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Negative Splitting The Christian Life (via Stephen McAlpine)

Maybe its because I’ve started cranking the treadmill at the gym up to a bit of a canter in the mornings, but this article by Stephen McAlpine caught my eye.
A 51 year old pastor with a passion for running McAlpine comments on completing the second half of a recent half-marathon (about 10kms) in a faster time than the first half – a negative split.
McAlpine develops the thought of completing the second half of a Christian lifetime with more purpose than the first, rather than settling and coasting home.
From his article:

So what about negative splitting your Christian life? What about making the second half stronger, more purposeful than the first half of it?
I say that in the light of being a Christian long enough to see peers either seemingly struggle to reach the finish line and settled into a low grade anger or cynicism, or give up altogether and go down some sidewalk. It’s not unusual for me to meet 50 to 60 year old men who, having started the race with joy and endurance, go into positive split territory or leave the faith altogether, and all the time getting closer to the finish chute.

Read the whole post at Stephen McAlpine.


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Trials Of Various Kinds (via Scott Hubbard at Desiring God)

Scott Hubbard writes a short article about how God prepares us to face major trials by taking his people through multiple smaller trials of more mundane significance. How we teach ourselves to react with the smaller will be how we react to the larger seasons of adversity.

The little trials you meet today are not mere letdowns or annoyances. They are invitations from your Father to become more like Jesus. They are the exercises your faith needs, given in just the right size and quantity. They are God’s way of fitting you for glory.

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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Nobody Welcomes Grace. At The Same Time Everybody Pants For It (via Paul Zahl)

Grace has to be the total paradigm, mix it with anything else and it can’t exist.
From Paul Zahl.

How can grace end-run its way around standards and yardsticks? It sounds unfair.
It is unfair, but it is completely unfair. It is the other side of the law, which is total grappling, a totally unsuccessful and failed grappling, with judgment. Because the law is completely fair, grace has to be completely “unfair.” The atonement makes grace “fair,” as is apparent in the teaching concerning the cross, But from our point of view, from the standpoint of its recipient, grace is unfair.
The unfair character of grace makes it persona non grata in the cut-and-thrust of the battle of life. Nobody welcomes grace. At the same time everybody pants for it; everybody wants it every second of every hour. Grace is an either-or proposition; it is not both-and.

Grace In Practice, Paul F. M. Zahl, Eerdmans, 2007, pgs 70-71.


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Why Neither Accumulation Nor Minimalism Can Make You Happy (via Wyatt Graham at Gospel Coalition Canada)

I’m an accumulator. But I know it won’t make me satisfied. Neither would getter rid of all my stuff.
From Wyatt Graham at Gospel Coalition Canada:

[Accumulation or Minimalism as] options to happiness are modern. But there is an older way of life that promises freedom like minimalism does and joy like accumulation does. Central to this way of life is the posture of hope in something beyond the material world, namely, God. And if you put your hope in God, then your well-being is not determined by whether you have stuff or don’t have stuff.
Jesus told his disciples not to worry about how much stuff they have or didn’t have because God provides…

Read the whole post here.


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It Is Striking To Recognise That The Sense Of Being Fundamentally Bored And Dissatisfied With Life Is A Problem Experienced By Prosperous, Wealthy Westerners.“ (via Matthew Payne at Gospel Coalition Australia)

Some thoughts on the transformation of boredom from passing phases of disinterest to a more fixed state of dissatisfaction by Matthew Payne at the Gospel Coalition Australia.

People have always been bored. We’ve all experienced the feeling of disinterest in what we’re doing or not knowing what to do with ourselves. But what this paper focussed on was a deeper and more fundamental problem of boredom. Many people in our culture are disinterested in life as a whole. The meaningless of life hangs over us and we can’t escape a sense of dissatisfaction with what life has to offer.
This latter kind of boredom is a recent phenomenon. It is connected with the rise of wealth and the loss of belief in God in the western world. It is striking to recognise that the sense of being fundamentally bored and dissatisfied with life is a problem experienced by prosperous, wealthy westerners. We have more career and lifestyle choices than anyone else in human history, but this has not made us content. Quite the opposite.

Read the rest of the post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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If It Stops Stinking, It’s Too Late (via Michael Milton)

Michael Milton relates an episode from his past life experience of receiving a safety warning while working on an oil field and draws a parallel application to spiritual health:

[The warning from his foreman]
“When you smell rotten-eggs at the well site, boys, you are smelling a poisonous, corrosive, flammable gas that is hydrogen sulfide. This hydrogen sulfide will kill you in no time flat … If you get to the point where you do not smell hydrogen sulfide and its noxious rotten-egg aroma, it’s already too late. So, listen and live: You smell it. You get out of there. ‘Cuz if you stop smelling it, we will have to go in and haul your ugly carcass out of there feet-first. And that will just mess up my day. Don’t be that guy!”

[Milton’s spiritual application]
…sin is like the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide. Whenever you smell it, you have to get out—and I mean NOW. If you linger after you have detected the odor of the poisonous gas of sin, you will quickly get to the point where you don’t smell it. That is a point of no return. Let us say it like this,
If sin becomes tolerable, judgment becomes inevitable.
And by the time you stop sensing that rotten-egg smell, it will be too late. You will be trapped by sin. You’ll be snared by the devil. Somebody just may have to go into the scene of the incident and pull you out feet-first.

Read the whole post here.


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Preposterous Blessings (via Winn Collier)

Winn Collier writes about the beatitudes as encouragements for those at the margins rather than a recipe of ‘be this and get that’.
Why?
To assure us that in the kingdom, we should never be undone by finding ourselves at the margins.
From the post:

The life Jesus announces really does turn everything topsy-turvy. Jesus passes blessings (well-being) on exactly the opposite of those we consider blessed. The Beatitudes pronounce the shocking reality that the precise people we assume at the bottom of the pile are actually at the center of God’s abundance. These blessings are what God does, what Jesus makes possible in ways that were impossible before.
And while these blessings do not unravel a litmus test for “what it takes to get God’s blessing” (for example, no one’s suggesting we should go out looking for persecution), it’s subversively true that we need not fear these places of deprivation or vulnerability because when we’re most at risk, we have confidence that God is with us in that risky place. So when calamity visits us (persecution) or when we courageously obey Jesus (by being merciful, for instance, to those who we think deserve no mercy at all), we don’t need to fear.

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