Midweek Reflections

The Heart of Christmas

Read: 1 Corinthians 10:23-31

In our consumeristic and confused world it is sometimes difficult to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in our hearts. But for Christians this is vital! We can continuously try to point out to the world that if Jesus Christ were not born in Bethlehem there would be no December 25th celebrations. But more importantly we should be sure to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in our families and in our own hearts.

Christmas is not about us. Christmas is not about the economy. Christmas is not about who has the best decor. Christmas is not about ________ (you add your own here). Christmas is about God coming to earth to save the world through his son Jesus Christ and showing us how to live for God’s glory instead of our own. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul reminds us that we are to do all that we do in this life for the glory of God.

In her book “In My Father’s House” Corrie Ten Boom tells the story of a monk who sang a Christmas song every Christmas Eve for his brothers in the monastery, and for visitors who would come from the village for special services. His voice was very ugly, but he loved the Lord and sang from his heart. One year the director of the cloister said, “I’m sorry Brother Don, we will not need you this Christmas. We have a new monk who has a beautiful voice.”

The man did have a wonderful voice, and everyone was impressed. But that night an angel came to the superior and said, “Why didn’t you have a Christmas Eve song?” The superior was very surprised and said, “We had a beautiful song, didn’t you hear it?” The angel shook his head sadly and said, “It may have been inspiring to you, but we didn’t hear it in heaven.”

Corrie goes on to write, “The old monk with the raspy voice had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but the young monk was singing for his own benefit and glory, not for that of the Lord.” This story made me think about how we celebrate Christmas. Is it for our own benefit, pleasure, and excitement? Or is it a celebration of our relationship with Jesus our Savior?

We can’t expect the entire world to celebrate the heart of Christmas in the same way as those who believe in God and follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But we can pray that somehow the true heart of Christmas might help them to understand what God has done for them. We cannot change minds and hearts, only Jesus can do that. May our lives and our testimony of Christmas be focused on Jesus this year and every year!

Make it personal: While we can’t expect every store, political figure, or publication to proclaim a Merry Christmas to everyone, we can do it ourselves. Take the opportunity this month to spread the joy of the Christmas story in any way possible. With words, songs, stories, and the truth about the heart of the Christmas story. May it be in each of our hearts!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Traveling Mercies

Read: Numbers 6:22-27

Many people will be traveling on the roadways over this Thanksgiving holiday.  Statistics show that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following are the two busiest travel days on the calendar.  We pray for traveling mercies for all those who will be traveling to be with family and friends this week.

Numbers 6 says, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.”  This reminded me of a story about St. Francis of Assisi.  One day, he longed to see his brothers.  They agreed to meet in a remote place of central Italy.  After arriving and enjoying their reunion, each reported what he had experienced on the road.

One brother who had traveled by muleback said: “God protected me in a miraculous way.  When I was crossing a narrow bridge over a deep mountain gorge, the mule jumped.  I fell and narrowly escaped falling over the wall of the bridge into the gorge.  God by his love saved my life.”

The other brother said: “I had to cross a river and I slipped and fell.  The waters carried me down the river.  But God in his grace provided a tree which had fallen across the river.  I could grasp a branch of that tree and pull myself ashore, thanks to God’s miraculous mercy.”  Then St. Francis said:  “Let us thank God for his wonderful works.  I did experience the greatest miracle of all on my way.  I had the smoothest, most pleasant, completely uneventful trip.”

This story is just another reminder that we have so much to be thankful for.  For God’s mercy, protection, provision, and even the days that are calm and uneventful.  May this Thanksgiving Day be a time of joyful thanks for God’s part in every part of our lives.
Make it personal:  Thank God for the everyday things of your life this week!

Happy Thanksgiving, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Good People

Read: Luke 6:43-45; Romans 15:14-22

I am afraid! But not for the reason you might think. I am afraid that we are becoming so consumed by 24 hour news coverage of all the bad people in the world that we are forgetting about the many, many, many more good people there are. Anytime we turn on the news we see “Breaking News” about the acts of terrorism, hatred, and violence that go on in our country and around the world. I believe it paints a distorted picture of the people of this world.

Yes, those evil acts are terrible and we must not hide our heads in the sand and pretend that they are not happening. We must make them and those involved a matter of daily prayers for sure. But I want to remind us all that the percentage of good people in this world far outnumber the percentage of bad people. It’s just that we always hear about the bad and not enough of the good. That may because of news reporting or it may be because they are giving people what they want?

I am the point where I also want to hear about all of those good people in the world! Like those people of Paris, Lebanon, Russia, and Baghdad who shined in the midst of such terrible situations they found themselves in recently. Like those people in our communities and in our own country that have a heart of service, love, and concern for their fellow brothers and sisters. Give me a 24 hour news channel that focuses on them please!

In Luke 6 Jesus talked about tree’s being recognized by their fruit. He said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.” There is way more good fruit in this world than bad. In Romans 15 Paul encouraged the people in Rome by saying, “I myself am convinced… that you yourselves are full of goodness…”

Sin and evil will always be with us in this world. We are thankful that Jesus has provided a way for human beings to be delivered from that sin and that evil. Let’s continue to share the Good News of Jesus with those who need to hear it. But let’s focus our view on the many good people in our world and give them the credit they are due. It just might change the way we view God’s world and the many needs in God’s world. Yes, this is God’s world!

Make it personal: Sometimes we just need to turn off the news or focus our attention elsewhere for a while. We never should forget the hurting and needy world that is around us, but find ways to calm your fears and be reminded of God’s care for you and them. Turn to the Bible and read about the ways that Jesus encourages us to be good people and bear good fruit in this world. Also read that most important part about being saved from this world through Jesus Christ!

Have a peace-filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Kingdoms of the Moment

Read: Acts 1:1-11
I recently attended a conference in which Russell Moore was one of the keynote speakers. Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of you may know him from his many appearances on the 24 hours news channels over the past year or two.

At that conference we were given his new book entitled “Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.” It’s a book that addresses the many challenges that Christians face living in what many today are referring to as a Post-Christian culture. Moore suggests that believers take a more positive outlook on our situation than giving in to the thought of defeat and retreat.

Moore writes, “I think the future of the church is incandescently bright. That’s not because of promises made at Independence Hall, but a promise made at Caesarea Philippi. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

I agree with Moore! We need to get back to the message of Peter in the opening chapters of Acts. He built his message around the words of Jesus in Acts 1 that were about the Kingdom of God more than the kingdoms of this world. In Acts 1:3 it says, “He (Jesus) presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” That should be the Christian’s message today!

In chapter 3 of his book, Moore speaks about this in depth. He writes about how Christians today so often get caught up in the moment that they forget the long term plan of God. He says, “The kingdoms of the moment, whatever they are, seem more important than the kingdom of Christ, without our ever realizing it. That’s why our blood pressure is more likely to rise when we hear someone disagree with us about our political party or our sports team or an item in the news than when we hear faulty teaching from a Christian pulpit.”

What I hear him saying there is that we need to get our perspective back. We need to refine and refresh our message about Jesus and God’s kingdom. We need to pattern our lives after what we truly long for and what Christ has called us to as his followers. Moore says that when we do that it will change the content and the tone of our witness. It will be more about God’s kingdom and less about earthly kingdom. I would suggest that Peter gives us a great example of that in the New Testament. Come to Arthur Mennonite Church this Sunday and hear more!

Make it personal: Ask yourself something this week. What is my kingdom of the moment? What is ruling over you this week? What disturbs you and is robbing you of God’s peace? What is upsetting to you? What is weighing you down? I would like to suggest that you take some time to pray and give that God. Ask the Lord to make his Kingdom and the his promises your focus instead of all those other false kingdoms that Satan wants you to think are more important. May God’s Kingdom reign in your life, my life, and in the life of all believers!

