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Lent Day 40 – We Stand in Christ’s Triumph

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Bruce Gold – Custodian / Valpo FUMC

My wife’s new hero is Theodore Roosevelt. He once said, “speak softly and carry a big stick” This could just as well be said by our hero, Jesus Christ. Being a member of the Trinity gave Jesus the biggest stick imaginable. But Jesus was better known for speaking softly. Our author, A. W. Tozer, laments the image of gentle Jesus, meek and mild. It is an image that he accuses our Protestant churches of perpetuating. This Jesus, who weakly acquiesces to the ones who seized and persecuted Him, seemingly represents the thinking of the modern church. He describes Jesus as “the helpless Christ of the crucifix and the vacuous-countenanced Christ that looks out in sweet innocence from the walls of our evangelical homes…”. He is not in awe of the Jesus who practiced what He preached and turned the other cheek. Still, I am not quite sure how Jesus could have fulfilled His destiny and died on the cross, if He hadn’t been captured by the Pharisees, handed over to the Romans and acquiesced quietly to their accusations. One cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.

Who is Jesus? Is He the teacher who requires us to turn the other cheek or is He the outraged overturner of tables? Is He both? Jesus was a missionary who came from a household of untold riches (the Kingdom of Heaven) to lead a small mission team in a poor and subjugated country. He came to teach and to heal. He came to reorganize His Father’s operation, which had been mismanaged for centuries. And, of course, He came to redeem His people and forgive them of their sins.

When Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, His followers were demoralized, but we know that the story did not end there. On Easter Sunday, Jesus vindicated Himself and gave His followers a triumphant victory. Tozer complains that we Protestants are stuck in Good Friday and are ignoring the Good News of the third day. Jesus had at His command, an army of angels, but chose instead to be humiliated, beaten and crucified. As, centuries before, Isaiah had prophesied, “He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth…”. Jesus chose to appear helpless and defeated, in order that He could defy the rules of the secular world and rise victorious on Easter morning.

So, yes, we are the church of the cross and of Good Friday. But, yes, we are the church of the triumph, the victory, the resurrection: the Good News!

BG

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Lent Day 39 – The Passion of Christ

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Connections / Valpo FUMC

The awkward phrase “sex lust” mentioned in the opener as modern day hijacking of the definition of “passion” distracted me from much of this days devotion. It was such a graphic and awkward wording of what I wondered after all along: Why is Christ’s death called “The Passion”? The somber truth of it seems to be the opposite: passionless. Death. Sorrow. Absence.

I remain, as many people remain, deeply spiritually uncomfortable with the necessity of atonement. I feel conflicted that I need a savior. I feel faintly skeptical that a man hung on a cross more than two thousand years ago because I needed a moral reckoning to connect to God.

The first time I struggled with Christianity, with the weight of this truth I chose to believe in faith, God brought me to my bible. As I fumbled through the book of John, chapter 20, I was amazed that this man Thomas who walked with Jesus on a daily basis wouldn’t believe the other disciples when they said Jesus was alive. In John chapter 20:26 Thomas says, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” At this time of crisis in my faith I felt clearly God was showing me that he could handle my struggle and he was not surprised if I had doubts. My faith was renewed.

HN

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Lent Day 38 – Dead in Christ

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance / Valpo FUMC

According to the United Methodist Church website, Maundy Thursday is an alternate name for Holy Thursday, the first of the three days of solemn remembrance of the events leading up to, and immediately following, the crucifixion of Jesus.

The English word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, which means “commandment.” As recorded in John’s gospel, on His last night before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and then gave them a new commandment to love one another as He had loved them (John 13:34). This is why services on this night generally include the washing of feet or other acts of physical care as an integral part of the celebration.

While John’s gospel does not record the institution of the Lord’s Supper among the events of this night, the other gospels do. Luke 22:7-38 outlines this in great detail. Christians therefore keep this night with celebrations both at the basin (foot washing) and at the Lord’s Table (Holy Communion).

What’s interesting is that I’ve been told that many past Maundy Thursday services here at FUMC, haven’t included the ritual celebration of John 13:1-17. Considering how much precise ritual emphasis is placed on Ash Wednesday services, Palm Sunday services, Good Friday services, and of course Easter Sunday services, my wish this Lenten season is that a return can be made to Maundy Thursday services that are celebrated with equal precision.

DD

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Lent Day 37 – Identified with Christ

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Rev. Dee Miller – Visitation Pastor / Valpo FUMC

The super bowl just ended and I have to admit that I am thrilled with the results. The Philadelphia Eagles are a wonderful example of being identified with Christ. The coach of the Eagles has systematically throughout the year, brought his faith to the locker room and asked the players to follow his example. Doug Pederson rose from a high school football coach to coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. Before every game, the team prayed together and several times during different games, players could be seen praying before some of the plays on the field. At the time of celebrating winning the super bowl the Eagles’ coach Don said: I can only give the praise to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity. And I’m going to tell you something. I’ve got the best players in the world, and it’s a resilient group. I love this coaching staff. Mr. Lurie, the owner. And not only do we have the best fans in the world, we now have the best team in the world. Thank you guys.” What an incredible moment on national television for a coach to be so unified with Christ that he would praise Him and given him the glory!

Then we look at the Quarterback Nick Foles and we have to say that going into the playoffs, he had not been doing so well. It is a well-known fact that Nick is in the process of getting a divinity degree and hopes to someday be a pastor when his football career is over. Nick Foles has to be the most famous backup quarterback in the world today. Forced into action when franchise quarterback Carson Wentz went down earlier in the season with a knee injury, he led his team to the world title and was named Super Bowl MVP. Tight end Zach Ertz, who made the game-winning catch, then told the audience, “Glory to God first and foremost.” Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles followed Ertz to the microphone and said the same thing. Nick Foles describes himself on Twitter as a “believer in Jesus Christ, husband, father, son, brother.” Many of his teammates share his faith in Jesus and are willing to make their commitment public.

The issue of athletes glorifying God at the end of victories is an ongoing debate. Some see it as an imposition of personal faith on the public. Others ask whether the players would have praised God if they had lost. I believe that even if they had lost, the coach and team would have praised God for giving them the opportunity to play in this final game together. To me, Coach Pederson and his players were simply following the biblical example: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). Scripture teaches, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). We are commanded to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

When are we to glorify God? “Continually.” The Eagles came through the playoffs as the underdogs but they looked to God for their perseverance and unified themselves with God’s vision. IT is when we work in our lives to align our lives with Christ that we find that we can accomplish anything because we first know that we are identified as a child of God!

DM

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Lent Day 36 – Who Put Jesus on the Cross?

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Karyn Custer-Jankowski – Director of Children’s Ministries / Valpo FUMC

This could otherwise have been titled, “He Suffered, We were saved”!

Tozer opens this devotion saying that the way Jesus was tortured, is human kind’s way of punishing someone for their wrongs. But, he says that Jesus’ suffering was not punitive for himself – not for any wrong he did – it was for US. HIS suffering ended in OUR cleansing, healing, purification…

So what does Tozer say this horrible suffering was for, in the end? Sanctification. An older, strong word meaning, the pure heart and clean hands that are a delight to God, for which a true Christian would have a “holy longing and desire” to attain. Tozer feels that the truly righteous, holy person would feel so strong a need to repent for His/Her part in Jesus’ suffering that this would be their goal in life, what they would be working toward, sanctification.

