Lenore said she started thinking about the prayers Parker prayed for his Uncle Eric. For two months, every night, Parker prayed for everyone as three-year-olds do. Those prayers changed regularly but the prayer for Eric was always the same. They tried to get Parker to pray differently. Parker wouldn’t have it. He continued to pray, “God, keep Uncle Eric safe.”

Flash prayers matter. I know Parker’s prayers mattered. His and ours still do.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Prayer 101: Breath Prayer

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, New Revised Standard Version).

There are times that a very short prayer meets the needs. If we need to re-center in a stressful moment can be a good time to use a short breath prayer. These prayers are not meant to be the center of our prayer life but instead help us to live out Paul’s instruction to pry without ceasing.

If you are driving down the road and you come across an accident, to pray a quick flash prayer, “Lord, help them” is completely appropriate. If you see first responders on their way with lights and sirens going, yet it is a good thing to do. But this is not the time to close you eyes when you pray. Keep them on the road.

If you are at your desk after spending 30 minutes having the boss call you on the carpet and now you feel completely stressed, it might be time for a breath prayer. “Be Still…” and “…know that I am God.”

Today we are talking about breath prayers. These prayers are good for stress relief. They are also good prayers to center one’s self on God.

The most common breath prayers are praying verses of Scripture. As you breath in, you say the first half of the verse and in the second you breath out repeating the second half of the verse. As you slowly breath in, breath slowly and deeply and say, “Be still.” When your lungs are full, start slowly letting them out, saying the second half of the verse. In our case, “and know that I am God.”

There are many verses that lend themselves well to breath prayer. Here is a short list, there are many more.

 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! – Ezekiel 37:5

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. – Psalm 62:1

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? – Matthew 6:26

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. – Psalm 29:11

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. – Psalm 150:6

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14

There are many, many more. Search with your favorite web browser and ask for “Breath Prayer”

These prayers are not Scripture but they are still important.

Jesus, let me feel your love.
O Lord Show me your way.
Holy one, heal me.
Jesus Alleluia, have mercy.
Holy Wisdom, Guide me.
Father/Mother (Abba/Amma), let me feel your presence.

The Jesus Prayer is an ancient prayer first used, as far as we know, around the 5th Century. It is a repeated prayer. You say the same words over and over again, as much as between 50 and 100 times in a single prayer session. These simple words can have powerful results but that should not be taken for granted.

The Jesus Prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

I have used the Jesus prayer in many different settings. It is commonly particularly in the Orthodox Church. They also use this prayer with a prayer rope with one know representing a prayer.

Breath prayer is an important tool in our prayer life. For most of us there are numerous times during the course of our lives where we need to stop, breath in and breath out and as we do, pray a Bible verse or something else that will get us focused on God.

Hitting coaches tell baseball players, “Keep your eye on the ball.” For the Christian, focusing God is central. Breath in, breath out, keep your eye on God as you pray.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sighs too Deep for Words

Today is Song Saturday. Each Saturday I bring you a poem or song lyrics from either an original poem/lyrics or perhaps from another poet/lyricist. Most weeks I have done fairly well at bringing original work. Today’s post is also original work.

Earlier this week, as I was working on something else I happened on Romans 8:26 (you can read the verse below). I’ve read it many times before as Romans 8 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. As I looked at it this week, the verse spoke to me. Yesterday I wrote the lyrics.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did writing it.

Song Lyrics Based on Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26, New Revised Standard Version).

Intro

Verse 1

With beaten soul, my world struck down,
Devoid hands look for Jesus’ crown
The pain grows deep, I seek a way,
Friend, where will my empty heart stay.

I’ve nothing left, but one small seed
Restore me this, broken soul pleads.
These broken strings play songs not heard
I pray with sighs too deep for words.

Prechorus

With my deep groans far out of tune,
Help me Lord to sing your song soon.

Chorus 1

No words to speak, no song to play,
I am empty, fill me I pray
These broken strings might play songs heard
I still pray with sighs too deep for words.

Verse 2

Temptation surrounds God’s people,
I’ll praise God, under the steeple,
Freedom calls me, fly like the birds,
We pray with sighs too deep for words.

Prechorus

Deep groans now coming into tune
I know I’ll sing God’s great song soon.

Chorus 2

I still can’t speak, no song to play,
I am empty, fill me I pray
New strings to strum play songs now heard
And l pray with sighs too deep for words.

Bridge

Spirit power enter I pray
Fill me with grace, your love to stay
Lord when I pray, you’ve always heard
Yet I pray, sighs too deep for words.

Chorus 3

For this old string, there’s life anew.
The sounds of Grace, you play here too.
God’s sounds are sung, your blessings heard
I speak with sighs too deep for words.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

On Corporate Prayer

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you…
21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:3-18, 21, New International Version).

Several years ago, after worship, as was my habit before the virus, I greeted people at the door, shaking hands with people as they left.

It was fellowship lunch Sunday. Most church members were staying to eat. After greeting a few who were not staying, there was a person hanging back wanting to talk with me.

I don’t remember the conversation but only a few minutes passed when the first interruption came. A youth was sent to tell me I needed to come say the blessing. My response, “Go back and tell the adults, I am in a conference and I will be there as soon as I can.”

I thought someone would say, “OK, pastor is out of pocket. We can wait for him to say the blessing or I will say it and we can eat.”

WHAT WAS I THINKING? Five or ten minutes later a different youth had the same message. I said, “Go find Mr. Smith (lay leader) or Mr. Jones (Chair of the Board) and ask one of them to pray.” Yeah, that didn’t happen either.

A third youth showed up. I just put up my hand and said, Go. I wrapped-up my conversation and went to the fellowship hall. I walked in saying, “There are at least 50 Christians in here. That there is no one to pray so you can eat, I have no sympathy.” I prayed and we ate but Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones came up too me saying, “Preacher, praying in front of everybody is your job.”

That is the way many people are about being the voice in corporate prayer. People with a solid prayer life, will not pray in a group.

Some folks question if such prayer is Biblical. I am not sure where that idea comes from. Our lesson today is part of a corporate prayer. Much of Judah gathered to pray.

In Genesis 9 Noah and his sons pray together. God talks, Noah and sons listened. Flip it over and the same is true. Corporate prayer has been part of God’s people’s experience from just about the beginning of creation.

Corporate prayer is powerful and every believer can and should participate. When I was in seminary a group of Native American United Methodist pastors were also in school. During corporate prayer, these men and women all prayed vocally throughout. They knew corporate prayer.Someone began but everyone joined in. People spoke at once, all over the room. If you listened closely, you might here the Holy Spirit.

Corporate Prayer teaches us about prayer. Some of my earliest memories of prayer had someone praying out loud.

When we are involved in corporate prayer, we NEVER pray alone. Equally true, when we pray we never pray alone. God is with us. It is corporate prayer with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s says in Romans, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:28, New Revised Standard Version).

Prayer: corporate, personal, written, intercessory, flash, breath, all are prayer. If our words aren’t enough, the Spirit intercedes for us. We are people of prayer. It should serve to remind us of this, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, New Revised Standard Version.)

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

What Brings Fulfillment

Continuing the Sermon Series “Seven Essential Questions.”

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

I am not that guy. You will not find me in tears over the loss of a car. I have had cars I have liked more than others. It did bother me a little when I totaled in my Buick but it didn’t take me long to get over it. I also do, like most people, get excited when I get a new car but that is because it is something new, at least to me. 

There was another commercial on several years ago. I can’t really remember what they were trying to sell and I looked around on the internet for the commercial but never found it. It had a line in it that said, “The point of a car is not to get you from point A to point B. The car is the point. 

