Midweek Reflections

Character is Destiny

Read: Colossians 3:12-17

This past weekend Jordan Spieth won his second major golf tournament of the year by winning the U.S Open at Chamber’s Bay in the state of Washington.  Some of the other names to accomplish the feat of winning the Master’s and the U.S Open in the same year are those of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.  Very esteemed company for the 21 year old Spieth for sure.

But what most people are talking about along with his talent at golf is his character.  I heard one person connect his character with his destiny for success on the course by saying, “Character is Destiny.”  One golf commentator this weekend said, “There’s a kid who looks in the mirror and likes what he sees.”  Funny thing is, Jordan seems to humble to even think that way.

In Colossians 3 Paul writes, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  When we put on these character traits in life it becomes easier to look in the mirror each day.

Derek Hill says, “Character is what defines you.  It’s what people see in you.  It’s what people will say about you after you pass away.  Character is one of the most important things you have.  How are you investing in yours?  Do people see your faith in what you do?  Is your character reflected in how you serve the Kingdom?”   Those are all great questions to ask of ourselves.

Yes, I am a Jordan Spieth fan, because I like who he is, what he stands for, and how he handles himself in public.  Oh, and I admire his excellent golf game as well.  I hope that he continues to live with this character as more success heads his way.  I hope the same for myself as well.  I hope that my character will reflect the words of Paul in Colossians 3.  I hope the same for you as well!  May we set our destiny to be God’s witnesses by living with Godly character in our everyday lives.

Make it personal:  Take time to thank those people who are great examples of Godly character in life.  In a world that is often filled with hateful words, demeaning statements, and anger, it is a blessing to see the opposite of those.  The families of the Charleston, South Carolina shooting this past week have given us a great example of that.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Serving Jesus

Read: Luke 10:25-37

What a blessing it has been this week to see the followers of Jesus serving him and others through the love, care, and concern for people of all ages.  Since Monday the church building has been bursting with enthusiasm and excitement as over 250 children and 75 volunteers from 5 churches have come together for the Arthur Community Vacation Bible School.  God’s Word, God’s love, and the plan that Jesus has for these children is being taught and received each and every day.

And then as I opened Facebook last night I see the crew from our church that is in Pilger, Nebraska this week building a Mennonite Disaster Service house that was lost in a tornado last year.  A local TV news crew came out and did a news story which included an interview with Virgil Gingerich and showed the crew busy at work.  In only two days of work the walls were up and the trusses in place.

These examples are wonderful reminders of how Jesus taught us to live. To serve him by serving others.  This is the exact point he was trying to make when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Samaritan gave up some time, money, and other things in order to see someone helped, blessed, and changed for the better.  I see that in action this week for sure, but I know that it happens each and every week in areas that are unseen.

Some years ago I heard the story of two men who sold their lucrative tech company for 1.5 billion dollars.  They selflessly decided to share their windfall with their employees.  The average bonus payment their workers received was just over $75,000.  One of the men summarized their decision by saying, “To share our success with everybody is the most joy we can have.”

I doubt any of the servants I have witnessed this week has 1.5 billion dollars to share, but they do have something that is even more valuable in the eyes of eternity.  They have the good news of Jesus Christ and the priceless joy of helping other people know his love, grace, care, and concern.  They have given up some of their time and maybe even money to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

I pray that the many seeds being sown this week at Bible School will go into our community and world and make a difference in the lives of children and their families.  I pray that the homes being built in Nebraska will bless these people and allow them to realize that Jesus loves them and wants to provide for them in their times of need.

At the end of the Good Samaritan parable Jesus gives us a four word instruction.  He says, “Go and do likewise!”  It may not be VBS, it may not be building a house, but how is Christ using you to bring forth his kingdom here on earth?  God needs all of us to do our part, and in the end we pray together that the saving grace of Jesus, the love and care of God, and the servant hearts of his people will make a difference in this world.

Make it personal:  Let’s join together in praying this week for VBS and the Nebraska builders.  But let us also pray that God will lead us in who we are to serve and to bless in his name.  If we look around I am positive that we will see many opportunities this week, next week, and in the years ahead.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Present and Future

Read: Luke 8:22-25

It’s impossible to know what each person is experiencing in their lives each week. As we encounter people from day to day we need to remember this and be prepared to be the peace of God or share the peace of Christ that they might need in the midst of their storm. As we go through those times ourselves we must remember that our present difficulty might be leading to future blessings.

