Midweek Reflections

Last to First

Read: Matthew 20:1-16
The St. Louis Blue’s are this years Stanley Cup Champions of the National Hockey League.  This was their first championship since coming into the league in 1967. However, back in the first week of January this result did not seem even remotely possible.  On January 3rd the Blue’s were in last place and had the worst record in the NHL. A coaching change was made, some lineup adjustments were made, and a new attitude and perspective carried the team from last to first.
This last to first story in the world of sports reminds us of a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 20 about the workers in the vineyard.  The one difference is that Jesus is speaking about salvation instead of rewards. I encourage you to read the parable yourself because the premise of what Jesus is teaching should resonate with everyone.  God’s generous grace is for all, not just those whom the world labels successful.
While it is good and fine to celebrate hard work, success, and achievement in life we must never equate those things with the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.  In our most difficult hours of life Jesus picks us up, dusts us off, and says, “I care about you, I love you, and I forgive you, come walk in the newness of life that I provide for you.”  At the end of the parable, in verse 16, Jesus makes this new way clear by stating, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Those words are simply proclaiming that God’s kingdom has a different way of seeing things in the world.  Much of the time it turns the world’s system upside down. Jesus is telling this parable to teach that things may not always seem fair when talking about the grace of God.  He is also teaching that grace and forgiveness is not something to be earned, it is a gift of God found through his Son Jesus Christ. Even those who are last in the eyes of the world are first in the eyes of Jesus.
Make it Personal:  Is it sometimes hard for you to accept that God will forgive anyone and everyone who comes to him with a repentant heart?  Our flesh often screams out about what is fair, right, or just. Instead of harboring ill will in your life try focusing on the gracious benefits God has given to you personally.  Be thankful that you too can be one of the forgiven in Jesus Christ despite your past or present situation.
Have a great week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes


Read: James 1:22-25
This Sunday begins our observance on the church calendar of Ordinary Time. This season lasts from June 16th – November 17th. It is the longest season for us to hold and most likely why we don’t know as much about it. Like how New Year’s Resolutions that are supposed to last a year and then a few months in, we forget why we started and get distracted by everything life is asking of us during the warmer weather months.  It can be difficult to continue a habit if we start to slack off. At the beginning of this year with a few friends, we committed to reading the bible Chronologically through the YouVersion app…I’m currently 29 days behind. I started slacking and now have to catch up. I let myself get so distracted, I forgot to remember why I’m doing it and why it is important.
Our most famous seasons such as Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter remind us of who Jesus is. Ordinary Time is when we discern what to do with that information. One tradition explains Ordinary Time in this way, “The Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time… take us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ. Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ.” It’s pretty easy to believe in Christ and prepare to meet him during Advent and Lent…but Ordinary Time is just that: ordinary. In our ordinary days, are we inviting Jesus into our hearts on a daily basis when we don’t have the reminders of those major holidays? Are we inviting Jesus into our out-of-school routine? Our travels? Our relationships? Our daily maintenance of fields, gardens, and souls? When cleaning out the dishwasher? When we say hello to a friend? When we get groceries? When we clean our cars? When resetting the internet? When we’re doing the dishes? When we’re driving to our next appointment? God is not only with us through the highs and lows of life, but He is also here in the mundane. And that is what is so special and sacred for this time.
As James reminds us, we can’t just read the word and not do what is says. There is a lot of God’s Word to study and align ourselves with and so it takes an intentionally long time and energy to align ourselves with it. In this season of Ordinary, we should renew our striving to align ourselves with God’s Word.
Make it Personal: Which piece of God’s Word is He wanting you to align your life with Him right now? Take it one step at a time. He will never leave you to figure it out on your own. Take the time this week to stop and see where God is leading you into deeper relationship with Him this week.
I pray we all continue to Build God’s Kingdom Here on earth, Pastor Ashley Litwiller

And God Said…

Read: Genesis 1
Sir Isaac Newton once said, “This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and domain of an intelligent and powerful Being.”  Genesis 1 gives us the account of how God spoke creation into being. What a powerful account of the creation those verses are. Our universe, our solar system, our planet, and each plant, animal, and person are living examples of what God spoke and created into existence.
Speaking of Isaac Newton, a story is told about how he had made a miniature version of the solar system one time.  He put a large golden ball in the middle to represent the sun and smaller spheres around it that were attached by rods of varying lengths.  They were all geared together by cogs and belts that made them move around the sun in perfect harmony.
One day a friend of Newton’s who did not believe in the biblical account of creation stopped by his house.  His friend marveled at this device as he watched Newton put his created model into motion. His friend said, “Wow, this is a great invention, who made it for you?”  Newton replied by saying “nobody.” His friend said, “Nobody?” “That’s right,” Newton said, “all of these balls, cogs, belts, and gears just happened to come together, and wonder of wonders, by chance they began revolving in their set orbits with perfect timing.”
You see, Isaac Newton was trying to point out to his friend that these kind of things don’t just happen by luck and chance.  The magnificence of our created world, our bodies, and the sustaining nature of all things is due to the almighty God who created it all.  God said it, it was, and now we enjoy the blessings of life, nature, and all of God’s creation. Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
Make it Personal:  Take time this week to thank God for the magnificence of creation.  Too often we take these things for granted and don’t marvel at the beauty, the power, and the blessing of this created world.  We may not always understand how it works and why certain things happen, but we are surely thankful for this life and breathe that we have been given.  Glory be to God our Creator!
Have a great week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Enjoy Your Calling

