Saturday, December 17, 2016

He Gives Freely

Mary is not the only person who writes a song in Luke.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, does so as well.  One portion of his song describes two game-changers we get in God - gift giving and guidance.

God's heart is full of gift-giving and guidance that can fill you forever.  He won't force them on you.  Many respond with a resounding "NO." Others, hands and heart open, receive with gratitude.  The former continue in emptiness while the latter walk in contentment.

According to my count, Zechariah's song (Luke 1:76-79) describes five gifts we get in God:  A Prophet, Salvation, Forgiveness, Mercy, and Jesus. On any given day I need all five.  God's gifts are not for a designated day of the year.  He gives freely year round and from generation to generation.  He is the Ultimate Gift-Giver.

Tonight at 6pm at Celebration we will be worshipping the God who is full of gifts and guidance.  He has something special in store for us.  I personally invite you to join us. Bring a friend.  Bring your heart ready to receive gifts and guidance from the God who is with us.

He wants to shine light into your darkness and place your feet on a path of peace. Come and see.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, December 10, 2016

4 Phrases That Permanently Change Your Life

In the first chapter of Luke young Mary hears startling, life-changing words from an angel.  All were important but three stand out:  The Lord is with you; His Kingdom will never end; and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Responding to the angel Mary provides the fourth phrase of importance:  I am the Lord's servant.

Phrases change us permanently for better or worse.

  • Will you marry me?
  • Just try it this once
  • It's stage 4 and inoperable
  • Congratulations on your acceptance to ______________
  • I want a divorce
  • You are pregnant
  • He died this morning
Most people can quickly name 3 or 4 phrases that have permanently changed their life because words shape and influence us in tremendous ways.  "The tongue holds the power of life and death," we are told in Proverbs.  "The tongue is like the rudder of a ship," James instructs.  Words matter.

Tonight at 6 o'clock Celebration 4 powerful phrases will be spoken over every life: The Lord is with you; His Kingdom will never end; the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and I am the Lord's servant.  These are phrases that can permanently change your life if you receive them.  Though spoken to Mary in a timely way, they hold timeless application for all.

My heart this week has been particularly drawn to the lonely.  Loneliness can be known in isolation or in the midst of a crowd.  "Even in laughter the heart may ache," Proverbs reminds us.  Perplexity of heart fosters loneliness not proximity of people.

To the lonely I will say tonight:  The Lord is with you.  The Lord is with you in your prayers, in your thoughts, in your fears, in your relationships, in your hopes, in the hidden places of your heart, and in low and high places.  The Lord, Jesus, is the King who left His throne to be with you - Emmanuel.  His presence and His words of life are intended to replace the empty words and experiences of years gone by, to which, you are still clinging.  Let go and let the One who specializes in speaking new words do so into your lost heart.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Through a generous donation I am excited to give everyone tonight at Celebration Church & Outreach Ministry a free copy of my first published book entitled See. It's been a few years in the making but finally available.  I am writing short Bible studies for busy people (80-90 pages) that blend scholarship, imagination, and pastoral application.

For now I'm writing about Jesus.  My life is devoted to His teachings and beliefs, He was and is controversial, and He has personally changed my life forever.  Jesus is the opposite of boring or indifference.  He is intriguing, courageous, maddening to some, divisive, creative, and iconic in so many ways.  Even in my greatest debates with someone over the authenticity of Jesus' claims there is an engaging energy of interest present - like the doubter isn't convinced but wishes He was.

I hold to the conviction that followers of Jesus (I am guilty) and not Jesus Himself are the biggest barriers to doubters believing in the real Jesus.  The real Jesus' life was the greatest story ever to be played out on the stage of life.  The themes included a King becoming a commoner, love triumphing over evil, life breathed into lifelessness, betrayal, forgiveness, and the conquering of death.  Even more it's a story that continues.  The real Jesus is still carrying out His mission.