As we read the story of Jesus calming the storm for the disciples in Luke 8 I am reminded of the old story that is told of the shipwrecked man. After the shipwreck he is washed up on a small uninhabited island. He cried out to God to save him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed to come.

Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a rough hut and put his few possessions in it. But then one day, after hunting for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling to the sky. The worst had happened; he was stung with grief. Early the next day, though, a ship came near to the island and rescued him. “How did you know I was here?” he asked the crew. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

It’s never easy to go through a difficult time, but as we wake Jesus up in those times and place our faith and trust in him we can begin to see that our present difficulty may be instrumental to our future blessings. It may help us to grow, have more faith, and lean on Jesus more than we have been in the past.

When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee he said to the disciples, “Where is your faith?” Perhaps that same question is posed to us this week? No matter what you face this week place your faith in Jesus and call on his time to get you through it. He is faithful and he will bring you peace and comfort as he helps the storm become a thing of your past.

Make it personal: When we face a storm in life we must first turn to prayer. Along with praying to God it is often helpful to confide in a trusted friend. God has given us each other to encourage us in our faith and bring those words of comfort and hope that we need to hear. Also think about who you can share those words with this week.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

For a time like this

Read: Esther 4

I recently noticed a movie out in the theaters by the name of “Mortdecai” and wondered if it was the story of Esther’s cousin from the Bible.  It did not take me long to figure out that this movie had nothing to do with the Biblical Mordecai and wasn’t even spelled the same way.  But it did get me to thinking about that story in the Bible.

The book of Esther is known for God’s calling upon our lives and God’s ability to put us in the right situation at the right time for his specific purpose in our lives.  That is true for the life of Esther for sure.  The well known verse from this book comes from Esther 4:14 when Mordecai says to Esther, “you have come to this position for such a time as this?”

Esther was able to influence the King for the good of the Jewish people and basically saved a nation by being in her position as queen when she was.  But her cousin Mordecai had a very big part in this as well.  You see, Mordecai adopted Esther at a very young age when her parents died.  Most likely his parents had died as well and he took it upon himself to raise Esther.  God placed him in the right place at the right time.

But there is another key element in this story.  Not only were Mordecai and Esther in the right place but they were willing to serve God in that place.  Throughout this story we see Mordecai turning very difficult challenges into wonderful opportunities for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.  Thankfully for the Jewish people he raised Esther in this way as well.

If you are facing a difficult situation or unwanted circumstances in your life right now I would encourage you to read this book in the Old Testament.  It is only 10 chapters long and it is another one of those wonderful reminders of how scripture can be applied to our everyday lives today.

You may not be a king or queen, but you have been placed where you are for a specific purpose and we all need to pray that God will show us His will and His purpose for the places and the people that we are able to influence.  Some of the lessons from Mordecai’s life that my Bible shares are….

– The opportunities we have are more important than the ones we wish we had.
– W can trust God to weave together the events of life for our best, even though we may not be able to see the overall pattern.
– The rewards for doing right are sometimes delayed, but they are guaranteed by God himself.

Make it personal:  Perhaps the story of Esther and Mordecai can get us all to ask the question, “How might God be wanting to use my current situation or circumstances to bring about change, hope, or restoration in my life or the life of others?”

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Say What?

Read: Proverbs 11

How many times have you felt like someone was speaking over your head? If a computer tech comes to your business or home do they speak in a language that leaves you thinking, “what did he/she just say?” If a farmer speaks in terms of GMO’s and Extensification do you know what that means? If ESPN speaks of OBP or ERA do you know what that stands for? The truth is… we usually know what is familiar to us and can understand it much better than things that are foreign to us.

This past week on Crosswalk.com John McKinley wrote about the need for Christians to think about this when speaking of their faith to other people. Some words are impossible to get around because they hold such theological importance, but when we speak of salvation and righteousness (for example) we may need to explain that to some people in simple terms.

Mr. McKinley shared some of these types of words and offered these suggestions on how to explain them. I list them here with his suggestions…..

Exalt – Instead of using “exalt” in our songs just because the Bible translations use it, we may do better to say “lift up” or “honor” because these are commonly understandable terms for the same idea “exalt” functions today.

Bless – We may need to use rich phrases instead of the shorthand of one word: “I want to please God,” “God has done so much good for me,” “God has filled up my satisfaction,” “I desire the best for her,” “May God care for you today.”

