Saturday, February 16, 2019

God’s Plan for Your Life

Jeremiah 1:1 - 2:12
100 Days Through the Bible

Today we begin reading the prophet Jeremiah. There is more known about Jeremiah than any other prophet. His prophetic book is arguably the longest in the Bible. His life was the most hated. His words were all but completely ignored or rejected by the people of Judah, although one king appreciated his words, Josiah. However, his words would fall on deaf ears as the people were beyond the spiritual help they desperately needed. His words were not well received for one other reason: he called for complete surrender to Babylon who would eventually destroy Jerusalem. Not only did his words call for spiritual repentance, they also would have been considered treacherous. He was hated for spiritual reasons as well as political reasons. This is the life of Jeremiah, a priest & prophet who was called of God to speak God’s word to an ungodly, rebellious generation.

1. God’s Has a Plan for Your Life (Jeremiah 1:1-10)
We are introduced in relative detail to Jeremiah. From the priestly line, from the area of Benjamin, called in the time of the godly king, Josiah, and finished his ministry after the overthrow of Zedekiah’s reign when Babylon was victorious over the southern kingdom of Judah. It was then that the people of Judah were sent into Babylonian exile.
God’s call to Jeremiah was made known to him in vv. 4 & 5. Jeremiah found out about how God worked outside of time to accomplish His will. “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah’s calls began before His conception. That’s God. He is a forward thinking, superintending God who knows not only what He wants to do, but also whom He will use to accomplish His will.
Some use this verse to prove that God has been with us since birth, but it is even more profound. God’s decreed will begins before human life was given by Him at conception. God’s choice for a life is planned before you or I were in existence at any stage of pregnancy. Actually, even with all the birth control and medical fertilization available to us today, God has made a plan your life before you were conceived! God intended for you to be who you are, born in your family, and has a plan for your life. Never forget that. Your life is important to the Lord and His work on this earth. We tend to be like Jeremiah who protested God’s call on his life. These words sound familiar to anyone God has called, “But I protested, ‘Oh no, Lord, GOD! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth’” (v. 6). God has no patience for that kind of thinking. The Lord replied, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,’ for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you” (v. 7). When God calls, we say yes. But the Lord doesn’t stop there, He also gives you whatever you need to accomplish His will, “the LORD reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: I have now filled your mouth with My words” (v. 9). When our Lord calls, He provides whatever we need to fulfill His will. His plan will not be stopped, “I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

2. God Has a Message for You to Share (Jeremiah 1:11-19)
And so, God fills Jeremiah’s mouth with words. But, the words God gave to him are not comforting words: “Disaster will be poured out from the north on all who live in the land” (v. 14). Think for a moment what kind of message he could have been given. For instance, it could have been about restoration and wonders like Isaiah 61:1-3 detailed:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him.”
But that was not to be the message of Jeremiah. He was called of God to proclaim that judgment was imminent and the people of God should give up.
In the same way, we don’t get to choose what God wants us to say. We are called to share God’s message as well. It is also a message of judgment. But the judgment of God fell on His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. We are called to share with those we know and love that we too are deserving of judgment because we sinned, but God took that judgment upon Himself on the Cross. And we must ask, what will you do with Jesus? I like to talk about how wonderful God’s love is. I like to share all the good things He does for me. I like to let them know that there is a wonderful Heaven that we can go to if we will but trust Him. But if there is a Heaven to gain, there is a hell to avoid. If there is a loving God, He must also be just. If life can be good, it can also be hard. Once again, Job asked, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10). When we speak, we speak the whole message of God. Not only do we share how much God loves, but also the consequences of sin. That is what makes the Gospel so powerful: we messed up; God took our judgment; but only to those who believe. That is why we share that message, to get people in touch with their evil so they may experience God’s forgiveness if they repent and believe.

3. God Has a Way He Wants You to Live (Jeremiah 2:1-12)
God’s specific message began with a longing for who Israel was when they first followed Him, “I remember…” (v. 2). God declared that Israel was, “the firstfruits of His (the LORD’s) harvest” (v. 3). Then the Lord asked the question, “This is what the LORD says: What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves?” (v. 5). God had remained faithful, but the people were spiritual adulterers as they worshiped worthless idols. You see, they became what they worshiped. The worship of worthless idols directly affected the outcome of their lives. God had such great plans for them, but their lives became worthless.
God calls those who follow Him to worship Him as well. Jesus told the woman at the well that, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). It has been said that worship is not something we do on Sundays, but how we live daily. It is our everyday lives that demonstrate to a watching world what we really worship. We want them to see Jesus in us. Every. Single. Day.
                                                                  -Trey Rhodes

Monday, February 11, 2019

Cover Up - 1 Samuel 11 & 12, Psalm 51

These two chapters in the Bible are some of the most sobering in all of Scripture. Once we read these, we recognize that there is no one who is beyond a hard, deep, and lasting spiritual fall. That is not an exaggeration. Think of whom David was: an anointed man of God, a prophet, a wise sage, a worship leader, a spiritual leader to royalty, an obedient son, a fearless warrior, a gentle shepherd, but most of all, a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22). Yet, we have this heart-breaking story of what can happen when any one of us chooses to go our own way and delight ourselves in momentary pleasure. The Bible deals with David without apology as he becomes a warning to all who come after him that no one is given a “mulligan” in life. We must choose to be engaged every moment of every day, lest we too fall. And shockingly enough, it was the cover up that made bad sin worse.
Let’s look at why we must all be on guard, and what to do when we fail.
1. Be Aware of Choosing the Easy Life (2 Samuel 11:1-2a)
David has now gotten to the point in his life when he could leave the work (that is, the battles) to others. Joab was his greatest general and when the time came to go to battle with the enemies of the Lord’s people, the Ammonites, he would let the soldiers take care of what they do best, military campaigns that would result in victory after victory (v. 1). Although it wasn’t unusual for kings to stay at home during battles, we have to wonder what it was that kept David at home. After all, he had been a warrior since his defeat of Goliath on that mountainside near Gath as a young man. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he had to deal with some things at home. Maybe he had some kingly duties to attend to. But for reasons we do not know, he stayed home. What a contrast! This man who was resting at home, waking up in the late afternoon, taking evening strolls on his roof had become soft. Didn’t we read earlier in his life, “David left his supplies…and ran to the battle line”? (1 Samuel 17:22). Now we find him languishing and taking it easy at home. It is a stark reminder to us all what the prophet Amos warns of, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1). Isaac Watts asked a similar question in his hymn, Am I a Soldier of the Cross? with these haunting words:

On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?”
“Must I be carried to the skies
There is no moment in the Christian life when we should somehow think, I’ll just settle down, lay at ease in Zion, and let someone else do the work. No, fellow laborers, each one of us is called to the work until our last and dying breath. To do otherwise is to risk our spiritual lives on the altar of an easy life. We are encouraged to never let that happen. The results could be disastrous.
2. Be Aware of the Destructiveness of Covering up (2 Samuel 11:2b-27)
Here is where we begin to see how deep man’s heart can dive into the abyss. It all begins with luring at the temptation. “He (David) saw a woman bathing” (Ch. 11:2b). Remember the words of One, the Messiah, who would come from his own family line some 1000 years later who warned, “everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
After enquiring as to who she was, David learned she was married, a part of the royal court, the daughter of a trusted advisor, and the wife of one of his loyal elite soldiers.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before David gave the order to have her brought to him and in the simplest and shortest of explanations, “he slept with her” (v. 4). But as often happens, although the sin may be bad, the cover-up is worse. David finds out from Bathsheba in the only words she will say in this book, “I am pregnant” (v. 5). For the next days, all David does is consumed with failed attempts to hush his sin up. He had three (3) schemes. First, he tried a clean scheme to have Uriah come home from war and sleep with his own wife. But Uriah was too much of a man of character and would not do it (vv. 6-11). Then he tried a dirty scheme by getting him drunk so he would forget his vows and sleep with his wife, but even then he didn’t do it (vv. 12-13). Finally, David sends Uriah back to the battle front, and with him instructions for Joab concerning how to execute him. Uriah carried his own death warrant! David told Joab to send Uriah into the heat of battle then remove all support; death would be fast and sure. Joab took it one step further and has many other men killed as well to further sell the cover-up. So, Uriah is murdered (vv.14-24). David resorted to platitudes with these words, “the sword devours all alike.” (v. 25). There was only one who cared, Bathsheba. The Bible tells us, “she mourned for him” (v. 25). We also know about One other that cared, “the LORD considered what David had done to be evil” (v. 25).
There is only one way for us to deal with sin and that is confession and repentance. It is healthy when we confess our sins to one another (James 5:15-16) and don’t try to make like it never happened. Often, we will find that the cover-up can be worse than the sin we are trying to cover up. Transparency with someone you can confide in and trust is always best. “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:11).
3. Be Assured of the Blessings of Restoration (2 Samuel 12:1-15, Psalm 51)
What seems to be the most horrible part of the story for David becomes the beginning of restoration for him.
David is confronted by his favorite prophet, Nathan, who told a story of a “rich man” who “had a large number of sheep and cattle” (2 Samuel 12:2). But there was also a poor man who had “one small ewe lamb” (v. 3). It was beloved to this poor man. So, when it came time to entertain an out of town guest, the rich man takes this one little lamb from the poor man and prepared it and served it for dinner so he won’t have to use any of his own lambs (vv. 4-5). At this, David doesn’t wait for anything else from Nathan, but exploded in anger, “the man who did this deserves to die!” (v. 5b). Nathan didn’t hesitate to bring down the hammer either as he looked David straight in the eye and shouted back, “You are the man!” (v. 7). After the entire plot is revealed, David is humiliated in his own court and admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord” (v. 13a). At that moment, David repented, and God forgave Him. We get to hear the words of grace that God has said to us as well, “The Lord has taken away your sin, you will not die” (v. 13b).

What was going on in David’s heart? You can read that in Psalm 51:4a, “Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done evil in your sight.” But, this no was no “get out of jail free” card. He knew that by his words, “You are right when you pass sentence” (v. 4b). What sentence? Nathan was clear with God’s judgment upon David. In 2 Samuel 12: 10, 11, & 14 we are told, “The sword will never leave your house” Then God said, “I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another”. But it was the last thing he heard that hurt the most: because he took innocent life, an innocent life would be taken from him as one more would die, his own baby. The very child he conceived by Bathsheba, “the son born to you will die” (v. 14). Yet, even then, David knew that God had more for him to accomplish, so he pled further with God in Psalm 51:10-13 “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.”

Sin is horrible. Its consequences are heart-breaking. Yet our Lord hung on a cross to let us know that no matter what we did, he paid the penalty for us that our sin might be forgiven and that we could be restored to a relationship with Him. Don’t walk, run to the Cross and experience that kind of forgiveness today. That’s how we should cover our sin, not with schemes like David, but in the blood of Jesus that dripped from His Cross.

—Trey Rhodes

Friday, August 17, 2018

15 Years of Extra Life - I’ll Take it

GOD is my helper; the LORD is a sustainer of my life.   Ps. 54:4

And they said it wouldn’t last. My life, that is. You see, some 15 years ago today, I was getting ready to preach on a Sunday morning at the church plant I had been clearly called to start in Mount Pleasant, SC. Everything, and I mean everything was normal. It was a normal, warm August morning. I felt absolutely normal. Everything at the church was going normal. Everyone arrived and was setting up at the movie theater just like normal. I was doing a sound check for my headset, and even the sound system was normal. It was a normal mid August morning, except for one detail, the tissue that surrounded my aorta was in a weakened and possibly damaged state. Unlike a normal aorta, my aorta was about to split lengthwise from my heart to the section where it descends to feed the rest of my body. My complete ascending aorta was going to dissect, split open, and there was nothing anyone on this earth could do about it.

The blood surging through my veins to give life, was now placing deadly pressure against the weakened walls in the largest artery in my body, my aorta. It ripped. I looked at my wife. I said, "I need help." I collapsed. She caught me. She laid me on the floor. I turned blue and began to gurgle and convulse. Panic broke out in the church that morning. The place that we began in order to bring peace to a worried and anxious world, was now in bedlam. The place that we had invited people to hear the words of life, was a place that held in its walls, death.
Immediately, there were calls to 911. Screaming. Running. Panic. Praying. 
Had it not been for the quick thinking of my son, Ivey, who immediately gave me mouth to mouth and would not allow anyone to give me chest compressions, I would have died. No doubt. But there I was turning blue, gasping for breath, being tended to by my son, unconscious on that movie theater, turned church floor, dying.

The EMT’s arrived and tried to stabilize my heart, but could not. Finally the doctor told them on the phone, bring him like he is. Once my body arrived at Roper Hospital in downtown Charleston, extraordinary measures were taking place to sustain my seemingly lifeless body as they tried to diagnose what was wrong. It took the CT Scan to find out that a pool of blood had formed inside my chest with only a Saran Wrap thin aortic tissue which kept my blood from hemorrhaging into the rest of my body and causing instant death.
So the call went out from Dr. Blue in the emergency room to Dr. Peterseim, one of the foremost cardio-thoracic surgeons in the nation. The emergency room asked the surgeon, Would you come in and take a look at this Aortic dissection? All Peterseim could say was, “Is he still alive? Keep him alive. I’ve never seen one alive.” He had performed 1000’s of surgeries and had never had the opportunity to see an aortic dissection alive. I was to be his first. 

