Midweek Reflections

The Words We Speak

Read: James 3:1-12

The words we speak each day have more power than we realize!  Since we are in an election year in the United States right now we have daily examples of this in the news.  But beyond the political stage the words that we speak to each other on a daily basis have incredible power to bless or curse other people.  They also can be used to bless and curse God as well.

James reminds us of this in the 3rd chapter of his book when he compares the tongue to bits in the mouths of horses, rudder’s on a ship, and forest fires.  He is reminding us that one small word or how we speak our words can drastically affect another person, a situation, or the way someone might feel.  He says that we praise the Lord with the same tongue that we curse human beings.  In verse 10 he says, “THIS SHOULD NOT BE!”

I recently heard a song on the radio by Hawk Nelson that speaks truth to what James is saying.  The lyrics go like this…  “They’ve made me feel like a prisoner, they’ve made me feel set free, they’ve made me feel like a criminal, made me feel like a king.  They’ve lifted my heart to places I’d never been, and they’ve dragged me down back to where I began.  Words can build you up, words can break you down, start a fire in your heart or put it out.”

The chorus to the song then speaks to what our words should be like as Christians…
“Let my words be life, let my words be truth, I don’t wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to You.  Let the words I say be the sound of Your grace, I wanna speak Your love not just another noise, Oh, I wanna be Your light, I wanna be Your voice.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal” has lectured throughout this country on the powerful, often negative impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying “Yes.” Others laugh, and quite a few call out, “No!”

Telushkin responds: “Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you can’t go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you’re addicted to alcohol. If you can’t go 24 hours without smoking, you’re addicted to nicotine. So if you can’t go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you’ve lost control over your tongue.”

Make it personal:  James reminds us of the obvious, “Both fresh water and salt water cannot flow from the same spring.”  Let’s be careful with our words and catch ourselves when we are speaking unkind, untrue, or unneeded words about God or other people.  God’s name is often thrown around as a swear word, this should not be!  Other people are often cursed by unloving and unhelpful words, this should not be!  Let us speak LIFE, TRUTH, GRACE, and LIGHT!

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



A Spirit-Filled Personality

Read: Galatians 5:16-26

We all have different personality traits.  Some of us are talkers, some are more reserved.  Some are very task oriented, others are more people focused.  Some are very organized and others are less concerned about those things.  Some love a day at the Arthur Cheese Festival, others would rather be at home reading a good book.  God made us different for a reason and all types of personalities are needed and should be valued in our world.

Last week I heard Joyce Meyer say something interesting.  She talked about having a Spirit-filled personality.  That phrase caught my attention because it implies that despite our DNA makeup we all have the ability to live by the Fruits of the Spirit that Paul describes in Galatians 5.  Those fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are not dependent on a person’s physical DNA, they are based on our spiritual dependence on Christ.

Susan Maycinik once wrote, “Love, joy, and all that other good stuff are the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of our efforts. We can’t produce them on our own. Period. The fruit comes only as we submit our lives and let the Spirit control us.”  In verse 24 of Galatians 5 Paul says that if we belong to Jesus Christ then we need to crucify our sinful nature and the passions and desires that go along with that nature.  He goes on to say that if we are living by the Spirit then we need to keep in step with the Spirit and these fruits that he mentions.

As frustrating as it might be sometimes I am glad that we all have different personalities.  It adds spice to life and provides us with many different perspectives and ideas as we live together.  But as Christians our personalities should be grounded in the Holy Spirit.  This is how we should live together and be the church of Jesus Christ that brings light to the world.  Maybe the next time someone asks us about our personality we should start with the Fruits of the Spirit instead of describing our natural tendencies?

On a light note to end this week I heard this story about the Fruits of the Spirit.  A father was trying to teach his very young daughter the Fruits of the Spirit and he asked her to recite them.  This is what she said, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and remote control.”  I am so thankful that the young children at our church have learned these fruits through a song that they sing during Sunday School time.  Just another great reason to bring your children to church on Sunday!

Make it personal:  Pray the Fruits of the Spirit into your life this week.  The more we pray them, take note of them, and ask Christ to foster them in our lives, the more they will become evident to us and others.  Lord, lead us by your Holy Spirit and help us to keep in step with the Spirit as we live our lives.
 
Have a Spirit-Filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church


iWorship

Read: Psalm 100

Let’s begin this week with a trivia question.  What new product was introduced to the world on October 23, 2001?  If you want some time to think about that question before seeing the answer I will write a couple more sentences here with some hints before telling you the answer.  This product has become one of the best known in the world.  This company is now more widely known and recognized than almost any other company in the world.  Have you got your answer?  The Apple Ipod was introduced on October 23, 2001.

Since that time there have been many other “i” products that Apple has introduced.  There has been the iPad, the iPhone, and the music service called iTunes.   There even is a company now named “iWorship” that produces worship videos and songs for the larger church.  Oh, and there is even a church named “iWorshipCenter” in Springfield, Illinois.  All of this started me thinking about another question.

How often do we think about our own personal worship space?  We usually refer to worship as the time that we gather together as God’s people in a particular building, in a particular place, to worship Christ together.  That is a very important time and a time that I treasure more than anything else in my week.  But worship should be something I do throughout the week as well.  I need to find ways to worship God in the daily walk and the daily work.

The iPod was named this way because it was a personal portable music player.  How can we make our worship personal and portable?  Many ways come to mind but each person needs to embrace what works for them and what draws them closer to God and into his presence.  Maybe it is silence, perhaps it is listening to scripture while you drive, maybe it is listening to praise and worship music, perhaps it is time spent in prayer and listening to God, maybe it’s a walk in the woods or a walk somewhere else? 

In Psalm 100 we read the words of someone who is giving the Lord their personal praise and thanksgiving.  They are worshiping and entering his presence (Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise).  This can be done throughout our day and even into our nights.  May we find ways to worship the Lord and praise him for what he has done.  May we find ways to seek after Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us on this journey.

Make it personal:  Try to notice how many people are using their iPads, iPhones, or iPods today as you go about your day.  Think about the amount of time we spend on those devices compared to the time we think about worshiping the Lord.  Let’s make a commitment to be more intentional about finding time and ways to worship Jesus throughout our week.
 
Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church


Filters and Pods

Read:  Proverbs 4:18-27

During a recent Children’s Time at church I started out by holding something up and asking the children if any of them knew what it was.  Not one child raised their hand.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that most of them may have never seen a coffee filter before.  Either their parents don’t drink coffee, or if they do many of them probably use Coffee Pods in their Keurig machines instead of brewing a pot of coffee.  Perhaps the children learned more than just the Bible lesson that morning?

Filters are an important thing in life whether you are a child or an adult.  How many of us like to drink coffee that has coffee grounds floating around it?  How dirty would the air in our homes be if our air conditioners did not have filters?  How about the oil in our vehicles, the water we drink, or the aquarium you might have in your living room?  Those filters are important but perhaps the most important filter is the one that keeps our lives pure, holy, and righteous before God.

In Proverbs 4 we are told to guard our hearts, our mouths, our eyes, and our paths.  Verse 26 and 27 says, “Be steadfast in all your ways and keep your foot from evil.”  It makes me wonder, are we being intentional about doing those things?  Are we filtering out the things that are ungodly, filled with sin, and leading us away from God’s will for our lives?  Are we doing this for our children and helping them learn how to make Godly choices in life?

Menno Simons once said, “For this is the chief and principal care of the saints, that their children may fear God, do right, and be saved.”  In a recent article Melvin Schwartz wrote about how trees work together to protect each other and provide for each other.  He wrote, “Tree’s in every stage of development are all growing together.  The older trees offer protection from the weather and provide an established boundary within which the young trees can safely grow.”  He went on to say, “Let us all work together to create an environment that induces spiritual growth, so future generations can walk in the ways of the Lord after we are gone, and we can all inherit eternal life together.”

We need to make sure that our thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions are filtered through God’s Word and God’s will for our lives.  Adults, this means that we need to be careful about what we allow into our minds, eyes, and out of our mouths.  It also means that we need to help protect our children from the many dangers that lurk in today’s world.  Internet filters and blocks are valuable, checking their phones from time to time can be helpful, and having helpful conversations with them about these things can be the most beneficial.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Let’s do that!

Make it personal:  Adults, what do we need to do to make our life holy and steadfast in the eyes of the Lord?  What filters might we need to add?  Parents, how are you protecting your children from this age of the internet?  In our home we use a very good filter/block called “Qustudio” that works for web browsers as well as smartphones.  It works better and offers far more options than most others that I have researched.  If you want more information you can check their website or smartphone app.  Whatever you do, be sure to talk to your children about why these things are important and why it is important to guard our hearts, minds, and mouths from sin and evil.

