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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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Killing The Many Sins Of Ministry (via Peter Adam)

Peter Adam points out that being in pastoral ministry is not being in an environment that automatically promotes growth in Godliness and firewalls the pastor from sin.
The opposite is true.
Pastoral ministry provides a rich environment of stumbling blocks through which temptation yield the fruit of besetting sin.
Pastors can learn and those who pray for pastors can be informed of the spiritual warfare your prayers sustain your pastor through:
From Adam’s article:

People sometimes say to me, ‘it must be wonderful to do Christian ministry as your job, because it must keep you free of sin.’
I reply, ‘actually, it increases temptation and opportunity for sin, and opens up many more possible sins to commit. It also increases responsibility not to sin, because we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1)!
If you found that unconvincing, you might like to think on the fact that many of our strengths and gifts carry with them potential sins.

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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Long Term Expectation Produces Short Term Obediences (via Scott Hubbard)

The expectations of an impatient culture run counter to the reality that growth is a long term process.
But the conviction of that long-term expectation does not manifest itself in frustration, or in complacency and inactivity.
Rather the expectation that we are growing like Jesus produces the immediate regular actions that produce that fruit.

From Scott Hubbard at Desiring God.

The long view of sanctification, received rightly, refashions our perspective on today. On the one hand, we will adopt humble expectations of today’s progress. The farmer plowing his fields does not expect to harvest a crop by evening; nor does the cross-country traveler expect to reach his home. The rhythms of the seasons and the breadth of the country have chastened their expectations.
The Christian seeking God should likewise not grow unduly discouraged when today’s efforts fail to yield immediate fruit. Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, and fellowship are less like the crank of a lever and more like the sowing of a seed. We plant, we water, and then we keep our eyes on the harvest.
On the other hand, however, the long view reminds us that today’s small acts of obedience are of the utmost importance. The steps we take today may not take us all the way to glory — true. But we will never reach glory unless we keep stepping.

Read the whole post here.


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Growing New Instead Of Growing Old (via Abigail Dodds at Gospel Coalition)

Abigail Dodds writes an article that directly addresses women, but speaks to the experience of every Christian.
She contends that increasing age should represent a growth in more that the number of candles on our birthday cakes.

Now, instead of growing old, we are growing new. The mature Christian woman is the one who has been new for a long time. The mature Christian woman is the one who’s been with Christ long enough to have the unbelief of adulthood reworked into childlike faith. The mature Christian woman is the one who, though outwardly wasting away, is getting newer every single day (2 Cor. 4:16).
Yet how can a mind that’s growing old and forgetful also grow new? We all use our minds on something; perhaps not through relinquishing brain cells via childbirth, but in some form or another, our minds are spent. I have given my mind to storing information like: the location of the stray sock belonging to the 11-year-old, what chapter the 8-year-old needs to finish for history this week, when early bird registration ends for my oldest kids’ youth retreat, who needs new snow boots this year, what meetings my husband has this week. And even more importantly: what area of discipleship needs attention in each child, what godly habits could use further cultivating, what opportunities were missed last week for building up, connection, and growing together. All the data and information at times seem to crowd out coherence! What am I but a jumble of seemingly random, but repetitive, facts and concerns?
But this is a fertile place for newness to grow—in a mind and heart stuffed with the details and rhythms of life, worn out in the work God has entrusted. Our minds aren’t compromised by being used up; they’re replenished with something better than sharpness or quick-wits or brilliance. They’re replenished with a dependent wisdom that only Christ can supply, so that over the course of our lives—as we give away our brain space for the sake of those around us—we gain a mind that holds more than ours ever could have. We gain the mind of Christ, filled with humility, trust, and faith.

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition.


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Looking At Problems From Heaven’s Perspective (via Joni Eareckson Tada)

Joni Eareckson Tada is well known as a Christian how ministers from a life experience as a paraplegic.
In an article taken from her book Heaven she recounts a situation where, after another painful physical therapy situation, she hears a question, and responds:

“I bet you can’t wait for heaven. You know, like Paul said, ‘We groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling’” (2 Cor. 5:2).
My eyes dampened again, but this time they were tears of relief. “Yeah, it’ll be great.”
In that moment, I sat and dreamed what I’ve dreamed of a thousand times: the hope of heaven. I recited 1 Corinthians 15 (“The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable”), mentally rehearsed a flood of other promises, and fixed the eyes of my heart on future divine fulfillments. That was all I needed. I opened my eyes and said out loud, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
This experience often occurs two or three times a week. Physical affliction and emotional pain are, frankly, part of my daily routine. But these hardships are God’s way of helping me to get my mind on the hereafter. And I don’t mean the hereafter as a death wish, psychological crutch, or escape from reality—I mean it as the true reality.
Looking down on my problems from heaven’s perspective, trials looked extraordinarily different. When viewed from below, my paralysis seems like a huge, impassable wall, but when viewed from above, the wall appears as a thin line, something that can be overcome. It is, I’ve discovered with delight, the bird’s-eye view found in Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Read the whole post at Christianity Today.


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Christlikeness Is Something To Long For, Not Be Delivered From (via Randy Alcorn)

Randy Alcorn is supporting his wife, Nanci, through her season of cancer.
God is supporting them both.
He writes about the experience of God using the very situations that nobody wants as the circumstances in which faith and Christlikeness grows:

If asked, “Do you want to be closer to Jesus, and more like him?” we all know what we should say. Yet, if God answered all our prayers for relief from suffering, he would be delivering us from the very thing we say we want. Christlikeness is something to long for, not be delivered from. It’s not easy to pray, “Please do whatever it takes to make me more like Jesus.” But when he does whatever it takes, we should trust him.

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The Hardest Battle In Ministry (via Jeff Robinson)

This is the battle every Christian fights, and it’s the hardest battle in ministry: the battle against yourself.
From Jeff Robinson:

The ministry is a lot like golf. You really are your own worst enemy. You have to battle you all the time. It comes down to realizing that you are weak. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10, You are weak, but he is strong. In our weakness, his strength is made perfect.
Jesus said it best in John 15:5. Apart from me, you can do nothing. You must rely on him. That’s part of winning the war within is God making you a humble, godly man who does look like the person Paul describes in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Regarding the war within, I think it’s time for battle.

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