Episode 114 | The Case For Christ: The Thirst

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ai4f3-d5a08e

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the tremendous thirst we experience in the wilderness of our lives and the only way to quench it. This message is based on Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-15.

EPISODE NOTES:

A LOOK BACK: The Dark Woods

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 237: Gamaliel

Read Acts 5:34-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today.”  (Acts 22:3, 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.

B5A3339D-AD12-4869-A636-08167F485670Part 237: Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a renowned Pharisee doctor of Jewish Law who was on the Sanhedrin in the first half of the first century C.E. In fact, he was not just “on” the Sanhedrin, but was a leading authority on it.  In fact, he may have even served as the president of the Sanhedrin, though that is up for dispute between scholars.

Regardless, Gamaliel was a well-known Jewish religious authority even without being mentioned in the New Testament by Luke; however, his being mentioned in the New Testament made him all the more well-known. In Acts, Luke records the fact that Gamaliel was a measured, thoughtful, and well-balanced man.

When the Sanhedrin was trying to find a solution in how to deal with the new sect of Jews following Jesus Christ, He suggested that they do nothing, but patiently wait on God’s will. He said, “If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39, NLT)!

What’s more, Luke also goes on to suggest that Gamaliel was actually Paul’s mentor in Acts 22:3. Scholars debate this because Saul of Tarsus’ crusade to violently root out the early Christian church seems to stand in stark contrast with Gamaliel’s much more measured approach. I, on the other hand, do not doubt Luke’s account at all. His account would have been disputed at the time had it not been true and, more importantly, their reason for disputing it is weak. It is not uncommon for students to stray from their mentor’s teachings. Saul was simply a different personality than Gamaliel, and he had a youthful zeal that had not been tempered by the years of experience and wisdom that Gamaliel had.

When we feel passionately about something, we often allow our zealous convictions carry the day. This is true of many people, especially younger people, who are idealistic and want to see action happen now. What is remarkable about Gamaliel, and it surely speaks toward why he’s so highly-regarded and spoken of to this day in both Judaism and Christianity, is that he did not allow his zeal to carry the day and advised that others did not as well. Saul may not have heeded his mentor’s advice at the time; however, one day Saul would become Paul the Apostle and would eventually come to be measured, thoughtful and well-balanced.

Gamaliel has something to teach us as well. Like Saul of Tarsus, we can certainly allow our zeal, our convictions, and our emotions carry the day. Sometimes it is good we do; however, on the flip side, we can find ourselves doing more damage than good. What’s more, we can find ourselves fighting against God because we feel we are so right that we cannot even see God telling us we’re wrong. Gamaliel, teaches us, as God’s people, that we need to trust that God will work in us, through us, but also in spite of us. Let us be a people who, like Gamaliel, grow to be measured, thoughtful, and well-balanced.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Being right is not our end goal. God call us to be just, to be love, and to be humble.

PRAYER
Lord, help us to learn from your servant Gamaliel, so that we too can grow in our patience, our self-control, and our wisdom. Amen.

Episode 22 | Vent or Repent

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ixddh-d4f98a

In this episode, fellow POJCasters, Sal and Todd, are at The Newton Sports Bar and Kitchen in Newton, NJ. Listen in as they vent or repent on different theological issues and practices during the season of Lent.

Party On Patrons: You can totally support us by subscribing to us on Patreon and, by doing so, you will be signing up for exclusive, bonus content, such as episode wrap-ups, extra segments and the like. We have three tiers of support and each level bears more rewards. Lots of great reasons to join. Click here for more information.

Other ways to Support: If you love this podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify. The more we get rated and reviewed, the higher up on the giganto totem pole we get on those respective platforms.

Also, interact with us on our social media, on our Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram. On Twitter you can also follow Todd and Sal on Twitter at @trlattig and @SalvatoreSeirm1 respectively.

EPISODE NOTES:

He Brews Segement:

This episode was recorded at The Newton Sports Bar and Kitchen

Sal

  • Presbyterian

Todd

  • Barrel-Aged Manhattan

Most Excellent Music Segment:

Todd

Sal

THE EVIDENCE:

This is the selfie that Todd took of him and Sal during the episode, with the plant they confessed their sins to afterwards. The plant remained silent the whole time…not a peep…not a single word of absolution. We wonder what it means? Have we been forgiven, or is the plant silently waiting for the right moment to get retribution?

Todd, Becky, and Sal…cheers

Todd, Bailey, Becky, Michelle, and Sal! Rock on!!!

Episode 113 | The Case For Christ, part 1: Fallen

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-8h5xx-d4ef54

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of not losing sight of whose we are. This message is based on Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11.

EPISODE NOTES:

A LOOK BACK: Rising From the Ash

lent-CrossesThis week kicks off the most important season in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter remind us of our sinful nature, the cost that our sin ultimately cost, and the hope of the Resurrection in Jesus Christ who conquered the grave. Ash Wednesday kicks off the season of Lent, a 40 day period that parallels Jesus temptation in the wilderness and the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. Click here to kick off your Ash Wednesday on the right foot.

A LOOK BACK: Forgiven

lent-CrossesThis week kicks off the most important season in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter remind us of our sinful nature, the cost that our sin ultimately cost, and the hope of the Resurrection in Jesus Christ who conquered the grave. Ash Wednesday kicks off the season of Lent, a 40 day period that parallels Jesus temptation in the wilderness and the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. Click here to kick off your Ash Wednesday on the right foot.

Episode 112 | The Mountain and the Valley

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9ama2-d475cd

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of not losing sight of whose we are. This message is based on 1 Corinthians 3:1-9.

EPISODE NOTES:

The Vernal Falls Hike

RevTodd_VernalFalls03.jpg

RevTodd-VernalFalls.jpg

God’s People, part 235: Ananias & Sapphira

Read Acts 5:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.”  (Proverbs 11:3, 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.

Ananias_And_SapphiraPart 235: Ananias & Sapphira. In a previous devotion, it was discussed that the Jerusalem church shared everything in common not in order to establish and eco-social-political system of wealth redistribution, but in order to express the love of Christ to each other and to survive the persecution they were experiencing. It was a necessary act of sacrificial love that each member of the Jerusalem Church displayed by giving up their “rights” over property, money and goods in order to share it with the whole. What’s more, the entire church (including the leaders) took a vow of poverty in that they vowed that they would not individually own a single thing but that it would be part of the common good of the whole.

The passage we read for today’s devotion, we come across another one of those Scripture passages that seems harsh and hard to swallow; however, it was written to convey an urgent message regarding the importance of Christian charity. We learn of a man named, Ananias who was married to a woman named Sapphira.

At some point, this couple became members of the Jerusalem Church and sold their property in order to share the money with the larger community; however, instead of being honest, they kept a portion of the money for themselves and gave the difference to the church, claiming that they were giving all that they had. In other words, they entered into the social contract of the Jerusalem Church dishonestly under false pretenses.

Somehow, Peter found out about the deception and he approached Ananias to question him. He told them how shameful their action was, and how sad it was that they allowed Satan to enter their hearts in such a way. Peter said, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God” (Acts 5:4)!

Instantly, Ananias dropped dead. Sapphira, who was not in the room at the time came in, and saw what had happened. Peter questioned her if the amount they gave was all that they had to give and she, too, lied about it. As such, she also dropped to the floor and was dead. Both Ananias and Sapphira were dishonest people and paid with their lives.

This seems like an awfully harsh sentence for God to carry out on a couple of lying swindlers. Certainly, God could have just let Peter hand their money back to them and kicked them out of the community. Yet, this couple died as a result of their dishonesty, which is a hard pill for many of us to swallow when reading this passage.

Still, it doesn’t really matter if the pill is a hard one to swallow. You should wrestle with these types of challenging passages and it is okay if you have a hard time believing God would actually carry something like that out. Such struggling with Scripture does not make you less of a Christian, but actually shows how serious you take the Bible, how much you desire to understand it, and how compassionate you are.

Still, we can look beyond the macabre details and find the Biblical truth behind what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. They were a couple who wanted to accept the lavish grace of God and the radical hospitality of the church community; however, they did not want to give such grace and hospitality in return. Instead, they allowed their greed to be their god and they chose to lie, and ultimately hurt, the church community.

