Labor Day

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Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly (2 Timothy 2:15, Common English Bible).

Over the past few days I have been giving some thought to Labor Day. As I have thought about it, my brain went to a weird idea. I don’t really think it is an original idea because it seems like I heard it somewhere before. “We celebrate a day about working, by not working!”

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a holiday as much as anyone. It is just that I find the contradiction interesting. Saturday, while visiting with a friend, I actually found myself calling Labor Day, “Oxymoron Day.” That is probably a bit of a stretch, but the contradiction is worth thinking about.

Still, to think of labor as a gift from God is not a stretch and that is where the majority of my thoughts have been on this subject. I know it sounds strange to think of “work” as a gift, perhaps it would be better to say, the ability to work is a gift. And, where would we be without work and the ability to work?

A couple of days ago I wrote on integrity. Our work is an opportunity to live out that integrity. Paul reminds us of that in the verse above, “…present yourself to God as a tried and true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed…” If we go about our work as if we are working for God, we will never have reason to be ashamed.

Beyond that, we are all called to work for God. The work we do for God may not be the way we make our living. When I first became a candidate for ministry in the United Methodist Church, there was a book, The Christian as Minister, that was required reading. The last I knew it was still in use but several revisions have happened since my candidacy days.

I think that is too bad. They removed my favorite part of the book! I am not sure exactly when, but I lost my original book some time back. So, I will share it with you as I remember it.

Our vocation is not necessarily the way we make our living but it is our work. To find our vocation one must find the intersection of what brings us the most joy with what God most needs done in the world. The unnamed author gave an example. If you are an ad-writer and you really get a kick out of your work, but you spend your days writing television deodorant commercials, you might meet number one, what gives you joy, but you are probably missing the boat on number two, what God most needs done in the world. On the other hand, if you are a doctor working in a leper colony but you find your work distasteful and depressing, you may meet number two, what God most needs done in the world, but not only do you not meet number one, the thing that brings you joy, you probably are not doing your patients much good either. We have to find balance in our work lives between our own joy and what God most needs done in the world. That is where we find our vocation.

I think that is the biggest celebration of labor we can have today or any day. We celebrate because when we are living out our vocation as our labor, we are living with a true gift from God. That alone will bring us joy. If there is joy in our work, we will be able to present ourselves to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed.”

Have a great Labor Day holiday and thank God for the ability to work and for your vocation.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Give it Up!

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“In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple” (Luke 14:33, Common English Bible).

Here is a question for you to consider this morning. Why do we trust God with everything but our money?

We in the church love to say we trust God. We will even go into great detail of all the ways we trust God or show our trust in God. But, our giving and our commitment to giving show something entirely different.

As a pastor I often hear people say, “I give by giving my time.” And, in many, if not most cases it comes from people who do give their time. That, however, is only part of the equation.

I also know many who will give freely of their money but are very protective of their time. In other words, they are willing to throw money at the problem but they aren’t willing to give of themselves.

We talk a lot in the church about tithing and how “it is the Biblical standard” for giving. That really isn’t true. It is more accurate to say tithing is the minimum Biblical standard. If we are truly giving, this should be the bottom line of our gifts. I have heard it said, until we are tithing, we are not really giving.

Additionally, in the verse above and in the story of the Rich Young Man, Jesus is saying something more, we have to give up all our possessions in order to be a disciple. If we read that literally, and many say that is the way they read Scripture, we own nothing and really we should have nothing. To my way of thinking, such would include both our money and our time.

I actually think this isn’t something intended literally but as a condition of our hearts. In our hearts, everything we have, when we enter the faith, should belong to God. The deed to the house may have our name on it, but we know it really belongs to God. The title to the car may have our name on it, but it really belongs to God. God allows us to use them. God allows us to be stewards over them. But in reality, they are not ours, they are Gods.

Then, when it becomes time to place money in the offering plate or when it comes time to be involved in a ministry requiring our time, we give from glad and generous hearts because all we have isn’t ours to begin with. If I see everything I have as belonging to God, it is easy to give because it wasn’t mine to begin with.

