Midweek Reflections

Saved By Grace

Read: Ephesians 2:1-10

A story is told about Martin Luther and sin.  One night Luther went to sleep troubled about his sin.  In a dream he saw an angel standing by a blackboard, and at the top of the board was Luther’s name.  The angel, chalk in hand, was listing all of Luther’s sins, and the list filled the blackboard. Luther shuddered in despair, feeling that his sins were so many that he could never be forgiven.

Have you ever felt like that?  Martin Luther’s story does not end there.  In that same dream he saw a pierced hand writing these words above his list of sins.  It said, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” As Luther gazed in amazement, drops of blood flowed from the wounded hand and washed the blackboard full of his sins clean.  Jesus can wash away our sins as well. In Ephesians 2:1-10 the apostle Paul talks about how this is a gift from Jesus and not something we have to earn or work for.

Joyce Meyer says this about Ephesians 2.  “Paul did not say that by grace you are being saved, or that you shall be saved, but you have been saved.  Salvation is an established work (something already finished), leaving no room for us to try to work for it because God has already given it.  If I give my daughter a lovely gift, it has already been paid for and there is no way she can pay for it again. We cannot pay for our salvation because Jesus has already paid, but we can and should respond in love and with a deep desire to be pleasing to Him in all our ways.”

If you have been trying to earn God’s grace it’s time to just stop and receive it as God’s gift to you through his Son Jesus.  Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sin and restore our relationship with God. What a great gift. This is why the symbol of the cross has become the lasting testimony of the Christian church.  Because it is by His grace that we who believe are saved.

Make it Personal:  If you believe in Christ and want to receive him as your Savior and Lord you can pray this prayer today and be saved.  “Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I repent of my sins and I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord.  Take control of my life and help me to find victory over all the attacks of the evil one. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.” Welcome child of God and follower of Jesus! 

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes



Why? Why? Why?

Read: Romans 7:7-25

The Houston Astros World Series Championship from 2017 recently took on a new discovery.  Major League Baseball (MLB) investigated claims that the team had installed a camera in center field which would tip pitches to the batters at the plate.  In other words, they knew what pitch was coming when the pitcher was winding up to throw it. This process of cheating was both elaborate and simple, but it was illegal and broke MLB rules.  The Astros Manager and General Manager both lost their jobs over this.

Why would professional athletes who were talented enough to make it to the top level of their sport be willing to cheat and risk it all?  Why would those aware of this allow it to continue? Why would the conscience of those involved not encourage them to put a stop to it? Shouldn’t the steroid era have been enough to learn from?  In Romans 7 the apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome. In verse 19 he says, “For I do not do the good I want to, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep doing.” Paul is referring to sin in our lives.  The sin in our world that tempts us to cheat, lie, steal, and do all the things we know are wrong.

The important part of Romans 7 comes at the end of the chapter when Paul tells us how to be rescued from these things.  In verses 24-25 he says, “Who will rescue me… Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” If we repent of our sins and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, he will do just that.  That is good news for all of us, because the sins of this world can and do affect us all.

The Astros cheating scandal is still a developing story and may end up including more players, mangers, and teams before all is said and done.  I hope those involved will respond in the way that fired Met’s manager Carlos Beltran responded in a statement to ESPN. Beltran was a player on the 2017 Astros and was recently hired as the Met’s new manager.  He said, “As a veteran player on the team, I should have recognized the severity of the issues and I truly regret the actions that were taken. I am a man of faith and integrity, and what took place did not demonstrate those characteristics that are so very important to me and my family.  I am very sorry.” 

I believe from that statement that Beltran most likely repented of his sin and asked Jesus to forgive him.  Yes, there were consequences that followed. He will not be able to manage even one game for the Mets this season and possibly beyond.  However, if he has repented of this to Jesus, he is truly forgiven and his guilt from the past will be erased even if human beings never forgive him.  That truth is what Jesus brought to all of us, his grace and forgiveness is always waiting for you and for me. 

Make it Personal:  No one sin is greater than any other sin.  All sin must be repented of and washed in the grace of Jesus.  What do you need to have washed clean in your life? Just say an honest repentant prayer to Jesus and ask for his forgiveness.  It is a free gift for all who will believe.

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes



Knowing God’s Will

Read: Ephesians 5:1-10

How often do you wish God would just tell you what to do and how to do it?  We usually think that when we have a big decision to make or when we are seeking direction in our life.  Will we hear God’s voice? Will God’s Word speak to me? How will I know? While these questions are often fair or honest we sometimes forget about being in God’s will while trying to discern God’s will.  

Jen Wilken wrote about this in a recent Christianity Today article.  She wrote, “In our desire for certainty, we may become fixated on doing and become forgetful of being.”  That sounds a lot like our vision at AMC which encourages us to grow or “be” like Mary while also “serving” like Martha.  In her article Jen goes on to share the things that God makes clear to us about “being” when seeking his will.

She writes, “God does have a will for our lives that is clearly stated; that we be sanctified, made holy, conformed to the image of Christ (1 Thess. 4:3; Eph. 5:1).  You will never have to lay out a fleece to know for certain that it is God’s will that you live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12).  You will never have to fast to be 100 percent certain that it is God’s will that you be free from selfish ambition and vain conceit (Phil. 2:3)”

She continues, “You will never have to look for handwriting on the wall to know beyond a doubt that it is God’s will that you set aside impurity and greed (Eph. 5:3).  You will never have to wait for confirmation from a friend or spouse that it is God’s will that you be slow to anger (James 1:19). You will never have to listen for a still, small voice to know without reservation that it is God’s will that you practice thankfulness (Eph. 5:4).  You will never have to search the sky for a message in the clouds to know without a doubt that it is God’s will that you be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4). God has indeed spoken to us with clarity through his Word.”

If you have a big decision to make or you are discerning God’s will and direction on something, perhaps these are places to start.  When our life is being lived within God’s will, our life decisions will flow naturally out of our relationship with the creator. As Jen ends here article she writes, “We are called to be transformed. We seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness, trusting our circumstances to his sovereign care and submitting our character to his gracious will.”

Make it Personal:  Take time to look up the verses listed in Jen’s article and allow God’s Word to lead, guide, and direct you in the days ahead.  Allow Ephesians 5:1-10 to show you the way and as verse 10 says, “find out what pleases the Lord.”

Have a blessed week, Pastor Glen Rhodes



Kingdom/Eternal Resolutions

Read: 2 Corinthians 4

In the message this past Sunday I talked some about New Year’s resolutions.  When people make resolutions they often revolve around the physical instead of the spiritual.  Lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, save more money, etc. While those things are not bad and can do us some good 2 Corinthians 4:18 encourages us to… “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  Pastor James Emory White says that most of our resolutions revolve around three poles: money, health, and family.  He then goes on to share 15 ideas from scripture for those who want to life a life of strategic Kingdom/Eternal investment. 
Here is the list….

  1. Pray more.

     So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

 

  1. Invest in your spiritual gift(s). 

    Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
(I Timothy
 4:14-15, NIV)

 

  1. Get more intentional about evangelism.

    I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. (I Corinthians 9:22, NIV)

 

  1. Care for yourself spiritually.

    Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  (Philippians 3:12, NIV)

 

  1. Make the tough decisions you know are best.

    And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:22-24, NIV)

 

  1. Confront debilitating patterns of sin.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)

 

  1. Do the hard work needed to build community.

    If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  (Matthew 18:15, NIV)

 

  1. Keep in touch with contemporary culture.

    From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders… All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (I Chronicles 12:32, NLT)

 

  1. Quit comparing yourself to other Christians, other leaders, and other churches.

    Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You – follow me.” That is how the rumor got out among the    brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?”   (John 21:20-23, Msg)

 

