Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Mercy and grace to spare!

One of my favorite passages!

May you be overwhelmed today by God’s lavish mercy and grace!

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

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Filed under Christianity, Grace, Kingdom of God, Mercy, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture, Trusting God

Punching holes in the darkness

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of classic books like Treasure Island, spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century. As a boy, Robert was intrigued by the work of the old lamplighters who went about with a ladder and a torch, setting the street lights ablaze for the night.

One evening, as young Robert stood watching with fascination, his parents asked him, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”

When we invite Jesus to sit on the throne of our heart we are giving ourselves to further God’s kingdom purposes, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we choose to forgive those who have hurt us, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we sacrifice our comfort and resources to help others in need, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we honor God’s boundaries with our sexuality, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we pray for those who despise us or hate us, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we take time to listen, really listen, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we let go of worry and instead praise God, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

When we offer kinds words in return for harsh words, we are…

       …punching holes in the darkness!

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

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

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Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Culture, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Generosity, influence with the world, Kingdom of God, Loving God, Loving others, Praise

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

What’s driving our ambitions?

Warfarin (also known as Coumadin) is an anti-clotting medication normally used in the prevention of thrombosis and thromboembolism, the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels and their movement elsewhere in the body.

Before being used as a medication for human beings it was, and still is, used as rat poison! How ironic that the same basic ingredient we use to rid ourselves of unwanted rodents is used to save our very lives. But this same irony exists with other, less tangible aspects of life such as our ambitions.

Ambitions alone are not inherently good or bad. But the motivation driving our ambitions makes them good or bad. What is the motivation behind our ambitions in life?

Are we driven to achieve or accomplish for ourself or for God? Are we measuring success by His standards or by ours? How is our ambition affecting our family? Who is getting the accolades, God or us?

In the book of John we see Jesus making statements like these:

  • “in myself, I can do nothing”
  • “I do not please myself”
  • “I do not accept praise from men”
  • “I came down from heaven not to do my will”
  • “I do nothing on my own”
  • “I am not seeking glory for myself”

“Even as the Son of God, he was aware he was not pursuing his own agenda but fulfilling the Father’s plan. How incredibly humble for the infinite and perfect Son of God to say, ‘I’m not seeking my own glory.” ~ Lance Witt

If anyone could have thought that life revolved around them it was Jesus. And yet, He willingly gave Himself to fill a role within the Father’s bigger Kingdom story.

“All of you, serve each other in humility, for ‘God opposes the proud, but favors the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.” ~ 1 Peter 5:5-6

Like medications, ambition must be handled with care because it has the potential for good or bad.

What’s driving our ambitions?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Accountability, Glory of God, God, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Loving God

Almost the 9th King of America

Randy Frazee is the preaching pastor on staff at Oak Hills Church alongside Max Lucado. In the book, The Heart of the Story, Randy mentions a segment from The Today Show back in 2009.

Apparently George Washington was offered the opportunity to become the first king of America, but turned it down. The commentator speculated on how things would look today had George accepted this role.

Through the internet and a genealogy expert, the research staff traced all of George’s living 8000 descendants to see who would be sitting on the throne today. That brought them to the city of San Antonio, Texas – the home of Oak Hills Church and Randy Frazee.

The TV camera panned into a local Burger King only to find Paul Washington asking for his order to be “king-sized.” If George Washington had accepted the offer of monarchy, Paul would now be our ninth king of the United States.

As it turns out, Paul’s son Dick and his kids go to Oak Hills Church and his sons have been to the Frazee household for sleepovers with Randy’s sons. How ironic is that?

When Randy asked them about why George turned down the offer they said it was because he didn’t want America to get back into the same bad situation of a monarchy that had brought the pilgrims from England in the first place.

In 1774 a report to King George of England by the governor of Boston noted: “If you ask an American who is his master he will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ.”

The same correspondence goes on to mention a motto popular during the Revolutionary War:

“No king but King Jesus.”

You and I fight a revolutionary war every day. Not an external battle with guns but an internal struggle between walking in the Spirit and putting to death the deeds of the flesh that want to pull us away from God.

Our only hope of victory is absolute surrender to Jesus, the King of Kings!

Who is sitting on the throne of your heart?

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

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Relationship with God, Surrender, The Story, Trusting God

This is not the bigger reality

A few weeks back our family enjoyed several days at Disney World in Florida where our oldest son is doing a college internship. As our time came to a close and we packed up to head home we all shared a common sentiment…

(Sigh) “Back to reality.”