I have to wonder if we Christians today are working toward sanctification. When I think about Jesus’ suffering and death, sure, it does upset and rattle me. I become sad thinking of what He went through – for ME! But I admit, this is something that I consider, usually, during Holy Week and specifically, on Good Friday. It certainly is not an everyday consideration! Seems Tozer is opening my mind to the fact that maybe it should be.

KCJ

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Lent Day 35 – Prepare the Way

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications / Valpo FUMC

…prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

Today’s daily devotional was good, as it always is, but for some reason my mind kept going back to the reading’s scripture above.

I got to thinking of a highway in the desert, and how it would be impossible to just build the highway and think it was done. How does this scripture speak to me and us today? Why would we need a highway for God? How do we build a highway in the desert?

I’ve never driven in a desert. I flew into Phoenix once, and drove around town, but never drove outside the city limits. However, I’ve watched enough cowboy movies to know that the desert presents many obstacles. To build a highway in the desert, obstacles need to be dealt with.

Notice the scripture says the highway is for God, not for us. So, if God wants to get to me, he wants a highway so he can get there fast. However, what obstacles have I not cleared so that he can get there? I have many. I’m stubborn, I lack faith, I’m critical, and so many other things. How can God really reach me if I allow those things to get in the way of welcoming Him? And the thing is, even when I remove the obstacles, and I allow Him to come and speak to me, to minister to me, to guide me, it isn’t a one-off. Roads need to be maintained…especially highways in the desert.

Desert highways are built on sand. Sand shifts. It blows. It wears things down. Just because I’ve removed today’s obstacles doesn’t mean I’ll never allow more to impede God’s access to me. I need to pray daily to maintain the highway in the desert. I need to keep that road open so God can walk with me and guide me through life’s joys and trials.

Building the highway in the desert takes faith, and isn’t easy. Maintaining that highway takes daily upkeep.

PG

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Lent Day 34 – Christ Is the Pattern

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Bruce Gold – Custodian / Valpo FUMC

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) Christ is the pattern. He is very God of very God, but He is also a man. When we follow the examples of Jesus, we become sanctified.

When we, through faith, reach out to God, the Lord saves us. We have been justified. Our sin nature has been recognized; we have turned away from the world and turned toward God. When we are justified by God, through our faith, we enter in to the process of sanctification: living in the image of Jesus. We have chosen the narrow path. We beg to be transformed by God. We have admitted that we were dead in our sin nature and now we are alive in Christ.

Charles Wesley, in his Confession of Faith, explained this transformation: “We believe sanctification is the work of God’s grace through the Word and Spirit, by which those who have been born again are cleansed from sin in their thoughts, words, and acts, and are enabled to live in accordance with God’s will…” But, being in the process of sanctification does not free us from all the weaknesses of our physical nature. It is up to us to use our new-found relationship with God to fight against the “world, the flesh, and the devil”. To be sanctified, set aside by God, is not a once-and-done. It is a battle that we must face until we take our place with the saints in Heaven.

BG

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Lent Day 33 – Raised with Christ

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Connections / Valpo FUMC

I heard a joke about a lady with Christian bumper stickers all over her car and a cross swinging from the rearview mirror. She was driving the speed limit, but was demonstrating road rage at the slower drivers as she tried to hurry around them. When the police officer pulled her over, she was confused since she hadn’t been speeding. The officer explained he had thought the car was stolen, since she was screaming and making obscene gestures while driving the car of a Godly person.

I wonder if I look like a Christian as I go through my day? I cuss like a sailor, even though I am embarrassed to be so base. I loose my temper and holler. I do not live a life fully dedicated to Christ. What then does’ the cross of Christ imprint onto my life, if anything?

I guess I can honestly say my love for Jesus, in the midst of my imperfect devotion, shows the cross on my life. I talk with believers and non-believers alike about how God works in my life, how he blesses me and corrects me. I can, because of my imperfections (my super obvious and gross imperfections) offer others a Jesus who doesn’t need our perfection, just our interest, our openness. The cross is ugly, and messy, and full of real life meeting God’s perfect love. I think my life reflects that. I hope it does.

HN

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Lent Day 32 – “It Will Cost You Nothing”

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance / Valpo FUMC

I have to be completely honest concerning today’s reading. I was a bit disappointed. Unlike the reading from March 1st, today I was left wanting. I so badly wanted the author to elaborate in so many ways, that I felt like I hadn’t consumed much at all. Not to impugn Tozer’s attempt to relay the obvious message that coming to Jesus does come with a personal cost. However, I would have been much more satisfied with an explanation or interpretation of what those costs may be.

Case in point; How many times have you been told that all you have to do is pray for something, and God will give it to you? Now then, compare that to how many times you have been told that prayer is a two way street between you and God that requires your participation as well as His? If you are completely honest with yourself, I imagine those answers are, almost always, and almost never.

Too many times are we told that ‘It will cost you nothing’ in regards to your personal relationship with God. Personally, I believe that it costs you everything that you can put into it and that you should be willing to give it all without reservation. Too many times are we told that all you must do to receive is pray. Personally, I believe that is only half of the equation. I don’t believe that God arbitrarily gives you patience just because you asked Him for it. I don’t believe that He gives you strength simply because you want Him to give it to you. And I don’t believe that He gives you wisdom all because you prayed for it. I believe that God doesn’t grant these things to you solely because you’ve asked.

I believe that He hears your prayers, and He in turn gives you opportunities to be patient, strong, and wise in His name, as He walks with you in your life, along with your desire to grow deeper in your personal relationship with Him. So you see, I believe that prayer does cost you, your walk with God costs you, and thereby your faith costs you….. as it should.

DD

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Lent Day 31 – God Stands Ready

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Rev. Dee Miller – Visitation Pastor / Valpo FUMC

Do you struggle with which direction in life to go? We all struggle every day to keep our focus on God and His wisdom. Temptations are everywhere. Social media is always putting some temptation to spend money; to join a rant about some cause; or to spend money on some great product that turns out to be a scam. It is James’ intent in this passage to show us the direction by imperatively grabbing us with the essential desire to honor God and relate to people. This calls us to direct, hands-on action without delay. We are to humble ourselves before God and, at the same time, resist the devil, as we cannot serve both. When we draw near to God, the devil is pushed further away. If we draw near to the devil, then God is pushed further away. The signpost is clear where we are to go; the direction we choose is up to us.

God wants us to make the fervent attempt to repent, get right with Him, and not lead a double life in trying to serve two contradictory paths in life. When we do, we are being hypocritical, creating broken relationships, shattered lives, and unmet opportunities. This leaves us in despair as the devil and our ways have no hope or purpose other than to steal what God has to give to us. We already have joy and completeness in Christ when our hearts and minds are centered on Him. So, the bottom line of this passage is the call to submit and surrender to God, allowing Him to be our only Lord and direction. Then, He will lift us up beyond our greatest desires and plans to a much greater plan and purpose in life!

Verse 7 asks us the crucial question: are we resisting God or resisting the devil? How we respond to life and other people will be rooted in how we respond to God. Do we fight Him or do we glorify Him? How do we know? The answer is in how we are with our attitudes and mindsets; are we humble or proud? If we are proud, we are serving the devil, even though we may think we are serving ourselves. If we are humble, then we are serving our Lord. This strikes at the root of our mindset and motivation in life.

