Midweek Reflections

Focus & Purpose

Read: John 15:1-17

Each product, each appliance, each item you have in your home is there for a specific purpose.  Your toaster is there to toast your bread, your food is there to keep you nourished, your toothpaste is there to keep your teeth clean, and your couch is there for people to sit on.  You could probably add some other interesting ones to that list. But each of those things are there for a purpose. If you try to nourish yourself on toothpaste or try to warm your house with your toaster you may have problems.

Our lives also are created with purpose.  God has created us with certain gifts, abilities, and callings in this world.  When we try to operate outside of those things it does not go so well. However, when we stay focused on the areas that God has called us to and given us the ability to succeed, we can thrive and do great things for Jesus in this world.

In John 15 Jesus talks about staying connected to the vine.  He says that if we stay joined to him he will stay joined to us.  If we are joined to him, verse 7 says that his teachings and his ways will become a part of us.  If we stay connected to the true vine and find our purpose in who we are in Jesus then the focus of our life becomes much clearer.  We become who God created us to become. What a freeing and wonderful life that can be.

Perhaps we need to consider how focused we are on the things of God in relation to the things of this world.  Are we fulfilling the purpose God has created us for? Are we focused on the right things? Are we staying connected to our Savior Jesus to constantly be led and encouraged in these things?  
 
Just like those things in our home that are there for a specific purpose, you are here on this earth for God’s purposes. If you follow after his Son Jesus he can and will fulfill those purposes within you.

Make it Personal:  Where is your focus right now?  Is it on the things that matter or on trivial things that don’t really bring forth fruit for God’s kingdom?  When we are living in God’s grace and seeking his purpose in life, we are staying connected to the vine that Jesus is speaking about.  That is a great place to be and the best place to live your life.

Have a wonderful week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes



Lost and Found

Read: Luke 15

A recent news story from the state of Indiana tells the story of Martha Everett’s purse.  As workers were remodeling a classroom at Jeffersonville High School they found a hidden treasure behind some of the cabinets they were tearing out.  A purse was found that had a wallet, prom invitation, lipstick, photos and gum wrappers that had apparently been lost by Ms. Everett way back in 1954 when she was a student there.  After a search on social media, school officials were able to track down the 82 year old woman in Florida and return her long lost purse to her.

This story is a reminder of the three parables that Jesus tells in Luke 15.  The first one (v. 1-7) is about a lost sheep. Jesus says that if a shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one he would leave the 99 to go find that one lost sheep.  In the second parable (v. 8-10) he tells how a woman loses a valuable coin and goes to great lengths to search for it and find it. In the third parable (v. 11-31) he tells one of the best known stories in the Bible about the prodigal (long lost) son who is welcomed home by his father with open arms.  In verses 23-24 the father says, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

These parables were told by Jesus because that is how God feels about you and me.  God will search and search for anyone who has lost their way or journeyed down a path that takes them away from Him and the grace and restoration that is found through His Son Jesus Christ.  When we come to him, no matter how far off we have wandered, Jesus welcomes us home with open arms. His forgiveness is greater than any sin or mistake we might have made. You see, God celebrates when the lost are found.

I’m sure Ms. Everett was surprised and thrilled to find her lost purse from 1954.  It’s hard for us to imagine how an unexpected discovery like that would feel. But the celebration in heaven when someone comes to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior is also unlike anything we can imagine.  Luke 15:10 (CEV) says, “In the same way God’s angels are happy when even one person turns to him.”

Make it Personal:  Perhaps that lost person that needs to be found is you?  Perhaps it is one of your family members? Perhaps it is a friend?  Please know that God will keep his door open for you and anticipate your return.  If you are praying for a family member or friend to be found I encourage you to keep praying.  Our Lord is searching for all of the lost to be found!

Have a blessed week everyone,Pastor Glen Rhodes



Faith on the Line

Read: Isaiah 41:8-13

The Christian way is not always the easy way or the easiest life.  Some of the things that Jesus calls us to in the Sermon on the Mount are very difficult things to live out; love your enemies, do not worry, don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, do not judge.  The truth is, everyday we put our faith on the line as we live in this world as followers of Jesus. We don’t know what is ahead and yet we are called to be faithful, obedient, and hopeful in Christ.

In his book “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction” Eugene Peterson addresses these difficult challenges we face in the Christian journey.  He reminds us that even though these challenges exist it is well worth our time to put our faith and hope on the line. Peterson writes, “Every day I put hope on the line.  I don’t know one thing about the future. I don’t know what the next hour will hold. There may be sickness, accident, personal or world catastrophe. Before this day is over I may have to deal with death, pain, loss, rejection.”

He continues on and writes, “I don’t know what the future holds for me, for those I love, for my nation, for this world.  Still, despite my ignorance and surrounded by tinny optimists and cowardly pessimists, I say that God will accomplish his will, and I cheerfully persist in living in the hope that nothing will separate me from Christ’s love.”  Those words are echoes of what Isaiah tells us in chapter 41.

Isaiah says that in the midst of all that you face in this world, both the challenges and uncertainties, God has called you and chosen you to this life as a believer.  In verse 10 Isaiah says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”  It sounds like we can live in confidence as we put our faith and hope on the line for Jesus.

Make it Personal:  The Christian life and journey is filled with so many things.  There is joy, celebration, thanksgiving, while also facing challenges, struggles, and difficulties.  Many things are on the line. Through it all we know that Jesus will be there for us and help us through whatever may come.  Turn to him and trust him with whatever you will face today.

Have a great week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes



The Almighty Creator

Read: Job 12

Nature is one of God’s wonderful creations.  Psalm 19:1 proclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Through the beauty, power, and majesty of God’s creation the Lord is able to speak to us, provide for us, and teach us of his almighty goodness.  It’s impossible for anyone to visit all of the magnificent natural wonders that this earth has to offer but by surrounding ourselves with reminders of those we can offer praise to our almighty creator.

In Job 12 we are reminded that even in the midst of difficult times, loss, and turmoil we can allow nature to speak of God’s goodness, care, and love for us.  Job gives testimony that we can learn things from God’s creation; that God’s wisdom and power can be seen in the earth, sky, and sea; and that God’s power is proclaimed through majestic mountains, beautiful valleys, and expansive waterfalls.  In the midst of his loss and pain Job praised God because of what he saw around him. It was awesome.

How can you surround yourself with God’s beauty in the midst of a cold, barren winter in Central Illinois?  I have found several ways that I would like to share with you. You can set your computer screen saver to show magnificent pictures of nature from around the world (webshots.com).  You can rotate the screen of your smartphone with some pictures and reminders of natural wonders. You can find books or magazines that show God’s handiwork from around our world. Perhaps you have found other ways to surround yourself with God’s beauty?

Everyone may not share my specific love of nature and God’s creation, but all of us can use it as a reminder of God’s sovereign power in this world.  God is the creator, sustainer, provider, and almighty Lord of our lives and our world. As Job testifies of creation in verse 9, “which of all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?”  To our God we give praise!

Make it Personal:  Find ways to appreciate the many wonders of nature in your world.  Give praise to God for those blessings and also do your part in sustaining and maintaining them for future generations.  God has told us to care for this earth that he has created and we must do our part in fulfilling that command.

Have a magnificent week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes



70 x 7 = Infinity

Read: Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness is one of the key parts of the gospel message.  Jesus gave up his life on the cross so that each of us could have the opportunity to receive his grace and forgiveness for the sins in our lives.  Many times in scripture we are instructed to forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us through his son Jesus Christ.

So why is it so hard to forgive when it’s our turn?  Our human nature wants to get revenge or payback instead of letting someone walk away scot-free, and yet that is what Jesus offers to us.  In Matthew 18 Peter comes up to Jesus to find out more about this unbelievable offer of grace. He asks how many times he should forgive someone who commits an offense against him.  “Up to 7 times?” Peter asks.

Jesus then responds by saying, “not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  In some Bible translations this is changed to read 77 times which is nowhere close to 490 times (70 x 7).  But the number itself can cause us to lose sight of the teaching here about forgiveness. Jesus is basically saying forgive as long as there is something to forgive. Forgive to infinity and beyond.  After all, that is what Jesus offers to us.

After this conversation with Peter, Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant.  A story that ends with the phrase, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” Perhaps no command of Jesus is more challenging and yet freeing than this command to forgive others.  Because of Jesus we can be free from the weight of sin, and Jesus wants us to extend that kind of grace to others. It may not always be easy, but it is very freeing when we follow the ways of Christ.

Make it Personal:  Who comes to your mind when you hear about the need to forgive someone?  Read Matthew 18 this week and ask Jesus to help you extend grace to that person.  Forgiveness is the key to opening the door to restored relationships and freedom in our lives.

Have a wonderful week Everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes



Life Stories

Read: Philippians 2:1-18
 
As Life Groups start up again at AMC I was reminded about the life stories that have been shared in past small groups that I have been a part of. Those stories were shared by each person in the group and were often a journey from their years of growing up to life experiences that have shaped them as adults. Obviously their faith and their relationships in the church played a big part in those stories as well. I learned many new things about some in our church that I have not known before those stories were shared.
 
No life story is exactly the same but in most cases we have learned things and grown along the way. We are not perfect but our desire is to grow in the nature of God and the mindset of Christ Jesus like Philippians 2 encourages. Humility, servanthood, compassion, obedience, and attitude are many of the life attributes that are encouraged in these verses.
 
Joyce Meyer once said, “I used to be a full-time sinner, and once in a while I “accidentally” did something right. But now that I have spent many years developing a deep, personal relationship with God… I still make mistakes, but not nearly as many as I once did, I am not where I need to be, but thank God, I am not where I used to be. I do not do everything right, but I do know that the attitude of my heart is right.”
 
By sharing our story we can learn from each other and grow in Jesus. When we meet together as Christ’s church we can encourage each other, support each other, learn from God’s Word, and be reminded of what Christ-like living looks like. In this manner we can relate to what Joyce says… “I still make mistakes, but not nearly as many as I once did, I am not where I need to be, but thank God, I am not where I used to be.”
 
Make it Personal: Find ways to share your story and to hear others stories. This can happen in small groups, fellowship groups, Christian Ed., worship, and one on one sharing. The key is to make time for it and be open to learning from others. In all things keep Jesus the focal point.
 
Have a great week Everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes




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