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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