Midweek Reflections

Finish Well

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

As the Apostle Paul ends his second letter to his co-worker in the ministry Timothy he reminds him and others to finish the race strong and keep the faith. He says, “There is in store for us a crown of righteousness” at the end of the race.

Back on October 20, 1968 at 7 pm, a few thousand spectators remained in the Mexico City Olympic Stadium. It was cool and dark. The last of the marathon runners, each exhausted were being carried off to first-aid stations. More than an hour earlier, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, looking as fresh as when he started the race, crossed the finish line, the winner of the 26 mile, 385 yard event.

As the remaining spectators prepared to leave, those sitting near the marathon gates suddenly heard the sound of sirens and police whistles. All eyes turned to the gate. A lone figure wearing the colors of Tanzania entered the stadium. His name was John Stephen Akhwari. He was the last man to finish the marathon.

His leg bloodied and bandaged, severely injured in a fall, he grimaced with each step. He hobbled around the 400 meter track. The spectators rose and applauded him as if he were the winner. After crossing the finish line, Akhwari slowly walked off the field without turning to the cheering crowd.

In view of his injury and having no chance of winning a medal, someone asked him why he had not quit. He replied, “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish it.”

That is the inspiration that Paul is encouraging in this passage. God has placed us here for a purpose. In the end we will receive a wonderful crown of righteousness if we have followed Christ and his path, but in the meantime we need to keep on the path and finish the race.

Sometimes that path may make us fall and sometimes we may get bloodied or beat up, but Jesus promises to see us through those times if we keep our eyes on him. Keeping him at the center of our lives will help us stay focused on the finish line mentioned in 2 Timothy 4. May we keep the faith!

Make it personal: While we run the race we need to not only look for the finish line, we need to draw on Christ’s strength and his direction in the day we are living. What might Jesus be calling us to do for him today? That may be a part of finishing well!

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

Casting Vision

Read: Exodus 3:1-10 and Acts 16:6-10

Soon after Disney World in Florida was completed someone said, “Isn’t it too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” Upon hearing that, Mike Vance, the creative director of Disney Studios replied, “He did see it, that’s why it is here.” The importance of vision can never be underestimated.

In the pages of scripture we are also reminded of the importance of vision. God’s vision revealed to His people (God’s Story is My Story). In Exodus 3 Moses receives his call and the vision of the promised land for God’s people. In Acts 16 Paul receives another vision to carry the Gospel message to those in Macedonia. Both servants eventually responded to the vision they saw.

I believe that God continues to give each of us certain visions of what His future plan for our lives and our world is, but if they are not cast out and made known they have little chance of fulfilling their purpose. It would be like a fisherman sitting on the side of the lake refusing to cast out his line. No fish will be caught without that action.

In his book, First Things First, author Stephen Covey writes about Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who survived the death camps of Nazi Germany. Frankl made a startling discovery about why some survived the horrible conditions and some did not.

“He looked at several factors – health, vitality, family structure, intelligence, survival skills. Finally he concluded that none of these factors was primarily responsible. The single most significant factor, he realized, was a sense of future vision – the impelling conviction of those who were to survive is that they had a mission to perform, some important work left to do.

Surely that is what drove Moses and Paul to fulfill God’s call and vision upon their lives. Many lives were saved both physically and undoubtedly spiritually. Those same visions are alive in us today (God’s Story is My Story). As God’s people we continue to receive visions of how to reach the lost and needy people in our world. We continue to receive visions for what direction to go with our lives.

Don’t keep them to yourselves! Share them, cast them out, and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. Walt Disney may have never seen the fulfillment of what Disney World became in Florida and we may never see the fulfillment of a vision that the Lord has placed upon our lives, but that’s no reason not to cast it and see what Jesus will do.

Make it personal: What vision has God given to you? If you can’t name one perhaps you should pray and ask for it. The Lord has placed all of us here on this earth for a purpose and once he reveals that to us it’s time to start casting the line and seeing what his future plan is all about.

