Midweek Reflections

Leave it Behind

Read: Philippians 3:7-14

Recently I was listening to one of my favorite albums by the Irish band U2.  “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” has so many songs that deal with our propensity to hang on to things instead of letting them go and moving on.  Many of the songs on that album deal with themes that echo the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Philippians 3 when he speaks of, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” In verse 14 he goes on to say, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Here are some of the U2 lyrics that caught my attention.  As most U2 songs do, these lyrics challenge you to think and ponder about what is being said. Many of them echo the biblical advice of holding on loosely to earthly things and embracing the new, beautiful day that is ahead.

“You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been, a place that has to be believed to be seen; Walk on, Walk on, What you got you can’t deny it, can’t sell it or buy it.”   – Walk On

“Who’s’ to say when the wind will take you, who’s to know what it is will break you, I don’t know which way the wind will blow. Who’s to know when the time’s come around, don’t want to see you cry, I know that this is not goodbye.”   – Kite

“It was a beautiful day, don’t let it get away, take me to that other place, reach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case. What you don’t have you don’t need it now, What you don’t know you can feel it somehow, What you don’t have you don’t need it now, Don’t need it now, it was a beautiful day.”   – Beautiful Day
 
I realize that maybe not everyone will appreciate the music and lyrics of U2 as I do, but this passage in Philippians 3 is an encouragement for us to let go of some things in this world and embrace what is ahead. There are many people, books, music, and other things that can also encourage us to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward.  When the sun rises tomorrow you will have a new day to live, a beautiful day.
 
For those who believe in Jesus, are redeemed by his sacrifice, and follow God’s will, heaven awaits us when this life on earth is finished. For those who need to let go of earthly things there is encouragement here to move on and embrace the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. For those who are stuck in a bad place, there is encouragement here to move on to a better place.  That is my hope this week!  That you will leave the hurts and the disappointments of the past and “press on” or “walk on” to the new day that God has ahead for you.
 
Make it Personal:  Name something in your life that you have had trouble leaving behind.  Make it your focus this week to embrace the grace of Jesus and move on from that. Pray about it and ask the Lord to help you in that endeavor. Look ahead to what God has for you in the future and don’t let the baggage of the past continue to weigh you down.  You’ve got to leave it behind!
 
Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church


Focused on Others

Read:  Philippians 2:1-11

This past Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. day in the U.S.. To commemorate MLK and that day my wife had her 3rd grade class talk about his famous “I have a dream” speech. She then had them write out what their dreams are and posted them on the classroom door.  I went to her classroom the other day and was impressed by what I saw.  Yes, there were a few that made mention of an NBA career or other things for themselves, but many of them were about their dreams to help others and make a difference in our world.  Here are some of their dreams….

“I have a dream that everyone will have a home.”
“I have a dream to help people at the nursing home.”
“I have a dream to find a cure for cancer.”
“I have a dream that everybody would be treated with kindness.”
“I have a dream to give flowers to all the people in the hospital.”
“I have a dream to be a doctor and help people with their lives.”

Even at the young age of 8 or 9 these children understand the importance of dreaming for others as well as themselves.  In Philippians 2 we are encouraged to… “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking down to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”  How refreshing it was to see these children thinking in that way.

Many times we can show our care and concern for others just by listening to them and hearing their stories.  This kind of listening (and his own experiences) is what drove Martin Luther King Jr. to be so passionate about civil rights.  His dreams were mostly focused on the future children and those who would come after him, not on himself.

I once heard a story called “The Lament.” It is a simple story about an old man who drives a horse and buggy for hire through the city.  The story goes that the old man’s son died recently and he wants so desperately to tell someone. A wealthy man hires the horse and buggy for a ride across town. As the wealthy man steps into the carriage, the old man says, “My son, my son. Let me tell you about my son.” But the busy man doesn’t have time to listen.

Well, after the wealthy man leaves, another man steps into the carriage. He wants to be driven to the other side of the city. Again, the old man says, “My son. My son. Let me tell you about my son.” And again, this second man also doesn’t bother to listen.  At the end of the day, the old man returns to the stables, unhitched his horse, and as he begins to brush the horse down for the night, the old man begins to tell the horse, “My son. My son.” And he tells the horse the tragic story.