One of the things He is still doing is helping us to see as He did with a blind man in the small village of Bethsaida.  Jesus is not content to merely restore our sight.  He wants to recalibrate our seeing in a way that is exceptional and life changing.  The healer in Bethsaida 2000 years ago is still at work in you and me.

I invite you to join us tonight at 6pm at CCOM or watch online.  You can also go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble (See by R.J. Rhoden) and purchase the study.  Jesus is teaching me to see, and He wants to do the same for you.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Don't Fight Your Battles Alone

One day the Amalekites attacked the Israelites (Exodus 17) from behind, targeting the tired and weary ones that lagged in the back.  Though the cowardice strategy of our Enemy is to attack us at our weakest points, we need not fight our battles alone.

Moses, modeling this for us, immediately sprung into action gathering a team around him to deal with the attack.  Joshua selected warriors to hit the battle field.  Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up the hill overlooking the battlefield to pray - symbolized by the lifting of Moses' hands to God.  The collective result was victory.

There is no battle that you can fight alone.  Though tempted to do so by prideful and lonely thinking, victory is found with others around you.  Isolation, lack of trust, and loneliness are one of the best ways to ensure defeat after defeat in your life. You were not created to fight alone so quit trying to do it.

Many a stubborn person are stuck today in the misery of their defeats because of a continual refusal to seek help.  The true tragedy is not found in their defeat but rather in their refusal to embrace the key to victory.  They would rather lose alone than win with others - and that is pure tragedy.

Don't fight your battles alone.  God is your banner of victory - Jehovah-Nissi.  He wants to use people  in your life who will lift your hands when you are tired, fight alongside you, and worship Him with you when victory comes.

Fight together.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, October 8, 2016

In Need Of Something New

And the name of the city from that time on will be:  The Lord is there! - Ezekiel 48:35

God's heart is wired for restoration, renewal, and hope.  He saw the brokenness of Jerusalem and envisioned, through the Prophet Ezekiel, a coming, new day.  No longer would the beloved city be identified with ruin, isolation, and desertion but with the mighty presence of God - Jehovah-Shammah.

How grateful are we for a God that not only knows we are in need of something new but desires to provide it?  He kindly and gently, yet with a quality of unresistible force, gives us the opportunity to walk in a new life that is full of His presence and power. One day we are known for misery and hopelessness; the next day and all the days that follow, we are described as The Lord is There!

I love the phrase "from that time on" in Ezekiel's vision.  Everyone needs a miracle moment named "from that time on."  It represents the end of the old and the beginning of something new.  It's a doorway.  It's a change that ushers in a whole new life of hope, peace, and provision.  Sometimes the transition is dramatic but other times it's gradual.  Either way is life-altering.

God gave Jerusalem a new name, a new city, a new time period, and a new faith.  He will do the same for you because His heart is wired for such an act of kindness.  His nature is eternally oriented to doing something new for those in need of something new.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Peace Now

23But the Lord said to Gideon, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” 
24So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. - Judges 6:23-24

God does NOT declare peace over your life to keep you safe but that you might become who you were born to be.  Jehovah Shalom (God is Peace), proclaimed by Gideon, came in the middle of a moment where Gideon's life was changed forever.  He was told by a messenger from God that he was not born to hide fearfully in a cave threshing wheat; he was born to be a mighty warrior for God.

It's tempting to be a bad steward with God's Peace.  Selfishly, you keep it only for yourself.  Fearfully, you use it to hide from your enemies rather than confronting them.  Therapeutically, you reduce it to how it makes you feel rather than how it makes you think and act.  True peace is walking out contently and courageously the future victories God has planned for you.

Though your future victories will be full of risk, demanding gnarly faith from you, the God of Peace will be with you.  Gideon discovered that immediately.  God sent him into battle with 32,000 men, but prior to the battle beginning God reduced his army to only 300.  God actually said to Gideon, "You have too many men (Judges 7:2a)." Walking in the peace of God will help you to realize that MORE of GOD and LESS of YOU is the key to victory.  Though ferociously counter - intuitive to humanism, letting God take the fight for you will liberate you, flooding your soul with the peace of God.

