Midweek Reflections

Matters of Prayer

Read: Matthew 6:5-15

There are many things for us to pray about these days.  Hopefully we are taking all of those matters to the Lord in prayer each and every day.  Praying can sometimes be a difficult experience for people.  They maybe don’t know how to pray or what to pray about specifically.  Or, in some cases maybe the words just don’t flow.  When we pray we do not need to come to Jesus with fancy words or well thought out phrases to impress.  In fact, Jesus wants us to come as we are and talk with him as we would talk with a good and trusted friend.

Some Christian traditions use prayers that are written out and repeated at times.  Other Christian traditions often pray in the Spirit or use a more spontaneous manner of praying.  Both kind of prayers can be good and helpful at different times.  I would encourage you to use both of these ways of praying to make them personal, meaningful, and helpful in your relationship with Christ.  Remember, seeking after Jesus and the ways of God should be our ultimate desire.

If you sometimes struggle with praying words on your own there is a helpful resource that can lead you through different prayers and scripture during your times of seeking the Lord.  The Anabaptist Prayer Book titled “Take Our Moments And Our Days” is available in our church library (two different volumes) or they also offer a free app for smartphones and tablets.  Just search the app store with that title and the app should come up to install.  This can help to get you started on making prayer an important and vital part of your daily walk with Jesus.

Make it personal: In the Matthew passage for this week (Matthew 6:5-15) Jesus gives us a specific prayer to pray.  It is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.  This is another good place to start.  We also need to pay attention in these verses to the manner in which we are to pray.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes

Spiritually Healthy Habits

Read: Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3

At the start of a new year many people make resolutions or write down several things they would like to be better at in the months ahead.  Often these things revolve around losing weight, saving more money, eating healthier, or a new exercise routine.  It’s no wonder we end up seeing ads for all of those things in the month of January.  But what about some new healthy habits to help us grow spiritually and to grow in our relationship with Jesus?

In these verses in the book of Hebrews there is encouragement for Christians to move beyond the basic tenents of our faith.  As one verse says we are to move from infant milk to solid foods.  We are to become mature in our faith so that we build on the foundations that have already been laid.  Sounds like this is an encouragement to begin some new habits that will help us to grow spiritually in 2021.

They often say that it takes 66 days to develop a new habit.  That’s a little over two months.  Once you do something steady for two months it becomes a new part of your daily routine.  That’s important with a new years resolution, but how can we think of this in spiritual growth terms?  This is important because verse 14 of chapter 5 says that these habits will help us to be trained to distinguish between good and evil.  That is very needed in these days that we live right now.  We need to grow in Christ so we can discern what is true, what is real, and what is of God’s will and purpose. 

Make it personal: What can you do to mature in your faith this year?  Can you commit to something for two months and then try to make it a daily part of your life?  Prayer, Bible reading and study, helping others, giving something up, giving praise and thanks to Jesus each day.  If you become intentional about something it will eventually become a part of who you are.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes

Focus For A New Year

Read: Psalm 119:-16

Focus is an important thing.  Focus in our life is the most important thing.  I recently read a story about a soccer match between two teams in Scotland in which focus was a problem.  To cut down on the number of people in attendance at the game the producers decided to use an artificial intelligent camera system to broadcast the game.  It didn’t work so well.  The AI camera was supposed to follow the soccer ball but instead followed the bald head of the side linesman the whole time.  While the action continued off the screen the camera stayed focused on the man’s bald head for much of the game.

Psalm 119 in the Bible is all about focus.  Many of it’s 176 verses (most in the Bible) talk about focusing our life on God instead of the temporal things of this world.  Verses 15 and 16 are a good example, they say, “I will meditate on your precepts and consider your ways, I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”  Verse 36 also says, “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.”  I could go on but I encourage you to read this entire Psalm. 

You see, focus is key to living life in a manner that is healthy and pleasing to God.  As we come out of the challenging year that 2020 was, our focus in 2021 is so very important.  If we focus on all the challenges, divisions, and hardships of the world in this year ahead we will often struggle to find joy and happiness.  If we focus on the promises and the things of God in 2021 we will be able to look past the temporal and embrace the eternal.  In Jesus we can find true joy and happiness that will help us to be blessed in this new year ahead.  Where you are focused is key!

Make it personal: We don’t know what 2021 will throw at us.  We sure didn’t see the challenges of 2020 at the first of January last year.  But we do know this… “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Be blessed in 2021, Glen Rhodes

The Finish Line

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

As the Apostle Paul ends his second letter to his co-worker in the ministry Timothy he reminds him and others to finish the race strong and keep the faith. He says, “There is in store for us a crown of righteousness” at the end of the race.  Back on October 20, 1968 at 7 pm, a few thousand spectators remained in the Mexico City Olympic Stadium. It was cool and dark. The last of the marathon runners, each exhausted were being carried off to first-aid stations. More than an hour earlier, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, looking as fresh as when he started the race, crossed the finish line, the winner of the 26 mile, 385 yard event.

