Tag Archives: Jesus

Why does God even bother?

Philip YanceyAs a journalist, I have had occasion to spend time with famous people who make me feel very small. I have interviewed two presidents of the United States, members of the rock band U2, Nobel laureates, television stars, and Olympic athletes. Although I prepare my questions thoroughly in advance, I rarely sleep well the night before and have to fight a case of nerves. I hardly think of these people as mutual friends.

In prayer I am approaching the Creator of all that is, Someone who makes me feel immeasurably small. How can I do anything but fall silent in such presence? More, how can I believe that whatever I say matters to God? If I step back and look at the big picture, I even wonder why such a magnificent, incomprehensible God would bother with a paltry experiment like planet Earth.

A God unbound by our rules of time has the ability to invest in every person on earth. God has, quite literally, all the time in the world for each one of us. The common question, “How can God listen to millions of prayers at once?” betrays an inability to think outside time. Trapped in time, I cannot conceive of infinity. The distance between God and humanity—a distance that no one can grasp—is, ironically, what allows the intimacy.

Jesus, who accepted the constraints of time while living on this planet, understood better than anyone the vast difference between God and human beings. Obviously, he knew of the Father’s greatness and at times reflected nostalgically on the big picture, “the glory I had with you before the world began.” Yet Jesus did not question the personal concern of God who watches over sparrows and counts the hairs on our heads. More to the point, Jesus valued prayer enough to spend many hours at the task.

If I had to answer the question “Why pray?” in one sentence, it would be, “Because Jesus did.” He bridged the chasm between God and human beings. While on earth he became vulnerable, as we are vulnerable; rejected, as we are rejected; and tested, as we are tested. In every case his response was prayer.
~ Philip Yancy in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under God, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Prayer, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Christianity is all about…

larry-crabb-photo“Life in Christ is all about relationships, with God, others, and ourselves.  When we reduce Christianity to a series of steps for handling life better or a set of truths to believe or a list of things to do, we miss the whole point of the gospel. God created us (and then re-created us) to enjoy His kindness and loving generosity and, in the strength of that enjoyment, to reflect His character by giving ourselves unselfishly to each other.”

~ Larry Crabb Jr., Understanding Who You Are

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

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Filed under Christianity, God, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Loving God, Loving others, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Defining Grace

God exists outside of time, the theologians tell us. God created time as an artist chooses a medium to work with, and is unbound by it. God sees the future and the past in a kind of eternal present. If right about this property of God, the theologians have helped explain Philip Yanceyhow God can possibly call “beloved” a person as inconstant, fickle, and temperamental as I am. When God looks upon my life graph, he sees not jagged swerves toward good and bad but rather a steady line of good: the goodness of God’s Son captured in a moment of time and applied for all eternity.

I grew up with the image of a mathematical God who weighed my good and bad deeds on a set of scales and always found me wanting. Somehow I missed the God of the Gospels, a God of mercy and generosity who keeps finding ways to shatter the relentless laws of ungrace. God tears up the mathematical tables and introduces the new math of grace, the most surprising, twisting, unexpected-ending word in the English language.

Grace makes its appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it. I am ready, though, to attempt something like a definition of grace in relation to God. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”
~ Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace?, p. 69-70

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under God, Grace, Jesus, Philip Yancey, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Why is it called “Good Friday?”

As early as the first century, the Church set aside every Friday as a special day of prayer and fasting. It was not until the fourth century, however, that the Church began observing the Friday before Easter as the day associated with the crucifixion of Christ.

First called Holy or Great Friday by the Greek Church, the name “Good Friday” was adopted by the Roman Church around the sixth or seventh century. Among the possible origins for the term “Good Friday” there are two that are most plausible.

The first may have come from the Gallican Church in Gaul (modern-day France and Germany). The name “Gute Freitag” is Germanic in origin and literally means “good” or “holy” Friday. The second possibility is a variation on the name “God’s Friday,” where the word “good” was used to replace the word “God,” which was often viewed as too holy to be spoken aloud.

It was no coincidence that Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey (Psalm Sunday) on the very day that Jewish families were to choose a lamb to sacrifice. And Jesus’ death occurs at 3:00 p.m. on Friday which was the very hour that the sacrificial lambs were slain in the temple. John the Baptist said it best when he declared:

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” ~ John 1:29

This song by Ray Boltz is one of my favorites for depicting both the brutality of Jesus’ death and the beauty of God’s love on display some 2000 years ago on what we refer to as Good Friday.

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

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Filed under Christianity, Good Friday, Jesus, Lent, Love of God, Music Video, Religion and Spirituality

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday… Why Bother?

Maundy Thursday 2Growing up in the Catholic Church I’m sure we attended on some of the days that are special according to the church calendar but I don’t recall. Then in my late teens I surrender my life to Christ Jesus and was part of an independent Christian Church that didn’t observe such days except for Easter and Christmas.

Fast forward three decades and for the last few years I’ve pastored a church that does participate in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services; and I’ve come to appreciate them very much.

Enduring a power outage gives you a new appreciation for electricity and all the comforts that come with it. And not surprisingly, the longer our gap of no power lasts, the greater our appreciation for it grows.

New depths of disappointment tend to be followed by new heights of joy.

In a similar way, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday develop in us a greater appreciation for Easter. They are opportunities for us to experience and contemplate some of what the disciples must have experienced with Jesus during His final hours …

  • Their excitement of gathering together for the Passover Meal, wondering if Jesus was about to take the throne and restore Israel to a state of independence…
  • Their uncertainty when Jesus led them to the garden to pray …
  • Their shock when Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested like a common criminal…
  • Their disbelief and utter horror as their teacher, the one they’d left everything to follow, was being tortured and nailed to a cross…

But then Sunday comes and with it the empty grave! How can we begin to describe the powerful emotions that must have swept over them with all that was going on?

Making time to participate in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services helps to develop in us an even greater appreciation for Easter and the hope that was born again when Jesus conquered death!

Find some services at a church near you or locate some resources online to reflect on what took place so many years ago. And then celebrate Easter like never before!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Easter, Good Friday, Jesus, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Learn to Pray

Leran to Pray

Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under God, God's Will, Gratitude, Jesus, Joy, Praise, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture, Thankfulness

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?

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© 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