Tag Archives: Gospel

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Holy Tuesday

Read Isaiah 49:1-7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

AngryJesus

Holy Tuesday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem being hailed as the King of the Jews. He went into the temple and upset the peace by overturning the tables of the money changers. No doubt, this act had both the Temple priests and the Roman leadership looking intently on this individual…this “prophet.” He was showing himself to be a trouble maker.

By Monday, Jesus he began antagonizing the Temple leadership, as well as the teachers of religious laws (known as the Pharisees). He taught in parables that called the leaderhsip out for their hypocrisy. He proclaimed that hey was the the stone that God declared to be the cornerstone and decried the priests and the teachers fo religious law for rejecting him. He certainly did not win many of the priests and Pharisees over on Holy Monday.

On this day, Holy Tuesday, Jesus’ teachings took a sharp and dramatic turn. Instead of teaching in parables, he called the Sadducees and Pharisees out directlty. “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” (Matthew 23:2-3 NLT). Calling them hypocrites, Jesus levied a series of seven accusations against the religious leadership. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:15 NLT)

Jesus called the leadership out on perverting the law for their own gain. He likened them to “whitewashed tombs”  that look pristine and beautiful on the outside, but are filled with bones and the dead on the inside. His words cut through them and caused their hatred of him to grow to an all-time high. They were already trying to find a way to eliminate him; however, after this display, they were even more determined.

Jesus did not stop there either. He went on to predict that the temple would be destroyed and began to share with his disciples that the world was going to experience a whole lot of darkness before it would see the light of God. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, for its refusal to accept him and the message of God who had sent him. He lamented, “And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD'” (Matthew 23:38-39 NLT)!

All of this a profound fulfillment of what was written in Isaiah 49:1-7. Jesus’ words were, indeed, “words of judgment as sharp as a sword.” On Holy Tuesday, Jesus was like a sharp arrow in God’s quiver. He was being loosed on the people who were supposed to be witnessing to the glory and love of God but were, instead, basking in their own status and glory to the detriment of God’s people.

Of course, it is easy for us to read this and point fingers at the religious leadership in Jesus’ time; however, Christians believe in the “priesthood” of all believers. That we are all called to bring people to a relationship with Jesus and represent God’s love in the world. The question is, are you doing that? Are you living into the call that God has placed on your life as a believer? Are you exonerated by Jesus, or his sharp words cutting through with convicting truth? I think we all can acknowledge that there is room for us to grow and transform. I pray that we all open our hearts and be transformed by Jesus’ words in fulfillment with what Isaiah prophesied, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 NLT)

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Love does not always come in hugs and flowery words, but as words that cut like a sword through the aspects of ourselves that enslave us and bring us down.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for loving me enough to tell me the truth. Continually guide me and lead me back to you and your Kingdom. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Holy Monday

Read Isaiah 1:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see‘” (Matthew 21:42; cf. Psalm 118:22-23).

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

004-fig-tree

Holy Monday. On Monday morning, following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple, Jesus begins his journey back into Jerusalem. In the evenings, during Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples did not stay within the city, but stayed in the village of Bethany (presumably with his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary). Bethany is a mere mile and a half to the east of Jerusalem.

Holy Monday, though most people don’t really pay it much mind, was going to be busy day for Jesus. He was further going to push the religious leaders (the Sadducees/priests and the Pharisees/teachers of religious law), the Herodians and all those who had lost their way from God. On his way into the city, Jesus discovered a fig tree that had leaves, but did not bear fruit. Fig trees in that region, evidently, begin to bear fruit before they begin to sprout leaves. With that said, it was not the season for figs to be growing on the tree.

When Jesus saw the tree he cursed it for not bearing fruit. The disciples noticed that the fig had withered immediately upon Jesus cursing it. This action was symbolic of the religious and political leadership (of which the ancient world did not separate) in Jerusalem. They all had leaves so to speak. They looked the part and acted the part, but they were bearing absolutely no fruit. In fact, worse than that, they were bearing all of the WRONG fruit. Jesus’ action of cursing the tree was also a message to his disciples. The time for fruitlessness had passed, the time for God’s Kingdom had come. There was much work to be done. Bear fruit. Little did they know at the time, but the risen and ascended Jesus would send an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on them at Pentecost to help them accomplish just that.

