Monday, June 26, 2017

I will never understand

Colossians 3:17The Message (MSG)

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

I will never understand. It frustrates me. Don't get me wrong. I truly love the Lord with every fiber of my being. I am humbled that he loves me and know I am only who I am by his grace and mercy. BUT, I still don't get it.

Why does calamity have to happen in my life? Why do obstacles need to be placed in my path?  Why am I opposed like I am some villain? Why do trials occur with seemingly no purpose?  My life has been stressful over the past month. I have written about it continuously. If I understood, would it make a difference in my attitude? I like to think so. But, God has chosen NOT to reveal his plan to me. I DO know why?  He wants me to trust him. I say I do trust him. Do my actions back up my words?  I have to say, truthfully, NO!  

Dear Lord, Forgive me for my weak faith. Forgive me for doubting you are in control even through the fiercest storm. I am exposed. My tenuous faith is out there. Forgive me Lord. I love you. I trust you. Your plan is perfect and I will praise you through every step of my day. I love you. Every detail of my life -- my words, my actions, and every waking moment are yours. I praise you in this present storm because I know the peace that passes all understanding is a gift you want me to accept. Amen!

Friday, June 23, 2017

I'm tired, worn out!

Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

This past month has been a whirlwind. I have been beaten-up at work. I have been beaten up outside of work. I have been struggling. In my Chuck Swindoll daily devotional today he shared these verses. He mentioned about a system of measuring stress. In this method a person can not handle more than 200 points of stress. I think I am at 250. BUT, HELP IS ON THE WAY!

Today is the last day of Summer School. Tomorrow we leave on a month adventure out west. We are traveling to Medora, ND to see our grandson Klayton perform in the Medora Musical. Then we head to Beartooth Pass, MT; Olympia National Park, Mount Ranier, Mount St. Helens in Washington, Crater Lake, Oregon; and Redwood National Park in Northern California. We are more than ready to head out to enjoy campfires, epic motorcycle rides, time together, and time reconnecting with the creator of the universe. 

This trip is pure selfishness. But I think God understands. Yes, it is about me and my wife. If I am to be effective in ministry, at school, and at home, I need time away. I do not apologize, I rejoice. I am blessed that God has given me this opportunity. I know so many people do not even have the option of getting away. 

We all need time away. I am getting away with Jesus. 

Dear Lord, I love you and am humbled that you have given me the resources to get away, to relax, to enjoy your presence without all the distractions that life can send. I pray for rest and peace. I pray for a new spirit to fill me. I pray for time to reflect on my life and the goals set before me. Thank you Lord! 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

DEEP LOVE

1 Peter 4:7-11New Living Translation (NLT)

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

What is deep love? In our world today I think we have lost sight of what real love is. The deep kind of love we NEED to share is sacrificial. Shallow love is selfish love. Love is not about what we can get from it. Real, DEEP  Love is about serving someone else. Real, DEEP Love is about giving up your wants and needs so you can address the wants and needs of someone else. Real, DEEP Love is the love of Jesus Christ. 
God has granted us gifts, not for our own satisfaction, but for serving others out of love. The truth of the matter is, we DO get satisfaction and pure joy when we are deeply loving someone else. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and spirit means you sacrifice all to serve the Lord. Love is amazing when we do it right. I praise God I have the example of Jesus Christ to know what REAL LOVE is. I praise that he REALLY, DEEPLY, Loves me. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Voice

Romans 15:1-7New Living Translation (NLT)

15 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”[a] Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

What do you live for?  Who do you live for? 
 I read a leadership book a few weeks ago called "Leading for God's Sake". What a wonderful book (Thanks for the gift Phil & Marlene Bontrager!) It claims leaders must focus on their purpose and the actions that back up that purpose. My purpose as a teacher is to serve my students. It's not to please an administrator. It is not to please my fellow staff members. It is not to satisfy the school board. Don't get me wrong. I honor my leaders, my fellow teachers, and the group of men and women tasked with setting policy for our school corporation. As a matter of fact, when I serve my students I DO serve those groups of people. When I lose focus I let down my school corporation who hired me to serve the students.

