Midweek Meditations

Loyalties

Read: 1 Corinthians 4:7-14

During our churches “30 Days of Generosity” I plan to share a devotional/meditation that goes along with the material we are using. This week’s is written by Doug Sider Jr. He writes….

“The church at Corinth was racked with conflicting loyalties and claims to fame. Paul reminded the church that there is no human basis for pride. “What makes you think you are different from everybody else? After all, everything you have comes from God,” he wrote. We 21st century Christians are not so different from those early believers.

We boast in our abilities, our upbringing, our educational background, forgetting that these are gifts from God. We would not be where we are without the constant and countless interventions of God. God’s greatest gift, of course, is his only Son as a sacrifice for our sins and mistakes. Salvation is the most precious gift any of us will ever receive, and we have done nothing to deserve it.

The truth is, our natural bent is rebellion against God, and yet Christ died for us, carried our sins, and gave us his holiness. He didn’t have to do it. His is a gift of grace. We are his children, and he loves us with an unconditional love. He gives us what we need and what we can use to further his kingdom and to spread his grace even more. When we forget Jesus’ sacrifice, we become selfish and full of pride.

Pray: Give me a renewed and joyful heart, dear God. As the words from Psalm 100 remind me, it is you who made me, and I am yours. Thank you for including me among your people, for being my shepherd, and for inviting me to “graze” in your bountiful pastures. Amen.

Make it Personal: Make a conscious effort to think about your possessions as though they belonged to someone else. Notice whether you find yourself treating the things in your life differently.”

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



Speak Lord!

Read: 1 Samuel 3

How do you talk to God?  When asked this question people would provide us with many different answers.  Most would mention prayer, some might speak of quiet times in nature, and others may talk about visions, dreams, and worship.  There is not only one way, but we must make sure we are finding our way to communicate with our Lord.

In 1 Samuel 3 we read the story of Samuel.  He was ministering as a young boy in the house of Eli who had spent his entire life in service to God.  One night he hears a voice and thinks it is coming from Eli’s room.  After this happens several times during the night Eli finally realizes that it is the Lord’s voice Samuel is hearing.  He instructs Samuel to answer back the next time he hears the voice and say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel does this and the Lord speaks.  This made me realize how important it is for us to respond to God.  When I get a text message from someone on my phone I almost always respond back in some manner.  If I don’t then it leaves the person on the other end wondering if I received the message or what my reply back to them might be.  Common texting etiquette suggests that you should make the communication a two-way street.

When spending time in prayer, Bible study, and worship before the Lord we need to open ourselves up to what the Lord may be wanting to speak into our lives.  By using the words that Samuel used (Speak Lord!) we can open ourselves up to this valuable source of guidance, wisdom, strength, and direction from God.  Not only does it open ourselves up to God but it also acknowledges to him that we are willing listeners.

Sometimes it can be too easy to fail to recognize God’s voice when he is speaking.  One time Mark Twain was going to speak in a small town and before his speaking engagement that night he stopped in at a local barber shop to get a cut and and trim.  As he sat down to wait his turn the barber failed to recognize who he was.

He went on to tell him that Mark Twain was speaking tonight and and the place was sold out.  As the conversation went on and Twain informed him that he was going to go, the barber said, “Well, since it’s sold out I guess you will have to stand to hear him speak.  “Just my luck,” said Mark Twain. “I always have to stand to hear that fella speak.”

When we speak to the Lord and listen for his voice there is no certain posture, position, or manner in which we must act.  We simply must speak to him and let him know that we are listening.  We never know what the Lord may speak to us when we open ourselves up to his leading, but when the Lord speaks we need to be ready to listen and act.

Make it personal:  In your times of prayer or communicating with God try to use Samuel’s approach and say, “Speak Lord!”  Then take time to be silent and wait on his response.  It may not always be an audible voice but God is not limited by sound waves.  Your heart may sense his direction.  Your fear may sense his peace.  Your mind may receive his direction.  And who knows what else…..

