Tag Archives: Religion & Spirituality

The Art of Being Human

Souvenirs of SolitudePerhaps the main reason that we are such poor practitioners of the art of being human; why we so often teeter on a tight-rope between self-hatred and despair is that we don’t pray. We pray so little, so rarely, and so poorly. For everything else we have adequate leisure time. Visits, get-togethers, movies, football games, concerts, an evening with friends, an invitation we can’t decline—and these are good because it is natural and wholesome that we come together in community. But when God lays claim on our time, we balk. Do we really believe that He delights to talk with His children?

~ From Souvenirs of Solitude by Brennan Manning

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

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

Taking God at His word

If I fail to live as I’m instructed, I undermine my own credibility to remind or teach my family to live as they’re instructed. How can I credibly teach others to obey God if I don’t? You and I need to make sure we are obeying as well, and that we are providing a climate where obedience can flourish.

Such a climate begins with our own respect for and adherence to Scripture. We cannot take our cues from our culture. We must return to drink deeply from the headwaters. Christian thought springs directly from the nature of God and its revelation in His Word.

Every major tenant of our faith is a matter of revelation not explanation. Each is a mystery to be learned no way other than by revelation. We know what we know by taking Him at His Word. We apprehend His intentions and affirm our allegiance by believing what He says. Whether it is the nature of our salvation or the nature of our homes, we take it by faith, trusting and obeying.
~ Excerpted from Tender Warrior by Stu Weber

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

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

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Filed under Bible, Scripture, Trusting God

Embracing our new birthright

We really are more than what meets the eye!

“The word natural is a comfortable word. We can manage it. But supernatural? How do we manage that? Do we actually “not belong to the world” in the same way as Jesus did not belong? That’s what he said. Then how are we to understand those obsessive “earthy” feelings we all have?”

“God tells us we are alive in a way we have never been alive before, possessing a birthright we never possessed before. In that moment when we received Christ, God’s miraculous “birthing” act gave us a value, a beauty, a preciousness that lifts us above all earthy measurements.”

“He encourages us to look deep within at his workmanship and make that unexpected discovery of passion for him and a holiness that will set us free to be ourselves—free to live and to love. He invites us to believe the unbelievable about the miracles he has performed in us that enable us to say enthusiastically “Yes!” to him and “Yes” to life, while at the same time saying “Yes” to who we most deeply are.”
~ Excerpted from Birthright by David C. Needham

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! ~ 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Children of God, Christianity, God, Morphing, Spiritual formation

I didn’t expect to like it

I didn’t watch it on purpose and didn’t expect to like it. I sat down to peck on the laptop and Mykaela, one of my 17-year-old daughters, had it on.

Robert Irvine, a world-famous chef, completely transforms an about-to-go-under restaurant. In 48 hours of furious activity they change the physical appearance, the menu and the habits/attitudes of those involved.

I found myself wanting to watch more episodes but wasn’t sure why.

With a background in carpentry I enjoy how they tackle significant changes to the decor on a very limited budget. And the creativity is rather ingenious. But that’s not it.

As a pastor who counsels people it is intriguing to watch Irvine help the owners and staff navigate the relational issues and management habits that have been hampering progress. But that’s not it.

As a guy who seldom meets a meal he doesn’t enjoy, the variety of food they cook and the subtle but critical changes made by Chef Irvine are very interesting. But that’s not it.

After watching 5 or 6 episodes it finally dawned on me why I like this show.

The owners don’t know what else to do and are within months, weeks or even days of going belly up. For most, they have invested not only sweat equity but all their money. In short, they are hopeless.

Robert Irvine brings experience, insight and tough love when necessary. But ultimately, what he brings is HOPE.

The value of hope is immeasurable and universal. But the hope we have in Christ is beyond anything this world can offer.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”
~ Psalm 31:24

“…those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
~ Isaiah 40:31

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
~ 1 Peter 3:15

It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to want to throw in the towel. What challenges are you facing? What circumstances of life are wearing you down?

Are you putting your hope in God?
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Encouragement, God, Hope, Trusting God

We all need an occasional reminder

The setting: Our house on a recent Sunday morning as we’re getting ready for church. A brief exchange between Mykaela (one of my 17-year-old daughters – twins!) and myself. I’m in the kitchen and she is in a nearby bathroom.

