Midweek Reflections

The Season of Giving

Read: Luke 2; John 3:16-21midweekmediationforwebsite

Christmas is definitely a season of giving.  I have heard many stories of generosity, witnessed people caring for each other, and received blessings from others myself over the past couple of weeks.  Thankfully I have had the opportunity to give and bless others as well.  Nothing proclaims the reason for the season better than when people follow God’s perfect example of giving, caring, and generosity.

In the Christmas story in Luke 2 we read about the blessed night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  In John 3:16 we hear testimony of what happened that night.  “For God so loved the people of the world that he GAVE his one and only Son…”  Yes, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as they worshiped the Savior, but what God gave us in his one and only son Jesus has truly changed the world.

This is why we have heard and witnessed so much love and giving over the past couple of weeks.  From people paying off all of the layaway items at department stores, to people giving away their airline miles to help families be together at Christmas, to boxes, food, gifts, and many other blessings bestowed, we give because so much has been given to us.

NBA basketball star Lebron James was recently named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the year.  In the related article Lee Jenkins recounts the life of Lebron from his young days in Akron, Ohio to his current MVP status in professional basketball.  In that interview Lebron realizes that many people gave to him and his mom in order to help them survive as he was growing up.

Jenkins writes, “He (Lebron) rattles off names of the uncles and cousins, coaches and teammates, friends and strangers who once offered a sofa and a cereal box, or more…. He scoffs at the idea that he was protected because he was gifted. “There are a lot of gifted nine-year-olds,” he counters. “They did it because they cared.””  

Lebron is very appreciative of those who helped him and his mom.  He is now in a position to bless many other people and he continues to find ways to do that.  In the article it mentions that he and his wife Savannah sponsor every at-risk third-grader in the Akron public school system, following them all the way through High School.  Their many other efforts of reaching out and helping are also well chronicled.

I truly hope that this is why we give as well, because we care, because we love, because we too have been blessed by God and others in so many ways.  We have been given many generous gifts including God’s greatest gift of all in Jesus our Savior.  As we give during this season I hope that it will encourage us to be givers in all seasons.  That we will show the love and care of Jesus throughout the New Year of 2017 that is just ahead of us.

Make it personal:  Find ways to give intentionally throughout the year ahead.  Look for new opportunities, keep your eyes opened for God moments, and always have a generous heart.  And always be thankful for the gift of Jesus and salvation that God has given to you.

Merry Christmas Everyone,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Giving Account

Read: Matthew 12:30-37midweekmediationforwebsite

Some day all of us will stand before the Lord to give account of our life.  In Matthew 12 Jesus is speaking to the people when he says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”  Of course Jesus was speaking about giving account of our life as a whole.

In thinking about these verses and many others in scripture I was saddened to read a story in yesterday’s newspaper.  Robert I. Sherman (63) was flying his small plane over Iowa when he crashed in a cornfield and died of his injuries.  This would be sad in any case but the article made me realize that this case is especially sad.

You see, Robert was known as the “Best known atheist in the Midwest.”  He was a very outspoken atheist and critic of anything to do with God or religion.  For years and years he went to court, filed lawsuits, and battled Christian faith and witness at every opportunity.  He even hosted a radio show that gave voice to many of these battles.  The Associated Press news report said that he also spent some time in jail in the 1990’s for domestic violence.

In a news article right below that one there was a story about the death of Joe Ligon (80).  Joe was the frontman for the grammy winning gospel singing group called the “Mighty Clouds of Joy.”  He spent his life singing for the Lord.  Mr. Ligon and Mr. Sherman both died and that is sad, I feel for their family and friends.  But these news articles make us think.

Each of us make decisions each day, each week, and each year about how we view God, life, people, and many other things.  Why not make those decisions fruitful and life-giving instead of hateful and vindictive?  When our day on earth comes to an end how would we want the newspaper headline to read?  More importantly, what will we experience as we stand before the Lord to give account of our words, actions, and life?

During this Christmas season we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He came to save all of us from our sins, bad choices, wrong words, and regrettable actions.  If we come to him with repentant hearts he will forgive us and cleanse us of all those things. He will purify us for that day in which we must give account.  I hope and pray that you have made that choice to receive Christ and receive his grace.  It’s always sad when we lose a loved one here on earth but the promise of eternal life in heaven for those who believe is a great comfort to live with.

Make it personal:  As the year comes to an end think about where you stand in your faith, your trust, and your life with God.  Companies often take inventory to see exactly where things stand with their business.  How about we take time this Christmas to take an inventory of our life.  A New Year and new direction could be right around the corner.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Everyone is Significant

Read: 1 John 4:7-21midweekmediationforwebsite

Everyone seems to have certain traditions during this season of Christmas.  For some people it is the yearly viewing of the popular classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Jay Akkerman shares the thoughts of Frank Capra who directed the movie many years ago.  He was asked what the central message of the film was.  After thinking a few moments Capra said, “I believe the real message of the film is that under the sun, nothing is insignificant to God.”

When you watch that movie you realize that everything that happens has intended and unintended consequences.  Everything because it has happened, causes something else to happen.  Everybody in that story is important, because he or she relates to everyone else.  Nothing is insignificant under the sun to God.  That’s a great message for us this year in light of all the other messages that are being sent.

John reminds us that God’s love is there for all people who choose to receive it.  No one is insignificant and no one is exempt from this love when they choose to make it a part of their life.  As verse 16 says, “We know and rely on the love God has for us.”  It then goes on to say, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement:  In this world we are like Jesus.”

That is our desire and that is our hope.  To be like Jesus.  As you think of the people in your life, think of them as Jesus does.  He see’s people with a different viewpoint than many in our world choose to use.  You have significance, they have significance, we all have significance!  In verse 19 John says, “We love because he first loved us.”  He then goes on to remind us, “Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Perhaps you need to be reminded, not only that you are important to God, but also that everyone around you is significant to God, too.  If we would treat others in that respect then our world would be a much brighter place.  Let’s make that our Christmas wish, that people would realize their significance in the eyes of God and acknowledge the significance of others in the eyes of God as well.

Make it personal:  Who have you placed on a different level when it comes to your significance scale?  Remind yourself first of foremost of the love that God has for you, then remind yourself that God has that same love for that person or those people as well.  May we remind ourselves that Everyone is Significant to God.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Contentment Wednesday

Read: Philippians 4:10-20    midweekmediationforwebsite

First it was Black Friday, then it was Cyber Monday, then came Giving Tuesday.  I am worried about Wednesday and Thursday feeling left out.  How about we give the attitude of contentment to Wednesday?  I am not opposed to any of these other days even though I really don’t observe them much.  

I do most of my Christmas gift shopping on my own time, usually the week before Christmas.  I spread out my giving to church, other people, and organizations throughout the year, even though I think it’s a great idea to have a “Giving Tuesday” after a “Black Friday.”  But all of these specific days made me think about what Paul says in the book of Philippians.

Paul writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”  What a great reminder as we head into this season of gifts, giving, and busyness.  Can we find time and space to be content?  How about starting today and calling this “Contentment Wednesday?”  How about carrying that attitude throughout the month of December and into 2017?

Alison Stewart, a former reporter and news anchor, spent three years investigating America’s unhealthy obsession with stuff. Her book, “Junk: Digging Through America’s Love Affair With Stuff,” examines the private lives and profitable businesses associated with our craving for consumer goods. Stewart explains that junk business is big business…

“Self-storage has its own association and lobbying group because it is big business, generating more than $24 billion in revenues in 2014. The United States is home to reportedly 48,500 to 52,000 self-storage units. That’s about 2.3 billion square feet of storage. It is a business that has been called recession resistant by the Wall Street Journal.”

Reality TV shows focusing on junk took off in the early 2000’s. Stewart put together a list of such shows broadcast between 2003 and the end of 2015. She writes: “The real tension that exists between the desire to buy and own, positioned against the stress created by the acquisitions, makes perfect sense for non-scripted television.” Here’s a partial list of stuff-based reality TV shows: American Pickers, Auction Hunters, Auction Kings, Buried Treasure, Flea Market Flip, Hoarders, Junk Gypsies, Junkyard Wars, Pawn Stars, Picker Sisters, Storage Wars, and its spinoff Storage War Texas.

Those shows can be very interesting but they also give evidence of how much junk we can accumulate if we are not careful.  Contentment does not mean that we are against gift giving or blessing other people.  It is good to have a giving spirit and bless others.  As Christmas comes this year let us embrace the season with a spirit of contentment and joy “in any and every situation” as Paul encourages in Philippians 4:12.

