Category Archives: Devotional

A LOOK BACK: Every Step of the Way

Read Ecclesiastes 4:1-6; Mark 14:26-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV)

Every Step of the Way

Have you watched the news lately? It seems like every time I watch the news I see politicians metaphorically throwing each other the bus, buildings around the world that are burning, families that are destroyed due to horrifying violence and other such atrocities. These stories are bombarding us every day, often bombarding us multiple times a day.

It’s to the point where I often find myself questioning what the meaning of all of this really is. Does God really exist out there and, if so, what does that say about God that the world is the way it is? Is life meaningless? Is there any point to all the chaos that people suffer day in and day out? These and so many more questions run through my head and I am sure that I am not alone in that?

As a pastor and a spiritual leader, some people might find it shocking to hear me confess moments of confusion, deep questioning and doubt. Some would say that it must mean that my faith isn’t strong, or that my doubts put into question my calling as a pastor. Many have this notion that in faith there can be no doubt; however, the Bible clearly shows that to be false.

For instance, have you read Ecclesiastes lately? If not, I must suggest that you do read it and that you read all of the twelve chapters that make up the book. It is a fascinating read. The author seriously questions the meaning of life, the point of existing in a world that is so needlessly cruel. What is the point in living out our seemingly trivial lives just to die in the end? To the author of Ecclesiastes, life seems utterly meaningless.

We can also turn to Jesus to find moments of doubt and intense spiritual questioning. The obvious place to look is in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus questions God’s will. He asks for God to remove his cup of suffering. While the Gospels make this account short and sweet, they do say he was in the garden for hours, praying to God…and the specific prayer that they point out is the one where he asks God to not have him go through with dying.

The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly human to have doubts, because as human beings we do not, in fact we cannot know everything. What is unknown to us gives us reason to doubt, but doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is false to assume that “in faith there can be no doubt.” Rather, it is quite the opposite. It is from the depths of doubt that arises faith. Faith is, in fact, made stronger as a result of, and certainly in spite of, our doubts.

The next time you have doubts, do not chase them away or harbor any kind of unnecessary guilt. Instead, embrace them and wrestle through them like the author of Ecclesiastes did and like Jesus in the garden did. Know that having doubts necessary to building faith and that many saints have had their share of doubts. From Paul to Thomas, from Joan of Arc to Mother Theresa, from Martin Luther to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many Christians have faced their doubts only to find themselves riding the waves of faith that were produced by the surge of the storm of doubt. You are not alone in your doubts, and your faith will show you that you are not alone in surmounting them. God is with you every step of the way!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

PRAYER

Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief. Out of my doubt, build up a foundation of faith. Amen.

A Thanksgiving That Counts: 2020 Edition

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
(Psalms 50:23)

A Thanksgiving That Counts

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, it is easy for us to get warm and fuzzy about the festivities that are about to occur.  Well, maybe that was true previously, it may be less warm and fuzzy because of the COVID-19 restrictions in place that I certainly hope you will all be following responsibly. Still, the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, stuffed to its brim with stuffing. Mashed wax turnips, candied yams, and other sides being cooked on the stove.  All of these scents filling the air and blending with the wafting scent of warm apple and pumpkin pie sitting on the cooling racks.

As a vegan I don’t eat meat or dairy products; however, I am still getting excited about Thanksgiving as well. Albeit plant-based, I am a foodie all the same and I LOVE EATING. There will be aspects of Thanksgiving I miss this year due to the pandemic; however, that does not mean I will be any less thankful.

But as we sit down for dinner on Thanksgiving and prepare ourselves for the feast of all feasts, as we sit down and say our prayers of thanksgiving to God for the abundance we have, let us not forget that a good many people in this world do not have the abundance, or excess (depending on how you look at it), that we have.  A majority of people in the world are lacking the very necessities that they need to survive. Heck, this is even true in America too. Many people are lining up for hours to get what they can from food pantries. Many of these people have never had to rely on pantries before but are now because of the pandemic caused recession we’re in.

God gives each and every one of us what we need, but we often end up taking more than what we need in order to supply ourselves with what we want. We saw that  in the great toilet paper shortage of 2020.  In the process, billions of other people are lacking what they need. Is this because God has failed to give them what they need? No. This is because what God has given to all people has been hoarded by some. The majority of the world suffers as a result of the excessive abundance of a minority.

