Tag Archives: hope

REVISTED: I AM

Read Exodus 3:1-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:58 CEB)

i-am

One of the most powerful stories in all of the Bible, for me, is the story of Moses and the burning bush. While the concept of a bush that is on fire but not consumed is pretty cool in and of itself, but that miracle is not what draws me to the story. It is also pretty awesome that a voice is coming from this burning bush, but that is not what draws me in. I mean sure, that would be pretty powerful to witness, at least in the moment. It might even be powerful and remain cool the next couple of days; however, overtime it would end up getting stored on the back shelves of cool things in my mind, right along with sightings of ghosts, my first kiss, and other such things.

As we know, Moses was tending sheep at the base of Mount Horeb (aka Mount Sinai) when he looked up on the mountain and saw an odd flickering light. It looked to him like a fire and, like most people would, Moses went up on the mountain to check it out. Upon reaching the flickering light, he noticed that it was a bush that was totally caught up in flames, but wasn’t actually burning. In fact, it is kind of ironic that this bush became known as the “burning bush” because it wasn’t burning at all. Naturally, and probably cautiously, Moses began to step closer and closer to the bush. As he approached it, a voice cried out from the flames, “Moses, remove your sandals for you are standing on holy ground.” Now, I don’t know about you, but if I heard that I would have thrown myself off the mountain in fear. Moses was far braver than I and he did as the voice instructed him.

To make a long story short, and so as to not completely repeat the story you already just read in your Bible or e-Bible, Moses ended up having a complete conversation with this disembodied voice emanating from the not-so-burning bush. This voice told Moses that he was the voice of God and that it wanted Moses to carry out a very important task: to go back to Egypt and meet with Pharoah, telling him to let God’s people go. Moses tried to turn down God’s call, but to no avail. Finally, after Moses realized that God had convinced him to go, he asked, “Who should I tell my people sent me when they ask?” God’s answer is what, for me makes this one of the most powerful stories. God replied, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM sent you.”

Now, on the one hand, that must have thrown Moses for a loop. How could Moses even consider that an acceptable answer? Would people really get what he meant when he said “I AM” has sent me to you, let alone believe him? Yet, Moses carries that message to the Hebrew slaves, “I AM” has sent me to you. What is powerful about that is that it fundamentally shows us who our GOD is. Our God is our I AM. God is always with us, present with us in all of our struggles and trials. Our God is always with us, celebrating with us in our joys and triumphs. Our God is the great I AM. There could never be any greater hope than the hope of God’s presence with us.

From this account of God’s eternal presence comes a powerful message for us. If our God is the great I AM, and if we are the children of God, then it follows that WE ARE. Each and every one of us ARE. We have been created to celebrate the I AM within us. We have been created to live and to live abundantly. We have been created to BE, and celebrate our BEING. Do you do this? Do you celebrate who you are? Do you celebrate the divine I AM that resides in you? Do you see yourself as a child of the great I AM? Today’s challenge, and really everyday’s challenge, is this: look at yourself in the mirror. Stare into your own eyes. Stare deeply, get lost in the iris sea and peer into your soul. When the moment feels right, I want you to say the following words out loud to yourself: “I AM.” Seriously, look yourself in the mirror, get to know yourself and tell yourself, “I AM.” Then, go out into your day, everyday, and see the divine I AM in others. In that I AM will set you and others free.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically – I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it.” – Stevie Wonder

PRAYER
Lord, I am because YOU ARE. Thank you for making me who I am and help me to fully realize who I am. Amen.

REVISITED: The Gospel Truth

Read Luke 20:9-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who listen to God’s word and do it.’” (Matthew Luke 20:9-19 CEB)

copy-of-jesus-face

If I were to walk into any given church, or up to any random person, and ask them what the heart of the Gospel message is, I would more than like receive something like the following: “The Gospel message is that God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because Jesus was perfect and without sin, he became the spotless lamb led to the slaughter in order that he may die the death we deserve in order that those who believe in him might be atoned to God and saved.” This is the, in essence, the modern, popular Christian understanding of the heart of the Christian Gospel. Jesus came to die so that we might live.

Yet,  when you read the Gospels themselves, we find that Jesus dying as a sacrifice for our sins is just a part of the Gospel story. It is not the whole of it. Yes, Jesus’ death and resurrection are vitally important to Christian theology, Christology, and the Gospel message; however, only so when it is told in the context of the other components that we find in the Gospel. When those components are missing, what we end up is with a skewed, inaccurate portrait of the purpose of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as a skewed and inaccurate portrait of God’s purpose for sending Jesus, the Christ.

