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 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.

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.

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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Your interest in duplicating and re-sending this material is a joy to us. We only ask that you also provide website information for the Ministries of Francis Frangipane. The only exception is if the article is actually an excerpt from a book by another publisher. In this case they have asked that they be listed as the reference. Finally, any questions about the teachings of Francis Frangipane can be sent to info@frangipane.org. God bless your pursuit of His heart.

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.

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, "...in 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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Please feel free to forward this message to others; acknowledging our web site would be kindly appreciated.

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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 "...an 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.

Doctrine
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.

The Issues is Not the Issue

By Francis Frangipane

Last week, as we discussed church splits, we marveled that heaven itself endured a time of strife where Lucifer challenged the leadership of God. The Scriptures reveal that a full third of the angels succumbed to the persuasion of Lucifer's spell. We do not know what lie the devil was able to weave, but that angels could, on the one hand, know God in His unlimited capabilities, yet believe a strategy could emerge that could defeat Him is a testimony to the unfathomable cunning of Lucifer's wiles.

Recognizing that Lucifer was able to divide so great a number of angels from God, we also should not be surprised that he is able to separate good friends during a church split. Let us, therefore, continue to remove the mask from Satan's activities and seek rather to be those who overcome him (Rev 12:11).

One truth that will help us defeat the enemy is knowing that, when a church is suffering the heartbreak of division, what seems to be the issues are often not the issue at all. Indeed, when Lucifer fell, from heaven's standpoint, he no longer retained the name Lucifer, but instead was called Satan or the devil. Both of these names reveal the nature of what we are fighting during a split, but let's first look at one of the definitions of the name "devil," which meant "slanderer." To slander means more than to speak evil of one to another. When describing the nature of Lucifer, it means "one who puts himself or some thing between two in order to divide them."

Satan's goal is not just to speak evil, but in slandering, his goal is ultimately to divide us. He will exaggerate one person's remarks and distort another's reactions. He will work to foil attempts to compromise and will continually manipulate divided Christians with new issues. It is a mark of a church under the influence of demonic attack that the criticisms of the divisive group continually reproduce, and without remedy. When Satan manipulates a splinter group within a church, they feel the issues are unsatisfiable. But remember, the issues are not truly the issue.

From God's perspective, the issues seemingly rising between opposing camps are purely a ruse used by Satan to divide and conquer a church. You see, the issue is not the color of the new carpet or the style of praise and worship or how long the sermon should be; the real issue is will we approach one another in the meekness of Christ and will we defend the unity of Christ within the fellowship?

Indeed, just as the devil's goal is to put himself or some thing between two to divide, so Christ puts Himself among us in order to unite. While He instructs us to honor the leaders within a church, He also tells us to prefer one another and submit to one another in holy fear. As we seek His forgiveness for our sins, He tells us His forgiveness is conditional: unless we forgive others, His mercy will be withheld from our need. And again, He decrees that if we are at the altar and there remember someone has something against us, we are to leave our offering and seek to be reconciled (Matt 5:23-24).

If You Are In a Split
When division strikes a church, there are three groups that are usually involved. The first is the initiators of the division, the group with the issues. The second group is the current senior leader and the staff that has remained loyal to him. The third group is the largest and is comprised of those in the middle of the division. These are the innocent sheep who have relationships with leaders but are also friends with the dissenters. Hearing slander and rumors, they are confused and are unsure of what to believe or who to follow.

The dissenting group may use apparently spiritual issues to empower their cause: "We just want more of God." Or, "We want more freedom to grow." Such arguments seem both innocent and legitimate until we remember that anyone can seek God and enjoy more of Him at any time; there is no need to divide the church to personally have more of God's presence. The issues are much deeper than the style of worship.

Yet, two groups with separate leaders are rising in opposition in your church. Who do you follow? To discern the true shepherd among you, recall the wisdom of Solomon. When two women came, each claiming a baby was her own, he ordered the child to be split in two. The true mother begged that the child remain alive, even if it meant the baby would be raised by the lying woman. The false mother, however, agreed to let the baby be split in two. Solomon recognized that the one who loved the child the most, the true mother, would not allow her baby to be divided. Thus, he awarded her with her offspring (1Kings 3:16-27).

In your church, the true shepherd will be the one who seeks to keep your church together. He will not initiate a split as a solution. He will seek to settle the legitimate issues, while maintaining His focus on the higher issue of Christ-centered unity.

Lord, forgive us for allowing divisions and splits to become such deeply ingrained traditions in Christianity. Lord, we confess that we are easily manipulated and deceived by false issues. We confess our sins and seek cleansing. Make us instruments of healing. Help us to work with You to unite the church and prepare Your bride. Help us to see the real issue is, in all our diversity, will we remain united? In Jesus' Name. Amen.

In the Furnace of God's Glory

By Francis Frangipane

God's word assures us that the Redeemer we see in the gospels is the same Lord Who enters our lives when we are born again. The same things Jesus did in the first century, He promises to do again for us today. Indeed, Scripture confirms that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever" (Heb 13:8). If the person we call "Jesus" is not as wonderful or powerful as Jesus of the gospels, we are serving the wrong one.

Thus, if we will truly know the real Jesus, we must re-acquaint ourselves with the reasons Jesus came. For His goals for our lives are the same as His goals in the first century.

And Then the End Shall Come, Part 1

By Francis Frangipane

Because we live in prophetic times, there exists a great deal of passion concerning prophetic perspectives. Christian analysts on gospel television stimulate ever growing constituencies with new "signs" and "revelations," all pointing to the return of Christ.

Generally, such zeal is healthy, for we should live spiritually alert and sensitive to our times. However, it is also easy to make false assumptions, where we believe we are closer to the end of the age than we actually are. The primary problem is that, once we accept the premise that we are at the final stage of end-time events, we step out of sync with the Father's heart.

Indeed, who among us, at one time or another, has not been manipulated by a false prophecy heralding the end of the world? These impulses arise from the very sincerity of those speaking, and they awaken the sincerity of our own fears and longing. Yet, in just the last sixteen years we have been told the "88 reasons" Jesus was coming in 1988 (then 89 reasons. . .). We were informed that the Soviets were going to come down and attack Israel at the end of the '70s, '80s, and right up until the USSR dissolved. Bookstores were full of "revelation" warning us that the 1990 Iraq War was the beginning of Armageddon. Indeed, who can forget the warnings about Y2K and the supposed beginning of chaos? And, of course, we are still awash in prophetic analysis (and confusion) concerning September 11.

The strength of these end-of-the-world predictions is that they are announced upon the backdrop of true prophetic fulfillment. We've seen Israel's restoration to its land. We've witnessed Daniel's prophecy that, at the time of the end, both knowledge and travel would increase (Dan. 12). Plus, we've had our share of "wars and rumors of wars," "earthquakes" and the like (Matt. 24:6,7). These fulfillments, and many others, are strong indicators that we are, in fact, nearing the end of the age.

Yet, there are major worldwide events that clearly have not come to pass. The first and most important is Jesus' prophecy that, before His return, there shall be a season of powerful global evangelization. He said, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come" (Matt. 24:14).

Currently, about 25 percent of the world has not even heard of Jesus Christ, even as an historical figure. And, even among those who are familiar with Jesus' life, very few have actually witnessed the power of the gospel of the kingdom. What most Christians have experienced is the gospel of grace. There is a difference, beloved, between the gospel of grace and the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. The gospel of grace introduces us to Jesus. When we hear of His sacrifice, His death on the cross, we are assured of a place in heaven. The gospel of the kingdom includes the good news of God's favor, but it also brings us into the spiritual reality of heaven. We are spirit-born beings whose lives are being realigned with the power and values of heaven. As we grow in grace and revelation, we discover an amazing truth: Jesus did not come simply to bring us to heaven when we die; He came to bring heaven to where we live.

Apostasy or Outpouring?
I thank God for the growing numbers of pastors and churches that are seeking hard after God. Many realize today that God has so much more for us. This is why we personally put a great emphasis in our training classes upon Christ's words, for in the combined meaning of all that Jesus taught, we discover the life and power of heaven.

There are some, however, who focus upon the worst elements of the church: worldliness, greed, division, prayerlessness, lack of holiness and power. They argue that the Bible warned of a great falling away and the evidence of such great compromise is everywhere.

But the truth is that, while there is an apostasy, there is also a restoration occurring among Christians. Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world." Jesus is not referring to typical, compromising, western Christianity; something else is occurring that is focused upon attaining the life of God's kingdom.

You see, Christ is not so unjust to offer the unsaved world a gospel spoken by powerless, sinful people. He said, "THIS gospel," speaking about His message, with the promises and requirements, is what shall be proclaimed at the end of the age, just as it was preached by His disciples in the first century. So it shall be as He sends His disciples in the last century. They too will preach: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." They will "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons" and just as they "freely received," so they will "freely give" (Matt. 10:7-8).

Christ's goal is not to introduce people to church, but to expose them to the power of the coming kingdom of God. Do we get this? The last days message is not "Stop sinning, church is at hand," it's "Repent for . . . heaven is at hand."

Jesus calls us to truly become disciples, individuals who "make disciples of all the nations . . . even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). The early apostles proclaimed God's word "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," that the faith of those who listened would "not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:4,5).

Jesus Christ has not changed. Thus, we should expect ever-increasing power to accompany us, even as we proclaim the gospel of the kingdom worldwide, and "then the end shall come" (Matt. 24:14).

