The King’s Gambit

As I posted a couple of days ago, our family lost a beloved person, my wife’s brother, James “Jimmy” Oquinn. Jimmy is a true man of God. His faith is deep and abiding. During his adult life he worked in many positions in his church, many of those positions were with the youth program. Jimmy’s wife, Cindy (yes we have two named Cindy in the family), we call her CJ. They have two adult children, Tori and her husband Zach and Andy and his wife Imam. Andy and Imam have two sons that Jimmy absolutely treasured, Aubrey and Dietrich.

Jimmy loved to play 42, I love that game too and enjoyed it all the more when Jimmy was my partner. He would bid crazy sometimes and that usually made me crazy. But, as crazy as his bid might be, he made that bid far more often than he would miss it.

The other game Jimmy loved is chess. I think he started playing chess before he learned 42. He was also even better at chess. In the roughly 45 years I knew Jimmy, I beat him at 42 and was able to do so to the point we were about evenly split. In all the games we played, if I EVER beat him at chess, I don’t remember it.

A few years ago, when I lost a member of the family or a close friend I began writing a poem and/or a song in their memory. These became my tribute to them and have assisted me through the early days of losing someone who was a dear friend. CJ pointed out to me in an email that we are more than family, we are also friends.

I wrote a poem for Jimmy. I took the game he loves so much and used it as a metaphor for life in the faith. I hope you enjoy, “The King’s Gambit.”

The King’s Gambit

The world today is all about me.
The needs of others can be hard to see.
When we use mirrors in windows place
We leave too many in shadows space.

Focus on self, robs others in need
Working to help will defeat much greed.
Breaking the rules just trying to win,
Like those who refuse to see their own sin.

The player comes in and sets up the board
Ready for battle with mind and not sword.
The players make moves by rules of the game.
Play fast with the rules and you’ll risk your good name.

White moves his king’s pawn forward two squares,
He then starts the clock and leans back in his chair.
Black moves a pawn, and in doing so mirrors,
A gambit offered makes all eyes glimmer.

Gambits give a pawn and thus will gain power,
Does one player shine while others cower?
To sacrifice one to gain something more,
The gambit will let your power roar.

The gambit can teach us that faith really matters.
And sacrifice shows us that love is the answer.
He worked to show people kindness each day.
Empathy’s the tool that will show is the way.

Give up a pawn to gain some power,
A sacrifice made, will light up the hour.
In chess each battle lives on the board
In life its love that strikes the right chord.

In giving us Jesus God forgave us our sin.
Divine blood woos us come start over again.
God’s greatest call and our deepest desire,
Should strive and reach for things much higher.

Chess players know of the gambit’s pure power,
With practice and study, our skills won’t sour.
To play the game can make one a factor.
Add study to skill and make a chess master.

Players of faith know that God’s before chess.
When we live without love we make life a mess.
Life’s biggest thing is to live in God’s love,
To gain our soul’s desire, life with God above.

The chess player did show he had love for his game,
And he knew of God’s love in Jesus’ name.
To have the second thing, he would quit the first.
The real King’s gambit can make our hearts burst.

The lands of earth he no longer roams
Well done dear chess player, and welcome home.
He saw his mom and dad again were alive,
Then he stepped forward and got, God’s high-five.

Rest in peace, faithful servant,
Keith

Copyright 2021, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Crying

Good Evening Friends,

I know you haven’t heard from me on the blog for a couple of months. Now you are getting post with a different name on it. At the moment my available time is going to building a web page for my church and another that will webpage that will be the new home of Compass Ministries. I hope to finish with the church page in the next week or two and will probably start doing something creative again once I complete that project.

If you remember back to last summer, particularly late June or early July I asked several people to write a guest post for the blog while I was focusing on moving. One of the people I asked, was my brother-in-law, Jimmy Oquin. I really appreciated Jimmy’s words in that post. Some of you shared with me that you also felt moved by Jimmy’s writing.

Sadly, I write tonight to share with you that Jimmy passed away early this morning from Covid 19. After going into the hospital, Jimmy asked for something. It was the first time I heard of this but I do like it. He asked us to send him Bible Scriptures affirming God is in control. I sent him a few from Romans 8, my favorite chapter of the Bible.

I decided today that, in memory of my brother-in-law, Jimmy, I would share again, his very well-done post, “Crying.” I post it tonight exactly as we presented it back in June, including to note at the beginning of the post.

Keith’s Note: I have known James “Jimmy” Oquinn for about 43 or 44 years. I have always known Jimmy to be a man high ideals and sound ethical and spiritual ideals. He and his wife Cindy have done much in the life of their church including what I believe is, if not the most thankless job in the life of the church, it is in the top five, youth ministry. But what I also know is, in that youth work, over several years, God gave them the opportunity to touch the lives of many young people. I know they felt blessed in that work, because Jimmy and Cindy (known to us as CJ) are not just friends, Jimmy and CJ are my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Jimmy is my Cindy’s oldest brother. For a few months, before Cindy and I got married but after they did, there were two people around the family dinner table named Cindy Oquinn. Oh that was so much fun (he says in words dripping with sarcasm). Jimmy and CJ are members at First Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas. Enjoy a few words from my friend and brother-in-law, Jimmy Oquinn.

(A note before we start: I currently study from the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible). I use a variety of English translations and will be paraphrasing scripture. Please look up the scripture references in your favorite translation.)

Hannah got up after they ate and drank at Shiloh. Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s tabernacle. 10 Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. 11 Making a vow, she pleaded, “Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.”

12 While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence, Eli watched her lips. 13 Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and scolded her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!”

15 “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”

17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.” (1 Samuel 1:9-17, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

I have served in various lay positions throughout my life. God is still working on me- I have a lot to learn. I enjoy sharing my thoughts. I believe Jesus Christ is who He says He is: “…the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 HCSB). I have no formal theological training. I work scheduling projects for a contractor at refineries, petrochemical plants and power plants.

__________

I like the idea of pondering. Not meditating. Not studying. Pondering. Wandering through the possibilities. What if… 
How did they…
How did this happen… 
Why…

Let’s look at 6 people in the Old and New Testaments:

Hannah Hagar Jonah
The Hebrews Jesus Peter

What do they have in common?

They are people, human beings, just like you and me. 

They appear to have little in common. They come from different areas, times, stations in life. Their ages and sexes are varied. Their geo-political backgrounds are different.

What did they do that was ‘good’?

Hannah was a good wife.
Hagar served her mistress well.
Jonah was God’s prophet.
The Hebrews were God’s people.
Peter was Jesus’ disciple.
Jesus is God’s Son.

Good people living their versions of a good life. In 2020, in the USA, we would call it “living the American dream”. So, why were they crying?

Hannah cried as she prayed for a son at the tabernacle. In 1 Samuel Hannah went with her husband, Elkanah, to the tabernacle. The priest, Eli, saw her praying and scolded her for being drunk. Hannah and Eli talked, they parted amicably and in verse 18 of 1 Samuel (HCSB) “…she ate and no longer looked despondent.”.

Hagar cried as she prayed for deliverance for Ishmael and herself in the desert. In Genesis 21 Sarah is jealous of Ishmael and asks Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael- Abraham’s son- away. Hagar and Ishmael are sent away and Hagar stops in the desert expecting to die. In verse 16 “…she wept loudly.” An angel shows Hagar a water well and the way out of the desert.

Jonah cried out as he prayed from the belly of the fish for forgiveness- a second chance. Jonah ran from God and the job God assigned to him. 

The Hebrews cried out to God for deliverance while in Egypt. 

Peter cried because he was disappointment to his Rabbi and himself. 

Jesus cried for Jerusalem. Jesus is God’s Son. All God and all man. In Luke chapter 19 we find Luke’s account of the triumphal entry followed by Jesus crying. Those Jesus came to save did not recognize nor accept Him- instead they tried to destroy Him. I believe He cried for all humanity- including me.

Each of the people above went through valleys in their lifetimes. Times when life was not as expected. Things did not work out as anticipated. The world was not as it appeared to be. The plan failed. The world was upside down.

Does this sound familiar? Every human will experience disappointment, failure, hardship, sorrow and/or fatigue on the journey we call life. Everyone cries.

They cried for the same reasons we cry. Everyone cries. But they did not just cry. 

They prayed. They called out to God. They waited. They suffered the consequences of their choices and actions.

Then they got up and moved. They acted. 

Hannah ate and cleaned up. 
Hagar followed the angel. 
Jonah preached. 
The Hebrews packed up and moved. 
Jesus followed God’s plan- even though he did not want to (Matthew 22:39).

The good news is the story did not end with crying. 

Hannah had a son, Samuel. Samuel was raised in the tabernacle with Eli and anointed the first king (Saul- 1 Samuel 9 and 10) and second king (David- 1 Samuel 16) of Israel.

Hagar is led by an angel to water. She and Ishmael settled in the Wilderness of Paran, Ishmael’s descendants becoming the Islamic nations. His family is recorded in Genesis 25

Jonah was God’s prophet. When he preached in Nineveh the city repented and was spared from destruction. In Jonah 4, God reminds Jonah how important people are to Him.

The Hebrews were God’s people. The Hebrews originally went into Egypt as Jacob’s family of about seventy people to escape famine in their homeland (Genesis 46 and following chapters). Over the course of four hundred years the Egyptian pharaohs, concerned that the Hebrews would take over the country, enslaved the Hebrews. The Hebrews cried out to God for deliverance in Exodus 2:23. The Hebrews are now known as the nation of Israel.

Peter is Jesus’ disciple. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle. Jesus had even renamed him Cephas, the “Rock”. In the evening Peter tells Jesus that others will deny Him but not Peter, ““Lord,” he told Him, “I’m ready to go with You both to prison and to death!”” (Luke 22:33 HCSB). Before daylight Peter denies Jesus three times. He goes out by himself and cries. (Luke 22:62). Peter wrote part of the Bible as we know it today. Peter ministered in Jerusalem but also traveled to Antioch after Christ’s ascension.

Jesus was triumphantly entering Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. The city typically was flooded with the faithful- and the Romans watching. The high priest and Sanhedrin wanted Jesus killed. Jerusalem at Passover appeared to be a festival. Jesus is crucified, dies, is buried and raised again on the third day. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior reconciles us to God. We can approach the Throne of God. Jesus is at the right hand of God- interceding for us.

The bottom line here- through my pondering- is a good cry serves its purpose but praying starts the process of getting things done. Wait on God’s timing. Then get up, refocus and move forward. 

The corona virus, travel restrictions, economy, weather, what others think or believe, prejudices or any other deterrents in their respective times and locations did not stop the people above.  If they changed the world so can I.

