Midweek Reflections

The Good Shepherd

Read: Psalm 23

Like any profession the sheep herding industry has good shepherds and bad shepherds.  Even though herding sheep is not nearly as popular today as it was in the time that Jesus walked in Galilee it still is a reality for some people.  I recently read this article from The Telegraph, a British newspaper.  It was reported that a flock of over 1,300 sheep “had to be rounded up by police in the Spanish city of Huesca after their shepherd fell asleep.”

The article continued: “According to city authorities, the police were alerted to the presence of the extremely large flock attempting to negotiate the streets in the center of Huesca at around 4:30 am on Tuesday when a local resident dialed Spain’s 112 emergency number. The dozing shepherd was meant to be keeping the animals in check outside the environs of the city while he waited for the clock to strike 7:00 am, when he was due to guide the sheep northwards through Huesca towards Pyrenean uplands where his flock will graze during the hot summer months. The police eventually found the herder, who was still peacefully slumbering. Together the embarrassed shepherd and police officers were eventually able to extract the sheep from the city and return them to their pastures.”

Psalm 23 is often used for times of loss, sorrow, and difficulty.  It is a perfect Psalm for comfort during those difficult times. But this Psalm is also a reminder that God is always on the job when it comes to looking out for his followers.  Because of that David says, “I’m not afraid” because he knows that God is walking by his side.  He also proclaims that God will “revive my drooping head” when that is needed.  And we all have those days when that is needed.

David was a shepherd himself in his early days. I am sure he was a very good shepherd. But he could write this Psalm about God because he knew how completely dependent he was on God. He was dependant on God in the same way that his sheep had been depending on him.  And from this Psalm we are reminded that God will always be ready and willing to lead, guide, direct, bless, and comfort us when we need it.

Make it personal:

 What are you afraid of this week?  Know that God is right there with you and can calm your fears if you call on him.  David said, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  Turn to your Good Shepherd this week and place your trust in God, in all things.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

God is Really Among You!

Read: 1 Corinthians 14:1-25

This Winter I have paid more attention to the bare trees. So often we talk about how beautiful a tree looks when it is in full bloom or full color in the Summer or Fall but we ignore them in the winter when they are bare and as many would say “ugly.”  But I noticed something this Winter that reminded me of a verse in 1 Corinthians 14.

I noticed that in the Winter we can see all of the interesting branches of each tree that we don’t see the rest of the year.  Some have huge trunks and huge branches, others have many small branches that go all over the place, and then on others you can see where they have been trimmed back and are growing out in new ways.  It allows us to appreciate something else about tree’s, that they are unique and very different from one another.

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is talking about various forms of worship and how we are to worship the Lord.  But in verse 25 he says something quite revealing.  He says, “As the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”  How long has it been since you laid your life before God, fell down on your knees, and worshiped God for loving you for who you are in Jesus Christ?

So often we try to cover up some of the hurts, sins, mistakes, and failures in our life.  God knows them and understands them and yet we still try to cover them up and keep them to ourselves.  The barren trees this Winter have been a reminder for me to be open and honest with God and others.  Let them see us for who we really are.  We don’t have to share everything with everybody but it is healthy for us to lay our life before God, worship the Lord, and receiving his unconditional love for us in Jesus.

Make it Personal: Spend some time in worship this week.  Lay out before God all of the things that have been weighing heavy on your heart and ask Jesus to fill your barrenness with his breathe of life and restoration.  Then come to worship at AMC this Sunday and hear more about how God can breathe new life into your life.

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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

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