Midweek Meditations

Guarding Ungratefulness

Read: Luke 17:11-19

A man writing at the Post Office desk was once approached by an older fellow with a postcard in his hand. The older man said, “Sir, could you please address this postcard for me?” The man gladly did so, then agreed to write a short message and sign the card for the man.

Finally the younger man asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The older fellow thought about it for a moment and said, “Yes, at the end could you put, P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.”

I don’t know if that story is really true, but it reminds us about how ungrateful we can sometimes be to those who go to great lengths to help us out. We just came out of Thanksgiving and a time in which gratefulness and thanks are on our hearts and minds. But the attitude of ungratefulness is definitely something we have to guard against.

Just like guarding a defender in a sport we have to be ready and aware of when this offense is about to rise up within us. In Luke 17 Jesus healed ten lepers of their diseases, and yet only one came back to thank him. Interestingly enough the text says that this one person was even a foreigner (a Samaritan).

In other words, the ones that you would have expected to give thanks did not and the one who you would have least expected it from is the one who took the time to come back, praising God in a loud voice, to say thank you.

It is good to give thanks and to be grateful. But as Thanksgiving passes and the consumerism of Christmas surrounds us, let us be aware of the attitude of ungratefulness. Do whatever you can to guard it and keep it in check. If this is a struggle for you then ask Christ to help you have a new and grateful attitude this Christmas season and beyond.

Make it personal: This Christmas try to keep your attitude above all of the focus on what we do not have. Be grateful for what you do have and try to help the rest of your family come to appreciate those things as well. And Oh, what do we need to thank God for? That’s probably first on the list that we need to check twice.

Have a peaceful Advent season,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Be Thankful

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”   2 Corinthians 9:15

I was especially moved this past week by a picture in the
Champaign News Gazette newspaper of a couple in Gifford,
Illinois that lost their home in the recent tornado.  They are
kneeling in front of the rubble holding a sign that was inside
their house when it came tumbling down.  The sign says, “And
they lived happily ever after.”

The wonderful picture was taken by Brandon Cagle, but what I
found most impressive were the smiles on the couples faces.
In the background lie all of their possessions in a pile and
yet here they are truly reflecting the message on the sign
that they are holding.

Tornado picture web

That gives us something to think about this week along with
all of those good things we normally give thanks for.  I ran
across something that helps to put some of those things into
perspective, it goes like this….

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich
fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the
setbacks.  Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find
a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become
your blessings.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week we can and will give
thanks for many things.  But in the verse above, Paul gives
thanks to God for the one gift that is really hard to describe
and incredible to think about.  God’s gift of salvation and
grace to us through his Son Jesus Christ.

That should be the first thing on our list when we think of
what we are thankful for.  Sure we are thankful for family,
friends, and other things, but without God’s grace and love
for us where would we be?

My hope this week is that we can join that couple in the
newspaper photo and say, “whatever happens, I will keep a
smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.”  If we can do
that I truly believe that we can and will live happily ever
after.

Make it personal:  Make a copy of those things listed above
and place it somewhere that it can help you remember how we
can also be thankful for the setbacks that inevitably will
come our way from time to time.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community life, Arthur Mennonite Church



F.I.N.E.

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21

The word “Fine” has generally become a default response in our culture for saying, “I really don’t want to talk about how I am really feeling right now.” Think about that. How many times have you really not been feeling too good and yet when you were asked that question you automatically responded with the word “Fine”? I know I am guilty.

I was at a pastors seminar recently in which the speaker was talking about how to handle hospital visits. There was a breakout time in which pastors were allowed to share their experiences with each other. It was interesting to hear how many people in the hospital respond with “fine” when in fact they were laying in a hospital bed.

One friend of mine commented by saying, “Many times when people respond that way it really stands for (F)rustrated, (I)rritable, (N)ervous, and (E)xhausted.” And yet people are often guarded about sharing those less than desirable feelings with each other.

That’s understandable, we don’t want to cast our negative feelings on others; and yet those “others” are maybe the ones whom God has sent to help you work through it. If you don’t share deeply with them they cannot share deeply with you.

