Seasons of Change

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in November 2013.

Each fall I look forward to seeing the wonderful color that is seen on the tree in front of our church. It is a tree that drops annoying prickly balls all summer that have to be picked up, but when fall comes it makes you quickly forget about the summer annoyance.
Another reminder of change is that we used to have two of these colorful tree’s in front of our church.  That is until a strong lightning storm took one of them down last summer.  It is now gone and the trunk is gone as well.  The seasons are like that in Central Illinois. You have the heat and humidity of summer that turns into the bitter cold of winter.  You have the pleasant blessings of Spring and new life, as well as the beauty and colors of fall.  But each time we go through one of these changes I am reminded of how the seasons of nature also resemble the seasons of life.

If there is a bad time, you can rest assured that better times are ahead.  If you are in a good place, you thank God for that blessing and ask Him to help you be prepared for times that may be more difficult.  When it is Winter we look forward to Spring, and when it is hot in the summer we look forward to the cold of Winter. Okay, that last one may be hard to sell to some of you.  There is something to be said however about how the changing seasons give us variety and keep things fresh for us.

I have often thought about how nice it would be to live in San Diego, California where the median temperature year round is around 65 degrees.  From an average low of 59 to an average high of 72, San Diego does not change much throughout the year.  In other words, they don’t look forward to Spring nearly as much as we do in Central Illinois.  Have you ever thought of it in that way?

In the book of Genesis God promises Noah that the seasons will remain until the end of the earth.  In Revelation, the last book of the Bible we are told about a New Heaven and a New Earth.  Both of these promises at the first and the last of the Bible give us hope and expectation.  So, as winter comes, let’s enjoy the beauty of the fall season and thank God that we have so much to look forward to, in life and in the seasons that he has created for us.  If you are in a winter season right now in life, don’t give up, Spring is coming!  If you are enjoying the 70’s right now in life, thank God and ask him to help you remember this moment.

Finally, remember this, all things work together for the good of those who love God!  Love God and He will see you through any season of life that comes!  Take time over this coming week to thank God for the good, the bad, the difficult, and the annoying things of life.  Thank him for the way that those things help to mold us into the people and the followers of Jesus that he desires for us to be.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

She was… He was…

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in October 2013.

What kind of legacy will we leave when our lives on this earth are over and we enter into eternity? It’s a question that we all think about for sure, but how often do we think about it as we are making daily decisions? Too often one bad decision leads to another, and another, and you get the point. The flip side of that is that Godly decisions can also compound. Not only do they compound in our own lives, but they leave that positive legacy that we desire. At your funeral or memorial service how do you want people to think about you? When they complete the sentence “She was…” or “He was…” what will those periods stand for?

Two recent stories in the news give us examples of the good and the bad. Let’s start with the bad and end with the good. Perhaps you have heard about the children of a woman in Reno, Nevada who wrote a very sad and disheartening obituary for their mother last month. It was published in the paper, online, and has since gone viral on the internet. The obituary speaks only of the bad this lady left for her legacy. It speaks of abuse, hatred, abandonment, and much more. It’s hard to read! It’s hard to imagine that this woman is now gone, and this is the legacy that is left. I didn’t know her. I don’t know her children, but it saddens me to think that this is what they thought of when writing her obituary.

The good story comes from the sport’s world. I have never been a fan of the New York Yankees. However, their pitcher, closer Mariano Rivera, I have long been a fan of. Rivera is retiring from baseball this year after a stellar 23-year career. He has been lights-out on the baseball field, holding almost every record available for his position, but his legacy as a person is going to outlast his career by far. Many different times in his career he has commented about how he sees his Christian life as his real calling. In a recent Sports Illustrated article written by Tom Verducci, 17 former coaches, players, and friends shared seven pages about the legacy that he has created. One co-worker commented, “Most of us have deployed all of our attention to ourselves and to our own needs, with little left over for the needs of others. Mo has a presence that creates an atmosphere of teamwork, of an impossibly high regard for the integrity and worth of the people around him.”

In Psalm 103 David encourages us to think about our legacy from generation to generation. It’s a daily thing, not something that only gets thought of at the end of our lives here on earth. Each day affords us the opportunity to leave a Godly legacy. I would like to encourage you this week to think about the legacy you will leave. Remember, God’s grace and forgiveness is available to everyone. If you are still breathing it’s not too late to seek that grace and begin living and leaving the legacy that you desire. Start today and seek God’s help! We can’t do this on our own!

Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church

The Danger of “I”dols

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in September 2013.

One thing in the Bible that people are usually pretty familiar with are the 10 Commandments. They give guidance for our spiritual lives and a few of them are even reflected in the laws of the land. Do not steal, do not murder, etc..  But the first two commandments seem to be getting ignored more and more in today’s culture of narcissism. They say, “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath, or in the waters below.”

When we think of idols today the first things that usually come to people’s minds are related to television shows, athletes, music stars and movie stars. We seldom think of idols in the form of Baal or other idols we read about in the Bible. In reality though, today’s idols are very similar to those of many years past. They are things, people, hobbies, and so on that take our focus off of God and put our focus elsewhere. In the case of narcissism (defined as an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. Self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism) it puts the focus squarely on ourselves.

In a recent “Breakpoint” commentary John Stonestreet related this to many of the recent stories we are reading in the news. He brought to light a quote that the late Chuck Colson once made. He said, “The cure for narcissism, is stepping away from the mirror and looking at someone else — especially Him (Jesus) who is the true desire of us all.”

In this age of Facebook, Twitter, Vines, reversible cameras on our phones, personal blogs, etc. we need to be careful that we are not making idols of ourselves. Christ wants us to have self-confidence, but he wants us to find it in our relationship with God, not in ourselves. There are some valuable uses for today’s technology, and I personally find Facebook and Twitter to be very useful with keeping up with friends, family, and other events; but I hope that I would never find my worth through those things. My worth and your worth is truly found in God and through his Son Jesus Christ, not how many “likes” we got on yesterday’s post.

In the end, we truly will be most content and happy when we place our focus on God. As Mr. Stonestreet said in his blog, “Jesus Christ is not just the cure for narcissism. He’s the cure for all forms of sinful pride and selfishness, and every other sin.”

My prayer this week is that we would refuse to be drawn into the “me first” approach of the world and recommit ourselves to these first two commandments. In Matthew 22:34-39 when the experts in the law were trying to test Jesus and ask him which of the commandments were the greatest he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And second…. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Pastor Glen Rhodes

Arthur Mennonite Church

Youthful Enthusiasm

The following article was published in the Arthur Graphic-Clarion in June 2013.

Its summer vacation and that means its Vacation Bible School time! It was a real blessing to see the energy and the enthusiasm this past week as the community Vacation Bible School was taking place here at the church. Record numbers were set each day with well over 200 children in attendance. The numbers are great but the most important thing is that the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus were being taught, talked about, and sown into the lives of all those children. The theme of SonWest Roundup provided a fun western theme for the week and gave all of the wonderful volunteers a lot of opportunities to get creative with the activities and their attire.

It truly is amazing to sit back and watch the enthusiasm that children have. We adults would do well sometimes to loosen up and let the excitement of being a forgiven Christian be evident in our lives too. Perhaps that is what Paul was encouraging in Romans 12 when he says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” When the children last week were encouraged to yell “Yeehaw!” they did it with zeal and fervor. Yes, they were excited to be at Bible School with all of their friends, but I believe they were also excited about what they were hearing about Jesus. It is Good News! It is reason to be excited! So why not show it?

What a blessing it is to see various Arthur churches, many volunteers, and lots of children come together for such a wonderful week. It was encouraging to see the adult volunteers last week show the same zeal and fervor that the children were showing. Their commitment to sharing the stories of Jesus and planting the seeds of God in these kids lives will most surely bring a harvest in the days ahead. Thank you to all of those who gave your time to make a difference in this community and in these children’s lives!

As we live our lives outside of the exciting weeks of Bible School I would like to encourage us to remember these youth and their excitement. May it encourage us to be enthusiastic about our faith as well. How can you not be thrilled when you hear truth and promises in God’s Word like these…..

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

And those are just a few. Let’s join the children at Bible School this past week and show our enthusiasm and excitement for what God has done for us! When you see a child show enthusiasm or excitement this week let it remind you of our need to do the same. Join with the apostle Paul and say, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Pastor Glen Rhodes

Arthur Mennonite Church