Midweek Reflections

Living Ahead

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

On their most recent album “Native” the music group One Republic has a song entitled “I Lived.” The lyrics to this song are a reminder about how we are living our lives. Some of the words say, “I did it all, I owned every second that this world could give, I saw so many places, the things that I did.” It goes on to say, “Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up, and when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup.”

These lyrics reminded me of Paul’s encouragement in 2 Corinthians 4. Paul realizes that our time on earth is fleeting and short. He encourages us to live life with the anticipation that each new day is going to hold something new and exciting no matter what our situation might be. He also reminds us to never take our eyes off of the unseen riches awaiting us in heaven.

In a recent article in Purpose magazine, Katie Funk Wiebe reflected on her 89 years of life. It sounds like she has lived life her life in the way that Paul encourages and the way that One Republic describes in their song. She says, “I see these retirement years as some of the best in my life, among the richest and most rewarding. At age 89 I am standing on the mountaintop.”

She then goes on to write about what she might have done differently. Yes, she lived a full life that she is very thankful for but here are a few things she passes on to those with many years left in life. She shares five things she would have done differently.

1. I would plan on living a long time. (We don’t know how long we will live on this earth but Katie says that she now plans for many more birthdays even at the age of 89)

2. I would remind myself early on that I am only a pilgrim, just passing through. (She goes on to encourage her readers to let go of stuff sooner. She says, “A pilgrim can’t carry a heavy load.”)

3. I would de-clutter my belief system sooner. (She says that she would focus on believing more about less. She says, “Life gets easier if I’m not protecting my beliefs from attack. God doesn’t need my protection.”)

4. I would make soul care a greater priority than travel, shopping, and recreation. (Katie says that with the longer life expectancy these days it allows us more time to nurture our souls.)

5. I would work harder at dispelling the dark. (She mentions how she too often allowed the fear of things like health, money, etc. to affect her. She says that we should feed on the light of Christ and not the darkness of this world.)

No matter what our age it is important for us to retain the commitment to be renewed by Jesus each and every day. That renewal might look different depending on what stage of life we are at, but when our last days come we all want to be able to say, “I lived, I believed in and followed Jesus, I found daily grace and renewal, and as the sun sets I can honestly raise my cup and say, Thank you Lord for filling me up.”

Make it personal: How do you start your day each morning? Think about that and be intentional about celebrating renewal, grace, and the opportunities that each new day presents to us as believers in Jesus. Sometimes being is just as important as doing. Here is how Katie ended her article…. “My journey into old age now is more an inner journey than an outward one. It requires deliberate daily attention to nurturing my faith and less focus on doing. I use a prayer cheat sheet to remind me when my memory goes blank. I turn to the Bible and devotional reading. I write in my journal. I meditate. I think. I don’t have to do. At this point in life God is satisfied with my being. This is still the best time of my life.”

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Eternal Optimist

Read: Joshua 1:1-11

Thankfully my wife often reminds me about being optimistic instead of pessimistic. Sometimes I am but many times I could and should be much more optimistic than I am. This past week I saw PGA golfer Matt Kucher being interviewed and a reporter asked him why he thinks all of the other PGA golfers have such good things to say about him. In his humble manner he said that perhaps its due to his approach of always trying to see the best in things, in situations, and in people. He enjoys life and always tries to be optimistic about the future and what lies ahead.

In the first chapter of Joshua there are many things to stress Joshua out. Moses has just died and the leadership role is now falling into the hands of his assistant Joshua right as the Israelites are about to enter the promised land with many of their enemies awaiting them. Not only could he have been stressed out, he could have been very pessimistic about what was lying ahead of them. But in steps the Lord with wonderful words of promise. Words that give hope, trust, and the future new life.

Verse 5 says, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous….” What a great encouraging promise! The Urban Dictionary online defines an eternal optimist as “A person who never ceases to give up hope in something they believe.” If Joshua believes in what the Lord is telling him he can move forward with an attitude of trust no matter what his or their current situation might suggest.

As Christians and followers of Jesus we should be optimists eternally. In other words, we have been promised by Christ too that he will never leave us or forsake us. Are we looking to those words of promise or are we taking worldly suggestions that are more pessimistic? (I am asking myself that question as well as I write). In our experiences in life do we see the potential treasure that lies ahead or do we focus on the rubbish that might currently surround us?

