Midweek Reflections

How Long?


Read: Psalm 13 and Revelation 22:12-21

Tonight the eyes of the sports world will be focused on game 7 of the World Series.  The Chicago Cubs have come back from 3-1 deficit to force a winner take all game 7 in Cleveland tonight against the Indians. Whoever wins will overcome one of the longest championship droughts in all of sports.  It has been 39,465 days since the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908.  For Cleveland it has been 24,820 days.  They last won it in 1948.  How long has it been for both of these teams?  A long time!

This question of how long is a common theme in scripture.  It isn’t concerned with world championships but how long until certain things will happen in our lives and in our world.  In Psalm 13 David is wondering how long he will have to wait to see God move in his situation.  While he waits he proclaims his faith that God will show up.  In verse 5 he says, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

In the book of Revelation and other books of the New Testament we read about the second coming of Christ.  It doesn’t tell us how long or when Jesus will come back to take believers up to heaven, but it promises that someday it will happen.  As Christians we are to remain ready and in anticipation of that day at all times.  Waiting is not always easy but it makes the day of blessing all the better.

In his book “It Happens After Prayer” Pastor H. B. Charles Jr. provides the following helpful illustration of why God often makes us wait for the answer to our prayers.  “One hot afternoon, a certain woman walked to her neighbor’s produce stand to buy grapes. The line was long. And each person seemed to get special attention. But she waited patiently. When she finally made it to the front of the line, the owner asked for her order. She asked for grapes. “Please excuse me for a minute,” was the answer.

Then the owner walked away and disappeared behind a building. For some reason, this rubbed the woman the wrong way. Everyone in line before her was greeted warmly. They were given special attention. And, most importantly, they were served immediately. But she was forced to wait. And when she got to the front of the line, she was forced to wait some more. She was offended. She felt the owner took her regular business for granted. The longer she waited, the angrier she became.

Finally, the produce stand owner reappeared. And with a big smile, he presented her with the most beautiful grapes she had ever seen. He invited her to taste them. She had never tasted grapes so good. As she turned to leave with her delicious grapes, he stopped her. “Oh yeah, I’m sorry I kept you waiting,” said the farmer. “But I needed the time to get you my very best.”

Maybe you have been waiting on something to happen in your life or the life of someone else for a long time.  Keep lifting it in prayer to God and keep anticipating what God is going to do.  God doesn’t always answer our prayers exactly like we want but he does answer them within his perfect will.  In Philippians 4:9 is this promise, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Make it Personal:  How long have you been in line waiting on God to get to your request? How long have you been waiting in line for God to meet a need, solve a problem, or open a door? Whatever you do, don’t get out of line. And don’t stop praying. Wait on God.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The In’s and Out’s of Conflict

Read: Genesis 33

Conflict is something that we often try to avoid.  If a wrong has been committed and two sides are at odds they often will go to extreme lengths to try and avoid each other.  While conflict is usually not a healthy thing it can at times provide a wonderful opportunity for healing and restoration between two people.  Those times of healing and restoration can bring much needed contentment and peace to both involved.

Jonathan Sacks once said, “As long as there is conflict within us there will be conflict around us.”  The opposite of that can be true as well,  as long as there is conflict around us there is often conflict within us.”  In Genesis 33 we read the story of when Jacob approached his brother Esau after a long bitter family dispute.  Jacob had taken Esau’s blessing from their father and now years later they are about to meet again.

Jacob had gifts prepared for Esau and his family in hopes of a peaceful meeting.  He prayed that God would save him and his family from the retaliation of Esau.  Then in chapter 33 the meeting takes place.  As Esau approaches Jacob bows down to the ground seven times.  To Jacob’s surprise Esau comes running to greet him with a hug and a brotherly kiss.  Verse 4 says that they wept together over this new found peace and restoration between them.

This story reminds us that restoration takes place when at least one of the people involved in the conflict humbly goes to the other to make things right.  If the other person desires a restored relationship you often end up with peace and contentment on both sides.  If the other person refuses to have grace and forgive then we must move on with the realization that we have done what we could and God will bless us for our efforts at making peace and making things right.

There is truth that we will have more inner peace if we work at making peace with those in which we have conflict.  Nothing feels better than restoring a broken relationship and forgiving another person.  It is the same thing that we have received from  Jesus Christ.  Our sin causes conflict in our relationship with God, but Jesus died on the cross so that our conflict could be resolved and our relationship with God restored.  Praise the Lord!

Make it Personal:  Who comes to mind as you read this meditation today?  God is placing them on your heart for a reason.  Pray that the Lord will help you mend that relationship and bring restoration.  Pray that Christ will also forgive you of your sins and restore your relationship with God to its rightful place.