While it is certainly true that Jesus’ death and resurrection has brought about salvific and transformative atonement from our sins, to only tell that part of the story does an injustice to the life and the teachings of the Christ. In fact, it not only does a disservice, but it completely ignores Jesus’ life and teachings altogether, as if they are simply secondary and/or non-important. Yet, was Jesus’ life and teachings trivial? Was his life and teachings secondary, just a necessary back-story to his ultimate death and resurrection? If that is the case, if Jesus’ teachings are trivial and secondary to the work of salvation in the world, then why go down the route of teaching and preaching at all. The Gospel writers could have simply just had Jesus proclaim that his the messiah and the son of God, have people reject that, have him crucified, died, buried, resurrected and be done with it.

But that is not what the Gospel writers did. Rather, they included the whole of Jesus’ life and they dedicated most of their time on Jesus’ teachings. For them, the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings were both as integral to God’s salvation plan as his death and resurrection were. Jesus came, not to die, but to bring TRUE LIFE into the world. To show them what God means by LOVING GOD and NEIGHBOR. Jesus came to set the example and to personally deliver the beginnings of God’s reign in the world. But, like Jesus’ own parable of the wicked tenants suggests, some of those in the world to whom the father sent the son (e.g. the Romans, the politicians, some of the religious leaders, etc.), rejected his identity, as well as his authority, and tried to eliminate him.

That plot, though, ultimately failed; rather, what happened was that God made the greatest good EVER come out of both the life and the death of Jesus. Instead of remaining dead, Jesus resurrected and now sits in power and authority in a complete union with God. Those who believe in him have found the power of redemption, as well as the transformative presence of the Holy Spirit and the perfecting grace of God in their lives. They are not saved, but are transformed and are living out their FAITH in real and tangible ways.

The challenge for us is this, don’t be misled by a lopsided and misguided Gospel. Jesus wasn’t born merely to die. What kind of God would scheme up that kind of plan? Rather, Jesus was born so the he might LIVE in the world and that through him we might attain TRUE LIFE. Even in the face of evil, and even when finding himself in the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus perservered and triumphed over death because in him was a presence greater than death…the very presence of GOD. Through our belief in Christ, through our following his example as detailed in the Gospel, and through his death and resurrection, we have found REDEMPTION and have been placed on the narrow path that leads to life. Let’s start walking it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We cannot have the fruits of the gospel without its roots.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

PRAYER
Lord, I open my heart to the truth of your Gospel. Perfect me in it and set me a part a witness to its power. Amen.

October 30, 2022 – 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 October 30. Today we learn that we are and all that we have come from God. We are stewards through whom God is blessing the world.

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.

REVISITED: The Face of Evil, part 4

Read Exodus 34:1-7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21 NLT)

Finally, we come to the last era…well, probably not…but we finally come to the latest era in the Halloween franchise. For this iteration, David Gordon Green took the helm at co-writing and directing Halloween, released in 2018 (aka Halloween 2018). It was written for and released on the 40th anniversary of the release of the original film directed by John Carpenter. In it, Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, a woman who is faced with the reality that Michael is on the loose again.

This film was envisioned to be a direct sequel to the original film. John Carpenter signed on to be an executive producer and also cowrote the soundtrack with his son. The truth is that Carpenter wasn’t happy with the direction the Halloween films had taken following his exit from the films back in 1982. He signed on to contribute to making the scariest sequel of them all and to recalibrate the series, putting it back on track with the oritinal intent.

You guessed it, that means that this iteration of Michael Myers was much more like the original. He was the walking embodiment of evil that has no reason, let alone moral justification, for what he’s doing. People fear what they don’t understand or know, and Carpenter (as well as David Gordon Green) understood that. To make Michael horrifying again, he had to be brought back to that realm of the mysterious. Why is Michael doing what he’s doing? Simple…he’s evil. There need not be any other reason but that.

With that said, this particular film also delves into the horrific impact that evil can have on its victims. Forty years aater the original film, Laurie strode is living alone in the woods, estranged from her family. Following the events of 1978, Laurie never fully recovered. She had a daughter, but ended up having the daughter taken away by Child Services. Why? Because she turned her entire house into an armed compound and trained her daughter to shoot to kill. The fear of one night forty years ago, had clearly overtaken her life.