Whether or not they physically died, their death also equates their spiritual death. They allowed their hearts to be poisoned and taken over by Satan and, as such, they separated themselves from neighbor and from God. Even when they were given a second chance to be honest, they chose the path of dishonesty. This death, physical or otherwise, was not brought on by a cold, vindictive God; rather, it was brought on by their own poisoned, necrotic hearts.

This should challenge us as Christians? Who do we serve? Do we serve ourselves? Do we put our own interests over God’s and the churches? Do we pretend to be people of God, but deep down are children of Satan? Or are we sinners who are redeemed by our merciful and just God? Do we strive to follow God and, when we do wander off the path, do we strive to own up to our mistakes and repent of our sins? I pray that we all reflect on these questions and allow the Holy Spirit to continue to perfect us in God’s grace and love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Greed is so destructive. It destroys everything.” – Eartha Kitt

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be a person of integrity and open my heart to accountability when I am not. Amen.

God’s People, part 234: Barnabas

Read Acts 4:36-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting,”  (Acts 14:14, 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.

barnabasPart 234: Barnabas. When it comes to the New Testament, we think a few prominent figures. We think of Mary and Joseph. We think of Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples. Among them, we think of Peter, John and James. When it comes to Acts, we predominantly think of the Apostle Paul; however, barring those who have read the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles (aka letters), most would NOT know the name, “Barnabas”; yet, he was a very influential apostle in the early church.

Barnabas’ actual name was Joseph and he was nicknamed Barnabas which means, “son of encouragement”. While on the surface it may not be clear why he was given that nickname, a closer read of Scripture provides the clues as to how Joseph fit into his nickname. When Saul of Tarsus first became an apostle, he was taken under the wing of Barnabas, with whom he traveled the known world on mission trips to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles.

While the Scriptures do not explicitly say that Barnabas was Paul’s mentor, it can be ascertained by the order in which their names appear. In Acts 11:30; 12:25; 13:2, 7, they are always listed in the following order: Barnabas and Saul. From that point on, however, they were listed as Paul and Barnabas. That means that from that point on, Paul (who decided to use his Roman name) was the apostle in charge.

Yet, mentoring Paul was not the only place where we find Barnabas encouraging people. He was a mentor to many, no doubt, including his cousin John Mark, which may or may not have been the same Mark who wrote the Gospel. Not only did Barnabas encourage him, but he advocated for him when Paul no longer wanted John Mark to be a part their missionary journeys.

The reason behind this is that John Mark had been with Barnabas and Saul (before he was using his Roman name) on their first missionary journey together. At some point during that first journey, John Mark had “abandoned them” midway and returned to Jerusalem. I put the word “abandoned” in quotes because, while it is never mentioned why John Mark left them, Paul was upset by it and clearly viewed it as a sort of abandonment of duties.

Thus, when Paul invited his good friend Barnabas on his next journey, and Barnabas stated he wanted to bring John Mark along, Paul vehemently disagreed. That, sadly, ended up in the a division between Barnabas and Paul. They parted ways and Paul went on his next journey with Silas, while Barnabas went to Cyprus with his cousin. The two sadly never joined forces again.

It is impossible to know if the two kept in contact with each other from that point on, or if their split became a permanent end to their friendship, or if they’re going separate ways made it impossible for them to reunite; however, Barnabas stood up to Paul in defense of his cousin Mark. He believed his cousin should be shown grace and encouraged to grow. As a result, Mark went on to possibly author the Gospel (though that is disputed) and more than likely to be a bishop of Apollonia.

Thus, as Christians, we could use to be like Barnabas. We could use to be an encourager and an advocate for people who we see great potential. Some times we do need to be like Paul and move on from people who are consistently unreliable; however, in this case, Paul may have been too rash as John Mark only left them once.

We, too, can often write people off too quickly because it seems like the easier route; however, Christ (and, ironically, Paul too) encourages us to be encouragers and a people who build others up. We are not to write people off, but to extend grace and extra chances to them, until it becomes clear that they are unwilling to accept such grace and change. Let us be encouragers, like Barnabas, and nurture people into deeper commitment and discipleship.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”  – Paul of Tarsus, Apostle of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be an encourager of the church. Give me the grace to extend to those who may not be where I think they should be, for I know I am not where you think I should be. Thank you for your grace and your love. Amen.

A biweekly devotional