Seeking the Genuine

Jimmy

Jimmy, it is we who cry, and pray, today. You are gone from us way too soon and you will be missed.

I didn’t know Jimmy his whole life or mine. I can safely say, knowing Jimmy over the past 45 years, I was blessed to have joined a family with such a man of God.

Jimmy was right in much of what he said in this post. There is one thing I might argue just a bit. He said he had no formal theological training. Technically, he spoke the truth. What he didn’t say but should be said, Jimmy was (we should probably say “is”) a man of deep faith in God and in the Church. Jimmy got a solid lay education in the Christian Education program at Golden Acres Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas where he was a member for much of his life before God led him to make a change and moving to First Baptist in Pasadena a few years ago. He taught Sunday school to children, youth, and most recently adults. He has taken kids to camp and worked as a chaperon. He has worked in a variety of mission work. One of his mission works was tsunami relief in the wester Pacific.

He is one of the most caring and loving people I have ever known. For Jimmy, it all began with his relationship with God and his family. You didn’t need to be around him for long to know he took “The Greatest Commandment” very seriously.

I ask you to please remember his wife C.J., daughter Tori her husband Zach and son Andy his wife Imam, plus grandsons Aubrey and Dietrich. His family, both his immediate family like Cindy, and Jimmy’s two brothers, David and Thomas as well as all the rest of us in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins. Yes, it is a large family.

For all who considered Jimmy a friend or family member, our lives will not be the same for two reasons. First, having known Jimmy and second, having known Jimmy. Our lives have changed because of having known Jimmy. Getting to know Jimmy and seeing the way he lived his life and all the things he shared with us that made us better. Our lives have been changed having known Jimmy because there will be a hole in our lives because he is no longer with us. And, he will be missed.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You.
Keith

Copyright 2021, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

The Knock-Off Jesus

Well, today was one of THOSE days. When we reached the point in the service where I began the service, I couldn’t find my notes, I couldn’t find my manuscript, and I really didn’t try to find my PowerPoint. But, I knew the PowerPoint was also in the master PowerPoint for the whole service.

As I got ready to start the sermon, I couldn’t find my notes at all and my manuscript was a blank page. So, I made the quick decision to preach from the PowerPoint. With the exception of a couple typos. Well, I thought that was the case until the battery on machine controlling the projector, which was running. I was about 3/4 of the way through the summer when I noticed there was nothing on the screen. The computer was running on battery and the battery died. I decided to wrap it up.

So, I promised to post the manuscript and here it is.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38, New International Version)


Many times, when we look out at society and we see the people that are around us we can see those that are anti religion. They don’t just desire freedom of religion, they seek freedom from religion. We might call some of these people false prophets or a knock off Jesus. We can see it easily in people like Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, and Westboro Baptist Church, to name only a few. We see them but fail to see the love for others that is the Scriptural litmus test that helps us evaluate people, particularly leaders who try to convince us to follow.

Or, there are those who, despite what the Bible says to the contrary, know Jesus is coming and they even know when it is going to happen, despite what Jesus said. Often these people will grow to great lengths to tell you all about it. I have a simple theory as why these people are wrong. Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour but God above. If one of us did somehow figure it out, God would have to change the day and the hour because now someone besides the Father knew.

There is a third kind of knock off Jesus and they are perhaps most dangerous of all. They are also the ones that seem sweet and innocent about all this. This is a person who is willing to trade in a full-grown adult or youth or even a child for a different version of Jesus telling us what we can’t know, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love and strength, for a different version of god that misses out on a full understanding of who God is.

There is an example I want to share with you this morning from a recent movie. I hope that when I say this is just about the dumbest movie, I have ever wasted two hours watching, you won’t be offended but it is how I feel. The movie does, however, have one redeeming scene in it, though Cindy argues against that point.

“I like the Christmas Jesus best .” that was what Will Ferrell said in the movie Talladega Nights. Ferrell plays a stock car driver named Ricky Bobby. “dear tiny Jesus,” he says as he begins his prayer at a family meal. “Golden fleece diapers, with your tiny, fat, bald- up fist…”

“Jesus did grow up,” his wife reminds him. “you don’t always have to call him baby.”

“I like the Christmas Jesus best when I’m saying grace,” Ferrell’s character says, and he continues his prayer, “dear 8 pound, 6 ounce, newborn infant Jesus. Don’t even know a word yet. Just a little infant, so cuddly, still omnipotent… thank you for all your power and your grace, dear baby God. Amen.”

We might, (or might not laugh) at Ferrell, but the truth is, he’s right. We like the Christmas Jesus too. We love to sing those carols like, “away in a Manger,” and “go, tell it on the mountain!” and “silent night.” we love those Christmas pageants with glittery stars and shepherds and wise men.

We like the Christmas Jesus best. We love Christmas period think for a minute about how many more people come to church in these Sundays before Christmas then will be here for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. The truth is we love the baby Jesus, but we don’t like that that Jesus up on the cross. We don’t like the crucified Jesus period now that Jesus that rose again? He’s OK, but our favorite, at least for most of us, is the baby Jesus. Most of our congregations even decorate better for Christmas than we do for Easter.

