Midweek Reflections

God’s Side

Read: Matthew 12:22-37

We often like to talk about whose side we are on when it comes to sports, politics, and world events.  How often do we consider our side when it comes to God vs. Other?  Back in 1984 then President Ronald Reagan said, “I’ve said that we must be cautious in claiming God is on our side. I think the real question we must answer is, are we on God’s side?”  Friends, this question is much more important than if you are a Cubs fan or a Cardinals fan.

In Matthew 12 Jesus heals a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute.  The people who witnessed this were amazed and astonished.  The Pharisees, however, began to ridicule Jesus and ask him by whose power he claims to do these miracles in.  Jesus then begins a teaching (v.25-37) about being on God’s side instead of the alternatives.  In verse 30 Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, “The call comes to each of us individually, to you and to me.  Are we with God or are we against Him?  Are we on His side or are we on the other side?  Are we going to give our lives to Him, or are we going to give our lives to something else?  How you answer these questions determines everything important about your life.”  Perhaps it’s time to concern ourselves more about this side of things than any other.  In John 15:5 Jesus warned, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  It is true to say that apart from Jesus we can do nothing of eternal value or significance.  Let’s be on God’s side!

Make it Personal:  The next time someone asks you whose side you are on respond by saying, “God’s Side.”  It might be interesting to see where that takes the conversation depending on what subject matter you are discussing.  I would like to think that God is a St. Louis Cardinals fan but I’m sure God loves Cubs fans just as much.  With that, let the baseball season begin!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes

Repent & Turn To God

Read: Acts 3:11-26

At some point today you will probably hear a reference to Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent which continues through Easter Sunday.  It is observed by some Christians with ashes that are marked as a cross on ones forehead.  The more important observance is the prayer and fasting that is encouraged during the season of Lent which leads to repentance and a turning back to God.  In Acts 3 Peter preaches this message by saying, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…”

Repentance is an ongoing and important theme throughout scripture.  When we stray from the promises and ways of God repentance is what draws us back and shows us the grace of Jesus.  Without times of confession or repentance we keep going on with life not paying attention to the things that have led us away from the path we need to be on.  If we continue down those paths with no realization, acknowledgement, or remorse of our ignorance and sin we suffer the consequences.  This too is an ongoing story in the Bible of people either realizing their need for God and turning back or continuing on down a path of ignoring God.

Ash Wednesday and Lent are a time for to us to think about the path we are currently on.  What needs to change?  What needs to be reordered in your life?  Who have you been living for and what have you been living for?  Many times these questions will lead us to repentance and help us to restore a right relationship with Jesus Christ our Savior.  Fasting can be an important part of this.  Fasting from food, media, technology, or other things that distract us can help us to focus and allow the Lord to speak to us about things in our life that may need to be repented of.  What will you do during this Lent season to help you turn to God?

Make it Personal:  Fasting is an important spiritual discipline in the Bible.  Jesus himself fasted 40 days and nights in the wilderness when Satan tempted him.  I am not suggesting a 40 day fast but I would encourage you to try a fast if you have never done it before.  Food is a great place to start if you can, but fasting from other things can be helpful as well.  Whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to do during Lent let’s be sure to “repent and turn to God.”

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes

Finding Hope & Encouragement

Read: Psalm 119:10-16

In Psalm 119 the Psalmist writes… “I have hidden your word in my heart.”  He also writes, “I will study your teachings and follow your footsteps.  I delight in your promises; I will not neglect your word.”  God’s Word, The Bible, is such a wonderful source of hope and encouragement in our lives.  It needs to be our go to source when life is good and especially when life is hard and difficult.  A recent article by Adam Macinnis titled “When covid-19 hurts, the Bible brings hope” in Christianity Today magazine confirms this with reference to a recent survey.

Macinnis writes, “In times of trial and trouble, many Americans turn to the Bible for encouragement.  And with good reason, according to a new study.  In the middle of a global pandemic, a contentious election, and social unrest, the American Bible Society found a strong correlation between Scripture reading and hope.  Frequent Bible readers rated themselves 33 points more hopeful than irregular Scripture readers did in two surveys of more than 1,000 people done six months apart.  The study also found  that people are more hopeful when they read Scripture more frequently.  On a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most hopeful, Americans who report reading the Bible three or four times per year scored 42; people who read monthly scored 59; weekly, 66; and multiple times per week, 75.”

Many people are searching for hope and encouragement these days.  God’s Word, The Bible, is where we can find it.  When was the last time you opened up your Bible and allowed God to enter into your life through God’s hope, encouragement, and promises found in the Word?  Don’t close yourself off from the greatest source of hope we have, open up the Bible and read or open up your Bible app and listen to the words being read. This is where you find the hope and encouragement you need.

