An Appeal to Bethel, Redding: God is Not a Heavenly Landlord!

Follow the MoneyIf you want to see corruption in any endeavor, simply follow the money. Where money aggregates in large quantities, corruption easily follows–secular or “spiritual.”

The internet can be a very hostile place. Facebook can be toxic. I try not to respond to things I see in social media, because I know how easy it is to be slandered and attacked by people who do not know me. I have been the recipient of that kind of treatment and do not want to make a habit of doing it to others. I much prefer leaving people alone and not “policing the universe,” especially if I do not have a personal relationship with those who some might think need policing!

However, every once and a while, something comes across the internet, which if confirmed, can be so disturbing and so slandering to our Father’s nature and character, that it is appropriate to respond publicly. This is especially so if the source is from someone who influences hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. With great influence comes great responsibility, and the need for great accountability, and not just from “hand-picked friends and associates!” If someone posts something publicly, a public response is not a “violation of Matthew 18,” neither is it “judgmentalism” nor slander.

Continue reading

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Money and the Church: Podcast with Family Room Media

I had the privilege of doing a podcast associated with the release of our new book, Money and the Church, with our friends at family Room Media, David Fredrickson, Loren Rosser, and Bob Humphrey. It seemed like it was an invigorating dialogue. Check it out if you are interested.

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Money and the Church: Podcast Interview – Fire on Your Head

I had the privilege of doing a 50 minute interview with Steve Bremner of Fire on Your Head ministries in Peru regarding our new book, “Money and The Church.”  Here’s the link if you would like to give it a listen.

http://www.fireonyourhead.org/2013/08/12/money-and-the-church-a-better-way-to-live-and-give-podcast/

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New Book Release – Money and the Church: A Better Way to Live and Give

Dear friends and family,

We’re happy to announce the release of our latest book: Money and the Church: A Better Way to Live and Give!

MoneyandtheChurch-BookCoverSmall

A two minute introductory video can be found here

For a limited time these are available at an introductory sale price of up to 40% off of retail! SOFT COVER , PDF , KINDLE and E-Pub 

What some are saying:

  • The time has come for mature believers to embrace the Way of the Kingdom, and release antiquated concepts regarding finances that have kept them bound to a worldly system . . .  a seminal work. – BW
  • This is a magnificent book, I wish I had read it twenty years ago. It would have helped me see my way through the numerous twists and turns with greater clarity and discernment. Now that I have read it I cannot commend it too highly. It is a sober and prudent book. – JA
  • A no-punches-pulled book that addresses core issues concerning money . . . challenging and inspiring. – AA
  • If I could give every believer two books they would be: The Misunderstood God, by Darin Hufford, and this one by Steve Crosby. – LR

AFFILIATE OPPORTUNITY

  1. If you would like to help us distribute our materials, you can, and make some money yourself! By becoming an affiliate you will be able to obtain our materials discounted by up to 50%. You can then sell to friends and family for as close to retail as you might like and keep the profit, or you can give them away as an offering/seed!
  2. There is NO inventory for you to carry. You can purchase on demand!  It’s as simple as letting us know that you would like to be an affiliate, provide us your email, name, and address, and you will be automatically discounted at checkout for anything you buy . . . lifetime!
  3. It’s that easy. Let me know if you’re interested – stephcros9@aol.com

Due to the high cost of international shipping, we regret that for soft and hard cover books, DVD’s, CD’s and other “hard” materials, that this offer is good ONLY for friends in the USA. We recommend our international friends obtain an electronic version of any materials.

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A Challenge for “Organic Church” Believers and their Money

Woman Signing a CheckThe twitching and knee-jerk reactions I get from many (not all) “organic church” believers when the topic of money comes up, reminds me of what the Holy Spirit said to Saul of Tarsus: “It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

The topic of money and finance has been severely abused in the past, and continues to be, in Christian media and many church environments. This abusive “static interference” makes it hard for believers to “hear” God’s genuine frequency on this subject. What is heard stirs up echoes of a painful history and a reactionary protective (understandable) posture: “I’m not going ‘there’ again.” If our pain and desire to protect ourselves ends up desensitizing our hearts, we will be in a bad place. The Holy Spirit in us has to be, and is, greater than the pain of our past.

Many believers in non-institutional environments who experienced financial manipulation and coercion in the past have reacted and settled into a very unhealthy place. My good friend, Stephen W. Hill, says it like this: “For many, the freedom from the selfishness of tithing (giving to get, or to avoid a curse) has been replaced by the selfishness of not giving at all.” Well said. That’s the problem.

Historical abuse is being used as an excuse to deflect any scrutiny or criticism by others of personal financial giving habits and disciplines. In some circles we have gotten so reactionary that the mere thought of any personal discipline, in ANY area,  is considered “performance,” legalism, and religion. Only the insecure with unhealed identities would think so. It is not about “performing to standard.” It is about being alive or dead. A good tree does bear good fruit: regularly, predictably, in season, and on cycle.

If our alleged Christian liberty and understanding of grace results in the decrease of the life of Christ and personal disciplines, it is neither grace nor freedom, but self-deception. Our freedom is not to be used for self-indulgence, but to serve one another in love.

The accurate reflection of our Father in time in space is the definition of being “Spirit-led. Our Father is a giver and to proclaim one’s self to be Spirit-led, free, and spiritually mature, and to be tight with our time, talent, and treasure (money) is not only oxymoronic, it is high-level delusion. (I have written elsewhere in this blog on the joy of Spirit-led giving: Why I Quit Tithing: http://wp.me/pPFqI-Hk 

We do not need any special “leading of the Spirit” to obey simple scriptural mandates. The Spirit has already led us, through the scripture! Now, we can seek the Lord for details (how much, to whom, or what entity), but the fact of the mandate to give financially and regularly, is not something we need to “seek the Lord” about. We just need to do it! (1 Cor. 16:2, etc.). I am not telling anyone what to give, or where to give. Seek the Lord for that, and be generous like your Father. But giving itself, and the disciplined regularity of it, are scriptural non-negotiables. Just do it.

I do not believe that our structures, meetings, meeting mechanics, what does or doesn’t happen in meetings, how they are conducted–open, closed, participatory, passive, “teaching vs. sharing,” “leading vs. facilitating,” etc., –have any bearing at all on how spiritual, mature, or “revelated” we might be. They’re all irrelevant to me. I’m more concerned about the cold love in my shriveled heart, than the spatial geography of my body during a meeting. There’s a better measure of the temperature of our love than futile OC/IC debates. That measure is our wallet. Closed wallets=shriveled hearts, regardless of how we do meetings. God looks on the heart, not our meeting mechanics.

Many try to rationalize their lack of financial generosity by saying: “Well, there are more ways to give than with just our money, and after all, Paul said that if I give all my money to the poor and have not love, I am a tinkling cymbal. It is true that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Indeed, love’s bandwidth includes much more than financial giving. But it does include financial giving! Giving includes the totality of our being! It includes all three dimensions of our life–time, talent, and treasure (money)—it’s not a take your pick buffet! God bought all of us, owns all of us, and has the right to distribute all of us, including our money.

So, Paul is right, but so is James. What is the essence of true religion? Winning Facebook debates about the deficiencies of the institutional church? Hanging around in eternal do-nothing holy-huddles in living rooms, swimming in our own sense of superiority because we’re in a living room instead of a sanctuary? Hardly. Seems to me that a cold, indifferent heart in either place is not a good thing.

My dear friend, Michael Rose,  says it in beautiful simplicity: love has feet.

Let’s try a simple experiment, a self-reflective reality check to see if your love has any practical feet. Fill in the blank after each of the following regarding your giving of time, talent, and treasure (money), but particularly treasure, to what follows:

  1. Widows __________
  2. The Poor __________
  3. The brotherhood in need _____________
  4. Expansion of the gospel _____________
  5. Other general opportunities for charity _______________

(Going to meetings/gatherings with your friends does not count as giving of your time! That is what you enjoy. I am talking about practical expressions to others that have no derivative benefit to you.)

How did you do? If you are a westerner and have enough money for a computer, and are reading this, you are able to regularly give financially to some, if not all of these. If you are not regularly financially giving, you’re self-justifying behind the “not all giving involves money” argument.

