Tag Archives: Larry Crabb

He kicked my butt!

A few weeks ago I spent a week at a retreat center near Asheville, North Carolina. It was a School of Spiritual Direction with Dr. Larry Crabb.

The schedule was designed to include evening sessions but did allow for a three-hour gap in the afternoon. So on that first afternoon I located a map of trails and headed out.

The longest trail was just three miles long and promised a nice view from a higher elevation. My thought process went something like this:

“I’ve just lost 40 pounds and have been bike riding with my wife for nearly four months now. We’re up to 18 miles a ride and this past week I did a solo ride of 27 miles – my longest to date. It’s only a three-mile hike. No problem.”

To say that I misjudged the effect of elevation on a three-mile hike would be a gross understatement.

It kicked my butt!

About 2 1/2 hours later I dragged myself back to my room and quickly showered for supper. For three days my thigh muscles SCREAMED at me every time I moved.

The same thing happened spiritually with all that took place that week as our group of 31 people explored the nature of our journey with God.

I was captivated by God as the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – existing in perfect, loving community. And I welcomed the invitation to journey further into the fellowship enjoyed by the Trinity.

But the price of admission is a humble and broken spirit. On several occasions the Holy Spirit brought me face-to-face with some of my “false gods” and sinful relational patterns. He kicked my butt – spiritually speaking!

That portion of the journey was brutally painful. And to be honest, I was ready to cut and run more than once.

But the corresponding freedom that came as a result of being embraced by what the Spirit was doing in me was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

The Holy Spirit didn’t confront me with my sin in order to beat me up or heap on guilt and shame. He did it – does it daily – so that I’ll come to the end of my own efforts and more fully rely on His work in me.

This is exactly what Paul describes in Romans 7 and 8. In chapter 7 Paul is totally frustrated with his struggle against the fleshly, sinful nature and wonders who can help him. Then in chapter 8 he’s celebrating the Spirit’s work in us.

5-6 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead-end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. ~ Romans 8 (The Message)

My relationship with God – Father, Son and Spirit – has been very different these last few weeks. And relating to family and friends has been very different as well – more open and healthy; more God-focused.

I believe I’m getting a taste of the real life Jesus came to make possible. And reflecting more of God’s relational glory in the process.

No offense intended, but I hope we all get our butts kicked today by the Holy Spirit!

***

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

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Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Discipleship, Divine presence, Fellowship, Glory of God, God, God the Father, Holy Spirit, Humility, influence with the world, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Joy, Love of God, Loving God, Loving others, Morphing, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender, Trinity, Trusting God

My first real taste…

I’d heard of it, read of it, dreamt of it but never really experienced it.

I’m speaking of real community like what we read of in the second chapter of Acts.

I just spent the last 8 days at a retreat center in the hills near Asheville, NC with 35 people hungry for God. It was a School of Spiritual Direction led by Dr. Larry Crabb – a.k.a. – Zorro, of New Way Ministries.

I can’t begin to describe what we experienced but it involved transparency, authenticity, crying together, laughing together, eating together, hiking together, praying together, listening intently together, celebrating together, encountering new freedoms together and offering words of life to one another.

It was like nothing I had ever experienced!

It left me captivated at the image of the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – engaged in perfect community and inviting us into Their dance.

It shook me to the core with newly discovered layers of sinful patterns in how I relate in ways that disrupt that same divine rhythm.

And it left me humbled by the overwhelming love of a Trinitarian God who is at this very moment, and every moment, relentlessly pursuing us to enjoy us.

I am so very grateful for the chance to have shared such a journey with 35 people I’d never even met before, but hope to meet again before eternity.

And it restored my hope that we can experience a deeper, richer fellowship than what typically takes place on a Sunday morning in most churches.

Real community is not limited to or directly tied to this particular event. It can happen anywhere that people come together in brokenness and invite God’s Spirit to move among them.

May we all come to share in such a taste of heaven and may it change our world as others are drawn to the dance of the Trinity!

***

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

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Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Divine presence, Fellowship, Freedom, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Laughter, Loving others, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Worship

When we don’t sense God’s presence

There is nothing in this life more exhilarating than to experience the very presence of God. But what does it mean when we don’t sense it?

Aren’t we created to enjoy an intimate relationship with our Creator? Yes!

Didn’t Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection secure our forgiveness and restore the chance for us to fellowship with the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit? Again, yes!

Aren’t we given the Holy Spirit to dwell in us as the tangible experience of God being with us until we join Him beyond this life? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Then why is it that I don’t always sense or feel His presence, especially at times when I need it the most?

I long for it. I ask for it. I sing songs that celebrate it. But I don’t always experience it.

In SoulTalk, Larry Crabb shares the following story about a conversation he had with his dad one day while driving home from the hospital.

My father once told me how grateful he was for the opportunity to believe God’s Word when nothing he felt or saw helped him to believe. He had just gone through a ten-day ordeal in the hospital following open-heart surgery.

