Midweek Meditations

New Beginnings

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Most people know that sports is one of my hobbies, and baseball is at the top of the list when it comes to sports that I enjoy following. Some years ago I even got involved with a fantasy baseball league that allows you to draft players, follow them through the year, and enjoy friendly competition among friends and family.

So, Spring is always an exciting time. Not only is the weather changing for the better, but my baseball teams and my fantasy baseball teams have a new opportunity to start fresh. In fact, that is what Spring Training is all about. A fresh start for teams to put last season behind them and focus on the new opportunities that lie ahead.

Last season the Boston Red Sox did exactly that. The season before they had finished last place in their division, but this past season they corrected all of that and won the World Series. From the bottom to the top. All of those teams who finished in last place last year are beginning this new season with that in mind.

In these months leading up to Easter we are in a time called Lent. In some sense Lent is like Spring Training for the baseball teams. During this time we are encouraged to focus on our spiritual lives and our relationship with Christ. By doing that we learn to grow, renew, and restore things that lead us to new beginnings in Jesus’ name.

In 2 Corinthians 5 the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) That is a wonderful truth that we need to live with each and every week. Your past, good or bad, does not have to define your future. Jesus Christ can take all of our experiences and make them new! His grace and forgiveness is always awaiting us.

There is nothing more refreshing than knowing that you have a new beginning ahead of you. It gives you hope, it lifts your spirits, and it helps you to envision a positive outlook for the days ahead. And to be honest, we all need that. In fact God created the world around that premise.

Robert Morgan says, “The first person to invent the wheel only discovered what God had already designed, for the Lord created things in circles. The stars and planets are round, they move in orbital circuits, and life, as a result, moves in cycles. Every one hundred years, we have a new century; every 365 days, we have a new year; every 24 hours we have a new day; every 60 minutes we have a new hour. God created the potential for new beginnings into the very design of our universe.”

He goes on to mention that almost every hero in the Bible needed those new beginnings as well. We are in good company. I hope this season of Lent can lead you to a closer relationship with Jesus and his promise that everything can be made new through him. Easter is coming and that is the everlasting proof when it comes to new beginnings.

Make it personal:  Enjoy your Spring, enjoy the baseball season, and may your team do well this season! More importantly, may you embrace the new beginning that has God in store for you personally!

Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Ashes to Dust

Read: Romans 5:12-19

Have you seen anyone today with a cross symbol on their forehead? Today is Ash Wednesday which symbolizes the beginning of the Lenten season. A time for Christians to practice renewal and reflection upon the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is a time for Christians to think seriously about our mortality, morality, and relationship with the creator of the universe. Various faith traditions use the season of Lent in different ways. Some give up things for the days leading up to Easter, others will take on new spiritual disciplines that help them focus and grow their faith.

If you have seen someone with a cross on their forehead today it most likely is a cross made from ashes. This is how author Kalas Ellsworth describes it… “Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes (formally called The Imposition of Ashes)on the foreheads of adherents as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.”

This made me think of the well known phrase “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Most people think that phrase is from the Bible when actually it comes from the book of common prayer and is often used as a eulogy at funerals. While it is not specifically found in scripture there are several passages that are similar to it. Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Job 30:19.

It testifies to the truth that we were created from the dust of the earth and one day will return to it. Our time on earth in our current bodies is limited. But this is where the hope of Christ comes in. Our soul is eternal and will live eternally because of the work of Jesus Christ. Romans 5 talks about Adam bringing sin into the world but Jesus coming to redeem us from that sin. (Old Adam, New Adam)

What a truth to celebrate in these days leading up to Easter! Our mortal bodies, plagued by sin, are replaced by grace, forgiveness, and eternity through our Savior Jesus Christ. That my friends is good news that can carry you through any week!

Make it personal: During Lent I encourage you to find a way to grow in your relationship with Jesus. It might be giving something up, it might mean starting something new, it might be something else. But find a way to grow during this time.

Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Trusting God

Read: Psalm 9:1-10

“If I can trust in God for eternity, why can’t I trust God for tomorrow or next week?” Those words were spoken by Pastor David Jeremiah. They present a great question for us to consider in light of how we handle our lives from week to week.

Most Christians when asked about their eternal home will quickly answer that it is secured in heaven because of their faith and belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Our trust in that truth and that promise is what sustains us as we consider the brevity of our life here on earth.

So why do we not use that same trust to sustain us from week to week? Some believers do, but too many of us find ourselves letting doubt and fear enter our minds instead of staking our claim in the promises of God.

In Psalm 9, verse 10 David says, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” If you are truly seeking after Christ you can truly trust in his provision for whatever you are facing this week or next.

In a recent article in Purpose magazine Pete Flaming said, “Perseverance, joy, and hope come from knowing that God is in control of my life here on earth, just as God is in the eternal part of my life.”

If your life has been missing the joy, hope, and perseverance that Pete talks about, perhaps your trust level needs some attention. Perhaps you have heard the story about the man who always stopped to pick up coins on the roadside?

He was a very wealthy man who had no need for pocket change, yet he still took the time to bend over and pick up lost pennies and other coins. Whenever the man found a coin he would stop look at it in his hand, then after standing quietly for a moment, he would then put the coin in his pocket and continue walking.

He was once asked about his unusual habit. “Why does a man who has no need for money stand still as though he had just found a gold coin?” The man replied, “When I find a coin I look at the words, ‘In God We Trust,’ and I can hear God asking me, ‘Do you still trust me?’ Once I’m certain that I still trust God more than money I can continue with my day.”

Make it personal: Perhaps we should take the time to hear God ask us the same question, “Do you still trust Me; am I still first in your life?” Take time this week to pray about the trust level in your life. In all things, trust the one who will not forsake those who seek after him. (Psalm 9:10)

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

Your Love Goes On

Read: John 3:1-21

We just came through Valentines Day and this past Sunday my
message was from the famous “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians
13.  It is a reminder of what love is and what love is not.
It helps us to live a life of love towards God and with each
other.  But I hope that we don’t only consider those things in
the month of February.

One of the most popular Christian contemporary songs right now
is the song by Jesus Culture entitled “One Thing Remains.”
Here are the lyrics and also a link to the song on Youtube if
you would like to listen to it.

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails it never gives up
it never runs out on me
On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I’m confident and covered by the power of
your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart
from your great love

What an amazing truth, that God’s love never fails, never runs
out, and can never be separated from us.  It’s a truth that
should encourage us to live for him and keep him the constant
focus of all that we do.

In John 3 Jesus proclaims to Nicodemus that no one can see the
Kingdom of God unless they are born again.  What he means is
that every sinner on this earth (that would be all of us)
needs to repent of their sins and live by the truth he has

God’s love is seen perfectly through Jesus Christ.  His love
does not want us to remain in sin but be changed and
transformed by his grace, love, and forgiveness.  When Jesus
spoke to the woman caught in adultery in John 8 he said that
he did not condemn her, but he also said, “Go now and leave
your life of sin.”

As we move past Valentines Day let us continue to embrace the
love that God has for us.  It will remain as a constant source
for us and never fail us.  As the song above says, “I never
have to be afraid.”

Make it personal: How can you respond to God’s love this week?
Find ways to show your need and your appreciation for this
love that is higher than the mountains that you face.

Have a great week,
Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Change of Course

Read: Romans 12

Watching the Winter Olympics this week reminded me of ABC’s program “The Wide World of Sports” when I was younger. I still remember the opening of that program, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport, The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.”

As you heard those words “the agony of defeat,” it showed a ski jumper crashing down the mountain. But I just recently learned the whole story behind that incident. Apparently the skier was in good form as he headed down the mountain but realized that the slope was way to fast. He knew that if he completed the jump he would land on the level ground that was way beyond the safe landing area, which could have been fatal.

