Midweek Meditations

Reasons to give Thanks

Read: 2 Chronicles 5       
November is a month that turns our hearts and minds toward Thanksgiving.  Yes, we should be thankful each month of the year, but following the Fall harvest, the décor and temps, and the many mentions of thankfulness, November is known for the giving of thanks.  However, just like every other month, November has its share of bad news and heartache as well.

Can we find reasons to give thanks in all circumstances as Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians?  Sometimes it depends on how we see things.  Pastor Tony Evans tells the story of a man who asked his wife if she would iron his pants for him.  As she ironed them she ended up burning a hole in that brand-new pair of pants that he had just bought.  The husband started to get angry, but then stopped and said, “Lord, thank you that my leg was not in those pants.”  Pastor Evans said, “There is always reason to give thanks.”

No matter what life throws at us, we can always find many things to be thankful for.  The key is focusing on the good and not letting the hard things consume our hearts and minds.  David wanted to build the temple for the Lord in the Old Testament but was told that he must wait and let his son Solomon build it.  Once it was finally built, the Ark of the Covenant was carried in and a great celebration took place.

It says in 2 Chronicles 5:13 that there was music, praise, and thanksgiving lifted to the Lord as that celebration took place.  It took patience, selflessness, and a right attitude on David’s part, so the Lord’s will could be accomplished.  The lesson from that story is that we don’t always see things as the Lord sees them (David died before the new temple was built), but yet we can always see plenty to be thankful for in this life (David gives thanks to the Lord just before he dies) 1 Chronicles 29.

Make it Personal:   As we enter into Thanksgiving this year try to focus on the many things you do have to be thankful for.  Don’t let the hard, difficult, and confusing things blind you from the many wonderful blessings you do have in life.  As the song says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one… and see what God has done.”

Have a great Thanksgiving,  Pastor Glen Rhodes
 


Those Who Come After

Read: Deuteronomy 6:4-18          

Did you know that you can get free TV?  In a recent Wall Street Journal article, it was reported that 29% of Americans were not aware that you can get local channels on your TV with just a simple antenna.  No cable, no satellite dish, no monthly bill.  Most of those who did not know this were under 30 years old.  They grew up in the satellite era and have been accustomed to paying (or their parents paying) for programming.

Last week I wrote about those who have come before us.  The 500-year anniversary of The Reformation has made us think of people like Martin Luther and others who have truly changed history.  Of course, no one has changed history like God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  He came to live, sacrifice his life, and be resurrected to save all those who believe in Him from sin and death.  This is great news that must be shared!

In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 we are reminded of the importance of sharing this great news of Jesus and the things of God with the next generation.  This is how the Message Bible paraphrases those verses. 

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

It’s too easy to go through life and forget to talk about the things that are really of utmost importance.  Another recent article stated that many children can identify Pokeman characters before they can identify basic animals.  It also said that 50% of High School students thought that Billy Graham preached the Sermon on the Mount.

We can’t be too hard on our children or High School students because it is up to us to teach these things to them.  As the verse says, “Get them inside of you and then get them inside of your children.” 
 
We must talk about them, teach them, and explain them to those who come after us.  We can’t assume that they will learn the important truths of life on their own.  Knowing about free TV is really not that big of a deal, but knowing about the life changing salvation and grace of Jesus definitely is.

Make it Personal:  If you are a parent or grandparent I hope you will personally make it a point to share your faith, your experiences, and your hopes with the younger generation.  The church can teach and reinforce those things, but it must begin in our homes.  “Train up your child in the way they should go…”

   Proverbs 22:6

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Those Who Came Before

Read: Hebrews 11       

Perhaps you have heard?  This year is the 500th anniversary of the “Protestant Reformation” that occurred in 16th century Europe.  It all began on October 31, 1517 when a Catholic monk, professor, composer, and priest named Martin Luther submitted his 95 Thesis to his archbishop.  At some point it is believed that Luther also nailed that list of 95 thesis (that rejected several teachings and practices of the church at that time) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.  Little did Luther know how this would change the entire world.

In fact, some historians refer to it as one of the greatest events in history due to how The Reformation changed the religious and Christian landscape around the world.  From that time period came great division, disagreement, martyrdom, and change.  But it also brought forth many good things as well.  One of those was the important truth that we are justified by faith alone and that the grace of Christ is available to all.  This was a truth that Jesus taught, but it had become distorted and abused by people over time.  During that period the Bible was translated by Luther (from Latin to German) and William Tyndale (from Latin to English) and distributed widely to all Christians because of the invention of the Gutenberg Press.  God’s Word was not only for the Priests and leaders anymore.  It was now for all people to read, study, discern, and apply to their lives.

Much more could be said about that time period and the important people like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and the Anabaptist/Mennonite leaders like Conrad Grabel and Menno Simons that emerged; but it reminds us of the valuable examples of those who came before us.  The great “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews 11 of the Bible is another reminder of how Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and others displayed faith, sacrifice, and courage many, many, years ago.  All of these people have helped to shape our Christian worldview today in the 21st Century.

Perhaps you can think of a parent, grandparent, relative, teacher, pastor, friend, or other who have been a great influence on your life and your faith?  As we remember the 500 year anniversary of The Reformation let’s take time to give thanks to God for all the positive influences of transformation, change, and example who have paved the way for us.  I know I would not be where I am at today without the example, encouragement, and patience of those before me.  Now it’s up to us to consider what path we are making for those who come after us.  More to come on that next week.

Make it Personal:  Take some time this week to look up history and stories from the Reformation period.  There are many great sources online and in libraries to help you learn more about Martin Luther and that very important time in history.  Also, take time to read Hebrews 11 and the Gospel of John to learn more about the Savior Jesus and the great people of faith that are shared about in the Bible.  Give thanks this week for those who have gone before us!

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Way It Is

 

Read: Acts 10            

Perhaps you remember the song by Bruce Hornsby and the Range that said, “That’s just the way it is, some things will never change?”  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you do some of the things you do?  Better yet, have you ever asked God about those things?  In his book “Engage” Pastor Nelson Searcy shares a good example of this.  It’s the story of a young newlywed couple who were trying to navigate their new marriage while living hundreds of miles from their family and long-time friends. 

He writes, “One night, as the two were preparing dinner, the husband was peeling potatoes at the sink when he noticed his wife cutting the ends off the uncooked roast and throwing them away.  After she had seasoned the meat and put it in the oven, he asked her why she had cut the ends off the roast.  In his opinion the ends are the best part.  Shooting him down with a don’t-question-my-methods look, she answered, “Because.  Well, just because…. Actually, I’m not sure.  That’s the way my mom always does it.”  Determined to save future end pieces and get to the bottom of this mystery, the young man called up his mother-in-law and asked her the question.  Her reply was similar, “I’ve always done it that way because that’s the way my mother did it.”

Now the new husband was getting frustrated. Not willing to let the issue go, he put his mother-in-law on hold and called his new grandmother-in-law.  When everyone was on the line together he asked, “Grams, why do you cut the ends off a roast before you cook it?”  The grandmother gave a surprised laugh and said, “Because my pan is too small to fit a whole roast!  Why do you ask?”  Sometimes tradition can be a good thing, but other times you need to question why you’re doing it.

Peter realized this in Acts 10 when the Lord gave him a vision that the gospel message was for all people and not just the Jews.  The way it always was is not the way it was going to be going forward.  The lens of faith was going to be expanded to include all those who believe in Jesus and follow his will, not only one particular people group.  Peter had to refocus on the how, why, and where of his ministry.  He had to move from his traditional view of how it was, to God’s view of how it will now be.

It’s important for us to always ask why things are done a certain way.  Sometimes the traditional ways are good and need to continue, but there are other times that God is beginning something new and creative in our lives and in our world.  It is important for us to be open to those changes when they are aligned with God’s Word, God’s will, and God’s purpose.  Just like the newlywed couple, we might realize that “the way it is” does not necessarily mean it’s the way it needs to be moving forward.

Make it Personal:  Find some things in your life, in your faith, in your family, and in your work to ask the question, “Why do we do this?”  Then consider if they are done for good reasons or only reasons of tradition and habit.  Perhaps the way it was does not need to be the way it is.  Thankfully Peter was open to God’s vision in Acts 10 and the gospel message of salvation in Jesus was opened up to all of us.  

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Solid Foundations

 

Read: Matthew 7:24-29      

Recently in the news we have read about the tragic earthquakes that have occurred in Mexico.  It is terribly sad to hear about the loss of life and the destruction that was caused.  It is even more disheartening when we hear that school children and others most likely would have survived the quake if proper building codes and procedures (that were in place) would have been followed when those buildings were built.

Life can be the same way.  At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he shares a parable (short story) about two builders.  One built his house on the rock, the other built his house on the sand.  When the rains came, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the houses only the one built on the rock was left standing.  Jesus said that the one who listens to his words and puts them into practice is like the man who built on the rock.  The one who hears his words and ignores them is like the man who built on the sand.

In any construction project the foundation is key to the rest of the building.  Yes, the other materials matter too, but if the foundation is not built correctly the rest will not matter.  Our lives are built on the choices, decisions, attitudes, and truths that we live by.  When those things are not in line with God’s will for our lives then the storms of this world can be destructive and much harder to face.  In the Bible God has given us the building code for life.  Jesus was a living example of that code.

It’s very difficult to watch the destruction that earthquakes and other disasters can bring.  It’s also very difficult to watch lives influenced and affected by terrible choices and decisions that could have been different.  No disaster in life is to large to overcome.  Jesus is a God of restoration and renewal.  He can help you rebuild what needs to be rebuilt and changed in your life.  He also can help you live out the foundational truths that are found in the Bible.  Build wisely and live wisely!

Make it Personal:  Think about your life.  What kind of foundation are you building on?  Is it a foundation that will withstand the storms of life for you and your family?  Are you building on the shifting sands of a troubled world or are you building on the solid rock?  Whatever your situation I hope that you will find the wonderful grace and restoration that is available to you in Jesus Christ.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Not Your Past

 

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Perhaps you have seen the Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown and Lucy are playing baseball?  During the game a fly ball is hit to Lucy and she misses it. Charlie Brown is curious as to why she missed such an easy fly ball out.  Lucy responds by saying that while the ball was in the air she remembered all the others she had missed in the past.  She said, “The past got in my eyes.”  Perhaps you can relate.  You have trouble moving forward because of guilt or shame from the past.  Some years ago Major League Baseball manager Sparky Anderson said, “I’ve got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them.  There’s no future in it.”

Too often people live as if their past defines them.  They can’t move past their failures, mistakes, and sins to embrace the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.  In the story of Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3, Nick comes to Jesus in the cover of night and asks him what this teaching about being born again really means.  Jesus explains that we are not born again physically but spiritually into a new creation in Him (Jesus Christ).  Not long after that encounter comes one of the most quoted verses in all the Bible in John 3:16, “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.”

Going back to the Peanuts.  Many times we are like Linus who carried his security blanket around everywhere he went.  We don’t let go of our soiled and difficult past to embrace something new.  A new more promising security in Jesus.  Peanuts creator Charles M. Shulz introduced that blanket for Linus in a comic strip in 1954.  Interestingly, toward the end of the comic strip’s run, Shulz had the blanket appear less and less.  During a Charlie Brown Christmas special Linus even drops the blanket and says “Fear Not!”  The same words that Jesus comforts his disciples with in the book of Matthew.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul proclaims, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  This is why we don’t have to live in our past or dwell on those mistakes when Jesus has been invited into our lives.  You don’t have to listen to condemning voices from your past or be overwhelmed by guilt and unforgiveness.  His grace and forgiveness will cover you.  You are or will be a new creation in Jesus once you receive his gift of salvation.  I love the way that the Peanuts characters brought so many of these life lessons to us through the years.  Many of them were even lessons straight from the Bible.  My prayer this week is that you can find redemption and grace for your past through Jesus.  He is about your future, not your past!

Make it Personal:

  This week I hope you can make these words from Isaiah 43:18-19 personal and a part of your life moving forward.  “Forget the former things; so do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

 



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