Tag Archives: Church

Will we be the church today?

The signature of Jesus, the Cross, is the ultimate expression of God’s love for the world. The church is the church of the crucified, risen Christ only when it is stamped with his signature; only when it faces outward and moves with him along the way of the Cross. Turned inward upon itself in bickering and theological hairsplitting, the church loses its identity and its mission.

~ Excerpted from The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning

Being the church, the bride of Christ, is much more than simply gathering once or twice a week with fellow disciples. Church is walking with Jesus through an ordinary day, an ordinary week, to extend the grace and truth of the gospel to those we encounter.

Will we be the church today?

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

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Filed under Church, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Loving others

Unfashionable

I was so broken and longing for something transcendent, for something higher than anything this world has to offer, that I decided to go to church. I didn’t even change my clothes. I jumped up and ran out the door.

I arrived late and found my way to the only seats still available, in the balcony.

It wasn’t long before I realized how different everything was in this place. I immediately sensed the distinctiveness of God. In the music, in the message, and in the mingling afterward, it was clear that God, not I, was the guest of honor there. Having suffered the bankruptcy of our society’s emphasis on self-fulfillment, I was remarkably refreshed to discover a place that focused on the centrality of God.

I didn’t understand everything the preacher said that morning, and I didn’t like all the songs that were sung. But at that point the style of the service and what people were wearing became non issues. They could have all looked Amish or all like hipsters from Brooklyn; they could have been singing old songs or new songs—it didn’t matter. Why? Because that morning I encountered something I couldn’t escape, something more joltingly powerful than anything I’d ever experienced, something that went above and beyond typical externals. Through both the music and the message, the transcendent presence of God punctured the roof, leaving me—like Isaiah when he entered the temple—awestruck and undone.
~ Excerpted from Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian

Who is the guest of honor when we gather as the church? 

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

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Divine presence, God, involvement with the church

Longing

I want neither a blood-’n’-guts religion that would make Clint Eastwood, not Jesus, our hero; nor a speculative religion that would imprison the gospel in the halls of academia; nor a noisy, feel-good religion that is a naked appeal to emotion.

I long for passion, intelligence, and compassion in a church without ostentation, gently beckoning to the world to come and enjoy the peace and unity we possess because of the Spirit in our midst.
~ Excerpted From The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning

 

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Filed under Church, Compassion, Fellowship, Holy Spirit, involvement with the church, Jesus, Peace

Are you hungry for God?

“…I don’t want to go to a church that values our experience of God above our hope in God.  As difficult as it is, and it sometimes can be agony, I want to experience my emptiness or loneliness and learn to hunger after God as I hunger for no one and nothing else.  I want to be convinced that no experience available to me in this life, from God or the devil, can satisfy that hunger.  Paul said it best: if there is no heaven, no better world where satisfaction is lasting and deep, then living like Jesus in this world is stupid (1 Cor. 15:19).”  ~ Larry Crabb in Real Church

A lot of focus in the church today has to do with creating satisfied customers so that they’ll return and our numbers will grow. More activities! More excitement! More buzz! But is this really of God?

Consider how we engage with one another as the body of Christ. We strive to support and encourage one another, which is good; but in the process we tend to rush toward solutions that will alleviate discomfort. We don’t want to see others struggling and if we’re honest, it makes us uncomfortable to be around those who are struggling.

But what if that period of struggling is exactly what God intends? What if God wants to use that dissatisfaction to grow in us a deeper hunger to find our ultimate satisfaction in Him alone?

When you walk away from your church gatherings, are you content with the amount of God you’ve encountered or are you hungry for more of Him?

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

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Filed under Church, Consumerism, Contentment, God, involvement with the church, Relationship with God, Spiritual growth

Preacher uses F word in church!

It’s not what you think. Love the play on words and wish I could get away with this!

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
~ Matthew 6:14-15

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

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Filed under Church, Forgiveness, Funny, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Jesus, Loving others

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

It’s bigger than you and me

If you asked 10 different people why they blog or what they get out of it, you would likely get 10 different answers. But more interesting to me would be how it has changed for them since they first started.

I began blogging while in-between ministries. I had an urge to share what God was teaching me but had no audience. And blogging about God daily gave me a greater awareness of His presence in the midst of what was happening.

I have also come to appreciate the process of blogging because it has taught me to craft my words and ideas more carefully. I’m learning that sometimes less is more.

But the biggest benefit I receive from blogging right now is the constant reminder that God’s kingdom is active all around the globe.

Why is it so easy for us to develop the mindset that the bulk of what God is doing revolves around our particular church family?

Don’t get me wrong. I greatly value the local church because it serves as the hands and heart of God to that community. But each church group is just one tiny blip on the radar screen of the kingdom of God.

One core sin issue, and perhaps the biggest, is our propensity to be self-absorbed. Multiply that by however many people you have in a church family and the potential to think that it all revolves around us is enormous!

But blogging keeps me connected and involved with others who are actively living out God’s kingdom purposes right where they are – all around the world.

Last week I added a new feature to the sidebar of my blog. On the right side and lower down is a map of the world. Each red dot represents a visitor to my blog. There are people in places I’ve never been who are sharing the journey of following Jesus.

