“Dysfunction Junction” – Has No Unction!

beijingtibetGod is magnificently redemptive. None of us would have any hope if that were not the case. Yet we must not confuse His redemption for His approval. Many people abiding in or gathered in dysfunction, is not the kingdom Jesus died for. Our redemption includes the healing/reconfiguration of Adamic brokenness, not the normalization of it “under grace.”

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New Covenant Grace: 'Grace Does Not Need to be "Balanced"'

New covenant grace doesn’t need to be “balanced.”  There is no alternative to grace.

Grace Does Not Need to Be Balanced

Grace Does Not Need to Be Balanced

Have you ever noticed that for many, suffocating bondage and death producing legalism is tolerated, encouraged, and even celebrated?  Yet when grace is mentioned, people go apoplectic with warnings about “going too far,” the “dangers” of the “grace message,” or the “need for balance,” and so forth. Why the dire warnings about supposed “hyper-grace” but no equal alarm about “hyper-legalism?”

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Love Pirates!: 'Agape versus Eros'

Flying the Jolly roger of eros

Love Pirates

The following is an excerpt from our upcoming book: Money and the Church: A Better Way to Live and Give.

Greek is a far more precise language than English.  In English, love is a very obtuse term. I can love my wife, hot dogs, and my car. I hope there would be a difference, but our language doesn’t help the distinction!

In Greek there are four words commonly used for love: agape, phileo, eros and storge.   Eros refers to any love that is self-centered, not just the familiar sexual aspect. Eros is often quite clean and respectable. It presents itself as something that it’s not. Any love that under the surface has self-satisfaction and self-gratification as its motive is erotic. The Greek symbol for eros was a snake swallowing its own tail, consuming itself. Eros can be deeply set in the ethics of many faith communities.

We can believe we are ambassadors for the love of God, when in reality we are spiritual pirates. We run up the flag of love for others, but when people get close to us, they discover the Jolly Roger of eros:

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Equipper’s Survival Guide

PressureSpiritual abuse is like finding a coin in your backyard. There are two sides to it, and they are both dirty.

I certainly have no time for ambitious, authority-addled manipulators who use and abuse the ekklesia in the name of God to satisfy their own need for greatness: pimping the saints for their own needs, milking them of their time, talent, and treasure for ego-validating dreams and plans.

Yet, there are also thousands of humble, self-sacrificing, and faithful men and women who tirelessly serve the ekklesia in love, who struggle to keep their sanity as they face the onslaughts of the adversary, their own brokenness, and alas, miserable treatment by the ones they serve: being pimped for other’s needs and being told it is “serving the body.” Sacrifice for others? Yes. Pimping? No.

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What Does “Kingdom Government” Look Like?

Key to my heartKingdom government is not about authority and ruling. It is about restoring and replicating in humanity, the love the Father and Son have for, and in, each other. Where love is perfected, authority is not necessary. There is no hierarchy, government or “ruling over” in the Trinity. Just shared, interpenetrating, eternal, self-sacrificial love!

Do a word study some time on the “God is” statements of scripture. You will find things like: God is love, God is righteous, God is true, etc. What will be conspicuously absent is: “God is authority.” Why?

Where love is perfected, there is nothing to “rule!”

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2013: Sink or Swim . . . Together!

MP900390096Statistics may tell us many things, but they do not always tell us the truth. God’s redemptive action in history always trumps statistics. The ten spies reported the facts. God had  a higher reality.

However, to deny trends or to deny what statistics indicate is like playing in the band while the Titanic is sinking. Denial of the obvious is a particularly unique form of spiritual blindness. All the false prophets promised Israel that things were not that bad, and that their captivity wouldn’t last long. Their message found willing listeners. They were wrong.

All indicators are that the church in the West is in decline, not only numerically but also in substance and influence. Some might argue that if we are talking about “institutional” forms of “Christendom”–the nineteen or seventeen hundred-year-old counterfeit of Jesus’s kingdom–“good riddance” might be an appropriate response. Alas, the problem is unrelated to the structure of our gatherings, the quality of our theology, or the effectiveness of our practices, but rather the condition of our hearts.

Every time I point out a negative fact or trend, regarding our true state, I am met with: “but our church is not like that,”  “you shouldn’t criticize the church,” “there’s no such thing as a perfect church,” “we are the pure remnant,” “you should come and hear my pastor,” and other canards of denial. Funny, how a collection of wonderful churches, full of wonderful people, doing wonderful things for Jesus, results in overall spiritual and societal decline. Of course, MY church is wonderful,  the “other guy’s” church has problems.

Shiloh was a place of many wonderful interactions between God and Israel. However, it was reduced to a pile of rocks and overgrown vegetation when the substance of the life of God was lost in favor of much talk about God. External conformity to God’s demands without corresponding internal transformation is the DNA of decline.

A fire unattended and unfueled inevitably goes out. There’s a reason Paul exhorted Timothy to “fan the flame” of his faith: it’s prone to going out! An irrelevant pile of ashes of historical glory provides neither heat nor light. Real Christianity is always present. It’s hot. It’s alive. Anyone who actually lives like Jesus is really alive from the dead, will be a threat to people (and the institutions to which they belong) who have a philosophy of resurrection based on the Bible. We can handle a baby in a manger or a dead man on a cross. A baby and a dead man are not threats to how we want to do “our religion.” Let anyone actually live out of His resurrection life, well, that won’t be tolerated.  It’s a bush that doesn’t burn, and a fire that needs no fuel. That will not be allowed. It’s unmanageable.

Occasional, isolated, and cheerful exceptions at a local level, do not negate the overall trend in the West.  As leaders, we need to sound a clear alarm. The Church Universal, the Bride of Christ, is an eternal, unstoppable force. God’s redemptive reach is uniquely effective when impossibility and brokenness produce a cry for deliverance within hearts humbled by unpleasant circumstances. God’s hold on the future, and His determination for His bride, are not in question. Our participation with Him in it, is another matter.

Any local expression, regardless of how “wonderful our pastor” is or how “dynamic our worship team” is or “how relational we are,”  is not guaranteed existence and continuity: Ephesus–gone; Thessalonica–gone; Sardis–gone; churches in North Africa–gone; Europe–secularized, etc. You and I, and our “wonderful assemblies”  are not immune any more than our predecessors. When the talk of God exceeds the life of God, we are on the pathway to extinction, not withstanding our pious rhetoric and prayer for “revival.” God is not interested in reviving Bible philosophy clubs that happen to have a great lecture, great music, and a nice meal once or twice a week.

You can have a lovely private stateroom on a cruise liner, but if there’s a hole in the hull, the pleasantries of your stateroom will not save you from going down with the ship. Any of our local situations might be quite positive. However we will sink or float together in this matter. There is ONE Body. Daniel went into captivity with Israel. Jeremiah was not spared the rigors of Israel’s “divine chastisement” at the hands of a Babylonian invader.

Incarnational living in Christ does not exempt any of us from the travails of the culture we may worship or live in.  Rather, we will be the representative agents of God as we go into captivity together. God will “seed” us among the captives. The first Son was seeded into earth’s darkness and captivity, and all subsequent sons and daughters will be also.

Let each of us, in our assigned spheres of life and ministry, be sober and more resolute than we have ever been. Let’s burn. Let’s be hot. Let’s be light. Let’s remember that the ultimate act of spiritual warfare is not prophetic intercession or a spiritual warfare conference. It is a converted/transformed, soul who lives a transformed vibrant life in right relationship with God, one another, and humanity.

I pray God give each of us divine energy for every day that we have breath, that our lives may count for something other than American creature comforts and perpetuation of a way of life that may be filled with material blessings, but does not reflect Jesus’s kingdom interests.

In it together with you to the end . . .

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.

Doing Life Backwards Causes Us To Fail – by Edward Kurath

Rear view of a young woman holding a paint roller“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10 NKJV).

This is a typical English translation.  It implies that if we keep God’s commandments, we will abide in His love.

If this is correct, then this implies that God loves Jesus because Jesus keeps His commandments.  After all, Jesus is here making a parallel between His relationship with the Father and our relationship with the Father (“just as?). 

So then God’s love of Jesus is conditional? What an affront to God!

Fortunately, this translation of the Greek is in error.  It is backwards.  What the Greek really says is that if we abide in God’s love, we will keep His commandments.    Keeping His commandments is the result, not the cause.  In the Greek, keeping God’s commands is in the “accusative” case, what in English is referred to as the direct object.  The direct object (the effect) receives the action of the subject (the cause).

In the typical English translation, the cause and effect are reversed. 

What Jesus is really saying is that the reason He keeps God’s commandments is because of the presence of God’s love in Him.  He has a “good root” in Him which impels Him to live a Godly life.  Likewise (“just as”), if we have a “good root” (Jesus in us), then we will keep God’s commandments, not the other way around.

The horse is supposed to pull the cart.

Tragically, the typical English translation impels believers to strive to keep God’s commandments so that God will love them.  They are doomed to failure, because we can’t love God by trying hard.  If we could do it, Jesus died in vain.

How do we get Jesus “in us?”  That is what my book “I Will Give You Rest” explains.

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Copyright 2012. This article is posted here by permission of Ed Kurath, www.divinelydesigned.com. Please contact edkurath@divinelydesigned.com for forward and reprint permissions.

You Can’t Race Chickens!