My prayer this week is that the example of Jesus Christ, the passion of Martin Luther King Jr., and the inspiration of these 3rd grade students might encourage all of us to show care and concern for others.  To listen to their needs, struggles, and hopes and truly care about them.  I end with one of my favorite MLK quotes of which there are many…. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”  May those words guide our life and our actions daily!

Make it Personal:  What would you write if you were asked to write a conclusion to the statement “I have a dream…?”  Would it be a dream that is focused on others?  Philippians 2:5 has a very powerful reminder for us.  It says this, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

Have a great week everyone, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Being Real

Read: Acts 2:42-47

People don’t like “fake” things.  Fake news has been talked about recently in light of many social media stories that are not true or are trying to promote a certain agenda.  Facebook, Twitter, and others are trying to figure out how to manage those things so that people are not deceived by things that are untrue.  We don’t like it when people are fake either.  This being when someone is acting in a way that is not consistent with who they really are.  On social media and in real-life people can sometimes portray a fake representation of their real self.

In Acts 2 the early Christians were not only devoted to the ways of Christ they were also devoted to one another.  Yes, it says that they shared property, possessions, and other things, but verse 44 says, “all the believers were together and had everything in common.”  Does this mean they agreed on every little thing?  No, I am sure that was not the case.  They were human.  What it does mean is that they were “real” with each other.  They shared their deepest feelings, hurts, struggles, celebrations, etc. with each other in a very real and authentic manner

This is something the Christian Church of today needs to encourage.  This is something we need to make room for and give opportunities for people to share what is going in their life.  This is what can truly bring Christian community to the church and draw us closer together as God’s people.  When we can be open and honest with one another we can truly help each other in this journey of life.

Sharing our life stories with one another is one way this can happen.  There is so much we don’t know about each other.  If we find opportunities to open up and share what we have been through and how Christ has blessed us in life we will find help, encouragement, strength, and grace to move forward in what the Lord has in store for our futures together.

Someone once said, “The world at its worst needs the church at its best.”  Being real and authentic with each other and how we live our lives in the world (including social media) can be a great witness for Jesus Christ.  The first Christians practiced true community and verse 47 of Acts 2 says that they were, “Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  Why?  Because when people are real and authentic it is noticed by others.

Make it Personal:  Find some opportunities to be more open and honest with others.  Tell your story.  Tell the good, the bad, the difficult, the painful, and encourage each other in prayer and support.  What has happened in your life is one of the ways that God connects us with others who need to be reached.  Share your “real story” with others and be a witness of Christ’s presence in the world.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Plugged In

Read:  John 15:1-17

On a recent short trip to downtown Chicago our family got situated in our 18th floor hotel room before heading out into the city to explore.  Upon arriving in our room one of the first things we did was plug in our cell phones.  What I realized is how many places these rooms now have to plug in your phones and electronic devices.  There were outlets and USB ports everywhere.  My first thought was “why didn’t I invent an alarm clock with two outlets and two USB ports to sell to all the hotels around the world?”

Being plugged in is something we see everywhere these days.  From cars, to airports, to hotel rooms, the need for power is great.  I’m still confused as to why one of these companies can’t come up with a phone that will last up to 18 hours no matter how much you use it.  For some people carrying around a way to plug in is just as important as carrying around their wallet or purse.  Yes, our world is obsessive about being “plugged in.”

How important is it that you are plugged into God’s Word, God’s will, God’s people, and the ways of Jesus?  The bigger question is are you plugged into God’s Word, God’s will, God’s people, and the ways of Jesus?  John 15 is a wonderful reminder of how important it is to stay connected to the Lord in our daily lives.  Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

As we begin a new year it would benefit all of us to think about how “plugged in” or “connected” we are to the things of God.  What if we became as obsessive about that as we are about keeping our devices charged up?  How might our situations be different and our attitudes more hopeful if our Jesus battery is fully charged each day?  When our phone battery get’s very low we get a message that tells us it is dangerously low.  We need that for our spiritual life as well!

Make it Personal:  Think of ways you can charge up your battery for Christ each day.  Daily devotions, times of prayer, joining a Bible Study group, listening to praise and worship music, serving others, caring for those in need, attending church each Sunday, attending Christian Education classes, talking with God…  the list could go on.  Start 2017 off by finding ways to stay spiritually “plugged in” throughout each day of this new year.

