A LOOK BACK: Evil Begotten

Read Romans 12:9-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Maleficent2

Boy do my wife and daughters know how to make me feel special. Several years ago, for Father’s day, following church and fellowship, they treated me out to see: Disney’s “Maleficent”, which stars Angelina Jolie in the title role. What a spectacular film to get to see and it actually exceeded my expectations, which were quite high, in ways I never foresaw.

While I am not going to ruin the film with spoilers, I will address a theme that is predominant in the film in a way that does not give away anymore of the plot than the trailers and/or previews give. The movie starts off with a young fairy named Maleficent, who was actually anything but Maleficent. She was kind-hearted, thoughtful and filled with the love of life. But all of that changes after her heart, her trust and her hope are broken because of the evil deeds of a greedy and vengeful king.

The evil that was perpetrated against her land, and the evil that was perpetrated against her and her kind, caused her to grow angry and resentful. It drove her to hate the king and all humans for what they had done toward her. It spiraled her downward into becoming a hellish, shadowing, and vengeful queen seeking to bring curses against the ones who sought to destroy her. Evil had begotten evil.

For those of you who have seen the original Walt Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty, you know what becomes of Maleficent and what the evil begotten above did to her. Evil never stays in one place and it found it’s way into the life of an innocent girl named Aurora, who was to be princess of the land. Because of Maleficent’s evil curse, this princess was doomed to be in a “sleep like death”, which could only be broken by “true love’s kiss.” What a sad and tragic story indeed. Where does the evil end?

Some of you might be screaming, “Time out! Why is it that this world wants you to sympathize with the villains? Who cares why Maleficent did what she did?!?! It was wrong and there is no excuse for it!” That is true, there is not excuse for the evil that Maleficent perpetrated on others; however, the world is not so black and white. It is easy when we look at the Maleficents of the world and point the finger, but not so easy when we are forced to look in the mirror at ourselves. How has evil affected you? How have you let the hurts you’ve endured and the challenges that you have faced to effect you? Have you ever lashed out at others because you yourself were hurt and/or vulnerable?

For each of us, the answer to these questions and others like them will be different. Each of us carries around our own set of baggage. Each of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and have been a participant in sin, and even evil, whether we realize it or not. The point of this is not to shame you or make you feel guilty, but to humbly liberate you from the judgmentalism we so often get trapped in.

Sitting in the judgment seat of God (as Maleficent ended up doing), is not the way to stop evil in its tracks; rather, the best way to stop evil is to simply choose not to participate in it and to counter act it with our love and compassion. We have the choice to repent of our own participation in evil, to reject its pull on our lives, and to rise up out of it with the strong wings of God’s grace. Though we have all suffered, one way or the other, as a result of evil…we can choose not follow suit. So, say NO to evil and YES to the “true love” that God is willing to fill you with.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. – Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 5:44-45

PRAYER

Lord, pull me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Fill me with your forgiveness so that I may forgive. Amen.

VACATION: See You On the Flipside

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-eavmg-106b5a0

Hello fellow sojourners,

I am so thankful for your journeying with me and listening to Life-Giving Water Messages. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be enjoying a much needed family vacation and so there will not be services to listen to; however, if you visit First United Methodist Church’s YouTube Channel, you can watch the service in its entirety. If you are unable to catch it live on Sundays at 10:30 a.m., remember it takes a while for the livestream to process and post following the service’s end, so keep checking back on our channel to see if it has posted. 

A LOOK BACK: Legacy

Read Luke 10:25-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Henry G. Appenzeller

Have you ever heard the name Henry Appenzeller? My guess is that you more than likely have not heard of that name, unless you are a Korean Methodist and/or have happened to study at Drew Theological School in Madison, NJ. Henry Gerhard Appenzeller was born on February 6, 1858 a mother and father who were in the German Reformed Church. In 1879, at the age of 21, Appenzeller joined the Methodist Episcopal Church three years after having a profound conversion experience and quickly started serving as a Methodist minister. Being a  minister led him to Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, NJ and it was there that Appenzeller found the call to be an overseas missionary in Korea. At the time he arrived, Korea was in a political struggle and Christianity was not a welcomed religion. Missionaries could not set up churches, nor could they preach in public. Initially, Appenzeller’s ministry had to be done secretly.

In just two years, though, worship in public became possible and Appenzeller established a chapel for Christian services. In his time as a pastor in Seoul, Appenzeller founded a boys school, converted and trained people as disciples of Christ (in the Methodist tradition), and served on the board of Bible Translators who were working to translate the Bible into Korean. Today, Appenzeller is seen as the founder of the Korean Methodist Church which, as of 2001, comprised of 5,262 churches, 1,396,514 members, and 7,298 ministers. What’s more, six Methodist Universities have since been established, as well as the Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul, six theological institutes, and fifty-four junior high and high schools.

While these are all some pretty outstanding achievements by a man who, for a majority of American Christians, has mostly gone unnoticed, Appenzeller’s character is best seen through the last thing he did before he died. On a boat that was taking him to a Bible Translation board meeting in the city of Mokpo, the boat capsized and ended up sinking. An advanced swimmer, Appenzeller swam to safety, but soon realized that not everyone had. As a result, he swam back out to help rescue those who had not gotten out.

Unfortunately, he drowned in an attempt to save a young Korean girl from drowning; however, Appenzeller’s legacy did not die with him. It lives on in countless devout Korean Methodists who not only serve Christ in Korea but throughout the world, including here in America. In fact, I was recently commissioned and one of the Bishops who laid hands on me was Bishop Kim of Seoul Annual Conference in South Korea.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says that whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but those who lose it for the sake of God’s GOOD NEWS of hope, healing, and wholeness, will have eternal life. I cannot help but think of Henry Appenzeller and the countless others who have given their life up for the sake others. We are called to not prize our lives over the lives of others, but to see the divine image of God in all people, everywhere. Jesus calls us to be present for the lonely, to be love for the hated, to bear acceptance for the rejected, to be freedom for the enslaved, to bring food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless. We are to bring guidance and direction for those who feel lost. If we do that, if we live as Christ lived and be God’s Kingdom in the world, we too will build a legacy that far outreaches our earthly lives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to be like the Samaritan and continue to equip me to carry out your work of LOVE in the world around me, whatever the cost. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: From Sand to Cement

Read Hebrews 10:24-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20, NLT)

sandbags

Last weekend, while down at our Annual Conference down in Wildwood, NJ, I made sure that I got up at 6 am every morning to do one of my favorite things in the world. I would get up, get dressed, plug earphones into my music, and take a nice four mile jog on the beach. I just love going for a jog, no matter where I am; however, there is nothing quite like jogging along the shoreline, right by the water’s edge.

One of those mornings my oldest daughter came with me. We ran a good two or more miles South heading from Wildwood to Wildwood Crest. I was very proud of my daughter who jogged the first 2 miles with me. It’s amazing to see how much her endurance has grown over the past couple of years and it is a pleasure being able to share in a run with her, with both of us enjoying the time together and the time exercising.

On the way back, she asked me, “Dad, are we supposed to stay off the dunes?” I looked at her and smiled, while replying, “Yes, we should stay off the dunes.” She then asked me why that was. “Is it to protect the natural habitat of the animals,” she asked, rather wisely and inquisitively. “Yes,” I responded, “part of the reason is to protect the natural habitat; however, the dunes also play another important role. You see, they help to act as a natural barrier when storms cause the water to come this far up the beach. In a major hurricane they wouldn’t be large or strong enough, but they do act as a line of defense against storm surges.”

I then brought up the fact that whenever there is flooding, people will often build up walls of sand bags. My daughter was amazed at this. “How can sand really stop water from gushing out and flooding everything? Sand is so small and washes away so easily.” Her point was a valid one and, so, I responded, “Yes, loose sand is pretty small and insignificant. But when the sand is bound together in a bag, packed in tightly, it goes from being loose and wish-washy to being like a cement wall. One grain of sand is pretty insignificant; however, trillions upon trillions of grains of sand packed and working together is a force to be reckoned with!”

