And Then the End Shall Come, Part 2

By Francis Frangipane

It is no secret that we live in prophetic times. Besides two world wars, earthquakes and famines, our generation has seen the return of Israel to its land, and we have personally witnessed the spectacular increase of knowledge and travel (Dan. 12). Spiritual signs are like towns we pass through en route to a further destination: they reveal approximately where we are as we approach the Lord's return.

Yet it is important to not assume we are further than we are. There are two major end time signs that we have not yet passed through. I'd love to be wrong, but it's my opinion that those planning for an immediate rapture should probably unpack. For, while we should be dressed in readiness, the gospel of the kingdom has not been proclaimed worldwide (Matt. 24:14) nor has the Antichrist been revealed (2 Thess. 2:1-3). Both these things must occur before Christ returns.

The Great Harvest
Even while Jesus spoke of the signs of the end, He also warned that false movements would arise. He said, "See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying . . . 'The time is at hand.'" He warned, "do not go after them" (Luke 21:8). Since the first century there have been many times when people were caught up in a false anticipation that the time was at hand. Even today, while we are certainly much further along than previous times, we simply have not yet entered the time of final things.

Consider The Message translation of Luke 21:8-9: "Watch out for the doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, 'I'm the One,' or, 'The end is near.' Don't fall for any of that. When you hear of wars and uprisings, keep your head and don't panic. This is routine history and no sign of the end."

In the sequence of final end time events, Jesus said that certain "things must take place first" (Lk 21:9). As we stated, a major reality that must come to pass is the worldwide proclamation of the gospel. Jesus said after the gospel is fully proclaimed, "then the end shall come" (Matt 24:14). Today this is the fervent revelation of the heart of God, and everything that is occurring in the earth today--the war on terrorism, globalization and the opening of closed nations--all must be interpreted in light of God's heart to bring redemption to the unsaved world.

The Antichrist
Another major sign preceding the Lord's return is the emergence of the Antichrist. While the spirit of the Antichrist has empowered "many antichrists" since the first century (1 John 2:18; 4:3), the Scriptures warn that a singular leader will arise. Paul tells us that the positioning of this individual on the world stage is itself another major sign of the Lord's return.

Listen to the apostle's warning. Remember, he is writing about the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him." Yet, Paul expresses a deep concern that Christians would "not be quickly shaken from [their] composure or be disturbed . . . to the effect that the day of the Lord has come" (2 Thess. 2:1-2).

Paul is seeking to break the power of deception that was hitting the church in Thessalonica. He continues, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

Paul says plainly that the day of the Lord will not come unless the Antichrist is revealed. This will be the last major event that must occur before the return of the Lord. First, is the great, worldwide proclamation of the gospel and then, following or at least running concurrently, would be the emergence and international influence of the Antichrist. Somewhere in the sequence of these two events God will restore Israel to Himself; but that discussion is for another article.

Speculation abounds as to who the Antichrist is. Over the last 40 years, many have been identified as the "man of sin"--from John Kennedy, to the last three Popes, to Kissinger, Gorbachev and even recently Prince Charles, plus a dozen others in between. Yet, Paul describes the Antichrist as having certain, unmistakable characteristics. He "opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship." Then he actually sits in the "temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

Has anything even remotely similar occurred? No. This "son of destruction," with apparent godlike powers, will have a worldwide following (logically, at least 500 million followers). Has that happened yet? No. He'll provide a temporary, but false international peace. Did I miss something? Is the world finally at peace? The Antichrist will sit in the temple of God. Right now, the Al-Aksa Mosque is secured on the temple mount in Jerusalem. Beloved, there isn't even a temple where the Antichrist can sit.

A number of Christians have been convinced that the Euro, which is the currency being introduced in most of Europe, is the currency of the Antichrist. Yet God's word says "all" nations will be economically influenced by the Antichrist, not just little Europe. The fact is, China, North and South America, Russia, India, Africa and the Islamic world have absolutely no plans for the Euro. There is no worldwide currency, no mark of the beast.

The person described as the Antichrist in the Bible is just not here yet. Regardless of who informs you of their secret insights, that so and so is the Antichrist--whether it's the National Enquirer or your favorite Christian author--remember, the Antichrist, when he appears, will be unmistakable. The Jewish temple will be restored; a true international currency will be in place and there will be a worldwide movement following a leader who, with supernatural powers, calls himself God. You won't need the National Enquirer to point him out. He will be obvious to every true Christian. Whether you ascribe to a pre-, mid- or post-tribulation rapture of the church, the Antichrist must come first.

The Real Problem
In my thirty three years of ministry, I've often seen Christians excited about "end time" prophecies. Currently, a minor ripple of excitement is stirring regarding an "army from the north" prophecy that speaks of an attack against the USA. I first heard this prophecy in the early 1970s. Who is this army from the north? Canadians? Eskimos? Really, when Christians blindly accept, and then spread, these aberrant prophecies, it's like spraying the unsaved with "repellant."

In the seventies and eighties, many Christians (including yours truly) believed the Lord was coming soon. As a result, we Christians turned our back on our government and school systems. We abandoned our responsibility to be salt and light in the world, and then condemned the world for its lack of godliness. We were so eager for the Lord's return, that we accepted that only judgment awaited America and the rest of the world. As a result of believing a lie, we suffered spiritual paralysis, which allowed laws to be changed and our nation to slide into great perversion--all because we thought we were at the end of the age. What a travesty!

If the rapture of the church occurs tomorrow, wonderful! However, it is actually possible that this age won't end for hundreds of years. We need to pray, plan and act as though we could see several worldwide awakenings before Christ returns. I know I'm slaying some sacred cows here, but according to the Hebrew calendar, we are only at the year 5763. We have at least a couple hundred Hebrew years before we reach the year 6000 and, according to some interpretations, the beginning of the Millennium.

I'm saying all this, not to get us to become worldly, but to fully embrace God's call that we become Christlike. You see, if we accept that all that remains is the apostasy and then the rapture, we exempt ourselves from fasting and praying for our communities. If we have passed the season for revival, then why lay our lives down for cities and nations that God has no intention of redeeming? You see, we do need to recognize that, until the Lord comes, we are in the season of the harvest.

My friends, listen, missiologists tells us that, at current growth rates, there will be a billion new souls brought into the kingdom of God in the next 10 years. That is not a misprint. Jesus paid for them and God wants them in His kingdom. Do you think God is going to stop the harvest because of our ill-timed doctrines about the second coming? He will simply by-pass us and use others.

If we truly desire to accelerate Christ's return, then we must complete our part of the prophetic plan, which is to win the lost. If you are not praying for, and giving to, organizations that are training ministers for the great harvest, you might actually be delaying the Lord's return. It is time for laborers to be trained and sent. Every nation must hear the gospel and each soul written in the Lamb's book must be saved, and then the end shall come. 

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The Vision for Our Times

By Francis Frangipane

Christ, Our Prefect Mentor
Today, perhaps more than at any time in our nation's history, we stand at a crossroads. Will this nation move toward heaven or hell? Will we see a national awakening or national destruction? I am fully convinced that if we stand for our cities and neighborhoods--if a remnant in the church truly becomes Christlike in prayer, character and motives--we will ultimately see the glory of God fall again upon our land.

Yet, to possess the glory of Christ again through the church means, among other things, that godly leaders will need to mentor and train disciples in the way of the Lord. We simply do not have enough time to all mature spiritually at the current pace. We not only need revelation of the potential of Christ in us, but we need impartation from leaders who are walking in some measure of Christlikeness now (see Rom 1:11; 1 Thess 2:8). We need the spiritual fathers in the church to accept that, while they are not perfect, God can use them to mentor and train pastors, intercessors and the future leaders of the church.

The word "mentor" actually came from Homer's Odyssey. Mentor was the name of a loyal adviser of Odysseus who was entrusted with the education of the king's son, Telemachus. Mentor supposedly became a type of father figure to Telemachus while Odysseus was away fighting the Trojan War. Today, by common usage, Webster defines a mentor as a "wise and trusted counselor or teacher."

Paul captures the feeling of this special relationship between an established leader with his protege, when he wrote Timothy: "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me" (1 Cor 4:15-16).

A mentor is a spiritual father or mother who trains, guides and disciples an individual for a certain period until, in some tangible way, that disciple receives some measure of the anointing that rests upon his or her mentor. Paul wrote that the outcome of his fathering Timothy was that Timothy (and evidently others) would become "imitators of [Paul]." In this instance, imitation does not mean we are false or without substance, but that an impartation of Christ's life has successfully been multiplied from one to another.

Jesus put it this way: "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward" (Matt 10:40-41).

