Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Of Kings and Priests: Part Three

It was Oswald, King of Northumbria, who caught the spirit and the vision of God's Kingdom in the early 600's AD when he invited Aidan, the Irish monk-priest from Scottish Iona, to come and share the teachings of Isu Mac De (Jesus Son of God) with the people of his kingdom.   As mentioned in "Of Kings and Priests: Part One"  Aidan and King Oswald began a partnership that modeled God's intention for synergy between the marketplace and the ministry.  

In the furtherance of this discussion, i should reiterate that all who follow Christ are considered to be a royal priesthood, however, we also recognize that throughout the biblical record and church history there are and have always been those specifically set apart to minister to the Lord and His people as an occupation or in a "full time" capacity. So it is with this understanding that we continue our discussion of the role of kings (those not called into full-time vocational ministry) and priests (those who are called to equip and govern the church in truth and faithfulness to the apostolic tradition). 

As I was in the woods yesterday, i came across a passage of Scripture that i had not read in some time, yet its validity is more pronounced now than ever.  It encapsulates the entirety of what I am and have been trying to communicate in this Re-Monk series on the role of Kings and Priests in the Body of Christ.  Let's take a look at this passage from Romans 10:12-15 together.

"For whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.

How then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed? 

 And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? 

 And how shall they hear without a preacher? 

And how shall they preach unless they are sent?"

There is a misconception among Evangelicals that commonly leads to confusion, shame and a crisis in Christian identity for the individual believer.  It is the assumption that unless you are out there evangelizing and saving souls, you are of no worth to the kingdom of God.  This assumption, although well meaning and clothed in partial truth, has served to bring confusion and paralysis to a large portion of the body of Christ. It simply is not true; allow me to explain.  There are various and numerous spiritual gifts and ministries given to us by the Holy Spirit, outlined in Scripture, that have little or nothing to do with evangelism.  Not all are called to be evangelists.  Do I believe that we should all share our faith? Absolutely, but it may not be the unique ministry for which God has equipped me.

First we must understand that our primary ministry as Christians, is to God.  Praise, thanksgiving, and good ole fellowship with the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit is our primary objective for our lives lived on earth.  It is the First and greatest commandment according to Jesus, not evangelism.  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment."~Mt. 22:37-38. 

When the second commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself, supplants the first commandment, you have turned the message of the Kingdom into a formula instead of allowing it to exist organically through a living relationship with the Almighty. Therefore, evangelism, although extremely important and necessary for the Church's mission, is not the primary task of the individual believer or the corporate body.  To make it so, is to inadvertently turn the Gospel of our Lord into a humanistic endeavor reminiscent of the enlightenment so that we can make sure as many people on earth as possible have their fire insurance.  This path of thought is man-centered and not God-centered. True enlightenment can only occur when Christians are fulfilling the first command to love their God by delighting in His love relationally.  All the other stuff like evangelism, ministry to the poor, etc. comes as a byproduct (or fruit) of loving relationship, not as a list of things that I can check off to make sure I'm a "good Christian". 

For example, there are a great many "kings" in the body of Christ who are called to make money to support the work of the ministry.  However, these kings have felt ostracized, shamed and belittled in the church because they have not "won any souls".  These kings have not been embraced by the Church in their role to provide bread for the house of God!  The simple truth is that without "kings", the house of God becomes a storehouse with nothing to store.  It is time we get over our hang-ups about the rich and celebrate them as a vital part of God's plan to grow the kingdom.  Which brings us back to the passage in Romans that we were looking at earlier.

How can the lost call out for the only name under heaven by which men can be saved if they do not know the Name?  And how can they know the Name unless someone shares it with them?  And how can the person who desires to go and share it with them go, unless they are sent?

Guess who does the sending!  It's the kings!  Those who have been blessed with resources, whether its the widow with her two-mites or the billionaire CEO of a fortune five hundred company. "How can they preach unless they are sent?"  You may not be called to be a fiery evangelists who works the streets and knocks on doors to share the good news, but you should be about the Father's business, which may include supporting a missionary or tithing regularly to your local congregation or ministry.

Beloved, we must become mature with this thing we call money.  We must grow up and stop thinking of it in terms of who has what and how much and who should be giving what, and "i would give if i only had more to give, or i would give if i knew my money was going to be spent well, etc."  We have to realize that the Kingdom of God takes money to advance...period!  Jesus talked more about money than any other subject in the gospels except the Kingdom of God.   It is important to God, because it is the great litmus test of our hearts.  He inferred that if we could but learn to be faithful with money, then we would be entrusted with the true riches of heaven. 

We must end this cold war between the kings and priests.  The priests are not recognizing and honoring the spiritual gifts of the generous in their ministry of sending, and are inadvertently holding many captive in their own financial prisons because they are afraid to teach about money and financial stewardship from the pulpit.  Kings are withholding their resources out of ignorance, a lack of trust, greed, fear or insecurity in God's ability to provide, or a refusal to relinquish their money without having a control over how it is spent.  Both of these dynamics are hindering the advancement of God's kingdom. 

We need a revival of priests who will use kingdom finances with a spirit of the fear of the Lord.  Priests who will pray and seek council before spending Kingdom resources on their own "kingdoms".  We need priests who will be faithful and transparent in monetary matters, priests who care more about building God's house of spiritual stones than starting yet another building campaign for a "family-life center", priests who keep the first command first, and the second command pure and undefiled by reaching the unreached and caring for the widow and orphan. 

We need a revival of kings, who will let their giving be as unto God and not as a means to gain political power and influence in the church!  We need kings who will give with a spirit of the fear of the Lord; not like Ananias and Sapphira who lied to Holy Spirit and were struck dead because of it.  The body of Christ needs kings who give anonymously without ambition, without agenda; men and women who have been blessed financially and who do not let their left hands know what their right hands are doing; kings who give in the spirit of the early church who sold homes and properties and came and "laid the proceeds at the apostles feet".

