Kingdom Living

Casting Vision for the Future of the Kingdom

Kingdom Living

Why I Left Legalism

November 23rd, 2020 · 7 Comments · Uncategorized

The more I reflected on my spiritual journey the more I have realized that my legalism wasn’t rooted in the conservative nature of the churches I grew up in. I was more of a legalist than the preachers I grew up hearing. My legalism grew out of my own desire for assurance and certainty. This is natural when you are a child. You don’t know who you are and you have no way to assure your own survival (you can’t work and earn a living…you are at the mercy of adults). So you grasp for certainty and assurance and few things have the allure of this more than legalism.

Healing from legalism requires exploration and relationship. Once you meet the guys from the “other team” you begin to realize you are more on the same team than you realize. I found out that some of the Baptists I met loved God more than I did…it drove me back into the scriptures to see if what I believed was true. When I did this…not just to confirm my view but to affirm what the Bible actually teaches I began to find holes in my view that I could have never seen otherwise. I encountered people who had more fruit of the Spirit than I did.

As I have reflected on some of these things I decided to put my story down on video in case it is helpful to others. I cannot tell you how fortunate I am to still be around…many never made the journey but fell off on the wayside. Thank you God for your patience and for never letting me go!

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What if Knowledge Wasn’t Enough?

November 18th, 2020 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I love to study. Reading and retaining information is my sweet spot. I believe God wants us to be in His word. I believe He wants us to seek out the truth from what He has revealed to us.

To what end?

It cannot be truth for truth’s sake or knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3,

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Study leads to knowledge but again, to what end…

Knowledge of the truth drives us to love. If your study makes you less loving then you are missing the point! May your study drive you to a deeper and deeper love of God and neighbor!

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Our Problem Is Not How We Read the Bible…Our Problem is Something Deeper…Idolatry

November 17th, 2020 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

I love learning. It is one reason I spent so much time in school. Memorizing information and regurgitating it wasn’t hard for me. Analyzing information and synthesizing things into coherent wholes also came easy for me. My propensity is to lean into my intellect.

This makes the Church of Christ a natural fit for me. We have a culture of deep study and analysis…logic and reason. I don’t think we should toss out logic and reason. When given the choice between conclusions reached through logic and reason and conclusions reached by my emotions I am still inclined to go with my reason…BUT…Like anything, this can be taken too far. I often take this too far and I am part of a movement that can also take this too far.

We get tied up is when we attempt to make sense of things we are not equipped to make sense of. Often we don’t realize that we are incapable of developing an answer to our question or that scripture is interested in answering our question. We bend over backwards in order to make the scripture yield an answer whether the Bible likes it or not.

We assume that we have the ability to ascertain truth from the tea leaves…where the scriptures actually give no guidance.

For instance, I was reading an online argument over a video that asked if we can sing and take the Lord’s Supper at the same time. Before I go on, please let’s not get into the weeds on the answer to that question in the comments. I beg of you!

Chalk this one up to things God didn’t see fit to explain. But you wouldn’t know that from the comments. If all you had were the comments you might think the Bible gave a few chapters on this topic. What has happened is people have poured over these issues (actually made them issues) until they have convinced themselves your salvation hangs on agreeing with them!

It is tempting to think the problem is in how we are reading the Bible – our hermeneutic – but I am convinced that isn’t the actual problem.

What is the real problem?

The real problem here isn’t how we interpret the Bible. That is a symptom of a deeper and more significant problem – the idol of the intellect.

Until we address our overestimation of our ability to ascertain things from scripture that God never actually expressed we can try to fix our method of interpretation but we will just switch one set of problems for a new one because the idolatry is still present…and you will never know the truth if you keep deluding yourself.

When we idolize our intellect we do one of two things. Either we put God in a box because we assume limits on God that do not exist. Or. We assume our intellect is limitless and can fathom all mysteries…which brings in the idolatry component. Neither one of those are good options. I am sure there are five, ten or twenty other options but I believe these two are most typical.

So what do we do?

We humble ourselves.

We admit that we do not understand so many things that we once spoke with such confidence on.

We ask God for wisdom, as He told us to ask (James 1).

We say and do all things through the lens of love.

When we do this we will come to a deeper, move loving and richer understanding of the God who really is God rather than putting our own intellect on a pedestal. It is so easy to over-estimate our ability to get things right. This isn’t an interpretation problem…it is a pride problem and pride problems unchecked inevitably become idolatry.