On the way home from the hospital, he said to me, “So many good friends came to visit me during those awful days. But God never showed up. The One I wanted most to come never did. I never felt his presence for even a moment as I lay there in the hospital bed.”

And then I heard his voice choke: “To think he trusted me to believe he was there just because he said he was, with no other evidence—I’m so grateful!”

This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple.
~ Colossians 1:26-27 (MSG)

No matter what situation we are facing… no matter what crisis seems to be lurking in the shadows… no matter what we might be feeling at the moment… Christ is in us!

If we’re not sensing God’s presence, perhaps we’re being given a chance to demonstrate trust in Him.

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

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Filed under Christianity, Divine presence, Faith, God, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Trusting God

Obedience to biblical principles can be wrong?

It’s a surprising thought, and not a little disturbing, that obedience to biblical principles can be wrong. But when doing right is a strategy to get what we want, our energy is pride and our focus is self. ~ Larry Crabb in The Pressure’s Off

Think about it.

We live in a world absorbed with linear thinking. If I do A then I get B as a result. It’s simple cause and effect.

If I want to enjoy dessert then I must eat my vegetables or clear my plate.

If I want to avoid another spanking then I will pick up my toys.

If I wear the right clothes or am a standout athlete then I’ll be popular in school.

If I dress and look and talk a certain way then I’ll get the guy/girl I want to go out with me.

If I get good grades in school then I’ll have a better chance at a good career.

Linear thinking – cause and effect – has its place, but not in relationships. When we apply this principle to getting what we want from people we are manipulating them. And regardless of the outcome… it’s wrong!

This same thought process is especially dangerous in our relationship with God.

“If I read my bible regularly and pray and tithe and volunteer and ________ (fill in the blank), then God will (must) bless me with the good things of life.”

Really? Where is that written?

But I’ve been faithful to You God, why…
… did my spouse leave me?”
… is my kid rebelling?”
… are we struggling with finances?”
… are we experiencing a health crisis?”

It’s not always obvious but it’s often there just below the surface; this notion that God owes us certain blessings.

I don’t think that Jesus is opposed to such blessings in our lives, but when we seek those blessings from God more than we seek God Himself then we are committing idolatry.

And following biblical principles in order to secure blessings from God is a cheap attempt to manipulate and control God.

Jesus said that real life is being in relationship with the Father. This is what eternity in heaven is all about but it starts right here and now.

Forgives us Lord and stir our passions for wanting You more than anything or anyone else in life.

***

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

7 Comments

Filed under Bible, Choices, Christianity, Desire, Eternity, God, Heaven, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Loving God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture

God… where are you?

Why would he need to reassure them of God’s presence?

One of my favorite passages is Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save,
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

This passage has brought me comfort time and time again, especially the notion that God delights in us and quiets us with His love.

But last week as I was once again reflecting on it something new came to mind.

Why would the prophet need to reassure them of God’s presence?

For whatever reason they were not experiencing a sense of God being with them.

Ever been there? Ever wondered where God had gone and why He seemed to leave you when you most needed Him? I have.

Why would God not make His ongoing presence very obvious? Why does He allow us times of feeling abandoned? Larry Crabb offers this insight:

God’s restraint has a purpose. When He appears to be doing nothing, He is doing something we’ve not yet learned to value and therefore cannot see. Only in the agony of His absence, both in the real absence of certain blessings and in the felt absence of His Presence, will we relax our determined grasp of our empty selves enough to appreciate His purposes. ~ From Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb

Ever go to meet up with someone and end up alone because you misunderstood the agreed upon destination?

When we expect God to show up in a certain way and He doesn’t, it can feel as if He’s abandoned us when in reality we’re just looking for Him in a wrong location.

We often want God to show up and make a certain situation of life easier. If God determines that such an intervention would not be what’s best for us then He will not show up in that way. It doesn’t mean that He has abandoned us but that we are living with false expectations of how God will make Himself known.

Larry Crabb goes on to say:

Only when we want Him as we want nothing else will there develop in our hearts a space large enough for Him to fill. Because He longs to fill us, He hides His face long enough for us to discover how fervently and exclusively we want Him. When our discovery creates a secret space that nothing else can fill, and when we know that to be true, He enters. ~ From Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb

Until we die to all our lesser passions in life we will never come to experience the pure joy of simply resting in God’s presence.

May we come to discover that place deep inside that only God can fill with His presence!

***

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

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Divine presence, Doubt, Faith, Faithful, God, God's Will, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

An Unmanageable God

“Manageable visions
are not worthy
of an unmanageable God.”

Pause long enough to reflect on this quote by Larry Crabb from Shattered Dreams. At some level and in some way we all want to be in control; but God is untamable and unmanageable. Anything we can do for Him is small compared with what He can do through us.

What awe-inspiring things could happen today were we to let God be in control?

***

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

5 Comments

Filed under Christianity, God, influence with the world, Religion and Spirituality

May God wreck our plans!

We were getting away for a few days to relax and regain some sense of rhythm. But God had other plans!

Susan and I loaded our bikes into the old blue bus (our 20-year-old van) and pulled out late Sunday afternoon headed for a hotel room in Indy. The trip was uneventful, the room was great and the continental breakfast was amazing. But then…

We shopped at a few nearby stores before heading downtown to visit a friend who had just given birth to her third baby. We got within a couple of miles of the hospital when the van started sputtering.

Long story short, we spent another night in Indy and about $500 for a new fuel pump!

The really ironic part is that I’m reading a book about what God may be up to when our dreams get shattered or our plans go up in smoke. And just for the record, I prefer reading about it over actually living it. Just sayin’…

There are certainly bigger dreams out there than just getting away for a few days but it stretched our patience to the breaking point!

In his book, Shattered Dreams, Larry Crabb suggests that God uses the big and little obstacles of life to help us come to grips with what matters most to us. Are we pursuing God in order to secure His blessings of a good life or are we desiring a relationship with God above all else?

The deepest longings of our heart cry out for an experience of God’s presence; and yet we so often settle for lesser passions. Only when those lesser passions get thwarted or crushed will we delve deeper into our soul and come to discover our greater passion for God.

An encounter with God is what we were created for and satisfies our soul like nothing or no one else can. But when the lesser passions of life satisfy us, even if they are only temporary, we forget the bigger passion.

It’s sort of like nibbling on junk food too close to the big meal and losing our appetite for real food.

I’ll be honest. I was very angry and frustrated as we sat there in the hot sun waiting for the tow truck to show up. Was a few days away to relax really too much to ask?

But eventually, a different question made its way to the forefront of my mind.

Are these few days away more important to you than God?

God could have kept our van running but didn’t. God could have prompted me to take a different vehicle but He didn’t. (At least, I don’t think He did. Sometimes I don’t listen so well)

If I want God more than I want a few days away and if I choose to trust God as sovereign, then can I trust Him to be working behind the scenes to accomplish something I know nothing about? In essence…

Would I trust God’s character and intentions to be good even if I didn’t know the “why”?

I have no great “TaDa” moment that resulted from our interrupted plans. I’ve gained no great revelation or insight from what took place. And I still don’t know how we’ll pay for the van or extra night in a hotel.

But I can trust the Author of the story to be good and I can once again sift through my passions to see which ones are most important.

May God wreck our plans, no matter how good they are, to help us discover our greater passion for Him!

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

6 Comments

Filed under Adversity, Contentment, Desire, Discipleship, Divine presence, Frustration, God, intimacy with the Lord, Patience, Priorities, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Suffering, Trusting God

Not an evening stroll!

Wait Lord, I need to catch my breath! (pant, wheeze, gasp)

“I have learned to appreciate my father’s willingness to let God be the mystery that he is and, with eyes wide open, to pursue him, not with the precision of a crossword puzzle fanatic but with the reckless passion of a pilot flying into the Bermuda Triangle. 

Following Christ is a wild adventure full of risk, frustration, excitement, and setbacks.  It is not an evening stroll in a planned community along a well-manicured path.” ~ From God of My Father by Larry Crabb

I don’t know about you but I need the occasional reminder that being on a journey with God through this life is nothing short of a wild adventure.

Truth be told, I tend to prefer things calm and quiet and controlled. But too much of that gets old real fast!

Yet too much of the wild adventure can leave me breathless and grabbing for something to hold on to so I don’t collapse.

This summer has left me feeling like that. Breathless and grabbing…

It always seems to come back to the core issue of trusting the Author of the bigger story.

OK Lord, I’m ready to go when You are…

***

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

6 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Faith, God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Trusting God

Not an excuse to abuse God’s grace

There is a fine line between living by grace and abusing it. As Paul concludes his thoughts at the end of chapter 5 in his letter to the Romans he speaks of how we are lavished with grace through Jesus Christ. In fact, he even states that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

But you can tell that Paul is aware that this could lead some to take advantage of grace and abuse it because he opens chapter 6 of Romans with this statement:

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” ~ Romans 6:1-2

God’s lavish grace is no excuse to live as we want but rather makes us acceptable to a holy God and then empowers us to live differently. Larry Crabb says it well…

“I might mention in passing that my acceptability in Christ is no warrant for careless living.  Scripture also teaches that I am accountable to God for how I live. 

If I understand accountability, but not acceptability, I will live under pressure to behave well in order to be accepted.  If I understand acceptability, but not accountability, I may become casually indifferent to sinful living. 

When I understand first my acceptability and then my accountability, I will be constrained to please the One who died for me, fearful that I might grieve Him, not wanting to, because I love Him.” ~ Larry Crabb in Effective Biblical Counseling

May we be fully embraced by acceptability AND accountability, in that order, so that we can live in such a way as to demonstrate the grace and truth (John 1:14) that flowed from Jesus when He lived among us.

And in doing so, may we reflect the glory of God!

***

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

7 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Christianity, Forgiveness, Glory of God, God, Grace, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Truth

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?

***

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

6 Comments

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