Midweek Reflections

The Finish Line

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

As the Apostle Paul ends his second letter to his co-worker in the ministry Timothy he reminds him and others to finish the race strong and keep the faith. He says, “There is in store for us a crown of righteousness” at the end of the race.  Back on October 20, 1968 at 7 pm, a few thousand spectators remained in the Mexico City Olympic Stadium. It was cool and dark. The last of the marathon runners, each exhausted were being carried off to first-aid stations. More than an hour earlier, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, looking as fresh as when he started the race, crossed the finish line, the winner of the 26 mile, 385 yard event.

As the remaining spectators prepared to leave, those sitting near the marathon gates suddenly heard the sound of sirens and police whistles. All eyes turned to the gate. A lone figure wearing the colors of Tanzania entered the stadium. His name was John Stephen Akhwari. He was the last man to finish the marathon.  His leg bloodied and bandaged, severely injured in a fall, he grimaced with each step. He hobbled around the 400 meter track. The spectators rose and applauded him as if he were the winner. After crossing the finish line, Akhwari slowly walked off the field without turning to the cheering crowd.

In view of his injury and having no chance of winning a medal, someone asked him why he had not quit. He replied, “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish it.”  That is the inspiration that Paul is encouraging in this passage. God has placed us here for a purpose. In the end we will receive a wonderful crown of righteousness if we have followed Christ and his path, but in the meantime we need to keep on the path and finish the race.

Sometimes that path may make us fall and sometimes we may get bloodied or beat up, but Jesus promises to see us through those times if we keep our eyes on him. Keeping him at the center of our lives will help us stay focused on the finish line mentioned in 2 Timothy 4. May we keep the faith!

Make it personal: While we run the race we need to not only look for the finish line, we need to draw on Christ’s strength and his direction in the day we are living. What might Jesus be calling us to do for him today? That may be a part of finishing well!

Happy New Year, Glen Rhodes

What About Jesus?

Read: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Last week I talked about Santa, this week I’m talking about Jesus.  I think we all know which one of those is the most important message of Christmas.  The question we need to ask ourselves though is “which parts of Christmas are we making the most important?”  Our culture has pushed gifts, tree’s, decorations, candy, and numerous other things as must haves at Christmas.  But what about Jesus?  Christian friends, I think that is going to be up to us.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is not exactly a Christmas passage.  However, it does remind us of the importance of telling our children, grandchildren, and others about the reasons for our belief, faith, and observances.  When it comes to Christmas are impressing the true meaning of the season on our children?  Are we talking about this reason for the season when we sit around the Christmas tree?  Are we decorating in ways that write this message on the doorframes of our homes?  All of those things are encouraged in Deuteronomy 6 even if the birth of Jesus is not the focus of those verses.

I am all for embracing the many wonderful ways that we celebrate Christmas.  I said as much last week when I talked about Santa.  But as Christians we must always keep the most important message of Christmas as our main message of the season.  It’s sometimes too easy to get caught up in all of the “other things” of Christmas that we don’t focus enough on “the one thing” that makes December 25 so special.  The question this week for all of us is…. What about Jesus?

Make it Personal:  Take a moment to think about your family traditions at Christmas. Are you making ways for the story of Jesus and the reason for the season to be talked about and celebrated?  How about the decor around your home.  If strangers come to visit will they know why and who you are celebrating by looking around your home?  These are things for us to think about as we celebrate Christmas this week.  Jesus is the reason for the season!

Have a blessed Christmas, Glen Rhodes

What About Santa?

Read: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Each family handles the subject of Santa Clause a little bit different during the Christmas season.  What many people don’t realize is that the person of Santa Clause stems from a real person who lived many years ago. Pastor James White brings this to our attention in a recent blog post. St. Nicholas lived in the country of Turkey from 270 to 343 A.D.  He was very active in the early church and even became a leader in the Christian church.  He was a part of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. that ended up being one of the most important Christian councils in all of history.

Pastor White writes, “Nicholas was known for holiness and for his passion for Christ. He was actually tortured and imprisoned for his faith under the Emperor Diocletian.  He gave almost all of his money away to the poor, and his love for children was incredibly real.  Over time, his giving, and acts of charity led to a tradition of children being given presents in his name.  The problem was that the children had trouble saying his name because “St. Nicholas” has so many syllables.  It soon became “Sint Klaes” and then later “Santa Claus” by the Dutch.  Simply put, St. Nicholas was a wonderful Christian man, one of the true heroes of the faith, and all things “Santa” can and should be spiritual in nature.  Santa isn’t the problem, it’s how we’ve stripped him of his sainthood, motivation, and story.”

