Being Real

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in February 2017

People don’t like “fake” things.  Fake news has been talked about recently in light of many social media stories that are not true or are trying to promote a certain agenda.  Facebook, Twitter, and others are trying to figure out how to manage those things so that people are not deceived by things that are untrue.  We don’t like it when people are fake either.  This being when someone is acting in a way that is not consistent with who they really are.  On social media and in real-life people can sometimes portray a fake representation of their real self.

In Acts 2 the early Christians were not only devoted to the ways of Christ they were also devoted to one another.  Yes, it says that they shared property, possessions, and other things, but verse 44 says, “all the believers were together and had everything in common.”  Does this mean they agreed on every little thing?  No, I am sure that was not the case.  They were human.  What it does mean is that they were “real” with each other.  They shared their deepest feelings, hurts, struggles, celebrations, etc. with each other in a very real and authentic manner.

This is something the Christian Church of today needs to encourage.  This is something we need to make room for and give opportunities for people to share what is going in their life.  This is what can truly bring Christian community to the church and draw us closer together as God’s people.  When we can be open and honest with one another we can truly help each other in this journey of life.

Sharing our life stories with one another is one way this can happen.  There is so much we don’t know about each other.  If we find opportunities to open up and share what we have been through and how Christ has blessed us in life we will find help, encouragement, strength, and grace to move forward in what the Lord has in store for our futures together.

Someone once said, “The world at its worst needs the church at its best.”  Being real and authentic with each other and how we live our lives in the world (including social media) can be a great witness for Jesus Christ.  The first Christians practiced true community and verse 47 of Acts 2 says that they were, “Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  Why?  Because when people are real and authentic it is noticed by others.

Glen Rhodes,
Arthur Mennonite Church


Run the Race

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in August 2016.
I love to watch the Olympics! The training, competition, medals, and gathering of all the nations in the world is truly something to behold. As I watched the opening ceremony recently I was thrilled to see all of the athletes walking in together in a spirit of joy and anticipation. As one recent IPhone commercial says, “We are more alike than we are unalike.”
As I watched the swimming competition last week I was impressed by the story of Ryan Murphy. NBC ran a story showing the drawings and books he made as a young child that showed him swimming in the Olympics and winning a gold medal. This was a lifelong dream of his. He trained for it, worked very hard, and it all came to fruition when he stood atop the gold medal podium and watched the U.S. flag being raised to the rafters. He broke an Olympic record in the men’s 100-meter backstroke that night. 
Each time the Olympics roll around I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. He talks about the runners in a race. He talks about the strict training that goes into competition. He talks about the crown or gold medal they are working towards. But then he compares that earthly crown to the heavenly crown of eternal life in heaven that will last forever.
Paul’s words are to remind the church at Corinth, and us, about the importance of spiritual training and exercise. If we desire to grow in the ways of God and develop a closer walk with Jesus we must “run in such a way as to get the prize.” Paul is speaking about the need for self-discipline in those verses but he is also encouraging spiritual growth as well.
We are not saved by our works or by our deeds. We are saved by the grace of Jesus. But being saved by Christ should encourage us to live for him, grow in him, and make him the Lord of our life. Ultimately this is what Paul is encouraging in these verses. It encourages us to ask how we can make that happen in our lives. Is it a time of daily prayer and devotions? Is it devoting more time to loving neighbors and friends? Is it being more committed to regular church attendance? Or is it something else that the Lord is speaking to you about?
I admire the time, commitment, training, and effort that all of these Olympic athletes put in. Congratulations to all of them. I know that I will never stand on one of those Olympic podiums, but even better than that would be to stand at the doors of heaven and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I hope the same for you as well! That will be better than any color of medal hanging around our neck.
Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

Spiritual Dryness

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in July 2016.

My wife Rhonda and I recently returned from a trip to California where a current drought has everyone concerned and thinking about how they use their water.  Water is one of our most crucial resources and when things become dry and parched it causes people to think about not only how valuable it is but how they are using it in their own lives.  The same can be said about our spiritual lives as well.  It is often in those times of spiritual dryness that we discover things that might need our attention or appreciation.

In 1986 two brothers who lived in kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee made an incredible discovery.  As these two Israeli fishermen monitored their equipment on the beaches of Genesaret, they noticed something they had not seen before.  Something covered in mud glistened in the sun.  Upon examination, archaeologists determined that what the brothers had discovered was a fishing boat dating from the time of Jesus (AD 30-33).  The only reason the artifact was discovered was because of a 3-year drought, resulting in unusually low water in the lake. 

The Bible tells us that in times of spiritual dryness, God may uncover something of fabulous value within his presence.  In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul is speaking of the many struggles that come along in life.  He says that in life we are often pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.  But then he reminds us that those times of difficulty are refining us and shaping us into the person that God wants us to be.  Physical and spiritual dryness can lead to times of a renewed life.

Paul reminds us that it is in those times when we discover that our troubles are moving us to an eternal glory that far outweighs the drought stricken times in our life.  He says,

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

(2 Corinthians 4:18)  I’m not sure if you are at a spiritual mountain or valley as you read this, but I do know that God’s desire is to shape you and mold you into his eternal glory.
Read God’s Word this week and think about its spiritual value for life.  Then pray and ask Jesus to help you grow in whatever place or situation you find yourself in right now.  Jesus can help to lead you from spiritual dryness to a place where you are renewed day by day, just as Paul reminds us when he says, “Therefore we do not lost heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”   (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

Positively Better

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in June 2016.

I have noticed something recently on social media. It seems like no matter how good or positive a news story, tweet, or Facebook post might be, there are usually more people that comment negatively on it than positively. Why must we always take the good and try to find something negative or bad? Not only is this
The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in April 2016.
bad for our relationships it is bad for our own personal health and well-being.

In Ephesians 4 Paul reminds us that we need to be about building up and not tearing down. He says that we are to use words that build others up and words that will benefit those who are listening (or reading). These verses remind us that social media is not the cause of this, negativity has been around since Adam and Eve. However, it doesn’t mean that we need to participate either.

A couple of weeks ago the Champaign News Gazette newspaper interviewed the new Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman. They asked him what he told his staff in a recent meeting they had. He said that he was trying to encourage them to be positive and confident in the midst of all the negativity that has been flying around at the U of I recently. He said that we can make a choice each and every day to be positive instead of giving into this cycle of negativity.

That led me to think about the recent success of the Chicago Cubs. Even though they have a lot of talent on that team I believe their success last season and this season is largely due to the positive nature of their manager Joe Maddon. He did this same thing with the Tampa Bay Rays who were one of the smallest market teams in baseball before he came to the Cubs. He is a positive, fun, and encouraging manager and that has led to one of the best starts in Cubs history.

As Christians and followers of Jesus we have the responsibility to be positive encouragers in a world that is often filled with negative discouragers. It is not always easy, and I am not always successful at this, but it is a choice that we can make. We need to make the choice that the apostle Paul suggests in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Friends, this is positively the better way to live our lives!

Make it a daily choice of yours. Along with your 10,000 steps, crossfit workouts, treadmill exercises, and healthy diet, choose to be a positive influence on those you come into contact with. That might be face-to-face or it could be on social media. Whatever the medium, be sure to build up and not tear down. This is the first step in being a positive witness of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Have a positively wonderful week, 
Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church