Midweek Reflections

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

Your Most Important Job

Read: Proverbs 22:1-16

What is the most important job you have ever had?  If you are a parent the task of raising your children should be right at the top of that list.  Last night former President Bill Clinton made a statement that caught my attention.  He has held many jobs in his life including being a state governor and the President of the United States of America for 8 years, but in his speech last night at the Democrat’s National Convention he said that raising their child Chelsea was the most important job they ever had.  Politics aside that is a very important word for all of us parents to hear.

In Proverbs 22 we hear the verse that is so commonly shared by parents and others.  It says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”   Our children are their own persons.  We cannot make decisions for them once they are out of our homes and living their own lives.  This is why the 18 to 20 years that they are in our homes are so crucial.  It is the most important job you will ever have.

However, don’t let the weight of that title become a burden to you.  Do the best job that you possibly can and rely on God to help you through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  There will be some of each of those in your experience for sure.  If you teach them to follow Jesus, abide by his Word, and make him the Lord of their lives you have started in the right place.  After that be sure to teach them manners, life skills, relationship skills, and other good and positive examples that will benefit them later in life.

There is a certain type of bamboo in Japan that only flowers once every 120 years.  It’s hard to understand how this plant can keep track of time, but everything 119 years before it germinates will determine how much the bamboo will bloom. And that’s a long time to wait to see the results.  In the same way, children don’t always blossom on your timetable. The love, discipline and instruction you pour into their lives cannot be immediately seen.

Our job as a parent is to prune and nourish our children in anticipation of their blooming. And once they do, you’ll see them grow rapidly into patient, loving and consistent people.  One interesting thing about that Japanese bamboo is that the latest bloomers often have the most striking and beautiful flowers.  Never give up on your child!  Continue to pray for them, support them, encourage them, and show them the ways of God.

One last thing.  Make sure that your children are involved in Church, in Sunday School, in Youth Groups, and other civic activities that will help them to grow spiritually and learn important life skills.  Don’t become so busy that you cannot enjoy each other, but be intentional about what they are involved in and who they are involved with.  Most of all pray for them.  If your child is not where you would like them to be right now, pray that Jesus would lead them to that place.

Make it Personal:  In verse 15 of Proverbs 22 it says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”  It is important to discipline our children so that they know right from wrong.  However, we must discipline out of love, care, and concern for them, not out of our anger and violent reactions.  Sometimes it helps to cool down, pray about it, and then address the folly that needs to be addressed.  My prayers are with you as you do this most important job, please pray for me as well.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Mirrors and Legacy

Read: 2 Corinthians 3:12-18    

    This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 50th anniversary of the church that I grew up in.  As we gathered together at Carlsbad Mennonite Church in Carlsbad, New Mexico from many places across the U.S. and Canada I was reminded of how important examples and legacies are.  Stories and memories were shared this past weekend, friendships were reunited, and I found myself very thankful for those who God used to influence me in those early years.

In 1 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says, “We Christians … can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” (TLB)  One definition of the word Legacy is “Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.”  As we live our lives we need to be ever so thoughtful about the legacy and the imprint that we are leaving for the next generation.  

As I look into the mirror of my past I am thankful for the examples that I witnessed.  Many men and women showed me how to live for Jesus, have faith in Jesus, and abide in Jesus.  They encouraged me, taught me, and treated me like a child of God.  They had fun with me, laughed with me, and spent time with me.  They truly desired  to live lives that mirrored the words of the Bible and life of Jesus Christ.  Some of them are still living and others have gone on to their eternal home in heaven.

As I spoke at Carlsbad Mennonite this past Sunday I focused on the three words that have been at the front of that sanctuary for years and years.  Three words that have guided that church and those people.  Three words that are key if want to build God’s kingdom and experience living hope, salvation, grace, forgiveness, and new life.  Three words that should encourage us to engage with unbelievers and invite them into God’s family to find hope and restoration in life.  What are those three words?  JESUS IS LORD!

In a world that is filled with hatred, violence, terrorism, wars, broken relationships, and heartache, Jesus is the one that can truly save us from those things.  In the midst of all that our nation has been going through in recent days I keep thinking to myself, “If only people would turn to Jesus and allow him to bring change and transformation to their lives.”  We need to be the example and share the example of Christ with the world.  We need to mirror Jesus and leave a legacy of faith.

