Midweek Reflections

Those Who Came Before

Read: Hebrews 11       

Perhaps you have heard?  This year is the 500th anniversary of the “Protestant Reformation” that occurred in 16th century Europe.  It all began on October 31, 1517 when a Catholic monk, professor, composer, and priest named Martin Luther submitted his 95 Thesis to his archbishop.  At some point it is believed that Luther also nailed that list of 95 thesis (that rejected several teachings and practices of the church at that time) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.  Little did Luther know how this would change the entire world.

In fact, some historians refer to it as one of the greatest events in history due to how The Reformation changed the religious and Christian landscape around the world.  From that time period came great division, disagreement, martyrdom, and change.  But it also brought forth many good things as well.  One of those was the important truth that we are justified by faith alone and that the grace of Christ is available to all.  This was a truth that Jesus taught, but it had become distorted and abused by people over time.  During that period the Bible was translated by Luther (from Latin to German) and William Tyndale (from Latin to English) and distributed widely to all Christians because of the invention of the Gutenberg Press.  God’s Word was not only for the Priests and leaders anymore.  It was now for all people to read, study, discern, and apply to their lives.

Much more could be said about that time period and the important people like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and the Anabaptist/Mennonite leaders like Conrad Grabel and Menno Simons that emerged; but it reminds us of the valuable examples of those who came before us.  The great “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews 11 of the Bible is another reminder of how Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and others displayed faith, sacrifice, and courage many, many, years ago.  All of these people have helped to shape our Christian worldview today in the 21st Century.

Perhaps you can think of a parent, grandparent, relative, teacher, pastor, friend, or other who have been a great influence on your life and your faith?  As we remember the 500 year anniversary of The Reformation let’s take time to give thanks to God for all the positive influences of transformation, change, and example who have paved the way for us.  I know I would not be where I am at today without the example, encouragement, and patience of those before me.  Now it’s up to us to consider what path we are making for those who come after us.  More to come on that next week.

Make it Personal:  Take some time this week to look up history and stories from the Reformation period.  There are many great sources online and in libraries to help you learn more about Martin Luther and that very important time in history.  Also, take time to read Hebrews 11 and the Gospel of John to learn more about the Savior Jesus and the great people of faith that are shared about in the Bible.  Give thanks this week for those who have gone before us!

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Way It Is


Read: Acts 10            

Perhaps you remember the song by Bruce Hornsby and the Range that said, “That’s just the way it is, some things will never change?”  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you do some of the things you do?  Better yet, have you ever asked God about those things?  In his book “Engage” Pastor Nelson Searcy shares a good example of this.  It’s the story of a young newlywed couple who were trying to navigate their new marriage while living hundreds of miles from their family and long-time friends. 

He writes, “One night, as the two were preparing dinner, the husband was peeling potatoes at the sink when he noticed his wife cutting the ends off the uncooked roast and throwing them away.  After she had seasoned the meat and put it in the oven, he asked her why she had cut the ends off the roast.  In his opinion the ends are the best part.  Shooting him down with a don’t-question-my-methods look, she answered, “Because.  Well, just because…. Actually, I’m not sure.  That’s the way my mom always does it.”  Determined to save future end pieces and get to the bottom of this mystery, the young man called up his mother-in-law and asked her the question.  Her reply was similar, “I’ve always done it that way because that’s the way my mother did it.”

Now the new husband was getting frustrated. Not willing to let the issue go, he put his mother-in-law on hold and called his new grandmother-in-law.  When everyone was on the line together he asked, “Grams, why do you cut the ends off a roast before you cook it?”  The grandmother gave a surprised laugh and said, “Because my pan is too small to fit a whole roast!  Why do you ask?”  Sometimes tradition can be a good thing, but other times you need to question why you’re doing it.

Peter realized this in Acts 10 when the Lord gave him a vision that the gospel message was for all people and not just the Jews.  The way it always was is not the way it was going to be going forward.  The lens of faith was going to be expanded to include all those who believe in Jesus and follow his will, not only one particular people group.  Peter had to refocus on the how, why, and where of his ministry.  He had to move from his traditional view of how it was, to God’s view of how it will now be.

