Midweek Reflections

Fill it Up!

Read: 2 Peter 3:14-18

Do you ever find it hard to find time to fill up your vehicle with gas?  Or maybe you just don’t like to do it?  According to a recent news story your solution may have arrived.  There is a new app for smartphones and tablets that allows you to hire someone to fill your vehicle with gas while you are at work, or even overnight while you’re home sleeping.   You place the order on the app and the delivery person simply pulls alongside your vehicle in a pickup truck with a gasoline container in the bed, unrolls the hose with a nozzle and fills your tank.

The price does include a markup for the service but at current gas prices that still makes this very affordable.  Here’s the catch though, right now this service is only available in a few larger cities in the U.S..  It might be a while before you can take advantage of this in Arthur or other rural communities, but then again it may provide an opportunity for someone as well.  Create your own app, buy a pickup truck, a tank, and you are in business.

After I read about this new service I was inclined to ask myself, “Have we really become that busy that we can’t even find the time or the energy to put gas in our vehicles?”  If we are getting to that point then I am concerned about some of the other necessities in life.  I mean who can we hire to go and buy our milk and bread the next time a snow storm is approaching?  Hmmm.  Maybe there is another business opportunity for someone.

All joking aside, we do need to think about how overbooked and stressed out our schedules might be.  In 2 Peter 3 we are encouraged to find time to grow in our faith and in our relationship with Jesus.  In verse 18 Peter says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  How do we do that?  What does that look like?  And can we find time for it?

One of the first ways to grow spiritually is to increase our desire to grow.  When we have a desire and we see the benefits of this we will be sure to make time for it.  Times of prayer, opportunities to read or listen to God’s Word, attending church to learn, grow, and fellowship with other believers, loving and serving others in the name of Christ, all of these provide us opportunities to grow spiritually.

In our lives I hope that we are keeping things in the correct perspective and the right order.  I hope that we find time to grow spiritually and desire a closer walk with Jesus in our lives.  I hope that we turn to God instead of all the other worldly options available that leave us empty and wanting more.  Finally, I hope that someone does not have to create an app in order for us to do these things.

Make it Personal:  Think about your own schedule and the time you are devoting to your life with Christ.  How is your time of prayer and Bible reading?  How is your church attendance?  How is your desire to grow spiritually?  If the Holy Spirit is encouraging you to make a change in any of those areas I would encourage you to listen to that voice.  Let’s grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus together!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



White as Snow

Read:  Isaiah 1

On a day that snow is falling in Central Illinois I am reminded of the times in God’s Word that the phrase “White as Snow” is used.  The description is used to describe different things in scripture but the most well known use is from Isaiah 1:18 when it says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..”

During this season of Lent we are encouraged to think about our sins, to have repentant hearts, and to change our focus back to the things that God wants us to focus on.  This is why people often give things up for the 40 days of Lent that lead us up to Good Friday and Easter.  It helps us to think about sacrifice and the things that really are important in our lives.

Lent can be a valuable time for spiritual growth, but if we are not careful it can also be another period of time that just passes by and finds us going back to what we did before.  The things we gave up we quickly start back up, the things we took on we quickly forget, and the things we were sorry for can quickly fade from our minds.  Perhaps Lent would be even more meaningful for us if we really gave something up and never took it back.  Or started something new and it then became a new part of our daily walk with the Lord.

Isaiah 1:18 is a wonderful reminder that Christ came to wash our sins “white as snow.”  He delivers us and keeps us from going through life with the permanent scarlet stains of sin.  When we turn to Jesus and repent of those sins they are not permanent, they are gone, they are washed as white as the snow I am watching fall outside my window.

Not everyone likes the snow, but when we compare it to the grace and forgiveness of Jesus what is there not to like.  If you have been living with guilt, shame, and the heavy weight of sin in your life, I hope that you will cast all of that at the feet of Jesus.  He wants to take it, redeem you, and make your life as white and unblemished as the fresh fallen snow.

Make it personal:  If you have a snow day today take some time to read Isaiah 1.  Then move on to the New Testament and read more about the grace of Jesus.  The book of Romans is a great place to start.  Romans 7:25 says, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Freely, Freely

Read: Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Last night as I watched the evening news I was struck by a story from the small country in Africa of Lesotho.  It was about the terrible drought that is taking place there due to this year’s El Nino weather patterns.  Water and food are so scarce that many are dying with no relief in sight.  The news story focused on a grandmother who is trying to raise her 5 grandchildren who have been orphaned because of Aids.