God is declaring His peace over your life NOW.  Can you mute the noise of this world long enough to hear Him?  Receive it, and you will be changed forever just like Gideon.  You were born to walk in victory not defeat - to be a warrior not a weakling - to be in peace not fear.  The God of Peace will crush Satan under your feet (Romans 16:20).  Peace now.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Sunday, September 18, 2016

7 Steps of God's Provision

Based on Genesis 22:1-14 (The 7 Steps of God providing for Abraham and Isaac).  Watch the entire sermon on our YouTube Channel - Celebration Church and Outreach Ministry

Step One:  Trust God fully

This is the most important of the 7 steps.  Without this starting point none of the other steps are possible.

Step Two:  Do what you know to be right

Though Abraham was probably in a state of confusion, he proceeded in obedience to the Lord, doing what he knew to be right.  The road that leads to provision is lined with acts of obedience that are void of understanding.

Step Three:  God will never put on you more than you can carry

God gave Abraham and Isaac the strength to carry the wood, fire, and knife up a long, steep path.  He will do the same for you.

Step Four:  Declare God's provision before it arrives

In verse 8 Abraham declares that God will provide.  This is the most difficult of the steps for two reasons.  First, you do not have a testimony yet.  And secondly, the doubters in your life tend to chat the loudest on this step.

Step Five:  God will come on the scene at just the right time

God is never late.  God is never early.  He always arrives at the appointed time connected to His greater purposes for your life.

Step Six:  With God there are NO coincidences

God, not luck, got a ram caught in the thicket.  Along the way to God's provision you will encounter unexplained moments with the One who operates strategically not serendipitously.

Step Seven:   It's time to testify

God's provision is meant to be told not bottled up inside.  Share and encourage someone with your story of God's provision.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, September 17, 2016

7 Pennies

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” - Genesis 22:14

One day on a mountain God turned a frightening moment between a father and son into one of the greatest displays of obedience and provision recorded in Scripture.  As Abraham raised his knife, staring into the whites of Isaac's eyes, an angel of the Lord intervened, and God provided a ram.

Hours earlier Isaac and Abraham had walked the long, steep journey up the mountain.  Scripture records that Isaac was tasked with carrying the wood, and Abraham's hands were full of the fire and knife.  Can you imagine the intensity and stress of that hike?  Isaac, full of confusion as to what was going on, struggles to haul all the wood up the mountain.  Abraham, sweat running down his brow, privately pleads with God to halt this assignment.  On that path Abraham and Isaac embodied the totality of what it means to trust God to provide.

Jehovah Jireh (God Will Provide) is fun to name-drop in a prayer or song but incredibly difficult to live out on a steep, confusing path up a mountain.  God is not always quick to provide, but He is always faithful to provide.  Understanding the difference between quick and faithful is the key to walking out the steps of provision God lays out for us.

In the story of Abraham and Isaac a case can be made for 7 such steps.  Tonight, at Celebration Church & Outreach Ministry, we will highlight those steps identifying each one as a penny.  The third penny, based on Abraham and Isaac's hike up the mountain, is this:  God will never put on you more than you can carry.

At times it feels as though God has overestimated our strength - like He got our calculations confused with someone else's.  We cry out to God:  "I can't carry this! Maybe she can but I can't!"  And yet, a day, week, month passes, and we discover that God's calculations were right all along.

God does not give us a burden to carry for no reason at all.  It's always in alignment with a greater plan of provision that He is unfolding for us.  God is in the business of converting steps towards provision into a grand testimony of provision. We are carrying a burden now to proclaim a story of faithfulness later.  Someone Tomorrow will need to hear about Your Today - that's just how God works.  It's one way He redeems all things in our lives.

