Category Archives: Brokenness

Satan’s Masterpiece

Satan’s masterpiece is not the crack addict. Satan’s masterpiece is not the prostitute. Satan’s masterpiece is the person who is satisfied with this world. Satan’s masterpiece is the person who is untroubled by all that is in his Larry Crabb Captureor her interior world that’s opposed to God. He’s content with all the resources that he has to make his life work, and he’s enjoying respect and recognition and affection, and he’s never broken before God to the point where he lives for no one but God. That’s Satan’s masterpiece.

The Spirit’s masterpiece is someone who doesn’t look very mature sometimes. The Spirit’s masterpiece can be someone who is deeply troubled, someone who struggles a lot, someone who is aware of his or her own interior world and doesn’t like what’s there, someone who’s troubled by the world in which they live, someone who therefore cries out to God, “Reveal Yourself to me. You’re all that I want. There’s nothing in my perception that can satisfy me except You. I know it’s You.” That’s not foolishness. That’s wisdom, and the person who’s crying out to God for satisfaction may look very unstable, may not have a good job, may not have very much money. They may not be chipper and happy all the time, but if that person is in fact the Spirit’s masterpiece, all that may be going on… there’s still going to be a pattern of kindness, a pattern of movement toward other people, and a pattern of abiding trust in God through struggles along the way.
~ Dr. Larry Crabb in SoulCare 201, Lesson 7

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Brokenness, Christianity, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Satan, Trusting God

“These things happen.”

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. ~ Romans 7:19-20

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ~ John 3:16-17

brennan_manningI’ve been asked a certain question countless times over the course of my ministry. Sometimes it has been asked with genuine sincerity; other times it was a loaded pharisaical grenade: “Brennan, how could you relapse into alcoholism after your Abba encounters?” Here is the response I gave in The Ragamuffin Gospel in 1990: It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure; because I got discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden, and took my eyes off Jesus. Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification by grace through faith means I have been set in a right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table.

Twenty-one years later I stand by what I wrote; those words are as true for me now as they were then and on the day of my mother’s funeral. That paragraph from Ragamuffin Gospel spoke to many people; they’ve told me so time after time. I must admit though that from where I sit today the paragraph is a bit much, a little wordy. I believe I can now whittle the lines down to a three word response that incorporates all the truth of a verbose 1990 ragamuffin into a 2011 ragamuffin’s preference for brevity. Question: “Brennan, how could you relapse into alcoholism after your Abba encounters?” Answer: “These things happen.”
~ From All Is Grace by Brennan Manning

Dear Abba,
These things happen. They really do. And while I grieve them and You know I do, I also know deep within that these things are some of the very things that have brought me to my prodigal senses and sent me running back to You, back to my Father, back home. So I don’t thank You for these things but I do thank You for this grace that is greater than the sum of my sins; this mercy that knows my good-for-nothing name and still believes in me; and this tenderness that I’ve done nothing to deserve but loves me anyway. ~ From Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer by Brennan Manning

Thank you Brennan for being so real. Thank you Abba for mercy and grace.

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Brennan Manning, Brokenness, Christianity, God, God the Father, Grace, Love of God, Mercy, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation

Come Holy Spirit… clear the air

It’s hard to imagine the force of wind that Hurricane Sandy unleashed on the East Coast of the United States. 

From what I read, winds hit nearly 100 mph and affected regions of the country hundreds of miles inland. Even here in Indiana we had winds in the 25-30 mph range with gusts up to 50.

Add flood waters and rain/snow to the mix and the damaging effects to the East Coast are massive! Last I heard some 8 1/2 million people were without electricity.

As I prayed for these folks yesterday a different kind of wind came to mind; the one Paul describes in Romans 8 when he speaks of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes in chapter 7 about his struggle, and failure, against sin. He comes to the end of his rope and wonders who can save him.

Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. ~ Romans 8:1-2 (The Message)

As devastating as a storm like Hurricane Sandy can be, the ravages of sin on the soul are eternally worse. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection made it possible for the Holy Spirit to come and dwell among us to bring new life.