I need to make sure my actions back up my purpose. I hear so many teachers say they are putting the students first. It almost becomes cliche. They say they put students first but selfishness creeps in to every decision. Selfishness can destroy your purpose. It can get in the way of serving others. As a teacher, one of the best ways to make sure you are focused on your purpose is to ask the ones you serve. Student Voice is so important and most often neglected by teachers. What do students want? What do they need to meet THEIR goals?  My duty as a teacher is to serve my students, period.

Prayer is our VOICE with the Creator of the Universe. Isn't that amazing? WE have a voice and we have an open channel to the God of Abraham. I have seen the power of God through my conversations with him. He has set ME as priority in his life. He has chosen me and I will serve him with all the my energy. God cares so much about us that he sent his son to serve us and ultimately died for us. He could have been selfish. I'm glad he wasn't. Praise God for his love. Praise God for the opportunity to serve him and the students I teach every day. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Call me Rhoadzie!

Luke 10:20New Living Translation (NLT)

20 But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

My name is Steven Lawrence Rhoades. My dad used to tell me we were related to the "Rhoades Raiders from Russia". That conversation came about when my Grandfather claimed his family "Lewis" were descendants of Merriwether Lewis from the Lewis and Clark expedition. I later found out the famous explorer never married and was an only child. Names are so important. They say a lot about who you are and are forever connected to your character and the way you live.

Most of my close friends call me  "Rhoadzie".

My nickname is a family name that has been passed down from generation to generation. This might be the name I cherish the most because it is a FAMILY name. When I was in middle school one of my friends called me "Highways". Fortunately it never stuck. My sisters dressed me up in girls clothes (when I was REALLY young) and called me Stephanie. I hated that name. I swore I would never marry or even date someone with the name. I changed my mind. (I Love you Stephanie Rhoades!) My middle name is Lawrence. I love that name because it also was passed down to me from my Grandfather on my Mom's side. I know people that hate their own name. I love mine and cherish it and the ties it has to my past and what they have represented. 

The most important name in my life is Jesus. I am not afraid to proclaim his name above all others. Although people try to trash this name,it has survived the test of time and the attacks from the vilest of sinners. I am proud to claim this name above all others and will do everything I can to live a life worthy of being a follower. Praise God for the life of his son Jesus and the death he suffered for me on that cross. PRAISE THE NAME OF JESUS!


Monday, June 19, 2017

What's in a name?

“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬. http://bible.com/116/1pe.1.13.

What do you do to prepare your mind for action? The obvious answer is studying the word of God, prayer, and worship. Yes, these disciplines are so valuable in keeping our minds focused on the mission assigned by our Lord. There are other things we need to do to prepare our minds for action. In my daily devoitional today from "Insight for Living",  Chuck Swindol, talks about remembering people's names. I was convicted. I need to put effort in to remembering the names of people I meet.

There is nothing more valuable in building a relationship than to call someone by name. I have been approached by former students in Walmart and I have learned to avoid calling them by name. I just can't remember them. I am always impressed when people come up to me and remember me by name. I have to put more effort into that. I blame it on lack of memory, but it is probably more about effort. It's about focusing on the people you interact with. It is about caring to put them at the center of the conversation and avoiding distraction. It's about getting to know someone beyond pleasantries and connecting with them and the lives they lead.

I am glad God knows me by name. He knows everything about me. Even if I reject him and forget to call on him for years, he never forgets who I am. I praise him for his love!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Living like there's nothing but bad news!

“Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬.  http://bible.com/116/1co.15.1-4.

We are all sinners saved by the grace of the Lord. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we get caught up in the craziness of the world and lose sight of our salvation. We know the good news but we live like there's nothing but bad news. If we believe there really is no good news, maybe we never really believed in the grace of God in the first place. Are we confident in his Amazing Grace or is it just some words to an old hymn? Do we believe Jesus is the answer to life's turmoil or his he just a historical religious figure?

Turmoil surrounds our lives, all parts of our lives. I have a couple of dear friends faced with that in their own church. Yes, even Christian fellowship can be tumultuous.  We need to focus on one simple but glorious mission, bring others to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Satan wants nothing more than for us to forget about that purpose. We can't get distracted by, the sin around us.  We can't get distracted by the lies, deceit, selfishness, anger, and hate We see every day. It shows up in our families, our coworkers, our friends, and yes, in our churches. 

Lord Jesus, Open my eyes to your light. Open my heart and keep me focused on my real purpose. I need your hedge of protection from the evil that surrounds us and even lies in the midst of our daily lives. It is only by your grace and mercy that I have been saved. I praise you Lord. I praise you within the midst of a chaotic and sinful world. I need your eyes to remain focused on my real purpose, to serve only you. Amen!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Be nice!




Hebrews 13:1-3
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. 

Stephanie and I will be heading on vacation next week. We will certainly run across a few strangers in our travels. I love talking with strangers. When you camp it seems like everyone is more open. It's like there are no strangers. We are camping this weekend and I had a great conversation with a family as I was walking down the road. People are more friendly in a campground. I think that's the way God would like it to be everywhere. 

People just aren't nice to each other anymore. Hospitality is a lost art. We need to get back to treating each other with love and respect. We need to go out of our way to be nice to our family, friends, and strangers. We need to love them, serve them and share Christ with them. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pray for those in Authority over You!

Romans 13:1-2New Living Translation (NLT)

13 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.

I have a boss. I love and respect my Principal, my Superintendent, and my School Board. God has placed them in authority over me.  I will support them in public. I will obey their rules, their plans, and their mission. If I have a dispute, I will keep it private and never air that in a public forum. IF we have fundamental, irreconcilable differences, I will quietly accept it unless it goes against the word of God. IF that goes against my faith, I will quietly step aside.
As a Christian, I will make sure I do the same with my Christian Leaders. I will not publicly bash my pastor or other leaders and will only deal with any dispute privately. How we deal with disputes says a lot about who we are as a Christian. We need to humbly review any and all conflicts. We need to look at ourselves. Are WE a part of the problem? How did we contribute? There are always multiple sides of every issue. BUT, when a person of authority disciplines us or makes a decision, we need to accept and support that decision even when we disagree. TO reduce those conflicts, instead of bashing those in authority, we need to be in constant prayer for our leaders. We need to pray they have wisdom and insight through any and all decisions and situations. This is true for our political leaders, work leaders, leaders of our households, and Christian leaders. 

Pray for those in authority over you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hypocrisy

Philippians 2:3-8The Message (MSG)

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Today's "Insight for Living" devotional was awesome. It told a story about putting aside political differences to help another in need.

Here is the link.

I certainly can't commentate on these verses like the great Chuck Swindoll. He is definitely one of my favorites. But these verses, especially in the Message are so important for everyone to hear. One of the most significant barriers to the lost turning to Jesus is "Hypocrisy". Has Jesus changed us?  Can we set aside differences to help each other. Do we think to highly of ourselves? 
Our Society, me included, are so selfish. WE need to be more like Christ. We need to serve others, selflessly, and with pure love. Thank you Lord for your love even when we fail!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

BOTH the Good and the Bad


"Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10)

Let me start by saying I love my life. God is SO GOOD. My relationship with my wonderful creator is better than it has ever been. I feel his presence in so many areas of my life. My relationship with my students is so valuable to me. I love working with them. The ministry opportunities I have through CMA just keep increasing daily. I can feel the Lord guiding me and moving me along life's path. 

I feel under attack.

I truly believe the closer I draw to the Lord, the more satan targets me and my life. In the past three weeks, I have been personally attacked on several occasions. My wife feels it and so do I. I do not share this to garner some type of sympathy or action (except your prayers!). As a matter of fact, I am very much at peace who I am as a teacher and as a leader in ministry. God knows what he is doing and my faith in him is NOT wavering.

Job had it right. We must accept the Good with the Bad. The attacks will not draw me away from the Lord. They will drive me closer to him! The attacks will not keep me from the mission of serving my students. The attacks will not keep me from serving the bikers and the lost. I love the Lord and know he can do anything and everything. His plans are perfect. I may not understand why? I don't need to. Praise God he is in control of my life!