A prophet or righteous man carries in his spirit a "reward" of impartable power. It takes humility in a disciple to overlook the weaknesses of a leader and recognize the gift God has placed in him or her for our benefit. This principle of impartation and replication was foundational in the New Testament. It is the reason why Jesus did not leave a thousand apostles; twelve were enough. It's why He only appeared to Paul, instead of appearing to ten thousand others, because one Paul would impart and replicate himself in ten thousand others. The Lord only needed one Paul as long as the apostle understood the principles of mentoring, impartation and replication.

The Book of Hebrews expands this somewhat and urges us to be careful. Listen to what the writer says concerning our training. He admonishes, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings" ( Heb 13:7-9).

The goal is to see replicated in us the very life of Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. We must choose our leaders wisely, considering the outcome of their way of life. Look at how they handle conflict or success; are they still reaching for Christlikeness themselves? If they are, we "imitate their faith." In other words, when we submit to someone, we are seeking to appropriate the heart attitudes and graces that has functionalized the nature of Christ in that leader. We do not want to be like them in the flesh, but to receive the Spirit of Christ that manifests through them. We are not seeking to copy their mannerisms, but to "imitate their faith." We do not lose our unique personalities or distinctions, we receive power and direction.

Remember: John, Peter, Paul and the other apostles all replicated the singular life of Jesus, but Christ emerged through each uniquely. Our yieldedness to a leader or mentor is not to create clones, but spiritual kings who will manifest Christ.

Jesus, Our True Mentor
While teaching is vital to our spiritual growth, Jesus didn't simply teach or inform His disciples of truth. No, He poured Himself into the apostles, training them to actually represent Him. He then assigned them tasks, where they could utilize what they had learned. Mentoring involves teaching, training and practical experience in the field.

We may come to a man or woman we respect and ask for mentoring, seeking to simply possess a better, more effective spiritual life. However, the goal of true mentoring is not blessing, but replication of anointing. Let me explain what I mean by "anointing." The Holy Spirit works in an individual, breaking and shaping their inner man. In time, the inside of that person is reconstructed to the degree that their heart's values align with the ways of Christ. Still, they do not have power in or of themselves. To a certain degree, they have actually died in their inner man; yet in the very area of their spiritual death, Christ now lives. When I say that Christ lives in them, we think of that as a static or "divine potential," but it is much more. Christ is not a doctrine or religion; there is not a different Redeemer in heaven than Christ living in us. When Christ comes into flesh, He still comes to transform the world. Listen well, for when the Spirit of Christ manifests in our world, He takes over our hearts and tongues and, looking to the Father, He prays,

"Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired,
But a body Thou hast prepared for Me;
In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
Thou hast taken no pleasure.
Then I said, 'Behold, I have come
(In the roll of the book it is written of Me)
To do Thy will, O God" (Heb 10:5b-7).

Just as Christ needed a personal, physical body "to do [God's] will" in the first century, today, through the Holy Spirit He descends into the church, His spiritual body. He states again that He has come, not to fulfill ritual and religious obligations, but to transform earth with heaven. The sphere of influence may be as small as a family or as large as a nation, but the anointing upon an individual is the manifest power of the living Christ. He has come in "a body Thou has prepared for Me" and His declared purpose is "to do Thy will, O God."

The Need for Christlike Leaders
In my life, men like Andrew Murray and Watchman Nee served as my mentors. The first Christian book I ever read was "Release of the Spirit" by Watchman Nee; the book that most changed my life was "Like Christ," by Andrew Murray--although all of Andrew Murray's books deeply impacted my life.

Both of these men, together with C.S. Lewis, added unique dimensions to my spiritual life that, apart from them, I would not have otherwise attained. I often would take their books, kneel at the foot of my bed, and unashamedly devour their words. Of course, my primary study was the word of God, especially the words of Jesus. However, these individuals taught me to hunger for God and thirst for righteousness, and that Christ was the same in these latter days as in the former.

However, they did not teach me about unity in the body of Christ or spiritual warfare. They supplied a grace for an area in my soul, but they only prepared me for the anointing that the Lord had for me, which was to see the church united in Christlikeness. This anointing for unity is something the Lord has personally been working in a small number of leaders around the world. Yet, together with these men, the Holy Spirit is pioneering the healing of the church and the transformation of our cities.

It is this anointing, this empowerment of Christ within me, that I seek to impart to others in our online training class. The Lord has deeply impressed me that I must pour myself into the lives of those He brings. The vision before us is to see in every city, Christlike pastors and intercessors who are standing before God, laying their lives down for His purpose. This is the hope and vision of our times:

"For behold, darkness will cover the earth,
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you,
And His glory will appear upon you.
And nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising" (Is 60:2-3).

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Cease Striving and Know that I am God

By Francis Frangipane

Jesus warned of our days. Speaking of the unfolding difficulties in the world, He warned, "See to it that you not be terrified" (Lk 21:3). Indeed, He also said that one prevailing affliction that shall plague humanity would be "men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of . . . things which are coming on the earth" (Lk 21:26 NKJ).

Today, heart failure is the number one killer of men in the western world. In America, nearly one million people will die this year from some form of heart disease. Approximately every 30 seconds another heart fails and a person dies. There may be many contributors to heart failure, but a main source is the inability to handle stress.

There are times when stress is unavoidable--the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, moving to a new home or going through a divorce. But most of the time stress is a sin we simply accommodate and live with. The problem is that, just as death entered the world through Adam's sin (Rom 5), so death enters our personal world through our sins. Indeed, when we carry stress, we carry a container of death that, without fail, takes an ever increasing toll upon our lives.

Jesus said we would hear of wars and rumors of wars, but again He said, "see that you are not frightened" (Matt 24:6). Today, we are living with a war on terror and we are preparing for a war against Iraq. The world fears what Saddam Hussein might do. No one believes he has reformed; everyone knows as soon as we let down our guard, he will attack some other nation, probably Israel. While other nations suffer from "Iraq-niphobia," I appreciate greatly the resolve of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. We cannot live with fear; we must confront it. Yet, who among us is not concerned for the lives that will be lost on both sides. Thus, the burden of war and its consequences remains a heavy burden upon our souls.

War is not our only problem. We have many unanswered questions that are a source of stress: When will our struggling economy recover? Will another terrorist attack strike? We worry about our children and fret about the problems that accompany aging and our health. We have stress at our jobs, stress rides with us on our highways and it meets us at the door when we come home.

Paul wrote, "Be anxious for nothing" (Phil 4:6), yet we seem to be anxious for everything. Stress related anxiety is so much a part of our lives that, somehow, it has escaped being identified as being sinful. It is sin, however. At its core, it is a stubborn refusal to trust the goodness of God or rest in His power. It is a by-product of unbelief. It is a "terror attack" from hell that is silently killing thousands every day.

God is With Us
Certainly, there are spiritual realities we should strive to attain. I am not suggesting we abandon seeking hard after God or become passive. However, I am saying we ought to abandon our fears and the stressful anxieties that come from not resting in God.

One title for the Messiah is "Immanuel," which means, "God with us." Jesus promised to be with us, "even to the end of the age" (Matt 28:20). At some point we must accept the wonder and power of Christ's promise. He is with us always! To mistrust this promise is to reject the very character of the divine nature. It is serious sin.

In the Psalms, the Lord gives us a promise for the day in which we find ourselves. He says,

"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalms 46:10).

No matter what things look like now, God has decreed that He will be exalted in the earth. Not satan, but God; not evil, but good. Hell may have its hour, but God will win the day.

All our lives we are taught to judge by what our eyes see and our ears hear. To do so is perfectly rational. The only problem is that when our decisions are based only upon our senses, we lose the perspective and wisdom of God. The Living God not only sees the end from the beginning, in a heartbeat He can change the world we see into something that is full of redemption and grace.

Fear is a magnifying lens that exaggerates whatever it looks at. The devil is a master illusionist who uses fear to take our eyes off the Lord. The result is that our stress level increases and anxiety brings death into our world. Indeed, the more we talk about what's wrong, the greater the wrong possesses us.

God's word tells us, "In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength"(Isa 30:15). Be quiet. Compose your soul. Don't let your unbelieving words deplete your spirit, for the more you talk, the more peace you lose. Keep your soul focused upon the Lord. Turn your heart toward the strength of God. Those who believe, enter His rest and from the place of rest, hear His voice.

If you know who God truly is, anxiety will fade into trust. Therefore, cease worrying! God cares for you. Those who trust Him have peace that surpasses all understanding. Talk to the Lord and then quietly listen. As you do, your spirit will soar, your heart expand and ascend into His Presence.