I would like to leave you with these words from Paul that tell us point blank we will not understand everything…so don’t create an idol that can stand in the place of God himself, our intellect.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Cor 13:8-13

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Great News At Kingdom Living and Wineskins!

November 16th, 2020 · No Comments · Uncategorized

We have been working for some time on a hosting transition and I am excited to say it is now complete! This will make posting articles far easier to do than with our old host and I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you on this platform later this week and in a more consistent fashion!

Thank you for your patience! God is good and I am so appreciative of each one of you here at the blog!

Here are some things that are coming up

Update on our Backyard Church ministry/church plant

Some thoughts on Christ and His church

Articles to encourage you in your walk with the Lord

Good things ahead! Thanks everyone!

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Do you Come to the Bible To Learn or Confirm?

November 12th, 2020 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

Studying the word of God can be done in one of two ways. You either start with your conclusions and find them in the scriptures (what is called eisegesis) or start with the text and investigate what it says (exegesis).

I have noticed a trend. Those who are most certain about their beliefs tend to present lessons in a more topical/eisegesis way – the Bible says X, Y, and Z and you can find that here, here and here. But those passages may not even actually be about the topic they say it is about.

On the other hand, a person who does not believe they already know everything is coming to the text to learn rather than to confirm. Those who believe they already know everything don’t feel they have much to learn. The truth has been discovered and locked in a box to be pulled out and used as convenient. But the reality is the scriptures have depth to them we can never fully understand…when you come to the Bible believing that you will investigate to learn rather than study to confirm what you already believe.

Now, I do believe studying to confirm has a place. There are bedrock truths we need to go to the scriptures and make sure they say what we believe them to say to understand for ourselves and so we can present that information to others. But if all you ever do it study to confirm what you already believe your spiritual growth will be stunted.

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Here Is When You Get To Watch God Work…

November 6th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

You get to watch God work when your plans fail. That’s right…when things don’t go your way, you can most clearly see God at work.

Here’s why – if everything goes according to my plan then I can take credit for it. But when my plan falls apart and then I beg God for help, whatever happens next is all to His credit.

How many times have I made decisions as if God wasn’t helping or involved? Way too many.

I am learning to pray boldly and pray specifically and then watch God answer. If I don’t act or pray or anticipate His work then it is really hard to spot when it happens.

If all my plans are things I can accomplish without God’s help, then I will never get a chance to watch God do God-sized things!

Once you walk by faith like this, you will begin to see so many things in a way you have never seen them before. You will see God show up in areas of your life you have never seen Him work. You will see God-sized outcomes that shatter our expectations or per-conceived ideas of what can happen.

In short – your life will have so much more joy because you are walking alongside God and getting a front row seat to watch Him work!

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Is There More to Church Than Livestreaming?

November 1st, 2020 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Carson Reed

In a time when so much is changing, the natural thing to do is to reach backward into something from the past. And the sweeping changes that the pandemic brings only heighten that impulse. In many churches, however, the reality of not going back to 2019 is becoming all the more clear as we make our way into 2021. One aspect of congregational life, congregational worship, is particularly vulnerable to new realities that are presenting themselves.

For example, Barna reported in October 2020, that 50% of millennials have simply stopped watching online worship services. So even as congregations are finding their way into presenting content in digital formats, the most tech savvy persons (young adults) are checking out altogether. Obviously, this is a complex conversation, and I would be the first to affirm that the church’s digital witness is important and vital. However, to think that simply livestreaming a Sunday morning service somehow gets the job done is to miss the deep relational reality of what corporate worship requires.

Thus, in my conversations with ministers and church leaders through my work in the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry, I am raising questions like these: What can be delivered digitally? What cannot be delivered digitally?

The answers I hear are not uniform. However, I do get the sense that some aspects of worship – like singing or communion – simply lack the potent vitality to draw people into an attentive worshipful space when we rely solely on a digital performance. Relational needs are simply so great! On the other hand, sermons, teaching material, and dramatic performative pieces designed to provoke, teach, or persuade usually fare a little better.

What might this mean?

Every church is located in a specific context with local laws, practices, weather, and much more in play. Yet I have become increasingly aware of churches that are experimenting with multiple services with fewer people in socially distanced spaces, developing and empowering small groups to meet outdoors or in open spaces, inviting small groups of people to meet in their local neighborhoods (whether for worship or, perhaps just as important, to engage in service to the local community), or reimagining family groups to include multigenerational clusters of brothers and sisters who become “pods” to create safe communities to gather. How might leaders in our congregations innovatively pursue new forms of community that foster relational connection?