Job 42:2-6The Message (MSG)

42 1-6 Job answered God:
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
    ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
    made small talk about wonders way over my head.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Don't Seize the Day....... Forget about it!

“So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”  2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬. http://bible.com/116/2co.4.18.nlt

Today started a new week and tomorrow a new day. I'm glad last week is behind me. I know it's Monday and Sunday really starts the beginning of the week. After a busy weekend, TODAY officially starts the week. I don't know what this week will bring. I'm not going to fret about it. One bad week doesn't guarantee another bad week. I don't know what will happen in the next month, year, decade or the rest of my life. It really doesn't matter. God is with me. I also know beyond ANY doubt, God has guaranteed that I will live forever in ETERNITY with him.  I look to that great future. I look forward to it even though I really don't  know how I'm going to get there. I don't know what lies in between today and my life in Eternity. I don't really care.

A great advantage to my faith is I no longer dwell in the present or the immediate future. I do not have to fret. I don't have to look at the troubles I see as permanent.   We get stuck dwelling on the past, worried about the moment, and dreading the future. Our Society says "Seize the Day". I say forget about it. In the grand scheme of my eternal life, today means nothing. The only real meaning I can give to today is in convincing others to join me in eternity. Nothing else matters. My stresses at work, failed relationships, or my foggy future will all fade away. My eternal place in Heaven is permanent. Why do I get so caught up in my daily life?  Why do I let the struggles get me down?  God is in charge. He has a perfect plan and he alone has our eternity in his hands. Nothing else matters and all else will fade away. PRAISE GOD for my FUTURE in ETERNITY!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

I am a Thinker!

Ephesians 5:15-17The Message (MSG)

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
17 Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.

I pride myself in being a thoughtful person. I am a Thinker. I analyze stuff! But, many times in my life that I have reacted without thinking. Along with being a thinker, I am an emotional, passionate person. I wear my feelings and my emotions for ALL to see. That's not always a great character trait. Those emotions and passions can lead me to say things I later regret. They can lead me to build barriers with those I work with or those I randomly meet on the street. If I don't use my head, If I don't think before I speak or act, I am not fulfilling the plan God has set before me.
God calls us to be thoughtful people. He calls us live life "carefully". In these end times, most people live with abandon. They live in the moment, with no consideration for the past or the future. We need to prayerfully consider our daily lives. We need to prayerfully consider our words and deeds. Every moment of every day needs to be processed through the filter of our Master, Jesus Christ. You can't do that and REACT to life's situations.

Dear Lord, Forgive me for letting my feelings, my passions, and my thoughtless actions get in the way of the path you have set before me. Help me Lord. Help me to live in a thoughtful way. Help me to use the thinking skills you have given me to be careful about my interactions with others. I Love you Lord. I praise you for the grace you have given me. I want to do nothing to hurt spreading your Gospel message to others. I can't do it on my own. I need you! Amen!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What REALLY matters?

Philippians 1:9-10New Living Translation (NLT)

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

I am here to tell you that it is often difficult to determine what REALLY matters. It's not just the world around us that gives mixed messages. As Christians, we often get tangled up with mixed priorities. We can over do it in ministry. We can neglect our families. We can absorb ourselves so much in ministry, hobbies, or work and neglect what is most important. So, how do you KNOW what to devote your time to.

Prayer, Bible Study, and worship

Connecting with God, filling your life with the Spirit of the Lord, is the only way to really set priorities. You need to listen to the promptings of the Lord. His will is revealed when you regularly study his word. The Bible is NOT just filled with stories from the past. It is alive. It is meant to be the voice of God right here, right now. Prayer is also critical to setting the correct "schedule" for your life. It's not just a way to provide a list of wants. It is a two way conversation. It's a way to develop a relationship with the creator of the universe and share your deepest thoughts. Your PRIORITIES, what really matters can be clarified through a deep relationship with the Lord. Worship the Lord, live a pure and blameless life until you join him in eternity. There will never be a question about your motives, your life plan, when you center all you do around the King!  Praise God for his power in my life!