Midweek Reflections

The Almighty Creator

Read: Job 12

Nature is one of God’s wonderful creations.  Psalm 19:1 proclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Through the beauty, power, and majesty of God’s creation the Lord is able to speak to us, provide for us, and teach us of his almighty goodness.  It’s impossible for anyone to visit all of the magnificent natural wonders that this earth has to offer but by surrounding ourselves with reminders of those we can offer praise to our almighty creator.

In Job 12 we are reminded that even in the midst of difficult times, loss, and turmoil we can allow nature to speak of God’s goodness, care, and love for us.  Job gives testimony that we can learn things from God’s creation; that God’s wisdom and power can be seen in the earth, sky, and sea; and that God’s power is proclaimed through majestic mountains, beautiful valleys, and expansive waterfalls.  In the midst of his loss and pain Job praised God because of what he saw around him. It was awesome.

How can you surround yourself with God’s beauty in the midst of a cold, barren winter in Central Illinois?  I have found several ways that I would like to share with you. You can set your computer screen saver to show magnificent pictures of nature from around the world (webshots.com).  You can rotate the screen of your smartphone with some pictures and reminders of natural wonders. You can find books or magazines that show God’s handiwork from around our world. Perhaps you have found other ways to surround yourself with God’s beauty?

Everyone may not share my specific love of nature and God’s creation, but all of us can use it as a reminder of God’s sovereign power in this world.  God is the creator, sustainer, provider, and almighty Lord of our lives and our world. As Job testifies of creation in verse 9, “which of all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?”  To our God we give praise!

Make it Personal:  Find ways to appreciate the many wonders of nature in your world.  Give praise to God for those blessings and also do your part in sustaining and maintaining them for future generations.  God has told us to care for this earth that he has created and we must do our part in fulfilling that command.

Have a magnificent week everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

70 x 7 = Infinity

Read: Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness is one of the key parts of the gospel message.  Jesus gave up his life on the cross so that each of us could have the opportunity to receive his grace and forgiveness for the sins in our lives.  Many times in scripture we are instructed to forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us through his son Jesus Christ.

So why is it so hard to forgive when it’s our turn?  Our human nature wants to get revenge or payback instead of letting someone walk away scot-free, and yet that is what Jesus offers to us.  In Matthew 18 Peter comes up to Jesus to find out more about this unbelievable offer of grace. He asks how many times he should forgive someone who commits an offense against him.  “Up to 7 times?” Peter asks.

Jesus then responds by saying, “not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  In some Bible translations this is changed to read 77 times which is nowhere close to 490 times (70 x 7).  But the number itself can cause us to lose sight of the teaching here about forgiveness. Jesus is basically saying forgive as long as there is something to forgive. Forgive to infinity and beyond.  After all, that is what Jesus offers to us.

After this conversation with Peter, Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant.  A story that ends with the phrase, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” Perhaps no command of Jesus is more challenging and yet freeing than this command to forgive others.  Because of Jesus we can be free from the weight of sin, and Jesus wants us to extend that kind of grace to others. It may not always be easy, but it is very freeing when we follow the ways of Christ.

Make it Personal:  Who comes to your mind when you hear about the need to forgive someone?  Read Matthew 18 this week and ask Jesus to help you extend grace to that person.  Forgiveness is the key to opening the door to restored relationships and freedom in our lives.

Have a wonderful week Everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Life Stories

Read: Philippians 2:1-18
As Life Groups start up again at AMC I was reminded about the life stories that have been shared in past small groups that I have been a part of. Those stories were shared by each person in the group and were often a journey from their years of growing up to life experiences that have shaped them as adults. Obviously their faith and their relationships in the church played a big part in those stories as well. I learned many new things about some in our church that I have not known before those stories were shared.
No life story is exactly the same but in most cases we have learned things and grown along the way. We are not perfect but our desire is to grow in the nature of God and the mindset of Christ Jesus like Philippians 2 encourages. Humility, servanthood, compassion, obedience, and attitude are many of the life attributes that are encouraged in these verses.
Joyce Meyer once said, “I used to be a full-time sinner, and once in a while I “accidentally” did something right. But now that I have spent many years developing a deep, personal relationship with God… I still make mistakes, but not nearly as many as I once did, I am not where I need to be, but thank God, I am not where I used to be. I do not do everything right, but I do know that the attitude of my heart is right.”
By sharing our story we can learn from each other and grow in Jesus. When we meet together as Christ’s church we can encourage each other, support each other, learn from God’s Word, and be reminded of what Christ-like living looks like. In this manner we can relate to what Joyce says… “I still make mistakes, but not nearly as many as I once did, I am not where I need to be, but thank God, I am not where I used to be.”
Make it Personal: Find ways to share your story and to hear others stories. This can happen in small groups, fellowship groups, Christian Ed., worship, and one on one sharing. The key is to make time for it and be open to learning from others. In all things keep Jesus the focal point.
Have a great week Everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Quick Change

Read: Ezekiel 36:24-36

Perhaps you have heard of or seen the man and woman act of “Quick Change” before on T.V. or at the halftime of a basketball game.  Sos and Victoria Petrosyan have been traveling around the past 10 years performing an amazing act of clothing changes that happen right before your eyes and leave you asking how it happened.  If you have never seen them before here is a YouTube link of their act.

