Tag Archives: Authenticity

A real church…

“A real church never values participating in programs above relating in community.  And it faces the disturbing truth that involvement in small groups too often amounts to little more than participation in a relational program.  A real church aims toward spiritual community, where souls connect, where shame weakens, where sin surfaces, where failure meets grace, where irritations soften, where holy desire grows.”

~ Larry Crabb, Real Church, Page 152

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Filed under Authenticity, Christianity, Church, Discipleship, Grace, involvement with the church, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth

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

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

May God bless you…

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done,
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen.

– Franciscan Benediction

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

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Filed under Authenticity, Christianity, Compassion, Grief, influence with the world, Justice, Kindness, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality, Serving, Suffering

Approval addiction

“Hello. My name is Rick Alvey and I am an approval addict.”

I don’t know exactly when it started or what all has contributed to it, but I admit it. I struggle with wanting the approval of others.

I know and believe that I will one day stand before God and give Him – and only Him – an account of my life. And yet, I still struggle with being concerned about how others perceive me.

The truth is, no matter what we say or do there will be someone who disapproves. Even Jesus, who lived a perfect life, was constantly criticized for what He said and did; and for the kinds of people who were drawn to Him.

But being concerned about how others view us is not all bad. We are to live in such a way that others see God in us and are drawn towards Him. So to a certain degree it does matter.

But if it matters too much then I find myself inhibited. I might know what I believe God would have me to say or do but I hesitate because of who it might offend. I’m guessing that at least some of you reading this can relate.

And this is especially tough as a pastor because people have heightened and/or unrealistic expectations of me, and my family. I read a story recently that was a great encouragement.

“A reporter once asked an insightful question when interviewing a woman from the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra:’ How does it feel to get a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of your performance and then wake up in the morning to a negative review in the newspaper?’

Her response was even more insightful. She said over time she has learned not to pay attention to the applause of the crowd or the disapproval of the critics. She was only after the approval of her conductor. After all, he was the only person who really knew how she was supposed to perform.”
~ From Replenish by Lance Witt

God is our conductor. Only He knows precisely the role that we are to play in His unfolding story of grace and redemption. He alone has a completely eternal perspective on life down here.

May God grant us the grace to seek only His approval.
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Authenticity, Children of God, Christianity, Glory of God, God, Loving God, Relationship with God, Trusting God

Paradoxes

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and I get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games.

Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life’s story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, ‘A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
~ Brennan Manning

Thanks for being honest Brennan! It’s nice to know we’re not alone!
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Conflict, Encouragement, God, Grace, Love of God, Trusting God

Our need for honest feedback

The Last Czar is a biography about the life of Czar Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia. While his generals were brutally suppressing dissent, they told him civil unrest was the result of foreign influence and assured him his own people loved him.

The Czar didn’t have any other source of information so was completely unaware that his generals were not being truthful with him. Not a good position to be in.

When the Communists took over, he was caught by surprise and forced to abdicate. Sadly, the Bolsheviks eventually executed him and his entire family. It is a sad and tragic story.

Few of us are czars, but the same lack of honest feedback can be devastating. We need truth tellers around us in two critical areas.

The first area is horizontal and pertains to our relationships with people. We fill the role of friend, spouse, son or daughter, parent, employee or boss, coach or teammate.

The second area is vertical and pertains to our relationship with God. Our core identity is that of being a child of our Creator; embracing a new identity in Christ.

Maybe it’s because I hit 50 last year or maybe it’s because I have two grown sons living far from home, but I’ve been reflecting more and more on what got my attention in the last 30 years. Relationships are what make our lives rich and we all need feedback to make them as strong as possible.

The area of our relationship with God is perhaps even more critical. All of us live with a gap between what we profess or live outwardly and what is really going on in our heart. For some, this gap is small but for others the gap is rather large.

The danger is that this largely invisible gap is easy to conceal because we tend to focus on managing our external behavior with a highly trained filter. Dress nice, smile and be nice around church friends, drop some money in the offering plate and help out occasionally.

All those things are good but they don’t always accurately reflect what is going on beneath the surface. We need traveling companions who will ask us the hard questions and give us honest feedback.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

God’s design to make us more like Jesus happens best when we journey together and engage in honest feedback.

Who are your traveling companions?
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Accountability, Authenticity, Children of God, Courage, Discipleship, Fellowship, Friendship, God, God's Will, Heart, intimacy with the Lord, Morphing, Relationship with God, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Truth

Becoming real

“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

– C.S. Lewis

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Filed under Authenticity, Choices, Christianity, Discipleship, God, Jesus, Life in General, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender

Are we being real?

Look at the blue building in the picture below. Notice anything different about it? For starters, it’s not real. Disney is busy reconstructing the location so they put an elaborate canvas over the area so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

I can appreciate that. Disney is working hard to create a whole different environment for you to experience and they don’t want this construction zone to distract from the atmosphere of the Magic Kingdom they are working hard to provide.

At Disney World, this is awesome!

At church, this is lethal!

Each of us is an unfinished work of art being reshaped and recrafted by our Maker until the day we go to be with Him. But doing life as a community of believers is part of the process.

When we cover it all up we are protecting ourselves from being judged or ridiculed; which unfortunately sometimes happens. But we also make it impossible for God to use other believers as part of the process of reshaping our lives to reflect the life of Jesus.

I’m not suggesting that we come to church tossing all our dirty laundry around. No one likes to be covered in someone else’s smelly stuff. But I am suggesting that we drop our mask of pretending that everything is OK and just fine.

Church should be the one place where we can experience a lavish abundance of God’s grace so that He can do whatever reshaping needs to be done.

As you gather this weekend, pray for your church family. Then leave your mask at home and go wearing the grace of God that you want others to share in. Lets…

Be the church and be real!

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

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Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Church, God, Grace, involvement with the church, Morphing, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth