Kingdom Living

Casting Vision for the Future of the Kingdom

Kingdom Living

Ezra, Grace, and the God of the Impossible!

December 4th, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I have been studying Ezra for Sunday and I am just blown away by how God took impossible situations and worked tremendous good out of them.

A pagan king gives God glory and decides to send God’s people home. He gives them provisions for the trip. He even gives them articles that had been long lost as they had been stolen from the temple before it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587BC. Not only that, their foreign neighbors in Persia also heaped blessings on them as they walked out the door to go back to the promised land.

The Jewish people in exile couldn’t have planned this. They couldn’t have orchestrated this. It was all grace…unmerited favor. Grace is at its best when God provides for us in ways that are impossible for us to provide for ourselves.

Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate gift of grace. He gives us two things (actually far more) that we could never provide ourselves – forgiveness of sins and the promise of resurrection. Without the grace of God we would be lost in sin and have no hope of resurrection.

How can you and I go throughout our week looking to grace someone? How can we provide what others cannot provide for themselves? It might be a good deed we do in Jesus’ name…it might be sharing the gospel with them to bring them closer to full life in Christ!

Let us go throughout our week and world with our eyes open to see the limitless opportunities to show grace to those around us – we might just give someone something they could have never attained on their own!

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Is Our View of Authority Based More on the Bible or on Our Approach to Church?

November 23rd, 2021 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

When Christianity began people met in homes. When Paul wrote to the churches the people were meeting in homes. It carried on this way for the better part of 200 years and even up to the 300s when Constantine became favorable to Christianity and institutionalized everything.

What changed when church got big and needed its own building? What changed when the church moved from family and home to stranger and neutral location? Our view of authority changed. Now, we think our view is biblical but it is heavily influenced by our form of church so that maybe it is not as biblical as we thought!

So when we talk about “authority” in church we are seeing it through the lens of hundreds (even thousands) of people who see each other an hour or two a week based in a program driven environment in which big decisions are required to be made. None of that is the case in a house with a dozen people.

Authority in small house churches, like Paul was writing to, is much different than authority in big church. I challenge you to go back through Paul’s letters and the book of Acts and re-examine authority through the lens of the house church. I believe a few things will stand out to you.

First, authority was actually about being a servant rather than about having a position.

Second, authority was familial and pastoral rather than by near strangers exerting an executive role and function.

Third, the level of intimacy was far deeper in their world at home than in the corporate industrial complex we now call church.

Much more could be said…I want you to go back and read the pastorals (Timothy and Titus especially) through this lens and see what stands out! I believe what you will see is that those same passages we based our view of position, authority and qualifications sounds quite a bit different than how we have applied them! Let me know what you find.

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A Few Reasons We Don’t See Movements in the United States

November 15th, 2021 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

It seems God is moving all over the world through massively expanding organic networks of everyday people making disciples who make disciples who plant churches.

Why aren’t we seeing this as much in the U.S.?

First, we don’t see them because we aren’t looking for them. We aren’t turning over the stones with our ear to the ground looking for them. They are happening and are probably near where you live – you would just never know it. There are house churches all over the country but how would you know the exist since they don’t have a sign or building?

Second, God moves fastest among the humble and we have a pride problem in the United states. Experts in disciple making movements say the people who are hardest to train and most resistant are people who have been in ministry the longest. There are too many habits that have to be broken and paradigms that have to be shifted and most can’t do it. Movements are taking place among people who are desperate for God. We aren’t there yet.

Third, we haven’t given over control of our churches and our lives to God 100%. We like to maintain and exert control and this runs counter to the movement of God. It is only when we give it all over to God and plead with him for him to run the show and we follow his lead that movements can happen. We aren’t there yet.

Fourth, the movement of God runs counter to how we set up church. By church I mean institutional, established church as we see in the United States.

  • Church was set up to be stable and predictable…movements are not.
  • Church was set up to be top-down leadership. Movements are bottom up.
  • Church was set up to be run by professionals. Movement are energized and driven by lay people.
  • Church was set up to not upset the insiders. Movement mobilize the insiders for mission.
  • Church was set up to keep leadership in the hands of the few and keep them local. Movements multiply leaders and give them away readily.
  • Church values slow. Movements value fast.
  • Church is expensive. Movements are cheap.
  • Church is programmatic. Movements are mission focused.

The way we setup church creates inherent barriers to movement that were completely foreign to church in the New Testament. And so much of the drama revolves around the brick and mortar. If we can divest ourselves of our investment in the building and refocus on people we would be more apt to be movements rather than feeling so stuck.

God is willing and ready to move. I am not so sure we are.