In reality, if we don’t trust God with our money (all our possessions for that matter) and our time, we don’t trust God at all.

Have a blessed day in the Lord – oh, and go to church and worship – and give of your time and money.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

First Follow the Directions

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” Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water,’ and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,’ and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine” (John 2:7-9a, Common English Bible).

Yes, I am one of THOSE guys. I am probably not as bad as some, in fact I feel pretty certain of that. I will usually pull the instructions out, glance at the pictures and if it appears to be something I THINK I can do without reading them or even looking at them further, they are thrown off to the side and not referred to again until indeed, I can’t quite get it to work. Then and only then it becomes the old adage, “When all else fails, read the directions.”

It is probably a good thing most adult Bibles don’t come with pictures. If they did, I probably wouldn’t attempt to follow those instructions very well either until I had messed up my life to the point that all else had obviously failed and I was forced to go back and read the instructions.

The lesson above was Jesus’ first known miracle, turning water into wine at “The Wedding at Cana.” There is a lot we could talk about in that story. We could start with the weird things that happen at weddings that leave all the guests with conversation starters for years to come. We could talk about the nature of miracles. We could talk about what appears to be a temptation on Jesus’ part to ignore the instructions of his mother. Well ignore probably isn’t the right word but you know what I mean. We could also talk about the way Jesus was so extravagant in both quality and quantity of the wine he provided.

We are going to set all that aside for today and focus on the poor lowly servant that Jesus told to take the water that had turned to wine to the headwaiter. What you first have to know is, servants, throughout history, as a group were not and still in many ways are not treated very well. Those over the servants were often abusive. Can you imagine being to poor guy who Jesus tells to dip out some water, oops, I mean wine, out of these jars, knowing at least in your mind you were about to take the boss water and try to pass it off as wine.

The servant would appear is in a no-win situation. He had just been told by this woman, who it would seem, we can imply she has something to do with the bride’s family. Why else would she bother to get involved. And then there was her son who talked in a pretty stern way to his mother and he is now telling you to take the wine to the headwaiter. And speaking of the headwaiter, that is his, “on the other hand.” He knows in his mind this isn’t wine and the headwaiter will become angry and since our poor servant is the one standing in front of him… He probably didn’t think he could say, “Please don’t shoot the messenger.”

If ever there was a guy who didn’t want to follow the directions, it was probably this servant. And remember, he didn’t have the Bible to tell him who Jesus was. He didn’t know from having studied Scripture the miracles Jesus could and would do. He was living the scene out, unlike us, who know or at least can read the stories of Jesus in our Bibles. And, to his credit, our young man followed the directions.

There is a lesson in that for us. For so many of us, even though we have the directions, we often fail to follow them. We don’t read our Bibles and in this failure, way too much of the time we fail to know what God is telling us to do. If we don’t know what the directions are, how in the world are we going to follow them?

We need to take a lesson from the servant. We may not know where God’s path will take us. As people of faith, what we do know is, God is for us. God loves us. God will see us through.

Just remember this, all else will probably fail, if we fail to read the directions.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

On Integrity

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…though I have enough confidence in Christ to command you to do the right thing, I would rather appeal to you through love (Philemon 8b-9a, Common English Bible)

There are many definitions floating around for a good number of the words in our dictionary. Integrity is no different. Dictionary.com gives three definitions for the word. I am going to start by mentioning the two I am not going to talk about. “The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” You might use integrity here to say, “I want to preserve the integrity of the empire” (dictionary.com’s sentence). The other says, “a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.” To use this in a sentence we might say, “The crew inspected the ship’s hull to insure its integrity.”

There is another definition of integrity used by Dictionary.com. It says, “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” This is the kind of integrity that jumped into my mind when I read Philemon this morning, this week’s Epistle Lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary.

I found another definition on Vocabulary.com. I found it to be both accurate and entertaining. “Integrity is a personal quality of fairness that we all aspire to — unless you’re a dishonest, immoral scoundrel, of course.”

All this talk of definitions got me to looking around a bit and I found three quotes, that at least to me are more definition really than just a quote. C.S. Lewis said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.” Tony Dungee said, “Integrity, the choice between what is convenient and what is right.” The comic strip writer Tonya Masse has said, “Integrity: Choosing your thoughts words and actions based on what’s right rather than what’s in it for you.”

Both Dungee and Masse mention doing “what’s right.” That is why when I read Paul’s words to Philemon yesterday when Paul starts talking about Philemon doing what is right. Paul said he could command Philemon to do what is right, but he doesn’t want to do that. You see, even if we assume Paul is correct and he could order Philemon to “do what is right,” that wouldn’t allow Philemon to live out his integrity. Philemon wouldn’t be following through because he wanted to or even because he thought it the right thing to do. He would have been doing so because Paul ordered him to do so.

Paul wanted Philemon to exercise his free will and do “what is right.” It is evident to me that Paul had learned to the importance of free will for God. Paul wanted the slave Onesimus freed, but he wanted even more than Onesimus was freed because his master, Philemon choose to do so. That, is integrity on Paul’s part. And if Philemon frees Onesimus, that would be integrity on Philemon’s part.

You and I are faced with situations fairly frequently where we are caught in a position to “do the right thing” or to do something different. That different might be to make money at the expense of others. It might be to take the fast or easy way out. It might be just to seek our own pleasure. It comes down to, will we do what is right?

Former football coach turned analyst Lou Holtz has said something that I think is helpful here. “I follow three rules. Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” That sounds to me like another pretty good definition of integrity. It seems to me if we can follow Holtz’s three rules, we will be on our way.

I think of all the quotes I have read today on integrity, the one I think most important for we parents to live by is from author H. Jackson Brown Jr. saying, “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.”

For we who call ourselves Christian, integrity must be at the forefront of what we show the world. Our integrity is a vital part of our witness. It is essential to who we are. After all, in the words of Alan Simpson, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Thankful for Fleas

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…always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… (Ephesians 5:20, Common English Bible).

Back in our younger days, Cindy and I had a dog that got infested with fleas. She was a semi-inside dog. She lived in a room in the back of the house. To access the backyard you had to walk through this back room. This was before the days of the current, give the dog a pill and your flea problems are gone forever. We tried everything, flea shampoo, flea powder, flea collars and nothing worked. And, when you walked through this room, you were attacked by fleas. We finally solved the problem but I don’t really remember how.

Those flea attacks came back to my mind this week as I was listening to an audio book while driving. The past couple of weeks I have been listening to a couple of books by Eric Metaxas. The first was Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness and the other is Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness. The books are biographical profiles of seven men and seven women. I highly recommend both books.

Tuesday I was listening to Metaxas’ essay on Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place. If you haven’t read The Hiding Place or some other biography of Ten Boom such as the book by Metaxas, Ten Boom and her family were at work in Nazi occupied Holland during World War II. They organized a network where they hid Jews and others the Nazis tried to exterminate until they were turned in to the Gestapo. The entire family was arrested. Corrie and her sister Becky managed to stay together until Becky died shortly before the end of the war. Both were women of great faith but Becky is the one who showed Corrie the way. One day they were having a discussion in their flea infested barracks and they began talking about giving thanks in all circumstances. Corrie just couldn’t bring herself to be thankful for fleas so she as Betsy prayed thanking God for the fleas, Corrie just prayed that God would listen to Betsy’s prayer.

Several days later Betsy came rushing to Corrie. She knew why they should be thankful for the fleas. Betsy discovered that because of the fleas the guards wouldn’t come into the barracks, giving the women, not just the Ten Booms, but all the women in the barracks a measure of privacy and freedom they would otherwise not be afforded. It was a lesson Corrie said she would never forget and that in every circumstance there was some reason to give thanks.

