Midweek Reflections

Filters and Pods

Read:  Proverbs 4:18-27

During a recent Children’s Time at church I started out by holding something up and asking the children if any of them knew what it was.  Not one child raised their hand.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that most of them may have never seen a coffee filter before.  Either their parents don’t drink coffee, or if they do many of them probably use Coffee Pods in their Keurig machines instead of brewing a pot of coffee.  Perhaps the children learned more than just the Bible lesson that morning?

Filters are an important thing in life whether you are a child or an adult.  How many of us like to drink coffee that has coffee grounds floating around it?  How dirty would the air in our homes be if our air conditioners did not have filters?  How about the oil in our vehicles, the water we drink, or the aquarium you might have in your living room?  Those filters are important but perhaps the most important filter is the one that keeps our lives pure, holy, and righteous before God.

In Proverbs 4 we are told to guard our hearts, our mouths, our eyes, and our paths.  Verse 26 and 27 says, “Be steadfast in all your ways and keep your foot from evil.”  It makes me wonder, are we being intentional about doing those things?  Are we filtering out the things that are ungodly, filled with sin, and leading us away from God’s will for our lives?  Are we doing this for our children and helping them learn how to make Godly choices in life?

Menno Simons once said, “For this is the chief and principal care of the saints, that their children may fear God, do right, and be saved.”  In a recent article Melvin Schwartz wrote about how trees work together to protect each other and provide for each other.  He wrote, “Tree’s in every stage of development are all growing together.  The older trees offer protection from the weather and provide an established boundary within which the young trees can safely grow.”  He went on to say, “Let us all work together to create an environment that induces spiritual growth, so future generations can walk in the ways of the Lord after we are gone, and we can all inherit eternal life together.”

We need to make sure that our thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions are filtered through God’s Word and God’s will for our lives.  Adults, this means that we need to be careful about what we allow into our minds, eyes, and out of our mouths.  It also means that we need to help protect our children from the many dangers that lurk in today’s world.  Internet filters and blocks are valuable, checking their phones from time to time can be helpful, and having helpful conversations with them about these things can be the most beneficial.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Let’s do that!

Make it personal:  Adults, what do we need to do to make our life holy and steadfast in the eyes of the Lord?  What filters might we need to add?  Parents, how are you protecting your children from this age of the internet?  In our home we use a very good filter/block called “Qustudio” that works for web browsers as well as smartphones.  It works better and offers far more options than most others that I have researched.  If you want more information you can check their website or smartphone app.  Whatever you do, be sure to talk to your children about why these things are important and why it is important to guard our hearts, minds, and mouths from sin and evil.

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Be The Church

Read: Romans 12:3-11

What is the church?  When asked that question some might refer to certain buildings around a town or city.  Others would say that the church represents the body of Christ.  Others would say that it is the people of God who meet together and work together to further the good news of Jesus in the world.  And there are probably even more ways that people would define the church beyond these.  From the example that Paul gives in Romans 12 three words are used to describe Christ’s church.  Sacrifice, Humility, and Love.

It reminds me of a Vacation Bible School story I once heard about.  During this particular VBS the teacher was the one who learned a valuable lesson from the children.  On the third day a new student was brought into the room after the class had already started.  This little boy had one arm missing and the teacher was wondering how the children would treat him and interact with him.  She was hoping that they would not say something insensitive to him to hurt his feelings.

Then as the class came to a close she asked the children to join her in their usual closing by saying, “Let’s make our churches, let’s put our hands together to form the church.  “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and…”  Suddenly the awful truth had struck her.  The very thing she had feared that the children would do, she had done.  The little boy was not able to participate.  As the teacher stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Josh, let’s make the church together.”

As I go through my week and see the various interactions of our church family I am reminded of how important the church is to people, to a community, and to the world.  The examples of sacrifice, humility, and love that I witness each week are a testimony to what the church can and should be in this world.  We are not perfect, we sometimes need to practice grace and forgiveness, but it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without the church of Jesus Christ.

As someone once said, “The world at its worst needs the church at its best.”  When we think of all the Christian ministries around the world, the good news of Jesus that is being shared and proclaimed, all the hospitals that are named after Christian churches and denominations, all the acts of love and service that are shown to those in need, we realize what an awesome calling this is.  In verse 5 Paul says, “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

As I see Christ’s church interact with each other on social media and serve with each other in the community I am reminded of how different our lives would be without Christ and without each other.  Yes, we have different personalities and different gifts, but we have been given a larger purpose in life.  A purpose that brings God’s kingdom to this earth and joins together to point people toward Jesus our Savior.  Our hope is that through the church Jesus might become their Savior as well.

Make it personal:  How have you been the church to someone this week?  Think about Paul’s three words of Sacrifice, Humility, and Love.  How can you practice those as you interact with family, friends, and co-workers this week?  I hope that you will make church a valuable part of your life and attend a local church regularly.  Get involved, get to know people, and find the purpose that Jesus has for your life.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Run the Race

Read: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I love to watch the Olympics!  The training, competition, medals, and gathering of all the nations in the world is truly something to behold.  As I watched the opening ceremony recently I was thrilled to see all of the athletes walking in together in a spirit of joy and anticipation.  As one recent Iphone commercial says, “We are more alike than we are unalike.”

As I watched the swimming competition last week I was impressed by the story of Ryan Murphy.  NBC ran a story showing the drawings and books he made as a young child that showed him swimming in the Olympics and winning a gold medal.  This was a lifelong dream of his.  He trained for it, worked very hard, and it all came to fruition when he stood atop the gold medal podium and watched the U.S. flag being raised to the rafters.  He broke an Olympic record in the men’s 100 meter backstroke that night. 

Each time the Olympics roll around I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9.  He talks about the runners in a race.  He talks about the strict training that goes into competition.  He talks about the crown or gold medal they are working towards.  But then he compares that earthly crown to the heavenly crown of eternal life in heaven that will last forever.

Paul’s words are to remind the church at Corinth, and us, about the importance of spiritual training and exercise.  If we desire to grow in the ways of God and develop a closer walk with Jesus we must “run in such a way as to get the prize.”  Paul is speaking about the need for self-discipline in those verses but he is also encouraging spiritual growth as well.  

We are not saved by our works or by our deeds.  We are saved by the grace of Jesus.  But being saved by Christ should encourage us to live for him, grow in him, and make him the Lord of our life.  Ultimately this is what Paul is encouraging in these verses.  It encourages us to ask how we can make that happen in our lives.  Is it a time of daily prayer and devotions?  Is it devoting more time to loving neighbors and friends?  Is it being more committed to regular church attendance?  Or is it something else that the Lord is speaking to you about?

I admire the time, commitment, training, and effort that all of these olympic athletes put in.  Congratulations to all of them.  I know that I will never stand on one of those Olympic podiums, but even better than that would be to stand at the doors of heaven and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  I hope the same for you as well!  That will be better than any color of medal hanging around our neck.  

Make it personal:  How can you grow spiritually?  That is the big question of this week’s meditation and scripture passage.  I would encourage you to make this a matter of prayer and listen to what the Holy Spirit speaks into your heart.  Be ready to make changes if that is what is needed.  But most of all be ready to see your spiritual life grow and your relationship with Jesus become stronger than ever.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Your Most Important Job

Read: Proverbs 22:1-16

What is the most important job you have ever had?  If you are a parent the task of raising your children should be right at the top of that list.  Last night former President Bill Clinton made a statement that caught my attention.  He has held many jobs in his life including being a state governor and the President of the United States of America for 8 years, but in his speech last night at the Democrat’s National Convention he said that raising their child Chelsea was the most important job they ever had.  Politics aside that is a very important word for all of us parents to hear.

In Proverbs 22 we hear the verse that is so commonly shared by parents and others.  It says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”   Our children are their own persons.  We cannot make decisions for them once they are out of our homes and living their own lives.  This is why the 18 to 20 years that they are in our homes are so crucial.  It is the most important job you will ever have.

However, don’t let the weight of that title become a burden to you.  Do the best job that you possibly can and rely on God to help you through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  There will be some of each of those in your experience for sure.  If you teach them to follow Jesus, abide by his Word, and make him the Lord of their lives you have started in the right place.  After that be sure to teach them manners, life skills, relationship skills, and other good and positive examples that will benefit them later in life.

There is a certain type of bamboo in Japan that only flowers once every 120 years.  It’s hard to understand how this plant can keep track of time, but everything 119 years before it germinates will determine how much the bamboo will bloom. And that’s a long time to wait to see the results.  In the same way, children don’t always blossom on your timetable. The love, discipline and instruction you pour into their lives cannot be immediately seen.

Our job as a parent is to prune and nourish our children in anticipation of their blooming. And once they do, you’ll see them grow rapidly into patient, loving and consistent people.  One interesting thing about that Japanese bamboo is that the latest bloomers often have the most striking and beautiful flowers.  Never give up on your child!  Continue to pray for them, support them, encourage them, and show them the ways of God.

One last thing.  Make sure that your children are involved in Church, in Sunday School, in Youth Groups, and other civic activities that will help them to grow spiritually and learn important life skills.  Don’t become so busy that you cannot enjoy each other, but be intentional about what they are involved in and who they are involved with.  Most of all pray for them.  If your child is not where you would like them to be right now, pray that Jesus would lead them to that place.

Make it Personal:  In verse 15 of Proverbs 22 it says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”  It is important to discipline our children so that they know right from wrong.  However, we must discipline out of love, care, and concern for them, not out of our anger and violent reactions.  Sometimes it helps to cool down, pray about it, and then address the folly that needs to be addressed.  My prayers are with you as you do this most important job, please pray for me as well.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Mirrors and Legacy

Read: 2 Corinthians 3:12-18    

    This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 50th anniversary of the church that I grew up in.  As we gathered together at Carlsbad Mennonite Church in Carlsbad, New Mexico from many places across the U.S. and Canada I was reminded of how important examples and legacies are.  Stories and memories were shared this past weekend, friendships were reunited, and I found myself very thankful for those who God used to influence me in those early years.

In 1 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says, “We Christians … can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” (TLB)  One definition of the word Legacy is “Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.”  As we live our lives we need to be ever so thoughtful about the legacy and the imprint that we are leaving for the next generation.  

As I look into the mirror of my past I am thankful for the examples that I witnessed.  Many men and women showed me how to live for Jesus, have faith in Jesus, and abide in Jesus.  They encouraged me, taught me, and treated me like a child of God.  They had fun with me, laughed with me, and spent time with me.  They truly desired  to live lives that mirrored the words of the Bible and life of Jesus Christ.  Some of them are still living and others have gone on to their eternal home in heaven.

As I spoke at Carlsbad Mennonite this past Sunday I focused on the three words that have been at the front of that sanctuary for years and years.  Three words that have guided that church and those people.  Three words that are key if want to build God’s kingdom and experience living hope, salvation, grace, forgiveness, and new life.  Three words that should encourage us to engage with unbelievers and invite them into God’s family to find hope and restoration in life.  What are those three words?  JESUS IS LORD!

In a world that is filled with hatred, violence, terrorism, wars, broken relationships, and heartache, Jesus is the one that can truly save us from those things.  In the midst of all that our nation has been going through in recent days I keep thinking to myself, “If only people would turn to Jesus and allow him to bring change and transformation to their lives.”  We need to be the example and share the example of Christ with the world.  We need to mirror Jesus and leave a legacy of faith.

Yes, I am thankful for all of those people that have made an impact on my life, both then and now.  It encourages me to think about the impact and the legacy that I can leave for those who will follow.  It encourages me to think about how my life can mirror the life of Christ and reflect his life to others.  It encourages me to think about the decisions I make and the life that I lead.  It encourages me to give thanks to God for the blessings of other people in my life.  I hope it can do the same for you!

