Midweek Reflections

Peeking at the Presents

Read: Luke 2:1-20

You might think it’s a little early for the Christmas story to be the meditation reading this week, and you are probably right.  We are still in the season of Advent.  But I ran across a story from John E. Sumwalt this week that reminds us why waiting is actually good for us.  It went like this…
There was once a little girl named Lucinda who couldn’t wait for Christmas to come. She was so excited about Christmas that she was about to burst! Lucinda loved everything about Christmas. She loved singing Christmas carols, she loved decorating the tree and sending Christmas cards, she loved shopping and wrapping the presents. But, most of all, she loved unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.
She couldn’t wait to see what she was going to get. And one year she didn’t wait! She sneaked into the closet where her mom and dad had hidden her presents and she peeked.   She unwrapped the presents just enough to see what she was going to get. At first she was very excited, because she liked the presents and she couldn’t wait to play with them. But later, she began to feel sad. All of the excitement of waiting was gone. Now she didn’t have anything to look forward to on Christmas morning.
That night, at the Christmas Eve service, the little girl listened as the Christmas story from Luke 2 was read from the Bible. She knew the story well, and she especially liked the part where the angel told the shepherds about the birth of the baby Jesus.   How excited they must have been as they made their way to Bethlehem. Their people had been waiting a long, long time for the Messiah to come.
Even though it had taken many years, they had never given up hope. And how special it must have been to see the baby Jesus in the manger, even though the angel told them exactly what they were going to see. “Maybe that’s how it will be for me when I open my presents,” the little girl thought, and she began to get excited about Christmas morning all over again.
And when Lucinda opened her presents the next morning, what do you suppose happened? She was surprised! She didn’t get any of the presents she had peeked at! Her sister got all of those. She had peeked at the wrong presents! What a relief it was, and what a valuable lesson she had learned. She would never, ever even try to peek at her presents again! She would wait patiently, and with great excitement, for Christmas to come. She would wait as long as it took.
Just another reminder for all us, Christmas will come. We wait with great anticipation!
Make it Personal:  Go ahead and peek at the Christmas story this week. If you are like me you can never read it enough.  Perhaps this Christmas we should try to memorize these verses so that they can stay with us all year long.  Perhaps some of you already have.
Advent blessings, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Expectant Waiting

Read: Romans 8:22-28

        The season of Advent means that something is coming.  In fact, the word advent comes from the version of a Latin word that means “coming.”  You can see how that fits with this season that leads us to Christmas.  We wait patiently and with expectation for the coming of Jesus then (his birth) and now (his second coming).

One of those is fulfilled (Jesus’ birth) and for the other (Jesus’ second coming) we wait patiently.  Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Patience is a virtue, but it is also a challenging trait to live out in our fast paced culture and instant society.  We are usually expectant, we just aren’t always into the waiting part.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was blessed to be able to be with my family.  During our conversations my father told a story that is a great example of patience.  He drives a Chevy Colorado truck that has had trouble starting recently.  Over time he has learned that if it does not start, he needs to wait a certain amount of time before trying again.
In his experimentation he learned that a 9-minute wait is too little, and a 12-minute wait usually is successful in getting the truck to start.  I was amazed at my dad’s patience in sitting there for 12 minutes.  So I asked him what he does during that time.  His answer, “I have a prayer list in my visor, so I pull it out and use that time to pray for people.”  Perhaps he also prays that his truck will then start.  His example is an encouragement for me to slow down and be more patient.
By the way, my dad has investigated this issue with his truck extensively and talked to numerous mechanics to try and figure it out.  We encouraged him to either get it fixed or get a new truck.  But in the meantime, he will continue to be a patient prayer warrior in the cab of his truck.  Advent is a time of expectant waiting; may we wait with patience and joy.
Make it Personal:  The Christmas season ahead is often consumed by hurried people and frantic shopping.  Let’s slow down this year and enjoy the expectancy, the preparation, and the joy that Christmas is truly supposed to bring.  The celebration of our Savior Jesus is the reason we celebrate!
Have a wonderful December,
Pastor Glen Rhodes

Staying on the Path

Read: Psalm 119:9-16

           A couple weeks ago I mentioned the shortest chapter in the Bible.  It was Psalm 117.  I also said that I would share what the longest chapter in the Bible is.  Any guesses?  Here are some hints: It is written as an acrostic poem; the stanzas of the poem begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet: the verses of each stanza begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
If you guessed Psalm 119 you are correct. It has a total of 176 verses.  I would encourage you to read the whole chapter but this week I am going to focus in on verses 9-16.  That stanza begins by asking the question, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” Turns out the answer to this is very good advice for all ages.
In numerical order here are the answers that follow….
1.  Seek the Lord with all your heart and don’t walk away from his commands. (v.10)
2.  Keep God’s Word in your heart so the you will not be led astray by sin. (v.11)
3.  Praise the Lord, and seek after his ways and his path. (v.12)
4.  With your mouth give witness/testimony to God’s direction. (v.13)
5.  Rejoice daily in the many blessings of the Lord. (v.14)
6.  Read, study, and meditate on God’s Word.  The path that God has provided. (v.15)
7.  Delight in the Lord and be sure not to neglect or reject his path to life.  (v.16)
The rest of Psalm 119 is filled with helpful and valuable wisdom for staying on the path God has for you and finding life and hope on that path.  Psalm 119 is like a gateway to the rest of scripture that tells us how God loves us, saves us, and redeems us through his son Jesus Christ.  This is the path that leads us to the cross of Calvary where Jesus gave his life to save us from our sins and show us the way to eternal life with him in heaven.
Make it Personal:  Think about the path your life is currently on.  If you are struggling from the difficulties of life and you are far away from God, its time to try a different path.  Find the path of Jesus in the Bible and allow him to turn your life around.  Jesus wants to lead you and help you to walk his path of freedom, salvation, and eternal life.
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Finding Rest

