Midweek Reflections

Easter Monday

Read: Acts 26:12-18

This past Sunday in the adult Christian Education class we talked a bit about Easter Monday.  What is it, what does it mean, and why is listed on our calendars?  Easter Monday is celebrated primarily in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions.  It is sometimes referred to as Bright Monday or Renewal Monday.  It is celebrated in different ways around the world with the after affects of the resurrection of Jesus often being the focus.  That is where Easter Monday or Easter and beyond should encourage those who follow Jesus.  No matter what life brings, we can find new strength and power from on high because of this Easter truth. 

In Acts 26 Paul is on trial or being questioned by King Agrippa when he shares about his own resurrection encounter with Jesus.  He talks about the road to Damascus when he was struck by a bright light from heaven that caused him to fall to the ground.  Then the voice of Jesus speaks to him and tells him to “get up and stand on your feet.” Jesus then tells Paul that he will rescue him, send him, and use him to bring people from darkness to light in the name of Christ.  Jesus brought Paul himself from darkness to light during his own life transformation.

There are many other resurrection stories in the Bible that don’t necessarily concern physical death, tombs, and mourning.  There are stories like that of Paul that show how life can be resurrected from darkness to light, from depression to joy, from heartache to deliverance, from addiction to sobriety, from weariness to renewal, from tired to revived.  In fact, those stories are still alive today because of the resurrection of Jesus.  That is what Easter Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mean to us as Christians.  We can rise up and claim that Jesus is alive and therefore we are alive.  All is not lost in a troubled world because God is the one who rules the world, and Jesus can help us to overcome the troubles of this world.  Let’s Praise His Name together for the never ending truth of Easter resurrection!

Make It Personal: What does it mean for you to rise up and claim this resurrection power in Jesus in the days ahead?  What does it mean for your family?  What does it mean for the church?  We will look at these things this Sunday as we consider the truth in Isaiah 40 that proclaims “God rules the whole earth, and the Lord gives us the strength that we need!”

 Have a great week, Glen Rhodes

The Last Week

Read: Luke 17-21

As we celebrate Holy Week this week it might be helpful for us to look back on that last week of Jesus’ life before his death and resurrection.  Luke 17-21 is a good place to start when recalling some of these events but here is how that last week was for Jesus….

Saturday and Sunday – The weekend before the cross and empty tomb found Jesus in Bethany.  He was anointed at the house of Simon the leper by a woman who was weeping at his feet as she worshiped him.  Many people came to Bethany this weekend to see Jesus and he shared words of hope and life with them.  He indicated that the time of his death was near and about his resurrection but many did not understand what he was saying, including his disciples.

Monday – Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem with what we know as the triumphal entry.  This fulfills prophecies of the Old Testament and many people worship and praise him by laying palm branches and shouting praises along the route.  Many of these would turn on him later in the week and deny him.

Tuesday – The religious leaders begin to plot ways to kill Jesus on this day.  As accusations begin to swirl among them Jesus reminds his followers that following him would look different than following the ways of the world.  Jesus also curses a fig tree on this day warning the people about spiritual blindness.

Wednesday – Jesus predicts that in two days he will be crucified during the time of passover.  He teaches timely lessons to his followers on this day and prepares them for his eventual ascension into heaven.  He also promises of his return and tells hs disciples to be ready and on guard at all times.

Thursday – Maundy Thursday is when Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples in the upper room.  The bread was to represent his broken body and the wine was to represent his shed blood for he sins of all mankind.  The sacrifice of the cross is still recognized and remembered today around the world through Holy Communion.  Later this night Jesus is arrested after his disciple Judas betrays him.

Friday – Often referred to as Good Friday because of what Jesus did for the good all humanity.  His death on the cross bought the grace and forgiveness of all who believe in him and receive his pardon.  The cross of Calvary was the end result of a day of trials, beatings, and Jesus carrying his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem.  Later on Friday the curtain in the temple was torn in two and Jesus proclaimed “It is Finished!”

Saturday – Holy Saturday is when the body of Jesus lay in the tomb with Roman guards keeping watch.  Little did they or others know what was about to happen the following morning.