My Journey By Denise Frangipane

By Denise Frangipane

The following message was taken from the booklet, "Overcoming Fear!" by Denise Frangipane.

Before I appropriated the gift of Christ's peace, I was always looking for something to distract me from my fears. There were few times when I found myself alone while growing up in a family of eleven. My sense of security came from having people always around me. In fact, I hated being alone, especially in the darkness.

To keep from dealing with my gloomy, fearful thoughts, I would occupy my mind with radio, television or books. When all these distractions were removed, however, I was left with an unending supply of tormenting, disabling thoughts.

The enemy had gained free access to my undisciplined thought life. In fact, even after coming to Christ I was still bound by certain fears. Doctrinally, I knew God was love, but I did not fully comprehend His personal love for me. I often carried guilt and condemnation when I stumbled. Not only was I fearful of the world around me, I was also afraid of God and the punishment I thought I deserved.

Even as a parent, when I found myself alone I imagined horrible things that could happen to me or my children. The creaking of the house at night would be exaggerated into footsteps. The sound of the wind outside brought prowlers into my imagination. I lay on my bed (or was it under the bed?) paralyzed by fear. I could sense the presence of evil.

Those dark, frightening thoughts became so real they consumed my mind and constantly stirred up my emotions. It seemed that even God Himself had retreated behind the cloud of my oppression.

Because I lacked discernment, I failed to recognize that the devil was the source and manipulator of many of my fears. Even as we can "fix our minds" on the Lord and soon feel His Presence, so surrendering to the enemy's manipulation of our minds can bring the manifestation of a spirit of fear.

Of course, the night eventually passed and the things I feared had not occurred. After many years of similar battles, I realized I was missing the abundant life Jesus came to give us; I began to seek the Lord for deliverance.

God's Answer
One night I had a dream. I was standing on a very narrow ledge. I could see nothing; darkness had enveloped me. Balancing on this thin ledge, I was petrified, afraid of falling. All around me I could hear cynical, mocking voices.

In the dream, a light was turned on and I saw that the floor was only a couple of inches below the ledge! Fear had exaggerated my danger; its darkness had blinded me to reality. Light broke the illusion and sent the enemy fleeing!

Through this dream the Holy Spirit showed me how Satan was a master illusionist. Any time we open ourselves up to fear, we fall prey to his deceptions and intimidations. Yet, if we submit our hearts to God and stand in faith, we can resist those first fearful thoughts. As we yield to God we can master our reactions to fear and the enemy will soon flee.

Our first place of victory is in believing the truth concerning our relationship with God. Paul tells us that, "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1). We reject the lie that insists God is our enemy. We come to believe He is our Helper in the healing of our souls!

John tells us, "this is the victory that has overcome the world "our faith" (1 John 5:4). Faith in what Christ has done and faith in what God has promised empowers us to overcome the world. It is a faith that believes that He will be with us and trusts that He is able to deliver us. This is the victory that overcomes the world.

You see, "God has not given us a spirit of fear," (2 Tim. 1:7 nkjv). Tormenting, debilitating fears are not from the Lord. Paul continues by saying that the nature of the Holy Spirit abiding in us produces a spirit "of power and of love and of a sound mind."

This means that our feelings of helplessness are not from God. We can be assured that, whenever our minds become darkened through self-condemnation, fear or tormenting guilt, we are living outside the realm of God's "love," for God's perfect love "casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

To win the war against fear, we must know the true God as He is revealed in the Bible. He works to give us lasting peace. He receives joy, not from condemning us but in rescuing us from the devil. Yes, the Lord will bring conviction to our hearts concerning sin, but it is so He can deliver us from sin's power and consequences. In its place, the Lord works to establish healing, forgiveness and peace.

If we walk humbly with the Lord, He promises to lift us up and dwell with us. The effect of God's power and love working in us is a sound mind. Our freedom from fear grows as we grow in God. He came to "destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8) and to set the captives free.

True Revival: Conformity to Christ

By Francis Frangipane

We have three foundational standards in our home church, River of Life Ministries. One is to be a house of prayer. That means our hearts are positioned to stand in the gap in prayer between the judgement and the mercy of God. Our earnest goal is to manifest the intercession of Christ Himself, where redemption brings an end to sin rather than God using His wrath.

Another of our goals is to attain Christ's meekness. This forever will be a goal because the moment we assume we've attained it, we've actually lost it. Yet, possessing the humility of Christ remains an ever living passion in our spirits. Without humility, we can't see with clarity what we lack in spiritual substance. Humility enables us to grow in all the other virtues and gifts we see manifest in Jesus.

However, the very center of our vision at River of Life is to attain the character and power of Jesus Christ. Humility helps us see what we lack; prayer helps us appropriate God's provision for that need. Yet, the pinpoint goal is the full revelation of God's Son manifest within a many membered body.

