Tag Archives: Spiritual formation

Soul Rest… by John Ortberg

John OrtbergIn my early 50s I was given a sabbatical: seven weeks with nothing to do. The elders at our church invited me to take it. Actually, they insisted that I take it. I needed it because I was becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient and preoccupied. I felt as if I had too much to do and not enough time or ability to do it. I was obsessed with the external things that needed to be done around me. I was operating on the unspoken assumption that my inner world would be filled with life, peace and joy once my external world was perfect. That’s a great recipe for a healthy soul, as long as you live in a perfect world.

During my sabbatical, it was easy to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life,” as my friend and mentor Dallas Willard had so wisely counseled. I found myself thinking that I’m a better person when I’m on sabbatical than I am when I’m working for God at a church, and I knew that was just plan wrong. I began to form a new goal: I want to be as relaxed as I am on vacation while being as productive as I am at work.

There was only one place to learn about that. So I drove to Box Canyon. I had a whole day to spend with Dallas. I told him that I felt frustrated because the people at the church I served were not changing more. I asked him what I needed to do to help our church experience greater levels of spiritual growth.

Long pause… “You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

Huh?

“No,” I corrected him. “I wasn’t asking about me. I was asking about other people. I was wondering what I need to make the church do. I was thinking about a book everyone should read, or a program everyone should go through or a prayer system everyone should commit to.”

“Yes, brother John,” he said with great patience and care. “I know you were thinking of those things. But that’s not what they need most. The main thing you will give your congregation – just like the main thing you will give to God – is the person you become. If your soul is unhealthy, you can’t help anybody. You don’t send a doctor with pneumonia to care for patients with immune disorders. You, and nobody else, are responsible for the well-being of your own soul.”

“I’m trying,” I said. “I learned long ago about the importance of having a quiet time when I read the Bible and do daily devotions; I do my best to start each day that way.”

“I didn’t say anything about having a quiet time,” he gently corrected again. “People in church – including pastors – have been crushed with guilt over their failure at having a regular quiet time or daily devotions. And then, even when they do, they find it does not actually lead to a healthy soul. Your problem is not the first 15 minutes of the day. It’s the next 23 hours and 45 minutes. You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God.”

“But how can I have total contentment, joy and confidence?” I responded. “My work isn’t going nearly well enough. Lots of people are not happy with me. I am inadequate as a pastor, husband and father. Every week I carry the burden of delivering a sermon and knowing I’ll have to feel the pain if it doesn’t go well.

“I didn’t say you should experience total contentment, joy and confidence in the remarkable adequacy of your competence or the amazingly successful circumstances of your life. It’s total contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday experience of God. This alone is what makes a soul healthy. This is not your wife’s job. It’s not your elder’s job. It’s not your children’s job. It’s not your friend’s job. It’s your job.”
~ Excerpt from Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

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

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Filed under God, Health & Wellness, intimacy with the Lord, John Ortberg, Priorities, Relationship with God, Rest, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth

I pray because…

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

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Filed under CS Lewis, Prayer, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation

God’s Tests

A Godward HeartWe cannot answer every why question. But there is always this answer: my faith is being tested by the Lord who loves me and will help me. And our Lord never wastes his tests. Whether we believe this truth is, in fact, part of the test. In the mind of Jesus, the promise that he would give them the crown of life was enough to sustain the Christians in Smyrna. I praise God that this has been, and pray that it always will be enough…

~ Excerpted from A Godward Heart by John Piper

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

In other words: “Lord, as You grow our faith by stretching it through tests, may You protect us from the lies of the evil one who would have us doubt Your motives and trust in ourselves rather than in You.”

Abba, Father, help us trust You today!

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

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Filed under Adversity, Christianity, Doubt, Faith, God, God the Father, John Piper, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Trusting God

“These things happen.”

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. ~ Romans 7:19-20

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ~ John 3:16-17

brennan_manningI’ve been asked a certain question countless times over the course of my ministry. Sometimes it has been asked with genuine sincerity; other times it was a loaded pharisaical grenade: “Brennan, how could you relapse into alcoholism after your Abba encounters?” Here is the response I gave in The Ragamuffin Gospel in 1990: It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure; because I got discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden, and took my eyes off Jesus. Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification by grace through faith means I have been set in a right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table.

Twenty-one years later I stand by what I wrote; those words are as true for me now as they were then and on the day of my mother’s funeral. That paragraph from Ragamuffin Gospel spoke to many people; they’ve told me so time after time. I must admit though that from where I sit today the paragraph is a bit much, a little wordy. I believe I can now whittle the lines down to a three word response that incorporates all the truth of a verbose 1990 ragamuffin into a 2011 ragamuffin’s preference for brevity. Question: “Brennan, how could you relapse into alcoholism after your Abba encounters?” Answer: “These things happen.”
~ From All Is Grace by Brennan Manning

Dear Abba,
These things happen. They really do. And while I grieve them and You know I do, I also know deep within that these things are some of the very things that have brought me to my prodigal senses and sent me running back to You, back to my Father, back home. So I don’t thank You for these things but I do thank You for this grace that is greater than the sum of my sins; this mercy that knows my good-for-nothing name and still believes in me; and this tenderness that I’ve done nothing to deserve but loves me anyway. ~ From Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer by Brennan Manning

Thank you Brennan for being so real. Thank you Abba for mercy and grace.

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

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Filed under Brennan Manning, Brokenness, Christianity, God, God the Father, Grace, Love of God, Mercy, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation

God… the ultimate recycler

Turning Your Down into UpGod is the ultimate recycler—nothing goes to waste. He is able to use every experience, even your depression, to help you to grow. Chuck Swindoll, in his book Hope Again, puts it this way: “This variety of trials is like different temperature settings on God’s furnace. The settings are adjusted to burn off our dross, to temper us or soften us according to what meets our highest need. It is in God’s refining fire that the authenticity of our faith is revealed. And the purpose of these fiery ordeals is that we may come forth as purified gold, a shining likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” Even amidst the fiery trial of depression, God is able to bless you and help you to grow. You must decide to meet him in this challenge for your life and learn more about him. Through difficult struggles, you learn about your true nature. You learn who makes up your true network of support. As you are comforted and supported, you learn about the steadfast love of the Lord.

~ Excerpted from Turning Your Down into Up by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD

What circumstance or mindset are you wrestling with and have you surrendered it to God?

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

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Like a Treasure Buried

This Beautiful Mess“Jesus’ kingdom invites us to immerse ourselves in the whole gospel He came to preach. We get to listen and consider and think through the staggering possibilities of kingdom living as Jesus taught it. The practical promise of our faith journey together is this: as we live in fidelity to Christ the King, His in-breaking reign will have a transformational effect on us, our communities, and our world. Anything less is not what Jesus came to earth to tell.

In a mysterious yet absolutely real way, the kingdom of Jesus is here now and in power. Like gravity or high-frequency radio waves, this kingdom doesn’t require our attention or consent in order to exist. It just is. Still, I think you’ll find that we have to learn—and deeply want—to see and imagine in new ways. Otherwise we’ll miss it. So many have. Because it is like a treasure buried.”

~ Excerpted from This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley

“Lord, may Your Spirit make me sensitive to your activities today so that I can be a part of furthering Your kingdom here on earth.”

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

 

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Divine presence, God, Holy Spirit, influence with the world, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation

Lost in Him

get_lost-featured1The progression toward oneness with God leaves you absent of yourself. Lost in Him.

As you move more fully into what God sees and what He desires, you’ll no longer be concerned with what you lack or how you’ve failed. As you walk with Him day by day, you will come to see yourself through His truths.

Afraid that you can’t get past your past?

Getting lost in intimacy with God will assure your heart that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Fearful that you can’t overcome a sinful habit?

Intimacy with God will bring you to believe that your “old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6–7).

Think the circumstances of your life are hopeless?

Intimacy with God will bring you to know that “the Lord will fulfill his purpose for; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8).

~ Excerpted from Get Lost by Dannah Gresh

Praying that we all get lost in Him today!

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

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Filed under Christianity, intimacy with the Lord, Love of God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth

His Divine Rhythm

The word perichoresis comes from two Greek words, peri, which means “around” and chorea, which means “dance.” It is a term that the early church used to describe the relational intimacy between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s what some have referred to as The Dance of the Trinity.

I believe God wired us in such a way that our deepest longings can only be truly satisfied when we are in a relationship with Him; learning to dance in His divine rhythm.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

I long to do life more and more in step with God’s unforced rhythms of grace. And I long to see the church – the body of Christ – do the same!

I’m reminded of Jesus’ invitation here in Matthew 11 when I hear songs like the one below: One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful. You may not care for the song but you can’t help but be amazed at how these five guys do their part to contribute to one rhythm.

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

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Dance, Discipleship, God, God the Father, Grace, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, involvement with the church, Jesus, Music Video, Perichoresis, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Teamwork, Trinity

Why I’m giving up bathroom time for Lent

I know what some of you are thinking.

“Dude! There are several… essential activities that place in the bathroom. How can you afford (why would your wife allow you) to give up bathroom time for Lent?”

Pursuing-God

Not to worry! Let me explain.

Up until a few years ago our family of 8 shared one bathroom! Whew! There was always a line to get in and a common phrase heard frequently was “No camping out in there!”

When our oldest was 17-years-old we were able to add a second bathroom and relieve some of the pressure (pun intended)!

Now that the two oldest have graduated High School and moved on to their next adventure there are only six of us sharing two bathrooms. A much better ratio!

I’ve always had a penchant for reading while on the throne. So when my wife got me a Kindle Fire last year I had multiple books at my fingertips while using the bathroom. (It’s the little things that make life so special!)

But over the last couple of months I’ve gravitated from reading to playing games on my Kindle while sitting on the toilet. With another bathroom available it proved possible for me to get lost back there for significant lengths of time. (According to Susan it can be hours!)

Digital games are not inherently bad or sinful, but my pattern was becoming unhealthy. So one of the things I’m giving up for Lent is playing games on my Kindle when using the bathroom.

I can hear your sigh of relief that I’ve not given up on the essential activities that take place in a bathroom! Glad to relieve your concerns.

And I’ll admit that I did have fun considering alternate titles for this blog such as: “Giving up time on my throne to seek His throne.”

But I’ve challenged my family and our church family to consider that Lent is more than merely giving up something for God. The real core issue is repentance for putting things ahead of God and a renewed pursuit of intimacy with Him.

In Matthew 6 where Jesus says, “…when you fast…” He also says, “…when you give…” and “…when you pray…”

Fasting serves to challenge our dependence on physical passions that can become more important to us than God.

Giving serves to challenge our longing for and pursuit of things we don’t yet have but think we need even more than we need God.

Praying serves to remind us that life is not our story but God’s and encourages us to depend on Him rather than ourselves.

So during this period leading up to Easter I’m continually asking God three questions:

  • Lord, what would You have me give up?
  • Lord, what would You have me to give away?
  • Lord, what or who would You have me to pray for?

Perhaps most important in all of this is the motivation. I’m not doing any of this to secure God’s favor or love. Those have already been lavished on us through Christ Jesus. What God wants, what He created and redeemed us for, is greater intimacy with us.

I’m wrestling with all of this because I’m captivated by His love for me and I want to draw closer to Him.

Will you join me?

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P.S. – I’d enjoy hearing about your plans for the season of Lent or any discoveries you make along the way.

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

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, God, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Lent, Loving God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth

Enough Already God

A piece of art, in any form, is crafted and put on display to reflect the artist’s creativity and skill; to reflect a virtue or beauty envisioned by the artist. According to the Apostle Paul, we are God’s piece of art.

poiema-logo

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:10

The word for “workmanship” in the Greek is poiema and can be translated: achievement, work of art, masterpiece. The more passionate an artist is about a particular piece of art the more they will labor to reshape it and mold it giving it their utmost attention.

C.S. Lewis put it this way…

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient [alive and conscious of its feelings]. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.
~
 C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Most of the time I really do want to be shaped and molded according to God’s intended design. I know that sin has marred and twisted not only my true identity in Christ but also my capacity to reflect the glory of God. But when that process gets uncomfortable or downright painful my heart cries, “Enough already God!”

But God’s love for us will not allow Him to stop working to reshape us into the person He made us to be. And to balk at His work in us is to want less of His love.

Grant us grace God that we might give ourselves wholeheartedly to the work of the Holy Spirit as He transforms us into your poiema!

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

 

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Filed under Christianity, CS Lewis, Discipleship, Glory of God, God, Holy Spirit, Love of God, Morphing, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender