Midweek Reflections

Grow, Grow, Grow


Read: Colossians 2:6-8 & Psalm 1:1-3

     In a recent TIME magazine article Microsoft creator and philanthropist Bill Gates shared a list of his most recent favorite books.  One of his quotes in that article especially stood out to me.  He said, “You don’t really start getting old until you stop learning. Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently.”  I also found it interesting that this man who was a part of the computer generation still likes to read printed books that he can hold in his hands instead of books in digital form.

In Colossians 2 we are encouraged to find ways to continue to grow in our spiritual walk with Jesus and in our faith in God during all stages of life.  Paul writes, “Continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  This is a reminder that we never get to a point in our lives in which we know it all or have experienced all that life has to offer.  Therefore, we must continue to learn, grow, and find ways to experience the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the purpose God has for us.

In that same TIME magazine article Mr. Gates said that when he was a young boy he read through the entire set of World Book encyclopedias.  Yes, you read that correct.  He read through that whole set of twenty or more thick books that details so many things about life and our world.  He had a desire to learn and grow.  It is important that we have that same desire to learn and grow in the things of this world and most importantly in the things of God.

In the children’s department here at our church the kids love it when “Growbird” makes an appearance.  Growbird is a stuffed animal that looks like an Emu.  As the kids sing a song about growing in God’s Word and God’s ways his broomstick neck grows taller and taller and taller.  When the song talks about failing to do those things his neck shrinks back down.  It is a great reminder for the children of this need to grow, grow, grow in the Lord.  This week at the Community Vacation Bible School I keep hearing the teachers and kids repeat, “I will never stop Growing in God.”

Adults of all ages need this reminder from time to time.  Not everyone enjoys reading like Bill Gates and others, but all of us need to find ways to continue to grow and learn more about life, God, Jesus, and the hope that is found in the Lord.  Psalm 1 in the Message Bible says, “You thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.”  May that kind of spiritual growth be our desire throughout all the years of our life. 

Make it Personal: In what ways can you grow in your faith and life?  Maybe it’s reading God’s Word more often, praying more often, or attending a church worship service regularly.  Maybe it’s mending some fences and extending grace to someone.  Maybe it’s finding new ways to serve God and others.  Find ways to grow, whatever that might look like for you.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Living Hope


Read: 1 Peter 1:3-9      

Many people have used the quote “Where there’s life, there’s hope,” but none have proclaimed it and offered it as fully as God’s son Jesus Christ.  As difficult and hard as life can be sometimes, there is always hope found in the Savior of the world.  Peter reminds us that those who put their faith and hope in Jesus can find a hope that is living, active, and full of mercy and grace.

Life with Christ can give us a hope-filled outlook.  Like the story of the man who approached a little league baseball game one afternoon and asked a young player what the score was.  The boy responded, “18-0, we’re behind.”  “Wow,” the spectator said, “I imagine you are very discouraged.”  The young boy replied, “Why should I be discouraged, we haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”  

When life is hard and discouraging, Jesus can help you through those times by giving you his living hope.  In these verses Peter proclaims that it is a hope that will never perish, spoil, or fade away.  John Maxwell once told about a small town in Maine that was proposed for the site of a great hydro-electric plant.  A dam would be built across the river and the town submerged.  When the project was announced, the people were given many months to arrange their affairs and relocate.

But during those months, a curious thing happened.  All improvements ceased.  No painting was done.  No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or sidewalks.  Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier.  A long time before the waters came, the town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though the people had not yet moved away.  One citizen explained: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”

Faith in Jesus can keep your eyes focused on the future, while providing power, comfort, and strength in your present situation.  Faith in Jesus as your Savior can also provide for you the promise of eternal life in heaven when this life on earth is over.  There is no greater hope to be found in life than this living hope that Jesus offers!

Make it personal:  Take time to pray this week and share your difficulties and struggles of life with Jesus.  He cares for you, he is concerned, and he can provide this living hope in the midst of your circumstances.  If you have life, you have hope.  But if you have life in Jesus Christ, you have a living hope that will last.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Best Four Years


Psalm 118:1-8 & Jeremiah 29:10-14

Last week I attended the local student lead High School Baccalaureate service in our community and was struck by something the speaker said.  The speaker was retired school teacher and principal Danny Powell.  Danny told the graduates, parents, and others in attendance that they should never believe that their best four years of life on this earth are behind them.  He talked about even having this view of life into your retirement years.

