Midweek Reflections

Unbroken & Changed

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Over the Christmas holiday our family went to see the powerful movie “Unbroken.”  This week I read an article by Ron and Linda Nelson that not only talked about the movie and book but shared more of the story about how Louis Zamperini became truly changed by Christ after a visit with his wife to a Billy Graham crusade.  This story relates well to the 2 Corinthians 5 passage that speaks about the ministry of reconciliation.  Here is what was shared.

“The movie was based on a book about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete as well as a World War II hero. The movie shows Zamperini’s strong will to live and his courage and valor. It is a story of miraculous survival.  Paul Harvey had a program on the radio for many years prior to his death entitled “The Rest of the Story.” The movie unfortunately only shows the first part of Zamperini’s life. The rest of his story is also miraculous. In fact he would consistently state that the biggest and greatest miracles took place after his return from World War II.

Franklin Graham recently wrote about the rest of Zamperini’s life as follows: He had been brutally tortured in Japanese prison camps and, when he was finally freed, came home filled with bitterness toward life and rage toward his captors. He experienced constant nightmares, became a heavy drinker, had a violent temper, and nearly destroyed everything that mattered to him, including his marriage. His wife, who feared for her own safety and that of their little daughter, began preparing divorce papers.

Then a neighbor invited the couple to come to nearby Los Angeles to hear a young, little-known evangelist named Billy Graham. It was 1949, and my father was preaching in a huge tent downtown at the corner of Washington and Hill streets. Louis wanted nothing to do with any evangelist, but his wife went anyway and her heart was changed by the power of the Gospel. She tore up the divorce papers and persuaded her husband to go with her a few days later. He did-then walked out during the meeting. She begged him to return another day. That time, while my father preached, Zamperini knew the Holy Spirit was working within him, and he resisted.

The moment the invitation began, he grabbed his wife’s hand and headed toward the exit. But in the aisle, overwhelmed by the realization of how broken his life had become, he turned around and gave his life to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. He left the tent with God’s complete forgiveness.  From that day forward, everything changed. He started reading the Bible. His nightmares disappeared, he gave up drinking, his hatred and violent anger melted away, and he began to live for Christ.

To his own amazement, he soon found himself desiring reconciliation with his Japanese tormentors. He traveled to Japan, visited prisons that held war criminals, shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with many, and expressed forgiveness personally to any of his wartime captors that he could find. These extraordinary acts of reconciliation were widely reported in the media across Japan and the United States, and God used the stories to touch many hearts and bring the power of forgiveness and reconciliation into many more lives. Right up to his death this past July at age 97, Zamperini never tired of telling people about the Savior.”

I found this story to be truly amazing and a wonderful example of the transformation that Christ can bring to peoples lives.  I wish the movie would have shared more about this part of his life.  Here is a picture of Louie with a young Billy Graham and I am also including an 8 minute video with an interview that CBS news did with Louie.  He recently passed away at the age of 97.

Here is a link to the video interview with Louie



Make it personal:  If you have not seen this movie or read this book I would encourage you to do so.  It is an inspiration of courage, strength, will, and in the end of the book at least, the ability of Christ to transform a life that is committed to him.  The unbelievable trials of Louie can definitely give us inspiration to face our own in this year ahead.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Forward Vision

Read: Proverbs 29

In 1980 Ted Turner had a vision for something that seemed unbelievable at the time. A television channel that would broadcast news 24 hours a day. In that time this was unheard of because most channels would still sign off every night and sign back on the next morning. But the vision went forward and David Walker and Lois Hart anchored the first newscast on June 1, 1980.

Other concepts like this are often started with disapproval and skepticism. I remember when Fox Sports started to leave the score and time on the screen during the various sports they were broadcasting. Some people just could not stand that obtrusive box distorting their vision, I think I was one of them. Now most sports fans have a fit if the game is shown without that box.

As we begin a New Year these type of examples give us reason to think big in the New Year that is ahead of us. What can I do different this year that will make me a better follower of Christ? What can I try that has maybe not been tried before? Who can I help that has maybe been overlooked in the past? How can I and we make a difference for the Kingdom of God?

In Proverbs 29:18 it says, “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]–blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he.” As Christians a part of our vision is to look and see what God is doing and how Jesus is calling us to participate. Sometimes it may require us to take a risk, but great things often do not happen without at least some risk involved.

I like the way the Message Bible paraphrases that verse, it says, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble over themselves, but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” Let us be attentive to what the Lord reveals to us and lays on our hearts this year. Let us look for what God is doing so that we can avoid stumbling over ourselves.

Make it personal: Along with your secular New Years resolution this year make a spiritual New Years resolution as well. Losing weight and things like that are often popular this time of the year, but growing in our spiritual walk with God can be the most beneficial. As it says above. When we attend to those things we are most blessed.

Happy New Year, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Christmas Story


Read: Luke 1-2

I don’t know if it is a tradition in your home to read the Christmas Story each year before dinner or before opening presents but if not I hope you will take the time to do that.  Read the first two chapters if you are reading on your own or read Luke 2:1-20 if you are reading it as a family or group.  If you do this each year you might want to choose a different version or a paraphrase to bring a new perspective to this wonderful well known account of Jesus’ birth.

For this weeks meditation I would like to share a 10 minute video that is well worth your time.  It is by well known Pastor Andy Stanley and is entitled “The Story of Christmas.”  He does an excellent job of setting the stage on which Christ came into this world over 2,000 years ago. It is both educational and inspirational.  Here is the link.



Make it personal:

 Take some of what Andy Stanley shared and look into it further.  There is much to the Christmas Story that can be learned from studying scripture, searching online resources (as long as they are credible), and other books and commentaries.  Another good book is by Lee Strobel entitled “The Case for Christ.”  May the Lord bless you, encourage you, and inspire you with the truth of Christ’s birth into this world.

Merry Christmas,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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

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