Midweek Reflections

Take it Away!

Read: James 4:1-12

This past week I was listening to Christian Radio and I heard a newer song by Toby Mac entitled “Steal My Show.” The words are about Toby inviting God into his concerts. The words to the first verse go like this….

“Another cold night, Another Late Flight, It’s almost show time, and diverse city is waitin’ on me. We got a packed house, the crowd is callin’ out, They want the beat to drop, but what we really need is you
If you wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch you go
If you got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away
Need you to steal my show, can’t wait to watch you go-o-o-o
So take it away”

That attitude is what James is encouraging in all of our lives. In chapter 4 he says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God… Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Do we do that? Do we do it often enough? Imagine the difference it can make when we face a tough day, a difficult circumstance, or a time of confusion.

I remember watching T.V. shows in the past where the Master of Ceremonies introduces the main act. When it is time for them to come on stage the MC will say, “Take it Away!” You see, Jesus wants to do that for us, he wants to step into our life and everything that comes along with our life, but we have to give up the control and invite him in.

Perhaps that is a good approach to take this week with whatever you happen to be dealing with. God wants to be a part of everything we are a part of. Work, school, family, you name it, he would like to be a part of it.

In the last verse of Toby’s song he mentions that. He sings…
“Every day we can chose to say
(Chorus)My Life, my friends, my heart, It’s all yours, God, take it away, my dreams, my fears, my family, my career, take it away, It’s all yours, God. Take it away, take it away, It’s you I wanna live for.”

Are we ready to say that to Christ? It’s all yours! If we do we will realize how much lighter our lives become. With Almighty God at our right hand we not only have a wise and compassionate friend, we have the one who created us, the one who is ready to be the main attraction in our life again.

Make it personal: Pick one of those things in Toby’s last verse above and decide to commit it to the Lord this week. Say a prayer and specifically ask the Lord to take it and run with it. He can do more than you could ever ask or imagine!

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

Praying for the Persecuted

Read: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

The Apostle Paul was very familiar with persecution. Everywhere he went in what is today Turkey, Greece, and Israel, he ran into people who were trying to stop the spread of the Gospel message of Jesus. The interesting thing about Paul is that before Jesus transformed his life he was the one who was trying to persecute and kill the followers of Jesus.

In this passage of scripture Paul realizes that following Jesus will usually bring about some form of persecution. For many of us in the U.S. it is hard to imagine what Paul or some others in the world today suffer for their simple proclamation of faith.

I have recently read of Christians in Syria being persecuted during the ongoing civil war there. In fact, one town that is heavily Christian and still speaks the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke has recently been attacked time and time again by both sides in the conflict.

I have heard about numerous Christians in Nigeria that continue to have their churches burned and houses raided. Many Christians in Iraq have fled since the U.S. invasion because of being persecuted for their faith. Some in Iran continue to be imprisoned for their faith in Christ.

At times it seems like there is little we can do when radical governments and other radical groups choose to persecute people because they disagree with their beliefs. It is probably hard for us to truly understand what some of these Christians deal with on a daily basis.

But we can pray! We can pray for their release, their stamina, their courage, and their deliverance from what we often take for granted in parts of the world that have freedom from these kind of things. Let’s pray together that the Lord will protect them, but most of all that they will remain strong in their faith. Someday we will all be free from the evil and persecution of this world.

Make it personal: Go online or to youtube this week to read and watch stories about how some people around the world are being persecuted for their faith. Stories about this are easy to find and will encourage you to be a prayer warrior for many people around the world.

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

Get Wisdom

Read: Proverbs 4

People spend a lot of money these days to get an education. College education’s continue to rise in price and students continue to go into debt in order to attain their degree’s. Learning and gaining knowledge is always a good thing. But too often people seek worldly knowledge while allowing Godly knowledge to take a back seat.

Proverbs is a book in the Bible in which Solomon shares the importance of gaining wisdom and knowledge from above. In the entire 4th Proverb he does not mention God once, and yet if you go back to Proverbs 1 you realize that all of his Proverbs assume that Godly wisdom is the most important.

In Proverbs 1:7 he says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” All of Proverbs confirms the wisdom and guidance of God throughout the Bible. Solomon is speaking as a father speaks to his son whom he cares about deeply.

We are truly blessed to have God’s Word passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. No other book is like it in age or in its power to transform life. We would do well to read it, study it, apply it, and allow it to shape us into wise Godly followers of Jesus Christ.

Bill Gothard once said, “Wisdom is seeing life from God’s point of view.” Vance Havner once noted that many college professors are searching for wisdom while the janitors that clean their offices may have discovered it years ago.

That is a testimony that this wisdom that comes from God is for all people and sometimes we would do good to see that wisdom in people whom the world may overlook. I recently read a book entitled “Lead, For God’s Sake” by Todd Gongwer, in which the janitor of the school shared his Godly wisdom on leadership with the struggling and frustrated high school basketball coach.

That was his calling and ministry, not only to be the janitor of the school but to help lead others to find God’s will and God’s direction for their life. Proverbs is only the beginning of this heavenly wisdom. I hope you will find time in your busy schedules to seek out the true wisdom of God in his word. It’s free and it’s more valuable in life than all of the wisdom we go into debt to attain.

Make it personal: Did you know that there are 31 Proverbs? That means that you can read one Proverb each day and finish the book in a month. Get Wisdom!

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

The Danger of “I”dols

Read: Exodus 20:3-4

One thing in the Bible that people are usually pretty familiar with are the 10 Commandments. They give guidance for our spiritual lives and a few of them are even reflected in the laws of the land. Do not steal, do not murder, etc.

But the first two commandments seem to be getting ignored more and more in today’s culture of narcissism. They say, “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath, or in the waters below.”

