Midweek Reflections

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

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

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