Midweek Reflections

Welcome to the New Year!

Read: Revelation 21:1-8

The past year has held many memories. Some of them very good, some of them difficult, and others that were very hard. I would imagine that all of us could think of things that happened to fit each of those categories.

As the New Year came in we celebrated with family and friends. Some shot off fireworks, others watched bowl games, and some made resolutions to start the New Year. And some were glad that 2013 was behind them. For some people this has been a very difficult year!

That is why we welcome in a New Year with the hope and expectations of a new beginning. Not that we forget what is past but we look ahead to the new beginning that God will give us in 2014. In Revelation 21:5 it says, “See, I am making all things new.”

Just like Christ takes the repentant sinner and makes their life new by his grace and forgiveness, a New Year provides a fresh start for us. Let’s take that fresh start and make it multiply day after day.

Let’s start by asking the question, In what way can I grow spiritually in 2014? By naming that we can be more intentional about growing in that specific area. Many people start diets, new habits, etc. in January; for the Christian we should think about ways that we can grow closer to Christ in the days ahead.

Hymnist Frances Ridley Havergal once wrote a poem during New Years to send to her friends. She wrote it on a greeting card to send to them and it has since become very well known. It goes like this….

Another year is dawning:
Dear Father let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

I hope your New Year is filled with all those things! Most of all I pray that we may feel the Lord’s presence with us at all times through his Holy Spirit. Whether it be good, bad, or difficult in the year ahead, may we turn to Christ to help us and see us through. You may look back on 2014 in December and say, “That was the best year of my life!” I hope so!

Make it personal: After you name the ways that you would like to grow spiritually in 2014, write them down and keep them in your Bible or somewhere close so that it can be a reminder. Through prayer and being intentional the Lord will help us accomplish that growth!

Happy New Year,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling, Worship, and Community Life



The 12 Days of Christmas

 

Read: Luke 2

One of the best known songs of this Christmas season is the
song entitled “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I ran across an
interesting story recently about that song and thought it
would be a good story to share right before Christmas. The
story goes like this…

Many historians believe the well-known song, The Twelve Days
of Christmas, is actually a Christian hymn in disguise. During
the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth I, a staunch
protestant, English Catholics were oppressed and persecuted.
Priests met secretly with small groups of Catholics, risking
their lives to conduct worship and observe mass.

Under such circumstances, it was difficult to train or teach
Catholic children. But an unknown, clever priest found a
unique way of teaching the Gospel to children,
using the theme of the twelve days between Christmas and
Epiphany, when the Wise Men, according to tradition, arrived
with their gifts for the Christ child.

The priest hid biblical truth in the symbols he used in his
carol, beginning with the words “On the first day of Christmas
my true love gave to me…” The “True Love” referred to God
the Father, and the “Me” represents the Christian who receives
the gifts. The “Partridge in the Pear tree” is Jesus. Why a
partridge? Mother partridges are known for feigning injury to
decoy predators from their babies. The children were thereby
taught about Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

The two turtle doves represented the Old and New Testaments.
The three French hens symbolized faith, hope, and love – the
three great virtues we should display as we come to know
Christ as Lord and read the Old and New Testaments.

The other symbols:

• Four calling birds – the four Gospels

• Five golden rings – the first five books of the Bible, the
Pentateuch

• Six geese a laying – the six days of creation

• Seven swans a swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

• Eight maids a milking – the eight Beatitudes of Matthew 5

• Nine ladies dancing – nine choirs of angels

• Ten lords a leaping – the Ten Commandments

• Eleven pipers piping – the eleven faithful apostles

• Twelve drummers drumming – the twelve articles of the
Apostles’ Creed’

We can be thankful today that we are not forced to hide the
Gospel message in such a way, but this story does show the
creativity that one can develop when limitations are put on
someone’s faith. If you never had heard this story before
perhaps this will bring a new appreciation to the songs
history and meaning for you.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a
very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with blessings and
possibilities. Christmas reminds us that God is with us in
every aspect of life. He will never leave you or forsake you
if you make Jesus the Lord of your life.

