All posts by Rev. Todd R. Lattig

Even When It is Not Well

Read Psalm 42

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1 NLT).

One of my favorite Christian hymns is It is Well With My Soul, written by American Lawyer and Presbyterian Church Elder Horatio G. Spafford. The story behind the hymn, at least the direct reason for it being written, is pretty well-known. Spafford was a lawyer and senior partner in a large law firm who was also friends with Dwight L. Moody who was a substantial and well-known evangelist who was the founder of the Moody Bible Institute. Spafford had also made substantial real estate investments north of Chicago in the Spring of 1871, but in October of that same year most of those investments were lost in the Great Fire of Chicago. That terrible event destroyed the city leaving nothing but ash in its wake.

Two years later, the Spafford family planned a vacation in England where their friend Dwight Moody would be preaching; however, Horatio was unable to join them due to business issues that arose that kept him from going. On the way across the Atlantic, the ship that Anne Spafford (Horatio’s wife) and their daughters were on was hit by an iron sailing vessel and killing 226 people including Horatio and Anne’s daughters, Annie (12 yrs old), Maggie (7 yrs old), Bessie (4 yrs old), and their 18-month old baby. Anne Spafford, Horatio’s wife, was the only survivor of the family members on the ship.

Things were not okay for Horatio or Anne in that moment or, I am sure, for a long time after. Things were were not well for them. This is not how things are supposed to be. Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents, let alone in such a horrible way. Mothers aren’t supposed to survive while their children die. I can only imagine the depths of despair that Anne and Horatio were both going through. The worst thing that could happen to parents had just happened to them.

On the way over across the Atlantic to meet his wife, Horatio penned these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, (it is well), with my soul, (with my soul). It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: if Jordan above me shall roll, no pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, the sky, not the grave, is our goal; oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, a song in the night, oh my soul!

Even when it was not well with his soul, Horatio still penned those words: “For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: if Jordan above me shall roll, no pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.” Even when it was not well with his soul, Horatio knew that it WOULD be well with his soul, because Christ would not abandon him or his wife in that tragedy.

The truth is, Christ will not abandon us either, even when things are not well with our soul. As the hymn boasts in the face of such tragedy, Christ has regarded our helpless estate and has shed his own blood for our souls. He is not giving up on us even when we feel like giving up. Let all of us who suffer, who feel Satan and trials are surrounding us on all sides, never forget that Christ is Immanuel, God with us, and he will get us through all circumstances if we but put our faith in him.

“You can survive the storm. Your soul is stronger than the storm.” – Lailah Gifty Akita

Lord, even when it is not well with my soul, I know you are with me and that you WILL NOT abandon me. Amen.

March 19, 2023 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our live-streamed Sunday Worship Services for March 19. Today we learn that it is difficult to understand how God could allow the pain and suffering we see in the world and in our own lives. Jesus is Emmanuel “God with Us.” Jesus reminds us that a better question to ask ourselves is, “What can I do to help those who are suffering and in pain?”

Please support us by giving online: or Or you can make and mail a check out to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ O7860

God bless you all for your generosity which is vital to our mission and ministry.

REVISITED: Truth Vs. Fact

Read John 14:6-10

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NLT)

Tropical big fish in a small fish bowl

One of the things that intrigues me most about the Bible is about how the Bible interacts with history. I love reading the stories about Esther and the Persian King Ahasuerus who, for good reason, is believed to be King Xerxes I of Persia. I love reading about archaeological finds that corroborate the stuff found in the Bible. One such example is the discovery of Caiaphas’s ossuary, which is a chest containing the bones of the high priest who found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and had him handed over to Pontius Pilate. It intrigues me when I learn that we have discovered Pontius Pilate’s name inscribed in stone. This kind of stuff makes me feel like a boy watching Indiana Jones and relishing in the history and the adventure.

As a person who gets excited about history, I find the links between the Bible and historical records to be simply stunning and thought-provoking. I also love studying, apart from the Bible, the times and contexts of the areas that the Bible is referring to. For instance, the Bible says that Abraham came from Ur. Where was Ur? What did it mean to be rooted in the culture of Ur. What sorts of religious, cultural and social practices existed in that land and in that time? Or, what was it like growing up in first century Palestine? What did it mean to be a Jew in that time, what sorts of things did the people of Jesus’ time have to deal/cope with. What did it mean to be poor, sick, lame, imprisoned, etc., in the time of Jesus?