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

Les Mis and U2

Read: Matthew 3:1-21

The Bible should always be our first source for answers when the big questions of life arise.  It has the uncompromisable wisdom of God that is for all people.  But just like Nicodemus in Matthew 3 our world is often on a journey of discovering God’s truth and God’s plan for their lives.

We sometimes see that in our culture in interesting ways.  Two examples that came to my mind this week are the musical Les Miserables and the Irish rock band U2.  Both of these are great examples of secular artists in search of larger answers to life.

In Les Miserables (which is now a movie in theatres) the original French author Victor Hugo wrote his story in 1862 about the many struggles, evils, triumphs, and stories of grace and redemption that so often surround us in this world.  Many of those cause us to ask and consider important ideals such as justice, grace, and forgiveness that find their home in the words of scripture.

The music group U2 also uses the art of music to search for answers and provided insights on many themes found in the teachings of Christ and in the Bible as a whole.  One of their songs entitled “Grace” has a very powerful chorus that says….

“What once was hurt, What once was friction, What left a mark
No longer stings, Because grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”  Other songs ask difficult questions that remind us of Nicodemus’ search for Jesus and his questions such as “how can a man be born again when he is old?”

You see Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council, he was not suppose to be hanging out with Jesus in the dark and asking these important questions, but yet he wanted to know.  As we go through life it helps us to ask difficult questions and seek the truth.

We know that truth is found in God’s Word and in the life of Christ.  It’s encouraging to know that even secular culture can’t hide from that.  Not all things in this world are of redeeming quality, not all things help us to ponder God’s work in our world, but when it does we can step back and appreciate that the themes of God’s story are truly evident and important to us all.

Make it personal:  As you watch television, movies, and read books be looking for themes of God’s story in them.  Grace, forgiveness, justice, redemption, searching, finding, overcoming evil.  Perhaps these themes in pop culture are ways that you can engage your friends in a dialogue about faith in Jesus Christ?  The one true answer!

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

Things to Hold onto

Read: 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1

Young children often have certain things that they hold on to and carry with them wherever they go. A blanket, a doll, a football, or other things that help them feel secure, happy, and content. As we grow older, the items change but there are still beliefs, worldviews, and convictions that still shape us and communicate who we are and what is important to us.

In 2 Corinthians Paul was writing to the church in Corinth about holding on to things that were false, dangerous, and pulling them away from the power of God and the truth of Christ in their lives. In verse 17 he says, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.”

Just like Corinth, the world today has many of those pulls as well. Four weeks ago we were saddened and dismayed by the violence we saw in Newtown, Connecticut and everyone was talking about ways to keep violence from becoming so prevalent in our culture.

And yet it’s sad this week to see the movie “Texas Chainsaw 3D”, a movie with killing and violence as it’s main theme beat out “The Hobbit” for the top grossing movie revenue. How quickly we forget! Perhaps with Paul’s encouragement we can find things to hold on to that will keep us content, happy, wholesome, and in tune with God.

I read a blog this week from a pastor in which he listed 10 things that they (their church) hold on to. Things that are non-negotiable and as he says, “These are the hills that we would die on.” They were listed as follows…..

1. The Bible is true and is the ultimate catalyst for life-change.
2. Lost people matter to God, and therefore they ought to matter to us.
3. We should be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure.
4. It is normal for Christ followers to manifest authenticity and grow in their spiritual maturity.
5. The church should operate as a unified community of servants stewarding their spiritual gifts.
6. Loving relationships should permeate every aspect of church life.
7. We need other people to help with life-change.
8. Excellence honors God and inspires people.
9. Churches should be led by those with leadership gifts, and structured according to the nature and mission of the church.
10. Full devotion to Christ and His cause is normal for every believer.

It made me realize that this exercise could be helpful for all of us. It could be very beneficial for our churches and our own personal lives to sit down and write out what our 10 non-negotiables would be. In fact, it sounds like a great way to start out the new year.

In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” May that be truth that we hold on to!

