Midweek Reflections


Read: John 3:1-21    

    Most of us have heard of Mark Twain’s quote  “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  This past week I heard it quoted a bit differently.  Cynthia Swindoll said that she likes to tweak that quote a bit to say, The two most important days in your life are the day you are born again and the day you find out why.”  This is what Nicodemus and the rest of us find out in the 3rd chapter of John.  I would encourage you to read it again this week.

My wife Rhonda and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage today.  I have been so very blessed to live life with this wonderful woman for the past 25 years.  That day on June 8, 1991 was definitely one of the most important days of my life.  As I recall and celebrate all of the memories and things of the past 25 years I have to pause and think about the “most important” days of our lives.

Yes, my wedding day was very important.  Yes, the day our daughter was born and the day we adopted our son from Romania were very important.  Yes, the day I was ordained as a pastor was very important.  Yes, celebrating 25 years of marriage is very important.  But the day I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior and decided to live my life for him is the day that my eternal life in heaven was confirmed.

It’s often difficult to rank those important times of our life, but as we hold the Community Vacation Bible School at our church this week I realize what Cynthia Swindoll is saying.  These children are being taught the Good News of Jesus and hopefully taking it home to their parents and families.  The Good News is that God loved this world, and each of us, so much that he gave his Son Jesus, so that whoever believes in him and is born again will not perish but have eternal life in heaven.  That is Great News for this life on earth and the eternal life ahead.

I am so thankful for my wife, my children, and the rest of my extended family.  We have many great memories to share in this life together.  I am so very thankful they are followers of Jesus and they know the importance of being born again in Jesus Christ and knowing why.  I pray that this may be the goal of all our efforts in the ministry of Christ.  To share the light of Jesus, spread the good news, and help people realize the importance of being born again.

Make it personal:  Think about this quote and then think about your life.  The two most important days in your life are the day you are born again and the day you find out why.”  God has a plan for each and every one us.  His blessings in this life come in many different ways, but no blessing can be greater than being saved from this world and finding salvation in God’s son Jesus Christ.  Don’t let another day go by without celebrating this important day in your life!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

God Bless You!

Read: Numbers 6:22-27    

    The phrase “God Bless You!” is used in many different situations.  We often say it when someone sneezes, we say it when someone leaves our presence, we often use it in prayers, and we use it to bless our family and friends.  National Geographic magazine once reported that during the plague of AD 590, Pope Gregory I ordered unceasing prayer for divine intercession. Part of his command was that anyone sneezing be blessed immediately (“God bless you”), since sneezing was often the first sign that someone was falling ill with the plague.  They said that by AD 750, it became customary to say “God bless you” as a response to someone sneezing.

Blessings are extended throughout the Bible in various ways and to various people but the main origin of this phrase comes from Numbers 6:24 when the Lord tells Moses how Aaron and his sons are to bless the Israelites. This blessing is often used at the close of worship and at other times that Christians gather.  “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

This past week I ran across this description on a website from an anonymous source.  It said, “God’s original design in creation was for His creatures, including mankind, to experience prosperity, peace, and fulfillment, but that design was ruined when sin entered the world. Statements of blessing are a wish for God to restore His favor on others or a declaration of His inherent goodness. The ultimate blessing that God has given is the new life and forgiveness that comes through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The material blessings we enjoy from day to day are temporary, but the spiritual blessings available to us in Christ encompass time and eternity, as well as material and immaterial things.”  As the Psalmist said, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:5)

One important thing that scripture refers to often is the importance of walking with God and seeking after God in order to find his blessing. In Psalm 1 the Psalmist writes “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”  (Psalm 1:1-2)  Scripture is clear that God does not and cannot bless sin and wickedness that are in direct disobedience to his will.

It is very important that we pray God’s blessings over our children, grandchildren, churches, marriages, relationships, and many other areas of life.  It also important that we are careful to seek after God in order to receive those blessings in full.  I have shared a lot of scripture in this week’s meditation and I still have not included any of Jesus’ words in the beatitudes which all begin with “Blessed are…”  Matthew 5:6 seems like a fitting one to end with…  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Make it Personal:  Take time this week to pray God’s blessings over your life and others.  Pray for a new hunger for God’s righteousness, that you might be filled with and blessed with his presence, protection, power, and hope.  May the Lord shine his face on you and be gracious to you!

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Dangerous Deception

Read: Matthew 24:1-14

Did you hear what happened at a Burger King restaurant recently?  Employees in Coon Rapids, Minnesota believed a prank caller when he called the restaurant, told them their was a gas leak, and instructed them to quickly smash the windows in order to prevent the place from blowing up.  An hour later the employees learned that it was all a prank and they had to begin boarding up the windows.

It’s easy to think that we are not that gullible or short of common sense, but there are many ways in which we can be deceived into believing things that are not true or believing things that are contrary to the will and purposes of God.  Jesus spoke often about being careful of this danger.  In Matthew 24 he reminds his disciples, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.”

In his book “The Me I Want To Be” John Ortberg shares this story.  He writes, “Recently my wife and I went fly-fishing for the first time. Our guides told us that “to catch a fish you have to think like a fish.” They said that to a fish life is about the maximum gratification of appetite at the minimum expenditure of energy. To a fish, life is “see a fly, want a fly, eat a fly”….

While we were on the water, I was struck by how dumb the fish are. Hey, swallow this. It’s not the real thing; it’s just a lure. You’ll think it will feed you, but it won’t. It’ll trap you. If you were to look closely, fish, you would see the hook. You’d know once you were hooked that it’s just a matter of time before the enemy reels you in.  

You’d think fish would wise up and notice the hook or see the line. You’d think fish would look around at all their fish friends who go for a lure and fly off into space and never return. But they don’t. It is ironic. We say fish swim together in a school, but they never learn.”  John finishes that story by writing, “Aren’t you glad we’re smarter?”

We live in a culture that advertises many things, many thoughts, many opinions, and many deceitful paths.  I’m not sure this is different than at any other time or in any other culture, but I wonder if in this current “Post-Christian” world we are leaving good Godly discernment and decision making up to those who may be pandering for their own agendas.  I’m not thinking of or speaking of any current issue or situation necessarily but I am encouraging you to seek after the truth of God in any and all situations.

As John speaks about with the fish, we need to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.  We need to be smarter by being focused on God’s Word, God’s Wisdom, and God’s Will for his people.  We need to be careful that we are not deceived by the whims of this world, this culture, and the claims of truth that do not line up with our faith in Jesus our Lord.  After all Jesus said, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life.”

Make it Personal:  As you watch and read the news, scroll down Facebook and Twitter, and hear various thoughts and opinions on things make it a habit to test them with God’s Word, God’s Wisdom, and God’s Will.  Pray that the Lord would lead you to the truth and that you might be protected from any dangerous deception.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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

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