Kingdom Living

Casting Vision for the Future of the Kingdom

Kingdom Living

Locked in on Jesus – Keep Your Focus!

March 21st, 2022 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

What does it take to get our eyes off Jesus?

The woman in Luke 7 shows us just how focused a person can be on the Lord.

A Pharisee named Simon had Jesus over for dinner…in the middle of the meal, a woman came into the room. She was weeping, crying…she made her way to Jesus and began to wash his feet with her tears.

That wouldn’t be all that difficult to do for a couple of reasons. First, homes were far more accessible and closer to public spaces than today. Second, his feet were easy to access as he reclined at the table.

As she anointed Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, something happened that hadn’t considered until recently. Her hair got rather nasty. We know this because the next thing Jesus says is to the host, Simon, that Simon had not washed Jesus’ feet upon his arrival. That was customary to do or at least provide because walking was a dirty way to travel.

Now imagine the sobs and the awkwardness in the room…awkward for everyone except Jesus. He didn’t rebuke her. He forgave her and had her go in peace!

Imagine how locked in on Jesus she had to be in that moment! I don’t know about you but I really don’t like putting myself on display like that. But she was desperate and, I believe, she knew she was safe with Jesus even if she wasn’t with everyone else.

This woman we often refer to as the “sinful woman” had much about her that I deeply admire. Maybe there is a better name for her like, “The woman who loved Jesus deeply” or something like that! I admire her locked in focus and trust in Jesus. I admire her ability to focus on her task and not feel compelled to utter a single word. I admire her vulnerability in a room of judgmental people. I don’t know about you but I much prefer to protect myself far more than this woman was which only makes me think that she has much to teach me about being more focused on Jesus than I am on myself!

What is it that challenges you keeping your focus locked in on Jesus?

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Junk the Spiritual Gifts Inventories – Focus on Ephesians 4 Instead

February 25th, 2022 · 9 Comments · Uncategorized

Over the last 20 years, spiritual gifts inventories abound. I cannot help but wonder what drives the desire to want to know our gifts. Hopefully it is a desire to serve out of our strengths. On the slightly darker side is an obsession with the self and our desire to feel uniquely gifted. Oddly enough, gifts inventories do the opposite – the tell you which group you probably fit into best rather than what makes you unique!

I had always struggled to know what to do with Paul’s gifts lists in Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, and in Romans because I was a cessationist – the belief that the Holy Spirit had stopped working. I also believed that there were no more apostles because that was a first century thing that didn’t continue. Reading Ephesians 4 was rough because I really didn’t see how what Paul had to say had any bearing on people of faith in our day. But I believe I was wrong.

Instead, I believe we need to revisit Ephesians 4 with an open mind and see how God has organized his people for maximum effectiveness for kingdom growth and the expansion of the kingdom.

Here is our text,

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Eph 4:11-16

Apostles – These are literally the “sent ones” and again, every church needs apostles. They are out front, leading the way into God’s calling of His people.

Prophets – people who discern God’s leading and share it with others. These aren’t future tellers. These are spiritually discerning people. They know how to listen for God and follow God’s lead. Every church needs people with this gift. God did not leave us alone…yes he left us with the Bible and that is a huge part of listening to God. God also left us with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit does communicate if we are willing to listen.

Evangelists – these are the missionaries of the church both foreign and domestic. They keep the church from getting too comfortable. They are natural connectors, people-people…they make disciples who make disciples.

Pastors/Shepherds – They are inward focused – taking care of the flock. They tend to the hurting and build up the body. They encourage, equip, and are present to bring stability so that not all the roles are outward looking.

Teachers – Those who are gifted at teaching the word of God to the flock. They help the flock to go deeper not only in knowledge but also into obedience to the Word of God.

We have obsessed over teachers to the neglect of the other gifts. That has resulted in church that is off balance – the church Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 that we don’t need to be – not everyone is an eye or an ear. Not every one is a teacher…some are prophets and others are all the rest.

We need each other…we need every role to do what God designed the roles to do,

“to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:12-13

If our churches are lacking maturity, this is probably why. If our churches are tossed by false teaching – this is probably why. If our churches have lost their foundation – well you know what I am going to say.

So let us consider these gifts and consider which ones rings truest for ourselves in the body of Christ and engage in ministry that fits the gifts God has given us! Sometimes you will be called to something outside your giftedness…if it is God calling you can’t make the excuse that that isn’t your gift!

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Spiritual Maturity Is More Than Bible Knowledge

February 23rd, 2022 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

How many long time Christians have you known who knew the Bible inside and out but were absolutely rotten inside?

It is easy to equate Bible knowledge with Spiritual maturity.

If Bible knowledge alone isn’t spiritual maturity, what is? I heard a useful answer to this from Curtis Sergeant who said that spiritual maturity is like a three legged stool. You need all three legs to have balance. Here are the three legs:

Knowledge – You need to know the word of God and be growing in that knowledge.

Faithfulness – You need to try to live obediently to whatever level of knowledge you have.