If you ask people their favorite holiday, the overwhelming majority will say Christmas I can actually prove it, well sort of. As many of you know, I put a survey out online this week and asked folks about their favorite Holidays. The choices were New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King day, presidents day, Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, veteran’s day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and your birthday (I know, the last one isn’t really a holiday but I wanted to see what the response would be ). Christmas was the overwhelming first choice . Easter was second and Thanksgiving was third nothing else even comes close the only one that surprised me was veteran’s day got one vote.

We like the Christmas Jesus best. I knew that before I gave the new that before I gave the survey, I just wanted a little data to back up my hypothesis.

But what if this tiny infant is a bit of a knock off? Not a fake, but a version that’s not quite as valuable as the original. The problem with knockoffs is, that they can take our focus off the real thing.

In the high fashion world it seems that there is a war raging between designers and manufacturers who create knockoffs. A designer dress will cost you say $750. Then along comes someone like Seema Anand who creates a copy of that same dress you can buy for say, 260 dollars. That’s still too much for me and for read over there but it works and sometimes it can happen so fast that the knockoff is available before the original.

Is this a problem? Some say “no” because the designer clothes are so expensive. Fit that $750 dress into your Christmas budget period if you do you definitely didn’t listen if you do you have more money available for your Christmas budget than I ever would

And why pay $3980 for designer jeans if you can get something very similar for about $139.67? Designers think it is such a problem that they are seeking extensions to the Copyright laws into the clothing manufacturing. Knockoffs will remain big business for the foreseeable future.

It seems to me that this is the challenge for us at Christmas time as well, to separate the knockoff Jesus from the genuine article. We don’t want a dear tiny Jesus in Golden fleece diapers to distract us from the one who is the son of God.

Our lesson this morning gives us a glimpse of the original Jesus, and you can tell he is the real deal, when you hear words like Favored One, “Emmanuel,” “Jesus,” “Son of the Most High,” and “Servant of the Lord.” if you don’t hear those names, you just might be looking at a knock off.

The first one mentioned is “Favored One.” Gabriel calls Mary this saying, “greetings, Favored One!” later, he says, “don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. What an amazing gift this is, to be favored by God, excepted an supported.

John Wesley struggled with this idea for many years as a priest in the Anglican church. How could God except him. Then one day as he was listening to someone read the introduction to the to Paul’s letter to the Romans he said, he felt his heart strangely warmed and that he knew that Christ had died, even for him. That discovery allowed Wesley to move forward in his work, work that eventually led to the creation of the Methodist church.

The second name to look for is Emmanuel. It is true that this name is not mentioned in the lesson, though it is in Matthew’s gospel where Matthew writes, “look, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” the promise of Emmanuel is powerful. It means that God is with us now and always, through stress, sickness, conflict, confusion, failure , frustration, despair, social distancing, wearing a mask, and even death. Remember Paul’s words, nothing in all creation “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” that is the guarantee of Emmanuel.

So where is the name in our lesson? If it doesn’t appear, are we dealing with a knock off? No, it is there, just kind of hidden. When Gabriel arrives he says “Greetings, Favored One! The Lord is with you.” The Lord is with you … God is with us. The message to Mary and to us is that God is with us always.

A little girl who grew up in the home of an atheist where no one ever spoke of God once questioned her father about the origin of the world. “where did the world come from?” asked the three year old period her father replied with an explanation that was materialistic but then he added, “however, there are those who say that all this comes from a very powerful being. They call him God. At this point the little girl began to run around the room in great joy Ann shouted, “ I knew when you told me what you told me wasn’t true; It is him, it is him! He is here! He has always been here!” a 3 year old understood Emmanuel, God is with us.

TThe Angels said, “and now you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” this name has a clear and specific meaning at, “God saves.” there is nothing subtle about it. The name “Jesus” announces that God is working through his son, to save us from sin and death.

Theologian Leith Anderson visited Manila several years ago and was taken, of all places, to the Manila garbage dump. 10s of thousands of people make their homes on that dump site. They have constructed shacks out of the things other people have thrown away. They send their children out early in the morning to scavenge for food in other peoples garbage so they can have family meals. People have been born and raised on the dump. They have had children and raisded their families on the dump. They have died on the dump, many times without Without going anywhere else, even into the city of Manila . They are not alone. Americans also live on the dump. They are missionaries who have chosen to leave their own country to communicate the love of Jesus Christ to people who otherwise would never hear it. That is amazing, but not as amazing as the journey our savior made from heaven to earth. The son of God knew what he was doing. He knew where he was going. He knew what the sacrifice would be. He journeyed to earth on a mission to save the human race. Born to save. That is so Jesus.

4th, Gabriel promises Jesus “… Will be great, and will be called the son of the most high, and the Lord will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” the son of the most high is not a powerless baby with tiny, fat, balled up fists – he is the mature son of God, with power and authority to rule like his ancestor King David. “he will reign over the House of Jacob Forever and of his Kingdom there will be no end,” says Gabriel.

Will Ferrell is right when he calls Jesus omnipotent- not powerless, but all powerful. So are we prepared to take orders from the son of the most high God? It’s easy to worship a baby who asks nothing of us but a diaper change. But are we willing to praise the King who gives the directive, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you?” are we going to adore the ruler who says, “if anyone strikes you on the cheek offer the other also?” are we likely to bow gracefully to the one who commands, “give to everyone who begs from you?”

