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…




Lent Day 25 – Praise God for the Furnace

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?


Lent Day 24 – Crucified with Christ

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?


Lent Day 23 – No Saviorhood without Lordship

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.


Lent Day 22 – The Sanctification of Our Desires

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.


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.


Lent Day 20 – The Gaze of the Soul

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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

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.