What an important lesson of us, as people of faith, to learn. We often think of doing BIG THINGS and CHANGING THE WORLD; however, when we head out there to do it we feel so small and insignificant. We often find ourselves wondering if we can really change anything. We become confused, discouraged, and we often end up feeling helpless and hopeless. What’s more tragic is that, in the end, we often give up on our call to be an agent of change.

But God has not called us to individual grains of sand. We are not called to be islands floating out in the middle of nowhere; rather, we have been called into community with one another. When Jesus was ministering to his people in ancient Israel (then known as the Roman Provence of Palestine), he did not do so alone. Instead, he gathered a group of twelve disciples and, actually, had many more disciples and followers than that.

Together, they were able to bring REAL change…REAL HOPE, HEALING, and WHOLENESS to the “least of these” in his community. That is what we are being called to do…not alone, but together as God’s children…as God’s community of faith. It is together, working as the hands and feet of Christ, that we really witness to the world the transforming POWER of God’s LOVE!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” – Rollo May

PRAYER

Lord, bring me ever deeper into your community of followers so that I may be a blessing to them and, likewise, them to me. Guide us forward so that we may bring your transformative love into the lives of others, one person at a time. Amen.

Episode 206 | Kingdom Questions

WelcWelcome to our Homecoming Sunday Worship Service for June 13, 2021. Today we will be discovering the importance of asking the right questions. Asking the right questions can lead us toward a more faithful witness of God’s Kingdom.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

A LOOK BACK: Extreme Faith

Read Genesis 22:1-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

indyOne of my favorite movies growing up was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Though I love all of the Indy movies, this one has always had a profound impact on me, especially on my understanding of faith. The story follows Indy on an adventure to save his dad; however, little does he know that this rescue mission will not only be about rescuing his father, but also rescuing his faith; he’s journey, over time, become a soul-searching quest.

In one scene, Indy finds himself standing at the edge of an abyss. He is facing a test unlike any other he had ever been challenged with. He quickly realized that the only way across was to take the proverbial leap of faith. The only problem was that the leap was about the length of a football field, if not longer. How is that humanly possible? How can anyone hope to get across such a huge abyss? Surely it is absurd to believe he could actually do it.

Yet, Indy must take that leap as his father’s life is bleeding out onto the cavern floor. He has to reach the Holy Grail, with the hope that the fabled treasure will restore his father’s life. Slowly, Indy places his hand over his chest as if to try and calm his heartbeat.  Could he really go through with this. All reason points to him plummeting to his death. Yet, he raises his right leg and lets his weight fall forward. As he falls forward, his foot lands on an invisible walkway. Indy has passed the test.

As Christians, we often take our faith for granted. We say we believe in God, we say we believe in miracles, and we even say that we KNOW that God exists and that miracles happen; however, if we truly KNEW such things, would we really need faith? If Indy knew that the walkway existed, would he have had to calm his heartbeat? All that Indy thought he knew was that he was bound to plummet to his death.

Christ calls us to be a people of faith. Like Abraham, who did not know God was going to stop him from sacrificing Isaac, like the prophets who didn’t know if they would survive proclaiming God’s judgment to the kings of Israel, just like Jesus who faced the gulf of the unknown in the olive garden, just like the disciples who did not know what fate awaited them in foreign lands, we too are called to live a life of extreme faith.

Søren Kierkegaard, once said that the faithful are like those who are suspended over 70,000 fathoms of water and yet they still have faith and are joyful. Why? Because, though it might be absurd to have faith in the midst of such uncertainty, they trust that God will come through. It may be absurd to the rest of the world, but the person of faith holds onto that absurdity in faith. I challenge you to be a people who have such trust in God. I challenge you to be living examples of extreme faith, to be tiny mustard seeds that move the mountains and shake the foundations of the earth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.” – Søren Kierkegaard

PRAYER

Lord, help me to grow in my faith so that I may be equipped with your grace, enough to move the mountains with your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: An Indisputable Truth

Read Mark 3:20-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24a).

thCA5AG0OROn June 16, 1858, then Republican senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that would shake the foundations of the Illinois statehouse and, eventually, would test the moral fiber and endurance of a nation. Lincoln was advised by his law partner, William H. Herndon, not to read it; however, Lincoln insisted on reading it stating that “the proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”

Following the speech, many people called it inappropriate. They felt that it was not politically correct and felt it to be too bold a speech for someone who’s looking to be elected. In the end, Lincoln ended up losing the election to his opponent, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Leonard Swett, another lawyer, believed that it was the speech that caused Lincoln to lose the race.

So, what did Lincoln say that was so controversial? He quoted Jesus’ words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While Jesus was responding to his opponents accusation that he was in league with Satan, Lincoln was referring to the damning effects of slavery. He was saying that this nation could not carry on being half-free and half-slave; it would either have to become all of one or all of the other. Lincoln knew which end he wanted to see…the end of slavery!

When we look at the modern church, we can see a slavery of a different kind. In the church we become a slave to our own ways of doing things. We see our own theology as being the right theology. We see our own ideas as being the right ideas. We see our own cliques as being the best people in the church. Often times we become slaves to our own egos, forgetting that it is God, not us, that we are called to be serving.

But, as Jesus proclaimed we cannot carry on serving God and serving ourselves. While Jesus was speaking of money, the truth carries over to anything we place before God. We cannot serve two gods, because one will always take precedence over the other. The church, the house and body of God, often stands divided against itself because of the lack of focus on Christ who is our center. And as Christ and Abraham Lincoln both said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The truth of the matter is, we are either serving God or we are not serving God. There is no in-between when it comes to whom we serve. In order to serve God, we must be striving to live in the image of an imageless God. We must be living examples of God’s love and God’s light. We must be bearers of God’s grace and forgiveness. We must learn to love one another, for only then will we have any business loving the world. If we strive to live into the image of God, we will no longer be divided; rather, we will be united in the eternal love that saved us from ourselves.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Rather than standing divided amongst ourselves, let us stand united in Christ and his mission.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see the bigger picture and to do my part in standing united in harmony with the rest of your body. Amen.

Episode 205 | Welcome Home

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ifuzj-10562eb

Welcome to our Homecoming Sunday Worship Service for June 6, 2021. Today we will be discovering the importance of recognizing our witness field at home. It may not be easy, but Christ’s mission is our top priority, even above matters of family, and Christ calls us to it and strengthens us for it.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

A LOOK BACK: Nothing is Impossible

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Jarena LeeThere once was an African-American woman, named Jarena Lee (b. 1783), who felt the call by God to preach the Gospel. The only problem with that was the fact that women were not permitted to preach anything during that time period; only men were permitted to preach. What’s more, she was not just a woman, but an African-American woman.

“Go and preach the Gospel,” she heard God tell her. “But no one will believe me,” she replied. And one can understand why she was afraid to approach anyone about her call to preach. But God persisted in calling her through her dreams until she finally decided to approach the Rev. Richard Allen about it. Initially he put her off, telling her that there was no room in the Discipline for a woman preacher. At first, she was thankful, as she thought Allen’s answer would put the calling to rest. But it did not.

Eight years later, during a sermon in which a minister lost the spirit to preach in a sermon on Jonah, Jarena jumped up and began to preach in his place. She proclaimed that she was like Jonah, running away from the call that God placed on her, and preached on the importance of answering the call of God.

Following her exhortation, Rev. Richard Allen, who as the Bishop of the African Episcopal Church at this time, confirmed that she indeed did come to him eight years earlier and that he had put her off. He confessed that he was mistaken and that she was as called to preach as anyone he had ever ordained as a minister. Later writing of this event, Jarena Lee wrote: “For as unseemly as it may appear nowadays for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God.” Indeed, God had done the impossible in the life of Jarena Lee!

Often times, we stand in the way of God with our rules and regulations and man-made doctrines and traditions. We determine who is worthy of being called by God, who is worthy of God’s presence, and who is worthy of God’s grace. On top of judging others, we often deem ourselves as unworthy too. Yet, who are we to decide such things? Jesus broke the man-made barriers and engaged in religious dialogue with a Samaritan woman at a well in Samaria in a day and age where women were property and Samaritans were considered less than worthy of God. And Peter saw the Holy Spirit filling Gentiles, breaking his prejudice against their worthiness.

Time and time again, Scripture shows us that nothing is impossible with God, and no one is unworthy enough to be called by God. Abraham was a polytheist and a fraud, Joseph was a prisoner and slave, Moses was a murderer and stutterer, Rahab was a prostitute, and David was an adulterer and a murderer. All of these people and many more were called to serve God in vital and important ways. Which one of us can be the judge against God working in another’s life? Which one of us can be the judge against God working in our own lives? Which one of us can be a judge against God?

Remember, God loves us all and calls us all to serve him. Each calling is unique; however, each calling is equally important and special. No rules or regulations can stop God from calling you or others. No rules or regulations should stop you or others from answering that call. Do not judge yourself or others; just answer God’s call and let God do the rest!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Oh how careful ought we to be, lest through our bylaws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the world of life.” — Jarena Lee

PRAYER

Lord God, help me discern your call and refrain from judging, whether I be judging myself or others. We are all worthy. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Filled for Eternity

Read Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 8:34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

BlueberriesViolet Beauregarde was the third out of five children to win a fabulous tour of a world-famous chocolate and candy factory and, just like the other children, she was there to get her fill. During the tour, the owner of the factory brought her and the other children into the invention wing of the factory, where all the new ideas for candy were being put to the test.

There, in that very room, was a chewing gum that would blow little Violet’s mind.  Not only was this a type of gum, but it also doubled as a filling three-course meal.  Wow, Violet was going to get her fill! After all, that is exactly what she had come there for! Of course, the gum was still in the testing phase of its development; yet, despite much protest from the owner, Violet stuffed her mouth with the gum and began to chew! She was going to have her fill and no one was going to stop her.

The gum started off tasting like a creamy tomato soup and then changed to the flavor of roast beef and a baked potato! Mmmm! That is so tasty! Finally, the gum changes flavor again. This time it’s dessert, and what’s on the menu? Blueberry Pie! Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm…how delicious! Well, it was the most awesome gum she had ever had, that is, until she started to feel sick and bloated. In fact, she was not only ballooning out, she was also turning blue! When all was said and done, she was a giant blueberry…just like the last flavor of the gum in her mouth. She had certainly had her fill.

Many will recognize the story above to be from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While Violet may be an extreme case, her story is still a parallel for how many have come to view church, and Christianity, in today’s culture. Many people are looking for their fill. They want to show up on Sunday, “be filled”, and move on with the rest of their week.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being filled. We all need to be filled to sustain ourselves for what lies ahead; however, when all we do is seek to be filled, we end up looking a lot like Violet Beauregarde.  We aren’t filled just so we can merely have our fill; rather, we are filled so that we may go and fill others.

Jesus addressed this in his teachings, never more clearly than in Matthew 25:31-46. The question is, are we the type of Christians to get our fill and keep it for ourselves? Are we the type of Christians who sit around comfortably, filled to the brim, while others are begging for hope, healing and wholeness? Or, are we the type of Christians who have been filled, and who seek to fill others by bringing hope, healing and wholeness into their lives?

There is plenty of work to be done for the Kingdom of God. We are called to be the presence of God in the world. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ.  God doesn’t need us to be disciples, but God desires us to be a part of filling others with the same hope, healing and wholeness we’ve been filled with.  Once we answer that call, we will be filled in a way that will sustain us for eternity.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
To help is to be helped; to fill is to be filled; to love is to be loved. As you have received, so you should give.

PRAYER
Lord God, we thank you for being our bountiful provider. We accept our fill and we accept your call for us to be fillers in the lives of those who need hope, healing and wholeness. Use us as you will us to be used. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

A biweekly devotional