Midweek Reflections

“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

“Content of Character”

This Weeks Meditation:  “Content of Character”
Read: Philippians 2:1-11

This past Monday our nation celebrated Martin Luther King day in rememberance of the incredible work that King did in the area of civil rights and freedom for all people.  It’s hard for that day to pass without the famous words, “I have a dream” ringing in your ears.  Many of King’s speeches were more like sermons than speeches and he often made direct references to the Word of God as he spoke.

One of his dreams went like this… “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

When we open up a book the first thing we see are the table of contents.  The contents tells us what is inside.  When Martin Luther King mentioned the content of character he was speaking about the things people see in our lives.   He wanted his children to be judged on those qualities and not how they looked or did not look on the outside.

From many of King’s speeches (sermons) I would summize that this character he spoke of was the character we see in Jesus Christ.  In Philippians 2 Paul mentions this and speaks about imitating Christ’s humility and other character traits.  When we have these traits active in our lives we become the light of Christ to others and hopefully will have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus.

Some years ago missionary E. Stanley Jones asked Mahatma Gandhi how Christianity could be more acceptable in India.  Ghandi replied by saying, “I would suggest, first, that all of you Christians…. begin to live more like Jesus Christ.”  Yes, it is a challenge to live with the character of God’s Son, but he promises to help us in doing that if we ask him.  How is the content of your character?  Jesus wants to help with that!

Make it Personal:  The next time you pick up a book and look at the table of contents think about your own life.  If your life was in the form of a book and someone picked it up to see what was inside what would they see?  No matter where you have been or where you are now Jesus wants to help you rewrite the contents to resemble his character.  His forgiveness and grace is a wonderful starting point!

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

“Spiritual Strength”

This Weeks Meditation:  “Spiritual Strength” 
Read: Ephesians 2:1-10

Years ago on “The Merv Griffin Show,” Merv had a guest on that was a body builder.  During the interview, Merv asked, “Why do you develop those particular muscles?”  The body builder simply continued to flex and show off his muscles as the audience applauded.  As Merv pressed him further he finally realized that the muscle man didn’t really have an answer to his question.  His incredible muscles were just for show.

Perhaps we need to consider our own spiritual exercises.  Why do we do them?  Why do we study the Bible, pray, read Christian books, listen to Christian radio, and so on?  Is it to look good, or is it to grow good?  As we begin a new year and try to develop better ways to grow spiritually, I hope our intent is to be made alive in Christ as Paul encourages us in this passage.

As it says in verses 9 and 10, there is no room for boasting in these things.  We are created in Christ to do good works, but ultimately we are God’s workmanship.  Anything we do to strengthen ourselves spiritually should be done for the sole purpose of growing in our relationship with Jesus and his purpose for our life.  And really the strength comes from Him anyway.

I truly believe that when we have this type of attitude about spiritual growth we will see grace, humility, and faith develop more fully in each of our lives.  These traits in turn will strengthen our ability to build God’s kingdom, and not simply improve our pose before an admiring audience.

If people notice your committment and your spiritual growth that is great, maybe it will encourage them to grow as well.  But be more concerned about where your relationship with Christ stands, that is what will be important in the end.

Make it personal:  Maybe this is a good time for all of us to ask the “Why” questions.  Why do I read my Bible? Why do I pray?  Why do I go to Church?  Is it truly to grow spiritually and gain strength from the Lord?  Or is it for other reasons?  May the Lord help all of us to be alive in Him and for Him alone.

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

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