Bob Weniger tells the story of a man who was a trash collector in Massachusetts some years ago. In a garbage container one day, he noticed a Wendy’s soft drink cup bearing a contest sticker. Having won a chicken sandwich the week before, the man checked it, hoping for some free french fries or a soft drink. Instead, he peeled a sticker that was worth $200,000 toward the construction of a new home. Mr Weniger shared the story to point out that what we get out of life depends a lot on what we look for.

Are we looking for or keeping our eyes on the hope that Christ promises to us? We can choose to be pessimistic about our current situation or the future, but as Christians we have many more reasons to be optimistic. In fact, we can move from optimism to trust when we recall the promise that God made to Joshua and continues to make to those who follow him today. “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”

Make it personal: Almost all of us like to be liked by other people. The interview with golfer Matt Kucher should remind us that people like to be around those who enjoy life, have hope, and stay focused on the good in people and things instead of the bad. That’s probably a good reminder for all of us this week! Stay positive, trust in the Lord, and be eternally optimistic about what lies ahead.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Growing and Maturing

Read: Genesis 45

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-45 has always been one of my favorite. There are so many life examples that can be gleaned from that story that I could probably write a years worth of midweek meditations from those chapters alone. But the one example that we see play out from the start of the story to the finish is how Joseph grew and matured as he followed the plan God had for his life.

In the early chapters we see a Joseph that is prideful and somewhat full of himself. He brags and causes friction with his brothers that ends up placing him in dire circumstances. After he is sold into slavery and taken to Egypt Joseph begins to grow up. When faced with temptation he learns to stay true to God, when faced with the opportunity to get revenge on his brothers he chooses to forgive them instead.

Joseph’s life is a good example for us to examine how our growth process is going. Are we learning from past mistakes and making decisions that show growth in our faith and trust in Christ? We often talk about how teenagers go through that time of adolescents in which they grow and begin to mature into adults, but in reality that maturing process should never end. If we ever find ourselves at a point of thinking we have it all figured out we are at a very dangerous and problematic place.

In 2 Timothy it says “The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” By putting those three things to work in our lives we can grow and mature in the ways that God desires. Yes, we need his power to overcome, we for sure need his love and need to act upon his love with others, and when temptation comes we need to rely on him to give us self-discipline and make wise Godly choices.

Joseph was a man of integrity and spiritual sensitivity. That came to him because of his desire to grow and mature in the ways of God. I hope that we are finding ways to grow in Christ as well. Seek out a small group to meet with, begin attending Christian Education classes, study your Bible, pray for a deeper walk with Jesus, but make every effort to grow and mature as 2 Peter 1:5-8 says…..

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Make it Personal: What grade would you get for your effort in growing and maturing in Christ? Think about that this week and make some changes to improve that grade. Find one way to start and then try to add several other things that will help you become and stronger and better follower of Jesus.

Blessings, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

If the Lord Wishes

Read: James 4:13-17

I have known several people through the years who always end a conversation about the future by saying “Lord Willing” or “If the Lord Will’s.” It’s always a good reminder of this passage in James 4 that proclaims the Lord’s will and direction over our sometimes selfish ambitions. These verses come at the end of a chapter in which James is talking about submitting ourselves to God.

In a recent Rejoice devotional seminary professor and pastor Lynn Jost wrote, “Selfish ambition is boastful, earthly, unspiritual, demonic, disorderly. But James offers an alternative to live-faster, gain-more, fight-for-all-you-can-get blind ambition. A long-lasting life of wisdom from above sows peace and reaps righteousness.”

It is okay to have the drive to do better and be better, but we need to be sure that our plans are lining up with God’s plan and God’s will and not our own selfish endeavors. Verse 15 says, “Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” Now I see why those people end those conversations about the future in the way that they do. It’s scriptural.

Those who know me know that I like to plan things. I am a planner and organizer almost to the point that it drives people crazy at times. Okay, most of the time. Therefore, I need a reminder like this that despite my self made plans and desires, God’s will trumps everything. But how do we know what God’s will is? By remaining in a place spiritually that we are guided by the Holy Spirit and in tune with the direction the Spirit is leading us.

A fervent prayer life is always a great place to start with that discernment. If we never ask Christ what his will is or place ourselves in a place to receive it then we end up going with our own plans. We ask various advisers for help on finances, career planning, family relationships, and so on, so why not ask for some counsel from the greatest adviser there is for our planning and the direction our choices are leading us?

One last reminder from the last verse of this passage. When we know God’s will and yet choose to go the opposite direction it is a direct sin against the Lord. Verse 17 says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is a sin for them.” When that happens we need to repent, do a 180, and head back in the direction God has for us.

Make it personal: As you look at your calendar and schedule this week think about this passage. How often do we ask God about these things? If you are too busy and stressed out perhaps some of those things on your calendar were not God’s desire for you but your own desires. Let’s pray about these things!

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

30 Wise Sayings

Read: Proverbs 22:17 – 24:22

In many Bibles there is a section in Proverbs 22-24 that has the title “Thirty Sayings of the Wise.” All Bibles are not sectioned off the same way and in searching through several I realized that some do not have this particular heading at the beginning of Proverbs 22:17. It is a reminder that through the ages the words of scripture have not changed but they have been translated, organized and numbered to make them easier to read and easier to turn to specific passages. Most of the chapters and verses of the Bible were added in the 1400’s and 1500’s.

The book of Proverbs is one of those books of the Bible that can be divided up in many different ways. The short concise nuggets of wisdom and direction are not written in a certain flowing manner. For some this makes it harder to read, but others find it refreshing. In some ways Proverbs is the Bible’s version of twitter, most of the sayings actually are 140 characters or less.

In verse 17 of Proverbs 22 these 30 sayings begin with…. “Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.” In this world of constant media and information it is important for us to weed out the wise council from the unwise council. Not everything that is stated on Facebook and Twitter is true. Some of them are opinions, some are facts, some are rumors, and others are just folly.

As followers of Jesus we need to be careful to discern the wise direction from the folly. The way that we do that is by testing it with God’s Word. Our culture will not always lead us down the path that God has for us, in fact our culture will often tempt us to try alternate paths. That is not new of course, it is why Solomon wrote these wise sayings in the first place. He wanted others to learn from his mistakes.

Saying 12 in Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” That is great council in a world that is filled with so many opinions and worldviews. It is also a wonderful reminder of why we need to be engaged in God’s Word each and every day. God has helpful instruction for us and wonderful words of knowledge that keep us headed down the straight and narrow path.

Make it personal: As you watch the news on T.V., listen to talk radio, and read various books and magazines, test everything you see and hear with the words of Jesus and the Word of God. Don’t be led astray by opinions that are in direct conflict with God and his plan and purpose for us as his followers.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Lukewarm = Indifference

Read: Revelation 3:14-22

In a recent newspaper column Cynthia M. Allen wrote an article entitled “Role of religion shrinking in modern America.” In her article she referred to many of the recent developments in our country and culture that indicate an indifference to God, faith, and religious freedom. After reading her words it brought to mind the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3.

This early church had become lukewarm and indifferent to the things of God. They created their own morals, relied on their own wealth, and seemed to find God as an insignificant part of their lives. The words of chapter 3 are fairly direct and make it clear that God is not pleased with their indifference. It says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Obviously words like this would get their attention. Perhaps modern America needs to hear words like that as well. The further we push God, faith, religion, and morals away the more insignificant God will become in our communities and our country as a whole. That is not a good road to go down! Our culture may not be cold to the Lord right now but we are unfortunately getting much too close to being lukewarm and indifferent.

In verse 20 it says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Right before that it says, “So be earnest and repent.” Perhaps that is the point we are at? If we repent of these lukewarm and indifferent attitudes toward God we know that restoration and future blessings will follow. God is full of grace and forgiveness for those who turn to Him.

In the last verse of Revelation 3 it says, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” My prayer is that our churches would rekindle the fire of passion for God and allow the Holy Spirit to bring real transformation to us, our communities, and hopefully to the culture around us. It needs to start with believers who are not content with lukewarm and indifferent attitudes toward God, Jesus, and the Bible. A hot fire can spread rapidly! May it start with us!

Make it personal: In what ways have you become lukewarm or indifferent toward God or your faith? Take some time this week to ask that question of yourself and of the Lord. Pray for a renewed passion to overtake your life and draw you closer to the creator and savior of the world we live in.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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