Midweek Reflections

The Wisdom We Gain

Read: Proverbs  8

Most of us have heard the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  How old is it?  The earliest it can be found in print is from the year 1534.  But how true is it?  No matter what age we are we continue to learn and grow in wisdom, knowledge, and truth.  It reminds me of the Nationwide Insurance commercial that says, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom.  Much of Proverbs 8 is about wisdom’s call.  Verse 8 says, “For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”  Verse 32 says, “Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways.”  God’s Word is where we should always start when looking for Godly wisdom, but that wisdom can also be found in the experiences of God’s people as well.

In a recent Seminary class I was blessed to hear wisdom from a 91 year old pastor with close to 70 years of life experiences.  At 91 he was still up on modern culture and the current situations influencing the church.  Wisdom just flowed from his speech as we listened and learned from him.  He knows a thing or two because he has seen a thing or two.  

In that class we were blessed to hear from various pastors that had over 500 years of combined experiences in life and ministry.  We must never discount or ignore the wisdom that we can gain from those who have gone before us.  Life is an ongoing opportunity to learn and grow.  God desires his people to continue to grow in their faith and knowledge of truth.  We must not go through life thinking we know it all, have heard it all, or learned it all.

The Literacy Project Foundation recently reported that 44% of American adults don’t read even one book in a year.  That report also said that 6 out of 10 households will not even buy a book this year.  Reading books, magazines, newspapers, and other reliable online resources are very important in gaining wisdom and fostering growth.  God’s Word should be at the top of our list but God’s people also have much to share with us as well.

Eric Metaxas shares this….. “Martin Luther once said, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” I’d add that if you want to change your world, pick up a book and read…. reading is critically important, especially for Christian believers. God, after all, reveals Himself to us in the written words of Scripture. Think about it, when we read the Word, we place ourselves in the very presence of God.”

I would argue that you can teach an old dog new tricks.  The old dog just needs to have a desire to learn, grow, and mature no matter their age might be.  That is what I saw in that 91 year old pastor and that is what I hope all of us can nurture in the days that we have left on this earth.  Grow in the Lord, grow in your faith, and grow in truth!

Make it personal:  How many books have you read in the past year?  If you are not much of a reader then think of ways to learn and grow in other ways.  Listen to books, sermons, and scripture on your phone.  We have so many more opportunities these days but we must take advantage of those opportunities and not get caught up in the frivolous things of life.  Proverbs 8:35 says, “For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord.”

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

With The Tongue

James 3:1-12

Last week the company Samsung admitted that they can listen in to what people are saying through the smart TV’s in people’s home.  In a sense all of those homes have been wire-tapped, mine included.  While I agree that this is a bit alarming we must realize that our smartphones function in much the same way.  Voice commands on phones and other devices in our homes is making this a more common reality.

When I first heard this news I was a bit uneasy.  Who has been listening to the conversations in my home and what have they been doing with it?  While I don’t like the prospects of this I had to remind myself that ultimately I should have nothing to hide.  If my words and my speech are Godly, positive, and uplifting, who cares who might be listening?  I should have nothing to worry about.

This should be a reminder of what we are told in James 3.  With our tongue we lift praises to the Lord and with that same tongue we sometimes curse human beings.  James said, “This should not be!”  We should always remember that God hears all our words and conversations anyway.  Shouldn’t it be most important that the Creator of the Universe is in approval?

I definitely am not excited about our new reality that companies can listen into our homes and into our lives, but it raises a larger question for followers of Jesus.  How is your speech? What are you saying?  How are you speaking to your family and friends?  Perhaps thinking about some Samsung, Apple, or Amazon employee listening in might help us to choose wisely, but knowing that Jesus is listening at all times should definitely make us think about our tongue.

Here is James counsel in verses 9-12… “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Make it Personal:  The next time you talk into your phone, TV, or other device think about the fact that they might always be listening to you.  Think about your tongue and how you are using it.  If something needs to change then make that change, but do it for Jesus not for some company.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Shame Off You

Romans 10:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

How often do we hear the phrase or say the phrase “Shame on You?” I know that I am guilty of saying it from time to time but recently I have been thinking about the implications of those words. They put shame upon someone who may be dealing with enough shame in their life already. Instead of speaking words of condemnation and judgement upon them what if we were to speak words of hope and deliverance?