  1. Read more.

    Timothy, please come as soon as you can… When you come, be sure to…  bring my books… (II Timothy 4:9, 13, NLT)

 

  1. Prioritize your family.

    A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife… attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? (I Timothy 3:2-5, Msg)

 

  1. Refuse to use ministry or work to satisfy your personal ambitions.

    Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. (Jeremiah 45:5, NIV)

 

  1. Love people, not just crowds.

    If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3, Msg)

 

  1. Be more open to change.

    See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

 

  1. Stay focused on the vision.

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)

 Make it Personal:  These 15 are a great place to start.  Or maybe just start with one of these that needs your attention right now.  Perhaps we could use these 15 suggestions throughout the new year ahead of us.  The goal of course is to be Kingdom focused with Eternity in our sights as we live our daily lives.

Happy New Year, Pastor Glen Rhodes



Christmas Lists

Read: John 15:1-17

With the coming of the internet and purchases on Amazon the online Christmas list has become a popular thing.  Family and friends can make lists of things they want for Christmas and share it with others who might want to get that item for them. It is handy, it is convenient; but I wonder if it encourages us to focus on the material things even more than we did before.  I can find a lot of things on Amazon that I would like to have, but do I really need them?

It is fun to give and receive gifts during Christmas.  I don’t want to be a Mr. Scrooge about those things. But at the same time we must take note of how much that part of Christmas becomes our focus.  As children we loved the idea of gifts under the tree and waking up on Christmas morning to open them together. I suppose as adults we still enjoy that as well.  But what kind of list would best reflect the Savior we celebrate on Christmas day?

Some years ago Amy Grant sang a Christmas song that puts those thoughts into words.  Her song “Grown Up Christmas List” went like this… “So here’s my lifelong wish, my grown-up Christmas list, not for myself, but for a world in need:  No more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts. And every one would have a friend, and right would always win, and love would never end, this is my grown up Christmas list.”  Before she repeats this chorus again she sings… “Well, heaven surely knows, that packages and bows, can never heal a hurting human soul.”

As you think about your own Christmas list this year try to remember others as well.  In John 15 Jesus speaks of the vine and the branches. He talks about loving others as he has loved us.  In verse 17 he ends by saying, “This is my command: Love each other.” We can show our love through material gifts but we can also show our love through gifts that are from the heart.  Who, how, and what is God calling you to this Christmas?

Make it Personal:  With the convenience of Amazon and other store websites we can ship gifts to anyone at any place in the world.  How cool would it be to surprise someone with a gift that shows up at their door unexpected this Christmas? How can you “Love each other” this Christmas?

 Have a Merry Christmas, Pastor Glen Rhodes



Silent Night, Holy Night

Read: Luke 2

One of the best known Christmas songs of all time is Silent Night.  There are different versions of this story about how the song was born, but as we welcome this Christmas season in here is how that beloved song came to be such an important part of our Christmas celebrations….

In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ’s birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.  Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas’ church organ wasn’t working and would not be repaired before Christmas. Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. 

That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.  From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the Christmas-card like scene. 

His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.  Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn’t have any music to which that poem could be sung. 

So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.  On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber’s guitar.

Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr’s Christmas poem. Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by “Silent Night,” both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed “Silent Night” for King Frederick William IV of Prussia. He then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.  Twenty years after “Silent Night” was written, the Rainers brought the song to the United States, singing it in German of New York City’s Trinity Church.

In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, “Silent Night” was translated into English by either Jane Campbell or John Young. Eight years later, that English version made its way into print in Charles Hutchins’ Sunday School Hymnal. Today the words of “Silent Night” are sung around the world in in more than 300 different languages. (Story used from the Southern Nazarene University website)

Make it Personal:  What is your favorite Christmas hymn or song?  As you listen to Silent Night and the music of Christmas this year reflect on the words of Matthew and Luke that bring this story of the Messiah to the world.  And as you celebrate this year, celebrate the real reason for the season.

 Have a Merry Christmas, Pastor Glen Rhodes

 




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