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Preaching Unsuccess (via Chad Bird)

The church will gather together tomorrow to hear the news of the unsuccessful life.

From Upside-Down Spirituality:

Christianity has a God who knows that if the church runs the way of success, we’ll eventually tumble headfirst into the grave of irrelevance. That’s where the quest for success leads us – into a kind of death, into a toothless message of empty platitudes with a mirage of hope at the end.
Our churches, in fact, preach a kind of unsuccess. We succeed at nothing to which the world aspires. Power? No, we boast in weakness. Fame? No, we revel in anonymity. Beauty? No, our God hung on an ugly cross. Winning? No, we confess that the first are actually last. Riches? No, for the love of them is the root of all kinds of evil. the church is a place for losers. for those who hands have been emptied, so that – as we sing – “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pgs 189.


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The First Time Something Wasn’t Good And The Christianisation Of The Me Generation (via Chad Bird)

Chad Bird likens the action of the church in greeting the me generation with an emphasis on an individualistic experience of salvation to attempting to douse a fire with petrol.
His comments below are well balanced in that they do not make the fulfilment of Adam and Eve out to be marriage, as if any human that is not married has a less that complete life. What they do recognise is that the fulness of humanity cannot be expressed or experienced without relating to other humans.

From Upside-Down Spirituality:

The very first time God said something was “not good” was when someone was alone. The earth was good. The heavens were good. The animals and seas and mountains were good. But Adam, all on his lonesome, without another human being, without someone to complement him, live with him, and be his family, his helper, his own flesh and blood – that was not good at all. A private Adam who had a personal relationship with his Creator was simply not going to cut it. He may have been a glorious, regal, beautiful human being, but he was still not independent. Therefore God gave him Eve, built from his own body. He belonged to her and she to him. The depended on each other, leaned on each other, found fulfilment in each other.
Humanity was not truly complete until singular had expanded into plural, until I had become We.

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pgs 168-169.


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Love Is Not Something We Fall Into, It Is A Rough And Rocky Hill Two People Commit To Climb Together (via Chad Bird)

Marriage, contrary to popular thought is not a dream within a dream.
It is a mutual commitment by two people to live as one for the the duration of their lives.
And if it was easy, why would we need promises to hold ourselves to it?

From Chad Bird:

That’s why love is not something we fall into; it’s a rough and rocky hill we commit ourselves to climb. Or, to change the metaphor, love is a story we decide to write together with another person. There will be paragraphs penned in the calligraphy of pure ecstasy, but there will also be chapters scribbled in pain. The thing is, we don’t know what form or direction the narrative will take. The final chapter is not written until it’s lived. What we’re devoting ourselves to is not a fairy tale, not a thriller, not a bestseller, but a simple story of sacrifice for someone else. We for them and (hopefully) they for us. But because it is the account of two sinners sharing the same bed, bank account, and bathroom counter, the narrative will become terribly messy and convoluted at times. There will be entire sections we wish we could blot out. Heated and vitriolic dialogues that embarrass us. And, along the way, plenty of happy surprises as well. We’ll discover places in our hearts, and in the hearts of our beloved, that we didn’t even know existed. That’s the way stories unfold. Unpredictable. Boring. Beautiful. Ugly. Riveting. We’ll find all of this and more when we commit to writing a story with another person to whom we say, “I love you.”

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pgs 128-129.


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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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Being Parents Who Are Failures At Perfectionism (via Chad Bird)

Contemporary parenting undertakes the burden of providing a perfect life experience for children. It is an expression control on the part of the parent, taking the role of a God in the life of their child. And the more micro-controlled that the upbringing of children is becoming is being accompanied by an increase in anxiety among them.

From Chad Bird:

God knows that if there’s anything our world needs, it’s certainly not more superparents. We need plain old boring moms and dads. The kind who are more concerned with modelling humble, loving service to their children than hot-housing them into superbabies who out-SAT and out-GPA their classmates. The kind of parents who are more concerned with teaching their children “the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears,” as William Martin writes, than the thrill of guzzling the intoxicating liquor of success. The kind of parents who are utter failures at perfectionism, at being heroes and heroines, at maintaining complete control of their child’s upbringing — in short, who fail at being a god — in order that the grace of God might succeed in our lives as moms and dads as well as in the lives of our children.
Most of all, we need the kind of parents who see their primary identity not as parents but as children. Before I am a father, I am a son of God. Before my wife is a mother, she is a daughter of God. Before we are anything else — parent, spouse, worker, citizen — we are children of our heavenly Father.

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pgs 94-95.


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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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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.