The Bible uses the word “Shame” approximately 147 times. Many times in the Old Testament it is used as a result of sin and disobedience towards God, but the New Testament proclaims that Jesus takes our shame away.  Romans 10:11 it says, “Anyone who believes in him (Jesus) will never be put to shame.” Through the grace and forgiveness of Jesus we don’t have to live with shame on our lives. Jesus takes the old and makes us new (2 Cor. 5:17).

Pastor and author Matt Chandler writes about a time in the past when he visited the city that he grew up in to speak at a Men’s conference. He talks about these feelings from his past that weighed heavy upon him. He writes, “I was overwhelmed with the guilt and shame of the wickedness that I had done in that city prior to knowing Jesus Christ …. I could hear the whispers in my heart: “You call yourself a man of God? Are you going to stand in front of these guys and tell them to be men of God? After all you’ve done?”

He continued and wrote, “In the middle of all that guilt and shame, I began to be reminded by the Scriptures that the old Matt Chandler is dead. The Matt Chandler who did those things, the Matt Chandler who sinned in those ways, was nailed to that cross with Jesus Christ, and all of his sins—past, present, and future—were paid for in full on the cross of Jesus Christ. I have been sanctified “once and for all” …. He remembers my sins no more …. And I no longer need to feel shame for those things, because those things have been completely atoned for.”

Amen and Amen again! When Satan and others try to cast shame on you, remind yourself that Jesus has taken off that shame. Your past mistakes, sins, and failures are forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. No sin is too great, no shame is too overwhelming for Jesus to redeem in your life. Come to AMC this Sunday and hear more about this abundant grace of Jesus for your life.

Make it personal:  How often do you use the phrase “Shame on You?” Think about what that means and how it is the direct opposite message that Jesus wants to deliver. People may put shame on you but Jesus takes that shame off of you. The grace of Jesus should be the Good News that we are sharing and blessing others with.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

You Need to Ask

Read: Matthew 7:7-12

I have recently been on the phone with several service providers for our home. What I have learned is that if you ask for better service at a lower price those options are out there and available for those who call and ask about them.  For those who never bother to ask, they just keep paying the higher price for lesser product.  If you have phone, internet, cable, satellite, or other services, get their 800 number and give it a try.

This discovery led me to think about what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount message. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  He then tell us what will happen when we do that. Verse 8 says, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Jesus is not talking about better internet or cheaper cable, he is talking about life changing stuff. He is saying that we can be saved from our mistakes and sins if we repent of them and ask him for forgiveness. He is saying we can be saved from a troubled world by placing our hopes in him and focusing on God’s ways instead of the world’s ways. He is saying that knowledge, patience, wisdom, love, and understanding are just a prayer away.

This life changing stuff is available to us if we pray and ask the Lord. This is important in our individual lives and it is important for the church. Robert Benson in his book “In Constant Prayer” writes, “I am increasingly convinced that if the Church is to live, and actually be alive, one of the reasons, maybe the most important and maybe the only reason, will be because we have taken up our place in the line of the generations of the faithful who came before us. It will be because we pray the prayer that Christ himself prayed when he walked among us and now longs to pray through us.

It will be because we choose to no longer be among the ones who silence the prayer that Christ, through his body, prays to the Father. It will be because we make sure that the wave of prayer that sustained the Church for all time does not stop when it is our turn to say it each day. It will be because we answer the ancient call to pray without ceasing.”

Pray without ceasing. That comes from the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. His final instruction to them was to ask the Lord and never stop asking. Jesus will provide us with the things we need in this life if we turn to him and continue to knock on his door. The key word there is “need.” We need to ask for things that will help us to grow spiritually and grow closer in our walk with God. I’m glad that I called and got better and cheaper internet for our home, but I am thrilled that I can call on Jesus my Lord and Savior when I need help with the really important stuff.

