Midweek Reflections

For a time like this

Read: Esther 4

I recently noticed a movie out in the theaters by the name of “Mortdecai” and wondered if it was the story of Esther’s cousin from the Bible.  It did not take me long to figure out that this movie had nothing to do with the Biblical Mordecai and wasn’t even spelled the same way.  But it did get me to thinking about that story in the Bible.

The book of Esther is known for God’s calling upon our lives and God’s ability to put us in the right situation at the right time for his specific purpose in our lives.  That is true for the life of Esther for sure.  The well known verse from this book comes from Esther 4:14 when Mordecai says to Esther, “you have come to this position for such a time as this?”

Esther was able to influence the King for the good of the Jewish people and basically saved a nation by being in her position as queen when she was.  But her cousin Mordecai had a very big part in this as well.  You see, Mordecai adopted Esther at a very young age when her parents died.  Most likely his parents had died as well and he took it upon himself to raise Esther.  God placed him in the right place at the right time.

But there is another key element in this story.  Not only were Mordecai and Esther in the right place but they were willing to serve God in that place.  Throughout this story we see Mordecai turning very difficult challenges into wonderful opportunities for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.  Thankfully for the Jewish people he raised Esther in this way as well.

If you are facing a difficult situation or unwanted circumstances in your life right now I would encourage you to read this book in the Old Testament.  It is only 10 chapters long and it is another one of those wonderful reminders of how scripture can be applied to our everyday lives today.

You may not be a king or queen, but you have been placed where you are for a specific purpose and we all need to pray that God will show us His will and His purpose for the places and the people that we are able to influence.  Some of the lessons from Mordecai’s life that my Bible shares are….

– The opportunities we have are more important than the ones we wish we had.
– W can trust God to weave together the events of life for our best, even though we may not be able to see the overall pattern.
– The rewards for doing right are sometimes delayed, but they are guaranteed by God himself.

Make it personal:  Perhaps the story of Esther and Mordecai can get us all to ask the question, “How might God be wanting to use my current situation or circumstances to bring about change, hope, or restoration in my life or the life of others?”

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Say What?

Read: Proverbs 11

How many times have you felt like someone was speaking over your head? If a computer tech comes to your business or home do they speak in a language that leaves you thinking, “what did he/she just say?” If a farmer speaks in terms of GMO’s and Extensification do you know what that means? If ESPN speaks of OBP or ERA do you know what that stands for? The truth is… we usually know what is familiar to us and can understand it much better than things that are foreign to us.

This past week on Crosswalk.com John McKinley wrote about the need for Christians to think about this when speaking of their faith to other people. Some words are impossible to get around because they hold such theological importance, but when we speak of salvation and righteousness (for example) we may need to explain that to some people in simple terms.

Mr. McKinley shared some of these types of words and offered these suggestions on how to explain them. I list them here with his suggestions…..

Exalt – Instead of using “exalt” in our songs just because the Bible translations use it, we may do better to say “lift up” or “honor” because these are commonly understandable terms for the same idea “exalt” functions today.

Bless – We may need to use rich phrases instead of the shorthand of one word: “I want to please God,” “God has done so much good for me,” “God has filled up my satisfaction,” “I desire the best for her,” “May God care for you today.”

Glory or Glorify – This term is all over the Bible, our songs, our conversation. The OT term has the idea of “to be heavy,” as in the weightiness of God’s love and demonstration of his power. The NT term has ideas of “shining light, splendor, honor, praise, to show the truth.”

Behold – I don’t think I’ve ever said this word except when reading aloud the biblical text. I think it means “Look!” or “Here” in most cases. Why don’t we just say that, or “pay attention!” “Look at this!”

Sin – Some Christians are still uncomfortable with the term, so they talk of their “sins” as “mistakes” or they say, “I messed up.” When I thought about everyday language that fit what the Bible actually means by “sin” I settled on “failure” and “crime.” Both of these alternative terms make sense to non-Christians and Christians alike.

He share a few others as well. Perhaps you can think of others? The main idea here is to communicate your faith in a way that does not leave the hearer asking, “say what?” The book of Proverbs has so many wise sayings that seem simple and down to earth. Chapter 11 is one of those. Let’s try to share our faith in ways (and words) that will make sense to those who need to hear it. The Good News of the Gospel is not difficult. It should be easy to hear and receive.

Make it personal: Try to catch yourself using terms from the Bible and ask how easy it would be to explain that to someone in layman’s terms. By doing this we can prepare ourselves to share the gospel in a way that the world can easily understand Jesus and what he has done for them. One of the Bible translations that tries to do this is the Contemporary English Version, maybe that can be a resource as you simplify your message.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

What about the Lord?

Read:  Deuteronomy 15:1-10;  2 Corinthians 9:6-8

In a recent article in Bloomberg Business Week the author was writing about the saving and spending habits of Americans.  One of the comments made went somewhat like this, “When it comes to our money we have two choices, we can save it or we can spend it.”  It caused me to stop mid-sentence and think, “What about a third way, giving?”

We all know the well known saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”   While this may sometimes be hard for adults to practice it always holds true.  We feel better, we have more joy, and we are a part of bringing forth God’s kingdom on this earth when we give of our time, money, and talents as the Bible encourages us to do.

Here is another story I recently read…. “When I was 16 years old, my father gave me a job of picking up trash and cleaning restrooms at the place that he was working.  I was paid $3 a day and allowed to drive my father’s very old beat up truck around.  I can remember my first paycheck.  My parents and I were around the dining room table, and I was discussing how I was going to spend my money.

After I finished listing all of the things I wanted to buy my dad said, “What about the Lord?”  I sat down re-figured my budget, and it was at that time that I first laid aside 10% of my income for the Lord.  To the best of my knowledge I have given 10% or more of every dollar I have ever earned to the Lord.  The Lord has blessed me a hundred times over and is still blessing me and my family for this.”

As I read this man’s story I too remembered having a similar conversation with my parents after I got my first job as a paperboy.  I am thankful that they taught and demonstrated the importance of giving the first-fruits of our labors to the Lord and then thinking about how we will save and spend the rest of what the Lord has blessed us with.  We need to continue to pass this concept on to our own children and grandchildren.

The places to give and support the Lord’s work around the world are almost endless.  churches and religious organizations continue to do wonderful work around the world to bring love, care, and support to those in need in the name of Christ.  Christian aid organizations are often the first ones on the scene when a disaster occurs and children around the world are being fed, housed, and educated by numerous other Christian ministries.

Throughout the Bible we are encouraged to give selflessly so that money will not become a god to us and control our lives.  Yes, it is important to save for your family and future needs, and yes, we must spend some of what we make.  But each time we sit down to pay the bills or decide what our next purchase is going to be it might be good for us to ask the question the father asked in the story above.  What about the Lord?

The Bible mentions giving 10% several times in the Old Testament but I would encourage you to be open to what the Lord leads you to give.  I once heard of a couple who decided to live on 10% and give away 90%.  While that seems very radical it also seems very freeing.  Imagine being able to do that and how blessed you would feel.

In 2 Corinthians 9 it says, “Those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as they have purposed in their heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  May we be cheerful as we give and sow seed into God’s kingdom here on earth.  Together, with God’s help, we can make a difference!

Make it personal:  One piece of advice I have always appreciated is the suggestion of giving to the Lord before paying the bills or deciding what to buy.  If we have a set amount or percent each time then we know that this is for the Lord’s work and it comes out first.  In some sense it is like an automatic withdrawal, except this one is for God.

Have a joy-filled and generous week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Praying for Kings

Read: 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer.  This day of prayer is held on the first Thursday of May each year.  It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  As their website states, “It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families.”

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul encourages us to do exactly this.  He writes, “I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.  For kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness.”  On down in verse 8 he writes, “I want everyone everywhere to lift innocent hands toward heaven and pray, without being angry or arguing with each other.”

I often wonder if we have forgotten about these instructions in God’s Word.  This is not the only place in scripture that we are encouraged to pray for the world, for our country, and for the leaders.  In fact, this should not only happen once a year, it should happen daily and weekly.  Prayer brings focus to what our true desire should be; to see God’s will be done.

When we disagree with leaders or feel like our country is headed down the wrong path our first action should be to fall on our knees in prayer.  We need to be repentant, hopeful, thankful, and ask Jesus what we can do to bring forth his kingdom here on earth.  A part of that prayer also needs to lift up the leaders as Paul encourages us to do.

We need to realize that when Paul wrote those words Nero was the leader (emperor) of the Roman world at that time.  He was a notoriously cruel ruler that had Christians persecuted and killed.  Paul himself was one of them.  And yet when he writes this letter he encourages Timothy and the churches to pray for the leaders.

One final thought.  Maybe praying can help to diffuse our anger?  Politics and other things can often get conversations heated rather quickly.  While it’s okay to have opinions, feelings, and thoughts about what is best for our country it may help most if we humble ourselves and pray like God’s Word tell us to do.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

Make it personal:  Tomorrow, on the National Day of Prayer I encourage you to join me in praying for our country, our leaders, our churches, our communities, and ourselves.  That we may play the part Christ wants us to play in bringing hope, restoration, and healing to this world.  May we seek God’s will as we seek to bring forth his kingdom to this earth.  And then let’s continue to pray all year long!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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

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