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You Must Take Up Your Cross As Often As You Put It Down (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

A reflection on the Christian life as a long obedience in a consistent direction.
This is not a process where Jesus gets us in, and then we set to work to keep ourselves in.
This is a constant remembering of the fact we’re only in because of what Jesus has done.
The more our lives change, the easier it is to forget that truth.
From Connor Gwin, writing at Mockingbird:

It takes more than praying a certain prayer. It is not a ‘one and done’ situation. You must lay down your life anew each day or each moment. You must be born again and again, over and over. You must take up your cross as often as you put it down.
For “the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak” (Mt 26:41). In our weakness, we grasp for control and power.
When we think we have control over our lives, we run ourselves ragged. When we feel like the masters of our own fate, we drive ourselves into the ditch. The world promises that we can do all things by our own sheer willpower. We are told that we can accomplish all of our dreams through nothing but our own effort, but that path is the expressway to death.
Paul writes it this way: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else” (Eph 2:1-3).
It is only through surrendering our lives, letting our ‘selves’ die, and following Jesus that we find life, real life, and rest.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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The Power Of Deep Rest (via Tim Keller)

An excerpt from Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.
It speaks to someone who stubbornly resists a week off.

Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you if you don’t have the ability to be disciplined in your practice of Sabbath. Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. It means you are not a slave—not to your culture’s expectations, your family’s hopes, your medical school’s demands, not even to your own insecurities. It is important that you learn to speak this truth to yourself with a note of triumph—otherwise you will feel guilty for taking time off, or you will be unable to truly unplug.
The Sabbath legislation in Israel was enacted after the Exodus from Egypt. It was unique among world cultures at the time. It limited work, profit taking, exploitation, and economic production in general. Every seventh day no work could be done in the fields, and every seventh year the field was to remain fallow and not be cultivated at all. This surely meant that in the short run Israel was less economically productive and prosperous than its neighbors. But it was a land of free people. In the long run, of course, a deeply rested people are far more productive.
We are also to think of Sabbath as an act of trust. God appointed the Sabbath to remind us that he is working and resting. To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward. Entrepreneurs find it especially difficult to believe this. They have high levels of competence and very few team members. If they don’t put in the hours, things don’t get done. How easy to fall prey to the temptation to believe that they alone are holding up their corner of creation!
But by now you must see that God is there—you are not alone in your work. Jesus’ famous discourse against worry (Matthew 6:25-34) is set in the context of work. He chides us that the plants of the field are cared for, though “they do not labor or spin” (verse 28). He reminds us that we are obviously more valuable to God than plants—so we shouldn’t “run after” material things through our work (verse 32). So if you are worrying during your rest, you are not practicing Sabbath. It is a chance to meditate on passages like Matthew 6 until deep rest begins to penetrate you.
We might conclude that the practical benefits of the gospel’s Sabbath rest come to us only as individuals, as we pray and read the Word—but that would be a mistake. God also strengthens us through the fellowship of community with other Christians. So for example Paul calls Christians to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). And yet we are told that Jesus will relieve the burdened (Matthew 11:28-30) and that we are to cast all our cares and burdens on God (1 Peter 5:7) who bears them daily (Psalm 68:19). So which is it? Are we to look to God to support us under our work and burdens—or to other Christian brothers and sisters? Obviously the answer is both, because it is normally through the sympathy and encouragement of Christian friends that we experience God refreshing us and supporting us in our work.

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God Watches, We Surrender

An excerpt from a brief article about sleep and rest written by Zack Groff.

God Watches, We Surrender
We lay down at night, trusting our infinite God to keep us in His care. Pastor Adrian Reynolds expresses this idea poignantly: “the willingness to lie down and sleep is itself an expression of trust in the sovereign hand of God. Nothing is going to happen to me that He does not determine.” We are to trust God completely, regardless of our situation.
Rest generally is a form of creaturely surrender to God the Creator. The universal need for regular times of rest testifies to humanity’s great need for God as both Protector and Sustainer. Through soaring mountain ranges, immeasurable ocean depths, and the immensity of cosmic space, God impresses us with a sense of His awesome power. Yet through the frailty of the human condition, God helps us to understand His invisible attributes by way of contrast rather than by direct analogy. Men must rest from their labors while God works out His will unremittingly in Providence. Men are dependent whereas God depends upon nothing. Men must sleep, but God is ever watchful.
Physical rest also provides daily occasion for thanksgiving. Though we have nothing else, to awake in the morning full of life is to open our eyes to God’s praiseworthiness. Rising in the morning to a symphony of life in a home full of children, or to the delicious smells of a hot breakfast, or to a house kept safe through the night should drive us to our knees in thanksgiving to God for His gracious favour.

Read the rest of the post here.


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Finding Rest In A Relentless Culture

An article that should appear in our local paper in due course:
The thought of a driverless car or autonomous vehicle seems quite attractive when making the long drive to Adelaide and back. But it seems the technology still needs quite a lot of refinement to function in the real world. Accident reports involving autonomous vehicles being tested by Google in the US reveal an unexpected source of accidents: vehicles with human drivers.
It seems that human drivers don’t factor in the same degree of caution as autonomous vehicles are programmed to exercise. So, the accidents these vehicles are involved in largely happen because human drivers don’t expect other vehicles to be quite so careful. For instance, autonomous vehicles will break for a yellow light rather than accelerating through the intersection, and the following car will run into them.
The answer to the problem is programming the autonomous vehicles to drive more aggressively, and so better reflect the driving patterns of humans. For all that, I’d still love to see the day when they test an autonomous vehicle in Coles’ car-park; or in the car-park at the old Woolworth’s, where people love driving up and down the lanes in the wrong directions.
There is something in human nature that loves to push and go beyond limits. Not only in driving, but also in all of life we seem more and more determined to cram some sort of activity or another into every minute of the day.
It’s not unusual for people to treat unoccupied time as a lack of fulfilment or waste. Rather than remain in silence with our own thoughts, we crave activity, audio or visual stimulation; and, if all else fails, we scroll through our phones to find out what other people are doing. If our children’s days are not completely packed with activity we might feel guilty that we are denying them full opportunity.
Lives lived without any pattern of rest and reflection can lead to burnouts and breakdowns of various types. We were not designed to spend every waking minute in some form of activity. We not only need rest, we also need precious time to spend self-reflection and consideration of our lives and the circumstances that confront us day by day.
The Bible talks about Sabbath, a time of rest that intentionally takes the individual away from their everyday pursuits and causes them to engage in conscious rest and reflection on themselves and their relationship with their God and their neighbour. The weekend penalty rates that are guarded vigilantly are a reminder of a time when society in general recognised the benefit of a day of rest and rewarded those whose work involved them having to sacrifice this special time.
One of the ways that the Bible talks about Jesus is that he is the ultimate expression of rest. Knowing him means that we no longer have to struggle and work to earn God’s acceptance, but can rest secure in our relationship with him. The Bible bids us be still and know God. The next time you have a second, don’t automatically try and fill it with some activity. Take time to pause and think.