With that said, our culture has become too reliant on history as a measure of truth. For instance, were Adam and Eve literal people? Was the world created in six literal days? Was there really a Noah and did God literally flood the earth, killing everything on it? Did Jonah really get swallowed up by a gigantic fish? Did Elijah really get carried off to heaven in a chariot of fire? For some, perhaps for many in today’s day and age, these questions and more become the focal point. And this focal point leads us to even more questions. If those things weren’t historically accurate, if they didn’t literally happen exactly as it was written (word for word) in the Bible, then should we just discount the Bible as being nothing more than a fanciful fairy-tale, full of lies and superstition?

In today’s time, people equate fact with truth. People tend to hold the following proposition: “if it isn’t factual, then it isn’t true.” Then they will take a story like Jonah and search for historical proof that Jonah existed, they’ll search for historical and scientific evidence that one can be swallowed up by a fish. If they cannot find said evidence, they end up with the following conclusion: “there is no historical evidence to prove that this really happened; therefore, its historicity is in question and we must conlcude the Jonah story is not true.

Yet, the proposition is what lacks in truth and it leads to such a false conclusion. It can be said that in order for something to be truly and/or wholly historical, in must be factual. It can also be said that if something is factual, it must be true.  Yet, while facts are dependent on truth, it does not follow that truth is dependent on fact. Just because something didn’t actually happen, does not mean it is not true! Take Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Was there a Good Samaritan? Did such a Good Samaritan actually exist? Who knows?!?! It was a parable that Jesus told in order to convey the truth of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Whether, it was a parable drawn from a historical event, or whether it was spun up by Jesus’ masterful storytelling skills in the moment is completely irrelevant!

The point of this is that, while we can get intrigued by the historicity of the Bible, we ought not get caught up in whether it is historical or not. The Bible was not written to be a history text book. Yes, it does include historical events in it. It also includes allegory, poetry, mythology, laws, songs, philosophy, and a whole host of other things. What the Bible was written for was to convey theology and spiritual truth. To stumble on our 21st understanding of history and whether or not the Bible holds up to it is to, quite frankly, foolishly and senselessly miss the point. Rather than seeking the historicity of the Bible, seek truth within its pages, for the Bible is spiritually authoritative and it is a profound part of the foundation of our faith, filled with the Truth.

“It’s like a finger pointing to the moon, don’t concentrate on the finger or you’ll miss all of that heavenly glory.” – Bruce Lee

Lord, rather than facts, fill me with your truth that I may be set free to live out that truth in my life. Amen.

Real Love

Read Ephesians 5:1-2

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16 NLT)

A show that I have been into since it came out is Teen Wolf, which was produced by MTV. The show is six seasons long and now has a movie out as well. It follows Scott McCall, a teenage boy who accidentally got bit by a werewolf. Of course, anyone of us who have been alive since Henry Hull and Lon Chaney, Jr. have scared us on the silver screen, we all know that anyone who survives a bite by a werewolf becomes a werewolf themselves.

The show was loosely based on a two-movie franchise of the same name, but this series takes the mythology and the story much more seriously than the campy 80’s film franchise, which was also good in its own right. Like the movies, the show addresses the changes in Scott as well as the high school drama that he gets involved in or sucked into. When one thinks of it, werewolves make an excellent metaphor for pubertiy and the changes one goes through during that awkward time, including sprouting hear, growth spurts, etc.

In episode 6 of season 3, an episode entitled, “Motel California”, Scott and his Lacrosse team find themselves stuck in a motel as their game got postponed. During their stay, the werewolf teens (and at this point there are more than just Scott) become ill and suicidal. Why? Because it turns out that someone poisoned their coaches whistle, which he blew incessantly to get them to behave, with a poisonous plant known as Aconitum or just simply Aconite. In English, that translates to Wolfsbane.

Wolfsbane is a real, beautiful, and poisonous plant that has also been associated throughout the centuries as a plant that can deter werewolves, vampires and witches. This plant is native to the Northern Hemisphere and grows naturally in North America, Europe, and Asia. In humans, if ingested, this plant can cause diarreah, nausea, vomitting, convulsions, and death, depedning on the amount ingested. According to tradition, wolfsbane burns and weakens werewolves, but does not kill them.

In the show Teen Wolf however, it also can cause the werewolves to become self-destructive and suicidal. So, after enough of that goes around the werewolf teens are knocking on death’s door and Scott, in particular, is hit hard with it. His friends Stiles, Lydia and others, all of which are not werewolves, find that the intense light can reverse the effects. As such, Stiles comes up with a plan to light flares and put them in the faces of the affected werewolves in order to try and save their lives via the intense light.