I thought about that flea infested dog and room in the back of our house. I thought about how miserable it felt to be attacked by the fleas when you just walked through the room. As I listened to Metaxas’ words about Corrie and her sister I started thinking, what reason did I have to be thankful for the fleas in my house. My conclusion came to the dog. Without the dog I wouldn’t have had the fleas, but I also wouldn’t have had the dog our family loved and enjoyed.

Sometimes you may have to look hard to find it, but I guess there is always a reason to give thanks.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved

A Change in Attitude

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You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.  All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.  But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other! (Galatians 5:13-15, Common English Bible)

 

I haven’t posted on here in quite a while. I really need to get better about that. I will try. This post came about because of thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for a couple of days. Hope you enjoy. Feel free to leave your comments.

several years things seem to have changed in our society. We just don’t seem to treat each other with the kind of love and dignity and respect I seem to remember from when I was a child. Our society has gotten mean. I wish I could say it just rested in our polarized and partisan politics but nothing could be further from the truth.

I think there may be a couple of things at work. I first started noticing this shift in the days following 9/11. Perhaps part of it is rooted in a fear that we no longer feel safe in our communities. But I think there is more to it than that. It seems to me that this shift also parallels the rise in those of our population who participate in social media. While it is not an anonymous platform, it has become a place where it is easy to attack others, particularly those we do not know and/or who share different ideas from our own.

Because this rise in viciousness has continued to escalate since the last presidential election, we have seen more than the usual mudslinging. The gloves came off early and every candidate has seen the level of hateful rhetoric increase exponentially and they have not been immune from dishing out their fair share and more. And, I wish I could write here that it was just the candidates who were spewing so much hate, but it is not. The level of distrust, the level of animosity seems to come from the citizen as well as the candidate.

I wish I were writing this to beg non-Christians to stop because it was a behavior that, by-in-large was an activity in which Christians were not participating. But to think as such, would be wrong in more ways than I would care to count.

To some degree this is to be expected from non-Christians. I am not trying to say Christians are better than non-Christians or should be better than non-Christians. My point with that statement is simply to say, we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to behave as though they are Christian. How can we expect Christian behavior from people who do not know Christian behavior and have little interest in such?

It seems to me, we as Christians should know better. We are supposed to be people who know and live in the behavior of love. Yet what I see from many cannot be classified as love to anyone’s way of thinking. Paul’s words above serve as a warning to us. “But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!

As I have stewed over this the past couple of days, the meme above floated across my Facebook feed. It gave me an idea. In truth, while I love what the meme says, I really do not expect any politician to cease tearing down their opponents. I actually think that is part of our problem. We used to elect statesmen. Today we elect politicians. It has been a long time since we had a real statesman in the White House. But, I digress.

As I was thinking, the idea ran through my mind, “I can’t stop the politicians from bashing each other, but I can stop bashing them.” I know I am far from perfect and I feel pretty certain that between now and November 8th I will say something negative about some candidate for some office, but I at least want to try.

Because I am a pastor I really try to refrain from talking much about politics, particularly around my church members. Again, I’m not always successful, but I do try. What I want to try even harder to do is, if I speak at all, to speak only positively about the candidates I support. When I talk politics, I want to talk about why my particular candidate should be elected, not why the candidate I oppose should not be.

The truth is, right now, in at least some of the elections I will vote in this November, I haven’t made up my mind. The current political rhetoric out of both politicians and the public I do not find helpful. Tell me what you are going to do, what your candidate is going to do, why that person should be elected and allow me to make up my mind. I will not make up my mind by only hearing why someone in the opposition should not be elected.

As both a citizen and child of God, I pledge to work hard to be positive in the days ahead. Perhaps if we all were to work on that, we might see a change for the better in the society in which we live. I believe as people of faith the Scriptures seem pretty clear. We are to act in love and back-biting is the polar opposite of that. Not only that, if we were to all start focusing on the positive not only would our society seem better, I think we all might be a little more happy in life regardless of who wins any of the upcoming elections.

That is what I think and that is my pledge. With God’s help I believe I can follow through with that. Will you join me?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Grace and Peace,

Keith

Copyright 2016, James “Keith” Broyles, All Rights Reserved