That doesn’t mean digital teaching and preaching should go away. Rather, I think it means that churches need to develop the aptitude for “both/and.” To maintain a robust digital presence along with robust experimentation with smaller, safer gatherings, will be critical for flourishing churches. In so doing, congregations can leverage this season as a time of renewal and opportunity. God is a God of hope and purpose. Let’s not forget!

If you would like a bibliography of new or recent books and resources on church renewal, please visit this page on Mosaic. You might find a title or two that would be helpful in your context!

Blessings,
Carson

Dr. Carson E. Reed is vice president for church relations at Abilene Christian University and executive director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the director for the Doctor of Ministry program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment as an associate professor of practical theology in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work on governance, transitions, and new ecclesial forms with congregations and church leaders. His teaching and research focus on practical theology with a particular emphasis on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married over 35 years and have four adult children.

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The Most Important Thing Churches and Christians Can Do Right Now That Will Lead to Revival

October 22nd, 2020 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

It is this – give total control over to God.

He has it anyway but sometimes we don’t act like it. Instead, we try to do things our way. We don’t rely on the Holy Spirit or anticipate the Spirit is leading us anywhere or empowering us to do much of anything.

When was the last time you were making a decision and instead of deciding, prayed to the Holy Spirit to tell you and guide you into what to do? When have you ever seen church leadership (elders/ministers) do such a thing? It is a rare thing indeed…and that is a shame.

If we are going to have revival, this must take place.

The result is that we get outcomes that are in proportion to our ability rather than God’s ability…which means we aren’t advancing the kingdom to the degree we would or with the power we would if we gave up our desire for control (and the illusion of control) and submitted ourselves to God.

I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. It is essential to us having a revival in our churches. It is going to start with prayer – prayer that God would take control of His churches and His people…prayer of repentance that we have gotten in the way – became too corporate and failed in our mission…and then we step back and watch God step up!

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My Last Day as the Preaching Minister At the Auburn Church of Christ

October 15th, 2020 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The last few months have been a whirlwind! There really isn’t anyway to overstate how true that is. So many changes, so many adjustments…too many to even begin to try to recount. It was 45 days ago today that we announced that I would be resigning as the preacher at the Auburn Church of Christ.

Last Sunday evening the Auburn Church had a going away service and blessing for our family. It was moving…touching and very sweet. We are appreciative to see so many people show up and so many of our college students present! Words cannot express our thankfulness to each and every person who has shown grace to us and wished blessings upon us in our departure.

For us preacher types there is a lot wrapped up in the preaching role. It isn’t that I will never preach again, it is just going to be so different. Preaching ministry before large crowds can very easily become our identity. But what I know to be true is that our identity isn’t in a position but in a person – Jesus Christ and where He calls, we go.

We want to express how appreciative we are that God brought us to Auburn. We have grown so much. Our faith and our hearts have been stretched. Lives have been changed. The gospel has been preached. Friendships have been formed that will last a lifetime. We have much to be thankful for.

So today I pack up my office. Clear out the laptop. Shoot one final video in this space. And call it a day…looking very expectantly forward at what God has already set in motion with Backyard Church!

Here are my reflections on faith in transition and then the article ends with a blessing below.

Blessings on Auburn Church of Christ, on the elders and ministers and the congregation. May your tribe increase. May God’s face shine upon you. And may our Lord and Savior, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit grant you success in your mission!

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God’s Timing, Our Faith

October 8th, 2020 · No Comments · Uncategorized

When I told my elders I wanted 90 days before my resignation was final they came back with 45. And it was all God. I wanted 90 because that would give me time to get my ducks in a row with applying for non-profit for our new church plant, Backyard Church. 45 wasn’t going to allow me to cross all my t’s or dot all my i’s…in other words I wasn’t going to get things my way.

God had other plans.

When our timing prevails faith doesn’t always have as big a chance to stretch and grow.

I believe God wanted me to be put into a situation where I had to watch Him work instead of me work my plan. God’s timing wasn’t my timing and that means my faith is going to get tested!

Faith isn’t getting everything on our terms. Faith is trusting that God’s way is best and trusting Him to work all things for the good!

When was a time in your life the timing didn’t work out in your favor and instead you got to watch God work things out and your faith grew?

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