Love your church family. Pray for them. Get involved. But remember that God’s kingdom exists everywhere His people exist and live out His purposes.

“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” ~ Matthew 6:9-10

May the kingdom of God advance today throughout the world as you and I demonstrate the love and grace and truth of God wherever we are and in whatever we are doing!

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

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Filed under Blogging, Christianity, Church, God, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Kingdom of God

Investing in people, growing as a faith community

I don’t know how it works everywhere around the globe, but here in the American midwest the seasons of the year are noticeably different. This plays a major role in the process of growing a garden.

Well-groomed gardens require different activities according to the season, and those activities occur daily.

This very same principle of ongoing growth is also very evident and necessary in any faith community in which God is actively working to grow and change lives.

So we must continue to invest in the people around us, serving them, receiving from them, and letting God use those experiences to grow us into communities that create results and change lives for the better. We must recognize that significance occurs within the day-in, day-out process of interacting with others.

Just as we make changes in our gardens according to the seasons of the year, so we must adapt to changes within our communities as they struggle, grow, get pruned, grow some more, and flourish. When the harsh circumstances of winter come, for instance, we must huddle together (like the penguins!) in order to sustain one another.

When the spring and summer months provide us the opportunities, we must share in the work of planting and nourishing. And when it’s time for the harvest, we must be willing to serve and celebrate all that God has done and is doing.
~ Excerpted from A Significant Life by Jim Graff

Before we just assume that this is happening within the faith community we are a part of, let me pose a few questions to consider:

Do you see evidence of God working to grow people in your church family?

What season of the growth cycle is your faith community experiencing?

In what ways are you involved with others in sharing the journey of following hard after Jesus?

Are you praying for your church family, inviting God’s Spirit to work in the lives of others?

In what ways are you personally investing in the lives of others to encourage their growth in Christ?

Are you surrendered to what God is wanting to do in and through you?

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

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Filed under Church, Commitment, Discipleship, God, Holy Spirit, involvement with the church, Loving others, Morphing, Prayer, Serving, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender

Uniquely gifted

Before I became a father I thought that kids were primarily the products of their environments. It didn’t take long for me to change that opinion.

While kids are obviously influenced greatly by their surroundings, they are each wired uniquely. As a father of six amazing and very unique kids I am astounded at how kids from the same gene pool can be wired with such different personalities.

One of the great challenges of parenting is to not compare one kid with another. There are the common experiences that get talked about like first teeth, walking, talking and such. But we have tried hard to instill in each of our children the value of their uniqueness as individuals made in the image of their Creator.

The same is just as important within the kingdom of God and among church families.

While we all share a common directive from God to “go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19), each church fellowship will do this differently according to the individuals who make up that church. And within the same church, there are different members with differing gifts and abilities.

It is never wise to let comparisons leave us discouraged. My background is not your background. My gifts are not your gifts. My experience with Jesus Christ is not your experience with Jesus Christ. My personality package is not your personality package. My sins and struggle areas are probably not your sins and struggle areas. We are different! God calls us as individuals into his great, diverse family that stretches across time and around the world.

Remember, it is God himself who delights to blend such a wild collection of individuals, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses into a living, ministering body that brings great glory to his Son…and endless delight to the heart of the Father.
~ Excerpted from More Jesus, Less Religion by Stephen Arterburn

When we gather with our faith communities, lets celebrate the reality that God has created each of us in His image but with a unique set of traits.

May God be glorified as we all work to carry out a common task in our own unique way.

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

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Filed under Children of God, Church, Glory of God, involvement with the church

What would happen?

You and I live in a culture where we gather in stadiums and around televisions for hours at a time to watch guys run around a field with a pigskin ball in their hands as they try to cross a white line.

We express enthusiasm, emotion, and affection for football and other sports, and it begs the question, what would happen in our culture if the church prayed with such passion? What would happen if Jesus dominated our affections more than the superficial trivialities that garner our attention? What would happen if we spent hours before God praying on behalf of the church, the lost, and the poor around the world?

Of course, your Radical Experiment does not have to start in a stadium. It can start in your living room or prayer closet. Anyplace can be the place you begin to connect the practice of prayer with the purpose of God in the world.
~ Excerpted from Radical by David Platt

He’s right you know. We spend a boatload of time and energy and resources on things that are only temporary.

One day we will all stand before our Maker. Imagine Him asking:

“How could you spend all that time on games and stuff that turned to dust when men, women and children all over the world were lost and needing to know me?”

I don’t offer that to make you feel guilty but as a gut-check. Are we paying attention to what matters most?

Beyond arenas and games, there are even good things that can distract us from the more important work of praying for those who don’t know Jesus.

I read the David Platt quote yesterday morning as I was gearing up for a big week of activities surrounding Easter. With three messages to prepare, three services to plan, and a fourth service to participate in I was already feeling some pressure.

These are good activities surrounding what is arguably one of the most important days for all followers of Jesus. I want to do a good job and that’s one of the reasons they hired me.

But even preparing for our church activities should take a back seat to praying for those all around the world who do not yet know the grace and truth of God made real and available through Jesus!

What would happen if we spent hours before God praying on behalf of the church, the lost, and the poor around the world?

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

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Church, Compassion, Determination, Easter, God, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Jesus, Loving others, Prayer, Priorities