Be Restored This Week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

This is the Day

Read: Psalm 118

Recently I heard someone say this in their prayer… “Lord, this is a day that has been coming and it’s a day that will never come again.”  It caught my attention because it is something that we often don’t give much thought to as we start each day of life.  Long before we sang the song “This is the day” the Psalmist wrote “The Lord has done it this very day; let rejoice today and be glad.”

How often do we hit the snooze button on our alarm clock several times and then roll out of bed and stumble to the closet or restroom to start a new day?  Some people are not morning people and I understand that, but how often do we awake to the sunrise and proclaim that God has planned this day and it is a day that we will never get back.  If we thought about that we might begin the day or approach that day in a whole new light.

Lauri Johnson one time shared this story, “One time I took my sons, 12-year-old Matthew and 6-year-old Ryan, to my parents’ house for an afternoon visit. They spent some time playing and socializing with their grandparents. When we were ready to leave, my dad said to Matthew, “You made my day.”  Matthew replied, “God made your day; we just put the icing on it.”

What a blessing it is to be given a new day that God has created for us.  Many days we are grateful and thankful to be blessed in such a way.  Even if a particular day does not go as we planned or ends up being a very difficult day we can still give thanks that we are living, breathing, and looking forward to starting a new day the next morning.  Henri Nouwen wrote these helpful words about those kind of days.  He wrote…..

“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say “thank you” to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

That is my prayer for you this week.  That you would see the guiding and loving hand of God in your day.  That you would awake each morning with a fresh perspective, positive attitude, and a joyful spirit.  And if you feel like singing then go right ahead.  “This is the day, This is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made, we will rejoice, we will rejoice, and be glad in it.”

Make it personal:  If you are not a morning person and you struggle in the mornings try to start a new habit.  Find a way to wake up and begin with a new way of approaching the day.  If you are a morning person then find a new way to give God praise for the new day that lies ahead of you.  Maybe you want to proclaim those words I heard… “Lord, this is a day that has been coming and it’s a day that will never come again.”

Have a great day and week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Cubs Rule!

Read: Romans 1:8-17

In the first chapter of Romans you will not find prophecy about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in the year 2016, even though that still could come to pass.  I imagine that all of the Cub fans are reading this meditation this week because of the title I chose.  Those of you who know that I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan are probably reading this to see why I am spreading such heresy among the people.

Well, here is the truth.  The meditation this week really has nothing to do with the Cubs.  I used that title as a way to make a point about something else.  Titles are handy in that way.  That is why newspapers and magazines use them before each article.  It draws the people in, stirs up their interest, and encourages them to hear or read what you have to share.  I’m not trying to trick you but I would like to share something interesting that I read this past week.

According to a survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans from LifeWay Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, many unchurched people are wide open to the first steps, or approaches, of evangelism.  A full 79% of unchurched Americans agreed with this statement: “If a friend of mine really values their faith, I don’t mind them talking about it.”  That survey was shared by Pastor James Emory White in his blog this past week.

What often happens to Christians is that we get this idea in our head that people don’t want to hear about our faith, our beliefs, or how we view the world through the lens of Christianity.  We entertain this idea that we are not supposed to bring it up at work, at school, or with our unbelieving friends.  This new survey suggests that we need to be more bold in our witnessing.  People will give you an ear even if they may not see the truth of Christ and God’s Word at the beginning.  We do the sharing and pray that God will reveal those things to them.

The Apostle Paul was bold for sure.  In verse 16 he says, ” For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”  This is exactly why we need to share the Good News with others.  What title are you putting out there to get people interested?  What example are they witnessing in your life?  What conversation starters can you use to begin those discussions?  It sounds like 79% of those people would like to have that talk.

While there may be disagreement on my title for this week’s meditation, I think we can all agree that the world needs to hear more about the salvation of Jesus.  It is up to us to be creative, bold, and compassionate as we fulfill God’s call on our lives to be the light of Christ in our everyday lives and relationships.  People are ready to talk and listen if you will give them a reason to!  Oh and by the way,  Good Luck Cub Fans!  That was quite a comeback last night!

Make it personal:  Think of someone specific this week (someone who does not go to church or is not a believer) that you could try and start a conversation with about your faith.  Find a word, a phrase, or a question that might lead the conversation further on down the road.  Then just talk with them as a friend and pray that God will reveal his truth to them.  Why?  Because “it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….”

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

You have a Gift

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Spiritual Gifts are an important part of being followers and servants of Christ. It is through these gifts/talents/abilities that the Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to bring his kingdom to this earth. The apostle Paul speaks of these gifts and their various manifestations in this week’s scripture passage. Different gifts, but the same Spirit who distributes those gifts. He later goes on to say that they work together as one in order to make a difference in our world.

Leadership coach Karen Miller tells the following story about how she and her husband needed to identify and develop new leaders for a new church plant: “One Sunday morning Irene, a church plant leader in her seventies, set up the Communion table. I noticed that she then went around to make sure everything else was in order—and people did whatever she asked them to do. Afterward I asked her, “Irene, have you ever considered that you have leadership gifts?”

“Absolutely not!” she said. “I am just an ordinary woman, housewife, and mother. I’m not leading; I’m just serving.” Some months later, our young church received a visit from a Rwandan church leader. He told the church how he dreamed of starting an orphanage and school for children whose parents had been slaughtered in the genocide. We decided we had to help. Could we hold a banquet to raise funds? Irene agreed to help put on the banquet.

When she visited a possible caterer, she somehow convinced the caterer to donate most of the food. Irene talked with a banquet hall, and they gave her a deep discount. So did the tech people. No one could tell Irene no. On the banquet night, over 200 people came, and enough money was raised to build the school and its first dormitory.

I teased her afterward: “Irene, that was amazing! Maybe you are a leader?” She laughed, for she finally had to acknowledge the truth. Each May, Irene led the banquet again. Now we could see photos of kids who had lived on the streets and never brushed their teeth flashing broad, white smiles. Boys who had been malnourished, their arms and legs painfully thin, now ran and jumped across the courtyard on strong legs. Girls who’d come dressed in rags showed off their neat school uniforms and barrettes. After Irene went to be with the Lord, Sonrise Orphanage named a dorm after her did I find out that the banquet she’d led had singlehandedly covered one third of the school’s operating costs.”

I tend to believe that we all have spiritual gifts that still need to be brought forth. Yes, many people know how they are gifted and what they are called to, but this may change over time. I never dreamed that someday I would be preaching sermons on Sunday mornings and be a pastor, but the Lord began to work in various ways and now I am. Many people have experienced this in other ways. One thing I have learned, never say never when it comes to how the Lord may use you.

Make it personal: Take some time to pray this week about your spiritual gifts. What are they, how can you use them in your family, in your church, in your current situations? The Lord will lead you, provide for you, and call you if you are an open and willing servant. You just never know where you might find yourself making a difference in this world.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

RESPECT! Where have you gone?

Read:  Philippians 2:1-11

It seems as if respect is no longer an important virtue in our country.  Where has the respect gone for senior citizens, parents, teachers, leaders, and others?  Where has the respect gone for those in positions of authority?  Where has the respect gone for our laws, for obedience, for common decency?  Where has the respect gone for those who are different than us?  Most importantly, where has the respect gone for God and for the life examples of Jesus?

Last Sunday golfing legend Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87.  When most younger golfers were interviewed about his life and the impact he left on the people and the game of golf they almost always referred to him as Mr. Palmer.  It wasn’t Arnold, Arnie, or any other name.  It was Mr. Palmer out of their respect for him.  And for most of them it was that way long before he passed away.

I recently read a story about pastor and evangelist Billy Graham.  When he was in the prime of his ministry holding services in some of the largest stadiums in the country he met an unknown seminary student named Gordon MacDonald.  As Mr. Graham was introduced to Gordon his eyes fixed on him, he extended his hand to him, and he said, “Mr. MacDonald, it’s an honor to meet you.”  Mr. MacDonald would later say, “Mr. Graham addressed me as if I were a peer or someone “superior” to him, but here I was just a scrawny first year seminary student.”

Those two stories show how respect is a two way street.  We need to respect others in the way that we would like to be respected.  If we would begin to live with that kind of respect we would see many of the current problems in our country begin to fix themselves.  In Philippians 2 Paul uses the example of Jesus to give us guidance on this.  He says, “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

In 1 Peter 2:17 Peter says, “Show proper respect to everyone.”  The list could go on.  Many other Bible passages refer to the importance of loving our neighbors, respecting others, and being obedient to God and those whom God has put in authority over us, as long as they are not violating the will of God themselves.  Because of sin in our world these ideals will always be challenged, ignored, and even disrespected.  However, Jesus has provided the answer for that problem as well.

We need to turn to Christ with repentant hearts for the times that sin has caused us to disrespect others, mistreat others, and demand from others what we ourselves are not willing to give.  Jesus will forgive us and help us see a better way.  While we may not expect this from the larger culture, we as Christians can give evidence to how it can work and how it can help us to live together in peace and harmony.  I end this week with the words of the apostle Paul describing how Jesus showed us the way….

Make it Personal:  “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant….”  Philippians 2:5-7

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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