Tag Archives: Spiritual growth

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.”


“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


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


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

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!


© 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

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!


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


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.


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


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

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.


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!


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



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

Place it before God

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
~ Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)


May we give ourselves fully to God this day and the process of transformation He longs to accomplish in each of us!


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

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Discipleship, God, God's Will, Morphing, Religion and Spirituality, Scripture, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender

Taking God’s gift for granted.

RhythmsGraceEver given a gift to someone and had it brushed aside like it was nothing special?

I don’t mean the obligatory, exchange-a-name-and-keep-it-under-$10-gift; but one that was carefully and thoughtfully chosen for someone very special.

Ever have one of those gifts taken for granted?

It’s no fun. In fact, it’s downright painful.

But that’s exactly what I’ve done to God.

Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. ~ Ephesians 4:30 (The Message)

The Holy Spirit living and moving in us to make us fit for a relationship with God – whole and holy – is the most precious and costly gift we could ever receive.

The Spirit takes up residence in us in order to draw our attention to Jesus. All of His divine resources are unleashed in an effort to transform us from the inside out so that we have the character of Christ.

But are we participating in the process?

It’s like getting dance lessons from Fred Astaire, but insisting on taking the lead.

… or business advice from Bill Gates, but ignoring his counsel.

… or voice lessons from Celine Dion, but singing in whatever way we want.

I don’t know what this new year will hold in terms of obstacles or opportunities. I don’t have an inside track on God’s kingdom agenda or what role He wants me to play.

But I do know that I can surrender myself more completely to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I can give myself more completely to His mysterious work of transformation.

I can learn to dance in God’s unforced rhythms of grace.

Will you join me?


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


Filed under Choices, Christianity, Discipleship, God, Grace, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Morphing, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender