Midweek Reflections

Honestly Confused

Read: Psalm 40    

     In the past couple of months it feels like I have been overwhelmed by things that honestly confuse me.  Some of them in the news, some in the larger church, and some of them that hit closer to home.  What are we to do when life seems like a revolving door of confusion and chaos?  We turn to the Psalms and we turn to God!  In the Psalms we find people who have those same confused feelings and they share them honestly with God.

In the last week or two I was excited to see a video that included one of my favorite Christian authors conversing with one of my favorite singer/musician’s.  Fuller Seminary Studio produced a video of Eugene Peterson (The Message Bible and many other books) and Bono (Lead singer of the Irish band U2) discussing their view of the Psalms.  Bono went to visit Peterson and his wife in their picturesque home on a lake in the mountains of Montana.  Here is a link to that video on YouTube.  It is well worth the 20 minutes it takes to view.

Bono visits Eugene Peterson and discusses the Psalms

It is impressive to see two people from very different worlds come together to talk about God, scripture, honesty, confusion, and how it all relates to the Psalms.  While Peterson and Bono admit that they come at this from very different worlds it is obvious that they find some connections related to their relationship with the Lord.  Here are a couple of the quotes I jotted down from this conversation….

“The only way we can approach God is if we’re honest.”  – Bono
“Psalms has the stuff that we all feel but many of us don’t talk about it.”  – Peterson
“The Psalms in scripture are raw, beautiful, honest, joyful, sorrowful, and confused”  – Bono
“Honesty is very hard in our culture.  We need to find a way to cuss without cussing.”  – Peterson

One of the wonderful things about going to the 150 Psalms in the Bible is that we can always find something to relate to.  A feeling we have, a question we are asking, a lament, a discouragement, a time of joy, a time to dance, play music, and celebrate, a time to be honestly confused.  Peterson says that one of his favorite U2 songs is the song “40” which is written word for word from the first three verses of Psalm 40.  

“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”  Psalm 40:1-3   The U2 song then laments “How long to sing this song,” another phrase that is found in several different Psalms.

The one thing I learned from watching this conversation between a rock star and a Christian author is that in the midst of our confusion we need to be honest with the Lord.  We need to share our heart, we need to spill our needs, we need to ask God to help us and lead us. Most of all we need the Lord to set our feet on a firm and solid rock and put a new song of praise in our mouths.  Yes, I learned that God is the one to turn to when things don’t make sense.

I don’t always agree with everything about U2 but I do admire their search for truth in their lyrics, their desire to help with needs around the world, and their relationship with Jesus Christ.  If you are not familiar with U2 and would like to see the end of one of their concerts in Chicago some years ago here is another YouTube link.  They play two very “Christian” songs at the end entitled “Yahweh” and “40.”

U2: Vertigo Tour, Chicago “Yahweh” and “40”

Make it personal:  Read the Psalms this week and find solace in your situation.  The problems we face today are not new and we are not alone in facing them.  God wants to walk alongside you and set your feet on solid ground.  God wants to pour out his love upon you and help you to sing a new song.  A hymn of praise to our Lord!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Positively Better!

Read: Ephesians 4:25-32      

    I have noticed something recently on social media.  It seems like no matter how good or positive a news story, tweet, or Facebook post might be, there are usually more people that comment negatively on it than positively.  Why must we always take the good and try to find something negative or bad?  Not only is this bad for our relationships it is bad for our own personal health and well-being.

In Ephesians 4 Paul reminds us that we need to be about building up and not tearing down.  He says that we are to use words that build others up and words that will benefit those who are listening (or reading).  These verses remind us that social media is not the cause of this, negativity has been around since Adam and Eve.  However, it doesn’t mean that we need to participate or pile on either.

Last week the newspaper interviewed the new Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman.  They asked him what he told his staff in a recent meeting they had.  He said that he was trying to encourage them to be positive and confident in the midst of all the negativity that has been flying around at the U of I recently.  He said that we can make a choice each and every day to be positive instead of giving into this cycle of negativity.