It has been truly said, "Fear is the darkroom where Satan develops our negatives." Therefore, renounce fear. Divorce anxiety. Beloved, the Lord is good. Trust Him with your battle. Yes, it's time to cease striving and know that He is God.


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Tomorrows Leaders, Today's Sacrifice

 By Francis Frangipane

The oak tree grows out of the grave of the acorn.

Return to the Cross
Those who will be tomorrow's leaders will pay God's price today. Other Christians may seem to be enjoying the benefits of Christ's blessings while doing little to obtain them. You who have answered Jesus' command, "Follow Me," will find no easy path before you. Yet, it is written, if we "suffer with Him" we shall also be "glorified with Him"(Rom 8:17).

How does a disciple actually suffer with Christ? At the core of our existence, we choose to let the way of Christ guide us rather than the way of man. The cross is the cost we pay so Christ's redemption will succeed.

Our cross puts to death our self-preservation instincts, as well as our fleshly ideas and ambitions. Before Jesus will truly manifest in power in our lives, He requires an end to striving with our flesh. Self must die for Christ to manifest in power.

If we will become those to whom God entrusts His kingdom, we must envision ourselves crucified. We must purpose to see Christ revealed and living within us. And we must see the time of extended preparation, however long it takes, as fundamental to our future success.

Consider: Jesus lived thirty years of surrendered obscurity. Yet His life was not hidden from God; His life was hidden in God. Without outward signs or works of power, inwardly Jesus carried a cross. Daily, He chose to die to the voice of self-interest; without interruption, He lived in the warmth of His Father's pleasure. As a blue collar worker, in the mundane tasks of human existence, Jesus' life increased the bliss of God.

How did He, not as a miracle worker but as a wood worker, attract the Father's unswerving focus? Jesus never silenced the voice of love nor separated His heart from its trust in God.

We, too, must not assume that because men do not acknowledge us that God Himself is indifferent. If we are truly living for God, He will notice. If we are genuinely living in pursuit of Him, He will certainly measure our progress and, in time, reward our hunger with His substance.

It is Needful That We Die to Self
It is easy to be false, but only with difficulty do we become true followers of Jesus Christ. If we would have the Spirit of God become real to us, we must first become real with Him. Our superficiality must die and our outer man buried. Yes, we are sheltered in the Father's love, but His love does not protect us from growing up. His sheltering presence keeps us from evil, but it does not keep us from having to change.

Thus, part of God's provision, even in the midst of our blessedness, is the crucifixion of our old nature. Indeed, to facilitate this death process, Christ accommodates the adversarial conflicts which come against us and uses them to perfect us. We cry, "God, protect me." But the Almighty seeks not so much to protect us, but to perfect us. Our perfection, our maturity, our conformity to Christ's faith, love and character is the protection offered by the Father.

You see, there are enemies in our lives from whom God has no intention of delivering us until we have changed. They are specifically and divinely allowed, for they attack and destroy that element of our nature that lives outside of our conformity to Christ. In other words, you will always have people slandering you until you are unmanipulated by the words of man. You will frequently have people who curse you until you learn to bless them, and not react.

Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12:24). Although Jesus was talking about His own physical death, He extended the principal of dying to self to His disciples: Unless we die to self, we will abide alone. We will not bear "much fruit."

True Christianity requires the crucifixion of our old self-life, and it requires we willingly choose to die. This is a most profound truth and worthy of prolonged contemplation, that both God and the devil desire we die, but for different reasons. While Satan seeks to destroy us at the cross, God seeks to bring forth, in that very place of our decease, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Death awaits us. The choice before us is not how can we avoid death, but how can we die as Jesus died, forgiving His enemies and trusting God?

"Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2 Cor 4:10). In a myriad of ways we will find daily opportunities to die. The key is to carry in our bodies the "dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." What tremendous privilege is afforded us: Jesus manifested in our bodies! Not a religion about the Son of God, but the manifest substance of God's Son, revealed in and through us. And the doorway is death to self.

You see, the explosive power of God does not come from Bible study or Christian fellowship. These things, while essential, only help to maintain our spiritual level of growth. Increased spiritual power comes from the increased presence of Christ, which comes from the death of self. It is finding ourselves in circumstances which plunge us face to face with an eternal choice: we either die to self and become Christlike or we harden our hearts and become either backslidden or religious.

Do we want the living Christ manifest, functioning in power in our lives? At the same moment self is being crucified, Christ is being magnified. The cross that crucifies self is the gate through which God's power enters our lives.

Paul wrote, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3:10-11). Crucifixion precedes resurrection. Why is it more of us cannot break into true spiritual power? Self still rules. God cannot trust us with power, for self will instinctively hijack power to attract the worship and praise of man.

Self must die; Jesus must live. Paul declared, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" (Gal 2:20). Do we see this? God did not only take my sins to the cross; He took my old self there as well. I died at Calvary. The Almighty does not seek to heal me, He seeks to kill me and, in my place, manifest the perfect life of His Son in me.

The cross means death to selfishness. It is a crucifixion of our insecurities and fears and an abandonment to death of our unending self-pity and woundedness. What must die in us deserves to die! It is the enemy of God and us. Only Jesus deserves to live forever; only that part of me that wants Jesus is capable of living forever.

Yes, beloved, there is a price for destiny. Some who pay it will be teens who want to find their fulfillment in God alone. Some are people approaching retirement and, for the first time in their lives, are about to make a choice to truly follow Jesus Christ. Yet, whomever He chooses, they will be people who proclaim with faith and vision: "Self must die; Jesus must live!" Tomorrow's leaders shall pay God's price today.


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Both Payment and Pattern

By Francis Frangipane

It should be noted that most Christians understand the significance of Christ's crucifixion, and are bowed in thankful reverence toward it. Here, at the foot of the cross, our need meets God's provision. We find forgiveness, redemption and healing. These are well-known, established truths of the gospel. They are proclaimed and re-enacted for us in an variety of expressions, rituals, and celebrations. With trembling awe we gaze at the Lord of life dying on the cross; we are captured by God's grace.

But Jesus' cross was not only the payment for mankind's sins; it was also the pattern for His disciples' lives. If we would walk in His footsteps, we must ascend beyond the foot of the cross; we must see ourselves nailed with Jesus to the redemptive purpose of God, for we are called to extend heaven's love into our times and needs.

We cannot allow so little a thing as our old nature, with its fears and inherent selfishness, to thwart the will of God. Thus, to reach the full extent of the Father's plan, the cross not only provides forgiveness of sin; it supplies deliverance from self, which is the source of sin.

Oh, how we beg for the security of knowing our debt is paid without accepting the responsibility and commitment that stops "running up the bill!" The cross cuts off sin at its source: the old nature. It crucifies the old life, granting access to Christ to re-enter this world through us.

Too many Christians want forgiveness without deliverance.

Baptized Into Death
We wonder why Christianity does not seem to work as we expected. The source of our impotency is in our reluctance to crucify our former manner of life. Because we coddle our fears instead of crucifying them, and pamper our pride instead of punishing it, we are held hostage to a superficial and powerless version of Christianity. Christ has but one central plan for the old nature: it must be crucified. God wants the old self dead.

One might argue, "But this is a deeper truth, something for the more mature Christian." A fine argument if it were not so deceptive! How can a Christian ever become mature without the cross? No. This is a most basic truth. If you deny this reality, you are offering a false religion to the one you are trying to help. Even before a new believer is baptized, death to the old self should be presented as fundamental to God's salvation plan. This priority is consistent with the Scriptures. Paul wrote,"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (Rom 6:3)

God does not want to reform the old self, He wants to remove it and replace it with Christ. Let me be ever so clear: The Spirit of Christ that enters you is not a different Jesus than He who rules the universe. You did not receive a religion about Jesus, but the actual Person of Jesus. The sooner we accept this goal of our transformation, the sooner we will appreciate the work of the cross, and the quicker we can proceed with our destiny.

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom 6:4-7).

Here is the power of the cross: God does not just forgive us there, He puts an end to the rule of self, which is the source of sin. He makes His truth plain: He who has died is freed from sin.

How frustrated many sincere Christians are as they try to keep the old nature from sinning. According to God's word, only death can stop the old self from sin, for the old nature is sin itself.

Both the death of the old self and the identification with Christ as our life are eternal realities. As such, they must be worked into us during the processes of time and obedience. But, they are completed provisions. Like a medicine taken once in the morning that is time-released throughout the day, our salvation is an event from which we draw continually, so Christ may ever increase throughout our lives.

"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3). We have died. Past tense. The death of our old self is an eternal fact accomplished once for all with Christ at Calvary: "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died" (2 Cor 5:14).

Time and eternity meet at the cross. It is here where the old self, born in the limitations of man's world and sin, dies; it is here that the eternal life which God prepared beforehand manifests itself and lives.

Here also God transforms theology into reality. Doctrines about dying to self and living to God are no longer just "memory verses"; and the dogma of resurrection is no longer postponed to the end of the age, but accessed now in fellowship with Christ.

Religion Or Relationship?
Without the cross we are trapped inside an old nature that is pretending to be new. We put on a religious show, an occasional flurry of guilt-motivated activity that endures as long as a typical New Year's resolution. Inwardly, our character has not changed.

You see, as long as we allow our old nature to live, it will at best become religious, but never truly repentant. It will be pious, but powerless to express true virtue. It will never truly grasp that the goal of God's will is not just regular church attendance, but conformity to Christ.

Unless the soul aggressively embraces the cross and God's plan of Christlikeness for the believer, the old nature will always illegally position itself as the possessor of the promises of God. Instead of receiving the Holy Spirit, the only spirits that are compatible with the old nature are vile, religious demons, which leave the soul weak, self-condemned and doubting.

Each month Christian workers spend thousands of hours counseling people who do not need advice, but crucifixion.

You cannot "cast out" a religious spirit without crucifying the old nature first. The union of our flesh nature and the corresponding manipulation of demonic activity can only be countered by the power of Christ and the cross.

Thus, true salvation will always embody expressions of both life and death: Christ brings life to the spirit while the cross brings death to the flesh nature. Without both of these dynamics, every other form of Christianity is, in varying degrees, counterfeit.

Without the alliance of both the cross and Christ dwelling within us, we never leave the treadmill of religious futility. For religious spirits easily manipulate our flesh, making us legalistic or licentious, ritualistic or political. The only version of Christianity that truly works is that which crucifies the flesh and brings the actual substance of Christ into the soul. As Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. . ." (Gal 2:20a).

This is God's will for each of us: In the place where self once ruled, Christ now reigns. To serve God's highest purpose, therefore, the cross must become to us both the payment for our sins and the pattern of our lives.


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Lord, What is "Practical"?

By Francis Frangipane

Ask Him. Go on, ask the Lord, in view of the times in which we live, what He considers practical. I venture you won't hear Him saying things like, "My son, invest in an IRA", or "Child, always get eight hours of sleep." No. As I know the Lord---and He is practical---He will say something like, "Both righteousness and wickedness are coming to full maturity upon the earth, and the world order, as you have known it, will soon be gone. Therefore, stop worrying about the things of this age. Prepare yourself to live continually in My Presence and abandon yourself to Me and My will and I will guide you through the days ahead."

You may say, well, is that practical? I mean, what if the Lord doesn't return for another fifty years? We ask this question often from a motive that is insincere. The problem with most Christians is that we don't want to do God's will; we want to do our will in Jesus' name. We don't seek God to discover what He's doing; we seek Him to bless what we're doing. If people knew that Jesus was not going to return for fifty years; if they could pin Him down to an exact date, the week before He returned, they would pray, love and make things right with those they've sinned against.

I believe that, at least in part, this was what moved the Pharisees to ask when Jesus thought the kingdom of God was coming. Yet, Jesus gave them an answer that we, too, need to grasp. He said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Lk 17:20-21KJ).

They wanted to know when the kingdom was coming; Jesus told them where it would first be revealed. People always want to know when Christ is returning, not because they long for His return, but so they can continue to live selfishly and then, during the week before His return, make things right with God and man. But, God doesn't reveal when He's returning because He wants us to be dressed in readiness, living each day with godly passion and vision.

Oh, how addictive, how deceiving and self-justifying our selfishness is! The Lord doesn't want just the last week of our lives; He seeks all we are every day! He is not looking for "summer help" or "weekend warriors." The Living God seeks a people in whom He can dwell, a people who will become His kingdom on earth! Listen to the writer of Hebrews as the Holy Spirit revealed the unfolding of God's works in the earth. He wrote, "And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.'" And this expression, 'Yet once more,' denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:26-29).

Two things are unfolding at the same time. On the one hand, the world is being shaken by wars, rumors of wars, by famines, lawlessness, terrorism and threats of more terrorism. Worldwide, major companies are suffering scandals and bankruptcies; the economies of the nations are void of confidence as fear and indecision grip the heart of man. Yet, at the very same time that all this is happening in the world, God is restoring, upgrading and working in His kingdom!

Remember, the Pharisees wanted to know when the kingdom would come, but Jesus said the kingdom, in its initial phase, doesn't come with signs. In other words, we won't have a sign telling us we need to get up early and pray. There will be no omen warning us that we should turn off the television and seek God. The kingdom of heaven is emerging and incrementally unfolding within us as we obey God. Yes, and the most practical thing we can do is fully obey God in whatever He's called us to do!

You see, these are prophetic days, days when scriptures are being fulfilled before our eyes. The world as we know it is changing rapidly, and it will probably get worse and more helpless before Christ returns. In other words, when a house is on fire, one does not need a course on interior decorating. Likewise, when God is shaking all things that can be shaken, we must press into His kingdom and walk in the unshakeable fullness of His Presence.

These two realms, the shaking of the nations and the unfolding of God's kingdom, will be around us continually until the rapture. Indeed, listen to what else the Lord revealed, this time through Daniel. He is speaking of the last world order on earth and the introductory phase of God's kingdom. Daniel wrote, "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever" (Dan 2:44).

Get this thought: While the world is busy trying to fix its unfixable problems, the God of heaven is simultaneously setting up His kingdom! He is not setting up "church," but His kingdom. It's not coming outside of us, but within us---in our character, our love and faith. It is the gospel of this kingdom which shall be proclaimed in all the world for a witness, "and then the end shall come" (Matt 24:12).

Get in the Ark!
Jesus said these last days would be like the days of Noah. You want to see practicality? Look at Noah. To the world, Noah looked very impractical. First, he was building a boat on a mountain top. Second, people were living normal lives, the financial picture was improving: people were buying and selling. Every weekend you could see people marrying and being given in marriage. There was no reason to believe that judgments were coming, certainly not a flood, especially since it had never rained before! But, building a boat on top of a mountain is a practical thing to do if the earth is going to be destroyed by water. God's will is practical. Yet, while the world considered Noah a very impractical person, in the end Noah proved that doing the will of God is, literally, the only way to live.

True, Noah was told to get pairs of animals and food for them, which is a way of saying we do need a little of everything to keep us going right. But, if Noah did not bring along a couple of skunks, it really would not have mattered near as much as if Noah did not get into the ark. You see, the priority was to build the ark and warn the people. God sent the animals to Noah. And when we seek for the Kingdom and determine to live in the Ark of God's Presence, God brings to us the extra things we need to make it through life.

The boat Noah built was called an "ark." The ark was not just a boat, it was a symbol of God's promise to Noah and Noah's obedience to God. This point is very important. For Jesus said, "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the Kingdom, but only those who DO the will of My Father." Jesus did not say, "try to do," He said "do." He went on to say, "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and DOES THEM is likened unto a wise man who built his house upon the rock..."

The first thing you must do, therefore, is to actually hear Christ's words in the depth of our spirits. But it is the application of His words that is practical. Obedience to God's will is for us, what getting in the ark was for Noah---it preserves us through the time of shaking that are coming upon the earth.

Truly, there are many good preachers and teachers that can teach better than I the basics of living in the natural world. There are Christian psychologists, Christian financiers, even Christian aerobics; all capable of helping you succeed in their respective skills. Whatever you need can be found in a "how to" book somewhere, which can help you. Get answers, but set your focus high on the will of God. Indeed, the most practical knowledge we need is the knowledge of the will of God. For He, Himself is our Ark of Safety in the days ahead.

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Kingdom Conquering Faith

By Francis Frangipane

Often I have heard Christians presumptuously state what they were "going to do to the devil." The outcome, however, has often been a testimony of what the devil did to them. At one time or another we have all fallen into boasting of our plans or achievements only to fall headlong, tripped by our own pride. Consequently, it is vital to recognize the pitfalls of presumptuous or arrogant "faith" before we approach the idea of "taking our cities."

Nevertheless, while we want to avoid the excesses of presumption, the consequences of unbelief are worse. Jesus never rebuked anyone, saying, "Oh ye of too much faith." We have suffered because we have been too weak to believe God's promises. There is a legitimate dimension of faith that comes from the Holy Spirit. It is motivated by love and guided by wisdom; it comes from heaven empowered to turn our cities back to God. It is no less powerful than the faith of those who "turned the world upside down" in the first century.

Abraham exercised this same faith in respect to the promise of God. Not wavering in unbelief, he grew strong in faith. He knew the heart of God, and that it is the Lord's very nature to give "life to the dead" and call "into being that which does not exist" (Rom 4:17). Abraham knew if the Lord had but ten righteous men, He could deliver Sodom! God is giving us this kind of faith for our cities!

Look at the achievements of our forefathers in faith. Remember, these individuals served God in the Old Testament. God has given greater promises to us (Heb 11:39). Through faith, God's people "...conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight" (Heb 11:33-34).

Many Christians think knowing God's promises is the same as obtaining them. True faith endures through trials, gains character in the testings and literally obtains the promises of God. Faith "conquered kingdoms" in the Old Testament and faith can conquer our cities today! It can draw Christ's very righteousness into the church, enabling us to lay down our lives for our communities, just as He did for the world.

Our flesh says, "I am weak." Yes, Hebrews informs us that our forebears "from weakness were made strong" and "became mighty in war." Our sense of weakness is an improvement over all who are strong in their own strength! Though we acknowledge our weakness, yet in respect to the promises of God, we can grow strong through faith. Faith "shuts the mouths of lions"--- those voices which would otherwise devour us with discouragement or fear. Because of Christ's accomplished victory, and through the knowledge of His word, we are learning to become "mighty in war." We know that, if evil entered our cities through our negligence, evil can leave through our diligence! Indeed, it is possible to put the "foreign armies" of hell "to flight"!

We might question, "But does this fit into my eschatology?" Our "eschatologies" can be an excuse for unbelief. The fact is, we do not know when Jesus is returning. What we do know is that the devil is here now and has invaded our cities.

Where is the church? The body of Christ has been trapped in a doctrine which says: "Between now and when Jesus returns, all that will exist is the apostasy and increasing evil." Paul warned about this time saying, " the later times some will fall away from the faith" (I Tim 4:1).

We must incorporate into our understanding the historic fact of the Dark Ages; for over one thousand years the church was in unbelievable sin and apostasy! It is quite possible that the major part of the falling away has already occurred! We may actually be in what the Bible refers to as the "periods of restoration" (Acts 3:24).

Paul said that in later times "some" will fall away. He did not say "all," but "some." From what will they fall away? They fall away from the faith! Now, let us become personal in this matter of the apostasy. Let's not look for the apostasy anywhere else but in the areas of our own hearts. Where have you fallen from confident, expectant faith? Where are you imprisoned by unbelief? If you look at your soul and see no hope for Christ to dwell there, to that degree your faith has fallen. Again, if you gaze at the church and see it as irreparably trapped in sin, you have fallen from faith in that area. And, if you look at your city and it seems incurable, it is likely that your faith is less than what God has provided. Faith looks at life and says, "with God all things are possible!"

Apostasy is indeed here and those who only see a defeated church and darkened cities are, in their own way, living in an apostatized state of unbelief! They know what God has done, but they are dead to what He is doing. They are blind to the harvest, deaf to the outpouring of the Spirit and ignorant of the emerging, unified church! And if you are such a one, please, do not feel condemned, for the grace of God is, even now, here to rescue you from the stronghold of unbelief!

Yes, there is terrible darkness in the earth and a gross darkness upon the peoples; severe judgments are here and will get worse. However, the promise of God---no, the command of God to His people is full of both faith and power. In the midst of the most terrible of times, the greatest darkness, the Lord proclaims, "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." He assures us, though "Darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples . . . the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Isa 60:1-3).

In the midst of the deepest darkness God is sending the brightest light! The word of the Lord states, "Nations will come to your light...kings to the brightness of your rising!" Whatever your eschatology, insert "nations" coming to God's light and "kings" to the brightness of Christ"s glory.

Do you see? If we remain trapped in fear and unbelief, we are already a part of the "falling away from the faith." Those who "know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Dan 11:32 KJV). But, if we are cleansing our hearts from sin, if we are uniting our hearts with that holy army being raised up in this hour, God will use us to bring "nations" to the light of the Lord. "Kings" will come to the Redeemer. Yes, there is hope even for Sodom to be turned back to God!

Let's pray. Lord Jesus, we repent for our unbelief and apathy. Master, Your grace saved us; we know You can do anything. Give us faith---Your faith---for our cities. Help us to see the expanse of Your love and its capacity to turn even a Sodom back to You! 


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Return To Your Dwelling Place In God

By Francis Frangipane

Ultimately, I believe there are only two acceptable, core attitudes we should have toward the Almighty. The first attitude is heartfelt abandonment. This is the result of having found the Lord's Presence in a new unfolding of His glory. Heartfelt abandonment will always be accompanied by transcendent awe, unspeakable joy and irrepressible love. All of these are the result of having laid hold of the Lord; they are the consequences of His presence.

The second core attitude we must possess comes in the seeming absence of God's presence. It is a relentless longing, an unquenchable thirst, to find Him whom your soul loves. Abandonment and longing are the two tracks that lead us into our destiny in God and guides into true spiritual fulfillment.

The deception we battle about seeking God is rooted in the fact that, like ancient Israel in Babylon, we have lived too long in exile from our inheritance. In our apostatized condition we have legitimized superficiality and allowed shallowness to become our acceptable norm. Thus, the call is issued from heaven: Return to your dwelling place in God! For the Promised Land of the church is the dwelling place of God's Living Presence.

You say, according to II Chron. 7:14, "But we have humbled ourselves and prayed; we are turning from our wicked ways. Why has He not healed our land?" He has not heard our prayer because we desire our healing more than we desire our God. You see, there is yet one more imperative 2 Chronicles calls us to fulfill. In the context of repentance and prayer, He said, "...and seek My face."

Beloved, when the Lord called David to seek His face, David responded, "Thy face, O God, I shall seek" (Ps 27). This is the essence of one who has "a heart after God." We seek God for His heart, not merely His hand. We have asked Him to extend His hand, to touch and heal us. But the Lord, in His great love for us, desires we seek His face.

Thus, the Holy Spirit bids us to draw near to God. His word promises that, as we draw near to Him, He will Himself draw near to us. It is the nearness of His Spirit which descends upon us and, through us, heals our land.

Again the Lord speaks, "I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me" (Hos 5:15).

Together, using the very words provided us by Hosea as our template, the Lord even gives us words with which we respond, "Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but he will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him" (Hos 5:16).

Yes, even the prophet Hosea encourages us with his words as well, "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth'' (Hos 5:15-6:4).

Is this not the very cry of your heart, that the living presence of God would saturate the dryness of your soul? Come to us, O Lord, like the rain watering the earth!

Therefore we conclude, it is time to seek God. We urge every pastor to guide their church and every parent to lead their family into an attitude of seeking God. Consecrate a room in your church or home and call it the "tent of meeting." It is right, beloved, and timely, to seek after God.

"Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about that everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp"(Ex 33:7). Everyone who sought the Lord entered the tent of meeting. Dear friends, the Holy Spirit shall help us. For the mission of the Spirit is, summarily, to lead us into the presence of Jesus. And this He will do until Christ is as real to us as the world was when we were sinners.

The Promise of God
Is it possible that we can be delivered of a superficial life? Yes. For the Spirit He has given us, dwells within us and He "searches all things, even the depths of God" (I Cor 2:10).

If you are weary of a life without God's fullness, then seeking the Lord may be a turning point in your walk with Him. Our hope rests in the integrity of His immutable word: "Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you" (Jer 29:12-14a).

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, my soul yearns and even longs for Your courts. Guide me into Your holy Presence, dear Lord. Let me find You again in a new way. I cannot live without Your constant love. I am desperate for You Jesus. Restore my longing for You until I find You, and in finding You, abandon myself totally into Your love. Amen. 


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It Takes a Citywide Church

By Francis Frangipane

It is incredible, but many Christians actually believe that the only unity there will be in the last days is in the apostate church. The very spirit they think they are avoiding, the antichrist, is what has divided them from the rest of the church! (see I John 2:18-19) It is simply unscriptural and a sin for the believing, citywide church of Jesus Christ not to maintain the unity of the Spirit!

United in Worship and War
One need not be a biblical scholar to recognize the Jews had to be uncompromisingly united in their worship of God. All Israel was required to come to Jerusalem three times a year to worship during the feasts. If their worship was compromised to where they began to serve the pagan gods of the region, they were quickly defeated in their battles.

However, in addition to unity in worship, they also had to be united in warfare. Unless they embraced their battle as "one man," their victory was rarely assured. (See Jud 6:16;20:1,8,11;I Sam 11:7; Ez 3:1; Neh 8:1)

From the beginning, the heart of the Lord has been for us to be our brother's keeper. Today, He is calling us to cease fighting with one another and to become a family that fights for each other.