One of my favorite Christmas songs actually began as many songs do as a poem this particular one by Helen Steiner-Rice called, “The Christmas Guest.” the poem is about an old cobbler named Conrad whom God promises to come and visit on Christmas Day. When Christmas Day arrives, Conrad is visited three times period first by a beggar with worn out shoes and ragged clothes. Conrad gave him a pair of shoes and a warmer coat. Next was an elderly lady carrying a load on her back who only asked for a place to sit and rest. Conrad gave her a warm Cup to drink and allowed her to rest in the warmth of his home. The third time was by a lossed, crying child. Conrad calmed her fears and helped her home once again. But when Conrad returned home Christmas is over and the Lord had not come to visit, or so Conrad thought. He knelt and prayed and questioned why God had not fulfilled his promise. God answered Conrad that he had kept his word because God had come not once but three times and each time rice writes, he “… Found the warmth of a friend. Of all the gifts love is the best and I was honored to be your Christmas guest.”

Remember, while not the baby Jesus, it was Jesus nonetheless who said, “for as you’ve done it to one of the least of these, you’ve done it to me.” it is much easier to worship a powerless baby. But if we love our enemies, do good and lend without expectation of return, living with generous hearts, we will be acting as obedient servants of our powerful King. Obedience is going to be an expectation of an authentic son of the most high God.

At the end of today’s lesson, Mary asks Gabriel how she can possibly become pregnant, since she is a Virgin. Gabriel speaks of the role of the Holy Spirit and the surprising pregnancy of Marys council cousin Elizabeth, and he concludes with the words, “nothing will be impossible with God.” when asked, “if you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?” talk show host Larry King said he would like to interview Jesus Christ. When asked, “ what would you like to ask him?” King replied , “I would ask him if he was indeed Virgin- born. The answer to that question would define history for me.” friends, it did define history because Jesus was indeed Virgin- born. That is right, he was Virgin- born because nothing is impossible with God.

Mary then took a deep breath, then makes a huge leap of faith, “ here I am , the servant of the Lord ; Let it be with me according to your word.” Mary says “yes” to what God wants to do in her life, and this decision reveals that she is the “favored one” willing to put her complete trust in God. She calls herself the “servant of the Lord,” and in so doing becomes a model for the rest of us.

Pastor Phil Le Master writes that it was nearing Christmas and he received a phone call from a man who indeed needed to talk to a counselor. Le Master met him at the church office where the man told lamaster of his tale of woe. A decade earlier he had killed his wife in a fit of anger, was convicted of manslaughter, and spent several years in prison. He and his wife had a daughter who was in the custody of his former in-laws. He had not seen her since the crime period now, as Christmas neared, his heart ached. Tears streaming down his face, he lamented, “ I could pass her on the streets of this city and not even know who she was.” Le Master said what he remembered most about the session, however, was that the man said that he remembered most, however, was what the man said when he first walked in, “Now preacher, let’s just leave Jesus out of this, OK?” as the man sadly went on his way that day, Le Master said that he thought to himself, “that’s the whole problem period you’ve left Jesus out of everything.”

It seems to me, that if we’re not going to follow an authentic Jesus we might as well be like that man and leave Jesus out. If, however, we are going to follow an authentic Jesus, we need to be a servant of the most hi God. This means finding favor through faith, believing that God is always with us, trusting Jesus to save us, and showing obedience to the son of the most high. Serving God as Mary did begins with saying “yes” when we see the names favored 1, Emmanuel, Jesus, son of the most high.

We come together this time of year every year and we celebrate the birth of a baby but we need to remember at the same time that there is far more we know about the last three years of that life then there is the first 30. This is a man who was born, who died for us, and who rose again for us. He died for their forgiveness and he gives us the gift of grace. Anything else might as well just be a knockoff.


Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

This Week @ Perritte

On this fourth (and last) Sunday of Advent we read about the Coming Messiah. Our lesson for the day is, Luke 1:26-38. And, all too often, we are chasing after our own version of Jesus instead of Jesus. If we don’t hear some of those words Mary heard from the angel, there is at least a fair chance we are chasing the wrong Jesus.

I hope you will come by Sunday the December 20. You can find us at 1025 Durst, St. In Nacogdoches, Texas. We begin with Sunday school at 10:00 and worship starts at 11:00. If you aren’t able to join us in person, join us in our Facebook group for worship. You can find our Facebook group. You can find worship at https://www.facebook.com/groups/68531799825.

I hope to see you tomorrow morning.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Seeing Kindness

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fairy-garden-sparks-a-friendship-between-strangers/

Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher. Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. 10 So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.” (Galatian 6:6-10, Common English Bible)

Over the past several months I have been critical of most all of us for our lack of caring and kindness. From a woman who, when asked about wearing a mask quite literally took the first bus to Angerville, started yelling at the woman who ask and then ran up to her and started coughing in her face. Family members suddenly can’t find a way to get along because they find themselves on opposite sides of the political wars. The same thing happens with friendships. Years of friendship goes away we find we don’t agree on something in religion or politics or the direction the sun will rise tomorrow morning (Hint: Here in East Texas, the sun will rise but it is unlikely anyone hear will point and show the direction with first-hand empirical evidence because we have a 90% chance of rain).

