Straight Ahead

Read:  Proverbs 4:18-27

One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis showed up this week on Twitter.  It reminded me of our AMC theme for 2020, our service this past Sunday, some verses from Proverbs, and a song by Amy Grant from many years past.  The quote goes like this, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” What a promising word for those who have things in their past that they would like to forget and move past.  Most likely that would include all of us.

In Proverbs 4 Solomon is writing to his son about life, obedience, guarding his heart, looking ahead, and staying far from evil.  I like the way The Message Bible paraphrases verses 23-27, it says, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.  Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.  Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you.  Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.” Those are great words for us to hear as we live in this world full of political banter, loose morals, and other evils.

In 1984, when I was a Sophomore in High School, Amy Grant released a song that must have been straight from Proverbs 4:25.  The words to the song sound like her own paraphrase of these verses. The chorus said, “Straight ahead, I can see your light, Straight ahead, through the dark, Straight ahead, there’s no left or right, Straight ahead, to your heart.”  Whether it is Solomon, C.S. Lewis, or Amy Grant, the message for us seems very clear.

Make it Personal:  What things are causing your eyes to wander?  Is it politics? Is it the moral decay in our culture?  Is it taking steps in the wrong direction? Ask God to help you stay on the straight and narrow way in your Christian life.  The words of Jesus also make it very clear for us in Matthew 7:13-14. “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Have a great week,  Pastor Glen Rhodes

Heavy Loads

Read:  Colossians 3:12-17

Have you been carrying any heavy loads around recently?  I’m not talking about physical loads, I’m speaking of those loads of guilt, unforgiveness, revenge, and grudges.  Too often we allow our emotions to get the best of us when we have been offended or wronged in some way. And too often we carry those emotions around with us like heavy loads.  Some people end up carrying them around for years. But we don’t have to.

Colossians 3 reminds us that we need to forgive like Jesus has forgiven us.  In verse 15 Paul says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” Pastor Charles Allen once told the story of when he was in the fourth grade and the principal of the school mistreated him.  It was a deliberate wrong, which the principal committed because he had fallen out with Charles’ father.

The Allens eventually moved from that town and many years had passed.  One day when Charles became a pastor and accepted his first church he heard that this principal from his grade school days was seeking a job in the local school.  Charles knew that if he told his friends on the school board about this man, they would not hire him. As he went out to get in his car to see some of the school board members he remembered verses like Colossians 3:13 that says, “Forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Charles went back in his house and knelt down beside his bed to ask the Lord for forgiveness and to release this heavy load of revenge off of his shoulders.  The same can happen for us when we take those offenses and feelings of anger and revenge to the Lord in prayer. There is no reason for Christians to carry around heavy loads when Christ offers to lift it off of our shoulders.

Make it Personal:  What offense or grudge have you been carrying around?  Name it and take it to Jesus in prayer. He will forgive you and allow you to move on with your life in the freedom that only Jesus can offer.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you!

Have a blessed week,  Pastor Glen Rhodes

Active Expectations

Read:  James 1:19-27

In the news recently there was a story about a woman in Santa Rosa, California who was trying to sue Dr. Pepper because she did not lose weight.  This woman had been drinking Diet Dr. Pepper for 13 years in hopes that it would make her lose weight. When it didn’t she sued the company for deceptive advertising.  A three judge panel thankfully dismissed her suit. It makes you wonder if this lady exercised or ate a healthy diet while drinking her Diet Dr. Pepper.

In the book of James we read about the importance of putting our words and our learnings from God’s Word into practice in our everyday lives.  Knowing what the Bible says and learning from it’s words is an important part of every Christian’s life. But if we don’t put those words into action they will mean very little in our day to day witness and interactions with others.  Along with listening to the wisdom of God we must also put that wisdom into action.

Verses 22 and 23 of James 1 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”  The expectation of learning from Jesus and the Word of God is that we will become active in living his example out in the world. Helping the orphans, widows, poor, and those in distress is how faith gets put into action. (v.27)

The woman in California apparently is expecting something for nothing.  She wants to lose weight but she wants to blame diet drinks for not succeeding instead of taking other steps herself.   The news article also mentioned that she had sued Diet Coke with the same accusation. If we expect the good news of the gospel to make a difference in the world we need to put our faith into action.

Make it Personal:  How many times do we expect others to do what we ourselves need to do?  When the reading of God’s word prompts you to action take the steps to do what the Holy Spirit is leading you to do and don’t wait on someone else to do it.  God spoke to you for a reason.

Have a great week,  Pastor Glen Rhodes

Open The Floodgates

Read: Malachi 3:8-12

What does the Bible say about the tithe?  What does tithing mean? How much does the Bible tell us to tithe?  These are all questions that Christians often ask as they think about their giving, generosity, and supporting the work of the Lord.  The answer to some of those questions will depend on who you ask or how they interpret the command to “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” as it says in Malachi 3:10.

Pastor David Jeremiah recently wrote a daily devotional about this scripture and titled it “Robbing God.”  These verses actually mention that idea. Dr. Jeremiah writes, “The final book of the Old Testament, the last of the Hebrew prophets urged the Israelites – those who had returned from Babylon to restore the nation of Judah – to make some improvements.  The people were lapsing into complacency and apathy. One area that needed changing – their personal giving patterns. They failed to consistently give a tenth of their income to the Lord. Malachi put it as sharply as he knew how. They were robbing God!”

In verse 10 Malachi says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)  Dr. Jeremiah suggests that this is the only time in scripture that we are invited to test or try God.

Giving generously to the work of the Lord through the church and other ministries is an important part of our stewardship as followers of Jesus.  The giving of money, time, and attention is what allows the church and other Christian based ministries to continue the work laid out for us in the gospels. We are called to spread the good news of Jesus, help the needy and destitute, and love others.  When we are generous in those endeavors the floodgates of blessing will come raining down.

Make it Personal:  How is your generosity toward God and his ministry in the world going these days?  How can you do better? What changes need to take place in your heart or in your finances to make this possible.  Remember the words of scripture, “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes