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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.


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Guilt Based Deterrents Should Not Become Substitutes For The Self-Examination That Brings Growth In Grace (via Winn Collier)

The Gospels contrast the disciples of Jesus who were not consistently clear about what they wanted with those at the margins (like blind Bartimaeus) who were completely focussed on their need.
Jesus keeps asking a question (actually or implied) of those he encounters to help them understand that their present desire was masking their need or was leading them away from understanding their need of God.

From Winn Collier.

accountability is a Christian buzzword. Designed to aid spiritual formation, the (good) intention is to walk and struggle and live honestly with a spiritual friend who know s our foibles and our mess and loves us toward Jesus anyway. However accountability often devolves into a spiritual lashing, when we attempt to manage our behaviour by the sheer terror of having to ‘fess up. Numerous lists of questions have been designed to serve the accountability process, but they usually tread shallow water, only uncovering external scandalous behaviours: Have I looked at porn this week? Have I used my money wisely? Have I given emotional intimacy with someone other than my husband? However, I have never – not once – seen Jesus’ question make the list: what do I want?

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pgs 147-148.


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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.


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If You Arrive At Church Early (via Cornerstone Community Church)

Here are some benefits of turning up to church early.
(Roughly defined as more than 60-120 seconds before the appointed starting time, though in reality that’s actually arriving dead on time. Early would be sooner than that.)
If you consider your attendance as ministry to others, rather than as something that you do, or something that is for yourself, these are just a starting point.

If you’re early:
Your heart will be more settled and ready to worship our majestic Creator God.
You can take a few minutes to sit quietly and think about the Lord you came to worship.
You can get your children to the appropriate classrooms without rushing.
You can take a few minutes to encourage one another in fellowship before the service.
You can take a few minutes to read through the church bulletin before the service starts.
You can encourage your church leaders by showing greater respect for their careful and prayerful planning of the worship service.
You set a good example for your children in holding high the principle of love for others.

Read the whole post at Cornerstone Community Church.