Midweek Reflections

The Good Shepherd

Read: Psalm 23 & John 10:1-21

One of the best known parts of the Bible has to do with the Lord being our Shepherd. Many people either know of Psalm 23 or have it memorized, and many would proclaim it as their favorite if asked to name their most favorite passage in all of scripture. But how often do we stop and really think about what these words are saying?

The promise of Psalm 23 which says that the Lord will lead us, refresh us, guide us, and protect us, is found in Jesus Christ. God sent his Son Jesus into our world to be the the human (yet divine) evidence of the one we can follow in life. The one who will lead us and lift us up when we need to be lifted up.

One of the most memorable pictures in a children’s Bible story book is that of Jesus holding a lamb. That picture represents how the good shepherd will care for his sheep. As the prophet Isaiah said, “He holds them close to his heart.” That is why Jesus tells in John 10 that he is that good shepherd for us. If we follow, he will lead and will be there for us when we need him.

It is amazing how this truth can affect our everyday lives and attitude. In today’s Our Daily Bread devotional Marion Stroud shares about two elderly women he went to visit from time to time. He said that one of them had no financial worries, she was fit for her age, and lived in her own home that was probably paid for. But he said that she could always find something negative to say.

The other elderly woman was crippled with arthritis and rather forgetful. He said that she lived in a very small and simple apartment and had to keep a reminder pad so that she could remember her different appointments. When he would visit her she would always say, “God is so good to me.” One time when he was handing her the reminder pad he noticed what she had written the day before, “Out to lunch tomorrow! Wonderful! Another happy day.”

At first thought this story might be about our attitudes in various circumstances. But I read it and thought about one sheep who is content in following her shepherd and another who is perhaps straying outside of his care. When sheep get away from the shepherd they get worried, stressed, and become unhappy. Those who stay close find the things that Psalm 23 promises from the Lord.

When Jesus said, “I Am the Good Shepherd” he was providing us a way to peace, security, and contentment in a world that is filled with wolves, thieves, and robbers. The way to find this contentment is through Jesus and abiding in his presence. May that be our focus. May Jesus be our shepherd.

Make it personal: Try to find all of the references to sheep and shepherds that are listed in your Bible. The concordance in the back of your Bible or an online search may help you to realize this very evident picture that is provided for us in scripture. After that renew your trust in Jesus as your shepherd in this life.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The True Vine

Read: Galatians 5:15-26

We live in a connected world.  Wireless internet and Bluetooth connections are available in more and more places it seems.  I recently saw an ad that Oral B now has a bluetooth toothbrush that will connect to an app on your smartphone and monitor the speed, time, and thoroughness of your daily brushing habits.  Really?  Will it tell me how much toothpaste to put on?

In John 15 when Jesus says, “I AM the vine, you are the branches” he is talking about our connection to God.  He proclaims that he is the bridge that provides grace and forgiveness for our sins and restores our relationship with his Father.  Jesus goes on to say, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The fruit that Jesus speaks of is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is listed in our Galatians passage for this week.  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  When our relationship with God is restored, connected, and bearing fruit, this is what our life should produce.  Not from ourselves but from the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us from God.

Jesus used the vineyard to describe this connection because that was especially relevant to the people he was teaching in John 15.  We still have vineyards today and this example is still good and valid for us, especially those who are great at gardening, pruning, and nurturing plants and vines.  They know the importance of trimming off the old so that new and better fruit can come forth.

But even for those who are not master gardeners there are modern day examples of this.  If Jesus were here today teaching this same truth would he maybe use the example of being connected with technology?  If your Wifi goes out or your Bluetooth connection keeps getting disconnected it is very hard or even impossible to accomplish much of anything with those devices.  If your business relies on that you know the importance of that daily connection.

How might Jesus use that as an encouragement for us to stay connected to him?  His words, “apart from me you can do nothing” seem to fit very well with that 21st century example.  That leads us to the question Jesus wants us to consider.  How well connected are we to God?  How much do we rely on God?  How reliant are we on God?  Are we producing fruit?  One thing is for sure, I better be connected before my toothbrush is.

Make it personal:  Rob Fuquay writes, “We stay connected to God’s power by staying connected to Christ.”  What does that mean for you?  What needs to be pruned, trimmed, or cut out of your life in order to bear better fruit spiritually?  Let’s all take time this week to think about these things that Jesus speaks of.

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Light of the World

Read: Matthew 5:14-16

In John 8 Jesus is attending the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and makes the bold and true statement at the Temple that he is God’s Son and a light to give the people guidance in a world that is filled with darkness.  This is just one of the many “I AM” statements of Jesus and by saying this Jesus is promising to give us another option to remaining in darkness.

While the guidance of Jesus is a definite blessing in the believers life, we also must realize that in Matthew 5 Jesus is calling us to be his light in this world.  What does that mean?  What does that look like?  Some might say that it means we need to share the Good News of Jesus with people.  That is true.

Some might say that we need to help those who have physical needs and be the light of Jesus in that way.  That is true.  But perhaps there are even more ways than that to be this light.  I was reminded of that this week by someone I crossed paths with.  This person was reflecting the light of Christ even though they may not have realized it as that when they were speaking.

I was with someone who spoke of other people in such an uplifting way.  This person used words such as “jewel,” “blessing,” and “wonderful person” to describe the people that came up in our discussions.  It made me pause to think about how encouraging that was to hear of others spoken of in such a positive light.  The light of Christ was being shown by the way people were lifted up.

Too often in our world we see examples of people tearing down other people.  When names come up we sometimes hear more negative (dark) references to people than we do positive (light) references.  It made me think, do we ever view this kind of light as being from Jesus and a part of what Jesus instructs us to be and do in Matthew 5?

When Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World” he was proclaiming to be the positive, encouraging, and guiding light to show people the way to God and the way to be saved from the darkness of this world.  My prayer is that as I converse with people in the days ahead I would give off this same light as this other person radiated to me this week.  I hope you will  join me in building others up instead of tearing them down.  Both in person and in second person.

Make it personal:  As you speak with people this week make note of how you are talking of other people.  Is it positive and life giving.  Is it casting darkness or spreading light?  Even when difficult conversations must take place we can always try to see the best in each other and leave those times feeling like the light of Christ was shared.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Bread of Life

Read: Psalm 103

Each week of Lent I will be sharing a portion of Rob Fuquay’s book “The God We Can Know” that correlates with the theme from the Sunday before.  This past Sunday we talked about Jesus saying, “I AM the Bread of Life” and what that means for our joy and satisfaction in this life.  Psalm 100 is a great companion to this theme, it proclaims that God satisfies our desires, renews us, forgives us, heals us, redeems us and that brings us true joy.   Here is a portion of what pastor Fuquay shares in chapter 2 of his book…..

“There is a difference between being full and being satisfied.  Being full and being satisfied aren’t the same, yet we live in a world that would have us think they are.  We are tempted to believe that in order to be satisfied we have to be full, yet fullness does not guarantee satisfaction in many areas of our lives…..

Being in control might bring tastes of satisfaction but not the lasting kind. In my prayers I frequently like to tell God what I want.  I begin my day with a list in hand: “Today, God, I need answers for this problem; I need resources for this issue; I need you to clear up this situation, change this person, resolve this crisis,” and so on.

Real satisfaction comes, however, when I pray differently. “Lord, thank you for what is set before me today. Help me to recognize and enjoy the special blessings you will offer me.  I am going to choose to be thankful.”  Another way of looking at this is to make being satisfied of higher importance than getting full.  You see, getting full is something we can control. We are in charge of choosing.

We can do things that will fill life up, but satisfaction is something we need help with.  We sometimes need assistance from God in order to say, “I have the gifts and opportunity to be satisfied right now.  I already possess what is necessary for joy.”  “Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Rob has many other great stories to tell and things to share in his book.  I encourage you to read it and join us for the weekly Bible studies here at church as we talk about the scripture texts and Rob’s chapter that goes along with each of the I AM sayings of Jesus.

Make it personal:  What gives you satisfaction in life?  How do you connect this source of satisfaction with God’s activity in your life and in the world?  When Jesus and other people are the main focus in our lives it is much easier to be content and find the joy that only God can bring to us.  In Psalm 103 David realized these things, hopefully we can as well!

Have a joy filled week in Jesus, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Greatest Story Ever!

