Category Archives: Serving

Our ultimate hope

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

~ 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

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Filed under Christianity, Death, Eternity, Faith, Heaven, Hope, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture, Serving

Radical Faith: Why one church gave away their tithe for a year

What follows is by John Richardson.
***

Do you remember the story of Jesus walking on the water?

The disciples were half-way across the Sea; Jesus was standing alone on the bank of the water; the Father said, “Go ahead, step on top of the waves.” That’s an amazing moment of faith to me.

I completely understand that Jesus is fully God. But the reality is also that He is also fully man: a man who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) So stepping on top of the water must have been a remarkable moment of faith.

In the logic of the moment, Jesus obviously realized that this had never been done before. People don’t walk on water.

A few species of lizards can run across the water, but they know not to slow down. Several bugs can float on top of water, but they don’t have the mass of a fully-grown man. And in this moment, the Father is telling His fully-grown-man-Son to stand on a liquid surface.

The amazing part is that Jesus trusted Him enough to take that first step. That’s a ridiculous amount of faith. It’s in the realm of God asking you to flap your arms and fly. It defies all laws of nature. But Jesus trusted enough to follow in simple obedience.

Not too long ago, our church stood on the bank of the water. We’re kind of slow. We didn’t even understand how close we were to the water’s edge – and to a ridiculous faith challenge.

Our prayer was simple, but honest. We came to God asking one question that we genuinely did not know how to answer. We prayed,

“What can we do so that our neighbors will consistently see You when they interact with us?”

Much to our surprise, we sensed that the answer from God was, “Become generous as I am generous.”

And as we prayed further, we realized that He wasn’t kidding. He was prompting us to give away all of our tithes and offerings for an entire year.

For our small church community, this was one of those “Go ahead, defy the laws of nature” moments. God was challenging us to put our faith in action. He was asking us to love our neighbors with our resources.

After much fear and trepidation, we decided to go for it. Our faith paled in comparison to that of Jesus, but the Father held our hands as we stepped onto a liquid surface.

From April 2010 through April 2011, all of the tithes and offerings that were given to Traceway went to help the abused, neglected, sick, poor, and unstable of our city.

These gifts from God went to keep a few families out of home foreclosure after job losses. Other gifts went to provide housing for abused mothers who escaped literally with their children and the clothes on their backs. Some gifts went to pay medical bills and build handicap access ramps. Others went toward providing a vehicle for a family and aiding in disaster relief after a devastating local tornado.

These gifts were not a redistribution of wealth. The gifts were an entry point into the lives of these families. Each donation provided an open door for sharing the love of God and providing these people with a church community that would embrace them.

To be completely honest, not all of the giving turned out the way we hoped.

We had a few Peter-esque moments where we thought we were going to sink. At other times, we struggled because of the attitudes of the recipients. Some of them wanted a handout and nothing more. One lady even got mad at us after the 1997 Toyota Camry that we donated to her was not up to her standards. In those moments, we saw the mess that often accompanies incarnational-giving.

But we also learned how deeply God values our willingness to walk into the unknown with Him.

Potentially on par with that, we learned that God values our willingness to walk into the mess with Him. After all, that’s what He does…day after day after day. He joins each of us in our mess. He loves us and generously gives us gifts that nudge us closer to Him.

The faith of the people who make up Traceway Church is typically closer to that of a sinking Peter than that of a buoyant Jesus. But we are learning to trust the voice of God and stay alert to His movements.

As God calls us to follow, we hope to run forward with courageous faith. We are learning to trust the voice of the Father and create environments to unleash radical faith as He leads.

How will we trust God today!
***

John Richardson has been a pastor and church planter for over ten years. His passion is to see the church more accurately reflect the heart and ministry of Jesus. His first book, Giving Away the Collection Plate is available at http://www.tatepublishing.com. John and his wife, J.D., have three daughters and live in Mississippi.

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Filed under Choices, Faith, Generosity, God, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Loving others, Money, Religion and Spirituality, Serving

Man arrested… for not leaving jail!

Once again, truth is stranger than fiction.