Happy New Year, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

midweekmediationforwebsite


All Year Long

Read: Isaiah 57:14-19midweekmediationforwebsite

The old year of 2016 is about to depart and the new year of 2017 is almost here.  What do we want to leave behind in the days that have passed and what do we want to take hold of in the days ahead?  From year to year things in this world change.  Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.  But one thing we can be assured of is God’s faithfulness.  It will not change, it will not falter.  

Pastor Tony Evans gives us a good reminder of this when he talks about the sun shining all year long, even though we do not see it at all times.  Isaiah 57:14 says, “Build up, build up, prepare the road!  Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”  Pastor Evans reminds us that we need to remove obstacles and make sure that we are turned in God’s direction and living in God’s obedience so that we can see this faithfulness.  He writes….

“The sun is a light 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  All year long, all decade long, all century long, the sun just keeps on shining.  The problem, however, is that the earth gets dark.  How can there be all that light and the earth still gets dark?  It’s because the earth turns.  The earth gets dark because the earth is spinning on its axis.  Therefore the side that faces the sun gets light and the side that is facing away does not.

If there is darkness in your life, it’s not because God, the Father of Lights, is turning; it’s because you are turning.  He is the Father of Lights and in Him there is no shadow.  There is no darkness in Him.  Because God is faithful, He’s consistent.  Just like the sun, He is always shining and in His light, there is no shifting or moving shadow.  We just have to make sure we are turned toward Him.”

That last line is a great resolution for the New Year of 2017 that lies ahead.  “We just have to make sure we are turned toward Him.”  If you have not been turned to God as you should have been in 2016 there is a new day ahead in which that can change.  There is a New Year coming in which God can become your main focus and his faithfulness and love can once again shine through into your life.  The prophet Isaiah speaks of God reviving the heart and the spirit of the people and I pray that this will be your experience in 2017.

Make it Personal:  Many people will make resolutions to do things better in 2017.  While those resolutions are often good and helpful there is nothing more beneficial in life than turning to the Lord and growing in your relationship with Jesus.  Jesus is always calling if we will turn to him and give him the right place in our life.  If you do that you will overwhelmed by his faithfulness to you.

Happy New Year everyone,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Season of Giving

Read: Luke 2; John 3:16-21midweekmediationforwebsite

Christmas is definitely a season of giving.  I have heard many stories of generosity, witnessed people caring for each other, and received blessings from others myself over the past couple of weeks.  Thankfully I have had the opportunity to give and bless others as well.  Nothing proclaims the reason for the season better than when people follow God’s perfect example of giving, caring, and generosity.

In the Christmas story in Luke 2 we read about the blessed night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  In John 3:16 we hear testimony of what happened that night.  “For God so loved the people of the world that he GAVE his one and only Son…”  Yes, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as they worshiped the Savior, but what God gave us in his one and only son Jesus has truly changed the world.

This is why we have heard and witnessed so much love and giving over the past couple of weeks.  From people paying off all of the layaway items at department stores, to people giving away their airline miles to help families be together at Christmas, to boxes, food, gifts, and many other blessings bestowed, we give because so much has been given to us.

NBA basketball star Lebron James was recently named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the year.  In the related article Lee Jenkins recounts the life of Lebron from his young days in Akron, Ohio to his current MVP status in professional basketball.  In that interview Lebron realizes that many people gave to him and his mom in order to help them survive as he was growing up.

Jenkins writes, “He (Lebron) rattles off names of the uncles and cousins, coaches and teammates, friends and strangers who once offered a sofa and a cereal box, or more…. He scoffs at the idea that he was protected because he was gifted. “There are a lot of gifted nine-year-olds,” he counters. “They did it because they cared.””  

Lebron is very appreciative of those who helped him and his mom.  He is now in a position to bless many other people and he continues to find ways to do that.  In the article it mentions that he and his wife Savannah sponsor every at-risk third-grader in the Akron public school system, following them all the way through High School.  Their many other efforts of reaching out and helping are also well chronicled.

I truly hope that this is why we give as well, because we care, because we love, because we too have been blessed by God and others in so many ways.  We have been given many generous gifts including God’s greatest gift of all in Jesus our Savior.  As we give during this season I hope that it will encourage us to be givers in all seasons.  That we will show the love and care of Jesus throughout the New Year of 2017 that is just ahead of us.

Make it personal:  Find ways to give intentionally throughout the year ahead.  Look for new opportunities, keep your eyes opened for God moments, and always have a generous heart.  And always be thankful for the gift of Jesus and salvation that God has given to you.

Merry Christmas Everyone,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church




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