How to See Kingdom Increase – Let the Wind Blow!

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In John chapter three, Jesus linked being born of the Spirit—necessary to perceive (KJV: see) the kingdom—to the wind. The spirit-wind metaphor would have been very MP910216389familiar to His hearers. Connecting it to the kingdom of God in response to Nicodemus’s question about eternal life was unique.

In the metaphor, the wind is not subject to human analysis: its effects are recognizable, but they cannot be controlled. The spirit-birthed sons and daughters of the kingdom are not known by human observations, evaluations, and metrics, but their effect can be recognized. My, what a conundrum for the natural man! No wonder this confused and offended Nicodemus! It has the same effect on us today!

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Praying into the Abyss of Despair

Praying into the Abyss of Despair

Praying into the Abyss of Despair

Sometimes our circumstances make us feel like we are standing on the edge of a dark and bottomless abyss of hopelessness. We pray, do all the things we know to do, have been told to do, trained to do (and then some), and nothing changes or things get worse.

The pressure can lead us to the brink of madness. Cliché Christian answers and the insensitivities of cheap canned theology of fellow Christians don’t help. Rather than identify with us in the darkness of the mystery of our circumstances, “Job’s comforters” type of Christians heap guilt, shame, introspection, fear, and anxiety upon us with: “There must be sin in your life” or “You just don’t have enough faith,” or this would not be happening to you. Both are lies.

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The Law is for the Lawless, Not for You! by Mark Drake

Guest Blogger: Mark Drake

1 Tim 1:8-9- “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,  realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless…”

If you have received God’s free gift of righteousness by Christ coming to live inside of you, then you are the “righteous”, not the “lawless”.  Therefore, the Law is not made for you.  You have something far better than the letter of the Law.  You have the Lawgiver, Himself, living inside of you!

Why the New Covenant is Better than Law

The miracle of the New Covenant is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:26-27).  The New Covenant enables us to live the “Inside-Out” life rather than the vastly inferior life of “Outside-In.” When the Lawgiver is living in us, we are empowered by Him from the inside out.

We Must Always Start at the Right Starting Point

We must always start with the reality that we have already been made righteous by putting our faith in the work Christ did for us on the cross. Then, as we learn to allow Him to live His life in and through us, His righteous nature begins to live through us, affecting our actions.  Our goal now becomes to cooperate with Him for inner transformation, not to become “right with God” because we are already “right with God.”

Though we will not learn to cooperate with Him perfectly in this life, we are on a progressing journey into righteous behavior which culminates in our physical death, when we will be completely changed and fully transformed into His perfect image (Rom. 8:29).  The journey does not make us “right with God.”  We are already right with God because of what Christ has done, once and for all!  But traveling on this life journey is dramatically “easier and lighter” (Matt. 11:28) when we understand the true New Covenant.

When the Lawgiver is living inside of you, you do not have to live struggling to outwardly obey a list of laws, by your own power and by making more sincere promises to God.  Instead, He will empower and guide you from within. This is what makes the New Covenant–new!  Living in the true New Covenant is intended to give us the successful life of Inside-Out, instead of the failure of Outside -In.

Example of Lawlessness – Traffic Laws

In civil society we must have traffic laws, because our lawless human nature is motivated by selfishness and the fear of punishment. If I drive through your neighborhood thinking only about myself and how fast I want to get to my destination, then my lawlessness (not being motivated by love) makes me a danger to others.

But if I am being motivated inwardly by agape love, I will be more careful than the traffic signs demand because my concern will be the safety of others rather my selfish desires.  I won’t need the threat of punishment or the outward restriction of law because I am being controlled by a higher inner law.  I will be even more careful than the law requires because I am being controlled by God’s love for the well-being of others.

True grace empowers us to live beyond the letter of the Law.  True grace produces a better life than Law ever could.  This is why Paul could confidently say, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:10)

This is the power of true biblical grace; Christ’s life inside you, controlling you from within, as a free gift from a loving Father.  And this is THE Good News!

For much more on this subject see Mark’s newest book, “God’s Brilliant Cure…for fear, shame and condemnation.

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Copyright © 2012 by Mark Drake of Mark Drake Ministries, author of God’s Brilliant Plan, searching for the easy and light life Jesus promised. www.markdrakeministries.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

Tips For Healthy Scripture Study Habits: 'How to Avoid Being Spiritually Misled'

Tips for Good Scripture Study Habits

Tips for Good Scripture Study Habits

In response to my post regarding apostolic and prophetic insanity, blogger MC Lang asked a very good question. MC asked what can be done to equip one’s self to be a disciplined student of scripture.  Short of getting a formal education that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, there are some things we can do to help ourselves avoid being spiritually misled. These are not necessarily listed in any priority, except the first item.  I  believe it is the most important thing I have learned in my life regarding  healthy study of scripture.

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The Real Church Dilemma by Jose Bosque

Guest Blogger: Jose Bosque

MP900289918I 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.

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“Vision Casting” in Christian “Leadership”: 'Myth and Manipulation'

Casting the Cast Vision

Casting the Cast Vision

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.

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Why I Quit Tithing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s love extravagantly, including through our finances.

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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.

Fascinated by God’s Beauty

I recently had the privilege of doing a podcast with my friends Stevie Bremner and SJ Hill on the topic of the beauty of God and our role in being agents of beautification. If you interested, you can take a listen by clicking here.

I recommend it to you.

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.

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.