Category Archives: Loving God

He kicked my butt!

A few weeks ago I spent a week at a retreat center near Asheville, North Carolina. It was a School of Spiritual Direction with Dr. Larry Crabb.

The schedule was designed to include evening sessions but did allow for a three-hour gap in the afternoon. So on that first afternoon I located a map of trails and headed out.

The longest trail was just three miles long and promised a nice view from a higher elevation. My thought process went something like this:

“I’ve just lost 40 pounds and have been bike riding with my wife for nearly four months now. We’re up to 18 miles a ride and this past week I did a solo ride of 27 miles – my longest to date. It’s only a three-mile hike. No problem.”

To say that I misjudged the effect of elevation on a three-mile hike would be a gross understatement.

It kicked my butt!

About 2 1/2 hours later I dragged myself back to my room and quickly showered for supper. For three days my thigh muscles SCREAMED at me every time I moved.

The same thing happened spiritually with all that took place that week as our group of 31 people explored the nature of our journey with God.

I was captivated by God as the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – existing in perfect, loving community. And I welcomed the invitation to journey further into the fellowship enjoyed by the Trinity.

But the price of admission is a humble and broken spirit. On several occasions the Holy Spirit brought me face-to-face with some of my “false gods” and sinful relational patterns. He kicked my butt – spiritually speaking!

That portion of the journey was brutally painful. And to be honest, I was ready to cut and run more than once.

But the corresponding freedom that came as a result of being embraced by what the Spirit was doing in me was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

The Holy Spirit didn’t confront me with my sin in order to beat me up or heap on guilt and shame. He did it – does it daily - so that I’ll come to the end of my own efforts and more fully rely on His work in me.

This is exactly what Paul describes in Romans 7 and 8. In chapter 7 Paul is totally frustrated with his struggle against the fleshly, sinful nature and wonders who can help him. Then in chapter 8 he’s celebrating the Spirit’s work in us.

5-6 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead-end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. ~ Romans 8 (The Message)

My relationship with God – Father, Son and Spirit – has been very different these last few weeks. And relating to family and friends has been very different as well – more open and healthy; more God-focused.

I believe I’m getting a taste of the real life Jesus came to make possible. And reflecting more of God’s relational glory in the process.

No offense intended, but I hope we all get our butts kicked today by the Holy Spirit!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Discipleship, Divine presence, Fellowship, Glory of God, God, God the Father, Holy Spirit, Humility, influence with the world, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Joy, Love of God, Loving God, Loving others, Morphing, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender, Trinity, Trusting God

Forgive… love… be a friend…

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Forgiveness, Friendship, influence with the world, Loving God, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality

Without Any Reservations

Even with the best of intentions, parenting is a tricky journey. The ups, the downs, the unexpected moments – some good, some not so good. With six kids and 21 years under our belt we have come to rely even more on the grace of God and prayer.

When our kids turned 13 we took them away for an overnight trip full of special events as a rite of passage. One of the talks we have is about making their faith in God their own. But just 5 short years later when the time comes for them to head off on their own you can’t help but wonder how they will do.

We have two out of the nest (mostly) and four still at home. Our oldest is beginning his senior year of college and recently got engaged to a wonderful gal.

Eli has had his share of wrestling through faith issues and growing up the kid of a pastor brings its own unique set of obstacles. But to see him grow into his place in God’s story is so rewarding. Yesterday he posted this on Facebook.

I share it not only because it touched my heart as a father but because it challenged me as a follower of Jesus.

“Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Not even necessarily with a person. The first time you experienced something so powerful or amazing or awe-inspiring that you couldn’t imagine ever living without it again. Something so integral to who you are as a person that if you were to lose it, it would be akin to losing a limb. I remember the first time I ever stepped out onto stage. I was seven. I remember the rush. The exhilaration. The feeling that this was the epitome of how I would ever feel. Fast forward six years and I was back on stage at a community theater. Now, almost nine years later, I’m still in love. Ask anyone I know, they’ll tell you that once I’m in a show, I disappear. Every fiber of my being becomes wrapped up into the show and my part to play.”

“Earlier this week, a very wise man in my life reminded me to, “Never forget your first love.” It took me a while to realize that he wasn’t speaking in reference to my love for theater. He was speaking in reference to God. This is what God longs for from us. That we would be so madly in love with him that every fiber of our being becomes wrapped up in him and his bigger story. I can’t imagine a more perfect way to spend a life, but it’s often so easy to lose sight of our first love. So this is my prayer for myself and for all other believers out there. That we might never lose sight of our first love. That we become so wrapped up in God and his story that we can’t help but be an integral part of it. That we learn to truly and completely let go and love God without any reservations.” ~ Elijah Alvey

Is there anything or anyone we’re loving more than God?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

6 Comments

Filed under Commitment, God, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Loving God, Parenting, Prayer, Priorities, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Surrender

Obedience to biblical principles can be wrong?

It’s a surprising thought, and not a little disturbing, that obedience to biblical principles can be wrong. But when doing right is a strategy to get what we want, our energy is pride and our focus is self. ~ Larry Crabb in The Pressure’s Off

Think about it.

We live in a world absorbed with linear thinking. If I do A then I get B as a result. It’s simple cause and effect.

If I want to enjoy dessert then I must eat my vegetables or clear my plate.

If I want to avoid another spanking then I will pick up my toys.

If I wear the right clothes or am a standout athlete then I’ll be popular in school.

If I dress and look and talk a certain way then I’ll get the guy/girl I want to go out with me.

If I get good grades in school then I’ll have a better chance at a good career.

Linear thinking - cause and effect – has its place, but not in relationships. When we apply this principle to getting what we want from people we are manipulating them. And regardless of the outcome… it’s wrong!

This same thought process is especially dangerous in our relationship with God.

“If I read my bible regularly and pray and tithe and volunteer and ________ (fill in the blank), then God will (must) bless me with the good things of life.”

Really? Where is that written?

But I’ve been faithful to You God, why…
… did my spouse leave me?”
… is my kid rebelling?”
… are we struggling with finances?”
… are we experiencing a health crisis?”

It’s not always obvious but it’s often there just below the surface; this notion that God owes us certain blessings.

I don’t think that Jesus is opposed to such blessings in our lives, but when we seek those blessings from God more than we seek God Himself then we are committing idolatry.

And following biblical principles in order to secure blessings from God is a cheap attempt to manipulate and control God.

Jesus said that real life is being in relationship with the Father. This is what eternity in heaven is all about but it starts right here and now.

Forgives us Lord and stir our passions for wanting You more than anything or anyone else in life.

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

7 Comments

Filed under Bible, Choices, Christianity, Desire, Eternity, God, Heaven, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Loving God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture

Only if we die to self!

The Christian life is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, “Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself; my own will shall become yours.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Our earthly nature, even at it’s best, is self-serving and self-absorbed. Even good deeds are often done to serve our own purposes or make us appear better than we really are.

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we’re all broken souls in need of God’s healing touch.

When the Spirit of Christ comes to dwell in us He gives birth to a whole new nature; one that is born from above – focused on God and others.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? ~ Matthew 16:24-26

God longs to infuse us with this new life and new nature so that we can lavish it on those we encounter. But it’s an either/or proposition. This new life is possible…

Only if we die to self!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Brokenness, Choices, Christianity, CS Lewis, Discipleship, God, Healing, Holy Spirit, influence with the world, Jesus, Loving God, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality, Surrender

Seeking God for what?

“I don’t want to go to a church that thinks getting good things from God is better than getting God himself.”
~ Larry Crabb in Real Church

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Church, Divine presence, God, intimacy with the Lord, involvement with the church, Loving God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

No more counting

Years ago I heard Tony Campolo speak about being part of a ministerial association where he lived. Every group has their measuring stick and this group used Sunday evening attendance. So the first thing they did each meeting was to go around the circle and share that statistic.

Tony decided to have some fun and play their game. When it was his turn, he reported that they had between 3 and 4 hundred in attendance for their Sunday evening services. Every pastor in the room was awestruck and Tony became the new guru of that little group. His words of wisdom were valued like gold and everyone had questions to ask.

Then a few months into these meetings someone asked Tony exactly how many people they averaged in attendance at Sunday evening services. Tony replied with something like “37.”

As you can imagine, everyone was stunned. “But you said it was between 3 and 400!” To which Tony replied, “37 is between 3 and 400.”

I love it! How could they be so vain as to think that the number of Sunday evening attenders is the measure of success in a church.

I would never do that. But I would use the number of blog followers to boost my confidence and measure my success. I’ve even looked for the number of followers on other blogs that I visit.

How could I be so vain?!

Everyone likes to have someone reading their blogs and positive affirmation can be great fuel to spur us on in writing. But this shouldn’t be our primary motivation.

If it’s all about God then it’s simply a matter of sharing what He has put on our heart and trusting that He will use it according to His will; whether it’s with a thousand people or just one soul.

But it’s hard. Even the tips others give you for building a following include visiting lots of other blogs to either “Like” a post or “Subscribe” to their blog. The idea is that people will return the favor. But I can’t bring myself to do that.

I enjoy checking out other blogs when time allows, but if I like a post or follow a blog it’s simply because it touched my heart and challenged me in some way.

Jesus taught that the way to confront the issue of greed in our heart is to give stuff away.

So to confront my tendency to “number watch” my blog I’ve stopped posting how many people are following through Subscription. Though it just dawned on me that the number of people following my Facebook page is still listed. I wonder if that can be removed?

What’s your real motivation for blogging or doing anything for the cause of Christ?

P.S. – And anyway, the number of followers posted by WordPress was wrong by my count. It was actually… never mind.  LOL

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

8 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Blogging, Loving God, Motivation

The Air I Breathe

Worship is simply about value. The simplest definition I can give is this: Worship is our response to what we value most.

That’s why worship is that thing we all do. It’s what we’re all about on any given day. Because worship is about saying, “This person, this thing, this experience (this whatever) is what matters most to me…it’s the thing I put first in my life.”

That “thing” might be a relationship. A dream. Friends. Status. Stuff. A name. Some kind of pleasure. Whatever name you put on it, this thing or person is what you’ve concluded in your heart is worth most to you. And whatever is worth most to you is—you guessed it—what you worship.

Worship tells us what we value most. As a result, worship determines our actions, becoming the driving force for all we do… In the end, our worship is more about what we do than what we say.
~ Excerpted fromThe Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio

What or who do you worship?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

5 Comments

Filed under Loving God, Worship

Punching holes in the darkness

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of classic books like Treasure Island, spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century. As a boy, Robert was intrigued by the work of the old lamplighters who went about with a ladder and a torch, setting the street lights ablaze for the night.

One evening, as young Robert stood watching with fascination, his parents asked him, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”

When we invite Jesus to sit on the throne of our heart we are giving ourselves to further God’s kingdom purposes, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we choose to forgive those who have hurt us, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we sacrifice our comfort and resources to help others in need, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we honor God’s boundaries with our sexuality, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we pray for those who despise us or hate us, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we take time to listen, really listen, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we let go of worry and instead praise God, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we offer kinds words in return for harsh words, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Culture, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Generosity, influence with the world, Kingdom of God, Loving God, Loving others, Praise

Approval addiction

“Hello. My name is Rick Alvey and I am an approval addict.”

I don’t know exactly when it started or what all has contributed to it, but I admit it. I struggle with wanting the approval of others.

I know and believe that I will one day stand before God and give Him - and only Him - an account of my life. And yet, I still struggle with being concerned about how others perceive me.

The truth is, no matter what we say or do there will be someone who disapproves. Even Jesus, who lived a perfect life, was constantly criticized for what He said and did; and for the kinds of people who were drawn to Him.

But being concerned about how others view us is not all bad. We are to live in such a way that others see God in us and are drawn towards Him. So to a certain degree it does matter.

But if it matters too much then I find myself inhibited. I might know what I believe God would have me to say or do but I hesitate because of who it might offend. I’m guessing that at least some of you reading this can relate.

And this is especially tough as a pastor because people have heightened and/or unrealistic expectations of me, and my family. I read a story recently that was a great encouragement.

“A reporter once asked an insightful question when interviewing a woman from the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra:’ How does it feel to get a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of your performance and then wake up in the morning to a negative review in the newspaper?’

Her response was even more insightful. She said over time she has learned not to pay attention to the applause of the crowd or the disapproval of the critics. She was only after the approval of her conductor. After all, he was the only person who really knew how she was supposed to perform.”
~ From Replenish by Lance Witt

God is our conductor. Only He knows precisely the role that we are to play in His unfolding story of grace and redemption. He alone has a completely eternal perspective on life down here.

May God grant us the grace to seek only His approval.
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

12 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Children of God, Christianity, Glory of God, God, Loving God, Relationship with God, Trusting God