Several years ago, I worked with peoples who had addictions that they were trying to overcome through a Bible based step program. These men and women were abundantly honest with how difficult their task was in life to oppose the evil one and to stay focused on God. Daily prayer with their prayer partner and hourly scripture readings helped them stay focused throughout the day as they worked hard to stay steady in avoiding their addictions. We talked about when you give a problem to God in prayer, do Not insult Him by taking the problem back if He doesn’t answer your prayer fast enough OR if His answer isn’t something you are willing to do. Also, while you are waiting for Him to answer your prayers, remember that no answer is an answer. He may just be trying to show you how strong you are when He makes you practice patience and strengthen you faith in Him. Each person, worked hard to resist their addictions and turn their lives over to God for help and perseverance. Today, six of the ten are still free of their addictions and are leading Christ focused productive lives. All have a routine each day that keeps them focused on the God of hope, love and mercy who they Praise as they oppose the temptations the evil one tries to lure them with. They let God work in their lives to refine them and therefore have found joy abundant as their reflect God’s love and mercy.

DM

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Lent Day 30 – The Cross Does Interfere

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Karyn Custer-Jankowski – Director of Children’s Ministries / Valpo FUMC

A.W. Tozer begins today’s devotion with this quote; “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion interferes with our private lives.” Can you imagine a person making such a statement??!!!

I want to say, “HEY BUDDY! If your religion, your faith, is NOT interfering with your private life, then YOU KNOW WHAT? You’re doing it WRONG!”

Faith is not always easy. Jesus said to us in Matthew 10: 34-36 that He did not come to bring peace to the earth but a sword, meaning, He knew that following Him would be difficult. There would be painful divisions between families and friends. As Christ followers, we would each be asked to bear this cross.

Having said this though, I personally believe my faith DOES make this life and it’s trials easier to bear. It’s simple for me – I KNOW that God loves me unconditionally and has my back. I know that whatever comes along, I can handle because God comes alongside me in ALL things; good and bad. He will never forsake me.

So, the cost for following Jesus may be high but it brings eternal life at the end. So go ahead Jesus – INTERFERE in this life! Shake things up! I’ll do my best, with Your help, to follow where You lead.

KCJ

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Lent Day 29 – Following the Lord

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications / Valpo FUMC

When I was in eighth grade, my class took a trip to Washington D.C. Me and several friends were feeling adventurous, so we decided to walk the stairs up to the top of the Washington Monument. Oh, to be young again!

Anyway, I don’t know how many steps it is, though I’m sure if I google it I can find out. All I know that after awhile, we were exhausted, and not sure we could go any further. We gratefully found a bench on the landing that wasn’t occupied, and plopped ourselves down, trying to catch our breath. Just then a father was descending the stairs with his son. All of us shouted out at the same time, “How much further to the top?”

He grinned, then said, “Don’t worry, you’re almost halfway there!”

We groaned! There was no access to the elevator on the steps, so we had no choice but to continue. We were shocked when we found out the gentleman and his son must have had a good laugh, because we were only one flight from the top.

This is how I feel sometimes when it comes to my Christian walk. I take things a step at a time, and have learned so much from reading scriptures, prayer, and having Biblical conversations with my Christian friends. However, the more I climb, the more I realize how so very far I have yet to go. Just when I think I have discovered an answer, I picture the Lord laughing as He says, “You’re almost halfway there.”

I don’t know how much longer I have to go when I finally reach the top to enter into the arms of my waiting Savior. But just like the climb all those years ago, this climb is invigorating!

PG

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Lent Day 28 – The Cross Is a Radical Thing

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Bruce Gold – Custodian / Valpo FUMC

Without the cross, would there be a Christian religion? If Jesus had lived, preached, performed miracles, taught His disciples, and then went off to a quiet retirement, would He be remembered today? If Jesus had died on the cross, but not been resurrected, would the cross have the same meaning? If Jesus had been stoned, like Stephen, and then raised from His grave, would we be wearing polished stones around our necks? Was Paul changed from Saul because of the cross, or because he had a physical encounter with the Risen Christ?

Paul certainly preached the cross and Him who died upon it. Since before Christ, the cross was, indeed, a symbol. Just as the author described it. The cross was a Roman symbol of death, torture, and humiliation to all who opposed Roman rule. So, does the cross lose its power by becoming a Christian symbol? I think not. I think the power of the cross that so many of us wear around our necks, lies in its symbolic resonance. Where once the cross was a symbol of death, because of Christ, it became a symbol of life. And of life everlasting. And thus, the world was overturned.

BG

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Lent Day 27 – The Need for Self-Judgment

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Connections / Valpo FUMC

“This is a mystery too high for us, and we honor God more by believing without understanding than by trying to understand.” This is how A.W. Tozer explains it today. This is SO HARD! We all want to KNOW the things. We want to be understood. We want to UNDERSTAND. I believe even the deepest Christ follower struggles with doubt at times. I believe that this insecurity, this questioning makes our choice to BELIVE that much more meaningful. At least that is what I hope to be true.

Further along in todays’ devotion Tozer says “…the kindly law of the Father’s heart that requires and expects of his children lives lived in conformity to the commandments of Christ.” Our Father REQUIRES and EXPECTS us to follow Christ. That sits heavy with me as I know I do not do a solid job on this. I struggle and wander around in order to please myself…wandering back to God here and there.

What would it look like if I lived all out just to please God?

HN

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Lent Day 26 – The Fruits of Obedience

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance / Valpo FUMC

Upon completion of today’s reading, I had to pause momentarily, take a much needed cleansing breath, and while savoring the comfort of the celebratory exhale, I simply captured in my memory the feeling that this brought to me. Finally…… I felt a genuine sense of a truly elevated closeness to Jesus. I felt like I was chosen to be intentionally reminded of that which I know I must do, yet sometimes fail to practice in my daily walk. Thank you Jesus for putting this on my heart !!!

What I love most about this reading is the absolute cut and dry, no grey area information concerning what is real, opposed to what we would like to be real. Let me elaborate please. In the New Testament, there is absolutely NO contradiction whatsoever between faith and obedience. Between faith and law-works, yes. Between law and grace, yes. However, between faith and obedience, such contradiction simply does not exist. The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith.

The trouble today is that so many are trying to believe without the intention to obey. It’s like the author analogized, throwing out the baby with the bathwater. So many Christians today have dismissed the obedience to God’s word, all the while proclaiming to be a believer. To be successful in one without the other is a mere impossibility. One would be simply ‘talking without walking’, concerning their faith.

Perhaps it is the Church’s fault for soft-peddling the doctrine of obedience, a dynamic similar to my blog entry on coddling versus crucified. The good news is that the ‘Fruits’ of obedience are so easily found in the Word. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, and eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him. A powerful message indeed…

DD

 

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Lent Day 25 – Praise God for the Furnace

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Rev. Dee Miller – Visitation Pastor / Valpo FUMC

At an early age, I learned how to swim because I spent half of the year living near the water. So at the age of seven, I was competing on the summer swim teams. I would watch older swimmers break records in the pool and they then quickly became my idols.