As the remaining spectators prepared to leave, those sitting near the marathon gates suddenly heard the sound of sirens and police whistles. All eyes turned to the gate. A lone figure wearing the colors of Tanzania entered the stadium. His name was John Stephen Akhwari. He was the last man to finish the marathon.  His leg bloodied and bandaged, severely injured in a fall, he grimaced with each step. He hobbled around the 400 meter track. The spectators rose and applauded him as if he were the winner. After crossing the finish line, Akhwari slowly walked off the field without turning to the cheering crowd.

In view of his injury and having no chance of winning a medal, someone asked him why he had not quit. He replied, “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish it.”  That is the inspiration that Paul is encouraging in this passage. God has placed us here for a purpose. In the end we will receive a wonderful crown of righteousness if we have followed Christ and his path, but in the meantime we need to keep on the path and finish the race.

Sometimes that path may make us fall and sometimes we may get bloodied or beat up, but Jesus promises to see us through those times if we keep our eyes on him. Keeping him at the center of our lives will help us stay focused on the finish line mentioned in 2 Timothy 4. May we keep the faith!

Make it personal: While we run the race we need to not only look for the finish line, we need to draw on Christ’s strength and his direction in the day we are living. What might Jesus be calling us to do for him today? That may be a part of finishing well!

Happy New Year, Glen Rhodes

What About Jesus?

Read: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Last week I talked about Santa, this week I’m talking about Jesus.  I think we all know which one of those is the most important message of Christmas.  The question we need to ask ourselves though is “which parts of Christmas are we making the most important?”  Our culture has pushed gifts, tree’s, decorations, candy, and numerous other things as must haves at Christmas.  But what about Jesus?  Christian friends, I think that is going to be up to us.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is not exactly a Christmas passage.  However, it does remind us of the importance of telling our children, grandchildren, and others about the reasons for our belief, faith, and observances.  When it comes to Christmas are impressing the true meaning of the season on our children?  Are we talking about this reason for the season when we sit around the Christmas tree?  Are we decorating in ways that write this message on the doorframes of our homes?  All of those things are encouraged in Deuteronomy 6 even if the birth of Jesus is not the focus of those verses.

I am all for embracing the many wonderful ways that we celebrate Christmas.  I said as much last week when I talked about Santa.  But as Christians we must always keep the most important message of Christmas as our main message of the season.  It’s sometimes too easy to get caught up in all of the “other things” of Christmas that we don’t focus enough on “the one thing” that makes December 25 so special.  The question this week for all of us is…. What about Jesus?

Make it Personal:  Take a moment to think about your family traditions at Christmas. Are you making ways for the story of Jesus and the reason for the season to be talked about and celebrated?  How about the decor around your home.  If strangers come to visit will they know why and who you are celebrating by looking around your home?  These are things for us to think about as we celebrate Christmas this week.  Jesus is the reason for the season!

Have a blessed Christmas, Glen Rhodes

What About Santa?

Read: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Each family handles the subject of Santa Clause a little bit different during the Christmas season.  What many people don’t realize is that the person of Santa Clause stems from a real person who lived many years ago. Pastor James White brings this to our attention in a recent blog post. St. Nicholas lived in the country of Turkey from 270 to 343 A.D.  He was very active in the early church and even became a leader in the Christian church.  He was a part of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. that ended up being one of the most important Christian councils in all of history.

Pastor White writes, “Nicholas was known for holiness and for his passion for Christ. He was actually tortured and imprisoned for his faith under the Emperor Diocletian.  He gave almost all of his money away to the poor, and his love for children was incredibly real.  Over time, his giving, and acts of charity led to a tradition of children being given presents in his name.  The problem was that the children had trouble saying his name because “St. Nicholas” has so many syllables.  It soon became “Sint Klaes” and then later “Santa Claus” by the Dutch.  Simply put, St. Nicholas was a wonderful Christian man, one of the true heroes of the faith, and all things “Santa” can and should be spiritual in nature.  Santa isn’t the problem, it’s how we’ve stripped him of his sainthood, motivation, and story.”

In other words, we have made Santa into a deliverer of materialistic wants and gifts instead of focusing on the true giving and generosity that St. Nicholas was known for in his life.  It’s not that we should throw out the fun tradition of Santa Clause at Christmas (after all, the North Pole is more exciting than Turkey), but perhaps as children get older we need to teach them about the real St. Nick and his passion for giving to others and helping those in need.  2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Make it Personal:  There are many wonderful traditions at Christmas time, some of them are more accurate and helpful than others.  Whether it is Santa Clause, Rudolph, or Frosty, we need to keep the original and most meaningful story of Christmas in the forefront of all our celebrations this time of year.  It is important that our children learn early on and often that Christmas is ultimately about Christ, and the birth of our Savior.  Let’s have fun with all of it, but let’s give thanks for Jesus and let’s be giving and generous because of his example, and the example of saints like St Nicholas.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Glen Rhodes

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