To make matters worse, her daughter hates her and thinks she is completely insane, to the point where she is avoiding inviting her mom to dinner to celebrate. The relationship with her granddaughter is also strained, because of the the granddaughter’s mother has on her. She wants a relationship with her grandmom and does not understand why grandma cannot just let Michael go.

Of course, we all know that Michael escapes…AGAIN…and comes to where Laurie and her family are living. On Halloween night, her family realizes that Laurie’s fears were quite real and, those who survive, are quite thankful for her readiness, without spoiling anything. What I love about this film is that it totally takes a look at victims of horrific trauma. It shows us what being a survivor is all about and the horror that unfolds in their life well beyond the actual events that triggered it.

Plenty of people suffer from PTSD and other trauma related illnesses. When we commonly think of PTSD, we think of veterans who served in the military; however, that is one of many groups of people who suffer PTSD. Rape victims, bully victims, car accident victims, police officers, first responders, pastors, and plenty of others can experience PTSD from their own trauma or from experiencing the trauma of others.

Sadly, the church has caused PTSD in others, and I don’t mean just in the sexual abuse cases. I mean that there are a whole host of people who no longer attend church because they no longer view it as a safe place. Perhaps they were burned by people who saw themselves as better or were too selfish to consider another’s feelings. Perhaps they were rejected or treated differently because of how they dressed or whatnot. As Christians, we are being challenged by God to pay attention how we treat people and to avoid being a PTSD inducing people. Let us test ourselves, continually, to make sure we are bringing people to Christ…NOT crisis.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
As much as we can spot evil in others, we had better be doubly quick to spot it in ourselves.

PRAY
Lord, use Scripture and other means to show me how I need to change for the glory of the Kingdom. With your help, all things are possible. Amen.

REVISITED: The Face of Evil, part 3

Read Romans 12:19-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NLT).”

Continuing on with the Halloween Franchise, we come up to a whole knew era of the Michael Myers Saga, where he gets a fresh new look from an metal icon turned film director, Rob Zombie. As was mentioned previously, Halloween was based on the film Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock, based off of the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. In that film, we follow Norman Bates, a deranged, mentally ill man who murdered his mother and assumed her identity. It was scary, and Norman did monstrous things; however, you can’t help but pity him because he cannot help himself.

In Halloween, John Carpenter removes the sympathetic side of the killer out. The film starts with what we believe to be a human being…a six year old boy. We then find out that all humanity has left that little boy as he brutally murders his sister. When he finallyreturns to Haddonfield fifteen years later following an escape from a Mental Health facility, he is no longer a “human being.” Rather, he is a “shape”. The mask he wears is a ghostly shape of a face, and he lingers in the dark, awaiting for someone to pass by him in the shadows. In the original 1978 film, and subsequent sequels, Michael Myers is a rage-filled, unrelenting killing machine with no soul, no moral compass, and no awareness of self even. He is evil incarnate.

Rob Zombie, on the other hand, rebooted the original and took it into a different realm. Instead of dismissing the notion that evil is an evolution, Zombie challenges our understanding of what is evil and how it develops. In his film, we see a young Michael Myers, who is ten years old in this version. We see him at first playing with a rat and then we pan downstairs to see his mom ccoking dinner for her husband and kids. You can tell that they are a lower income, working class, and somewhat dysfunctional family.

When we see young Michael again, he’s washing blood off of his hands and a sharp instrument. He had killed the rat. Clearly, this young child is mentally ill. As we learn more about his home and school environment, it becomes clear that Michael’s behavior is a result of surviving abuse and neglect. His step father is abusive and his mother, who is also an exotic dancer, does her best, but that is not nearly enough for her children. Alcholism, sexual debauchery, and abuse exist in the Myers house.

At school, Michael is bullied and is constantly getting into trouble for writing and drawing distrubing things. The point is, the first third of the film were spent establishing Michael’s back story. The second third of the film is spent showing an adult Michael in the hospital as an adult, his eventual escape and his return to Haddonfield, the final third fo the film is spent the usual way, people running for their lives, blood, guts, mayhem and, eventually, Michael is defeated…but not really. There’s always a sequel, and there was a sequel for Zombie’s film.

In this, Rob Zombie is taking us beyond just sympathizing with a sick person and he is taking us beyond seeing evil as just this unpreventable, unstoppable force that we could never participate in or become; rather, Zombie is reminding us that, while evil does exist, human evil does not exist in a vacuum. Things aren’t always so black & white and, frankly, evil begets more evil. Had Michael grown up in a functional, loving, nurturing environment, his mental illness might not have taken the violent turn it did; what’s more, the household he lived in was so eroded by sin that evil was the natural result…and once evil is unleashed, it becomes a nearly unstoppable force that MUST be eradicated.

This should challenge us to not only avoid being so quick to make judgments, but it also should challenge us to really reflect on the ways we might be contributing to the sin and evil in the world. That is not to say that such mindfulness will result in nobody slipping through the cracks, but it would help us to ensure as few do as possible. Let us be a people who not only avoid being overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Let’s reverse EVIL and by turning to God and beginning to trust him to help us LIVE the lives we were created to live.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to avoid evil but also help me to confront and resist it when it presents itself. Give me the courage and the strength. Amen.

October 16, 2022 – 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 October 23. Today we learn that through Jesus’ gift of salvation, we are called to live into our legacy of giving generously of the grace we have received.

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.

REVISITED: The Face of Evil, part 2

Read Romans 3:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21 NLT)

Now that we’ve looked at Norman Bates in the movie Psycho, we move now to another person who is known as a face of evil. His name, of course, is Michael Myers and his movie franchise is the Halloween series, which was first written and directed by John Carpenter in 1978. For horror fans the world over, Michael Myers is one of the three most iconic slasher film villains of all time, along side Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger. For horror film fans, those three make up the unholy trinity of bloody mayhem and murder.

Michael, however, was the OG. He was the original. Both Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street Series came after and were influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween. Also, as was mentioned in the last devotion, Halloween was heavily influenced by Psycho. That makes Psycho the granddaddy of slasher films, and Halloween the daddy of the genre. Halloween, in fact, was so influenced by Hitchcock’s film that Carpenter even named one of his main protagonists, Dr. Samuel Loomis off of Marion Crane’s boyfriend, in Psycho.

Halloween was a fan’s ode to Psycho, but it did change the direction of Hitchcock’s antagonist in order to fit the time within which the film was being written. By the end of the 1970s, the wishful dreaming of the flower power generation was an after thought. We had been through the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations, Vietnam, Richard Nixon, the Civil Rights Movement, and a host of other huge, earth shattering events. The generation that was born in the early to mid 60s, the beginnings of Generation X, would by the late 70s be much more cynical than their baby boomer predecessors.

So, as great as it was to view the killer as a human being, John Carpenter was directing his film in a different time than Hitchcock and took it in a bit of a different direction. In this film, Carpenter starts off by introducing us to little Michael Myers, a 6 year old boy, who is left home with his older sister on Halloween. We don’t know this yet, though. At first we think that his older sister is home alone with her boyfriend. They obviously have sex and then the boyfriend leaves. Meanwhile, a hand is shown reaching into the knife drawer. From this point on we are seeing this from a masked person’s point of view.

We see his (our) hand reaching down and pulling out a large kitchen knife, much like the one in Psycho. This killer (us…as this is in the first person perspective) stalks through the house, goes upstairs, and finds the teenage girl sitting naked at her vanity  brushing her hair. That is when she notices him and screams, “Michael”, as he repeated stabs her to death.

He (we) then run(s) outside and a car pulls up. A mom and a dad get out, say the name, “Michael” as they pull off his/our mask.  At that point we leave the first-person perspective and can see that his parents have pulled a mask off of their 6 year old boy, who is bloodied and holding a bloody knife. The screen goes black, the killer has been revealed and the stage set.

So, we start off with a human being, but we quickly learn that this dude ain’t human. He’s super human. He is the walking embodiment of evil. He is evil incarnate and there is literally NOTHING you can do to stop him. Dr. Loomis shot him 6 times and he still got up and was able to kill several more people in the sequel.

This switch in the killer’s identity from human to MONSTER, fueled the rest of the series and, honestly, makes perfect sense in the light of the late 70s and the 1980s. There was much cynicism to be had. The “Moral Majority” was on the rise, as were so-called family values as the Christian response to the counter-cultural movement of the 60s. Of course, the Church is always at least a decade behind the world anymore, and so alongside this Moral Majority comes these horror films that both affirm the family values, but also question the morality of the majority and their ability to really stop evil. After all, had religion stopped evil? Did church stop Hitler during World War II? What evil was thwarted by good? And even if it looks like good won out in the end, did it really. Evil seems to just keep coming back, and back, and back.

The point of this is that while the 60s aimed to tone down focusing on evil…or even deny the existence of evil at all, the 70s and 80s began to embrace the fact that evil exists. The Halloween series showed the moral failings of the previous generation, but also the moral and societal failings of all generations. It reminded the world that the Bible is right in the fact that EVIL EXISTS and it doesn’t have a face. Michael Myers was the human being, but that part of him died. Al that remains is faceless mask over a skulking body; he’s a SHAPE consumed by relentless evil.

The fact of the matter is that EVIL does not need a face to exist. It can exist in any one of us and, truth be told, it can consume and destroy anyone of us. The FACE OF EVIL in this case is a denial of the evil that exists within us. The Bible reminds us of that, which is why today’s Scripture is exactly the same as the last devotion. Michael Myers is not the cause of evil, but a symptom of it. We, too, can become a symptom of evil, or we can choose to turn to Jesus Christ for the cure. Faith in Christ, and his redeeming sacrifice for us on the cross, will certainly deliver us from evil.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
EVIL is LIVE backwards. Learn to LIVE FOR JESUS and AVOID EVIL.

PRAYER
Lord, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Amen.

REVISITED: The Face of Evil, part 1

Read Romans 3:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)

One of my all-time favorite horror films is John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was inspired by another one of my favorite horror films, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The two films have been monumentally impactful in the horror genre. What’s more, the two films are connected to each other because the two lead actresses are literally related to each other. That’s right, Janet Leigh, who starred in Psycho, is Halloween star, Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother. In fact, in 1998 for the 20th anniversary of Halloween, both Jamie Lee and Janet Leigh starred together in Halloween: H20.

Trivia aside, there’s a lot we can learn from Halloween; however, before we do, we need to look at it’s predecessor, Psycho. In that film, Anthony Perkins plays a seemingly kind but socially awkward motel owner who incidentally meets Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she stops for the night due to the rain being so bad. Seeing that the Bates Motel had vacancy, she pulls in and meets Norman (Anthony Perkins) who checks her in and offers her food.

What Norman doesn’t know is that Marion had stolen $40,000 from her employer’s client and was on the run. Her boyfriend didn’t know she was going to pull this off, nor did her sister. So, no one knows that Marion is at the Bates Motel, let alone where she might be. What Marion doesn’t know is that there’s more than meets the eye at the Bates motel and, as a matter of fact, we find out that not only is Norman a perverted peeping Tom, but his “mother” is super jealous of other women.

That last fact, sadly, cost Marion her life. While taking a shower, Norman’s “mother” came into the bathroom slowly and silently, ripped open the curtin and stabbed Marion to death with a large kitchen knife. The scene was more than memorable, it literally scarred some people enough that they refused to take a shower again. Of course, Hitchcock being the brilliant director he was, the scene was pulled off without ever showing the knife connect with the body and, in pure Hitchcock fashion, the blood shown going down the drain was actually Bosco Chocolate Syrup because Hitchcock discovered that it looked more red in the Black & White format. Even shooting in B&W was purposeful, as Technicolor was widely available at the time and Hitchcock chose not to shoot it that way.

Of course, I put the word “mother” in quotes because we learn that Norman’s mother is really dead. Norman was into taxidermy and, after poisoning her, he preserved her well and kept her in the basement. To compensate for the loss of his overbearing mother, Norman dressed up like her, imitated her voice and assumed her identity.

As it turned out, Norman was a very sick man who had Dissociative Identity (formerly known as Multiple Personality) Disorder. He was Norman some of the time, he was Mrs. Bates the rest of the time. As Norman, he was a frail, lonely, insecure, awkward boy in a man’s body. As Mrs. Bates, he was cold, demanding, cruel and, as we find out in the film, jealously murderous.

The beauty of this film is how forward thinking it was in terms of mental health. It’s shocking conclusion, with Norman completely gone and Mrs. Bates being completely the dominant personality, really forces the viewer to come face-to-face with mental illness. One cannot hate Norman at the end of the film. Sure, he horrifies you, but there is a level of pity you have for him. His victims should not have died, not even his cruel mom, but he is a victim in all of this too and he cannot help himself.

In our society, we often look at killers such as Norman Bates as being the “Face of Evil”, but Psycho challenges this. Was Norman evil? I mean, yes…what he did was evil, but was Norman Bates, the man, evil? Or was he a sick individual who slipped through the cracks only to turn up when it was brutally too late? Psycho was a very 1960s way of looking at what we call “evil” and trying to put the humanity back into it.

Overall, that is a great thing because, as easy as it would be to view Norman Bates as less than human or a monster, he really is not much different than you and I. The only difference is how his mind works and, truthfully, all of our minds work a bit differently. Norman Bates was a man who was created and loved by God. No, God did not wish for Norman’s life to go down the path it did; however, since when did that give us the permission to BE GOD and judge?

In fact, one of the many faces of evil is JUDGMENT. People who think they are God enough to pass judgment are putting on evil as their way of life. That does not make THEM evil, but their judgmental attitudes are evil for sure. So, before we start getting all self-righteous, we really do need to take a back seat to God. Let us remember that, no matter how awful a person may be acting, they are still a child of God and we are called to love everyone…not judge them.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Evil is as evil does.

PRAYER
Lord, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Amen.

October 16, 2022 – 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 JOY Fellowship Worship Service for October 16. Today we learn that, other than our love of God, there is nothing more important in our faith than our call to show compassion, love, and charity to all with whom we come in contact.

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.

REVISITED: Meet Antichrist

Read 1 John 2:18-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV)

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The Western world is fixated with the apocalypse aren’t we? We are fascinated with the end of the world, with doom and gloom, with the destruction of all things and the idea of living in a dystopic world. From “The Walking Dead”, to “The Hunger Games,” to “Divergent”, there are tons of apocalyptic, dystopic films and books out on the market. Perhaps such a world is more than just a fixation, but an underlying fear.

There is a lot to be afraid of in today’s world, isn’t there. There are religious extremists, in all religions, who are wreaking havoc on people who don’t believe exactly as they do. There are Deadly viruses killing tens of thousands of people and taking the world by storm. There are dysfunctional governments warring over power and ideologies. Every day there are reports of beheadings, kidnappings, grisly murders, riots, hatred, violent uprisings and much, much more.  It seems like at every turn, the world is falling a part at the seams. No wonder the fixation with the end of the world.

And often when we think of the end of the world within the Christianized Western world, we can’t help but imagine that dark forces are aligning against humankind and , often times, those dark forces are embodied by an all-evil entity, envisioned as the “son of Satan”, named the “antichrist.” Yet, the antichrist, as we have come to understand the word, is little more than great fiction based off of a misinterpretation of Scripture. Don’t misunderstand me, as I am NOT saying that the Bible makes no mention of the antichrist. What I AM saying is that the Bible does NOT say the antichrist will be a humanesque demon, named Nicolae Carpathia, who seeks to war with God following a mythical disappearance of millions of God’s neatly dressed holy-rollers.

What the Bible does say about antichrist is that it is a spirit. It is not a spirit of outside forces trying to penetrate the church; rather, it is a spirit that has already penetrated the church and is seeking to destroy the church from within. Whereas the Spirit of God seeks to bring about hope, healing and wholeness, the spirit of antichrist seeks to bring about hopelessness, dis-ease, and disunity. The Spirit of God seeks to love, to encourage, to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, to show compassion, to be gentle, to be kind, to be patient, and to be unified in love with God’s creation. The spirit of antichrist seeks to undercut, to undermine, to be proud, to live selfishly, to be wrathful, to seek vengeance, to show ruthlessness, to be divisive and to quell the Spirit and the presence of God.

Antichrist, in short, is exactly as it sounds. It is anything that stands opposed to Christ. Practically speaking, if the way we are acting and living is counter to the teachings and example of Christ, then we are living in the spirit of antichrist. I have seen the church adopt tons of models of how it approaches ministry in the world, everything from the business model, to a political model, to an entertainment model; however, the church is not a buisness, nor is it a political machine, nor is it merely an entertainment agency. The church is Christ’s body, broken and resurrected, filled with the power of God to bring about hope, healing and wholeness.

We all have the potential to get caught up and even derailed by the spirit of antichrist; however, this is a power within you that is greater than any other spirit surrounding you. That very power is from God and it is empowering you to live your life in the Spirit of Christ, in a way that heals others, that builds them up, that invites them to discover their purpose in life, that challenges them to grow, and that shares the unconditional love that God has shared with you. Seek first God’s Kingdom, be filled with God’s Spirit, and live accordingly.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” – Paul of Tarsus in Galatians 5:25

PRAYER
Lord, I seek to live by your Spirit and your Spirit alone. Allow me to not only move beyond negative spirits and influences so that in you I may truly shine and be a blessing to others. Amen.