Make it personal: Try making your list of 10 things this week. Put it in your Bible, on your frig., or somewhere that you can see it throughout 2013. What are they things you will hold onto tightly this year? Are they God pleasing?

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

Optimism for 2013

Read: Luke 5:17-26

I used to love listening to motivational speaker and fellow Christian Zig Zigler speak. He passed away this past November at the age of 86. What a great example of optimism and a positive attitude he conveyed to us all. One time he said that he was such an optimist that he would go after Moby Dick in a rowboat and take the tarter sauce with him.

That’s the kind of optimism that we need to enter this New Year with. It’s much too easy to watch the news (which mostly focuses on the negative) and get down about where things are headed in our world. Instead, we need to understand the challenges ahead but approach them with optimism and faith that God is still in the business of the positive.

It reminds us of the passage in Luke 5 where the paralyzed man’s friends wanted to get their friend to Jesus to be healed. The crowd was huge and it seemed impossible to reach him, but they had faith that if they did all they could do Jesus would see their need and heal their friend.

They climbed the thatch or tile roof, made a hole, and lowered the man down on a mat right in front of Jesus. Jesus not only healed the man so that he could get up and walk, he also forgave him of his sins. They could have stayed home and said the crowds were too big to reach Jesus, but no, they had faith and that faith was not going to let them be stopped.

I truly believe that Zig Zigler’s optimism was born out of his faith in Jesus Christ. He spoke of it often and his faith is what allowed him to approach life and everything else in the world with such a great attitude.

As we begin 2013, I hope that we can have the faith of the friends in Luke 5 and the optimism of Mr. Zigler for the New Year ahead. God has done great things in our world, and will continue to do great things through His Son Jesus Christ even if CNN, Fox News, and all of the others choose not to report about it.

Let us face the year ahead with anticipation of the good that Christ is going to do in our midst. And when it’s over we can respond like the crowd did in Luke 5. Verse 26 says, “Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today (this year).”

Make it personal: Try to focus on the positive this year. If terrible news on T.V. is bringing you down then turn it off and turn on something that will lift your spirit. Try to focus on the good and ask the Lord to redeem the bad. Make it a great year!

Happy New Year Everyone,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church

Directed to the Savior

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

Every other month I write a short article about faith and life for the local newspaper.  This month I wrote about the Wise Men (Magi) from Matthew 2.  Since today is the day after Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth I decided to share that article for my midweek meditation this week.  Here it is….

One of the most popular Christmas gifts of the past several years has been GPS (Global Positioning System) units for our vehicles.  I sometimes wonder how long those units will continue to be sold now that those same capabilities are available on most smart phones.

One feature on those units is the woman’s voice that tells you when to turn and when you have arrived at your destination.  At this point she still doesn’t tell you when to stop for gas or when to use the restroom but that day may be coming soon.

A common word we hear from this GPS voice is “recalculating.”  She says this word anytime you take a different route than the one she thinks is best for you.  I have switched that voice to mute on my phone so I don’t have to listen to her.  I would much rather listen to my wife’s directions from the passenger’s seat (wink).

This whole GPS phenomena at Christmas has reminded me about the Magi (The Wise Men) that came to see Jesus in Bethlehem after his birth (Matthew 2:1-12).  God gave them a star in the sky to guide them to the Savior of the world.  They followed that guiding light and ended up at Jesus’ side.

In verses 10 and 11 of Matthew 2 it says, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrhh.” Because the wise Magi from the east followed the star (God’s directions) they found the Savior that God had sent to the world in Jesus.

The lesson for me was this:  It’s okay to mute the voice on my GPS unit, but I need to make sure I am not doing the same to God.  The Lord wants to give us direction and guidance in our lives and we need to listen and follow that direction at all times.

Those Magi in the Bible have come to be known as wise men.  We would be wise as well if we allow God to lead us to our Savior Jesus Christ.  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

Make it personal: How are you hearing God’s voice in your life?  How are you receiving His direction?  Maybe the better question to ask is what can you do in the New Year ahead to hear those directions even clearer?  Let’s make that change!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church

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