There is an Old Testament story which captures the heart we are seeking. The Israelites were in the land of Gilead about to cross the Jordan River. However, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, which had amassed much livestock, asked that their inheritance be given first, as the land on which they stood was suitable for grazing. Their request angered Moses for he assumed they sought to divide from the nation in order to gain their individual inheritance (Num 32).

Yet, Reuben and Gad had a greater vision than Moses realized. The declaration they made to Moses is the attitude we must have concerning the other churches in our city. Reuben said, "We will build here sheepfolds for our livestock and cities for our little ones; but we ourselves will be armed ready to go before the sons of Israel, until we have brought them to their place..." (Num 32:16-17). They refused to put down their swords until there was peace and prosperity for all of Israel.

So also for us, we must realize we are all part of the same body. When one congregation is in a battle, we are all in battle. While we should, of course, develop our local congregations, yet individuals should be trained to stand with the rest of the body of Christ in the city. Imagine if the attitude of Rueben and Gad, "We will not return to our homes until every one of the sons of Israel has possessed his inheritance" (Num 32:18), became our attitude as well.

Dry Bones or an Exceedingly Great Army?

One obstacle we must overcome is the illusion that we, because of our ability to "rightly divide the word," are more spiritual than those in other churches. This deception infects churches across the board. Consequently, we remain divided, kept in isolation by our own spiritual pride, never discerning that the enemy has the church down the street similarly thinking they are more spiritual than we.

However, as God delivers us all of our arrogance, as we truly become more spiritual, we see that we are not called to judge other churches but to lay down our lives for them. Indeed, what God is doing today is very much like the period of restoration when the Jews returned from Babylon. In those days, Nehemiah supervised the building of the wall around Jerusalem. He instructed the workers to carry a building tool in one hand and a sword in the other (Neh 4:17). If one section of the wall came under attack, a trumpet was sounded and all the Jews rallied to defend that area.

So also it must be for us. Many times the enemy has been able to defeat a particular church only because the rest of the local body of Christ was indifferent or unaware of the battle. In this context especially, we must perceive that it takes a citywide church to win the citywide war.

I hear the reply: "The churches in our city are dead and we alone are left." Such was Elijah's lament, but God assured him there were yet 7,000 who were faithful. Ezekiel also thought he stood alone, but God brought him out to a valley of dry bones and commanded him to prophesy. After the bones came together, then the Spirit entered and, behold, they were " exceedingly great army" (Ezek 37:10b).

Today, God has an "exceedingly great army" He is preparing. Through them He intends to pull down the strongholds in their cities. We must be connected in Christ before the Spirit will anoint us for effective spiritual warfare. We need prophetic vision to see beyond the apparent deadness of our local churches. We must perceive the army God is raising up in this hour, and embrace anointed intercession born of such vision.

Please hear me. We can have national days of prayer, regional weeks of supplication---we can even call tens of thousands to pray for specific areas to change, but if the church which dwells in that area is bound and divided by strife, the enemy will not be plundered. Whenever we pray against the spiritual forces of wickedness over a region, our first line of offense is praying for the churches to be united in their worship and their warfare. Why pray for the church? If "there is jealousy and selfish ambition" in the church, there will inevitably be "disorder and every evil thing" in that locality (James 3:16).

Therefore, we conclude: It takes a citywide church to win the citywide war. All of our individual evangelistic programs, our Sunday teachings and aggressive attempts to bind principalities and powers are only of limited value if we, the born-again church, remain divided. However, even as one person"s transformation from carnality to the image of Christ can revolutionize a church, so the transformation of the citywide church into the image of Christ can revolutionize a city.

Let's pray: Lord Jesus, forgive us for our spiritual pride, of the way we think too highly of ourselves. Lord, I personally confess that I need my brothers and sisters in other churches. God, I see that we cannot win our war if we remain divided. Lord, unite us to pray in the Spirit and to see our churches and our cities flooded with Your Presence! Amen.

Unrelenting Love

By Francis Frangipane

The Bible describes our relationship with the Christ in strong symbolic pictures of oneness: He is Head of a body, Husband of a wife, God in His temple. In spite of these powerful metaphors, there remains a sense of distance between the Presence of the Lord and ourselves. This distance is a test. Our call is to possess that love of God which reaches even into eternity and brings the glory and Person of Christ into His earthly House.

Those Who Seek After God
"God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God" (Psalm 53:2). We simply must have more of Jesus. In the face of increasing wickedness in the world, our programs and ideas have failed. We need God. Those who understand the hour we face are seeking Him. The wise know that Christ Himself is our only strategy and hope.

Cleansing the Holy Place

By Francis Frangipane

Within every Christian there is a secret place, a sanctuary we must prepare for the Lord. This holy place is not unlike the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple. Not until this place is cleansed will the Lord dwell with us in the fullness of His Spirit; not until this room is pure will we truly become a house for the Lord.

Bring Out the Unclean Thing
"And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess 2:14).

The Lord is cleansing us for the distinct purpose of bringing His people into His glory. Yes, out of His desire to present a pure bride to His Son, the Father is purging the church of its sin. He is refusing to allow our inter-church relationships to continue without love. According to the Scriptures, before Jesus returns, the body of Christ will be holy and blameless (see Eph 5:27; Titus 2:14; I Thess 5:23; Col 1:22; Phil 2:15; etc.). Through new and successive levels of purification, the house of the Lord will again receive and display the glory of God.

To facilitate this process of cleansing, by way of example, we are going to study one of the greatest periods of restoration and renewal in the Bible: the rule of King Hezekiah. Prior to Hezekiah's reign, his father, King Ahaz, brought the very worst forms of idolatry into Israel. Ahaz shut the temple doors and persecuted the priests. Those whom he did not kill, he corrupted. Without the influence of a godly priesthood, Israel soon followed Ahaz into idolatry and unrestrained sin.

Although Hezekiah was a relatively young man when he succeeded Ahaz, he courageously sought revival and healing to the nation. In the very first month of his reign he "opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them" (II Chron 29:3). He then consecrated the priesthood and began to restore the temple. Hezekiah's first priority was to restore true worship. We read, "And he brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east. Then he said to them, 'Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord... (2 Chron 29:4-5).

God initiated His plan to redeem the nation by consecrating the priests and cleansing the house of the Lord. For this task, Hezekiah had been prepared. As a young man he watched Israel's "fathers . . . fallen by the sword." The men who were not slain on the battlefield could be heard weeping in the grainfields: "our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity!" (II Chron 29:9). Hezekiah knew only one option, one plan, was offered to Israel: return to God. In obedience, he began His reign by consecrating the house of the Lord.

Hezekiah next ordered the priests to "...carry the uncleanness out from the Holy Place." Before the Eternal One moves visibly in power, He moves invisibly in holiness; He cleanses His house. Then the outward signs of restoration and revival, the miracles and true conversions, follow. If God will touch our cities with His fire, He must put that fire within us. Everything the Almighty does for us as individuals will work to deliver others. He will deliver those who are not innocent, and they will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands (see Job 22:30).

Hezekiah never stopped thinking of Israel, but knew he must begin the restoration of the nation with the consecration of the priesthood. It is significant that he made no appeal or effort to win the nation itself; he had no program of reform other than restoring true worship. The king's focus was not on turning the heart of the people, but drawing the heart of God. If the Lord is lifted up, He will of His own will and power, draw all men unto Himself.

Even as Hezekiah reopened the temple doors, so also in us there is a door which we must open daily unto the Lord. David wrote, "I was always beholding the Lord in my presence" (Acts 2:25). Within the psalmist's heart was a dwelling place for the Lord; David was always beholding the Lord. Similarly, there is something in our presence, in our spirit, which can be opened or closed to God. We must not assume that simply because we are Christians this gate toward God is automatically opened. Jesus stood "at the door" of the Laodicean church and knocked, desiring to enter their lives. We must choose to unlock this door and swing it wide toward Christ.

Yet, opening this chamber of our hearts can, indeed, be a frightening thing. For it requires we not only talk to God, but hear from Him as well. It is one thing for us to speak honestly with the Lord; but quite another when He speaks without restraint to us. Therefore, the most essential commodity for stimulating revival is a tender, open heart before God.

Is the door of your heart opened toward God? Can the Spirit of Jesus Christ come in and speak with you? Are you defenseless to His voice? Can you sense what displeases Him and what draws His pleasure? For us to become sensitive to divine realities, we must live with the door of our hearts open. It is impossible to do the will of God otherwise.

King Hezekiah commanded the priests to carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. The call to clean the holy place was not an option, it was a command. "So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the Lord they brought out to the court of the house of the Lord" (2 Chron 29:16).