Yes, I am thankful for all of those people that have made an impact on my life, both then and now.  It encourages me to think about the impact and the legacy that I can leave for those who will follow.  It encourages me to think about how my life can mirror the life of Christ and reflect his life to others.  It encourages me to think about the decisions I make and the life that I lead.  It encourages me to give thanks to God for the blessings of other people in my life.  I hope it can do the same for you!

Make it Personal:  Take some time this week to think about those who have influenced you in the past.  Parents, family, church family, friends, co-workers.  Think about the good qualities you see in others and think about the legacy that you are leaving.  No matter what your past or current situation looks like it is never too late to start leaving the kind of legacy that you and the Lord would desire.  Jesus is the Lord of change, restoration, and salvation.  Start today and mirror the life of Christ in order to leave a lasting legacy of faith.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Danger Zone

Read: Proverbs 23:29-35   

    Is drinking alcohol a sin?  In both secular and Christian circles you might get a variety of responses when asking this question.  Some might refer to times in the Bible when it is discouraged (as in Proverbs 23 and many others) and some might refer to times in the Bible when it is mentioned as a very common drink during biblical times (In John 2 Jesus turns the water into wine).  But everyone can agree that it has the potential to cause destruction in our lives.

For several years I have followed the internet blog, sermons, and ministry of pastor Perry Noble and Newspring Church in Anderson, South Carolina.  I appreciated his insights, thoughts, comments, and even referred to them from time to time in these midweek meditations.  I was very sad this past week when I learned this news as reported by the Greenville, South Carolina newspaper,  “The Rev. Perry Noble, who started NewSpring Church nearly 20 years ago, is no longer its senior pastor.  Early in Sunday’s 9:15 a.m. service, Executive Pastor Shane Duffey announced that Noble had been removed as pastor on July 1… after Noble “had made unfortunate choices,” and that the board members had confronted Noble on numerous occasions regarding his use of alcohol.”

It’s hard to know what all of the “unfortunate choices” were that led to this, but it is obvious that alcohol was a contributing factor.  In another news report I read that marital problems were also part of the issue.  The alcohol piece could have also played a part in that as well.  But it saddens me that alcohol has caused all of this pain and heartache for Perry, his family, his church, and many others.

We live in a world in which beer, wine, and other stronger alcoholic beverages are too often treated as a god instead of a beverage.  Often times people cannot gather, socialize, or have a celebration without them being present.  As a sports fan I am often times disappointed about the presence of so much drinking and drunkenness.  I am not sharing this to be in judgement of others, but I am sharing it because of the dangers this can have on individuals, families, children, churches, and society in general.

So many instances in the Bible suggest that it is better to avoid the danger zone of drunkenness.  In Genesis 19 drinking results in Lot’s debauchery and incest of his own daughters.  In Genesis 27 Isaac was drinking when he mistakenly blessed Jacob.  In 1 Samuel 25 Nabal, a rich man who opposed David and had lost his wife’s respect died after a drunken spree.  In Deuteronomy 21:20 it speaks of how drinking leads to stubbornness, rebellion, and gluttony which brings dishonor to parents.  One source says that there are more verses in the Bible about drinking and drunkenness than can be found on the subject of lying, adultery, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, pride, cheating, stealing, hypocrisy or even blasphemy.

When I was growing up my father had a very intentional way of letting me know about the dangers that drinking alcohol can have.  This was before we had a television with a remote control.  When an ad for alcoholic beverages would come on during commercial breaks he would get up out of his chair, go over to the television, and turn the channel until the program was back on the air.  Then he would go back over and sit in his chair.  He didn’t say a word but he didn’t have to.

The truth is, for some people the only way to avoid the danger zones of alcohol is to abstain from it.  Whether you agree or disagree about calling it a sin or not, I think everyone can agree that it is heartbreaking to see the destruction that it can cause.  I am going to pray for Perry Noble, his family, and his church.  Jesus can bring them through this and bring them to a brighter day ahead.  If you struggle with alcohol and would like to get help, I hope that you will reach out and find the help that you need.  God will forgive you and set you on a path of freedom from the chains of dependence and addiction.

Make it personal:  If you or someone in your family needs help in this area of life here are some organizations that you might want to look into.  Recovering Redemption, Celebrate Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous are just a few.  As Ed Stetzer said when commenting about the Perry Noble story, “You don’t have to suffer alone and it won’t end well if you don’t get help. You do not have to hide. Alcohol isn’t freedom, and hiding isn’t the way out. We can stand together in the power of the gospel and see the way forward in hope.”  And to that I say AMEN!

