Category Archives: Forgiveness

Reckless Abandon

What would you attempt if you knew you wouldn’t get hurt or injured?

  • Skydive from 10,000 feet
  • Race a sports car at 200 mph
  • Bungee jump off a bridge
  • Strap on a hang-glider and leap off a tall cliff
  • Step inside a metal cage and get lowered into shark infested water
  • Climb Mt Everest or Kilimanjaro
  • Walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls

Reckless_Abandon_470X270Would you attempt them if you knew you’d be safe?

What if Jesus’ resurrection was meant to give us confidence not only to face death head on but to face life head on?

When Jesus was arrested all of his disciples ran, after a brief sword incident involving Peter, because they were genuinely afraid for their lives.

According to historians there were at least 18 Messiah wannabe’s around the time of Jesus. The book of Acts tells us about two of them. One of those men is Judas the Galilean. (Acts 5:37) The historian Josephus tells us that this Judas of Galilee founded the Zealots – the group of Jews who believed in physical rebellion against the Romans. He and 2000 of his followers were crucified.

The crosses were all left standing in the Galilean countryside because the Romans wanted to send a message. Jesus grew up in Galilee as did some of his disciples. They would have seen those crosses. They knew what the Romans did to the followers of men claiming to be Messiah.

They had every right to be afraid for their lives. But when they discovered the empty tomb and were visited by the resurrected Jesus all of that changed.

Jesus killed death! There was nothing left to fear!

It’s one thing to trust in Jesus’ resurrection so that we can face death with confidence and peace. It’s a whole different matter to trust in Jesus’ resurrection so that we can face life with confidence and peace.

That’s what we see happening in the lives of the disciples and the early church. Because of their trust in Jesus’ resurrection, and defeat of death, they lived with a reckless abandon.

  • They sold their possessions to help those in need.
  • They openly shared about Jesus even when it brought persecution.
  • And they crossed cultural and social boundaries to do so.

Sociologist Rodney Stark argues that one of the primary reasons for the spread of Jesus’ movement was the way his followers responded to sick people.

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius around AD 165, an epidemic of what may have been smallpox killed somewhere between a third and a fourth of the population, including Marcus Aurelius himself. A little less than a century later came a second epidemic, in which at its height five thousand people were reported dying daily in the city of Rome alone.

Historians tell us that the Greeks and Romans tossed their sick loved ones out into the street to die and avoided burying the dead all in an attempt to escape death. Historians also tell us that the followers of Jesus remembered what He taught about caring for the needs of others, even strangers, and they tended to the sick, even though it cost many of them their lives.

What if Jesus’ resurrection was meant to give us confidence not only to face death head on but to face life head on?

What would it look like to love and forgive and pray for and meet the needs of others, even our enemies?

What would it look like for us to live with such reckless abandon?

***

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Courage, Easter, Faith, Forgiveness, influence with the world, Jesus, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality, Resurrection, Serving

As quickly as God…

“Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly
as God in Christ forgave you.”

~ Ephesians 4:32 (MSG)

***

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Choices, Christianity, Conflict, CS Lewis, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Loving others, Mercy, Religion and Spirituality

Forgive… love… be a friend…

***

© 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

How to Tell 50 Juvenile Sex Offenders About Jesus

What follows is a blog post by Caleb Wilde
***

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brokenness, Forgiveness, Grace, Healing, influence with the world, Jesus, Love of God, Mercy, Religion and Spirituality, Sin

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.

Leave a comment

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

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!

***

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

 

Leave a comment

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

Not an excuse to abuse God’s grace

There is a fine line between living by grace and abusing it. As Paul concludes his thoughts at the end of chapter 5 in his letter to the Romans he speaks of how we are lavished with grace through Jesus Christ. In fact, he even states that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

But you can tell that Paul is aware that this could lead some to take advantage of grace and abuse it because he opens chapter 6 of Romans with this statement:

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” ~ Romans 6:1-2

God’s lavish grace is no excuse to live as we want but rather makes us acceptable to a holy God and then empowers us to live differently. Larry Crabb says it well…

“I might mention in passing that my acceptability in Christ is no warrant for careless living.  Scripture also teaches that I am accountable to God for how I live. 

If I understand accountability, but not acceptability, I will live under pressure to behave well in order to be accepted.  If I understand acceptability, but not accountability, I may become casually indifferent to sinful living. 

When I understand first my acceptability and then my accountability, I will be constrained to please the One who died for me, fearful that I might grieve Him, not wanting to, because I love Him.” ~ Larry Crabb in Effective Biblical Counseling

May we be fully embraced by acceptability AND accountability, in that order, so that we can live in such a way as to demonstrate the grace and truth (John 1:14) that flowed from Jesus when He lived among us.

And in doing so, may we reflect the glory of God!

***

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

7 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Christianity, Forgiveness, Glory of God, God, Grace, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Truth

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)

***
© 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

Our Magic Moment came at a price

It was our last day at Disney World. We had gotten to the Magic Kingdom at 10:00 am and it was 10:25 pm. We were spent… but wanted to squeeze in one more ride.

When we got to the ride the sign said there was a 40 minute wait. The park was only open for another 35 minutes so we couldn’t use a Fast Pass.

As we stood there talking about what to do an older gentleman who works at Disney came out to chat with us. Learning of our dilemma he told us we only needed to know two words – Magic Moment.

After a bit more chit-chat he took us to the Fast Pass line and sent us through with instructions to tell the ride attendant those two special words.

As we stood there waiting to board the ride Eli said, “You just had your Magic Moment.” He explained that those who work in the parks try to give out special treats like that to help add an extra spark to your visit.

It was a great way to end our fun-filled day at the Magic Kingdom. But I couldn’t help thinking about all those people who had been waiting in line before we got there. They were still waiting when we got on the ride.

Our Magic Moment came at a price.

Those of us who belong to the kingdom of God have freedom from sin and death. We have a new identity and a new lease on life. We have a restored relationship with God and the promise of an eternity with Him forever.

We did nothing to earn it.

We did nothing to deserve it.

It comes to us free, but it came at a price.

It cost Jesus His life.

What will we do with God’s gift today?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Eternity, Forgiveness, Freedom, God, Grace, Heaven, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Love of God, Relationship with God, Sacrifice, Sin, Stewardship, Thankfulness

Our Magic Moment came at a price

It was our last day at Disney World. We had gotten to the Magic Kingdom at 10:00 am and it was 10:25 pm. We were spent… but wanted to squeeze in one more ride.

When we got to the ride the sign said there was a 40 minute wait. The park was only open for another 35 minutes so we couldn’t use a Fast Pass.

As we stood there talking about what to do an older gentleman who works at Disney came out to chat with us. Learning of our dilemma he told us we only needed to know two words – Magic Moment.

After a bit more chit-chat he took us to the Fast Pass line and sent us through with instructions to tell the ride attendant those two special words.

As we stood there waiting to board the ride Eli said, “You just had your Magic Moment.” He explained that those who work in the parks try to give out special treats like that to help add an extra spark to your visit.

It was a great way to end our fun-filled day at the Magic Kingdom. But I couldn’t help thinking about all those people who had been waiting in line before we got there. They were still waiting when we got on the ride.

Our Magic Moment came at a price.

Those of us who belong to the kingdom of God have freedom from sin and death. We have a new identity and a new lease on life. We have a restored relationship with God and the promise of an eternity with Him forever.

We did nothing to earn it.

We did nothing to deserve it.

It comes to us free, but it came at a price.

It cost Jesus His life.

What will we do with God’s gift today?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Eternity, Forgiveness, Freedom, God, Grace, Heaven, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Love of God, Relationship with God, Sacrifice, Sin, Stewardship, Thankfulness