Me: (walking into the kitchen to find that Mykaela has started a pot of coffee) Thanks for asking if I wanted any.

Mykaela: Well you never ask me if I want any when you fix coffee during the week.

Me: That’s because you’re already gone to school when I make it.

Mykaela: Well… you need to make it earlier.

Me: So I should change the schedule that works for me just to accommodate you?

Mykaela: EXACTLY!

Me: When I get the memo from God that it’s all about you I’ll do that!

This was not a serious exchange but one done playfully. As often as I can, I engage my kids in light-hearted bantering that reminds them that life does not revolve around them.

While I do make every effort to help them embrace that they are unique and special individuals made in the image of our loving Creator, I also make every effort to point out that life is God’s story…not ours.

Our story – if we choose to surrender it – can fit into God’s bigger story and find an eternal purpose. But ultimately, life is God’s story.

It’s easy to forget that. The world markets endless products on the basic premise that we’ll buy into the notion that it’s all about us; that we are the center of the universe. We all need an occasional reminder that it’s not all about us.

So in case you forgot, remember…

Life does not revolve around you! Life is God’s story!
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Children of God, God, Life in General, Priorities, Surrender

Giving God what only you can give!

I remember waiting what seemed like an eternity to have kids. We had been trying for six years and the specialists gave us only a 5% chance of being able to have children. Yep, they were wrong!

And when Susan was pregnant with our second child I sincerely wondered how I could possibly love another one like I loved the first one. God mysteriously enlarges a parent’s heart!

Now with six of them I’m amazed at God’s grace and amused by how different six kids from one set of parents can be!

Different shapes, different sizes, different personalities, different likes and dislikes, different interests and different abilities.

One of the most enjoyable things about watching them grow up is how they come to express love in different ways. And when that love is directed towards me it is a unique and precious gift because they express it in ways that reflect the unique nature of my relationship with each of them.

The very same unique gift of love is what each of us can offer to God.

We bring God joy simply by responding to Him, by taking time with Him as His loved one, His fair one, to sit at His feet and let Him speak to us His words of love.

How easily we forget what an honored privilege it is to offer our personal worship to God. When you go before Him and worship Him, you give Him what no one else in the universe can give: your own personal love, your own personal adoration, your own personal response to Him. Joy comes when you respond to your heavenly Father with your unique personality, which He created—when you take to heart His Word and tell Him your feelings and your love.

God uniquely fashioned each one of us for Himself…. Each of us is individually precious to Him and will be for all eternity. Each of us can give Him the intimacy He longs for, the intense pleasure and satisfaction of our unique ways of relating to Him.
~ Excerpted from 31 Days of Drawing Near to God by Ruth Myers

 How will we respond to God today?

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If you have the time, leave a comment about how you most enjoy responding to God.

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Filed under Children of God, Family, intimacy with the Lord, Joy, Loving God, Worship

Time for one more holiday gift

The old adage “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” is especially true for this gift. And its the gift that never goes out of style or needs to be exchanged because it didn’t fit. I’m speaking of the gift of…

…forgiveness!

Many of us are still weighed down by bitterness and anger and hurt feelings over something that happened in the past. And the other old adage that “Time heals all wounds” is a lie. Only forgiveness heals all wounds. And only God can enable us to extend it.

Most of us know that as followers of Jesus extending forgiveness is not an option. And yet we wrestle with it perhaps because we misunderstand it. Ron Edmondson offers this list of seven things forgiveness is NOT.

Forgetting – When you forgive someone, your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God could do that, but it seems that would be the easy way. I suspect God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than that.

Regaining automatic trust – You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and they must earn trust again.

Removal of consequences – Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions.

Ignoring the offense – You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.

Instant emotional healing – Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal.

Restoring the same relationship – The relationship may be closer than before or not, but most likely, it will never be the same.

A leverage of power – Granting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness.

God knew this would be an issue for us. That’s why Jesus includes forgiveness in his sample prayer for the disciples (Matthew 6) and then follows that prayer up with another admonition to forgive in order to experience forgiveness from the Father.

