mgpcpastor's blog

Leave a comment

Loving Jesus, Without Knowing How Much We Need Jesus (via Rebecca Reynolds)

The path of self-righteousness is lined with knowledge of who Jesus is, but not knowing how much we personally need him.
When we reach that point of need then we have a Saviour that we don’t just offer to others, we have a Saviour that has met our very personal need.

From Rebecca Reynolds:

My high-school years were an underworld, a terrible season of losing my orientation and losing myself. But in that chaos, I began to grasp my need for a gospel that could be carried to the darkness. If I had been able to jump through every religious hoop perfectly when I was a teenager, I would have stepped into adulthood with an inaccurate picture of my own righteousness. I wouldn’t have known how much I actually needed him. In fact, I might have thought that I was doing him a favour by standing up for him. Instead, during those four years, I saw what darkness I was capable of chasing. I learned that I didn’t just have a Saviour to offer the world – I stood in profound need of him too.

Rebecca K. Reynolds, Courage, Dear Heart, Navpress, 2018, pgs 166-167.

Leave a comment

A Christian’s Confidence Does Not Reside In “I’m Great” But In “Greatness Resides In Me.” (via Rebecca Reynolds)

The human goal of fulfilling ourselves demands that our efforts to do so are invested in that which we can achieve; but anything that we can achieve is not enough to satisfy our souls.
The Christian believes their fulfilment is not based on what we achieved, but on who has come to dwell within us.

From Rebecca Reynolds:

Almost every day we are told to believe in ourselves, to follow our hearts, to trust our gut, to do what feels good. Most of the movies we watch, most of thecommercials we see, most of the self—help advice that we are given relies upon this ethic. What’s the underlying drive here? While physical pleasure might seem like the big allure, there’s in fact a pull stronger than hedonism at play. The more intoxicating promise is safety — safety that we can guarantee without having to trust anybody else.
I get the appeal of this promise. At several points in my life, I have been so disappointed with the church, with my relationships, and even with my faith, that I have wanted to hide inside myself forever. Yet, this has never worked because an insular body of water grows stagnant. Disappointment becomes bitterness; bitterness becomes cynicism; and cynicism is the booby prize of a fallen world a sad, small bounty.
Examine the “believe in yourself” doctrine closely, and you will find Eve longing for a forbidden piece of fruit — not because one pear can ever be as lush as an entire garden, but because one pear is tiny enough to clutch in the palm of one small hand. This single pear represents all self—trust, an eternal folding inward, an eternal reduction.
What does a rejection of self-belief look like? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that we must embrace the “I am a worm” mentality that pervades too many pockets of Christianity. Our identity is changed when we receive Christ, and once we are a new creation, indwelt by the Spirit, it’s not healthy to buy into ugly lies that hold us back. A Christian’s confidence doesn’t reside in “I’m great” but in “Greatness lives in me.” We don’t withdraw trust but transfer it to what is trustworthy. Theological grounding in our new nature helps skepticism die because it rescues us from the double dangers of stagnant self-confidence and paralyzing insecurity.Rebecca K. Reynolds, Courage, Dear Heart, Navpress, 2018, pgs 116-117.

Leave a comment

You Serve A God Who Isn’t Limited By Your Fear (via Rebecca Reynolds)

Following Jesus alongside others provides encouragement and the example of other believers in situations similar to our own.
If encouragement gives way to comparison we can succumb to feelings of failure and lack of worth, not because of any inadequacy in us, but because we’re not the same as someone else.
And God has not created us all to be identical, or to respond to every dark valley the same as every other Christian.

From Rebecca Reynolds:

In the midst of fear, we also need to be careful about comparing our emotions with the emotions of others. In groups of nonreligious people, you will find some who are naturally bold. Certain personalities are just born risk—takers, not prone to thinking through consequences. Then there are rationalists who rarely allow themselves to be driven by feelings of any sort. Strategy is their default, not their instinct, so panic doesn’t hit them in the same way as it might hit a feeler. Feelers, on the other hand, may find themselves moved quickly and easily by circumstances or emotions. Tranquility isn’t on the emotional playlist as often as excitement, giddiness, sorrow, and fury.
Some of these inborn personality differences are impacted by personal choice, but chemical and genetic factors also come into play. God makes some people with a high natural capacity for analysis, others with a high natural capacity for risk, others with a high natural capacity for sensitivity. Instead of feeling pride or shame over our wiring, we can just acknowledge our defaults, seeing them as tools in a toolbox. We can acknowledge the pros and cons of our personalities and then ask God how he wants us to move forward.
So if you struggle with fear while someone in your religious community brags about his or her boldness, don’t let that comparison go too deep. This difference might not result from spiritual maturity so much as chemical capacity. And besides that, you serve a God who isn’t limited by your fear. In fact, it’s possible that your inborn sensitivity is vital to the specific work God has prepared for you.

Rebecca K. Reynolds, Courage, Dear Heart, Navpress, 2018, pgs 101-102.

Leave a comment

The Worst Thing Man Did Was Also The Best Thing God Did (via Robert Farrar Capon)

The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of and participation in God’s victory of sin and death.
It is not a place to dwell on his actions rather than ours.
We could think that God’s focus is on the work of Jesus, and not our works, as well.

…when Christians meet, they break bread and drink wine because they were commanded to “do this in remembrance of me.” Specifically, they gather in special and sometimes opulent buildings – frequently having dressed themselves to the nines – and they proceed, to the accompaniment of expensively produced music and fairly ambitious choreography, to sing and trip their way lightly through the fantastic business of recalling how on a hill far away they once kicked the living bejesus out of God incarnate in Christ. They take the worst thing the human race has even done and make it the occasion of a celebration. And why? Because the worst thing man did was also the best thing God did. The Friday was Good.
What that suggests to me is the that when God remembers evil, he remembers it as we remember the crucifixion in the eucharist: in the light of the good he has brought out of it. And because that is such a hilariously positive good compared to the grim negativity of evil, it simply becomes his supreme consideration.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Youngest Day, Mockingbird, 2019, pg 111-112.

Leave a comment

When All We Can Pray Is “Live Through Me Because I Got Nuthin'” (via Rebecca Reynolds)

Union with God in Jesus is a unique relationship. Though there are similarities with aspects of human relationships the complete non-dependence of God and the absolute dependence of we humans means all comparisons with other relationships have limits that need to be reconised.
They contribute to helping us understand, but they don’t define the relationship.

Over and over again, the New Testament tries to tell us something we have so much trouble hearing: that the goal of Christianity is dependent union – an unusual sort of God—human relationship that doesn’t have a true parallel in the human—to—human world. God uses earthly metaphors to hint at What he means by this bond—sometimes bride—groom language or parent—child comparisons. But no human relationship can catch all of what’s happening in our unity with God because he is more intimate with us than anything we will ever share with another person.
If you read back through the New Testament, you will notice that the Bible uses strange phrases like “Christ in you” to describe this intimate union. Sometimes we are called a “dwelling place,” and other times we are called branches on a Vine. This isn’t like anything we read about in pagan mythology — not the tinkering of a god who hangs out most days on Mount Olympus but whips up a strategic thunderstorm for the Trojans now and then. This gets inside our space. It gets inside our lives.
When life is going great, most Christians don’t let these metaphors get too close because we love our autonomy and feel as if we have a handle on things. But when chaos hits —when the nine—volt battery of our own ability finally fizzles out — we’re at last ready to plug our electric cords into God’s outlet. “Give me the juice!” we pray. “Live through me because I got nothin’.”
Even in that moment of vulnerability, Paul’s word choice may still look strange to us. “I delight in weaknesses,” he wrote — but no, that’s not the emotion we feel at all. At least not yet. In fact, “delight” is the very last thing we feel. We feel ashamed of ourselves, maybe. We feel desperate. We feel humiliated. But all of these emotions are ust afiershocks of the downfall of our self-effort. They are tremors in the dust of an infrastructure that needed to collapse.

Rebecca K. Reynolds, Courage, Dear Heart, Navpress, 2018, pgs 77-78.

Leave a comment

Why Does The Saved Hour Go To The Owl’s Account Rather Than The Lark’s? (via Robert Farrar Capon)

Another reason to hold Robert Farrar Capon with some affection is his dislike for daylight savings.
Well, not so much a dislike for the concept, but for the inequity that it imposes against early-risers at the hands of the more indolent.
To illustrate his point that is their laziness deserves no indulgence he poses a scenario that accepts their imposition of daylight saving but instead credits that which is saved to the account of the larks, not the owls.
As with most things Capon there is a theological point being developed, but theology can never be divorced from the realities of life.

My personal disenchantment with [daylight saving time], however, derives from the second of my charges, namely, that in practice it results in inequities. For one thing the daylight it purports to save is all in the evening. For another the dates at which it undertakes to begin and end this one-sided rescue operation … serve only to skew things even worse. And for the last, rather than making the summer more bearable, it in fact obtrudes the sun’s heat on the very part of the day that needs it least…
Does that mean I must accept the present system quietly? It does not. Instead it immediately raises the question of why the savings are not deposited at the beginning of the day rather than at the end. Why not to the lark’s account rather than to the owls’?
I am aware that owls do in fact run the world and that they show little interest in whose ox is gored as long as it insn’t theirs. But I am also aware that their principal argument for “saving” daylight in the evening is the fact that if we didn’t do it the sun in solstice would rise at the, to them, monstrous hour of 4:31am. Accordingly, since the best defence against such people is to be as offensive as they are, I propose a new system. Set the clocks back instead of forward in the spring and frighten them with an even bigger hobgoblin: sunrise at 3:31.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Youngest Day, Mockingbird, 2019, pg 70-71.

Leave a comment

Alive Willy-Nilly In Jesus (via Robert Farrar Capon)

When Jesus brings the dead back to life in the Bible the events are not resurrections. All those returned to life eventually went to a grave.
But the power of life that Jesus exercised demonstrates the completeness of human need and the presence of a life in him that can meet all that need.

Jesus came to raise the dead: not to idle those who were half-immortal anyway into some other slightly improved life but to take those who had completely lost their grip and give them back every last one of the days that he, as their resurrection and their life, had always held for them. He never met a corpse that didn’t sit right up then and there because, although it may have been dead as a doornail on its own terms, it was alive willy-nilly in him and just couldn’t help showing it.
When Jesus came to raise Lazarus, the dead man’s sister Martha had her doubts. Like the rest of us she could imagine eternal life only as something out there – as a blessing to be achieved only after the protracted clanking of some religious or philosophical contraption. And therefore when Jesus told her her brother would rise again, the furthest think from her mind was that it would happen on the spot: “I know,” she said; “he’ll make it at the last day.” But what Jesus in effect said to her was: “Wrong! He’s made it now. I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even though he’s dead, will still live. And whoever lives and believes in me can’t possibly die in eternity – because in eternity is exactly where I’ve got him for good.” Lazarus, in short, might lose his own grip on his life but he could never shake loose of Jesus’. Ergo forth he comes when the Word who holds him speaks his name.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Youngest Day, Mockingbird, 2019, pg 47-48.