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!
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.
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?
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…
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?
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?
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)
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.