Make it personal: Have a little fun with that song above.
Can you come up with some other meanings that could lead
people to the Biblical story like the priest above did? Share
this story with your children and grand children and see if
they can help you.

Due to Christmas and New Years being on Wednesday’s the next 

two weeks the Mid-week meditation is going to take a two week break and return on January 8.

Have a Merry Christmas,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Stored up Treasures

Read: Matthew 2:1-12 and Matthew 6:19-21

Since today is Wednesday (Hump Day) and camels are a part of almost every Christmas manger scene I did a little reading this week on why Camels have humps. My resource for these wonderful facts is “The book of totally useless information” by Don Voorhees. This is what it says,

“No, it’s not to store only water as commonly believed, although the camel can extract water from the hump. The camel has no layer of fat under its skin like most mammals. The hump is a large deposit of fat, weighing up to eighty pounds, that the camel can use for food and water in times of need. By breaking down the fat into hydrogen and oxygen, water is formed.

A camel can go for several days, even weeks, without water or food. When it does, its hump shrinks in size as its energy and water are used and tends to hang down on the animals side. When a camel finally gets water, it can drink up to thirty gallons at one time.

Camels can eat almost anything they find growing in the desert, even cacti. Their mouths have extremely thick skin, which cactus needles cannot penetrate. Speaking of humps, the dromedary, or Arabian camel, has only one hump; the Bactrian camel has two.”

I did not realize that some camels have one hump and others have two. Perhaps if camels pulled Amish horse and buggies around our community I probably would have known that, but since they are not commonly found in our area I actually learned something from this book of totally useless information.

Even though the Bible (Matthew 2) does not say that the Magi rode to see the Christ child on camels we can speculate that they probably did. The other option was to walk, and that would have been a long walk. From the description above it sounds like they were the perfect animals for long trips across barren lands.

But one thing we can notice from the camel is that they store up things that they need to survive. They don’t store useless things that will do them no good. In Matthew 6 Jesus instructs us to store up things in heaven and not to be concerned with storing up things here on earth. That’s probably a good reminder during this Christmas season.

By growing spiritually and walking daily with the Lord we can prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus during this Advent season. Instead of being overwhelmed by the “things” of this world, God wants to help us secure treasures that will be lasting for all of eternity. Jesus says that these treasures will not be destroyed by moths or rust, they are treasures that thieves cannot break in and steal.

And I might add that most of those treasures are not found under a Christmas tree. We enjoy giving gifts to each other this time of year and rightly so. The Magi brought gifts to Jesus. But let’s take Jesus’ advice and keep the things of heaven and the things of this world in their proper perspectives.

Make it personal: If you are feeling like your energy is sapped during this busy season, take time to appreciate the story of the camel and how we too need to concern ourselves more with the things of God than the things of this world. The world will pass away, treasures secured in heaven will not.

Have a great Advent season,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Guarding Ungratefulness

Read: Luke 17:11-19

A man writing at the Post Office desk was once approached by an older fellow with a postcard in his hand. The older man said, “Sir, could you please address this postcard for me?” The man gladly did so, then agreed to write a short message and sign the card for the man.

Finally the younger man asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The older fellow thought about it for a moment and said, “Yes, at the end could you put, P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.”

I don’t know if that story is really true, but it reminds us about how ungrateful we can sometimes be to those who go to great lengths to help us out. We just came out of Thanksgiving and a time in which gratefulness and thanks are on our hearts and minds. But the attitude of ungratefulness is definitely something we have to guard against.

Just like guarding a defender in a sport we have to be ready and aware of when this offense is about to rise up within us. In Luke 17 Jesus healed ten lepers of their diseases, and yet only one came back to thank him. Interestingly enough the text says that this one person was even a foreigner (a Samaritan).

In other words, the ones that you would have expected to give thanks did not and the one who you would have least expected it from is the one who took the time to come back, praising God in a loud voice, to say thank you.

It is good to give thanks and to be grateful. But as Thanksgiving passes and the consumerism of Christmas surrounds us, let us be aware of the attitude of ungratefulness. Do whatever you can to guard it and keep it in check. If this is a struggle for you then ask Christ to help you have a new and grateful attitude this Christmas season and beyond.

Make it personal: This Christmas try to keep your attitude above all of the focus on what we do not have. Be grateful for what you do have and try to help the rest of your family come to appreciate those things as well. And Oh, what do we need to thank God for? That’s probably first on the list that we need to check twice.

Have a peaceful Advent season,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Be Thankful

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”   2 Corinthians 9:15

I was especially moved this past week by a picture in the
Champaign News Gazette newspaper of a couple in Gifford,
Illinois that lost their home in the recent tornado.  They are
kneeling in front of the rubble holding a sign that was inside
their house when it came tumbling down.  The sign says, “And
they lived happily ever after.”

The wonderful picture was taken by Brandon Cagle, but what I
found most impressive were the smiles on the couples faces.
In the background lie all of their possessions in a pile and
yet here they are truly reflecting the message on the sign
that they are holding.

Tornado picture web

That gives us something to think about this week along with
all of those good things we normally give thanks for.  I ran
across something that helps to put some of those things into
perspective, it goes like this….

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich
fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the
setbacks.  Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find
a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become
your blessings.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week we can and will give
thanks for many things.  But in the verse above, Paul gives
thanks to God for the one gift that is really hard to describe
and incredible to think about.  God’s gift of salvation and
grace to us through his Son Jesus Christ.

That should be the first thing on our list when we think of
what we are thankful for.  Sure we are thankful for family,
friends, and other things, but without God’s grace and love
for us where would we be?

My hope this week is that we can join that couple in the
newspaper photo and say, “whatever happens, I will keep a
smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.”  If we can do
that I truly believe that we can and will live happily ever
after.

Make it personal:  Make a copy of those things listed above
and place it somewhere that it can help you remember how we
can also be thankful for the setbacks that inevitably will
come our way from time to time.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community life, Arthur Mennonite Church



F.I.N.E.

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21

The word “Fine” has generally become a default response in our culture for saying, “I really don’t want to talk about how I am really feeling right now.” Think about that. How many times have you really not been feeling too good and yet when you were asked that question you automatically responded with the word “Fine”? I know I am guilty.

I was at a pastors seminar recently in which the speaker was talking about how to handle hospital visits. There was a breakout time in which pastors were allowed to share their experiences with each other. It was interesting to hear how many people in the hospital respond with “fine” when in fact they were laying in a hospital bed.

One friend of mine commented by saying, “Many times when people respond that way it really stands for (F)rustrated, (I)rritable, (N)ervous, and (E)xhausted.” And yet people are often guarded about sharing those less than desirable feelings with each other.

That’s understandable, we don’t want to cast our negative feelings on others; and yet those “others” are maybe the ones whom God has sent to help you work through it. If you don’t share deeply with them they cannot share deeply with you.

In Ephesians 3:18 Paul says that we have power together with all the Lord’s people to understand how wide, long, high, and deep the love of Christ is for us. Sometimes we need to just be open and honest with fellow believers and realize that we all go through times that are not fine. In fact they are hard, trying, and miserable.

If we let someone know that we are struggling they can open up and share with us more deeply. They can encourage us as Paul encouraged the early church when he said, “Things may not be fine, but let me tell you about God’s incredible love for you. It can get you through this difficult time.”(my paraphrasing)

In the end we probably just need to be more honest and upfront with each other. Not to dampen someones day but to deepen our relationship with them. The truth is, sometimes we do feel fine, and sometimes we actually feel great, but lets be ready to help each other when the need is real and present.

Make it personal: Be observant in the next week or two about how many times you use the word “fine” or “good” when someone asks you how you are doing. Ask yourself if it is the truth or not. Then take steps to become more authentic and real with those who are close to you. They can be a vital help to bringing you back to “fine” and “great”.

Have a blessed week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church




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