Beloved, there is coming a great harvest of souls into the Kingdom of God as these end-times approach us with more intensity and ferocity.  It is going to take a massive amount of resources to not only reach these future brothers and sisters in Christ, but to properly steward their souls that they might "endure until the end."  It will take the cooperation and the synergy of both kings and priests to answer the glorious challenge that awaits the church in these end days.  
As i write this article, my heart is heavy for the many "priests" that i know who are no longer in ministry or are struggling to hang on because of the lack of financial support.  These brave men and women who at one time answered the call of God to equip His church and who often sacrifice their family's comfort and well being to minister to the people of God or preach to those who desire to be saved, are leaving the ministry in droves, because of the unnecessary lack in God's household.   i know of pastors and missionaries who have to apply for food stamps in order to feed their families.  Some may say, well that's ridiculous, they should get a real job and get off the government doll.  Well, i say that it's ridiculous that the people of God are not filling up the storehouse so that no one has lack!  If a fledgling middle eastern church in Palestine 2,000 years ago can operate in a such a way where no one among them had any lack, then why do those who are called to minister to Jesus and His people, who live in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known, experience such lack as to force them out of their calling in order to provide food and shelter for their family!

Is it any wonder why Western governments are imploding under the weight of welfare and entitlement programs? it's because the Church has failed in doing her job!  Responsibilities that governments should have never shouldered such as caring for widows and orphans, treating addicts, sheltering the homeless, educating children, etc. were all neglected by the church; and because we have failed in this mandate we are reaping the consequences of bankruptcy in our society in every aspect.  God will get His tithe, whether its through the church,  a flat tire, a broken air conditioning unit, an unexpected bill, or taxes from the government.  God doesn't need our money, but His people do.  It is up to us to turn the tides so that God will rebuke those things that devour our finances.  If we don't follow his commandments, then we leave ourselves and our money vulnerable to the one who comes to kill, steal and destroy.

So then how now shall we live?

There are two simple solutions that can be applied in every individual, every family, and every church.  It is possible to take back ground that we have already lost, and take it back with great speed and power.

#1.  We must restore the Great Commandment back to first place immediately.  This means that we must take a serious look at our priorities, our time, and our money.  We must call the auditors and evaluate the things mentioned above with great sobriety.  Once we evaluate our lives, families and churches we must begin to radically implement our new strategy for putting God first, no matter what the cost.  The pursuit of God must supersede everything, including events, programs, ministry and even relationships.

#2.  We must fill the storehouse again.  This must begin with those anointed for business and generosity.  When these gifts are once again released into the body of Christ, it will begin an impartation of generosity that will spread to even the poorest of the poor in the church, which will result in more prosperity and more provision not only for those in the church but for those who will be saved!  Read the passage from Malachi again and see how this principle not only holds great consequence for the individual, but also for the entire nation!

"Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say, in what way have we robbed you?
In tithes and offerings.
You are cursed with a curse,
for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
that there may be food in my house,
And try me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts,
"If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such a blessing
That there will not be enough room to receive it.

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,"
Says the LORD of hosts;
"And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,"
Says the LORD of hosts.
~Malachi 3:8-12

My Personal Re-Monk Challenge to Priests:

Audit your Church and/or Ministry.  Cut off every ministry, program, or event that is not bearing considerable fruit, and/or was birthed out of human idealism or need instead of the leading of the Holy Spirit.  In its place, open your doors for ongoing/sustained prayer energized with music, worship, the reading, teaching and studying of Scripture that magnifies Jesus and testifies of His beauty (not the self help garbage that is so prevalent in our bookstores). Develop a system of financial accountability and transparency so that your parishioners can give with confidence.  Persistently ask for spirit of wisdom and revelation to know this man Jesus in His true beauty so that you can lead his people into the throne room of God.  Invest in ministering to Jesus, He's a big tipper!  Don't shy away from teaching about money, but don't do it only when the coffers are low; this can lead to manipulation.  Make it part of your DNA.

My Personal Re-Monk Challenge to Kings:

Give unto God and once you release it to him, do not try to control or manipulate how it is used within a ministry or church setting.  Don't be foolish when you invest in the Kingdom; use your discernment and trust the leading of the Holy Spirit even if it doesn't look like a fruitful ministry on the surface. 

Don't be afraid to risk in your giving.  Even very reputable churches and ministries had to start somewhere. 

 Diversify! Invest in People, Purposes, and Places.  Your tithe should in most cases go to your local storehouse or church where you are being spiritually nourished and nurtured. But don't let that hold you back from investing in other ministries or causes of Kingdom worth.  It may not even be part of your denomination; God may be leading you to sew seeds somewhere else.  If you simply cannot give to your church for conscience sake, channel those resources into anther trustworthy ministry. 

Adopt a pastor, priest or missionary and support them with regular financial assistance.  Pay for a young person to intern as an intercessory missionary at a house of prayer. 

Support those who feel called to pray and worship as their ministry!  These prayer warriors change cities, yet rarely get the encouragement, honor, and support they deserve because theirs is not a visible ministry.

Become an annonymous benefactor to someone who simply wants to serve God and not have to worry about finances.  Don't use your money to control people or politics within the church.  this could be deadly for you, remember Ananias and Sapphira? Donate, repair, or fix a building.  There are numerous fledgling ministries who are in desperate need of a meeting place, a storehouse, and there are countless opportunities for these ministries to flourish if they only had a place to start their base of operations. 

Give BIG!  I'm waiting to hear of the man or woman who begins to live off 10% of their income and gives 90% of it!

In the Lion, in the Lamb



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