Glory or Glorify – This term is all over the Bible, our songs, our conversation. The OT term has the idea of “to be heavy,” as in the weightiness of God’s love and demonstration of his power. The NT term has ideas of “shining light, splendor, honor, praise, to show the truth.”

Behold – I don’t think I’ve ever said this word except when reading aloud the biblical text. I think it means “Look!” or “Here” in most cases. Why don’t we just say that, or “pay attention!” “Look at this!”

Sin – Some Christians are still uncomfortable with the term, so they talk of their “sins” as “mistakes” or they say, “I messed up.” When I thought about everyday language that fit what the Bible actually means by “sin” I settled on “failure” and “crime.” Both of these alternative terms make sense to non-Christians and Christians alike.

He share a few others as well. Perhaps you can think of others? The main idea here is to communicate your faith in a way that does not leave the hearer asking, “say what?” The book of Proverbs has so many wise sayings that seem simple and down to earth. Chapter 11 is one of those. Let’s try to share our faith in ways (and words) that will make sense to those who need to hear it. The Good News of the Gospel is not difficult. It should be easy to hear and receive.

Make it personal: Try to catch yourself using terms from the Bible and ask how easy it would be to explain that to someone in layman’s terms. By doing this we can prepare ourselves to share the gospel in a way that the world can easily understand Jesus and what he has done for them. One of the Bible translations that tries to do this is the Contemporary English Version, maybe that can be a resource as you simplify your message.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

What about the Lord?

Read:  Deuteronomy 15:1-10;  2 Corinthians 9:6-8

In a recent article in Bloomberg Business Week the author was writing about the saving and spending habits of Americans.  One of the comments made went somewhat like this, “When it comes to our money we have two choices, we can save it or we can spend it.”  It caused me to stop mid-sentence and think, “What about a third way, giving?”

We all know the well known saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”   While this may sometimes be hard for adults to practice it always holds true.  We feel better, we have more joy, and we are a part of bringing forth God’s kingdom on this earth when we give of our time, money, and talents as the Bible encourages us to do.

Here is another story I recently read…. “When I was 16 years old, my father gave me a job of picking up trash and cleaning restrooms at the place that he was working.  I was paid $3 a day and allowed to drive my father’s very old beat up truck around.  I can remember my first paycheck.  My parents and I were around the dining room table, and I was discussing how I was going to spend my money.

After I finished listing all of the things I wanted to buy my dad said, “What about the Lord?”  I sat down re-figured my budget, and it was at that time that I first laid aside 10% of my income for the Lord.  To the best of my knowledge I have given 10% or more of every dollar I have ever earned to the Lord.  The Lord has blessed me a hundred times over and is still blessing me and my family for this.”

As I read this man’s story I too remembered having a similar conversation with my parents after I got my first job as a paperboy.  I am thankful that they taught and demonstrated the importance of giving the first-fruits of our labors to the Lord and then thinking about how we will save and spend the rest of what the Lord has blessed us with.  We need to continue to pass this concept on to our own children and grandchildren.

The places to give and support the Lord’s work around the world are almost endless.  churches and religious organizations continue to do wonderful work around the world to bring love, care, and support to those in need in the name of Christ.  Christian aid organizations are often the first ones on the scene when a disaster occurs and children around the world are being fed, housed, and educated by numerous other Christian ministries.

Throughout the Bible we are encouraged to give selflessly so that money will not become a god to us and control our lives.  Yes, it is important to save for your family and future needs, and yes, we must spend some of what we make.  But each time we sit down to pay the bills or decide what our next purchase is going to be it might be good for us to ask the question the father asked in the story above.  What about the Lord?

The Bible mentions giving 10% several times in the Old Testament but I would encourage you to be open to what the Lord leads you to give.  I once heard of a couple who decided to live on 10% and give away 90%.  While that seems very radical it also seems very freeing.  Imagine being able to do that and how blessed you would feel.

In 2 Corinthians 9 it says, “Those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as they have purposed in their heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  May we be cheerful as we give and sow seed into God’s kingdom here on earth.  Together, with God’s help, we can make a difference!

Make it personal:  One piece of advice I have always appreciated is the suggestion of giving to the Lord before paying the bills or deciding what to buy.  If we have a set amount or percent each time then we know that this is for the Lord’s work and it comes out first.  In some sense it is like an automatic withdrawal, except this one is for God.

Have a joy-filled and generous week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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