Looking for Family . . . Finding What?

MP900289918Imagine being a member of a loving and healthy extended family. Every Christmas time, the extended family gathers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Gifts are exchanged. Carols are sung. A meal is taken together. Love is renewed. Hearts are touched. Generations are connected. History is shared, Stories are told.  A good time is had by all. Even crazy Uncle Eddie, who annoys everyone and never shuts up, finds a few moments of love and tolerance through others learning to . . . grow in love and tolerance!

Would you call that gathering a “meeting?” Of course not. Why not?

Because when a family gathers, it is not a “meeting.”

(Geek alert!) Imagine trying to run a Windows only specific application on a MAC OS 10 operating system. What would be the outcome?  Without some helpful “mediating software,” it wouldn’t run. It’s no different in “church world.” Many of the frustrations and dysfunctions experienced within “Christianity” are due to trying to get God’s kingdom to operate on a platform that He will never allow it to run on. In fact, He resists (James 4:6 KJV “resists”- dresses himself in battle array against)  “successful implementation” because He is interested in raising up a family, not franchising an organization. He wars against all efforts that hinder His family from coming forth, even the well-intended efforts of the innocently ignorant.

Continue reading

The Supremes Were Right: “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

supIn the natural as well as the kingdom of God, opposites often attract, and opposites often fuss with each other! Theorists (seers/visionaries/dreamers/conceptualists) often fuss with practical implementers (“doers”/teachers/administrators) and vice versa! The “normal” flow of logic is the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our understanding to what then ought to be lived practically. It is unlikely we will live what we do not understand.

Implementers can accuse theorists of prattling on forever about ideals, but never actually doing anything to realize those ideals—endless, hot-air, philosophizing. Theorists can criticize implementers as being: shallow, “not deep,” ambitious, carnal, or driven to achieve something in one’s own strength and drive—doing a “God-thing,” without God-sanction, energizing, and timing, simply because it seems logical and “right” to do it.

Well, as in all things, we need each other to be complete. Implementers provoke theorists to action, and theorists make sure implementers are motivated correctly. It is not enough to have pure water in the river (theorists), it needs to be moving (implementers)! Sometimes when a fresh understanding of some facet of kingdom life is brought to us by the Holy Spirit, we can either talk about it forever and do nothing, or rush off to make what we “see” happen. Both extremes are a mistake.

Whatever understanding we may have come to, whatever topic—relationship, church, family, justice, poverty, teaching, preaching, worship, gifts, etc., love is, and must be the energizing power  and ultimate measure of all that we believe and do. Not sentimental, philosophic love but real, costly, inconvenient, sacrificial otherness that genuinely considers others more highly than ourselves (Php. 2:3).

We know we have passed from death to life, not by the brilliance of our “revelations,” nor the “depth of our teachings,” nor our “mighty anointing,” nor by how many miracles we do, nor by our passion for social justice nor how “awesome” our praise and worship is, but by our love for the brotherhood–the family of God, one another (1 John 3:14). If there was ever a matter so easy to agree with rhetorically, and so difficult to live practically, love is it, and love cannot be rushed.

The failure to live what we preach is perhaps the biggest stench the ekklesia leaves in the nostrils of an unbelieving world. Whatever we see, whatever we understand, whatever we try to “do,” whatever we preach, truth-wise, must be saturated in love, bathed in love, and love can’t be hurried, and it doesn’t come cheap.

In a metaphorical way, Dianna Ross and the Supremes had it right in 1966 when they sang:

You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don’t come easy . . .

You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
You got to trust, give it time
No matter how long it takes

 Copyright 1966 Holland-Dozier-Holland

It is not that implementation isn’t critical. It is. However, merely getting a hold of a God-thing and rushing off to implementation, misses important elements: the motivating power and the in-working of the cross. Whatever the thing we think we see or understand in the kingdom might be, it must become life in us before it becomes life in others, and that only happens one way: by death and resurrection life (John 12:24). I believe it was Watchman Nee who said: “Light in us must become life in us, before it can become light in others.” That happens when the Spirit takes our “insights” and “revelations” into death, and brings them back again in resurrection.

A God-thing implemented merely by vision, strategy, planning, purpose, passion, organization, and administration will inevitably end-up just bringing forth “successful” death. The same God-thing implemented through the in-wrought cross in a human heart, in love, resurrection life, service, and empowerment of others will result in liberating, reproducing, life.  If we miss this, we will inevitably initiate another program, perhaps based on better understanding than the last one, perhaps done in the most sincerity with passion and zeal for God and His ways, perhaps with “better results” than the last one, but it will be just another program none-the-less—”Babylon Lite.”

In the natural every species has a gestation period required for life. It can’t be hurried. If it is hurried it will be born dead or deformed. It is the same spiritually. Even the “revelation” of love itself as the beginning and end of all things, cannot be rushed to application.  Love requires gestation. Love requires incubation in an invisible place where only the one carrying the seed knows that there is life  in the womb. The day will come when everyone will know there is a pregnancy, but in the early goings . . . only Momma knows for sure.

When John Lennon sang, “All you need is love,” he was right. Sure, his understanding of it didn’t align with Christ’s kingdom, but I can’t help but believe that this lyric reflects something so deep in the human psyche, that even an unbeliever knows that love is the cement of perfection, the yearning of every human heart. John’s diagnosis was right. It seems unlikely he ever found the Cure.

Let’s avoid the pitfall of either extreme. Let’s effectively co-labor with the Christ in one another to the full realization of what His body is meant to be, for the benefit of God’s heart for humanity, remembering what Momma said:  . . .  you can’t hurry love.

 ________________________________

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.

 

 

 

The Other Guy is . . .

Our Candidate is . . . . . .Their Candidate is . . .

TOLERANT                                     LACKING CONVICTION

JUST HUMAN                                UNETHICAL

FRUGAL                                           STINGY

CARING                                            A SENTIMENTALIST

HONEST                                           INSENSITIVE

HOPEFUL                                        NAÏVE

A REALIST                                       TOO NEGATIVE

SENSITIVE                                      LACKING COURAGE

FORGETFUL                                   INSINCERE

JUST                                                  UNFORGIVING

NUANCED                                       INCONSISTENT

HONESTLY MISTAKEN               DECEIVED

GENEROUS                                     A SPENDTHRIFT

A PEACE MAKER                           A COMPROMISER

HARD WORKING                          DRIVEN BY AMBITION

EASY GOING                                   LAZY

DISCIPLINED                                  WOUND TOO TIGHT

DISCERNING                                  JUDGMENTAL

HUMAN                                            AN IDIOT

LOVING                                            SENTIMENTAL

A DISCIPLINARIAN                      HARSH

COMMITTED                                  RIGID

MERCIFUL                                      WISHY-WASHY

VERY SOCIAL                                 A BROWN-NOSER

UNDERSTANDING                        SPINELESS

DELIBERATIVE                              INDECISIVE

BOLD                                                 RISKY

RELIABLE                                        A SLAVE TO ROUTINE

DECISIVE                                         SHORT-SIGHTED

SOPHISTICATED                           A SNOB

PRINCIPLED                                  INFLEXIBLE

DETAIL ORIENTED                      OBSESSIVE

ORDERED                                        CONTROLLING

GROWS PERSONALLY                 NO CORE CONVICTIONS

_________________

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.

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]

———————————————–

[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.

Ekklesia: Family, but More Than Family

The Scripture uses many different metaphors to describe the ekklesia, the church.  One common New Testament metaphor is the church as family.[1]  This is a vital quality of the ekklesia universal and local.  Without it, the ekklesia will never be what God intends it to be, but if that is all it is, the church will likewise never be what God intends it to be.

Because of our society’s personal and social fragmentation, and in reaction to the sterile institutionalism of organized religion, damaged and disillusioned people are yearning for what they may never have experienced: a genuine sense of family.  The cults recognize this and take advantage of it.  Think of how many advertise themselves around a family image.  Church statistics indicate merely putting the word “family” somewhere in the name of the church can facilitate growth.  God’s Church is surely called to provide this value, not leave it to the cults.

However vital  it is, family is not the end goal. It’s a necessary facet of God’s eternal intent for His bride, but it’s a subordinate value.  Sadly, the condition of the church is often so nominal, that should people (in any meeting form, traditional, cell group, house church, organic, etc.) actually begin to touch the real dimensions of genuine family, we can erroneously think that we have made significant progress, or perhaps even arrived at a level of high spirituality.  This is not necessarily the case. There is a revelatory progression in biblical metaphors for the eternal purpose for the church:

  1. INDIVIDUALS
  2. FAMILY
  3. PEOPLE
  4. NATION
  5. ARMY
  6. QUEEN/BRIDE

Let’s briefly examine these.

