Midweek Reflections

Recalibrating Normal

Read: 1 John 2:15-17

Parents are often good at saying “no” to their children.  In fact, we probably focus too much on the negative things our children do rather than on the positive things they do.  Let’s try to encourage them more in the days ahead.  With that said, there are many things in our world and culture right now that need a loud and pronounced “no” from parents when they go against God’s Word, our faith, and God’s created order.  If we do not speak up about the many things we see on television and in our culture how will our children know truth, morality, and God’s will?

John Stonestreet addressed these things in a recent Breakpoint Commentary.  This is what he said, “More and more, Christian parents will need to get used to saying “no” to things that are widely normal in American life, and not just because of the obvious moral shifting happening all around us. Counter-cultural priorities reconfigured around restored loves, renewed loyalties, and redeemed liturgies will earn us some strange looks, especially when it comes to money, to stuff, and to time. The forces that shape most American families today aren’t centered around real needs, at least not spiritual needs. “Keeping up with the Joneses” and “perfecting leisure time” are  much higher priorities for most of us than fostering and nurturing strong family bonds and bringing up kids who know and love Jesus.”

In the last part of his commentary he addressed how the pandemic has offered us new ways to look at what normal looks like in the days ahead.  He said, “Covid caught all of us off guard, but unexpected challenges like it are wonderful opportunities to recalibrate. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, we may want to look carefully at whether or not “normal” is what we want to return to. Or if instead, we should rebuild the structures and habits that make a home a good place to land the next time the world throws us a curve.”  These are good things to keep in mind in the days ahead when we often feel like we are living as strangers in a strange land.  As John tells us in the scripture verses for this week, “Do not love the world or anything in the world… for everything in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world.”   


Make It Personal:  How are you and your children being influenced by the moral shifting taking place in our culture these days?  Don’t just turn them loose on devices, videos, and books, without conversing with them about the good, the moral, and the ways of God found in His Word.  May we recalibrate our new normal to put God’s ways before the world’s ways.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes                                     

Proud Of Our Humility?

Read: James 1:12-18

How often do we claim as our own, that which is a gift from God?  So often in life we get caught up in what we have achieved without giving God the credit He deserves.  Pride is often a barrier in our spiritual growth.  Paul W. Powell once said “Pride is so subtle that if we aren’t careful we’ll be proud of our humility. When this happens our goodness becomes badness and our virtues become vices.”

It is said that Alex Haley, the author of the book “Roots,” had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall at one time. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When someone asked him why he had a picture like that, he said, “Well, every time I write something significant, every time I read my words & think that they are wonderful, & begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post & remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.”

 It most likely is not just a coincidence that the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the affects of pride in our lives.  In fact this book of the Bible that is sometimes referred to as “the sayings of the wise” has around thirty references to the dangers of it.  Here is just a sampling of those.  Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”  Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  Probably the best known of them all is Proverbs 16:18 that says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

God does not want us to lack self-esteem and self-confidence!  We are His children and that alone is enough to give us confidence to face each day.  But God does want us to realize and acknowledge where our successes come from.  In James 1:17-18 it says, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens.  He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing.  He wanted us to be his own special people, and so he sent the true message to give us new birth.” 

Make It Personal: Perhaps the next time we feel pride beginning to swell up within us we need to remember the turtle on the fencepost.  We did not get here or there on our own!

Be a blessing this week,  Glen Rhodes

Growing In God’s Call

Read: Ephesians 4:1-6

This past Sunday we looked at the life of Abraham in Genesis 12 and how he was called by God to leave his land and go to the land of Canaan where the Lord was calling him to.  We also thought about how and to what God may be calling each of us to in life.  It may change as we go through life and it just might transform everything we are and do in life.  That is the story of former NFL Center Jason Brown whom I heard a story about this week.

Jason was one of the best Centers in the NFL in 2010.  He was in the midst of a 5 year $37 million contract with the St. Louis Rams (highest paid center in the NFL at that time) when the Lord called him to something else.  God called him to be a produce farmer in order to help those who are hungry and in need.  When he told his agent about this calling he said that he was crazy but Jason quickly replied, “No I am not!”  He was following God’s call and while that seemed crazy to some it made total sense to him.  He left his $37 million NFL contract to start a 1,000 acre farm in Louisburg, North Carolina to share the love of Christ and aid in hunger relief in eastern North Carolina.

His farm is fittingly called First Fruits Farm.  When Jason received this call on his life he had no experience with farming at all. But when the call came he began to research, watch videos, and talk to others about how to grow sweet potatoes, cucumbers and other produce items.  Jason once said in an interview, “A life of greatness is a life of service.”  When asked about all of the money he left in the NFL he simply said, “Love is the most wonderful currency you can have or give.”

There are many other stories like that of Jason’s.  Stories of people hearing and answering a specific call that God placed on their lives despite the sacrifices or challenges that might come with those callings.  As we talked about this past Sunday, sometimes it comes down to you and I making the choice to follow that call like Jason Brown did.  In Ephesians 4:1 Paul writes, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Make It Personal:  Each calling is different, some are large and others are small.  But each calling on your life matters to God and to the people God is wanting to reach through you. Whatever, and whenever the call of God comes… Step out and find out what God is going to do in your life.  You will be blessed because of it.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes          

Growing With The Lords People!