Sharing – You need to share what you learn with those around you.

There are some who know much and share much but aren’t faithful. Those are hypocrites.

There are those who share but have little knowledge and aren’t really trying to live it. This is quite dangerous as well.

You get the idea…

Let us be in the word, live the word, and share the word…and we will watch God continue to grow us more and more into being like Jesus!

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I Had No Idea How Powerful Prayer Really Is…

February 7th, 2022 · 4 Comments · Prayer

I cannot claim to fully understand the power of prayer. Obviously it is God’s power not prayer’s power…the power that is brought to bear on a situation that wouldn’t have been otherwise. That God is awaiting our faith response of prayer…he is awaiting the conversation before he makes his move.

It is hard to understand exactly how prayer works because God knows the end from the beginning. He knows if we are going to ask him before we ask him and yet he waits on us to make that move.

Over the past few weeks we have seen God move in conjunction with our prayers in some powerful ways. I can’t get into all the specifics right now but it has been loud and clear that God is doing what was impossible for us to do on our own.

That is faith building, mission affirming and life giving!

I want to encourage you to prayer bold prayers of faith…to beg God to move…to humble ourselves before the throne of God and ask him to move the mountains…and he will! He does all the time.

The more you ask him for these BIG things that more you see our BIG God do BIG things. I am not convinced that it is always because he is doing more than he did before…it is just that we are often more attuned to his movement. And then when we see it, we thank him…praise him…and tell others of his goodness and power and faithfulness.

So tonight I wanted to affirm the goodness, power and faithfulness of our amazing God!

Let’s pray!

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I Just Noticed This About Luke 8

January 22nd, 2022 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Luke 8 contains a bunch of great stories…about halfway through the chapter we get Jesus going across the lake where he meets Legion and casts out the legion of demons. The demoniac is unclean. He is in Gentile territory. He is bleeding. He lives among the tombs where the dead people are. He also lives near a pig farm. Not kosher. Not clean!

Jesus crosses the sea and goes back to the Jewish side where you might expect to find things in better order.

Except you don’t.

More of the same.

He is asked to come heal a young girl by a father who, just like the demoniac, fell at Jesus’ feet (Lk 8:35,41) and while on the way he is touched by a bleeding woman. After she is healed Jesus finally arrives at the house of the sick girl only to find she has died. Jesus touches the dead girl. This would have rendered Jesus just as unclean as being touched by a menstruating woman.

Jesus reverses the purity laws. Those laws say that when unclean contacts clean the clean becomes unclean. But not with Jesus. He takes the unclean and makes them clean. In doing so Jesus restores the bleeding woman to her community as a clean person. It is easy to miss this because we don’t live in their world. To be perpetually unclean as she was for 12 years meant she was not a full part of the community – she would have been a kind of outcast! She touched the tassels on Jesus’ very Jewish clothing and was healed (the same word for hem here is the word used of the Pharisees when Jesus said they keep long tassels on their garments – Matt 23:5)

Last, we have one more interesting connection in the story. The woman has been bleeding 12 years and the little girl is 12 years old. This woman started bleeding around the same time as the birth of this girl, when the girl’s mom would have also been bleeding and been unclean until her purification…it was just that this woman never stopped bleeding. It is hard to know what the 12 signifies. Is it that Jesus is back in Jewish territory and the 12 represents Israel? Is it the clean/unclean connection? I lean more toward the second than the first…I would be curious to hear your thoughts.

Nevertheless – we serve the Lord who is able to take our difficulties…take our impossible situations and turn them into beautiful, unforgettable healing moments! So take your hurts, your pains, your social embarrassment to Jesus and watch him fix it!

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The Often Untold or Misunderstood Parts of Church of Christ History

January 21st, 2022 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I recently conducted an interview with Dr. Leonard Allen who is the Dean of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb. It was a fascinating conversation where he articulated a lifetime’s worth of learning into just under an hour. I want to point you to this because many of my readers grew up in Churches of Christ and/or are currently attending a Church of Christ and this is information that you really need to be in tune with. If you want the whole interview in one chunk you can listen on our podcast.

In part 1, Dr. Allen talks about what made the Restoration a Unity Movement – what factors were involved that influenced Alexander Campbell to pursue unity.

In part 2, Dr. Allen is frank but gentle in saying that the goal of unity never happened – instead we fractured into even more divisions…and that the reason that further division happened was baked into our DNA before we were even birthed.

In part 3, we have an open discussion about denominational, cultural and philosophical influences in our founding. We are often taught that none of this existed…that we were formed purely from the New Testament…but that just isn’t true and you need to know some specifics.

In part 4, we talk about creeds and misunderstanding around the rejection of creeds. Campbell didn’t reject creeds! Ever heard that before? In fact, it might be healthy to embrace them! Our failure to do so may well have hurt us as a movement.

Thanks for watching – feel free to share with others on social media, etc. God bless,

Matt

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Join Us for 40 Days of Prayer!

January 16th, 2022 · No Comments · Uncategorized

We begin 2022 in prayer…40 messages and prayers of gratitude. 40 days. 40 speakers. 40 topics.

I am not going to post the 40 days here and fill your inbox! Instead, I am going to point you to the playlist on YouTube in case you want to pray along with us at Backyard Church. 2020-2021 was rough…it continues into 2022 and we don’t want to lose sight of all the blessings we have from the Lord. May your 2022 be a year where your eyes are more and more attuned to the working of God all around!

If you want to follow along, you can do so at this playlist:

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Four Things to Prepare Us for Temptation (Matt 4:1-11)

January 9th, 2022 · No Comments · Uncategorized

When we read the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4 there are a number of things that were done in advance of Jesus’ temptation.

1 – He was led by the Spirit. The Spirit’s lead is essential for us overcoming sin. It is quite hard to sin while being led by the Spirit.

2 – He was fasting and praying. Disciplining our desires can help us fight temptation. He did this in advance of the temptation to be ready for the temptation. It is quite hard to sin while praying.

3 – The Word. Jesus knew the Word because He was the Word but also because He studied the Word. He did this in advance of Matthew 4 to be ready for Matthew 4. It is quite hard to sin while being in the Word.

4 – Commitment to truth – Jesus was committed to truth…He was/is truth. If we are committed to truth then we will be able to more easily spot lies.

Temptation is coming and when it comes it is often too late to prepare.

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Book Review: Real Life Theology: Fuel for Effective and Faithful Disciple Making

January 5th, 2022 · No Comments · Uncategorized

How often do you find a 13-in-1 theology book that is focused on making disciples? The answer is – Once. “Real Life Theology” is the one. The 13 mini books that have been compiled into this single large volume are written by people with terminal degrees and people who are interested not just in academics but in practical application.

Considering that the book is nearly 800 pages long I won’t have time to get into every aspect of the book but I do want to make a few general comments.

First, the authors are people who genuinely care about a few important things – God, the Bible, truth, and God’s people. That is an important start. Each author has a terminal degree.

Second, each book is written to be worked through fairly quickly, consisting of five chapters per topic with bibliographic information for further reading and extensive end notes on helpful resources cited in each chapter. The end notes alone are worth the price of the book.

Third, I can’t think of 13 more relevant topics than the ones they choose which include,

Book 1 – The Grand Metanarrative: God’s Story as an Invitation to Theology by Tony Twist and Mihai Malancea

Book 2 – God’s Word: The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture by Orpheus Heyward

Book 3 – Christian Convictions: Discerning the Essential, Important and Personal Elements by Chad Ragsdale

Book 4 – The Gospel Precisely: Surprisingly Good News About Jesus Christ the King

Book 5 – Faithful Faith: Reclaiming Faith from Culture and Tradition By Mark Moore

Book 6 – New Birth: Conversion and Baptism by Michael Strickland and Anessa Westbrook

Book 7 – Holy Spirit: Filled, Empowered, and Led by David Young

Book 8 – Disciple Making: the Core Mission of the Church By Bobby Harrington and Scott Sager

Book 9 – Kingdom Life: Experiencing God’s Reign Through Love and Holiness

Book 10 – Countercultural Living: What Jesus Has to Say About Life, Marriage, Race, Gender and Materialism by Carol Swain

Book 11 – The End: The Return of King Jesus and the Renewal of All Things By Gary Johnson

Book 12 – Truth About God: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? By Richard Knopp

Book 13 – Eternal Security: Walking in Faithfulness By Bobby Harrington

Conclusion: What You Can Do Right Now By Bobby Harrington and Daniel McCoy

As you can see these are topics that are essential to a biblically well grounded disciple who is making deep disciples. These books can be bought all in one in the link above or individually by title on amazon. With a compilation from so many different authors it is tempting to get into comparisons or rankings but I won’t do that. Instead I will tell you that the book is worth getting, reading and using to deepen your walk with the Lord and share that knowledge with others. And that, I believe, is the intent of this book in the first place! The only adjustment I would have made to the book is…how do you include a book on eschatology and not put it last?!? 🙂

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5 Kingdom Predictions for 2022

January 1st, 2022 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

I believe there are big changes coming and they are only accelerating. COVID has made everything move faster than it already was. Here are a few things that I believe will happen in 2022 at a faster pace than ever before.

1 – We will see more people leave professional ministry. This will happen at a record pace.

2 – Some of those who leave will start house churches and be bi-vocational or find income not from church work.

3 – We will see more hybrid churches – house churches with an online presence for others who want to stream content to their own house church. Our Safe Harbor and Patrick Mead are doing this well.

4 – There will be an increase in persecution against the church and Christianity in 2022 (which will make house churches even more viable).

5 – I believe we will see more miracles than we have seen in the past. It isn’t that God is necessarily doing more but that we will have the eyes to see.

What do you believe will happen in 2022 from a kingdom perspective? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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