In other words, we have made Santa into a deliverer of materialistic wants and gifts instead of focusing on the true giving and generosity that St. Nicholas was known for in his life.  It’s not that we should throw out the fun tradition of Santa Clause at Christmas (after all, the North Pole is more exciting than Turkey), but perhaps as children get older we need to teach them about the real St. Nick and his passion for giving to others and helping those in need.  2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Make it Personal:  There are many wonderful traditions at Christmas time, some of them are more accurate and helpful than others.  Whether it is Santa Clause, Rudolph, or Frosty, we need to keep the original and most meaningful story of Christmas in the forefront of all our celebrations this time of year.  It is important that our children learn early on and often that Christmas is ultimately about Christ, and the birth of our Savior.  Let’s have fun with all of it, but let’s give thanks for Jesus and let’s be giving and generous because of his example, and the example of saints like St Nicholas.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Glen Rhodes

Do Unto Others

Read: Matthew 7:7-12

A recent news story from Spain gives great example to what Jesus encourages in Matthew 7:12 when he says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  World magazine reports the story in this way…

“Just moments before crossing the finish line in third place, British triathlete James Teagle missed a turn and bumped into a metal barrier.  Meanwhile, Spanish triathlete Diego Mentrida easily passed him to gain third place at the Santander Triathlon held in Spain on September 13.  But instead of crossing the finish line, Mentrida stopped short and allowed Teagle to retake his position and finish third.  The pair shook hands just before Teagle crossed the line.  After the race, Mentrida said the British athlete deserved the finish. “This is something my parents and my club taught me since I was a child,” Mentrida later said on Instagram.  “In my view it should be a normal thing to do.”  Race organizers gave Mentrida an honorary third prize of nearly $350 although he technically finished fourth.”

This act of care, sportsmanship, and respect for another is the basis of what Jesus was doing and teaching about throughout the Gospels.  He encourages us to look past ourselves and look to others.  He encourages us to ask how we would want to be treated in difficult, trying, and unfortunate situations and then respond in kind to others.  Hopefully this story can encourage all of us to put others before ourselves and may it become the normal thing to do.

Make it Personal:  This time of Christmas is often a time of giving and gratitude.  During this season be on the lookout for those in need of your encouragement and help.  Follow the ways of Jesus and do unto others as his life and example encourages us to do.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes

Life Is Good

Read: Psalm 16:5-11

Last year I preached a sermon series titled “Living The Good Life.”  This week I had to wonder how that same sermon series would go over in this very challenging and different year of 2020.  As I looked back on those messages I realized that the Good Life is more about how we approach life than how we sometimes experience it.  If we approach life from a worldly perspective we often see the bad, if we approach life from a Godly perspective it is much easier to see the good and celebrate the blessings we do have in life.

In Psalm 16 David realizes this.  He writes, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”  A couple verses later he says, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord, with him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  In verse 11 he says, “You make known to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence.”  David was realizing how important it is to have a God-centered perspective on life even in the midst of the troubles and trials of this world.

Each morning as I am getting ready for my day I see a wall plaque that reminds me of some of these Christ-centered pathways to a good life.  Around the phrase “Life is Good” it has wonderful reminders of what truly makes my life good.  Things like being kind, being true, seeking peace, keeping the faith, and being a friend.  Encouragements to be joyful, love others, treasure family, and laugh.  These truly are the things that Jesus can use to show us the path to life.  Let’s try to be reminded of them each day as we head out to work, school, and whatever path the Lord leads us on that day.

Make it Personal:  These traits and characteristics of “The Good Life” are found in God’s Word, the Bible.  Make daily Bible reading an important part of your life.  The words of scripture are a great reminder of how the blessings in life far outweigh the challenges of life.  Let’s make sure we have those daily reminders.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes

Grateful For The Giver

Read: 1 Chronicles 16:23-34

For this weeks Thanksgiving reflection we turn to something that James Spencer from the Moody Center wrote earlier this year titled “A Prayer of Thanksgiving: Grateful for the Giver.”  Here is what he writes….

“As the body of Christ endures our current moment of trouble, it seems an appropriate time to remember that “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3). The Israelites spent 40 hard years in the wilderness depending on God for all the necessities of life to learn that walking in obedience with God matters. It is not that food, shelter, clothing, or health are trivial matters. They aren’t. God does not teach Israel to detach from the physical world or to view the creation He has made as evil. Rather, God reminds Israel that trusting in God’s wisdom is the means by which those who walk with God navigate that challenges of the physical world.

Even after the forty years in the wilderness, God recognizes the human tendency to focus on the gift and to forget the Giver (Deut 8:11-20). Several years ago, I wrote the following prayer to help remind me that, as D.L. Moody said, “I am so thankful that I have a joy that the world can not rob me of…a treasure that the world cannot take from me…” No matter what we face, we have God with us. Unlike those around us, we have His peace, which is beyond our understanding; His hope, which is not grounded in health or prosperity; and His joy, which is not fleeting but endures as we come to know God more deeply. Let’s pray that even in the midst of the challenging times in which we find ourselves that we will find it in ourselves to have hearts of gratitude.”

Make it Personal:  Here is the full D.L. Moody quote mentioned above… “I am so thankful that I have a joy that the world can not rob me of; I have a treasure that the world can not take from me; I have something that it is not in the power of man or devil to deprive me of, and that is the joy of the Lord.” – D.L. Moody

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes

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