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Stay Focused

November 8th, 2021 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

It is so easy to roll through life without being intentional. A life well lived required focus. The primary focal point is Jesus.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We ended with this passage in the last post and I want to talk about it a bit.

The great cloud of witnesses is what was talked about in Hebrews 11. They are cheering us on…encouraging us in the race of life.

In order to run that race effectively and with great speed, we need to toss off the unnecessary things that weigh us and slow us down (throw off everything that hinders). What hinders us? He says, sin. Sin hinders. Sin entangles. Sin slows us down.

But tossing aside distractions and sin isn’t enough…you still have to direct your life in a particular direction. The way to get your life oriented in the proper direction is to “fix our eyes on Jesus”. Why? Because he was the original…the trail blazer…the pioneer. Jesus showed us the way to the Father. Jesus is the way to the Father (John 14:6).

The trail Jesus blazed went straight through suffering and in doing so, Christ received great joy and glory (“for the joy set before…sat down at the right hand of God). While we won’t sit at the right hand of God we can be sure that the road to joy often and inexorably goes through suffering. So many people focus on their feelings as the gauge of what is best…but that is not what we are to focus on. That can lead us in a million wrong directions. What happens when suffering comes? It doesn’t feel good…you quit. We can do better than that!

Stay focused. Toss off hindrances…which are often sin…intentionally focus on Jesus and his way of living and being…and run the race he marked out…that will surely take us to and through suffering and on to joy and glory! Since we know these things in advance we will not lose heart!

So many Christians lose heart because they are never told that following Jesus will take them to and through hard places and situations. When difficulty comes they are like the seed tossed on the path or among the rocks…the quickly fade. Let us know be like that seed…let us continue racing toward Jesus no matter what tries to get in the way.

I don’t know who out there needs to hear this message today but I hope that you can assess all the things you give focused attention to and make sure Jesus is getting your best and most.

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Distraction

November 4th, 2021 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

If you took everything you did during your day and listed everything in order of the amount of time you spent thinking about those things, what would your list look like? Notice, I didn’t say doing those things but thinking about those things. Often we think distractions are the things we do when we should be doing something else…but what is even more important are the things we think when we should be thinking about something else. You can do all the right things but your mind be fixed on the wrong things 24/7.

Are there things that consume your thoughts on a daily basis? Things that you obsess over? Thoughts that recur time and time again that pull your thinking away from attending to what you are actually doing? Maybe social media distracts you while driving or at work (be careful!)…maybe there is a person who you are enmeshed with who you continue to worry about how they feel about you…and you just can’t shake it.

I encourage you to consider those things you think about when you should be thinking about other things…the things that steal your focus. What is it about them that keeps drawing you back? What is it about those things or people that continue to dominate the focus of your attention? How is that harming the things you really need to be attending to?

Here are a few verses that can help you regain your focus because very few of us really focus on Jesus throughout the day…few of us could say that Jesus distracts us from our employment or from our social media time! Not to guilt you…just putting things in perspective.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Be blessed.

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The Value of Secular History in Biblical Interpretation

October 29th, 2021 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

People have often said that reading the Bible is like reading someone else’s mail. It was originally addressed to particular people in a particular time. Getting to know their circumstances can help us better hear, understand and apply what is being said in the Bible.

I want to share a stellar example of this from Dr. Richard Oster of Harding School of Theology. He did a lecture on head coverings from 1 Corinthians 11 a number of years ago that I ran across and have saved for over 15 years. He goes into Roman worship practices as depicted in archaeological discoveries (friezes, busts, statues, and coins) that show Roman worship practices that inform our understanding of what Paul is up against in Corinth.

I hope you will take the 30+ minutes to listen to his lecture, observe the included pictures, and appreciate how reading outside the Bible helps us understand what is inside the Bible!

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Every Church Closes

October 21st, 2021 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

According to Tod Wilson of Exponential 99.9% of churches don’t live past 100 years old. Most Churches of Christ were planted in the 1940s-1960s which means they are in their 60s-80s. That means that they will die of “natural causes.”

Churches follow the life cycle of a human being. Quick growth when young. Plateau in middle age and then decline. It is natural. It is predictable. It should be planned for. Robert Dale does a great job describing this cycle in his book “To Dream Again.”

What would it look like for us to plan for our ultimate closure? I believe good stewardship would require us to consider this and plan accordingly. Just like a human life, you want your end of life care to be done when you are of sound mind, when you are healthy.

Our churches need to make some changes that recognize life moves on and the doors will one day close.

But I believe that before we can have that conversation we have to take the stigma and shame away from church closure and label it as death by natural causes/old age. It is natural for churches to die. What is required is leveraging that death to do as much future kingdom expansion and blessing as possible.

