Midweek Reflections

Judge Not….

Read:  Romans 14:1-12

This week I am once again sharing a short devotional that I wrote for Rejoice magazine for this past week.  It reflects on this passage from Romans 14 that reminds us not to be the judge and jury when we are faced with disputable matters or people who look and think differently than we do.

It is always good to read the Bible, pray, discuss, and discern what the Lord is saying instead of instantly assuming we are right and others are wrong.   It is also dangerous to judge people from the outside instead of seeing what is in their heart.  Here is what I wrote….

“In the “Illustrations of Bible Truth,” H.A. Ironside tells of an incident in the life of a man called Bishop Potter.  Mr. Potter was traveling to Europe on one of the huge ships that crossed the Atlantic.  When he checked in he learned that someone else was sharing the room with him.  

After meeting his roommate, he went back to the desk and asked if he could leave his valuables in the ship’s safe; judging from his roommates appearance he wasn’t sure he could trust the man.  The desk clerk took his valuables and responded, “It’s all right Bishop, I’ll be glad to take care of them for you.  The other man has been up here and left his for the same reason!”

The human tendency is too often to look down on others.  If people do things differently or look unusual, we tend to put them in certain categories that we create in our minds.  Jesus showed us a different way.  He saw through the outer appearance and focused on people’s hearts.

In Romans 14 Paul reminds us that we are neither the judge nor the jury of others.  As Christians we live by the grace and forgiveness that Jesus has graciously bestowed upon us; to live like Christ is to extend the same to others and to allow God to be the judge (v.12).  

A reading in “A Year with God: Living out the Spiritual Disciplines” says, “Every judgmental word out of our mouths violates an eternal soul for whom Christ died.”  Convicting words for us to consider today!

Make it personal:  Lord, forgive me for times when I have placed myself as both judge and jury of another person.  Allow me to find ways to extend the grace and forgiveness of Christ this week.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Yield to God

Read: Jeremiah 31:18-25

For the past several years I have had the opportunity to write a week of short devotionals for the “Rejoice” daily devotional magazine. Some people subscribe to this magazine but for those who do not here is how they describe “Rejoice.” “a quarterly devotional magazine for individuals and households, seeks to inspire Christian disciples toward deeper faithfulness as they experience and share God’s healing and hope in the world. It is published jointly by Kindred productions and MennoMedia, publishers serving Mennonite Brethren and Mennonite Church congregations in North America.” If you would like to subscribe and receive this magazine just visit the website www.mennomedia.org and search for it.

For this week I have decided to share the devotional that I wrote for this day, September 10, on Jeremiah 31:21…….

“When I first got my drivers license, I had trouble coming to a complete stop at stop signs. I remember my father commenting, “That was more of a yield than a stop.” After paying for a ticket or two, I began to learn my adolescent lesson the expensive way!

Signs, traffic lights, and rules of the road are designed for our own good. They keep traffic moving smoothly and safely as long as everyone is abiding by them. I have been in some countries where it seems that signs and lights are viewed more as suggestions than as rules of the road. This often leads to confusion and accidents.

In today’s reading Ephraim, the leading Israelite tribe in the Northern Kingdom, pleads for restoration. The people have repented of the sins of their youth, and they seek God’s forgiveness. God is deeply moved and has mercy on them (v.20).

The biblical hope is that repentance will lead to new ways of living. Verse 21 speaks of road markers and posts that keep the people moving toward God, yielding to the Lord’s ways. Just as rules of the road make our travels safer, God’s laws are provided for our good. When we stray from those directives or choose to go our own way, we soon learn that it would have been better to yield to God’s way. Mercifully, God will always receive us and love us, guiding us once again.”

As I read this again this morning, many months after writing it for Rejoice I was reminded of the well known verses in Lamentations 3:22-23 that say, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” When we stop, yield, and repent of our sins our loving God promises to forgive us….. each and every morning. To that we can all say Amen!

Make it personal: At the end of each devotional that I wrote for Rejoice there is also a response similar to the “make it personal” ending I add to my midweek meditations each week. The one for today’s devotional is an appropriate prayer, “Lord, may I heed your ways and desires instead of my own. Help me to move closer to you and claim your restoration for my life.”

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

The First Step

Read: Nehemiah 1

When Nehemiah’s name is mentioned most people remember the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. This was one of Nehemiah’s greatest callings and accomplishments for the Lord. He was a brilliant planner, organizer, and motivator for sure. But when Nehemiah sensed this call upon his life his first step was not to plan, organize, talk to the king, or begin his trip back to Jerusalem, it was to pray.

The first chapter of Nehemiah includes his prayer. He prayed for forgiveness, he offered praise and thanksgiving, and he committed himself to the Lord’s will. Only after a time of mourning, fasting and praying did he have the courage to go to the king and ask if he could return to Jerusalem to help his people and rebuild the broken down walls.

In our fast paced world we are often tempted to barrel straight ahead with what we think is the right direction. I wonder what would have happened if Nehemiah would have preceded in that way? What if he did not take time to mourn for what had happened, to fast and seek after God’s direction through prayer? Things might have ended up much differently for him. Perhaps the king would not have been so willing to let him depart from Susa?

The first step for Christians should always be prayer. We need to make sure that our will aligns with God’s will. Yes, he placed something on our heart, but the entire plan and direction may come through many hours of prayer and discernment, not the first inclinations of our flesh. Each of us have different personalities and some of us (including myself) have to be reminded of this first step from time to time.

If your first temptation is to act, step back and think about the first step that Nehemiah took. Prayer and open communication with the Lord can open up many doors that human minds have not even considered. If you read the entire book of Nehemiah you will see that this was not a one time decision for Nehemiah, he often turned to the Lord in prayer and asked the Lord to remember him, to deal with his enemies, and to use him in only the way God desired. Hopefully that will be our approach as well.

Make it personal: Prayer should be the first step to big decisions in our life for sure, but it can also be the first step to each day. Beginning our day with prayer opens up the life line that we have with Jesus and we can continue to rely on that life line throughout the day. The first step to our day should be to pause in prayer.

Have a wonderful week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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

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