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The Church Is God’s Incubator For Making Disciples (via Stan Gale)

Stan Gale spent the days after his birth in an incubator. He received that life sustaining and growing support in isolation.
As a disciple of Jesus we are told that we need support for our life to be sustained and our growth supported. We need an incubator. But not in isolation.

The church is God’s incubator for making disciples. Through the means of grace made effective by the Holy Spirit, the church provides the light of God’s Word in an atmosphere oxygenated by prayer – the perfect environment for spiritual growth and development.
Unlike my time in a hospital incubator, the disciple is never released to be on his or her own. The need for Christ is constant and the church makes that apparent through celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, both of which sustain the disciple in this world and anticipate the world to come.
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If the church is an incubator for spiritual growth and development that means it is incumbent on those who lead to ensure that the church is functioning according to Christ’s design. The light of Christ must shine with clarity of God’s truth and warmth of His love. The atmosphere must be oxygenated with prayer in communion with God and dependence upon Him. Discipleship will not be reduced to mere information but transformation into maturity, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Read Gale’s whole post here.


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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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Everywhere We Look In The Church We See Priests (via Chad Bird)

The effort to recover the priesthood of all believers can’t be an effort to impose a pastorhood of all believers. Something is lost if everyone is pressganged into some form of pastoral function. More is lost if everyone doesn’t understand that whatever it is they are doing is their expression of the priestly function we’re all called to in Christ.

From Chad Bird:

Peter says to the whole church: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9). The apostle is borrowing and expanding ancient language from Exodus where God says that Israel is a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:6). We’re accustomed to thinking of priests as a select group within the people of God. Priests, we assume, were the sons of Aaron in the Old Testament and are members of the ministry in some denominations today. The professional religious people. But just as we wrongly equate vocation with a job, so we wrongly equate priesthood with the pastoral ministry. Both are much broader and deeper categories.
Everywhere we look in the church we see priests. Those noisy energetic VBS students colouring a scene from Noah’s ark – they are priests. The elderly gentleman who uses a walker to shuffle to his favorite pew – he’s a priest. The youth group, the choir, the ushers, and the pastors are all included. Our ordination into the priesthood happened on the day we were baptized into our great high priest, Jesus. We became part of the “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” We entered the sacred vocation that fundamentally changes the rest of our lives, that touches every aspect of who we are and what we do, every day of the year. It is this “every aspect” that deserves our attention.

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pgs 114-115.


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Taking Up Your Cross Is Not A Way Of Life, It’s A Way Of Death. (via Chad Bird)

Jesus is not a life coach. He’s not providing an example to follow, or teaching techniques to get us through the day or tough situations.
What he invites us to do is die with him.

From Chad Bird:

Likewise, to take up our cross daily doesn’t mean to shoulder our personal cares and concerns. Jesus isn’t telling us merely to pick up our sicknesses, temptations, and other “crosses” of life and trudge along behind him. Immediately before he says this, our Lord predicts his upcoming passion. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). Right on the heels of this, he says to take up our crosses daily and follow him (v.23). In other words, Christ bids us follow him to death and the grave. That’s what crosses are for, after all: to kill people. A hangman’s noose isn’t there just to chafe people’s necks in uncomfortable ways; an electric chair doesn’t simply jolt our bodies with stress. They kill. So too the cross, in Roman society, was an instrument with a singular purpose: executing people. To take up our crosses daily is to suffer many things with Jesus, be rejected with him, be killed with him, and on the third day be raised with him to newness of life.
To be a disciple of Jesus, to follow him instead of our hearts, necessitates our complete incorporation into him.

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pgs 76-77.


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Christian Maturity Is Marked By Growing Dependence, Not Independence (via Chad Bird)

Tomorrow Christians will gather and be reminded yet again that we are unlearning non-dependence and learning dependence on Jesus. Christian maturity is not learning how to develop our own strength so we need Jesus less, it is increasing in our knowledge of our inability to stand anywhere but in Jesus’ strength.
From Chad Bird:

The stories we prefer to write about ourselves, as outwardly attractive as they may be, will never get us into the narrative in which Christ truly shapes us into his own image. The self-image we cultivate tends to work on the false assumption that God desires us to grow more independent. To become better and stronger so that we need him less. We imagine ourselves growing when we lean less on God and more on our own gifts and talents. As if the Lord is waiting for us to spread our wings and make our own way through this life.
But Christian maturity is not marked by independence but dependence. A growing awareness of our incessant need for Christ. A focus off me, my talents, my doing, even my religious life, and a focus instead upon the Son of God. The less we are, the more Christ is. But far from being bad news, this is the best news of all. For the more Christ is, the more we are the very people God has created us to be

Chad Bird, Your God Is Too Glorious, Baker Books, 2018, 78.


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The Failure Which Is True Success (via Chad Bird)

… true success is found in the failure to find meaning and purpose in something we do, accomplish, build. Rather, our identity, our meaning and purpose, is not something we work for but receive from the hand of our Father.

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The 9 Essential Failures of a Faithful Life, as quoted at Mockingbird Blog.


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Breaking Through The Deafness Of Pride (via Chad Bird)

When God brings humans into relationship with himself he makes us part of a larger body.
The danger is when being part of larger body becomes a substitute for a replacement for the relationship with God.
That’s when we need to hear his call to come back to him.
From Chad Bird:

All of Israel’s sins began in their ears. Like a broken record, the prophets preached, “Hear the Word of Yahweh.” Believe in him. Follow him. Give heed to his Word. Jeremiah says, “From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck” (Jer. 7:25—26). The original Hebrew says that God was “daily rising early and sending [the prophets].” God is saying, as it were, “Look, Israel, I roll out of bed every morning at the crack of dawn and the first thing I do is throw another prophet your way.” And the first thing Israel does is stick headphones in its ears to blare the music of disobedience.
This means that the chief problem for Israel is the same one we face in the church today. It’s not scandals among the leadership, apathy in the pews, or irrelevance to a secular culture. Our chief problem is and will always be unbelief. An unbelief made possible by deafness to the Word of Yahweh. A deafness made possible by pride. And a pride made possible, all too often, by the assumption that we’re good with God because our names are on a church’s membership roster. Outward attachment to a religious institution is no guarantee of an inward attachment to the God of the cross. Indeed, as the Jews in Jesus’s day claimed to be God’s favourites because Abraham was their father, today the temptation is to claim that we are God’s favorites because we’re in the club called Christianity.

Chad Bird, Your God Is Too Glorious, Baker Books, 2018, 33-34.