Make it Personal:  Take some time this week to think about those who have influenced you in the past.  Parents, family, church family, friends, co-workers.  Think about the good qualities you see in others and think about the legacy that you are leaving.  No matter what your past or current situation looks like it is never too late to start leaving the kind of legacy that you and the Lord would desire.  Jesus is the Lord of change, restoration, and salvation.  Start today and mirror the life of Christ in order to leave a lasting legacy of faith.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Danger Zone

Read: Proverbs 23:29-35   

    Is drinking alcohol a sin?  In both secular and Christian circles you might get a variety of responses when asking this question.  Some might refer to times in the Bible when it is discouraged (as in Proverbs 23 and many others) and some might refer to times in the Bible when it is mentioned as a very common drink during biblical times (In John 2 Jesus turns the water into wine).  But everyone can agree that it has the potential to cause destruction in our lives.

For several years I have followed the internet blog, sermons, and ministry of pastor Perry Noble and Newspring Church in Anderson, South Carolina.  I appreciated his insights, thoughts, comments, and even referred to them from time to time in these midweek meditations.  I was very sad this past week when I learned this news as reported by the Greenville, South Carolina newspaper,  “The Rev. Perry Noble, who started NewSpring Church nearly 20 years ago, is no longer its senior pastor.  Early in Sunday’s 9:15 a.m. service, Executive Pastor Shane Duffey announced that Noble had been removed as pastor on July 1… after Noble “had made unfortunate choices,” and that the board members had confronted Noble on numerous occasions regarding his use of alcohol.”

It’s hard to know what all of the “unfortunate choices” were that led to this, but it is obvious that alcohol was a contributing factor.  In another news report I read that marital problems were also part of the issue.  The alcohol piece could have also played a part in that as well.  But it saddens me that alcohol has caused all of this pain and heartache for Perry, his family, his church, and many others.

We live in a world in which beer, wine, and other stronger alcoholic beverages are too often treated as a god instead of a beverage.  Often times people cannot gather, socialize, or have a celebration without them being present.  As a sports fan I am often times disappointed about the presence of so much drinking and drunkenness.  I am not sharing this to be in judgement of others, but I am sharing it because of the dangers this can have on individuals, families, children, churches, and society in general.

So many instances in the Bible suggest that it is better to avoid the danger zone of drunkenness.  In Genesis 19 drinking results in Lot’s debauchery and incest of his own daughters.  In Genesis 27 Isaac was drinking when he mistakenly blessed Jacob.  In 1 Samuel 25 Nabal, a rich man who opposed David and had lost his wife’s respect died after a drunken spree.  In Deuteronomy 21:20 it speaks of how drinking leads to stubbornness, rebellion, and gluttony which brings dishonor to parents.  One source says that there are more verses in the Bible about drinking and drunkenness than can be found on the subject of lying, adultery, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, pride, cheating, stealing, hypocrisy or even blasphemy.

When I was growing up my father had a very intentional way of letting me know about the dangers that drinking alcohol can have.  This was before we had a television with a remote control.  When an ad for alcoholic beverages would come on during commercial breaks he would get up out of his chair, go over to the television, and turn the channel until the program was back on the air.  Then he would go back over and sit in his chair.  He didn’t say a word but he didn’t have to.

The truth is, for some people the only way to avoid the danger zones of alcohol is to abstain from it.  Whether you agree or disagree about calling it a sin or not, I think everyone can agree that it is heartbreaking to see the destruction that it can cause.  I am going to pray for Perry Noble, his family, and his church.  Jesus can bring them through this and bring them to a brighter day ahead.  If you struggle with alcohol and would like to get help, I hope that you will reach out and find the help that you need.  God will forgive you and set you on a path of freedom from the chains of dependence and addiction.

Make it personal:  If you or someone in your family needs help in this area of life here are some organizations that you might want to look into.  Recovering Redemption, Celebrate Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous are just a few.  As Ed Stetzer said when commenting about the Perry Noble story, “You don’t have to suffer alone and it won’t end well if you don’t get help. You do not have to hide. Alcohol isn’t freedom, and hiding isn’t the way out. We can stand together in the power of the gospel and see the way forward in hope.”  And to that I say AMEN!

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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