It’s important for us to always ask why things are done a certain way.  Sometimes the traditional ways are good and need to continue, but there are other times that God is beginning something new and creative in our lives and in our world.  It is important for us to be open to those changes when they are aligned with God’s Word, God’s will, and God’s purpose.  Just like the newlywed couple, we might realize that “the way it is” does not necessarily mean it’s the way it needs to be moving forward.

Make it Personal:  Find some things in your life, in your faith, in your family, and in your work to ask the question, “Why do we do this?”  Then consider if they are done for good reasons or only reasons of tradition and habit.  Perhaps the way it was does not need to be the way it is.  Thankfully Peter was open to God’s vision in Acts 10 and the gospel message of salvation in Jesus was opened up to all of us.  

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Solid Foundations


Read: Matthew 7:24-29      

Recently in the news we have read about the tragic earthquakes that have occurred in Mexico.  It is terribly sad to hear about the loss of life and the destruction that was caused.  It is even more disheartening when we hear that school children and others most likely would have survived the quake if proper building codes and procedures (that were in place) would have been followed when those buildings were built.

Life can be the same way.  At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he shares a parable (short story) about two builders.  One built his house on the rock, the other built his house on the sand.  When the rains came, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the houses only the one built on the rock was left standing.  Jesus said that the one who listens to his words and puts them into practice is like the man who built on the rock.  The one who hears his words and ignores them is like the man who built on the sand.

In any construction project the foundation is key to the rest of the building.  Yes, the other materials matter too, but if the foundation is not built correctly the rest will not matter.  Our lives are built on the choices, decisions, attitudes, and truths that we live by.  When those things are not in line with God’s will for our lives then the storms of this world can be destructive and much harder to face.  In the Bible God has given us the building code for life.  Jesus was a living example of that code.

It’s very difficult to watch the destruction that earthquakes and other disasters can bring.  It’s also very difficult to watch lives influenced and affected by terrible choices and decisions that could have been different.  No disaster in life is to large to overcome.  Jesus is a God of restoration and renewal.  He can help you rebuild what needs to be rebuilt and changed in your life.  He also can help you live out the foundational truths that are found in the Bible.  Build wisely and live wisely!

Make it Personal:  Think about your life.  What kind of foundation are you building on?  Is it a foundation that will withstand the storms of life for you and your family?  Are you building on the shifting sands of a troubled world or are you building on the solid rock?  Whatever your situation I hope that you will find the wonderful grace and restoration that is available to you in Jesus Christ.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Not Your Past


Read: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Perhaps you have seen the Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown and Lucy are playing baseball?  During the game a fly ball is hit to Lucy and she misses it. Charlie Brown is curious as to why she missed such an easy fly ball out.  Lucy responds by saying that while the ball was in the air she remembered all the others she had missed in the past.  She said, “The past got in my eyes.”  Perhaps you can relate.  You have trouble moving forward because of guilt or shame from the past.  Some years ago Major League Baseball manager Sparky Anderson said, “I’ve got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them.  There’s no future in it.”

Too often people live as if their past defines them.  They can’t move past their failures, mistakes, and sins to embrace the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.  In the story of Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3, Nick comes to Jesus in the cover of night and asks him what this teaching about being born again really means.  Jesus explains that we are not born again physically but spiritually into a new creation in Him (Jesus Christ).  Not long after that encounter comes one of the most quoted verses in all the Bible in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Going back to the Peanuts.  Many times we are like Linus who carried his security blanket around everywhere he went.  We don’t let go of our soiled and difficult past to embrace something new.  A new more promising security in Jesus.  Peanuts creator Charles M. Shulz introduced that blanket for Linus in a comic strip in 1954.  Interestingly, toward the end of the comic strip’s run, Shulz had the blanket appear less and less.  During a Charlie Brown Christmas special Linus even drops the blanket and says “Fear Not!”  The same words that Jesus comforts his disciples with in the book of Matthew.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul proclaims, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  This is why we don’t have to live in our past or dwell on those mistakes when Jesus has been invited into our lives.  You don’t have to listen to condemning voices from your past or be overwhelmed by guilt and unforgiveness.  His grace and forgiveness will cover you.  You are or will be a new creation in Jesus once you receive his gift of salvation.  I love the way that the Peanuts characters brought so many of these life lessons to us through the years.  Many of them were even lessons straight from the Bible.  My prayer this week is that you can find redemption and grace for your past through Jesus.  He is about your future, not your past!