Recently I have heard several stories in which people noticed a dramatic change in someone’s life.  In each of those cases the change came because they became a Christian and received Jesus into their life.  Spouses, family, friends, co-workers notice when Jesus transforms a persons heart, mind, and actions. It often causes others to ask, “what has changed, why is this person so different?”

In Ezekiel 36 it talks about how God is going to take the Israelite people and change them.  God is going to change them spiritually, God is going to change their physical situation, and God is going to give them a new heart in order to bring transformation.  In verse 36 it mentions that people around them are going to notice this change and realize what the Lord has done.

Some of the greatest stories of change in this world come from Christians who have seen Jesus totally change them and change their life.  Like Paul in the book of Acts, Jesus comes into their life and brings a sudden transformation in their life, their situation, and their purpose in life.  Perhaps you have a story like that to tell, or perhaps you can testify to seeing it happen in someone else’s life? Perhaps you need that kind of change in your life right now?  Jesus is ready and waiting to quickly change you into who God truly created you to be in this world. He will change you both inside and out!

Make it Personal:  What other things give witness to change in our world?  Creation, the Seasons, Time, Circumstances, and so many more.  God is the Lord of transformation and his Son Jesus Christ is the source of that change in our lives. He loves you, cares for you, and wants to change you in ways that will cause others to say, “Wow, how did that happen!”

Have a wonderful week Everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Disciplined Perseverance

Read: Hebrews 12:1-13
The biggest game on the planet is the Super Bowl.  Some soccer fans around the world would probably dispute that, but the Super Bowl is one of the most watched sporting events around the world.  It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to play on a stage like that with millions of people watching your performance.  
The players and coaches who are participating in the Super Bowl have devoted many hours, days, and years to being the best they can be at their particular sport.  They have most likely overcome obstacles, opposition, difficulties, and challenges to arrive at the pinnacle of their sport. They have been disciplined and they have persevered.  
The writer of the book of Hebrews is encouraging these attributes as it pertains to our faith.  He tells us to be disciplined, to run the race with perseverance, and to be encouraged by the great cloud of witnesses we have to inspire us along the way.  First and foremost he says that we must fix our eyes on Jesus so that we will not grow weary or lose heart. Keeping our eyes on Christ helps us to put everything in perspective.    
If you are a follower of Jesus you might have to overcome times of opposition, criticism, or struggle.  But as we go though those experiences we must remember what Jesus endured for us on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus knows, Jesus understands, and Jesus can help you through it. Pray that Christ will help you to persevere, overcome, and produce the harvest of righteousness and peace that Hebrews 12 speaks of.  Then you will win at the biggest game of all, the game of life.
Make it Personal:  Athletes train in ways that help them to reach their highest potential.  Ask Jesus to help you develop a faith that will sustain you and increase your trust in him.  Remember the key, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Have a blessed week Everyone,Pastor Glen Rhodes

Forward Focused

Read: Isaiah 43:16-19  
Facebook and Twitter can sometimes be cruel, divisive, and just downright mean.  We should always try to ignore, delete, and move past those posts when they affect us in a negative way.  But sometimes there are posts that are relationship builders, funny, and inspirational. Recently a pastor shared this on his Twitter feed, “Regret looks back. Fear looks around. Worry looks in. Faith looks up. Hope looks forward.”  
Those words reminded me of what Isaiah 43 says about God doing a new thing in our lives.  Verses 18 and 19 say, “Forget the former things; 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.”  You see the correlation there with that pastors quote?  
When we are forward focused we can look up to God for help (faith) and look forward (hope) to how the Lord can and will move us past our regrets, fears, and worries.  If we allow it and accept it, God can take the many things of our life, both good and bad, and make them into something positive and wonderful.  
A cook one time used this illustration.  When she makes biscuits she uses many things that don’t taste good on their own like flour, baking soda, shortening, etc..  However, she looks forward to what the end result will be once they are mixed together and put in the oven. Life is often that way too.  We can dwell on our current circumstances or we can ask God to help us see what he is going to do in the future. God can and will make a new way, if you seek his help.  
Make it Personal:  As you go through your week try to notice what things you are focused on and how that is affecting your attitude and outlook on life.  Consider the negative impact of allowing negativity, fear, and worry into your life. Instead choose to see the new thing God is going to do.  
Have a great week Everyone,
Pastor Glen Rhodes

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