Tag Archives: Philip Yancey

Serve or Die

Dr. Paul Brand told me of his most memorable visitor to Vellore, India, where he directed a leprosy hospital. One day a French friar named Pierre showed up. Over the next few weeks he stayed with the Brands and told them his life’s story. Born into a noble family, he had served in the French Parliament until he became disillusioned with the slow pace of political change. After World War II, thousands of homeless beggars lived in the streets. Pierre could not tolerate the endless debates by noblemen and politicians while so many street people starved outside.

Philip YanceyDuring an unusually harsh winter, many of the Parisian beggars froze to death. Pierre resigned his post and became a Catholic friar to work among them. He concluded his only recourse was to organize the beggars themselves. He taught them to do menial tasks better. They divided into teams to scour the city for bottles and rags. Next, he led them to build a warehouse from discarded bricks and then start a business in which they sorted and processed vast quantities of used bottles from hotels and businesses. Finally, Pierre inspired each beggar by giving him responsibility to help another beggar poorer than himself. The project caught fire, and in a few years an organization called Emmaus was founded.

But now the organization was facing a point of crisis. After years of this work, there were no beggars left in Paris. “I must find somebody for my beggars to help!” he declared. “If I don’t find people worse off than my beggars, this movement could turn inward. They’ll become a powerful, rich organization, and the whole spiritual impact will be lost. They’ll have no one to serve.”

At a leprosy colony in India, five thousand miles away, Abbé Pierre found at last the solution. He met hundreds of leprosy patients, many from the Untouchable caste, worse off in every way than his former beggars. As he met them, his face would break into a huge grin. Returning to his beggars in France, he mobilized them to build a ward at the hospital in Vellore. “No, no, it is you who have saved us,” he told the grateful recipients of his gift in India. “We must serve or we die.”
~ Philip Yancey in Reaching for the Invisible God (239 – 40)


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



Filed under Compassion, influence with the world, Loving others, Philip Yancey, Serving

How many gods? How many worlds?

Meet the BibleA story is told about Rabbi Joseph Schneerson, a Hasidic leader during the early days of Russian communism. The rabbi spent much time in jail, persecuted for his faith. One morning in 1927, as he prayed in a Leningrad synagogue, secret police rushed in and arrested him. They took him to a police station and worked him over, demanding that he give up his religious activities. He refused. The interrogator brandished a gun in his face and said, “This little toy has made many a man change his mind.” Rabbi Schneerson answered, “This little toy can intimidate only that kind of man who has many gods and but one world. Because I have only one God and two worlds, I am not impressed by this little toy.” ~ Philip Yancey in Meet the Bible

By “two worlds” Rabbi Schneerson is referring to the temporary, physical existence that describes this life up to the grave and the eternal, spiritual existence of our soul which we experience now but which continues beyond the grave.

If our only hope is this present world then the people and possessions of this life will easily become the “many gods” that we cling to at any cost. But if we have a different hope, a better hope that comes from trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord then no circumstance of life will pose a real threat.

None of us can be sure of how we would respond in a situation like the one described here, but we can choose today to be a man or woman with “only one God and two worlds.”


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

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Filed under Christ, Courage, God, Hope, Kingdom of God, Loving God, Philip Yancey, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Trusting God

God can handle anything except…

Philip YanceyGod can handle anger, blame, and even willful disobedience. One thing, however, blocks relationship: indifference.”
~ Philip Yancey


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

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Trusting God’s Opinion

Philip Yancey“According to Jesus, what other people think of me matters very little. What God thinks matters far more. Pray in a closed room, Jesus said, where no one but your Father can see you, rather than in a public place where you might get credit for being spiritual. In other words, live for God and not other people. I keep clamoring for attention and achievement. Jesus invites me to let go of that competitive struggle, to trust that God’s opinion of me is the only one that counts, ultimately.”

“I could summarize my entire spiritual pilgrimage as an effort to move the operating center from myself to God. I ask myself how my life would differ if I truly played to an audience of One, if I continually asked not “What do I want to do?” or “What would bring me approval from others?” but “What would God have me do?” Certainly my sense of ego and rivalry would fade because I would no longer need to worry about proving myself to other people. I could concentrate instead on pleasing God, by living in such a way that would attract people to Jesus’ style of life.” ~ Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World


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

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A Helpful Image of God

Philip YanceyA doctor is probably the most helpful image for me to keep in mind while thinking about God and sin. Why should I seek out God’s view on how to live my life? For the same reason I seek my doctor’s opinion. I defer to my doctor, trusting that we share the same goal, my physical health, but that he brings to the process greater wisdom and expertise. And I am learning to view sins as spiritual dangers—much like carcinogens, bacteria, viruses, and injuries—that must be avoided. I am learning to trust that God wants the best life for me in this world, not some diminished, repressed life.” ~ Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World


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

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Filed under God, God's Will, intimacy with the Lord, Philip Yancey, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Trusting God

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


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


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

Prayer… exercising our faith!

Philip Yancey“I used to worry about my deficiency of faith. In my prayers I expect little and seemed satisfied with less. Faith feels like a gift that a person either has or lacks, not something that can be developed by exercise, like a muscle. My attitude is changing, though, as I begin to understand faith as a form of engagement with God. I may not be able to summon up much belief in miracles, or dream big dreams, but I can indeed exercise my faith by engaging with God in prayer.”
~ Philip Yancey in Prayer Does It Make Any Difference?

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Prayer… adjusting how we view reality.

Prayer - Does It Make Any DifferenceThe prophet Daniel defied a tyrant’s orders by opening his window and praying three times a day toward his home city of Jerusalem. For him, for the other believers living in foreign lands… prayer was the main reminder of a reality contradicted by all surroundings. A channel of faith, it served to restore the truth belied by everything around them. For us, too, prayer can be that channel. We live on a broken planet, fallen far from God’s original intent. It takes effort to remember who we are, God’s creation, and faith to imagine what we someday will be, God’s triumph.

Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world, and of me, through the eyes of God. In prayer I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I or any of us play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view. ~ Philip Yancey in Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?


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

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Filed under Faith, God, Philip Yancey, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Worldview

God’s Invitation to Take a Vacation

Prayer - Does It Make Any Difference“Be still and know that I am God”: the Latin imperative for “be still” is vacate. As Simon Tugwell explains, “God invites us to take a holiday [vacation], to stop being God for a while, and let him be God.” Too often we think of prayer as a serious chore, something that must be scheduled around other appointments, shoehorned in among other pressing activities. We miss the point, says Tugwell: “God is inviting us to take a break, to play truant. We can stop doing all those important things we have to do in our capacity as God, and leave it to him to be God.” Prayer allows me to admit my failures, weaknesses, and limitations to One who responds to human vulnerability with infinite mercy.
~ Philip Yancey in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?


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

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Filed under Philip Yancey, Prayer, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Rest, Trusting God

What’s your game plan?

We’ve just finished up with the annual college football bowl games and are closing in fast on the next Superbowl. Do you suppose any of the coaches involved went (or will go) onto the field of battle without a game plan? Not a chance!

Health and wellness… finances… home maintenance… relationships… education. No matter what area of life you consider, there is great benefit to having an intentional game plan for taking the next step; for making progress.

So what’s your game plan for drawing closer to God?

There are many aspects of growing in our walk with God and reading Scripture is a vital part of it. Every year I try a different approach and this year I’m trying two.

One is with Meet the Bible: A Panorama of God’s Word in Daily Readings. It’s by Philip Yancey and while it doesn’t cover every verse cover-to-cover it touches on the major themes and narratives from every book of the Bible to give a BIG PICTURE view of God’s story.

The other is 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb Jr. which is very intriguing because of the whole premise behind it. He writes it as a dialogue between himself and God as if they were having a conversation about what it is God wants us to learn or get out of each letter of the Bible.

Maybe it’s just me but it seems that we often get so focused on individual verses that we run the risk of misunderstanding it or missing the point because we forget or ignore the bigger context. Sort of like the principle in the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” So this year I intentionally want to be challenged in seeing the bigger picture of God’s story.

I’m not worried about keeping a strict schedule but merely making sure that I read something every day. I’m sure there will be an ocassional blog that shares something from what I’ve been reading in these resources. But for now my questions to you is…

What’s your game plan?

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Filed under intimacy with the Lord, Morphing, Scripture