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Good Fruit

 

Read: Galatians 5:13-26      

I have been at some gatherings recently where delicious fruit was a part of the menu.  In each case, the people gathered for the meal commented over and over about how delicious the fruit tasted. It reminded me about the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Can you name them?    They are…. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. These are the fruits that God wants to see active and growing in our lives. When they are evident people will definitely notice.

In the introduction to his book  Fruits of the Spirit , Charles Hembree remembers an ancient fable. The fable tells of three merchants who were crossing the Arabian Desert. Because of the heat of the desert they were traveling at night. On that starless night they were crossing over a dry creek bed. As they were crossing a voice in the darkness spoke to them. The voice told them to stop right where they were. Then they were commanded to bend down and pick up the pebbles that were around them in the dry creek bed and put them in their pockets. After they did this they were told to leave and continue on their way and not to camp near the creek bed.

​The voice from the darkness continued to tell them that in the morning they would be both happy and sad. Being very frightened by all of this, they traveled through the night and did not stop until they could see the sun. With the arrival of the morning they began to look in their pockets. Instead of finding pebbles in their pockets they found precious jewels. Yes, they were both happy and sad. They were happy that they had listened to the voice of the night, but they were also sad that they did not pick up more pebbles.

​Charles Hembree goes on to say: “This legend beautifully expresses how many feel about the unsearchable riches of God’s Word. We are thrilled we have absorbed as much as we have, but sad because we have not absorbed much more.” He goes on to say that this sentiment certainly applies to these verses in Galatians which describes the fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps we should also call these fruits the jewels of the Spirit. The more of this good fruit that is produced in our life the better our lives and our world will be. However, these fruits are from the Lord and not from ourselves.

In verse 25 it says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” This means that when we look to God and trust in the wisdom of the Bible, we will be led and guided by the Holy Spirit. These fruits will then become a part of who we are, who others see, and will continue to grow in our lives. When people see the good fruit in your life they will know that God is a living and active part of your life.

Make it Personal:     Which of the Fruits of the Spirit need some cultivating in your life?  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control?  Start with one of them and work on growing that fruit in your life.  Then move to the next one that needs cultivating.  God will help you with the process if you ask for help.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Created in God’s Image

 

Read: Genesis 1         

In the very first chapter of the Bible it speaks of God creating the world.  After God created the animals, the stars, and everything else God saw them and said it was good.  When God created human beings, male and female, in his image, he said that it was “very” good.  It notes the special creation that we as people are in the eyes of God.  Yes, we are created in God’s image.

In his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmann’s, 2008) pastor and author Eugene Peterson notes that it’s easy for us to look at the grandeur and beauty of the mountains or to bask in the warmth of the spring sun and recognize the beauty of creation. Yet, sometimes we ignore the wonderful creation of the people right in front of us.

Peterson writes, “Several years ago one of my students who lived a distance away and rode a crowded bus to the college each day said to his wife as he went out the door one morning, “I’m just going to go out and immerse myself in God’s creation today.” The next day his parting words were the same. On the third day, she called him back, “Don’t you think you ought to go to class today? A couple of days walking in the woods or on the beach is okay, but don’t you think enough is enough?”  

He said, “Oh, I’ve been going to class every day.”  “Then what,” she said, “is all this business about immersing yourself in creation?”  “Well, I spend forty minutes on the bus each morning and afternoon. Can you think of a setting more thick with creation than that, all these people created in the image of God, created male and female?”  “I never thought of that,” she said.

Peterson concludes, “We need to embrace the people around us with the same delight as we do the hawks soaring above us and the violets blooming at our feet.”  In the midst of so many different personalities, gifts, passions, and opinions that are in the world, we need to appreciate the truth that all are made in the image of God.  God loves us all and desires to be in a right relationship with everyone. 

On a recent trip to Orlando, Florida I was amazed at the diversity that I found around every street corner.  People were from all over the world, speaking different languages, and from different cultures.  And yet all were a magnificent creation of God Almighty.  Sometimes along with stopping to smell the roses we need to stop and thank the Lord for His wonderful creation of people.  “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31.

Make it Personal:  It’s sometimes too easy to view others in a negative light.  Those who are different from us or those we might disagree with on things.  It’s much easier to view others in a positive light if we remind ourselves that they too were created in the image of God.  Our identity is found in God.  We understand that we are created with various personalities for a unique purpose.  The Lord has designed each person with the desire to have a one-on-one relationship with them through Jesus Christ.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Pardon Me Please

 

Read: Psalm 103:8-18      

Pastor Tony Evans shares a true story that happened in the year 1929.  A man named George Wilson robbed a mail carrier and killed him.  He was sentenced to die but received a presidential pardon.  To the shock of the Oval Office, he rejected the pardon.  The president of the United States had set him free.  George Wilson said no.  The case went to the Supreme Court and the issue was simply this:  If the president of the United States gives you a pardon, aren’t you pardoned?

Can you reject a pardon given by a sovereign?  Chief Justice Marshall rendered the decision.  It simply read:  “A pardon rejected is no pardon at all.  Unless the recipient of the pardon accepts the pardon, then the pardon cannot be applied.”  A pardon has two sides, the offeror and the offeree.  Unless the offeree accepts the offer, then the pardon cannot be mandated.

On the cross of Calvary just outside of Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago, the sacrifice of God’s son Jesus has offered everyone a pardon for their sins.  But in order to receive that pardon we have to accept it and believe that our sins are truly forgiven under the grace of God.  In Psalm 103:12 the Bible says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Going back in time, many of us can remember blackboards in our classroom.  One of the beautiful things about the blackboard was if you made a mistake with chalk, there was always an eraser to rid yourself of the error.  Forgiveness works the same way.  It is the cancellation of something.  It is the deletion of an error.  It is the ability to erase a mistake and start over again.

All of us have sinned.  All of us need the grace and forgiveness that God offers to us through Jesus Christ.  Don’t beat yourself up over your past sins and failures.  Instead repent of them to Jesus and ask for his unconditional grace to pardon you and set you free.  Then move forward in the life that Jesus desires for you.  Psalm 103 has much more to say about God’s love and grace for you.  Take some time this week to read it.

Make it personal:  What mistakes and failures continue to weigh you down?  Have you prayed to Jesus and asked him to pardon and forgive you for those things?  We may not have many blackboards around anymore but the delete button on our keyboards is the same type of correction.  If you receive the grace of Jesus he will delete that sin forever.  Hope is just ahead!

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Curious Conversations

 

Read: Colossians 4:2-6

In a recent  Golf Digest magazine interview golf coach Peter Cowen said, “Anger is the most unnecessary cause of bad shots, and the easiest to address.”  He went on to explain that instead of being angry about a bad golf shot the golfer should be curious about why it happened in the first place.  This way something good and constructive can come out of the situation instead of anger, which most likely will lead to another bad shot.

This is good advice for all of life.  How many times do people make a bad mistake or have a disagreement with someone, and one bad step leads to another, and then another?  In these verses the apostle Paul is encouraging us to do three things.  Be prayerful.  Be Watchful.  Be Thankful.  But he then goes on to talk about how we should converse with each other over matters which might bring disagreement.

He says, “Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  In other words, instead of being mad or angry about something, take time to be curious and learn from the other person or the other point of view.  I have been blessed many times when I have sat down with people who see things differently than I do.  We don’t always come out at the same place or agree on everything, but we both leave with a better understanding of each other’s point of view.

Another thing these verses encourage is that we speak and converse with Godly character.  In his book “Everyone’s a Coach”, former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula tells of losing his temper during a televised game with the Los Angeles Rams.  Millions of viewers were shocked when an open mic picked up Shula using explicit profanity in his moment of anger.  He could have given excuses, but he didn’t.  As letters arrived from all over the country expressing their disappointment in Shula, he responded with a hand-written letter of apology to each of those fans.  He said, “I am very sorry about this.  I value your respect and will do my best to earn it again.” 

Whether it is in our conversations with other people or our language in general we need to be wise in how we interact with each other.  Anger will lead us down dangerous paths of regret.  Curiosity and grace will allow us to learn, grow, and appreciate each other.  I am a golfer and I know from experience what Pete Cowen is saying.  One bad shot can lead to another, and another, if anger is not dealt with in a constructive way.  So is life!

Make it personal:    How do you handle moments of anger?  How do your conversations with others reflect the kind of character and example that you want to present?  You may not always agree with everyone, but it feels much better to have a conversation filled with grace and seasoned with salt than to end up in a shouting match. As it says in James 3:10, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters this should not be.”