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Real Gift-Giver

Read: John 1:1-18   

     When something good happens in your life or when you are blessed beyond expectation who gets the credit?  Too often we are quick to pass these blessings off as good fortune, good luck, or just the way circumstances worked out.  If you are a Christian your response should be much different than that.  You have the Lord looking after you and providing for you in all areas of life.

Recently I heard someone share about a wonderful blessing that happened to them.  As the story continued the credit for this gift was immediately given to God.  This person gave thanks to God over and over as the provider of this blessing that could only have been from the Almighty.  It made me think about how I respond to these kind of blessings.  Do I immediately raise my hands of praise to the Lord as I should or am I too busy moving on to the next task at hand?

To illustrate how we often fail to give God the thanks he deserves, Pastor and Author Chuck Swindoll told the following story of a man he visited in the hospital:  “The day I arrived to visit, I saw a touching scene. This man had a young son, and during his confinement in the hospital, he had made a little wooden truck for his boy. Since the boy was not allowed to go into the ward and visit his father, an orderly had brought the gift down to the child, who was waiting in front of the hospital with his mother. The father was looking out of a fifth-floor window, watching his son unwrap the gift.

The little boy opened the package, and his eyes got wide when he saw that wonderful little truck. He hugged it to his chest.  Meanwhile, the father was walking back and forth waving his arms behind the windowpane, trying to get his son’s attention.  The little boy put the truck down and reached up and hugged the orderly and thanked him for the truck. And all the while the frustrated father was going through these dramatic gestures, trying to say, “It’s me, son. I made the truck for you. I gave that to you. Look up here!” I could almost read his lips.

Finally the mother and the orderly turned the boy’s attention up to that fifth-floor window. It was then the boy cried, “Daddy! Oh, thank you! I miss you, Daddy! Come home, Daddy. Thank you for my truck.”  And the father stood in the window with tears pouring down his cheeks.  How much like that child we are.”

In John 1 we read about The Word becoming Flesh.  It speaks of how Jesus was, is, and always will be.  In verse 3 it says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”  Jesus is the real gift-giver in our life.  He is the one that creates, provides, and sustains the many blessings we experience in this life.  He is also the one who comforts, cares, and loves us when difficult things in life come our way.  The next time you are overwhelmed with a blessing or blessed by God’s love take time to give thanks to Jesus who made that blessing and that love a reality in your life.

Make it personal:  Take time this week to think about some of the recent blessings you have experienced.  Think about some of the difficult things you have faced.  Then take time to thank God for providing for you in all situations.  Give praise to the Lord for the blessings and give thanks to the Lord for being with you when you needed love and support.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Spiritual Dryness

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18    

    My wife and I just returned from a trip to California where a current drought has everyone concerned and thinking about how they use their water.  Water is one of our most crucial resources and when things become dry and parched it causes people to think about not only how valuable it is but how they are using it in their own lives.  The same can be said about our spiritual lives as well.  It is often in those times of spiritual dryness that we discover things that might need our attention or appreciation.

In 1986 two brothers who lived in kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee made an incredible discovery.  As these two Israeli fishermen monitored their equipment on the beaches of Genesaret, they noticed something they had not seen before.  Something covered in mud glistened in the sun.  Upon examination, archaeologists determined that what the brothers had discovered was a fishing boat dating from the time of Jesus.  The only reason the artifact was discovered was because of a 3 year drought, resulting in unusually low water in the lake. 

The Bible tells us that in times of spiritual dryness, God may uncover something of fabulous value within his presence.  In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul is speaking of the many struggles that come along in life.  He says that in life we are often pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.  But then he reminds us that those times of difficulty are refining us and shaping us into the person that God wants us to be.  Physical and Spiritual dryness can lead to times of a renewed life.

Paul reminds us that it is in those times when we discover that our troubles are moving us to an eternal glory that far outweighs those drought stricken times in our life.  He says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  I’m not sure if you are at a spiritual mountain or valley as you read this today, but I do know that God’s desire is to shape you and mold you into his eternal glory.

Make it personal:  Drink a glass of water today and think about its physical value for life.  Read God’s Word today and think about it’s spiritual value for life.  Then pray and ask Jesus to help you grow in whatever place or situation you find yourself in right now.  Jesus can help to lead you from spiritual dryness to a place where you are renewed day by day, just as Paul reminds us in verse 16 of today’s scripture.

Have a refreshing week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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