In Ephesians 3:18 Paul says that we have power together with all the Lord’s people to understand how wide, long, high, and deep the love of Christ is for us. Sometimes we need to just be open and honest with fellow believers and realize that we all go through times that are not fine. In fact they are hard, trying, and miserable.

If we let someone know that we are struggling they can open up and share with us more deeply. They can encourage us as Paul encouraged the early church when he said, “Things may not be fine, but let me tell you about God’s incredible love for you. It can get you through this difficult time.”(my paraphrasing)

In the end we probably just need to be more honest and upfront with each other. Not to dampen someones day but to deepen our relationship with them. The truth is, sometimes we do feel fine, and sometimes we actually feel great, but lets be ready to help each other when the need is real and present.

Make it personal: Be observant in the next week or two about how many times you use the word “fine” or “good” when someone asks you how you are doing. Ask yourself if it is the truth or not. Then take steps to become more authentic and real with those who are close to you. They can be a vital help to bringing you back to “fine” and “great”.

Have a blessed week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Shalom

Read: Judges 6:19-24

I don’t know how many of you have smartphones, but if you do I
want to suggest a valuable spiritual resource app. The
YouVersion Bible. It is available on both the Android and
Iphone app stores. Not only does it hold many translations of
the Bible but it also provides daily devotionals and other
ways to engage God’s Word.

We use our phones for many things these days and growing
closer to Christ in our daily lives should definitely be one
of them. This week I was drawn to a daily devotional on
YouVersion that I would like to share with you.

I have been taking an introduction class to ancient Hebrew
this semester at Seminary and I was interested in this
devotional about the word Shalom in the Old Testament. We use
the word quite often and this devotional gives an interesting
teaching about it. Here is that devotional courtesy of
YouVersion.

“There’s a good chance that most of us have either heard of or
are familiar with the Hebrew word shalom. In some circles, the
word shalom is even used as a common cordial greeting. But
what is the meaning behind this word? And more importantly,
how does this meaning factor into this next name of God,
Jehovah-shalom, or “The-LORD-Is-Peace”?

Some dictionaries simply define shalom as meaning “peace.”
That’s a good start, but it certainly doesn’t cover all of it.
Two countries can technically be at peace because they’re not
fighting a war against each other, all the while harboring
disagreements and grievances. They’re at peace, but they’re
not at shalom with each other.

In a nutshell, shalom describes a state of complete
fulfillment, wholeness, and wellness. That’s shalom. It’s the
easy exhale of the soul, knowing everything is all right. So
what happens when shalom is combined with Jehovah to form the
name, Jehovah-shalom?

For Gideon, who coined this name in the Book of Judges, it
represented the understanding that the ability to rest easy,
relax, and exhale go hand in hand with God’s presence. Apart
from Him, anxiety, stress, fear, trepidation, and insecurity
are the norm. But with the Lord, there is shalom.

Sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? But what happens when an
unexpected expense rears its ugly head in your world? What
happens when the doctor’s office calls to say you need to come
in for some additional tests? What happens when your spouse
says he or she doesn’t love you anymore?

It’s then and there that we need to call upon the name of
Jehovah-shalom, because we’ll never be able to rest, relax, or
exhale apart from Him. God doesn’t want us to live on pins and
needles in this life. He wants us to walk in confidence, to
breath easy, and to partake in the peace that can only come
from the heart of Jehovah-shalom.

Shalom describes a state of complete fulfillment, wholeness,
and wellness. With the Lord, there is shalom.”

Make it personal: What does this passage reveal to me about
God? What does this passage reveal to me about myself? Based
on this, what changes do I need to make? What is my prayer
for today?

Have a week filled with Shalom,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Walking in Grace

Read: Lamentations 3:22-24

Two weeks ago I used this same passage of scripture combined with another. This time I would like you to read these three verses from Lamentations once again by themselves. Did you catch in verse 23 that God’s mercy and grace is new every morning? Not just on Monday, not just on Sunday, but each morning you wake up and roll out of bed.

This past Sunday in our worship service a song by Laura Story was shared. It really brought this scripture to mind when the words said, “You’ll walk in the power of my daily sufficient grace.” Do you walk in that power, or do you let Satan and the world try to tell you that you are a failure and that you are defeated because you are not good enough?

God says “My grace, my mercy for you is sufficient.” I looked up the word sufficient in the dictionary and this is how it is defined. “Enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.” In other words, no amount of guilt, shame, sin, failure, shortcomings, or whatever else, is greater than the mercy God has for you.

As Christians we need to claim that, we need to walk in that grace daily! The well-known secular humanist and novelist in England, Marghanita Laski, said just before she died in 1988, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” The saddest part of that quote is that she really did, she just didn’t believe it or receive it.

Of course God’s grace comes to us through Jesus Christ who paid the sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. When we accept him as our Lord and Savior and receive the gift of grace and forgiveness that he has bought for us, we can walk in it daily.

Alexander Maclaren once said, “The word “grace” is a kind of shorthand for the whole sum of unmerited blessings which come to us through Jesus Christ.” Praise the Lord that we can walk in that power. And may it also encourage us to be forgiving and graceful to each other as well.

Here is a link to a youtube version of Laura Story’s song. I hope that it will bless you as it has blessed me this week.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51LGsPMKeAE

Make it personal: What is weighing you down this week? A failure, a lie that says you are not good enough? Is it a feeling of guilt for something you have done this week or in the past? Whatever it is, it’s time to claim this verse and walk in the power of Christ’s daily sufficient grace!

Have a wonderful week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Seasons of Change

Tree in front of church

Read: Genesis 8:22 and Revelation 21:1-8

Each fall I look forward to seeing the wonderful color that is
seen on the tree in front of our church. It is a tree that
drops annoying prickly balls all summer that have to be picked
up, but when fall comes it makes you quickly forget about the
summer annoyance. (See the picture of this tree attached)

Another reminder of change is that we used to have two of
these colorful tree’s in front of our church. That is until a
strong lightning storm took one of them down last summer. It
is now gone and the trunk is gone as well.

The seasons are like that in Central Illinois. You have the
heat and humidity of summer that turns into the bitter cold of
winter. You have the pleasant blessings of Spring and new
life, as well as the beauty and colors of fall. But each time
we go through one of these changes I am reminded of how the
seasons of nature also resemble the seasons of life.

If there is a bad time, you can rest assured that better times
are ahead. If you are in a good place, you thank God for that
blessing and ask Him to help you be prepared for times that
may be more difficult. When it is Winter we look forward to
Spring, and when it is hot in the summer we look forward to
the cold of Winter. Okay, that last one may be hard to sell to
some of you.

There is something to be said however about how the changing
seasons give us variety and keep things fresh for us. I have
often thought about how nice it would be to live in San Diego,
California where the median temperature year round is around
65 degrees. From an average low of 59 to an average high of
72, San Diego does not change much throughout the year.

In other words, they don’t look forward to Spring nearly as
much as we do in Central Illinois. Have you ever though of it
in that way? In the book of Genesis God promises Noah that
the seasons will remain until the end of the earth. In
Revelation, the last book of the Bible we are told about a New
Heaven and a New Earth. Both of these promises at the first
and the last of the Bible give us hope and expectation.

So, as winter comes, let’s enjoy the beauty of the fall season
and thank God that we have so much to look forward to, in life
and in the seasons that he has created for us. If you are in
a winter season right now in life, don’t give up, Spring is
coming! If you are enjoying the 70’s right now in life, thank
God and ask him to help you remember this moment.

And finally, remember this, all things work together for the
good of those who love God! Love God and He will see you
through any season of life that comes!

Make it personal: Take time over this coming month to thank
God for the good, the bad, the difficult, and the annoying
things of life. Thank him for the way that those things help
to mold us into the people and the followers of Jesus that he
desires for us to be.

Have a wonderful Fall,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church




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