Come get 7 pennies tonight at The Big House, and hear about the other steps - 5501 Midlothian Turnpike at 6pm - or watch Live at

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, September 10, 2016

FOR You Not in FRONT of You

Most of God's mightiness is done FOR you not in FRONT of you.  When something is done for you, it is often not seen or known by you.  Have you ever walked into a surprise birthday party that your friends had been scheming for months?  Something had been done for you not in front of you.

When it comes to God we want Him to do everything in front of us.  We want Him to display His mightiness in a way that is fully visible.  We want to be eye witnesses of it. In fact, we often say things like this:  "If only I could see one great miracle of God, then I would really believe."

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is the total opposite of God's normative way of functioning.  Most of His mightiness is done for us, happening unbeknownst to us while we sleep or behind us or near us and at His mysterious timing.  God rarely gets the glory due Him for the bountiful ways He is, thought unknowingly to us, mighty on a daily basis on our behalf.

I sometimes try to imagine what it would be like for God to lift me up to His perspective for just one day.  The mind-blowing experience that would ensue as I witnessed His magical orchestrating of all things peaks my curiousity beyond measure.  I fear that the experience might render me forever incapable of raising from my knees of gratitude for all He does undetectable to the human eye.

I wonder what would happen if we learned to LOVE the special, rare moments that God does in front of us but LIVED in the incalculable, sustaining moments of mightiness done for us?  How might we be changed forever?  My suspicion is that petty complaining would cease; faith would increase; fruits of the spirit would burst forth; strongholds would vanish; peace and contentment would rule our hearts; and the shalom of God would pour forth out of our churches into the streets.

No doubt Satan knows this, and therefore daily seeks to cloud our thinking and judgment like he has been doing since the Garden of Eden.  But Satan can be crushed under our feet.  The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us.  Resist Satan and he will flee.

I am looking forward to that day in Eternity when I will know all that God has done for me.  What about you?  At that time and in light of what He will reveal, our response will be nothing short of an instantaneous posture of continual worship and adoration of His supremacy.

He is El Shaddai - God Almighty and all-sufficient.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Spirit of the Living God Does These Things

Shortly after His baptism Jesus entered the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth and opened the scroll to Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the Day of vengeance of our God; to comfort those who mourn and to provide for all that grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.

According to my count there are 10 acts of goodness represented in the prophet's words:

Preach Good news to the poor (Hope)
Bind up the broken-hearted (Healing)
Freedom to the captives (Deliverance)
The opening of the prison to them that are bound (Grace)
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Blessing and Salvation)
To proclaim the day of vengeance of our God (Justice)
To comfort and provide for those who mourn (Counsel)
Give a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Mercy)
Give the oil of joy instead of mourning (Strength)
Give a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Worship)

Believing that all this goodness is intended for us too is one of the great challenges of the faith.  We wonder if we have somehow been disqualified, but God desires no one to be left out.  We can shut ourselves off to God's goodness, but we cannot stop His reckless pursuit of us. The living God is a loving God.

Isaiah 61 is a kind of "marching orders" for us.  The Spirit of the Living God wants to do these things for us and through us. We are proclaimers of life not death; hope not despair; blessing not poverty; strength not weakness; goodness not cruelty; and peace not violence.

Because the Spirit of the Living God Does These Things...

Ex nihilo,



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Overcoming UnForgiveness

Harboring unforgiveness in your heart will keep the fire of anger raging and will ultimately destroy you.  The stakes are high.  Forgiving, or the lack there of, is not to be taken lightly.  There is a reason that Jesus included it in the prayer He taught His disciples:  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Forgiven people forgive people.  One of the outflows of personal repentance is the ability to forgive others, but our ability to do so is not "feeling" based.  Forgiveness is a choice that leads to feelings NOT a feeling that leads to choice.  There is a big difference.  If you are waiting to extend forgiveness until you feel like it, you will be waiting the rest of your life.

I used to have three sets of clothes in my closet sarcastically labeled as the following:   In Shape; Not in Shape but Not Terrible; and Terribly out of shape!  At one point I could only wear a third of my clothes.  Maybe you can relate?

This all changed recently due to some weight loss and getting back into shape.  Sadly, though, I kept wearing the same "one-third" of my clothes because I had grown so accustomed to not fitting into the other clothes.  One day I finally decided to try on one of the "in shape" shirts.  To my surprise it fit perfectly.  I guess I had not realized just how much I had changed.  I was a different person now but was still wearing my old clothes.

I think we sometimes do the same thing with forgiveness.  It didn't "fit us" years ago so we assume the same for today, but you are a different person now.  What at one time was impossible to put on has now become a custom-designed fit for you.  God has a way of doing that.

No one can put the clothing of forgiveness on you.  Everyone must choose for themselves.  For those who courageously choose the path of forgiveness - even to those who do not deserve it or may throw it back in your face - there is freedom and peace.  If it were not so, God would not be modeling and commanding forgiveness.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Spoiled Kids in The King's Presence

God speaks words of royalty over our lives.  Commoners like you and I, born into spiritual poverty, can now be found in The King's Presence.  We are not just visiting; He invites us to live with Him benefitting from all His promises and glory.  To assure us God proclaims in His Word that in Jesus we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession so that we may declare praises to Him who has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9-10). So we always act like it - right?

About 15 years after those words of God were written and spoken among the early churches, God has to speak words of rebuke in Revelation.  Apparently His royal kids were acting a bit spoiled hanging out in His Presence and needed to repent from losing their first love, following false teaching, immorality, and living a "lukewarm", spiritual existence (Revelation Chs 2 & 3).

How does this happen?  How did they/do we lose sight of the words of royalty declared over us by God?  What is it about longevity in the King's Presence that can sometimes breed complacency, wrong behavior, or casualness?  God brings us from nothingness to greatness in Him, and, yet, we get drawn into lesser things in a short order of time.

In Revelation God spends no time asking why or how this has happened.  He simply gets right to the solution:  Repent.  Turn away from that behavior and go the other direction.  Do not spend another minute acting like a spoiled child.  Act like the royal, privileged person you have become in Jesus and conduct yourself accordingly.

It does not matter who you were Yesterday.  Today you have been engrafted into God's chosen people, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, and His special possession.  So repent and enjoy all His benefits; walk, NOT because you belong there, but because He put you there...Once you did not have mercy but now you have received mercy.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Destroy Barriers

On that day Peter was a man with a heavy heart.  Though he was fishing with the other disciples his mind was elsewhere.  He had forsaken Jesus.  In the moment of pressure he had caved denying Him three times.  Now Jesus was alive again. He had already appeared to the disciples twice, but Peter had yet to make things right.

That day would prove to be different for Peter.  Having caught no fish, a voice from the beach yells, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some (John 21:6)."  Though the voice was correct and an abundant of fish were caught, the powerful moment for Peter would not be about fish.  It was, once again, coming face-to-face with Jesus.  This was now his third opportunity to repent for his wrong doing.

We are not sure of the distance between the shore and the boat.  We know it was close enough for them to hear Jesus' voice but far enough out to be able to fish.  Regardless of the exact distance, Peter's actions are forever recorded in Scripture as epically noteworthy.  Overwhelmed with the conviction of guilt, he jumps in the water, swims to shore at a speed that outpaces the boat, and presents himself dripping wet to Jesus.

Peter destroyed the barrier between himself and repentance.  I can almost see him standing in front of Jesus, water dripping from his beard and out of breath, maybe hands on his knees in exhaustion, repeating the words, "This time, this time...nothing was going to get in the way."

Barrier Christianity is when we spend 90% of the time talking about the barrier and only 10% destroying the barrier.  Peter did the opposite.  He spent about 10% of the moment seeing the barrier and 90% destroying it.  Peter did more than swim that day. He eliminated the gap between himself and repentance with reckless abandon.  He pursued God with equal or more passion than he had previously pursued the things of this world.  It changed his life forever.

Today is the day to destroy barriers.  Now is the time.  Let's not allow another opportunity to escape us.  The Voice from the shore is still calling.  Do you hear Him from your boat?  If so, run full throttle to Him.  He wants to eat with you.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Punishment or Provision?

The epic adventure of Jonah never disappoints.  It continues to teach and challenge new generations of Followers on the themes of rebellion, repentance, grace, second-chances, and salvation - to name a few.  It's the only place, as far as I know, that we have a documented prayer from the inside of a fish!  Many circumstances are known to drive us to our knees, but Jonah's time in the fish trumps (no political reference intended :) them all.

For most of my life I viewed Jonah's days in the fish as his punishment for disobeying God.  While there is some truth to that (if Jonah had obeyed he would not be in the fish), it is not the complete picture of God's handiwork in Jonah's life.  If God had only been interested in punishing Jonah than He would have allowed him to drowned.  But God saved him, a gracious response to Jonah's rebellious act.

Jonah's days in the fish were provision not punishment.  Scripture records that God provided a great fish for Jonah.  The fish was God's gracious provision for Jonah in the midst of his wayward run to Tarshish.  God is famous for using a variety of places and situations to bring stillness to our lives.  He does this to halt the madness and chaos and antics we are so prone to embrace.  God loves us so much that He will, if necessary, put us in a jail cell or an empty house or a hospital room or a broken down car on the side of the road or a pigs' pen or the belly of a fish to stop us from resisting His pursuit of our souls.  What we might deem as punishment, God has intended as provision.  It's His way of looking us in the eye and saying, "Are you tired of running yet?  If so, why don't you fall into my arms!"

Though the stench of the fish's belly was in Jonah's nostrils as he prayed, the smell of repentance was even stronger.  God's presence has a way of transcending our circumstances, creating a greater hunger for Him than the things of this world.  It's called the grace of God and is purposed to make us into the people we were created to be and for His glory.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jesus On The Way

The day Jesus was cheered on His way to Jerusalem is more than a story.  It's an iconic moment that repeats itself over and over again in the hearts and lives of people everywhere.  You see, Jesus is always on the way to doing something new in, through, and for us. He mounted a donkey not only to travel to Jerusalem years ago but to also travel and arrive forever in the hearts of all who welcome Him.

Jesus arrives on a donkey - the sign of peace, not a horse - the sign of war.  He wants to bring peace to every area of your life. And that is why He is always on the way to doing something new.  Our hearts are an endless collection of needs and wounds that need tending.  We sometimes tire from the process but Jesus never does.  Peace, not inner turmoil, is the ultimate goal.

On that day long ago, the crowd cheered and shouted for Jesus in anticipation of what they heard was possible in Jesus.  He had raised Lazarus from the dead.  Some probably entertained the thought, "If He can do that, what might He do with my broken heart?"  They were the first to discover His majestic ways, and, now, subsequent generations are discovering the creative extent of His glorious work.

Tonight @celebrationRVA we will pursue this theme together.  I am praying this afternoon that many will be touched tonight by the Jesus who wants to ride into our lives bringing peace.  Violence is everywhere.  Trust and relationships are broken.  We need the one on the donkey.  Join us tonight for #CCOMWorship @6pm.

Jesus is on the Way.  Hosanna.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Se7en Reasons Why Grouchy Church People Are No Excuse

Don't let grouchy, church-people from Yesterday 
keep you from new life in Jesus Today!
R.J. Rhoden

I talk to people all the time who are allowing the actions and words of others to rob them of a joyful relationship with Jesus.  It's amazing that we allow such a thing to happen. Why give someone else that much power and influence?  Here are se7en good reasons that grouchy people in our past should not be an excuse for spiritual complacency in our present.  Post these somewhere as a reminder.

1. You will give an account for Your life not someone else's.

2. Jesus is worthy to follow even when church-people are not.

3. What grouchy, church-people do is none of your business.

4. We miss mission with Jesus when we focus on grouches.

5. You worship Jesus not people.

6. Grouches will disappoint you but Jesus never will.

7. Jesus has an assignment for you Today that will require you to let go of Yesterday.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Friday, January 29, 2016

Se7en Words That Changed Everything

Rise! Pick up your mat and walk.
John 5:8

Jesus never wasted words.  He spoke with purpose and always in alignment with the Father's Will.  His words not only changed people but set in motion a new expression of God's work on the earth.

One day a man suffering from paralysis for 38 years was a recipient of those words. Jesus found him on one of the five covered porches surrounding the Pool of Bethesda. He was laying on his mat as he had done for almost four decades. After a brief conversation Jesus spoke se7en words over the man that changed everything for him. Rise! Pick up your mat and walk.  And the man did so.

Se7en words from Jesus can get rid of 38 years of misery!  It's not magic, but it is mysteriously powerful and compelling.  I can't begin to understand or explain why Jesus only interacted with this man on that day and not all the others near the pool as well. Maybe He returned later that day, and it is not recorded for us. But this one thing I am confident: Jesus has words of life for everyone.  He has words that can change everything. Jesus' words have the power to deliver us from whatever porch of misery we might find ourselves.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Humble yourselves before the Lord,
and He will lift you up.
James 4:10

The upsidedown principle that guides a godly life is so counter-intuitive. We struggle to believe in God's design of cause-and-effect:  death leads to life, sacrifice produces joy, generosity brings abundance, godly dependence produces greater freedom, obedience not ambition gives birth to authority, the Cross not an insurrection establishes a new King, and humility leads to exaltation (James 4:10).

For many years I assumed that the real challenge in James 4:10 was the initial command.  My emphaisis was only on becoming humble before God, emptying myself as an expression of dependence on Him.  So I went to work on that and felt rather pleased with myself.  A day turned into a week, and  a week became a month.  And that led to a year which evolved into decades.

Time should draw us closer to God.  But if we have wrong motivations for humbling ourselves before Him, time can also produce resentment.  We presume upon God our desired outcomes for such a long stretch of humility and obedience which is always a dangerous place to get stuck. Sometimes we miss God's goodness for our lives because we are stubbornly loyal to our version of goodness rather than His.  It is at that moment that we discover something very important. The initial command in James 4:10 is NOT the most challenging part.  It is the promise that follows - He will lift (exalt) you up.

Being content with God's version of our exaltation is more difficult than humbling ourselves before Him. We do not get to write the script of our reward.  And this is ultimately more of a deterrent for us than being dependent on Him.  You and I can muster up the courage to purge ourselves of the things of this world, transferrring our dependence on Him, as long as He allows us to negotiate the fruits we will enjoy in this world and the next.  But God allows no such thing, and we loathe the idea of not being able to negotiate our reward.  The mere idea stirs anger in us. Perhaps the greatest expression of humility is not bowing to God but trusting Him with the resulting exaltation He promised.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Thursday, January 7, 2016

You Are a Storehouse of God's Treasures

But we have this treasure in jars of clay 
to show that this all-surpassing power is from God
and not from us. 
2 Corinthians 4:7

(This is an excerpt from the sermon I will preach this Saturday night January 9th at Celebration Church & Outreach Ministry.  6pm at 5501 Midlothian Turnpike.  Join us for the whole sermon or watch online at Click on Live.)

We are custom designed by God to be storehouses of His treasures.  That is often difficult for us to receive or even comprehend.  We wrongly wonder, "Does that really apply to me?" "Why would God delight in filling me?" "I'm not worth God's time."  But that kind of wondering is the deception of the enemy and in direct conflict with the promises of God's Word.

