Midweek Reflections

Think and Thank

Read: Psalm 103:1-12

Perhaps you heard the news story recently about the 26 year old woman from China who spent a full week (24 hours a day) in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant after her boyfriend broke up with her.  When she was interviewed about the reason for her long stay she said, “I just needed some time to think.”

While that story is far beyond most of our comprehension it reminded me of what Thanksgiving Day is really about.  It is a day (24 hours) that gives us a special time to think about the things that we are thankful for in life.  Yes, we should do this throughout the year but there is something special about a devoted time to specifically think about one certain thing.  It helps us to focus.

Psalm 103 is a Psalm written by David.  David was a man who thought a lot, he was also a man who gave thanks a lot.  The Psalms hold many treasures of thankfulness that are often used during this time of the year.  In verse 1 he gives praise and thanks to the Lord with all of his heart and with all of himself.  In verse 2 he says, “I will never forget how kind he has been.”

On this week of Thanksgiving please don’t spend all of your time at KFC thinking about the many things you have to be thankful for, but do take time to think and focus on them.  Enjoy your family, your dinner, your football, your shopping, and whatever else this week might hold for you and your family, but most of all give thanks!

Make it personal:  Find a different and new way this year to give thanks.  We all have our normal traditions which are good and helpful but many times it is healthy to change things up a bit and try a new way of expressing those things that you are giving thanks for.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Political Correctness

Read: Titus 3:1-3

The phrase “political correctness” draws a lot of attention these days.  In fact, you may be reading this just because of the title I chose.  But today I am not going to talk about that phrase in its normal usage.  I was struck by a passage of scripture this week from Titus 3.  It was a reminder that as God followers and believers in Jesus Christ we are called to a different type of political discourse and conversation than we often see in our world.

Now, I will admit that many people are much more passionate about politics than I am.  I follow the news, I care about what is going on, and I pray for leaders whether I like their policies or not.  In fact I pray for them even if I did not vote for them.  I hope you do as well.  Scripture instructs us in that way.  As Christians there is a correct way to engage in the political landscape and we sometimes need to be reminded of that.

That brings us to Titus 3:1-3.  Here is what it says…. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”

Even though I am not passionate about politics I am glad that some people are.  We live in a free country that allows us to speak up, speak out, and keep the leaders accountable.  We need that.  However, the way we speak of people, policies, and parties needs to align with the Word of God.  Titus 3 is one reminder but there are others as well.

Are we peaceable and considerate?  Are we gentle?  Or do our words fit in the categories of slander and foolishness?  There is a way to speak up and still keep these ideals of positive discourse as a part of our witness.  This is another kind of “political correctness.”  The final verse of this passage talks about how we used to be.  It speaks of a life before Christ, a life consumed by malice, envy, and hatred.  That is not what we want to be known for, it is not what Jesus Christ was known for even though he engaged the political world sometimes.

I don’t know if your candidate or candidates won or lost during the recent election, but I hope that you will pray for them either way.  In Romans 13 the apostle Paul wrote these words and may they guide us as we engage the political landscape of our world……

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

Make it personal:  As you respond to things in our world that are not right, and there are many, keep the words and encouragement of scripture as your guide when there is a need to respond or speak up.  This works well in our everyday relationships as well.  Pray and ask the Lord to help you respond with peace and gentleness.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

When burdens grow greater

Read: Psalm 40

We often don’t have to look to far to find burdens that seem to weigh us down. Sometimes they are health challenges, sometimes financial difficulties, sometimes relationship tensions, and other times just various circumstances that are going on. In Psalm 40 David is lamenting many of these things to God. I believe this Psalm and the poem listed below is meant for someone this week, probably all of us.

Annie Johnson Flint could relate well with those burdens. Her life on earth could never be measured in any degree by comfort and ease; quite the contrary, from childhood her body endured the onslaught of Rheumatoid Arthritis until she could no longer rise from bed. Over the years the affliction took a great toll, leaving her with no choice but to seek some comfort from sleeping and resting on soft pillows. Her body developed serious bed sores and finally she suffered the ravages of cancer.

Yet her attitude through all the struggles with pain and confinement may best be expressed through one of her great Christian poems that has been set to music in many hymnals. Her faith in God and His purpose, reflected through these words, portray her deep commitment and disposition of hope and peace: (Paul Fritz, Trinity College)

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit;
His grace has no measure.
His power has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

May the words from this poem and the words of this Psalm give us the strength we need when the burdens grow greater. As David says in verse 4, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” In verse 17 he says, “May the Lord think of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.”

Make it personal: Take some time to write down the things that are a burden to you right now. Pray over that list and ask God to help you deal with those and to constantly remind you of his love, grace, and power in your life. As Annie writes, “His power has no boundary.” Claim that in your life this week!

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

What about Halloween?

Read: Joshua 24:14-18

Each year the shelves at the stores fill up with candy and costumes as the Fall leaves begin to fall.  And each year many Christians wonder, “How should I feel about Halloween?” or “What should I tell my children about Halloween?”  We like the fun of dressing up and getting and giving out candy, but we are somewhat uneasy about all of the other things that this day represents.

I personally have never been a big fan of this day because of the deep pagan history that it has, but I also realize that kids enjoy the costumes and the candy part and many of those things are actually quite innocent and fun for them.  Perhaps Dr. James Dobson sums up my feelings well in what he writes about Halloween.  He says…..