In the end the skier only suffered a headache from that tumble which became familiar to all of America because of that Wide World of Sports intro. If you want to watch that intro you can go to Youtube and type in “Wide World of Sports Intro” to see it. For some of you it will undoubtedly bring back some memories. Here is a link.

In Romans 12 Paul says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

In our world there are many things that can lead us off the course of God’s perfect will for us. By staying in a close relationship with Jesus Christ we are able to sense when we are headed into a dangerous situation and change course in order to avoid disaster.

Paul says that when our minds are renewed in Christ we are able to discern those things. However, when our minds are on the things of the world, we tend to gravitate down that worldly path instead of the one paved with God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.

At times, depending on how far down that course we have gone, it may cause us some difficulty and even some headaches when we actually do change our course. But just as that skier realized, a few headaches is much better than a fatal ending.

The most wonderful thing about Jesus is that he offers that “change of course” option without any strings attached. If we come to him with a repentant and changed heart, Jesus will not constantly remind us of our mistakes, instead he will constantly remind us that he has forgiven us of them.

If you are headed down a slope that could be fatal right now I hope that you will bail out and change your course. Turn to Christ and allow his love, acceptance, and perfect will to steer you back to where you need to be. In the final verse of Romans 12 it says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Very true for our world, but especially true in our own lives.

Make it personal: Take time to pray this week and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal some things to you. What dangerous path are you heading down? In what situations are you allowing your perfect will to override God’s perfect will for your life? Make that change!

Have a wonderful week,
Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Served, not Ruled

Read: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

“I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.” This was a statement made by Pope Francis recently to business and political leaders that were gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The statement was a plea for leaders to care for the poor but it also was a statement that speaks volumes to all of us about how we approach wealth, money, and the blessings the God has bestowed upon us.

Wealth and money only become gods to us when we allow our lives to be ruled by them. In other words, if our focus is all about the accumulation of things, we soon lose sight of why God may have blessed us with those things in the first place. Paul reminds us of that in 2 Corinthians 9.

He writes that each of us should give and share of those things not reluctantly or under compulsion, but with a cheerful heart and attitude. (v.7) He then quotes a verse from Psalm 112:9 that says, “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

Beryl Jantzi, the Everence Director of Stewardship Education recently wrote some great thoughts about this. He wrote about a verse in Exodus 34:20b that says, “No one shall appear before me empty-handed.” He went on to say…

“Moses was clear in his expectation regarding giving. Generosity was considered an expression of worship to God and a way of reaching out to meet the needs of the community. Rules about giving, whether it was for religious sacrifice or for building materials needed for the tabernacle, were specific and clear. In Exodus 36, we read:

“Every skillful one to whom the Lord has given a skill and understanding to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 36:1

Whether it was giving gold or other precious stones or special skills of construction or weaving or artistry – you were expected to offer your first and your best to God. Here’s how the people responded to the challenge placed before them.

“The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do. So Moses gave the command and word was proclaimed throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing; for what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.” Exodus 36:5-7

Jantzi goes on to ask… “Can you imagine such a problem happening today?”

It got me to thinking, what if churches and organizations like MCC and World Vision had to say, “Stop giving, your giving is more than what is needed.” It seems like an impossibility and yet most likely it is not. It goes back to people, especially Christians, viewing and giving their money and wealth as a way to serve humanity instead of letting it rule our lives.

Byler concludes by writing, “There’s something about modeling generosity as a delight rather than a duty that can bring the spirit of Exodus 36 back among the people of God. Generosity is a spiritual discipline that can be expressed as an act of worship to God, as well as mutual aid to others. If this idea would grab hold, maybe one day we could say, like Moses, “Enough already! Your generosity has exceeded our needs!!” Might it be so.”

Make it personal: Consider your own attitude toward money, possessions, and wealth. What changes might God want to make in that attitude. Then think about the use of your own money. Do you give out of reluctance or under compulsion, or do you give out of the cheerful attitude that God desires? A good question for all of us to consider.

Have a great week,
Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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