Midweek Reflections

An Attractive Life

Read: Matthew 5:3-10

In a recent devotional in Our Daily Bread, David H. Roper shared some interesting thoughts from Matthew 5 and the beatitudes on what it looks like to be an authentic Christian.  He writes….

“I applied for a position in a Christian organization years ago and was presented with a list of legalistic rules having to do with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and certain forms of entertainment. “We expect Christian behavior from our employees” was the explanation. I could agree with this list because I, for reasons mostly unrelated to my faith, didn’t do those things. But my argumentative side thought, Why don’t they have a list about not being arrogant, insensitive, harsh, spiritually indifferent, and critical? None of these were addressed.

Following Jesus can’t be defined by a list of rules. It’s a subtle quality of life that’s difficult to quantify but can best be described as “beautiful.”  The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–10 sum up that beauty: Those who are indwelt by and dependent on the Spirit of Jesus are humble and self-effacing. 

They’re deeply touched by the suffering of others. They’re gentle and kind. They long for goodness in themselves and in others. They’re merciful to those who struggle and fail. They’re single-minded in their love for Jesus. They’re peaceful and leave behind a legacy of peace. They’re kind to those who misuse them, returning good for evil. And they’re blessed, a word that means “happy” in the deepest sense.  This kind of life attracts the attention of others and belongs to those who come to Jesus and ask Him for it.”  David’s thoughts are good things to consider when we think about what is right and wrong in our world.  Let’s look like Jesus authentically through and through!

Make It Personal: The kind of life described in the beatitudes and in the devotional above attracts the attention of others and belongs to those who come to Jesus and ask Him for it.  Which attributes from Matthew 5 do you especially need in your life?  How can you grow in this?

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes  



Oak Trees & Squash

Read: Galatians 5:13-26

Before James Garfield became President of the United States, he was principal of Hiram College in Ohio.  A father once asked him if a particular course of study could be simplified so that his son could go through by a shorter route.  “Certainly,” replied Garfield.  “But it all depends upon what you want to make of your boy.  When God wants to make an oak tree, he takes a hundred years.  When he wants to make a squash, he requires only two summers.”

In Galatians 5 one of the fruits of the Spirit is patience and forbearance.  As Garfield mentioned to the father in the story above, patience often produces a result that we rarely get when we try to force our own desires in front of the Lord’s desire.   There is a reason our parents always told us that patience is a virtue.  We live in a world that has nearly forgotten what patience is all about.  With immediate access to almost anything via our smartphones we shouldn’t lose our ability to “wait upon the Lord” in some things that truly need to be waited upon.  

This past year has reminded me again that the Lord will lead us in every area of life.  We just have to be willing to be led and sometimes wait on that leading or direction to come in God’s perfect timing.  May all of us learn to practice this virtuous fruit of patience in our lives.  If we wait we may just be amazed at what the Lord had seen coming all along.  Remember the example of the Oak Tree and the Squash.

Make It Personal: What is it in your life right now that requires patience?  Remember what Isaiah 40:31 says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes 



Receive Him Back In Love

Read: Philemon

We have recently been hearing the Bible stories of Joseph from John Walsh’s Bible Telling Ministry during our Sunday morning messages.  For the reflection this week I share his short story on the book of Philemon in the New Testament.  It also is a good lead in to what we will hear in the story of Joseph this coming Sunday.  Here is the story.

Onesimus was a slave who ran away from his master Philemon. He went to Rome and eventually met Paul who led him to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Onesimus stayed with the apostle and helped him in the ministry. Eventually they knew it was time for the “runaway slave” to return to his master. Paul was a personal friend with Philemon, so he wrote a letter to help the two men reconcile their relationship. He said… 

Philemon—my dear friend—greetings to you, your family, and the church that meets in your home. I pray for you on a regular basis. I thank God for the love you have for the Lord Jesus Christ and for fellow believers. Those who meet you are encouraged in their faith.

Dear brother, you know me. I don’t normally hesitate in telling you what is right and wrong. I’m usually quick in reminding you of your duties in Christ. But I’m not going to do that this time. Instead, I am going to beg.

Picture this in your mind. I’m an old man who is in prison for the cause of Jesus Christ. In my weakness, God sent me a helper, Onesimus—a man who caused you pain and grief. But God sent him to me and I was able to introduce him to Jesus. He yielded his life to Christ and then became invaluable as a helper to me. In a way, it was like you sent him here to help me because you couldn’t come yourself. I don’t know how I can carry on without him; but he and I both know he should go back to you. He was helping me in your stead, but we didn’t have your permission.

Listen, he was a worthless slave when he ran away from you. Now he’s coming back as a valuable brother in Christ, a co-worker in the ministry and a dear friend of mine. Receive him back in love.