People define success in many ways -- range of influence, souls saved, churches started, etc. However, to me the definition of a successful life is measured in how truly transformed we are to Christ's likeness. When persecuted, do we pray? When attacked, do we turn the other cheek? When threatened by the impossible, do we trust God? When crucified, do we forgive?

You see, the issue is not how many people are attending church, but how many are becoming Christlike. The evidence of true revival is not whether we fall, jump, roar or soar, but how Christlike we are on Monday morning when we're in the world.

One Goal
Attaining Christlikeness must become our life. In His prayer in John 17, Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." We cannot know who God is without first knowing Jesus Christ. To know Christ is to know God; to see Christ and what He did, is to behold the beauty of God.

Consider: Paul's primary goal wasn't to convert the world, but to reveal Christ to the world. He never laid out a plan to write two-thirds of the New Testament. He never sought even to become an apostle. His one singular passion was to know Jesus.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul reveals the inner cause of His outward achievements. He writes, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Phil. 3:10). He said he counted "all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:8). His love and passion for Christ produced miracles, power, virtue, revelation and conversions of sinners in the world.

Beware Of The Dogs
A mature Christian is one who sees Christlikeness as the true objective of His salvation (Phil 3:15). In contrast, Paul warned the church that there were goals that could awaken false religious fervor, which would obscure our vision of personal transformation. Thus, he wrote, "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision" (Phil 3:2).

In the first century, dogs were not so much pets as they were scavengers, animals that fed on garbage and waste. Likewise, there are Christians who are always sniffing out what is wrong, looking for what is corrupt. They actually feed off the knowledge of other people's failures. Paul says to beware of the dogs. Don't become a Christian who feeds off garbage.

He also says to beware of the "false circumcision" and the "evil workers." Under the Jewish Law, circumcision of the flesh was one of a long list of painful obligations that were necessary to be accepted by God. Paul says that all of those obligations were fulfilled in Christ. True circumcision is something God does to the heart by the Spirit (Rom 2:29). An evil worker was one who, among other things, placed upon the Christian a yoke of religious bondage instead of the yoke of Christ.

One True Goal

A time will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord. Between now and the fulfillment of that promise, the church will increasingly become Christlike. Our passion must be to know Jesus and become like Him. We must reach for this goal while we are in this world, not the next. It will not be difficult to become Christlike in heaven; God wants us Christlike on earth - at work, in our neighborhoods and in our families.

Conformity to Christ is God's promise for each of us. Scriptures tell us that "as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes" and "amen" (2 Cor 1:20). Whatever is in your heart that you are believing for, God says the answer is "yes!" That's how much the Father loves His Son. That's how high a price Jesus paid for us. But first, if you want the promises, you've got to pursue Christlikeness, for the promises are "in Him." The first promise that God seeks to fulfill is the promise of His Son revealed through us.

The Father, who knows us intimately, is continually drawing us toward knowing Him. This is the essence of all true spiritual experience. The journey is described in the 139th Psalm:

"O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, and art intimately acquainted with all my ways."

The word translated "scrutinize" literally means "to winnow." God winnows our path. When a farmer winnows grain, he throws the grain and its mixture of straw and husks into the air. The kernels of wheat or barley fall into a pile on the threshing floor, while the chaff, or refuse, is blown away by the wind. David is saying that this is what God does to us. He winnows our lives, allowing the Holy Spirit to blow away our chaff, so that what remains is the pure grain of our lives, resting at His feet.

I tell you, if you are serious about wanting to be like Christ, He is going to put you in circumstances where your only true choice is to become like Him. I can think of many things that people attribute to me as being a virtue; they ask, "How did you attain such and such?" In reality, I had no choice. All my other choices were winnowed away. In Gethsemane, Jesus could indeed have had the cup of suffering removed -- 12 legions of angels would have come to His aid (not that He needed angels to save Him). Yet to save Himself from the cross would mean all mankind would be lost. Yes, He had a choice, but He did not consider that a viable alternative. Likewise, God winnows us until the chaff, flesh and even the excess baggage of our lives are removed. What remains is the most precious element of our lives: Christ in us.

In the story of the Israelites' captivity, we find cruel taskmasters appointed over them, who afflicted the Hebrews continuously (Ex 1:11). Yet, verse 12 says that the more the taskmasters afflicted them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread out. This is the way it is with the Lord. The more the enemy seeks to afflict you in some battle, the more Christ begins to multiply in your life and the character of Jesus spreads throughout your soul.

In the midst of God's winnowing, we must decide to be like Jesus. There is something that happens deep inside when we say, unequivocally, that our vision and passion is the pursuit of Christlikeness. When conformity to Jesus becomes the reason we live, true revival has begun in our lives.