Tag Archives: Spirituality

God’s People, part 290: Luke

Read Colossians 4:14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 23-25, 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 290: Luke. Luke is probably the most well-known of Paul’s companions and co-workers. The reason for this is that the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles have been attributed and probably were written by him. Of course, those works are anonymous; however, there is some convincing textual evidence that has been argued in favor of Lukan authorship. Out of all of the missionaries, Luke certainly is the most recognizable.

At the end of Colossians, Paul sent greetings from Luke, of whom he referred to as the beloved doctor or physician. Luke was a gentile man who would have no doubt had some modest wealth as a physician. In ancient Rome, private practicing doctors made anywhere from 300,000 to 600,000 sestertii per year. To put that into persepctive, soldiers got paid a measly 900 sesterii a year.

Luke would have received a good education in order to become a doctor and would have been a prolific writer, which can be seen in his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Doctors in the ancient world were known to extensively write and, to this day, we have writings from doctors in the ancient world. When one reads the Gospel of Luke and Acts, one gets the sense that he was a highly educated man. In Luke, he opened his Gospel up with, “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught” (Luke 1:1-4, NLT).

In that introduction, Luke was indicating that he had done his research and was putting together an ordered account for Theophilus, and we can see that he had the approach of a well-educated man who researched, used reason, and history in order to be as accurate as possible. From this introduction, we also gather that he was not an eyewitness to Jesus and that he was drawing from many sources, not just three. How many Gospels were there? We don’t know, but there were multiple accounts circulating, both orally and in written form.

This is the Luke that Paul refers to in our Scripture reading today. He was a fellow co-worker and occasional companion with Paul. He was with Paul in Colossae and he was with Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome as well. No doubt, Luke attended to Paul’s medical needs as well as to his Spiritual needs. He was a man of loyalty and well-respected among the early Christian churches.

Beyond this, we know little more about Luke. In fact, there are two traditions on how he even died. In one tradition, based off of early written accounts, Luke settled in Greece, wrote his Gospel, wrote Acts, and, at the age of 84, he peacefully died in Boeotia. In the other tradition, he was martyered by Nero after being accused of practicing sorcery. In that tradition, Nero cut off Luke’s hand after which Luke performed a miracle by reattaching the hand to his wrist. That miracle caused all of Nero’s cabinet to believe in Christ and, as a result, Nero ordered all of them, including Luke, to be beheaded.

It is hard to really know what is true when it comes to these traditions and, honestly, it doesn’t really change who Luke was either way. Luke is, yet again, another important faithfulness is and how powerful faithful witness can be. Luke’s Gospel emphasized God’s affinity for the “least of these” and how important it was for wealthy people, such as himself, to value God’s Kingdom and human life over and above finances. Luke used his resources to help others, including Paul, and he humbly served and made a huge impact in the development of the New Testament canon and of Christianity itself. In fact, his Gospel and Acts make up one quarter of the entire New Testament.

Luke’s traits should challenge us to grow in our own faithfulness and commitment to being a faithful witness. Evangelism is vital to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ Luke’s example shows us how important that is in ushering the Kingdom of God, where the last shall be first, where the poor shall be rich, and where the the lost and the least shall be welcomed in by a Father (e.g. the Prodigal Son) who is waiting with open, loving arms.  Let our commitment to evangelism be renewed and let us continue to grow in our faithfulness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” – Hudson Taylor

PRAYER
Lord, I love you and praise your holy name. Please give me the strength to be a powerful witness to your Good News and for your Kingdom. Amen.

April 11, 2021 – Sunday Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, April 11, 2021 on YouTube.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for April 11, 2021. Today we will be discovering the importance of belief and/or faith in our lives, and how faith helps us to see things that our eyes cannot. Believing is seeing. Let us discover how this 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, Episode 7: Faith

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 faith as a wholesome and healthy part of our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss who has faith, and how it can lead us to different levels of seeing.

God’s People, part 289: Epaphras

Read Colossians 4:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings” (Philemon 23)

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 289: Epaphras. When one thinks of Paul, he almost always seen as a giant. I mean, he wrote or had attributed to him thirteen out of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament. Out of those thirteen, he definitely wrote seven of them, though I personally believe he wrote eight or nine of them, and he even had a book written about mostly him and his missionary journeys. Also, there are other letters he mentioned that he wrote, but are lost to us today. So, yeah, Paul was a theological and missionary giant. He planted churches such as the one in Corinth and he left behind a legacy that has endured nearly two millenia! That’s quite an accomplishment from this Jewish Pharisee turned apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

With that said, while Paul was certainly an important, giant-like figure in Christian history, he was not the sole missionary maverick that people often wrongly imagine. Paul was a brilliant networker. He was not the only one setting up mission fields and planting church. There were a bunch of people who were doing so, many of whom, Paul was networked with. Epaphras is one of those people.

Colossians is one of the disputed letters of Paul. What I mean by this is that half of the scholars believe Paul wrote it, and half do not. I am with N. T. Wright on his assessment that Colossians is authentically Pauline. I view Colossians as one of Paul’s authentic letters and find the evidence presented to fall more convincingly on the side of authenticity.

In this letter, Paul sent greetings from a co-worker of his called Epaphras. Paul also mentioned this co-worker’s name in his letter to Philemon. According to Paul in Colossians 1:7, Epaphras (pronounced Epa‘phras) was the one who taught the Colossians the good news and planted the church there. He was their planter and their pastor. Paul knew of the church there because of his friend and colleague Ephaphras, and was writing to them because Epaphras had no doubt reported to Paul of the struggles going on within the community.

Paul acknowledged that he had never been to that community in Colossae in. He opened his letter acknowledging that Epahpras had told him of the “love of others that the Holy Spirit had given” that faithful church community (1:7). They were a loving church and, upon hearing of their struggle with false teachers, Paul wanted them to know “how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally” (2:1).

The focus of this devotion is on the fact that Christians are not meant to be islands unto themselves. What made Paul the giant that he is was the fact that he knew it was not about him; it was about Jesus Christ. Paul networked with people, and gave credit where credit was due. Epaphras and others did the same. They looked to one another for prayer, support, and help. They stuck by one another so that they were not alone in their endeavors.

This is the heart of Christianity, sisters and brothers. We are all called into mission and ministry by our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to be used to preach the good news to the world around us. None of us is expected by Christ to go it alone, and Christ does not wish for anyone to be free from doing the work we are all tasked to do. No one is called to be a beast of burden and no one is called to be a freeloader. Everyone has their part to play.

In the church today, we are so good at dumping the load of the work on a few while others do absolutely nothing to contribute. We are good at enslaving beasts of burden for the ease and comfort of the freeloaders. This may sound harsh, but the reality is harsher. The current state of the church is a direct result of this and other harsh realities. Epaphras, Paul and all of the earliest Christians in the New Testament remind and challenge us to be cooperative in ministry and unified in the mission of Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us grow to live up to that challenge.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us.” – The Apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

PRAYER
Lord, inspire and motivate me to lead by example, to contribute to your church, and to lead others to do the same. Amen.

RECLAIM, Episode 6: Gratitude

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 gratitude as a wholesome and healthy practice in our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about what gratitude is, what it means to cultivate a grateful life, as well as why it is important an important spiritual discipline.

April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday Worship Service

Worship service premieres at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Good Friday, April 4, 2021 on YouTube.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for April 4, 2021. We will be continuing on in the Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of living a life of Gratitude as a spiritual practice, which makes us draw closer closer to God through understanding that everything we have is a gift from God and being grateful for it. 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.

April 2, 2021 – Good Friday Tenebrae Service

Worship service premieres at 7:30 p.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Good Friday, April 2, 2021 on YouTube.

Welcome to our Friday Tenebrae Service for April 2, 2021. It’s Holy Week!!! Tonight’s worship is a Tenebrae service that remembers Jesus’ passion (suffering) during his final hours on earth, including his death on the cross and burial in the tomb. This is will be a powerful and moving worship experience, no doubt.

DISCLAIMER: While this is a full Christian worship experience with mild imagery, a Tenebrae service recounts the betrayal, arrest, trial, flogging, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. Parental discretion advised.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 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.

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.

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.

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.