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Be The Church

Read: Romans 12:3-11

What is the church?  When asked that question some might refer to certain buildings around a town or city.  Others would say that the church represents the body of Christ.  Others would say that it is the people of God who meet together and work together to further the good news of Jesus in the world.  And there are probably even more ways that people would define the church beyond these.  From the example that Paul gives in Romans 12 three words are used to describe Christ’s church.  Sacrifice, Humility, and Love.

It reminds me of a Vacation Bible School story I once heard about.  During this particular VBS the teacher was the one who learned a valuable lesson from the children.  On the third day a new student was brought into the room after the class had already started.  This little boy had one arm missing and the teacher was wondering how the children would treat him and interact with him.  She was hoping that they would not say something insensitive to him to hurt his feelings.

Then as the class came to a close she asked the children to join her in their usual closing by saying, “Let’s make our churches, let’s put our hands together to form the church.  “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and…”  Suddenly the awful truth had struck her.  The very thing she had feared that the children would do, she had done.  The little boy was not able to participate.  As the teacher stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Josh, let’s make the church together.”

As I go through my week and see the various interactions of our church family I am reminded of how important the church is to people, to a community, and to the world.  The examples of sacrifice, humility, and love that I witness each week are a testimony to what the church can and should be in this world.  We are not perfect, we sometimes need to practice grace and forgiveness, but it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without the church of Jesus Christ.

As someone once said, “The world at its worst needs the church at its best.”  When we think of all the Christian ministries around the world, the good news of Jesus that is being shared and proclaimed, all the hospitals that are named after Christian churches and denominations, all the acts of love and service that are shown to those in need, we realize what an awesome calling this is.  In verse 5 Paul says, “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

As I see Christ’s church interact with each other on social media and serve with each other in the community I am reminded of how different our lives would be without Christ and without each other.  Yes, we have different personalities and different gifts, but we have been given a larger purpose in life.  A purpose that brings God’s kingdom to this earth and joins together to point people toward Jesus our Savior.  Our hope is that through the church Jesus might become their Savior as well.

Make it personal:  How have you been the church to someone this week?  Think about Paul’s three words of Sacrifice, Humility, and Love.  How can you practice those as you interact with family, friends, and co-workers this week?  I hope that you will make church a valuable part of your life and attend a local church regularly.  Get involved, get to know people, and find the purpose that Jesus has for your life.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Run the Race

Read: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I love to watch the Olympics!  The training, competition, medals, and gathering of all the nations in the world is truly something to behold.  As I watched the opening ceremony recently I was thrilled to see all of the athletes walking in together in a spirit of joy and anticipation.  As one recent Iphone commercial says, “We are more alike than we are unalike.”

As I watched the swimming competition last week I was impressed by the story of Ryan Murphy.  NBC ran a story showing the drawings and books he made as a young child that showed him swimming in the Olympics and winning a gold medal.  This was a lifelong dream of his.  He trained for it, worked very hard, and it all came to fruition when he stood atop the gold medal podium and watched the U.S. flag being raised to the rafters.  He broke an Olympic record in the men’s 100 meter backstroke that night. 

Each time the Olympics roll around I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9.  He talks about the runners in a race.  He talks about the strict training that goes into competition.  He talks about the crown or gold medal they are working towards.  But then he compares that earthly crown to the heavenly crown of eternal life in heaven that will last forever.

Paul’s words are to remind the church at Corinth, and us, about the importance of spiritual training and exercise.  If we desire to grow in the ways of God and develop a closer walk with Jesus we must “run in such a way as to get the prize.”  Paul is speaking about the need for self-discipline in those verses but he is also encouraging spiritual growth as well.  

We are not saved by our works or by our deeds.  We are saved by the grace of Jesus.  But being saved by Christ should encourage us to live for him, grow in him, and make him the Lord of our life.  Ultimately this is what Paul is encouraging in these verses.  It encourages us to ask how we can make that happen in our lives.  Is it a time of daily prayer and devotions?  Is it devoting more time to loving neighbors and friends?  Is it being more committed to regular church attendance?  Or is it something else that the Lord is speaking to you about?

I admire the time, commitment, training, and effort that all of these olympic athletes put in.  Congratulations to all of them.  I know that I will never stand on one of those Olympic podiums, but even better than that would be to stand at the doors of heaven and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  I hope the same for you as well!  That will be better than any color of medal hanging around our neck.  

Make it personal:  How can you grow spiritually?  That is the big question of this week’s meditation and scripture passage.  I would encourage you to make this a matter of prayer and listen to what the Holy Spirit speaks into your heart.  Be ready to make changes if that is what is needed.  But most of all be ready to see your spiritual life grow and your relationship with Jesus become stronger than ever.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



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