Read: Hebrews 4:1-13

       In Genesis 2 after God created the heavens and the earth verses 2-3 says this, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
Most of the time when we read these verses or other passages like Hebrews 4:1-13 we think about the sabbath day of rest, or Sunday as Christians in the West refer to it.  Rest, worship, and a change of pace are always good for our soul as well as our physical well-being.  If you haven’t been taking advantage of your Sunday rest, please begin this week.
But there is also another kind of rest that we need to consider as well.  Recently I heard a pastor ask this question.  Are you experiencing God’s rest in your life?  At first, I wasn’t sure where he was going with that question, but then he made it clearer for me.  He said, “Are you worn out trying to control everything and everyone around you?  Maybe it is time to resign as general manager of the universe and start believing God’s promises and trusting God to do what only he can do.”
I realized at that moment that there are two kinds of rest.  Resting from physical work and resting from mental work.  Yes, we need to rest from our normal jobs and take time to refresh, worship, and recharge.  But often we need to rest from trying to control everything as well.  Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
You see, trying to control everything ourselves often leads us into disobedience.  Instead, we are encouraged to enter into the rest of God which places the control in his hands and allows us to trust in Jesus for all things.  This truly is the way to find God’s rest.
Make it Personal:  What is it in your life that you are trying to control?  How about you take a rest from that and give God control of the situation.  Trust in the promises of Jesus to see you through and take a rest.  Oh yes, and also remember to rest on Sunday.  There are some wonderful churches in our community to worship with!  Worship Jesus and then rest well!
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

God’s Love is Great

Read: Psalm 117

           What is the shortest chapter in the Bible?  If you guessed Psalm 117 you are correct.  It only has two verses and is the exact middle chapter of the entire Bible.  It is so short I can quote it in its entirety right here.  “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.  For great is his love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord.”  What is the longest chapter in the Bible?  Tune in next week for the answer to that.
So, what does this shortest chapter of the Bible proclaim?  To extol (praise enthusiastically) the Lord for his love and faithfulness to us.  This Psalm is a great reminder that God’s incredible love for each of us is reason to praise him and follow him in life.  As the favorite hymn “The Love of God” says, “it is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.”
In his book “Knowing God” J.I. Packer writes, “What matters supremely is not the fact that I know God, but the larger fact that he knows me.  I am engraved on the palms of His hands.  I am never out of His mind.  All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me.”  These words remind us that no matter what happens in life God keeps us in mind and his love and faithfulness for us will never cease.
Too often we forget about this love of God that surrounds us.  We begin to focus on our failures, difficulties, and troubles, instead of focusing on God’s love for us.  When love is difficult to find in the world it is always close at hand with God.  This is why our relationship with Jesus and our spiritual focus in life is so important. We can find many reasons to give praise to the Lord when we remind ourselves of God’s love and faithfulness to us each and every day.
Make it Personal:  If you are searching for God’s love in life you can find it in Jesus.  God’s son loves you and the people of this world so much that he came to earth to save you from sin and condemnation. (John 3:16)  He died on the cross to bring you salvation.  All you need to do to receive it and realize his love for you is to believe in him and make him the Lord of your life.
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

“Just Remember…”

Read: Romans 12:3-8                    
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” While we usually desire to be others focused, we too often tend to be selfish, me-centered, and vain.  This is probably why humility is one of the most encouraged character traits in the Bible.  Romans 12 says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement…”
While we need to see ourselves as God sees us; as loved, important, and valued, we also need to pay attention to times that we can become self-absorbed.  In a recent Golf Digest interview, former PGA Tour player and now golf analyst Paul Azinger said, “Each time I walk out the door to a tournament I’m broadcasting my wife Toni gives me a kiss and says, ‘Just remember, nobody’s tuning in to hear you.’”  Paul says, “It’s humbling. And dead-on accurate.”
When we see acts of humility we need to think about our own lives and learn how to grow in humility ourselves. How can I do better at putting others before myself?  How can I love my neighbor?  How is Jesus wanting me to grow in this area?  I need to ask those questions while still loving who God has made me to be as person created in His image.
NBA star Steph Curry, guard for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, has shown humility in various ways over the past couple of years. Two years ago, he was the MVP of the league and yet still encouraged his team to recruit Kevin Durant to the Warriors who would later become an NBA finals MVP instead of Curry.
This past week his Warriors teammate Klay Thompson was scorching the net with 3 pointers during a game in Chicago.  He was on his way to breaking Curry’s record for 3’s in an NBA game.  What did Curry say to him during a timeout?  “Go get it Klay!”  He encouraged his teammate to break his own record for NBA 3 pointers in a game. Curry is outspoken about his Christian faith and once said, “People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that’s because of my Lord and Savior Jesus.”  Like all of us, Curry is not perfect, but he is striving to live out his faith.
Selfless humility is one of the Godly traits we should all try to emulate in our lives.  It’s not always easy and at times we will fail, but with the example and encouragement of Jesus and others we can remind ourselves that it is truly the best way to live our lives.  The words of Jesus ring true, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Make it Personal:  The one way we can decipher humility in our lives is to be self-aware.  As you interact with people keep this call to humility in your thoughts and ask these questions.  Am I responding with humility?  Does my attitude reflect humility?  Am I thinking of others?  We should all pray that God will help us to develop more humility in our lives.
Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

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