Midweek Reflections

Cheerful Givers

Read: Luke 8:3, 21:1-4

It takes all of us to further the work of God in this world.  Our gifts, our talents, our callings, and the cheerful giving of financial support.  We all know the saying, “It is better to give than receive” but do we give with an attitude that truly reflects that saying?  I ran across a devotional this week from David Jeremiah that touches on this concept of being cheerful givers…

“Have you ever wondered how Jesus’ ministry was financed in the Gospels?  He had left his carpenter’s work, and His twelve disciples had left their fishing careers and other jobs.  They had families to feed and the expenses that come with life and ministry on the road.  But God raised up some wealthy women – Mary Magdalene; Joanna, who was the wife of a high political official; Susanna; and many others.  Luke points to them as the financial underwriters of the Lord’s ministry (Luke 8:1-3).

God blesses some people with enough wealth to underwrite great causes and become sponsors of major ministry initiatives.  But it’s not only the well-to-do who have the gift of giving.  Luke also noticed how Jesus commended the poor widow who put her two copper coins into the offering (Luke 21:1-4).  Her gift was a greater sacrifice than the others in the temple that day.  One of the disciplines of godliness is giving.  Whether we are wealthy, poor, or somewhere in the middle, we’re responsible to be methodical, steady, cheerful givers to the Lord’s work.”

Make it Personal:  The words in this devotional encourage us to look at our own pattern of giving and sowing into the Lord’s work.  Are we doing our part?  Are we giving with a cheerful heart?  Are we using what God has blessed us with to sow seeds in the world for His Kingdom and to see others come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ?  Let’s all agree to be cheerful givers!

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes

Think About Such Things

Read: Philippians 4:4-9

After the message this past Sunday I have had several people ask for suggestions on what to read, what to listen to, what to watch, and so on, in order to help us focus on eternal things and grow in our faith in Jesus.  I encouraged this during the message and Jenni Marner also encouraged us during the children’s time with the verses from Philippians 4:4-9.  Those verses encourage us to think (read, listen, watch) about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

So, here is my list of suggestions.  Of course there could be many more, this is just a place to start but I am sure many of you could add your own great suggestions to these lists…

– The Bible (of course). Specifically start with the Gospels like Matthew or John
– “Just Like Jesus” by Max Lucado (An easy read about the ways of Jesus in your life)
– “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis (A classic Christian book, a bit more deeper)
– “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard J. Foster (Easier read about spiritual disciplines)
– “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson (Deeper but very good)
– World Magazine and Website (Biblically objective journalism on the news) world.wng.org

– The Bible (Most websites and phone apps now allow you to listen to the Word audibly)
– All kinds of worship music or hymns (Most streaming sites have endless options)
– Christian podcasts on streaming services or websites. (Be careful to stay with truth of God)
– Go to YouTube and listen to Billy Graham classics or other nationally respected preachers.

– Right Now Media has thousands of wonderful videos, studies, etc. to grow in your faith.
– T.V. Shows or documentaries that are clean and helpful in entertaining and informing.
– Movies that are faith based and present a positive message about Christ and Life.
– News that provides good unbiased reporting (Local news, or my recent favorite is NewsNation (7-10 pm) on WGN America.  Be wise and discerning as you look for truth in the news) 

Make it personal: If a friend came up to you and asked for suggestions what would you recommend?  The more we share with each other the more we learn about how to help others and lead others to what Paul encourages in Philippians 4:8.  Let’s grow in Christ and keep seeking the Lord in all of our options.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes

Matters of Prayer

Read: Matthew 6:5-15

There are many things for us to pray about these days.  Hopefully we are taking all of those matters to the Lord in prayer each and every day.  Praying can sometimes be a difficult experience for people.  They maybe don’t know how to pray or what to pray about specifically.  Or, in some cases maybe the words just don’t flow.  When we pray we do not need to come to Jesus with fancy words or well thought out phrases to impress.  In fact, Jesus wants us to come as we are and talk with him as we would talk with a good and trusted friend.