INDIVIDUALS

God loves individuals.  We are saved as individuals.  The gospel appeal must be extended and responded to individually, and the gospel is  transformational: in the beginning, and all the days of our lives. In the beginning we are transformed from old creation, to new creation beings, and all the days of our lives were are progressively transformed into the image of Christ, from glory to glory. It is not possible to build anything representing God’s kingdom interest, if the raw “human material,” so to speak, is untransformed, Adamic nature, humanity. That is not workable material for God’s purposes.

A FAMILY

The ekklesia is not merely a collection of individuals any more than a pile of bricks is a building. God knits and builds individuals into a family.  In a family, a sense of identity and belongingness is established.  It is in the context of family that care and relationship is  developed and experienced.  God touched Abraham the individual, but Abraham’s call and destiny was to affect his family and, to produce from him, a family.[2] 

This family ethic is the arena in which the pastoral grace should function.  It should facilitate and develop the family identity of a group of believers.  However, shepherding is a mean to an end: the equipping of saints for their ministry, not eternally holding a captive audience for one’s own!

It’s also premature/futile to talk about “pastoring” any one, before there is a bona fide, relational, family reality one with another. Only families are “pastorable” in Jesus’s kingdom. You can run an organization, but you can only shepherd a family. What we typically do in our “church planting” and “pastoring,” is put a layer of administration on top of a collection of people who are not genuinely relationally bound together by the Spirit, (who are often untransformed, old creation beings), hold it together with programs and activities,  and call it “church.”  It is not. At least not Jesus’s kind.

A PEOPLE

A people (a singular collective) is a gathering of many families.  God did not just call Abraham and his family.  He was after a people.[3]  A people results from the healthy and prosperous expansion of individual families.  It speaks of developing a larger corporate identity that can be recognized by certain appearance and character traits.  A family can be ignored, but a people can have power and influence.  Abraham’s family and descendants prospered to become a people with a particular identity  that became a threat to Pharaoh.  Pharaoh was forced to deal with a people. 

A NATION

Israel left Egypt as a people, but at Sinai, they became a nation.[4]  A nation is a people that agree to embrace a common value system of order and guide to interactive relationship.  They embrace government and authority. A nation speaks of code, order, and structure. 

It is at this stage that great care must be exerted to not lose the family value established earlier.  Just like a dominant family ethic will never accomplish divine purpose, a nation that loses the bonds of relationship is just as surely destined to fail. 

There is much talk these days (particularly when apostles and prophets are concerned) about covenant, order, government, authority, structure, infrastructure, and the true ekklesia being a governmental entity, etc. It’s premature to talk about these things without the realities of bona fide individual transformation, an ethos of family, and an understanding of being made a people. Efforts to induce  “God’s kingdom governmental order” into the “structure” of the ekklesia, without the experiential reality of the other qualities, will inevitably be coercive, and fail: normally with pain for everyone involved. Noble effort, good intentions–negative, destructive fruit.

AN ARMY[5]

This is the biblical metaphor for possessing the authority and power to conquer and expand, and enduring the difficulties associated with expansion.  That is, the extension of the nation’s value system and government beyond its original borders–the Great Commission mandate–the extension of Christ’s kingdom on earth before his literal return.

However, it is naïve to think we have any authority in the spirit-realm, when the preceding elements are absent. It takes more than claiming a Bible verse and doing prophetic declaration to make a real difference in the heavenlies.

A QUEEN/BRIDE[6]

Once a land has been conquered, it must be ruled.  The church is called to eternal co-regency with Christ, expanding the rule of God, the nation of God,  throughout the universe. Jesus is coming for, and expecting, a Bride, who is a fully fit, perfect match for himself to share His regency of the universe with, in, and through.

Now, let’s examine some of the risks of being satisfied with, or settling for, a preeminent family ethic in a local church.

SELF- CENTERED/ SELF- FOCUSED

A family is intimate, and there is great enjoyment in sharing intimacy.  However, when enjoying an atmosphere of intimacy,  passion for divine mission can be easily lost.[7]  Indifference toward the plight of the lost can creep in undiscerned.  We can have a great sense of family, enjoy one another, and never experience kingdom expansion.  The kingdom is expanded not through intimacy alone, but through pain, discomfort, inconvenience, cost, and labor. 