I used to read this verse and assume that Paul was referring to a singular treasure within us.  A closer examination of the word he uses, thay sow ros, reveals a bigger meaning.  In Paul's world thay sow ros was a storehouse, a small structure, used by people to house their treasures.  The early readers of Paul's letter probably heard verse 7 differently than us.  They envisioned themselves as a storehouse for God's treasures rather than a mere, singular item of value.  Understanding the difference in the two meanings can be a game changer.

Like most teachings in God's Word this concept is easy to hear, yet we find creative ways to butcher it on a daily basis.  In contrast to Paul's teaching, our lives become storehouses for the things of this world instead of God. The trick of the enemy is to entice us with empty relationships, philosophies, behaviors, and mindsets that clutter our storehouses leaving little or no room for the treasures of God.   Your lack of spiritual growth may be more related to clutter than comprehension.  We tend to know more than we do.

God removes before He adds.  He took away our sin problem first and then placed Jesus in us.  He wants to do the same with our worldly baggage.  But here is a little warning:  the removal process can be messy.  Some things are freed quickly, but other areas do not leave without a fight.  Fortunate for us God is patient and tenacious in ridding us of junk.  I can't think of a better time than now for you to stop fighting Him.

When was the last time you did a serious inventory of your storehouse?  I wonder if some unhealthy items have nestled in over the last year?  Have some things returned that were gone at one time?  Are you wrestling with God, clinging to one or two areas you are reluctant to have purged?  Or maybe you need a complete house cleaning? Only you and God know, but others will begin to notice once the work is done.  What are you waiting for?

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Friday, January 1, 2016

Home After 19 Days

On this first day of 2016 I am compelled to give thanks to God, the prayers of many friends, the support of family, and the wisdom of the medical community for delivering me from the greatest physical trial I have ever endured.  To say that my perspective on life has been recalibrated is to understate it.  It feels like a rebirth and renewal has taken place within me that can only emerge through the crucible of trial.

On December 9th, a seemingly normal day, severe abdominal pain suddenly set in sending me straight to the emergency room.  We were soon told that acute pancreatitis along with some pneumonia in the left lung area were the culprits. I didn't know it at the time but the battle to stabilize and heal my body would be a long, grueling, 19-day struggle that included two stays in the ICU and three different hospital rooms.

The struggle for control of your thoughts and fears in life-threatening circumstances might be the most difficult aspect of such a moment. I desperately clung to my foundational beliefs in God, His Word, His Promises and the prayers of God's people. But to say that I unwavered in those truths at all times is at best a misrepresentation and at worst, an outright lie.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I floated between victorious moments pregnant with faith and lonely stretches gripped with fear.  I cried.  I cried out to God.  I sang songs of hope.  I listened.  My hand was often held.  Then a little fear creeped in again.  The fear left.  Hope abounded. The cycle was exhausting.

My faith, hope, and love in the God who pours out His grace and mercy abundantly has a new, quiet strength.  The reason, which is critical to understand, is NOT because I received the positive outcome I desired.  Don't misunderstand me, I am exceedingly grateful for God's touch on my life and am giving all glory and honor due His name. But my soul is primarily overflowing with life because God always comes near.  God sings songs over us in the good and difficult times, in belief and doubt, in wandering and anchored hearts, and in ordinary times. God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore.  There is no circumstance, pain, or personal accolade that is void of His presence.

I'm not sure how you are starting off 2016 but am sure of this:  God's ways are higher than ours.  He renews our strength.  He rescues.  He teaches through the trials of life. And just as He did 2,000 years ago in Jesus, He comes near to be with us.  He enters this side of eternity to ultimately take us one day to His side of eternity.  In the meantime, He grants us new days and seasons to advance His work on earth - an opportunity I am relishing in this first day of 2016.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden