Tag Archives: Adversity

12 Forgotten Things Every Christian Should Know

As someone in the middle of the journey of following after Jesus I found this article by Frank Viola very accurate and encouraging. Perhaps it will likewise encourage you or someone you know.

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Jesus Christ has seven ministries today. One of them is the Author and Finisher of our Faith. In this role, whatever Jesus has begun in your life, He has promised to complete (see Phil. 1:6). That’s great news!

The beginning of the Christian life is easy. The end is joyous. But the middle is where the fiercest battles take place, and many fall away. The real test of faith comes in the middle of our journey.

Jesus is the trailblazer, pathfinder and pilgrim of God’s way. This is the meaning of Christ being the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Not only did Jesus blaze the trail, but He also finished the pilgrimage. And He gives His people the strength to tread where He trod and arrive where He awaits.

I wish someone had told me the following things when I was walking on the clouds of the newfound joy of my salvation at age 16. This list goes beyond the typical recommendations for new believers (read the Bible, pray regularly, get involved in a fellowship, etc.). I’m not mentioning those, as they are “givens.”

The list doesn’t represent any kind of order or priority. Rather, this list offers some honest insights and practical advice for your journey as a believer:

1. Christians will break your heart.

The greatest pain you will receive will be at the hands of fellow and professing believers.

2. Not everyone who professes Christ knows Him.

The fruit of real faith is love—treating all others the same way you want to be treated.

3. God will not meet all of your expectation.

And he will sometimes appear not to fulfill His own promises.

4. You will experience dry spells where there is no sense of God’s presence.

Learn to live by faith, not feelings.

5. Build a library and read the best Christian books in print.

Don’t waste your time on “pop” Christian books. Go for depth.

6. Write your goals down (goals = dreams = prayer requests).

And document when a prayer or goal is answered or fulfilled.

7. Never judge other Christians unless you’ve walked in their shoes.

Always think the best of others (Matt. 7:12).

8. Choose a mentor.

But never choose one who is insecure, speaks negatively about others or has an inflated ego.

9. Some of the things you struggle with now you will struggle with when you are old.

Resist condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

10. Many of the answers you have now will prove inadequate later in life.

Always be a student and a child in the kingdom.

11. Never bluff an answer to someone’s biblical or theological question if you don’t know the answer.

Learn to say, “I don’t know.”

12. Discover who you are in Christ, and learn what it means to live by His indwelling life.

While there is a great deal of talk today about following Jesus and being a disciple, very little airtime has been given to discovering how to live by Christ’s indwelling life.

This is both tragic and ironic, because we cannot follow Jesus or properly be His disciple if we don’t know how to live by His life.

And this is the heart of the New Testament and the gospel.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” … “Not I, but Christ lives in me.”

~ This article is an excerpt from Frank Viola’s new book, Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ.

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

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, Encouragement, God, God's Faithfulness, Religion and Spirituality

Mourning turned to dancing… in the aisle!

Max is the twenty-three-year-old autistic grandson of Chuck Colson, founder of BreakPoint Ministries. The following account is first maddening and then pure delight.

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A few months ago Max’s mother, Emily, and Patty Colson took Max to see “Muppets Most Wanted” at a Boston-area theater. After settling themselves into their seats, the previews began. And that’s when things went south.

The MuppetsNormally, Max gets a bit excited at the beginning of a film, and then he calms down. But life with autism is unpredictable, as Emily wrote on a special needs parenting site. When the first preview exploded loudly onto the screen, Max covered his ears and shrieked, “I want to go home!” Emily tried to calm him, but as soon as Kermit the Frog appeared on the screen, Max shouted “The Muppet movie!”

When the volume spiked again, Max shouted once more “I want to go home!” That’s when other movie-goers let Emily know in painful and no-uncertain terms that Max was not welcome.

As Emily and Patty escorted Max out, the audience began to applaud. “It was the sound of an angry mob chasing us away with their jeers and taunts,” Emily writes.

It’s hard to recover from experiences like that. But God used it to offer a mighty blessing, not only to Max and Emily, but to hundreds of other special needs children.