Some Christian traditions use prayers that are written out and repeated at times.  Other Christian traditions often pray in the Spirit or use a more spontaneous manner of praying.  Both kind of prayers can be good and helpful at different times.  I would encourage you to use both of these ways of praying to make them personal, meaningful, and helpful in your relationship with Christ.  Remember, seeking after Jesus and the ways of God should be our ultimate desire.

If you sometimes struggle with praying words on your own there is a helpful resource that can lead you through different prayers and scripture during your times of seeking the Lord.  The Anabaptist Prayer Book titled “Take Our Moments And Our Days” is available in our church library (two different volumes) or they also offer a free app for smartphones and tablets.  Just search the app store with that title and the app should come up to install.  This can help to get you started on making prayer an important and vital part of your daily walk with Jesus.

Make it personal: In the Matthew passage for this week (Matthew 6:5-15) Jesus gives us a specific prayer to pray.  It is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.  This is another good place to start.  We also need to pay attention in these verses to the manner in which we are to pray.

Have a blessed week, Glen Rhodes

Spiritually Healthy Habits

Read: Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3

At the start of a new year many people make resolutions or write down several things they would like to be better at in the months ahead.  Often these things revolve around losing weight, saving more money, eating healthier, or a new exercise routine.  It’s no wonder we end up seeing ads for all of those things in the month of January.  But what about some new healthy habits to help us grow spiritually and to grow in our relationship with Jesus?

In these verses in the book of Hebrews there is encouragement for Christians to move beyond the basic tenents of our faith.  As one verse says we are to move from infant milk to solid foods.  We are to become mature in our faith so that we build on the foundations that have already been laid.  Sounds like this is an encouragement to begin some new habits that will help us to grow spiritually in 2021.

They often say that it takes 66 days to develop a new habit.  That’s a little over two months.  Once you do something steady for two months it becomes a new part of your daily routine.  That’s important with a new years resolution, but how can we think of this in spiritual growth terms?  This is important because verse 14 of chapter 5 says that these habits will help us to be trained to distinguish between good and evil.  That is very needed in these days that we live right now.  We need to grow in Christ so we can discern what is true, what is real, and what is of God’s will and purpose. 

Make it personal: What can you do to mature in your faith this year?  Can you commit to something for two months and then try to make it a daily part of your life?  Prayer, Bible reading and study, helping others, giving something up, giving praise and thanks to Jesus each day.  If you become intentional about something it will eventually become a part of who you are.

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes

Focus For A New Year

Read: Psalm 119:-16

Focus is an important thing.  Focus in our life is the most important thing.  I recently read a story about a soccer match between two teams in Scotland in which focus was a problem.  To cut down on the number of people in attendance at the game the producers decided to use an artificial intelligent camera system to broadcast the game.  It didn’t work so well.  The AI camera was supposed to follow the soccer ball but instead followed the bald head of the side linesman the whole time.  While the action continued off the screen the camera stayed focused on the man’s bald head for much of the game.

Psalm 119 in the Bible is all about focus.  Many of it’s 176 verses (most in the Bible) talk about focusing our life on God instead of the temporal things of this world.  Verses 15 and 16 are a good example, they say, “I will meditate on your precepts and consider your ways, I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”  Verse 36 also says, “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.”  I could go on but I encourage you to read this entire Psalm. 

You see, focus is key to living life in a manner that is healthy and pleasing to God.  As we come out of the challenging year that 2020 was, our focus in 2021 is so very important.  If we focus on all the challenges, divisions, and hardships of the world in this year ahead we will often struggle to find joy and happiness.  If we focus on the promises and the things of God in 2021 we will be able to look past the temporal and embrace the eternal.  In Jesus we can find true joy and happiness that will help us to be blessed in this new year ahead.  Where you are focused is key!

Make it personal: We don’t know what 2021 will throw at us.  We sure didn’t see the challenges of 2020 at the first of January last year.  But we do know this… “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Be blessed in 2021, Glen Rhodes

The Finish Line

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!

Happy New Year, Glen Rhodes

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