Midweek Reflections

May the Lord Bless!

Read: James 1:19-27

In recent months it has been a blessing to be a part of so many baby/child dedications at our church.  These times are precious when we think about the hope and anticipation of what lies ahead for these children and how they will bless others and make a difference in our world as they live out their lives.

But then we turn on the news and hear about all of the danger and ugliness in our world today.  ISIS, Riots, Earthquakes, Violence, Wars, and the various issues that cause one side to hate and despise the other.  In a recent article by Jen Steiner she was thinking about these things as she looked at her newborn baby peacefully laying in her crib.

She writes…. “Sometimes these precious moments are clouded by reality of the ugliness of our society today…. there are so many things of which we can scared… there are many things in our world that seem hopeless.  Cancer and other diseases strike our loved ones.  Broken families and strained relationships cause hurt and stress.  Our environment deteriorates more and more.  Hate and ignorance lurk everywhere.  Intolerance breeds hate and spite.  I often wonder what kind of a world we have brought our daughter into.”

But then later in the article Jen speaks of the hope of Jesus we have as believers.  As Christians we have the hope of Jesus to turn to when the ugliness of the world seems to overwhelm us. We want our children to bless this world with the hope and peace of Jesus as they grow up but then we often forget to do that ourselves as adults.

In James 1 we are reminded to not merely listen to God’s word, but we are to live it, display it, share it, and do it.  If we want that to be true for our children then it needs to start with us as adults! (can I add a couple more exclamation marks there?) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

During each of the child dedications at our church I prayed a prayer over them that seems fitting for us as adults as well.  Please insert your name at the beginning of this prayer and allow it to shape your daily life and interactions as we live as Christ’s followers in a troubled world.  May the Lord Bless others through you!

(Your Name Here) May the LORD bless your Head, Be always in your thoughts and in your mind.  May you use your gift of intelligence to better the world in which you live.  May the LORD bless your Eyes, so that you see all the good things God has prepared for you.  May you see good and loving people in your life.  May you see beyond the appearances to the heart of those around you.

May the LORD bless your Ears, that you may hear words of love, of forgiveness, of care.  May you always hear the cry of those in need of your love and compassion.  May the LORD bless your Words, that they be gentle and kind, forgiving and filled with laughter. May you speak the LORD’S Words that bring hope into people’s lives.

May the LORD bless your Hands, that they may be open to give and receive, to bless and to build. May your touch be one of healing, of gentleness, of encouragement and care.  May the LORD bless your Heart!  May God’s Spirit continue to dwell in you.  May you know how to Love, to give without counting the cost.  May your friends know peace; May your love, given, received and shared always fill your Heart.  May God’s blessings always be yours so that through you they may always be ours. Amen.

Make it personal:  Please pray this prayer during your devotional time or your time spent with the Lord each day.  May it help to shape you into the Christian and Godly example that we all can be to this world.

May the Lord Bless You!  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Leaving Peace, Giving Peace

Read: Luke 10:1-16 and John 14:15-31

Peace is something that Jesus spoke about, displayed, and encouraged throughout his ministry here on earth. It is something he encourages us to carry on today. These two scripture passages are just a portion of those examples in which Jesus brings peace, gives peace, and leaves peace. In Luke 10 he encourages us to do this as well.

As Jesus sends out the 72 messengers (two by two) he encourages them to enter each house by saying, “Peace to this house.” What a great way to enter into a new relationship, a new situation, or a new opportunity. If we bless the people and the place with God’s Peace we are inviting God’s presence and God’s grace first and foremost.

So often in our world we see people enter into a situation with their own anger and opinions leading the way. Instead of peace to calm a conflict, people will often pour on gasoline to inflame the situation. Once the flame is started it is often hard to put out. What if we entered with the peace of Christ and made sure that we left in the same manner?

In John 14 as Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was ahead he mentioned that he would be leaving them and ascending into heaven. He promised them the Holy Spirit and told them that the Spirit would teach them and remind them of everything he had said. As he finished those words he told them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

Mennonites are often thought of as people of peace because of our views on peace and non-violence. We may do well with this when it comes to wars and weapons of mass destruction, but how well do we do with it when it comes to interpersonal relationships? Time and time again Jesus encourages us to promote peace with our brothers and sisters.