When the priests entered the holy place, they entered alone; the rest of Israel was in the outer court and beyond. Here, privately before God, they were to remove those things which were defiling this sacred place. No one else had seen these desecrations. They could have remained in secret and none except the priests would have known, but they did not. They brought out the unclean things. What was unholy was exposed publicly and removed.

From where did these abominations arise? Predominantly, they were the sins of their forefathers: the traditions and offenses which were handed down to them from the prior generation. The careless approach to holiness, the unbelief toward the promises of God, the idolatry and worship of man-made things were the product of a generation turned from God. It was this legacy of sin and compromise and its effects that the priests removed.

In the new-covenant temple, the church, it is our private, inner life which needs this deep cleansing. We have inherited traditions which justify and reinforce darkness of soul within us. Most Christians have little hope that purity of heart is even attainable. The revival which will turn a nation begins in the trembling unveiling of our hearts, in the removal of what is defiled and hidden within us.

I will tell you a mystery. It is in this very place, this chamber of our deepest secrets, that the door to eternity is found. For if the Father is near enough to "see in secret," He is close enough to be seen in secret as well. If He has entered us, we can, in truth, enter Him. The key to entering the presence of God is intimacy, and intimacy is secrets shared. To ascend the hill of the Lord, to stand in the Holy Place, we must have clean hands and a pure heart; we cannot lift up our souls toward falsehood (see Ps 24:3-4). At the door of eternity, we must renounce those things hidden because of shame and, in humility of soul, receive Christ's cleansing word.

The Pure In Heart See God

Our goal is not merely to be "good," but to see God and, in seeing Him, to do what He does. However, John tells us that he who seeks to "see Him just as He is...purifies himself, just as He is pure" (I John 3:2-3). We can be assured that each step deeper into the Lord's presence will reveal areas in our hearts which need to be cleansed. Do not be afraid. When the Spirit shows you areas of sin, it is not to condemn you, but to cleanse you.

Let me give you an example: My wife set herself apart to seek the Lord. Her cry during this time was, "Lord I want to see You." As she sought the Lord, however, He began to show her certain areas of her heart where she had fallen short. She prayed, "Lord, this is not what I asked for, I asked to see You, not me." Then the Holy Spirit comforted her explaining, "Only the pure in heart can see God."

In the same way, the Lord desires His church to see Him as well. Thus, He is exposing the areas in us which are unclean. If we will walk as Jesus walked, we must remember, Christ only did the things He saw the Father do (Jn 5:19). Out of the purity of His heart, He beheld God and then revealed His glory.

The purpose of cleansing the house of the Lord is that we might sincerely be prepared for more of Christ. This cleansing must become a way of life, but it does not have to take a lifetime. For Hezekiah and the people with him, it occurred in a matter of eight days.

"Thus the service of the house of the Lord was established again. Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people, because the thing came about suddenly" (2 Chron 29:35-36). The key here is this: the cleansing of the temple was the highest priority of the king's life. When we are fully engaged in the process of repentance, breakthroughs can come about suddenly.

Indeed, the prophet Malachi tells us that the Lord "whom You seek, will suddenly come to His temple" (Mal 3:1). As we restore the house of the Lord to purity and cleanse the holy place of our hearts for Christ, He will indeed come "suddenly" into our midst. After the Lord, in His fullness, returns to His house, He promises,

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me" (Mal 3:5).

With the Lord again abiding in His living house, He will release judgment against that which oppresses our cities. Yet, the cleansing of our cities, begins with the cleansing of the church. It is time to remove sin from the hidden places of our hearts.

Let's pray: Blessed Jesus, I desire deeply for You to dwell in me. I yearn to be Your holy dwelling place. I ask that the sanctuary of my heart would be purged of every defilement of flesh and spirit (II Cor 7:1). Here they are, Lord Jesus, my hidden sins. I bring them out of the secret chamber of my heart. (Audibly identify your sins by name). I take them out of the darkness and expose them to Your light. Lord, You have promised You will execute Your word upon the earth, thoroughly and quickly. Oh God, thoroughly cleanse my heart; purify me quickly my Master! In Jesus' Name, amen. 

Obtaining the Endorsement of God

By Francis Frangipane

If we will gain God's greatest blessings, we must embrace His highest purpose.

The Workmanship of God: Christlikeness
In the last days, God's word promises that the "mountain of the house of the Lord will be established" (Isa 2:2). Our sincere conviction is that if this dwelling place of God truly emerges in our cities, it will transform entire regions and great revival will emerge. However, I would make it clear from the beginning, if our goal is anything other than becoming a home for Jesus, this truth will simply become another "wind of doctrine"; we will again be blown off course. Without the abiding fullness of Christ in the church, we will have no more impact in the world than a political party, whose strength rests in numbers and not God.

Consequently, there are two priorities every serious Christian should recognize. We need to return to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ; and we desperately need divine intervention or our nation will perish.

In the ninetieth Psalm, Moses uttered a prayer that everyone who has had enough of their feeble efforts should also pray. In somber and earnest supplication he implored,

"Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children. And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:16-17).

This is a heartfelt prayer, full of deep thought and candid reflection. Moses was not willing to "try something" and ask the Lord to bless it. He prayed, "Let Thy work appear..." He appealed to God to confirm (margin: "establish") the works of his hands. What is divine confirmation? It is where the Lord works through your efforts and backs up your words with His power (Mk 16:20; Heb 2:4). God identifies Himself fully with what you are doing. Moses was praying for the endorsement of the Almighty upon his life.

I want to underscore that we have peace with God through Christ's sacrifice. We are not looking for divine acceptance, but divine endorsement. The question is not one of salvation, but of power in this life to change our world. How then can we truly know that we have found God's highest purposes for us? How can we, like Moses, obtain the endorsement of Almighty God?

If we would find permanence to our works, they must be the eternal works of God and not more of man's ideas. Jesus said, "For the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me" (Jn 5:36). Ultimately, we only glorify God when we, like Jesus, accomplish the work which He has given us to do (Jn 17:4).

You may question, "Does God have eternal, enduring assignments for me?" Yes, but the first "work of God" that is accomplished in us is not our work but His, that we "believe in Him whom He has sent" (Jn 6:29). We must abandon all hope of finding true spiritual success apart from dependent, steadfast faith in the person and power of Jesus Christ.

This forsaking of our ideas to embrace simple obedience to Christ is the "work of God." We cannot attain the works of God unless we become the "workmanship" of God. As Paul wrote,

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10).

At this very moment, there are eternal, powerful works prepared for each of us. Yet, until we see that the Father's highest purpose is to reveal in us the nature of Christ, we will not qualify for the power of Christ, which is God's full endorsement upon our lives.

The Mystery of God's Will
If we will find the eternal works of God, we must know His eternal plan. The ultimate plan of God is stated clearly in the Scriptures. Paul wrote, "He made known to us the mystery of His will...with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Eph 1:9-10).

The eternal purpose of God is to sum up all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. He desires to bring the living Christ into each of us as individuals; then, as Christ-filled individuals, we can transform the church. Finally, from the launching pad of a Christ-filled church, we will see "things in the heavens" impacted and cleansed with the Spirit of His Son.

In this unfolding of the Father's plan, it is important to note that the expanse of Christ must be accomplished in sequence. That is, we cannot see Christ corporately manifested in the church until we, as individuals, embrace true Christlikeness; nor can we plunder the heavenly places until we unite with other congregations as Christ's church.

God's will is that the church should not be divided, but united as a glorious temple, a living house for His Son. Concerning the heavenly places, God has blessed the church with "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Eph 1:3)! This realm does not belong to Satan, but is part of our inheritance in Christ. It is the eternal wisdom and purpose of God to reveal Christ "through the church"; not only to the world, but unto the "rulers and authorities [principalities and powers] in the heavenly places" (Eph 3:10)!

Satan has continually sought to hinder and delay this "summing up of all things in Christ." Yet, such is our mission; and in knowing the plan of God, such is our victory. Therefore, in spiritual warfare, in battling for the soul of our cities and our nation, our victory is not in knowing how to command demons, but in knowing the Commander Himself. We triumph in being rightly aligned with the supreme plan of God, which is to fill all things with Christ.

Thus, if we would obtain the endorsement of God upon our lives, Jesus must become as real to us as the world was when we were sinners. He must become our mind and we His obedient body. Throughout our lives, the Holy Spirit will continue to establish this vision, which is the Father's singular goal in creation. As we press toward this upward call of Christlikeness, our lives will begin to manifest and attain the prepared, eternal works of God. We will attain the quality of life which God Himself backs with power.

Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we recognize our desperate and total need of You. Lord, how we cry for the restoration of Your fullness to the church! Forgive us for trusting in our programs and ideas; especially pardon us for avoiding You. O God, let Your works appear to Your servants, and Your majesty to our children; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands. Amen.