In the Old Testament, we see the prophet Isaiah, as well as other prophets, calling out the religious and political leaders of their day. Through Isaiah, God denounced them, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its Master. My people don’t recognize My care for them. Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.” (Isaiah 1:3-4 NLT)

In Jeremiah, the prophet scolded the King Jehoiakim of Judah when he proclaimed for the LORD, “’But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know Me?’ says the LORD. ‘But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly’” (Jeremiah 22:15-17 NLT).

Jesus not only carried on the prophetic tradition of holding the leaders accountable; rather, he was the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets who proceeded him. Christ’s coming was both a judgment on the world order, and a way to salvation for all who chose to heed God and follow God’s only son, who was himself was the incarnation of God. Immanuel. On that Holy Monday nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus held the leaders accountable. He pointed them to their hypocrisy and pronounced that their rejection of him was their rejection of God. As a result of their choosing to reject the cornerstone of God’s kingdom, Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit had passed them by and left them desolate, just like the fig tree.

The time has come to bear fruit. The church is now in the same position of the leaders in Jesus’ day. We have a choice to accept Christ’s call on our lives and to bear fruit, or to continue on in complacency and ignore the very cornerstone of the Kingdom God is building. If we do the latter, the Holy Spirit will move on to those who will open their hearts to the presence and working of God. Let us not end up like the fig tree. Let us, rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit, witness to the fulfillment of God’s covenant and the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The tree that produces little to no fruit is a dying tree.

PRAYER
Lord, prune the dead branches in my life so that I may continue to produce vibrant, hearty fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.

March 28, 2021 – Online Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday mornings on YouTube.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for March 28, 2021. We will be continuing on in the Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of observing silence as a spiritual practice, which makes us draw closer closer to God through making a space for us to listen to God. Let us discover how this discipline can bring us hope, healing, and wholeness.

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.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Palm Sunday

Read Zechariah 9:9-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.’” Matthew‬ ‭21:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Palm Sunday. There can be no doubt that Jesus sparked great controversy due to his actions on Palm Sunday. In the life of the church, we think of this day as a joyous celebration, one that involves little children whipping each other with palm leaves and, subsequently, their parents transforming those leaves into palm crosses.

Yet, for Jesus, all of the pomp and circumstance was bitter-sweet. It must have been a sight for him to see all of those people, thousands, crowded around him, laying branches before the donkey carrying him, and shouting, “Hosanna”, a Hebrew word that means, “Help”, or “Save, I pray.” It must have been awesome to witness those crowds hailing him as the Messiah.

With that said, he also knew that the Romans would not ignore the fact that the crowd was hailing him as “King of the Jews.” Nor would King Herod Antipas. Nor would the High Priest, who had much politically to lose if Pontius Pilate were to choose to intervene and stomp out any potential rebellion. Jesus knew that, even though the crowds were hailing him as king on this day nearly 2,000 years ago, they would not be hailing him as king by the end of the week.

But how could this act of riding on a donkey be taken to mean that Jesus was king? Simple. This was prophesied about the messiah that was to come in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” (‭NLT)‬‬‬

Jesus’ choosing to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey shows that he understood himself as the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming messiah. He understood himself to be the coming King that would liberate God’s people. With that said, he also knew that the kind of liberation they were seeking was not the kind he was bringing.

The people wanted a liberation from the tyrannical rule of Rome; however, who would save them from the tyrannical rule of sin and death. Even if one could have overthrown the Roman Empire, what would stop him or her from becoming yet another tyrannical ruler. Look at the kings of Israel and Judah. Each generation of rulers became more wicked than the last.

It is important to realize that Jesus did not come to liberate in a worldly fashion. Jesus did not come to follow the world’s ways and methods of liberation; rather, Jesus came to change the hearts and the souls of a people who he knew had closed off their hearts to him. Still, with that said, that fact was no deterent for Jesus. He entered the city in triumphal fashion, went straight to the temple, overturned the money changers, and fulfilled another prophecy, “Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Psalms‬ ‭69:9‬ ‭NLT).‬‬ Jesus stayed the course and took the one-way march into Jerusalem; a march unto his bloody, torturous death. God’s suffering servant was ready to take on the weight of the world‬‬

MOMENT OF REFLECTION

In what ways have you closed your heart to Jesus, the Christ? Are you willing to allow the passion of our Lord to soften your heart, once again, and let him in?

PRAYER

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Bring me back into your presence and your loving care. Amen.

RECLAIM, Episode 5: Silence

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM silence as a wholesome and healthy practice in our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about observing silence, as well as why it is important an important spiritual discipline.

March 21, 2021 – Online Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday mornings on YouTube.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for March 14, 2021. We will be continuing on in the Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of worship as a spiritual practice, which makes us draw closer closer to God bringing God praise and glory. Let us discover how this discipline can bring us hope, healing, and wholeness.

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.

RECLAIM, part 4: Worship

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM worship as a wholesome and healthy practice in our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about worship, as well as why it is important to make everything we do worshipful.

A LOOK BACK: Schooled

Read John 3:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 NLT)

38218634

Perhaps the most memorized verse in all of the Bible, certainly within Christian circles, is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) Yet, I would wager that out of the people who have memorized that particular verse, very few know the context those particular words arose out of. As such, I think it would particularly helpful to shed light on that.

It seems clear that Jesus is in or around the city of Jerusalem. He had just entered the Temple and, in the court of the Gentiles, cleared out any and all who were trying to buy and sell animals, as well as anyone who was trying to exhange their own currency for the Temple Shekel. This angry and violent act had, no doubt, left many of the Temple leadership, the Pharisees, and the Romans on edge about this “teacher” from Galilee.

It is no wonder then that Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had probably witnessed the whole Temple scene take place, came to “discuss things” with Jesus. The question we must ask is this, why did Nicodemus come to Jesus? Had be been sent there by the the Sanhedrin to gather some information on Jesus? Did he come on his own accord, seeking to have a more private and intimate conversation with this teacher? Perhaps Nicodemus saw Jesus as a threat, or perhaps Jesus’ actions had convicted him in a way that caused him to seek answers to satisfy his soul.

What we do know is that Nicodemus, either on his own or instructed by his peers, came in the dark of night, hidden in the shadows and no doubt cloaked in order to make his visit to Jesus a secret. Whether or not he was their on “business” or for his own self-gratification, Nicodemus was not wanting anyone else to know that he was their in the presence of this teacher who had just questioned the authority of the Jewish political and religious leadership.

First and foremost, regardless of the reasoning behind his visit, it can be said that Nicodemus was a proud man. He was one who was exalted by the very position he held as a teacher. He was probably a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling religious body of the Jews made up of the Saducees (Priests) and Scribes (many of whom were Pharisees). As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was a teacher of the Torah, of the Law of God handed down by Moses, as well as a scholar who studied the whole of the Jewish bible (Tanakh). It was the Pharisees, in opposition to the Sadducees, who taught in a resurrection of the dead, and a life after death.

So, no doubt, Nicodemus wanted to know just exactly who this Jesus thought he was. What’s more, I am sure Nicodemus was truly intrigued and concerned by Jesus actions in the Temple and he, no doubt, wanted to test Jesus’ theological understanding, as it were.  So, in the dark of night, this Pharisee came to Jesus and began to question him. He tried to match wits with Jesus and probed him in away that ultimately exposed his lack of understanding in terms of the Spirit. Sure, Nicodemus had great theological knowledge, but he was lacking in his heart-knowledge of the movement of the Spirit. Jesus schooled him.

What’s important to pull from this is that in his pride,  Nicodemus was humbled. He was shown to not be as knowledgeable as he thought he was. He discovered that his exalted position as a Pharisee meant absolutely nothing to God. What matters to God is that one is in tune with the Spirit, that one is open to what God is doing in the here and now. All of the learning CANNOT and WILL NOT replace and openness to the Holy Spirit. And, as the Jesus warned in Mathew 23:12, the proud shall be humbled. The exalted shall be brought low. Today’s challenge for you is to humble yourself before God and open yourself to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” – Thomas Merton

PRAYER
Lord, humble me that I may be caught up in the working of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Online Sunday Worship (March 14, 2021)

Unfortunately, due to copyright laws in different regions outside the USA, our service is being blocked in some countries, so we put together two services, a USA version and an international version, which includes a synopsis of the movie clip that is shown in the USA version.

USA Version

The USA worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT) on Sunday mornings on YouTube.

International Version

The international version of our worship service premieres at 12:00 p.m. EST (-500 GMT) this Sunday.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for March 14, 2021. We will be continuing on in the Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of confession as a spiritual practice, which makes us draw closer closer to God by laying our sin and burdens at the foot of the cross and turning back to God. Let us discover how this discipline can bring us hope, healing, and wholeness.

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.

RECLAIM, part 3: Prayer & Confession

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -500).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM prayer and confession as a wholesome and healthy practices in our lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about prayer, as well as why it is important to confess our sins to God, as well as to other Christians we trust. In this episode you will also find his own experiences with fasting, as well as tips for different ways to fast.