Lent Day 13 – Stopped Dead in Your Tracks?

Patient at hospital
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.



Lent Day 12 – Our Enemy Contentment

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.



Lent Day 11 – The Terror of the Lord

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.



Lent Day 10 – The Key to Spiritual Power

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.



Lent Day 9 – True Faith Brings Commitment

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?



Lent Day 8 – God Is Easy to Live With

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….



Lent Day 7 – Bible Taught or Spirit Taught?

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.