I Stand in Awe

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

Each year when Spring begins its greening and blooming I have to take time to marvel at how incredible this world is that God created. Things that were totally dead spring to new life. Grass that was totally brown turns to lush shades of green. Flowers that faded in the Fall once again Spring to life. These things make me want to proclaim with Psalm 48, “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise.”

One of my favorite worship songs through the years has been “I Stand in Awe.” It truly proclaims how I feel when I think of creation, when I think of what God has done, when I consider the stars, the thunder, and the incredible power that God displays throughout the universe. I stand in awe and in awesome wonder when I think of how a baby is born and how our bodies work to provide life one generation after another.

And then to consider what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. He did not spare his Son but gave him up in order to bear our sin and burden’s on the cross of Calvary. He bled and died that day to take away our sins. One day Jesus is coming back with shouts of acclamation to take us home, and that day will truly be a day that we stand in awe and proclaim “My God, how great Thou art!”

You probably recognized some of the words I have used in this week’s meditation. I have combined the worship song “I Stand in Awe” and the hymn “How Great Thou Art” to proclaim the greatness of God. And yet as the worship song proclaims, “You are beautiful beyond description, too marvelous for words, too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard.” I guess I will just stop trying to describe it and stand here in awe of how great God truly is. I hope that you will stand with me this week and be reminded of our awesome God.

Find a way this week to get outside and enjoy the warming weather. As you do take in the wonder of creation and the new life that is springing forth around you. Praise God for what he has done and continues to do in your life and in this world. The Lord is in control of this world that He has created and He is in control of everything you are facing in your life. Allow God to be your source of praise and strength this week. Then step back and stand in awe!
Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

March Wisdom

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

March Madness is nearing its end! The NCAA basketball brackets that were filled out has everyone hoping that their pick to win it all makes it to the championship game on April 4th. For me that opportunity has already passed (Thank you Michigan State). Since March Madness is beginning to turn into April’s Final Four I wanted to use this week’s article to share some wisdom from legendary NCAA basketball coach John Wooden. In scripture Proverbs 2 and 3 share the importance of wisdom and the benefits that it brings to our lives. One of the most beloved verses in all of scripture comes from chapter 3, verse 5 that says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Some of the excerpts that I will be sharing come from the 6th chapter of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s book entitled “The Matheny Manifesto.” In his book Matheny shares of how basketball coach John Wooden had such a profound impact on his life and the way he manages his team today. He writes…. “Just in case you don’t know who John Wooden was: As head basketball coach of UCLA from 1948 to 1975, he led the Bruins to 10 NCAA national championships in his last twelve years, seven of those in a row, something never done before or since. During that time, the Bruins once won a record 88 straight games, and Wooden was named national coach of the year six times.”

Matheny writes that Wooden was a great teacher, mentor, coach, and person. He also shares that John Wooden was a devout Christian. Matheny writes, “He was a devout Christian and often said his beliefs were more important to him than basketball. Wooden said, “Basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.”

Matheny writes more, “John was a daily Bible reader and a member of the First Christian Church. He once said “If I were ever persecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.” Here are some other favorite quotes of Mr. Wooden…. “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” “Happiness begins where selfishness ends.” “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” “You can do more good by being good than any other way.” “I never yelled at my players much. Artificial stimulation doesn’t last long. It’s like love and passion. Passion won’t last as long as love. It’s the same with yelling.” “You discipline those under your supervision in order to correct, to help, to improve, not to punish.” “Kindness makes for much better teamwork.” “Never be disagreeable just because you disagree.” “Be slow to correct and quick to commend.”

There are many more where those come from. Matheny mentions that coach Wooden never claimed that any of his many quotes were all original with him, but it seemed he had one for every occasion. NBA star Bill Walton (who played for Wooden at UCLA) says he used to write these quotes on his son’s lunch bags when he sent them off to school.