They live in a small mud hut that is maybe a quarter of the size of most of our garages.  Her garden for food is dried up and the nearby river is dried up as well.  But in this news story she and the children seemed to be so loving and caring for each other as well as those around them.  If you would like to see the story I am providing the link here.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/el-nino-drought-leaves-millions-hungry-in-southern-africa/

In Deuteronomy 15 and many other places in scripture we are encouraged to be open handed and freely help those in need.  In verse 7 it says, “Do not be hardhearted or tightfisted.”  As Christians we are called to do what we can to help the poor in our neighborhoods and around the world.  We can’t make a difference by ourselves but we can if we all do our part.  Too often we get comfortable in our North American lifestyle and forget about the many people in need like the family that was highlighted in this news story.

Here are some other stats I ran across about world hunger…..

  1. Hunger is the world’s number 1 health risk; it kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
  2. Some 925 million people do not have enough to eat.
  3. Ninety-eight percent of them live in the developing world.
  4. One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight.
  5. There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of the U.S., Canada, and the European Union.
  6. Undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
  7. If we took the money Americans spend annually on potato and tortilla chips ($13.6 billion), we could reach 90 percent of stunted children in the 36 highest-burden countries.
  8. Worldwide, 115 million children under the age of 5 are underweight.
  9. The Asian and Pacific regions contain over half the world’s population and nearly two-thirds of the world’s hungry people.
  10. Supplementation with vitamins could reduce the risk of child mortality from all causes by 23 percent.

As I am writing this I am reminded of the favorite song the church has sung through the years.  The words go something like this, “Freely, Freely, you have received, Freely, Freely, give!”

I would like to encourage you to think of ways to help.  Mennonite Central Committee, World Vision, Compassion International, and many other reputable Christian organizations are trying to make a difference in these areas around the world.  If you don’t already give a monthly contribution to help the hungry, poor, and destitute around the world I would like to encourage you to consider it.  They need our help and Jesus teaches us to help them.  Even if you start with a small amount and work up to a larger amount, your part will make a difference.

Make it personal:  Watch the news story provided above and try to imagine what it would be like to live like this grandmother and her 5 grandchildren do.  My hope and prayer is that it will encourage all of us to do something on an ongoing basis to make a difference in this world that we live in.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Politics of Freedom

Read:  John 8:31-47

The political process is in high gear in the United States right now.  The race to elect the next President often feels like a circus, a professional wrestling match, and a valet service all wrapped up in one.  Some people thrive on this, some pay attention to it, some care, and others are oblivious to it.  But no matter where you find yourself there are things to be thankful for in the midst of it all.

Just this week Chris Horst of Christianity Today wrote an article about why we should celebrate this time in our country’s life.  He reminds us that in the midst of the negative things, the election season promotes healthy discussions and gives we the people the opportunity to have a voice in the leadership of our country.  

This is not the case for many people around the world.  Mr. Horst writes, “In places like Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and Zimbabwe, voters have little to no voice in determining the future of their countries. In many instances, dissent is not only forbidden, but squelched.”  He writes more about this, but then ends that section by saying this about the U.S., “But despite its flaws, our system stands in contrast to countries where all the power is controlled by a handful of self-appointed tyrants.”

For Christians it is sometimes hard to separate faith and politics in our world.  Some say we should separate them while others say it is impossible to separate them.  Christian books have been written with the titles of “God’s Politics” and “The Politics of Jesus.”  These and others are reminders that believers should not totally ignore the culture or political landscape that changes and shifts around us.  It does matter, it’s just not the be all and end all.

In fact, that’s where John 8 and the words of Jesus come in.  Jesus says that as believers if he has set us free, we are free indeed.  That is a freedom that goes beyond the borders of countries and political structures and transforms the heart.  It is a reminder that even those in the most ruthless, dictator controlled countries can still find freedom from the things of this world in Jesus Christ.

Yes, we should celebrate the democracy of the U.S. and other countries.  Yes, we should work for political freedom and justice for the people in those countries where that freedom is held captive.  We should also pray for them at all times.  But, in the midst of it all we should proclaim the ultimate Good News that Jesus is Lord and he is the only one that can truly save us all.  No matter who becomes the next President of the United States, like them or not, Jesus is still the King of kings.
 