Churches need to tithe to the future. Set aside/spend 10% of the budget on new church planting efforts.

Churches need to move from educating to training. Train people in the skills to grow the kingdom (disciple making, evangelism, church planting).

We need to develop leaders – this takes time and effort long before it is needed.

And we must be in prayer. Pray about the future of the community without your congregation in it. Pray for the future of your community with multiple churches springing up to reach and teach and love the people in your city! Dream big without your congregation in the picture!

And if you think you don’t need to have this conversation, that means you really do! The problem is, those around the table aren’t in a good position to bring it up, especially the preacher.

I want to close with a principle from Jesus on this from John 12:23-26,

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Let our dying congregation dandelion out to create new growth in places the old church could have never dreamed!

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We Don’t Have An Evangelism Problem

October 13th, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I used to think the problem was a lack of evangelism. It turns out that isn’t it. What is the problem? We have a love problem. Back when you were in High school or college you didn’t need much motivation to go talk with the person you were attracted to. You pretty much had to figure out how to go about it one way or the other.

I am afraid we aren’t attracted to the lost and we aren’t attracted to them because we don’t love them like we should. I can only speak for myself in any direct sense but I don’t think I am alone.

We will reach out to those we love. If we don’t reach out it only begs the question of whether or not we truly love them. If we love them we will figure out an approach. There are hundreds of ways to reach out – just pick one, show people you care and see what God does with it!

This isn’t a knowledge problem – the knowledge exists…the paths and processes for effective evangelism are all over the place, open source. No cost. You can drown in unused approaches.

This isn’t a power problem. God has the power to change hearts. We don’t and God will change hearts real time as we work on people life on life.

This is a tried and true love people that has turned into something worse – a faith problem. Let that sink in!

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Exodus Always Comes Before Sinai

October 6th, 2021 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

I heard this phrase in graduate school and it stuck with me – the way God works, Exodus always comes before Sinai. God delivers his people from impossible odds before he gives any hint of expectation or response. Often we view it the other way around – where we think God will only do for us after we do for Him.

Paul said it like this in Romans 5:6-8,

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That is “exodus before Sinai” in action!

So the question for us is, what has God delivered you from?

Sin?

Death via resurrection and baptism (Rom 6)?

Specific moments in your life where God intervened on your behalf?

We all have a story and we need to learn our Exodus story…our Red Sea moment so that we can tell of the wonderful acts of God! This, like the early Hebrews on the East side of the Sea, moves us to worship! And it moves us to Sinai…to deeper, more specific response and a declaration of our allegiance to the God who liberated us from forces we were powerless to engage or overpower on our own!

I would love to hear your story…and make sure to find someone in your life to tell it to and then tell them about Jesus and invite them in!

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Running Church Like a Business?

September 20th, 2021 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

After sitting through hundreds of elders meetings I can tell there are lots of different kinds of elders out there. All of them deserve respect due to doing a volunteer job that few are ever actually trained to do and the fact that they are serving God. I have worked under some truly great shepherds and also have worked under some really challenging ones.

One of the things I have noticed over the years that was nailed home last week is that far too often elders treat leading the church like leading a secular organization. This is often true from the appointment of elders and what people are looking for in their leaders. People want success and think that people who are successful growing a business must be good leaders in the church. But often that is not the case at all.

The things that make a good business leader don’t always translate into spiritual leadership, much less Jesus’ example of being a leader. In fact, if you ran a business like Jesus it would probably fail. You would have to give away products to all who asked and even give them extra stuff (Luke 6:30).

If you listen to what Jesus said about leadership it also runs counter to worldly business leadership practice. I am speaking very broadly here and very generally…there are exceptions to what I am saying. Jesus said the greatest among you will be your servant, not your CEO.

We need to make sure the culture of our leadership is spiritually minded and discerning. How do you do that?

First – submission rather than domination. Submit to God in everything rather than expand your brand.

Second – Prayer and fasting. There is no movement without prayer and fasting. Church leaders should pray and fast, regularly.

Third – Listen. Pay attention to God, the congregation and the community.

Fourth – Don’t do a single thing unless it honors God, advances the kingdom, makes disciples, or encourages the saints. Sometimes churches try to do too many things and miss the most important things.

Fifth – Reassess your leadership and the processes that put leaders in place to make sure you are actually trying to discern God’s voice (think Acts 13:1-3).

Sixth – Look for the people among you are shepherd people and take note, those are your future elders.

Seventh – Don’t go after your elders on this – they are doing their best and doing all they know to do. They are good people repeating what all the faithful people before them did. They should be appreciated for their service.

If you want to see some of this content and a bit more in video form, you can watch that here

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