Midweek Reflections

From Sorrow to Repentance

Read: 2 Corinthians 7:10-13

When we are truly sorry for something we have done against God or against another person it usually brings forth a repentant heart within us. That repentance then leads us to an “eagerness” to clear ourselves as this passage proclaims.

Most Illinois basketball fans have bad memories of the way the 1989 season ended. The Flying Illini were ranked #1 in the country and picked by most to win the championship. Then in the final four they were upset by a Michigan team that they had beaten during the regular season.

I heard a story this week about Rumeal Robinson who played on that Michigan team. Apparently earlier in the season he had missed two free throws late in a game against Wisconsin that would have won the game for his team. He felt so bad about this that after each practice for the rest of the season he vowed to his team and coaches to shoot 100 extra foul shots before heading to the locker room.

Rumeal was then ready when he stepped to the foul line to shoot two shots with 3 seconds left in overtime in the national championship game. He made both and Michigan won the National Championship that year. Rumeal’s repentance had been genuine, and sorrow motivated him to work so that he would never make that mistake again.

When we are sorry for something we have done that sorrow should lead us to ask Christ to help us do better. If we say that we are sorry and continue to repeat the same behaviors then we are doing little to become better.

In this passage Paul says, “At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” When true Godly sorrow leads to repentance this should be our desire. To not only receive God’s grace but to allow it to change us from the inside out.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Don’t become bitter, become better.” Jesus can help us in that endeavor for sure. When we fail, his forgiveness is there for us, and his desire is to see us grow through that failure and become closer to his desire for our lives.

Make it personal: The next time you are sorry about something and seek repentance, ask Christ to help you overcome the attitude or temptation that led you down that road in the first place. His grace and his strength are sufficient!

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

Splendor and Majesty

Read: Psalm 104

Last week I was blessed to stand at the edge of one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. At that moment I truly understood the Psalmist’s words when he says, “He stretches out the heavens like a tent.” It was both awesome and humbling to stand at the Grand Canyon and view it’s splendor and majesty.

I was also impressed by the many cultures I rubbed shoulders with there. As I walked the trail and did other things I noticed the variety of languages and countries that were represented at this National Park. A true reminder that God’s creation worldwide is a blessing for all of us to enjoy.

It took me back 20 some years ago when I was a visitor to Austria and Switzerland and I marveled at the splendor and majesty of God seen in the Alps of Europe. Sure, these awesome sights have changed and evolved over the many years, but they are still the work of our God, the Creator.

The reason I was in Arizona last week was for our church convention. As a part of this convention Mennonite Church USA passed a resolution about caring for God’s creation. It was a reminder that we are to do what we can, and are called to do, as God’s people in caring for what God has blessed us with.

Several articles of our confession of faith speak to this…
Article 5 on Creation and Divine Providence says, “We believe that the universe has been called into being as an expression of God’s love and sovereign freedom alone.”

Article 6 on The Creation and Calling of Human Beings says,
“Human beings have been made for relationship with God, to live in peace with each other, and to take care of the rest of creation.”

And Article 24 on The Reign of God says, “We believe that the church is called to live now according to the model of the future reign of God. Thus, we are given a foretaste of the kingdom that God will one day establish in full. The church is to be a spiritual, social, and economic reality, demonstrating now the justice, righteousness, love, and peace of the age to come.”

These beliefs are rooted in scriptures throughout the Bible if you want to take the time to read them. (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 1:20; Revelation 21:5; Isaiah 19:23-24; 2 Peter 3:13; And those are just a few.

As we sing “How Great Thou Art” and say, “O Lord, My God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made…” How can we not have a sense of responsibility to care for the things that we have been so blessed with.

I realize that seems overwhelming when we consider the size and expanse of the whole earth but really it can start with us and where we live. I maybe can’t care for the Grand Canyon National Park but I can take care of the things within my reach, and in turn make a difference for God’s creation as a whole.

Make it personal: So often when people hear of creation care or care of the environment they think in political terms. Let’s think of this in spiritual terms this week. Why are we called to care for God’s creation? What does that mean for us in our everyday lives? Allow the Holy Spirit to help you answer those questions and then follow God’s lead.