Read: Acts 3:11-4:12

Do you remember having Bible stories read to you when you were younger? If you are a parent or grandparent do you read Bible stories to your children and grandchildren today?  I still remember one of my favorite children’s Bible story books that we used to read to our children when they were younger.  I can still picture some of the drawings and pictures of the various stories.

These stories are important for us to share with children and to continue to learn from them as adults.  This past week I read an interesting article by Ed Stezter in which he suggested that we make sure we are going beyond the well known stories of Jonah, David and Goliath, the healing’s and miracles of Jesus, and other well recited stories in the Bible.  While those do share the story of God and His Son Jesus they need to know the big picture as well.

Here is what Ed writes in his article “Making sure Children actually hear the Gospel and not just a bunch of Bible stories”…. Too often we teach the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, like Aesop’s Fables. We want our children to learn how to live well, so we draw from the Bible stories of people who did the right thing and those who did the wrong thing.

We hope they are getting the idea that good is of God, leading to success, and bad is of Satan, leading to failure. If the kiddos can then live out and retell the story with the right names and main points, we feel like they have a grasp on the Gospel.  Churches have told children tons of good stories, but have we told them the Story?  It is easy to tell the stories within the story, but there is a big picture here. We miss some important points when we offer a slice of the Gospel as if it is the whole pie.”

What Mr. Stetzer goes on to say is that we need to communicate how those stories fit into the four major acts of the Bible which include Creation, The Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.  The Good News of the New Testament proclaims that we have Redemption and Restoration from the Fall through Jesus Christ who came to save us.  We need to tell all the stories of the Bible and include this bigger picture of the Good News as well.

In Acts 3 and 4 that is what Peter is doing.  He is trying to communicate this Good News of Jesus to the onlookers and then to the Jewish elders and teachers (the Sanhedrin).  In verse 12 of chapter 4 Peter summarizes it all by saying, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  That is the Big Picture.  That is what we need to include in our telling of the Bible.

Make it personal:  Ed Stetzer writes, “When we take the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, we think about 66 books with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories contained within them. In actuality, there are not thousands of stories. There are not 66 stories. There aren’t even two stories with the Old and New Testament. There is one story and that is the story of what God is doing—redemptive history.”  As we read the Bible and read it to our children and grandchildren let’s keep this Big Picture of the Good News in mind.

Have a Blessed Week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Who are you?

Read: Exodus 3:11-14 and Psalm 139:1-14

Today is Ash Wednesday which begins the season of Lent that leads us to Easter.  If you see someone today with a cross on their forehead from ashes they have most likely been at an Ash Wednesday service.  This day derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Ash Wednesday


Rob Fuquay who wrote the book “The God We Can Know” says that each year around this time he asks the question, “What do I have that cannot be reduced to Ashes?”  Many times during these 40 days that lead to Easter people will choose something to give up or do without.  Rob’s question encourages us to think even broader than that.

He writes, “Just about everything in life – our houses, our belongings, our clothes, and even our bodies, will all eventually be reduced to ashes (or dust).  Yet God gives us something that cannot be destroyed.”  He then asks the question, “What part of you cannot be reduced to ashes?  What word would describe it?  This is who you really are.”

Rob goes on to share about a visit he made to a women who was in a hospice care center.  She had battled cancer for many years and was in the last days of her life.  As they spoke that last time this women said the same thing that she had said every other time he had visited.  She said, “I am so blessed.”

This lady would not be able to see her grandchildren graduate from high school, she would not be able to spend many more years with her husband, among many other things, and yet she proclaimed that she was blessed.  As Rob writes, “About to depart this life she said, “I am ….”  Her faith finished the sentence.”

Lent allows us to come to God with repent hearts and truly search out who we are in Jesus.  When Jesus said “I AM” in the New Testament he was reminding us that he is all we need.  The world tell us otherwise, but don’t be fooled.  You are…. loved, cherished, saved, forgiven, equipped, empowered, and strong when you have Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Make it personal:  Use these next 40 days as a way to search out who you are and what is important in your life.  We don’t know what life will bring but we do know who will bring us through it.  Jesus is the great I AM.  Let’s allow him to be the answer to who we are!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church


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