Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for February 28, 2021. We will be continuing on in the new Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of reading Scripture as a daily practice, which makes us healthier through connecting us and drawing us closer to God. Let us not forget about the power of the Bible!
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.
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 the Bible as a means of grace for us in our daily lives. In this episode, Pastor Todd will discuss how to know which translation to pick, how to read the Bible and why it is important to make reading Scripture a part of our daily routine.
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33)
I just recently saw the new film, “Left Behind”, starring Nicholas Cage, which was based off of the book series of the same name. Very loosely modeled off of the book of Revelation, they envision what the end times will look like as it is supposedly “reported” in scripture. In actuality, the Left Behind series takes many liberties and it cross-references many other books in the Bible as if they were either written by the same author or, at least, with the same events in mind. What’s more, it naturally reads a whole lot between the lines in order to formulate what the authors believe will happen based off of their reading and/or interpretation of Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, 1 Thessalonians, select passages from the Gospels, 1 Corinthians, and other passages in correlation with modern-day events.
While these novels make for thought-provoking speculation, if not just good fiction, many people have made it their purpose in life to try and scry when these things will take place, let alone how they will take place. Aside from just the novels, there are tons of other books predicting the world’s end and how it will come about. There have been Christian radio show hosts, television personalities and others who have all bought into this notion that this world is coming to an end, and have seen to it to warn people that they had better wake up before Jesus comes to takes the faithful and leave the rest behind.
Of course, what has always struck me as rather funny is the fact that Jesus only talked about such things when he was pressed to, and he always began and/or ended those discussions with the warning that “no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) Certainly, the end times were not the focal point of his ministry as much as it was the focal point of his followers’ concerns. He recognized his disciples’ concerns, he let them know that indeed God was active in the world and would eventually bring justice justice to the world; however, he also told them the futile nature of being caught up of wondering where and when, as opposed to taking an active role in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth here and now.
It is very easy to turn on the news and to see the world around us burning in flames. It is easy to be like smoke rising up off of those flames and to get caught up in the heat of the moment, wondering when and where God is going to stop the injustice in the world. With that said, what are we doing to act against the injustice of the world? We are not called to be stagnant, or to be paralyzed in fear of what lies ahead. Also, Jesus never, ever used the end times as a means of frightening people to convert to his way of thinking! Rather, his end times message was always directed at his disciples in order to spark them into active participation in the Kingdom of Heaven. It saddens me when I see Christians using fear tactics as a way of spreading a “good news” that sound a lot more horrific than it does “good”.
We, as God’s creation, are being called to take an active role in the coming of God’s Kingdom…which IS GOOD NEWS! After all, with God’s Kingdom comes hope for the hopeless, rest for the weary, healing for the sick, shelter for the homeless, love for the unloved and abandoned, acceptance for the rejected and wholeness for all who find themselves in need! Let us not leave behind our call to be there for the “least of these”, while getting raptured by our fantastic re-imagining of the world’s demise. We are called to be a part of God’s Kingdom by living as Christ lived and loving as Christ loved. We are called to make that our focal point, leaving the rest to God and God’s timing. What’s more, if we live that call out in our lives, we will be far too busy to worry about things that, in the end, only serve our fearful curiosity and nothing more. I pray that all that gets left behind is our complacency to the live out the TRUE message of the Gospel. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 13:35-37)
Lord, help me to be leave behind my complacency and to pick up the truth of your Good News for all people. Amen.
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE But [Jesus] answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)
I am a firm believer in the importance of reading Scripture and in studying scripture; however, I also recognize that without some sort of guidance, that can be easier said than done. After all, where does one being when it comes to reading the Bible? Does one start at Genesis and read all the way through Revelation? Which translation is the best translation to get? How should one approach reading the Bible? Should one approach it as a sort of oracle that is there to answer all of one’s questions? Should one approach the Bible as the literal word of God? Is reading the Bible such a black and white experience, or is it something one should approach with broader lenses?
In terms of reading the Bible, one should pick the translation that they connect with the most. One can go to a website such as BibleGateway.com to peruse different translations to see which one is best suited to them. Having the right translation can be vital to building a relationship with one’s Bible. Yes, you heard me right. When we begin to be disciplined in reading the Bible, we truly do begin to build a relationship with it’s authors, with the characters, with the people it was originally written for and, of course, with God.
It is also important to remember that “inspired by God”, does not mean “written by God.” The Bible is the authoritative book of the Christian faith, no doubt. That is because it does point us, overall, to a deeper and more profoundly rich relationship with God and with our neighbor. The heart of who God is can be found within it’s pages. Yet, it is also important to note that it was written by people, and that is not a bad thing. After all, the Bible is as relatable of a text as it is for that very reason. With that said, it is okay to question things that don’t make sense to us. After all, it is an ancient text written by people with different cultural, historical, socio-economic and even religious experiences than our own.
Just because you pause, reflect, question, or even challenge certain aspects of the Bible, does not mean you do not take it seriously. It is far different to question than to singly dismiss something. Questioning is a part of the human experience and God gave us the ability to ask questions and to seek answers. God gave us the ability to read, to search and to discern. In fact, it is the act of questioning and discerning that led to different books of the Bible being written. For instance, Leviticus says altars to God could be erected anywhere, whereas, in Deuteronomy, the only temple that should be erected and worshiped in was the one in Jerusalem. Two different authors and communities equaled two different opinions about the appropriate places of worshiping God
Regardless of what Bible you choose, or how you choose to read the Bible, and how you go about spiritually discerning the message of the Bible for your life, what is important is that you read the Bible. You do not have to read it front to back as it was not written that way. Just pick a book and read it. Then move on to another book. Read the Bible one book at a time as that is the way it was written. The Bible is not one book, but 66. Also, study the historical context of the books you are written.
No matter how you choose to go about it, today’s challenge is for you to begin to make the Bible a part of your daily walk with God. If your faith is important to you then reading your Bible should be important to you, for that is foundational to our Christian faith. Make reading the scripture a part of WHO YOU ARE and watch your faith grow from a mustard seed to a giant, LIVING tree!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Unless we form the habit of going to the Bible in bright moments as well as in trouble, we cannot fully respond to its consolations because we lack equilibrium between light and darkness.” – Helen Keller
Lord, guide me in the reading of the Bible. Open my eyes to what I do not see and vivify the things I think I see, so that I might live them. Amen.