If our goal in Christian experience is to participate in a local church (the form, traditional, house church, cell based, etc. is irrelevant) that maximizes my sense of personal well being, where my friends are, where my children have friends, and where we can relate intimately and enjoy one another’s company, we are on unbiblical grounds.  What has this sort of value system got to do with reaching our unsaved neighbors?  When our desire for relational intimacy, with God and one another, dulls our passion for divine mission, and its associated inconveniences, we have succumbed to a spirit of selfishness elegantly dressed in the robes of Christianity.  We have become a self-absorbed religious fraternity rather than the Lord’s conquering and expanding Church.

RESISTANT TO CHANGE

Often times a dominant pastoral anointing will try to make spiritual progress without discomfort to people.  This is not possible.  Change is inherently disruptive to the family.  In the natural, if a parent loses a job, or if a family moves, it is disruptive to relationship both within the family and without.  Yet, progress is not possible without disruption.  When a dominant family anointing is present, it will be nigh unto impossible for the people of God to move forward unto purpose.  Many people are deeply frustrated and discouraged because they are trying to move a family-centered ekklesia forward with a family anointing only.  That is a formula for an ulcer or nervous breakdown.

A SPIRIT OF FAMILIARITY AND DISHONOR

Often in a family, it’s common that dishonor prevails because, in close environment, we see each others’ weaknesses so clearly.  The old song said, “We always hurt the ones we love.” Infighting, gossip, criticism, and judgmentalism will  pop up and prevail if a family paradigm does not expand and engage in mission.  Eventually a spirit of contentiousness will corrupt what was originally a wonderful “family feeling.” If we are engaged in a greater purpose beyond family, there will not be enough time or energy for internal feuding.  A strategic  anointing is  a divine necessity  to move a  local ekklesia into and beyond the family stage of development on to ultimate purpose.

I know someone who works in a mental institution.  His testimony is that of all the different occupations and professions represented by the clients in the institution, Christian ministers/pastors are the number one statistical category.  Failure to understand how impossible it is to be a “leader” of, or in, the ekklesia, if these issues are not understood,  has real and often tragic consequences in the lives of God’s people.  It’s impossible to get God’s intended results when these issues are not understood. If good, legitimate, biblical concepts are attempted to be implemented without the necessary relational infrastructure to support the biblical ideals, disaster and pain will result, as surely as the sun rises in the east.


[1] Eph. 3:15

[2] Gen. 12:1-2, Gen. 13:1

[3] Ex. 5:1, Ex. 3:7, 10; Zech. 8:8

[4] Ex. 19:6

[5] 2 Tim. 2:3-4

[6] Rev. 21:2, et. al.

[7] Matt. 28:18-20

________________________

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.

Authority Book: Dutch Translation

We are pleased to announce (somewhat belatedly!) that our book, Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement has been released in Europe in a Dutch translation.  We would appreciate any of our European friends spreading the “word” into Dutch speaking countries/people.

It is available by contacting:

 

Netherlands: In the Netherlands we have a distributor CBC Houten The Netherlands  www.cbcboek.nl

France  http://www.clcfrance.com
Librairie Chrétienne CLC Quartier Pélican – RN7 26780 CHATEAUNEUF-DU-RHONE Tél : 04 75 90 55 57. Fax : / E-mail : montelimar@clcfrance.com

or through the website at www.supportministries.nl

Thanks and God bless.

Steve

The Perception-Reality Gap

According to George Barna, 98% of pastors believe themselves to be gifted teachers, and 80% believe that they are effective disciplers. Yet only 26.9% say they consider God’s perspective when making decisions (73.1% consider “perceived needs” of the congregation when making decisions). Of the pastors surveyed,  70% believe the personal faith of the individuals in their congregation is the top priority of their lives (1 in 6 believe it is 90%). When the people in the congregation are asked the same question, only 15% say their personal faith is a top priority in their individual lives! (When Protestants are isolated, it is 23%).

Fifty-four percent of pastors measure the spiritual health of their congregations by the number of volunteers working the church’s programs.  Fewer than one in ten pastors considers maturity (transformation) as an indicator of the spiritual health of their congregants. More than four out of five pastors ignore issues of maturity, transformation, or lifestyle in preference to issues related to “salvation.” Eighty-eight percent of young people in a major “conservative” denomination “leave the faith” after they get out of the homes of “evangelical” parents. The data goes on, and on, and on. It’s all negative. By any and all objective measures, “church,” as it has been commonly known and expressed in the West, is a failure.

Individuals in our self-esteem-based culture want to “feel good” about themselves without any objective reason to do so. It is apparent that individuals in the American “church” are not immune.

In any endeavor of life, other than American/Western churchianity, a perception-reality gap like this would require professional mental health treatment. Yet the maintenance of this system is defended with howling protests against anyone who should simply call it what it is: a corrupt, ineffective, money-driven, ego-driven system that does not represent, nor accomplish, the interests of Jesus Christ in the earth.

My friend, Lisa Koons, likes to say: “Church is not a dirty word, despite the dirty things done through it. Just insert your name instead of “church,” and see what I mean.” I agree wholeheartedly agree with that. Understanding that keeps us out of reactionary, nonredemptive responses.

However, the reality of the presence of sincere, good-hearted people in this system (who are doing all they know to do) and God’s great redemptive grace toward us all individually (and the debris and brokenness that  we offer Him) does not negate the sheer ineffectiveness of a system to which billions of dollars are poured into annually. Just because the depth of God’s great love and long-suffering redeems our weaknesses and pure motive ineffectiveness to accomplish His sovereign purposes, does not mean we should  perpetuate, normalize, and defend them! It makes sense to STOP the dirty things (practices)!

Yet there are those who insist on defending dirty things. The defense  can only be rationalized based on the perpetuation of the paychecks involved, and keeping the system going at all costs. Barna has conclusively documented that there is a direct, one-to-one relationship between the numerical size of a congregation and the compensation of it’s “pastor.”  The more people, the bigger the salary. The culture-driven, soul-pressure for success is simply overwhelming for those who have embraced values contrary to Jesus’ kingdom.

It is inconceivable to me how those who would call this for what it is, are accused of being “anti-church.”

We need to define terms. There are at least five different ways we use the term ekklesia/church:

  1. The beautiful, metaphysical Bride of Christ made up of all genuine believers (Only about 25% of those who call themselves Christians; see the parable of the sower); the ekkelsia defined mystically.
  2. The local, time-bound, practical expression of the gathering of believers in a given geography; the ekklesia defined geographically.
  3. The metaphysical subset of the kingdom. The kingdom transcends the local church, and local gatherings; the life and rule of Jesus is expressed in the earth; the ekklesia defined governmentally.
  4. The new race of humanity, the new creation, the new order of humanity:the  ekklesia defined “racially.”
  5. Then organizations to which people belong and attend, that propagate cultural values of morality and success using a thin veneer of religiosity and commitment to the Bible, which demand enormous resources (time, talent, and money); the  church defined culturally. (I don’t want to dignify this by associating it with God’s ekklesia in nomenclature.)

The attempts to deflect all criticism of #5 (and one’s participation in it)  by appealing to God’s predetermination to have #1 be glorious, without spot or wrinkle, is disingenuous. Do not appeal to the mystical when God is after reform of the practical. Resorting to various forms of “remnant theology” to justify  practical ineffectiveness, is also self-serving and self-deluding.

Disdain for #5 is not the same as being “against” the rest. I would argue that #5 is categorically not identical to the  rest, and that if you do not have holy contempt for #5, you either do not understand what the other four are about, or you may be part of the problem–I know I was, and by His grace, I am free. You can be too.

It starts by being honest with the facts, honest with one’s self, and  desiring to walk in integrity before the Lord . . . at any cost, including the suffering that might come from loss of a paycheck, reputation, fame, significance, and perhaps even love, affection, and understanding of family and friends.

 Those who are supposedly “justified” live by relational trust (the appropriate definition of the KJV: “faith”), not the tithe of the congregation.  Spirit-filled people are supposedly courageous. The timid are not spoken of favorably in scripture and their future is not “promising.” The walk of faith in Jesus can be lonely at times.  We are not promised that the fruit of our love and obedience will be the understanding of people we hold dear.

In Barna’s work he says: ” . . .  we need to stop pandering to popularity” . . .  “as things now stand, we have become content with placating sinners and filling auditoriums as the marks of spiritual health.”[1]

I say let all such thinking, and anyone who preaches a false gospel that sustains these kinds of dirty things, be anathema. Let’s be honest with ourselves, and starting with ourselves, begin to close the perception-reality gap. We are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. I want to be the latter. How about you?