Make it personal:  When and if stress tries to overtake you during this Christmas season try to find ways to bring calm, peace, and contentment to your life.  Put on some Christmas music, light some candles, relax, watch a classic Christmas program and think about the reasons that we celebrate this time of year.  Find ways to be content whatever the circumstances.

Have a content week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Thanksgiving Dinner

Read: Romans 12:9-16midweekmediationforwebsite

This week families all over our country will be gathering together for Thanksgiving dinner.  We look forward to the great food, the fellowship, the reunions, and the time of giving thanks.  What we don’t look forward to sometimes is where the various conversations may end up going.

Following a very controversial election season and many other issues that our culture and society are dealing with right now those conversations can sometimes become tense, unloving, and spiteful.  John Stonestreet from the radio program Breakpoint recently commented about times in which people say, “Let’s just agree to disagree.”  He said, “Instead, let’s agree to love each other and to pursue the truth together. That’s a much better way forward.”

Which leads me to say, why don’t we just get together and enjoy our family and friends this Thanksgiving instead of trying to solve all of the problems in our country and world.  Show love to each other, talk about what has been going on in your life, and try to avoid the areas of conflict and disagreement.  Sure, it is good to have calm, insightful dialogue at times, but if we know that it will inflame the conversation then it’s best just not to go there.

Kristin van Ogtrop wrote this recently in a Time magazine essay.  She said, “My fellow Americans, I propose a cleansing Thanksgiving.  No, not a juice cleanse, a cleanse of our national soul.  First, turn off cable news.  Just turn it off, and don’t turn it back on until the Inauguration.  Second, absolutely no political posts on your Facebook feed.  None!  Believe it or not, you will continue to exist even if your friends (or “friends”) aren’t reminded of your political views every day.

Finally, when you sit down to dinner on Thanksgiving, look at those around you and make yourself forget who you think they voted for.  Bow your head and give thanks that you don’t live in _________ (fill in the name of any one of dozens of countries on this planet that don’t have a democratic process).  Close your eyes and take a deep breathe deep enough to clear the cobwebs.  And, silently or aloud, tell yourself that you are grateful for the people at your table.  Because we’re all human, and most us are just doing our best.”

Kristin hits on many other things in her essay but it reminds me of Romans 12:9-10 that says, “Love must be sincere.  Hate was evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.”  Let’s practice those things around the Thanksgiving dinner table this week!  Cling to what is good and cling to what you love about those you have gathered together with to give thanks.

Make it personal:  When people try to bring up controversial subjects that might not end well this week try to steer the conversation in a different direction.   Find positive things to talk about, find positive things to affirm in the other person, if nothing else just talk about the weather outside.  Just remember to honor the other person.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

In a Time of Change

Read:  James 1:11-18midweekmediationforwebsite

This past Sunday I started my message by talking about how things in this world are constantly changing.  I said, “From world powers, to economic structures, to how people live, nothing really ever stays the same.  Nothing that is except for God and his Kingdom.”  As I have thought more about that I was drawn to James 1 which says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Perhaps some words from the past might reinforce this truth in our minds.  In his classic book “Knowing God,” J.I. Packer says, “God does not change.  Let us draw out this thought.”  He then proceeds with these points….

– God’s love does not change.  He is from everlasting to everlasting.
– God’s character does not change.
– God’s truth does not change.  It is forever settled in the heavens.
– God’s ways do not change.  He still deals with people today as He did in the Scriptures.
– God’s purpose does not change.
– God’s Son does not change.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

That last statement comes from Hebrews 13:8.  A.W. Tozer also had some wonderful things to say about this changelessness of God in “The Knowledge of the Holy.”  Tozer points out, “God cannot change, for all change must be in one of three directions: 1) From better to worse; 2) From worse to better; 3) From one order of being to another.  God’s perfections rule out all three possibilities.  Tozer goes on to say, “The law of mutation belongs to a fallen world, but God is immutable, and in Him people of faith find at last eternal permanence.”

As things in our world change for better or for worse we must always turn our attention to God.  The Lord is our help in times of need as well as in times of blessing.  We must not despair or become overconfident in the things of this world.  They will change, but God will not.  Where do you want to place your trust and hope?

We should also be reminded of what the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed during his time of lament.  He said, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Make it personal:  In times of change we need to look to God for our help and strength.  No matter what you face in life right now I hope that you will remember that the Lord is your help, an ever present source of strength.  It’s time to get on our knees and pray in a spirit of humility, repentance, and worship.  God is on the Throne!

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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