Oh, concerning those things he stole from you —put those on my account. Here, I will pick up the quill and write this in my own handwriting. “I, Paul, will repay it.” I won’t remind you of the fact that you actually owe me your very life.  Please receive him as if you were receiving me. You’ll bring joy to my life when I hear how you’ve accepted Onesimus back into your life and home.  But what am I talking about? I know you’ll do this and even more.  By the way, prepare your guest room for me. I know you’ve been praying that I’d be set free and come back to visit you. I think the Lord is going to answer your prayers.  Greet all my good friends who are there. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  – Paul.

Make It Personal:  Who do you need to receive back in love?  Many things happen to us that can offend, make us mad, and dishonor us.  How we respond is very important in how we move on, heal, and restore relationships.  The story of Joseph and Onesimus encourages us to receive those people back in love instead of moving ahead in vengeance and hatred.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes



You Are There!

Read: Psalm 139

When I grew up in Carlsbad, New Mexico we would visit one of the largest caverns in all of the world whenever someone came to visit.  In all I probably went through the Carlsbad Caverns National Park more than 25 times in those 17 years.  One year I even went on an adventurous hike into “New Cave” which required helmets with lights and no path to show us the way.  It should have been very scary but I was too young to know that I guess. 

In Psalm 139 David reflects on how God knows us more personally than anyone else on earth.  He also reflects on the truth that God is omnipresent and everywhere at all times.  In verse 8 he says, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  In verses 11 and 12 he says, “If I say, ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you.”

Wherever we are, God is there!  This can be comforting, unsettling, and incomprehensible for us at times but it is something we must always know and be aware of.  From the farthest depths of space to the deepest caves of the earth God is there.  From our greatest times of need to our unfortunate steps of disobedience, God is there.  In our human understanding we cannot comprehend it, but it is true.  This is why Solomon encourages us to “Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways submit to him.”  Life is full of ups, downs, and unknowns, but it is comforting to know that we serve a God who is there with us through it all.

 Make It Personal:  As you go about your day and week think about God being right there with you at all times.  This can be a comfort to you in times of need, perhaps help you to resist temptation in times of trial, and even bring forth worship when we consider the words of Psalm 139.  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14  Read this entire Psalm today and praise God for being there at all times. 

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes                          



Begin With Prayer

Read: Nehemiah 1

When the name Nehemiah from the Bible 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 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 proceeded in that way?  What if he did not take time to mourn for what happened, to fast and seek after God’s direction through prayer?  Things might have ended up much differently for him and the people of Israel.  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.  

 

Make It Personal:  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 is 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. 

Have a blessed week,  Glen Rhodes 



Recalibrating Normal

Read: 1 John 2:15-17

Parents are often good at saying “no” to their children.  In fact, we probably focus too much on the negative things our children do rather than on the positive things they do.  Let’s try to encourage them more in the days ahead.  With that said, there are many things in our world and culture right now that need a loud and pronounced “no” from parents when they go against God’s Word, our faith, and God’s created order.  If we do not speak up about the many things we see on television and in our culture how will our children know truth, morality, and God’s will?

John Stonestreet addressed these things in a recent Breakpoint Commentary.  This is what he said, “More and more, Christian parents will need to get used to saying “no” to things that are widely normal in American life, and not just because of the obvious moral shifting happening all around us. Counter-cultural priorities reconfigured around restored loves, renewed loyalties, and redeemed liturgies will earn us some strange looks, especially when it comes to money, to stuff, and to time. The forces that shape most American families today aren’t centered around real needs, at least not spiritual needs. “Keeping up with the Joneses” and “perfecting leisure time” are  much higher priorities for most of us than fostering and nurturing strong family bonds and bringing up kids who know and love Jesus.”

In the last part of his commentary he addressed how the pandemic has offered us new ways to look at what normal looks like in the days ahead.  He said, “Covid caught all of us off guard, but unexpected challenges like it are wonderful opportunities to recalibrate. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, we may want to look carefully at whether or not “normal” is what we want to return to. Or if instead, we should rebuild the structures and habits that make a home a good place to land the next time the world throws us a curve.”  These are good things to keep in mind in the days ahead when we often feel like we are living as strangers in a strange land.  As John tells us in the scripture verses for this week, “Do not love the world or anything in the world… for everything in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world.”   

 

Make It Personal:  How are you and your children being influenced by the moral shifting taking place in our culture these days?  Don’t just turn them loose on devices, videos, and books, without conversing with them about the good, the moral, and the ways of God found in His Word.  May we recalibrate our new normal to put God’s ways before the world’s ways.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes                                     




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