mgpcpastor's blog


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

When Jesus Says “Do Not Fear,” He’s Not Like Humans Telling You Not To Worry (via Rebecca Reynolds)

Sometimes advice is given that we don’t trust because the person given the advice can’t understand why we feel the way we do.
Rebecca Reynolds observes that Jesus is different.
He tells us, and he knows exactly how and why we feel as we do.

When the Bible speaks about fear – which is often – it speaks into all of this complexity. God knows your defaults. He knows your instincts. He knows your biology, your chemistry, your genetics, your experiences, and your intellectual capacity. Every connection that occurs in your nervous system, every fluid released by every gland, every physiological reaction – from the lump in your throat to the drop of your stomach – is seen by the God who made you.
This means that when Jesus comes to the believer saying, “Do not fear,” he’s not like humans who tell you not to worry. He understands what others cannot understand about us because he knows us back and forth, inside and out. He knows that for some of us, this is a command to walk on land, and for others it’s a command to walk on water.

Rebecca K. Reynolds, Courage, Dear Heart, Navpress, 2018, pg 93.


Leave a comment

A Joy That Walks Through The Valley Of Shadows (via Winn Collier)

It seems as if joy was in short supply during the season of joy. Winn Collier writes that real joy is not the product of circumstances, true joy is hard won in adverse circumstances.

These are the seasons in which true and lasting joy can be tempered and grown.

Joy’s hard won these days. At least if you’re breathing and paying half attention. It can appear naive or brittle or uncaring to pursue (and even more to publicly profess) joy whenever it seems like Rome’s burning. And yet joy —true joy– is not denial of the pain or treachery. Joy does not sing syrupy lullabies in place of the funeral dirge. Rather, joy walks through the valley of shadows, all the while refusing to crumble or relent. Joy endures. Joy gathers the tears and the wounds and the crushing disappointment, all the while brazenly resisting the devastating lie that these tears and wounds, these evils and disappointments, are the truest story. Joy clings to faith with a dogged grip. Indeed, Joy is hard won

Anyone can pump out pollyannaish clichés. Conversely, anyone can wallow in gloom and cynicism. But to live in the reality of things and yet be relentless in the pursuit of joy–that requires a stout, courageous soul. “We must have,” as Jack Gilbert insisted, “the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.” This is one of the many places where we must have the hard-won wisdom of those who’ve suffered at the margins, those who’ve sat on the razor edge. Listen to the songs of the oppressed. Hear their poetry and their stories. Sit at their tables. They teach us how to name injustice, yes. But what strikes me most is how they teach us to be fierce, unrelenting and obstinate, with our joy.

source


Leave a comment

Unlearning Christian Amnesia (via Winn Collier)

Every Christian has experienced God’s gracious power at work in their lives.
As disciples we consistently evaluate situations as if we’re supposed to navigate them in our own power.

From Winn Collier who is reflecting on Jesus’ interactions with the disciples as he intends to feed a large crowd (again).

…with the dilemma out in the open, only Jesus possessed the imagination to consider any outrageous solution. The disciples had seen Jesus raise corpses and cleanse lepers and cast a herd of demons into a herd of swine. Even more ironic, if this account is seperate from the miraculous feeding of an even larger crowd just a few days before, the disciples had already seen Jesus work a miracle to answer the same quandary. Theologian Frederick Bruner says that here Matthew teaches a “doctrine of Christian amnesia.” In a crisis we seldom remember the many ways God’s grace has flowed to us. The disciples only inclination was to organise a quick exit, hoping to minimise the damage. Jesus, on the other hand intended to arrange a feast.
God knows our pain better than we do. He sees our calamity and feels, even with greater awareness than we, how near we are to ruin. The Gospel narrative is the unfolding of a rescue operation, for those of us unaware of how much we need it and naive in the face of our complete dissolution.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pg 62-63.


Leave a comment

The Subversive Questioner (via Winn Collier)

When God asks questions its not because he needs information.
It’s because we need to learn something about ourselves and our circumstances that we’re hiding from ourselves.
The question reframes our insistence on control and self-reliance and reveals our need.
This is also true of Jesus’ questions, with the added reality that his human nature was not omniscient.
From Winn Collier.

After the tragedy of the fall, Adam and Eve hid. They hid their bodies and they hid their hearts. This is our introduction to sin. What began as Adam and Eve’s stiff-necked rebellion quickly morphed into their rabid fear of being found out and a panic over their complete inability to decelerate the meltdown they had initiated. So Adam and Eve’s response was to stick their fingers in their ears, close their eyes, and hum a s loud as they could in the bushes, pretending they could hide from the truth. God stepped into the tragedy, though, and he posed a question: “Adam, where are you?” It was a question intended to unnerve them, to reveal their desperation, to call them out of their hiding.
God asked a question to the tow hiding in the garden, and he has been asking questions to us ever since. His questions urge us out of our self-absorption and pull us into something far bigger: God. God’s questions are subversive. They reframe the discussion. They are always at work pulling us out of ourselves and drawing us into himself.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pg 17.


Leave a comment

Pastoral Ministry Does Not Try To Save The Redeemed (via Henri Nouwen)

Henri Nouwen makes an important distinction about pastoral ministry.
A contemplative is able to live fully in the moment, but not be ruled by, and reacting to, the anxiety of that moment.
In that he is able to help others to look beyond their present ‘panic-stricken convulsions’ to responses that resonate with the character of the kingdom.

It is not the task of the Christian leader to go around nervously trying to redeem people, to save them at the last minute, to put them on the right track. For we are redeemed once and for all. The Christian leader is called to help others affirm this great news, and to make visible in daily events the fact that behind the dirty curtain of our painful symptoms there is something great to be seen: the face of Him in whose image we are shaped. In this way the contemplative can be a leader for a compulsive e generation because he can break though the vicious circle of immediate needs asking for immediate satisfaction. He can direct and steer their erratic energy into creative channels.

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded HealerMins, Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1994 ed., pg 44.


Leave a comment

Congregational Life – A Place Where We Are Saved From Our Yearnings, Rather Than Having Our Yearnings Met (via M Craig Barnes)

In a brief article at Christian Century, Craig Barnes writes about the disposition of wanting to protect people from their own hurt feelings, and how the life in the church is not meant to be place where flawed people grow in Christ likeness by experiencing the imperfections that remain within us:

Congregations are filled with people who bring their yearnings with them into the community. Often these yearnings have not been met in other places like family or work, so people are hoping the church will be the place where they will finally find affirmation for their heart’s desire. But the church is not paradise. It’s a divine reality of redemption in which we are saved even from our yearnings. It’s a community in which we learn to sacrifice our hopes, failures, and hurt feelings in order to turn to Jesus Christ, our savior.

Read the whole post here.