When we think of idols today the first things that usually come to people’s minds are related to television shows, athletes, music stars, and movie stars. We seldom think of idols in the form of Baal or other idols we read about in the Bible.

In reality though, today’s idols are very similar to those of many years past. They are things, people, hobbies, and so on that take our focus off of God and put our focus elsewhere. In the case of narcissism (defined as an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. Self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism) it puts the focus squarely on ourselves.

In a recent “Breakpoint” commentary (http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/23183) John Stonestreet related this to many of the recent stories we are reading in the news. He brought to light a quote that the late Chuck Colson once made. He said, ” “The cure for narcissism, is stepping away from the mirror and looking at someone else — especially Him (Jesus) who is the true desire of us all.”

In this age of Facebook, Twitter, Vines, reversible camera’s on our phones, personal blogs, etc. we need to be careful that we are not making an idol of ourselves. Christ wants us to have self-confidence, but he wants us to find it in our relationship with God not ourselves.

There are some valuable uses for today’s technology and I personally find Facebook and Twitter to be very useful with keeping up with friends, family, and other events; but I hope that I would never find my worth through those things. My worth and your worth is truly found in God and through his Son Jesus Christ, not how many “likes” we got on yesterday’s post.

In the end, we truly will be most content and happy when we place our focus on God. As Mr. Stonestreet said in his blog, “Jesus Christ is not just the cure for narcissism. He’s the cure for all forms of sinful pride and selfishness, and every other sin.”

My prayer this week is that we would refuse to be drawn into the “me first” approach of the world and recommit ourselves to these first two commandments. In Matthew 22:34-39 when the experts in the law were trying to test Jesus and ask him which of the commandments were the greatest he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And second…. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Make it personal: In the normal activities of your week try to notice the appearance of narcissism in your life and in others around you. If we become aware of this sinful attitude it will be easier to keep ourselves from falling into it.

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

Smiley Faces

Read: Philippians 4:4-9

In our world of texting and emails the smiley face 🙂 has become a nice way to communicate joy, laughter, and good feelings as we converse back and forth. Some of them are simple as the one above and others become quite elaborate. But I was reminded yesterday about how important it is to share those smiles on our faces as well.

I was having one of those days yesterday. Things just seemed to be piling up and nothing really seemed to be going particularly well. But there were three people in the course of my day who helped to brighten it and make me feel blessed. I did not know these people, I did not talk to these people, but their wonderful smile truly blessed me.

One of them was in a car, one was in a store, and another one was walking down a sidewalk. I don’t know why they smiled at me and perhaps it wasn’t even directed at me, but their joyful spirit reminded me that my difficult day was not my lot in life.

We are reminded often in the Bible that “the Joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10). In Philippians 4 Paul proclaims that rejoicing is not only a way to bless our lives but a way to bless others as well. It brings peace and brings to mind things that are praiseworthy, pure, and good.

E. Stanley Jones once said, “When I met Christ, I felt that I had swallowed sunshine.” I think we know that, I think we have experienced that, but sometimes we need to remind our faces to show that. I am thankful for those three people yesterday who blessed me in that way.

I heard a popular song recently that had the lyrics, “I’ve been waiting to smile, been holding it in for a while.” My prayer for all of us this week is that we would let it out and not hold it in any longer. My prayer is that our physical smiles will outnumber our texted or emailed smiley faces.

You just never know how much of a blessing you might be if you walk around with a smile on your face and have a joyful spirit and attitude that backs up your smile. Not only will you be blessed, but you will bless others as well!

Make it personal: Here are several more short scriptures to help us make this personal this week…..
Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation”
Jer. 15:16: “Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
1 John 1:4: “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”
James 1:2-4: “My brethren, count it all joy..”
1 Peter 1:8-9: “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…”

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

Magic Words

Read: 2 Corinthians 7:2-13

When our daughter was very young she loved watching the large purple dinosaur named “Barney” on T.V.. One of Barney’s best known songs was a song that encouraged children to use the magic words of “please” and “thank you.” Even as I write about it now the song begins to echo in my mind once again.

As adults those words are still very helpful and polite to use of course, but in people relationships there are two other words that are of utmost importance. Those two words are “I’m Sorry!” At almost every wedding I am a part of I will somehow include the encouragement to the bride and groom to make those magic words a part of their normal vocabulary.

When we are willing and able to be sorry for something we have done to someone else, and speak it to them, we open the door for true, meaningful, and healing reconciliation to take place. When we are not sorry, the festering and anger often lead us to a boiling point that is neither healthy or Godly.

In this passage from 2 Corinthians Paul is talking more about the repentance of the church than he is about repentance between individuals. But the results are similar. The repentance that restores our relationship with Christ can also restore our relationships with friends, your spouse, your child, a co-worker, or anyone else.

In verse 9 Paul says, “Yet now I am made happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led to repentance.” Hannah More once said, “A Christian will find it cheaper to pardon than to resent. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.”

Being sorry and granting forgiveness is a two-way street. But if we are willing to walk that path with each other our lives can be so much more enjoyable and our relationships so much stronger than if we hang on to those wrongs and hurt feelings.

At some point in all of our lives we are going to do something, say something, or react to something in a way that is sinful and/or wrong. What we do about it after the fact matters a lot! Someone once said, “He that doth not forgive burns the bridge over which he himself will someday need to pass.” We could also add “He that does not ask for forgiveness” as well.

Barney called them “Magic Words” but I think we as Christians should call them “Godly Words.” After all it pleases the heart of God when we are truly sorry and repentant and we make it known to the Lord and to those we have wronged.

Make it personal: How hard is it for you to say “I’m Sorry!” How many times have you spoken those words in the last month or year? Think about that this week and be aware of the opportunities you have to speak those words. You will find both healing and blessings when they become a part of your everyday vocabulary.

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

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