Of course, the plan works. When Stiles and crew find Scott, however, they discover he’s poured gasoline all around himself and the school bus. Also, as it turns out, he his holding a flare over the gasoline. When he speaks his words are haunting and distant. He begins to tell them that perhaps him not being alive anymore will be best for everyone. He asks his best friend Stiles, if he remembers how everything was before he was a werewolf. He reminds him of how they were nobodies, not popular, not good at Lacrosse. They were no one and Scott is now wondering if maybe that it is better to be nothing…to be nobody.

It is at this moment in the scene, and yes this is a bit of a spoiler in this episode but not to the show overall, Stiles counters his friend and tells him he is not a nobody. That Scott puts himself in jeopardy all the time to save others and that the world is A MUCH BETTER PLACE with him in it. Then Stiles does something unexpected, he steps into the gasoline and says, but hey, if you are going to do it take me with you because we are brothers. Of course, that is not what Stiles wanted, but he selflessly took a gamble that Scott would not follow through if Stiles’ life was at risk.

That could have backfired; however, Stiles was willing to selflessly risk his life in order to save his friend. The episode is so powerful because it shows us what love is: it is self-sacrificial. Now, I have to pause here because, I do not want people thinking that self-sacrifical love means we need to needlessly suffer or sacrifice unnecessarily. God does not call us to suffer needlessly and God does not call us to “cast our pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6) either; however, there are times when we are called to put others before ourselves and there is no greater form of love when we do so (John 15:13).

Just like Stiles, we are called to LOVE people as God would love them. Stiles did what he did because he valued Scott’s life and could not sit by and allow him to hurt or destroy himself. Instead, he took a calculated risk to show Scott HOW MUCH he was loved. The story could have ended differently and not every story ends on a happy note as this one did; however, as Christians we are called to LOVE people as God loves them even if that means making ourselves vulnerable to show them that love. This is the Christian way, set forth by Jesus Christ our Lord.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE: If you or anyone you know maybe struggling with depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA & Territories) by texting or dialing 988.

“Jesus’ own witness of sacrificial love and forgiveness, and his work to heal the sick and care for those in need, represent God’s ways and vision for us.” – Adam Hamilton

Lord, teach me your ways and your love. Grow your love in me so that I not only abide in it, but share it with others. Amen.

Episode 285 | QUESTIONS TO GOD, part 3: Why Should I Go to Church?

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses that in a community of faith, despite all its imperfections, we can connect, grow, and experience God’s love for us in ways we never could on our own.

March 12, 2023 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our live-streamed Sunday Worship Services for March 12. Today we learn that in a community of faith, despite all its imperfections, we can connect, grow, and experience God’s love for us in ways we never could on our own.

Please support us by giving online: or Or you can make and mail a check out to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ O7860

God bless you all for your generosity which is vital to our mission and ministry.

Two Simple Questions

Read Matthew 16:13-20


“[Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:29)

4741068-3x2-700x467Over the years I have been in ministry, I have developed a curriculum for teaching youth who are looking to be confirmed into the Christian faith. I feel that Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity, has become rather lax in its education of confirmands and people in general. So, I took on the task of developing a curriculum that would educate those seeking confirmation so that in the end they knew why they were being confirmed and that they, indeed, wished to be confirmed into the Christian faith.

The curriculum started off with the history of Christianity, starting with Jesus of Nazareth and ending at our present age. And I didn’t just present the sugar-coated, Sunday School “history”, but a ten week study of the real history behind Christianity. Then I taught them the doctrinal and theological positions of our particular denomination, as well as its polity (or structure).

At the very outset of the class I assigned a paper to be written. I actually assigned two papers, but for the sake of this devotion, I will cover one of them. The paper I assigned was one that I actually had to write in seminary and I found it to be such a rewarding exercise that I included it in my confirmation curriculum. The questions I asked each of the students to answer are the following: “Who do people say that Jesus is?” and “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

These are the very questions that Jesus asked his disciples. They are very pointed and very important questions for anyone who places their faith in Christ to answer. None of us have grown up in a bubble. We have all learned who Jesus is from various sources. From reading the Bible, to Sunday School, to Church, to what we’ve gathered about him from our family and friends. All of those sources have helped shape our understanding of who Jesus is. And so the first question should be a fairly easy one for us to answer.

The second question, however, is one that forces us to go beyond what we’ve heard and learned about Jesus. It forces us to search our soul and our own personal experiences. It forces us to reflect on how we’ve experienced Jesus in our lives. How has he been revealed to us personally? How has he influenced our lives? How has he communicated with us? The apostles didn’t just hear things and learn things about Jesus. They knew him personally. They walked with him, asked him questions, and followed him. They witnessed him after the resurrection.

