Midweek Reflections

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

“BTW, Just Between us, K?”

Read: Daniel 2:1-23

     Personal privacy is often not what we think it is.  In this day and age of internet, wifi, smartphone apps, and social media, things are more public than we sometimes would like them to be.  In the news this past week we have seen stories about CEO’s, celebrities, and an NBA team that were caught in the middle of something private going very public and causing many problems along the way.

     Then on the news yesterday I learned of a hacker group in Eastern Europe that has hacked into people’s personal home video camera’s and created an app so that anyone can see what is going on in other people’s backyards, living rooms, children’s playrooms and adult bedrooms.  The news article did not share the name of the app and that’s fine because I don’t want to know it anyway and I sure don’t want to be passing it along.

     A recent Bloomberg Business magazine article started with a headline that said, “BTW, Just between us, K?, Totally…, Not so funny now.”  It talked about this recent trend of things that people meant to be private going very public.  They often embarrass the individuals involved and sometimes cause great damage to careers, relationships and many other things.

     Personal privacy is an important matter in the public square, but we must remember that God is Omniscience.  What does that big word mean?  It means that God knows all things past, present and future. What is hidden from human sight is still known by God. Scripture stresses the wisdom of God in all his actions, and often grounds this in his all-embracing knowledge.  Before we decide to do anything in any manner we should remember this truth.

     In Daniel 2 King Nebuchadnezzar summoned Daniel to interpret his dream for him.  As the story continues Daniel seeks God’s wisdom so that the dream can be interpreted and he says, “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”  Daniel was proclaiming the truth that God is All-Knowing and that nothing can be hidden from his view.

     As we live our lives we need to guarded and careful about what we are “putting out there” for the world to see.  Sometimes what you think is private can become very public in the matter a few minutes.  With that said however, we must always remember that nothing is truly held private from the eyes of God.  We must live our lives to please the Lord and be obedient to his ways.  Anything that we call private is already known by God.

Make it personal:    As you hear the debates about personal privacy play out in the world take time to make sure your life is in a good place and where God wants you to be.  Ask Christ to help you resist temptations and encourage friends and family to keep you accountable.  Remember what the Psalmist says in Psalm 147:4-5, “He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Whole Story

Read:  Acts 7

Before forming opinions and making judgements do you try to hear the whole story?  We live in a time in which people often form their next opinion to share while failing to listen to what the other person has to say.  Often we can grow, mature, become more knowledgeable, and even sometimes form a different opinion once we hear the entirety of what a person has to share.  It reminds me of a funny story I once heard……

One day an old man was casually walking along a country lane with his dog and his mule. Suddenly a speeding pick-up truck careened around the corner, knocking the man, his mule, and his dog into the ditch.  The old man decided to sue the driver of the truck, seeking to recoup the cost of the damages. While the old man was on the stand, the counsel for the defense cross-examined the man by asking a simple question: “I want you to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following question: Did you or did you not say at the time of the accident that you were ‘perfectly fine'”?

And the man said, “Well, me and my dog and my mule were walking along the road … ” And the counsel for defense said, “Stop, stop, I asked you, tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’, did you say you were ‘perfectly fine’ at the time of the accident?”  “Well, me and my dog and my mule were walking along the road and … ” The defense attorney appealed to the judge. “Your honor,” he said, “the man is not answering the question. Would you please insist that he answer the question?” The judge said, “Well, he obviously wants to tell us something. Let him speak.”

So the man said, “Well, me and my dog and my mule were walking along the road and this truck came around the corner far too fast, knocked us into the ditch. The driver stopped, got out of his truck, saw my dog was badly injured, went back to his truck, got his rifle, and he shot it. Then he saw that my mule had broken his leg so he shot it. Then he said, ‘How are you?’ And I said, ‘I’m perfectly fine.'”

In the Bible there are many times in which the whole story needed to be told to understand what God was doing and how he works in our lives.  Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7 is a perfect example of this.  He starts with Abraham and tells the story of what God has done and is doing all the way through the life of Jesus.  In verse 52 he tells them, “And now you have betrayed and murdered him.”

Stephen of course was the first Christian martyr.  He was stoned for his testimony.  People will not always accept the whole story even when it holds truth and explanation.  As Christians we need to continue to tell the whole story of scripture to the world.  It is good news that can bring hope and salvation through Jesus Christ.  As we converse with others let’s be sure to hear them out.  Let them speak, try to hear what they are saying, and then have a pleasant and peaceful conversation.  Yes, we can agree to disagree on various things in life, but we must be respectful and willing to hear the whole story before we form opinions and make judgements.

Make it Personal:  Try to be a better listener this week.  Let someone speak without forming your next words in your mind while they are talking to you.  Be peaceful and loving in your conversations with others and try to see the situation in their context or through their lens.  You may not always agree, but if you hear them out they may just hear you out as a witness of God’s story and God’s work in the world.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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