Midweek Meditations

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



Living Hope

 

Read: 1 Peter 1:3-9      

Many people have used the quote “Where there’s life, there’s hope,” but none have proclaimed it and offered it as fully as God’s son Jesus Christ.  As difficult and hard as life can be sometimes, there is always hope found in the Savior of the world.  Peter reminds us that those who put their faith and hope in Jesus can find a hope that is living, active, and full of mercy and grace.

Life with Christ can give us a hope-filled outlook.  Like the story of the man who approached a little league baseball game one afternoon and asked a young player what the score was.  The boy responded, “18-0, we’re behind.”  “Wow,” the spectator said, “I imagine you are very discouraged.”  The young boy replied, “Why should I be discouraged, we haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”  

When life is hard and discouraging, Jesus can help you through those times by giving you his living hope.  In these verses Peter proclaims that it is a hope that will never perish, spoil, or fade away.  John Maxwell once told about a small town in Maine that was proposed for the site of a great hydro-electric plant.  A dam would be built across the river and the town submerged.  When the project was announced, the people were given many months to arrange their affairs and relocate.

But during those months, a curious thing happened.  All improvements ceased.  No painting was done.  No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or sidewalks.  Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier.  A long time before the waters came, the town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though the people had not yet moved away.  One citizen explained: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”

Faith in Jesus can keep your eyes focused on the future, while providing power, comfort, and strength in your present situation.  Faith in Jesus as your Savior can also provide for you the promise of eternal life in heaven when this life on earth is over.  There is no greater hope to be found in life than this living hope that Jesus offers!

Make it personal:  Take time to pray this week and share your difficulties and struggles of life with Jesus.  He cares for you, he is concerned, and he can provide this living hope in the midst of your circumstances.  If you have life, you have hope.  But if you have life in Jesus Christ, you have a living hope that will last.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Best Four Years

 

Read:
Psalm 118:1-8 & Jeremiah 29:10-14

Last week I attended the local student lead High School Baccalaureate service in our community and was struck by something the speaker said.  The speaker was retired school teacher and principal Danny Powell.  Danny told the graduates, parents, and others in attendance that they should never believe that their best four years of life on this earth are behind them.  He talked about even having this view of life into your retirement years.

I was struck by how hopeful and positive that view of life can be.  In so many ways it is the view of life that is proclaimed in God’s Word.  Psalm 118 promises us the love of the Lord will endure forever, that the Lord will be with us, help us, and bring us through any challenge we might face.  The general attitude of the Psalmist is to say, “Life is hard, but God is good, and good things are yet to come.”

In Jeremiah 29 we hear the words that many people have committed to memory.  Jeremiah proclaims that the Lord has plans to prosper us and bring us hope in life.  So when people say to high school seniors, senior citizens, or anyone else that the best four years are behind them we can refute that claim and say “No, the Lord has some great things in store for me in the future.”

In his book “Making Sense of God” Tim Keller shares this illustration…. “Imagine you have two women of the same age, the same socioeconomic status, the same educational level, and even the same temperament. You hire both of them and say to each, “You are part of an assembly line, and I want you to put part A into slot B and then hand what you have assembled to someone else. I want you to do that over and over for eight hours a day.” You put them in identical rooms with identical lighting, temperature, and ventilation. You give them the very same number of breaks in a day. It is very boring work. Their conditions are the same in every way—except for one difference. You tell the first woman that at the end of the year you will pay her thirty thousand dollars, and you tell the second woman that at the end of the year you will pay her thirty million.

After a couple of weeks the first woman will be saying, “Isn’t this tedious? Isn’t it driving you insane? Aren’t you thinking about quitting?” And the second woman will say. “No. This is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I whistle while I work.” What is going on? You have two human beings who are experiencing identical circumstances in radically different ways. What makes the difference? It is their expectation of the future. This illustration is not intended to say that all we need is a good income. It does, however, show that what we believe about our future completely controls how we are experiencing our present. We are irreducibly hope-based creatures.”

I am glad that Keller points out that this illustration is more about what we believe in our future than on what a person makes or has in their bank account.  The future is bright so put on your shades.  God has a great future planned for you, make sure you are ready to take part in it!

Make it Personal:  The next time you catch yourself with a negative attitude remind yourself the best is yet ahead.  Your best four years are always ahead of you no matter what your age.  This is the attitude that is Christ-like and Christ-centered.  Hope will always endure when Jesus is in control.

Have a hope filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



If Chicago were Aleppo

 

Read: Philippians 2:1-4    

In a recent Reuter’s news article the question was posed, “what if London were Aleppo?”  The story went on to talk about what London would look like if it had endured a 6 year civil war and half of the city had become a desolate ghost town with bombed out buildings and terrible loss of life like the city of Aleppo, Syria has endured.  I had to wonder what it would look like closer to home in a city like Chicago.  Yes, Chicago has it’s problems with gun violence and killings but what would our daily news be like if it was enduring what Syria and Aleppo are experiencing?

Perhaps we need to care more for these people on the other side of the world, or perhaps we need to pay more attention to the plight of those suffering from war, abuse, and injustice around the world.  In Philippians 2 were are encouraged to look out for the interest of others.  In numerous other verses throughout the Bible we are encouraged to care for those in need and help as we are able.  For sure we should be praying for them.

Time magazine is following three Syrian families this year who had to flee their country because of  this civil war.  They have children and newborn babies and yet they are trying to figure out where to go next.  By following that story and reading of their experiences it has made me more aware of the struggles and challenges that these families endure.  It also has made me aware of my own blessed situation of peace and security.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of caring for those in need.  He reached out and did what he could to help, he put others before himself, and he genuinely cared about all people.  As followers of Jesus we must have the same mindset of Christ.  We should care even if these people are half way around the world instead of just up the road in Chicago or St. Louis.  There are needs everywhere at all times, God just wants us to care about those needs and be a witness of his love and compassion.  Please put these people at the top of your prayer list and pray about what God might be asking you to do.

Make it Personal:  Who can you help today?  It’s hard to help people in Syria but we can help those in need around us.  Think about who that might be this week.  In the meantime, continue to pray for peace in Syria and Iraq and an end to the war and violence that have destroyed so many lives there.  Pray for Chicago as well.  Finally, give thanks to God for the relative peace and comfort that most of us are blessed to live in.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church




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