Upon arrival, he got to see me alive, struggling for every breath, and then got to work researching ways to repair such a massive injury and coming up with an operating plan. It was determined that it was possible, but as Peterseim told my wife, it’s been too long, your husband is no longer there. There’s been too much oxygen deprivation and too many of his brain cells have died. “We can save his heart, do you want us to?” Her answer? "Save his heart, we’ll worry about the rest later."
In the waiting room, a prayer band had gathered over 100 strong. Praying, literally crying out to God to save my life and bring healing and recovery. God heard that day. The surgery was successful. An aortic replacement had been substituted for the real thing. My heart was beating. I was alive. Against all odds, I was alive. But for how long?

Long enough to see more than 100 people come to faith in Christ. Long enough to experience all four of my children finish their educations, get married, and move to their places of ministry and calling. Long enough to hold in my arms nine (soon to be ten) grandchildren. Long enough for my wife, Kelly, to go back to school, change her major, and graduate manga cum laude from CSU with a degree in education. Long enough for Kelly to find her life time work at Palmetto Christian academy teaching second graders to read, write, and do arithmetic.  Long enough to now move from hydraulic lift, to powered wheelchair, to regular wheelchair, to walker, to quad cane, to regular cane, to walking (kind of) on my own, to riding 15 plus miles on my Giant mountain bike. Yes, these 15 years have been very good to me. I now have a family that God is using all over the country. I have a wife that loves and goes above and beyond for me over and over again. I have a church that loves and cheers me on. Friends that have stayed with me and have prayed for me. A Mom and Dad who support me emotionally and spiritually. But most of all, I have a God who will never leave me nor forsake me. The One who has sustained me on my good days and my bad. My God who will usher me into His abode, where I hope to hear, one day... "Well done."

Friday, December 15, 2017

That Smell Sure Brings Me Back...

Christmas is that time of year that brings us all intense remembrance of what it was for each of us. All unique. All very real.. For most, we remember the sights, the sounds, and the fragrance of Christmas. You don't hear much about the latter, so I want to mention my 5 favorites, then you can compare and then feel free to post what your favorites are:

5. Christmas tree freshly cut
4. Cookies baking
3. Peppermint candy
2. Pumpkin pie cooking

and my number one favorite scent...
1. Turkey fresh out the oven
Is there anything better during the holidays? Yum!
Certain scents will evoke some of our strongest memories. According to a recent study reported by the New York Times in The Nose, an Emotional Time Machine that: "olfaction (that's smelling for us non-scientific types) is our quickest sense...odiferous messages barrel along dedicated pathways straight from the nose and right into the brain’s olfactory cortex, for instant processing."
The reason that it impacts us so greatly is "the olfactory cortex is embedded within the brain’s limbic system (where our brain registers both emotions and smells) and amygdala (the part of the brain that registers memories), where emotions are born and emotional memories stored." That’s why smells, feelings and memories become so easily and intimately entangled.
That's why we can smell a certain odor and be immediately transported to another time long, long ago. God seems to have designed our brain to mix it all up so that we recall things without effort because of our sense of smell.
Pie is equally wonderful.
God places great importance on fragrance as well. He wanted incense burned every time the high priest went to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat as Passover. In addition, when the Lord sent the kings from the east, two of their three gifts were known for their scent: frankincense and myrrh. Could it be that it would be a reminder each time Jesus went to the temple He would remember who He was born to be? God who put on human flesh (frankincense was reserved for the worship of God) Could it be that every time He went to a funeral He would remember what He was born to do? Die for the sins of man (myrrh was used in burial as a preservative).
In the same way, our aroma affects those around us. Listen to this:
But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15
How's your fragrance?
This Christmas, as we breath in the wonderful aromas of the season, may we remember why we celebrate "Christ"mas. Let's spread His sweet fragrance everywhere beginning this wonderful, holy week.
Merry Christmas!
Pastor Trey Rhodes

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Guilt Free

A Bible-believing Christian psychiatrist once said, “The trouble with psychiatry is that it can only deal with symptoms. A psychiatrist can remove a patient’s feelings of guilt, but he cannot remove the guilt. It’s like a trucker loosening a fender on his truck so he won’t hear the motor knock. A patient can end up feeling better, but have two problems instead of one!”
How can we know personally that we have this perfect standing before God? That we are really guilt free...with the sense of guilt overpowering us? We can know because of the witness and promise of God the Holy Spirit through His very Word:
This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, He adds: I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts. Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin (Hebrews 10:15–18, HCSB). 
This verse in the Bible prophecies by the witness of the Spirit which is based on the work of the Son, and is given through the words of the Bible. This is quoted from Jeremiah 31:33 and repeated here in Hebrews 10. Why? This gave these wavering Jewish believers a legitimate reason to forsake the old system of laws and regulations.
One of the saddest things is that the old covenant worshiper (those who held on to their religion of sacrificing animals over and over) who could not say that he had “no more consciousness of sins” (Heb. 10:2). Their guilt remained as it ate on them from the inside out. Those who wanted to go back had forgotten the guilt that weighed them down until they met the One who forgave of everything they had ever done. 
In contrast, the greatest thing a New Testament believer can say that his sins and iniquities are remembered no more. That is the reason there is “no longer an offering for sin” (Heb. 10:18). That means we don't remember our sin any more! 
When a sinner trusts Christ, their sins are all forgiven, their guilt is gone, and the matter is completely settled forever. 
That means we are completely clean. That is what God promises everyone who has come to Christ as the Savior of their lives. Are you ready to live guilt free? Then, come to Christ, lay your sins at His feet and trust Him to forgive you and cleanse you from every sin and all the guilt. What are you waiting on?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Hear from God Today

Hearing is one of God's greatest gifts. It is such a social thing to be able to understand and interact in conversations. There is nothing worse for me than being in a restaurant with horrible acoustics (read "sound echoing off the walls like you're in a cavern underground"). I can't hear well in that situation, so I "smile and wave" as the conversation goes around around me. 

My concern is that's how it is with most people Christians. They have had one supernatural event, their salvation, and they have never experienced God since that time. God has so much more for them. So much more for us. So much more for you. 

We are continuing with Simple Faith as we move into another part of growing in our faith. Last time, we exhorted you to go to church. It's the easiest, but one of the most basic parts of the Simple Faith lifestyle. Find one you like, go there, and get involved. If you can't do this most basic of steps, everything else will be much harder if possible at all. So, don't skip it.

On a daily basis, God floods my heart with His voice daily. I experience His clear direction. He encourages me for the day. I find my daily purpose in Him. All that is really available? All that and more. How can you know His voice? Jesus told us that His sheep would hear His voice (See John 10:27).

Is His voice audible to you? Actually, it's a lot louder than that. I adore listening to God. It's why I get up early. And it's not even difficult. It's so simple children can do it. Are you ready to hear from God? I hope you will follow this simple way to hear from God on an everyday basis.

God speaks daily through His word. That means if you want to hear from Him daily, interact with His Word. We find His clear and resolute words in the Bible. 


My next blog entry will be a simple plan to get you started. I can't wait to share it. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Simple Faith

It has always been my belief that Christians have made the Christian walk much too complicated. As much as I love them, go into any Christian bookstore and take a look at all the Christian self-help books. You would think that there is so much to know that no one could possibly master what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I am writing about what it means to be that kind of follower in the simplest of terms. It is what I like to call, "Simple Faith." So, if you are a little overwhelmed where to start, then this is for you.
Before listing the basic steps, I want to share a caviat, The Christian life is a glorious, wondrous ride that can never be defined by anyone. Your life can and should be more than this, but this is where you must start. That is to say, this is not a restrictive, legalistic type of list, but an open and free start to the most wonderful life you could ever dream of having. Don't skip over and do the complex until you start worth the basic. Otherwise, you crash and burn, and that's never a pretty sight. 
1. Go to Church
Yep, that's right... get out of bed, and get yourself to church. I don't mean watch a youtube video or a Christian TV show (even if there is preaching). Go to a church building this Sunday morning. This is the simplest, but usually the most argued point of all that I will say. Somehow, we tend to think that in and of ourselves, we are spiritual enough to make it on our own, but no one is able to go it alone. It has been my belief that if you can't do this easiest of steps in simple faith, you are going to have a tough time making forward motion in your faith walk.
So, get to church. Find a church. Ask your friends for suggestions. Make sure they believe the Bible and love people. Then, get in the car. Go sit in the church. Sing the songs. Listen to the preacher and take notes. It won't happen immediately, but soon you will experience growth and strength in your spiritual journey as never before. What we call "church" is actually a gathering of believers who come together to worship Jesus, hear the Bible preached, and encourage one another in our Christian lives.
As the Bible tells us, "Not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more" Hebrews 10:25 HCSB
Okay, that's your home work for the week. Find a church and get there. You'll be glad you took the first step in your life of simple faith. This can begin your wonderful life in Christ.