As we continue to watch the games of this year’s NCAA tournament and pull for our teams, let’s remember the importance of wise teaching, wise examples, and Godly character. Coach Wooden passed away on June 4, 2010, four months short of his 100th birthday. Wise and valuable quotes are always inspiring and helpful but coach Wooden would be the first to tell us that none of those can compare to the wisdom and value of the Bible. Many of his quotes were actually inspired by scripture. Read Proverbs 2 and 3 this week and renew your value in Godly Wisdom!
Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

The Greatest Rescue Ever

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

The year was 1952.  It was February 18.  It has been 64 years ago that a terrible Nor’easter storm had moved up the East coast of the United States that winter and was pounding the New England coastline with heavy snow and a massive storm at sea.  The SS Pendleton, a large oil tanker was caught out in the middle of that storm on that day.  The waves were so high and so violent that it split the large oil tanker in two.  One half sunk to the bottom of the sea, while the other half struggled to stay afloat with over 30 sailors on board.

The Pendleton’s crew sent out mayday signals, and Officer Daniel Cluff of the Massachussetts U.S. Coast Guard ordered a daring rescue mission despite the ferocious weather. Bernie Webber and three other men set out on a small lifeboat to try and rescue the crew of the SS Pendleton before it was too late. 

Perhaps you have read the book or maybe you have seen the movie about this incredible rescue that is currently in the theatres.  I have not read the book, but I did see the movie recently that is entitled “The Finest Hours.”  To this day the U.S. Coast Guard says that it remains one of the most spectacular rescues in its history.  It truly is a miraculous story of sacrifice and rescue against seemingly impossible odds.

As I watched that story unfold on the screen, I began to realize how many correlations could be made between that rescue and our rescue from the sin and evils of this world.  When Jesus gave up his life on the cross of Calvary he gave the greatest sacrifice of all in order to save us.  He sacrificed everything to rescue us from our sins.  The only thing we need to do to be saved is to admit that we have sinned and trust in his ability to rescue us from that sin.  We then proclaim him as our Lord and Savior and have a desire to live for him.  That is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  That’s just the beginning though.  Once we have been saved Jesus refuses to leave us the way that we were.  Jesus Christ will change you, transform you, and shape you into the person he has created you to be.

February 18, 1952 may have been the greatest rescue that the U.S. Coast Guard has ever seen.  It was their finest hour.  But 2,000 years ago on a hill called Calvary just outside of Jerusalem, Jesus Christ gave his life to rescue you and me and everyone on this earth.  That was the greatest rescue in all of history, and it’s a rescue that is ongoing every day that someone turns to Jesus.  Don’t wait another day to be rescued!
Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

Building Up or Tearing Down?

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

Do your words build people up or do they tear people down? This is an important question that we all need to ask ourselves. Encouragement can do wonders in a person’s life, but the opposite of that can destroy confidence, self-worth, and opportunities for other people to grow. School bullying has received a lot of attention in recent years for good reason. Bullying can tear down in ways that are devastating to school-aged kids. But adults should heed those words as well. Adults can bully and treat people in ways that are just as bad as what might happen on the playground.

This reminds me of the story about author Muriel Anderson. She was asked one time about who encouraged her and how she became a writer and author. She said that four particular words shaped her life. Those words were spoken over and over by her father and became building blocks for her self-esteem and confidence. She said, “I was fortunate enough to have a father who was good at saying “Of course you can!” just at the right moments. She shared about one time that her family had moved from a small town high school to a very large high school in the city. She wrote an article about the wonderful small town that she had left behind but figured the paper in that small town would not print it.

The paper had a tight budget and rarely would publish any freelance articles that were written, especially from an amateur high school writer. But her dad kept encouraging her to send it and see if they would publish it. She said to him, “I don’t think I can get it published.” His words to her were, “Of course you can!” She sent it, they published it, and Muriel eventually became an author and writer.

In a world that so often likes to tear down, we need to build up. Ephesians 4:29 says, “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.” When we follow that advice we just don’t know who and how we may shape someone’s future. Yes, there are times for helpful correction, words of advice, and thoughtful instruction. But those words must be anchored in love and not hate. People will never agree on every detail in this life, but we must have each other’s best interest at heart. When our life is over do we want to look back at all of the people we have built up or look back on those we have torn down?

Let’s build together. Whatever your occupation, calling, or ministry, let’s find ways to encourage those around us. Let’s make a difference in this world by choosing a different type of communication style. A style encouraged by scripture. Try to be aware of your words this week. Think about times that you choose words that do not build the other person up. Make a conscious effort, with God’s help, to be an encouraging and helpful presence in this world.

Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church