The next time we enter into a tense situation or discussion let’s pray beforehand and ask the Lord to place his peace upon us. May his peace lead us and guide us to douse the flames of anger and resentment so that we might enter with peace and leave with peace. Dale Evans once said, “God has not promised an easy way, but peace at the center of the hard way.” Only Jesus can help us to live in this way.

Make it personal: The next time you feel anger and resentment towards someone try to step back from the situation and call on God’s peace. Not only will the peace of Christ calm you but it will allow the entire situation to be calmed as well. Give that person God’s peace, and then leave that person with God’s peace.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

God’s Grace

Read: Ephesians 2:4-9

Some years ago a school bus driver in Texas was nominated for a safe driving award by the local school district.  The day of the ceremony in which she and others were going to be recognized had finally come.  All of the drivers boarded a bus that this woman was asked to drive across town to where the awards banquet was going to be held.

On the way there she turned a corner too sharply and flipped the bus over on its side, sending herself and sixteen other colleagues to the hospital for minor emergency treatment.  The awards ceremony was postponed and the awards committee decided later that they could no longer recognize this women with an award even though her driving record with school children before that accident was spotless.

Award committees rarely operate on the principle of grace.  In fact, our world rarely operates on the principle of grace.  So often people become enraged to a point that nothing less than revenge or seeing someone pay for something is the only final result that is acceptable.  The mention of mercy is so often met with a deaf ear.

We are fortunate that God operates in a different way.  In Ephesians 2:4-8 the Bible says, “But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ, and God’s wonderful kindness is what saves you.  God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven.  God did this so that in the future world he could show how truly good and kind he is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done.  You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve.”

How blessed we are that even when we don’t maintain a spotless life-record, our final reward depends on God’s grace, not on our performance.  When we name our sins and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins he will do so without hesitation or second thought.  When we live for Jesus and receive this wonderful gift from him our relationship with God is restored and made right.

And oh yes, there is one more very important verse a little bit later on in Ephesians.  In chapter 4, verse 32 it says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  A reminder that could make our lives and our world a much better place to live in together.  Receive the gift of God’s grace in your life and then go out and extend grace to others.

Make it personal:  Is there someone or something that has been a burden in your life recently?  Ask yourself if grace might be a path to relieve that burden from you..  Too often we carry the weight of anger and revenge when the freeing option of grace and forgiveness is really the way to healing and restoration.  This often requires us to put aside our pride and arrogance and become humble.  After all grace begins with humility.

Have a grace filled week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Resurrection and Life

Read: John 20:1-8 and John 11:17-26

How do you explain the transformation in the life story of the Apostle Paul?  How do you explain the transformation in the life story of Chuck Colson?  How do you explain the transformation in the life of Beth Moore?  How do you explain the transformation in the life of Lee Strobel?  How do you explain the transformation in the life of ……  (add your story or another one that you have heard before).

If you do not know the stories of Chuck, Beth, and Lee I encourage you to “Google” them or look them up on Wikipedia. The story of Paul can be found in the Bible in the book of Acts chapters 9-28.  When Jesus said that he was the resurrection and the life he was also saying, “I can bring resurrection and hope to you and your situation, which in turn will bring life, hope, and joy.”  These people and multitudes of others have experienced that in their lives.

Have you?

When Jesus was speaking to Lazarus’ sister Martha in John 11 he asked the “BIG” question, “Do you believe this?”  Just before that he said, “The one who believes in me will live!”  This has nothing to do with worldly success necessarily.  Many people who have had their lives transformed through Christ were successful in the eyes of the world.  However, when they gave their life to Christ and “believed” they found a new life that only Jesus can provide for us.

This world is filled with sin, greed, disappointments, and heartache.  It is impossible to go through life without being touched by those and other life-sapping things.  But with Jesus as your Lord and Savior you have hope.  As Pastor Rob Fuquay says, “Christian faith offers hope because it faces death (and other life-sapping things) and moves through it, not around it.  It means that pain, disappointment, and heartache are not final realities.”

We should remember what John Stott once said, “Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection.”   May that evidence take root in each of our lives and may we allow the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to transform any and every part of our lives.

