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Think Advent, Not Adrenaline, When You Picture Life In Christ’s Church (via Chad Bird)

A reminder from Chad Bird that life as a disciple of Jesus is life with the Church; and growth as a disciple of Jesus with the church is a slow-cooker experience, not a microwave experience.

The work of Jesus in our lives, and in the life of his church, creeps along like that Matthew genealogy. It’s not radical, explosive, immediate, incredible, or any other dazzling adjective you can select from the Thesaurus of Spiritual Excitement. There’s no microwaving this sacred meal. It’s going to take time. It’s going to be humdrum most of the time. Worship won’t be an ongoing string of wow! mind-blowing! incredible! experiences that leave us tingling with the skintight closeness of the Spirit.
Jesus is more of a take-his—sweet—time gardener than an applause-inducing circus performer. Novelty is not his way. We often want it to be. Indeed, as the devil Screwtape brags in one of his letters to the junior tempter, “The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart.” Unsatisfied with the built-in rhythms of change in daily lie, “the horror of the Same Old Thing” demands novelty for novelty’s sake. “Unchanged” comes to mean “stagnant.” But think advent, not adrenaline, when you picture life in Christ’s church.

Chad Bird, Your God Is Too Glorious, Baker Books, 2018, 127.


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Jesus Doesn’t Believe In You. That’s Why He Saves You. (via Chad Bird)

It’s because Jesus knows us completely that he knows how completely we need to be saved.
And that’s how he reveals the gracious magnitude of God’s love.
From Chad Bird:

Jesus knows good and well that there’s nothing inside us worth believing in. In fact, everything inside us looks absolutely untrustworthy. If anything, when the Lord peers into our hearts, he should hightail it for the hills, getting as far away from us as he can. But he’s not that kind of God. He loves before he looks. And even after he looks, he still loves. Because his love has nothing to do with us. It is not sparked by our goodness or sustained by our obedience. God is love. It’s who he is and what he does. While we were still powerless, he was powerful to save. While we were still sinners, he was still the sinless, gracious, saving God he’s always been.

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pg 44.


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The Attitude We Have About The Church Is The Attitude We Have About Jesus (via Stephen Kneale)

The Church is the body of Christ. Not figuratively. Literally.
The way you’ll treat the Church tomorrow is the way you treat Jesus.

From Stephen Kneale at Church Matters:

If Christ is unified to his people, then what one does to his people is what one is doing to Christ. How one treats his people is how one is treating Christ. This is the clear implication of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25:40.
Jesus’ words to Paul have far wider-reaching ramifications than how Jesus views the persecution of his people. It has clear implications for how the Lord’s people treat one another. It similarly has implications for how the Lord’s people treat the Lord’s stuff.
If we cannot be bothered to get out of bed to get to church on Sunday morning, we are not just failing to bother spending time with God’s people but we are spurning Christ himself. When we have no interest in serving and caring for the Lord’s people, we are failing to care for the Lord. When we drop the ball on stuff in church and put upon others, we are spurning the Lord and saying there are other things that take precedence over him.
If Jesus’ words to Saul tell us that those who persecute the church are persecuting Christ, it also tells us that how we treat the church is how we treat Christ. If we never go to church, if we constantly go away for the weekend, if we never serve, if we find anything else to do, these are not just holding the church in low esteem, it is treating Christ lightly and a direct reflection on our views of him.
By contrast, a high view of the church is a high view of Christ. If the church becomes a high priority, Christ is a high priority. Serving the people of the church is a measure of our love for Christ. Serving in the ministries of the church is a measure of our love for Christ. Turning up at weekly worship and engaging with the Lord’s people is a measure of our love for Christ.

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“There Is No Other Way To Be A Disciple Of Jesus Than To Be In Communion With Other Disciples Of Jesus” (via Fleming Rutledge)

An observation from Fleming Rutledge about the Gospel of John and how it demonstrates that while Jesus was relating to individuals, he was creating a community, a family, a body, branches joined to a common vine.

Taking the Gospel and the Epistles of John together, no writings in the New Testament are more concerned with the church than John. You wouldn’t necessarily notice this, however, if you read the Gospel without looking for it. Our typical American individualism tends always to focus on the single, supposedly autonomous person, so we typically read the Bible through that lens. And it’s true that for the first two-thirds of the Gospel, John features a striking number of personal, intimate conversations between Jesus and single individuals: the Samaritan woman, Nico- demus, the man born blind, Thomas, Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene. These stories stand out because they are beautifully crafted by John, a master dramatist. So, most people tend to read the Fourth Gospel that way. But the overwhelming emphasis in John is not on individuals, but on the organic connection that Jesus creates among those who put their trust in him. This theme reaches its apex in chapters 15 and 16, during the last hours of his life on earth, when he teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
There is no other way to be a disciple of Jesus than to be in communion with other disciples of Jesus. Why do you suppose the Lord didn’t separate out each one of his followers, stand us up separately, pronounce us each a unique individual, and then bid us go off and create ourselves?
He did the opposite; instead of making us independent and self-centered, he makes us mutually interdependent and other-directed.

Fleming Rutledge, Three Hours, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 31-32.


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What A Local Church Really Needs (via Premier Christianity)

Churches can have all sorts of assumptions about what the people who visit or regularly attend them want, and then tailor themselves to meet that felt need. And then share the Gospel. Sort of a Jesus ‘bait and switch.’
This post doesn’t take issue with excellence, but makes a heartfelt observation about what is important.
From Kimberli Lira at Premier Christianity.

When I walk into church I am not paying attention to the décor. I don’t want to smell freshly brewed coffee in the lobby. I don’t want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don’t care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable.
Since my husband died, my days are spent working full time. My nights are spent homeschooling and taking care of two young children. I don’t have shared duties with a spouse anymore so everything is on my plate. When I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God.
There are days when the tears won’t stop and a trendsetting church is not what I need.
This is not a criticism of churches that have coffee bars, nice lighting and catchy sermon titles. But, in everything that is done, we need to make sure that Jesus is at the centre. It is also a reminder that there are hurting people sitting in your congregation.
There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavour. They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need Jesus.
My social media feeds are full of churches boasting about the trendy new initiatives they have begun. Their coffee bars and lighting don’t appeal to me.
I want to see how Jesus has changed a person’s life. I want to see the power of prayer. I want to see how the Word of God can be applied to life. I want to see how Jesus can help the hurting. I want to see how Jesus can heal the sick. I want to see how a broken heart is restored. I want to see how mourners are comforted. I want to see how lives are restored.

Read the whole post here.


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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 21

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 21

54.
Q. What do you believe concerning the “Holy Catholic Church”?
A. I believe that, from the beginning to the end of the world, and from among the whole human race, the Son of God, by his Spirit and his Word, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself, in the unity of the true faith, a congregation chosen for eternal life. Moreover, I believe that I am and forever will remain a living member of it.

55.
Q. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
A. First, that believers one and all, as partakers of the Lord Christ, and all his treasures and gifts, shall share in one fellowship. Second, that each one ought to know that he is obliged to use his gifts freely and with joy for the benefit and welfare of other members.

56.
Q. What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
A. That, for the sake of Christ’s reconciling work, God will no more remember my sins or the sinfulness with which I have to struggle all my life long; but that he graciously imparts to me the righteousness of Christ so that I may never come into condemnation.


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On Needing Resurrection Power To Endure Suffering

In John 13 Jesus tells Peter “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
Jesus is speaking of his death on the cross and the resurrection life that will be shared as a result.
Peter will learn that his own suffering would consume him without resurrection life within him.

Paul speaks of this in Philippians 3 when he writes in verse 10 “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”.
Jesus suffers, and is resurrected.
Because of his suffering and resurrection, for Jesus’ disciples the order is reversed.
We know the power of his resurrection, and because of that we are able to endure the sufferings that follow.

We could not endure going where he went, until he had first gone there alone.
Having gone and triumphed, we can now go there in his power.