I was struck by how hopeful and positive that view of life can be.  In so many ways it is the view of life that is proclaimed in God’s Word.  Psalm 118 promises us the love of the Lord will endure forever, that the Lord will be with us, help us, and bring us through any challenge we might face.  The general attitude of the Psalmist is to say, “Life is hard, but God is good, and good things are yet to come.”

In Jeremiah 29 we hear the words that many people have committed to memory.  Jeremiah proclaims that the Lord has plans to prosper us and bring us hope in life.  So when people say to high school seniors, senior citizens, or anyone else that the best four years are behind them we can refute that claim and say “No, the Lord has some great things in store for me in the future.”

In his book “Making Sense of God” Tim Keller shares this illustration…. “Imagine you have two women of the same age, the same socioeconomic status, the same educational level, and even the same temperament. You hire both of them and say to each, “You are part of an assembly line, and I want you to put part A into slot B and then hand what you have assembled to someone else. I want you to do that over and over for eight hours a day.” You put them in identical rooms with identical lighting, temperature, and ventilation. You give them the very same number of breaks in a day. It is very boring work. Their conditions are the same in every way—except for one difference. You tell the first woman that at the end of the year you will pay her thirty thousand dollars, and you tell the second woman that at the end of the year you will pay her thirty million.

After a couple of weeks the first woman will be saying, “Isn’t this tedious? Isn’t it driving you insane? Aren’t you thinking about quitting?” And the second woman will say. “No. This is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I whistle while I work.” What is going on? You have two human beings who are experiencing identical circumstances in radically different ways. What makes the difference? It is their expectation of the future. This illustration is not intended to say that all we need is a good income. It does, however, show that what we believe about our future completely controls how we are experiencing our present. We are irreducibly hope-based creatures.”

I am glad that Keller points out that this illustration is more about what we believe in our future than on what a person makes or has in their bank account.  The future is bright so put on your shades.  God has a great future planned for you, make sure you are ready to take part in it!

Make it Personal:  The next time you catch yourself with a negative attitude remind yourself the best is yet ahead.  Your best four years are always ahead of you no matter what your age.  This is the attitude that is Christ-like and Christ-centered.  Hope will always endure when Jesus is in control.

Have a hope filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

If Chicago were Aleppo


Read: Philippians 2:1-4    

In a recent Reuter’s news article the question was posed, “what if London were Aleppo?”  The story went on to talk about what London would look like if it had endured a 6 year civil war and half of the city had become a desolate ghost town with bombed out buildings and terrible loss of life like the city of Aleppo, Syria has endured.  I had to wonder what it would look like closer to home in a city like Chicago.  Yes, Chicago has it’s problems with gun violence and killings but what would our daily news be like if it was enduring what Syria and Aleppo are experiencing?

Perhaps we need to care more for these people on the other side of the world, or perhaps we need to pay more attention to the plight of those suffering from war, abuse, and injustice around the world.  In Philippians 2 were are encouraged to look out for the interest of others.  In numerous other verses throughout the Bible we are encouraged to care for those in need and help as we are able.  For sure we should be praying for them.

Time magazine is following three Syrian families this year who had to flee their country because of  this civil war.  They have children and newborn babies and yet they are trying to figure out where to go next.  By following that story and reading of their experiences it has made me more aware of the struggles and challenges that these families endure.  It also has made me aware of my own blessed situation of peace and security.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of caring for those in need.  He reached out and did what he could to help, he put others before himself, and he genuinely cared about all people.  As followers of Jesus we must have the same mindset of Christ.  We should care even if these people are half way around the world instead of just up the road in Chicago or St. Louis.  There are needs everywhere at all times, God just wants us to care about those needs and be a witness of his love and compassion.  Please put these people at the top of your prayer list and pray about what God might be asking you to do.