Sunday – The most glorious day ever for Christians and those who believe.  Jesus is risen from the tomb and death is defeated once and for all.  The women discover the empty tomb and run back to tell the others.  Some of them run to see it for themselves.  Jesus continues to appear to the disciples and others in the days that follow until he eventually ascends into heaven.

Make It Personal: Jesus suffered much on our behalf but he knew that it was God’s plan to save you and I from our sins and so he committed himself to the cross.  He was also glorified in his resurrection and because of his resurrection we all have the blessing of eternal life with him in heaven.  Death has been defeated once and for all.  For those who believe and follow Jesus this was the best week in the history of the world.  Let’s celebrate it in that way!

 Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes

Solomon & Wooden

Read: Proverbs 2 & 3

March Madness is half way done!  The NCAA basketball brackets that were filled out has everyone hoping that their pick to win it all makes it to the championship game on April 5th.  For me that opportunity has already passed (Thank you Illini).  Since March Madness is beginning to turn into April’s Final Four I wanted to use this week’s article to share some wisdom from legendary NCAA basketball coach John Wooden.  In scripture Proverbs 2 and 3 share the importance of wisdom and the benefits that it brings to our lives.  One of the most beloved verses in all of scripture comes from chapter 3, verse 5 that says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Some of the excerpts that I will be sharing come from the 6th chapter of Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny’s book entitled “The Matheny Manifesto.”  In his book Matheny shares of how basketball coach John Wooden had such a profound impact on his life and the way he manages his team today.  He writes….  “Just in case you don’t know who John Wooden was: As head basketball coach of UCLA from 1948 to 1975, he led the Bruins to 10 NCAA national championships in his last twelve years, seven of those in a row, something never done before or since. During that time, the Bruins once won a record 88 straight games, and Wooden was named national coach of the year six times.”

Matheny writes that Wooden was a great teacher, mentor, coach, and person.  He also shares that John Wooden was a devout Christian.  Matheny writes, “He was a devout Christian and often said his beliefs were more important to him than basketball.  Wooden said, “Basketball is not the ultimate.  It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live.  There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.”

Matheny writes more, “John was a daily Bible reader and a member of the First Christian Church.  He once said “If I were ever persecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.”  Here are some other favorite quotes of Mr. Wooden….  “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”  “Happiness begins where selfishness ends.”  “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.”

“You can do more good by being good than any other way.”  “I never yelled at my players much.  Artificial stimulation doesn’t last long.  It’s like love and passion.  Passion won’t last as long as love.  It’s the same with yelling.”  “You discipline those under your supervision in order to correct, to help, to improve, not to punish.”  “Kindness makes for much better teamwork.”  “Never be disagreeable just because you disagree.”  “Be slow to correct and quick to commend.”

There are many more where those come from.  Matheny mentions that coach Wooden never claimed that any of his many quotes were all original with him, but it seemed he had one for every occasion.  NBA star Bill Walton (who played for Wooden at UCLA) says he used to write these quotes on his son’s lunch bags when he sent them off to school.  

Make It Personal: As we continue to watch the games of this year’s NCAA tournament and pull for our teams, let’s remember the importance of wise teaching, wise examples, and Godly character.  Coach Wooden passed away on June 4, 2010, four months short of his 100th birthday.  Wise and valuable quotes are always inspiring and helpful but coach Wooden would be the first to tell us that none of those can compare to the wisdom and value of the Bible.  Many of his quotes were actually inspired by scripture.  Read Proverbs 2 and 3 this week and renew your value in Godly Wisdom!

 Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes

How Important Is Sunday Worship?

Read: Acts 2:42-47

How important is the Sabbath and corporate worship?  Many years ago between my four years of college I lived in Holland for a year in a Mennonite exchange program.   Holland was once part of the ocean but the industrious Dutch built great dikes far out in the shallow sea, and so reclaimed the land.  As their dikes hold the ocean back, on the landward side the people occupy their homes, farmers till their land, and the wheels of commerce turn.

