© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2015. All rights reserved.
It’s February! That space on the calendar when hearts and candy and flowers and chubby little cherubs shooting arrows takes center stage because it’s all about love. I’m not much into the marketing hoopla that goes with Valentine’s Day but I certainly understand its appeal and our universal longing for it.
Love can move people to do extraordinary things and go to unimaginable lengths to communicate love to someone whom they care about deeply. I enjoy the opportunity to love people daily in small, practical ways. Allowing them to enter or exit an elevator first. Holding the door. Picking up something they dropped. Offering comfort or counsel to someone in need. But there are only a handful of people I would willingly lay down my life to protect; my wife and my children.
But that’s exactly what God the Father did for every man, woman and child from every nation, city and tribe on the face of the earth! He sent His only Son Jesus to suffer and die on a cross to satisfy the debt we all owe but could never pay. But His love is often misunderstood.
Some think God loves only them or their group because they hold to a certain set of beliefs or follow a particular list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. But Jesus loved everyone when He walked this earth and was even criticized for hanging out with the sinners and riffraff of society.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that God loves everyone everywhere regardless of what they believe or do. Yet this same Jesus who expressed love for everyone also told people to stop sinning and do life in a manner that pleases God.
God does love everyone but that doesn’t mean He accepts everyone into His kingdom for all eternity. God’s love for everyone means that His grace is available to everyone. But only those who admit their need for His grace are welcomed into His family.
Got love? Got grace? It’s available!
© Richard Alvey and iLifeJourney, 2015. All rights reserved.
Dr. Paul Brand told me of his most memorable visitor to Vellore, India, where he directed a leprosy hospital. One day a French friar named Pierre showed up. Over the next few weeks he stayed with the Brands and told them his life’s story. Born into a noble family, he had served in the French Parliament until he became disillusioned with the slow pace of political change. After World War II, thousands of homeless beggars lived in the streets. Pierre could not tolerate the endless debates by noblemen and politicians while so many street people starved outside.
During an unusually harsh winter, many of the Parisian beggars froze to death. Pierre resigned his post and became a Catholic friar to work among them. He concluded his only recourse was to organize the beggars themselves. He taught them to do menial tasks better. They divided into teams to scour the city for bottles and rags. Next, he led them to build a warehouse from discarded bricks and then start a business in which they sorted and processed vast quantities of used bottles from hotels and businesses. Finally, Pierre inspired each beggar by giving him responsibility to help another beggar poorer than himself. The project caught fire, and in a few years an organization called Emmaus was founded.
But now the organization was facing a point of crisis. After years of this work, there were no beggars left in Paris. “I must find somebody for my beggars to help!” he declared. “If I don’t find people worse off than my beggars, this movement could turn inward. They’ll become a powerful, rich organization, and the whole spiritual impact will be lost. They’ll have no one to serve.”
At a leprosy colony in India, five thousand miles away, Abbé Pierre found at last the solution. He met hundreds of leprosy patients, many from the Untouchable caste, worse off in every way than his former beggars. As he met them, his face would break into a huge grin. Returning to his beggars in France, he mobilized them to build a ward at the hospital in Vellore. “No, no, it is you who have saved us,” he told the grateful recipients of his gift in India. “We must serve or we die.”
~ Philip Yancey in Reaching for the Invisible God (239 – 40)
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.
As a journalist, I have had occasion to spend time with famous people who make me feel very small. I have interviewed two presidents of the United States, members of the rock band U2, Nobel laureates, television stars, and Olympic athletes. Although I prepare my questions thoroughly in advance, I rarely sleep well the night before and have to fight a case of nerves. I hardly think of these people as mutual friends.
In prayer I am approaching the Creator of all that is, Someone who makes me feel immeasurably small. How can I do anything but fall silent in such presence? More, how can I believe that whatever I say matters to God? If I step back and look at the big picture, I even wonder why such a magnificent, incomprehensible God would bother with a paltry experiment like planet Earth.
A God unbound by our rules of time has the ability to invest in every person on earth. God has, quite literally, all the time in the world for each one of us. The common question, “How can God listen to millions of prayers at once?” betrays an inability to think outside time. Trapped in time, I cannot conceive of infinity. The distance between God and humanity—a distance that no one can grasp—is, ironically, what allows the intimacy.
Jesus, who accepted the constraints of time while living on this planet, understood better than anyone the vast difference between God and human beings. Obviously, he knew of the Father’s greatness and at times reflected nostalgically on the big picture, “the glory I had with you before the world began.” Yet Jesus did not question the personal concern of God who watches over sparrows and counts the hairs on our heads. More to the point, Jesus valued prayer enough to spend many hours at the task.
If I had to answer the question “Why pray?” in one sentence, it would be, “Because Jesus did.” He bridged the chasm between God and human beings. While on earth he became vulnerable, as we are vulnerable; rejected, as we are rejected; and tested, as we are tested. In every case his response was prayer.
~ Philip Yancy in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.