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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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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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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.


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Faith And Repentance (via Sinclair Ferguson)

Sinclair Ferguson considers faith and repentance.
Because they can be experienced differently and distinctly we might think they are separate.
But that is unhelpful.
From Ferguson:

In grammatical terms, then, the words repent and believe both function as a synecdoche — the figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. Thus, repentance implies faith and faith implies repentance. One cannot exist without the other.
But which comes first, logically? Is it repentance? Is it faith? Or does neither have an absolute priority?
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We cannot separate turning from sin in repentance and coming to Christ in faith. They describe the same person in the same action, but from different perspectives. In one instance (repentance), the person is viewed in relation to sin; in the other (faith), the person is viewed in relation to the Lord Jesus. But the individual who trusts in Christ simultaneously turns away from sin. In believing he repents and in repenting believes.

Read the whole post at Ligonier.