Midweek Reflections

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

Youthful Enthusiasm

Read: Romans 12:9-21

It’s summer vacation and that means it’s Vacation Bible School time! It has been a blessing to see the energy and the enthusiasm this week as the community Vacation Bible School has been taking place here at the church. Record numbers are being set each day with well over 200 children in attendance.

The numbers are great but the most important thing is that the Word of God and the Good News of Jesus are being taught, talked about, and sown into the lives of all those children. The theme of SonWest Roundup has provided a fun western theme for the week and given all of the wonderful volunteers a lot of opportunities to get creative with the activities and their attire.

It truly is amazing to sit back and watch the enthusiasm that these children have. We adults would do well sometimes to loosen up and let the excitement of being a forgiven Christian be evident in our lives. Perhaps that is what Paul was encouraging in Romans 12 when he says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

When the children this week are encouraged to yell “Yeehaw!” they do it with zeal and fervor for sure. Yes, they are excited to be at Bible School with all of their friends, but I believe they are also excited about what they are hearing about Jesus. It is Good News! It is reason to be excited! So why not show it?

What a blessing it is to see various churches, volunteers, and children come together for such a wonderful week. I must say that it has been encouraging to see the adult volunteers this week show the same zeal and fervor that the children have shown. Their commitment to sharing the stories of Jesus and planting seeds of God in these kids lives will most surely bring a harvest in the days ahead. Thank you to all of those who gave your time to make a difference in this community and in these children’s lives!

As we live our lives outside of the exciting weeks of Bible School I would like to encourage us to remember these youth and their excitement. May it encourage us to be enthusiastic about our faith as well. How can you not be thrilled when you hear truth and promises in God’s Word like these…..

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

And those are just a few. Let’s join the children at Bible School this week and show our enthusiasm and excitement for what God has done for us!

Make it personal: When you see a child show enthusiasm or excitement this week let it remind you of our need to do the same. Join with the apostle Paul and say, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice!”

Have an enthusiastic week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church

The Pride Test

Read: Proverbs 11:2 and 16:18

Pride has always been a challenge for the human race. It’s not a new problem, there is evidence all the way back to the beginning of time and the story of Cain and Able in which we see it’s destructiveness. But it somehow seems to find new ways to creep into our lives with each passing generation.

Just this past week the front cover of Time magazine had an article about the latest generation being the “Me, Me, Me” generation. I’m not so sure they share it alone though. Each generation seems to learn from the one before it. Maybe we all need to step back and take a look in the mirror?

Solomon shared many great nuggets of wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Several of those verses deal with pride. He says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace.” (11:2) He also says, “Pride goes before destruction.” (16:18) Unfortunately even Solomon forgot some of these great nuggets later on in his life.

As Christians who follow Jesus Christ we need to foster a spirit of humility in our lives as Jesus did. It is opposite of what we see in the world and unfortunately is sometimes opposite of what we see in our own lives. Because of this we need to constantly be seeking the help of the Holy Spirit in this area.

Oswald Sanders once said, “Pride is a sin of whose presence its victim is least conscious.” He then went on to give three helpful tests that can help us keep our pride in check.

1. The test of precedence. How do we react when another is selected for the assignment we expected, or for the office we coveted? When another is promoted and we are overlooked? When another outshines us in gifts and accomplishments?

2. The test of sincerity. In our moments of honest self-criticism we will say many things about ourselves, and really mean them. But how do we feel when others, especially our rivals, say exactly the same things about us?

3. The test of criticism. Does criticism arouse hostility and resentment in our hearts, and cause us to fly into immediate self-justification?

These are helpful things to think about. Sometimes we view pride as a puffed out chest or a cocky attitude. Many times it is more subtle than that and can even creep its way into our heart and minds without anyone else realizing it.

May Christ be our example. May his Spirit give us the conviction, the support, and the encouragement to cultivate humility in our lives instead of the often promoted pride that we see in the world. Perhaps we can be an example of Jesus Christ to someone that might pass our way this week.

Make it personal: Pray about what area of pride you may need to deal with this week. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak into your heart and bring about a Christ like attitude in that area. May humility and a gentle, loving, respect for others be our mantra. Remember, Christ is our Center!

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

In need of a miracle?

Read: John 11:38-43

How many times in your life have you faced something that seemed impossible? Most likely you have been there more than once. One time it may have been work related, another time it may have been family related, and yet another time health related or something else.

Sometimes we look at the mountain in front of us and forget that we serve a Lord that has moved many mountain. This past Sunday in the message I referred to the demon possessed man in Mark 5. He and those in the region of Gerasenes probably thought that his condition was going to be a life long sentence, until Jesus came to shore and the man fell down at his feet. He was in need of a miracle and when he called on Jesus the mountain was moved. He was healed!

In John 11 we read the story of Lazarus. Last year I visited the tomb in Bethany where this story took place. What a feeling to be standing at the place where one of Christ’s most amazing miracles took place. To Mary and Martha the mountain looked immovable. Their brother had been dead for three days and buried. But then Jesus came to town!

Those are stories in the Bible that give testimony to what Jesus did when he walked on this earth. But we still have stories today that are told in similar fashion. A mountain was moved, a fear or addiction was overcome, an obstacle defeated, and all of them in the name of Jesus Christ!

The music group Third Day has a song entitled “I need a Miracle” and the words in the chorus are a great reminder for us today. It says, “No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, There will come a time when you can’t make it on your own. And in your hour of desperation, Know you’re not the only one, praying Lord above, I need a miracle.”

Whatever that mountain in front of you is please remember three things. 1. You are not alone. 2. You can’t make it on your own. 3. Jesus wants to help you conquer it! Let us live out the promise of Romans 8:37 that says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Make it personal: If you need more reminders of the miracles that Jesus can perform take your Bible out this week and look through the gospels for the many cases in which Jesus moved mountains in peoples lives. He wants to do the same for you!

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

Reflection Archives