One summer, I remember clearly the story of Joni Eareckson Tada and her misjudgment of the depth of the water when she excitedly jumped into the Chesapeake Bay. Her story taught me so much about perseverance of faith. Joni Eareckson Tada jumped into the Chesapeake Bay and having misjudged the depth of the water Tada emerged forever changed. She would from this point forward be a quadriplegic, living her entire life in a wheelchair. Tada has written extensively of her experiences. I read many of her writings and biographies. She has been an inspiration to many but as a teenager she was truly my spiritual teacher. She is a picture of our text in James 1:1-4. She models joy in the midst of suffering. Furthermore, she shows that God often has a good purpose in our suffering.

On one occasion Joni discussed having her wheelchair in heaven. She said:

I hope I can take my wheelchair to heaven with me, I know that’s not biblically correct, but if I were able, I would have my wheelchair up in heaven right next to me when God gives me my brand new, glorified body. And I will then turn to Jesus and say, “Lord, do you see that wheelchair right there? Well, you were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that wheelchair was a lot of trouble! But Jesus, the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. So thank you for what you did in my life through that wheelchair.” And now, I always say jokingly, “you can send that wheelchair to hell, if you want.”

So where does that type of joy come from? Ultimately, we know the answer to that question is that such joy can only come from God and sometimes through our suffering.

I used to think most of the Christian walk was about “toughing it out”—enduring suffering, living with disappointment and struggling through hardship. But I have realized something very precious, especially in the last year, as God has been teaching me and training me. Suffering has purpose. Understanding this changes how we feel about undergoing it. Having joy because of trials in this way bears so much fruit. It actually leads us to a place where we are truly mature in Christ and lack nothing. Joy fills in the gaps.

In 2 Corinthians 8:2, Paul writes, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” Joy doesn’t change circumstances, but it does change our attitude toward what we face.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is part of the Holy Spirit’s character. He loves to bring “the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

What about you? Are you a carrier of joy or misery? How would people describe you? Would they say you lighten the atmosphere around you, or do you add to the heaviness? Being joyful is not the same as being happy. Happiness depends on outward things, but joy wells up from within.

All of us can feel relief and contentment when we have come through a hard time. We can rejoice and praise God for how He has brought us out of it. But the challenge is, how joyful are we in the midst of it?

DM

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Lent Day 24 – Crucified with Christ

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Karyn Custer-Jankowski – Director of Children’s Ministries / Valpo FUMC

As soon as I read the title today I thought this seems to be the definition of “Born Again Christian” – and this is what Tozer seems to be expressing in this reading.

Tozer is referring to Paul’s thoughts to the Galatians where he says that he is no longer himself. Paul has given himself, ego and all, to Christ through His crucifixion and states that Christ now lives in him. Paul continues saying that although he remains in his own body, he lives by faith in Jesus who gave His life for him.

Tozer finds it remarkable how Paul completely ‘owns’ this love OF, and faith IN Jesus Christ. He completely and unashamedly says that “I” have given up myself for Him who has saved me.

This is something we do not easily do today – to completely ‘OWN’ our Christian faith and put it out there for all to see. We tend to be a bit more quiet about it all.

What about those Christians who call themselves ‘Born Again’? This is a group we would hear from, who would shout from the mountaintops, “I am a follower of Christ, He is my Lord and Savior”.

Perfect examples would be many of the players on the Philadelphia Eagles football team after they won the Superbowl a few Sundays ago. SO MANY of the players thanked God and Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior for their win saying, “To God goes all the glory!” They REALLY put themselves “out there’, knowing there would probably be some backlash, some eye rolling, some disdain…These are true disciples of Christ and definitely the ‘Pauls’ of today!

Isn’t this what Jesus calls EACH of us to do? Can I answer the call? Can YOU?

KCJ

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Lent Day 23 – No Saviorhood without Lordship

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications / Valpo FUMC

It’s probably just me, but I obviously don’t travel in the same circles that A.W. Tozer did, because I have never heard of this concept that one could believe that Jesus is Savior but not Lord.

I’ve never had any issues with the fact that Jesus is Lord and Savior. In fact, I’m sure I’ve sung worship songs to that effect, and certainly the Scriptures proclaim Jesus as Lord.

Not to overthink such things, it did occur to me when I was reading today’s devotion, that as an American, I don’t really have a grasp on all these noble titles. Not proficient in Hebrew or Aramaic, I wonder what word is used for “Lord” and what the meaning of it is. When King James had the Hebrew/Aramaic texts translated into English, the British people would have understood clearly the translated word of “Lord”. Frankly, I’m not sure what a Lord is, although I hear the word a lot on British-produced Television.

A quick search from Merriam-Webster define “Lord” as: One having power and authority over others:

  • a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due
  • One of whom a fee or estate is held in feudal tenure
  • An owner of land or other real property
  • The male head of a household (deemed as obsolete)
  • Husband
  • One that has achieved mastery or that exercises leadership or great power in some area (as in drug lord)

Right. I have never had a problem calling Jesus Lord, and based on what I read from the dictionary, I’m prepared to continue doing so.

It sounds like Tozer was an intelligent man, and he probably hung around with like-minded fellows. Me, I’m just an ordinary middle-aged woman. Perhaps being too intelligent has its drawbacks…it causes one to think too much.

PG

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Lent Day 22 – The Sanctification of Our Desires

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Bruce Gold – Custodian / Valpo FUMC

In Romans 8:5-7, Paul explains the difference between those who walk in the flesh and those who walk in the Spirit. Paul sets a tough standard for us to achieve. We spend an hour or two in church, being reminded of the Word of God, then we spend the rest of our week in the clutches of the world, being reminded of all the wonderful things we can have and do, if we ignore the will of God.

Left to our own devises, we will always fall prey to the temptations of the world. We are not strong enough, in the flesh, to avoid the traps set for us when we become children of God. In Romans 7:15, Paul admits to us his struggle to keep this high standard: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”. Still, we are not helpless and alone. As Paul tells us in Romans 9: “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you”. Each of us, then lives in a personal civil war, a war between the states. The state of the flesh gives us the urge to go along with the crowd, to fit in, to succeed. The state of the Spirit reminds us whose we are, that we were bought at a price, no longer held hostage by the world.

We are, as children of God, in the world, but not of the world. Therefore, as we mature in Christ and recognize the presence of the Spirit inside of us, we become free from the assumptions of the world. As we rely on the Holy Spirit, who dwells inside us, we can see our place in the world with greater clarity. We can live our life according to the plan God has prepared for us. We can live according to our higher purpose. We can live in the Spirit.

BG

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Lent Day 21 – Mortify the Flesh

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nsights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Connections / Valpo FUMC

This topic makes me think of food, and how church folks are known by their potlucks, Sunday morning donuts, etc. We don’t talk of Gluttony because it makes people unhappy. I justify my hobby of buying new clothes before my current ones are unraveling because I’m not as bad as some “other people”. I brag that I only have five pairs of pants, but ask me about skirts and dresses.

Tozer says, “But you will never be a spiritual man until God reduces you to your proper size.” This is truth. I have been privileged to be whittled down by my sweet Lord many times. I eat crow and I apologize quickly and then I do it all over again. Tozer later states “Either we mortify the flesh or the flesh will harm us to a point where we have no power, no joy, no fruit, no usefulness, no victory.”