There is an illustration in those dikes that pertains to the Sabbath day of corporate worship.  In fact many of the rural lowlanders in Holland have a quaint way of referring to Sunday, the Christian Sabbath.  They speak of Sunday as God’s dike because what God’s people do on this day each week serves society in the same way a dike serves the land.  As the dike holds back the sea, so does Sunday and the worship experience help to hold back the flood of evil which is forever threatening to overflow the people.

God interposes the instruction and inspiration of Christian worship as a bulwark against wrong.  The Christian Sabbath is civilizations strongest social buttress against the flood of evil, fear, and despair which press up hard against us.  What we do in worship each Sunday is strengthen our dikes, to help keep them in good repair.  In worship we are not merely doing something for ourselves, we are also doing something for the world.  We are taking part in an unceasing effort which involves many millions of people and stretches over many centuries of time.  Let’s be aware of this vast body of Christ called the church that we are involved in, and let’s be glad in it just like the early believers were in Acts 2.  Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.”

Make it Personal:  How important is Sabbath day worship to you and your family?  Are you a part of it so that you can hold back the things that are trying to pull at you and pull you away from the Lord?  Worshiping together with the brothers and sisters in Christ is so very important and this past year we have realized this in a new way.  Hope to see you this Sunday!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes

Wisdom From Heaven

Read: James 3:13-18

In the book of James the question is asked, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”  Anyone want to raise their hand and take the first question?  The verses following this talk about humility and living a good life filled with wisdom that comes down from heaven.  This kind of wisdom is not earthly as in the knowledge of things that are temporal.  This wisdom from heaven is a pattern for living as Jesus would want us to live out our faith here on earth.

What does it look like?  Verse 17 makes it clear for us.  “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  How are we doing in those things?  They are not always easy to follow but they do make for a blessed life and a life that honors God.

Verse 18 then speaks of being peacemakers in this world.  It says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”  Just like farmers will harvest in the Fall what they sow this Spring, the same is true with our lives.  If you sow the characteristics listed above you will find your life reaping the goodness of God and the blessings He has for you.  You will also find yourself getting along much better with family, friends, co-workers, and others in your life. 

Make it Personal:  Who do you need to offer mercy to right now?  Who needs you to be the peacemaker that these verses are speaking of?  The Holy Spirit will guide us each in the disbursement of this wisdom that comes from heaven.  Let’s go out and sow it plentifully.

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes

Shared Worship Space

Read: Psalm 95:1-7

I read an interesting article this week about a new concept called “Shared Work Space.”  In this past year the pandemic has forced many people (who are able) to work from home.  Some companies have realized that this can be a workable solution and actually save the company money on office space, utilities, and other expenses.  Some workers love this setup and others have had trouble adjusting to being alone at home instead of in the presence of others.  Shared work space buildings offer a low cost office space in which workers from different industries do their jobs remotely but are still around others to converse with, share coffee breaks, talk about the days weather, or whatever else might come up in this shared work space environment.

This made me realize once again how important shared worship space is for God’s people.  I think we have all realized that this past year (during the pandemic) when at times we were worshiping on our phones and laptops each Sunday.  We can worship Jesus alone and we can worship Jesus in our day to day responsibilities.  We should do that throughout our week, but there is something powerful about the gathered church coming together in person to worship, fellowship, and be together that is irreplaceable.  That’s one thing we have learned to appreciate even more this past year if we didn’t before.

Psalm 95 says, “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord.”  Several other verses in this Psalm stress the word “Come” and the phrase “let us” as it speaks of worshiping the Lord, bowing down before the Lord, and praising the Lord’s name together.  This is a reminder that shared worship space, and shared worship times together as God’s people was important then and is also important today.  We need people, we need each other, and we need the church to gather together basically because we can’t do this on our own.  We need Jesus and we need to be with each other, in person!

Make it Personal:  The reason we have had to worship in different ways this past year is due to safety and precaution on the part of many.  This is understandable and each person must do what they are most comfortable with during these difficult times.  But we can never forget about the longing people have and need for fellowship, touch, and shared worship space. Let’s move forward together and worship together in the days ahead.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes

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