This is not being brought up to guilt anyone over the disparities of others; rather, it is being brought up as a reminder that praying our prayers of thanksgiving is not enough. God is calling us to something more than empty prayers, God is calling us to act out of our thanksgiving for what God has given us.  Instead of praying and eating our fill, God wants us to take our fill and share it with those in need.

In James 2:16, the author is warning his readers of just that.  It is not enough to tell someone in need that you are “praying” for them without actively seeking to help fill their needs.  That is not to say that prayer is useless, but that empty prayer is no prayer at all…just like empty faith, without deeds, is dead.  We are not a people of a dead faith, nor should we be people who pray dead prayers.

So, with all of that said, enjoy your Thanksgiving festivities tomorrow!  Enjoy your time spent with your household family and all of the good food and fun that God has given you.  As you pray your prayers of thanksgiving, also pray for God to guide you to fill a need of someone who is in need, just as God has filled you.  If you do, God will surely not let you down!  Remember that to whom much as been given, much is required .  Go and bear the hope, healing and wholeness that God wants you to bring to those who need it! God bless and Happy Thanksgiving! May your Thanksgiving be a thanksgiving that counts!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

A truly thankful person gives out of what there is to be thankful for.

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for all you have given me. Guide me to fill the needs of those around me who are in need. Amen.

Episode 145 | Second Coming, part 3: Be Faithful

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-c3ttd-f2f137

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the lengths to which our faith in Christ will compel us to go.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ streams LIVE online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig.

God’s People, part 272: Eutychus

Read Acts 20:7-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.”  (1 Corinthians 2:13, NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 272: Eutychus. As a pastor, today’s Scripture reading is not a surprising one. Yes, there was pretty fabulous miracle that took place and all of that jazz; however, it’s what led to the need for a miracle that I am referring to. Before I dive into that, let me just say that one does not think of comedy when one thinks of the Bible. Typically, comedy seems a bit irreverent and not “holy” enough for our Western sensibilities.

I may sound like I am being facetious; however, I am not. I once was a at Methodist Annual Conference where the presiding bishop admonished people for laughing during “holy conferencing”. Now, to be fair, it’s not that this bishop viewed laughter as unholy, but rather he wanted to the atmosphere of the conference to be serious and raucus. Still, when we think of the Bible, we have the same thoughts as this bishop did with conferencing: it should be read and taken reverently.

That is what is great about Acts 20:7-16. It is a mythbuster if I have ever seen one. What do I mean by that? I mean that it is one of the more comical verses in the entire Bible, let alone New Testament. That a man died and needed to be resurrected is certainly not funny. That’s tragic. How he died, on the other hand, that is comical. It is also very relatable to both preacher and congregant.

Let me explain. In Acts 20:7-16, we hear of a story where the Apostle Paul, not really known for his brevity (minus his epistle to Philemon), was delivering a sermon at a household worship service. Well, this sermon started following supper (including Holy Communion) and continued onward till midnight. Okay, maybe that is not so relatable. I would smite myself if I carried on that long.

Well, Luke tells us Paul carried on this long because he was leaving the next day and let’s just say he was “caught up in the Spirit”. Sadly, as much as he tried, Eutychus fell asleep. I mean how dare him, right?!?!?! I mean which one of us would dare fall asleep during a 4 or so hour sermon. I mean, geesh!

Truth be told, as a pastor, I have seen countless people fall asleep during my sermons which average at about 16 – 18 minutes, give or take. Having someone fall asleep during a sermon is certainly NOT news to any pastor. Conversely, falling asleep during a sermon is not new to anyone who has listened to a sermon, myself included.

So, here is where the story gets interesting. Eutychus happened to be sitting in the window in the upper room where they were, catching the breeze and, before he knew it, catching Zzzz’s as well. That is not the wisest place to doze of as turns out and Eutychus fell three stories from the window to his death. Again, the death part is not funny, but the circumstances around his death are hilarious! Paul literally killed someone with his long, drawn out, and clearly boring (at least for Eutychus) sermon!

Anyway, that event, you would think, was the cue for Paul to end his preaching for the night; yet, that was not the case. Instead, he went down to the Eutychus, bent over him, and picked him up in his arms saying, “No worries, he’s just asleep.” Then they all went upstairs and Paul proceeded to preach to them UNTIL DAWN! Can you imagine that? No one threw him out, told him to shut up, said, “Hey Pastor! You remember now that service is only supposed to be an hour. Cut your sermon down or I’m going too another church and bringing my money with me!”

Nope, no one evidently did that (or Luke that part out of the story). Instead, they listened to him and when the morning came, Eutychus was fine with no injuries at all! Praise God for that! Still, you may be wondering what is the point of sharing this obscure, crazy story about a long and deadly sermon. The point is this, there is NO time limit, no time constraint, no limitation at all when it comes to God’s word. When the Spirit is speaking to us, we’ll listen as long as it takes. The reason Paul was able to talk that long and the reason all but one of them were engaged so long, is because they were all in the Spirit together.

We have lost that in the modern church, by and large. Everything is run on time and expectations. Services better be only an hour, sermons no more than 10-20 minutes, not too many, but not too little hymns, and well-crafted but brief prayers. We go, we half-listen (if we listen at all) the Scripture and Sermon, we give, we sing, and then we split. This is nothing like the early church was.

I am not saying that Christians ought to listen to 10 hour sermons, or should expect to be in church all day. Nor am I saying they should expect 10-20 minute sermons and be expecting to be out in an hour to get on to “more important” things. Instead, I am saying that, like the earliest Christians, we should be expecting the HOLY SPIRIT, and nothing else. Whatever happens following the arrival of the HOLY SPIRIT, one thing is for sure, it will be MIRACULOUS.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Christians not only follow Christ, but they dwell in His Spirit, and his Spirit in them.

PRAYER
Lord, open my heart to the expectation of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God’s People, part 271: A Growing Fellowship

Read Acts 20:1-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. ” (Matthew 5:16, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 271: A Growing Fellowship. If there is one thing that we notice about Paul as we journey with him through Acts, is that he is a magnetic individual. He starts off with Barnabas and overtime, though he and Barnabas part ways, he ends up with an enite entourage of co-workers in Christ, a growing fellowship if you will. Of course, as with all magnets, when two of the same magnetic pole come together they repel each other; however, while Paul did repel some away from him, he attracted a large number of people through his teaching, charisma, and passion for the Gospel.

In today’s reading we see the list has grown. We already knew that, by this point, he was traveling with Luke, Titus, Timothy, and others. From that, we now learn that ” Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia” were all traveling with him. He, indeed, had a growing Fellowship.

This is because Paul understood the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel is not a private, personal affair. In his preface to his 1739 publication, Hymns and Sacred Poems, John Wesley wrote, “Solitary Religion is not to be found there. ‘Holy Solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than Holy Adulterers. The Gospel of CHRIST knows of no Religion, but Social; no Holiness but Social Holiness.”

In other words, the American/European model of Christianity, that one must keep it private and not share it with others lest you offend them, is NOT in line with the Chrsitian Gospel. In fact, it is the antithesis of the Gospel. First, it is important to remember that Jesus and Paul and the original Apostles were all Jewish. Judaism is a communial, social religion. That was one of the things that separated and distinguished it from pagan religions, which were mostly personal and private.

Thus, so was Christianity, which branched out from Judaism. Christ did not come, teach, die, and resurrect for his followers to keep that to themselves. In fact, this is exactly what Jesus commanded before ascending to heaven: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19, NLT).

The commandment is a SOCIAL COMMANDMENT. Go. Make disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is the Christian game plan. Paul understood that and he followed that game plan to a “T”. He engaged people, got to know them, befriended them, and witnessed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. I am sure that not everyone who he befriended became Christians, and it is certain he offended a great many people; still, he carried out the Christian mission with utmost faithfulness!

That should challenge us as well. Remember, the Gospel of Jesus Christ knows of no SOLITARY RELIGION. The American message of keep your faith to yourself is NOT a Christian message. It is a civic religion message. Civic religion teaches a FALSE GOSPEL. Let us be a people who break the chains of civic religion and pick up the cross of the Gospel, so that others may see and know that Christ lived and died and rose for them!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Faith working by Love, is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian Perfection.” – John Wesley

PRAYER
Lord, let us be a people who follow you boldly and socially so that we may be your witnesses to all around us. Amen.

Episode 144 | Second Coming, part 2: Be Brave

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-uffuj-f247a0

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses how Christ calls us into risky business and how taking risks is a requirement.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ streams LIVE online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig.

God’s People, part 270: Gaius & Aristarchus

Read Acts 19:23-41

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

The site of what was the Temple of Artemis.

Part 270: Gaius & Aristarchus. Ephesus was an important center for early Christianity. It was a city that had a long and storied history, both in it’s ancient history and in the Roman Empire. Located in what is now modern day Turkey, the city was renowned for its Temple of Artemis, which was one of the seven wonders of the world. In fact, Antipater of Sidon wrote this about the seven wonders and the Temple of Artemis:

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand” (Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58).

Ephesus was also where Marc Antony stayed for periods of time when he was proconsul of Rome, and in 33 BCE, he and Cleopatra met there and gathered 800 before the battle of Actium against Octavius (aka Augustus). In fact, Augustus made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia, making it the largest and most important city, second only to Rome itself.

This brings us to Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. He had been preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ in the synagogues and in the streets, and he had been successful in converting many people and establishing the Ephesian church. Of course, the Gospel focuses on Jesus Christ, son of the Father, who is a part of the Godhead. For Paul, and Jews alike, there is only one God and so he taught.

This, of course, riled up a mob of business owners who were losing money as a result of people no longer wanting to purchase idols of Artemis. Luke also states that their complaint was not merely financial, but religious as well. Artemis was the patron god of Ephesus and the teachings of Paul were not lifting her up in any way, shape or form. It’s not hard to imagine how insulted the Ephesians must have been.

Here’s where mob mentality kicked in. They were so angry that they grabbed Gaius and Aristarchus, two of Paul’s assistants, as they evidently could not find Paul himself. The drug them to the ampitheater and demanded that those men were punished for what they were teaching. Eventually, thankfully, they were released, and the mob dispersed because the Mayor intervened. They had not actively spoken against Artemis, nor had they stolen anything from the temple, but were just sharing their own religious faith. They mayor saw no need for them to be punished and, should the offended have legitimate complaints against the two men, then those offended persons should file a formal complaint with the courts.

Thank God for the mayor, who ruled justly on behalf of Gaius and Aristarchus; however, it also shows how dangerous being Christians can be when preaching the truth to people out in the world. Jesus Christ is not aligned with the ways of the world, nor is his message one of conformity; rather, Jesus calls us to represent the TRUTH of who he is to all people, even when it goes against our society and culture. The question for us, as Christians in the 21st century, do we have the bravery and boldness to live out our convictions regardless of the cost. That is a question I invite you to reflect on.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If you get into really learning about the roots of monotheism, it was utterly a radical cultural moment. The Bible was so revolutionary and against all that came before it.” – Ezra Furman

PRAYER
Lord, give me the courage to live out my faith and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ with brave boldness and humble grace. Amen.

God’s People, part 269: Erasmus

Read Acts 19:21-23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does our brother Quartus.”  (Romans 16:23, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 269: Erastus. Overall, Erastus is one of those people in the New Testament that we know very little of; however, there are some things that were mentioned about him that will give us enough of an understanding. While we cannot be certain about much regarding Erastus’ life, but we do know that he was an assistant of the Apostle Paul, and that he worked along Timothy.

The first thing that should be mentioned is that Erastus was a man of prominence in his community. At the end of Romans, Paul states that Erastus was a treasurer in the city he was writing the letter in, meaning that he served in high civil office in Corinth. That means that we do know that Erastus was a politician from the city of Corinth. Knowing that, we should pause to get an understanding of the city in which he lived and served.

Ancient Corinth was one of the populous and important cities in Ancient Greece. In 400 BCE it had an estimated population of 90,000. With that said, the city in Paul’s time was a newer city from that of Ancient Corinth. The Romans had leveled it in 146 BCE, but rebuilt it the same year that Julius Caesar was assassinated (44 BCE) and made it the capital of the Roman Province of Greece. In fact, Julius Caesar was the one who started that rebuilding just prior to his assassination. Thus, being the capital of a Roman province, Corinth was a very important city. What’s more, the office of Treasurer of the capital of a major Roman province was a very high and important political office. From this alone, we can tell that Erastus was a person of wealth, status and power.