Who do you need to forgive?

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Filed under Anger, Christmas, Forgiveness, Loving others

Remember what awaits us!

Moses enjoyed all the wealth and privileges of living in pharaoh’s court but gave it all up and eventually was used by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Can you imagine giving up the lifestyle of living as an Egyptian king? What would motivate Moses do that?

“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” ~ Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses was looking ahead to his great reward!

Jesus gave up all of heaven to live among us as a man. His brutal death on a cross redeemed us and make a way for us to be brought back into God’s family. Can you imagine a greatest act of love? What would motivate Jesus to do that?

“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” ~ Hebrews 11:2

Jesus did this “because of the joy awaiting him…”

Jesus was looking ahead to His great reward!

It’s difficult at times to say no to the pleasures of life as Moses did. And it’s even more difficult at times to sacrificially love others as Jesus did. But God has promised us a place with Him in eternity when we dwell with Him in the here and now living a life as He intended. When we’re feeling bogged down in the moment, we need to…

…remember what awaits us!

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Filed under Determination, Encouragement, Faith, Heaven, Joy, Life in General, Loving others, Sin

How to bless your spouse!

Susan and I are celebrating 28 years of marriage today!

It doesn’t seem possible and it hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our fair share of struggles but it has been more than worth it. I’m convinced that a vital element of our longevity, and any long-term marriage, is being each others best friends.

We haven’t gotten it all figured out but we are continuing to work at it. Every marriage has room to grow in this area of friendship so I’m passing along three suggestions I recently came across.

1. Make a list of what you would want in a best friend. Perhaps your list would look something like this:

Prospective candidates for best friend will:

  • Make me feel good about being me.
  • Affirm my best qualities (especially when I am feeling insecure)
  • Call out the best in me, and hold me accountable to the best version of myself.
  • Listen without judging or trying to fix me.
  • Give me the benefit of the doubt.
  • Extend grace to me when I am grumpy or having a bad day.
  • Remember my birthday, favorite foods, music, and art.
  • Know my story and love me regardless.
  • Spend time with me, just because they enjoy my company.
  • Speak well of me when I am not present.
  • Serve me with a joyful spirit and without complaining.
  • Speak the truth to me when no one else will.
  • Never shame me, diminish me, or make me feel small.
  • Become excited about what I am excited about.
  • Celebrate my wins!

2. Commit to becoming that person for your spouse. That’s right! Turn the table. Don’t be preoccupied with getting but follow Jesus’ example of giving and love as He loved us (John 15:12). When a couple focuses on getting what they want first then both go away disappointed. But when they give themselves to loving the other person first, they both go away content.

3. Keep at it! It won’t always be easy but with God’s help it will always be possible. Let God use your marriage as a living testimony of His grace and love in action!

And one more thing! Pass this along to your married friends who could use the encouragement!

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Filed under Friendship, Loving others, Marriage

What I like about Monday!

I know, I know. Monday typically has a bad reputation. But one thing I appreciate about Monday is the chance to start over; the chance for a fresh beginning. God is eager to use each of us to touch the lives of others with His grace and truth. A new week is a fresh opportunity to share in God’s adventure. But too often I limit what God can do through me. The following excerpt really challenged me. I hope it does the same for you!

When we’re deciding what size [ministerial] territory God has in mind for us, we keep an equation in our heart that adds up something like this:

My abilities + experience + training
+ my personality and appearance
+ my past + the expectations of others
= my assigned territory.

We say we want God to work through us, but what we really mean is by or in association with. Yet God’s reminder to us is the same one He gave the Jews when they returned from captivity to a decimated homeland:

“Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.” ~ Zechariah 4:6

Our God specializes in working through normal people who believe in a supernormal God who will do His work through them. What He’s waiting for is the invitation. That means God’s math would look more like this:

My willingness and weakness
+ God’s will and supernatural power
= my expanding territory.

When you start asking in earnest—begging—for more influence and responsibility with which to honor Him, God will bring opportunities and people into your path.
~ Excerpted from The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson

It’s a new day, a new week, and a new opportunity to participate with God. Will we trust in our own abilities or in God’s supernatural power?

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Filed under influence with the world, Loving others, Trusting God