  • Most westerners could do a garage sale of their “stuff” and feed a poor family for a month or more.
  • Most of us could drink water instead of wine, soda, or fruit juice at our meals and times when we eat out (let alone other alcoholic beverages at $6.00+ a pop) and easily fund $50-$60 a month to one of the above.
  • Budgeting $2.00 a day–the price of a cheap hamburger or small bag of potato chips–would enable you to give $50-60 a month to something . . . can’t? OK, cut it back to $1.00 a day. Are you really saying that you can’t find $1.00 a day to give on a regular, disciplined basis to something that really matters? How about 50 cents a day?
  • Do you have any idea of what a $5.00 or $10.00 offering done regularly can do for the poor or someone in the third world?
  • You used to “tithe” faithfully to the institution based on self-centered manipulation and guilt, and now that you are out in “freedom,” you are giving what to whom? Nothing? Little? That’s not freedom. That’s just a different form of religious bondage.

The –“there are more ways to give than just money” or, “you might be giving in the flesh” etc.,–arguments are all bogus sophistry.  It’s not that you can’t give financially. You won’t. Your love, personal discipline, concern for others, or creative thought  (or all four) are so meager, that you won’t.

Closed wallet=shriveled heart, in need of a refreshing touch from Jesus. If Jesus touches my heart, and my wallet, and touches others there also, everything else will be just fine, without the distracting hyperventilating on other things. I think “how we do meetings obsessiveness” is a giant distraction from the essence of “true religion.” So, maybe you’re “right” about “how to do church.” Big deal. What are you doing for others? Does your love have any feet? And are your feet connected to your wallet?

I pray you and I will have a heart-touch instead of making self-justifying arguments about why we may not be giving financially.

Love is not a noun, a sentiment, an opinion about ourselves. Love is a verb and that verb has feet. Yes, our use of treasure does reveal our hearts. Our wallets are lighted highways that lead directly to our heart.

_________________

Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephrcrosby@gmail.com.

This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those who partner with us and believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless  you.

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Why I Quit Tithing

U.S. Coins and Paper MoneyNothing like talking about money to stir passions. I was a faithful tither to various institutions for over thirty years. I quit in 2005, and contrary to all the dire threats from mandatory-tithe-preachers, I have not been cursed by God. Rather, I have been blessed in every way.

If there was ever an issue that stacking up proof texts for or against is ineffective in persuading someone of the opposite persuasion, this is it. So, I am not going to do that. I would like to go beyond a proof-text shouting match. Besides, anything “theological” to be said on the subject, has already been said by others–pro and con. Resources are readily available. Tithe if you want to. There’s no sin in it. But lay off the sweeping pronouncements against others who don’t, and don’t think you are increasing your righteousness or favored status with God because you tithe. That’s an insult to the work of Christ.

And yet, like Paul, I think there is a better way . . . the way of love.

For me, any issue in the kingdom, that is not animated by love, relationship, and family, is suspect. My problem with tithing is relational. I can’t relate to a thing, an entity. I can “belong” to a thing or entity, but I can’t relate to one. I can only relate to a person or persons. The way I see it, tithing hinders relationship with Father and the brotherhood, and anything that hinders relationship must be discarded.

You see, the way tithing is normally taught, you do not need to relate to God, or engage God relationally at all about your giving. All you need to do is relate to a calculator, because allegedly, as long as I am giving 10.000000000000% I am in the goods with God, and the “windows of heaven will open for me,” but if I give 8.487645345678%, I am going to be cursed by God for disobeying Him. (Never mind that the total Levitical tithe obligation to avoid being cursed by God approached 22-27% of total annual income, not 10% . . . ah, but that is story for another day, but all those folks committed to ten percent as the magic to open the windows of heaven, need to re-read their Bibles. You’re still “disobeying” at ten percent.)

I regret the thirty years I tithed, not because the money was wasted. Nothing offered to God in faith and sincerity, even in our sincerely ignorant faith, is ever wasted. No. What was wasted and missed was the opportunity to relate to my Father in my giving, and relationship is everything.

Not once in those thirty years did I ever pray or engage Him about my giving, because, I was being a good, dutiful, little Christian making sure that the “open door to cursing” was closed and the “windows of heaven were opened” by my faithful obedience to tithe. Thirty years of no relationship. I didn’t have to pray. I was “obeying” therefore, God was going to bless me whether I relationally engaged Him or not. Relationship is everything. The windows of heaven are opened to me in Christ. I live every day under open windows and I don’t need to put my token in the heavenly lotto machine to “get my blessing.”

So sad. I doubt that I am the only one with this experience.

