Midweek Reflections

What’s in a Name?

Read:  Luke 1:26-33
Merry Christmas Christ is Born

I have not done a lot of Christmas shopping yet but the few times I have been in the stores I have noticed their reluctance to wish me a Merry Christmas.  The standard greeting is “Have a happy holiday!”  Now, I realize this is no new issue or conversation, our culture has been headed down this road for some time now, but as Christians and followers of Jesus we need to celebrate and make known why this season is truly Christmas and not just another holiday.

This is how Wikipedia defines the word or name Christmas….  “Christmas or Christmas Day (also known as Christ’s Mass) is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed generally on December 25th as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.  A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide, which ends after the twelfth night.  Christmas is a public holiday in many of the worlds nations and is celebrated culturally by a large number of non-Christian people, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.”

Some people assume that the name Christmas has been around since that night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  However, most people realize it was a name given to the day at a later date.  Most historians believe that date to be around 1038 A.D.. Sometimes the history of words and names can be interesting.  Did you know that the word or term “teenager” was first used in Popular Science magazine article in 1941?  That word or term is so common now that we just assume that it has always been.

In Luke 1 Mary is given instructions by the angel to name her son “Jesus.”  That name is very important because it means “Savior.”  Right after the angel tells Mary that he says, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”  Names do matter!  Words do matter!

As we approach another Christmas Day I would like to encourage us all to take this name “Christmas” to heart.  If you are a Christian this is the day that your Savior was born, that is more than reason to celebrate.  If you are not a Christian my prayer is that this day will encourage you to receive Jesus as your Savior and celebrate what making Him the Lord of your life can truly do for your life.

Notice in the description above that it says Billions of people will celebrate this day.  That is both humbling and incredible at the same time.  Christmas is truly a reason for the world to celebrate!  It is only a “holiday” because many people get off of work, it is truly Christmas because Jesus, God’s Son, came to the world and offered salvation, forgiveness, grace, and eternal life in heaven to all who will believe.

Make it personal:  When you hear the greeting “Have a happy holiday” this week or next I would like to encourage you to respond by wishing them a Merry Christmas in return.  Be friendly, happy, and keep the greeting simple.  It is bound to make an impact.  Also remember that many of those who work retail are required to say that, it may not be their desired greeting.  In fact, some may respond back to you and say, “And Merry Christmas to you also.”

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Ready for a Fire?

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Advent is the time of expecting, waiting, and preparing for the coming of Jesus.  Over 2,000 years ago that came in the form of God’s Son Jesus being born in Bethlehem in a stable or cave because there was no room for his family in the local Inn.  The second coming of Jesus is now the time of expecting, waiting, and preparing that we are in.  1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 is one of the many passages in scripture that remind us of this.  As Christians we are to be prepared at at all times because we do not know when that time will be.

Last week a fellow pastor and friend shared an interesting modern day connection to this act of being ready and prepared.  Chuck Neufeld shared this…..

“I was out on an early walk this morning when I passed a small neighborhood fire department. Looking inside through the windowed garage doors I noticed that each of the fire trucks were parked with their respective doors wide open — gloves, boots, helmets readied — tools angled just so for easy access when the next hurried choices would need to be made. Talk about being ready! Ready, at a moment’s notice, to respond to whatever call would be coming in. I thought of the season we’re in and couldn’t help but ask myself: “How ready am I to respond to whatever call comes in?” How can I do just what this neighborhood fire department in San Antonio does: How can I “park poised — ready for the next call — gloves, boots and helmets laid out — tools angled just so…” During this Advent season, join me in doing just that?”

What a great example of what Advent is about noticed in the course of Chuck’s everyday activity.  Maybe that would be a good exercise for all of us this week.  Try to find things during your day that point to a state of readiness and being prepared.  Let those “everyday things” be a reminder that we need to be ready spiritually for whatever our day, week, month, or year may bring.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”  I guess those are the gloves, boots, and helmets that we are to lay out and have ready.  Be Alert, Be on watch, Jesus is coming soon!

Make it personal:  Along with those things you look for this week, say a prayer and ask the Lord to help you discern what ways you need to prepare and be ready.  Maybe it something to start doing, something to stop doing, or just something to be more aware of.

Have a prepared week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Best is Yet to Come

Read: Romans 5:1-11

Some of the most wonderful words of hope, peace, love, and reconciliation are found in the book of Romans.  Paul had a wonderful way of putting words together that spoke the truth of God’s love and grace for us through Jesus Christ.  Romans 5 is just one example.  This week I read a poem that was shared by, and I assume written by Pastor Perry Noble from Anderson, SC.  It spoke to me in a powerful way and I trust that it will do the same for you.  No matter where you find yourself today, with Christ in your life the best is always yet to come because God is not done with us yet.  Enough said by me, here is the poem……

As you stare out the window
and reflect on regret,
my hope is you’ll know
God’s not done with you yet.

He takes what is broken
and seems to be flawed,
and creates masterpieces
that hold us in awe.

You are not what you did!
You are not who they say!
Your sin does not define you,
Jesus has paid!

You must not give up.
You must remain strong.
Fix your eyes on the cross,
not what you did wrong.

Because Christ is alive,
hope is SO REAL!
It’s available to you
no matter how you feel.

So when it comes to your life,
don’t worry or fret.
Put your hope in Christ,
He’s not done with you yet.

This is not true for “others,”
or true for just some.
Because for ALL who are in Christ,

Make it personal:  Make this poem personal in your life this week.  If we do I trust that we will realize the truth of Romans 5 and the peace and hope that Christ will bring us in this Advent season.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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

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