Make it personal:  As the political process plays out in the U.S. this year don’t allow it to consume your every thought, care, or concern.  Pray about it, be involved if you would like, cast your vote, and celebrate the freedom that you have to do so.  But more importantly celebrate the freedom you have as a believer in Jesus Christ.  If you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are free indeed!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Consistent Balance

Read: Genesis 2:1-3 and Mark 6:30-32

Recently I have started a new habit of eating instant oatmeal for breakfast. For a long time I went without eating any breakfast until several people reminded me how breakfast get’s your day off to a good healthy start. I have enjoyed the daily challenge of trying to mix just the right amount of oatmeal, with just the right amount of milk, and just the right amount of time in the microwave. This morning’s had a perfectly consistent balance and it was delicious!

It made me think about the rest of our lives. It also made me think about the two scripture passeges in today’s Bible readings. God rested after creation (Genesis 2) and Jesus knew the importance of he and his disciples getting away for some time of rest and renewal (Mark 6). How well are we balancing our physical, spiritual, mental, and relational parts of life? It reminded me of a recent illustration I ran across about “hurry sickness.”

“Half a century ago, an upholsterer from San Francisco made a curious discovery. He was called to a cardiologist’s office to reupholster some chairs in the waiting room. When he looked at the furniture, he wondered immediately what was wrong with the patients. Only the front edge of the seats and the first few inches of the armrests were worn out. “People don’t wear out chairs this way,” he said.

Five years later, in 1959, Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman began to put the pieces together. They had noticed an odd pattern shared by many of their cardiac patients, a pattern that centered on a “chronic sense of time urgency.” Patients showed irritability at being made to wait in line, had difficulty relaxing, and were anxious over delays. Obsessed with not wasting a moment, they spoke quickly, interrupted often, hurried those around them, and were forever rushing. Hence the waiting room chairs: the patients sat on the edge of their seats, nervously fidgeting at the arms of the chairs as they watched time tick by.

The cardiologists called the new disease “hurry sickness.” According to Friedman, hurry sickness “arises from an insatiable desire to accomplish too much or take part in too many events in the amount of time available.” The hurry-sick person is unable to acknowledge that he can do only a finite number of things. “As a consequence, he never ceases trying to ‘stuff’ more and more events in his constantly shrinking reserves of time.”
(David W. Henderson, Tranquility; Baker Books, page 131)

Keeping a consistent balance in our lives is so very important. Jesus would encourage us to do that. Whether it is church attendance, serving others, exercising, spending an evening out with friends, or doing something you really enjoy, we must find time for all of it. When the right mix is found life is wonderful to enjoy. Just like my oatmeal this morning.

Make it Personal: Take a moment this week to think about the balance in your life. What needs more time and exposure and what needs less? If Christ, Church, and God’s call and purpose for your life has got pushed aside I would encourage you to add some more of that. If health and exercise have taken a back seat, I encourage you to add some more of that. If work, stress, worrying, and going around like the Energizer bunny define you of late, then take time to rest, relax, and enjoy one of your hobbies. God gave us the example of balance, Jesus showed us that example, and now it is up to us.

Have a well-balanced week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Stop, Look, and Listen

Read:  I Chronicles 29:1-20
 
This will be the final week of my sharing a devotional from the 30 Days of Generosity material that our church is currently experiencing together.  These thoughts are shared by Gord Gooderman.  He writes…..
 
Their big old farmhouse was gradually being restored, and the family loved their home. Then they heard about homeless children in Bangladesh. It didn’t seem right that they should have so much and others so little. The children discovered that a house in Bangladesh could be built for $350. The family prayed about this need. They pooled their Christmas and birthday money and came up with $60. What else could be done?
 
When the local Christian radio station offered two concert tickets as a prize for answering a Bible question, the 10-year-old daughter phoned in and won. She donated the tickets back to the station to be auctioned to raise money to build a Bangladeshi home. The highest bid came in at $1,000! Now there was enough for three homes.
 
But the family didn’t stop. They baked and sold pies to raise more money for even more houses. Then a local church joined in the fundraising effort with a contribution of $2,600 to the cause. One family’s generosity inspired an entire community to joyful giving.
 
Pray:  Dear God, your Son taught that it is more blessed to give than receive, and this is a hard truth for me to accept. I confess wanting to hold on to the things I have – as though it is all about me. Give me the grace to willingly and joyfully give to you. Amen.
 

Make it personal:  Stop, look, and listen for an opportunity to join in an extreme stewardship adventure by seeking out a giving opportunity that will stretch you beyond your weekly commitment to your local church ministry.

Have a great week filled with generous acts, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



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