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Lent Day 35 – Prepare the Way

Sunset Road
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 33 – Raised with 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

I heard a joke about a lady with Christian bumper stickers all over her car and a cross swinging from the rearview mirror. She was driving the speed limit, but was demonstrating road rage at the slower drivers as she tried to hurry around them. When the police officer pulled her over, she was confused since she hadn’t been speeding. The officer explained he had thought the car was stolen, since she was screaming and making obscene gestures while driving the car of a Godly person.

I wonder if I look like a Christian as I go through my day? I cuss like a sailor, even though I am embarrassed to be so base. I loose my temper and holler. I do not live a life fully dedicated to Christ. What then does’ the cross of Christ imprint onto my life, if anything?

I guess I can honestly say my love for Jesus, in the midst of my imperfect devotion, shows the cross on my life. I talk with believers and non-believers alike about how God works in my life, how he blesses me and corrects me. I can, because of my imperfections (my super obvious and gross imperfections) offer others a Jesus who doesn’t need our perfection, just our interest, our openness. The cross is ugly, and messy, and full of real life meeting God’s perfect love. I think my life reflects that. I hope it does.

HN

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Lent Day 32 – “It Will Cost You Nothing”

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Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Dan Davis – Director of Maintenance / Valpo FUMC

I have to be completely honest concerning today’s reading. I was a bit disappointed. Unlike the reading from March 1st, today I was left wanting. I so badly wanted the author to elaborate in so many ways, that I felt like I hadn’t consumed much at all. Not to impugn Tozer’s attempt to relay the obvious message that coming to Jesus does come with a personal cost. However, I would have been much more satisfied with an explanation or interpretation of what those costs may be.

Case in point; How many times have you been told that all you have to do is pray for something, and God will give it to you? Now then, compare that to how many times you have been told that prayer is a two way street between you and God that requires your participation as well as His? If you are completely honest with yourself, I imagine those answers are, almost always, and almost never.

Too many times are we told that ‘It will cost you nothing’ in regards to your personal relationship with God. Personally, I believe that it costs you everything that you can put into it and that you should be willing to give it all without reservation. Too many times are we told that all you must do to receive is pray. Personally, I believe that is only half of the equation. I don’t believe that God arbitrarily gives you patience just because you asked Him for it. I don’t believe that He gives you strength simply because you want Him to give it to you. And I don’t believe that He gives you wisdom all because you prayed for it. I believe that God doesn’t grant these things to you solely because you’ve asked.

I believe that He hears your prayers, and He in turn gives you opportunities to be patient, strong, and wise in His name, as He walks with you in your life, along with your desire to grow deeper in your personal relationship with Him. So you see, I believe that prayer does cost you, your walk with God costs you, and thereby your faith costs you….. as it should.

DD

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Lent Day 31 – God Stands Ready

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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

Do you struggle with which direction in life to go? We all struggle every day to keep our focus on God and His wisdom. Temptations are everywhere. Social media is always putting some temptation to spend money; to join a rant about some cause; or to spend money on some great product that turns out to be a scam. It is James’ intent in this passage to show us the direction by imperatively grabbing us with the essential desire to honor God and relate to people. This calls us to direct, hands-on action without delay. We are to humble ourselves before God and, at the same time, resist the devil, as we cannot serve both. When we draw near to God, the devil is pushed further away. If we draw near to the devil, then God is pushed further away. The signpost is clear where we are to go; the direction we choose is up to us.

God wants us to make the fervent attempt to repent, get right with Him, and not lead a double life in trying to serve two contradictory paths in life. When we do, we are being hypocritical, creating broken relationships, shattered lives, and unmet opportunities. This leaves us in despair as the devil and our ways have no hope or purpose other than to steal what God has to give to us. We already have joy and completeness in Christ when our hearts and minds are centered on Him. So, the bottom line of this passage is the call to submit and surrender to God, allowing Him to be our only Lord and direction. Then, He will lift us up beyond our greatest desires and plans to a much greater plan and purpose in life!

Verse 7 asks us the crucial question: are we resisting God or resisting the devil? How we respond to life and other people will be rooted in how we respond to God. Do we fight Him or do we glorify Him? How do we know? The answer is in how we are with our attitudes and mindsets; are we humble or proud? If we are proud, we are serving the devil, even though we may think we are serving ourselves. If we are humble, then we are serving our Lord. This strikes at the root of our mindset and motivation in life.

Several years ago, I worked with peoples who had addictions that they were trying to overcome through a Bible based step program. These men and women were abundantly honest with how difficult their task was in life to oppose the evil one and to stay focused on God. Daily prayer with their prayer partner and hourly scripture readings helped them stay focused throughout the day as they worked hard to stay steady in avoiding their addictions. We talked about when you give a problem to God in prayer, do Not insult Him by taking the problem back if He doesn’t answer your prayer fast enough OR if His answer isn’t something you are willing to do. Also, while you are waiting for Him to answer your prayers, remember that no answer is an answer. He may just be trying to show you how strong you are when He makes you practice patience and strengthen you faith in Him. Each person, worked hard to resist their addictions and turn their lives over to God for help and perseverance. Today, six of the ten are still free of their addictions and are leading Christ focused productive lives. All have a routine each day that keeps them focused on the God of hope, love and mercy who they Praise as they oppose the temptations the evil one tries to lure them with. They let God work in their lives to refine them and therefore have found joy abundant as their reflect God’s love and mercy.

DM

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Lent Day 30 – The Cross Does Interfere

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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

A.W. Tozer begins today’s devotion with this quote; “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion interferes with our private lives.” Can you imagine a person making such a statement??!!!

I want to say, “HEY BUDDY! If your religion, your faith, is NOT interfering with your private life, then YOU KNOW WHAT? You’re doing it WRONG!”

Faith is not always easy. Jesus said to us in Matthew 10: 34-36 that He did not come to bring peace to the earth but a sword, meaning, He knew that following Him would be difficult. There would be painful divisions between families and friends. As Christ followers, we would each be asked to bear this cross.

Having said this though, I personally believe my faith DOES make this life and it’s trials easier to bear. It’s simple for me – I KNOW that God loves me unconditionally and has my back. I know that whatever comes along, I can handle because God comes alongside me in ALL things; good and bad. He will never forsake me.

So, the cost for following Jesus may be high but it brings eternal life at the end. So go ahead Jesus – INTERFERE in this life! Shake things up! I’ll do my best, with Your help, to follow where You lead.

KCJ

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Lent Day 29 – Following the Lord

Stairs from underground upward
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

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!

PG

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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…

DD