Since I quit tithing, I have not quit giving. Rather, I have discovered the joy of generous, Spirit-directed giving, out of my own need at times, as the overflow of my relationship with my heavenly Father. What a thrill it is to experience being the answer to someone else’s secret prayer. What a thrill to be the practical hands of God reaching out to others with my finances. What a joy to feel the relational knitting of hearts together in a community, in the bonds of love when someone’s need has been met through Spirit-led giving that I am a part of.

In Second Corinthians 9:14, the ASV states that one of the overflow benefits of Spirit-led giving is a “longing for each other.” I must say, that in all my years of tithing to a machine, an institution, an entity, never did I experience a longing for my brother or sister. No, it was all clinical, duty-based, and selfish . . . so I could avoid being cursed. Fear-based preaching about money will never realize God’s kingdom intentions for finance . . . never.

The best thing that ever happened to me in my giving was to quit tithing. Some say that 10% should be the baseline of our giving. I say . . .  put the calculator away . . .  PERIOD! Relate to your Father. Do what He says. He values you and your relationship more than your money. What you do with your money will just be a reflection of your love quotient. In love with Him, in love with the brotherhood, and in love with a world that needs Jesus, should be all the motive we need to be cheerful, generous, disciplined, regular givers of time, talent, and treasure.  How could it be possible if we are extravagant lovers in these three arenas that we would not be givers? Closed wallets always indicate cold hearts. I don’t need a calculator to be a giver. I need a warm heart.

Let’s love extravagantly, including through our finances.

___________

Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.
 
This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those who partner with us and believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless you.

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The Four Talons of Mammon Mammon is More than the Love of Money

The Four Talons of Mammon

The Four Talons of Mammon

Many scriptures can be difficult to understand and apply. However, the mutual exclusivity of serving God and mammon is not one of them.  Jesus was clear:

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, “You are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”  – Luke 16:13-15

No worker can serve two bosses: He’ll either hate the first and love the second or adore the first and despise the second. You can’t serve both God and the Bank. When the Pharisees, a money-obsessed bunch, heard him say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch. So Jesus spoke to them: “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance. What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous.” – Luke 16:13-15, The Message by Eugene Peterson.

Just what is “mammon?”

Mammon isn’t a common term for us. Historically, it’s an old Syriac name given to an idol worshipped as the god of riches. Ambrose Bierce called mammon “the god of the world’s leading religion.” The pursuit of money is the religion of this present world, and mammon is its god. Why? Because, as the old pun on the Golden Rule goes: “He who has the gold, makes the rules!” When it comes to money, too many Christian fingers are coated with Super Glue, rather than Teflon. I do not believe there will be any large scale “wealth transfer” until we develop  “Teflon fingers.”

Mammon is any controlling, coercive, dominating power (church, legislation, economics, military, etc.), fueled by money: “controlling” my own life, or through force controlling others. When we are in control, we are lord, not Jesus. There can only be One King. That is why Jesus was so stark on this matter.

I believe mammon is the prevailing principality/prince in the West, and the claw of mammon has four talons. Every believer intent on growing into the full stature of Jesus Christ will have to face and overcome each of these in his or her life.

Religion

The church long ago sold the birthright of spiritual riches for the allure of money, control, and power. The church played the harlot with Constantine, and has yet to fully recover. Preaching “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, I give you . . .[1] will not get you invited to this year’s “Keys to Success” conference! Between the influences of the modern “prosperity gospel,” “self-help/self-realization” teaching (masquerading as the gospel), and the control factor in many institutional constructs, it has reached the point in the West that preaching the acquisition of wealth is considered the very essence of what it means to be a Christian, and it is a sad, sad situation.[2]

Wherever money, control, and power aggregate, a spirit of mammon is at work, yes, even in the ekklesia of God, living room or sanctuary! Dealing with a mammon problem is like bad breath and body odor: it’s always  “the other guy’s issue!”  It is more like hypertension: my problem, but I just don’t recognize it! It can be neutralized quite simply: practice giving all three away! The kingdom of God is built upon scattering a death and resurrection seed, not the aggregation of resources. God’s family is built by releasing resources, not hoarding them.

There are many who find themselves in various forms of “de-churched expression” who feel they have extracted themselves from the grips of the machine-like control of institutionalized religion. Perhaps, they have. There can also be a sense of naïve superiority in these climates, thinking being extracted from institutional religion is of itself, some great spiritual triumph. It is not. Merely being extracted from institutionalized religion is not an end in itself. It is the removal of but one of mammon’s talons from our soul, and the easiest one! If I have been set free from a coercive tithe to an institution, and my kingdom giving has dried up or vanished, all that is proven is that one talon has been removed from me. At least one of the other three remain deeply entrenched in my soul while my posterior is entrenched on a sofa.

Politics

Jesus is Caesar[3] is fundamentally a confronting political statement. The apostles were not martyred because of how nice they were as people, or because of their teaching about what one had to do to go to heaven when one dies. They were killed because they advocated a king and a kingdom in opposition to, and exclusive from, what Caesar had to offer. Jesus and Caesar are incompatible.

When it comes to politics, I know there are no simplistic answers for a people who live in a representative democratic republic (something that did not even exist in Jesus’s time). Teddy Roosevelt wrote a book called: Fear God and Do Your Part. That seems reasonable to me, and is about the extent of my political fervor. My concern is for the illicit wedding of the church in America to right-wing politics, and the venom that often accompanies the ungodly union.

Apparently for some, it is alright to act like the devil to represent Jesus! Russell Moore said: “American Christianity has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it.”[4] I agree. We will never “change the culture” or “win a nation” by trying to out-Caesar Caesar with Caesar’s resources, values, and methods. Force in any form—money, militarism, consumerism, authoritarianism, morality, legislation, etc.—is not Jesus’s method for cultural transformation. The power of Jesus’s kingdom is about a life laid down for enemies, even unto the death.

Finances/Commerce

If talons had toenails, commercialism and materialism would be two. We make rationalizations to ease our conscience, but very few of us in the West are able to be content in either abounding or abasing when it comes to money. Few would consider themselves “blessed” in a season of dire economic distress, a condition that is abounding these days.

It’s easy to believe one is free of the influence of mammon when the checking account if full. It’s wonderful to talk about the “Lord providing” when we are drawing a government unemployment check or other benefits from the hand of Caesar.[5] It is a different matter when there is no paycheck, and the impossibilities of this life are looming over your financial solvency, and Caesar is nowhere to be found, or asking something of you that will compromise your worship. Who is Father then?[6]

I have a good friend who taught “faith” and “financial faithfulness” for years. When the church he led closed, and the paycheck he had been receiving ceased, he had a nervous breakdown. When he got on the “resurrection side” of this issue, he candidly confessed to me that what the Lord was trying to teach him through it all. In all those years that he had been boldly proclaiming “faith,” and “giving and trusting God,” etc., his own faith had been in his bank account and in his biblical principles of finances, not in the person of Jesus. It took him hitting rock bottom to discover that mammon had a death grip on him and he didn’t know it.

Few in Jesus’s kingdom know how to make money a servant. In most cases, money is Lord[7] (in spite of all our denials to the contrary). You make money a servant by practicing liberality—by giving it away.

Health and Medicine

Power has been defined differently throughout our nation’s history and culture. A generation ago it was defined by the equation: military + industry = power = control.  That’s no longer true in modern Western societies. Today’s power equation reads: information + capital = power = control. There is an emerging power structure that has the potential to control our very existence by creating physical dependency upon it. The formula is: medicine + money = power = control or more specifically: pharmaceuticals + healthcare + government + money = power = control.

Because of the collusive elements of the above equations, and the skyrocketing cost of medical care and insurance premiums, there are literally millions of people who cannot afford to be sick. The choice for these is either complete financial ruin or dependency on the state. The day is coming for many believers, when we are either going to have to experientially know Him as Healer, sell our soul to the gods of this age, or die. The whole matter of the gifts of the Spirit will move from the fringes of Sunday morning enthusiasms into life and death realities.[8]

When it comes down to it, we will know what we really believe, we will know the fabric of the reality of our belief systems, we will know who our god really is, when either our health or our finances is put to the test. If our God is God only when we are well and wealthy, we have no god other than our own self-interest.  A veneer of Christianese, applied with a Bible brush and some systematic theology glue, on top of an iron self will, is not the faith of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Jesus’s kingdom is not fueled by mammon. It’s fueled by love, forgiveness, and death and resurrection. The precious indwelling Holy Spirit, the power He brings, and the daily disciplines of the cross, are the means by which the believer can extract each of these talons from his or her soul.