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:9-13
Several weeks ago when the trash was being picked up here at our church the person on the back of the trash hauler was wearing a large head piece of a panda suit.  Whoever was under that panda head was taking a very monotonous, dirty job, and making it into something fun and entertaining for those who saw them driving around town that day.  It’s a reminder that we too are called to enjoy our calling, our job, our life, and try to make the best of whatever our day-to-day tasks are.
The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible was written by Solomon as a way to instruct future generations on how to live life, view life, and learn from past mistakes.  Solomon reflects on his life and realizes that life is really meaningless when lived apart from God and his will and purpose for it. In essence he is saying, “If you want to find meaning in life then make God the center of all things in your life.”
Former college and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who is an outspoken and committed Christian, once said, “I really try to enjoy life and have joy with what I do.”  His joy comes from enjoying the calling that God has placed on his life and how the Lord uses him to proclaim the message of Jesus. The same can be true of us. If our faith is the focus, we will find it much easier to enjoy life and the call.
My hope is that whatever you and I are called to do we can find the fulfillment in it that God desires for us to have.  If you are home raising children, making garage doors or cabinets, farming the land, teaching children, running a company, collecting trash, or whatever you do, I pray that you will find enjoyment in that work, and that you will look to God for contentment, joy, happiness, and fulfillment in your various callings in life.
Make it Personal:  Do you have more bad days than good days when it comes to your job or work?  Think about the panda trash collector if you need to spice up your work day and make it fun and fulfilling.  Also remember what Solomon said, “ I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil, this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13)
Have a joy-filled work week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Waves of Mercy

Read: Luke 1:46-55
An interesting story appeared in the news recently.  For almost 35 years novelty Garfield telephones have been washing ashore along France’s Brittany coast.  The phones are orange and look like the cartoon character Garfield. Apparently these novelty phones started to appear in the early 1980’s and kept reappearing year after year even though people were picking them up and discarding of them.  At first people thought it was a prank but after 30 years someone finally began to look into the mysterious occurrence.
It turns out that a lost shipping container that fell off a ship had broken open inside a sea cave which is accessible only during low tide.  That container is still out of reach which means that these orange colored Garfield phones will continue to show up in the waves along the coast of France in the future as well.  If it continues for too much longer these push button phones will be viewed as antiques or foreign objects in our now prevalent cell phone world.
God’s mercy is like that as well.  It keeps coming and coming in waves even when we don’t deserve it.  In Mary’s Song in Luke 1 she speaks of how God’s mercy extends to those who follow the Lord.  In the Message Bible paraphrase verse 50 says, “His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him.”  That verse is a reminder of the worship song that says, “Waves of mercy, waves of grace, everywhere I look I see your face.” (Every Move I Make)
Whatever it is in your life that has been weighing you down and keeping you from moving forward, God has a message for you.  Come to me for mercy, grace, and forgiveness. It is free when you come to Jesus with a repentant heart and it will continue to flow into your life just like the waves of the ocean continue to make their way to shore.  It is something we can always count on. And by the way, if you ordered a Garfield phone in the early 1980’s and it never showed up, you can maybe find it if you head to the coast of France.
Make it Personal:  What mistake, sin, or guilt have you been carrying around for years?  Jesus wants to forgive you for it and set you free from it. Take it to him and find the freedom you have been looking for.  And then the next time you need his mercy, remember, it keeps coming just like the waves.

Have a great week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

“Don’t Give Up!”

Read: 2 Chronicles 15:1-9
Last week on the website “The Players Tribune” Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich wrote an article thanking his mother for encouraging him to never give up.  You see, when Christian was seven years old he almost gave up on baseball. In fact, he writes that he hid from his mother so he would not have to go to practice and get hit by the ball.  
Christian wanted to drop baseball and just play basketball. But his mom would have none of it, she encouraged him or perhaps forced him to continue on, and everyone (except perhaps Cub and Cardinal fans) are now glad that she did.  Yelich was last year’s Most Valuable Player in Major League Baseball and he is on that same pace again this year.
In 2 Chronicles 15 we are told about the reforms of King Asa.  He tried to turn a corrupt culture back to God and was encouraged by the prophecy of Azariah who said in verse 7, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”  In the midst of troubled times Asa restored the altar, repaired the temple, and began to turn people back to the Lord. On days that he felt like giving up he most likely remembered those words of encouragement and strength.
These stories are good for us to remember in light of the difficult days we sometimes face.  It is often easy to give in to voices that tell us to just give up, quit, or move on from what we have been called to in life.  The easy way out is usually not the best way. When we are strong and we don’t give up we often are rewarded for our patience and persistence, and sometimes we are rewarded for it.  Christian Yelich has learned how that works and on Mother’s Day he gave his mother the credit she deserved for encouraging him to “be strong and not give up.”
Make it Personal:  How do these stories from the Bible and life speak to you this week?  What are you tempted to give up on? Who are you tempted to give up on?  What if you don’t? There are always some things and some situations in life that we need to move on from or move away from, but we need to be careful that we are not just giving up on some things too quickly.  Pray to God and ask for help in whatever it is your going through.

Have a blessed week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

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