Midweek Reflections

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



Shalom

Read: Judges 6:19-24

I don’t know how many of you have smartphones, but if you do I
want to suggest a valuable spiritual resource app. The
YouVersion Bible. It is available on both the Android and
Iphone app stores. Not only does it hold many translations of
the Bible but it also provides daily devotionals and other
ways to engage God’s Word.

We use our phones for many things these days and growing
closer to Christ in our daily lives should definitely be one
of them. This week I was drawn to a daily devotional on
YouVersion that I would like to share with you.

I have been taking an introduction class to ancient Hebrew
this semester at Seminary and I was interested in this
devotional about the word Shalom in the Old Testament. We use
the word quite often and this devotional gives an interesting
teaching about it. Here is that devotional courtesy of
YouVersion.

“There’s a good chance that most of us have either heard of or
are familiar with the Hebrew word shalom. In some circles, the
word shalom is even used as a common cordial greeting. But
what is the meaning behind this word? And more importantly,
how does this meaning factor into this next name of God,
Jehovah-shalom, or “The-LORD-Is-Peace”?

Some dictionaries simply define shalom as meaning “peace.”
That’s a good start, but it certainly doesn’t cover all of it.
Two countries can technically be at peace because they’re not
fighting a war against each other, all the while harboring
disagreements and grievances. They’re at peace, but they’re
not at shalom with each other.

In a nutshell, shalom describes a state of complete
fulfillment, wholeness, and wellness. That’s shalom. It’s the
easy exhale of the soul, knowing everything is all right. So
what happens when shalom is combined with Jehovah to form the
name, Jehovah-shalom?

For Gideon, who coined this name in the Book of Judges, it
represented the understanding that the ability to rest easy,
relax, and exhale go hand in hand with God’s presence. Apart
from Him, anxiety, stress, fear, trepidation, and insecurity
are the norm. But with the Lord, there is shalom.

Sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? But what happens when an
unexpected expense rears its ugly head in your world? What
happens when the doctor’s office calls to say you need to come
in for some additional tests? What happens when your spouse
says he or she doesn’t love you anymore?

It’s then and there that we need to call upon the name of
Jehovah-shalom, because we’ll never be able to rest, relax, or
exhale apart from Him. God doesn’t want us to live on pins and
needles in this life. He wants us to walk in confidence, to
breath easy, and to partake in the peace that can only come
from the heart of Jehovah-shalom.

Shalom describes a state of complete fulfillment, wholeness,
and wellness. With the Lord, there is shalom.”

Make it personal: What does this passage reveal to me about
God? What does this passage reveal to me about myself? Based
on this, what changes do I need to make? What is my prayer
for today?

Have a week filled with Shalom,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Walking in Grace

Read: Lamentations 3:22-24

Two weeks ago I used this same passage of scripture combined with another. This time I would like you to read these three verses from Lamentations once again by themselves. Did you catch in verse 23 that God’s mercy and grace is new every morning? Not just on Monday, not just on Sunday, but each morning you wake up and roll out of bed.

This past Sunday in our worship service a song by Laura Story was shared. It really brought this scripture to mind when the words said, “You’ll walk in the power of my daily sufficient grace.” Do you walk in that power, or do you let Satan and the world try to tell you that you are a failure and that you are defeated because you are not good enough?

God says “My grace, my mercy for you is sufficient.” I looked up the word sufficient in the dictionary and this is how it is defined. “Enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.” In other words, no amount of guilt, shame, sin, failure, shortcomings, or whatever else, is greater than the mercy God has for you.

As Christians we need to claim that, we need to walk in that grace daily! The well-known secular humanist and novelist in England, Marghanita Laski, said just before she died in 1988, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” The saddest part of that quote is that she really did, she just didn’t believe it or receive it.

Of course God’s grace comes to us through Jesus Christ who paid the sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. When we accept him as our Lord and Savior and receive the gift of grace and forgiveness that he has bought for us, we can walk in it daily.

Alexander Maclaren once said, “The word “grace” is a kind of shorthand for the whole sum of unmerited blessings which come to us through Jesus Christ.” Praise the Lord that we can walk in that power. And may it also encourage us to be forgiving and graceful to each other as well.

Here is a link to a youtube version of Laura Story’s song. I hope that it will bless you as it has blessed me this week.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51LGsPMKeAE

Make it personal: What is weighing you down this week? A failure, a lie that says you are not good enough? Is it a feeling of guilt for something you have done this week or in the past? Whatever it is, it’s time to claim this verse and walk in the power of Christ’s daily sufficient grace!

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



Seasons of Change

Tree in front of church

Read: Genesis 8:22 and Revelation 21:1-8

Each fall I look forward to seeing the wonderful color that is
seen on the tree in front of our church. It is a tree that
drops annoying prickly balls all summer that have to be picked
up, but when fall comes it makes you quickly forget about the
summer annoyance. (See the picture of this tree attached)

Another reminder of change is that we used to have two of
these colorful tree’s in front of our church. That is until a
strong lightning storm took one of them down last summer. It
is now gone and the trunk is gone as well.

The seasons are like that in Central Illinois. You have the
heat and humidity of summer that turns into the bitter cold of
winter. You have the pleasant blessings of Spring and new
life, as well as the beauty and colors of fall. But each time
we go through one of these changes I am reminded of how the
seasons of nature also resemble the seasons of life.

If there is a bad time, you can rest assured that better times
are ahead. If you are in a good place, you thank God for that
blessing and ask Him to help you be prepared for times that
may be more difficult. When it is Winter we look forward to
Spring, and when it is hot in the summer we look forward to
the cold of Winter. Okay, that last one may be hard to sell to
some of you.

There is something to be said however about how the changing
seasons give us variety and keep things fresh for us. I have
often thought about how nice it would be to live in San Diego,
California where the median temperature year round is around
65 degrees. From an average low of 59 to an average high of
72, San Diego does not change much throughout the year.

In other words, they don’t look forward to Spring nearly as
much as we do in Central Illinois. Have you ever though of it
in that way? In the book of Genesis God promises Noah that
the seasons will remain until the end of the earth. In
Revelation, the last book of the Bible we are told about a New
Heaven and a New Earth. Both of these promises at the first
and the last of the Bible give us hope and expectation.

So, as winter comes, let’s enjoy the beauty of the fall season
and thank God that we have so much to look forward to, in life
and in the seasons that he has created for us. If you are in
a winter season right now in life, don’t give up, Spring is
coming! If you are enjoying the 70’s right now in life, thank
God and ask him to help you remember this moment.

And finally, remember this, all things work together for the
good of those who love God! Love God and He will see you
through any season of life that comes!

Make it personal: Take time over this coming month to thank
God for the good, the bad, the difficult, and the annoying
things of life. Thank him for the way that those things help
to mold us into the people and the followers of Jesus that he
desires for us to be.

Have a wonderful Fall,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



Hope over Despair

scan0034Read: Lamentations 3:19-26 and Romans 15:13

“When facing an unknown future, hope is as reasonable as despair!” This is a truth that our world needs to hear. In fact, maybe we ourselves need to hear it today? Jesus Christ offers hope to us in all that we face, but unfortunately people so often choose despair over this hope.

This past week I was reading an article in the Purpose magazine when that particular quote jumped out at me. It was a story written by John E. Eby and he attributes the quote to a Guideposts quote that he once ran across. Though many rough times in their lives John says, “Hope became a sustaining reality.”

The book of Lamentations in the Bible was written by the prophet Jeremiah as he lamented over the fall of Jerusalem. But in the midst of his weeping and mourning (lamenting) he holds out words of hope like we find in Lamentations 3:19-26. If you have not read it yet please do, perhaps this one line alone will encourage you to do that. Verse 22 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed.”

When rough and tough things come along in our lives we are tempted to give in to despair. Even Jesus’ 12 disciples did that at times when they were faced with a stormy sea or thousands of people that need to be fed. But then Jesus opens their eyes to hope and shows them that hope is just as logical and possible as the despair that they are feeling.

That hope, he proclaims, comes through Him. Our God is full of hope, even enough to dispel the despair that you might be feeling right now. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as your trust in him.”

Then it goes on to say that you can be a source of leading others to this hope as well. It says, “So that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Not only is the hope of Jesus for you, it is for all of those who will cross your path this week feeling like their despair has won.

I would even go as far as to reword the quote at the beginning to say, “Hope is MORE reasonable THAN despair!” Why? Because it is the only way to move past the hurt, anger, and whatever else you might be feeling in your situation. It boils down to this. When despair comes, Jesus is the answer to move you towards hope.

Make it personal: Pray to the Lord and ask him to help you make hope your default setting instead of despair. And then ask him to allow you to extend that hope to others you pass this week who made need it as well.

Have a hope-filled week everyone,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church



God is Love

Read: John 3

One of the most well known verses in the Bible is John 3:16. Most of you know it and many of you probably have it memorized. “For God so loved world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The rest of this story in John 3 is just as captivating and inspirational. For this weeks meditation I would like to share with you the paraphrased version of John 3:1-21 from the Message Bible. May we be encouraged, inspired, renewed, and born again, through the wonderful truth that God is love and he has shown that love to everyone.

3 1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”

3 Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”

4 “How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”

5-6 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

7-8 “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

9 Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”

10-12 Jesus said, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?

13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

19-21 “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

Make it personal:  The only thing that can be added to that is AMEN!

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




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