Corinth was not just the political center of Greece, but it was also the religious and cultural center. There were many famous temples, such as the Temple of Apollo and there was a strong presence of the Imperial Cult, where emperor worship took place. Corinth was a strongly Hellenistic society where there was other cultures were expected to be in the melting pot with Greek culture. This made it a difficult place to be Jewish and Christian. We can see that difficulty played out in the letters to the Corinthians written by Paul.

So, what does all of this tell us about Erastus himself. Let’s look at the facts. Erastus was held a powerful political and civil servant role in one of the most influential political, economic, cultural, and religious centers in the ancient Roman Empire. What’s more, Corinth was a major melting pot, and any resistance to that drew much suspicion. So, it is an enigma how someone like Erastus, a Christian, could effectively serve under such circumstances.

Yet, he did. That is not to say that he drew no suspicion or ran into no problems. He very well may have, given that Christians were not the most welcome group of people in that society. With that said, Erastus proves to be an assistant of the Apostle Paul and a faithful Christian witness who happened to also be holding one of the higher civil servant offices.

This shows us that we, as Christians, can be politically active and still serve Christ, although, there is a fine line to walk there. A public servant serves the public. A Christian serves Christ. One can do both, but one must never conflate the two and, no matter what, one’s loyalty to Christ must come first over every other loyalty one might have. We have seen public servants walk that fine line; however, it sometimes becomes a difficult fine line to walk. The same, by the way, is true for us the public. We can engage politically; however, we MUST conform our politics to our faith in Jesus Christ…not try to conform our faith in Jesus Christ to politics.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be engaged in society in a way that faithfully witnesses to you. Amen.

Episode 143 | Second Coming, part 1: Be Prepared

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-6z3cc-f19db1

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of being prepared for Jesus.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ streams LIVE online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig.

God’s People, part 268: Apollos

Read Acts 18:24-28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”  (1 Corinthians 3:6, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 268: Apollos. Apollos was a contemporary of Paul’s. According to our scripture reading today, he was an Alexandrian Jew who, believing in Jesus Christ, arrived in Ephesus and was educated about the baptism of the Holy Spirit by Priscilla and Aquila. From there, he went to Achaia as a missionary and proved to be quite a faithful and effective witness of Jesus Christ.

We also know that Apollos had a successful ministry in the church of Corinth. In his first (technically his 2nd) letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentions the effectiveness of Apollos in baptizing people into the Christian faith. With that said, a bit of a controversy had risen up. Paul had planted that church and was its spiritual father and leader; however, some people felt they owed no allegiance to Paul because they were baptized by Apollos.

The Church of Corinth was a hot mess, honestly! While some of the leaders spent their blood, sweat and tears trying to keep the chuch in line, the majority of its members were caught up in bickering, gossiping, idolatry, and a torrid sexual scandal that most were turning a blind eye to. The scandal was that somone’s husband was in the midst of a sexual affair with his mother-in-law and was refusing to stop said affair. Some in the church felt this was perfectly okay, others felt it was not their business, and others still were so disturbed by this they kept trying to get Paul to put a stop to it.

This is where the Apollos controversy came in. Paul had, in no uncertain terms, told the leaders that they HAD to put an end to this affair. He told them that they were to expel the person sleeping with his mother-in-law out of the church over his unwillingness to stop. Some of these leaders really wanted nothing to do with it and the way they resisted Paul was by decrying him. “Who is this Paul, anyway? We weren’t baptized by him, but by Apollos!” Such was the argument who felt that they owed no allegiance to Paul, despite the fact that the church existed as a result of Paul.

Paul’s answer was just that:

“When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”  (1 Corinthians 3:4-6, NLT)

Paul’s point was that we are not followers of ordinary people, but of Christ. The church should not be a cult of personality and most certainly should not be ego driven; rather, the church is Christocentric, centered on Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We should be challenged by this as there are many egos and personalities vying for our loyalty. Our loyalty, as Christians, is owed to Christ alone. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Our loyalty lies with Christ alone!

PRAYER
Lord, my loyalty is yours alone. Amen.