Midweek Reflections

“Freeing Forgiveness”

This Weeks Meditation:  “Freeing Forgiveness”
Read: Colossians 3:1-17

One of the hardest things to do in life is to forgive someone when they have wronged you.  If you have lived very long in this world you undoubtedly have experienced this.  But one of Christ’s instructions for us in His Word is that we are to forgive others in the same unconditional way that he has forgiven us for our sins.

It may be hard, but it is so important to freeing ourselves to live the rest of our life in peace and contentment.  I am always reminded of Stormie Omartian’s quote, “Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free.”  We can choose to live in the bondage of unforgiveness or we can choose to live in the freedom that forgiving others can bring to us.

In verse 13 of this Colossians 3 passage Paul says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  We truly rob our own freedom and peace when he hold on to grudges for too long.  Forgiving someone may not repair a friendship right away or restore things to like they used to be but it sure frees the one who choses to forgive.

Perhaps you can relate to this old illustration about the farmer and his mule: One day a visitor leaned on the old fence around a farm while he watched an old farmer plowing with a mule. After a while, the visitor said, “I don’t like to tell you how to run your business, but you could save yourself a lot of work by saying, ’Gee’ and ’Haw’ to that mule instead of just tugging on those lines.” The old farmer pulled a big handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. Then he said, “Reckon you’re right, but this animal kicked me five years ago and I haven’t spoke to him since.”

When we have been kicked by someone it never feels good!  But after reading this passage of scripture we are reminded that kicking back or holding a grudge for the rest of our life is not what Jesus encouraged by his example or how Paul proclaims for us to live in these verses.  Remember what Stormie says, “Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it makes you free.”

Make it personal:  What baggage have you been carrying around in your life?  It’s time to lay it down at the foot of the cross and ask Jesus to help you truly forgive and move on with your life.  He has great things ahead for you!

Blessings in your week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life
Arthur Mennonite Church

“The Blame Game”

This Week’s Meditation: “The Blame Game”
Read: Romans 12

This week I read this funny email pun. it said…
“Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City: The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, “That was quite a bump and I know what ya’ll are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendants’ fault, it was the asphalt!”

It made me laugh but it also made me think about how easy it is to cast blame on others instead of being accountable and responsible for our own shortcomings. The world likes to play the blame game and often shirk responsibility if it means that pain, hardship, or even punishment might come into our lives.

Romans 12 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It also goes on to share many helpful insights into grace, mercy, responsibility, and love for others. Verse 3 says, “Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought.” In other words, be quick to acknowledge when you mess up.

In a couple recent online articles Ron Edmondson shared 5 wrong ways to respond to criticism and five healthy ways to respond to criticism. I found these very helpful in thinking about the subject of grace, repentance, and forgiveness.

Ron says that 5 wrongs ways to respond to criticism are:
1. Finding fault with the critic, instead of admitting there might be validity to the criticism.
2. Blaming others, and not being willing to accept responsibility.
3. Throwing back criticism and finding fault in others.
4. Ignoring an opportunity to learn.
5. Appeasing. Trying to satisfy all the critics.

He then shares 5 healthy ways to respond:
1. Consider the source before reacting or responding.
2. Listen to everyone. Don’t dismiss someone because you may not like them or agree with them totally.
3. Analyze for validity. Is the criticism true?
4. Look for common themes. Is this a trend I am hearing?
5. Give an answer. Criticism is often a question. Respond in love even if you don’t have an answer.

If you would like to read more about what Ron Edmundson has to say you can read both of these articles if you click here.

As Christians we have no reason to play this game along with the world. Why? Because we have the forgiveness of Jesus waiting on us when we mess up. Instead of blaming others or trying to get out of embrassing ourselves or not being accountable, just take it to Jesus. Be responsible for your mistake (repent) but know that Jesus has paid the ultimate price to forgive you for it!

Make it personal: Have you been criticized this week? Have you messed up this week? Read Romans 12 and consider how Jesus wants you to respond. Once we learn that blaming others only prolongs our pain and heartache we will be able to move on in the hope and grace that is ours through Jesus Christ.

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

“Teach Them”

This Weeks Meditation:  “Teach Them!”
Read: Deuteronomy 11:18-21

With all of the children here at Bible School this week I have been especially reminded of this passage from Deuteronomy 11.  It is so important that we teach, explain, and give example of a God centered life to the next generation and these verses testify to that.

Many parents and grandparents want their children and grandchildren to know and learn the difference between right and wrong.  We teach them how to talk, how to act, how to respond to hardships, and how to get along with other people.  But do we tell them why?

Is it just because it is the good thing to do as a neighbor, or is it because God has instructed us to live that way?  There is a difference.  We can do those things to glorify ourselves and our own names or we can do them to glorify God and Jesus’ example of how to live on this earth.

Paul Gilbert once said, “You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day, by the deeds that you do, by the words that you say;  People read what you write, whether faithless or true.  Say, what is the gospel, according to you?”
And our children are reading and observing as well.

In verse 19 it says that we should teach these “things of God” to our children, that we should write them on the doorposts of our homes.  If someone walks into your house what do the doorposts proclaim?  Better yet, what do the things hidden in your drawers and closets proclaim?  Our children are much more observant than we often give them credit for.

Our hope here at VBS this week is that children are learning about Jesus Christ and how to fix His words on thier hearts and minds.  Hopefully they are learning that at home, but if not maybe they can take that message home with them and share it with their parents and grandparents.

Think about this the next time you engage a conversation with a youngster in your life.  Tell them why you do the things you do and how God helps you to form the decisions and the attitudes of your life.  Remember, in 30-40 years these children will be in the place we are today.

Make it personal:  Imagine yourself as a visitor in your home.  What do you see when you walk in.  What would someone see if they opened up closets and drawers.  Are there any changes that need to happen to communicate to your children or to visitors that God is honored and followed in your life?

Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life

Arthur Mennonite Church

“Rock, Paper, Scissors”

This Week’s Meditation:  “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
Read: Matthew 7:24-27

Next week my wife and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed but it has me reflecting on some of the important values and foundations of marriage and family.  In this passage from Matthew 7 Jesus talks about foundations and the importance of making those foundations intentional instead of leaving things to chance.

Most people have played the ultimate game of chance; Rock, Paper, Scissors.  The key to winning is picking the opposite thing that will crush or cover what your opponent has picked.  Unfortunately we too often approach marriage and family conflicts in this same way.  One side wants their way, and the other side wants another way.

Ogden Nash once gave some wonderful advice about those type of conflicts and how to overcome them.  He said, “Whenever your wrong, admit it.  Whenever your right, shut up!”  In other words live in the way Jesus taught us in the gospels.  Have a repentant and forgiving heart when you are wrong, and stay humble and gentle when you are right.

In this scripture text Jesus talks about building your life, your marriage, your family on the rock so that it will not be left to chance when the storms come rolling through.  He is not promising a life without troubles and conflicts, but he is encouraging us to follow His Word and His Way’s when dealing with them.

At the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II, Geoffrey Francis Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury gave the bride and groom some advice.  He said, “The ever-living Christ is here to bless you.  The nearer you keep him, the nearer you will be to one another.”  That quote echoes Matthew 7:24-27. Great advice to live by!

Please remember, God’s forgiveness is always available if you have failed in the past.  He wants to restore you, and renew your life on the rock that will not give way in the future.  But most of all he wants you to make him (Jesus Christ) the foundation that your life (Marriage and Family) is built upon.  Don’t leave it to chance!

Make it personal:  Pick one are in your marriage or in your relationship with your children that you would like to work on.  Remember the foundation that Jesus talks about and try to bring his character and his example into those relationships.

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

“Wide Awake”

This Weeks Meditation:  “Wide Awake”
Read: Mark 13:32-37

This past week there was much conversation about the rapture and the return of Jesus to take his believers up with him into heaven.  Some of that conversation was healthy and some of it was unfortunately sarcastic.  But the one thing that was good is that it raised awareness of passages like Mark 13:32-37.

Jesus says that no one will know the day or the hour of his return.  In fact in verse 32 he says that he doesn’t even know, only the Father (God) knows.  But in the midst of those who feel like they need to pick dates and hours (Harold Camping, Mayan Calendar, etc.) there is one truth that remains, we must be ready.

In verse 33 Jesus says, “Be on guard! Be Alert!”  In other words, live your life every day as a person prepared and ready for the rapture when it does occur.  Along with that, we must also be prepared to face whatever life in the here and now tries to throw at us, and we do that be relying on Jesus Christ himself.

I am a product of the 1980’s high school scene and I have always enjoyed the music of the Irish group U2.  The words of their songs can often have multiple meanings for a person depending on what they are thinking about or going through at a given time.

Last week as the news was swirling about the rapture I heard a U2 song that had the words, “I’m wide awake, I’m not sleeping.”  I had to think how true that was to what this passage in Mark is saying.  Jesus is asking us to consider if we are awake and ready or if we are dozing off and not paying attention to things that really matter for eternity.

That U2 song was not written about the rapture but yet it spoke to the way I was feeling about things going on in the world.  At the end of the live version of that song (Bad) they say, “Come on down, come on down, come on down.”  Is that how we feel about the rapture?

Are we at the point in our lives where we are ready to say, “Jesus, come on down, I’m wide awake, alert, and ready?” If not, we need to be, because the owner of the house (verse 35) could come back at any time.  Mr. Camping has now changed his date to October 21 but Jesus could come back before that! Be ready!

Make it personal: Along with being prepared yourself for Christ’s return try to use the recent news discussions of the rapture as a way to witness to your family, friends and co-workers.  Perhaps they don’t know what Jesus has said or what the Bible says about this.  This is your opportunity!

Blessings in your week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life
Arthur Mennonite Church

“So Petty”

This Weeks Meditation:  “So Petty”
Read: John 13:31-38

Sometimes in our daily interactions with people we will walk away thinking, “that was so petty.”  Sometimes it is a realization of our own pettiness and at other times it is because of someone else’s.  The truth is we can all be “petty” at times.

In John 13 Jesus talks about a new command he is giving to us.  In verse 34 it says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  Jesus is saying these words to his disciples and ultimately he is preparing them for the witness of truth that they will carry on with them.

In fact in the next verse he connects our love for each other with that witness.  Verse 35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  In other words, we are to put aside our petty disagreements and preferences in the name of unconditional love.  Since I have a very detail oriented personality I am reminding myself of this first and foremost.

Obviously sometimes our conflicts are more than just petty things.  Sometimes they are huge.  But the new command from Jesus is suppose to cover them all, big or petty.  Our love is to resemble the love that Christ has shown to us.  It forgives, it restores, it goes the extra mile to reconcile, and it is always under no certain conditions that have to be met.  This is how the church is to be a witness in our world.

Businessman Lee Iacocca once asked legendary football coach Vince Lombardi what it took to make a winning team. Lombardi said,  “There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you are going to play together as a team, you’ve got to care for one another. You’ve got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next person by saying, ‘I have to do my job well in order that they can do theirs.’ The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these teammates have for each other.”

Church of Jesus Christ, let’s be great not mediocre!

Make it personal:  Try to think back in the last month and name some periods of pettiness that you have given in to.  Ask Jesus to forgive you for that and also ask him to help you be a witness for him by living with unconditional love as your guiding principle.

Blessings in your week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life

Arthur Mennonite Church

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