Peaceful & Considerate Discourse

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in Dec. 2014.

I was struck by a passage of scripture recently from Titus 3. It was a reminder that as God followers and believers in Jesus Christ we are called to a different type of political discourse and conversation than we often see in our world.

Now, I will admit that many people are much more passionate about politics than I am. I follow the news, I care about what is going on, and I pray for leaders whether I like their policies or not. In fact I pray for them even if I did not vote for them.  I hope you do as well. Scripture instructs us in that way. As Christians there is a correct way to engage in the political landscape and we sometimes need to be reminded of that.

That brings us to Titus 3:1-3. Here is what it says…. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”

Even though I am not passionate about politics I am glad that some people are.  We live in a free country that allows us to speak up, speak out, and keep the leaders accountable. We need that. However, the way we speak of people, policies, and parties needs to align with the Word of God. Titus 3 is one reminder but there are others in scripture as well.

Are we peaceable and considerate? Are we gentle? Or do our words fit in the categories of slander and foolishness? There is a way to speak up and still keep these ideals of positive discourse as a part of our witness.  The final verse of this passage talks about how we used to be. It speaks of a life before Christ, a life consumed by malice, envy, and hatred. That is not what we want to be known for; it is not what Jesus Christ was known for even though he engaged the political world sometimes.

I don’t know if your candidate or candidates won or lost during the most recent election, but I hope that you will pray for them either way. As you respond to things in our world that are not right, and there are many, keep the words and encouragement of scripture as your guide when there is a need to respond or speak up. This works well in our everyday relationships as well. Pray and ask the Lord to help you respond with peace and gentleness.

Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

Grace and Truth

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in October 2014.

I have always admired the challenging job that doctors and nurses have on the medical side of things, but I also realize the difficult task they have of sharing news with people and families that they sometimes don’t want to hear. In a devotional I read recently by Helen Paynter I was reminded of this balance of sharing the truth while also extending kindness and comfort to the individual and family.

In her devotional she wrote about how some doctors will “blurt out the diagnoses or prognosis without any words of preparation or comfort.” As a former doctor herself she would often remind her fellow doctors and nurses about the need to be clear and truthful but also very kind in how they share the news with their patients.

As I was thinking about the importance of this for doctors and nurses it occurred to me that the same advice holds true for all of us. We need to be honest and speak truth, but we also need to do it with kindness and grace. Too often in our world people blurt out their opinions without considering the impact it may have on other people. We must remember that we are all created in the image of God and must live in this world together.

In John 1:14 the Bible says, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” There it is. Jesus came to us in grace and truth. I don’t think it is a mistake that the apostle John put grace first. When we approach someone with grace it changes how we share the truth.

The truth of God needs to be shared in a world that is lost! But for the world to even have the desire or opportunity to receive it in the right way it must be presented with grace, peace, and love. Helen shared this prayer at the end of her devotional and may it be our prayer as well…. “Lord, please fill me with such love for your world that I have the courage to speak truth and the grace to do it with gentleness and humility.”

Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

Prayer: The First Step

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in September 2014.

When the name Nehemiah from the Bible is mentioned most people remember the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. This was one of Nehemiah’s greatest callings and accomplishments for the Lord. He was a brilliant planner, organizer, and motivator for sure. But when Nehemiah sensed this call upon his life his first step was not to plan, organize, talk to the king, or begin his trip back to Jerusalem, it was to pray.

The first chapter of Nehemiah includes his prayer. He prayed for forgiveness, he offered praise and thanksgiving, and he committed himself to the Lord’s will. Only after a time of mourning, fasting and praying did he have the courage to go to the king and ask if he could return to Jerusalem to help his people and rebuild the broken down walls.

In our fast paced world we are often tempted to barrel straight ahead with what we think is the right direction. I wonder what would have happened if Nehemiah would have proceeded in that way? What if he did not take time to mourn for what had happened, to fast and seek after God’s direction through prayer? Things might have ended up much differently for him. Perhaps the king would not have been so willing to let him depart from Susa?

The first step for Christians should always be prayer. We need to make sure that our will aligns with God’s will. Yes, he placed something on our heart, but the entire plan and direction may come through many hours of prayer and discernment, not the first inclinations of our flesh.

If your first temptation is to act, step back and think about the first step that Nehemiah took. Prayer and open communication with the Lord can open up many doors that human minds have not even considered. If you read the entire book of Nehemiah you will see that this was not a onetime decision for Nehemiah, he often turned to the Lord in prayer and asked the Lord to remember him, to deal with his enemies, and to use him in only the way God desired. Hopefully that will be our approach as well.

Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

That’s the Truth

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in June 2014.

A recent Bloomberg Business Week article shared a Cornell University professor’s survey of 30 undergraduates and their communications with others.  He found that lies were told in 37% of their phone calls, 25% of face to face conversations, and only 14% of emails.  He went on to share the reason for this by saying that it is because emails leave a permanent trail and the other forms of communication do not.

In other words, students were afraid of being found out about their lies.  I would assume this study would translate into our broader culture with close to the same percentages, which means one thing, people are much more willing to be dishonest or to lie if they know that it won’t come back to bite them in the future.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says that we are to be so honest that we shouldn’t even have to swear to someone that we are being truthful.  In other words, our lives are to be a testimony of honesty so that others do not doubt for even one minute whether we are telling them the truth or not.  And when we think that we are the only one that knows about a lie that we have told we are forgetting about the “all knowing” power of God.

Jesus says, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”  Be sure of yourself, be honest and truthful, and live your life with those character traits being evident to all those around you.  When people describe us may they say, “She is a woman of her word” or “He is a man of his word.”

As you go about this week think about the temptations that come from Satan about lying.  When you sense them coming, ask Jesus to help you be honest even if you and Jesus are the only ones that know about it.  In the long run this will allow you live a much more peaceful life.

Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church