Midweek Meditations

Cubs Rule!

Read: Romans 1:8-17

In the first chapter of Romans you will not find prophecy about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in the year 2016, even though that still could come to pass.  I imagine that all of the Cub fans are reading this meditation this week because of the title I chose.  Those of you who know that I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan are probably reading this to see why I am spreading such heresy among the people.

Well, here is the truth.  The meditation this week really has nothing to do with the Cubs.  I used that title as a way to make a point about something else.  Titles are handy in that way.  That is why newspapers and magazines use them before each article.  It draws the people in, stirs up their interest, and encourages them to hear or read what you have to share.  I’m not trying to trick you but I would like to share something interesting that I read this past week.

According to a survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans from LifeWay Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, many unchurched people are wide open to the first steps, or approaches, of evangelism.  A full 79% of unchurched Americans agreed with this statement: “If a friend of mine really values their faith, I don’t mind them talking about it.”  That survey was shared by Pastor James Emory White in his blog this past week.

What often happens to Christians is that we get this idea in our head that people don’t want to hear about our faith, our beliefs, or how we view the world through the lens of Christianity.  We entertain this idea that we are not supposed to bring it up at work, at school, or with our unbelieving friends.  This new survey suggests that we need to be more bold in our witnessing.  People will give you an ear even if they may not see the truth of Christ and God’s Word at the beginning.  We do the sharing and pray that God will reveal those things to them.

The Apostle Paul was bold for sure.  In verse 16 he says, ” For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”  This is exactly why we need to share the Good News with others.  What title are you putting out there to get people interested?  What example are they witnessing in your life?  What conversation starters can you use to begin those discussions?  It sounds like 79% of those people would like to have that talk.

While there may be disagreement on my title for this week’s meditation, I think we can all agree that the world needs to hear more about the salvation of Jesus.  It is up to us to be creative, bold, and compassionate as we fulfill God’s call on our lives to be the light of Christ in our everyday lives and relationships.  People are ready to talk and listen if you will give them a reason to!  Oh and by the way,  Good Luck Cub Fans!  That was quite a comeback last night!

Make it personal:  Think of someone specific this week (someone who does not go to church or is not a believer) that you could try and start a conversation with about your faith.  Find a word, a phrase, or a question that might lead the conversation further on down the road.  Then just talk with them as a friend and pray that God will reveal his truth to them.  Why?  Because “it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….”

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



You have a Gift

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Spiritual Gifts are an important part of being followers and servants of Christ. It is through these gifts/talents/abilities that the Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to bring his kingdom to this earth. The apostle Paul speaks of these gifts and their various manifestations in this week’s scripture passage. Different gifts, but the same Spirit who distributes those gifts. He later goes on to say that they work together as one in order to make a difference in our world.

Leadership coach Karen Miller tells the following story about how she and her husband needed to identify and develop new leaders for a new church plant: “One Sunday morning Irene, a church plant leader in her seventies, set up the Communion table. I noticed that she then went around to make sure everything else was in order—and people did whatever she asked them to do. Afterward I asked her, “Irene, have you ever considered that you have leadership gifts?”

“Absolutely not!” she said. “I am just an ordinary woman, housewife, and mother. I’m not leading; I’m just serving.” Some months later, our young church received a visit from a Rwandan church leader. He told the church how he dreamed of starting an orphanage and school for children whose parents had been slaughtered in the genocide. We decided we had to help. Could we hold a banquet to raise funds? Irene agreed to help put on the banquet.

When she visited a possible caterer, she somehow convinced the caterer to donate most of the food. Irene talked with a banquet hall, and they gave her a deep discount. So did the tech people. No one could tell Irene no. On the banquet night, over 200 people came, and enough money was raised to build the school and its first dormitory.

I teased her afterward: “Irene, that was amazing! Maybe you are a leader?” She laughed, for she finally had to acknowledge the truth. Each May, Irene led the banquet again. Now we could see photos of kids who had lived on the streets and never brushed their teeth flashing broad, white smiles. Boys who had been malnourished, their arms and legs painfully thin, now ran and jumped across the courtyard on strong legs. Girls who’d come dressed in rags showed off their neat school uniforms and barrettes. After Irene went to be with the Lord, Sonrise Orphanage named a dorm after her did I find out that the banquet she’d led had singlehandedly covered one third of the school’s operating costs.”