___________________

[1] www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=215

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.

Permissibles versus Essentials

There are many practices within a typical church for which the scriptures (especially the New Testament)  have nothing or little to say. Scriptural silence is not scriptural prohibition.  In the spirit of gospel liberty, many things are permissible such as Sunday school, worship teams, men’s ministry, youth ministry, women’s ministry, nursery, etc.

However, when permissible things become essential things, we are in deception.

For example, do you think Paul had any “anointing” at all in his ministry and meetings without 45-60 minutes of “worship” preceding his preaching? Do you think the Spirit “moved” in his meetings without a worship team, a dance team, a banner team, and a team of prophetic intercessors? It may be an offensive shock to some, but these things are not gospel essentials. They are not necessary for an “anointed” meeting to occur. They are permissible, perhaps a blessing, perhaps a “help,” and perhaps utterly irrelevant distractions.

When we give disproportionate time, money, and resources to permissible things, at the expense of essential things like care for widows, orphans, the poor, and our neighbors (whose names we probably don’t even know . . .  so much for “love your neighbor”) . . .  we are deceiving ourselves.

Preaching Christ crucified, risen from the dead, and our transformation into his image and likeness in this life (which is our worship: see Rom 12), loving one another and the world, are some essentials.

Our values, methods, and priorities–what we do with our life, time, talent, and treasure–should reflect gospel essentials, not permissibles. Permissibles are meant to be enjoyed. Essentials are meant to be committed to with all our being.

Your devotion belongs to Jesus in His person, and His essentials, not peripherals and permissibles.

Spiritual Adolescence

Several years ago my father experienced a dramatic transformation. When I was 16, he was an idiot. When I was 40, the same guy was a genius. How did he become so wise? Must have been a miracle. Of course, I am joking. I was the one who had grown up. I was the idiot at 16 (and I’m still in recovery to this day!).

Even though “teen angst” is a complete fabrication of twentieth century psychologists, what we have come to know as adolescence is a normal stage of growth toward functional adulthood. There are qualities common to modern adolescence, and many of them are unpleasant. A wag once quipped that we know that Isaac was not a teenager when he went up Mount Moriah, because if he had been, Abraham would have killed him anyway . . . ram or no ram!

Adolescents tend to:

• know more than their parents about everything.
• be ungrateful.
• desire to make their own way, without help.
• reject parental values, only to embrace them again later in life.
• view their parents as out of it, not cool, unhip, hopelessly behind the times.
• view their sphere of life activity as all encompassing, as the most important thing in the universe.

Perhaps the comic version of Abraham had the right idea! The spiritual realm often reflects the natural. Individual believers and “restoration movements” frequently pass through what could be called “spiritual adolescence.” This is a time when people/things are not what they were, or they can no longer abide former affiliations, but they have not fully realized God’s intention for their migration to the new thing. It’s a delicate time, which requires much love and patience from all parties.

At the present hour, it seems to me that there’s a great deal of adolescent behavior occurring between individuals in the emergent church movement and the institutional church. It’s an attitudinal family squabble associated with overall kingdom growth toward maturity.

In any renewal or reformation movement that is authentically on the divine agenda, individuals in it tend to develop reactionary responses to their history—the “place” they just left. They tend to see very little value in anything associated with the former affiliation. They tend to view it in absolute terms of right and wrong: “They (the former affiliation) are so wrong!” Those who remain in the former association are often viewed with disdain as not being involved with the new thing God is doing. Those in the former association often feel betrayed by those who depart.

Usually, if God’s grace is active and responded to, individuals normally grow out of this phase, as the does the movement as a whole. The new thing eventually outgrows its adolescence, as the individual participants experience the progressive transformation to the image of Christ, becoming a blessing to all: those who depart as well as those who stay.

Eventually, the new movement begins to take on some of the same qualities and attributes of the old association. The new thing becomes domesticated. The fire of God in one generation becomes the flickering candle of the next. The adolescent oath: “I will never be like my parents,” comes home to roost–spiritually. Yesterday’s judges become themselves judged by today’s new generation of judges. The new guard eventually becomes the old guard and the reactionary cycle of carnality in the pursuit of a spiritual ideal repeats itself.

There is something inherently smug with saying things like: “This is what God is doing!” as if our miniscule mind could comprehend the full scope and significance of what God might be doing in the earth at a given moment. Why not just enjoy whatever season and place we happen to be in at the moment with the Lord, and forget the grandiose statements of how significant that moment and place is in God’s grand scheme of things, simply because it is our moment and place?