“Halloween is a rather different story. Whereas it can be argued that Christmas is a Christian holiday with Christian origins that has suffered the effects of growing secularism, Halloween can be traced to distinctly pagan sources. It is reasonable, then, that many believers would find some aspects of its celebration disturbing. I agree with them in that regard. The traditional emphasis upon the occult, witches, devils, death, and evil sends messages to our kids that Godly parents can only regard with alarm. There is clearly no place in the Christian community for this “darker side” of Halloween.

Even here, however, there is a place for some harmless fun. Kids love to dress up and pretend. If the Halloween experience is focused on fantasy rather than the occult, I see no harm in it. Make costumes for your children that represent fun characters, such as Mickey Mouse or an elderly grandmother, and then let them go door-to-door asking for treats. This side of Halloween can be thoroughly enjoyable for the little ones.

Let me add, again, that I’ve given you my personal opinion. I realize that the topic is controversial among committed Christians, and I’m sensitive to the reasons for their misgivings. My final word to parents on the subject would be ’Stay true to your own convictions.’”

And I heartily agree with Dr. Dobson’s last statement.  You have to be true to your own convictions about this.  In Joshua 24 the Lord talks about putting away other gods and idols that get in the way of our worship of the one true Lord.  If we want to participate in the “fun” part of Halloween we need to be clear with ourselves and our children about some of the things that need to be avoided.  Joshua 24:15 says, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Make it personal:  This week you really do need to make it personal.  If you have issues with every part of Halloween and do not want your family and your kids to have anything to do with it then by all means follow those convictions.  But at the same time don’t judge those who might enjoy the “fun” aspect of costumes and candy.  Perhaps this will be an opportunity to have a great conversations with your friends or children about this?

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

How do you define worship?

Read: Psalm 95

If someone came up to you at work or on the street and asked you to define “worship” what would you say? I think for many Christians our minds go immediately to Sunday worship services. But we know there is much more to worshiping Jesus than just one hour of each week in one place. Worshiping the Lord is defined as “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for God.” I hope that is not a one hour per week thing for us!

The Psalms are full of worship. Psalm 95 is entitled “An invitation to worship God.” It begins by proclaiming, “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Here are some others…..

Psalm 71:8 says, “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.”
Psalm 103:1 says, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”
Psalm 63:1 says, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”
Psalm 16:2 says, “I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

Worship should be defined by how we live our daily lives. A constant reliance, a continuous focus, and an unwavering desire to be in relationship with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Worship allows us to get through the difficult things that come up in our daily lives. Worship reminds us that the things we fear (ebola, wars, violence, sickness, financial) are not overcome in our own strength but in the promise that Christ is with us and will sustain us in these times.

I like what Paul Billheimer once said. He said, “Surely that which occupies the total time and energies of heaven must be a fitting pattern for earth.” Our pattern of worship should be daily and should include times of giving thanks, praising Jesus for all he has done for us, and calling on him in our greatest hours of need. If we turn to money, things, and people during those times of need we are worshiping them as our source of help. When we turn to God we are saying, “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3

Make it personal: Find ways to worship Jesus during your day. Maybe it is by having worship music playing in the background, maybe it is taking times to pray throughout the day, maybe it is just looking at the colorful trees this Fall and proclaiming out loud how you are in awe of him and his creation. There are many ways, the only thing that matters is that we acknowledge who God is and what the Lord means to us. That is worship!

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

Grace and Truth

Read: John 1:1-18

As a pastor I spend some of my time with individuals and families in hospital settings.  I have always admired the challenging job that doctors and nurses have on the medical side of things, but I also realize the even more difficult task they have of sharing news with people and families that they sometimes don’t want to hear.  In a devotional I read today by Helen Paynter I was reminded of this balance of sharing the truth while also extending grace.

In her devotional she wrote about how some doctors will “blurt out the diagnoses or prognosis without any words of preparation or comfort.”  As a former doctor (now pastor and teacher) she often reminds them about the need to be clear while also being very kind in how they share the news with them.  I have seen some doctors do this very well and I admire them for this challenging part of their jobs.

As I was thinking about the importance of this for doctors and nurses it occurred to me that the same advice holds true for all of us.  We need to be honest and speak truth, but we also need to do it with kindness and grace.  Too often in our world people blurt out their opinions without considering the impact it may have on other people.  We must remember that we are all created in the image of God and must live in this world together.

In John 1:14 the Bible says, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  There it is, Jesus came to us in grace and truth.  I don’t think it is a mistake that John put grace first.  When we approach someone with grace it changes how we share the truth.

The truth of God needs to be shared in a world that is lost!  But for the world to even have the desire or opportunity to receive it in the right way it must be presented with grace, peace, and love.  Helen shares this prayer at the end of her devotional and may it be our prayer as well…. “Lord, please fill me with such love for your world that I have the courage to speak truth and the grace to do it with gentleness and humility.”

Make it personal:  As we try to practice this in our own lives we can also watch how others are succeeding or failing at this.  On T.V. and in social media we often see examples of how not to do it.  Let’s learn from those situations and change the way we speak the truth of Christ in our world.

Have a wonderful week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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