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

Modern sofa, desk and carpet, interior
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

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.


Lent Day 19 – We Must Die If We Would Live

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.


Lent Day 18 – True Cultivation

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.


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

cross  silhouette
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.


Lent Day 16 – The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing

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.