Midweek Meditations

White as Snow

Read:  Isaiah 1

On a day that snow is falling in Central Illinois I am reminded of the times in God’s Word that the phrase “White as Snow” is used.  The description is used to describe different things in scripture but the most well known use is from Isaiah 1:18 when it says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..”

During this season of Lent we are encouraged to think about our sins, to have repentant hearts, and to change our focus back to the things that God wants us to focus on.  This is why people often give things up for the 40 days of Lent that lead us up to Good Friday and Easter.  It helps us to think about sacrifice and the things that really are important in our lives.

Lent can be a valuable time for spiritual growth, but if we are not careful it can also be another period of time that just passes by and finds us going back to what we did before.  The things we gave up we quickly start back up, the things we took on we quickly forget, and the things we were sorry for can quickly fade from our minds.  Perhaps Lent would be even more meaningful for us if we really gave something up and never took it back.  Or started something new and it then became a new part of our daily walk with the Lord.

Isaiah 1:18 is a wonderful reminder that Christ came to wash our sins “white as snow.”  He delivers us and keeps us from going through life with the permanent scarlet stains of sin.  When we turn to Jesus and repent of those sins they are not permanent, they are gone, they are washed as white as the snow I am watching fall outside my window.

Not everyone likes the snow, but when we compare it to the grace and forgiveness of Jesus what is there not to like.  If you have been living with guilt, shame, and the heavy weight of sin in your life, I hope that you will cast all of that at the feet of Jesus.  He wants to take it, redeem you, and make your life as white and unblemished as the fresh fallen snow.

Make it personal:  If you have a snow day today take some time to read Isaiah 1.  Then move on to the New Testament and read more about the grace of Jesus.  The book of Romans is a great place to start.  Romans 7:25 says, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Freely, Freely

Read: Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Last night as I watched the evening news I was struck by a story from the small country in Africa of Lesotho.  It was about the terrible drought that is taking place there due to this year’s El Nino weather patterns.  Water and food are so scarce that many are dying with no relief in sight.  The news story focused on a grandmother who is trying to raise her 5 grandchildren who have been orphaned because of Aids.

They live in a small mud hut that is maybe a quarter of the size of most of our garages.  Her garden for food is dried up and the nearby river is dried up as well.  But in this news story she and the children seemed to be so loving and caring for each other as well as those around them.  If you would like to see the story I am providing the link here.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/el-nino-drought-leaves-millions-hungry-in-southern-africa/

In Deuteronomy 15 and many other places in scripture we are encouraged to be open handed and freely help those in need.  In verse 7 it says, “Do not be hardhearted or tightfisted.”  As Christians we are called to do what we can to help the poor in our neighborhoods and around the world.  We can’t make a difference by ourselves but we can if we all do our part.  Too often we get comfortable in our North American lifestyle and forget about the many people in need like the family that was highlighted in this news story.

Here are some other stats I ran across about world hunger…..

  1. Hunger is the world’s number 1 health risk; it kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
  2. Some 925 million people do not have enough to eat.
  3. Ninety-eight percent of them live in the developing world.
  4. One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight.
  5. There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of the U.S., Canada, and the European Union.
  6. Undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
  7. If we took the money Americans spend annually on potato and tortilla chips ($13.6 billion), we could reach 90 percent of stunted children in the 36 highest-burden countries.
  8. Worldwide, 115 million children under the age of 5 are underweight.
  9. The Asian and Pacific regions contain over half the world’s population and nearly two-thirds of the world’s hungry people.
  10. Supplementation with vitamins could reduce the risk of child mortality from all causes by 23 percent.

As I am writing this I am reminded of the favorite song the church has sung through the years.  The words go something like this, “Freely, Freely, you have received, Freely, Freely, give!”

I would like to encourage you to think of ways to help.  Mennonite Central Committee, World Vision, Compassion International, and many other reputable Christian organizations are trying to make a difference in these areas around the world.  If you don’t already give a monthly contribution to help the hungry, poor, and destitute around the world I would like to encourage you to consider it.  They need our help and Jesus teaches us to help them.  Even if you start with a small amount and work up to a larger amount, your part will make a difference.

