Tag Archives: Sin

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

Jesus Comes for Sinners

Ragamuffin Gospel“Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them—fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.”

~ Excerpted from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

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

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Filed under Brennan Manning, Christ, Christianity, God, Gospel, Grace, Sin

A real church…

“A real church never values participating in programs above relating in community.  And it faces the disturbing truth that involvement in small groups too often amounts to little more than participation in a relational program.  A real church aims toward spiritual community, where souls connect, where shame weakens, where sin surfaces, where failure meets grace, where irritations soften, where holy desire grows.”

~ Larry Crabb, Real Church, Page 152

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Filed under Authenticity, Christianity, Church, Discipleship, Grace, involvement with the church, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth

Come Holy Spirit… clear the air

It’s hard to imagine the force of wind that Hurricane Sandy unleashed on the East Coast of the United States. 

From what I read, winds hit nearly 100 mph and affected regions of the country hundreds of miles inland. Even here in Indiana we had winds in the 25-30 mph range with gusts up to 50.

Add flood waters and rain/snow to the mix and the damaging effects to the East Coast are massive! Last I heard some 8 1/2 million people were without electricity.

As I prayed for these folks yesterday a different kind of wind came to mind; the one Paul describes in Romans 8 when he speaks of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes in chapter 7 about his struggle, and failure, against sin. He comes to the end of his rope and wonders who can save him.

Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. ~ Romans 8:1-2 (The Message)

As devastating as a storm like Hurricane Sandy can be, the ravages of sin on the soul are eternally worse. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection made it possible for the Holy Spirit to come and dwell among us to bring new life.

Anyone else tired of struggling against the flesh with its selfish desires?

Anyone else ready for a fresh wind from God to clear the air?

Anyone  else at the end of their rope and ready to cry out to God for mercy?

Come Holy Spirit and be welcome in my heart and my life. Do for me what I can’t do for myself; help me to be more obsessed with God than anything or anyone else in this life.

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

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Filed under Brokenness, Christianity, Freedom, Holy Spirit, Mercy, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Surrender

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!

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© 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!

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© 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

Tilted Halos

To be alive is to be broken.
And to be broken is to stand in need of grace.
Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness
and the truth that we are saved sinners.
There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples
who never wear a false face and
do not pretend to be anything but who they are.

~ Excerpted from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Only those who are real – warts and all – get to experience the depth of God’s limitless grace.

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

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Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Grace, Humility, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Spiritual growth

How to Tell 50 Juvenile Sex Offenders About Jesus

What follows is a blog post by Caleb Wilde
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Sin is cyclical…

I will never forget the first time a group of us gave a chapel service to about 50 juvenile sex offenders. They were a crew of 14 to 19 year olds from all over the East Coast who had been charged with a serious sex crime.

For teens, a “serious sex crime” is often limited to:

  • child molestation
  • sexual assault of a child or minor
  • rape.

I was given the opportunity to share with them for about 15 minutes. And although I knew going into this chapel service I was going to be the main speaker, I didn’t want to prepare a message full of statements.

Being that it was a smaller group that could respond to me while I spoke, I instead prepared a message full of questions.

The first question I asked was this: “How many of you have been seriously hurt by others in your lives?” They all raised their hands.

The assumption with children and teenagers—especially these kids—is that they were first victims. Victims who became victimizers.

Most of us follow the same process. When we are hurt, we react in retaliation.

Then I asked them, “How many of you have wanted to hurt others in the same way you’ve been hurt?”

Same response. Some of them blurted out, “I want to hurt them worse.”

Most of us react proportionally to the seriousness of our pain. If someone cuts us off while we’re driving, we might flip a finger or shout something out. On a more serious level, if somebody abuses us physically, we may try to abuse others or, possibly, abuse ourselves through substances. The sad thing for these kids we visited was that many of them were in juvie for the sins of somebody else. Yes, they’re still guilty of their crimes, but they were first victims.

They had been raped.

They had been sexually molested.

They had been sexual assaulted.

They had been the victim of a crime they didn’t have the power to stop. They had been overpowered and exploited.

As I was closing, I asked them, “If you had the power to hurt those who hurt you, what would you do?

They all replied they’d inflict all the pain they could. And their story is the story of the world. A story of abuse, exploitation, reaction, and retaliation. A story of war, of hatred, of tribalism, of divorce, of revenge.

Speaking to these 50 juvenile sex offenders, I was speaking to the story of humanity.

A story that has been slowly changing toward redemption through the introduction of a new narrative.

Jesus came to this Earth with all the potential power he wanted. He healed the sick, raised the dead, touched the untouchable, and healed the souls of the broken. He never used his might for evil. Even his enemies said he was innocent. Yet, he was outcast, beaten, spit on, possibly raped (it was acceptable for soldiers to rape criminals), and eventually killed at the request of those he loved.

He could have—maybe even should have—destroyed his enemies.

He had the power to, but he didn’t. I explained to these kids that the only innocent person who ever walked the Earth was abused to the point of death, but instead of reacting in retaliation, he forgave and redeemed.

These kids were fixated by the message. It wasn’t my message; it was a new perspective, a new story, a different option that began to melt the coldness of their hearts, just like it has millions of others throughout history, including my own.

Sin is cyclical…but so is love. With one act of grace, a new narrative has been born…again and again.

Caleb is a sixth generation funeral director. He has a graduate degree in Missional Theology. He blogs at http://www.calebwilde.com You can connect with him on Twitter or facebook.

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Filed under Brokenness, Forgiveness, Grace, Healing, influence with the world, Jesus, Love of God, Mercy, Religion and Spirituality, Sin

God’s grace is enough!

Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the middle of the night. (John 3) He is part of the Pharisees, a religious group that believed God was not showing up to deliver the Jews from Roman control because they were not keeping every little detail of the law. So they pursued getting it right!

Jesus minced no words with Nicodemus but spoke immediately of his need to be born again in order to be part of God’s kingdom. Just like our first birth, being born again of the Spirit is not something we control. We cannot earn God’s favor or forgiveness; we can only accept His gift of grace.

Shortly after this encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus intentionally encounters a woman at a well in Samaria. (John 4) Jews despised the Samaritans because they married non-Jews and dishonored the law of God. Every good Jew avoided Samaritans at all cost… except Jesus.

This woman came for water in the middle of the day to avoid any encounters with the other women. She didn’t need their scorn or snide remarks to remind her of the many mistakes she had made in life.

Jesus crossed a cultural boundary and offered her a drink that would satisfy the deepest longings of her soul. He even revealed Himself to her as the Messiah. When the townspeople responded in faith, Jesus stayed with them for a couple of days before moving on.

To the man who tried to do everything right, Jesus said: “You can’t be right enough to earn God’s grace.”

To the woman who did everything wrong, Jesus said: “You can’t mess up badly enough to be beyond the reach of God’s grace.”

Most of us likely fall somewhere in between Nicodemus and the woman at the well. In fact, we probably bounce back and forth once in a while. At times we give ourselves wholeheartedly to getting it right only to be disappointed at our failure to do so.

So we swing the other direction and suffer through feeling too messed up to even have a part in God’s kingdom. We perceive that our mess is bigger and deeper than God’s grace. But…

God’s grace is enough!

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

 

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Filed under Brokenness, Christianity, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Guilt, Kingdom of God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Surrender

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!

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

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