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.


Lent Day 15 – The Great Disparity

Beautiful woman looking on the lipstick. Focus on lipstick
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Heather Novak – Director of Connections / Valpo FUMC

“It is the glaring disparity between theology and practice among Professing Christians.” This again? Didn’t this topic just slay me a few days ago? I believe God will bring a thought to us in many different forms until we pick it up and understand it is Him speaking to us. Obviously there is something for me here, what about you, Dear Reader?

We like the pretty music, the love God has for us, the truth that we matter and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We do not like the truth in this painfully apt quote from Mother Theresa; “It is a poverty to decide that child must die so that you may live as you wish.” If I am to get closer to Christ, I must face the fact that my choices indirectly damage other people, both through my actions and my inactions.

“Show me your checkbook, and I will see what you care about”- Gloria Steinem
My checkbook will say lipstick is important to me, and dining out. I care about World Vision a little bit, and my church…but I spend most of my disposable income on buying things I won’t use, need or care about in a few months.

Do I love God? Do I love God in a way that makes a difference? Do I ruin another’s view of who Jesus Christ is by the way I live my life(No matter what I usually tell myself?) Do I?


Lent Day 14 – Coddled or Crucified

cross  in yellow  made in 3d software
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance / Valpo FUMC

Six of the most powerful paragraphs that I have read in decades, adorn the pages of today’s reading. When I finished this reading, all I could muster to express was…. Heaven help us !!! If you truly consume today’s reading and aren’t immediately moved by its message and instruction, you may not have a heartbeat.

Tozer writes; “No one is so dead as the man who has turned the very thunders of judgment into a lullaby to soothe him into a sound sleep and has made the sacred Scriptures themselves a hiding place for reality.” Take a moment and read that one more time.

Now, although I understand that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, this literally frightens me to my core. In today’s world, have we really become complacent and comfortable in our walk with Christ? We as Christians all know the essence of Christ’s passion, and we all understand its significance. However, do we tend to forget that the cross is the same savage implement of destruction as it was in Christ’s day? Or do we take comfort in the softness and beautification that poets and artists bestow upon it today?

According to Luke 14:33…. ‘those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’ We should be seeking holiness, not comfort. And holiness doesn’t always come with a padded pew.


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.