I couldn’t disagree more. But, perhaps that is because I am not a car guy. I don’t like working on them. In fact, I will hardly work on one. I know very little about how the engine and all the components work. I also have little interest in learning. I know were the gas goes. In a pinch I could change the oil and maybe the spark plugs. Beyond that, if it won’t go, call a mechanic. I probably know a little more than that, but I think you get my point. 

I have come to a point in my life that I am not all that excited about driving. When I need to go somewhere, I go. If I don’t need to go somewhere, the keys usually stay in my pocket. The real point of this is a qualifier. I am not a car guy. Cars don’t get me thatexcited. I am a guitar guy. Some people collect cars, I collect guitars. My collection is small, by collection standards, but it is still more than I need in reality. Still, I like them. They are my thing. 

This guitar is one of the oldest in my collection. This one is Sybil. I name all my guitars. I haven’t had this guitar all that long, just less than 10 years. Cindy sometimes makes fun of my guitars and says something like, “You can only play one at a time.” But she has given me one for my birthday on two different occasions and another for no particular reason at all. They always make me happy.

Over the last few years, I have added to my collection. I had one for a long time. I added a second, but it was stolen. Then I added three pretty quickly when I felt like I needed a few different guitars for different purposes. I got Sybil specifically to keep in my office.. 

I have really tried to limit myself. Each of my guitars are part of the collection for a different reason. Two were added for their ability to plug into a sound system. Three are different types of electrics. The rest are there because they have a different sound or so I could have one in my office. One other is not actually a guitar but a baritone ukulele.

I love my guitars. But, I think it is important to say here, while I love my guitars, they are not the source of my happiness. Guitars are not the basis of my happiness. Guitars do not bring me fulfillment. I do find happiness and enjoyment in playing them, but it is really more about the music than the instrument. I hope the same is true for all you car guys watching online this morning. 

I have a wish list on Amazon. I have a lot of different things on it including a few guitars. After Cindy gave me one of those birthday guitars, one I had on that Amazon wish list, I went online to that guitar and a few others that the new one eliminated the need in having. I wasn’t and didn’t eliminate them all. One of the things I found myself doing, however, was looking again, with wanting, the other guitars still on my list! 

Here, I had in my possession a brand-new guitar. I hadn’t had the guitar 12 hours and already I am staring at my computer screen wanting something else! I said to myself, I said, “Self, you are being ridiculous. You have a brand-new guitar you have hardly played yet. You don’t need another guitar right now. Stop, enjoy what you already have before worrying about going out and wanting more.” 

I am not alone in this. We see something and we think to ourselves, if only I could have this, then I would be happy. One of my other things about buying a new guitar, I save my pennies, sometimes quite literally, so nothing comes out of the family budget and nothing goes on credit when I am buying that new guitar. For me, and others that tend to be like me, we scrimp and save for months or even years to buy that thing that would make us happy. Finally, the day comes when we have money to go out and buy that joy maker and we go out and pull the trigger and buy it. 

At that moment of purchase, we are overjoyed with what we have just done. We want to brag on it. We want to show it off. One of the first things I did after Cindy gave me that guitar was to take a picture and put it on Facebook. We are quite happy, and we want everyone else to be happy for us. 

We are happy that is, until the new wears off. We are happy until we see the something new, pretty bauble and then we want that. We are no longer happy. We want that, whether that be a new car, a new guitar, a new deer rifle, new furniture, the list of possibilities is endless. And, if we can make that new purchase, then and only then will we be happy. When we get it, for a time we are happy and then the new wears off or we see something we think is newer or better and we must have it and the process starts all over again. 

There are people with a different kind of problem. They have a legitimate need and agonize over their decision, sometimes for weeks or even months. When they do finally pull the trigger and make the purchase they then agonize, even mourn the spent money. Some even make themselves sick over the loss of money because that money is the source of their happiness. A friend of ours has said, “They are so tight when they hold a penny, they make Abraham Lincoln squeal. It is the same problem but instead of a car or a guitar or whatever, for them, it is money.

There are still others who attempt to find their joy in alcohol, drugs, food, gambling and other forms of destructive behaviors. We think something is missing from our lives so we go in search of that missing elements in an alcohol bottle, drug abuse, improper use of foods with things like over-indulgence, and yes, I know, I am speaking to myself again, and with various forms of gambling. 

Still others, search for their joy, fulfillment and happiness in their leisure time activities. I will be happy when hunting season comes again. I will find fulfillment on the end of my fishing rod. I will find joy when I can spend my day reading or practicing my music or playing a ball game. Without this activity I am not whole or complete. 

God did not make us to be musicians or athletes or academics. We may have God given gifts in one of these areas or many more, but this is not what God created us to do. You can’t practice all day every day. We can’t spend our lives with our nose constantly in a book. You can fill in other blanks as necessary. Further, some of these things can be taken away. Athletes age and can no longer compete at the same level. Do you remember me mentioning a stolen guitar? If that is where I find my fulfillment and joy that would mean someone could rob me of my joy simply by stealing the right something of which I place such great importance in my life. 

If we depend on any or all those activities to find our happiness, joy and fulfillment, we always come up short. When we come up short, our lives will never be all God intends them to be or calls us to be. 

What God did create us to be is disciples, servants, His children. When we start looking at things from that perspective, it begins to change the way we see things that we believe are our sources of happiness, joy and fulfillment. 

Do you want to find fulfillment? Do you want to have joy? Do you want to be happy? Paul, in our lesson this morning, gives us a pretty good clue. “…make your bodies a living sacrifice…” In other words, if we want to find our true place of happiness, joy and fulfillment, if we want that peace that passes understanding, we first have to stop worrying about ourselves and place in the forefront of our lives our real intended position as disciples, as servants, as children of God. 

Do you want to feel fulfilled? Go work on a house with Habitat for Humanity. Be a scout leader. Volunteer at one of the schools. Go be a pink lady, or a pink man and volunteer at the hospital. The possibilities for service are endless. Fulfillment is going to come when we realize that we are not the most important thing in the world and start reaching out to make the world better for other people. 

You want to know joy? Be a real disciple in your giving, not only to your church but to the real work of God in the world. Support what our ladies are doing with Loose Threads, Pack Pals. Sponsor a child for education in a third world country. Support the work of agencies that work to bring clean water to parts of the world where clean water is scares. I promise you, there are more places to give than any of us have money. There are more places that can use our time and talents than we have of either. Wherever you choose to give, what you give will make a difference. 

Here is what it comes down to. If you want to find real fulfillment you must be transformed. We must move from a self-centered focus to a servant focus. We are called to be at work in the world, using all God has given us to move forward the Kingdom of God in this time and place.

Several years ago, I came to understand, every church needs at least two ministries, one it does for the community it is in. The other that reaches past the city limits to serve God’s world. Every Christian needs at least three ministries, one for their church, one for their community, and one for the world. They can be the ministries done by the local church or ones they do elsewhere. The big thing is, to have ministries that touch the world around us in the name of Jesus Christ.

In his memoirs about surviving the World War II concentration camps, Eli Wiesel, author of the classic book Night, claims that he and his father motivated each other to survive. Wiesel needed to stay alive to take care of his elderly father. That became his motivation for surviving the concentration camps. He knew that if he died, his father would give up hope and die also. 

Wiesel wrote, “The Germans tried to get the inmates to think only of themselves, to forget relatives and friends, to tend only to their own needs. But what happened was just the reverse. Those who retreated to a universe limited to their own bodies had less of a chance of getting out alive, while to live for a brother, a friend, an ideal, helped you hold out longer.” 

Wiesel had the right idea. Where do we find fulfillment? We won’t find it in a car, a bottle of alcohol or in abusing illegal drugs. We won’t find it in our parents, our children our friends as they can’t give it to us, but we might find it, not from them but in service to them and others.  We aren’t likely to find our joy anywhere else. We won’t even find it in a guitar. But, if we use that guitar, or most anything else for that matter, as a tool to help us be a servant for God and others, there is a really good shot at finding our happiness, our joy our fulfillment. Because at the end of the day, if we want fulfillment, we first must remember to serve, because, in the grand scheme of things, its not about us.