If we claim Christianity as our faith, if we believe in Christ, there has to be a reason why. Is the reason merely based off of second or third or fourth hand information passed down to you? Is it because you feel you have to believe it? If that is the case, then perhaps it isn’t belief at all. Surely, somewhere along the line you have experienced the presence of Christ in your life. Somewhere along the line you have been transformed by the presence the love of Christ.

Today’s challenge is for you to seriously reflect on the above two questions. Who do people say Christ is and who do you say Christ is? Take the time to sit, meditate and seriously reflect on who Christ is to you and why you believe the way you do. It is not an easy process, but it is certainly a rewarding one. As you grow your beliefs will adapt and grow as well. So make this exercise a part of your faith journey this Lent and beyond. Every so often revisit these questions and really see how God is working in your life.


“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham


Lord, as I continue to walk in your light, illumine me. As I continue to seek your way, strengthen me. As I continue to grow in my faith, reveal yourself to me. Amen.

REVISITED: The Book of Books

Read Psalm 119:1-16

But [Jesus] answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)

BiblesI am a firm believer in the importance of reading Scripture and in studying scripture; however, I also recognize that without some sort of guidance, that can be easier said than done. After all, where does one being when it comes to reading the Bible? Does one start at Genesis and read all the way through Revelation? Which translation is the best translation to get? How should one approach reading the Bible? Should one approach it as a sort of oracle that is there to answer all of one’s questions? Should one approach the Bible as the literal word of God? Is reading the Bible such a black and white experience, or is it something one should approach with broader lenses?

In terms of reading the Bible, one should pick the translation that they connect with the most. One can go to a website such as to peruse different translations to see which one is best suited to them. Having the right translation can be vital to building a relationship with one’s Bible. Yes, you heard me right. When we begin to be disciplined in reading the Bible, we truly do begin to build a relationship with it’s authors, with the characters, with the people it was originally written for and, of course, with God.

It is also important to remember that “inspired by God”, does not mean “written by God.” The Bible is the authoritative book of the Christian faith, no doubt. That is because it does point us, overall, to a deeper and more profoundly rich relationship with God and with our neighbor. The heart of who God is can be found within it’s pages. Yet, it is also important to note that it was written by people, and that is not a bad thing. After all, the Bible is as relatable of a text as it is for that very reason. With that said, it is okay to question things that don’t make sense to us. After all, it is an ancient text written by people with different cultural, historical, socio-economic and even religious experiences than our own.

Just because you pause, reflect, question, or even challenge certain aspects of the Bible, does not mean you do not take it seriously. It is far different to question than to singly dismiss something. Questioning is a part of the human experience and God gave us the ability to ask questions and to seek answers. God gave us the ability to read, to search and to discern. In fact, it is the act of questioning and discerning that led to different books of the Bible being written. For instance, Leviticus says altars to God could be erected anywhere, whereas, in Deuteronomy, the only temple that should be erected and worshiped in was the one in Jerusalem. Two different authors and communities equaled two different opinions about the appropriate places of worshiping God

Regardless of what Bible you choose, or how you choose to read the Bible, and how you go about spiritually discerning the message of the Bible for your life, what is important is that you read the Bible. You do not have to read it front to back as it was not written that way. Just pick a book and read it. Then move on to another book. Read the Bible one book at a time as that is the way it was written. The Bible is not one book, but 66. Also, study the historical context of the books you are written.

No matter how you choose to go about it, today’s challenge is for you to begin to make the Bible a part of your daily walk with God. If your faith is important to you then reading your Bible should be important to you, for that is foundational to our Christian faith. Make reading the scripture a part of WHO YOU ARE and watch your faith grow from a mustard seed to a giant, LIVING tree!

“Unless we form the habit of going to the Bible in bright moments as well as in trouble, we cannot fully respond to its consolations because we lack equilibrium between light and darkness.” – Helen Keller

Lord, guide me in the reading of the Bible. Open my eyes to what I do not see and vivify the things I think I see, so that I might live them. Amen.

Episode 284 | QUESTONS TO GOD, part 2: Is the Bible Reliable?

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses how we cheapen the Bible when we use it to promote our own agendas..

March 5, 2023 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Worship Service in Holland Hall: 9:00 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Worship Service in Main Sancutary: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our live-streamed Sunday Worship Services for March 5. Today we learn that we cheapen the Bible when we use it to promote our own agendas.

Please support us by giving online: or Or you can make and mail a check out to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ O7860

God bless you all for your generosity which is vital to our mission and ministry.