Category Archives: Grace

It’s chubby cherub month!

cupidlogoIt’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.



Filed under God, Grace, Love of God

Defining Grace

God exists outside of time, the theologians tell us. God created time as an artist chooses a medium to work with, and is unbound by it. God sees the future and the past in a kind of eternal present. If right about this property of God, the theologians have helped explain Philip Yanceyhow God can possibly call “beloved” a person as inconstant, fickle, and temperamental as I am. When God looks upon my life graph, he sees not jagged swerves toward good and bad but rather a steady line of good: the goodness of God’s Son captured in a moment of time and applied for all eternity.

I grew up with the image of a mathematical God who weighed my good and bad deeds on a set of scales and always found me wanting. Somehow I missed the God of the Gospels, a God of mercy and generosity who keeps finding ways to shatter the relentless laws of ungrace. God tears up the mathematical tables and introduces the new math of grace, the most surprising, twisting, unexpected-ending word in the English language.

Grace makes its appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it. I am ready, though, to attempt something like a definition of grace in relation to God. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”
~ Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace?, p. 69-70


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


Filed under God, Grace, Jesus, Philip Yancey, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

“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.


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


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

God… the ultimate recycler

Turning Your Down into UpGod is the ultimate recycler—nothing goes to waste. He is able to use every experience, even your depression, to help you to grow. Chuck Swindoll, in his book Hope Again, puts it this way: “This variety of trials is like different temperature settings on God’s furnace. The settings are adjusted to burn off our dross, to temper us or soften us according to what meets our highest need. It is in God’s refining fire that the authenticity of our faith is revealed. And the purpose of these fiery ordeals is that we may come forth as purified gold, a shining likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” Even amidst the fiery trial of depression, God is able to bless you and help you to grow. You must decide to meet him in this challenge for your life and learn more about him. Through difficult struggles, you learn about your true nature. You learn who makes up your true network of support. As you are comforted and supported, you learn about the steadfast love of the Lord.

~ Excerpted from Turning Your Down into Up by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD

What circumstance or mindset are you wrestling with and have you surrendered it to God?


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

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, God, Grace, Healing, Hope, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Surrender, Trusting God

A True Child of God

Clear Winter Nights - book cover“‘The Word’s powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword. Even the long lists of names remind you of the faithfulness of God, from generation to generation…’

‘Trusting Jesus and being a true child of God meant that whatever God said about His Son, He could say about me. He loved me…Not because I was smart or special or had great talents or gifts. It wasn’t because I was living the ‘good Christian life’ I was trying so hard to get right. He just looked at me and loved me. He delighted in me like a father delighting in his children. It suddenly all made sense…’

‘And I saw how deep my sin was. How foolish I was to try and fix myself. How silly my attempts at being a good man looked compared to King Jesus. And then I saw grace. I could look through Jesus’s righteousness and hear God say, ‘You are My beloved son…In you I am well pleased.’ And here I hadn’t even done anything.’”

~ Excerpted from Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax


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


Filed under Bible, Children of God, Christ, Christianity, God, Grace, Jesus, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture

Jesus Comes for Sinners

Ragamuffin Gospel“Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them—fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.”

~ Excerpted from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning


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


Filed under Brennan Manning, Christ, Christianity, God, Gospel, Grace, Sin

People can be hard to love!

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
~ Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)

Love them anyway

When I saw the quote above a few days ago several thoughts rushed through my mind:

Thought #1: YES! They can be!

Thought #2: Um… yes, I can be!

Thought #3: God, how do you not give up loving on us when we can be so unreasonable, illogical and self-centered?

Thought #4: God, grant me the grace to love like you love. I can’t do it on my own.

May we extend His love to those we encounter today!


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


Filed under Christianity, God, Grace, influence with the world, Jesus, Love of God, Loving God, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality

What did Jesus think of religion?

Jesus had an uncanny ability to infuriate people!

No_20Religion_20for_20siteOn several occasions Jesus went toe-to-toe with the religious leaders and one of their “hot buttons” was what constituted work on the Sabbath. (Mk 2:23-28; 3:1-6)

Jesus used the Sabbath to heal and bless others which, while keeping with God’s original intent, angered the religious elite because it violated their rules. What we see in these encounters is Jesus putting on display two radically different spiritual paradigms. A paradigm is simply a particular way of viewing or approaching something.

One paradigm is religion, which is merely a person’s efforts to follow advice about how to secure God’s favor. It take’s many forms but all boils down to this: I receive from God what I work for or earn.

The other paradigm is the Gospel, which begins and ends with news. Something truly amazing has been done for us and we simply need to embrace it.

It’s sort of like this…

Suppose you had a loved one who needed a heart transplant to live and I possessed a heart that doctors could use to save them.

If I said: “If you do everything I tell you to do and do it well enough to earn my favor then I will allow you this heart to save your loved one.” That’s religion.

If I said: “Here is a heart for your loved one. I want you to have it as a gift. In fact, I’ve allowed my own son to die so that your loved one could live.”  That’s the Gospel.

The Gospel is so much better than religion but the Pharisees couldn’t handle it. After one such encounter “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mk 3:6) This is staggering because the Pharisees and Herodians were arch enemies!

The Pharisees fought to preserve the integrity and purity of God’s word while the Herodians were Jews who compromised in order to get along with King Herod – the Roman ruler. Their approaches to life and God were polar opposites! Tim Keller in Jesus the King sums it up well.

The “traditional values” approach to life is moral conformity—the approach taken by the Pharisees. It is that you must lead a very, very good life. The progressive approach, embodied in the Herodians, is self-discovery—you have to decide what is right or wrong for you. And according to the Bible, both of these are ways of being your own savior and lord. Both are hostile to the message of Jesus. And not only that, both lead to self-righteousness. The moralist says, “The good people are in and the bad people are out—and of course we’re the good ones.” The self-discovery person says, “Oh, no, the progressive, open-minded people are in and the judgmental bigots are out—and of course we’re the open-minded ones.”

Do these two approaches to life and God sound familiar? They should! They are how most people do life today. But Keller goes on to describe how the Gospel is different.

The gospel does not say, “the good are in and the bad are out,” nor “the open-minded are in and the judgmental are out.” The gospel says the humble are in and the proud are out. The gospel says the people who know they’re not better, not more open-minded, not more moral than anyone else, are in, and the people who think they’re on the right side of the divide are most in danger.

Which of the following are you putting your trust in?

  • The keeping of certain moral standards… (Pharisees)
  • The right to determine your own moral standards… (Herodians), or
  • The Gospel… that we are all sinners (truth) in need of God’s forgiveness (grace) made available through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection!


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

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Filed under Christianity, God, Grace, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Truth

His Divine Rhythm

The word perichoresis comes from two Greek words, peri, which means “around” and chorea, which means “dance.” It is a term that the early church used to describe the relational intimacy between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s what some have referred to as The Dance of the Trinity.

I believe God wired us in such a way that our deepest longings can only be truly satisfied when we are in a relationship with Him; learning to dance in His divine rhythm.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

I long to do life more and more in step with God’s unforced rhythms of grace. And I long to see the church – the body of Christ – do the same!

I’m reminded of Jesus’ invitation here in Matthew 11 when I hear songs like the one below: One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful. You may not care for the song but you can’t help but be amazed at how these five guys do their part to contribute to one rhythm.


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


Filed under Christianity, Church, Dance, Discipleship, God, God the Father, Grace, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, involvement with the church, Jesus, Music Video, Perichoresis, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Teamwork, Trinity

A valentine from God

I loved you at your darkest

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

~ Romans 5:8


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

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Filed under Christianity, Grace, Love of God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality