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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.


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A Death Must Truly Be A Death Before There Can Be New Life (via David Zahl)

Popular culture and social media has made failure into a status symbol, but usually presents failing as an egalitarian stepping stone to entail success. Almost like a rite of passage.
David Zahl points out that this cultural tendency to gloss over failure as a stepping stone to success short-changes the suffering of those who fail, and whose failures cannot be stepped from quickly or easily.

The notion that failure is not failure but the first step toward its opposite may be absurd, but it is also suitably and undeniably cult-like. Ironically, such silver-lining-itis buffers us from the very suffering we are theoretically venerating.
Honest failure, on the other hand, hurts. It is painful. It is out of our control. And there’s nothing we like less than that.
Obviously some failures do lead to success. Some dead-ends do herald new beginnings. This is especially true in relationships. But some do not. A biblical truism captures this dynamic: you cannot pole-vault over Good Friday to get to Easter. A death must truly be a death before there can be new life. Christ was not hanging from the cross checking his watch — “another few hours of this and then it’s smooth sailing.” He really suffered and really died. He experienced true separation from God. What happened thereafter was unexpected.
Which is to say, failure in the service of success is not actually failure.

David Zahl, Seculosity, Fortress Press, 2019, pg. 37.


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Becoming A Christian Is Not Tantamount To Becoming An Extrovert (via Sammy Rhodes)

Sometimes I feel the effective Christian life is confined to one personality type. Or, at the very least, that it’s not fair that one personality type seems ideally suited for reaching out.
Sammy Rhodes gives some relief with an observation that the Good News is embodied in a community of all types of people.

One line in particular has stayed with me. “Becoming a Christian is not tantamount [to] becoming an extrovert.” We could also add that being a Christian is not tantamount to being an extrovert, yet a casual visit to almost any Christian gathering could lead you to conclude the opposite. This varies from group to group, but the pressure is there. Typically this is because we’ve exalted a method (or methods) over the message.
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If you have a method or formula more than you have a message or truth, then you implicitly rule out all the person— ality types that can’t pull off your method or formula. If you have a message, however, then you invite all kinds of personality types to embody and reflect that message through a variety of different gifts and methods. This is exactly what Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians when he compared the church to a body, with different members being like different parts of the body, all working together with none being more important than the other. How beautiful are the feet that bring good news, Isaiah tells us. But where would the mouth be if the feet couldn’t take it to places where it might be heard? Where would the feet be if the brain couldn’t tell them how and where to walk?

Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward, Thomas Nelson, 2016, pg 132, 133.