Have a peace filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church
 
 
moore


Day and Hour Unknown

Read: Mark 13

This past week I have watched the news reports of the Russian airplane that crashed in the Sinai desert of Egypt.  I’m sure many of you have watched those reports as well.  Last night it really hit home when they began to share the pictures and stories of some of the children and adults who were on that flight.  Many of them were returning home from family vacations in the Sinai Peninsula.

Along with the sadness that it brought to my heart, I was once again reminded of the many unknowns that we face in this life.  We often awake each day with the assumption that we will return to that same pillow that evening for another night of sleep.  While many days that is true, we face the reality that each and every moment should be treasured.

Along with treasuring those moments we must also be ready and prepared for the unknown.  The Bible speaks often about this.  Mark 13 is just one example of Jesus speaking about preparing for his return and these unknowns of life.  He says, “Be on guard!  Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

When Jesus returns to take his followers to heaven it will be a glorious day!  But as Christians we need to be living in this constant awareness and expectation of that day.  Even if Jesus doesn’t return tomorrow we don’t know what each day holds for us.  We often like to know the future and what is going to happen but God knows that it is best for us to just be prepared for it.

It’s easy to get busy with life and other temptations and forget about these many verses in the Bible that encourage us to be ready and prepared.  Mark 13 is just another reminder to handle your life on earth and your eternal life to follow with much care.

When we watch people hold a newborn baby it is amazing how careful they are with every little move.  They move slowly, they are gentle, and they hold that baby with so much love and respect.  How about we handle our daily lives in that same way?  Then we will be ready for that unknown day and hour that Jesus so often talked about in the Gospels.

Make it personal:  Pray for the families of those who lost their lives in that Russian airplane crash.  As you pray for them, ask Jesus to prepare your heart, mind, and soul for whatever the next hour, day, week, month, or year might hold.  Those who believe in and follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior have a wonderful eternal life in heaven to look forward to.  Let’s be prepared for that each and every day that we awake.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church



Laughter and Tears

Read: Matthew 5:1-10

In this past week I have had reason to celebrate and laugh with people as well as mourn and pray for people in difficult situations.  It reminded me of our calling as Christians and fellow believers to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

It also reminded me of the Beatitudes that Jesus shared at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.  In those verse Jesus speaks of peace, mourning, comfort, mercy, blessings, and what the kingdom of heaven looks like.  It is a reminder that we are to share those things with each other so that we too might see and remember what God’s kingdom truly looks like.

If a fellow believer and friend has something to celebrate we are called to be happy for them and celebrate with them instead of being envious and jealous of their blessing.  If they are experiencing pain and heartache or going through a very challenging time, we are called to be “present” with them and support them through that time.  In many ways we are called to be aware of what people on both sides of that fence are feeling.

I’ve heard that a new Peanuts Cartoon movie is coming out in the theatres soon.  This week’s meditation reminds me of a certain Peanuts cartoon in which Linus and Charlie Brown are watching a football game on T.V..   Linus says to Charlie Brown, “What a comeback, the home team was down by 6 with only 3 seconds to play and they ended up scoring a touchdown and extra point to win.  The fans went wild and many of them ran onto the field screaming and celebrating the victory.”  Charlie Brown turns to him and asks, “How did the other team feel?”

Life has many ups and downs.  None of us are exempt from those ups and downs, although some people seem to have a more extreme ride than others.  We need to be aware of both in our lives and in other people’s lives.  God has placed us here together for a reason.  We are to live out the beatitudes of Jesus and be there for each other in the good times as well as the hard times.

In Philippians 2:3-4 the Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”  Whose interest are you looking out for this week?  Celebrate with those who are celebrating and be near to those who feel defeated and hopeless.  Jesus Christ calls us to nothing less than this.

Make it personal:  Usually when we think about interest it is about our bank account and how much money we can make on an investment.  This week I have asked us to think about the interest of others.  Whose joy can you compound this week?  Whose comfort level can you increase?  Who can you pray for that needs God’s touch?

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church




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