Make it personal:  Watch the news story provided above and try to imagine what it would be like to live like this grandmother and her 5 grandchildren do.  My hope and prayer is that it will encourage all of us to do something on an ongoing basis to make a difference in this world that we live in.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Politics of Freedom

Read:  John 8:31-47

The political process is in high gear in the United States right now.  The race to elect the next President often feels like a circus, a professional wrestling match, and a valet service all wrapped up in one.  Some people thrive on this, some pay attention to it, some care, and others are oblivious to it.  But no matter where you find yourself there are things to be thankful for in the midst of it all.

Just this week Chris Horst of Christianity Today wrote an article about why we should celebrate this time in our country’s life.  He reminds us that in the midst of the negative things, the election season promotes healthy discussions and gives we the people the opportunity to have a voice in the leadership of our country.  

This is not the case for many people around the world.  Mr. Horst writes, “In places like Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and Zimbabwe, voters have little to no voice in determining the future of their countries. In many instances, dissent is not only forbidden, but squelched.”  He writes more about this, but then ends that section by saying this about the U.S., “But despite its flaws, our system stands in contrast to countries where all the power is controlled by a handful of self-appointed tyrants.”

For Christians it is sometimes hard to separate faith and politics in our world.  Some say we should separate them while others say it is impossible to separate them.  Christian books have been written with the titles of “God’s Politics” and “The Politics of Jesus.”  These and others are reminders that believers should not totally ignore the culture or political landscape that changes and shifts around us.  It does matter, it’s just not the be all and end all.

In fact, that’s where John 8 and the words of Jesus come in.  Jesus says that as believers if he has set us free, we are free indeed.  That is a freedom that goes beyond the borders of countries and political structures and transforms the heart.  It is a reminder that even those in the most ruthless, dictator controlled countries can still find freedom from the things of this world in Jesus Christ.

Yes, we should celebrate the democracy of the U.S. and other countries.  Yes, we should work for political freedom and justice for the people in those countries where that freedom is held captive.  We should also pray for them at all times.  But, in the midst of it all we should proclaim the ultimate Good News that Jesus is Lord and he is the only one that can truly save us all.  No matter who becomes the next President of the United States, like them or not, Jesus is still the King of kings.
 
Make it personal:  As the political process plays out in the U.S. this year don’t allow it to consume your every thought, care, or concern.  Pray about it, be involved if you would like, cast your vote, and celebrate the freedom that you have to do so.  But more importantly celebrate the freedom you have as a believer in Jesus Christ.  If you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are free indeed!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Consistent Balance

Read: Genesis 2:1-3 and Mark 6:30-32

Recently I have started a new habit of eating instant oatmeal for breakfast. For a long time I went without eating any breakfast until several people reminded me how breakfast get’s your day off to a good healthy start. I have enjoyed the daily challenge of trying to mix just the right amount of oatmeal, with just the right amount of milk, and just the right amount of time in the microwave. This morning’s had a perfectly consistent balance and it was delicious!

It made me think about the rest of our lives. It also made me think about the two scripture passeges in today’s Bible readings. God rested after creation (Genesis 2) and Jesus knew the importance of he and his disciples getting away for some time of rest and renewal (Mark 6). How well are we balancing our physical, spiritual, mental, and relational parts of life? It reminded me of a recent illustration I ran across about “hurry sickness.”

“Half a century ago, an upholsterer from San Francisco made a curious discovery. He was called to a cardiologist’s office to reupholster some chairs in the waiting room. When he looked at the furniture, he wondered immediately what was wrong with the patients. Only the front edge of the seats and the first few inches of the armrests were worn out. “People don’t wear out chairs this way,” he said.

Five years later, in 1959, Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman began to put the pieces together. They had noticed an odd pattern shared by many of their cardiac patients, a pattern that centered on a “chronic sense of time urgency.” Patients showed irritability at being made to wait in line, had difficulty relaxing, and were anxious over delays. Obsessed with not wasting a moment, they spoke quickly, interrupted often, hurried those around them, and were forever rushing. Hence the waiting room chairs: the patients sat on the edge of their seats, nervously fidgeting at the arms of the chairs as they watched time tick by.