The Deception Surrounding Splits

By Francis Frangipane

I want to commend those who sent us their comments about church splits. We received more responses to this subject than any previous message. From my best analysis, about five percent blamed pastors, saying that the pastors were in serious sin, heavy handed, weren't in "the river" or refused accountability to anyone (sadly, this is true among a minority of ministers). Twenty percent wrote simply to encourage us to write the book. However, amazingly, 75% spoke of being "deeply devastated" by a split, some calling it "hell on earth." These people usually wrote long and obviously painful emails. They grieved for their pastors, the loss of friends and the "death" of their church. These individuals said the division arose from a subordinate leader or group within the church.

So, I will present one more message about this theme. Judging from those who wrote, the main problem does not seem to be with the pastors. Clearly, though, there is more to this subject than a couple preview chapters can reveal, including mistakes pastors make. In the book we will discuss a vital insight the Lord revealed about "Satan's hour," that time when hell advances into a church. We will also seek to remove the oppression on a church when its pastor sins; we will address healing for wounded churches and the deception surrounding ambition. Finally, we will look at how divisions affect children, as well as how to become unoffendable, and much more. I may even intersperse some of your profound and passionate comments so others may understand this hellish pain and seek to avoid it.

I will offer no political solution to divisions. Ultimately, if attaining Christlikeness is not enough for you, I have no other remedy. I am a man in quest of the character of Christ. I write to people who share my passion. If you are reading this, but do not care passionately about becoming Christlike, I truly have nothing to offer you regarding splits. Becoming Christlike is the only way to avoid them or be healed from them.

Let the Word Be True
The Bible has a great deal to say about unity. However, I have yet to find one New Testament example where the Scriptures encouraged born again Christians to divide from or split a church. I have heard many Scriptures taken out of context and twisted to suit the purpose of division, but in context I do not see the Holy Spirit anywhere telling His people it is right to divide from other imperfect Christians.

Therefore, let's look at some of the Scriptures people have used to justify splitting a church. Frequently quoted is Paul's admonition, "Come out from their midst and be separate" (2 Cor 6:17). However, the apostle was not speaking of being separated from other Christians. Rather, his purpose was to warn Christians about being "unequally yoked" with pagans or "unbelievers" (see 2 Cor 6:14-15 KJV). Interestingly, the name "Pharisee" literally translated means "the separate." Among them we see the perfect example of when pride and self-righteousness cause us to think of ourselves as more spiritual than other people.

Another historic misinterpretation comes from 1 Cor 11, where Paul seems to concede that splits and divisions were almost necessary. He wrote: ". . . I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you" (1 Cor 11:18b-19). Certainly, isolated by itself, the idea that there "must also be factions . . . that those who are approved may have become evident" adds legitimacy to the idea of splits and divisions. Of course, those who split from others always identify themselves with "those who are approved."

However, the actual context of the verse reveals the apostle's true perception. Here's the complete eighteenth verse: "For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it."

Listen carefully to Paul's overriding, prevailing context: "When you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist. "Don't rush past his opening address. They hadn't split from each other. They were still united. Paul wasn't justifying the divisions among them; he wrote specifically to correct their divisions. But even though one identified with Paul and another with Apollos or Cephas, they still came "together as a church."

Every week all the Christians in Corinth met together in worship. At this meeting they also had a love feast and shared weekly communion. It was here, in the administration of food, that they had broken into cliques and factions. Some, indeed, tried to keep their focus on the significance of the Lord's supper while others were eating as much as they could during the community meal (see 1 Cor 11:20-22, 33-34). Paul wasn't sanctioning their divisions; he was acknowledging that the more gluttonous Christians had become a separate group within the church as they rushed to eat before others. In contrast, the Christians who reverently waited became a group as well - but they were all still united, meeting together as Christ's church.

Throughout this entire letter, Paul's focus has been unbending toward eliminating divisions and disunity. It is utterly inconceivable that he would sanction division among them. In the very next chapter, Paul communicates again his theme of unity, using the analogy of a body interdependently united. Everything he has written to this point is captured in his summary-thought in verse 25. Listen again to his heart:

"That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another" (1 Cor 12:25 KJV).

Beloved, this word translated 'schism' in the King James (rendered 'division' in the NAS), means 'split' in the Greek language. Translated literally, Paul is saying "there should be no split in the body." What part of "no" don't we understand? Unity is the central theme of First Corinthians. How could one honestly ignore entire chapters about unity and take one half verse out of context to justify a split? This is willful deception.

The Goal is Unity
In all that the New Testament declares for Christians - in all of the epistles and pastoral letters of Paul and the other apostles - the call is clearly, unmistakably toward unity, not division. There is a hurricane of spiritual wind blowing and bending the church in the direction of oneness with Christ and, because of Christ, oneness with each other. The repeated rebuke comes because of disunity and sectarianism.

What about Jesus' admonition, that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword of division? Jesus does indeed divide us from the world (Lk 12:51). However, He eternally unites us to Himself and one another. As I searched through the New Testament on the subject of Christian unity, there were literally hundreds of verses pointing toward oneness in the born again church. After years of study on this subject, I have yet to read one verse that instructed a group of Christians to slander, divide and split from another group of Christians in a city, just because that other group was imperfect. If the truth of God calls us to unity throughout an entire city, how much more does the call to unity apply in relationships in a local fellowship?

Part of unity means we can accept that people in our church may desire to function differently than the rest of the church. This diversity needs to be defended, yet it must find its expression without contention or strife. The test is to find a creative ways to facilitate diversity while remaining united. If unity of purpose cannot be maintained, a church plant born of love and done with wisdom is a possibility.

Several years ago I approached one of our associate pastors at River of Life, Marty Boller, and asked if he was praying about moving out of state. He said yes. Marty had been a Vineyard pastor who merged with us and now, seven years later, he wanted to return to the Vineyard. Yet Marty did not want to sow division in our community, so he planned on moving to Canada to start his church! Because he was an honorable man and very committed to unity, I suggested he take a few months and explain his vision in a weekly class with those interested from our church. When Marty started a new work in our city he did so with a dozen or so ROL families, and others. Today, we remain great friends and serve together in many citywide projects. We are closer because he was patient, wise and non-divisive.

There are many ways to multiply a church as long as we stay Christlike. It's when pride or ambition enter that division soon follows.

A Purer First Century Church?
The argument arises that the church was much purer in its early years than it is now; so today we need to separate from others because of sin in the camp. The church in Jerusalem, in its inception, certainly set a standard for us all. However, as the church expanded to other cities and cultures there were many problems; in some cases, their failures were worse than our own. Yet, the apostles who served Christ's church still called for unity in spite of the churches' imperfections.

Even in Jesus' address to the seven churches in the Revelation of John, though sin existed in the churches in five cites, Christ never instructed the innocent to break from the sinners. Rather, He commended those who walked in purity and left them in the midst of the sinful as an example of His righteousness.

Another argument used to justify splits has to do with doctrinal interpretation. Let me make it clear that our doctrines are very important; they define our belief systems and open the door to spiritual realities and levels of blessedness of which we would be otherwise ignorant. Having clear biblically based doctrines also provide boundaries to keep us from deception and half truths.

However, there are both core truths and peripheral truths to our faith. There are precepts that we must be willing to die for, yet there are other instructions that good Christians interpret differently. Because we are all learning, we must be willing to yield and stay humble.

In practical terms, we cannot be united with those who do not hold the deity of Christ. Yet, we certainly can maintain the unity of the spirit, for instance, with someone who has a different view about the timing of the rapture. We cannot dilute God's truth concerning the new covenant, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the centrality of Jesus Christ; the atonement of His cross, His bodily resurrection; His physical return; salvation by grace through faith; the Trinity and the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. But we are still learning about spiritual gifts, effective church government, signs and wonders, styles of praise, and various programs that train youth and make disciples of adults.

When Jesus defined the requirements for unity in John 17, He refined unity to three core realities. These fundamental truths, if adhered to, He said would unite His people. He said spiritual oneness would come as we believed in His name, His word and glory (Jn 17:11, 20-21,22). Unity is pretty simple if we sincerely desire it.

However, to split a church because of a disagreement concerning peripheral doctrines is a smoke screen. It is a deception. There are those who argue they are taking their stand in defense of God's word. Yet, how can they divide a church in defiance of God's word? A person who will split a church over a nonfundamental doctrine or over a spiritual gift or style of worship is deceived and seeking to deceive others.

Lord, forgive us for accepting divisions. Heal Your church, O God! Bring us into Christ-centered unity, that the world would believe in Your power. Amen.