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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 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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Meeting Doubt With A Question And Not A Demand (via Winn Collier)

When Jesus encounters doubt in his disciples he asks why, so that the doubter can explore where their doubt is coming from, and return their focus to Jesus and the relationship they have with him.

From Winn Collier.

When Jesus encountered doubters, he did not leave them to wallow in their uncertainty, but neither did he rail against their human frailty. Jesus showed his pierced hands to Thomas. Jesus met Nicodemus in the middle of the night. Jesus healed the demon-possessed son of the father who pleaded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” And here, with Peter, Jesus did not leave him to drown, nor did he heap vitriol on his wavering faith. Rather, Jesus pulled Peter from the water and asked him a question. Why?
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Doubt as a barrier to trust is where Jesus takes aim. Jesus doesn’t mind questionsHe gives time and space for people to hear and consider and journey into the truth. Peter’s doubt, in fact, had nothing to do with philosophical quandaries or historical veracity. Peter did not have a theological dilemma. Peter did not slip into the waves because of an existential crisis. Peter wavered in trusting his friend. His issue was not creedal, it was relational.
Whatever pushed Peter to doubt, it was obviously connected to fear, understandably so. The disciples had been on pins and needles the entire night. IN a quick turn of events, Peter found himself alone on top of the waves out in the middle of a blustery storm. This doubt had nothing to do with logic or reason. There was no process that led Peter here. An apologetics lecture or a philosophical conversation would not have helped. Often we believe our doubt would be assuaged if God would miraculously intervene in the world. No miracles would have aided Peter. He had just lived the miracle, a few extraordinary aquatic steps. Peter’s doubt detonated in a flash, because all of a sudden he thought he might drown – and his fear was larger than his trust in Jesus..

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pgs 136, 137-138.


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Jesus Is The God We Need (via Winn Collier)

Jesus experienced life with human emotions.
In addition to knowing our need for salvation, Jesus fully experienced everything that we need to be saved from.

From Winn Collier.

Jesus did not come to help us manoeuvre around the our brokenness; Jesus came to enter our brokenness with us. The gospel is not a therapeutic system tooled for enhancing our ability to cope by believing hard enough and smiling big enough and quoting just the right mixture of Bible verses so we can distance ourselves from our negative emotions. The gospel is the story of the world as it actually is, our lives as they actually are. The gospel tells us that we are broken, more broken that we know, and that our world is in a shambles. Jesus does not encourage us to ignore what we have lost, but rather to mourn it, to feel deep sorrow over the devastation we were never supposed to know. The gospel instructs us to want and wait and hope for God to make the world right again. We do not need a God removed from our destruction and insisting we are all okay. We need a God who knows in his bones how sick we are and who will not leave us to ourselves. We need God to rescue us.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pg 90.


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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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Rise Up And Walk (via Ron Block)

A meditation on faith by Ron Block.

Faith isn’t something we drum up or fight for. We don’t pull up our faith-bootstraps and try to believe. Faith is more than intellectual assent to ideas about God; it is the outcome of any real moment of intimate contact with him.
When we are fearful or unbelieving, when we look at the future with trepidation, or when our mind is spinning with past losses, what can we do? Well, what do we do when we are cold? We pull our chairs up to the hearth and get closer to the fire. We step into the warmth and light of the sun.

Read the whole post at The Rabbit Room.