Have a wonderful week, Pastor Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Be Still and Hear

 

Read: Psalm 46      

People often joke about someone having selective hearing.  Spouses like to claim this about each other, and children get accused of it sometimes as well.  The phrase “selective hearing” means that we choose when to listen and when not to listen to someone else.  In a world filled with distractions we can often be guilty of this.  We are on our smartphones, going from here to there, working all the time, and moving at a pace that even puts the Energizer bunny to shame.  We may be productive, but are we ever still enough to hear what needs to be heard?

Psalm 46 has a well-known verse that is often quoted.  It says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  This should be a reminder for us that in order to hear what God is saying to us about life we need to take time to hear His voice.  That voice may come through the words of the Bible, through a trusted Christian friend, through a message at church, through a time of individual prayer, or some other way that the Lord chooses to communicate with you.  But just like all other communication we have to take time and choose to listen.

James Hamilton once shared a story from the days before refrigerators, when people used ice houses to preserve their food.  Those ice houses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door.  In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust.  Often the ice would last well into the summer.

One day, while working in one of those ice houses a man lost a valuable watch.  He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it.  His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile.  One day a small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the ice house during the noon hour.  Soon he emerged with the watch in his hand.  Amazed, the men asked him how he found it.  He said, “I closed the door, laid down in the sawdust, and kept very still.  Soon I heard the watch ticking.”

Most of the time it is not a question of whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear.  It’s easy these days to find people who are distracted by various things.  Instead, be a person who finds places, spaces, and time to be quiet and still in order to hear what God might be speaking into your life.  Find time this week to be still and hear what God wants you to hear.

Make it Personal:  How often do you worry and fret over various things in life?  How often do you take time to pray, listen, read God’s Word, and seek the Lord’s guidance and counsel on those things?  Try to improve your listening skills with others, but be sure to find time to be still and hear the voice of Jesus in your life.

Have a great week,  Pastor Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Grow, Grow, Grow

 

Read: Colossians 2:6-8 & Psalm 1:1-3

     In a recent TIME magazine article Microsoft creator and philanthropist Bill Gates shared a list of his most recent favorite books.  One of his quotes in that article especially stood out to me.  He said, “You don’t really start getting old until you stop learning. Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently.”  I also found it interesting that this man who was a part of the computer generation still likes to read printed books that he can hold in his hands instead of books in digital form.

In Colossians 2 we are encouraged to find ways to continue to grow in our spiritual walk with Jesus and in our faith in God during all stages of life.  Paul writes, “Continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  This is a reminder that we never get to a point in our lives in which we know it all or have experienced all that life has to offer.  Therefore, we must continue to learn, grow, and find ways to experience the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the purpose God has for us.

In that same TIME magazine article Mr. Gates said that when he was a young boy he read through the entire set of World Book encyclopedias.  Yes, you read that correct.  He read through that whole set of twenty or more thick books that details so many things about life and our world.  He had a desire to learn and grow.  It is important that we have that same desire to learn and grow in the things of this world and most importantly in the things of God.

In the children’s department here at our church the kids love it when “Growbird” makes an appearance.  Growbird is a stuffed animal that looks like an Emu.  As the kids sing a song about growing in God’s Word and God’s ways his broomstick neck grows taller and taller and taller.  When the song talks about failing to do those things his neck shrinks back down.  It is a great reminder for the children of this need to grow, grow, grow in the Lord.  This week at the Community Vacation Bible School I keep hearing the teachers and kids repeat, “I will never stop Growing in God.”

Adults of all ages need this reminder from time to time.  Not everyone enjoys reading like Bill Gates and others, but all of us need to find ways to continue to grow and learn more about life, God, Jesus, and the hope that is found in the Lord.  Psalm 1 in the Message Bible says, “You thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.”  May that kind of spiritual growth be our desire throughout all the years of our life. 

Make it Personal: In what ways can you grow in your faith and life?  Maybe it’s reading God’s Word more often, praying more often, or attending a church worship service regularly.  Maybe it’s mending some fences and extending grace to someone.  Maybe it’s finding new ways to serve God and others.  Find ways to grow, whatever that might look like for you.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church




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