Midweek Reflections

“The Lord is your confidence”

This weeks meditation:  “The Lord is your confidence”
Read: James 3:4-7 and Proverbs 3

In James 3:6 the writer references Proverbs 3:34.  It is amazing sometimes how the New Testament writers can pick one verse out of the entire Old Testament to make their point.  James does exactly that.  As he speaks of pride and humility he makes it clear where God stands on these things.

He says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  The entire third chapter of Proverbs is devoted to the benefits of wisdom, and humility is stressed over and over.  Not a humility that allows everyone to walk all over us, but a humility that gives credit where credit is due.

We live in a world that is very individualistic.  A big part of that individualism comes from the prideful ways we view our accomplishments and successes.  When Proverbs 3 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him…” it is reminding us that our prideful boasting is not the way of God or a reflection of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Milton Hubbard once said, “We take pride in possessions, but it’s said of Jesus, The Son of man hath no place to lay His head.  We take pride in our abilities, but Jesus said, I can of my own self do nothing.  We take pride in our intellect, but Jesus said, As the Father has taught me, I speak these things.”

The one common denominator in Jesus’ life was that his humility always pointed towards heaven. He defered all the credit and praise to God the Father and became a servant to all those around him.  What a fresh approach that would be in today’s “me first” world.

It’s okay to be proud of something and someone as long as we don’t take the credit for ourselves.  We must point to God as the giver of all good things and in humility acknowledge Him in all our ways.  After all, It is because of Him that we live, move, and have our being.

Make it personal:  Pride has a tendency to well up in each of us from time to time.  Be aware of that and be ready to name it when it occurs in your life.  When it does pause and ask God to forgive you.  He will not only forgive you with grace but He will help you to realize the active part He has in your life.

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

“The Social Network Spark”

This weeks meditation:  “The Social Network Spark”
Read: James 3:1-12

In this third chapter of James the subject is taming the tongue.  In verse 5 it reads, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

In the past month or two we have seen the power of social networking around the world.  Revolutions have been organized, people have been rescued, and the power of the internet has been in full display for all to see.

While James is writing about our speech in this passage, in today’s culture he could write about our keyboard as well.  We all know the damage that our tongues can do; Gossip, lies, deciet, manipulation, anger, cursing, bullying, and the list could go on.  Do we realize that many of those things happen via the keyboard or keypad today as well?

In a day when texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other things have started revolutions we need to consider the power they have in our relationships.  As James says, “one spark can start a great forest fire.”  If the tongue needs to be tamed then so do our interactions online as well.

As many of you know I am fully engaged with most of these online communications and I think they can be a positive thing if they are used for those purposes.  But so often it seems like people type before thinking about what they are saying or how it might affect others or even themselves.  We’ve heard the phrase “Think before you speak” and now we need to apply “Think before you type.”

James is encouraging us to use our words and our communication for good instead of evil.  He wants our interactions to reflect the ways of Christ and be beneficial for the building up of others and not tearing down.

The Message Bible says it well when it paraphrases Phillipians 4:8-9 to say, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

May those things also fill our screens as well!

Make it personal:  Maybe a simple prayer will help us focus on this in the week ahead….. “Lord Jesus, help me to control my tongue and my interactions with people in the various ways I communicate with others.  Forgive me for hurts I have caused and sparks that I have ignited.  Transform my heart, my mind, my mouth, and my fingers to be used in ways that glorify your name and your presence in my life.  Amen!”

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

“Showing Favoritism”

This weeks meditation:  “Showing Favoritism”
Read: James 2:1-13

Valentines Day just passed a couple days ago.  This is always a time that we do something for the favorite someone in our life.  On Valentines it is okay to show a little bit of favoristism to those who are closest to you.  But in this passage of scripture James warns us that favoristism in the general course of life is not a healthy habit for the committed Christian.

Imagine yourself sitting in a worship service and two very different people come in to sit beside you.  The first one is very well dressed, well groomed, and has the latest leather Bible that they are carrying with them.  the second is a very poor person that looks like they just rolled out of bed and stumbled into church that morning.  There is no leather Bible in hand, just the smell of alchohol.

How are you going to respond to both of these scenerios?  What James is trying to teach us in these 13 verses is that God’s love and acceptance is the same for each of these people.  Not only that, he says that ours should be as well.  So often we treat people with favoritism by how they look on the outside instead of getting to know them on the inside.

If we are going to “love our neighbor as ourself” then there will be many times we have to look past the first impression to see the person that God loves and wants to reach out to.  In verse 9 James says that showing favoritism is a sin.  We often proclaim that racism, discrimination, and hatred are sins (rightly so) but do we realize that even our attitude about someone different from us in any way is also a sin.

Jesus is very clear that we are to love all people, even those who are living in sin and need to be saved through the cross of Christ.  If we are careful not to elevate ourselves and our friends over others we will soon realize that we have been saved by Jesus Christ in exactly this same way.

James ends in verses 12-13 with a very clear instruction.  He says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Make it personal:  Perhaps someone came to your mind as you were reading this.  Maybe not someone sitting next to you in church but someone in your community or at your workplace.  The next time you see them say to yourself, “God loves them and so will I!”  It will be a good reminder that in God’s eyes we all are very important.

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

“Mirror Image”

This weeks mediation:  “Mirror Image”
Read: James 1:19-25

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once told a story about his visit to a nice restaurant. He said as he ate he kept noticing a rather angry looking man across the dining room who scowled at him every time he looked his way. Finally Spurgeon decided to go over and speak to the man to see what his problem was. However, as he stood up he realized that what he had been seeing was his own reflection in mirrors that lined the walls across the room.

It’s hard to beleive that Spurgeon could not recognize himself in that situation but it’s a great example of what often happens to us when life takes off at warp speed.  We easily forget what we are reflecting to those around us.  In verse 22 of this passage James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

He then goes on to talk about a person who sees themself in a mirror but then walks away and forgets what they look like.  My memory is pretty short but I would like to think it is longer than that.  What James is trying to say is that we must take our prayers, our reading of God’s Word, and our times of worship with us as we go out the door each day.

When we put our faith into action it has the potential to reflect Christ to others even when a mirror is not present.  In fact you are the mirror! Remember that as you head out to work and other events this week.  It’s not as important that people remember what you look like on the outside as it is that they remember the characteristics of Christ they see reflected in your life.

Make it personal:  Pick one Christ-like characteristic to focus on this week.  Make sure that it is being reflected in all your interactions with other people this week.  Next week pick another one, and the week after that another one.  The Lord will bless you in this as verse 25 proclaims!

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

“Rejecting God”

This weeks meditation:  “Rejecting God”
Read: Exodus 12:31-42  Full account is Exodus chapters 7-12

With Egypt in the news prominently this week I can’t help but think back to the second chapter of the Bible (Exodus) where the leader of Egypt was also prominently in the news.  Moses and Aaron formed the team that time and time again went before the Pharaoh of Egypt to request release of the Israelites.  Time and time again Pharaoh rejected God’s messengers and God’s requests.

Although the situation today in Egypt is much different than in the time of Moses I can’t help but think of this story in Exodus as I watch the news unfold in Egypt.  On that same soil many years ago one of the most incredible stories of defiance toward God took place.  10 national plagues later Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go. 

In Exodus 12:31 Pharaoh says, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites!  Go, worship the Lord as you have requested.”  And then, as if nothing had happened to lead up to this, Pharaoh asks, “and also bless me!”  Why was Pharaoh rejecting the God he knew could bless him?

While it easy to ask that question of others it is more helpful to ask it of ourselves.  Why do we sometimes reject the counsel and direction of God when deep in our hearts we know that God is the one who can bless us?  God gave the King of Egypt so many chances to change his mind and trust in the one true God, and yet time after time he refused.

None of us would like to think that we sometimes reject God and yet it may happen more than we realize.  Anytime we choose other things and other people to follow we could be refusing the blessings of God.  There are times that God uses other people to direct us and we need to realize that, but there are also times that we place too much trust in the flesh and too little trust in the Holy Spirit as God’s messenger.

If Pharaoh knew that God could bless him why did he put himself and his people through all of those plaques?  Why do we still do it today?  Imagine the pain and heartache we could avoid if we would turn our hearts toward God instead of hardening our hearts as Pharaoh did.

Make it personal:  Name one area in your life that has been kept from Christ.  One area that you have hardened your heart and rejected God’s entrance.  Take time to pray and ask that your heart could be softened to allow Him in.  In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  God wants to bless you in that area if you will let Him!

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

“God Shows Up”

This Weeks Meditation:  “God Shows Up!”
Read: 1 Kings 18:16-40

This passage is the story of Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal.  I encourage you to read it!  If you have read it many times before try reading it in a different version or translation this time.  The Message Bible provides a very interesting paraphrase of this passage.

While the particular details of this story would not really happen in our culture today (some of them are actually a bit disturbing) the testimony of Elijah’s faith and trust in his God is something we need to heed and proclaim.

Just like in the days of the idol Baal we live in a culture that is full of similar yet different idols that take our eyes off of God.  We don’t have large wooden or stone idols in most of our communitites that people worship or bow down to, but we do have the idols of self, money, materialism, hobbies, technology, __________ (Help me out, you add an idol here that I have left out).

The truth is, there are many!  And just like Elijah, we are called by God to speak out against the false idols in our culture and proclaim the sustaining power of the one true God of heaven in which we serve.  We must do it with confidence and yet retain the humble spirit that resembles Jesus Christ.

In this passage Elijah is portrayed as a bit arrogant in his confidence in God and that has often disturbed me.  I would hope that we can show the same confidence and trust that he does but in a manner that allows the act to speak for itself.  I have never been keen on athletes that show their arrogance and I don’t think it’s a good witnessing tool for Christians either.

Even though this story has some confusing elements to it, the example for us is very important.  Speak up for God and never doubt God’s ability to overcome any idol or false god of this world.  We are the messengers sent to proclaim to the world that God will show up when you believe in Him and call on Him in your life!

Make it personal:  What are some ways you can be a witness to your family and friends?  How can you provide opportunities like Elijah’s that provide evidence of Christ’s work in your life?  Be ready to speak out against the false gods of this world and be ready to show God’s power by calling on His name.  He will show up!

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

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