Tag Archives: Gospel of Matthew

His Divine Rhythm

The word perichoresis comes from two Greek words, peri, which means “around” and chorea, which means “dance.” It is a term that the early church used to describe the relational intimacy between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s what some have referred to as The Dance of the Trinity.

I believe God wired us in such a way that our deepest longings can only be truly satisfied when we are in a relationship with Him; learning to dance in His divine rhythm.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

I long to do life more and more in step with God’s unforced rhythms of grace. And I long to see the church – the body of Christ – do the same!

I’m reminded of Jesus’ invitation here in Matthew 11 when I hear songs like the one below: One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful. You may not care for the song but you can’t help but be amazed at how these five guys do their part to contribute to one rhythm.

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

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Dance, Discipleship, God, God the Father, Grace, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, involvement with the church, Jesus, Music Video, Perichoresis, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Teamwork, Trinity

Pushing for something good can turn bad

Few people outside of Wayne County, Indiana have likely heard the name Ralph Teetor, but millions use one of his inventions every day – cruise control.

Ralph was a longtime president of Perfect Circle, an automotive parts manufacturing company in the small rural community of Hagerstown, IN where I pastor a church.

He was a gifted engineer who invented many things despite the fact that he was blind from the age of 5.

As the story goes, he was playing in the yard with a friend and was accidentally stabbed in the eye. Not lacking for resources and wanting the best possible care for their son, his parents took him to the best eye doctor in the region (Cincinnati, OH).

The eye was badly injured but his parents insisted the doctor do everything possible to save it. I don’t know much about the medical knowledge of eye doctors in the late 1890’s but it certainly must have been limited compared with what they know today.

In spite of the doctors best efforts the injured eye developed an infection that in turn spread to the other eye and rendered it blind as well. Had the injured eye been removed, he would have had sight with one good eye.

I’m not second guessing his parent’s decision. We all want the very best for our children and will sacrifice everything to make that possible. But sometimes pushing for something good can turn bad.

As followers of Jesus who are giving ourselves to further His kingdom here on earth, it is easy to push for something good without first stopping to consider or pray about whether it is God-ordained.

God’s ways are not our ways and God’s timing is not our timing. To participate with Him is not just finding something good to do but learning to do life in step with Him so that we can do the right thing at the right time.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus offers rest to all who would follow Him. It’s a promise to teach us how to live in step with God and the phrase used by Eugene Peterson in The Message is “unforced rhythms of grace.”

The offer still stands as the Holy Spirit who resides in us can teach us how to do life with God.

What would it look like today or this week to do life in God’s unforced rhythms of grace?
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Discipleship, God, God's Will, Grace, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Prayer, Wisdom

The wrong assignment?

Last week a friend and I sat in my office watching a webinar. A webinar, for those who don’t know, is a seminar that is done via the web. (We’re so tech savvy! LOL)

As we listened to various pastors share about their experiences and insights connected to sermon preparation there was one story that will be forever etched into my mind.

One presenter shared about going to seminary in Indiana where the winter weather can be a bit harsh. He had one class that met at 8:00 am and he found every excuse in the book – a made up a few new ones – to skip class.

It was one of those classes where the bulk of the grade comes from the final paper. With only a few days left he poured all of his energy and efforts into banging out a great paper.

Optimism flowed through his veins as he turned the paper in and he eagerly anticipated getting it back. But when the time came, he saw lots of red!

Written across the top of the cover page were three comments:

  • Good paper
  • Good research
  • Good information

And beneath these positive, encouraging comments was a BIG, FAT “F” in red ink!

Underneath all of this was one final comment:

“But this was not the assignment!”

Can you imagine the shock and disappointment! Maybe you don’t have to imagine because you’ve been there. I was not the best of students at times but I’ve never had this happen.

Now imagine standing face-to-face with Jesus at the end of the ages and having Him say to you:

“But this was not the assignment!”

Jesus spent three years doing life and ministry before His death, burial and resurrection. He demonstrated what it meant to live life as God intends. And when He departed this life He left a very specific assignment.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” ~ Matthew 28:18-20

A disciple is someone who gives themselves completely to follow Jesus; learning to do every aspect of life as the Father intended. Thinking, transforming, living, serving and loving like Jesus.

As Christians and churches, we are busy doing lots of different things – most of them good; but are we really giving ourselves to fulfill the assignment Jesus left for us?

Are we making disciples?

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

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Discipleship, God, God's Will, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Jesus, Priorities

Promise vs. Promise

It’s like being offered two jobs at the same time. Both opportunities come with the promise of challenge and purpose and certain benefits. You make your decision only after weighing those promises against each other.

The paths of walking in obedience to God or sinning likewise come with their own set of promises battling for our attention.

Battling unbelief and fighting for faith in future grace means that we fight fire with fire. We throw against the promises of sin the promises of God. We take hold of some great promise God made about our future and say to a particular sin, “Match that!” In this way we do what Paul says in Romans 8:13, “By the Spirit…put to death the deeds of the body.” John Owen wrote a book on that verse and summed it up with, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

We kill sinful deeds before they happen by cutting the root of their life: the lies of sin.

…The gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection is not only the core but the foundation of all the promises of God.… So when I say that we wield the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, what I mean is that we hold fast to this Christ-centered gospel truth with all its promises, and bank on them in every situation. We sever the lifeline of sin by the power of a superior promise.
— Excerpted from Battling Unbelief by John Piper

In Something Wicked This Way Comes a well-dressed, slick carnival barker promises people the one thing they most desire but in return they unknowingly give up something of even greater value. An older woman is given back her youthful beauty but then loses her eyesight.

That’s what sin does. It makes a promise, delivers temporary pleasure and then robs us of life; the full and abundant life that Jesus came to bring us (John 10:10). And because sin leaves us more empty than before we rush back for more and get caught in a vicious, deadly cycle. Jesus offers a different promise…

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

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Filed under Choices, Rest, Sin, Temptation, Trusting God

Jesus did what?

“On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds…” ~ John 7:37 (NLT)

What? You’ve never seen the picture of Jesus standing and shouting? Holding the lamb – yep! With children on His lap – sure! Arms stretched out over a city – you bet! But shouting? Nope! Never seen that picture; but that’s what He did.

The traditional rabbinic teaching posture was sitting and speaking. But Jesus stood up and shouted. John uses the same Greek verb here that was used three others times when people shouted.

  • The blind man shouted, appealing for sight. ~ Mark 10:46-47
  • Peter sinking in the water, crying out for help. ~ Matthew 14:29-30
  • The demon-possessed man who shouted, pleading for mercy. ~ Mark 5:2-7

Very intense moments to be sure. What would fill Jesus with such passion?

Thirsty souls!

The festival mentioned above was the week-long celebration that was the annual reenactment of the rock-giving-water miracle of Moses. People slept in tents and lined the streets. Each morning a priest filled a golden pitcher with water from the Gihon spring and carried it down to the temple.

Announced by trumpets, the priest encircled the altar every day… once a day… for seven days. Then on the last day, the great day, the priest gave the altar a Jericho loop – seven circles while pouring seven vessels of water. The climax of a monumental celebration. It may have been at that very moment…

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” ~ John 7:37-38

He shouted to get our attention. He shouted because His time was short. He shouted because He loves us and wants to quench our deepest thirst.

And Jesus uses a verb that suggests repeated swallows. Literally, “Let him come to me and drink and keep drinking.” As Max Lucado puts it:

“One bottle won’t satisfy your thirst. Regular sips satisfy thirsty throats. Ceaseless communion satisfies thirsty souls.”

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Filed under Christianity, Contentment, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Love of God

A Radically Different Concept of Safety

“You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.” ~ Luke 21:16–19

How can some of us be put to death, yet realize the promise that “not a hair of your head will perish”? The answer can only be found in a radically different concept of safety. Jesus sees things from His Father’s perspective. In His eyes, the passage from this world into eternity looks more like a coming-of-age, or a rite of passage. It’s a beginning of something much more than it is an end of something. Remember your high school graduation? Caps and gowns, hugs, high fives, and perhaps a few tears. It’s a bittersweet occasion marking the passing of one phase of life, but the sadness is overshadowed by the anticipation of the many experiences awaiting you on the road ahead.
~ Excerpted from Bulletproof by Chuck Holton

Are we satisfied with temporary safety or trusting God for real, eternal safety?

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Filed under Heaven, Hope, Trusting God

What was it Jesus told us to do?

Just before returning to the Father Jesus gathered His disciples and said…

“…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” ~ Matthew 29:19-20a

Is that what we’re doing today? Check out this two-minute video.

If the youtube video doesn’t display or play properly click here.

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, God's Will, influence with the world, intimacy with the Lord, involvement with the church, Jesus, Loving God, Loving others

Only the Father knows!

If you’re reading this then I guess he was wrong. Who? Harold Camping. He’s the guy who predicted that May 21st, 2011 would be our doomsday, the day that life comes crashing to a halt.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Camping 89, is basing his  prediction on a  mathematical system to interpret prophecies hidden within the bible. But he’s done this before. Camping first predicted that doomsday would be on September 6,  1994, and there is apparently a video of it on YouTube.

I’m guessing that in all his study of Scripture for so-called hidden mathematical systems he missed the very straight-forward statement that Jesus made.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” ~ Matthew 24:36-37

He’s not the first to make such predictions and he certainly won’t be the last. But it is bothersome and very frustrating because of the negative effect this will have on people.

For some, these false predictions simply serve to discredit God and Scripture, causing them to move farther away from ever knowing Him. For others, it may not lessen their faith in God but may cause them to live too casually.

Jesus told us to be prepared and alert at all times because we don’t know the day or the hour of His return. Living with the awareness of how fragile life is and that none of us knows when we will draw our last breath tends to give us a clarity about those things in life that matter most.

To quote a line from an early Rich Mullins song: “Live like you’ll die tomorrow, die knowing you’ll live forever!”

What would you do differently if you knew you only had 24 hours to live?

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Filed under End Times, Life in General

Preping for a royal wedding

Of all the different duties that go with being a pastor one of my favorites is performing weddings. They are special occasions that mark one of God’s greatest adventures. Few other moments in life are filled with such delight and joy and hope and promise. But…

As much as I like all the details to come together and flow smoothly for all involved, I’m not one to pay attention to stuff like what people wear. Just about any type of clothing attire is acceptable these days but that’s certainly not the case for the upcoming royal wedding across the pond.

The other day as I was walking through the family room I caught a blurb on the TV about certain styles of wardrobe that were or were not considered appropriate for the royal festivities. Anyone with an ounce of etiquette will be paying attention to those standards.

A similar situation is found in Scripture but for a different reason. In Matthew 22 Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God by describing it as a wedding feast. Preparations are made and the guests are invited, but one individual has wardrobe issues.

11 “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13 Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Why was this guys’ clothes an issue?

The wedding feast represents our salvation; our reconciliation with God. We are all peasants, spiritually speaking, and don’t have the appropriate wedding attire to participate. But God graciously provides the necessary garments – His righteousness – as a gift! Unless we humble ourselves and accept the Father’s gift of grace we cannot be part of the wedding celebration. So…

Are you properly dressed and ready for THE royal wedding?

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Filed under Christianity, Grace, Humility, Kingdom of God, Marriage, Surrender

Her new favorite phrase!

Spring Point Township, Cumberland County, Illinois

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday Mykaela and I headed off to Indy (Indianapolis) for a doctor’s appointment to get her knee checked out. Since she’s got her permit it was also a chance to get in some driving practice. But not just any driving, this would be a first.

Our destination was about 90 minutes away and the fastest way to Indy is I-70 so I decided to let Mykaela get her first taste of fast, highway driving. In contrast to Kyrsten, who got her first taste of I-70 a few weeks ago and did fine but didn’t much care for it, Mykaela LOVED it!

Later that same day when we were sitting around the dinner table she was telling everyone else about it and exclaimed, “It was the first time dad ever said to me ‘you can go faster!‘” LOL It’s her new favorite phrase!

The irony in all of this is how their driving mimics their overall personalities. Kyrsten tends to drive (and do most other things) slowly while Mykaela tends to drive (and do most other things) fast! But that’s OK! That’s the way God wired them. They don’t have to be alike or prefer the same pace of life.

The key is for each of them to become comfortable in their own skin and learn how to drive appropriately for the stretch of road they are on. Going either too fast or too slow can be dangerous in the wrong situations. And the same is true for how we do life in general.

Some of us are wired to move fast in everything we do while others of us tend to prefer a slower pace. The key is learning how to best utilize our preferences and how to adapt to the changing situations of life. I think that’s part of what Jesus was offering to teach us when in Matthew 11:28-30 he extends this invitation:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (NLT)

Eugene Peterson translates this same section and refers to “find your rest” as “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” It’s not a rhythm that is the same for everyone. It is a rhythm that is the one God gave you. It is the rhythm that God sets by telling us “you can go faster” or “you need to slow down.”

 The challenge is learning to follow God’s lead! So…

How’s your pace of life?

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Filed under Discipleship, Life in General