Midweek Reflections

Five to a Hill

Read: Acts 8:26-40

         Recently I was with a friend who is a generation older than I am.  When I asked him how he was doing, he responded with a phrase I had never heard.  He said “Oh, about two in a hill”.  I was confused by this response so I asked him to explain what it meant.  

My friend wasn’t sure how the expression came to be, but it has to do with bean plants.  In former days, beans were often planted four or five to a hill.  If two of these seeds sprouted to produce beans, then you don’t have an abundant crop, but you at least have something.  So in other words, my friend was doing “fair” or “so-so”.  Not a full five-to-a-hill day, just a mediocre two-to-a-hill day.  I then understood the answer to my first question of,  “How are you?”  I was glad I asked for an explanation.

As Christians, there will be things we say or do that might cause others to ask for an explanation.  Readily forgiving those who hurt us, speaking of others kindly, reaching out to those in need, responding to trying times with patience, or showing joy in hard situations are all actions that do not come naturally.  When others see these actions, or especially when others receive these actions, they may inquire why.  We need to be ready to explain.  Only God living through us can produce this kind of fruit.  A relationship with his son Jesus is the source of this kind of life.  

In Acts 8, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian is another example of this.  The Ethiopian man is reading from scripture and asks Philip to explain it to him further.  Upon hearing the message about Jesus from his conversations with Philip, he began to understand.  He asked Philip to baptize him in the water right there along the side of the road.  The message of Jesus was clear, and it was one that the Ethiopian man could not resist.  

Talking about scripture with others is time well-spent.  Talking about the life available through a relationship with Jesus is a fruitful conversation to have.  And, the fruit it will produce in our lives and the lives of others will be bountiful.  It will go way beyond the five-to-a-hill crop!    

 Make it Personal:  Find ways to read, study, and learn about God’s Word in new and different ways.  There are many books, translations of the Bible, paraphrases, and commentaries that help to expand your understanding of God’s life-changing story.  Most of all be sure you are sharing the message clearly with your family and friends.  It will change their life!

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes
Arthur Mennonite Church, 710 E. Park St.

Second Fiddle

Read: James 4:10-17

           A famous conductor was once asked which instrument he considered the most difficult to play.  His reply: “Second fiddle.”  On March 4, 1861, after Abraham Lincoln had defeated Stephen A. Douglas for the presidency, the two were together on the East Portico of the Capitol for Lincoln’s inauguration.  The President-elect was introduced by Senator Edward E. Baker of Oregon.  Lincoln stood beside him, carrying the manuscript of his speech, a cane, and his tall silk hat.

As he was ready to speak, he looked around for a place to put the hat.  Stephen Douglas quickly stepped forward, took the hat, and returned to his seat.  He later said, “If I can’t be President I can at least hold his hat for him.”  In the current political climate in our country I found this old-fashion moment of humility very refreshing.

God’s Word proclaims over and over that a humble life is a life of love, service, and witness to a world that is so often self-centered and preoccupied with themselves and their own affairs.  Others tend to look at the sins and faults of others without seeing the shortcomings in their own lives.  John MacArthur once said, “Some people get so caught up in their own holiness that they look at the Trinity for a possible vacancy.”  

In James 4:10 the Bible says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  There are also reminders from Jesus in the gospels that the last will be first and the least of these should be lifted up.  In a narcissistic world full of self-promotion, we could all use a little reminder about the importance of humility.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is one of the best-known verses in the Bible about humility.  May these words and actions become the desire of our hearts.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Make it Personal:  Pay attention to humility in your life.  Are you focused on yourself and your own desires more than the needs of others?  Are you worried more about how you will look on social media than how well you are serving and helping those closest to you?  Humility is not always easy, but it is definitely the Godly way to live.

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Fake Moves

Read: 1 John 1:5-10

                  I am a sports fan, but not much of a soccer fan.  I find it hard to stay interested for 90 minutes with very few goals scored.  I am also not a fan of leaving the score a tie after all the effort that goes into a game.  However, I do enjoy following the World Cup that is currently being played in Russia.  There is something about the big stage of many countries coming together to compete that draws me in.  Next to the Olympics the World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world.

One of the intriguing things about soccer is always the dramatic falls, or fake moves that players make in order to get a foul called by the referee.  I have seen some good flop moves in NBA basketball games, but nothing quite compares to those in soccer.  Acting talent along with soccer skills must be a requirement to play big time soccer.

As I was watching those fake moves during recent World Cup games I was reminded of what John says about being “real” in the Bible.  Being fake in life is not recommended.  John speaks about the claims we sometimes make in order to make ourselves look better to others.  If we claim to be perfect and sinless, or if our heart does not match up with our outward appearances, we are not being honest with ourselves or others.

John says, “If we claim to have fellowship with him (Jesus) and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” (1 John 1:6)  A couple verses later he says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)  John is encouraging us to not be fake.  He is encouraging us to be honest, truthful, and real with people.

The heart of the message in these verses is that Jesus Christ has purified us from our sinful nature.  We should confess our sins and mistakes and ask Jesus to purify us and make us new.  If we are a follower of Jesus Christ, then we need to make sure that our lives present who we truly are and not some fake persona.  Fake moves will probably always be a part of soccer, but they should never be a part of living the Christian life.

Make it Personal:  Often it is easier to notice fakeness in others than it is in ourselves.  Think about how you come across to family, friends, and others.  Does it give true witness to what is in your heart?  As John says, we should not claim one thing and bring deception.  Instead, we should be who we truly are.