I hope your weekend is blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission granted for non commercial use

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Am I Accepted

Seven Essential Questions – Lent 2020

While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:1-11, New Revised Standard Version).

An art buyer went by a butcher shop and saw a kitten lapping milk from a saucer. It wasn’t long before he saw the saucer, a valuable piece of pottery.

He entered the shop and offered the owner two dollars for the kitten. “Sorry, no,” said the proprietor.

“Look,” said the collector, “that kitten isn’t a good pet, but I like kittens that. OK, ten dollars.”

“Deal,” said the butcher pocketing the ten-dollar bill.’

“For that sum, I’m sure you won’t mind throwing in the saucer. The kitten seems happy drinking from it.”

“No way!” said the butcher. “That’s my lucky saucer. I’ve sold 27 kittens with that saucer!”

The buyer wasn’t interested in redeeming unwanted kittens. He wanted pottery. We can be like that. We have more interest in the thing than the life.

Sometime back I read an interesting article. In Japan, when a piece of valuable pottery breaks they hire a goldsmith or a pottery specialist who mixes a lacquer resin with powdered gold and use that to put glue the pieces together. Instead of trying to hide cracks, likely impossible, they use the cracks filled with gold to enhance the pottery’s beauty.

Translators say the Japanese technique is “golden repair.” The result is a process making a piece of art and a philosophical statement. The Japanese say the break and repair is part of the object’s history. Most of us would toss it. To a good eye, broken becomes beautiful.

We need golden repairs in our lives. We hide brokenness. A friend hurts us, we retreat into our core. We lose a job or have a pay cut and pretend it’s OK. A marriage begins with hope and ends with alienation. A spouse, relative, neighbor, friend becomes abusive to us. We are silent.

We have a drinking problem but embarrassment denies help.  Or, we turn to alcohol or drugs to mask pain and problems.

Life can break us in painful ways we often deny. We’d rather disguise cracks than get a golden repair. We think, “Look at me. I’m a mess. There’s nothing desirable here. I can’t be desirable to God. God knows all I’ve done, every mistake, every sin. God can’t forgive me. I’m useless.” I am also wrong.

We don’t understand. We’ve never been so run down, run over driving our thoughts to a useless destination. People are that way. They are broken, trying to navigate life with as little pain as possible.

He was in worship every Sunday but refused communion because of a past sin. He never said the sin, only that he wasn’t worthy. Jesus served Judas the Last Supper. Have we done worse than Judas?

He couldn’t go to worship. God hated him. He was a thief. With “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” He wasn’t forgiven, was he?

She tried suicide three times. A trusted professional abused her. It was her fault. She was an adulterer. God can’t love her. It was better to die.

Too many believe they are worthless. They see brokenness. They can’t be loved. They are worthless. Even a dog couldn’t love them.

We began the series, “Seven Essential Questions” by asking, “What matters most?” Next was, “Who is God?” Today we ask, “Am I Accepted?”

There is good news and bad, the bad news is, no, not on our own. The good news? God’s grace accepts us, good news for people of faith in Jesus.

Many people tormented the Woman at the Well due to her lifestyle. She drew water in the heat of day, avoiding people. Jesus saw past her sins and brokenness. He offered acceptance.

Matthew and Zacchaeus, tax collectors believed to cheat people to make a living. They had no friends. Jesus changed these two. One became a \ disciple. The other, brings him home. He accepted and redeemed both.

There was a woman caught in adultery. Adultery was a sin. It was also a capital crime. It meant death by stoning. They dug a vertical hole wide enough so the convicted could stand and deep enough to expose the head. They forced the convicted into the hole, filling it with sand and dirt. People took rocks and threw them at the convicted until they died.

