Midweek Reflections

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

God is Mindful of Us

Read: Psalm 8

With all of the things going on in our country and in the world right now passages like Psalm 8 are a pleasant reminder that God is aware of all this.  Not only is God aware of the things going on but God is aware of you and I.  God knows our needs and is a constant help in times of trouble.  Psalm 8 begins with, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

So often it is easy for us to think that we are okay on our own or that we can handle this life on our own.  At times we need to be reminded of God’s dominion and sovereignty in this world.  A story is told of a man named William Beebe, who was a good friend of President Theodore Roosevelt.  After dinner one night, the two men went for a walk.  Roosevelt pointed to the sky and said, “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda.  It is as large as our Milky Way.  It is one of a hundred billion galaxies.  It consists of one hundred billion stars, each larger than our sun. Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed.”

The brilliant scientist Sir Isaac Newton said that he could take his telescope and look millions and millions of miles into space. Then he added, “But when I lay it aside, go into my room, shut the door, and get down on my knees in earnest prayer, I see more of Heaven and feel closer to the Lord than if I were assisted by all the telescopes on earth.”

As we live our lives it is important that we remember how incredible God is. We should never lose our sense of awe and wonder about a God who created this vast universe and yet still loves and cares for us so deeply as individuals. The galaxies may make us seem small and insignificant, but in God’s eyes we are valued, loved, and important. It reminds me of the line in the movie “The Help” that says, “You is kind, You is smart, and You is important!”

In Psalm 8 David writes, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (v.3-4)  In David’s words we can sense the awe and the wonder of God’s majesty. In David’s day he did not even know all that we know now about the vastness of space and the universe.  Our awe and wonder should be even greater than Davids! How amazing it is that he can even count the number of hairs on our head. (Luke 12:7) 

One final thought.  God loves you as an individual even though his majesty is bigger than you can comprehend.  The verses in 1 John 4:9-10 show how God made his love known to you.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Make it Personal:  With all of the noise in our world take time to pause this week and think about the majesty of God.  Stand in awe of what he has done and then stand in wonder as you think about his love for you as his created child whom he loves so much. Jesus is God’s proof that you are loved beyond measure.

Have a wonderful week everyone,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Leave it Behind

Read: Philippians 3:7-14

Recently I was listening to one of my favorite albums by the Irish band U2.  “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” has so many songs that deal with our propensity to hang on to things instead of letting them go and moving on.  Many of the songs on that album deal with themes that echo the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Philippians 3 when he speaks of, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” In verse 14 he goes on to say, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Here are some of the U2 lyrics that caught my attention.  As most U2 songs do, these lyrics challenge you to think and ponder about what is being said. Many of them echo the biblical advice of holding on loosely to earthly things and embracing the new, beautiful day that is ahead.

“You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been, a place that has to be believed to be seen; Walk on, Walk on, What you got you can’t deny it, can’t sell it or buy it.”   – Walk On

“Who’s’ to say when the wind will take you, who’s to know what it is will break you, I don’t know which way the wind will blow. Who’s to know when the time’s come around, don’t want to see you cry, I know that this is not goodbye.”   – Kite

“It was a beautiful day, don’t let it get away, take me to that other place, reach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case. What you don’t have you don’t need it now, What you don’t know you can feel it somehow, What you don’t have you don’t need it now, Don’t need it now, it was a beautiful day.”   – Beautiful Day
I realize that maybe not everyone will appreciate the music and lyrics of U2 as I do, but this passage in Philippians 3 is an encouragement for us to let go of some things in this world and embrace what is ahead. There are many people, books, music, and other things that can also encourage us to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward.  When the sun rises tomorrow you will have a new day to live, a beautiful day.
For those who believe in Jesus, are redeemed by his sacrifice, and follow God’s will, heaven awaits us when this life on earth is finished. For those who need to let go of earthly things there is encouragement here to move on and embrace the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. For those who are stuck in a bad place, there is encouragement here to move on to a better place.  That is my hope this week!  That you will leave the hurts and the disappointments of the past and “press on” or “walk on” to the new day that God has ahead for you.
Make it Personal:  Name something in your life that you have had trouble leaving behind.  Make it your focus this week to embrace the grace of Jesus and move on from that. Pray about it and ask the Lord to help you in that endeavor. Look ahead to what God has for you in the future and don’t let the baggage of the past continue to weigh you down.  You’ve got to leave it behind!
Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Focused on Others

Read:  Philippians 2:1-11

This past Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. day in the U.S.. To commemorate MLK and that day my wife had her 3rd grade class talk about his famous “I have a dream” speech. She then had them write out what their dreams are and posted them on the classroom door.  I went to her classroom the other day and was impressed by what I saw.  Yes, there were a few that made mention of an NBA career or other things for themselves, but many of them were about their dreams to help others and make a difference in our world.  Here are some of their dreams….

“I have a dream that everyone will have a home.”
“I have a dream to help people at the nursing home.”
“I have a dream to find a cure for cancer.”
“I have a dream that everybody would be treated with kindness.”
“I have a dream to give flowers to all the people in the hospital.”
“I have a dream to be a doctor and help people with their lives.”

Even at the young age of 8 or 9 these children understand the importance of dreaming for others as well as themselves.  In Philippians 2 we are encouraged to… “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking down to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”  How refreshing it was to see these children thinking in that way.

Many times we can show our care and concern for others just by listening to them and hearing their stories.  This kind of listening (and his own experiences) is what drove Martin Luther King Jr. to be so passionate about civil rights.  His dreams were mostly focused on the future children and those who would come after him, not on himself.

I once heard a story called “The Lament.” It is a simple story about an old man who drives a horse and buggy for hire through the city.  The story goes that the old man’s son died recently and he wants so desperately to tell someone. A wealthy man hires the horse and buggy for a ride across town. As the wealthy man steps into the carriage, the old man says, “My son, my son. Let me tell you about my son.” But the busy man doesn’t have time to listen.

Well, after the wealthy man leaves, another man steps into the carriage. He wants to be driven to the other side of the city. Again, the old man says, “My son. My son. Let me tell you about my son.” And again, this second man also doesn’t bother to listen.  At the end of the day, the old man returns to the stables, unhitched his horse, and as he begins to brush the horse down for the night, the old man begins to tell the horse, “My son. My son.” And he tells the horse the tragic story.

My prayer this week is that the example of Jesus Christ, the passion of Martin Luther King Jr., and the inspiration of these 3rd grade students might encourage all of us to show care and concern for others.  To listen to their needs, struggles, and hopes and truly care about them.  I end with one of my favorite MLK quotes of which there are many…. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”  May those words guide our life and our actions daily!

Make it Personal:  What would you write if you were asked to write a conclusion to the statement “I have a dream…?”  Would it be a dream that is focused on others?  Philippians 2:5 has a very powerful reminder for us.  It says this, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

Have a great week everyone, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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