Have a great week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Remind Me Again

Read: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

              One of the things I have been known for around our house is being “The Reminder.” I get teased about it, and I probably do go overboard with it sometimes. I want to always be sure that nothing falls through the cracks.

In some ways that is what Deuteronomy 6 is telling us to do with the tenants of our faith in God. Impress them upon your children, talk about them often, write them on the door frames of your houses it says. In other words, keep your faith and the Lord’s promises in the forefront of all that you do, say, and see.

An article I read one time talked about keeping items from your favorite vacation destination around your house as decorations. They said that this was a way to always feel like you are on vacation while being at home. It’s an interesting idea, and it is amazing how it parallels what this passage is saying.

If it works for vacation destinations why wouldn’t it work for our faith as well? As you look around your home how many reminders are there about your life in Christ? If someone walks in your home would they immediately know that you believe in God and that you follow Jesus Christ? Think about that the next time you choose a decoration.

The concept of this Old Testament text is that we should keep these things in front of us at all times. They remind us of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love for us. It encourages us on a bad day, they can lift our spirits when we receive bad news, and they are a reminder that God will not leave us or forsake us.

The walls are not the only place that should be decorated with these reminders. Our lives in the family home and the public square should be a testimony to our faith. This text gives us the idea that it should encompass every facet of our lives. And why wouldn’t we want it to? It is the will of our Father in heaven and by following and obeying his will we are reminded daily, even hourly, of his love for us.

Make it personal: Find some things to place around your house that will be reminders of God’s promises to you and your family. On the walls, on the dressers, in your closet. It’s really more about reminders than it is decor.

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

That’s Not Your Name

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

                  Many Sundays I deliver a sermon that is sometimes described as a message.  It is a message from God’s Word about life and declares the love, promises, truth, salvation, and redemption of God through his Son Jesus Christ.  There are many other ways that this message can be proclaimed.  The Sunday morning sermon is not, and should not be, the only medium.

The Christian music group Mercy Me has often used the phrase “the Music is the Message” to describe how they view their gift to share music and testimony as a part of God’s ministry to people.  That became very real to me recently when I heard one of their songs on the radio. The song “Greater” is a wonderful message about who you and I are in Jesus Christ.

So often the world refers to us in negative and judgmental terms.  Perhaps you have been called a failure.  Maybe people have piled shame and guilt on your shoulders.  Sometimes the world just seems to cast us off and tell us that we will never be good enough.  The message of the song “Greater” proclaims that in Jesus your name is different. 
Here are the words,

“Bring your tired, and bring your shame.  Bring your guilt, and bring your pain.  Don’t you know that’s not your name?  You will always be much more to me.  Every day I wrestle with the voices that keep telling me I’m not right, but that’s alright.  ‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed, when others say I’ll never be enough.  And greater is the One living inside of me, than he who is living in the world.  Bring your doubts and bring your fears.  Bring your hurt and bring your tears.  There will be no condemnation here.  You are holy, righteous and redeemed. Every time I fall there will be those who will call me a mistake, well that’s okay.  ‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed…”

This is a message we all need to hear!  It is a truth that we all need to embrace and proclaim in our lives.  2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old is gone, the new is here!”  When you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior you can cast off those names of the world and take hold of the voice that calls you redeemed, holy, righteous, and free.

Make it Personal:  What is the name that you are known by among your family and friends?  What false names does the world pile on you from time to time?  It’s time to take hold of your name in Jesus Christ.  You are free, redeemed, and valued in the name of Christ.

Have a great week,  Pastor Glen Rhodes

An Attitude of Celebration

Read: Nehemiah 8:9-12          

Life can be hard and difficult at times.  Sometimes we are at a loss to explain or understand things that happen.  But in the midst of those challenges we must remember to celebrate the good things and the blessings in our lives.  It’s often too easy to focus on the hard things and forget to celebrate those good things.  Truthfully, the good most often outweighs the bad.

In Nehemiah 8 we are reminded that the “Joy of the Lord is your strength.”  It is in this joy, the joy of God and the love of Jesus Christ that we find strength to make it through the hard and difficult things of life.  Joyce Meyer says “At times you have difficulties and at times you don’t.  We all deal with issues in life.  Celebrate the victories.  Focus on the things going right.”

Joyce is encouraging us to focus on an attitude of celebration instead of an attitude of defeat.  And focus is the key word there.  Where are you placing your focus?  Is it on the joyful things of life as Nehemiah mentions, or is it on the things that tend to bring you down?  Do you hang around people who drag you down or lift you up?  Where are your thoughts most of the time?

Joy in our life can be like a magnet that pulls people in.  People desire to be around those who are joyful and celebrating life.  We all have the choice to be that kind of person.  It begins by celebrating who you are in God.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord, as David proclaims in Psalm 139.  Celebrating life begins by celebrating God’s love for you.

No matter what your past looks like or what you are facing today, God’s love for you remains the same.  Jesus came to bring you peace, joy, contentment, and reasons to celebrate.  Dwell and focus in on those truths and don’t let the challenges of today distract you from the many reasons you have to celebrate life.  Remember, The joy of the Lord is your strength!

Make it Personal:  What is weighing you down today or this week?  Name it, but then release it to the Lord.  Ask God to help you focus on the many blessings in your life there is to celebrate.  It begins with you.  God celebrates you as his own.  Join the Lord in that celebration today.

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes

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