Blessings in your New Year!  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Exaggerators

Read: Psalm 33

During these times of holiday gatherings with family and friends many stories are told from the past year or years that bring back good memories and share new experiences with others.  In some cases those stories tend to get exaggerated.  I’m not sure if you have a family member or friend that does this but I have a couple in mind (that statement might get me in trouble).  I guess I should admit that I sometimes fall into that trap as well.

Pastor Judah Smith admits that he is an exaggerator in one of his devotionals.  He writes, “I always exaggerate.  I do it all the time.  Life is never bland or colorless to me.  I make everything bigger, crazier, and more dramatic than it actually is.  See?  I just exaggerated four times in that one paragraph.”  Human stories, memories, and experiences sometimes get overblown and stretched out of proportion but we can never do that with the stories of God.

This past Sunday I shared a message about how amazing God is.  I asked the congregation to text me with ways that God is amazing.  My phone went crazy for a while.  So many descriptions of how incredible and amazing God truly is.  From Creator to Forgiver, from Love to Redemption, from Miracles to Strength, none of the descriptions could exaggerate who God is.

Psalm 33 is a testimony to this.  It is full of words that might seem like exaggeration and yet they are all true.  “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made.”  “He spoke and it came to be.”  “He gathers the waters of the sea.”  “From his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth.”  Are you convinced yet?  Those are amazing claims of God’s power, omnipotence, goodness, and love.

Later on his devotional Judah Smith writes this, “If you are going to talk about big things, if you are going to use grand, sweeping statements, do it about God’s love.  Go ahead and try.  Just try to exaggerate his love.  To overstate his goodness.  To overemphasize his faithfulness.  To overestimate his kindness toward you and me.  No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to.”

The next time you tell a story with exaggerated details or hear someone else using those words, remember how amazing God is.  Celebrate the truth that we can never over-exaggerate who God is, what Jesus has done for us, and the freedom that we are given through Christ.  It is AMAZING!

Make it personal:  Try to think of some of the biggest words you can think of to describe how incredible God is.  Ask your friends what words they would use.  Most importantly, use your testimony to tell others how amazing God is and how their life can be changed by embracing his goodness and love.

Happy New Year,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Presence of Presents

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

Christmas has overwhelmingly become about the presents under the tree. This is fairly obvious due to the crowded stores and hurried delivery trucks this time of the year. Some people enjoy this part of Christmas because of the joy and symbolism of gift giving and others say that it has made Christmas too materialistic. There is probably some truth to both.

When opening gifts at Christmas we are amazed sometimes how little children often find just as much enjoyment in the boxes and wrappings as they do the presents that are inside. Wired magazine, which is a publication on high-tech things, recently ran an article that named the top five best toys ever. Their list included…. A stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt. That makes us wonder if we really need to spend all of that money.

But there is enjoyment in blessing others with gifts and there is some tradition and history behind the reason that we give those gifts. Not everyone agrees on the exact reason that we give gifts but some of the reasons are obvious. The Magi brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh when they came to Bethlehem to worship Jesus the newborn King (Matthew 2). God gives us the gift of His Son as our Savior at Christmas. Jesus brings us the gift of grace and salvation through his birth, life, and sacrifice.

The New Testament uses the word “Gift” 66 times and many of those references are referring to Jesus coming to us and saving us from our sins. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he GAVE his one and only Son…” Ephesians 2 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God…”

Obviously the nature, value, and intention of giving gifts varies from person to person and family to family. In the early days of gift giving presents were very modest and included such things as cakes, fruit, nuts, dolls and items of clothing. These days they can be about as large and expensive as a person can dream up. But despite the cost or the gift the most important part of giving someone a gift is the love that goes with that gift.

So, there are many reasons that we give gifts during this time of the year. But as we give those gifts let us celebrate, remember, and treasure the greatest gift that has ever been given to us in Jesus Christ. He has blessed us in so many ways that we want to bless others and give to others, and if we do it in the right spirit those blessings can be extended.

Make it personal:  If you have children or grandchildren who are excited about opening their gifts this Christmas (and whose kids are not?) take the time to talk with them about why we give and receive gifts during this time of the year. It is a great opportunity to tell the story of God, Jesus, the Magi, and probably many others. Enjoy giving your gifts this Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Building up or Tearing down?