We’ve all been there. It’s a familiar way to express our disappointed that another vacation has come to an end. On a smaller scale, Monday can bring the same sentiment as it looms on the horizon of our weekend.

It signifies entering back into the work-a-day world and the often tedious or pressure-filled daily routines that all-to-often grind us down and zap our energy.

But during the long drive back to Indiana – 16 hours – it struck me that what we refer to as “reality” isn’t really the bigger reality.

Sure this world is what we know best. It’s familiar to us on multiple levels. It is tangible and real. We can taste it, touch it, smell it… experience it in every possible way. But…

This is not the bigger reality.

Speaking of how we tend to be overconfident in making plans here in this present world James writes:

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. ~ James 4:14

Our lives are like an early morning mist that disappears with the rising sun. Very real but very, very temporary.

Speaking of the nature of our earthly bodies Paul used the term tent; an apt comparison with the eternal nature of our true essence. In his 2nd letter to the disciples in Corinth he wrote:

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:1

Tents are great, when they serve their intended purpose. They enable us to visit places where no permanent residence exists. They are a shor-term solution, just like our earthly bodies.

It would make sense to put all your trust and resources and efforts into preserving a tent only if it were your only reality, your only option.

But for those of us who belong to God’s kingdom, there is a bigger reality waiting for us beyond this life.

Whatever’s going on in your life that is good, enjoy it but don’t put too much stock in it. It’s only temporary.

Whatever’s going on in your life that is bad, endure it and don’t give up. It’s only temporary.

This is not the bigger reality!

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

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Filed under Christianity, Eternity, Heaven, Hope, Kingdom of God, Life in General

Our Magic Moment came at a price

It was our last day at Disney World. We had gotten to the Magic Kingdom at 10:00 am and it was 10:25 pm. We were spent… but wanted to squeeze in one more ride.

When we got to the ride the sign said there was a 40 minute wait. The park was only open for another 35 minutes so we couldn’t use a Fast Pass.

As we stood there talking about what to do an older gentleman who works at Disney came out to chat with us. Learning of our dilemma he told us we only needed to know two words – Magic Moment.

After a bit more chit-chat he took us to the Fast Pass line and sent us through with instructions to tell the ride attendant those two special words.

As we stood there waiting to board the ride Eli said, “You just had your Magic Moment.” He explained that those who work in the parks try to give out special treats like that to help add an extra spark to your visit.

It was a great way to end our fun-filled day at the Magic Kingdom. But I couldn’t help thinking about all those people who had been waiting in line before we got there. They were still waiting when we got on the ride.

Our Magic Moment came at a price.

Those of us who belong to the kingdom of God have freedom from sin and death. We have a new identity and a new lease on life. We have a restored relationship with God and the promise of an eternity with Him forever.

We did nothing to earn it.

We did nothing to deserve it.

It comes to us free, but it came at a price.

It cost Jesus His life.

What will we do with God’s gift today?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Eternity, Forgiveness, Freedom, God, Grace, Heaven, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Love of God, Relationship with God, Sacrifice, Sin, Stewardship, Thankfulness

Our Magic Moment came at a price

It was our last day at Disney World. We had gotten to the Magic Kingdom at 10:00 am and it was 10:25 pm. We were spent… but wanted to squeeze in one more ride.

When we got to the ride the sign said there was a 40 minute wait. The park was only open for another 35 minutes so we couldn’t use a Fast Pass.

As we stood there talking about what to do an older gentleman who works at Disney came out to chat with us. Learning of our dilemma he told us we only needed to know two words – Magic Moment.

After a bit more chit-chat he took us to the Fast Pass line and sent us through with instructions to tell the ride attendant those two special words.

As we stood there waiting to board the ride Eli said, “You just had your Magic Moment.” He explained that those who work in the parks try to give out special treats like that to help add an extra spark to your visit.

It was a great way to end our fun-filled day at the Magic Kingdom. But I couldn’t help thinking about all those people who had been waiting in line before we got there. They were still waiting when we got on the ride.

Our Magic Moment came at a price.

Those of us who belong to the kingdom of God have freedom from sin and death. We have a new identity and a new lease on life. We have a restored relationship with God and the promise of an eternity with Him forever.

We did nothing to earn it.

We did nothing to deserve it.

It comes to us free, but it came at a price.

It cost Jesus His life.

What will we do with God’s gift today?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Eternity, Forgiveness, Freedom, God, Grace, Heaven, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Love of God, Relationship with God, Sacrifice, Sin, Stewardship, Thankfulness

It was worth the wait!

There we were, having stood in line for 25 minutes already, and it was our turn to go next… then they left. We were the next in line to meet Winnie-the-Pooh and Eeyore, but it was their time for a break. Arg!

(Warning: Spoiler – In reality, its only a 4-5 minute break because it’s a different team coming out to the meet and greet. Sorry if that spoiled any of the magic for you!)

So we kept our place in line and waited. But then we heard rumors that Tigger might be coming out too!

Now, just to be clear; Tigger is one of my all-time favorite characters and when people tease me about having  all manner of Tigger memorabilia blanketing my office I simply remind them that everyone needs a hero. I even had a dog named Tigger when I was growing up.

I don’t know if its his bounce, his laugh or his optimism; but Tigger has been a favorite for as long as I can remember. I have various sizes of stuffed Tiggers. One bounces. One sings. And one does both!

Other than a couple new ones which my family bought me, the rest are garage sale specials or second-hand stores deals.

So we waited, and he came! Tigger was in the house!

It was worth the wait!

God’s timing tends to work that way too. God seems to be on a different schedule or rhythm than me. I’m guessing you can relate.

I’ve seen the plaques and posters declaring that if we’re waiting on God it’s because He has something even better for us. But I’m not sure. I think it depends on how we define better.

If better means something I’ll enjoy even more, then no, that’s not always the case. But if better means a more complete fulfilling of God’s kingdom plans, then yes, I would agree.

Waiting, on this side of the grave, sometimes leads to something more enjoyable here and right now; but not always. Sometimes waiting is followed by heartache and tragedy.

  • Waiting for a medical test that comes back as bad news.
  • Waiting for that special someone to call or come back and make things right, but they don’t.
  • Waiting for that promotion or pay raise that will help make ends meet, but it doesn’t come.

Yet even when waiting doesn’t turn into something better here and now, God’s bigger kingdom purposes continue to unfold. That’s when we can wait with hope because of the glory that will be ours with Jesus in eternity beyond this life.

No matter what it is you’re waiting on God for, and no matter how it turns out…

It will be worth the wait!

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

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Filed under Eternity, Glory of God, God, Hope, Kingdom of God, Patience

A role I wasn’t expecting to play

We got there early and endured a hot sun to have primo spots up front, but it was worth it. A parade at Disney World is nothing short of spectacular; the characters, the music, the excitement.

We enjoyed visiting with the folks next to us who were from Canada and we guzzled some drinks to stave off the heat, but the parade was the big attraction.

As the familiar characters walked, danced or rode by on floats I took it all in and got some great pictures. Watching a Disney parade is great fun but then it happened.

I was standing there minding my own business like every other spectator along the parade route when I suddenly and unexpectedly became part of the festivities.

The wolf from Pinocchio was walking by and along with others close by I stuck my arm out to high-five him on the hand… uh, paw. But he wouldn’t do it.

He stopped, turned to face me and placed his hands on his hips. Motioning for me to lean in towards him he took his cape and used it to wipe the sweat off my bald head.

After everyone had a good laugh he gave me a high-five and continued down the street. No one in my family thought to take a picture but we all had fun joking about it afterwards.

Disney wants you to be more than a spectator, they want you to be a part of all that’s going on; and so does God. 

Christianity, in America at least, has become largely an event for spectators. We show up on Sunday and take it all in then go about our week as usual. But that’s not God’s design.

God intends for each of us to be fully engaged with His kingdom purposes and plans every single day. Some days are spectacular, but most are more mundane. But even our mundane Lower Story moments help to advance God’s Upper Story agenda.

A little, unknown boy was there to supply his fish and bread for Jesus to use in feeding thousands of hungry followers.

Some unknown person was there to provide the animal for Jesus to ride in on for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Someone was there to hold the rope used to lower Paul from a window in Damascus for his middle-of-the-night escape.

Sure it’s just another mundane day with nothing spectacular on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean God won’t pull you in or use you to touch a life in some special way today.

Are you ready?
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If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 14 this week. To learn more about The Story check out the tab above.

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

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Filed under Christianity, God's Will, involvement with the church, Kingdom of God, Serving, The Story