Make it Personal: Have you been talking with God? Does God know the deepest desires of your heart? If you have been praying and have not seen an answer to your prayer then keep knocking on God’s door. God will never get tired of a passionate believer who is persistent in finding help from above. Some day that answer will come.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Present Suffering – Future Glory

Read: Romans 8:18-27

It is impossible for anyone to go through life without experiencing some form of suffering, pain, or heartache. No one likes those experiences and we don’t wish them on anyone but they do keep our hearts and minds on the future hope of healing, restoration, and glory. Sometimes those are experienced in this life and at other times they are experienced in the presence of Jesus.

Paul said that these “present sufferings” are not even comparable to the future glory that is ahead for Christians. He goes on to say that it is in this hope of restoration and glory that we are saved.  Finally he says, “We wait for it patiently.”  Some of our experiences in that time of waiting can be affected by our attitude and outlook. Do we complain about our current situation or do we look forward to what God might have up ahead?

I recently heard a story about a time that American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison’s laboratory was virtually destroyed by fire in December, 1914. Although the damage exceeded $2 million, the buildings were only insured for $238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s life’s work went up in spectacular flames that December night.

At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24-year old son, Charles, frantically searched for his father among the smoke and debris. He finally found him, calmly watching the scene, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing in the wind. “My heart ached for him,” said Charles. “He was 67 – no longer a young man – and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, “Charles, where’s your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.”

The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver his first phonograph. Edison also invented the electric light, the video camera, and many other popular things we use today. I can’t comment on Edison’s faith in God but his comment about our mistakes being burned up and starting anew is definitely a Christian concept found in scripture.

Jesus gives us the grace and forgiveness to move on from our mistakes and our present suffering and look ahead to his restoration. We can be restored in this life for sure but we also look forward to the future glory that awaits us in heaven.  Paul says that Holy Spirit will help us in our weakness and refocus our eyes on what is ahead. No matter what you face today, this week, or this year, no matter what you have been through in the past, Jesus Christ can help you through it and offer you a brand new start in the future.  And someday, our future glory awaits!

Make it Personal:  What is it that you need to give to God right now? Something you are currently going through or something from your past? Find value in learning from your mistakes and current sufferings in hope of what Jesus has planned for your future. His grace is sufficient and his strength will make you strong.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Good in People

Read: 1 Kings 17:7-24

Too often we hear about the bad in people instead of the good. I recently heard a story about a college student and his friends who went on a cross-country bike ride. They first intended to pitch their pup tents in campgrounds along the way but that became too expensive.  Instead they started knocking on people’s doors and asking if they could pitch their tents in their yards for the night.  They promised they would be in bed by 9:00 pm and on the road by 6:00 am the next morning.

He said that every door they knocked on said “yes” to their request.  In fact, many of the residents invited the guys in for dinner that evening as well. The person sharing this story said, “We all learned the basic goodness of the American people.” This could be said about most people in this world. Although there is an abundance of negativity, there is also an incredible amount of good in most people.

It reminds me of this story in I Kings 17. There is a drought in the land and the prophet Elijah is told to go to the region of Sidon and look for a widow who will be there to supply food for him. The woman provides the little she has for Elijah and in turn Elijah promises that the Lord will make sure her jar will always have flour and her jug will always have oil until the drought is over. She was willing to help and received many blessings as a part of her good heart and good deed.

I would encourage you to read that whole story this week when you can. The Lord allows Elijah to perform a wonderful miracle for this widow when something terrible happens to her and her son. At the end of the chapter the woman says to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

Anne Frank once said, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” There is no doubt that all good people have the ability to do bad things and make bad decisions. We are all sinners in need of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. But too often we look for the bad first instead of giving the good a chance. This can be applied to many things in life but unless we choose to apply it we may never see the good at heart that Anne Frank is talking about.

Make it Personal:

Think about ways this week that you can look for the good in people, in situations, in circumstances, and the good coming out of your own life. Whether it’s allowing someone to pitch a tent in your yard or giving someone the last drop of oil and flour you have, God desires for us to make the choice for good instead of bad. God also wants us to look for the good in others as well!

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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