I’m not saying it’s easy. On the contrary, it is costly. Dying daily is always costly. Nor am I saying that having legitimate, temporal needs met through finance is outside of God’s economy. It’s not . . . when He is truly Caesar of that economy and not us!

I know in my own life, the hold of these talons in me is being exposed and challenged . . . for my benefit and maturity in sonship. My flesh hates it, but the new creation man in me can only rejoice that my Father is so faithful that he ignores my cries as they are being extracted, and heals and fills the place they once occupied. To be truly free from these talons is to be free indeed. Ultimately, it is about worship. These four talons represent the major arenas of what it means to be alive as a human being.  Whoever rules those arenas in me, and over me, is Lord, and a Lord is worthy of worship.

[subscribe2]

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[1] Acts 3:6

[2] The quickest way to transform a city is to buy it.”  Rich Church, Poor Church. Unlock The Secrets of Creating Wealth and Harness the Power of Money to Influence Everything. Chester: gateKeeper Publishing, 2007, 65.  Somehow, I just can’t picture Jesus sitting under a fig tree in Galilee, scratching His head saying: “Gee, I wish I had thought of that.” For more discussion on this topic, please refer to our title: Wealth Transfer, www.stevecrosby.com. I personally know of another so-called apostle who teaches that you cannot be a true apostle unless you are a millionaire. That is a disgusting doctrine of demons.

[3] English KJV: Lord. Greek: Kyrios. Latin: Dominus. Caesar was their “lord,” Master, ruler, king, etc. The name Caesar has worked it’s way into language as the equivalent of Lord: Russian -Tsar, German-Kaiser, etc. Short version: the one who gives the orders and the one to be obeyed.

[4] Quoted in Brian Zahnd, Beauty will Save the World. Lake Mary: Charisma, 2012, 13.

[5] No condemnation is intended. I have drunk from the government trough myself. I am just confessing I am not in denial about my true state, and about there being no viable economic alternative among God’s people in a Western, independence, and privacy-based culture.

[6] Caesar was referred to as both Lord, God, and  “father” of the state, and dependency on him as the great benefactor was encouraged.

[7] In spite of our denials to the contrary about “money is just a tool to accomplish ‘ministry’ ‘for Jesus.’”

[8] The previous two paragraphs are excerpted from our title: Healing: Hope or Hype? If interested in a more thorough treatment, it can be obtained at www.stevecrosby.com.

Copyright 2012, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

Football and Fathering

I confess to really enjoying NFL and college football. As far as I see it, there are only two seasons in the year: football season and “other.” I also confess to having a hopelessly irrational thirty-five year addiction and love affair with the New York football Giants. I know, there is no accounting for taste. You can imagine, in recent years, I have been a happy fan. So, if you are a Giant hater, please forgive me, but the Lord often speaks to me and moves me deeply from sports metaphors, particularly football. I want to talk about the Manning family as it relates to fathering.

For those who do not follow the sport, the quarterback for the New York Giants is Eli Manning. Eli has won two championships, as well as being MVP in both games. His older brother Peyton won a championship with the Indianapolis Colts. He was MVP of that game, as well as being the league MVP a record four  times.

They are the sons of Archie and Olivia Manning. Archie had a stellar college career at Mississippi state and Ole Miss. However, he got his brains beat out on a weekly basis playing in the NFL for what was a very weak New Orleans Saints team at the time. As  a young lad, I can remember Archie running for his life, getting the dickens pounded out of him, as he valiantly tried to help his team win. Not only did Archie never win a championship, the New Orleans teams he played for, were dismal laughing stocks of the league. Even as a boy, I can remember feeling so sorry for Archie, watching him get literally pummeled, week after week.

To me, this is the essence of fathering: being willing to have your brains beat out, not seeing any success, so someone who shares your DNA can come after you and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. There is nothing like the joy in a father’s heart to see his children realize dreams that he never could. As a “father,” I actually get teary-eyed when I think of the joy that must reside in Archie and Olivia’s hearts when they see what their sons have accomplished.

Paul captures the essence of spiritual fathering so well in one of my all-time favorite verses: 2 Cor. 12:15.  The Corinthians, were a people for whom he was significantly responsible for birthing into the kingdom in the first place, and for whom he had apostolic care and oversight. They were in the process of rejecting him personally, the message he was carrying, and his fathering/oversight relationship to them. He wasn’t flashy enough for them. In the presence of a staggering level of emotional and literal rejection, Paul writes to them and says:

I will very gladly, spend and be spent by you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. (2 Cor. 12:15)

This is the essence of fathering. Folks, there is much talk these days about spiritual fathering. It has nothing to do with networks, accountability, submission, authority, “tithing up-stream,” government, ruling, and other control grids.