Rodney Dwayne Valentine had just been granted his freedom from the Rockingham County jail in northern North Carolina on a recent Saturday morning. But when Valentine refused to leave the prison, police arrested him for trespassing and sent him back to his cell.

According to The News & Record of Greensboro, the 37 year 0ld Valentine reportedly refused to leave the jail site, after authorities declined his request for a ride to a local motel. He had been in prison since May 22 on a charge of damage to personal property.

Officers reportedly suggested that Valentine simply take a cab to the hotel, but he allegedly refused. When he still hadn’t left the premises that afternoon, Deputies charged Valentine with second-degree trespassing.

And now, Valentine is being held on a $500 bond while he awaits a scheduled court appearance on August 9.

Have you every heard anything so ridiculous?

I have!

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells a parable about a servant forgiven a debt he could not possibly hope to repay, who then goes out and demands a few dollars back from a fellow servant.

When the forgiving king hears of this he brings the first man back and reprimands him for not extending the grace he himself had received.

All to often, we are that first man. God has lavished us with immeasurable grace. Yet we tend not to be as lavish in extending it towards others.

For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love  serve one another. ~ Galatians 5:13

***

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

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Forgiveness, Grace, influence with the world, Loving others, Mercy, Religion and Spirituality, Serving

On mission with God

Today a group of 11 people – 8 teenagers and 3 adults – loaded up and headed down to Nashville, TN for a week of mission work.

It’s easy to think of “mission work” as being only what happens in another country but there are many people and locations right here in the USA that are desperate for help both physically and spiritually.

It should be an interesting trip as the mission trip veterans are four of the teenagers. The rest, including the three adult sponsors, have never done a week-long mission trip. I’m excited for all that God is going to do in them and through them.

Would you take a moment to offer up to God a prayer for our group? Most importantly, pray that God would get ahold of their hearts and overwhelm them with His grace and mercy and glory. Some of the most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had were on mission trips.

Thanks!

And as you get ready to start another week, another ordinary week, keep in mind that God’s mission work isn’t limited to special trips but is going on all around us all the time.

How might God want to use us today or this week as we do life as His missionaries to a lost world?

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

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Filed under influence with the world, Loving others, Missions, Religion and Spirituality, Serving

A role I wasn’t expecting to play

We got there early and endured a hot sun to have primo spots up front, but it was worth it. A parade at Disney World is nothing short of spectacular; the characters, the music, the excitement.

We enjoyed visiting with the folks next to us who were from Canada and we guzzled some drinks to stave off the heat, but the parade was the big attraction.

As the familiar characters walked, danced or rode by on floats I took it all in and got some great pictures. Watching a Disney parade is great fun but then it happened.

I was standing there minding my own business like every other spectator along the parade route when I suddenly and unexpectedly became part of the festivities.

The wolf from Pinocchio was walking by and along with others close by I stuck my arm out to high-five him on the hand… uh, paw. But he wouldn’t do it.

He stopped, turned to face me and placed his hands on his hips. Motioning for me to lean in towards him he took his cape and used it to wipe the sweat off my bald head.

After everyone had a good laugh he gave me a high-five and continued down the street. No one in my family thought to take a picture but we all had fun joking about it afterwards.

Disney wants you to be more than a spectator, they want you to be a part of all that’s going on; and so does God. 

Christianity, in America at least, has become largely an event for spectators. We show up on Sunday and take it all in then go about our week as usual. But that’s not God’s design.

God intends for each of us to be fully engaged with His kingdom purposes and plans every single day. Some days are spectacular, but most are more mundane. But even our mundane Lower Story moments help to advance God’s Upper Story agenda.

A little, unknown boy was there to supply his fish and bread for Jesus to use in feeding thousands of hungry followers.

Some unknown person was there to provide the animal for Jesus to ride in on for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Someone was there to hold the rope used to lower Paul from a window in Damascus for his middle-of-the-night escape.

Sure it’s just another mundane day with nothing spectacular on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean God won’t pull you in or use you to touch a life in some special way today.

Are you ready?
***
If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 14 this week. To learn more about The Story check out the tab above.

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

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Filed under Christianity, God's Will, involvement with the church, Kingdom of God, Serving, The Story

Investing in people, growing as a faith community

I don’t know how it works everywhere around the globe, but here in the American midwest the seasons of the year are noticeably different. This plays a major role in the process of growing a garden.

Well-groomed gardens require different activities according to the season, and those activities occur daily.

This very same principle of ongoing growth is also very evident and necessary in any faith community in which God is actively working to grow and change lives.

So we must continue to invest in the people around us, serving them, receiving from them, and letting God use those experiences to grow us into communities that create results and change lives for the better. We must recognize that significance occurs within the day-in, day-out process of interacting with others.

Just as we make changes in our gardens according to the seasons of the year, so we must adapt to changes within our communities as they struggle, grow, get pruned, grow some more, and flourish. When the harsh circumstances of winter come, for instance, we must huddle together (like the penguins!) in order to sustain one another.

When the spring and summer months provide us the opportunities, we must share in the work of planting and nourishing. And when it’s time for the harvest, we must be willing to serve and celebrate all that God has done and is doing.
~ Excerpted from A Significant Life by Jim Graff

Before we just assume that this is happening within the faith community we are a part of, let me pose a few questions to consider:

Do you see evidence of God working to grow people in your church family?

What season of the growth cycle is your faith community experiencing?

In what ways are you involved with others in sharing the journey of following hard after Jesus?

Are you praying for your church family, inviting God’s Spirit to work in the lives of others?

In what ways are you personally investing in the lives of others to encourage their growth in Christ?

Are you surrendered to what God is wanting to do in and through you?

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

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Filed under Church, Commitment, Discipleship, God, Holy Spirit, involvement with the church, Loving others, Morphing, Prayer, Serving, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender

Why all the facial hair?

My good friend Jeff is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, but if you saw him right now coming down the street you would likely duck into a store or make your way to the other side of the street. Why?

His beard is menacing!

Here, in his own words, is why he is growing it out.

“Rick, I am growing my beard after one of the most humbling experiences of my life at Kid’s Kamp (our version of VBS) 2011. Last year our children and youth ministries were raising money for Dave and Jen Bell, missionaries our fellowship supports in Kenya. In a moment of craziness I agreed to have PART of my head shaved if the kids were able to meet the financial goal we set for them at Kid’s Kamp. We set the goal high, or should I say, I set the goal high. Not surprisingly, the kids and their families far exceeded the goal that had been set for them.”

“After that experience “the Holy Spirit” gave birth to an idea in my heart. There is one thing I do in my life that receives more unsolicited comments than any other thing that I do: that is growing a beard. My unscientific research suggests that 95% of people that comment are strongly opposed to the beard while the remaining 5% are tight-lipped about their opposition. Needless to say, I thought I could use the beard for the cause of Christ.”

“So Sunday, August 7, 2011 is the last time I shaved or trimmed my beard with the exception of my mustache. My much publicized (among our fellowship) intention is to leverage my beard as a means to raise financial support for some very dear friends of mine, Gianni and Stephany Bruno, missionaries with Italy for Christ (click to learn more). The Bruno family will be the missionaries we highlight this summer during our week of Kid’s Kamp and 100% of the financial support raised that week will go to support their ministry.”

“In a typical beard growing year, I never make it past six months of growth, in fact, only one time has that happened. I made it a few days past 6 months and my wife informed me that if I didn’t shave I wouldn’t be present for the delivery of our 2nd child, Hannah. That was all I needed to hear to shave the beard. I’m glad I did since Hannah was born a week later.”

“Thankfully, my wife isn’t pregnant this time around, so I am pretty sure I will be able to make it to the day the beard will be sheared, Friday, July 13, 2012. In fact, in a rare show of affirmation for the beard, my wife recently said, “The beard is growing on me.” To which I replied, “Me too.” Now I am convinced that with God all things are possible.”

We can’t all grow a beard of epic proportions to support those taking the good news of God’s grace and truth to people all around the world. But we can all do something!

Are you making yourself available to God?

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

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Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Determination, Holy Spirit, influence with the world, Inspiration, involvement with the church, Loving others, Missions, Serving