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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 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 23 – No Saviorhood without Lordship

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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

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.

PG

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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.

PG

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Lent Day 11 – The Terror of the Lord

Lent-11
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications/Valpo FUMC

Fear of the Lord. We just don’t hear enough about that anymore but Tozer takes it head on in today’s devotional. What is that, exactly? Is it fear, as in punishment? Hell perhaps? (Another topic we just don’t want to talk about).

Let me tell you about my sister, Barb. Barb HATED peanut butter. In our house, peanut butter was a staple. Dad sold shoes for a living, and there were six kids in our family, so we pretty much had peanut butter every day for lunch. Not that I minded. I love peanut butter. But Barb hated it, and my mom found out that Barb was throwing away her peanut butter sandwiches at lunchtime. (The nuns snitched!) I remember my mom yelling at Barb when she found out, and then to drive home her point, yelled “If you don’t eat your peanut butter sandwiches you’re going to Hell!”

Whoa! Is that putting the fear of the Lord into a kid or what! No, I don’t exactly think that’s what Tozer is talking about. He mentions Cain and Able, and their sacrifices. Cain thought he was all that because he worked hard to produce his crops. Sure, the Lord was expecting a blood sacrifice, but hey, killing a sheep isn’t anywhere near as hard as planting, watering, weeding and harvesting, right? Cain brought the Lord an offering of his sweat and toil, and the Lord wasn’t pleased. Why? Because it wasn’t blood. It was always about the blood.

I never got this when I was growing up. The nuns would always tell us “Christ shed his blood for you.” Why? Nobody ever explained that!

Blood has always been God’s covering for sin. We don’t like to talk about that anymore. Cain did what he thought was best, but God had an expectation. Why? Well, the blood sacrifice was always pointing to the final blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but Cain couldn’t have known that then. He thought he knew better than God. He didn’t fear the Lord because, thinking his plan was better than God’s, he didn’t get that he was a sinner who needed the blood as a covering for his sins.

We see this blood requirement all throughout Scripture. Those who truly feared the Lord, who accepted that God’s way wasn’t necessarily their way, who obeyed God even if they couldn’t understand, who gave a blood sacrifice because they knew and accepted that as the only way to cover their sins,, those people did what a Holy God required of them. Not because of threats of Hell or punishment, but because they possessed obedient hearts that understood that their sin separated them from God and that the blood was a covering for their sins.

Jesus was the one perfect sacrifice, given once and for all for anyone who only has to put their trust in the blood He shed. Accepting that sacrifice is an act of fearing the Lord.

PG

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Lent Day 5 – No Regeneration without Reformation

Lent 05
Insights on From the Grave: A 40-Day Lent Devotional by A.W. Tozer

by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications/Valpo FUMC

Great! Why did I get this topic? I said to myself when reading today’s devotional. The topic of grace only versus grace plus works is a hotly contested theological topic.

I must disclose that my personal beliefs might differ from yours in spite of the fact that my beliefs have changed over the years. I was raised Catholic where works is an absolute part of salvation. As an adult, I left the Catholic church, and having read the scriptures many times, have changed my opinion to faith only. Some have challenged me by quoting James.

What good is it my brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14)

James goes on to say that believing in one God isn’t the point, for even the demons believe that! Read James 2:14–26. He ends his explanation by saying, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)

This sounds suspiciously as if James were saying that works, or deeds, is a stipulation for salvation. I don’t believe this is what he is saying here at all. Just as I don’t believe this is what Tozer is saying in today’s reading.

Remember, the thief on the cross asked for forgiveness and Jesus, also on a cross, gave him forgiveness and told the thief that he would be in paradise that very day. There was no opportunity for the man forever known by his terrible deeds to make it right and to do good. His life was nearly finished. Yet he was forgiven. Works did not save him. Jesus saw his heart and knew his repentance and faith were real.

What I believe James and Tozer are saying is that if your faith is true faith, the evidence of the Holy Spirit within will not be quenched. One result of the power of the Holy Spirit is good works. If someone claims to have saving faith and yet their old ways are not changed, I would have to question whether their claim of faith is real to begin with. Remember, Jesus said, even so every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:17) In other words the kind of fruit or deeds or works a person bears is evidence of their faith, or lack thereof.

Does this mean we will never do bad? No. There are times when we fail and do things that grieves God. But the question is, do we wish to remain in our sin or repent and change our ways? True faith results in true repentance which results in regeneration and reformation and is evidenced in a changed life. For me, works are a result of faith, not a condition for receiving it.

PG