The advice Job’s friends gave him typifies quid pro quo thinking: if you do well, you prosper; if you do evil, you suffer. If you are faithful to God and follow His precepts, only blessing follows; if you don’t follow His precepts, you are cursed—bad things happen to you. It is important to note that God personally appeared to rebuke Job’s counselors for thinking that way. Unfortunately, that is the way most teachers and preachers (especially televangelists) present the gospel and the way most believers live it. It shows a deep lack of understanding of the realities or the new covenant.
Folks with unhealed emotional damage from “church-world,'” will always view with suspicion the deep, healthy, and fulfilling mutual kingdom relationships others have one with another. They will see ill-motive, agenda, and dysfunction where none truly exists. They can’t get past their past. They assume that the present reality of others is the same as their past reality. It is unfortunate.
Perfectionistic, rationalistic, suspicious, skeptical, unbelief is not “discernment.” It is normally just people who have been badly hurt, trying to protect themselves from being hurt again, which is understandable, naturally speaking. Folks need space to process healing. Step-by step. You can’t rush someone past the stage of healing the Spirit is taking them through. But that does assume engagement in a process of healing, not bonding and forming an identity with one’s woundedness and eternally commiserating with those folks who are determined to not be healed.
If unhealed, that kind of person will end up in a church of one: themselves. Because, no one will ever be “right enough,” or no one “safe enough,” or no one “worthy enough” or “whole enough” for he/she to relationally invest in-LONG TERM. They will constantly separate, go from group to group, trying to find perfection only to live in cycles of chronic, reactionary, disappointment. Love involves risk, and risk involves the possibility of pain. Closed hearts cannot know love. Jesus is ready, willing, and able to do better than what we can do for ourselves by locking our selves down in a prison house of judgmental, isolationist, skepticism and calling it “safety” and “freedom from religion.” The only one we are fooling is ourselves.
God knows the unique circumstances of each of His children. There is no one-size-fits all “path” to healing. But healing is the prescription for us all.
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The Scriptures refer to believers in churches as children in several passages such as: 2 Corinthians 6:13, 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 2:11; Galatians 4:19; 1 Peter 1:14, and multiple times in John’s epistles. The Corinthian and Galatian passages that mention fathers and sons/children are metaphors for the state of spiritual infancy of those in the community. It’s not necessarily a compliment, a model of ministry, a protocol, or standard to be maintained for all time. It is a metaphor for a relational spiritual reality and a season of spiritual development that we all pass through on our way to realizing our maturity in Him. . Continue reading
The theme of family saturates Scripture. The shared covenantal love in the Godhead is to be reflected on earth through natural and spiritual family relationships. The language, spirit, and methods of family are kingdom normal. However, the cults use the principle of family with great effect to win people into their association and to establish unbiblical belief systems and practices. Even the idea of family can be pushed too far.
In our interpersonal dealings with folks, as long as people are happy with the rug they are standing on, they will not appreciate you or I trying to pull it out from under them – even if we really have a better rug for them, tug ever so gently, and try to convince them of how loving we are for tugging!
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.
Can two walk together except they be agreed? – Amos 3:3
It grieves the Spirit of our Father when the scriptures are so poorly handled as to misrepresent their meaning and His heart.
This verse is commonly used as the scriptural justification for brothers and sisters to separate from each other, to sever relationship, on any number of secondary issues. Regrettably, I have used it in the past, and have had it used on me, as recently as in the past few months.
Guest Blogger: Jose Bosque
I have had this article on my heart for months. I am both intrigued and broken hearted as I contemplate this issue. Why do born again brothers and sisters that I am acquainted with come so close to dealing with the issues of organized church in their own Christian walk only to pull back and never truly engage? They claim to be hungry for a genuine Christ-centered walk, yet they seem incapable of escaping the trappings of a church-centered religion.
Now when I speak of the “real church” I am talking about the One Church of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Church He is building. I am not talking about a physical structure but of a people in whom the God of Love dwells. That is the true church – the ekklesia. Unfortunately, the counterfeit is well known. These counterfeits often look like glorified amusement parks and country clubs that masquerade as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s not about the name game, either. I don’t care what an organization calls itself. They may be Independent, non-denominational, Pentecostal, Baptist or Catholic etc. These names are man-made labels used for identification and separation that will find no place in the Lord’s eternal redemptive plan. What I am talking about is a Bride for a King who is pressing in to break free of the bondages of human religion and embracing the freedoms and joy of a life in Christ.
The 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:
- Widows __________
- The Poor __________
- The brotherhood in need _____________
- Expansion of the gospel _____________
- 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 email@example.com.
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What about vision casting? Isn’t it a basic premise of “good church leadership?” Isn’t that what you are supposed to do to get people to follow you and submit to your leadership–where you think God wants to “take them” or “where God wants to take the church”? Well, the scriptures never use the phrase. It’s inferred from Proverbs 29:18 and Habakkuk 2:2 – that’s it. That’s all there is. “Casting a vision for people to follow” is one of the biggest myths and sacred cows ever foisted on the body of Christ. What might be acceptable on Madison Avenue, is not acceptable in Jesus’ kingdom.