Not long after Emily wrote about unexpectedly becoming the entertainment at the theater, a woman named Renee came up to Emily after church. “Do you think Max would like it if we rented a theater?” she asked.

The following Sunday, Pastor Paul told the congregation what had happened to Max, and announced Renee’s great idea: “She rented out an entire theater so that friends of Max can watch the Muppet movie with Max.” Pastor Paul declared, “If you’re a friend of Max, you’re going to the movies, whether you like Muppets or not!”

“Everyone laughed. And everyone bought tickets,” Emily writes.

A local newspaper picked up the story. Hearing of the event, called “Love to the Max,” a limousine company owner offered to take Max and his friends to the theater in style in a 37-foot limousine. The employees fought over who was going to have the honor of driving Max. The winner? A man whose own grandson was autistic.

The CEO of a local Friendly’s Restaurant offered gift certificates for ice cream or meals. People volunteered to help out at the theater, doing everything from taking kids to the bathroom to bringing them popcorn.

So many people bought tickets that the Regal Cinema had to expand the event to two theaters. In the end, 500 children, with their families and friends, went to see “Muppets Most Wanted.”

This time, when the Muppets began singing their first number, “the music catapulted Max right out of his seat,” Emily recalls. He began dancing in the aisle. The audience began to applaud as Max danced his way down the aisle, “grabbing hands and pulling others into his dance.”

The children enjoyed the film, and as it ended with a final Muppet song, nobody wanted to leave. “Suddenly, people flooded into the aisles [and] began to dance. Everyone free. No armor. No barriers between us,” Emily writes. “I looked around and wondered if this is what Jesus envisioned when he said, “Love one another . . . The joy was contagious.”

As Chuck would have said, this was the Church being the Church. People came to love on these kids, “the least of these” and their families. And they were living out 1 Cor. 12, which reminds us that all parts of the body of Christ should be valued and honored.
~ By Eric Metaxas of BreakPoint Ministries

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

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Filed under Adversity, Compassion, Dance, Friendship, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Kindness, Loving others, Serving

God’s Tests

A Godward HeartWe cannot answer every why question. But there is always this answer: my faith is being tested by the Lord who loves me and will help me. And our Lord never wastes his tests. Whether we believe this truth is, in fact, part of the test. In the mind of Jesus, the promise that he would give them the crown of life was enough to sustain the Christians in Smyrna. I praise God that this has been, and pray that it always will be enough…

~ Excerpted from A Godward Heart by John Piper

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

In other words: “Lord, as You grow our faith by stretching it through tests, may You protect us from the lies of the evil one who would have us doubt Your motives and trust in ourselves rather than in You.”

Abba, Father, help us trust You today!

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

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, Doubt, Faith, God, God the Father, John Piper, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Trusting God

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?

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© 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

God’s amazing judo move

This Beautiful Mess“The kingdom of God is the kingdom of life, health, beauty, salvation, and freedom (to name just a few of its qualities). The enemy of the kingdom, whom the Bible refers to as Satan, is always attacking that life, that health, that beauty. He attacks spiritual freedom. He wants us to be paralyzed. His relentless attacks are why things are not the way they are supposed to be—yet. But in the midst of all the tensions of life, the kingdom of God comes crashing in. It usually crashes in quietly, though.

…God has this amazing judo move that He uses to attack the kingdom of darkness. He causes all things to work for good to those who love Him, the Bible says. God takes what is meant for evil and turns it for good, if we trust Him at those times and embrace His sovereign goodness even in the midst of our pain and loss. The good He works for us will be a foretaste of the ultimate restoration that will occur when His kingdom comes in all its fullness. It doesn’t make the cost of death less real. But it shows a way through.”

~ Excerpted from This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley

The older I get the more I come to realize that every season of life is a new shade of learning to trust God’s “amazing judo move.”

What are you needing to trust Him with today?

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

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, Faith, God, Healing, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Religion and Spirituality, Satan, Trusting God

Did Jesus miss the obvious?

It’s hard to imagine a more exciting scene!

Intimacy_with_GodJesus had healed enough people for word to spread like wildfire. The crowd quickly got so big it was standing room only spilling out of the house. (Mark 2) Every eye was riveted on Jesus until…

The ceiling split open and four guys lower their friend on a mat.

  • The sick were being made healthy…
  • The blind were seeing again…
  • The demon possessed were being set free…

Imagine the hopes and expectations of this man on the mat with legs refusing to work. And in the midst of all that healing going on Jesus looks at him and says…

“Your sins are forgiven.”

The guy must have been thinking something like: “Um, thanks Jesus but I was sort of hoping you would do something with my legs.”

Did Jesus miss the obvious?

Why would He skip past two legs “out-of-order” to focus on sin?

Surely the man’s legs were the real issue here? Or were they?

Jesus knows something the man doesn’t know—that he has a much bigger problem than his uncooperative legs. The bigger problem is the sin that separates him from God. What good does it do to have legs that work if you’re going to spend eternity apart from God?

So what’s the big, pressing issue for you in this life?

  • Poor health or a life-threatening disease?
  • Finances that keep coming up short?
  • The lack of a meaningful relationship or too many dysfunctional ones?
  • The death of a loved one?
  • Family members and friends who have never accepted God’s gift of grace?
  • Dead end job, bad boss, noisy neighbor, lousy teacher, apathetic students, annoying in-laws, kids bullying your kid…?

Tim Keller enjoyed reading articles by Cynthia Heimel and there’s one he’s never forgotten. She describes being around many young struggling actors and actresses who are desperately looking for their big break into show business. She observed that many of these who did make it into the business became even less content and more miserable than before.

She describes feeling sorry for them because they had the thing they had thought would make everything okay – and it didn’t. Then Heimel added a statement that took Keller’s breath away:

“I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you, he grants your deepest wish.”

Jesus didn’t miss the obvious. What He’s saying to the crippled man is this: “I’m not going to play that rotten joke on you. I’m not going to just heal your body and let you think you’ve gotten your deepest wish.”

The Bible says that our real problem is that every one of us is building our identity on something besides Jesus. Something or someone else is our savior. Almost always when we first go to Jesus saying, “This is my deepest wish,” His response is that we need to go a lot deeper than that.

What is it that we think we need to make life complete or okay?

If it’s anything other than Jesus, we’re settling for less!

Will we surrender our deepest wishes to discover a new depth of peace and contentment through intimacy with the Lord?

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

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, Contentment, God, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Peace, Priorities, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Surrender, Trusting God

Courage trumps fear!

I was hesitant to post anything related to the tragic events in Boston only because there has already been so much said, but I was so touched by the personal account of Linda Leonard Ambard that I wanted to share it in the hope that it might encourage others as well.

Courage 2

“Today, I was running the Boston Marathon.  I was the cheerful girl zipping through the marathon with a swish of her red polka-dotted skirt and a huge smile on her face.  I ribbed the army people working the course with my call out, “Air Power.”  I stopped twice to use the potty and I was but a quarter-mile from the end when I heard a loud boom, felt the street shake, and started to smell a smell I… never smelled before.  All hell broke loose.  People were screaming and sprinting away from the finish line.  The race immediately ended.  For me, a girl who was invited to run to honor her soldier who was taken by another terrorist on 27 April 2011, it threw me back into a spot where I immediately felt out of control, that my life was being torn apart, and I stood immobilized sobbing for again the terrorist sought to take yet another thing that matters in my life.”

“I find joy in running and I have grabbed my life back by running.  It is the singular aspect of my life that allows me to find my faith and to find happiness.  I am sitting in total disbelief.  How could it be that two potty breaks saved me today?  How can it be that as I was running to snub my nose at the terrorist that took Phil, another sought to destroy the hard-fought for happiness I have found.  It cannot end this way.  I am shaking and I am physically ill tonight, but I will pick myself up one faltering step at a time until I can run victorious once again.  I cannot let these vile monsters create any more fear in my life.  I just can’t.”

“There were heroes today.  I met a man who was an instructor at my training these past weeks.  He brought his family and found me.  He got me back to my hotel.  A nurse sat with me as I sobbed my eyes out and shook violently in the Dunkin Doughnuts store.  So many people called me.  My phone did not have reception, yet the singular two phone calls that got through were phone calls from people who came to get me.  My children were terrified and that is what hurts.  This event brought fear back into my family–fear of loss and fear of violent acts.  How can I fix the hurts in my children when I am right there?  I ask for prayers and I ask for some time to process this event.  I will find the strength that I fall into with my faith.  The terrorist will never EVER maim my heart, my spirit, or my drive to live life out loud.  Got that?”

Thank you Linda for sharing your story of resolve and courage! May everyone affected by this tragedy find the same resolve, courage and peace that only God can provide!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
~ Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)

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

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Filed under Adversity, Courage, Determination, Encouragement, Faith, Peace, Trusting God

“But if not.”

The Dunkirk Evacuation, commonly known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo by the British, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk, France, between May 27th and the early hours of June 4th 1940.

dunkirk1

More than 300,000 the British, French, and Belgian troops were cut off by the German army during the Battle of Dunkirk in the Second World War and their death or capture seemed all but certain. The evacuation was ordered on May 26th along with a call by King George to pray for the troops.

In a speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill called the events in France “a colossal military disaster”, saying that “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” had been stranded at Dunkirk. In his We shall fight on the beaches speech on June 4th, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance”.

At one point during this whole series of events a message was sent to the war command: “But if not.”

It was a reference to the three Hebrews in the book of Daniel who refused to bow to a golden statue erected by King Nebuchadnezzar. The choice was bow to the statue and save their skin or honor God and face the fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)

They chose to honor God and He rescued them from certain death, but what’s amazing is that they made their choice knowing God was able to save them but not knowing if He would save them.

We face difficult circumstances all the time. And it’s completely understandable to ask God to straighten out the kinks. But are we ready to trust Him even if He doesn’t? Will we say…

But if not.

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

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Filed under Adversity, Choices, Christianity, Courage, Faith, God, God's Will, Religion and Spirituality, Trusting God

“Would this be a good time for deep breathing Dad?”

So the other night Brynden (our 13-year-old) and I were headed to a dad/son gathering when he mentioned that his neck has been sore whenever he stretches it. I’m no doctor but he is healthy in every other way so I suggested that it might be tension or stress.

Supreme_pizzaHe tends to get worked up rather easily and is just a couple of months into a new school semester after two and a half years of homeschooling. It was his idea and we believed he was ready but he was still fairly nervous heading into it.

So we talked a good 10-15 minutes about learning to relax.

I explained that it’s not that uncommon for most people to get tense without even realizing it but that our body feels it and lets us know with little aches and pains. I mentioned that clenching or tightening our shoulders is a biggie and could easily cause the kind of neck soreness he was describing.

When I talked about being intentional with learning to relax he asked if that was why I did stretching every morning. I told him it was and explained that stretching is half of it while the other half is breathing deeply while doing them to help push oxygen all through the body.

I even mentioned learning to be aware of certain situations that make us tense and being careful to practice deep breathing whenever we felt the tension building.

About that time we pulled into a pizza place to pick up our order.

Five of the pizzas we ordered were ready but they had forgotten to cook the sixth one. I don’t eat pizza very often so when I do I make sure to get at least one that I especially enjoy. Guess which one they forgot to make? Yep! My favorite.

We substituted a couple orders of bread sticks but I was ticked. When we got back in the car to leave I growled and yelled “Dang it! That makes me mad!”

That’s when Brynden, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, asked:

“Would this be a good time for deep breathing Dad?”

“Yes! Yes it would! Thanks!”

[In… out… in… out… slow it down…]

When I talked with Brynden about learning to relax I hadn’t planned on having to practice it so soon, but it was good to know he had been listening.

I know… it was only pizza. But the point is that we all need to learn to be more intentional about relaxing. Perhaps that is a part of why David wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Some of us wear hurry and stress like a badge of honor even though it tends to destroy our health and attitude.

May our breathing today be slow and deep no matter what we are facing. And remember, nothing we come up against is a surprise to God; and He is still on His throne!

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

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Filed under Adversity, Anger, Frustration, God, Health & Wellness, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Rest, Trusting God

You have already won a victory

Boat

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”
~ 1 John 4:4 (NLT)

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

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, Divine presence, Encouragement, Faith, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture, Trusting God