We have allowed it to happen. If you have read here any time at all you know I have been on a bit of a kindness campaign. I have called myself a kindness advocate. I truly believe that if we do not overcome our petty bitterness and become examples for our leaders (And there is more than enough places to point at we shouldn’t even start pointing fingers) that they should be for the rest of us, that we have bitterly failed in many ways. Chief among them, “Love the Lord your God… Love your neighbor as yourself.” We can’t say we are loving our neighbor if we can’t carryout a civil conversation with them. We can’t say we love our neighbor when we can’t find it within our hearts to say something nice. Sometimes I fear my mom was the only one to teach, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I may not always be successful, but I do try and I would like to think I am successful more than I am not. We also can’t say we love God when we can’t seem to love our neighbor (Jesus said, “As much as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me.)

I also did say, when I saw kindness being lived out I would share it with you. I saw the story I am about to share with you, I saw last night on the CBS Evening News. Surprisingly for this time of year, the story had nothing to do with Christmas. This time of year, we do often see acts of kindness to others. Perhaps it is because of God’s kindness to send us the gift of a baby to save us all or that we are more concerned about making sure we are on the correct Christmas list. This story was not about any of that. And, when I saw it on the news last night, I knew it was a kindness story I really needed to share.

About nine months ago, Kelly Kenney was out for a walk one day. She encountered fairy garden. For those of you, like me, who had no clue about the existence of something like a fairy garden. Perhaps I have lived a sheltered life. In an opening in the concrete on a paved sidewalk, just like the openings at regular intervals up and down the street, years ago, workers had planted a tree. At this tree, a four-year-old girl, I suspect with the help of her mother, built a “fairy garden.” In the dirt around the base of the tree were several trinkets. They varied in size, color and more. Kelly Kenney stopped and admired the little garden.

As Kenney continued her walk, but now on her way home, she felt an idea take over her that led to thoughts like, what name her “fairy” altar ego would have. “My imagination just kind of took over and I just started thinking, ‘Well, maybe if I left a note as a fairy, that would be really fun to do.'” The next night, that is just what she did, writing, “My name is Sapphire,” she wrote. “I am one of the fairies who lives in this tree.” 

“Fairy garden” architect, four-year-old Eliana and her mother not only found the note that Sapphire left in the garden, they wrote back. Those letters, those bits of communications, have gone on to become a great friendship between a woman portraying a fairy and a little girl. Over the past nine months (about the length of time we have been dealing with a virus that seems to continue to drive wedges between us all, something special has happened. In that time there have been letters, gifts, personal photos and glitter exchanged. Eliana’s mom, Emily, must be pretty special too. That much glitter means glitter everywhere and it would make me crazy. For all of them, 2020 may not have been the worst year ever as so many complained. A special friendship began to emerge. Many parents might have feared what was growing, but Emily was always with Eliana when she went out to the garden and as they found new things, Emily was thrilled.

Emily said, “We were constantly floored, like just completely floored. The gifts that she would give were just so personal, so kind, and we were just like, ‘We don’t even know you!'”

Eliana was a blessed little girl. It would seem she knows it too. But she wanted something more. She wanted to meet her new friend Sapphire, the woman with pointy ears (Before she left a personal picture for Eliana, Kenny bought a set of fairy ears and had her picture taken wearing the ears). The question became, how could they make the meeting happen. Kenney remembered that fairies can sometimes, meet and interact. In that action the fairly would become human sized. So, one day, not long ago, Sapphire appeared.

Kenney said, “She turned around and saw me and I immediately was like, ‘Are you Eliana?!’ And she was like, ‘Yea.’  And the way that she looked at me, I’ll never forget that.” 

In these pandemic days and constant news about total people infected and new infections, and the death tool, not to even mention the projections for all those things over the next six months can leave us feeling little hope. Kenney said se was in a dark place. But, when she accidently (or was it accidental?) “she found her light.”

Kenney concluded, “I want people to believe that they don’t have to be a fairy to give a little bit of magic to someone else.  And it doesn’t have to be a child either.” 

I believe she is correct. You don’t have to be anyone but you and the abilities you have to show love and kindness to someone who is in desperate need. You don’t know how dark someone’s world might be. You don’t know just how much of a difference you can make. Here is a place where we can live out the words accredited to Caroline Flack, In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” You might make a difference beyond your greatest expectation.


A special note: This is my last regular post (and it will be different) for 2020. I will still post Perritte Memorial UMC worship on Sundays December 20 and 27. We are also planning to post Christmas Eve worship from Perritte as well. Though I am not yet sure what date I will return, it should be in early January. I need a bit of a break and I have some other things that need some of my thoughts too.

When I get back there will be some changes. I am not sure of what this blog’s name will be. It may even remain the same. Spirit’s Breath Ministries will change to be “Fork in the Road Ministries.” Whatever changes are made you will still find us at revbroyles.me, which will become a full website. The plan is to have the blog still there but more. I plan to move my music to the page. You will also find my book (and hopefully a new book in 2021) on the blog. Aldersgate prayer ropes and other paracord products will be available in the Knotheads section of the page. There will be more on the page, you will need to check it out.

Cindy and I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I look forward to 2021 with the great hope in which we always enter each year. May God richly bless your Christmas season and the Year to Come.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Merry Christmas

Saturday Thoughts on Kindness

Let’s Sing: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 17th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

This beloved hymn falls into the category of “You learn something new everyday!” I can’t speak for you dear reader, but for me, almost everything I found about this hymn, except that Charles Wesley wrote the original piece was something new.

One day in 1737, the great Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley, during his daily quiet time, wrote down a simple line, “Hark! how all the welkin rings, glory to the king of kings.” Welkin is an archaic word unfamiliar to most of us. The welkin refers to the sky or the firmament of the heavens, even the highest celestial sphere of the angels.