I tend to believe that we all have spiritual gifts that still need to be brought forth. Yes, many people know how they are gifted and what they are called to, but this may change over time. I never dreamed that someday I would be preaching sermons on Sunday mornings and be a pastor, but the Lord began to work in various ways and now I am. Many people have experienced this in other ways. One thing I have learned, never say never when it comes to how the Lord may use you.

Make it personal: Take some time to pray this week about your spiritual gifts. What are they, how can you use them in your family, in your church, in your current situations? The Lord will lead you, provide for you, and call you if you are an open and willing servant. You just never know where you might find yourself making a difference in this world.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



RESPECT! Where have you gone?

Read:  Philippians 2:1-11

It seems as if respect is no longer an important virtue in our country.  Where has the respect gone for senior citizens, parents, teachers, leaders, and others?  Where has the respect gone for those in positions of authority?  Where has the respect gone for our laws, for obedience, for common decency?  Where has the respect gone for those who are different than us?  Most importantly, where has the respect gone for God and for the life examples of Jesus?

Last Sunday golfing legend Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87.  When most younger golfers were interviewed about his life and the impact he left on the people and the game of golf they almost always referred to him as Mr. Palmer.  It wasn’t Arnold, Arnie, or any other name.  It was Mr. Palmer out of their respect for him.  And for most of them it was that way long before he passed away.

I recently read a story about pastor and evangelist Billy Graham.  When he was in the prime of his ministry holding services in some of the largest stadiums in the country he met an unknown seminary student named Gordon MacDonald.  As Mr. Graham was introduced to Gordon his eyes fixed on him, he extended his hand to him, and he said, “Mr. MacDonald, it’s an honor to meet you.”  Mr. MacDonald would later say, “Mr. Graham addressed me as if I were a peer or someone “superior” to him, but here I was just a scrawny first year seminary student.”

Those two stories show how respect is a two way street.  We need to respect others in the way that we would like to be respected.  If we would begin to live with that kind of respect we would see many of the current problems in our country begin to fix themselves.  In Philippians 2 Paul uses the example of Jesus to give us guidance on this.  He says, “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

In 1 Peter 2:17 Peter says, “Show proper respect to everyone.”  The list could go on.  Many other Bible passages refer to the importance of loving our neighbors, respecting others, and being obedient to God and those whom God has put in authority over us, as long as they are not violating the will of God themselves.  Because of sin in our world these ideals will always be challenged, ignored, and even disrespected.  However, Jesus has provided the answer for that problem as well.

We need to turn to Christ with repentant hearts for the times that sin has caused us to disrespect others, mistreat others, and demand from others what we ourselves are not willing to give.  Jesus will forgive us and help us see a better way.  While we may not expect this from the larger culture, we as Christians can give evidence to how it can work and how it can help us to live together in peace and harmony.  I end this week with the words of the apostle Paul describing how Jesus showed us the way….

Make it Personal:  “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant….”  Philippians 2:5-7

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Words We Speak

Read: James 3:1-12

The words we speak each day have more power than we realize!  Since we are in an election year in the United States right now we have daily examples of this in the news.  But beyond the political stage the words that we speak to each other on a daily basis have incredible power to bless or curse other people.  They also can be used to bless and curse God as well.

James reminds us of this in the 3rd chapter of his book when he compares the tongue to bits in the mouths of horses, rudder’s on a ship, and forest fires.  He is reminding us that one small word or how we speak our words can drastically affect another person, a situation, or the way someone might feel.  He says that we praise the Lord with the same tongue that we curse human beings.  In verse 10 he says, “THIS SHOULD NOT BE!”

I recently heard a song on the radio by Hawk Nelson that speaks truth to what James is saying.  The lyrics go like this…  “They’ve made me feel like a prisoner, they’ve made me feel set free, they’ve made me feel like a criminal, made me feel like a king.  They’ve lifted my heart to places I’d never been, and they’ve dragged me down back to where I began.  Words can build you up, words can break you down, start a fire in your heart or put it out.”

The chorus to the song then speaks to what our words should be like as Christians…
“Let my words be life, let my words be truth, I don’t wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to You.  Let the words I say be the sound of Your grace, I wanna speak Your love not just another noise, Oh, I wanna be Your light, I wanna be Your voice.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal” has lectured throughout this country on the powerful, often negative impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying “Yes.” Others laugh, and quite a few call out, “No!”

Telushkin responds: “Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you can’t go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you’re addicted to alcohol. If you can’t go 24 hours without smoking, you’re addicted to nicotine. So if you can’t go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you’ve lost control over your tongue.”

Make it personal:  James reminds us of the obvious, “Both fresh water and salt water cannot flow from the same spring.”  Let’s be careful with our words and catch ourselves when we are speaking unkind, untrue, or unneeded words about God or other people.  God’s name is often thrown around as a swear word, this should not be!  Other people are often cursed by unloving and unhelpful words, this should not be!  Let us speak LIFE, TRUTH, GRACE, and LIGHT!

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



A Spirit-Filled Personality

Read: Galatians 5:16-26

We all have different personality traits.  Some of us are talkers, some are more reserved.  Some are very task oriented, others are more people focused.  Some are very organized and others are less concerned about those things.  Some love a day at the Arthur Cheese Festival, others would rather be at home reading a good book.  God made us different for a reason and all types of personalities are needed and should be valued in our world.

Last week I heard Joyce Meyer say something interesting.  She talked about having a Spirit-filled personality.  That phrase caught my attention because it implies that despite our DNA makeup we all have the ability to live by the Fruits of the Spirit that Paul describes in Galatians 5.  Those fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are not dependent on a person’s physical DNA, they are based on our spiritual dependence on Christ.

Susan Maycinik once wrote, “Love, joy, and all that other good stuff are the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of our efforts. We can’t produce them on our own. Period. The fruit comes only as we submit our lives and let the Spirit control us.”  In verse 24 of Galatians 5 Paul says that if we belong to Jesus Christ then we need to crucify our sinful nature and the passions and desires that go along with that nature.  He goes on to say that if we are living by the Spirit then we need to keep in step with the Spirit and these fruits that he mentions.

As frustrating as it might be sometimes I am glad that we all have different personalities.  It adds spice to life and provides us with many different perspectives and ideas as we live together.  But as Christians our personalities should be grounded in the Holy Spirit.  This is how we should live together and be the church of Jesus Christ that brings light to the world.  Maybe the next time someone asks us about our personality we should start with the Fruits of the Spirit instead of describing our natural tendencies?

On a light note to end this week I heard this story about the Fruits of the Spirit.  A father was trying to teach his very young daughter the Fruits of the Spirit and he asked her to recite them.  This is what she said, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and remote control.”  I am so thankful that the young children at our church have learned these fruits through a song that they sing during Sunday School time.  Just another great reason to bring your children to church on Sunday!

Make it personal:  Pray the Fruits of the Spirit into your life this week.  The more we pray them, take note of them, and ask Christ to foster them in our lives, the more they will become evident to us and others.  Lord, lead us by your Holy Spirit and help us to keep in step with the Spirit as we live our lives.
 
Have a Spirit-Filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church


iWorship

Read: Psalm 100

Let’s begin this week with a trivia question.  What new product was introduced to the world on October 23, 2001?  If you want some time to think about that question before seeing the answer I will write a couple more sentences here with some hints before telling you the answer.  This product has become one of the best known in the world.  This company is now more widely known and recognized than almost any other company in the world.  Have you got your answer?  The Apple Ipod was introduced on October 23, 2001.

Since that time there have been many other “i” products that Apple has introduced.  There has been the iPad, the iPhone, and the music service called iTunes.   There even is a company now named “iWorship” that produces worship videos and songs for the larger church.  Oh, and there is even a church named “iWorshipCenter” in Springfield, Illinois.  All of this started me thinking about another question.

How often do we think about our own personal worship space?  We usually refer to worship as the time that we gather together as God’s people in a particular building, in a particular place, to worship Christ together.  That is a very important time and a time that I treasure more than anything else in my week.  But worship should be something I do throughout the week as well.  I need to find ways to worship God in the daily walk and the daily work.

The iPod was named this way because it was a personal portable music player.  How can we make our worship personal and portable?  Many ways come to mind but each person needs to embrace what works for them and what draws them closer to God and into his presence.  Maybe it is silence, perhaps it is listening to scripture while you drive, maybe it is listening to praise and worship music, perhaps it is time spent in prayer and listening to God, maybe it’s a walk in the woods or a walk somewhere else? 

In Psalm 100 we read the words of someone who is giving the Lord their personal praise and thanksgiving.  They are worshiping and entering his presence (Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise).  This can be done throughout our day and even into our nights.  May we find ways to worship the Lord and praise him for what he has done.  May we find ways to seek after Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us on this journey.

Make it personal:  Try to notice how many people are using their iPads, iPhones, or iPods today as you go about your day.  Think about the amount of time we spend on those devices compared to the time we think about worshiping the Lord.  Let’s make a commitment to be more intentional about finding time and ways to worship Jesus throughout our week.
 
Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



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