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

Citizens of God’s Kingdom

Read: Psalm 24:1; Romans 5:1-5; Philippians 3:20-21; Ephesians 2:14-22

I am writing this week from Phoenix, Arizona where Mennonite Church USA is holding their convention. The theme this year is “Citizens of God’s Kingdom, healed in hope” and the passages listed above are the scriptures that we are focusing on during the convention.

It has been a wonderful reminder that despite borders, countries, and continents, we are all a part of God’s kingdom together as Christians and followers of Jesus Christ. No passport is required, no proof of identity, or customs are needed to be a part of this kingdom.

The hope and healing of Jesus Christ is what binds us together and connects us as his children. It is interesting that one of the theme passages for this week is Ephesians 2:14-22, a book in the New Testament that our church recently studied in the month of June. That scripture says….

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

Sometimes those barriers or dividing walls seem hard to overcome for us in the flesh. We allow hostility and regulations to stand between us instead of destroying those in the name and cross of Jesus Christ. This week has been a reminder of our need for Christ and our common bond in his kingdom.

One phrase that especially impacted me this week was from a song we sang at the opening worship session. We sang the song “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and in one of the verses it says, “ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” That single phrase has been challenging me the first couple days of this convention.

When our human flesh doubts what is possible, we need to ponder with a new fresh perspective what the Lord might be ready to do in our lives and in our relationships with God and each other. With humans the possibilities are limited, but with God they are beyond our imagination. They are unlimited!

I am excited about the rest of this week and I am especially excited about how this new epiphany might shape our perspectives, especially my own. Will you join me this week in “pondering anew what the Almighty can do?” I hope so! Blessings to all of you who are a part of this wonderful Kingdom of Heaven.

Make it personal: What new thing are you needing in your life? A new perspective? A new attitude? A new outlook? A new realization of God’s love for you? A new appreciation of your place in God’s kingdom? Whatever it is I hope you will look to God and consider what the Almighty might be ready to do in your life.

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

Redeeming Your Past

Read: Romans 8:31-39

For the past several years I have been going to the local nursing home every other week to read to the residents. I have covered many books during that time and the one I am reading now is especially captivating.

It is entitled “A Grace Revealed” by Jerry Sittser. Jerry writes about how God redeems the story of our lives. He writes from a very personal experience in which he lost his mother, wife, and daughter in one evening some years ago in a car accident. He was left to raise their other young children.

In the most recent chapter that I have been reading (Chapter 7 entitled “Time, Timing, and Timelessness”) he writes about memories and how they can sometimes be good and at other times keep us from living in the present. Here is what he writes.

“Memory enables us to experience the past, however indirectly, as it unfolds over time. It can’t change the past, of course; but it can keep it alive, if only in the head. In that sense it is a useful instrument. Without memory, we would become products of a past we can’t recall and will never know, and thus strangers to ourselves.”

And then he continues… “But memory does not always serve a useful purpose. At worst, it can actually keep us from living in the present moment. That can happen in at least two ways. For one, our memory can idealize the past so much that we want nothing more than to return to it. We remember the ideal marriage we had until something happened that changed it all… We remember the ideal family we had before… We remember the ideal job we had until… Those memories might be entirely accurate and reasonable. Still, what good is an ideal past if it immobilizes rather than inspires, awakening longing but never leads to fulfillment, makes us wish we could go backward rather than forward.”

Jerry shares some other thoughts before he says, “We have the power to choose how we remember and respond to the past, which enables us to engage the present moment in a redemptive way. How can we remember the past in a way that frees us to live, truly live, right now?

What a great challenge to think about! I encourage you to read this entire book if you get the chance, he has many more wonderful thoughts like that from his own experience that I believe can help all of us in our own experiences.

In Romans 8:37 it says, “In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Through the grace and power of Jesus Christ we can truly engage our present moments through the redemption offered to us in Christ. My prayer this week is that all of us would choose to conquer the bad memories of our past in the name of Jesus and live the present and future within his perfect will.

Make it personal: Jerry Sittser’s story is truly a story of redemption in the midst of much pain, struggle, and suffering. If you read his book and his story I believe it can help you to find God’s redemption in your life as well. When he talks about his life now you can truly tell he has found this redemption that he speaks about.

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

Fear Factories

Read: Psalm 46

Charlie Brown once said, “I’ve developed a new philosophy, I only dread one day at a time.” Hopefully that is not our attitude toward life but too often we allow fear to develop this kind of attitude within us.

Most of us remember the T.V. reality show “Fear Factor” in which the producers would create fearful circumstances to see who would win the contest of overcoming their fears the best. How often in your life do you create this scenario for yourself? How often do you allow your mind to become a factory that produces unnecessary and unneeded fear?

When we do that we end up with the dread that we see in Charlie Brown’s quote above. God’s Word reminds us that we do not have to live with that dread or that attitude. We have a Savior in Jesus who has overcome our greatest fears and anxieties, let’s turn to him when that fear arises.

I saw some recent statistics that said that 54% of Americans are afraid of being in a car crash. 36% are afraid of food poisoning from meat. 49% are afraid of not having enough money for retirement. 25% are afraid of natural disasters. We are fearing things that may not even come to pass in our lives.

On the slope of Longs Peak in Colorado lie the ruins of a huge tree. Naturalists say that it stood for over 400 years. It had weathered thousands of storms and had been hit with lighting 14 times. At the end, an army of beetles attacked the tree and leveled it to the ground.

This tremendous giant, that age had not withered, that lightning had not blasted, that storms had not subdued fell at last before beetles so small that a human could crush them between their forefinger and thumb. How often do we allow the beetles of worry, fear, stress, and tension to destroy our happiness and effectiveness.

In Psalm 46 we are reminded that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. In verse 7 it says “The Lord Almighty is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress.” It doesn’t mean that we will never have to face hard times, suffering, or unfortunate situations. If we read the story of Job we are reminded of that.

However, in the face of those storms God is with us and will walk with us through them. But we should not fear or worry about such things when they are only fragments of our imagination. Satan places them there to eat away at us much like the beetles ate away the 400 year old tree in Colorado.

In closing this week here are a few other portions of scripture to remind us about being on guard with our fears. God is with you, do not allow your life to be a factory of fear!

“Be strong, do not fear.” Isaiah 35:4
“Whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:1
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you..” Isaiah 43:1
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare.” Proverbs 29:25
“Perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18
“You will have nothing to fear.” Isaiah 54:14

Make it personal: Name your greatest fear today. Then go to the Lord in prayer and ask him to take it from you. There is no reason to fear things that have not, may not, and will not happen, so why should you allow those to rule your life? Jesus will calm that sea if you wake him up in the back of the boat (Mark 4:35-41).

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

Musical Pews

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22

This past Sunday I encouraged our church to sit in a different spot during worship for the rest of June. This is to go along with our current message series on the book of Ephesians. I guess instead of musical chairs this could be called musical pews. In this book of Ephesians Paul speaks often of how we are one in Christ and how unity in the body is very important.

The idea is really to foster new interactions between the people. Perhaps they will sit beside someone they don’t know as well or maybe they will realize that it’s kind of nice to practice flexibility in where we sit each Sunday.

I shared a funny story this past Sunday that went like this. this young couple at this small country church always sat on the back pew. Every Sunday they found their seat and then snuck out as the final prayer was being said.

But one Sunday they came in very late, and the back pews were all full. Their normal spot was taken by someone else. The usher told them that the only spot available was in the second row. He ushered them up and they sat down beside a church member who sat on the second row each week.

The church member didn’t recognize this couple and thought they were visitors, so she said, “Good to have you with us! Where are ya’ll from?” Kind of embarrassed, The husband looked at his wife and looked back at the lady and said, “The back row!”

It’s a story that brings a little humor to how we sometimes get very possessive about our seats in church. That possessiveness however often robs us out of interacting with others in Christ’s body. If we sat beside different people each week imagine how broad our relationships would become. It would foster our oneness in Christ for sure.

In these verses Paul is talking about Christ bringing down the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles. Our barriers may not be that large but I think all of us could agree that our individualistic culture is pulling as away from each other instead of closer to each other.

We need to be intentional about fostering our oneness in Jesus Christ. Church is a great place to do that. When believers gather together there is opportunity for growth, fellowship, and worship of our Lord. I hope that you will make the body of Christ a part of your weekly schedule. As busy as all of us are this is one thing we will not regret.

Now, where are you going to sit this Sunday?

Make it personal: Perhaps this is a month to turn a new leaf. Maybe you will start attending church more, maybe you will join a Fellowship group or Life group, perhaps you will start attending a Christian Education class? I encourage you to do that. Turn that leaf over!

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

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