Midweek Reflections

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

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

A Celebration of God

Read: Psalm 150

How would you define worship? Webster’s dictionary defines it this way…. “A person of importance; reverence offered to a divine being; an act of expressing reverence; a form of religious practice; an extravagant respect or admiration for something or someone.”

The truth is many people would define worship in various ways. Some would say it is music, some would say it is prayer and meditation, some would say it is the preaching of God’s Word, some would say it is the gathering of God’s people. Psalm 150 offers many things but one thing is constant…. “Praise the Lord!”

In his book “Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel” Ronald Allen shares many thoughts on what worship is not as well as what worship is, a celebration of God. He writes….

“What then is the celebration of worship? It is the celebration of God! When we worship God, we celebrate Him: We extol Him, we sound His praises, we boast in Him…..

Worship is not the casual chatter that occasionally drowns out the prelude music; we celebrate God when we allow the prelude to attune our hearts to the glory of God by the means of music.

Worship is not the mumbling of prayers or the mouthing of hymns with little thought and less heart; we celebrate God when we join together earnestly in prayer and intensely in song.

Worship is not grudging gifts or compulsory service; we celebrate God when we give to Him hilariously and serve Him with integrity.

Worship is not haphazard music done poorly, not even great music done merely as performance; we celebrate God when we enjoy and participate in music to His glory.

Worship is not a distracted endurance of the sermon; we celebrate God as we hear His Word gladly and seek to be conformed by it more and more to the image of our Savior.

Worship is not the hurried motions of communion around the Lord’s Table; we celebrate God preeminently when we fellowship gratefully at the ceremonial meal that speaks so centrally of our faith in Christ who died for us, who rose again on our behalf, and Who is to return for our good.”

Allen concludes by saying…. “As a thoughtful gift is a celebration of a birthday, as a special evening is a celebration of an anniversary, as a warm eulogy is a celebration of a life, as an embrace is a celebration of marriage, so a worship service is a celebration of God.”

Perhaps these thoughts can help us to approach worship in a new and different way this Sunday. There are many reasons why people come to worship on Sunday, but our main reason should be to celebrate who God is and what Jesus Christ means in our life. With that attitude of worship the Lord will speak into our lives and give us direction for the days ahead.

Make it personal: Take some time to think about your attitudes toward worship. How would you define it, but more importantly how can it define you? When Jesus looks at your life, your worship, your commitment to Him, your priorities, what does he see? Most likely all of us have some areas that we can improve. Let’s begin to improve this week!

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

Love, Peace, and the Baseball Playoffs

Read: Romans 12:3-16

This past week in Central Illinois has been filled with fun banter between the fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.  For the first time in history they have played each other in a Major League Baseball playoff series. By the way, in case you have not heard, the Cubs won the series last night.

This series has tested devoted fans of each team as they tried to balance between cheering on their teams and yet remaining respectful and on good terms with their friends and neighbors who hold different loyalties. 

This week was a reminder of how different people with different upbringings (and teams) could still call each other brothers and sisters in Christ.  We may cheer for different baseball teams (among other things) but we still work together in the church to foster Christ’s Kingdom here on this earth.

In Romans 12 Paul reminds the church in Rome that they all have different gifts that can be used by God to further the Good News of Christ in this world.  He goes on to encourage them to love each other, honor each other, and bless each other as they work together in the body of Christ. 

This reminded me of the story about the tool conference that took place in the Carpenters workshop.  Brother Hammer presided.  Several suggested he leave the meeting because he was too noisy.  Mr. Hammer replied and said, “If I have to leave then Brother Screw must go also.  You have to turn him around again and again to get him to accomplish anything.”

Brother Screw then spoke up, “If you wish, I’ll leave.  But Sister Plane must leave too.  All her work is on the surface.  Her efforts have no depth.”  To this Sister Plane responded, “Brother Ruler will also have to withdraw, for he is always measuring folks as though he were the only one who is right.”

Brother Ruler then complained against Sister Sandpaper, “You ought to leave too because you’re so rough and always rubbing people the wrong way.”  In the midst of all the discussion, in walked the Carpenter of Nazareth.  He had arrived to start His day’s work.  Putting on his apron, He went to the bench to make a pulpit from which to proclaim the Gospel.

He employed the hammer, screw, plane, ruler, sandpaper, and all the other tools.  After the days work when the pulpit was finished, Brother Saw arose and remarked, “Friends, I observe that all of us are workers with the Lord!”

As the series between the Cards and Cubs comes to an end, I would like to remind all fans (even White Sox fans and all others) that we are all workers together with the Lord.  We may cheer for different teams but we follow the same Lord.  We may enjoy friendly banter but let’s keep it friendly and in the spirit of love, peace, and good sportsmanship. 

In verses 5 and 16 of Romans 12 Paul writes, “So in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others…. Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud…. do not be conceited.”  May this hold true in all areas of our lives, especially in the church!

Make it personal:  Whether it’s baseball or other things I hope that we can find ways to be the church in the midst of our differences.  No two people will ever agree on all things but lets take the words of Paul in Romans 12 to heart and be the church that God has called us to be.  Think about how you can foster that in your own life this week.

Do You Know Joseph?

Read: Genesis 37-50

One of my favorite stories in the whole Bible is the story of Joseph! This Sunday I am going to begin a four week message series at Arthur Mennonite Church focused on his life and the many lessons we can learn from his life example and experiences. That got me to thinking… how well do most people know the story of Joseph? Here is a short quiz of ten questions to test yourself.

1. Who was Joseph’s mother?
2. What was Joseph’s dream about?
3. What did Joseph’s brothers do to him?
4. When Joseph was a slave in Egypt what was his position?
5. Who was Joseph in prison with?
6. How did Joseph make sure Egypt had enough food during the famine?
7. Which brother did Joseph want brought to Egypt?
8. What was planted in the youngest brothers sack?
9. What area did Joseph’s family end up living in Egypt?
10. What is the one lesson that sticks out to you from the life of Joseph?

I encourage you to come to church the next four Sunday’s to learn the answers to these questions and how this story can be applied to your life today. There are many things in life that hold us back, keep us down, or tempt us to go off the path that God has planned for us.

Joseph’s example is that we embrace the positive, forgive the negative, and look forward to what God has for us tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and beyond. I recently heard a quote that said, “Broken things can become blessed things if you let God do the mending.” I think that sums up this story and this man in the Bible very well. May God do the same in our lives!

In Philippians 2:14-15 it says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” This describes well how Joseph was used by God to save his people, noticed by Pharaoh, and reconciled to his family. I hope that we too can shine bright for Jesus Christ in a broken and troubled world.

Make it personal: I did not offer the answers to the ten questions above on purpose. I hope that you will read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 and come to worship the next four Sunday’s at Arthur Mennonite. After that you should not only know the answers to the questions but know how they apply to your life situations today. May God show us the way through his servant Joseph!

Blessings, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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