Category Archives: The Story

Being the hands and heart of God

Ever watch a movie or theatre production where someone in a supporting role actually outshines the main character? It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, its noticeable. That’s sort of how I feel about the book of Ruth. In case you are not familiar with the story of Ruth here’s a quick overview.

During the period of the Judges Elimelek and his wife Naomi, along with their two sons, leave Israel to escape a famine and relocate in the land of Moab. Elimelek dies, their two sons marry Moabite women and then 10 years later they die. Naomi is left with two daughter-in-laws in a foreign land. She returns to Israel with Ruth who refuses to leave her side.

Life for widows at that time was very, very bleak! Out of love for Naomi, Ruth gleans (collects leftover grain) from a local field belonging to Boaz. Knowing of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, Boaz acts favorably towards Ruth not only protecting her but providing extra grain for her to collect. Upon learning of this, Naomi instructs Ruth to make herself available to Boaz for marriage. They eventually marry and everyone lives happily ever after. Honest!

But there’s more!

The loyalty Ruth demonstrates for her mother-in-law Naomi is admirable; especially considering that Israel and Moab had a history of being bitter enemies. But what Boaz does is even more amazing.

As God’s holy people, Israelites were to reflect the heart of God by trusting Him enough to act as His hands and heart toward the less fortunate within their community.  Much of the Law was designed to provide opportunities for Israel to trust God, to be generous like God, to demonstrate the love and the justice of God.  God’s means of taking care of the poor, the widow and the orphan was through His people.

The levirate marriage was one such custom.  The term levirate means “husband’s brother.”  It was employed when a man died without a son to inherit his land and carry on a family line.  When those circumstances arose, the husband’s brother was responsible to take the widow as his wife and produce a first-born son who would bear the dead brother’s name.  This son would be the rightful heir to his dead “father’s” estate and would carry on the deceased’s family name.  The following children born to the union of the widow and her new husband would belong to the new husband and bear his name.  (Deut. 25:5-10).

Any man who took on this responsibility was known as a Kinsman-Redeemer. Taking on this role was optional and when another relative declined to accept it, likely because Ruth was a Moabite, Boaz willingly stepped in. He had to give his resources to buy the land owned by Naomi/Ruth but would not keep it as his own. Their first-born son would receive it to carry on the lineage of his grandfather/father.

Boaz had nothing to gain from this arrangement other than the company of Ruth as his bride. His selfless act of compassion is remarkable; and it is a foretelling of Jesus’ role with all of humanity.

Jesus gave up His very life to pay our debt of sin, something we could not do, and purchase for us new life and an eternal future with God. Just as Boaz reflected the love and justice of God, we who follow Jesus are called to reflect it as well among those we encounter daily.

How will we be the hands and heart of God to those we encounter today?

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

If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 10 this week. To learn more about The Story click on the page tab above.

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Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Generosity, influence with the world, Justice, Loving others, Loyalty, The Story

An unnecessary pain in the butt!

“If I’m on mission for God and sold-out to serving Him, then He will remove anyone in opposition to me and make the journey smooth.”

I wish this were true because I hate conflict and turbulence of any shape, size or kind. But it’s not!

The older I get the more I recognize that those people who have been a source of friction for me have played an important role in shaping my journey with God.

Facing opposition has pushed me to trust God more, develop a more Christ-like character and served to sharpen my focus in regard to how God wants to use me for His kingdom purposes.

I have some important news for you: to fulfill your purpose and stay true to your calling, you’ll need to understand the reason for enemies. If you do that, then when they rise up against you, you will quickly recognize what’s happening.

The truth is, it’s not really them—it’s the ultimate enemy, Satan, who is using them to try to sabotage and abort your future.

As I was determining how to respond to the enemies coming against me from all sides, I found one scripture that I hung on to like a drowning man grasping a piece of wood: “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

What this means is that all our afflictions or problems in life, no matter how horrible they seem, are not a big deal compared to the payoff for facing and enduring them. And the results for us in heaven will be great and eternal.
~ Excerpted from The Necessity of an Enemy by Ron Carpenter, Jr.

Even Jesus, the very Son of God, endured conflict from others in every arena of life. The author of the Hebrew letter writes:

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. ~ Hebrews 5:8 (NASB)

From our Lower Story perspective conflict seems like an unnecessary pain in the butt! From God’s Upper Story perspective it can be a way of growing us and leading us to fulfill His kingdom objective.

All that we endure here and now will seem like a vapor compared to the “weight of glory” that will be ours when we stand face-to-face with our Lord!