Make it Personal:  How many Bibles do you have in your home?  How often do they get opened?  Another comment that was made in this article was that people who attend church and read their Bibles on a regular basis tend to be happier and have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.  If you are looking for hope and encouragement those are two great places to start.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes

Cheerful Givers

Read: Luke 8:3, 21:1-4

It takes all of us to further the work of God in this world.  Our gifts, our talents, our callings, and the cheerful giving of financial support.  We all know the saying, “It is better to give than receive” but do we give with an attitude that truly reflects that saying?  I ran across a devotional this week from David Jeremiah that touches on this concept of being cheerful givers…

“Have you ever wondered how Jesus’ ministry was financed in the Gospels?  He had left his carpenter’s work, and His twelve disciples had left their fishing careers and other jobs.  They had families to feed and the expenses that come with life and ministry on the road.  But God raised up some wealthy women – Mary Magdalene; Joanna, who was the wife of a high political official; Susanna; and many others.  Luke points to them as the financial underwriters of the Lord’s ministry (Luke 8:1-3).

God blesses some people with enough wealth to underwrite great causes and become sponsors of major ministry initiatives.  But it’s not only the well-to-do who have the gift of giving.  Luke also noticed how Jesus commended the poor widow who put her two copper coins into the offering (Luke 21:1-4).  Her gift was a greater sacrifice than the others in the temple that day.  One of the disciplines of godliness is giving.  Whether we are wealthy, poor, or somewhere in the middle, we’re responsible to be methodical, steady, cheerful givers to the Lord’s work.”

Make it Personal:  The words in this devotional encourage us to look at our own pattern of giving and sowing into the Lord’s work.  Are we doing our part?  Are we giving with a cheerful heart?  Are we using what God has blessed us with to sow seeds in the world for His Kingdom and to see others come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ?  Let’s all agree to be cheerful givers!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes

Think About Such Things

Read: Philippians 4:4-9

After the message this past Sunday I have had several people ask for suggestions on what to read, what to listen to, what to watch, and so on, in order to help us focus on eternal things and grow in our faith in Jesus.  I encouraged this during the message and Jenni Marner also encouraged us during the children’s time with the verses from Philippians 4:4-9.  Those verses encourage us to think (read, listen, watch) about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

So, here is my list of suggestions.  Of course there could be many more, this is just a place to start but I am sure many of you could add your own great suggestions to these lists…

– The Bible (of course). Specifically start with the Gospels like Matthew or John
– “Just Like Jesus” by Max Lucado (An easy read about the ways of Jesus in your life)
– “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis (A classic Christian book, a bit more deeper)
– “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard J. Foster (Easier read about spiritual disciplines)
– “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson (Deeper but very good)
– World Magazine and Website (Biblically objective journalism on the news) world.wng.org

– The Bible (Most websites and phone apps now allow you to listen to the Word audibly)
– All kinds of worship music or hymns (Most streaming sites have endless options)
– Christian podcasts on streaming services or websites. (Be careful to stay with truth of God)
– Go to YouTube and listen to Billy Graham classics or other nationally respected preachers.

– Right Now Media has thousands of wonderful videos, studies, etc. to grow in your faith.
– T.V. Shows or documentaries that are clean and helpful in entertaining and informing.
– Movies that are faith based and present a positive message about Christ and Life.
– News that provides good unbiased reporting (Local news, or my recent favorite is NewsNation (7-10 pm) on WGN America.  Be wise and discerning as you look for truth in the news) 

Make it personal: If a friend came up to you and asked for suggestions what would you recommend?  The more we share with each other the more we learn about how to help others and lead others to what Paul encourages in Philippians 4:8.  Let’s grow in Christ and keep seeking the Lord in all of our options.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes

Matters of Prayer

Read: Matthew 6:5-15

There are many things for us to pray about these days.  Hopefully we are taking all of those matters to the Lord in prayer each and every day.  Praying can sometimes be a difficult experience for people.  They maybe don’t know how to pray or what to pray about specifically.  Or, in some cases maybe the words just don’t flow.  When we pray we do not need to come to Jesus with fancy words or well thought out phrases to impress.  In fact, Jesus wants us to come as we are and talk with him as we would talk with a good and trusted friend.

Some Christian traditions use prayers that are written out and repeated at times.  Other Christian traditions often pray in the Spirit or use a more spontaneous manner of praying.  Both kind of prayers can be good and helpful at different times.  I would encourage you to use both of these ways of praying to make them personal, meaningful, and helpful in your relationship with Christ.  Remember, seeking after Jesus and the ways of God should be our ultimate desire.

If you sometimes struggle with praying words on your own there is a helpful resource that can lead you through different prayers and scripture during your times of seeking the Lord.  The Anabaptist Prayer Book titled “Take Our Moments And Our Days” is available in our church library (two different volumes) or they also offer a free app for smartphones and tablets.  Just search the app store with that title and the app should come up to install.  This can help to get you started on making prayer an important and vital part of your daily walk with Jesus.

Make it personal: In the Matthew passage for this week (Matthew 6:5-15) Jesus gives us a specific prayer to pray.  It is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.  This is another good place to start.  We also need to pay attention in these verses to the manner in which we are to pray.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes

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