Read: Ephesians 4:29-32

Do your words build people up or do they tear people down? This is an important question that we all need to ask ourselves. Encouragement can do wonders in a person’s life, but the opposite of that can destroy confidence, self-worth, and opportunities for other people to grow.

School bullying has received a lot of attention in recent years for good reason. Bullying can tear down in ways that are devastating to school aged kids. But adults need to heed those words as well. Adults can bully and treat people in ways that are just as bad as what goes on in our schools.

This reminds me of the story about author Muriel Anderson. She was asked one time about who encouraged her and how she became a writer and author. She said that four particular words shaped her life. Those words were spoken over and over by her father and became building blocks for her self-esteem and confidence.

She said, “I was fortunate enough to have a father who was good at saying “Of course you can!” just at the right moments. She shared about one time that her family had moved from a small town high school to a very large high school in the city. She wrote an article about the wonderful small town that she had left behind but figured the paper in that small town would not print it.

The paper had a tight budget and rarely would publish any freelance articles that were written, especially from an amatuer high school writer. But her dad kept encouraging her to send it and see if they would publish it. She said to him, “I don’t think I can get it published.” His words to her were, “Of course you can!” She sent it, they published it, and Muriel eventually became an author and writer.

In a world that so often likes to tear down, we need to build up. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” When we follow that advice we just don’t know who and how we may shape someone’s future.

Yes, there are times for helpful correction, words of advice, and thoughtful instruction. But those words must be anchored in love and not hate. People will never agree on every detail in this life, but we must have each other’s best interest at heart. When our life is over do we want to look back at all of the people we have built up or look back on those we have torn down?

Let’s build together. Whatever your occupation, calling, or ministry, let’s find ways to encourage those around us. Let’s make a difference in this world by choosing a different type of communication style. A style encouraged by scripture.

Make it personal: Try to be aware of your words this week. Think about times that you choose words that do not build the other person up. Make a conscious effort, with God’s help, to be an encouraging and helpful presence in this world.

Blessings, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Heart of Christmas

Read: 1 Corinthians 10:23-31

In our consumeristic and confused world it is sometimes difficult to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in our hearts. But for Christians this is vital! We can continuously try to point out to the world that if Jesus Christ were not born in Bethlehem there would be no December 25th celebrations. But more importantly we should be sure to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in our families and in our own hearts.

Christmas is not about us. Christmas is not about the economy. Christmas is not about who has the best decor. Christmas is not about ________ (you add your own here). Christmas is about God coming to earth to save the world through his son Jesus Christ and showing us how to live for God’s glory instead of our own. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul reminds us that we are to do all that we do in this life for the glory of God.

In her book “In My Father’s House” Corrie Ten Boom tells the story of a monk who sang a Christmas song every Christmas Eve for his brothers in the monastery, and for visitors who would come from the village for special services. His voice was very ugly, but he loved the Lord and sang from his heart. One year the director of the cloister said, “I’m sorry Brother Don, we will not need you this Christmas. We have a new monk who has a beautiful voice.”

The man did have a wonderful voice, and everyone was impressed. But that night an angel came to the superior and said, “Why didn’t you have a Christmas Eve song?” The superior was very surprised and said, “We had a beautiful song, didn’t you hear it?” The angel shook his head sadly and said, “It may have been inspiring to you, but we didn’t hear it in heaven.”

Corrie goes on to write, “The old monk with the raspy voice had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but the young monk was singing for his own benefit and glory, not for that of the Lord.” This story made me think about how we celebrate Christmas. Is it for our own benefit, pleasure, and excitement? Or is it a celebration of our relationship with Jesus our Savior?

We can’t expect the entire world to celebrate the heart of Christmas in the same way as those who believe in God and follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But we can pray that somehow the true heart of Christmas might help them to understand what God has done for them. We cannot change minds and hearts, only Jesus can do that. May our lives and our testimony of Christmas be focused on Jesus this year and every year!

Make it personal: While we can’t expect every store, political figure, or publication to proclaim a Merry Christmas to everyone, we can do it ourselves. Take the opportunity this month to spread the joy of the Christmas story in any way possible. With words, songs, stories, and the truth about the heart of the Christmas story. May it be in each of our hearts!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church




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