That led me to think about about the recent success of the Chicago Cubs.  Even though they have a lot of talent on that team I believe their success last season and this season is largely due to the positive nature of their manager Joe Maddon.  He did this same thing with the Tampa Bay Rays who were one of the smallest market teams in baseball before he came to the Cubs.  He is a positive, fun, and encouraging manager and that has led to the best start in Cubs history.

As Christians and followers of Jesus we have the responsibility to be positive encouragers in a world that is often filled with negative discouragers.  It is not always easy, I am not always successful at this, but it is a choice that we can make.  We need to make the choice that Paul suggests, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Friends, this is positively the better way to live our lives!

Make it personal:  Make it a daily choice of yours.  Along with your 10,000 steps, crossfit workouts, treadmill exercises, and healthy diet, choose to be a positive influence on those you come into contact with.  That might be face to face or it could be on social media, whatever the medium be sure to build up and not tear down.  This is the first step in being a positive witness of your faith in Jesus Christ.

Have a positively wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

What We Can Do!

Read:  Philippians 4:4-9   

   Recently on Facebook I noticed a post that was going around saying that President Obama had cancelled the National Day of Prayer which has always been held on the first Thursday in May each year.  Upon further investigation I discovered that this was not true.  Another reminder to not always assume that everything we see on Facebook and the Internet is necessarily true.  The President did make a few changes but he did not cancel the National Day of Prayer.

In this current political season in the United States many people are frustrated, confused, and unsure about our present situation and what the future might look like.  In our personal lives we often feel that same way.  The past few days have left me asking many questions and wondering many things.  How should I handle this?  What is the way forward?  What does God want to teach me through this?  What can I do?

Then as I asked those questions I ran across Philippians 4.  Here is The Message Bible’s paraphrase of those verses that we know so well…  “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”  Yes, this week is the National Day of Prayer (Thursday) in which we are encouraged to pray for our country.  Do that!  But pray about the other things in your life that bring you fret and worry.

I like what Eric Metaxas says when writing about prayer, he says, “We pray because, in our own wisdom and strength, we’re insufficient for the challenges we face. While one of the most appealing things about American people is our indomitable “can-do” spirit, the fact is, sometimes we “can’t do”! We have nowhere else to go, except to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Kneeling before God in times of overwhelming crisis is also a part of our American DNA.”

Those are words that I needed to hear this week and perhaps they are meant for you too.  When we ask what can be done or what can we do there may be multiple options, but one option should always rise to the top.  WE CAN PRAY!  God is in control, God is watching over us, God cares about us, and God loves us more than we can understand. (Phil 4:7)  That is where we find our peace!

Make it personal:  What are you worrying or fretting about this week?  Make it a matter of prayer to God!  Keep it a matter of prayer before God!  Robert Law once said, “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting our will done in Heaven, but for getting God’s will done on earth.”  Amen!

Have a peace-filled week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

A Walk Down the Street

Read:  Matthew 26:36-46     

      In Matthew 26 Jesus is with his disciples in the Garden Of Gethsemane when he reminds them about the dangers of temptation.  In verse 41 he says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  This verse reminded me of something written by Portia Nelson entitled “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.”  It goes like this…..

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.  There is deep hole in the sidewalk.  I fall in.  I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.  It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.  I can’t believe I am in the same place, but it isn’t my fault.
It still take a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I see it is there.  I still fall in… it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.  I know where I am.  It is my fault.  I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.  There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

There is so much truth to this short statement about temptations and our need to acknowledge them, confess them, and be intentional about trying to avoid them.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Call on God, but row away from the rocks.”  In order for us to avoid giving into temptations we must keep from putting ourselves in dangerous situations that give the enemy the opportunities to draw us in.

If you struggle with being tempted by something don’t get anywhere near it.  As Jesus says, watch out for it, pray about it, and ask God to deliver your from it.  As the fifth chapter above says, “Walk down another street.”  A street that is filled with the things of God and not the things that pull us away from God.  May Christ grant us all forgiveness for the deep holes we tend to fall in, and give us strength to walk around them in the days ahead.

Make it personal:  What tempts you the most?  Sometimes we need to name those things in order to confess them and move away from them.  After you name those temptations be sure to take them to the Lord.  Ask for forgiveness and help in walking away from them in the future.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Joy and Contentment

Read: Philippians 4:10-20    

      One of my favorite New Testament reminders is what Paul writes in the scripture reading for this week.  When things are not going well, when my attitude is not right, when I need to lift up my head and give thanks, I can turn to these words that say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  Some days my learning needs to keep growing, perhaps you can relate with me?  I ran across a news report and an illustration that I would like to share with you this week…

“It is human nature to look for greener pastures, to wish for better circumstances, more affluence, an easier life. We think, If only I had a better job, a nicer house, a newer car, I would be happy. Seems logical, right?  According to this logic, people in the United States should be among the happiest people on earth. We enjoy greater wealth per capita than most countries. We have more opportunity for education, medical care, home ownership, car ownership, food availability, freedoms, and so on.

But a 2012 Gallup Poll ranked the United States thirty-third in the world on a happiness scale. Having more doesn’t increase our happiness. In fact, seven of the top ten countries were in Latin America, which generally ranks low on the typical economic indicators we might associate with happiness. Civil war-torn Guatemala, which ranks just above Iraq on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, is seventh highest in the world in terms of positive emotions.

Despite escalating gang violence that produces one of world’s highest homicide rates and cripples the economy, Guatemalans are happy.  A similar story is reflected in Panama. Residents of Panama, which ranks 90th in the world with respect to GDP per capita, are among the most likely to report positive emotions. Residents of Singapore, which ranks fifth in the world in terms of GDP per capita, are the least likely to report positive emotions.”

33rd in the world.  That is hard to believe isn’t it?  The apostle Paul is trying to encourage us with what he found to be true.  True joy and contentment can be found in Jesus Christ despite our situation or circumstances in this world.  There will always be someone who has something more, there will always be situations that could be worse, there will always be something out there that can make us unhappy and discontented, if we let it.  Philippians 4 says that we can do all things through Christ who will give us the strength.  That includes being happy, joyful, content, and thankful for what God has given us.  May our learning and practicing of this continue to grow!

Make it personal:  Think about the things that have made you unhappy or discontented in the past week or two.  How can you “learn” to be content with those things in the future?  Jesus will help us to get there but we must make the most important things the most important in our life in order to truly experience the joy and contentment that Paul is talking about.

Have a Joy-filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

I Stand in Awe

Read:  Psalm 48    

      Each year when Spring begins it’s greening and blooming I have to take time to marvel at how incredible this world is that God created.  Things that were totally dead spring to new life.  Grass that was totally brown turns to lush shades of green.  Flowers that faded in the Fall once again Spring to life.  These things make me want to proclaim with Psalm 48, “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise.”

One of my favorite worship songs through the years has been “I Stand in Awe.”  It truly proclaims how I feel when I think of creation, when I think of what God has done, when I consider the stars, the thunder, and the incredible power that God displays throughout the universe.  I stand in awe and in awesome wonder when I think of how a baby is born and how our bodies work to provide life one generation after another.

And then to consider what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ.  He did not spare his Son but gave him up in order to bear our sin and burden’s on the cross of Calvary.  He bled and died that day to take away our sins.  One day Jesus is coming back with shouts of acclamation to take us home, and that day will truly be a day that we stand in awe and proclaim “My God, how great Thou art!”

You probably recognized some of the words I have used in this week’s meditation.  I have combined the worship song “I Stand in Awe” and the hymn “How Great Thou Art” to proclaim the greatness of God.  And yet as the worship song proclaims, “You are beautiful beyond description, too marvelous for words, too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard.”  I guess I will just stop trying to describe it and stand here in awe of how great God truly is.  I hope that you will stand with me this week and be reminded of our awesome God.

Make it personal:  Find a way this week to get outside and enjoy the warming weather.  As you do take in the wonder of creation and the new life that is springing forth around you.  Praise God for what he has done and continues to do in your life and in this world.  The Lord is in control of this world that he has created and he is in control of everything you are facing in your life.  Allow God to be your source of praise and strength this week.  Then step back and stand in awe!

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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