A spiritual father is someone whose love for you is unstoppable by circumstance, or your own rejection of him. A spiritual father is willing to have his metaphorical brains beat out, for your sake, that you might succeed. If we really believe in “generational vision” and “generational transfer” and “raising up the next generation,” as spiritual fathers-mothers, our own dreams are the fertilizer for others. The younger generation doesn’t exist to make our dreams come true (It’s nice if it’s mutual, but it is neither necessary nor required). We exist for them . . . our sorrow, our loss, our failure, our lack of “success,” becomes the fuel to make them champions  . . . when absorbed in Calvary, liberty and a prevailing love one with another in relationship. The battles I may fight today, that do not seem to produce desirable outcome, are merely investment in a son’s future victory.

NOTHING offered in genuine faith (not our own imaginations, but genuine relational faith) to, for, in, and on behalf of Jesus Christ is EVER wasted. It is not possible for His kingdom to suffer decrease.  The fruit just might not be in my lifetime. Oh, there will be fruit, as surely as Eli and Peyton are the fruit of Archie’s labor’s spent, how much more so, shall you and I be as the fruit of the Lord’s labor spent?  How much more so, those in whom we have invested our life’s virtue, and perhaps seen no return in our mortal days? God thinks generationally for His purpose, not individually for success. Our individual “success and acclaim,” or lack thereof, is of no concern to Him.

Ah, the issue is, our desire, yes, even our demand to see a desirable determined outcome for our “efforts for Jesus.”   In effect, we still think and act like employees, expecting “just recompense” for “efforts provided.” That is the opposite of fathering.  Our desire and demand to see a determined result on our efforts is nothing other than refusing to let God be God . . . we are still lord’s of our own life, dictating the terms of employment for the factory-master in the sky. So sad. Genuine spiritual fathers have given up their rights to desirable determined outcomes . . . for the sake of Jesus’s interests in others.

If you are interested in more on this topic, I recommend our little booklet: Father-Son Ministry, that re-examines some themes that are prevalent today regarding “spiritual fathers and sons,” particularly the ethos that wants to make younger people the personal property and perpetual slaves on the plantation of an older person’s frustrated carnal ambitions for greatness. That is not spiritual fathering. The booklet can be found in soft cover or Kindle at the Online Mall tab at www.goczn.com/srcrosby.

Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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The Economic Responsibility of Agape

Everything that matters in God is relational.

His Triune Being is relational in fundamental nature.[1] The Great Commandment[2] (that fulfills the law and prophets) and the New Commandment,[3] are both relational in essence. When any legitimate biblical topic looses its mooring in relationship, it will inevitably be unhealthy in application, regardless of how well-intentioned the attempts might be. The manifestation of the life of Jesus in us, and the exchange of His life between us, will never be realized through enthusiastic implementation of spiritual mechanics based solely upon revelation and conviction from the Scriptures. Everything is relational.

This applies to the topic of giving, finance, and money. At the present hour, this issue needs relational realignment.

Millions of believers around the world are being set free from the coercion of a mandatory tithe, or the extortion of a “seed-faith” cosmic lottery. However, many seem to be missing the middle road of joyful, disciplined, regular, Spirit-led giving. This causes God’s kingdom advance in and through human vessels, to suffer stagnation and loss.

It is appropriate to resist abusive extremes. However, if in our liberty our giving dries up, we need to reexamine the exercise of our liberty. Spiritual lethargy is not gospel liberty. It is not enough that we reform our thinking, doctrine, and meeting forms. Our giving must also be reformed in this present hour.

Rather than argue proof-texts back and forth for various points of view, I would suggest that the foundation of the conversation needs to shift. We have to look deeper at foundational values. I suggest that the context of our understanding needs to change

FROM:

TO:

organization

relationship

church

purpose

tithe

family

position

need

ministry

heart

authority

love

pastor

service

vision

generosity

God’s family is a relational community characterized by grace and gift exchange between people. It is up to each of us to recognize the relational lines of attraction, the bonds of Holy Spirit-birthed relationships, the “direction” of the flow of Holy Spirit love,[4] and allow finances to flow along those lines based on love, opportunity, and need.