Make it Personal:  Who can you help today?  It’s hard to help people in Syria but we can help those in need around us.  Think about who that might be this week.  In the meantime, continue to pray for peace in Syria and Iraq and an end to the war and violence that have destroyed so many lives there.  Pray for Chicago as well.  Finally, give thanks to God for the relative peace and comfort that most of us are blessed to live in.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Please & Thank You


Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28     

I recently heard the story of an elementary teacher who used a bag of Reese’s Pieces to teach the children in her class a lesson in saying thank you.  She went around to each desk giving each of her students the same number of candies.  As she did that only 1/4 of the students in the class said thank you as she placed the candies on their desk.  When she was done she said that she had some candy left over and she was going to give extra to all those who said “Thank You” the first time around.  All the students in the class began yelling out “Thank You” in hopes of getting more candy.

This provided the teacher with the opportunity to talk with them about being grateful and saying please and thank you when they ask for something or when someone gives them something.  When I heard this story I began to hear the purple dinosaur Barney singing that song that our kids use to watch on T.V. some years ago.  “He’s talking ’bout please and thank you, they’re called the magic words, if you want nice things to happen, they’re the words that should be heard, remember please and thank you, ’cause they’re the magic words.”

The Bible is full of verses in which giving thanks to God is a focal point.  It is also filled with stories that encourage us to be polite, generous, and thankful to each other as well.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Barney may call them magic words but in my life they have been known as words to live by and use as often as possible.

We need to teach our children and grandchildren how to be polite, caring, and thankful for what others do for us.  We need to teach them how important it is to give thanks to God for all the blessings in our life.  We need to explain to them the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances and then lead by example.  Oh, there is the most important part.  They must see us saying please and thank you on a regular basis as well.

One of my favorite verses of thanksgiving is found in Psalm 106:1.  It says, “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  Take time this week to give thanks to God, and then be sure to give thanks to others who bless you in special ways.  Who knows, you may just get some extra Reese’s Pieces on your desk.

Make it Personal:  Think about how you interact with others on a daily basis.  Does your gratitude shine through when you are blessed in certain ways?  If you have children or others that you influence are you teaching them the importance of being thankful and actually saying the words out loud?  Ask the Lord to help you have a generous heart that is overflowing with thanksgiving.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Jonah Stories


Read: Jonah 1-4     

How long has it been since you have read the story of Jonah?  This peculiar story in the Old Testament is an example of God’s grace for all people (Jonah and Nineveh) and the importance of our obedience to God when he calls us to a particular task (Jonah).  Some people find it difficult to take the Book of Jonah seriously because they find it hard to believe that a man could be swallowed by a whale and live to tell the story. But in 1927 the Princeton Theological Review shared the account of this happening to a man in 1891 who underwent a similar experience and also lived to tell his story.

While the story is very intriguing there is an even bigger reason that it is in our Bibles.  It has to do with two big themes of God’s salvation story.  First, Jonah is told to go to Nineveh and turn the people back to God from their very sinful ways.  This shows that God is concerned about all people, even those who are living in sin and very far away from his will.  God wants to see all people come to grace and be restored.  This is a helpful reminder for us as we look at our world and the sin that is so ever-present.  God wants to bring redemption to all.

Second, when Jonah is called to undertake this important but difficult job, he runs the other way.  He flees on a ship, is thrown overboard, swallowed by a big fish, and then spit up on the shore.  Jonah disobeyed and ran from God and yet he is given another chance at redemption.  This time Jonah heads to Nineveh and obeys the Lord.  There is a lesson here in both obedience and grace.

I recently read a story about a man in Israel who in 2016 petitioned for a restraining order against God.  He went to court in the port city of Haifa and told the judge the God had been treating him “harshly and not nicely.”  No specific details were given as to what made him feel this way but this man had even called the police to his home 10 times to report God’s alleged crimes.  Tired of his many calls, the Police finally advised him to try taking out a restraining order.

That recent news story made me think of Jonah.  When called to go to Nineveh perhaps he felt as if God was treating him “harshly and not nicely.”  God is a loving and caring God but sometimes he calls on us to do things that are difficult, hard, and things that even go against our human will.  I think of all the people who have responded to God’s call in wonderful and dramatic ways and I hope that our response would be one of obedience to God and not a desire to follow our own fleshly desires.  What is God calling you to this week?  Be obedient and he will supply whatever you need for that calling.

Make it Personal:  Read the story of Jonah again.  It’s only four short chapters and not really that long.  Think about what God is trying to tell you through this story in the Old Testament.  It is there for a reason.  As you read it be sure to see the full picture of God’s love and compassion for all people.  No one is beyond redemption.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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