It’s legitimate for any of us to enjoy and be excited about whatever God might be doing individually in and through us. It’s not legitimate to project on others that they must participate in the same thing, at the same time, with the same intensity and passion as myself.

In God’s grace, we are each allowed our own seasons of adolescence. It often takes wisdom, patience, and love to embrace a natural adolescent. The more mature party in a relationship with an adolescent bears the responsibility of manifesting these qualities.

If individuals in the emergent church believe themselves to be more grown up in Christ, then let them demonstrate their superiority by excelling in love. If those in the institutional church believe themselves to be more mature than those who depart the institution, let them do likewise, rather than engage in adolescent debates with each other about the superiority of where our posteriors may be positioned on a Sunday morning. Let love be the testimonial witness of our spiritual acumen, not our meeting mechanics. It would seem the kingdom would experience increase if all parties excelled in love rather than cycles of spiritual sniping.

We can, and should, hold fast to our convictions and values, preaching and teaching them vigorously. Out of deeply held convictions regarding Truth and our participation in Him, we may not want to invest our lives’ energies within a certain framework or expression. We might feel very strongly about these things. I understand. I have my own strong convictions. That’s all fine. But in our interpersonal relationships, let’s stop adolescent indictments and reactionary responses to one another. Let’s leave behind adolescent behavior, attitudes, and judgments, and excel in love. Let us love and serve one another wherever we might be in the season and plan of God for our lives. Let us not assault one another with our “revelations” of this or that thing. Even an approach made with good intent will be viewed as a threat and rebuffed by those whose drawbridge is up, and whose battlements are armed. Love prevails. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not require being heard. Love waits for an invitation. Love does not demand access without consent. Access to the human soul without consent of the individual, is spiritual rape. We violate Jesus in one another when we do so, regardless of how vital we think our understanding on a given topic might be and how badly we believe it needs to be heard.

Just as each adolescent must ultimately live his or her own life, and the details of it cannot be prescribed for others to follow, let’s allow each other the freedom to take our own spiritual journey. There will always be someone “behind us” and someone “ahead of us” on the spectrum of kingdom life. If we look behind or to the side with a demeaning attitude toward someone whom we think “just doesn’t get it,” we can be assured that there’s someone further along than ourselves who is looking back at us with the same attitude. Sow mercy. Reap the same. In the process of growth to full spiritual adulthood, it’s ok to leave the cradle. It’s not ok to kick it on the way out, and to curse the hands that rocked it.

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.

Today’s Unpardonable Sin

Even a Christ-hating, atheist, mocking, scoffing, secularist, media personality will know one scripture reference, and leverage it frequently: Judge not, that you be not judged.[1] The unpardonable sin of today’s secular culture is judgmentalism.

Unfortunately, there has been significant seepage from the secular culture into the minds and practices of leaders in the Lord’s church. It has reached the point where “judge not” means: turn off all faculties of discernment between good and evil, light and darkness, life and death. Any evaluation of a doctrine, practice, or behavior is considered being unduly “critical” or “judgmental”—allegedly something Christians are not supposed to do.

It has reached the point among us that to have any regard for character, holiness, purity, or death/life is considered a failure to understand the grace of God. I am a new covenant, radical grace of God guy in every way: theologically, practically, spiritually, and subjectively. In fact, I am often criticized for being just that. However, the grace that is really God’s grace is both empowering and instructive. Someone who is experiencing God’s grace in the power of the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus Christ, will be empowered to stop ungodliness.[2] They will not habitually practice sin absent of conviction.[3]

As a mentor of leaders around the world, I see (on a regular, and widespread basis) the excusing of the rankest, foulest, clearest sin possible in the body of Christ by the wave of the magic wand of being judgmental or religious for bringing the topic up. I have seen fornication, adultery, the love of money, drunkenness, witchcraft, sedition, slander, rebellion, idolatry, and other practices, all tolerated—by supposedly mature Christian leaders—because to deal with these practices is considered being judgmental by those who hold local church authority in their hands.

As is so commonly done from pulpit, street corner, and TV studio, the Matthew passage is quoted out of context, and in disregard for other “red-letter” admonitions from the Lord. If proof-texting is all we need, how can the same holy lips that forbid judging in Matthew’s gospel, turn around in John’s gospel and tell His hearers to engage in judgment, only doing so righteously, not according to appearances?[4]

Of course, propping up the “judge not” cultural virtue with a biblical proof-text cannot withstand close biblical scrutiny. For example:

Jesus was “judgmental” when He:

  • Insulted people – Matthew 12:34 et. al.[5]
  • Called them names – John 8:44
  • Threatened them – Luke 13:3
  • Whipped them – John 2:15

Paul was judgmental when he:

  • Threatened people with curses – 1 Cor. 16:22[6]; Gal. 1:8-9
  • Confronted their hypocrisy, judging their behavior – Gal 2:13-14
  • Committed them to divine discipline – 1 Tim. 1:20; 1 Cor. 5:5

The Jesus we have created in our cultural, conservative, “Christian” religion is an idolatrous fantasy, a pure figment of religiously sentimental minds.  However, that Jesus is a necessity to keep the church growing and the finances flowing.  Often an unsanctified or over-expressed pastoral or evangelistic gift defined by cultural values of success and what it means to be a “good pastor” facilitates the “don’t judge” spirit. The lack of the expression of other equally valuable gifts and graces results in a very warped and utterly unbiblical expression of the pastoral grace.

What is the difference between prohibited judgments encouraged judgments?

The context of Matthew 7 is hypocrisy, not evaluation between good and evil. Jesus is dealing with those who want to “speak from behind the mask,” those who present themselves as something other than what they are, and measure and condemn others for the same sins they secretly engage in word, thought, or deed. Discernment is not being prohibited in Matthew 7.

Assuming we can agree that being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is the divine purpose for all humanity,[7] we cannot go wrong being like Jesus. The judgment we are to engage is the kind the Messiah engaged in. He did not judge by what He saw with the eyes and ears. He looked beyond the surface. He confronted concentrations of power in all forms: religious, political, institutional, financial, spiritual, and based His judgments on behalf of the poor.[8]

The judgments we are prohibited from engaging in are those that are inconsistent with His Word and Spirit. We are forbidden from condemnation (of ourselves and others!): the issuance of a final decree on a matter, a judicial “sentence” of finality. There is only One who is qualified to make those kinds of judgments, because only He knows the hearts of humanity fully. We cannot know the depth, breadth, and scope of His redemption concerning others. We see through a window, darkly.

If all judgment/discernment is prohibited by the Lord, then the general discernment belonging to all believers (as sharing in the Spirit of Christ) and the specific gift of discerning of spirits, are both unnecessary—there is nothing to judge. I suggest that many of the problems experienced in individual lives, relationships, and in local faith communities result from precisely this failure to exercise the most basic elements of discernment: a failure to righteously judge.[9]

Not all judgments are negative! In our culture the word “judgment” has such a negative connotation, it is hard for us to understand that it is possible to make positive judgments! Acquitted! Son not slave! Free! Forgiven! These, and many others, are all positive judgments!

We are to make evaluative judgments from the new creation nature, based on the Word and Spirit of God. Our evaluations are to be full of grace and truth: truthfully gracious and graciously truthful,[10] and severe when necessary[11] . . . remembering our frames are but dust. We must always remember the mire we have been rescued from, and extend the same long-suffering graciousness to others. The measure with which we measure others, we will be measured by. Our judgment is in hope, and in mercy triumphing, not rejoicing in another’s weakness or failure.

Never the less, judge (discern/evaluate) we must . . . starting with our own hearts and the beams in our own eyes.


[1] Matthew 7:1

[2] Titus 2:11-15

[3] 1 John 3:9

[4] John 7:24

[5] Semitic people believed that snakes reproduced asexually, without a father. To call someone the “children of snakes,” was the same in our culture as calling someone a bastard: fatherless. There was no greater insult possible toward a Jewish person. Their entire identity and “place in God” depended on their tracing fatherhood to Abraham and ultimately, God through Adam.

[6] And pronounce a grace-based blessing in the same verse!

[7] 2 Cor. 3:18;  2 Cor. 4:11

[8] Isaiah 11:3-4.

[9] Gift expression is healthy only in a fully expressive community of diverse gifts. All gift expressions are divinely designed to be in divine tension and counterbalance one with another. Truly, only the outworking of the inwrought cross and a very present ministry of the Holy Spirit can keep the whole body functioning beautifully.

[10] John 1:17

[11] Romans 11:22

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.