It’s possible to be in a “place” organizationally, geographically, and situationally and have no relational bonds at all, other than the commonality of experiencing a Sunday lecture together. Sharing a pew (or a sofa!) with someone neither establishes, nor proves, any God-ordained relationship. God unites hearts in love, not heads in doctrinal accord.

Some might argue that past practices appear to have been blessed. I believe God’s redemptive grace covers all our fumbling and corrupt past efforts. If it were not so, none of us would have any hope for the present, or the future. His grace always sustains us, not our spiritual rectitude on any topic at a given moment. However, flowing in His redeeming grace does not mean that we should not educate ourselves along the way and abandon or change defective or deficient practices. Excelling in love does not require the entrenchment of ignorance.

Too much of the financial status quo is simply based on fear: fear of the loss of cash flow that sustains salaries, rents, mortgages, and community prestige. Rather than the perpetual maintenance of our own spiritual pleasantries, perhaps the most loving thing God would have us do for our communities is shut down our church or organization, and bring all the human resources to bear in ways that genuinely and directly affect our community for Jesus. That is a legitimate possibility. There is nothing in the Scripture that says that any of our groups or organizations are divinely commissioned to exist for perpetuity. Hardly. His increase in a community may be directly related to our decrease: individually, corporately, and “organizationally.” If I am married to the cultural financial status quo within church systems, such a thing is not even a consideration. “Jesus is Lord,” is more than a creedal confession!

I really doubt that the “revival” we seem to beg God for, will ever happen when all the dogs in the pound are scrapping for the same piece of meat, trying to outdo each other by the consumeristic leveraging of religious desires in a human soul. The love of God does not abide in such exercises driven by cultural definitions of “success.”

There is an Economic Responsibility of Agape—God’s E.R.A. if you will, and it summarizes my “theology of giving.” It is simple:

I love, therefore . . . I give.

If you find yourself removed from more traditional expressions of the faith, and if you formerly were a tither whose regular giving has virtually dropped to zero, I urge you to seek God to resurrect your regular, disciplined, giving along relational lines, as a simple matter of the overflow of a loving heart.

Fat notebooks and shriveled hearts and wallets, are kingdom incompatible.


[1] Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in interpenetrating, covenantal communion, one-ness, and love.

[2] Matthew 22:37-40.

[3] John 13:34.

[4] Rom 5:5 – the love of God is poured out, through our hearts, by the Holy Spirit. We need to recognize His presence, where it is flowing through us, and cause our finances to follow His lead!

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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Kingdom Economy

The Greek word for the KJV, “household,” is oikonomia. Literally, it means the rule, or law, or order of the family/household: “How the family is run.” It is also exactly the same word from which we derive the English word “economy.”

God’s economy is based on the exchange of love and charis (gifts) in a family of relationships. It is not based upon money. Without functional relationships in which love and charis are exchanged, there is no kingdom economy, nor can there be.

In God’s economy, finances and material resources follow upon the exchange of love and charis.  Gift exchange in the family is the economy of God.  It is possible to have lots of finance and never touch God’s economy because the genuine relational infrastructure of love and gift exchange is absent. Rather, in its place are the mechanics of money and the strong arm of human determination to build something for God, even using “biblical principles of finance.”

The flow of finance is the logical fruit of an economy based on the exchange of love and charis. A lack of finance for legitimate kingdom efforts is not a lack of money. It is the fruit of a lack of love, and a lack of the understanding of the financial responsibilities of “one-anotherness” in a functional relational community. Love expressed has an economic element.

There are those today who think that a more “faithful” approach to the “stewardship” of money and finance, if overseen by “governmental apostles,” is somehow the magic key of the hour to open up untold kingdom opportunities in the present day. God’s economy is much more sublime than the “release of marketplace ministries,” as valuable as that may be. I submit to you that Calvary’s plow must go yet much deeper than that if we are to even approach a semblance of a  “kingdom economy.”

Everything . . . and I mean every practice, belief system, theology, value . . . every precious “conviction,” up to and including our right to be “right” in our views, must be on the table for radical reassessment and reconfiguration to Christ.

If we get the cart of spiritual money mechanics ahead of the horse of loved-based family economy, we will experience the logical end of that order of things: nothing.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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