Tag Archives: Christian

I’m Sorry

I'm sorry“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi wasn’t the first to express it and he certainly won’t be the last. And to be honest, I understand his sentiments.

“Christians aren’t perfect, we’re just saved.” It’s a popular bumper sticker and while it is true it is far too often used as an excuse for behaving badly.

Sometimes Christians can be rude and selfish and greedy… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can walk right past others and not even give them the time of day, as if they don’t even exist… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can look down their nose at others and judge them for their sins while ignoring their own sins… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can be so opinionated about a subject that they won’t even listen to someone with a differing opinion… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians gossip about others… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians act one way at Church and a different way at work or at school… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians act like they have life all figured out and that their life is perfect even when they don’t and it isn’t… I’m sorry.

I’ve lived half of a century (now I feel old!) and in that time I’ve served four different churches and been involved with many, many others. This lack of consistent living is widespread and common.

I’m sure you can add to this list but you get the idea. And since I’m being honest I will admit that I’m sometimes guilty of these same things.

Being a Christian is more than wearing a title, professing certain beliefs, sitting in a church service for one hour a week and following a formula to have a ticket stamped for life beyond this life. It means actively following Jesus to become like Him. It means learning to think and believe and feel and act like Jesus more and more. It means loving God and others every moment of every day.

We won’t get it right all the time; but that’s no excuse for not giving ourselves to the journey of doing life with God and learning to love like Jesus. And when we get it wrong we need to own it and apologize for it.

Note to my Christian friends: If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, but they…” Stop right there! Every person will one day stand before God to give an account of their life and their actions. NO ONE will be able to excuse their behavior by saying, “Yeah, but they…” We will be responsible for ourselves then so we might as well start being responsible for ourselves now.

One last confession: If my hope were in other Christians I would have given up on the Church and Christianity a long time ago. Some of my greatest blessings have come from other believers but so have some of my greatest hurts.

My hope rests in Christ Jesus alone! He is the only one who makes this messy, imperfect journey worthwhile.

Who is your hope in?

***

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

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Filed under Accountability, Christ, Christianity, Church, Confession, God, Hope, involvement with the church, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Repentance, Sin

Fanning the flame

Viral - Leonard SweetIn ancient cultures, the most important thing a household did was to never let the fire go cold. In rural Korean cultures the same ancestral fire burned for centuries, and when they moved they took the fire of their forefathers with them. When your fire went out, it was thought, you lost your connection with heaven.

Would that Christians were as careful about tending spiritual fire as these ancients were about natural fire. We are to nourish the spiritual fire, and we do that by prayer, obedience, mission, devotion, and study.

Holy fire is warming. In the words of the nineteenth-century New England poet Lucy Larcom: “If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.”
~ Excerpted from Viral by Leonard Sweet

We can encourage one another to keep our fires stoked; but it’s ultimately our responsibility.

How many fires will we kindle today with the flint of faith?

***

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

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Missions, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality

Are we settling for more and missing the best?

Our Indiana taxes came back different from what I had figured because I missed one newly required document. Ugh! A local office helped with the proper form to file an amendment.

When the gal helping me commented on not understanding why this new form was required she also added that just a few years ago we were suppose to be headed towards doing away with paper forms – an attempt to simplify the process.

I’ve heard that before in regard to other areas of life but I have yet to see much evidence that life is getting any more simple. This is perhaps most evident in the field of electronics.

With each new gadget or app we are empowered to walk around with the world at our fingertips. New technologies are great, but they don’t automatically make our life more meaningful.

We can do life differently!

Enjoying simplicity is counter to the message our consumer culture is barking from all angles. Society constantly tries to manipulate us into buying and consuming more than we need.

I see restoration-minded Christians bucking the trend. Instead of buying things they don’t really need, they fast periodically from those habits that suck them in to this alternate reality.

Certainly, this way of life often takes more effort and creativity on the front end, requiring their full imagination and a willingness to part with unnecessary comforts. But in the long run, they seem to be creating a more sustainable and less contrived existence.
~ Excerpted from The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

Jesus came to bring us the opportunity to experience real life through a relationship with the Father. But is that the core of our existence?

Take some time to pause and reflect on what it is that gets the best of or the bulk of your attention and energy.

In the scheme of our rhythm of life how much attention are we giving to pursuing greater intimacy with the Lord?

Are we enjoying His presence throughout the day or are we preoccupied with the stuff of life?

Are we settling for more and missing the best?

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

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Filed under Choices, Consumerism, Divine presence, God, intimacy with the Lord, Life in General, Margin, Priorities, Relationship with God, Stewardship

This is where the Church belongs!

Like most of us, Thomas Keinath felt the need to spend some time away from the office. In Keinath’s case, the “office” is Calvary Temple, a “mega-church” with a 2,000-plus seat sanctuary in an affluent suburb, in Wayne, New Jersey.

Instead of a personal retreat or a fun-filled vacation, Keinath spent that week living with the homeless in nearby Paterson, New Jersey.

During the day, he wandered through the streets dressed like everyone else. At night, he joined the homeless as they built fires to keep warm from temperatures that dropped into the teens.

He wrote mini biographies about the people he met and their life story. Why would he do all of this?

According to Keinath, “I needed to understand what they were experiencing, and I needed to feel their pain; how could I bring help or healing to the streets if I did not know what their needs are?”

To put it bluntly, people in Wayne tend to avoid Paterson like the plague. But not Pastor Keinath and the folks at Calvary Temple.

This church is reaching out to their neighbors in some vital and tangible ways. They are not only taking basic supplies to the homeless but they are bringing them to services at the church on Sundays.

This is just the beginning of what Keinath calls “a long-term solution” that includes building a center that will “shelter the homeless while helping them recover from problems including substance abuse.”

Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39) is being the church as God intended. It’s living out the gospel like the Christians of Caesarea did centuries ago.

In the early fourth century, the city was hit by a plague. While everyone was fleeing the city, the Christians stayed to minister to the sick and dying.

As the church historian Eusebius wrote, “All day long some of [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them.” Other Christians took it upon themselves to feed the rest.

This is how Christianity prevailed over Rome and spread like wildfire. And the same is still possible today.

Hitting the streets to meet peoples’ needs. This is where the Church belongs!

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

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Compassion, Generosity, Grace, influence with the world, Inspiration, involvement with the church, Kingdom of God, Loving others, Serving

It’s not my fault!

Last week I came across a blog written by a late twenty-something male from another country (not the USA). One of his statements caught my attention like the last chocolate chip cookie on a plate of crumbs.

It seemed very obviously flawed, but perhaps I was missing something. To be safe I ran it past my wife Susan – she saw it too.

Later, at the dinner table, I tossed it out to get a response from my kids. We’re talking twin 17-year-old girls and two guys; 15 years old and almost 12 years old. Yep! They saw it too! Here it is…

“I believe in destiny. If I fail, it’s because of destiny only. If I succeed, it’s because of my own efforts only.”

Go ahead, read it again. Notice anything peculiar?

Destiny, however that might be defined, is to blame for failure but success is due to personal effort alone! I.e. – I’m not to blame if it goes wrong, but I get the credit if it goes right! No responsibility, no blame, no guilt… no problem!

ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!

Certainly there are events and circumstances in life beyond our control, but to use something or someone else as the excuse for our failings is sad on many, many levels. But it’s not new!

When confronted with his sin Adam pointed to Eve and told God, “That woman you gave me…” Eve followed suit and said, “The serpent deceived me…”

Many years ago a newspaper in England ran a question for the public to consider – “What is wrong with the world?”

G.K. Chesterton, a well-known Christian, replied with a letter to the editor that read, “I am.”

Until we admit our sin and brokenness, God’s grace will be powerless to transform us. And if we don’t change, how can the world change?

May God’s grace empower us to own our own shortcomings!

***

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Filed under Accountability, Brokenness, Grace, Guilt, influence with the world, Morphing, Sin

Untapped potential

We are captivated by stories of normal people coming to possess super-human abilities. A skinny nerd is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spiderman. A mild-mannered scientist is exposed to gamma radiation and becomes the Hulk.

But that’s the stuff of bed-time stories right?

Maybe… maybe not!

As a Christian, you’ve been genetically engineered to transform into someone more spectacular than Spiderman and more incredible than the Incredible Hulk. You have been granted the opportunity to develop the very nature and character of Jesus! Within you lies the potential to

  • think the thoughts of Jesus
  • possess the inner peace of Jesus
  • enjoy the freedom from material concerns that Jesus enjoyed
  • experience the connection with God’s that Jesus experienced
  • respond to mistreatment as Jesus responded
  • receive the praise from God that Jesus continues to receive
  • love as Jesus loved

Spiritual transformation is about ordinary people like you and me discovering that we can live extraordinary lives.

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. ~ Romans 8:29-30 (The Message)

When we give ourselves to be transformed by God’s Spirit we will learn to do life differently, like Jesus! And as that happens, people will be drawn to know more about God! Don’t settle for less than what God intends and provides! Remember, we all have…

…untapped potential!

***

To learn more about participating with God in the process of transformation click the Morphing tab above!

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Filed under Discipleship, influence with the world, Morphing, Surrender

Stay alert!

Last night a new season of Biggest Loser got under way. It’s inspiring to watch people who are slaves to unhealthy habits begin to get their lives back; to regain a sense of freedom.

Being the first show of the season there were plenty of breakaway segments delving into the contestants’ backgrounds. The list of reasons or circumstances that lead to folks getting so out of shape and unhealthy is enormous. And most have struggled with it their entire lives.

But last night I noticed something. For the last few seasons, the ones I can remember, there have been one or two people who were at one time very healthy and very much in shape. The story that jumped out at me last night was Kim’s.

Being active came easily as a child for Kim Nielsen; she played basketball and softball, and in high school, she was the MVP and an all-state athlete for both sports. She went on to compete as a professional wrestler and model for Natural Muscle magazine. At her peak, she had just 10% body fat!

Now a single mother of three at age 38, Kim weighs 252 pounds and says she is tired of hiding from fans, friends and family because of the way she looks. She wants to be around as long as possible for her children and have the energy to keep up with them.

Life threw Kim some curves and now she’s stuck inside a body big enough for two people. What’s my point?

Stay alert!

It doesn’t matter how well we’ve done in the past, as followers of Jesus we still have an enemy who is out to destroy us.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. ~ 1 Peter 5:8

Stay focused! Don’t drop your guard! Don’t be complacent but keep pursuing Jesus hard every day! In his letter to the believers at Ephesus Paul wrote:

 Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. ~ Ephesians 6:18

One of the best ways to stay on track in our journey with God is by praying for other’s who are sharing the journey. I’ve prayed for everyone who will read this blog, God knows who you are.

Who will you pray for today?

***

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Filed under Choices, Determination, Encouragement, involvement with the church, Prayer, Satan

Time for one more holiday gift

The old adage “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” is especially true for this gift. And its the gift that never goes out of style or needs to be exchanged because it didn’t fit. I’m speaking of the gift of…

…forgiveness!

Many of us are still weighed down by bitterness and anger and hurt feelings over something that happened in the past. And the other old adage that “Time heals all wounds” is a lie. Only forgiveness heals all wounds. And only God can enable us to extend it.

Most of us know that as followers of Jesus extending forgiveness is not an option. And yet we wrestle with it perhaps because we misunderstand it. Ron Edmondson offers this list of seven things forgiveness is NOT.

Forgetting – When you forgive someone, your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God could do that, but it seems that would be the easy way. I suspect God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than that.

Regaining automatic trust – You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and they must earn trust again.

Removal of consequences – Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions.

Ignoring the offense – You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.

Instant emotional healing – Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal.

Restoring the same relationship – The relationship may be closer than before or not, but most likely, it will never be the same.

A leverage of power – Granting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness.

God knew this would be an issue for us. That’s why Jesus includes forgiveness in his sample prayer for the disciples (Matthew 6) and then follows that prayer up with another admonition to forgive in order to experience forgiveness from the Father.

Who do you need to forgive?

***

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Filed under Anger, Christmas, Forgiveness, Loving others

Hands off it’s mine!

I don’t know why such things stick out to me but a couple of weeks ago I was slowing down at a red light when I noticed the car ahead of me – a PT Cruiser. The first thing I noticed was a Christian “fish” symbol on the back.

That’s not so unusual. Lots of people have them on their cars. What seemed strange to me was the combination of this symbol and the license plate which read:

“My PT”

When we accept God’s gift of salvation and give ourselves to follow Jesus, we are surrendering not only our sins but our entire life and all of our possessions. So why identify yourself (fish symbol) as a follower of Jesus and then blatantly acknowledge that the car is yours?

Now, I’m not passing judgement on this person because that responsibility is God’s alone, but it does raise the question – who has ownership of our possessions, God or us?

And since this is the first day after Christmas – the day we celebrate Jesus’ birthday by giving each other new stuff – perhaps its a good time to ask ourselves…

… who owns it?

***

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Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Greed, Stewardship

Life will never be the same!

Christmas Eve signals the end of Advent, the season of waiting. With the end of Advent comes the beginning of the feast of the Nativity—the celebration of God with us!

We pass from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day celebrating the Incarnation—God with us in the flesh!—a celebration that will continue for as long as we choose to live each day in His presence.

At Christmas we celebrate one of the great mysteries of our faith, the mystery of humanity and divinity becoming one. The early church emphasized that the Incarnation should not be seen as condescension, as the “descent” of God to man, but as the lifting up of humanity into the divine life.

“The Incarnation makes it possible for the redeemed life to be lived out in this flesh, on this ordinary earth. The Nativity ennobles the lowliest aspects of everyday life: God chose to be born in a stable, with animals and shepherds as his first visitors. In this lies the power of the Incarnation; the humblest things are most exalted.”

For the rest of the world, the Christmas season is over at the end of Christmas Day and there is nothing left to do but dig out, clean up, and make our post-season exchanges and returns.

But for those of us who are following hard after Jesus, the celebration is just beginning. God with us! In the flesh! This one incredible truth makes every ordinary aspect of our human existence ripe with the possibility of God’s divine presence! When we learn to live in this new reality…

… life will never be the same!

***

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Filed under Advent, Christmas, Divine presence, intimacy with the Lord