Midweek Reflections

“R” is not for “Righteous”

Read: Romans 6

I don’t know if you have noticed recently but the movie theaters seem to be flooded with “R” rated movies.  What does it say about our society and culture (which we are a part of) when we produce a mass amount of movies that carry an “R” rating which stands for “Restricted.”  I am sure it is not pleasing to God.

The reason these movies are labeled as restricted is because they contain many things you would not want your child or teenager to see or hear.  That leads to the question, if you don’t want them to see it or hear it why do you want to see it or hear it?  Once in a while there is a true story or a documentary that has some value to it but most of the time even those are uncomfortable (or should be uncomfortable) for us to watch.

The definition of the word “Righteous” is: “Acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin.”  In Romans 6 Paul talks about how we are set free from sin by Jesus Christ and that we should live righteous lives before him.  He says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”

“R” rated movies should make us feel uncomfortable if we are Christians.  That’s not a feeling that many of us like to have in life is it, to be uncomfortable?  But sin does that to us because it separates us from God and his desires for us.  Even if we are only watching a movie we are still participating in it and therefore it affects us.

I do not want to be the cultural police or say that I will never watch an “R” rated movie.  I do want us all to think about this though.  Jesus wants us to live righteous lives and be examples of that righteousness.  In Romans 6:15 Paul even says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!”

As I said, I am not sure what it says about our culture when there are more restricted movies in our theaters than other options.  But I do know that we do not have to conform to our culture.  Perhaps the words of Romans 12:2 are a good way to end this week.  It says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Make it personal:  Think about your own movie viewing habits.  Pray about that and ask Jesus to give you discernment, wisdom, and even restraint if that is needed.  In all areas of life may we seek to live righteous lives before our God and be examples to a culture that is often conflicted in sin.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Coach 1K and the Next Play

Read: Philippians 3:7-14
This past week Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (yes, I had to Google that for spelling) did something that no other division one college basketball coach in history has accomplished. He won his 1,000th game as a college head coach. His coaching career started in 1974 as an assistant at Indiana, and since 1980 he has been the head coach of the highly successful Duke basketball program. Coach K, as he is known because of his elaborate last name, has also coached several of the USA men’s national basketball teams.
In a recent article by Sports Illustrated one of his former players Johnny Dawkins said that he was always known for saying the phrase “next play.” It was a reminder to the players that they should learn from their mistake but not let it keep them from moving on to the next play and the next opportunity ahead. He wanted them to stay aggressive and not dwell on the past.
If you have ever watched Coach K on the sidelines you can definitely believe this about him. He is intense, focused, prepared, a positive example, and a source of encouragement to his players. His success and the success of his players while at Duke and after college is a testimony to his relationship and influence on them. I truly believe that this is even more important to him than the wins.
His well known phrase “Next Play” reminded me of the verse in Philippians 3:13-14 when Paul writes, “Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Because of Jesus and his grace and forgiveness for you, this too can be your phrase in life. When you repent of your sins, your mistakes, and your wrongs to Jesus he not only forgives you but he says, “Forget what is behind and press on to the next thing.” Too often we carry the burden of past mistakes, and we let them keep us from moving forward. Jesus wants us to learn from those mistakes, but he also wants us to move on in His grace.
If you have repented of your sins and asked Jesus to forgive you, it is done! It is time to move forward and anticipate what God has for your future. The next play awaits! Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Make it personal:  My prayer is that you will believe these words from God and trust Him. Trust Him to redeem your past mistakes, trust Him to forgive you, trust Him to show you the purpose and calling upon your life, and then trust your future to Him. God knows what the next play is for you. Place your life in His hands and look forward to what is ahead.
Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church


Single Servants

Read: 1 Corinthians 7:32-38

In the church we talk a lot about family.  Families are good, important, and serve many good purposes in society and in the world.  But as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 7, men and women who are single are also very important to the church, important in society, and a valuable asset to our world.  As Paul says, “They are able to be concerned about the Lord’s affairs.”

Some of the greatest leaders of church history lived their whole lives as singles:  Saint Fracis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, Thomas a Kempis, Bernard of Clairvaux.  More recently, leaders such as Francis Asbury, missionaries Amy Carmichael and Helen Roseveare, and German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer were all single.  C.S. Lewis was a bachelor most of his life, married at age fifty-seven, was married for only four years, and remained a celibate widower after his wife’s death.

This list goes on and includes British Theologian John Stott, Mother Theresa, and yes the Apostle Paul.  God has used these single servants in ways that have made a huge difference in the world for Christ.  They are loved, valuable, and important, just like the singles we know today.  The church is blessed to have so many dedicated servants, who like Paul, have given their life for the good of God’s Kingdom and others.

Another group of brothers and sisters that we need to support and pray for are the single mothers and fathers in our churches and community.  It is hard for many to truly understand the challenges of time and finances they deal with on a day to day basis.  We need to find ways to support them and their children and let them know that we are there for them when they need a break or need a helping hand.

The church is full of people who desire to serve the Lord together.  And together is how we must do this.  Let’s support all the people of our communities but let’s especially reach out to those are single, widowed, single parents, or other.  God can, does, and will use them in ways that only they can be used for His Kingdom.  I am thankful that so many of them are such willing servants!  Many of them have blessed me in wonderful ways!

Make it personal:  Who and How can you reach out to someone who is single?  Maybe they just need a helping hand, a prayer partner, or a source of encouragement in their life.  Reach out to them and hear them share about how the Lord is using them for the good of his kingdom.  As a church, let’s affirm them in that call!

Blessings,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



The Persecuted Church

Read: Acts 16: 16-40; Hebrews 13:1-3

Last week in my midweek meditation I wrote about the call and the need for comfort. This week I share an article by John Stonestreet from breakpoint.org that speaks of the many Christians around the world that are facing persecution and death for simply believing in the truth of Jesus Christ. Just like Paul and Silas experienced in Acts 16 and Jesus warned us about in the Gospels, following Jesus can sometimes be a life that others do not accept and at times will even persecute against. As John shares at the end of this blog we need to pray for them and do what we can to support those who are suffering for their faith in Christ. Here is what he writes……

“While the civilized world rightly expressed outrage over the slaughter of 12 cartoonists, the plight of 100 million persecuted Christians is largely ignored. While in 2014 the days of throwing Christians to wild beasts in the arena may be behind us, the persecution of Christians around the world isn’t. In fact, the number of our brothers and sisters subjected to imprisonment, torture, and death for their faith in just the last twelve months dwarfs the number who suffered during the entire tenure of Nero.

As a new report from a leading ministry to the persecuted church shows, last year was one of the most violent on record for believers worldwide—and 2015 could be worse. Open Doors International released its World Watch list earlier this month, ranking the top 50 most dangerous and difficult countries for Christians to live in. Here are the results: For the 13th year in a row, North Korea ranked as the worst persecutor of Christians. Amid executing relatives and presiding over the disappearances of his political rivals, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has reserved his special wrath for Christians.

Open Door estimates that 70,000 believers are currently imprisoned for their faith in this hermit kingdom. And considering North Koreans outside of jail live in a state of semi-starvation, I shudder to think what it’s like behind bars. Executions for crimes of owning Bibles or evangelizing are commonplace. News agencies reported last year that Kim Jong-un personally sentenced 33 church planters to death.

“Christians,” explains Open Doors president David Curry, “are the No. 1 enemy of the state in North Korea.” And that’s just one frontier in the battle between the Gospel and modern Neros. In west-central Africa, the Islamist group Boko Haram has just leveled several towns, with Christians as their new target of choice. Militants have ambushed worshipers in at least a half a dozen churches on Sunday Mornings, and human rights groups report a Christian body count of over 3,000 in Nigeria alone.

And then there’s the Middle East. From Iraq and Syria to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Christians are suffering for their faith on a scale not seen in living memory. Some of the world’s most ancient church communities have been wiped out or displaced by the rise of ISIS, and tens of thousands of Christians have fled the Islamic State’s onslaught—most likely never to return home.

“We have seen the sharpest jump in violent attacks against Christians in the modern era,” says Curry, estimating that upwards of 100 million Christians worldwide are suffering persecution as we speak. “[And] while the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era,” Open Doors elaborated, “current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come.”

Now I know it’s easy to shrug and say, “Well, what can I do about this?” But we’re not helpless—not by a long shot. Christians in America have options for extending help to our hard-pressed brethren by supporting organizations devoted to serving the persecuted church and pleading her cause—organizations like Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, and International Christian Concern. So please, get involved. We’ll link you to all of these ministries at BreakPoint.org.

And of course, we need to pray—all the harder as the situation worsens. And while you’re praying, remember this: The same Gospel that Nero thought he could extinguish went on to conquer his empire. His fires died—but the Holy Spirit’s fire did not. And as the Apostle John wrote, very likely in the context of Nero’s persecution, Christians who confessed their Lord despite the cost “triumphed…by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” So take action with me. And folks, don’t despair. If the gates of Hell and Rome can’t prevail against the Church, modern persecutors don’t stand a chance.”

Make it personal: First and foremost we must pray for those in North Korea, the Middle East, Nigeria, and other places where this persecution is taking place. Second, we must find ways to speak out and support those who are trying to help them in what is a very difficult situation. As Hebrews 13:3 says, “Continue to remember those in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves are suffering.”

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Comfort

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

I recently read a funny but inspiring story that a young mother was sharing. It had been a terrible day in which nothing had gone right. The washing machine broke down, she had a terrible headache, a large bill showed up in the mail in which she knew they had no money to pay, she had received some very difficult news about a family member, and her cell phone kept ringing off of the wall.

Almost to the breaking point she lifted her one year old son into his highchair, leaned her head against the tray, and began to cry. Seeing her in this state of mind, without a word or sound made her son took the pacifier out of his mouth and stuck it in hers. It was the one and maybe only way he knew of to try and bring comfort to his mother.

Scripture is full of the ways in which God comforts us during difficult days, hard circumstances, or excruciating times of trial in our lives. We turn to God because we know that he is always there and will always be there for us in those times of greatest need. The Psalms are full of these type of requests for comfort and fulfillment of comfort that comes from above.

But as God’s people who are called to follow his Son Jesus Christ we also have a responsibility to comfort those around us. In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul is talking about the Day of the Lord when Jesus will come to take the believers home to heaven to be with him. He says that we are children of the day and children of light, not children of darkness. Because of that we have hope and we should not despair when the world seems to be turning on us or against us.

In the last verse then he says, “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up.” As Christians that is a specific call upon our lives. We are to be observant to whom needs a word or act of comfort extended to them. Who needs a visit, a card, a call, a text, or an email of encouragement? We are to extend the love of God to them and the promise that he will never leave us or forsake us when we call on him.

When we think of Jesus we think of how he comforted so many people who were outcasts or who were going through very difficult things in their life. Sometimes he said very little to them but his actions conveyed his love and his concern to them. Sounds similar to a story I read recently about a one year old boy. May the love of God and the comfort of Jesus Christ flow through us to the people he has placed around us.

Make it personal: Pray about who might need these words of comfort this week. Sometimes they are obvious because of the loss of a loved one or other difficult circumstances that people are facing. But sometimes we also need to be aware of those people who may need comfort in less obvious situations. Who might that be this week?

Blessings and Comfort in your week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Unbroken & Changed

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Over the Christmas holiday our family went to see the powerful movie “Unbroken.”  This week I read an article by Ron and Linda Nelson that not only talked about the movie and book but shared more of the story about how Louis Zamperini became truly changed by Christ after a visit with his wife to a Billy Graham crusade.  This story relates well to the 2 Corinthians 5 passage that speaks about the ministry of reconciliation.  Here is what was shared.

“The movie was based on a book about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete as well as a World War II hero. The movie shows Zamperini’s strong will to live and his courage and valor. It is a story of miraculous survival.  Paul Harvey had a program on the radio for many years prior to his death entitled “The Rest of the Story.” The movie unfortunately only shows the first part of Zamperini’s life. The rest of his story is also miraculous. In fact he would consistently state that the biggest and greatest miracles took place after his return from World War II.

Franklin Graham recently wrote about the rest of Zamperini’s life as follows: He had been brutally tortured in Japanese prison camps and, when he was finally freed, came home filled with bitterness toward life and rage toward his captors. He experienced constant nightmares, became a heavy drinker, had a violent temper, and nearly destroyed everything that mattered to him, including his marriage. His wife, who feared for her own safety and that of their little daughter, began preparing divorce papers.

Then a neighbor invited the couple to come to nearby Los Angeles to hear a young, little-known evangelist named Billy Graham. It was 1949, and my father was preaching in a huge tent downtown at the corner of Washington and Hill streets. Louis wanted nothing to do with any evangelist, but his wife went anyway and her heart was changed by the power of the Gospel. She tore up the divorce papers and persuaded her husband to go with her a few days later. He did-then walked out during the meeting. She begged him to return another day. That time, while my father preached, Zamperini knew the Holy Spirit was working within him, and he resisted.

The moment the invitation began, he grabbed his wife’s hand and headed toward the exit. But in the aisle, overwhelmed by the realization of how broken his life had become, he turned around and gave his life to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. He left the tent with God’s complete forgiveness.  From that day forward, everything changed. He started reading the Bible. His nightmares disappeared, he gave up drinking, his hatred and violent anger melted away, and he began to live for Christ.

To his own amazement, he soon found himself desiring reconciliation with his Japanese tormentors. He traveled to Japan, visited prisons that held war criminals, shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with many, and expressed forgiveness personally to any of his wartime captors that he could find. These extraordinary acts of reconciliation were widely reported in the media across Japan and the United States, and God used the stories to touch many hearts and bring the power of forgiveness and reconciliation into many more lives. Right up to his death this past July at age 97, Zamperini never tired of telling people about the Savior.”

I found this story to be truly amazing and a wonderful example of the transformation that Christ can bring to peoples lives.  I wish the movie would have shared more about this part of his life.  Here is a picture of Louie with a young Billy Graham and I am also including an 8 minute video with an interview that CBS news did with Louie.  He recently passed away at the age of 97.

Here is a link to the video interview with Louie
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyhFPqRZE9c

 

 
 

Make it personal:  If you have not seen this movie or read this book I would encourage you to do so.  It is an inspiration of courage, strength, will, and in the end of the book at least, the ability of Christ to transform a life that is committed to him.  The unbelievable trials of Louie can definitely give us inspiration to face our own in this year ahead.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church




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