Even the secular folks know this statement to be true; just look at the rise of mindfulness and minimalism lately. In our souls we know less is more. We know slowing down and letting go of too much allows us to live a better life. Advertisers tell us we need all the things, but God wants us to have Him. God needs us to focus on him and serving others. Yes, we get joy and pleasures, but only enough to enjoy, not so much to be burdened down by piles and excess.

I am mortified, but now, once again, my flesh needs to be too.

HN

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Lent Day 20 – The Gaze of the Soul

Cross bridge
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance / Valpo FUMC

When I finished today’s reading, I immediately noticed that there was a significant scripture noted, yet not given in the text. And even though Psalm 27:4 speaks to the ‘Gaze of the Soul’ while we are here, I find it more appropriate to mention that John 17:3, the significant scripture mentioned yet not given, speaks directly to the ‘eternal life’ of our soul.

Eternal life is by far the greatest treasure ever offered to any person on this spinning blue marble we call Earth. Jesus makes it clear that Father God’s intent is that we come to ‘know’ Him personally. The Apostle John uses the word, ‘know’ more than any other gospel writer. Obviously Jesus used the word much since it appears 71 times in the Olivet Discourse alone. This of course refers to Christ’s teachings at the Mount of Olives. The Greek word ”ginosko’ appears 223 times in the New Testament, and is translated with three English words ‘know, perceive and understand.’

Understanding that, why so much focus on ‘knowing’? Well, in the first century when John wrote his Gospel, that Greek word ‘ginosko’ was a ‘hot’ word loaded with meaning. Biblical historians tell us that John lived to be almost 100 years old. Therefore, he had the opportunity to watch this newly founded Church of Jesus, and make its first steps of growth. But that also means he lived to see counterfeits, and early cults arise too. Anti-Christian cults like the Gnostics (Greek also meaning ‘know’) flourished and those writings are creeping again into our own culture, by way of popular books and films. This Gnostic cult movement fooled many from the late first century to the fourth century. To its followers, Gnosticism promised a secret knowledge of the divine realm in that only those who had this special knowledge could have interaction with God. Of course we know this to be untrue. However, John records the words of Jesus’ high prayer to come against that idea of ‘special knowledge.’ Jesus said, ‘that they may know You, the only true God.’

With that given, what would you say eternal life means? Is it nothing but eternal existence going on and on infinitely? Is it floating on cloud nine strumming a harp? Is that eternal life? No, the definition is this reading’s ungiven text of John 17:3, “and this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.’ It’s that simple. So, eternal life is not as much about quantity of life, but is primarily about quality of life. Eternal life can be defined in two words, ‘knowing God.’ Eternal life is an eternal relationship with God, and this eternal relationship with God is ours simply on the basis of our faith in Jesus. The joy of the next stage of eternal life, when we see Jesus face to face, is not just that all of our Earthly problems are behind us, but knowing God is the thing that lasts. It’s the single most important thing that we will be doing….. forever.

DD

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Lent Day 19 – We Must Die If We Would Live

Lent-19
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Rev. Dee Miller – Visitation Pastor / Valpo FUMC

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.—Galatians 2:20

People sometimes will use the expression, “We all have our cross to bear.” But our cross to bear is not whatever we find difficult in life. The cross to bear, so to speak, is the same for everyone: it is dying to self.

Dying to self means resisting the temptation to do what everyone else is doing when you know it is wrong. Dying to self means forgiving instead of harboring a grudge. Dying to self means putting down the remote control and picking up the Bible. Dying to self means praying when you would rather be sleeping. Dying to self means swallowing your pride and telling someone about Jesus Christ. Dying to self means doing what God wants you to do rather than doing what you want to do.

Jesus said, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). That does not mean you must take a vow of poverty and give every possession away to be a disciple of Jesus. “Forsake all” literally could be translated, “Surrender your claim to, say good-bye to.” This means that true disciples of Jesus are not possessed by their possessions.

When you die to yourself and take up the cross, you will experience joy and an overflowing life. The apostle Paul put it this way: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Nearly 15 years, ago, I found myself in a battle with cancer for my life. As chemotherapy continued to strip me of all my known defenses, I turned to my faith and realized that the one true constant that I could depend on was Christ who lived within me in my heart, my mind and my soul. Christ’s love, grace, mercy and compassion was what allowed me to continue the fight even when my body could fight no more. Every day I would read Christ’s word, and I would be able to take on another day. When I was well enough to return to the office at the church, I literally knelt down at the foot of the cross and thanked God for blessing my life. That day, my husband died and left myself and my children with more questions than answers as we all died to self again as we gave up the security of the worldly life that we had known and found ourselves once again digging deep to find God’s grace that was sufficient to support each of us as we moved forward in life.

So, If you want to be a disciple, then you must love God more than anyone or anything else. You must deny yourself. And you must take up the cross and follow Jesus. Then you will find joy abundant.

DM

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Lent Day 18 – True Cultivation

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Karyn Custer-Jankowski – Director of Children’s Ministries / Valpo FUMC

CULTIVATION implies PROCESS. Something slow and steady. Something for which hard work is made worthy.

Hmmmmm….. doesn’t sound like something anyone would want to do in these days and times! Everything is SO SPEEDY, SO FAST! Which is exactly the author’s point in this reading!

Tozer is stating the obvious that nowadays, if it isn’t fast, flashy, peppy, and attention-getting, we don’t want it! But, cultivating a relationship with God isn’t ANY of those things! Tozer tells us that he can’t know what God will do on a worldwide scale to change this drive-through mentality of Christianity, BUT he can tell us that by working to become more holy, more Godly in nature, and by looking to the Bible in faithfulness, trust, obedience and humility, as individuals, with time and process, we will grow in our faith and in our relationship with God.

KCJ

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Lent Day 17 – No One Wants to Die on a Cross

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications / Valpo FUMC

I admit it. I read today’s devotion four times before I fully understood it’s meaning. My mind kept going back to a very personal experience that I’d like to share with you that I’ve kept pretty much to myself for years. Hopefully, my experience it will also help you in your reading today.

I have a musical background. Classically trained on the piano, singing, and drama production. I ended up becoming a part of a dynamic new church and soon ended up as music/drama director and worship production director.

For three years I worked very hard but they were the best and most meaningful years of my life. The ministry was dynamic. Weekly attendance grew by hundreds of people every year and I had free reign to do whatever I wished. We accomplish so much and I found fulfillment like I never could have imagined. There were no funds in the beginning to hire me but as time went on the pastor kept telling me to hang on, the day would come.

After three years it was finally time to hire for that position but the pastor told me he couldn’t hire me because I was a woman and women couldn’t be in a position of authority over men. (I guess it was okay when I was free.) I was devastated.

I cried out to God over the injustice. I begged Him to find a way to use me that would be as fulfilling and meaningful as the last three years had been. But God was silent. I felt myself falling away, throwing out all my Christian music and destroying all my ministry books and paperwork. I remember driving in my car and verbally telling God that if He ever wanted to use me again he would have to come and drag me because I would never seek to serve in church ministry again. In the last 20 years since that time, I have only sat at the piano a handful of times. I’ve not sung in front of a microphone since then and I’ve told several people that my painful experience caused a part of me to die.

Today’s reading had me take a good hard look at my life. I came to the realization that my problem is that only part of me died way back then and that more of me should have. Perhaps then, God wouldn’t have been silent all these years. Perhaps He could truly have used me, but I didn’t fully surrender. Can I find the strength to put the rest of myself on the cross so that my resurrection can be realized? He can’t truly use me until I do.

PG

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Lent Day 16 – The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Bruce Gold – Custodian / Valpo FUMC

Within our first years in our church, I was forced to close my business of twenty years. I found myself another job, but my wife and I went through a stressful bankruptcy. We managed to keep our house and car, with some help from the church’s discretionary fund. We ended up losing our house a few years later, because we couldn’t get a bank loan to rebuild our roof. When we lost our house, we became homeless. Almost all of our possessions ended up in a self-storage shed.

At first, we lived with my sister. Then, our church friend, Margie, asked us to become her house-sitters. Eventually, we ended up moving in year-round. To this day , we live in Margie’s home, surrounded by all of Margie’s photographs, artworks, nick nacks, and furnishings. All our possessions are still packed away in our storage shed. We have no need for them.

We didn’t willingly give up our possessions, but we certainly live a wonderful life without them. We don’t go shopping for stuff that we don’t need. We don’t have any desire to clutter up our lives. We are privileged to be able to live a simple life. Because we live in Margie’s house, she has the freedom to spend half her year as a missionary in Costa Rica. The other half of the year, we are privileged to spend our meals in conversation with Margie.

When you give up your stuff, you get a much better idea about what is and isn’t important. This wasn’t the way we planned our lives, but maybe God had a better plan.

BG

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Lent Day 15 – The Great Disparity

Beautiful woman looking on the lipstick. Focus on lipstick
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Connections / Valpo FUMC

“It is the glaring disparity between theology and practice among Professing Christians.” This again? Didn’t this topic just slay me a few days ago? I believe God will bring a thought to us in many different forms until we pick it up and understand it is Him speaking to us. Obviously there is something for me here, what about you, Dear Reader?

We like the pretty music, the love God has for us, the truth that we matter and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We do not like the truth in this painfully apt quote from Mother Theresa; “It is a poverty to decide that child must die so that you may live as you wish.” If I am to get closer to Christ, I must face the fact that my choices indirectly damage other people, both through my actions and my inactions.

“Show me your checkbook, and I will see what you care about”- Gloria Steinem
My checkbook will say lipstick is important to me, and dining out. I care about World Vision a little bit, and my church…but I spend most of my disposable income on buying things I won’t use, need or care about in a few months.

Do I love God? Do I love God in a way that makes a difference? Do I ruin another’s view of who Jesus Christ is by the way I live my life(No matter what I usually tell myself?) Do I?

HN

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Lent Day 14 – Coddled or Crucified

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance / Valpo FUMC

Six of the most powerful paragraphs that I have read in decades, adorn the pages of today’s reading. When I finished this reading, all I could muster to express was…. Heaven help us !!! If you truly consume today’s reading and aren’t immediately moved by its message and instruction, you may not have a heartbeat.

Tozer writes; “No one is so dead as the man who has turned the very thunders of judgment into a lullaby to soothe him into a sound sleep and has made the sacred Scriptures themselves a hiding place for reality.” Take a moment and read that one more time.

Now, although I understand that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, this literally frightens me to my core. In today’s world, have we really become complacent and comfortable in our walk with Christ? We as Christians all know the essence of Christ’s passion, and we all understand its significance. However, do we tend to forget that the cross is the same savage implement of destruction as it was in Christ’s day? Or do we take comfort in the softness and beautification that poets and artists bestow upon it today?

According to Luke 14:33…. ‘those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’ We should be seeking holiness, not comfort. And holiness doesn’t always come with a padded pew.

DD

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Lent Day 13 – Stopped Dead in Your Tracks?

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Rev. Dee Miller – Visitation Pastor / Valpo FUMC

It has been a blessing in my life to have had incredible spiritual people that have been placed in my life for a period of time to mentor me and to challenge me to want the depth of faith that I witnessed in their lives. One special spiritual friend once told me that accepting Jesus into our hearts and lives is only the beginning of the journey. How that acceptance transforms our life’s journey is the real challenge. As Tozer states, the Word of God will awaken a desire within us to move forward in a spiritual adventure with Christ. The adventure is not just speaking and talking but taking action and doing.

As a pastor, I have had the privilege of leading people to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Then I have watched as these same people become hungry for more knowledge and a deeper relationship with their Lord. Through Emmaus journey, Bible studies, retreats, small groups, and worship experiences, I have been privileged to witness, people become disciples as the Holy Spirit leads them forward in their lives as their faith calls them to become a disciple of Jesus.

As a chaplain, I am called to constantly look for how God is revealing himself anew through a nurse, a doctor or a patient. I have had the honor to see people make their own choice to turn off life support systems because they know through their faith that they are about to receive the ultimate prize of eternal life which gives them incredible peace. I also with sadness witness people who have never accepted Jesus and do not have the assurance of His love, grace and mercy in their lives. At their time of their physical death there is not the peace that passes all human understanding but rather tears and pain and regret. I also have the privilege of encouraging people that God is with them in their time of need and that they need to listen and be aware of when they will next have the privilege of seeing God revealed anew to them—-whether it is through the loving care of a nurse or the compassionate touch of a doctor or the support of a devoted family.

As we journey through our lives, we must stay alert and awake for a sign, a whisper or an opportunity to gain—-to know Christ more fully—-to see Christ anew in His creation—–to hear His higher call to action as His hands and feet in this chaotic and hurting world which is the sacred prize.

DM

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Lent Day 12 – Our Enemy Contentment

Lent-12
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Karyn Custer-Jankowski – Director of Children’s Ministries/Valpo FUMC

Our devotion today speaks to contentment being our enemy OR complacency, especially in spiritual and holy matters!

As humans, we can never be DONE growing and maturing because we are organic beings with an ever present ability to learn, grow, mature, and change. The same can be said for being a Christian and having a personal relationship with God. One can never be fully THERE – DONE – FINISHED – in growing this relationship. How foolish one would be to think this was the case!

I was recently watching a show on T.V. and a man was saying to a long suffering woman, “I hope that you find happiness soon and that your suffering comes to an end.” The woman, who is very religious, said that if she had to choose between suffering or not, she would choose suffering because it is then that she spends more time in prayer and meditation with God, and she is comforted by Him.

I’m sure we’ve heard this many times in our lives, how when we suffer we look more intently to God our Father versus when times are good. We may pray daily and thank God for all of our blessings but it is in times of need where we dive into our faith and relate to Him on a deeper, more intent level.

In life it is good to be content with that which we already have, to not always be wanting more and more… but in our spiritual lives, we should never be content – we should want more and more as it relates to our relationship with our God.

KCJ

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Lent Day 11 – The Terror of the Lord

Lent-11
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications/Valpo FUMC

Fear of the Lord. We just don’t hear enough about that anymore but Tozer takes it head on in today’s devotional. What is that, exactly? Is it fear, as in punishment? Hell perhaps? (Another topic we just don’t want to talk about).

Let me tell you about my sister, Barb. Barb HATED peanut butter. In our house, peanut butter was a staple. Dad sold shoes for a living, and there were six kids in our family, so we pretty much had peanut butter every day for lunch. Not that I minded. I love peanut butter. But Barb hated it, and my mom found out that Barb was throwing away her peanut butter sandwiches at lunchtime. (The nuns snitched!) I remember my mom yelling at Barb when she found out, and then to drive home her point, yelled “If you don’t eat your peanut butter sandwiches you’re going to Hell!”

Whoa! Is that putting the fear of the Lord into a kid or what! No, I don’t exactly think that’s what Tozer is talking about. He mentions Cain and Able, and their sacrifices. Cain thought he was all that because he worked hard to produce his crops. Sure, the Lord was expecting a blood sacrifice, but hey, killing a sheep isn’t anywhere near as hard as planting, watering, weeding and harvesting, right? Cain brought the Lord an offering of his sweat and toil, and the Lord wasn’t pleased. Why? Because it wasn’t blood. It was always about the blood.

I never got this when I was growing up. The nuns would always tell us “Christ shed his blood for you.” Why? Nobody ever explained that!

Blood has always been God’s covering for sin. We don’t like to talk about that anymore. Cain did what he thought was best, but God had an expectation. Why? Well, the blood sacrifice was always pointing to the final blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but Cain couldn’t have known that then. He thought he knew better than God. He didn’t fear the Lord because, thinking his plan was better than God’s, he didn’t get that he was a sinner who needed the blood as a covering for his sins.

We see this blood requirement all throughout Scripture. Those who truly feared the Lord, who accepted that God’s way wasn’t necessarily their way, who obeyed God even if they couldn’t understand, who gave a blood sacrifice because they knew and accepted that as the only way to cover their sins,, those people did what a Holy God required of them. Not because of threats of Hell or punishment, but because they possessed obedient hearts that understood that their sin separated them from God and that the blood was a covering for their sins.

Jesus was the one perfect sacrifice, given once and for all for anyone who only has to put their trust in the blood He shed. Accepting that sacrifice is an act of fearing the Lord.

PG

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Lent Day 10 – The Key to Spiritual Power

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Bruce Gold – Custodian/Valpo FUMC

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)

It was our family’s custom, over many years, to meet on Sunday morning at my sister’s house. My father always brought a danish. We would discuss the news of the previous week and our plans for the coming week. When Shelly and I started attending church, things began to change. The more seriously we took our commitment to the church, the harder it was for us to set time aside for our family get-together. We had to make a decision. We chose the church.

We didn’t consider our decision “hating our family”, but my parents considered it a slap in the face and didn’t understand how we could do it. We were changing our life priorities and our extended family was taking second place, behind Jesus. It strained our relationship with my Mom and Dad for quite a while. My parents continued to spend Sunday morning at my sister’s, but we rarely again did.

Now, I don’t claim that we were carrying our crosses for Jesus. I don’t claim that we are great, or even good disciples of Christ, but that decision was our first step. It was our first step in turning our back on the values of the world and accepting our servanthood in the name of Jesus.

BG

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Lent Day 9 – True Faith Brings Commitment

Lent-09
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Connections/Valpo FUMC

Millions of professed believers talk as if He were real but act as if He were not. And always our actual position is to be discovered by the way we act not by the way we talk. (A.W. Tozer)

This strengthens me and convicts me too. As I look at others I wish would help and volunteer more, I wonder about their faith. When I look at myself, however, I need to confront the same things. I judge people, I am critical and I am selfish. Some days I do not want to grow closer to God because I understand the sacrifices I would need to make to honor him….and I do not want to change.

How can I both lean in to God, study his word, pray and ache to hear from him in tangible ways…but still buy more than I need, eat more than would sustain me, speak words that do not encourage or uplift? How can I be aware of the discord within my own faith journey…and do very little to fix it?

Can I trust God to be God?

HN

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Lent Day 8 – God Is Easy to Live With

Lent-08
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance/Valpo FUMC

Why do people do some of the things that they do? The first two lines of today’s reading are: From a failure properly to understand God comes a world of unhappiness among good Christians even today.

The Christian life is thought to be a glum, unrelieved cross-carrying under the eye of a stern Father who expects much and excuses nothing.” As I read this, my blood begins to boil. I will admit it. I was quickly becoming down right upset. As I continue on, I learn that the author is stating what he finds to be libelous notions that must be a parody on the true life of Christ. Whew !!! Once I came to calm, I paused for a moment to really think about that. Just reading those first few lines moved me so that I couldn’t help but to seriously reflect on it.

I asked myself, how could a ‘good Christian’ live in a world of perpetual unhappiness? That thought brought to mind the fact that for all of the years I have worked in a church, I can tell you without hesitation that if you’re looking for someone who displays this kind of unhappiness, with discord, strife, hatred, and discontent, simply go to church. You will find them there. Without exception, never have I worked in a church when those elements were not present in some capacity, by at least one member of the congregation.

It’s quite a sad thought, I know, but perhaps this stems from their failure to properly understand God. Or is it perhaps a failure to properly know God? It makes perfect sense. Knowing about Him and personally knowing Him are in fact two different things. In my experiences, I find that this dynamic is what separates those who function with the negativity I spoke of, and those who choose to walk in God’s image.

I firmly believe that God is easy to live with. He gives us everything necessary to accomplish that, so that we may execute it in our daily lives. Therefore, my question is this; why is it that even though some of these self-proclaimed Christians know what God’s will is, and how to walk in God’s grace, they still choose to function otherwise? It makes me wonder….

DD

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Lent Day 7 – Bible Taught or Spirit Taught?

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Rev. Dee Miller – Visitation Pastor/Valpo FUMC

Dogma and Doctrine are important and hold a purpose in faith and in the church but they need to be combined with Holy Spirit as they are interpreted in today’s world. My husband was raised Roman Catholic and always referred to his religious upbringing as being indoctrinated with faith rules. My confirmation class back in the day was also a series of memorization of the books of the bible, of the apostle’s creed and different prayers. It seemed that it was assumed that if we memorized them that their meaning would become part of our spiritual lives. IT wasn’t until my senior high camping experience that I felt the Holy Spirit move in my life changing my attitude more towards aligning my life with what I was hearing in the scriptures. It was this conversion experience that allowed me to understand the need to open my heart and mind to the blowing of the Holy Spirit. It was this intention personal push to understand the scriptures and to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit that led me kicking and screaming with some self-doubt into ordained ministry. Even then, I realize that I am and always will be learning from God through the Holy Spirit.

My paternal grandmother was instrumental in helping me read different scriptures and helping me to apply it to daily life. She encouraged me to question what the Bible verses were saying to me as a teenager and later as a young mother. She always had me make notes in the margins with the dates so that as I grew in life and in faith, I could see how God continued to speak anew to me as my lens changed.

After years of Bible study both in seminary and in the church, I have come to appreciate Wesley’s quadrilateral of scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. IT is a lens used to inform our beliefs and the way we adapt to an ever-changing world while remaining faithful to the gospel values that are authentic. If we use this tool to inform our conversations, then we are less apt to be using scripture literally thus running the risk of using it for our own means. As disciples, we need to read scripture and apply reason and life experience to it and allow the Holy Spirit to open us up to understanding anew.

God came to this earth as Jesus Christ and showed up over and over again that we might know the Truth about God’s love for each of us. When we truly understand that in our heart’ mind and soul we will have been blessed by the Spirit.

DM

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Lent Day 6 – Be Holy!

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Karyn Custer-Jankowski – Director of Children’s Ministries/Valpo FUMC

“A Holy Roller!!” Have you ever been called a “Holy Roller’??

I think because I work in a church and I have faith in God, people use this ‘moniker’ for me. In fact, I’ve heard family members call me this in the past. But I wonder, am I holy?

Our reading today speaks very clearly to the point that we should, as Christians, be holy because it is important to God! Peter reminds us that we should “be holy because God is holy.”

OK then, what does it mean to be holy in “life and conversation”? According to the dictionary, holy means this: ‘dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.’ So it’s not just about moral behavior and thoughts. Holiness is MORE; a relationship and dedication to God that comes out in your behavior and conversation.

It sounds to me like being holy is a choice – which makes sense because God gave us the ability to make choices. But it also seems that being holy is not a half measure, as in I will do THIS in a holy way, but I’m going to say THAT in a way that is not so holy. It’s brings to mind one of those wonderful ‘GOD’ billboards that I’ve seen along the highways; “Love Thy Neighbor”, that was not a suggestion – God.

So, am I holy? What choices am I making day in and day out – NO! – MINUTE in and MINUTE out – that determine my ‘holiness’. Am I in relationship with God in a way that makes me more aware of my choices from minute to minute? If I am taking care to have quiet reflection time; reading my Bible and praying and therefore growing in a relationship with God, well then my words and actions would reflect that! I would be more holy. Seems to me, this is what God wants.

KCJ

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Lent Day 5 – No Regeneration without Reformation

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications/Valpo FUMC

Great! Why did I get this topic? I said to myself when reading today’s devotional. The topic of grace only versus grace plus works is a hotly contested theological topic.

I must disclose that my personal beliefs might differ from yours in spite of the fact that my beliefs have changed over the years. I was raised Catholic where works is an absolute part of salvation. As an adult, I left the Catholic church, and having read the scriptures many times, have changed my opinion to faith only. Some have challenged me by quoting James.

What good is it my brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14)

James goes on to say that believing in one God isn’t the point, for even the demons believe that! Read James 2:14–26. He ends his explanation by saying, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)

This sounds suspiciously as if James were saying that works, or deeds, is a stipulation for salvation. I don’t believe this is what he is saying here at all. Just as I don’t believe this is what Tozer is saying in today’s reading.

Remember, the thief on the cross asked for forgiveness and Jesus, also on a cross, gave him forgiveness and told the thief that he would be in paradise that very day. There was no opportunity for the man forever known by his terrible deeds to make it right and to do good. His life was nearly finished. Yet he was forgiven. Works did not save him. Jesus saw his heart and knew his repentance and faith were real.

What I believe James and Tozer are saying is that if your faith is true faith, the evidence of the Holy Spirit within will not be quenched. One result of the power of the Holy Spirit is good works. If someone claims to have saving faith and yet their old ways are not changed, I would have to question whether their claim of faith is real to begin with. Remember, Jesus said, even so every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:17) In other words the kind of fruit or deeds or works a person bears is evidence of their faith, or lack thereof.

Does this mean we will never do bad? No. There are times when we fail and do things that grieves God. But the question is, do we wish to remain in our sin or repent and change our ways? True faith results in true repentance which results in regeneration and reformation and is evidenced in a changed life. For me, works are a result of faith, not a condition for receiving it.

PG

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Lent Day 4 – Taking Time to Know God

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Bruce Gold – Custodian/Valpo FUMC

When I first became a Christian, I found that I had many roadblocks to spiritual progress. First of all, I had a terrible memory. When my wife would ask me over Sunday lunch about my reaction to the morning’s sermon, I had to ask her to give me a few hints. When it came to meditation, I generally fell asleep. I have never been competent in the art of praying. Even now, my attention wanders when my wife takes more than 30 seconds to say grace before a meal. The Bible says to pray continuously, but I could not even figure out a way to pray occasionally. I was the man with a grasshopper mind…continually distracted.

I found two remedies to my shortcomings. First, I started to memorize my favorite Bible passages. The process of memorization allowed me to concentrate on important parts of the Bible, line by line and even word by word. Once I had a passage memorized, I needed to run it over and over in my head to keep from forgetting parts of it. This was a great way to develop self-discipline and mental control. It also helped me to discover details in the passage I would normally overlook. The second remedy was to take my memorized passage and turn it into a song.

By putting Bible verses to music, I was able to put passages into my own words and personalize my response to the message I was given. I called that ‘working out my salvation through music and lyrics’. Also, I had an easier way to remember what I learned. It was easier to keep a tune in my head than a long line of Scripture. Once the song was cemented into my brain, I could repeat it as many times as I wanted. I was continually meditating on God’s Word. Soon, my main method of Bible study was song writing. It has been my spiritual practice of choice for about a decade now. I recommend it.

BG

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Lent Day 3 – The Uses of Suffering

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Insights on From the Grave:A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Communications/Valpo FUMC

One of the hardest things to comprehend is how a loving and perfect God could allow pain and suffering. During Modern Moms this was the first question asked when we talked about God, Scripture, and Christian Life.

In todays’ passage I feel Tozer is simply saying we can bend our own suffering to honor God. When I answered the question that day in moms group, I said I liked the scripture passage Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

The example I used in my own life of God using suffering for good was when we had a miscarriage. Having two healthy children softens the blow, but my experience of it helps me lead our moms group. It gives me a tender underbelly of common pain and loss that brings me closer to other women. I’d rather not have that loss, of course, but long after it happened I do see how God uses all things for his good.

HN

 

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Lent Day 2 – Faith Is a Perturbing Thing

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintanence/Valpo FUMC

What exactly do you believe when it comes to God? Is it the simplistic understanding of His commandments? Is it the complex understanding of the walk of Christ? Or perhaps it’s somewhere in between? Do you believe that everything happens for a reason, and is that reason according to divine creation? Is it perturbing to think that God has already ordained all things that have happened, as well as all things yet to come, or do you prefer to think that we have some say so in the matter?

Case in point; the 12 disciples all came together at the same time, in the same place, and the results of their gathering changed the world in amazing ways. Did God put this together? It would certainly be easy to believe that.

However, another example of a dozen people coming together all at the same time, and in the same place, took place in 1893. They all changed the world in dramatic ways as well. J.P. Morgan, Susan B. Anthony, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Samuel Clements, George Westinghouse, Gale Ferris, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Sigmund Freud, and Theodore Roosevelt all attended the same entertainment event at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. All twelve of them intermingled, collaborated, invented, advocated, taught, and shared together in some capacity, for the greater good of our world. Just by reading the names, you know the world was changed by these people. On a side note, the entertainer they all saw was the unknown son of a Jewish Rabbi named Erik Weisz. We know him today as Harry Houdini. So, was this gathering merely a coincidence, or was it God that had a hand in it?

Well, that answer would be determined entirely by your faith. Personally, I have faith in that just like the disciples, God most certainly had a hand in this gathering as well. In my opinion, such a faith should not perturb people, it should comfort them.

DD