Category Archives: Joy

Learn to Pray

Leran to Pray

Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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

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Filed under God, God's Will, Gratitude, Jesus, Joy, Praise, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture, Thankfulness

Life verses even more life!

LifeIn his introduction to Paul’s letter to the Philippians Eugene Peterson makes this observation:

Paul doesn’t tell us that we can be happy, or how to be happy. He simply and unmistakably is happy. None of his circumstances contribute to his joy: He wrote from a jail cell, his work was under attack by competitors, and after twenty years or so of hard traveling in the service of Jesus, he was tired and would have welcomed some relief. But circumstances are incidental compared to the life of Jesus, the Messiah, that Paul experiences from the inside. For it is a life that not only happened at a certain point in history, but continues to happen, spilling out into the lives of those who receive him, and then continues to spill out all over the place. Christ is, among much else, the revelation that God cannot be contained or hoarded. It is this “spilling out” quality of Christ’s life that accounts for the happiness of Christians, for joy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained within any one person.

Joy is life in excess!

I’m captivated by the imagery that Peterson creates with these five simple words. And they very aptly describe Paul’s perspective on life even when his immediate circumstances were anything but “user-friendly.”

I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah. ~ Philippians 1:12-14

How unnatural it seems for Paul to be filled with joy while imprisoned for sharing the Gospel of Jesus. But then again, Paul wasn’t the central character in his life – Jesus was. He goes on to write:

I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. ~ Philippians 1:18b-21

Paul considered everything that exists on this side of the grave as “life” and everything that happens on the other side of the grave as “more life.” What a profound and liberating perspective.

No matter what we come up against this week, may we see it not as a burden to our agenda but as an opportunity for God to further His kingdom through us.

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

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Filed under Christianity, God, Jesus, Joy, Life in General, Praise, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Suffering, Trusting God

Keep Wonder in Your Worship

ps19-1a

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth…Don’t let your worship decline to the performance of mere duty…Don’t let the scenery and poetry and music of your relationship with God shrivel up and die. You have capacities for joy that you can scarcely imagine. They were made for the enjoyment of God. He can awaken them no matter how long they have lain asleep. Pray for His quickening power. Open your eyes to his glory. It is all around you: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 ESV).

~ Excerpted from Desiring God  by John Piper

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

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Filed under Christianity, Glory of God, God, Joy, Praise, Religion and Spirituality, Wonder, Worship

Like Children Playing

Children playingI recall sitting in a church service with my parents when I was very young, listening to the minister invite people to come to the front for prayer. People went forward (some were crying as they did), knelt, and prayed. When they finished they returned to their seats, and I noticed a distinct change in them. They were happy and at peace. I looked to my dad for an explanation, but he only motioned me to be silent.

Finally a day came when I looked to my dad, and he bent down to speak. “Would you like to go forward?” he asked. I nodded my affirmation. Like those who had gone before, I knelt, prayed, and cried. Before long I felt better too, and I sensed the time had come to return to my seat. My dad smiled. My little world and I were at peace. I didn’t want to ever leave that place or lose that feeling…

I believe I saw the prayer time to be a form of play. It was fun. It made me feel good—just like play. And perhaps most prayer and worship begin for children as an extension of play. Maybe we should go back to that time to discover the pure joy of being in the presence of the heavenly Father. Our cares will be lighter if we relearn how to play in the presence of God, to let our prayers be an extension of the joy that comes from being with the One who knows us, loves us, and accepts us unconditionally.

~ Excerpted from Whispering in God’s Ear by Wayne Holmes

May we find delight today playing in our Father’s presence!

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

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Filed under Children of God, Christianity, Divine presence, God, God the Father, intimacy with the Lord, Joy, Prayer, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

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

God alone

Theologian John S. Dunne tells of a group of early Spanish sailors who reached the continent of South America after an arduous voyage.

Their caravels sailed into the headwaters of the Amazon, an expanse of water so wide the sailors presumed it to be a continuation of the Atlantic Ocean.

It never occurred to them to drink the water, since they expected it to be salty, and as a result some of these sailors died of thirst.

Can you imagine the scene? Men dying of thirst even as their ships floated on the world’s largest source of freshwater.

Every day our soul thirsts for meaning, purpose, joy, peace, contentment, delight, satisfaction, adventure…

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well He offered her water that would fully and completely quench our thirst. (John 4)

God alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our soul and He makes Himself available to us no matter where we are by His Spirit who dwells within us.

Do our lives resemble those Spanish sailors or are we finding our deepest satisfaction in our Creator – the One who made us to enjoy us?
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Contentment, Desire, Divine presence, God, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Joy, Peace, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

God’s relentless love

Resist the urge to say you’re too old, too young, too busy, too scared, too worn out, too washed up, too anything to be useful to God.

Truth is, you’ve always been part of his love-the-world plan. Need proof? From the day he formed you in your mother’s womb, God has watched over your every step, making sure you got where you needed to go.

When you stumbled, it was God who steadied you. When you fell, it was God who rescued you. When you lost your way, it was God who carried you home. Why? Because he knows you fully, loves you completely, and holds you close to his heart. God will never give up on you…
~ Excerpted from The Girl’s Still Got It by Liz Curtis Higgs

Like the ocean waves that endlessly rush to the shore, the love of God is relentless in pursuing us and using us to reflect His glory.

God wants to use us today to spread His love and joy and hope everywhere we go.

Are we ready?

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

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Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Glory of God, God, Hope, influence with the world, Joy, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality, Surrender

Giving God what only you can give!

I remember waiting what seemed like an eternity to have kids. We had been trying for six years and the specialists gave us only a 5% chance of being able to have children. Yep, they were wrong!

And when Susan was pregnant with our second child I sincerely wondered how I could possibly love another one like I loved the first one. God mysteriously enlarges a parent’s heart!

Now with six of them I’m amazed at God’s grace and amused by how different six kids from one set of parents can be!

Different shapes, different sizes, different personalities, different likes and dislikes, different interests and different abilities.

One of the most enjoyable things about watching them grow up is how they come to express love in different ways. And when that love is directed towards me it is a unique and precious gift because they express it in ways that reflect the unique nature of my relationship with each of them.

The very same unique gift of love is what each of us can offer to God.

We bring God joy simply by responding to Him, by taking time with Him as His loved one, His fair one, to sit at His feet and let Him speak to us His words of love.

How easily we forget what an honored privilege it is to offer our personal worship to God. When you go before Him and worship Him, you give Him what no one else in the universe can give: your own personal love, your own personal adoration, your own personal response to Him. Joy comes when you respond to your heavenly Father with your unique personality, which He created—when you take to heart His Word and tell Him your feelings and your love.

God uniquely fashioned each one of us for Himself…. Each of us is individually precious to Him and will be for all eternity. Each of us can give Him the intimacy He longs for, the intense pleasure and satisfaction of our unique ways of relating to Him.
~ Excerpted from 31 Days of Drawing Near to God by Ruth Myers

 How will we respond to God today?

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If you have the time, leave a comment about how you most enjoy responding to God.

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Filed under Children of God, Family, intimacy with the Lord, Joy, Loving God, Worship

Money CAN Buy Happiness!

Despite the abundance of folk wisdom on the topic, it wasn’t until a decade ago that researchers started to take a hard look at whether money really does have anything to do with happiness. What the studies found is that while there is a connection between wealth and happiness, it is pretty weak.

“It’s not a zero correlation, even at higher income levels, but it’s not a very big correlation,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside and a leading happiness researcher. Money, she says, “matters less than we think it would.”

But as further research spelled out, spending money on others can result in increased levels of happiness!

First, they surveyed 632 Americans on their general happiness, along with what they spent their money on, and found that higher “prosocial spending”  – gifts for others and donations to charity  – was indeed correlated with higher self-reported happiness.

Then came a detailed look at 16 workers before and after they received a profit-sharing bonus from their company. They found that the only factor that reliably predicted which workers would be happy six to eight weeks after the bonus was their prosocial spending  – the more money people spent on charity and gifts for others, the happier they were.

But was the happiness caused by giving money away, or were charitable people simply happier to start with? Good question!

To show a connection, they then performed an experiment in which volunteers were given a small windfall of $5 to $20. Some, chosen at random, were told to spend it on a bill, an expense, or a gift for themselves. The others were told to buy a gift for someone else or make a charitable donation.

Afterwards, the second group  – the ones who had given the money away  – reported being significantly happier than those who had spent the money on their own needs.

Turns out Jesus was right!

You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” ~ Acts 20:35

Feeling a bit down? Need a little pick-me-up? Looking to jump-start the flow of endorphins (happy hormones) through your veins?

Go give something away!

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Filed under Generosity, Joy, Money, Stewardship

Remember what awaits us!

Moses enjoyed all the wealth and privileges of living in pharaoh’s court but gave it all up and eventually was used by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Can you imagine giving up the lifestyle of living as an Egyptian king? What would motivate Moses do that?

“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” ~ Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses was looking ahead to his great reward!

Jesus gave up all of heaven to live among us as a man. His brutal death on a cross redeemed us and make a way for us to be brought back into God’s family. Can you imagine a greatest act of love? What would motivate Jesus to do that?

“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” ~ Hebrews 11:2

Jesus did this “because of the joy awaiting him…”

Jesus was looking ahead to His great reward!

It’s difficult at times to say no to the pleasures of life as Moses did. And it’s even more difficult at times to sacrificially love others as Jesus did. But God has promised us a place with Him in eternity when we dwell with Him in the here and now living a life as He intended. When we’re feeling bogged down in the moment, we need to…

…remember what awaits us!

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Filed under Determination, Encouragement, Faith, Heaven, Joy, Life in General, Loving others, Sin