Tag Archives: Involvement with the Church

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.

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

7 Comments

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?

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

2 Comments

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

The church as a dance studio?

Sometimes, the only way to begin to grasp something beyond our comprehension is with word pictures. We do this all the time with little children. We use something they are familiar with to describe something they’ve never experienced.

God does the same for us.

To help us wrestle with what it means to be the church, God uses words pictures like people, body and bride. Each of these, in their own way, gives us a different glimpse into what He intends for us when we do life together.

But how about the church as a dance studio?

“…church was designed by God to be the dance studio.  A gathering becomes a church when a group of Christians together hear the music of heaven’s party and the laughter of God enjoying Himself and begin awkwardly dancing with the Trinity into the relationships and circumstances of life in order to bring heaven’s way of doing things to earth.”
~ Larry Crabb Jr. in Real Church

I love the imagery of the church being music and laughter and awkwardly dancing with the Trinity as we participate in bringing heaven to earth.

Read that statement a few times and let it soak in. Then ask yourself:

What does it mean to dance with the Trinity and what hinders us from that kind of intimacy with the Lord? 
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

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

Why all the facial hair?

My good friend Jeff is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, but if you saw him right now coming down the street you would likely duck into a store or make your way to the other side of the street. Why?

His beard is menacing!

Here, in his own words, is why he is growing it out.

“Rick, I am growing my beard after one of the most humbling experiences of my life at Kid’s Kamp (our version of VBS) 2011. Last year our children and youth ministries were raising money for Dave and Jen Bell, missionaries our fellowship supports in Kenya. In a moment of craziness I agreed to have PART of my head shaved if the kids were able to meet the financial goal we set for them at Kid’s Kamp. We set the goal high, or should I say, I set the goal high. Not surprisingly, the kids and their families far exceeded the goal that had been set for them.”

“After that experience “the Holy Spirit” gave birth to an idea in my heart. There is one thing I do in my life that receives more unsolicited comments than any other thing that I do: that is growing a beard. My unscientific research suggests that 95% of people that comment are strongly opposed to the beard while the remaining 5% are tight-lipped about their opposition. Needless to say, I thought I could use the beard for the cause of Christ.”

“So Sunday, August 7, 2011 is the last time I shaved or trimmed my beard with the exception of my mustache. My much publicized (among our fellowship) intention is to leverage my beard as a means to raise financial support for some very dear friends of mine, Gianni and Stephany Bruno, missionaries with Italy for Christ (click to learn more). The Bruno family will be the missionaries we highlight this summer during our week of Kid’s Kamp and 100% of the financial support raised that week will go to support their ministry.”

“In a typical beard growing year, I never make it past six months of growth, in fact, only one time has that happened. I made it a few days past 6 months and my wife informed me that if I didn’t shave I wouldn’t be present for the delivery of our 2nd child, Hannah. That was all I needed to hear to shave the beard. I’m glad I did since Hannah was born a week later.”

“Thankfully, my wife isn’t pregnant this time around, so I am pretty sure I will be able to make it to the day the beard will be sheared, Friday, July 13, 2012. In fact, in a rare show of affirmation for the beard, my wife recently said, “The beard is growing on me.” To which I replied, “Me too.” Now I am convinced that with God all things are possible.”

We can’t all grow a beard of epic proportions to support those taking the good news of God’s grace and truth to people all around the world. But we can all do something!

Are you making yourself available to God?

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

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Determination, Holy Spirit, influence with the world, Inspiration, involvement with the church, Loving others, Missions, Serving

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?

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

6 Comments

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

Resisting God’s Will

It’s usually said in response to a difficult or hard-to-explain life experience. I believe it’s being said sincerely; but I believe it is sincerely wrong. The comment?

“It must be God’s will.”

I do believe God is sovereign and must ultimately allow something to happen. But that is a far cry from something being the result of His determined will.

We are made in the image of God and possess a free will to make choices daily. Because God is not limited by time constraints He already knows what is going to happen. But that does not mean He predetermined it to happen.

We are left with the weight of our free will and the consequences of the choices we make.

In all our lives there is the will of God. Then, of course, there is our will. Unconsciously, we assume these two match. To know Christ is to give Him an opportunity to deal with the difference between who we are right now and the person He wants to transform us to be. In that process, we often discover many things about Christ that we never knew before, things like He is not Santa Claus! He is not one who dispenses only good (according to our definition of good) but is a Lord who has a purpose quite contrary to our own.

…The trouble begins when the Lord turns out to be not what you thought. Then comes the question: “How do I know if these circumstances are really from God?” I suggest you measure your resistance to those circumstances. Are you resisting what God wants to do in your life because it is so far from what you have always wanted for yourself? ~ Excerpted from Living Close to God (When You’re Not Good At It) by Gene Edwards

One of the essential things that should happen when we gather in our faith communities is a reminder that God is the center of life and we all need to continually surrender our will to His control.

As we gather this weekend, all around the globe, may God be honored by our desire to realign ourselves with His will. May we all pray what Jesus prayed in the garden…

“Not my will but Your will be done…”

***
If you’d like to read the first chapter of Living Close to God click here.

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

2 Comments

Filed under Choices, Church, Discipleship, God, God's Will, involvement with the church, Surrender

Keep learning!

For 91 years, James Henry, a lifelong fisherman, did not know how to read or write.

Now 98, the Mystic, Connecticut man has not only learned to do both but has even penned a memoir full of short stories.

“I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t read or anything like that, but I covered myself pretty good in certain respects. I had to because I didn’t know what to do,” Henry said.

He sought his wife’s help several years ago, but she was too sick to help. After her death, Henry’s granddaughters encouraged him to learn and were able to get help from the Literacy Volunteers of Eastern Connecticut.

His nephew Bobby helped in a different way. Bobby stopped taking phone calls from him and only communicated with Henry through handwritten letters.

Mark Hogan, a retired English teacher, met with Henry twice a week and taught him everything from letters to punctuation.

“He was very willing to do this thing, but he had his own prejudices against things like punctuation, apostrophes, he called them butterflies,” Hogan said.

After nearly a year of tutoring, Henry began writing short stories and from those came the memoir “A Fisherman’s Language.”

Can you imagine reading and writing after spending all those years just guessing; just faking it to get by?

I usually go for one main point but there are just too many aspects to this incredible story. So I’ll mention some and you take the path that resonates with you.

Never too old: Age is not the limit that we make it out to be. Many of humanity’s best contributions have come from our senior citizens.

Perseverance: The finish line is reached by those who keep putting one foot ahead of the other. Life is a marathon, not a sprint!

It’s not too late: As long as there is breath in our lungs, there is still time. Go for it!

Traveling companions: James had others who rallied around him to share the journey. We all need traveling companions!

No faking: James felt shame about not being able to read and write. When we get real with needing help we lose the shame and live into our full potential sooner.

Until Jesus comes back for us or death ushers us into His presence, let’s keep learning!

***

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

2 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Determination, Inspiration, involvement with the church, Teamwork

The best kind of fellowship

So I have this friend…

We are similar in age, similar in interests, similar in values, similar in our faith, even similar in our backgrounds.

We have no trouble interacting with people on a daily basis, but we tend to be slow in opening up to others about deeply personal issues.

We use to get together for lunch on a regular basis but life circumstances have changed and our paths don’t cross as often.

One day last week God rearranged my agenda for me without my permission and against my wishes; imagine that! As a result, I was able to meet my friend for lunch and we ended up talking for 3 and 1/2 hours!

We obviously needed the chance to catch up with each other and share some deep soul issues that we’re wrestling through. The fascinating thing is that after all that time together… nothing got solved! But it was some of the best fellowship I’ve ever experienced.

As a society we tend to pride ourselves on being able to solve most issues. The phrase “Do-It-Yourself” has become a commonly used acronym – DIY; even in the realm of Christianity.

But what if God has in mind for us a higher objective?

After 3 and 1/2 hours of pouring our hearts out to each other we walked away with no concrete solutions but with two essential realizations.

1. We realized that we were not alone in our struggles! Knowing that you have someone to share the journey is priceless in terms of providing a sense of hope. God never intended us to go it alone, but that tends to happen when we keep our struggles to ourself.

2. We realized that God is still with us right there in the midst of all the mess! We tend to want quick and concrete solutions from God but often times He wants us to wait and trust. Our fellowship was a chance to invite God into the dialogue and help each other see things from His perspective.

May we all find fellowship with friends who remind us that life is God’s story and we can trust Him with the details!

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

2 Comments

Filed under Divine presence, Fellowship, Friendship, Hope, involvement with the church, Loving others, Trusting God

Are we wise or foolish?

If pressed to make a choice between whether we were wise or foolish, I’m guessing that most of us would say we were wise. But are we?

Contrary to popular opinion, the difference doesn’t have anything to do with position or intelligence or talent or wealth. Plenty of wise and foolish people can be found in all walks of life. The real issue is one of being teachable.

According to King Solomon, the one major difference between a wise person from a foolish person is this: how a person receives instruction and correction. (See, for example, Proverbs 1:5; 9:8–9; 10:8; 12:15; 15:12; 17:10; and 19:20.)

A foolish person tends to:

  • Not listen or take to heart when others offer input.
  • Avoid responsibility and shifts blame.
  • Not make any necessary changes.

wise person tends to:

  • Listen without getting defensive or upset.
  • Accepts responsibility without blaming others or making excuses.
  • Makes necessary changes without delay.

None of us is completely wise or foolish but somewhere in between. I suppose the better question might be: “In which direction are we heading, towards the wise or the foolish end of the spectrum?”

And if we really want an answer to that question we need to ask it of those closest to us: our spouse, our kids, our friends…

Nowhere is the issue of being teachable more important than in the church among those who claim to be followers of Jesus.

When  we gather with the body of Christ for a class or worship service are we coming with open hearts and minds to receive whatever it is that God might be wanting to teach us?

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

4 Comments

Filed under Church, Discipleship, Heart, involvement with the church, Wisdom

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.

2 Comments

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