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If you’re following along in The Story then read chapter(s) 9 for this week. If you’re unfamiliar with The Story you can check it out on the page tab above.

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

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Filed under Conflict, God's Will, Kingdom of God, Morphing, The Story, Trusting God

God’s bizarre strategy

On June 5, 1944 – the day before the Allied Forces stormed the beaches at Normandy – General George S. Patton gave a speech to the Third Army that left no room for failure:

I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding… We are advancing constantly, and we are not interested in holding on to anything… Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing, regardless of whether or not we have to go over, under, or through the enemy.

Can you imagine the fear and rush of adrenaline that these young men experienced? The fate of the Free World was truly riding on their shoulders.

The Israelites must have felt the same way as they stood poised to follow Joshua into Canaan to fight for the land that God was giving them. It was the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham 600 years earlier. (Genesis 15:16)

And it had been 40 years since they last stood on this very same spot with their parents, grandparents and Moses. Here they are – a new generation – ready to follow God and carry out His kingdom agenda.

But God’s preparations for battle are a bit bizarre, to put it mildly.

  • March over a million people across the swollen banks of the Jordan without any boats, bridges or water wings.
  • Gather all the warriors just days before the first battle and circumcise them.
  • Enter that first battle by placing your musical instruments out front and marching around the fortified city.

From a Lower Story perspective this must have seemed like pure madness. But from God’s Upper Story perspective it made perfect sense.

God wanted to send a clear message to everyone involved, including the Israelites, that this victory was the result of His involvement and not because of their strength. The key to victory was found not in superior weapons and conventional strategy but in obedience.

No less than five times in the book of Joshua they were told: “Be strong and courageous.” Because God was fighting for them they had nothing to fear.

What battle are you facing? What fear are you wrestling with? What is it that keeps you awake at night?

Be strong and courageous!

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If you’re reading along in The Story be sure to read chapter(s) 8. If you’re unfamiliar with The Story then click on the page tab above and check it out.

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

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Filed under Courage, Divine presence, God, Kingdom of God, The Story, Trusting God

Are we there yet?

We’ve all been there and we all have horror stories of our “worst road trip ever!”

“Are we there yet?”

Ours was coming home from Lake Michigan on a hot, scorching day in July. All eight of us packed (like Sardines) in an old van with no A/C! LARGE cups of ice got us home.

But that’s nothing compared to what the Israelites went through wandering in the desert for 40 years! Stop and think about it – 40 years!

When the people of Israel were led to Canaan – the Promised Land – they sent 12 men in to scout out the land. All 12 agreed, the land was amazing, but the people were HUGE!

Caleb and Joshua believed that God would give them victory in conquering the land but the other 10 trembled in fear as they related feeling like grasshoppers next to the people of Canaan. Fear ruled the day and they chose not to trust God.

The consequence of their unbelief was wandering in the desert for 40 years – one year for every day the scouts were in the land. While God provided for their needs, He also waited for everyone 20 years old and older to die off before taking the new generation back to conquer the Promised Land.

Unable to go into the new land himself, Moses offered these final words of encouragement:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!  You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Embrace life by trusting and obeying God or go the way of death by trusting in their own plans. It’s the same choice Adam and Eve had way back in the garden. It’s the same choice you and I make every moment of every day.

Will we love, trust and obey God today?

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

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Filed under Choices, Courage, Faith, Fear, Loving God, The Story, Trusting God

A DTR moment with God

There comes a time in every serious relationship when you have to pause for a DTR moment.

DTR stands for Define the Relationship. It’s a moment (or moments) in a relationship when specifics get discussed.

  • How often will we date?
  • Are we going to date only each other?
  • Is it time to meet the families?

Obviously, being on the same page is not only desirable but makes for the best possible relationship.

Once God rescued the young Israelite nation from slavery in Egypt He had them make a pit stop at Mt. Sinai for a DTR moment.

God created us to enjoy us so He takes the lead in spelling out what will make for the best possible relationship.

Relationship 101: The Ten Commandments are given as guidelines for relating to God and each other (Exodus 20). Jesus continues this theme when He defines the greatest commandment as loving God and loving others (Matthew 22).

Temple Blueprints: Specifics on how to construct what will be Gods’ temporary dwelling place close to His people (Exodus 25-31). God does not suffer from OCD but is highly detailed because He wants to test their hearts to see if they are serious about their relationship with Him.

Instructions on Living in Holiness: A multitude of details, including animal sacrifices to atone for sin, are given to teach the Israelites how to live holy lives that reflect the glory and holiness of God. (Leviticus)

From a Lower Story perspective it would seem that God is obsessed with details, but from an Upper Story perspective He is simply making sure we know how to maintain fellowship with Him. It’s all about the relationship!

Today is the first day of Lent, a 40-day period leading up to Easter. It’s a time to give up something in order to refocus or deepen our relationship with God. It’s sort of a DTR Season.

Whether you observe Lent or not, let me offer two questions to consider:
1. In what ways am I pursuing greater intimacy with the Lord?
2. What am I consuming (food, drink or activity) that distracts me from pursuing greater intimacy with the Lord?
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If you’re on our journey through The Story then read chapter(s) 5 this week. If you’re not familiar with The Story you can check it out at the tab above or click here.

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

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Filed under Commitment, Divine presence, God, intimacy with the Lord, Lent, Loving God, Loving others, The Story

God’s trump card… His presence!

God has big plans for His new nation, Israel, but there’s a problem; they’re enslaved in Egypt! So before God can lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey (i.e. – prime real estate), He has to first rescue them.

Maybe God will bring down lightning or send in the S.W.A.T. team or better yet… send a past-his-prime shepherd. Sure, I’ll take curtain #3… NOT!

God speaks to Moses from a burning bush that doesn’t burn up and recruits him to go confront Pharaoh. Moses is flattered, but not interested. Can’t really blame him. He did have three strikes against him.

  1. He was already 80 years old. (No disrespect intended)
  2. He was a poor communicator. (Notice that God doesn’t disagree)
  3. He had skeletons in his closet. (Wanted for murder of an Egyptian)

So what does God offer as a confidence boost? His very presence. I’m sure that Moses appreciated the offer, but since he didn’t know God very well it didn’t much help. God eventually conceded to a couple of traveling companions for Moses. (Exodus 3)

Now, fast forward to the part of the story where Moses and the people are at Mt. Sinai. While Moses is up on the mountain with God the people down below give in to all kinds of nasty idol worship – a real slap in the face to God.

God tells Moses that they can still go to the promised land but without His presence. God isn’t going to go with them because He’s concerned about getting angry enough to wipe them all out. (Exodus 33)

But Moses states very clearly that if the Lord’s presence is not going to be with them then he doesn’t want to go. Moses’ experience with God in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and on the mountain was enough to convince him that all he really needed was God’s presence.

How about you? What is it you’re facing? What is it you need in order to deal with it? Is God’s presence enough?
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If you’re on our journey through The Story then read chapter(s) 4 this week. If you’re not familiar with The Story you can check it out at the tab above or click here.

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Filed under Divine presence, Faith, intimacy with the Lord, The Story, Trusting God

When troubles come…

Notice that I didn’t title this blog entry “IF troubles come…” If you’re breathing, trouble will NOT be a stranger to you!

The notion that following Jesus equals an easy, comfortable, pain-free journey through life is one of the BIGGEST, oldest and most dangerous of misperceptions. False expectations, in general, set us up for disappointment; but this one can crush our spirit and even our faith if we’re not careful.

Often when a hard time hits, when a crisis hits, when a tragedy hits, we want out. We ask God for an airlift out of our problems. But many times God wants us to learn in the midst of those difficulties—and to learn especially about His love for us:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:35, 37 NLT)

Notice that phrase “all these things.” This passage isn’t saying we won’t face some of these struggles, but that in them we’re “more than conquerors.”

If you’re seeking to obey the Lord, expect opposition. Expect obstacles. Expect difficulties. But also expect God to see you through.
~ Excerpted from Beyond by Greg Laurie

Joseph is a prime example! (Genesis 37, 39-50) Betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers! Falsely accused by his employer’s wife and tossed into prison. Forgotten about by a friend after helping him understand a dream.

From our Lower Story, earthly perspective we could easily conclude that God had forsaken Joseph. But twice – when he arrives in Egypt as a slave and when he is thrown in prison, it clearly states that “the LORD was with Joseph.” (Genesis 39:2, 21)

God sustains Joseph and we eventually learn that all of this was used by God to further His Upper Story, kingdom agenda.

How can we prepare our hearts to trust God when troubles come?

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If you’re reading The Story with us then read chapter(s) 4 this week. If you’re unfamiliar with The Story then check it out on the page tab above!

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Filed under Divine presence, Faith, God, Hope, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Love of God, The Story, Trusting God