Read: 1 Peter 4:8-10

I have had many opportunities recently to reflect back on my days of growing up in the church.  I grew up in a medium sized (80-90 people) Mennonite church in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  When the church doors were open you could pretty much be sure that our family was going to be walking through them.  As a child I didn’t get the impression that it was seen as a legalistic obligation to go to church; but as an opportunity to worship the Lord and grow with God’s people together.  This is an opportunity that many people in our world could cherish and benefit from as well if they would give it a try.  In a world that becomes busier by the week it takes a conscious effort and desire to make the church family a part of our lives.

Many people have heard the African Proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Susan Allison-Jones reminded me of that concept of the village in an article I read and I realized how well it relates to the church. She shared her own experiences of how important the church family was in forming her children and their outlook on life.  She shared stories in which the church friends would support them, care for them, encourage them, and help them as a family.  She writes, “The village gives us perspective, relief, and peace of heart and mind.  The village gives our children an intergenerational group of people not found in many other settings in our busy, complex world.”

Relationships can sometimes be challenging and difficult in any setting, but by placing ourselves around God’s people we allow our families to bless others and be blessed by others in so many ways.  I realize now how valuable that was in my growing up years and how valuable that was for my own children as they grew up in the church.  I am very thankful that my parents made our church family a part of the village that helped me along the way. I know that our church today did the same for our children as they grew up.

Make It Personal:  May the Lord continue to help all of us grow together as his people and for his purposes!  I agree with Susan when she ends her article by saying, “It does take a village to raise a child.  And we are thankful for those who have been and are a part of our village.”  “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:8-10

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes

Take Care Of It

Read: James 1:19-27

I always enjoy the basketball season!  Especially when the Illini have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament like this past season.  There is also nothing quite like going to watch an intense high school basketball game or a game of grade school players trying to learn the pick and roll.  As I have attended many basketball games in my life I have noticed myself saying one phrase more than any other.  As the teams would come up the floor with the ball I would often say, “Take care of the ball!”

Obviously this comment would come from the realization that each possession was very important.  In any sport there is a direct connection between turnovers and the final outcome of the game.  The more I thought about that statement though, the more I realized that it connects with our daily lives as well.  God has given each of us the gift of life and it is an act of good stewardship on our part to take care of it.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves the first thing most people think of is our health.  It is important to eat healthy foods, exercise, and pay attention to the doctor’s orders.  But there is also a spiritual element to this that is just as important or probably the most important.

In James 1:22-25 the Bible says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Those who listen to the word but do not do what it says are like people who look at their faces in a mirror and, after looking at themselves, go away and immediately forget what they look like. But those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it, not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it, they will be blessed in what they do.”

With those words, James, the brother of Jesus is encouraging us to follow after, and not ignore God’s plan for our lives.  He is instructing us to take care of what God has blessed us with and to use our lives to bring glory and praise to our creator.  Just like many basketball teams, we tend to get careless at times.  We do things that we know are against God’s will and we don’t pay close enough attention to how our decisions are affecting our lives as well as those closest to us. We would do well to remember each day that our spiritual life, our relationships, our finances, our possessions, and every part of our being are worth taking care of. 

Make It Personal: God realizes that we are not perfect, and yet he desires for us to take care of this precious gift of life that he has given to us.  God has created us in His image and has given us families, responsibilities, and a purpose in life.  Maybe the next time we find ourselves forgetting about the face in the mirror or the life that we have been called to, we should whisper those words to ourselves, “Take care of it!”

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes           

Important Words!

Read: Philippians 1:3-11

Encouragement and humility are two of the greatest virtues in life.  Not only do they lift other people up, but they lift our spirits as well.  In the book of Philippians in the Bible Paul shares these virtues and others in various ways.  Take the time this week to read the whole book of Philippians to appreciate the full scope of joy, encouragement, and thanksgiving that Paul writes about.

As I considered those virtues of encouragement and humility, I remembered an email I recently received that said: The six most important words are, “I admit that I was wrong!”  The five most important words are, “You did a great job.”  The four most important words are, “What do you think?”  The three most important words are, “May I help?” The two most important words are, “Thank You!”  The most important word is, “We.” And the least important word is, “I”.

In verse 6 of Phillipians chapter 1 Paul says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  So often we get caught up in the needs that we have as individuals and forget about the needs of those whom God places in our path each day.  Paul encourages us in that verse to remember that we are called to bring about good things in life and speak positive words of encouragement to each other.  Those words flow out of our relationship with Jesus Christ and they can also be a wonderful testimony of his love and concern for others.

Paul says, “The fruit of righteousness” comes through Jesus Christ.  Let’s remember those important words and put the focus on others instead of ourselves.  As we read the New Testament we realize that this is how Jesus lived.  His humility and his ministry of encouragement to others is a great example for us to follow.

Make It Personal:  Take your most difficult relationship right now and use the encouragement of Philippians to approach it in a different way.  By blessing others in Christ we can often turn the bad into good.

 Be blessed this week,  Glen Rhodes       

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