The Sadducees and Pharisees made this more than an execution. They try to trap Jesus. If he says stone her, where is the grace he advocates. Saying not to stone, spoke against the law. Either way, he loses credibility.

Jesus said nothing. I can see the scene play out. Jesus squats and writes in the dirt. We don’t know what he wrote. Some say it was the accusers sins. Others think he asked, “Where is the man?” It takes two for adultery. If the woman was caught shouldn’t they have caught this guy? Where was he?

Either is possible. He likely wrote one of the two. What if, he also wrote, “You are loved by God. You are accepted?” It’s a possibility.

It fits God’s love of broken people. It fits spreading grace and love.

God’s acceptance is this story. If Jesus accepted her, guilty of a capital crime. Should it not seem that the rest of us have acceptance too?

Want more proof?  Acts 10. Peter has a dream of unclean food. He says he won’t eat unclean food. God says he shouldn’t call unclean what God cleans. He awakens, meets three men coming on behalf of Cornelius. Peter goes with them to Cornelius’ home. Peter wouldn’t usually enter. That’s what the dream meant. Gentiles came to Cornelius’ home to hear Peter. “I am learning God doesn’t show favor to any people. But in every nation, those worshipping God and do right are acceptable to God (Acts 10:34b-35).”

              “…those worshiping God and do right are acceptable to God.” Think about that. It doesn’t say, “Whoever worships, does right and doesn’t sin is acceptable.” For the adulterous woman, it doesn’t say, “Whoever worships, does right and doesn’t commit adultery is acceptable.” There are no other conditions, worship God and do right. That’s it. That makes one acceptable.

         Last week the Trinity our subject. One God, three persons. Jesus, God the Son says in John 14, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Acts 10:35 doesn’t change John 14.

         John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, speaks to Acts 10:35. We’ve talked about Wesley’s “Acts of Piety” and “Acts of Charity.” Acts of Piety include worship, the sacraments, generosity, and sharing with the community of faith. We find Acts of Charity in Mathew 25, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, etc. People are acceptable who know God and do what matters most. It’s about love God, and love neighbor.

         We don’t get there all at once. We live part of our lives before accepting God’s gift of grace. We accept that gift, but our lives don’t change overnight. We still sin. We still fall short of God’s glory. The difference is, we allow the Holy Spirit to work on us, to mold us and change us. That is God’s redeeming work in us. While we live out those acts of piety and acts of charity, God takes us from unacceptable and redeems us, making us acceptable to God.

         John was a sea-going man like his father who arranged for John to go to school. He wasn’t interested, going to work on a merchant ship. Later, he was forced into the Royal Navy. Sailors grabbed him. They forced him to duty. He tried to escape. He was flogged for the effort and almost died.

         Eventually, his captain traded John to a slave trading ship. He didn’t get along with the crew and that captain traded him to an African tribal chief for some African slaves. John became a slave himself.

         The chief’s wife treated John horribly. Here he did escape helped by a merchant his father asked to watch for him.  John joined the merchant crew to get home. A rough storm threatened to sink the ship due to a hole in the hull from the storm. He decided to pray. As he did so, a large piece of cargo slid into place, covering the hole. It saved the ship. John knew it was God. He became a Christian and studied anything Biblical he could find.

         He didn’t give up the slave trade. He captained a slave trader. He carried two loads of slaves to the Americas before he retired from the sea.

He went to school to be a priest. He came to understand slavery’s wrongs seeking its end it in the British Empire. He saw it end before he died.

         He also wrote this, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

         John Newton, as a Christian he enslaved people. Because of his work people died. God redeemed him to write the most beloved hymn in history.

God can’t redeem you? What’s so bad God won’t accept you?

         If you never hear another word I say, hear this!!! You are loved by God who wants a relationship with you. No matter what you did, God can and will redeem you. You, yes, even the likes of us are acceptable to God.

         Thank God for grace. Praise God! Could ask more than that?

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission given for the non-commercial use of this post.

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