The cardiologists called the new disease “hurry sickness.” According to Friedman, hurry sickness “arises from an insatiable desire to accomplish too much or take part in too many events in the amount of time available.” The hurry-sick person is unable to acknowledge that he can do only a finite number of things. “As a consequence, he never ceases trying to ‘stuff’ more and more events in his constantly shrinking reserves of time.”
(David W. Henderson, Tranquility; Baker Books, page 131)

Keeping a consistent balance in our lives is so very important. Jesus would encourage us to do that. Whether it is church attendance, serving others, exercising, spending an evening out with friends, or doing something you really enjoy, we must find time for all of it. When the right mix is found life is wonderful to enjoy. Just like my oatmeal this morning.

Make it Personal: Take a moment this week to think about the balance in your life. What needs more time and exposure and what needs less? If Christ, Church, and God’s call and purpose for your life has got pushed aside I would encourage you to add some more of that. If health and exercise have taken a back seat, I encourage you to add some more of that. If work, stress, worrying, and going around like the Energizer bunny define you of late, then take time to rest, relax, and enjoy one of your hobbies. God gave us the example of balance, Jesus showed us that example, and now it is up to us.

Have a well-balanced week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Stop, Look, and Listen

Read:  I Chronicles 29:1-20
 
This will be the final week of my sharing a devotional from the 30 Days of Generosity material that our church is currently experiencing together.  These thoughts are shared by Gord Gooderman.  He writes…..
 
Their big old farmhouse was gradually being restored, and the family loved their home. Then they heard about homeless children in Bangladesh. It didn’t seem right that they should have so much and others so little. The children discovered that a house in Bangladesh could be built for $350. The family prayed about this need. They pooled their Christmas and birthday money and came up with $60. What else could be done?
 
When the local Christian radio station offered two concert tickets as a prize for answering a Bible question, the 10-year-old daughter phoned in and won. She donated the tickets back to the station to be auctioned to raise money to build a Bangladeshi home. The highest bid came in at $1,000! Now there was enough for three homes.
 
But the family didn’t stop. They baked and sold pies to raise more money for even more houses. Then a local church joined in the fundraising effort with a contribution of $2,600 to the cause. One family’s generosity inspired an entire community to joyful giving.
 
Pray:  Dear God, your Son taught that it is more blessed to give than receive, and this is a hard truth for me to accept. I confess wanting to hold on to the things I have – as though it is all about me. Give me the grace to willingly and joyfully give to you. Amen.
 

Make it personal:  Stop, look, and listen for an opportunity to join in an extreme stewardship adventure by seeking out a giving opportunity that will stretch you beyond your weekly commitment to your local church ministry.

Have a great week filled with generous acts, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church


Godliness with Contentment

Read:  I Timothy 6:6-10
 
This week for my midweek meditation I am continuing to share devotionals from our church’s current 30 Days of Generosity material.  This meditation was written by Kathlee Leadley.
 
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  1 Timothy 6:10
An ambitious businessman who survived the 2001 World Trade Center disaster said, “I have now learned to hold all things loosely.” Hopefully it won’t take a tragedy such as this for the rest of us to learn the biblical principle of holding things loosely.  In this letter, Paul warns the young pastor Timothy against false teachings that were prominent in the church at Ephesus and specifically the wrong-headed notion that godliness leads to financial wealth.
 
“No,” Paul wrote, “It is godliness with contentment that leads to great gain” (verse 6). The word “content” in Greek refers to a perfect condition in life. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, the same word describes a sufficiency in the necessities of life. Contentment is one of the greatest assets in life.  Real contentment comes when we switch our service from things, to God only.
 
Paul stresses that the love of money is a starting place of all evils. Let me emphasize: Money is neither good nor bad, but the love of it may lead to all kinds of evil. Being entrusted with financial wealth brings great responsibility, and we can exercise that responsibility for both good and for evil. The Jewish rabbis have a saying: “Who is rich? He who is contented with his lot.”
 
Pray:  Heavenly Father, today I ask for the gift of contentment. Set me free from the love of money so I can love you more fully. Replace my selfishness with a spirit of gratitude, and teach me to hold onto the things of this world loosely. Amen.
Make it Personal:  Take out a piece of paper and list the things of this world that you can let go of now. Tuck the list into the back of this booklet. Check back at the end of the month to see if you have begun to let go of the items on your list.
 
Have a blessed and generous week everyone, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



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