Bu 1753 the carol had seen the first of many editorial changes that happened over the years when George Whitfield, a preacher friend of the Wesley brothers made several changes. The most significant of these changes was to reword the hymn’s opening line. The Whitfield version began with the wording we know and sing today, “Hark! the herald angels sing.” Wesley was livid with the change. First of all, Whitfield did not consult with Wesley before making the change. Second, and probably more important to Wesley, Whitfield strayed from Scripture with the new first line. No where in the birth narratives of Matthew 2 and Luke 2 does the Bible say anything about angels singing. It is said that for the rest of his life, Wesley refused to sing the Whitfield version of the Charles Wesley carol.

Wesley’s original version set the song to an original melody by Wesley himself. The hymn debuted in Wesley’s own church. From there the hymn gained popularity throughout the Methodist movement.

In truth, even during Wesley’s day, few people actually would have known or recognized the word “welkin.” Whitfield’s version was much more understandable to those the Methodist movement in England was working to reach.

The other significant change coming to the hymn occurred almost 100 years later. It was a change in the tune. In 1840 Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata (Festgesang) celebrating the 400th anniversary of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press.

Working and studying under Mendelssohn was a young singer and musician by the name of William H. Cummings adapted a chorus from Festgesang and paired it with the Whitfield version of the Wesley carol. It was published a Methodist hymnal in 1857 and in an influential hymn collection in 1861 titled, Hymns Ancient and Modern.

Within the next ten years “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” with Wesley’s original version, as edited by Whitfield and given a new tune arranged by Cummings, became one of the best known songs in all of Christendom. There can be little doubt as to the power of Wesley’s original song. Whitfield and Cummings built on what Wesley had already done.

Based on Wesley’s reaction to Whitfield’s editing, he probably would not have responded well to Cummings’ changes either. There is no way to know what Mendelssohn would have thought. Still, what resulted has become an all-time Christmas favorite. The song blesses people the world over each year during the Christmas season.

A special note: Tomorrow, December 19th will be the last regular post (and it will be different) for 2020. I will still post Perritte Memorial UMC worship Sundays December 20 and 27. We are also planning to post Christmas Eve worship from Perritte as well.

When I get back there will be some changes. I am not sure of what this blog’s name will be. It may even remain the same. Spirit’s Breath Ministries will change to be “Fork in the Road Ministries.” Whatever changes are made you will still find us at revbroyles.me, which will become a full website. The plan is to have the blog still there but more. I plan to move my music to the page. You will also find my book (and hopefully a new book in 2021) on the blog. Aldersgate prayer ropes and other paracord products will be available in the Knotheads section of the page. There will be more on the page, you will need to check it out.

Cindy and I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I look forward to 2021 with the great hope in which we always enter each year. May God richly bless your Christmas season and the Year to Come.

Be Blessed

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

Silent Night: The Stories of 40 Beloved Christmas Carols, Uhrichsville: Barbour, 2013.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hark!_The_Herald_Angels_Sing

http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-hark-the-herald-angels-sing

Can You Help Me Out?

Friends if you could take a moment and answer this one question survey I would appreciate it. It is research for my sermon on Sunday.

What is your favorite holiday?

New Year’s Day

Martin Luther King Day

Valentine’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day

Easter

Memorial Day

Fourth of July

Labor Day

Veteran’s Day

Thanksgiving

Christmas

Your own Birthday

To vote just leave a comment. Thanks in advance for your help.

Keith

Let’s Sing: Angels We Have Heard on High

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 16th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

There is a legend that goes with “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It would seem that, as the legend goes, the carol originated by French shepherds watching over sheep in the countryside. These shepherds identified with the shepherds in the Luke 2 story and came up with the hymn. Through oral tradition these shepherds passed the carol from one generation to the next. They would gather around campfires during the Christmas season, their carol making its way across fields and valleys to tell other shepherds they were not alone and to celebrate the birth of the Christ.

It’s a nice story but the legend probably isn’t true. Elements are true. The carol, as first appearing in a hymnal was French. The carol is based on Luke 2. The hymn was probably used to teach the Church through oral tradition, perhaps even around campfires. Beyond that, there is little evidence to prove this.

Maybe more than any other carol, “Angels We Have Heard on High is truly anonymous in it’s origins. The lyrics of the carol suggest that the lyricist was someone with a strong knowledge of Scripture and a gift for being able to turn Scripture into musically workable verse. This would seem to point to a priest or a monk.

The song first appeared in a French hymnal in 1855. This has given credence to the idea that the carol is French in origin. While it may be that some of the hymn did originate in France, it has its roots to a time before Christianity had gained a foothold in western Europe. There is one school of thought that suggests at least the chorus of the hymn could predate Christianity’s acceptance by the Roman Empire. Some have even suggested that it is possible that the person who wrote that part of the carol could possibly have even known Jesus! I am not trying to suggest that such is true, only that some have suggested it as a possibility.

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo,”translated into English means, “Glory to God in the highest.” This is a phrase that played an important role in early Church worship dating back the the second century.