Make it Personal:

  This week I hope you can make these words from Isaiah 43:18-19 personal and a part of your life moving forward.  “Forget the former things; so do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes


The World As It Is


Read:  1 John 4:1-8       

One morning this week following the Las Vegas mass shooting I stumbled into the bathroom to get ready for a new day.  The news of evil, tragedy, and destruction were heavy on my heart.  I could not fathom the pain and heartache that those at that concert and their families were experiencing.  I then turned to a plaque on the wall of our bathroom that I usually pay little attention to.  It was the words of the Serenity Prayer on that wall hanging that caught my attention and calmed my Spirit.

This prayer has been a source of comfort, hope, and encouragement for many people in the midst of this difficult world we live in.  It is a prayer used by church groups, support groups, and individuals who need the assurance and reminder of God’s grace and peace.  Many people believe that it was first shared in a sermon in the 1930’s by pastor and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr of Massachusetts. This would place it in the middle of the Great Depression years of the United States, which adds perspective to the prayer.

In case you are not familiar with this prayer, this is the extended version.  “God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next.  Amen!”

That morning I took these words to heart.  The words of grace, courage, wisdom, and peace encouraged me.  I also noticed that it reminds us that Jesus lived in this sinful world as well, even though he himself was without sin.  This sinful world is not as we would have it, but we know that Jesus can and will make all things right in his time.  He died on the cross so that we could be delivered from our sins and rely on his peace in this troubled world we live in.  I love the words of John in the Bible when he writes, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

I hope that you will read what else John says in 1 John 4 and remember that God loves you in the midst of this hard world we live in.  When tragedies like this happen we hear many people struggle to find words to describe the evils that we witness.  We hear the words of Psalm 40 put to music by the group U2 when they sing, “How long to sing this song?”  We may not have all the answers or understand it all, but we know the one who does.  Jesus is the one who said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  With Jesus you can too!

Make it Personal: 

 It’s easy to become overwhelmed, consumed, and depressed about the many evil things in our world.  With our 24-hour news cycle it is much too easy to leave the TV on and have bad news surrounding you all day and all night long.  It’s okay to be informed and up to date, but turn off the news sometimes and pick up your Bible for the Good News about a God who has overcome all of that.  Also, use the Prayer of Serenity if that is helpful or just pray that the Lord would help you in your struggles.

Blessings in your week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

It Starts with Me


Read:  Ephesians 4:1-6         

With all of the divisive things going on in our world and country right now it feels like we all need a good dose of humility and respect.  When we are humble in our opinions and we respect each other amid our differences we can live together in this life instead of continuing to add fuel to angry fires.  Can we value humility and respect for each other over the selfish desire to always be right?  Even if we are right?

The Bible and the Christian faith have a lot to say about these things.  However, too often it seems like we forget these very valuable words of life instruction that God has given to us.  Listen to the counsel of God’s Word….

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with another in love.”  Ephesians 4:2;  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3;  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”  Proverbs 11:2;  “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”  Romans 12:16;  “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  James 4:10;  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12

As we head out into our jobs, our churches, our communities, and our world each day it is important to clothe our opinions, conversations, and interactions with these wise words from the Lord.  Too often we look at others and think of how they need to change and how they need to act instead of focusing on our own life.  What if we started a movement of humility and respect for each other?  What if we came to the realization that a movement like that begins with ourselves.  It begins with me.  It starts with me.

Whether it be political, religious, racial, moral, or any other differences, those differences should not define us.  Instead, our humility and respect for each other in the midst of those differences is where we find peace, respect, unity, and love.  I think we would all agree that more of that is needed in our country and world right now.  Where does it begin?  It begins with me!  Hopefully you will join me in this movement of humility and respect that is encouraged in God’s Word.

Make it Personal: 

 Consider personally how to start this attitude of humility and respect in your life.  Does it begin with your conversations with others? Does it begin with your interactions and reactions to social media posts?  Does it begin with how you watch the news and sports?  Does it begin with how you treat your spouse and children?  After you answer some of those questions remind yourself…. It starts with you.
Have a great week filled with humility and respect, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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