The matter of the gifts of the Spirit can get passions aroused. I confess to being a life-long charismatic. However, I also confess that there is a lot of nonsense in my branch of the family of God.

I recently shared a message with my friends in Spokane, WA on this topic, but I did it from a non-Pentecostal, non-Charismatic perspective. I shared from a perspective I never have before, and the meeting was uniquely “presenced.”

My premise is that the healthy expression of the gifts of the Spirit is not based on feelings, emotions, marathon praise and worship sessions, “anointing” or such things. They work by identity, faith, and love. We do not need to excel in the “anointing.” We need to excel in love.

If this topic is of interest to you, you might enjoy this message.

You Can’t Race Chickens

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.

QUIT PRAYING!

We do not need to pray about that which God has made explicitly clear in his revealed Word! This is hardly hot news to most of you. However, this principle is regularly violated and abused by many well-meaning believers, some not so well-meaning.  

It is inappropriate to pray, when God is asking for responsive obedience.  I regularly interact with Christians who use a pseudo-spiritual cloak of prayer to cover impenitent self-will, rebellion, disobedience, and fear of the unknown or what they cannot control and manage. Fearful controllers will always leverage “we need to pray more” to their advantage. It is a particular plague among “prophetic” believers.  By that I mean Christians who believe, as I do, that the voice of God can still be heard and discerned in the redeemed human spirit. The closed canon does not render God a mute.

Believers often engage in a manipulative spirit when they say,  “I have prayed about it and the Lord told me I must .  . .” This is not the language of mutual respect and dialog.  It is the language of spiritual ultimatum—spiritual blackmail.  It is impossible to interact with people who use this type of language, without stepping all over their prayer life and self-perceived spirituality. How can you or I compete with God? How can you or I give any input to people who believe the Almighty has definitively spoken to them? You can’t reach a soul that is locked down with “God told me.”

It is common charismatic lingo used to keep others at a comfortable distance and to justify whatever notion may pop into our heads to do. You do not need to pray about whether or not you should abandon your wife, cheat on our taxes, have an affair, or other such nonsense. The answer is NO! Quit praying!

You might say, Steve, don’t be so silly, this is obvious. Well, let me briefly rehearse two true stories so I can convince you that this is not silly, nor always obvious, but rather an epidemic problem.

I once had to deal with a situation where a wife and mother of eight children was caught fornicating with her boss. Not rumor . . . in the act. She was the wife of an elder in another  church. When confronted, her response was: “Well, I’ve prayed about it, and I was trying to lead him to the Lord!”  Yes, indeedeeee folks, fornicating for Jesus. That’s some evangelism technique. She was deadly serious, and this was not some “new convert” who fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

I was once in a “city-wide pastors unity meeting” (yuck) of all the so-called “gate-keepers” (yuck) of the city. An older gentleman there began to share that he felt a call to a certain city, but that his wife did not want to go. He “prayed about it” and “felt” he was to leave his wife and “fulfill his calling” as the calling is the most important thing. Every leader in the room justified the man, encouraged him, except myself and one other brother (We were accused of being negative, judgmental and elitists.). Oh, and by the way, the wife of this man was a wheelchair bound invalid on oxygen. Well, with the “endorsement” of the stone-blind “gatekeepers of the city,” he left his wife and “started his ministry,” with the obvious results of disaster. His marriage and his ministry failed . . . well, as Gomer Pyle used to say: “Suhprise, suhprise, suhprise . . .”

These are not isolated incidents. Folks, you may have no idea of the sheer corruption and nonsense that goes on behind closed doors at “leadership levels.” Reason among many that the way we have been conducting ourselves regarding “leadership” needs a complete overhaul.

You don’t need to pray about some things. The answer is NO! And if the so-called “city gate keepers” are that stone-blind and ignorant . . . what does that say about all our pretention to spiritual significance, “cutting edge” this and that, and spiritual “gate keepers?” What a pile of excrement.

Praying to God for hours to bring “revival,” save souls, or whatever we may want Him to do on our behalf, is useless if He is requiring repentance and reconciliation. This is particularly true concerning interpersonal relationships. It is easier to talk and pray about unity and revival than to get real and deal with the  breaches in relationship that prevent unity in the first place!  Most American Christians simply do not have the stomach for the hard work required for biblical interpersonal reality.  They will leave a church rather than resolve relational difficulties. (Of course, they will pray for unity and revival at the next church they bless with their presence!).

An individual undergoing a crucifixion experience, is not helped by the prayers of others for blessing and escape. Believers with an unsanctified mercy or compassion gift frequently err in this regard. Sentimental prayer based on human analysis of circumstances and a soulish desire to spare people from difficulty, often runs counter to God’s redemptive purposes. We must always pray in wisdom with a God-perspective.  If we do not know how to pray, well, that’s what the indwelling Holy Spirit is for—get to know Him and let Him pray through you.

Endless prayer over the same issue or pending action, can be a cloak for unbelief, passivity, fear, timidity, and faithlessness.  When God is calling for faith action, it is inappropriate to keep praying.  ACT don’t PRAY! 

Moses at the Red Sea is a classic scriptural example. When faced with an impossibility, he cried out to God.  God reproved him for his prayer and exhorted him to use what was in his hand.  Moses’s rod can represent many things: authority, the anointing, etc. Simply, it represents what has already been provided and what has proven effective.  For the believer, this is the Word of God, the indwelling Spirit, our union with Him and with one another, and our confidence as His sons and daughters. 

Vacillation and indecisiveness are not fruits of the Spirit—better to be bold and decisive and have to compensate for mistakes, than to be immobile and right too late!  No decision is a decision.  God’s admonition to Joshua wasn’t “be cautious and be careful,” but rather “be bold and be strong.” Individuals who insist on “more prayer” may be yielding to a human (or demonic) spirit that requires absolute assurance in every detail before stepping out in faith.  This is a religious manifestation of a perfectionistic,  emasculated spirit, not godly virtue. The way of faith always encompasses a degree of uncertainty and risk.

Many in the ekklesia, for whatever reason, are severely damaged in this area.  Change, risk, and abandonment to God are more than they can emotionally,  spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes culturally handle. When confronted with a faith response requirement that affects them personally, they can suffer near personality disintegration. These dear individuals simply must get help, healing, and deliverance, either sovereignly from God or mediated through competent ministry.

Pragmatism often masquerades in the ekklesia as wisdom. Many believers’ minds are deeply impregnated with worldly and culturally conditioned concepts of wisdom, prudence, and caution that impersonate godly virtues.  The world’s wisdom is devilish, and inordinate caution is the protective mantra of the fearful.   

Godly wisdom and faith are two valid biblical virtues maintained in tension by divine design.  They are like a kite and string: wisdom is the string that enables the kite of faith to arise and stay in a proper sphere.  The kite of faith keeps the string of wisdom from being earth-bound. Healthy Christianity requires both.

However, the overall tenor of the New Testament is that faith is the superior and eternal virtue. Faith is the short-supply commodity the Lord seeks in his people and in the earth.  If we must err, err to the side of bold faith–it is what the Lord is looking for.

Inappropriate prayer is simply a manifestation of the carnal mind in rebellion against God, masquerading in religious garb.  The in-working of the cross  and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit are God’s provision and remedy. The disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray (Lk. 11:1-13).  He promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to that very end, if we persist in asking for Him. We have the same confidence and more because the Teacher and the Spirit of prayer is now within us,  forever, to the end of the age.

Let’s stop the nonsense. Lets can the hyper-spiritual lingo. Let’s be real people and let’s not cloak our disobedience with prayer.


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.

 

Governing Spiritual Hunger

Spiritual hunger is a good thing. It’s a sign that someone is alive in Christ, and Jesus promises to satisfy the hunger.

However, just like appetite naturally needs to be governed for maximum benefit, so it is in the Spirit. There’s a tendency among believers, especially the newborn and the young, to want to feed on the equivalent of spiritual junk food: tasty, full of calories, but void of long-lasting, beneficial, nutritional substance.

If ungoverned, spiritual appetite will inevitably lead down the road of pursuing spiritual novelties, fads, and passing winds of doctrines rather than experiencing the depths that are in Jesus Christ. The empty calories of faddish spiritual whimsies promise themselves to be on the “cutting edge” of “revelation,” or recovering some heretofore “lost” truth. They are in reality, alluring but distracting, and potentially divisive, empty calories.

The issue of spiritual hunger is not so much about discovering “new truth,” or recovering “lost truth” as it is going deeper into the Truth that has already been given and known. Christ, His cross, His resurrection, and His outpoured/indwelling Spirit can’t be improved upon. These are nutritional essentials.  These can be infinitely mined for treasure, but the treasure is not new.

The restless gerbil-wheel of “hungering” after the “latest word” is not a quality of Jesus’s kingdom. It is the itching of carnal ears. If we have been serving the Lord for more than five years, we probably have already heard enough to last us a life time and to occupy us for the rest of our days.

Mark Twain said that he was not troubled by the parts of the Bible that were difficult for him to understand. He was troubled by the parts he understood.

Fascination with spiritual novelty is like adolescent love: high thrills and low commitment. Let’s skip the junk food aisle of the kingdom and turn our spiritual shopping cart into the meat and produce section where nutrition abounds: “Christ is my meat and my drink.”

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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.