During that period, Pope Telesphorus ordered, that on the day the Church celebrated the Lord’s birth, all churches would have special evening services (perhaps the origins of Midnight Mass). After the reading of Scripture and the saying of specific prayers, the congregation was to sing the words, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” Monks then carried the Pope’s decree throughout the land. By the third century it was the practice of almost every congregation.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” fits well with the French tradition of the crèche. Handmade nativity scenes are found in homes, around towns and even in the country side. Excellent craftsmanship is given to these scenes, and towns and communities producing them take great pride in their work. It is interesting that “crèche” is also the French term for a nursery for young children during the day.

This tradition is particularly strong in Provence, the south of France, with a crèche includes the usual host of characters but has some special ones as well. Local figures such as the mayor, the little drummer boy, or a peasant dressed in traditional attire are also present. There are also traditions in some places where people dress as the shepherds and join in a procession to the church. Children also traditionally contribute to the crèches by pebbles and rocks, moss, and pieces of evergreens to complete the nativity scene. When the scene is set, everyone in the town joins in singing traditional Christmas carols.

What are your traditions of Christmas?

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_We_Have_Heard_on_High

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-angels-we-have-heard-on-high

Let’s Sing: Carol of the Bells

Today we continue our Advent/Christmas series titled “Let’s Sing.” This is our 15th song of the series. For easy reference to the remainder of the series, please see the index, “Let’s Sing” at http://revbroyles.me/2020/12/06/lets-sing/.

Hark how the bells
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say
Throw cares away

Christmas is here
Bringing good cheer
To young and old
Meek and the bold

Ding-dong, ding-dong
That is the song
With joyful ring
All caroling (Oh, oh, ah)

One seems to hear
Words of good cheer
From everywhere (From everywhere)
Filling the air

Oh, how they pound (Oh, how they pound)
Raising their sound
O’er hill and dale
Telling their tale

Gaily they ring
While people sing songs of good cheer
Christmas is here

Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas

On on they send
On without end
Their joyful tone
To every home

Ah, ah, ah

Ding-dong, ding-dong
Ding-dong, ding-dong

Hark how the bells (Hark how the bells)
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say (All seem to say)
Throw cares away
(We will throw cares away)

Christmas is here
Bringing good cheer
To young and old
Meek and the bold

Oh how they pound
(Oh how they pound)
Raising their sound
O’er hill and dale
Telling their tale

Gaily they ring
While people sing songs of good cheer
Christmas is here

Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas

On on they send
On without end
Their joyful tone
To every home

Ah, ah, ah

If you see the calendar for the month below, today was supposed to be “Sing We Now of Christmas.” It is giving me a bit of trouble and I will need more time to get it ready. So, I added a carol for today. I love this song, “Carol of the Bells.”

“Carol of the Bells” is a Christmas carol that was never intended to be a Christmas carol. In the song’s original writing, Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, the carol’s composer, wrote about the awakening of God’s people to the beauty of the Creation. The song was intended to be performed by an acapella choir. There were two other original versions, one for an a cappella women’s choir and the third for a children’s choir that would be accompanied by a piano.

The song, titled Shchedryk” meaning “The Generous One” gained immediate popularity when it was first performed at Kiev University in Ukraine in 1916. Children loved the song because it was simple enough to be done as a round but could sound quite complex when performed by an adult choir. Then the Bolshevik Revolution occurred along with World War I and Ukraine all but disappeared from the world. During the Soviet period, “Shchedryk” lost popularity among the people.

Meanwhile, in the United States, “Shcedryk” didn’t prove to be very popular. The song was performed to sell-out crowds on two occasions but didn’t gain much headway.

In 1936, Peter Wilhousky, a graduate of what would become Juilliard, was an arranger for the NBC Orchestra. He was looking for new Christmas music for the orchestra to perform when he encounter “Shcedryk.” He said it reminded him of hand bells. Wilhousky wrote a new version of the song with a Christmas theme to be performed by an orchestra. The song was reborn. After the orchestra played the song, the NBC switchboard started lighting up as people called in wanting either to have the music or a recording of the song. And, this was during the height of the Great Depression!

It wasn’t long before Minna Louise Holman got her hands on the music and wrote new lyrics for the Wilhousky arrangement of the song. When the two were combined, it became a Christmas coral standard that, from its original writing is over 100 years old. The carol version of the song is about 84 years old.

Like so many Christmas carols, there is a popular legend that goes with this carol too. During the Middle Ages, bells served as a common and important mode of communications. Bells did more than signal the beginning and ending of a school day or mark the time for a religious service. They also served as a warning system at the approach of an enemy, as a fire alarm for the community and more. In the Bible there is no mention of bells at Christ’s birth. There are shepherds, heavenly hosts and a star, but no bells. Yet it would seem that in the Middle Ages, the story began and gained a life of its own that when Jesus was born, every bell on earth began to chime signifying that somewhere in the world something special had happened. It was a tale that any Eastern European child could tell.

Since that time, “Carol of the Bells” has seen many people record it. From The Carpenters to Andy Williams and Julie Andrews to Mannheim Steamroller, the song has had many recorded versions but no performer can truly call the carol there own. It is a carol for the world.

Be Blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Sources

Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.

http://musiced.about.com/od/christmasnewyeararticles/qt/carolofthebells.htm

‘Carol of the Bells’ wasn’t originally a Christmas song

http://news.rice.edu/2004/12/13/carol-of-the-bells-wasnt-originally-a-christmas-song/embed/#?secret=GaUICblTjn

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Wilhousky

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mykola_Leontovych

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_of_the_Bells