Midweek Reflections

Your Real Home

Read: John 14:1-14

One Sunday morning the pastor of a church was talking to the children during children’s time.  The Pastor said, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?” “NO!” the children all answered. “If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?” Again, the answer was, “NO!”
“Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into heaven?” He asked them again. Again, they all answered, “NO!” “Well,” he continued, “then how can I get into heaven?” A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD.”  Children always give us an interesting perspective on things don’t they?
In John 14 Jesus says that there is a special place prepared in heaven for those who believe in Jesus and make him the Lord of their life. In reality, this is our true home.  The place believers will spend the rest of eternity after our life on this earth is completed.  One of the better books I have read on heaven was written by Joni Eareckson Tada entitled “Heaven, Your Real Home.”
In that book Joni offers a refreshing, faith-filled glimpse of what the Bible promises is waiting for those who believe.  She writes about it in a way that also allows us to see our lives here and now in a whole new light.  I appreciate Joni’s perspective because she has lived her life in a wheel chair ever since a diving accident paralyzed her from the shoulders down during her teenage years.
Joni writes, “Heaven may be as near as next year or next week, so it makes good sense to spend some time here on earth thinking candid thoughts about that marvelous future reserved for us.”  I encourage you to read John 14 this week to see what Jesus says about heaven and then read Joni’s book about your real home.
Make it Personal:  Here is what the cover flap of Joni’s book says, “Far from viewing heaven as an escape from reality, Joni paints a picture of heaven as the home of our hearts, the place where we will find the fulfillments of our longings, and a reality that is more substantial and lasting than anything we’ll ever find here on earth.  She encourages us to set our sights not on the passing things of earth, but on heaven where our deepest and most noble desires will be realized.”
Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

All Day Long

Read: Psalm 113

How should we respond to God?  If we think of all the incredible things we are blessed with in life our response should be one of praise.  Even when we go through difficult and trying times in our life, at some point in the trial we realize how grateful we are for God’s presence, help, support, and strength in that time.  God truly is a shelter in the time of storm.
In Psalm 113 the psalmist is praising the Lord for many of these things.  In fact, verse 3 says, “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” Yes, we are to praise God all day long.  Have you ever thought about how that might change your attitude, outlook, and purpose of life?  What if we would look at each situation and say, “How can I give praise to God for this?”
Pastor Nicky Gumble writes, “Praise is the appropriate response to God. He is worthy of all your praise. We teach our children to be thankful – not for our own sake but for theirs. We are pleased when they are thankful. God teaches you to praise him because it is the right response to him, and because it is good for you. Thanksgiving is an appropriate response to human generosity. Continual praise is the appropriate response to God’s generosity.”
I realize that praising God is not always an easy endeavor when the storms of life are raging.  But it is one of the choices or responses that we have available to us.  As pastor Gumble says above, “it is the appropriate response.”  A positive response of praise and thankfulness can lift our spirits and set our minds on the positive blessings of God to see us through that storm. 
In the good times the list of blessings could go on and on forever.  The second half of Psalm 113 testifies that no one is like our God.  Verse 4 says, “The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.”  No wonder the Lord deserves our praise all day long. There is no one who can compare to the creator of the universe and the provider of our salvation through his son Jesus Christ.  Let’s praise God together!
Make it Personal:  Negativity is a choice that leads us down a dark path.  Praise is a choice that can lead you down a path of restoration and hope.  The Lord deserves your praise today, tomorrow, and every day after.  Praise God all day long and let it extend into your nights!
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

The Harvest Wave

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

        It’s harvest time in Central Illinois.  I was able to help with the fall harvest one day this past week.  My job was to drive the grain truck and haul corn to the elevator.  I get to help with this a few times each season, and every year there is something that always blesses me:  The simple wave from the people in other grain trucks, combines, and tractors as you pass them on the road.
Why does this happen?  I believe there are three reasons.  First, it’s the common purpose each worker feels for those who have a part in bringing in the harvest.  Second, it’s a friendly way to go about your day that is mostly spent in the seat of a truck, combine, or tractor.  And third, it just makes you feel better to be friendly and supportive.
If only we could take that harvest wave and make it a part of the rest of our lives.  Actually, we can.  The Bible is full of words that bring encouragement, hope, and purpose to life.  It is also full of verses that encourage us to be about those things.  Like the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 that says, “Encourage one another and build each other up…”
In a time in where social media is often used to tear people down and present a fist and insult instead of a wave or handshake, we can be the difference makers.  Let’s take the advice of Paul and choose to encourage one another and build each other up.  Hopefully I don’t have to wait until next Fall’s harvest to be reminded of this.
Make it Personal:  How often do you start your day off with the intention of being friendly, supportive, and upbeat?  If we start with that kind of attitude and ask Jesus to help us stay there we can be a blessing to those we meet each day.  We will feel better as well.  Let’s give it a shot!
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Crisis Management

September 19. 2018
Read: Psalm 121              
    In recent weeks we heard about how people on the U.S. East Coast prepared for hurricane Florence.  Some prepared, some did not, and some were caught in the eye of the storm.  Some evacuated, and some chose not to.  In some cases people probably had nowhere to go and so they tried to weather the storm.  We need to continue to pray for those affected by this storm.  
How do we manage crisis, trouble, and storms when they come into our lives?  How do you cope with unexpected difficulties when they arise?  Do you allow them to defeat you or do you seek refuge and find opportunities to learn and grow from them?  The Bible has helpful counsel about this in Psalm 121.  “Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord.”
I don’t speak Chinese, but I have heard that the word “crisis” in that language consists of only two characters.  The first character represents danger, and the second character represents opportunity.  This is a reminder that every crisis we face also presents an opportunity for us.  The opportunity is to seek after God for help.
Psalm 121 proclaims that God created the heavens and the earth, so surely God can and will help us through a crisis.  God created you, God watches over you, and God will help you, is what the Psalmist proclaims.  We are not promised a life free of difficulties or struggles, but we are promised the opportunity to seek God’s help in the midst of those.
What crisis are you in right now?  Have you called out to God for help?  If you try to manage it on your own, you most likely will find pain and struggle.  If you call on Jesus you will find the help and strength you need to manage and find your way through it. “The Lord is a very present help in times trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)
Make it Personal:  Along with Psalm 121 also read Matthew 6:25-34.  In those verses Jesus himself speaks about how he can deliver you from worry, anxiety, fear, and the future.  All of these verses are wonderful words to pray as we lift up our families, communities, nation, and world in the midst of various crisis and troubles.
Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

The Meaning of Life

Read:  Ecclesiastes 12          
       Some of the most asked questions in all the world revolve around the meaning of life.  So many people find themselves feeling alone, empty, and struggling with disappointment and heartache.  Why this?  What about this?  What does this mean?  When will things change?  Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg.  Many people look to possessions, money, experiences, pleasure, and power to fill the void and yet still come away feeling empty.
The Bible has a book that reflects these feelings.  Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a way of contemplating all these feelings that go on inside.  The book as a whole can be quite depressing unless we consider its wisdom, counsel, and reflective nature.  Chapter 12, the final chapter is key to understanding where Solomon was and where he was going with these words.
At the end of his life he considered all of his experiences (good and bad) and shared his wisdom and learning with the billions of people who have read his words through the generations.  In an attitude of repentance, wisdom, and humility he concludes that everything apart from God is hollow, meaningless, and empty.  In other words, God is the way to find meaning in life.
In the Contemporary English Version, the last verses of the last chapter read like this, “Everything you were taught can put into a few words: Respect and obey God!  This is what life is all about.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)    Perhaps the way the Life Application Bible says it sums this book of the Bible up the best.
“Solomon had a very honest approach.  All of his remarks relating to the futility of life are there for a purpose: to lead us to seek fulfillment and happiness in God alone.  He is not trying to destroy all hope, but to direct our hopes to the only one who can truly fulfill them and give our life meaning. Solomon affirms the value of knowledge, relationships, work, and pleasure, but only in their proper place.  Everything temporal must be in seen in light of the eternal.”
Make it Personal:  Read Ecclesiastes and learn about life.  Don’t use it as a testimony of despair, instead consider it as a testimony of someone who has tried all the avenues of life and came back to the one thing that really brought meaning to life, a relationship with God.  Solomon testifies that life is meaningless without God.
Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

To Give of Your Time

Read: Luke 17:11-19

            It is great to help other people, especially those in need.  What a blessing it is to follow the ways of Jesus and take time out of your day to lend a helping hand to someone.  In Luke 17:11-19 Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when ten men with leprosy called out to him from a distance and said, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  Jesus could have ignored their plea and continued on his way, but that is not who Jesus is.  He acknowledged their need and provided help.

Giving of our money is important and needed, but giving of our time is a much more personal way to reach out to people.  We need to think creatively how we can follow this example that Jesus left us to be light and hope in a world that has many people in need.  How can we make that a part of our individual lives and a part of our family’s sense of call as well?

A Time magazine article says, “volunteer with your children so it doesn’t come at the expense of family time.  Interacting with the people you’re helping will cultivate your kids’ sense of empathy, and yours too.”  It will also be a great opportunity to share with your children the many examples in the Gospels of Jesus helping others.

Lauren Bush in that same Time article writes, “I have friends who go every week to the same soup kitchen to volunteer, that’s extremely rewarding when people can regularly engage with not only a single cause but a single community center, hospital, soup kitchen, wherever it might be.”  The truth is, we often come away blessed ourselves by being a blessing to others.

In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks words that help us understand his actions in Luke 17 and so many other stories in the Gospels.  Jesus tells his disciples, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Who are you supposed to help and give your time to this week?

Make it Personal:  It’s easy to give money to areas of need.  While that is definitely needed we also need to give people our time.  Sometimes that means helping physically with a need, other times it is just sitting down and listening to someone who is going through a difficult time.  When people give of their time they rarely regret it later on.

Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

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