Anyone else tired of struggling against the flesh with its selfish desires?

Anyone else ready for a fresh wind from God to clear the air?

Anyone  else at the end of their rope and ready to cry out to God for mercy?

Come Holy Spirit and be welcome in my heart and my life. Do for me what I can’t do for myself; help me to be more obsessed with God than anything or anyone else in this life.

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

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Filed under Brokenness, Christianity, Freedom, Holy Spirit, Mercy, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Surrender

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.

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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

My first real taste…

I’d heard of it, read of it, dreamt of it but never really experienced it.

I’m speaking of real community like what we read of in the second chapter of Acts.

I just spent the last 8 days at a retreat center in the hills near Asheville, NC with 35 people hungry for God. It was a School of Spiritual Direction led by Dr. Larry Crabb – a.k.a. – Zorro, of New Way Ministries.

I can’t begin to describe what we experienced but it involved transparency, authenticity, crying together, laughing together, eating together, hiking together, praying together, listening intently together, celebrating together, encountering new freedoms together and offering words of life to one another.

It was like nothing I had ever experienced!

It left me captivated at the image of the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – engaged in perfect community and inviting us into Their dance.

It shook me to the core with newly discovered layers of sinful patterns in how I relate in ways that disrupt that same divine rhythm.

And it left me humbled by the overwhelming love of a Trinitarian God who is at this very moment, and every moment, relentlessly pursuing us to enjoy us.

I am so very grateful for the chance to have shared such a journey with 35 people I’d never even met before, but hope to meet again before eternity.

And it restored my hope that we can experience a deeper, richer fellowship than what typically takes place on a Sunday morning in most churches.

Real community is not limited to or directly tied to this particular event. It can happen anywhere that people come together in brokenness and invite God’s Spirit to move among them.

May we all come to share in such a taste of heaven and may it change our world as others are drawn to the dance of the Trinity!

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

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Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Divine presence, Fellowship, Freedom, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Laughter, Loving others, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Worship

Answering the Call

For you, the call is literally within your grasp. It’s the place you show up each day and the problems you encounter in the process. Possibly for you, it’s putting a dent in the never- ending cycle of poverty that destroys so many lives, neighborhoods, and nations. Or creatively addressing the malnutrition, poor health, and disease that’s wrecking so many families. Or tutoring, mentoring, and fostering fatherless children. Perhaps the addiction to drugs, alcohol, career advancement, affluence, or pornography is what enslaves and torments your friends the most. What ever it is that’s broken, whatever you see wrong, remember— God’s intention and method of restoration is to use you to bring his redeeming love to the world.  This is the “power of the ought” at work— the way restoration living begins to flood and transform our entire cosmos. It represents Christ’s power to change the world.
~ Excerpted from Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

What corner of this broken world will we encounter today? Will we answer the call?

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

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Filed under Brokenness, Christianity, Compassion, God, Healing, influence with the world, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality

Tilted Halos

To be alive is to be broken.
And to be broken is to stand in need of grace.
Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness
and the truth that we are saved sinners.
There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples
who never wear a false face and
do not pretend to be anything but who they are.

~ Excerpted from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Only those who are real – warts and all – get to experience the depth of God’s limitless grace.

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

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Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Grace, Humility, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Spiritual growth

How to Tell 50 Juvenile Sex Offenders About Jesus

What follows is a blog post by Caleb Wilde
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Sin is cyclical…

I will never forget the first time a group of us gave a chapel service to about 50 juvenile sex offenders. They were a crew of 14 to 19 year olds from all over the East Coast who had been charged with a serious sex crime.

For teens, a “serious sex crime” is often limited to:

  • child molestation
  • sexual assault of a child or minor
  • rape.

I was given the opportunity to share with them for about 15 minutes. And although I knew going into this chapel service I was going to be the main speaker, I didn’t want to prepare a message full of statements.

Being that it was a smaller group that could respond to me while I spoke, I instead prepared a message full of questions.

The first question I asked was this: “How many of you have been seriously hurt by others in your lives?” They all raised their hands.

The assumption with children and teenagers—especially these kids—is that they were first victims. Victims who became victimizers.

Most of us follow the same process. When we are hurt, we react in retaliation.

Then I asked them, “How many of you have wanted to hurt others in the same way you’ve been hurt?”

Same response. Some of them blurted out, “I want to hurt them worse.”

Most of us react proportionally to the seriousness of our pain. If someone cuts us off while we’re driving, we might flip a finger or shout something out. On a more serious level, if somebody abuses us physically, we may try to abuse others or, possibly, abuse ourselves through substances. The sad thing for these kids we visited was that many of them were in juvie for the sins of somebody else. Yes, they’re still guilty of their crimes, but they were first victims.

They had been raped.

They had been sexually molested.

They had been sexual assaulted.

They had been the victim of a crime they didn’t have the power to stop. They had been overpowered and exploited.

As I was closing, I asked them, “If you had the power to hurt those who hurt you, what would you do?

They all replied they’d inflict all the pain they could. And their story is the story of the world. A story of abuse, exploitation, reaction, and retaliation. A story of war, of hatred, of tribalism, of divorce, of revenge.

Speaking to these 50 juvenile sex offenders, I was speaking to the story of humanity.

A story that has been slowly changing toward redemption through the introduction of a new narrative.

Jesus came to this Earth with all the potential power he wanted. He healed the sick, raised the dead, touched the untouchable, and healed the souls of the broken. He never used his might for evil. Even his enemies said he was innocent. Yet, he was outcast, beaten, spit on, possibly raped (it was acceptable for soldiers to rape criminals), and eventually killed at the request of those he loved.

He could have—maybe even should have—destroyed his enemies.

He had the power to, but he didn’t. I explained to these kids that the only innocent person who ever walked the Earth was abused to the point of death, but instead of reacting in retaliation, he forgave and redeemed.

These kids were fixated by the message. It wasn’t my message; it was a new perspective, a new story, a different option that began to melt the coldness of their hearts, just like it has millions of others throughout history, including my own.

Sin is cyclical…but so is love. With one act of grace, a new narrative has been born…again and again.

Caleb is a sixth generation funeral director. He has a graduate degree in Missional Theology. He blogs at http://www.calebwilde.com You can connect with him on Twitter or facebook.

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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.

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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

God’s grace is enough!

Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the middle of the night. (John 3) He is part of the Pharisees, a religious group that believed God was not showing up to deliver the Jews from Roman control because they were not keeping every little detail of the law. So they pursued getting it right!

Jesus minced no words with Nicodemus but spoke immediately of his need to be born again in order to be part of God’s kingdom. Just like our first birth, being born again of the Spirit is not something we control. We cannot earn God’s favor or forgiveness; we can only accept His gift of grace.

Shortly after this encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus intentionally encounters a woman at a well in Samaria. (John 4) Jews despised the Samaritans because they married non-Jews and dishonored the law of God. Every good Jew avoided Samaritans at all cost… except Jesus.

This woman came for water in the middle of the day to avoid any encounters with the other women. She didn’t need their scorn or snide remarks to remind her of the many mistakes she had made in life.

Jesus crossed a cultural boundary and offered her a drink that would satisfy the deepest longings of her soul. He even revealed Himself to her as the Messiah. When the townspeople responded in faith, Jesus stayed with them for a couple of days before moving on.

To the man who tried to do everything right, Jesus said: “You can’t be right enough to earn God’s grace.”

To the woman who did everything wrong, Jesus said: “You can’t mess up badly enough to be beyond the reach of God’s grace.”

Most of us likely fall somewhere in between Nicodemus and the woman at the well. In fact, we probably bounce back and forth once in a while. At times we give ourselves wholeheartedly to getting it right only to be disappointed at our failure to do so.

So we swing the other direction and suffer through feeling too messed up to even have a part in God’s kingdom. We perceive that our mess is bigger and deeper than God’s grace. But…

God’s grace is enough!

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

 

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Filed under Brokenness, Christianity, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Guilt, Kingdom of God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Surrender