Make it personal: One of the songs that was most likely sung in many churches this past Sunday is “Christ Arose” (we sang it at AMC).  The words to the final verse seem to be our testimony as Christians, “Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior!  He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!”

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Way, Truth, Life

Read: John 14:1-14 and John 3:14-21

On a day in which many people will try to deceive and/or trick others (April 1st) we read of Jesus’ words in John 14 that he is the way, the truth, and the life.  Jesus was very clear that others would come along to lead us down the wrong way, deceive us of the real truth, and destroy the very life that he died to bring to us.

This April fool’s day falls on one of the most important weeks in the Christian calendar.  While April 1st is often just a fun day to trick people it can also be a reminder of the eternal truth that Jesus proclaimed in the Bible.  Jesus said, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)

We live in a world that is torn apart by people who think they know the truth and will kill and destroy anyone who does not adhere to their ways.  This was not the way of Jesus and this is not how he taught his disciples to share the Good News.  Yes, Jesus proclaimed that the only way to God and to eternal life in heaven was through believing in him, but he did not force that choice on anyone.  He wanted it to be their own faith and trust not something forced upon them by others.

Christians want everyone to receive this “New Life” and grace that Jesus offers because we know about the difference that it can make in our lives.  As his followers we can share the good news, live lives that reflect this good news, and pray for others to believe it and receive it.  But we should not use hate, discrimination, or violence as a means to bring them to Jesus.

In John 5:24 Jesus said to the religious leaders of that day, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.”  Because of those words and others he would be killed on the cross of Calvary.  Little did they know that this was God’s way to save the world.

Make it personal:  Find ways this week to reaffirm your belief in Jesus and your commitment to follow him as your Lord and Savior.  If you place your faith and trust in him he will show you the way, make the truth known, and bring you life like only he can.

Have a great Easter weekend,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Good Shepherd

Read: Psalm 23 & John 10:1-21

One of the best known parts of the Bible has to do with the Lord being our Shepherd. Many people either know of Psalm 23 or have it memorized, and many would proclaim it as their favorite if asked to name their most favorite passage in all of scripture. But how often do we stop and really think about what these words are saying?

The promise of Psalm 23 which says that the Lord will lead us, refresh us, guide us, and protect us, is found in Jesus Christ. God sent his Son Jesus into our world to be the the human (yet divine) evidence of the one we can follow in life. The one who will lead us and lift us up when we need to be lifted up.

One of the most memorable pictures in a children’s Bible story book is that of Jesus holding a lamb. That picture represents how the good shepherd will care for his sheep. As the prophet Isaiah said, “He holds them close to his heart.” That is why Jesus tells in John 10 that he is that good shepherd for us. If we follow, he will lead and will be there for us when we need him.

It is amazing how this truth can affect our everyday lives and attitude. In today’s Our Daily Bread devotional Marion Stroud shares about two elderly women he went to visit from time to time. He said that one of them had no financial worries, she was fit for her age, and lived in her own home that was probably paid for. But he said that she could always find something negative to say.

The other elderly woman was crippled with arthritis and rather forgetful. He said that she lived in a very small and simple apartment and had to keep a reminder pad so that she could remember her different appointments. When he would visit her she would always say, “God is so good to me.” One time when he was handing her the reminder pad he noticed what she had written the day before, “Out to lunch tomorrow! Wonderful! Another happy day.”

At first thought this story might be about our attitudes in various circumstances. But I read it and thought about one sheep who is content in following her shepherd and another who is perhaps straying outside of his care. When sheep get away from the shepherd they get worried, stressed, and become unhappy. Those who stay close find the things that Psalm 23 promises from the Lord.

When Jesus said, “I Am the Good Shepherd” he was providing us a way to peace, security, and contentment in a world that is filled with wolves, thieves, and robbers. The way to find this contentment is through Jesus and abiding in his presence. May that be our focus. May Jesus be our shepherd.

Make it personal: Try to find all of the references to sheep and shepherds that are listed in your Bible. The concordance in the back of your Bible or an online search may help you to realize this very evident picture that is provided for us in scripture. After that renew your trust in Jesus as your shepherd in this life.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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